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June 18th, 2003 The Nose | The Nose
 

Phantom tag in the arenas of war.

     
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Last week, as U.S. troops in Iraq were still hunting for those elusive weapons of mass destruction, lawmakers in Oregon were still talking about how the future incomes of baseball players could finance a new sports stadium in Portland.

Others might have missed it, but the Nose sees a connection between what happened in Baghdad this spring and what's going on in Salem right now.

Proponents of war, including our president, were so convinced that Saddam Hussein is evil (which he is) that they were willing to ignore the warning signs that he might not actually pose an immediate threat. Fans of Major League Baseball, including our governor, are so convinced that Abner Doubleday came up with the best sport ever (which he did) that they're willing to ignore huge risks this venture poses.

The Nose understands that sometimes the desire to do the right thing overwhelms the need to justify it.

Take Iraq first. Anyone who still thinks George W. Bush had "proof" that Hussein posed an immediate threat to the United States probably believes the Cubs are still going to be in first place in October--without the aid of weapons of corked construction. And they haven't been following the recent reports that Bush relied on forged documents from Niger to help justify the attack on Iraq, even though they had been discredited by his own administration.

On June 8, Condoleezza Rice conceded that her boss's claims that Hussein had been seeking African uranium were "not credible."

That's like saying Sammy's bat was "not regulation."

In late 2001, at the request of Dick Cheney, the CIA dispatched a senior envoy to look into reports (first obtained by the Italians and passed on by the Brits) that Niger had sold Iraq tons of uranium. The envoy returned in March 2002 and told his agency and the State Department that the documents were forgeries--and not even very good ones. (For example, they bore the signature of a Niger government official who had left his post years before the alleged sale.)

The White House has confirmed that those documents were used by Bush, a year later, to make the case for war in Iraq. Their explanation? The CIA and State Department failed to inform the president.

As silly as that sounds, it's possible that Bush was not briefed. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff wrote last week, "the intelligence agencies were under intense pressure to come up with evidence against Iraq. Ambiguities were lost."

Which brings us around to baseball. Those ambiguities haven't popped up in Salem, at least not when it comes to the baseball bill.

The Nose was talking to an associate who'd been in the Capitol last Thursday, when the bill to finance the stadium was heard by a Senate committee in a packed hearing room while cameras rolled. Other legislators popped into the hearing room, just to watch the proceedings.
When asked by the committee chair whether he was there to testify, Democratic Rep. Mike Shaufler of Happy Valley replied, "No, madam chairwoman--I'm here
as a fan."

House Bill 3606 is based on the theory that the income tax from players' salaries will be enough to finance $150 million for stadium construction at an as-yet-undisclosed location by an as-yet-unidentified owner. And if the revenue dips, an as-yet-unnamed "authority" (the City of Portland, perhaps?) will be on
the hook.

Despite these ambiguities, the bill passed the House earlier this year and could pass the Senate, if it gets to the floor. The governor, a lifelong Cardinals fan, has promised to sign it.

The Nose understands.

Polls show that most people don't care that those pesky weapons haven't turned up in Iraq. And,
for baseball fans, the financial risks posed to some secret "authority" can't compare to the lure of a late-inning homer.

It doesn't matter that the bat may be corked, as long as we don't know about it.

 
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