Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Enough has been said about the latest National Intelligence Estimate's findings on Iran in the media, and there's enough in there to cast lots of (deserved) doubt on Bush's policies. But the biggest issue for me is not that Iran doesn't want nuclear weapons: I still suspect that they are pushing for some kind of nuclear program. Rather, it's that Bush's past positions make it incredibly difficult to pursue the only remaining policy option with international support: work through the IAEA.

Ahmadinejad is correct: Iran has a right to use nuclear power for energy, and Tehran's rationale for pursuing nuclear energy makes a certain economic sense. But he's wrong in a critical way: Iran cannot pursue nuclear power unless it declares its production sites and allows international inspectors unfettered access to those sites. This was always been the sticking point for me. Tehran could have gotten nuclear power through the existing international system. But why didn't it? If their intentions were peaceful, there's nothing stopping them.

But unfortunately, Bush has made hay about taking a "strong" stand against Tehran, which has forced it to eschew the carrot side of any negotiations. The U.S. could easily and clearly have said, "We respect your right to nuclear power, but you have to comply with existing international rules." Instead, the threats of war have muddled the message and American credibility, and this latest NIE report casts a further cloud over the President's objectives. It's made it much harder now to work with the IAEA and other countries to find a solution to this mess, and that clearly hurts the American position both right now and in the longer term.

Monday, December 3, 2007


My co-worker introduced me to the term F-Cubed or "Forced Family Fun." Think of those nights when your parents forced you to play board games with them.

Well, it pretty much sums up my trip to Italy. We had gone about 10 years ago to northern Italy, and this vacation swept up Rome and Naples. In that intervening 10 years, however, I have discovered that I simply don't like skipping lunches to run from location to location - treating the country as a repository of historic places to see - eating dinner, then conking out somewhere between 8-10 pm.

Sadly, my sister is of the hyperactive, must-see-the-sights kind of person, although tellingly "sights" does not include actual people. So, while I saw an overwhelming amount of churches (I think there's some religious rule by which I am now Catholic), I didn't actually have a conversation with any Italians while with my family. And unfortunately, my parents are getting old, so they pretty much have to fall asleep after dinner. All of which meant early rising, lots of walking, little sampling of the food, and even less sense of what the places are actually like.

All of which made Italy an only okay trip. Rome was gorgeous, and I loved Bologna, mostly because I was not with my family and visiting a friend there. Another notable event was going to a resort town on the Mediterranean coast. As is often the case in resort towns in non-resort seasons, the local industry gets a little desparate. Thus, I forced my sister to stare at me, rather than the guy desparately foisting himself onto a hooker in his tiny car.

Then there was being racially profiled by a Neapolitan cop. The previous night, two Philippino men were picked up for drug running and money laundering. The cop thought my dad and I may be part of that ring and asked for ID. I pulled my driver's licence out of my wallet, to which he asked "What's in the wallet?" and "Who's money is that?" Really, what did he expect me to say?

So, in sum, Bologna was great, Rome was nice but superficial, and Naples sucked, except for the food.