Monday, April 24, 2006

Bush and Lincoln???

Thomas Bray wrote a column for this morning's Detroit News in which he argued that there were some significant paralells between President Abraham Lincoln's handling of the Civil War and President George W. Bush's prosecution of the War in Iraq. You can read his column here.

I wrote the following response to Mr. Bray:

Dear Mr. Bray:

I read your piece in this morning’s Detroit News in which you compared President George W. Bush’s experience in Iraq with President Abraham Lincoln’s prosecution of the Civil War. Your argument was, in my opinion, one of the stupidest pieces of commentary in the entire history of the English language.

You simply ignored one of the most fundamental differences between Lincoln in the Civil War and Bush in Iraq. Lincoln had a fairly well-defined reason for going to war in the first place. Yes, he originally stated that he wanted to keep slavery from spreading only to emancipate all slaves two years later as you pointed out in your column. It was still, however, all about slavery – a consistent casus bellum.

Bush, in contrast, began case for war with the argument that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which were an imminent threat to the United States and her allies. He also inferred that Iraq and/or Saddam Hussein had some type of involvement with 9/11. Both of those claims have since proved to be false.

Rather than admit that he made a mistake, Bush and his minions began offering a third rationale for going to war in Iraq – that it would spread democracy throughout the Middle East.

Of course, everyone in the Bush administration ignores the fact that the vast majority of Iraqis want to see the U.S. withdraw her troops. They also ignore calls from the elected leadership in Iraq for a time-table on U.S. withdrawal.

Precisely how, I wonder, does ignoring the will of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders benefit the cause of democracy in the Middle East?

To summarize, Lincoln had one, simple consistent reason for taking America into the Civil War. Bush has already gone through three of them and his reason for war today is essentially, “We’re at war in Iraq so I don’t have to admit having made a mistake.”

It’s also noteworthy that the Civil War only lasted four years (1861-1865). The war in Iraq is already in its fourth year and has no sign of ending any time soon. This, of course, means that conservative pundits such as you will undoubtedly have to resort to even more tortured logic and even more blatant attempts at revisionist history as the years go on.

All of this means that the 2008 presidential and congressional races should an extremely interesting set of contests.

Frank P. Nemecek
Detroit, Michigan

If Mr. Bray ever responds to my rebuttal, I'll be sure to post it here. Until then, a copy of the book that he referred to in his piece is available at

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter in Praque

I recently learned a bit more about what Easter is like in my ancestral homeland of the Czech Republic. It turns out that one of their customs is that, on Easter Monday, young boys and men would run around their village; whipping girls and women with whip made of branches from willow tree.

The girls, in turn, would present the boys with a painted egg and sometimes serve them alcohol.

Something tells me that if I tried this anywhere in Michigan, it wouldn't be an egg or booze that I was served in response.

Oh, well - every culture has their own unique mating rituals that seem odd to everyone from the outside. I suppose this is no different.

Anyway, I have to say one thing for the Czechs. Their Easter eggs make the ones that I used to make as a kid look very, very sad in comparison. I don't think I could ever bring myself to actually eat anything that looked this cool and ornate.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Exploring the AAA Building

I had a chance to go through what is commonly known as the AAA Building (139 Bagley) in downtown Detroit last month. At first, I wasn't going to do an entry on it - but there have been a couple of people asking about it over on the Detroit Yes forum that I figured I had to share a little narrative as well as the photos that I have from it.

I went through this building with the owner's son, Matt Pieroni. I hate to admit, but as soon I reached the ugly side of 30, crawling into a building through a window or something like that really lost its appeal. As a result, I'm grateful to the Pieroni family for allowing me the chance to go through their building.

For those not familiar with 139 Bagley, it's the only building that is still standing on the block previously occupided by the former Statler Hilton Hotel. It also the building that mysteriously caught fire while the Statler was being demolished.

The Pieroni's allege that materials dropped by welders working on the Statler's demolition ignited the wooden beams in the roof at 139 Bagley. The demolition contractor, Homrich, Inc., vehemently denies this. A lawsuit concerning the whole matter is currently pending in the Third Circuit Court.

The building is in reasonably good condition when you consider all that it's been through. Pretty much everything of any value, however, was stripped from the building by vandals.

The first floor has an impressive atrium that was clearly one of its stronger selling points when it opened almost 100 years ago. I didn't grab any photos of the first floor - partly because it was so dark on that floor, but mostly because I wasn't thinking properly when I first entered the building.

It was a lot easier to take photographs on the upper floor because there was more light available. You can see a considerable amount of debris on the floor. At least some of that is material that had fallen from the walls or ceiling above.

The building, unfortunately, has a considerable amount of water damage. Since there's no roof on the building anymore, every time it rains, water lands on the top floor and keeps falling until it hits the ground floor. Along the way, it erodes the plaster and other building materials - eventually yielding the results you see below.

Mitigating the water damage, in my opinion, will be the single biggest factor in terms of whether or not this building can be saved. I talked with the building's owner about protecting his building from water damage. He said that he intends to take care of it as soon as the court case surrounding the fire is resolved.

Quite frankly, I hope that happens quickly. It's a sad fact that this building will eventually reach the point where there is so much damage from elements that it has to come down. What's left of the roof certainly isn't going to provide this building with any protection from the elements.

I would have taken even more pictures of this building, but the batteries on my digital camera gave out on me.

And I forgot to bring a spare set along. (Y'all can call me an idiot if you like).

My gut tells me that there isn't much of a chance left to save this building. However, the Pieroni family is still optimistic about it and, quite frankly, I have been proven wrong before. After all, it wasn't that long ago that I went through Brush Park and would've bet anything that there was no way in the world any of those buildings could have been saved.

For whatever it might be worth, here's to hoping that something great happens on that site.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Too Weird

Shortly after 1 a.m. tomorrow morning, the time will be 01:02:03 04/05/06.

I think I'm going to stay up just to experience that one second of perfect time alignment. (Of course, I am completely weird).