Mourning In America

A New York Democrat on politics, journalism, and the Mets

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Friday, August 26, 2005
Lock Up Your Children At a time when the Catholic church in the U.S. is struggling to come to terms with what its structure will look like as the number of active priests craters, it seems odd that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis would launch a new ad campaign with the tagline: "The Catholic Priesthood, coming to a parish near you."

Unless they're going to suddenly release onto the streets dozens of priests that have been holed up for years while Indianapolis' parishes went unmanned, I don't understand how the diocese's leaders intend to live up to the ad's promises.

But truth in advertising is apparently less important to the prelates than conveying the message that Catholicism is cool.

The archdiocese proudly notes that the ad is based on The Matrix. Hmmmm. Personally, in their shoes, I would have turned to a different filmmaker -- one whose work already includes a marketing campaign ("Catholicism ... Wow!") designed to connect the church with a younger demographic.

Kevin Smith, come on down!

Thursday, August 25, 2005
David Brooks Declares Victory in Iraq The current constitution agreement is good enough for him. I'd guess the next column will say we can come home with our heads held high.

At TPM Cafe, former CIA agent Larry Johnson looks at the same facts and says the only real option is to come home, but that our withdrawal will not be a moment of pride.

A hard, clear-eyed look at the current situation in Iraq reveals that we are confronted with equally bad choices. If we stay we are facilitating the creation of an Islamic state that will be a client of Iran. If we pull out we are likely to leave the various ethnic groups of Iraq to escalate the civil war already underway. In my judgment we have no alternative but to pull our forces out of Iraq. Like it or not, such a move will be viewed as a defeat of the United States and will create some very serious foreign policy and security problems for us for years to come. However, we are unwilling to make the sacrifices required to achieve something approximating victory. And, what would victory look like? At a minimum we should expect a secular society where the average Iraqi can move around the country without fear of being killed or kidnapped. That is not the case nor is it on the horizon.

Johnson's writings are extremely inclusive: He spells out the best- and worst-case scenarios and the investments necessary to bring them about. If only the news was better:
We could potentially defeat the Sunni insurgents if we were willing and able to deploy sufficient troops to control the key infiltration routes that run along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys ... It would require at least 380,000 troops devoted exclusively to that mission...

We cannot meet the increased manpower requirements in Iraq without a draft. We do not currently have enough troops in the Army and the Marine Corps to supply and sustain that size of force in the field. But, even with a draft, we would be at least 15 months away from having the new batch of trained soldiers ready to deploy...

While the insurgency is not likely to acquire sufficient strength to fight and defeat our forces directly in large set piece battles, they do have the wherewithal to destroy infrastructure and challenge our control of lines of communication. The ultimate test of a government's legitimacy is whether or not it can protect its citizens from threats foreign and domestic. Thus far the Iraqi Government has made scant progress on this front. Today's attack in central Baghdad, by a uniformed unit of masked insurgents, represents another disturbing milestone in the continued growth of the insurgency. One of these days we should not be surprised when an insurgent force breaches the Green Zone and takes some U.S. diplomats hostage.

Oh, How Kool I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid yet, but you have to be impressed with the way the Mets have piled up 3 straight wins (and 30+ runs!) to start their run to crunch time in this year's Wild Card race.

They are still in the opening stages of the first of two long road trips, separated by only a short, 3-game series against divisional and Wild-Card rival Philadelphia. That's 17 of 20 on the road, where the team, despite the last three days, is still 9 games under .500.

But there are little signs that the team is rounding into form. Their starting pitching is deep, and lately, very good. Tom Glavine seems to be reversing the trend of his first two seasons with the Mets, when he wilted in the second half, and is following up a so-so first half with a very solid stretch run. Meanwhile, the emergence of Mike Jacobs -- called up from double-A as an emergency replacement for Mike Piazza, Jacobs has pounded four home runs in three games, calling to mind the late-season home-run explosions once associated with Yankee farmhands like Shane Spencer and Kevin Maas.

Bottom line, as Fran Healy observed on the telecast Tuesday night: There's a bit of a swagger about this team, which most observers left for dead after the horrific collision between Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran on Aug. 11.

You can see that the team itself is starting to believe. Quite frankly, that's all you need.

My overall benchmark for judging this team's postseason prospects remains the same: to be taken seriously, they have to be in first in the Wild-Card race on Sept. 1 (the day before they leave for their brutal, 10-games-in-10-days trip to Fla, Atl, and StL).

The problem is, I never really seriously considered that they'd make that threshhold. If they do, I'll feel compelled to become emotionally involved in every game. Rip open the packet of Tropical Punch (and add your own sugar)...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Safety Don't Come Cheap The NY papers have two major, apparently unrelated stories this morning. First is the MTA's decision to award a $212 million contract for security technology to defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The other is the second installment of NY Post Albany bureau chief Fred Dicker's transcriptions of secret recordings between a patronage aide to "Gov." George Pataki and his patrons.

But are they unrelated? Tom Doherty, the ex-Pataki aide who's quoted on all of the tapes, is now a partner at Mercury Public Affairs, the lobbying/PR firm founded by several old Pataki hands, led by campaign manager Kieran Mahoney. And from Mercury's homepage, we learn that their roster of corporate clients is headed by none other than, Lockheed Martin! (Oddly, though, Lockheed is omitted from their client roster).

In the Dicker tapes, Doherty is heard recounting his battles to dole out $60,000/year jobs to politically connected "worthies," especially those loyal to ex-Sen. Al D'Amato's Nassau County political machine.

I wonder how many $60,000/year jobs the Lockheed contract will generate, or have Mr. Doherty and company raised their sights?