Friday, August 19, 2005

Where to begin?

Normally, when I read an article that I want to mention, I have little difficulty finding a notable excerpt or two that is more powerful than the remainder of the piece. This is not the case with last Sunday's Washington Post story, "U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq." This report is oozing with eye-popping facts about the dismal situation over there. I encourage you all to read it, even those of you who disdain politics. However, I realize that some of my readers might not click that link, so here is my best shot at providing some of the more pertinent passages:
But the realities of daily life are a constant reminder of how the initial U.S. ambitions have not been fulfilled in ways that Americans and Iraqis once anticipated. Many of Baghdad's 6 million people go without electricity for days in 120-degree heat. Parents fearful of kidnapping are keeping children indoors.

Barbers post signs saying they do not shave men, after months of barbers being killed by religious extremists. Ethnic or religious-based militias police the northern and southern portions of Iraq. Analysts estimate that in the whole of Iraq, unemployment is 50 percent to 65 percent.

...

The ferocious debate over a new constitution has particularly driven home the gap between the original U.S. goals and the realities after almost 28 months. The U.S. decision to invade Iraq was justified in part by the goal of establishing a secular and modern Iraq that honors human rights and unites disparate ethnic and religious communities.

...

"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity.
...

On security, the administration originally expected the U.S.-led coalition to be welcomed with rice and rosewater, traditional Arab greetings, with only a limited reaction from loyalists of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The surprising scope of the insurgency and influx of foreign fighters has forced Washington to repeatedly lower expectations -- about the time-frame for quelling the insurgency and creating an effective and cohesive Iraqi force capable of stepping in, U.S. officials said.

Killings of members of the Iraqi security force have tripled since January. Iraq's ministry of health estimates that bombings and other attacks have killed 4,000 civilians in Baghdad since Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari's interim government took office April 28.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Welcome

I present to you one of the 100,000 new blogs that was created today: squawking VFR, by my good friend, Pete. I hope his comment that he may never update it is an idle one, as his blog offers the possibility of being highly entertaining. His first entry, about the disgraceful "Today" show on NBC, certainly is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What are the odds?

WEEI, which broadcasts Red Sox games on the radio, runs a contest during every game called the "Chevy Equinox Grand Slam Inning." The rules state that if the fourth batter in the Red Sox half of the fourth inning hits a grand slam, the contestant will win a brand new Chevy Equinox. So, if the fifth batter hits a grand slam, no dice.

I'm dying to know what the odds are of winning this contest. I know for a fact that several math geniuses read my blog. Perhaps one of you can provide an answer.

Monday, August 15, 2005

An afternoon of jazz

I attended the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island yesterday. It isn't very often that I get to hear live jazz, so I had a very enjoyable time, and thanks to Rachel, who won free tickets from boston.com, it didn't cost me anything.

Here are three major observations from the afternoon:

  • Dave Brubeck is old. I mean, very old--84 years old, to be exact. And he wasn't exactly a spring chicken when "Take Five" was a big hit in 1960.
  • Despite New Englanders' reputation for being unfriendly, they are sometimes surprisingly capable of engaging in random acts of kindness. While Rachel and I were waiting in line for The Falafel Man to feed us, we were discussing the fact that the fried nature of falafel makes it the perfect vegetarian dish for me. The man behind us struck up a conversation about fried snickers and other fried foods. After we all received our orders, we parted ways.

    Several hours later, the friendly gentleman went out of his way to track us down and saw that we were sitting far from the stage. He gave us both his tickets. We soon found ourselves sitting center-stage, four rows back.

    He had given Rachel his business card, and we learned that he teaches at MIT. It turns out that he's a pretty accomplished guy. It's satisfying to know that a brilliant and ambitious person can also be down-to-earth and giving.
  • There were too many white people there. I was a bit upset to find less than five percent of the audience was comprised of black people. Why doesn't this form of music, which was created by black people, attract them any more? This interview provides some answers.