The Laboratorium
November 2003

Veterinarians’ Day


The central administration sent out an email today about tomorrow's Vererans' Day ceremonies. It included the following passage, presumably inteded for university employees:

If you wish to attend the ceremony, show this email to your supervisor and if your absence has no operational impact, you will be allowed to attend without having to use personal time or without loss of pay.

And people wonder why there are labor troubles.

The Ideology of Opportunism


Note to the left: just because Dubya is for something doesn't mean you should be against it (and vice-versa). This remains true even when he is for it for the wrong reasons. It remains true when there is substantial political hay to be made by being against it.

I'm thinking of that $87 billion. It is legitimate to be concerned that the money is being spent as effectively as possible. It is legitimate to want other countries to be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq. It is legitimate to make sure the money ultimately benefits Iraqis and not Haliburton. It is legitimate to worry about many other aspects of the occupation, the many awful decisions that we have made and continue to make.

But hear me when I say this -- that money will be money well spent, even the Iraqis use it as kindling. We can't afford not to invest heavily in the reconstruction; if we fall down on that part of the job, it confirms every bad stereotype of American in the world's eye. This is the part of the whole Iraq expedition that's supposed to be easy to be for. Even if you didn't like the invasion -- and I certainly didn't -- providing money to put Iraq together again is a moral softball.

Now, a lot of the Democratic candidates have modulated positions on that money. And I'm willing to listen to their explanations of those positions. But I am not interested in flat-out no-money-for-Dubya bring-our-boys-home appeals. There may be votes to be had by taking such a stance, but it's deeply wrong, both morally and pragmatically.

An enormous bottom line and hundreds or thousands of American deaths? These aren't good things. But they're what we signed up for when we deposed Saddam Huseein. They were part of the deal, because if we we're not willing to throw them in, we're likely to leave the Middle East, our own national security, and our moral credibility worse off than before. This high price tag -- well, that's one of the reasons I wasn't such a fan of the invasion.

So, yes, it is okay to criticize Dubya for concealing the costs. Be my guest. Go ahead. But if you suggest that the right response now is not to pay those costs, well, be warned: I'd seriously consider voting for Dubya over you.

And if you know how deeply I loathe Dubya and what he's doing to this country, well, you should know that I don't make that threat lightly.

Books on the Lam


Jim asks the following wonderful question:

For whatever reason (say an opressive regime has taken over your country), you find that you have to cut and run, leaving most everything behind to live on the lam for a while. After packing all the essentials (You packed a flashlight, right? Double check), you find that you have room for 7 or 8 books. You have 5 minutes to select the books to take.

Here are mine:

That's:

  • The Disposessed, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Raising the Stones, Sheri S. Tepper
  • The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
  • The Gold Bug Variations, Richard Powers
  • Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard
  • Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter
  • The Republic, Plato (Allan Bloom, trans.)