March 14, 2005

Not-so-extreme home makeovers

Posted by Scott at 10:16 PM

Basement - I continue to be impressed with the pace of development. When I went downstairs today, there was significant improvement on the electrical wiring and all the walls were insulated. Tomorrow the inspector comes and the walls will be covered in drywall.

Extreme Home Makeover - This show is one of Michelle and Claire's favorites. It's actually a pretty good idea for a show. Do the extreme heart string pulling that helps draw in female viewers and combine it with lots of hardware to draw in the men. (Warning: Sexist stereotyping and generalities, but overall the case). I kind of like the show, but one major thing bugs me about it. In all the shows I've seen the crew bulldozers the current house and starts from scratch building a completely new house. Somehow demolishing the first house to build something that has no resemblance to it other than being on the same lot doesn't seem like a makeover to me. In my mind a makeover involves changing a wall or two, building an addition, changing landscaping or the interior design. But just building an extravagant house on the same lot is really not my idea of a makeover. The primary challenge for the crew these days seems to be the time schedule, not improving the current home.

Aerobics - Michelle was pretty psyched today because last week she got three new step aerobics music CDs from DynaMix. The main issue that defused some of that enthusiasm was that the Y's CD player was acting a bit flakey, even with brand new CDs. She managed to get things working and her class enjoyed the new tunes to work out to.

Wood - As of tonight we have about 500 pounds left of wood to burn. When that's finished, we'll have burnt 6000 pounds of wood this winter. 3 full pallets of pellets. Having been raised in the city where fireplaces are often just used for occasional ambiance, a fire running all day, every day was a new experience for me. Typically we turn the stove on around 5:30am when we get up and shut it down around 9pm when we head for bed. We let the propane furnace run at night because the kids rooms typically have their doors shut when they're sleeping. When the stove runs, it throws off so much heat the furnace never kicks on. Hopefully this will help us get a rebate on our annual propane budget.

The other amazing thing to me was how thoroughly the stove burns the wood. I have several neighbors who burn cut wood during the winter. You can see and smell when their fires are running. When I stand in my driveway and look at the chimney flue, I see nothing and smell nothing. After burning all this wood the total ash fills about half a kitchen garbage bag. We're saving it as a fertilizer for next spring. Ashes are a source of potassium and phosphorous. And like lime, which is often spread on northeast lawns to raise the pH, ashes are also useful in reducing soil acidity.

NYT - I had yet another Fred Sanford "this is the big one" heart attack moment this afternoon. You may recall my last one was when NPR admitted that the spread of democratic reforms in the Middle East may have been something President Bush got right. Skimming the news today I found that the New York Times tacitly implied that Saddam likely had WMD programs. Blink. Blink. The New York Times?! The next thing you know, the AARP will endorse private accounts to promote Social Security solvancy! The NYT article opened with the following paragraph:

In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

It later continues:

Dr. Araji said equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq's dormant program on unconventional weapons. Dr. Araji said he had no evidence regarding where the equipment had gone. But his account raises the possibility that the specialized machinery from the arms establishment that the war was aimed at neutralizing had made its way to the black market or was in the hands of foreign governments.

UK Telegraph - Combine this story with another that came out just days ago in the UK Telegraph about bribing weapons inspectors:

Saddam Hussein's regime offered a $2 million (£1.4 million) bribe to the United Nations' chief weapons inspector to doctor his reports on the search for weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam and his henchmen siphoned off an estimated £885 million from the [Oil for Food] humanitarian scheme, allegedly paying some of that to 270 foreign politicians, officials and journalists.

But if the WMD claims are all just a fabrication, as the "Bush lied, people died" Michael Moore crowd repeatedly states, why would you need to bribe the chief UN weapons inspector? And what were other high officials offered? This whole "there were no WMDs" argument seems to be getting shakier by the day.


Hi Scott.

I think you misinterpret the NYT article. Nobody disputes that Iraq had a weapons program. From all indications, it was long dormant. This is a far cry from saying that Iraq had WMD, which was what Bush was claiming. In that same NYT article it says, "Dr. Araji said equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq's dormant program on unconventional weapons. After the invasion, occupation forces found no unconventional arms, and C.I.A. inspectors concluded that the effort had been largely abandoned after the Persian Gulf war in 1991."

Why would they feel the need to bribe UN weapons inspectors? Maybe because the they were put in the impossible position of proving a negative. Tons of chemical weapons had, apparently, been destroyed years earlier but Iraq, apparently, had no way to prove it to the U.S.'s satisfaction. Iraq was an utterly corrupt regime, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that they'd resort to bribery as an alternate way to achieve their goal of getting sanctions lifted, once it became clear that _actually_ disarming wasn't going to be good enough.

Citing these articles as evidence that the Bush administration was right about Iraq's WMD threat seems a stretch. The Deulfur report said that sanctions worked. He had disarmed. Neither of these articles indicates anything to the contrary, in my opinion.

Our government undertook a military operation that has caused tens (hundreds?) of thousands of deaths. I understand why many Americans would long for a retrospective justification.

In fact, I've been shocked to talk to some Bush supporters recently who take it as an article of faith that WMD _were_ found in Iraq after the war and somehow, for some reason, this fact was just kept a secret from the world -- except for those of us "in the know" (wink wink). In one case, this comes from an acquaintance who works in the Defense industry and claims he heard this from his friends in the Special Forces. I told him that if that's what you need to believe to prevent cognative dissonance and justify the killing, fine, but don't expect me to take your word for it.

Posted by: Jeff Kandt at March 24, 2005 07:42 AM

My focus is on the "Bush lied" movement, not whether there were WMDs or when they might have disarmed. I'm aware that you "knew" there were none, but as I chronicled earlier there was a pretty broad spectrum of politicians on *both* sides of the aisle who were making claims similar to Bush's. To claim that this was Bush's opinion alone is rather unfair.

Perhaps they were all "drinking the Kool Aid".

I agree with your arguments of caution and discernment required before going to war. Most folks who've been in the military generally are. But the assessment I've been seeing about "lying" bugs me. Lying requires knowledge that you are knowingly misleading people with facts that are 180 degrees wrong. (finger wagging, "I did not have relations with that woman"; MCI financial balance sheets;etc)

There's spinning and there's lying. When dealing with foreign threats you almost never "know" but you go by the best available knowledge. In any military decision there are always dissenters. I take offense at the presumption that the President "ignored" the dissenting opinion. People talk about mission creep, but Bush from the beginning wanted Saddam removed for more than just WMDs. WMDs were the greatest perceived threat, and certainly the one the media has had a heyday with, but they were not the sole reason.

If it seemed to imply that this was proof that there were WMDs, I apologize. What I'm trying to assert is that there were plenty of indications that could lead people (numerous intelligence agencies, leaders, etc.) to see why he was a WMD threat.

To state that Bush only emphasized one side of the story has about as much merit as watching the media tell a story. Pick one: Recent Iraq status, Social Security, judicial nominations, Terri, Kofi, etc. You and I could both blog endlessly about what's not being said, eh? :-) Unfortunately, we both have diapers to change and laundry to fold.

Posted by: Scott at March 24, 2005 11:55 AM

Okay, Scott, if you're not opening the "Iraq _did_ have WMD after all" pandora's box, then I'm sorry, I misunderstood.

As to whether Bush lied, I'm bothered by some disturbing evidence that some of the key "facts" the Admininstration made public were _known_ to be questionable or untrue at the time. Both had to do with Saddam's alleged nuclear program; the "smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud" visual that, in my view, tipped public opinion over the edge towards war. Yes, there were plenty of reasons Bush & Co. wanted to invade Iraq, but the mushroom cloud threat was how they would scare the country into going along.

One is the Niger uranium story which was debunked by Joe Wilson and ultimately morphed into the Valerie Plame scandal. The other is the aluminum tubes story, wherein the administration claimed that the seized tubes were only suited to nuclear weapons centrifuge programs. They were not, in fact, suitable for that, and we found out later that the governments' top nuclear experts were telling them that.

Both of these were documented by Bill Moyers here:

A nasty stomach flu is tearing through Henry's school right now; worked through our whole family this week. Hope yours was/is spared!

Posted by: Jeff Kandt at March 24, 2005 01:27 PM

Stomach flu... ouch! I'm so sorry to hear it. Honestly! This year the illnesses did float around the kids:
but luckily it wasn't stomach related. (knock knock) I hope you get through it soon, especially before Easter weekend. Perhaps that's why you're so verbose today?? Stuck at home with the laptop (and maybe a bucket)? You've written more today than you have in the past year at . In a strange way I miss that writing, although you and I are often polar opposites.

I've stated before that I may be traditional, conservative, etc., but I'm not a Bush cheerleader. Just as many on the progressive side had their share of things to hold their nose over with former President Clinton (welfare reform, Monika-gate), I've had more than my share of things to gripe about with George. The borders, tax cuts w/o commensurate spending cuts, the prescription drug plan, etc.

I'm a Catholic first, conservative a distant second. I hate political calculations, spin, and lying. I detested Clinton's deceitfulness when he misrepresented the case studies as he vetoed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. PBA's (not all abortions, just the PBA's) exceed Iraq deaths since those vetoes. Yet, I don't go around with a "Clinton lied" bumper sticker or tee-shirt.

I detested George's over sensationalizing the nuclear threat. Do politicians use data selectively? Unfortunately, way too often. Did I think that Iraq was an imminent _nuclear_ threat? No. Did I think that they were connected with 9/11? No. Did I think Saddam was playing a game of Keystone Capers with the weapons inspectors? Yes. Did I think the UN was weak in enforcing the numerous resolutions against Saddam? Wicked. Was Saddam starting to feel like these resolutions had no teeth? I think so. Did I have a reasonable (if somewhat undefined) feeling that perhaps Clinton, Gore, Pelosi, Kennedy, Albright, Kerry, and Byrd were serious when they concurred that Saddam posed a serious threat? Yes. Nonetheless, I had reservations. In any war I believe a well informed person will always be. I served during the Gulf War and the Clinton efforts in Bosnia and Haiti and had anxieties then.

My blogging of the NYT and NPR bits were more along the lines of "wow, I never thought I see that from ..." amazement. If you saw Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity concede _anything_ that NARAL or AARP said, would you not be similarly amazed?

Again, hope you feel better soon. When you do, get off your duff and write something. Don't just link articles. Write something. Oh, and post some new pictures of your two kids. They must be so big by now!

Posted by: Scott at March 24, 2005 04:20 PM