Showing posts from April, 2004
Book Festival Blogging: LA Times Festival of Books April 24, 2004

One of the nice things about life in Los Angeles is the variety of thoughtful events around town. A favorite of mine is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA.

I went last Saturday and sat in on two author panels. The first one I attended was in the morning entitled, "China in the American Imagination." It was moderated by Lisa See and the panel included: Anchee Min, Ross Terrill and Iris Chang.

See made some remarks about the author's background and the books they have written. She then let them make some remarks before tossing the session open to questions.

The following is from my notes and I hope they accurately reflect what they said!

AM: Am an immigrant to the USA after living my first 27 years in China. Happy to be on this panel with terrific writers. Lisa has helped show Americans about Chinese people. Ross has written about Madam Mao who was considered a taboo subject among Ch…
Witmer siblings to take non-combat assignments
Michelle Witmer, 20 of Wisconsin was killed in combat in Iraq. Her sisters Rachel and Charity had the option of taking non-combat postings because Army regulations allow them to because they had lost an immediate family member. Today, they have decided to take that option. Excerpts:The two arrived home April 12 to attend the funeral of Michelle, their 20-year-old sister and Charity's twin, who was killed April 9 in an attack.

Under Pentagon policy, when a soldier is killed while serving in a hostile area, other family members in the military may request a non-combat assignment.

Rachel Witmer, 24, serves with the 32nd Military Police Company, as did Michelle. The Wisconsin Army National Guard unit already has served a year in the Middle East and recently had its service extended four months.

Charity Witmer is a sergeant and medic with the 118th Medical Battalion, which arrived in Baghdad in February.

The sisters' unit command…
May 2, Africa Malaria Day and SIT=sterile insect technique
Saw this Reuter's item in Yahoo! Science News. Excerpts:Sunday is Africa Malaria Day, when governments will focus attention on a disease which kills millions of Africans a year, most of them children, and costs the continent at least $12 billion in lost gross domestic product.

Bart Knols, a Dutch entomologist at the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), estimates there are "three to five hundred million cases of malaria every year on a world-wide scale, 90 percent of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa."

"Sub-Saharan Africa also suffers the major burden... of mortality," he told Reuters during a tour of the IAEA's entomology laboratories.

One African child dies of malaria every 20 seconds. People in poor, remote villages are usually unable to get treatment and so Knols's research aims to nip the problem in the bud by destroying the mosquito that transmits the malaria parasite.
Pat Tillman
The label "hero" is tossed around rather too often. However, in this case, it is a proper word to describe Pat Tillman. He died in Afghanistan as his Ranger unit got into a firefight. He was an NFL player who had a contract offer in the millions of dollars. But because of 9/11, he decided to serve in the US Army Rangers.

Remarks about the news within the context of the NFL can be found here.
Malaria in the news and blogosphere
Instapundit links Juan Non-Volokh who summarizes a WaPo item on the Malaria fight being mis-managed by the UN.
Dodgers 5 Giants 4

Check out the box score and the recap!

Went to my first Dodger game of this season and I didn't "see" the Dodgers win but they didn't lose either when I left in the bottom of the 10th inning. Since it was a Friday night game I was at the end of my energy levels. Additionally, on Saturday, I am planning to go to the LA Times-UCLA Festival of Books; thus, it was time to go.

As I drove home, I heard the winning run driven in by Milton Bradley in the bottom of the 12th.

The Dodgers were down 4-1 after three innings. Last year that would probably be the end of it as the offense was so pathetic. However, this year, they are showing some life offensively and a comeback was hoped for and believed to even be probable. Indeed, the Dodgers got a run in the bottom of the 4th and then tied it up in the bottom of the 5th with a two-run homer by Shawn Green.

It was a game of high drama with playoff-like intensity.

How ofte…
Continuity of government
Its an arcane subject that was discussed a month ago on Nightline. The issue is what would be done if Washington DC were hit and much of the Federal Government top level staffing was lost. In the Nightline show, they discussed the plans developed during the Cold War of which some elements went into effect to some extent on 9/11 and afterward.

Today, in this Yahoo! News item reports that the House passed plans for how to reconstitute the legislative branch should an attack kill large numbers of Representatives. Excerpt:The measure would require special elections within 45 days of the House speaker confirming that a catastrophic event had left at last 100 of the 435 seats vacant. Language was added to ensure that military personnel stationed overseas would have their voting rights protected.
The Senate has not taken up the terrorist attack issue, though Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has proposed a constitutional change giving states the flexibility to c…
Going to Dodger's Stadium Tomorrow Night!
It will be my first game of the new season. Last year, I made it out to six games and I think in half of them, Gagne made an appearance for the save. The crowd really loves the whole circus with the music and his beard and musty hat.

Some on sportstalk radio is saying, he may be traded later in the year because this is his final year as a "low budget" player. Since the new GM, Paul DePodesta is a student of Billy Ball, who believes you only pay big bucks for players when they are early in their careers and don't put out big contracts after the fact on declining years. Some are saying there is virtually no way Gagne will be able to repeat the last two years and so his trade value is the highest it will ever be.

On the other hand, Gagne is a rare relief pitcher with THREE good pitches: a high 90s fastball (occasionally clocked at 100 mph), a wicked curve and a change-up. Thus, some are saying, he will be able to replicat…
Support Spirit of America Blogger Challenge
Published a post a few days back about the work Spirit of America is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instapundit is s supporter and links over to the challenge being issued by Michele Catalano who is one of the people behind the newsblog, Command-Post. To donate as part of Michele's Coalition, go here. To just donate to Spirit of America sans blog alliance, go here.
Malaria, Africa and DDT
I had the chance to visit Africa in 2003 when I went to Botswana on a Habitat for Humanity project. As such, when Africa is in the news, I usually perk up.

Thus, today I saw this item about Malaria over at Instapundit where he links
TCS and the mistake of banishing DDT and Insta also links Postrel who is citing

Bottom line: malaria kills lots of people in Africa, DDT kills mosquitos, people are afraid of DTT ... connect the dots ... Postel writes:Two million people a year, most of them little kids, are dying because of the West's anti-DDT superstition. Two...million...people...a...year.

Anti-DDT taboos undoubtedly kill even more than that, since the debilitation caused by malaria helps keep Africa desperately poor. But, hey, they're Africans. We got rid of malaria here, so we don't give a damn. I bet the NYT Mag gets letters from people outraged at Rosenberg's audacity in pointing out the problem.Postrel writes more here by citing CNB…
Woodward Interview on 60 Minutes
Certainly was interesting television. Wonder as time goes on how many of the things did Woodward get right and how much was shaded truth or wrong from his anonymous sources. Certainly, one of the more interesting revelations was the Saudi promise to raise production of oil to lower prices around election time to help Bush.

Fact or fiction?

Frum thinks it might be true but for a sneaky self-serving reason of the Saudi's. Excerpt:But why would Bandar want to hurt Bush? Don’t a hundred conspiracy books tell us that the Bush family are thralls of Saudi oil money? Perhaps the Saudis don’t think so. Perhaps they see President Bush’s Middle East policy as a threat to their dominance and even survival. What could after all be a worse nightmare for Saudi Arabia than a Western-oriented, pluralistic Iraq pumping all the oil it can sell?

In other words, if what Bob Woodward reports is true, then the Saudis are meddling to defeat Bush, not elect him.
Moral Equivalence?
People are always dumping on the USA about Iraq: the Big MEAN Americans beating up on the little Iraqis.

I don't doubt there are some accidental deaths of civilians and perhaps even the occasional excessive force.

However, if the USA wanted to be like the Romans of old, they would just send in the B-52s and level Fallujah and not risk a single Marine life. Instead, the US Marines are holding their fire hoping against hope that they won't have to go in house to house to root out the several thousand insurgents in Fallujah.

Place your bets: what do you think these radicals would do if they had a small American town surrounded?

Here is the latest in Yahoo! News. Negotiations are ongoing and I'm hoping for the best but ready for the worst.

Hopefully, moderate elements of Iraqi society will rise up and say to the ones who want to fight to the death: NO, rather, we will rebuild a life here and now and for our children and not die in a blaze of Jihadist…
Messy Game Night: Finding Nemo
Last night, Friday, was down at church to help out with an event for 5/6th graders. The night was called "Messy Game Night." The games were all loosely based on the film Finding Nemo. There is not many things more invigorating than watching children at play. Needless to say, the kid in the adults got into the act too by the end of the night. Can't say I've seen anything like it.

The youth pastor gave a talk using Finding Nemo as a point of reference. For those handfuls of people out in the blogsphere who haven't seen the film, the Pixar/Disney film is about a father clownfish trying to find his missing son. The film works at every level as humor and drama, a fish tale for kids and adults alike. Anyway, the natural tie in to Christianity is how God is trying to find us. Jesus told parables of the lost sheep (shepherd leaves the 99 to find the 1 lost one) and the lost coin (the woman sweeps her whole house to find the one coi…
Spirit of America is Aptly Named

Postrel shares a column about the work being done by Spirit of America. Excerpts:Thus spake George W. Bush this week: "The people of our country are united behind our men and women in uniform, and this government will do all that is necessary to assure the success of their historic mission." Still, many Americans who support the war don't much like sitting on their hands doing little more than watch it on TV. Some have written here, asking what they can do to help. This column will describe a real project that lets the folks at home lend a hand to the soldiers in Iraq.

Over the past year, a successful technology entrepreneur named Jim Hake has been working with the Marine Corps to help their reconstruction projects in Iraq. The Marines identify local equipment needs, and Mr. Hake's organization, Spirit of America, after raising the money, acquires the stuff, typically for schools and medical clinics. It flies directly out of Camp Pend…
Witmer Memorial Service
Here is a link to WISN-12 that has the story of the service including photos and excerpts of remarks from family members, youth pastor and governor of Wisconsin.

About a month ago, one of the young people at my church who is in the Marines got his orders to be deployed in Iraq. On the Sunday before he shipped out, the pastor asked all veterans in the congregation to come forward and pray with him and his family. A number of them were gray-haired men slowed by the passage of time but they came forward eagerly to pray for and shake the hand of the young man. In some cases, they were separated by 60 years of culture and life experience but they shared a common faith and a willingness to serve. It was a powerful moment.

As I think of Michelle Witmer's story and for that matter all the brave young men and women who have sacrificed their lives in our armed forces, I can't help but think of Reagan's Point du Hoc speech which was part of the 40 year ann…
Bush Press Conference
I don't know how it looked on television. I heard it on radio. As is often the case, I suspect no minds were changed. Bush could become a silver tongued orator and those who oppose his views will not be convinced. Likewise those who support his position will focus on his conviction and single-mindedness even if they are disappointed he isn't as articulate as we would all like.

Bush doesn't have the polish and command of facts that Clinton had nor does he have the stage presence and comforting voice of Reagan. However, as I see it, he exudes resolve. For those who agree with him there is a comfort in that clarity of resolve.

UPDATE: Instant reaction from Instapundit:How will it play? I don't know how many people watched it, but I think it will reassure a lot of people who haven't paid a lot of attention. He was pretty good, and I wonder why he doesn't do this more often. Ultimately, though, the issue isn't the communication, but …
Witmer's story

Rachel, Charity, Michelle with mother Lori.
Image from,3600,335996,00.jpg

On Good Morning America I saw a brief feature story on the Witmers. John and Lori Witmer are parents of three amazing daughters, Charity, Rachel and Michelle. All three serve in the US Army and were deployed in Iraq.

On April 9, 2004, Michelle Witmer was killed in action. She was 20 years old.

The Witmer family web page is here.

The decision now facing Charity and Rachel is whether to return to Iraq. They are home for their sister's funeral and military regulations permit them to opt for non-combat service since a family member has died while in active service.

In this news item, the Witmer family has asked that donations in Michele Witmer's name be sent to the Missionaries of Charity, Hay AL Karrada Mahala 903-13-9, Near St. Raphel Hospital, Baghdad, Iraq.

UPDATE: Here is the Witmer's statement to all who have …
What if?
Easterbrook speculates what might have happened if Bush acted pre-emptively in this item over at TNR. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan who also has these great quotes from Tony Blair:
Blair excerpts:Of course [the terrorists] use Iraq. It is vital to them. As each attack brings about American attempts to restore order, so they then characterise it as American brutality. As each piece of chaos menaces the very path toward peace and democracy along which most Iraqis want to travel, they use it to try to make the coalition lose heart, and bring about the retreat that is the fanatics' victory.

They know it is a historic struggle. They know their victory would do far more than defeat America or Britain. It would defeat civilisation and democracy everywhere. They know it, but do we? The truth is, faced with this struggle, on which our own fate hangs, a significant part of Western opinion is sitting back, if not half-hoping we fail, certainly replete with schadenfreude at the difficult…
Declassified PDB
After the Rice testimony, the WH declassified the controversial Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001. A PDF file of the famous PDB can be found over at

Read the whole thing. It is barely over a page long and as vague as heck. The way people were stoking the controversy, you would have thought it was more specific.
The Passion of the Christ
Finally saw the controversial film.

Heard on the radio that Passion of Christ regained the top spot in dollars in the movie box office this weekend. I suspect I wasn't the only one with the idea of seeing it in the context of our remembrance and celebration of Easter. I saw it on Good Friday.

To sum up: if it was just 2 hrs of a man being beaten to a pulp than it is a waste of time.

However, it isn't.

There are flashbacks to Jesus teachings which provides a sense of the Christian message. These provide some of the context of WHY Jesus had to die: He died for all of us to pay for our sin.

Gibson has also tried to set the physical suffering into the wider cosmic battle of good and evil through the device of Satan appearing as the dark clad woman. I believe that is the power of "art" at work and I found it very effective and haunting.

We also see the struggle of good and evil within the human heart. As effecting as the physical vi…
Builders, People helpers, Truth seekers and Creators
As I walk through a day, I'm amazed at the variety of people around.

I see construction workers. They work with their hands and at the end of the day they see the welds done, the beams put in place, the lumber cut and put into place, the concrete poured, etc. These are the builders.

Since I work at a hospital, I see nurses and doctors in their medical garb and coats. They see people every day and listen to what ails them and use a mixture of technology and science and good old fashioned human kindness to help them get better. These are the people helpers.

I work in a laboratory and in a building devoted to research work. These people are looking for an answer to a scientific question. They do experiments. They analyze data. These are truth seekers.

Living in Los Angeles, there are people I know who work at Disney, aspiring actors, working artists, people involved in production and post-production of films. These are …
Belleau Wood
A few posts below, there is a letter from a Marine that refers to Belleau Wood. My knowledge of military history is pretty modest so I did a Google search and found this article. Excerpt:Rejuvenated by success first at Cantigny (at the end of May) and now at Chateau-Thierry, General Bundy's Second Division forces followed up Chateau-Thierry two days later with the difficult exercise of capturing Belleau Wood.

Second Division's Marine Corps, under James Harbord, were tasked with the taking of the wood.  This perilous venture involved a murderous trek across an open wheat field, swept from end to end by German machine gun fire, a fact that continues to generate controversy today among some historians.

As a consequence of the open nature of the advance on the wood, casualties on the first day, 6 June, were the highest in Marine Corps history (a dubious record which remained until the capture of Japanese-held Tarawa in November 1943).

Fiercely defended by t…
Sadr vs. Sistani?
Andrew Sullivan links over to Ackerman at TNR online who offers the following analysis:SADR V. SISTANI?: In public, Moqtada Al Sadr swears fealty to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani. "I proclaim my solidarity with Ali Sistani, and he should know that I am his military wing in Iraq and wherever he so desires," Sadr declared yesterday. Attempting to co-opt Sistani, who's issued calls for quiet, is a smart strategy: As grand ayatollah, Sistani commands vastly more allegiance from Shia Iraqis than the 30-year old Orson Welles look-alike. But now it's looking more like Sadr is trying to push Sistani out of the center of Shia politics. Late Monday night, Sadr's forces took control of the Imam Ali Shrine in the holy city of Najaf, stationing Kalashnikov-wielding thugs around one of the most important places in Shia Islam. The Los Angeles Times reporter in Najaf observed that "the move appeared calculated to heighten [Sadr's] profile among Shiite…
Any way out?
We are in Iraq and things are getting very chaotic. Is it just the last spasms before the rebirth of the nation? Or is it the beginning of more frequent and violent spasms of violence?

On KABC this evening, Dick Morris was interviewed by Al Rantel where Morris argued: keep 90,000 US troops there to prevent a Hussein-like dictator from taking over; beyond that just let the Iraqi's form whatever government they like.

Rantel asked what if civil war breaks out between the factions.

Morris said: let them slug it out it isn't any of our business as our only concern was ridding the world of Hussein.

Morris criticized Bush for trying to be too idealistic with a grand vision of a democratic Iraq.

Is there a middle path between Morris' "social Darwinism" and an American-like democracy in Iraq?

I fear that US military might and US public will is not strong enough to either prevent civil war nor birth a American-like democracy.

One can't say Bush is…
Thinking through Iraq
Heard part of the Condi Rice testimony in front of the 9/11 commission. It seems that people who testify in these public hearings usually come across sympathetic as committee members often time start playing for the camera and start sounding rude and unfair.

Rice was on top of her facts and didn't seem to allow the more aggressive inquisitors to rattle her.

In the run up to the invasion, this blog space spent a lot of bandwidth citing web pages and sharing my own views. I figure it is time to look at things as they are now. As I see it, we must remain steady and not go wobbly. A free and functional Iraq is in the national interest of the USA and for the whole region.

I was certainly disappointed in the WMD intelligence shortcomings. There were other reasons for the war but WMD was widely cited and thus the lack of finding them has harmed the credibility of the effort.

Now, the question of credibility is on the line once again on the issue of how extensi…
Mail from a Marine
A powerful note on Andrew Sullivan from a marine in Fallujah:Things have been busy here. You know I can't say much about it. However, I do know two things. One, POTUS has given us the green light to do whatever we needed to do to win this thing so we have that going for us. Two, and my opinion only, this battle is going to have far reaching effects on not only the war here in Iraq but in the overall war on terrorism. We have to be very precise in our application of combat power. We cannot kill a lot of innocent folks (though they are few and far between in Fallujah). There will be no shock and awe. There will be plenty of bloodshed at the lowest levels. This battle is the Marine Corps' Belleau Wood for this war. 2/1 and 1/5 will be leading the way. We have to find a way to kill the bad guys only. The Fallujahans are fired up and ready for a fight (or so they think). A lot of terrorists and foreign fighters are holed up in Fallujah. It has been a sanctuary for…
News via the web
With news breaking by the minute over in Iraq, the internet is where the latest is to be found. In addition to "traditional" outlets like CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, be sure to visit the blog driven Command Post that has bloggers pulling stuff from everywhere and bloggers confirming and refuting what is out there.

Working through the gay marriage controversy

Bloggers are opinionated. I'm a blogger. Therefore, I'm opinionated.

Andrew Sullivan is one of my regular blog visits. He always has a thoughtful take on current issues and more often than not, I agree.

He is one of the more articulate writers on the gay-marriage issue. He recently tackled the emotional aspect of the subject.

In the end, there is no getting around the truth of what he says about the emotions involved: it simply is. However, as a matter of public policy, we have to make choices taking into account the whole of society.

As a matter of personal ethics, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. In my mind, it is a foundational definition just like a mother is necessarily a female and a father is necessarily a male.

In my mind this is the whole problem: do we want to redefine something that has been foundational for thousands of years?

As a single guy, I've been asked if I want to someday be a parent and my answer is yes. I'm sometimes the…
What is Chivalry?

Here is an interesting item from Frum. Excerpt:"Chivalry," he writes on p. 185, "is not so complicated an idea as its long and convoluted history might suggest. The compleat gentleman himself is merely a man, and perhaps we make the process of defining chivalry too difficult because we lack the faith necessary to grasp its essential simplicity. In the end, chivalry is nothing more than putting self second; it is the ultimate self-respect because in the moments that matter the compleat gentleman makes himself the servant of his God, his nation, his friends, his family, and he does so – is able to have the courage to do so – because he is governed by justice. Chivalry is justice manifest."I like that. Hope I can strive to be like that.
MS Walk
Tall Glass of Milk over at Drink This... is participating in an MS Walk on April 18, 2004. It is a great cause. Please consider supporting her at her donor page.

Though my concern about MS is far less personal that TGOM's, I did the Los Angeles Marathon 2001 to raise money for NMSS. I searched my files to see if I could find the fund raising letter and here is an excerpt:Dear Friends and Family:

Some of you may know that I am planning to participate in the LA Marathon on March 4, 2001. What you might not know is that I am running on behalf of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (


That was the first question, the young woman at NMSS's Southern California Chapter office asked. To my knowledge, none of my friends or family members suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS). However, in my travels, I have met two individuals who do.

In 1999, while flying back to LA, I sat next to a young man who seemed like he wanted to converse. He occasionally…
Annoy the French, Support Bush!
When I was in Switzerland, I didn't get the impression there was strong feelings one way or the other about the Bush vs. Kerry election. I suppose that is so Swiss who are the historically neutral country. However, in France, the friends we stayed with said that the French really like Kerry and can't stand Bush.

Our hosts asked me to try to get some electioneering stuff from the USA (stickers and buttons) to send to them to share with their local friends as they would probably get a kick out of it.

The French people I met in various contexts were nice people and I never felt they were hostile. I don't know if having an Asian face helps but once I spoke English, they would probably know I'm from the USA.

I suspect in either country, if I started spouting libertarian political views, I would have gotten into some heated discussions!
Travel photos
I'll be sharing my travel photos over at my other blogspot. Cities visited on the trip: Geneva, Lausanne, Berne, Thun, Murten, Blatten, Glion, Evian-les Bain, Chambery, Aix-les Bain, Annecy and then back to Geneva again. I hope to share the stories and photos in little episodes over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!
Baathist dead-enders: be afraid, be very afraid
The multilation of dead Americans in Iraq will be responded to. Excerpt:BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops on Thursday vowed to use overwhelming force to enter the volatile Iraqi town of Falluja and hunt down those who killed and mutilated four American contractors.

Marines took up positions on the outskirts of the restive town west of Baghdad where insurgents ambushed the contractors on Wednesday, but the U.S. army's deputy director of operations Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said they would return.

"Coalition forces will respond," Kimmitt told a news conference. "They are coming back and they are going to hunt down the people responsible for this bestial act.

"It will be at a time and a place of our choosing. It will be methodical, it will be precise and it will be overwhelming."
Who is angry at who?
Is the world angry at Russia, which spends nothing on AIDS and rebuffed Kyoto? Is the world angry at China, which got a pass on Kyoto and spends nothing on AIDS for other countries?

Is the world angry at North Korea for killings its people? Angry at Iran for smothering that vibrant nation with corrupt and thuggish mullocracy? Angry at Syria for occupying Lebanon? Angry at Saudi Arabia for its denial of women’s rights? Angry at Russia for corrupt elections? Is the world angry at China for threatening Taiwan, or angry at France for joining the Chinese in joint military exercises that threatened the island on the eve of an election? Is the world angry at Zimbabwe for stealing land and starving people? Is the world angry at Pakistan for selling nuclear secrets? Is the world angry at Libya for having an NBC program?

Is the world angry at the thugs of Fallujah?

Is the world angry at anyone besides America and Israel?

Clipping from Instapundit quoting Lileks.