Something to Tide You Over Since I'm engrossed in work right now, let me give you a taste of what I do — that's right, it's time for some exposure to the subtle art of spin.
I've drafted an op-ed to submit under someone else's name about a water-rights bill some legislators are considering; it should appear in one of the state's major dailies early next week. It might shock you to learn how much is at stake, considering the low profile of the bill — but hey, that's politcs.
PEOPLE HAVE OFTEN SAID THAT as California goes, so goes the nation. Even so, we should hope Georgia has more sense than to go the way of California when it comes to managing our water.
In early March, a state Senate committee began to consider House Bill 237 — a bill written, in theory, to help Georgia manage water supplies that have been stretched to the limit by a just-ended drought and years of rapid population growth. With state environmental authorities already blocking the issuance of new 'water permits' — needed by farmers, municipalities, and companies who want to use more than 100,000 gallons of groundwater or surface water per day — in two separate regions of the state, the need for action is clear.
The key question is not whether the state should act, but how the state should act. We have the chance — if we act smartly — to provide a robust water supply for all. We need only do better at managing the resources already at hand. But who should manage our water — the people who can pay the most? Even if that strands the people who might need it most?
That question matters more than you might think. In its current form, House Bill 237 would open the floodgates to the buying and selling of water permits — even though Georgia currently provides, and would continue to provide, those permits for free.
CALIFORNIA BLAZED THE TRAIL when it comes to the purchase and sale of water permits, but the results have been a mess. Just in the last few weeks, farmers from California's Imperial Valley filed suit in an effort to keep water they've used for decades from being shipped to San Diego. The farmers assert that the water belongs to them by contract. They would have allowed their urban brethren to share it; they just wanted upwards of $2 billion for the courtesy.
Cities having to pay billions to get water? Farmers having their water swiped from underneath them? Why on earth would any Georgian in his right mind want that? Supporters of House Bill 237 say not to worry — what happened in California can't happen here. Whatever problems crop up with permit trading, they assure us, the legislature can fix by passing another bill.
Not so fast. The true significance of permit trading is that it transforms a license to use water into a property right. That means the state can't simply change its mind if something goes wrong. Because the federal constitution requires a government that wants to take property to pay for it, rolling back permit trading — even attempting to curb water use in the middle of another drought — would require Georgia to buy permits back on the open market, even though the state gave them away for free. An attempt to simply take permits back would probably provoke a lawsuit; Californians have learned that the hard way this month.
WHAT DOES GEORGIA NEED TO DO? Conserve and plan — topics both covered in a different bill, Senate Bill 180. Most importantly, Georgia to leave to its Environmental Protection Division the power it now has to allocate water fairly and as needed among competing interests: personal consumption, agriculture, and industry.
Georgia needs to do better at living on a limited water supply, but those who want to follow California's lead need to think long and hard about the pitfalls of awarding control of our water to those who can pay the most for it. One look at the Golden State — with its thirsty cities, angry farmers, and busy courts — should tell us that control of our water isn't worth trading away.
Otherwise Engaged Sorry, folks — the legislature went batty on me yesterday, leaving me running rear-guard actions on two of the pivotal bills on my watch list. I'll post later in the afternoon, but I'll probably be more the anthologist today than the witty observer of all things political. Hope to get back up to speed before the weekend.
Up Close and Personal I whisked Jessica of the Blog of Chloë and Pete around the state Capitol with me today. I don't know whether the proceedings kept her entertained — she told me that parts of it reminded her of model U.N., which gets the tone of the afternoon just about right. [Don't blame me: I had counted on the state Senate to liven things up, but rather than oblige me, it quit early.]
It was good finally meeting a fellow Atlanta blogger face to face — and as a bonus, she was even more stimulating to get to know in person than I'd expected from the glimpses of her life I'd seen at her blog. Hope we can do a repeat engagement.
On another note, let me proclaim for the record that Reid Stott of PhotoDude is a mensch. Sight unseen, he responded to a comment I left on his weblog on Sunday morning by fetching and resizing a photo from his archives to spiff up my desktop.
The mood on the streets remains somber and sullen. Stores are mostly closed, and those that are open have run out of duct tape, gasoline, and aluminum foil (which is wrapped around computers to shield them from e-bombs). People seem sad, resigned, sometimes resistant, mostly fearful. There is universal opposition to the war: George W. Bush's name is spit with venom. Yesterday, a soldier saw me on the street and shouted, "George Bush, I fucked your mother. We will win this war because you are here. You are a human shield. We are all human shields and the world is with us." Still, Iraq's celebrated hospitality remains, even in wartime. I have been greeted with kisses and hugs as often as I have with people pointing fingers at me and yelling pow-pow.
I perhaps am not the best person to be saying this, but ...
I've gotten a lot of exultant email over the last 24 hours from fellow hawks. Finally, we're going to take out Saddam! I believe that war is the right option. I believe that it will result in sparing more innocent lives than it takes. But it is not something to exult over. It will take innocent lives, and it will take the lives of allied soldiers. It will take the lives of Iraqi soldiers who joined the army, not because they wanted to, but because they were forced to. Each and every one of these deaths will be a tragedy, and for their family and friends, it will be a tragedy beyond measure. I have friends who are serving their country in the Gulf. As you know, David, one of my closest friends at Oxford, is in Israel right now. I am not happy about war. I am scared, and I am nervous.
I am confident that I have advocated the right course, but there are no certainties in war. So, to my fellow hawks: a bit less triumphalism, please. A bit more gravity and humility.
Billed as a "black coffee briefing on the war on Iraq", yesterday's breakfast for the influential hawks of the American Enterprise Institute was more of a victory celebration.
With a few words of caution - that the war to oust Saddam Hussein was not yet over - the panel of speakers, part of the Bush administration's ideological vanguard, set out their bold vision of the postwar agenda: radical reform of the UN, regime change in Iran and Syria, and "containment" of France and Germany.
The failure of the first Bush administration to finish the job in 1991, according to William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, the US magazine, had resulted in "a lack of awe for the US" in the Middle East, an absence of respect that fostered contempt of the US among Arabs and encouraged the rise of the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.
This war would redress those mistakes, Mr Kristol declared, opening up the prospect for real democratic change in the region.
The war was going well, said Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defence Advisory Board. There were more anti-war demonstrators in San Francisco than Iraqis willing to defend their leader. The "coalition of the willing" was growing.
The fall of Mr Hussein would be an "inspiration" for Iranians seeking to be free of their dictatorial mullahs, Mr Perle said. . . .
Michael Ledeen, a former Reagan administration official and author of The War Against the Terror Masters, said this conflict was part of a "longer war" and such terrorist-sponsors as Iran and Syria knew that. France and Germany insisted on "shoring up tyrannical regimes". Anti-war demonstrators had reached "new lows of disgustingness". . . .
Mr Kristol said that the UN did not matter much. Mr Perle suggested that as a security institution "its time has passed" though it might still be of some use in health matters and peacekeeping.
American commanders had hoped for different scenes in Iraqi towns, which, at least in the south, had been widely expected to welcome the allied invasion. For American military planners, winning the war means destroying the Baghdad government, but it also includes a concerted effort to avoid the kind of urban fighting that might enrage the Iraqi people.
"No Iraqi will support what the Americans are doing here," said a Nasiriya resident named Nawaf, who stood at an American checkpoint on the city limits today. "If they want to go to Baghdad, that's one thing, but now they have come into our cities, and all Iraqis will fight them."
Mr. Nawaf and other Nasiriya residents said in interviews today that American bombs, dropped on the city this morning after the Sunday fighting, may have killed as many as 10 Iraqi civilians and injured as many as 200.
An American commander engaged in the battle for the city said he could not discount the possibility that Iraqi civilians had been killed.
Col. Glenn Starnes, the commander of an artillery battalion firing on Nasiriya, placed responsibility for any civilian deaths on the Iraqi soldiers who drew the marines into the populated areas.
"We will engage the enemy wherever he is," Colonel Starnes said. . . .
The fighting today enraged at least one Iraqi who had been inclined to support the American effort to oust Saddam Hussein.
The man, Mustafa Muhammad Ali, is a medical assistant at the Saddam Hospital in Nasiriya. He said he spent much of the morning hauling dead and wounded civilians out of buildings that had been bombed by the Americans. He added that he had no love for the Iraqi president, but said that the American failure to discriminate between enemy fighters and Iraqi civilians had turned him decisively against the invasion.
"I saw how the Americans bombed our civilians with my own eyes," Mr. Ali said, and he held up a bloodied sleeve to show how he had dragged them into the ambulances.
"You want to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime?" he asked. "Go to Baghdad. What are you doing here?"
Glenn, thanks for speaking on my behalf, but if you wanted to know my worst nightmare — well, here it is [warning: extremely graphic]. Welcome to it.
Clark for Veep? I touted CNN consultant Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) for the 2004 Democratic ticket a few months ago, and judging from the reviews coming in from other blogs, I've got new friends aboard the bandwagon. Here's what Kos said this morning:
Damn! Does Gen. Clark look vice presidential or what? He looks great, speaks great, and knows his national security.
[W]atching the war on CNN lately has made me realize just how good a presidential candidate General Wesley Clark — currently the newtwork's main talking head when it comes to Iraq — would make. Of all the various supposed Democratic contenders, nobody's getting better air time during these crucial days.
And not just that. I'm convinced that the Democrats will never win another election if they don't learn how to be tough and credible on national security. Well, Clark is the perfect answer to that problem. He won a fricken' war, for Christ's sake, whereas George W. Bush dodged one. Clark has the ideal pedigree to take on Bush on the topic of defense and score some serious blows.
I can't go that far — I'd like to see how Clark handles the campaign trail — but I'm with Mooney when he says that "whoever emerges from the primaries as the Democratic candidate would be an absolute imbecile not to enlist him as a running mate."
Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes I've tinkered with the site today — I added a link for Sean Paul Kelley's coverage of the war just above the blogroll, and set up a new category of links called 103 Words, set aside specifically for photoblogs. The three sites listed there so far are well worth your time, and I heartily recommend them.
In the Salt Mines Couldn't bring myself to blog this weekend. What with the perfect weather, I was inclined to blow off the computer at any rate. I wasn't counting on getting waylaid with work instead — but as John Lennon said, life is what happens while you're busy making other plans, eh?
At any rate, I've put so much time into writing for the job over the last couple of days that I'm all tuckered out. Rather than subject you to second-rate bloggage, I did some kitchen therapy, hit the couch, called a few friends, and took some time out to recharge. And now it's off to bed.
The legislature's back in session, by the way. It took the last couple of weeks off to wrangle over the budget. I'm still not sure whether they've agreed to one, but I'm down at the Capitol tomorrow, bright and early — guess I'll find out then. See you later in the day.