Out of the Quagmire

April 1, 1945: United States Tenth Army invades Okinawa, Japan.

October 29, 2005: United States announces Half of U.S. Marines to leave Okinawa.

After sixty years of resistance, the Okinawan insurgents have thrown some of the American invaders out.

I fear we won’t have enough boots on the ground to weed out the remaining insurgency and to help spread democracy and capitalism to the Far East. Can the ramshackle Japanese government, originally appointed by the US and later selected in a number of sham elections and creation of a faux constitution, handle its own affairs without falling into a bloody religious civil war? Will the native warlords and the militant people live together peacably to build a nation together?

I also fear that it sends the wrong message to other insurgents around the world that if they resist and carp enough, they, too, can cause US political will to crack and to force 7,000 American soldiers to cut and run to Guam.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Sunday Drive.)

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This Urban Legend Brought to You By The American Dairy Association and Your Local Grocer

You know why they have expiration dates on yogurt? Because that’s how long it takes the fruit in fruit yogurt to ferment. Dude, I know a guy –he’s a friend of a friend to you–who bought a couple twelve packs of Dannon marked down because they were going to expire, and he put them in his fridge. A week later he’s hungry, and its three days after their expiration date, but he ate a couple of them and got a buzz, so he ate them all. He got so wasted on yogurt that he blacked out and woke up in his backyard wearing nothing but his Playboy robe.

I guess the yogurt manufacturers put those dates on them so the grocery stores won’t sell them to underage people. But if you want some cheap liquor without an ID card, you should look through the grocery stores’ dairy cases for the old yogurt. Sometimes, you can even find stuff that’s already expired.

Go ye forth, and pass it on. You know it’s true, because it happened to a friend of this guy you know, and you read it on the Internet. That’s double-checked accurate.

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By The Duties Invested In Me By The Hockey Whoopass Jamboree

The Los Angeles Dammit There’s Demitras beat the St. Louis Blues last night, ergo here’s the logo:

Los Angeles Kings logo

Kudos to Brandon for selecting someone other than the worst team in the NHL, which I did out of duty and obligation.

Long Winter Update: Yes, friends, that does mean that my three winter teams (Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Admirals, St. Louis Blues) are a combined 5-17, but the Milwaukee Admirals are on a 2 game winning streak, and the Green Bay Packers are about to begin their winning streak which will lead them to Super Bowl XL, so perhaps it won’t be a long winter after all!

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Columnist Retires from Post-Dispatch; Two Readers Split on Reaction

Betty Cuniberti takes an oldster buyout at the Post-Dispatch, but manages to take a swipe at blogs on her way out:

Even in the era of the Blogosphere (no thought too vacuous to share), this is good work if you can get it. What knucklehead would walk away from a newspaper column?

Ms. Cuniberti sees no connection between the blogosphere she knocks and the friendly reduction in force that she’s enjoying:

To cut operating costs, the paper offered an early-retirement buyout to folks over age 50 with five or more years on the job. It appears that some 40 newsmen and newswomen, whose combined service totals a staggering 700-plus years, are walking out the door. Just like that.

Of course, to a certain mindset (such as that of fifty-plus year old columnists with more than five years entrenched in the old time journalism business), declining readership at dailies leading to declining revenues leading to early retirements occurs spontaneously. Unconnected at all to the rise of this “Internet” and its commentators, many of whose I’ve found less vacuous than Ms. Cuniberti’s.

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An Idea Whose Time Has Come, Again

Vintage Base Ball Association.

Vintage Base Ball is base ball (yes, it was two words originally) played by the rules and customs of any earlier period. Ballists wear old-style uniforms, either the early long trouser and shield shirt, or a later style lace shirt and knickers, and recreate the game based on rules and research of the various periods of the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The activity of vintage base ball can be seen at open-air museums, re-enactments and city parks and is played on both open grass fields and modern baseball diamonds. Some groups consider vintage base ball to be a new sport, but at its core, vintage base ball is a reflection of how baseball existed at an earlier time.

Most vintage base ball clubs in the VBBA play the game of base ball as it was played in the late 1850s, 1860s and 1880s. Many clubs in the Midwest have adopted the rules recorded in the first Beadle’s Dime Base Ball Player, published in 1860, which recounted the third meeting of the National Association of Base Ball Players.

Watch for upstart leagues, base ball and other sports, to form and to draw attention and attendance as the “big leagues” price themselves out of the market and out of the imagination of the public.

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The Excuse I’ll Use

Scantily Clad Model Upsets Neighborhood:

According to Hill and some of his neighbors, a camera crew for the men’s magazine Maxim was taking pictures of a woman whose attire ranged from a billowing dress to pasties and panties.

Some neighbors called police and tried to take pictures of the photo shoot as evidence.

Evidence. Right. Somehow, though, I suspect that most of those “some neighbors” answer to the pronoun “he.”

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Sic Semper Public Privatus

Another public/private investment on the brink of failure:

The financing for the Renaissance hotel complex downtown took years to put together, but the hotels’ owners have only a few months to restructure their debt in an attempt to avoid a default.

The owners of the Renaissance Grand and Renaissance Suites owe bondholders $3.5 million of interest on Dec. 15, a payment that may exhaust the hotels’ debt-service reserve. With that exhausted, prospects for making the next payment in June would be bleak.

Enter Steven Stogel, a St. Louis developer who helped to structure the original financing. Stogel has agreed to serve as an unpaid go-between in negotiations among the hotel owners, bondholders and other interested parties, including the city of St. Louis.

Municipal governments do tend to put their investments in particularly sketchy endeavours that lose money, like sports teams and other attractions, but unfortunately, they’re investing in utopias, not looking at bottom lines.

The long-term answer to the hotels’ problems, of course, is to attract more conventions to St. Louis. The city has attracted only half as many meeting-goers as planners expected when the hotels were built.

If you build it, they will come is not so good of an investment philosophy. Particularly since they’d have to travel down some awfully rutted roads to get there and once they got there would have to pay punitive taxes for the privilege.

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Wal-Mart CEO Wants Government To Mandate More Spending Power for Customers

Wal-Mart calls for minimum wage hike:

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott said he’s urging Congress to consider raising the minimum wage so that Wal-Mart customers don’t have to struggle paycheck to paycheck.

Scott told Wal-Mart directors and executives in a speech Monday that he believes “it is time for Congress to take a look at the minimum wage and other legislation that can help working families.”

Of course, as the millionaire spoke to other millionaires, he didn’t urge their own philanthropy. He urged more further government-enforced philanthropy. A two-fer: he sounds good and he doesn’t have to take any action other than advocation.

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St. Louis Cardinals Eat More Seed Corn

Cards’ A Student program will be scaled back in ’06:

Middle schoolers will no longer be able to participate in a decades-old program that provides free Cardinals tickets to students whose grades are equivalent to an A-minus average or better. The reason cited: fewer seats in the new Busch Stadium.

The program will be limited to high schoolers. And each student will be eligible for two free tickets to a game instead of four.

I participated in this program in the middle 1980s, and the free tickets to bad games helped a Milwaukee boy overcome his automatic distaste for the Redbirds.

So let’s recap the Cardinals’ recent moves to reach out to fans:

  • Forced government funding for a new stadium, which triggered some resentment from taxpayers, particularly those outside the St. Louis area in Missouri.
  • Changed radio stations to lower wattage KTRS, diminishing the ability of many fans to pick the game up for free on the radio. The Cardinals, of course, are happy to let fans pay to listen on the Internet.
  • Scaled back a program that allows many lower income families whose children do well in school can attend ball games and that hooks fans young.

Together, these moves will diminish the fan base over the coming generation. But ball teams don’t think in terms of generations and tradition. Instead, they think of short term corporate profits and the maximum value they can receive when they sell the franchise to the next short-sighted corporation.

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What If Saddam Hussein Goes O.J.?

An Iraqi court has adjourned the trial of Saddam Hussein until late November, and the recent death of one of his defense attorneys might delay the trial even further, perhaps into next year. Perhaps, as some commentators (Austin Bay, for example) have argued, Saddam’s trial has already taken too long. The West might well make an example of the Hussein trial to show Western justice to a people unused to the rule of law, and thinkers have begun making their historical comparisons.

Anne Applebaum and Wretchard liken the Saddam trials to the Nuremberg trials after World War II. The allies, for four years after the war, brought members of the Nazi regime to trial and recounted their malevolent deeds. But Nuremberg was sixty years ago. If we need historical trial analogies to banter about, we can find portents in more contemporary proceedings.

Ira Einhorn, a celebrity of the sixties lefthippie type, killed his girlfriend in Philadelphia in the 1970s. After Einhorn skipped bail and hid overseas for decades, a dogged investigator found Einhorn in France. A lengthy court battle ensued over extradition and the illegitimacy of an inabsentia trial. Einhorn returned to the United States in 2002, some 23 years after his crime. He’s in jail now after a repeated prosecution, but he remains a touchstone for reminiscing radicals. Like Einhorn, Saddam faces trial for a crime committed 23 years ago. Although Hussein’s crime exceeds Einhorn’s by several factors of ten, time has rounded the moral outrages many people espouse to mere cluck-clucking or rationalization that at least Hussein made the trains run over dissidents on time.

Saddam Hussein’s trial more closely resembles the trial of Slobodan Miloševic, originally indicted for war crimes in 1997. The former Yugoslavian leader stands accused of crimes committed in the mid 1990s. As his genocides fade from popular memory, the drive for justice fades as new threats and opponents emerge. Saddam Hussein, too, has been out of power for years now, and a trial could take years more. As the years and decades pass, will the outrage and moral anger flag? Will the pursuit of justice mellow, as all but the direct victims of the crimes forget?

We can draw simple parallels between the latest trial of the century and those trials of the century which preceded it (I mean, of course, the aforementioned Einhorn and Miloševic trials, not those of Leopold and Loeb, Sacco and Vanzetti, or Bruno Hauptmann, already lost to the eldritch antiquity of the early 1900s). However, Einhorn produced an eventual guilty verdict and retribution. The Milosevic trial might yet provide a guilty verdict and justice. I fear an outcome like the biggest trial of the century of the last portion of the last century.

What if Saddam Hussein comes to trial and is found Not Guilty? What if, instead of the Nuremberg Trials, we get the Nordberg Trial? I’ve not seen any speculation to that end, and some might claim the possibility is inconceivable. I can but proffer two letters: O.J.

Evidence pointed overwhelmingly to the guilt of O.J. Simpson, but a combination of sing-song defense attorneys and an aggrieved jury pool willing to believe rather incredible stories of conspiracy and the possibilities of isolated carelessness and incompetence led to a Not Guilty verdict. The verdict cheered segments of the population who felt oppressed by the legal system and disheartened segments of the population who thought that the legal system serves justice. Some people, including your humble blogger-narrator, recognize that the legal system serves its own rules and comes out with just results in most cases, but not all. In this case, it did not, and O.J. Simpson is free to play golf, get into amusing legal scrapes, dodge payment of his civil judgment, and find the real killers.

Is it so hard to imagine the same could happen for Saddam Hussein, or is it simply too frightening to contemplate? Saddam’s defense is preparing its own conspiracy theories or their equivalents, where Saddam is a victim illegitimately deposed by a power-mad hegemon who wanted his oil and so on and so forth and ad nauseum. Perhaps rhyming sing-song won’t be enough to persuade the jury or the judges, but perhaps Saddam won’t need it. Given the ease with which Saddam loyalists have infiltrated the new Iraqi military, could they not infiltrate the judiciary? Could not someone be bought with militants’ money to declare a mistrial or to ensure a Not Guilty verdict for a crime committed in the prehistoric era that was the early 1980s?

Other commentators bill the trial of Saddam Hussein as a shining court upon a hill, wherein denizens of the Middle East can see how justice is meted in the West, where the oppressed can see how the citizens and the rule of law work, where arbitrary decisions of an elite do not deprive individuals of life nor property without due process. If Saddam Hussein somehow gets a Not Guilty verdict upon the charges which prosecutors have levied against him, that will put Iraq and the United States in quite a bind.

At that point, Iraqi prosecutors can levy additional charges against Saddam Hussein, demonstrating that the rule of law as practiced in the West means that prosecutors can continue prosecuting and persecuting the accused with a plethora of laws and violations until such time as the target is found guilty or until the target is a broken and bankrupted person. Unlike a despot, to be sure, where actual threat to life and limb are quick and capricious, but no less a tyranny, the rule of law practiced by determined prosecutors can prove relentless to even those found Not Guilty.

Or perhaps Saddam Hussein will go free after a Not Guilty verdict, free to enjoy exile in a sympathetic European or Middle Eastern state or, worse, in Iraq to lead an opposition of sorts to the new government. Perhaps Saddam would age and die without returning to power, but his figure would remain sympathetic and iconic for his followers to illustrate that the Western rule of law is weak if it allowed such an evil man to remain unpunished.

Regardless of whatever dark potential outcomes one can postulate about a Not Guilty verdict for Saddam Hussein, one cannot ignore that this trial does present a sterling example for the Middle East of the rule of law and the court system we use in the Anglosphere. However, this trial has every opportunity to expose and highlight the flaws of our system. Although these flaws exist within the system, their exposure during the Saddam trial will elevate and reverberate and ultimately discredit our efforts to transform the Middle East. Because if Saddam is Not Guilty, in some light, we must be.

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