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May 24, 2004

Cause and Effect

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Ravenwood points to this Deseret News article, which begins with:

In Salt Lake County, the jail continues to suffer from chronic overcrowding despite the fact the crime rate has declined.

Yes, they do go on to say:
Certainly, it is fair to argue that crime rates are declining in part because cities and the county are willing to lock people away for long periods of time. But the lock-'em-up theory of public safety has its limits, both physical and logical.
On the physical side, taxpayers aren't ready to keep building and operating jails, nor are they likely to be any time soon. Right now, a tenth of all county revenues go toward the criminal justice system. That is about enough.
On the logical side, it makes little sense to lock up someone who is criminally delinquent on paying a fine when the cost of a first day in jail is often well over $100. Nor does it make sense to put someone in a highly secure environment who does not pose a risk to the safety of others. Instead that person could be put to work doing menial tasks and housed in a minimum-security environment that is far less expensive than a jail.

As a service to the editors of Deseret News, I present this tutorial on how to link cause and effect.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

One Day?

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Michael Totten notes that the most serious abuses - all of the pictures we keep seeing - at Abu Ghraib happened in one day. That is something I've seen nowhere else, and which would seem to bear heavily on whether or not the problem is systemic, and how it's being handled.

Note: his source is the New York Times, so it's possible that the information is wrong or mis-represented, though the fact that this would be in favor of the administration's case means that it's more likely true than not; the Times only tends to make up things against the administration.


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The media swarm around a story like Abu Ghraib exaggerates its significance 100 fold. The media doesn't care if americans die because of their excessive smear and witchhunt. The media will simply report on the dead americans as if it was a separate story, yet more reason to criticise Bush.

The hatred level toward the media is going up even faster than the media instigated hatred toward Bush.

Posted by: Miguel on May 25, 2004 04:10 PM

I also heard this story mentioned once, and had the same thought; it's hard to call it systematic if most of the worst of this happened on just one day. Seems like one really bad day. Unfortunately that doesn't fit the template the media wants to report.

Posted by: Brian on May 25, 2004 06:58 PM
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Language and Moral Bankruptcy

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Francis Porretto writes about the power of words, which dovetails with something that I've been thinking about a lot recently: the philosophical bankruptcy of the Left.

The basis of Leftist philosophy today is a strange mixture of remnants of philosophies no longer much believed: classical liberalism (in very, very small doses), Marxism, Luddite-like rejectionism, mercantilism, anarchist rejectionism, fascism, and so forth. These are held together on the Left by the overarching technique of "political correctness". Political correctness is no more and no less than an attempt to control what may permissibly be thought. It is an attempt to grab power by making people unaware that power is at issue.

One symptom of this is the continual attempt to define problems out of existence. If niggers are enslaved, they must be called colored. If colored people are segregated, they must be called black. If blacks are perceived as poor and crime-ridden in aggregate, they must be called African-Americans (unlike people who are Caucasian and emigrated to America from Africa, who must never be called African-American). The chain goes on.

The same process has happened with crippled/handicapped/disabled/differently abled. And the reality is that these continual redefinitions are not an attempt to prevent offense from words and symbols. Originally, the goal seemed to be to delete the concepts of race, ability, gender, talent, intelligence and any other differentiating factors among humans. Even impoverishment has undergone this kind of wordsmithing. These attempts, though, failed utterly at everything except adding new "offensive" words, and thus required new words for a new attempt - the old words were poisoned, and the new ones reduced semantic usefulness, rather than improving it.

But the real world doesn't go away just because we think differently, and some people still can't walk because their spines were crushed in some horrible accident, or disease atrophied their muscular tissue beyond repair. Since these people are different, there needs to be a word describing the difference, and new words will always be invented when the old ones become too tainted for polite conversation. I think that the point where the Left actually realized this came in the early 1980s, with the rise of political correctness (sounds so much better than "thought control", doesn't it?).

Political correctness marks the end of attempting to eliminate differences by eliminating language which describes those differences and the beginning of a new use of language as a weapon: an attempt to remove elements utterly from polite conversation, replacing them with words which assume the Leftist position and implicitly denegrate any other position. Try, for example, having an argument about whether or not a cripple can be a firefighter, in which you may not use any term to describe the cripple other than "differently abled". Now, if I am arguing that the "differently abled" are not less able, just differently able, and you are arguing that the difference in abilities is such that the "differently able" cannot use a hose, enter a burning building or perform many other necessary tasks - I have the advantage. I can use short sentences and shorthand words and thoughts, where you have to explain your position in detail. Since people are naturally wearied by explaining in detail time after time (bloggers seem to be an exception to this rule), eventually I can make you - or the audience - give up and leave; thus I win.

It is, again, simply a grab at power by shutting down attempts to communicate ideas that are antithetical to the Left.

But what is the object of this? What power is there to grab? Well, the Left's philosophy - such as it is when cobbled together from a mix of competing and barely-understood ideas long discarded in their essentials - holds that all power belongs to healthy, normal, adult Caucasian men who are businessmen, politicians or military officers (collectively, the patriarchy, oppressors, or many other epithets). It's not really possible, in this world view, for a Negro to gain power, because they don't meet the criteria of being Caucasian; or for a woman, because they don't meet the creteria of being a man.

But if you can define "the oppressors" in such a way that all of the criteria for belonging are either ineligible for discussion, or are implicitly epithets, then you can force a distinction between "them" (the opressors) and "us" (everyone else).

And that is why anti-globalisation neo-Luddites are joined by Stalin-worshippers and watermelon environmentalists at anti-war rallies, carrying signs that say they support soldiers who murder their officers; or at "pro-choice" rallies, carrying signs that oppose men in general. It's why the Left attempts to elevate being crippled over being healthy, being gay over being straight, youthful irresponsibility over adult responsibility, every non-Caucasian race over Caucasians, workers over businessmen, Leftists politicians over all other politicians (and Leftists over non-Leftists, for that matter) and so forth. It's why "enlightened progressives" will call any black conservative far more vile names than they use on any other person.

In the end, the goal is to take the money and power the Left believes belongs to people like, well, me, and to distribute it amongst their supporters, thus buying power for themselves.

The one, small, almost insignificant problem with this is that history shows quite plainly that power doesn't belong exclusively to the current "them": wealth and power and success and responsibility and bright prospects go to those who are willing to accept responsibility for their behavior, and the consequences of that behavior. And since the entire attitude of the Left is about excusing themselves for not having power, criticizing others who do have power, and then attempting to take unearned power for themselves, the Left will never obtain lasting power, even if every one of the current "them" is killed outright.

In the end, even absolute power would not be enough, because the failure to accept responsibility for the outcome of their behavior would result in the loss of that power. This is, in a way, what happened to the Arab world, where a culture of blaming others (engendered by a fatalist attitude inherent in Islam) stagnated Arab culture as soon as it suffered major setbacks. It's what happened to the Soviet Union, where Stalin set the situation up so that failures never happened. And it will happen to the West, too, if the Left wins the war of ideas currently being waged.


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These things go in cycles. Unfortunately with each cycle, the government grabs a larger part of the GDP, and totalitarianism grows.

Government schools are dumbing down future generations of voters, so the process can proceed much faster in the future.

Collectivisation and the death of civil society, the death of the rule of law, the growth of total government--those are the goals of the underlying core of the left. Most leftists are merely useful idiots, as always.

Posted by: RB on May 29, 2004 10:27 AM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

How Jingoistic Are You?

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This made me laugh hard enough to cry. Of course, I also have educated myself enough to know who Robespierre is.


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That was funny.

Hey, I actually learned about Robespierre in high school. Ok, I can't remember if we actually learned about him or I just read that part of the textbook on my own, but at least it was in the textbook! I bet that is seldom the case in public schools today.

Is it sad that I think that it just being in the textbook is good? But when you hear so many stories of today's textbooks not even including the founding fathers, unless mentioning that they were slaveholders...

Posted by: Brian on May 13, 2004 03:29 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

"Where do we Get Such Men?"

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Phil Carter posts some citations for heroism in OIF. Why don't we hear this in the news, rather than 7 days/week/network of how wrongly a few soldiers behaved at Abu Ghraib? I'm all for exposing our wrongs, to ensure that we correct them. I'd also like to hear about what we do right, but this information is not blasted at us, but must be carefully unearthed. Why?


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Thanks for linking to that. You know that kind of stuff is going on, but it's nice to actually read about these acts of valour.

Posted by: Brian on May 13, 2004 03:40 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

The Moral Judgement of the Village

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One way in which modern society is vastly, unimaginably different from that of even 100 years ago is in the degree to which people are concentrated in urban centers. Until well into the industrial revolution, the vast majority of the population lived in small villages, while only a relative few lived in cities.

One characteristic of crowded cities is that everything that's contagious spreads much quicker than in the less-populated countryside. This is true not only of the massive epidemics of polio and influenza, but also of the ideas and experience necessary to end those epidemics. Indeed, to a very large degree, the rate of spread of ideas was so much increased by urbanization that industrialization can be said to have brought on the information age more by spreading human knowledge than by the technology that industrialization provided.

But there's something lost, too, in the city. There's an anonymity here; reputations are less meaningful in the city. No one knows you, and committing an atrocity in one neighborhood will not necessarily condemn you two streets over. Would you do business with a thief, or socialize with a pathological liar? Yet, in the city, how do you know who are the thieves and liars?

That's one of the benefits of the village: have you ever known the moral judgement of a village to be wrong? The aggregate opinions of informed people tend towards accuracy and usefulness. That's why it's so important for a free society to be educated and aware of national and local events. And it's one of the things that the Internet is restoring to us.

Now, those who are interested in events can see them happen, and in context, and can see where our media repeatedly lets us down. Because of this ability to form communities of expedience, it's possible for information and opinion flow to lead rapidly to consensus and accurate moral judgement. And this should truly scare the entrenched elites - including the media - because by and large they've been lying to us for decades, and now we're finding out just how much. It's a small matter of time until the media is seen - correctly - as no better than tabloids.

The global village is coming; it just doesn't look like what we expected.


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Although I tend to agree with your argument, you're wrong about an important point: YES villages have made incorrect moral judgements. Up until fairly recently, adult women living alone were subject to all kinds of unjustified moral prejudice.

Posted by: Stephanie on May 14, 2004 10:01 AM

Conceded. Although, in that case, I would argue that it was not the village's judgement that was wrong, but the moral standard of society. In rural areas today, using today's moral standards, adult women living alone are not subject to that kind of moral prejudice.

Posted by: Jeff on May 14, 2004 10:53 AM

Villages often made wrong judgements about people just arriving or passing through, especially if they were of a different ethnic group. One of the interesting things about the net it it's becoming easier to go to a different village and bring your reputation with you.

Posted by: Karl Gallagher on May 14, 2004 06:00 PM

I'm often accused of putting too many caveats in what I say. (It's like Den Beste's "Don't Write Letters" links!) Here's an example of why.

Karl, you are correct. I was referring to the judgement of a village about long-time residents of the village.

Other limitations and exclusions may apply. :-)

Posted by: Jeff on May 14, 2004 06:05 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Amazed, Really

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I know that things look bad right now, with the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by their American guards at Abu Ghraib, the high death toll last month due to the fighting in Falluja and around Najaf, and the increasingly desperate acts of the enemy (such as the abhorrent beheading of Nick Berg and the barbarous treatment of the bodies of the food convoy guards in Falluja) as we start the handover of governing power to Iraqis. But the more I read letters from people on the scene, and the more I see the results of our strategy of making the problems in Iraq the problem of the Iraqis, the more hopeful I become.

I still think we'll have troops in Iraq 20 years from now, but I have been coming to believe that the combat and occupation portions of that 20 years may be only 3 or 4 years long, rather than the 10 I was originally estimating (comparable to, say, Japan's occupation after WWII). Frankly, I'm amazed at the job that Bremer has done - it would have been more likely for Iraq to fall apart than for power to be handed over on time - and that America has done in Iraq in general.

Don't get me wrong: I realize how fragile and dangerous the situation still is. The difference is, I'm beginning to think that our high-risk strategies (which have been causing fits among the more impatient supporters of the war) are going to pay off. And the higher the risk, the higher the gain.


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Iraq is in a delicate part of the world. If the west loses its oil supply, the whole world economy will tank for decades. So when dealing with the middle east, one can only deal strongly with one or a few nations at a time. However--
The secret to dealing with Iraq is to deal with Iraq's neighbors at the same time.
Iran and Syria are arming and bankrolling the terrorist insurgency. They will have to pay the piper.
Sunnis and Wahabbis in SA, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, etc. are providing suicide bombers and cannon fodder for terrorist groups in Iraq. The governments who have been turning a blind eye to their actions must be dealt with harshly in good time.

Posted by: Muphibious on May 14, 2004 11:04 AM
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May 22, 2004

The Sarcasm Comes Early (I Hope)

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So Steph and I were talking to Griffin (age 3) about how big he was getting, and how one day he might have a baby of his own. Then he would be the Daddy.

I said, "And I'll be the Grandpa. I'll be the crotchety old man who makes your wife nervous."

"But we not going to be fwends," stated Griffin in an indignant - and almost pleading - voice.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Now With Random Quotey Goodness

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Thanks to Frank J, inquisitiveness, and an hour or so's work, the quotes at the top of my page are now random. I've never done Javascript before, but (I thought to myself), how hard could it be? The answer: about an hour.

And I don't want to hear about it if "quotey" isn't a word.


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Well, if it wasn't a word, perhaps it should have been.

(Defend your coinages fearlessly!)

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto on May 15, 2004 06:03 AM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Always Hopeful, yet Discontent

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When I started this blog, it was with the intention that Steph would write here as well. Steph was concerned that my political ramblings would drown out her more personal style of blogging, and in the end it was probably for the best that she instead has One Sixteenth, because her voice likely would have gotten somewhat drowned out, and that would have been a shame.

But I have always wanted there to be different voices here than just mine, and that is now going to happen. Brian, my younger brother and a frequent commenter, will also be posting here henceforth. I'm sure he'll introduce himself in due time. No doubt his voice will be different from mine, and I'm glad to have him here.


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Yea, Brian!

Posted by: Mark L on May 16, 2004 02:07 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Spam Comment Killing

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I got frustrated by comment spam tonight, so I tried this. I know it's temporary - they'll just start reading the page for the comment script name next - but after some 50 spams tonight - a month's worth of real comments - I have had enough.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

April 9 in Baghdad

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This is the kind of story that Americans need to hear more of. It puts events in a lot better perspective than the "traffic accident reporting" style of the major media, and more to the point there are important things to learn here.

Like not all Iraqi civilians who are killed are truly non-combatant, or that we need to put some serious force protection efforts into these convoys. (Find where the enemy is attacking us, then engage them there!)

More to the point, this is the kind of thing to think about when you read things like this:

April 9 was also the day that seven American contractors working for a subsidiary of Halliburton and two military men disappeared after their supply convoy was attacked on the outskirts of Baghdad. Four of the Halliburton workers and one of the military men have since been confirmed dead. Halliburton worker Thomas Hamill escaped his captors May 2 and returned home to Mississippi on Saturday. The other two Halliburton workers and the other soldier remain missing.


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May 21, 2004

One Thing Missing

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Lately, I've seen a lot of people commenting on the blogosphere as a replacement for mainstream media. This is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't go very far.

The media as a whole serves several discrete functions:


There are other functions the media provides, but these are the most critical.

Information Gathering and Information Filtering

Information gathering is the process of actually finding information, while information filtering is the process of determining which bits of information that you have collected are meaningful, rather than trivial. Information is all around us, but most of it is not meaningful except in very specific contexts. For example, if a city council passes a resolution against US involvement in Upper Slobonia, that is certainly information. However, it's meaningless in and of itself (though it may be meaningful if virtually every city council in the country does so, as it would be an indicator of public opinion).

The major media actually does not do a great job at these functions, mostly due to laziness as far as I can tell. For example, no one saw the Savings and Loan crisis coming. Why not? Because the reporters who could have gathered the information in the records offices of the SEC were too busy attending press conferences and parties and listening to what was being talked about to actually go dig up the information. What information did come to light tended to get filtered out as isolated failures or financial difficulties, because there were not enough data points being gathered until the crisis was already upon us.

That said, the major media do a far better job, at present, of information gathering than the blogosphere. There is no blog equivalent to the AP or the staff of the NY Times. Blogs excel at finding information in print - especially information published on the Internet, filtering it and disseminating it (see especially Instapundit), but the gathering of raw information is still all too rare.

Analysis, Opinion Molding and Opinion Modeling

Analysis is the process of taking filtered information and placing it in a broader context. Opinion molding is the process of forming the opinions of others; editorializing is a subset of this process. Opinion modeling is the process of showing how a particular opinion fits into a broad philosophy.

This is the strong-point of the blogosphere. Blogs are often amazingly good at analysis. For examples, see USS Clueless and Belmont Club. By contrast, this is the weakest point of major media, frequently caught completely unaware by events either because their bad filtering prohibited good analysis, or unacknowledged biases led to faulty analysis.

Blogs are less efficient at opinion molding than the major media, primarily because while blogs - a mostly written medium - can convey logical arguments with great skill and effect, they are seldom able to obtain the emotional impact of and image and an anecdote. For example, I recently saw a CNN report with an Iraqi mother crying over her dead baby, killed in a cross-fire between US soldiers and Ba'athist insurgents. It takes a long time for any but the most hard-hearted to get past that image to the logical argument that she shouldn't have been holding her baby deliberately between US troops and Ba'athists firing on them, in order to make it harder for US troops to effectively fight the Ba'athists (especially because CNN didn't actually mention that she was doing so).

Opinion modeling is something else blogs do very well. Blogs generally are explicit about their philosophy, while major media tend to deny that they have a philosophy. Still, it is no accident that sources like the BBC or Reuters make their bias apparent; they have an editorial philosophy and it infuses everything they do. They do tend to deny that they have such a philosophy, though. Good blogosphere examples of this are Daily Kos and Eject!Eject!Eject!

Entertainment

This is a toss-up. The major media are very good at entertaining - they see it as a part of their mission and frequently skip every other aspect of reporting to be entertaining - regardless of cost to truth or anything else.

On the other hand, blogs are very entertaining for people who enjoy reading - especially politically-active people in the context of blogs which replace news media - but not as good at reaching people seeking mass-market entertainment.

I think that the blogosphere could eventually be a valuable channel for news and a significant competitor to major media, if a few steps are taken:

The one essential change is the need for some form of information gathering. I don't know how this would arise, except as an emergent property of individual blogging preferences. It's certainly possible that blogs would largely supplant major media in some ways, but if so, it's some ways off.


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The feed for information gathering in the blogosphere would be the guys on the spot doing stuff. We're already seeing that in how emails from the troops get passed around. What we'd need is for everyone doing newsworthy stuff--businessman, cop, soldier, etc.--to have their own blog with "today we did X and I saw Y." Then the wire-service level blogs can aggregate that into a news feed for filtering.

The problem is this requires not just blogging to spread to a large part of the population but for info-hording organizations to accept that letting their employees blab everything is actually the best way to get the word out.

Posted by: Karl Gallagher on May 27, 2004 10:53 AM
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May 20, 2004

The Unreported Story of Abu Ghraib

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While Americans focus on the abusive few, Iraqis see a truer picture than Americans usually do.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

America and the Olympics

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So American athletes are not supposed to wave the flag at the Olympics for fear of the reaction?

Why is it that only America seems to have such a bad reputation for arrogant and boorish behavior? How many times have you seen Americans doing things like this or this?

I imagine this gesture is primarily aimed at Europeans. Frankly, I don't care what the coalition of the whining thinks about us. I doubt their opinions will change based on how demure our athletes are. We are suffering under the delusion of the left that what's ultimately important is others' opinions of us. I suffer no such delusion. We owe the Axis of Weasels and their sympathizers no apology for liberating Iraq (which is what this is all about).

The only people with a right to be angry at us are the people of Iraq. Yet somehow I doubt these guys will be too angry with us considering this is assuredly still fresh in their minds.

To America's athletes I say, proudly wave the flag. If others don't like it, the problem is their's not our's.


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You know, I'm just tired of it. The more I see this kind of crap, the more I think, let's just dress up as Uncle Sam and be as jingoistic as possible. Who would we offend that isn't offended by our very existence? Except for the constant low-level bombings, the Israelis must feel the same way. Except for the constant threat of invasion from the mainland, the Taiwanese must feel the same way. Why don't we get together with the Israelis and the Taiwanese and just have a big "we don't care if you hate us, we can still kick your pansy butt" party.

Not that I'm bitter.

Posted by: Jeff on May 18, 2004 09:39 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Random Thoughts

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Courtesy of Monday's Best of the Web Today, this New York Times headline:

Bush, at a Commencement, Hails 'Honor' of U. S. Troops in Iraq

Absolutely disgusting (but highly illustrative of the Times' opinion) use of scare quotes.

I hear "Super Size Me" is getting rave reviews at Cannes. From what I gather it's a documentary about Michael Moore, but you might want to check with someone on that.

And should I feel bad, or is it just representative of my age, that upon hearing of Tony Randall's death, the first thing I thought of was this. Homer on deceased trucker Red Barclay: "He called me greenhorn. I called him Tony Randall. It's a thing we had."


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Losing the Moral High-Ground? They Admit we Once Had It?

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The Dignified Rant - a far-too-undervalued blog - has this interesting post about America "losing the moral high-ground". It's short and well worth the reading time.

Really, though, the Europeans don't need to worry much about Iran attaining nuclear capability: the moment that they do so, Israel will destroy Iran utterly, and may decide that once it's gone that far, it might as well take out Syria and Saudi Arabia, and maybe Egypt for good measure. After all, they would have to destroy Iran or be destroyed, and once they'd taken that step, they might as well take out their other threats; no further moral condemnation would come to them for it over simply destroying Iran.


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May 19, 2004

The Place is a Madhouse; Feels Like Being Cloned

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The backstory around the murder of Nick Berg is getting weird. I didn't post on this when I first saw it, because it smelled of a disinformation campaign. But there are too many reliable sources to ignore it now, so I've got to get something out:

It doesn't matter if Nick Berg's father supports A.N.S.W.E.R., is actually a communist (assumed because of his support for an organization of unreconstructed Stalinists), blames President Bush for his son's death. Nothing else about his father or his family matters, either.

It doesn't matter that Nick Berg was apparently Jewish.

It doesn't matter that he had connections to Zaccarias Moussawi, and may have had other connections to al Qaeda.

It doesn't matter who detained him, why, or for how long.

It doesn't matter that he refused a flight out of the country, or ignored the recommendation of US officials to leave.

All that matters is this: Nick Berg was an American, who was beheaded because he was an American with the temerity to try to help the people of Iraq. And if we allow the type of people who beheaded Nick Berg to triumph in this war, every American is in serious danger of that fate.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Being in the Minority

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Some things don't tend to go together:

Pagan and conservative
Pagan and monogamous
Pagan and "thinks environmentalists are full of crap"
Pro-gun non-gun-owning Texan
and so forth

Yet I'm all of these. But I'm not in nearly the minority that these guys are.


Comments

We're going to have to help you with that 'non-gun-owning' part one of these days. :)

Posted by: Aubrey Turner on May 16, 2004 08:03 PM

Absolutely. It's like flying: it's money or time - I seem to only have one or the other at any given point.

Posted by: Jeff on May 16, 2004 10:18 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Lie Down with Dogs, and You Wake up with Fleas

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Gay activists in London were attacked by Islamists and other pro-Palestinian activists ("an angry, screaming mob of Islamic fundamentalists, Anglican clergymen, members of the Socialist Workers Party, the Stop the War Coalition, and officials from the protest organizers, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign"). It's a seam, we should exploit it.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

What is the Philosophy of Government Schools?

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This Opinion Journal article by Diana West is interesting as an essay on why one parent chose to homeschool her children:

As anti-Christian and officially godless as Baptists would find the excellently rated, wealthy and very white public elementary school in Montgomery County, Md., that my daughters attended last year, it eventually inspired in me a deep and abiding faith: I came to believe there was no way on, er, God's green earth that I could possibly teach my girls less than they learned in that school.

But what inspired me to write about it is a comment left by reader David Land:
Diana West almost identified the schools' problem: They are teaching religion, and the religion they are teaching is paganism. Paganism involves nature worship and the devaluation of human life and institutions (sound familiar?).

It is time to explode the myth that the schools are in any way "neutral," and to demand that public institutions quit preaching "paganism" while denying a voice to all other religions under the guise that every other view violates "separation of church and state."


Well, there are so many things to attack in this one short bit that I almost don't know where to start. For one thing, I can certainly understand how Mr. Land equates Paganism with generally Leftist thinking. Most Pagans I know tend towards watermelonism: green on the outside and red to the core. This is because, I think, that most people who become Pagan become "fluffy bunny" Pagans, because they're really searching for a Hippy movement that doesn't exist any more as such; it's a similar cultural backlash, and will likely have similarly short-lived effect. Such people don't choose Paganism as a religion as much as a political statement. However, one can no more equate all Pagans with this viewpoint than can one associate all Christians with the Inquisition or with Republicans.

Further, Paganism at its heart is a grab-bag of religions that are not major. That is to say, Zoroastrianism (monotheistic, transcendant diety and no hint of animism I can see) is a pagan religion just as are Wicca (dual-theistic, animist, imminent diety) and Olympian Revivalism (pantheistic, animist, imminent diety). These are very different religions; more like Mormonism <-> Judaism than Baptism <-> Catholicism. But they are all pagan. In any event, the philosophy that Mr. Land is searching for is not a pagan religion, but "secular humanism", a profoundly liberal (in the classic sense) and uplifting ideology of individual liberty and responsibility, agnostic to religion but generally leaning towards rational atheism.

And he's wrong even there: secular humanism is most emphatically not taught in government schools. In order to teach secular humanism, one has to teach logic, reason, scientific method (not Scientism as a faith), personal responsibility and individual liberty. What the government schools tend to teach, to the extent that they teach any unified viewpoint, is actually an odd stew of leftover classical liberal elements completely without context, anti-establishmentarianism, authoritarianism/obedience, political correctness, watered-down Marxism and a cult of Self.

It's a toxic mix, certainly, but it's not Pagan in any sense. Or laudable. Or socially useful. Or particularly American.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Not That I'm Bitter...

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Jean-Marie Colombani, editor of Le Monde who famously declared "We are all Americans now" after 9/11, can kiss my American ass.


Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

More MT Commentary

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I have my own complaints with the MT system, but not this one.

For me, disk space is cheap. (I host my own server at home, so it's no skin off my back to use up lots and lots of disk space if I have to.) The rebuild time can be annoying, even though with my setup it's a matter of 5 minutes for the full rebuild (3 blogs, 5 authors, 929 posts, 1311 comments, some number of trackbacks1, 7MB database, 23MB disk space for the flat files). I like having static pages, so that I can mess up my database if I am testing things, without actually messing up my real content, and I don't find the space daunting.

It does the job, and I may end up staying with MT2.661 for the time being. Slashcode is too much of a pain to use for a small blog; don't want to do it by hand; Wordpress seems single-blog oriented; Blogger is a joke; pMachine seems like overkill (and it's hard to take seriously people who talk about CGI as a programming language).

If worse comes to worst, I'll roll my own, using MT2.661 as a base and not distributing it (as it would violate the license). I've already thought about rewriting the interface in a few ways, adding the ability to delete comments and block IPs with one click and the like, adding comment and trackback management, and fixing a few other peeves (I'd love to get an LDAP backend together, for instance). But in the end, I like MT and if they can fix their pricing issues and add compelling features, I'd probably upgrade. It would be worth it to me to not spend the time on writing something that's done fairly well by what already exists.

1Lack of a good way to manage trackbacks and comments other than the last five is a definite issue for me with the software.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

Dress #3

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Brian Tiemann has some questions, but has forgotten to include a choice: the correct answer to each question is whatever will increase the chances that the person reading it will vote against President Bush in November, will agitate against the US, or will otherwise act in the way that the manipulative people forming these "theories" want them to.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

New Version of MovableType

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MT has upgraded to v3.0 - at least in an early-adopter version. I will check this out, but I have a few reservations on the surface:


In short, I don't see any compelling reason to upgrade, I do see some reasons not to upgrade, and it won't be as easy for me to try out the software as I'd like. As a result, I'll probably give this a miss for the time being.

And judging by the feedback, I'm not the only one.

It's nice that they've finally fixed their licensing so that people can make money supporting MT, designing sites and the like. And it's nice that they've apparently improved the interface for plugin developers. That's not compelling to me, though it will doubtless be compelling to those who will gain increased revenue from this.

UPDATE: It should be noted that much of the feedback is coming from people who don't want to pay for software. As someone who makes his living in IT, I certainly don't feel that way. I'm willing to pay for good software if there isn't free software that is as good, and if the software's licensing meets my needs. While I prefer unlimited authors and blogs (and certainly see that as the way to go for 6A from a business perspective), my minimum is 6 authors/6 blogs. I can't afford their price for that, so unless they change, I'll continue with 2.661, find an alternative, or build my own.

UPDATE: The other interesting feature is how many MT users are recommending or investigating alternatives to MT in their commentaries.


Comments

I moved to WordPress a few months ago, and it was the best thing that happened to my blog. I wrote a How To move from Movable Type to WordPress over at my blog, which might be of interest to you.
WordPress lets me do everything MT did, and the support and user community positively rock!

Posted by: Carthik on May 14, 2004 09:13 PM

I looked at WordPress' site, and it looks nice. The only problem is that it only appears to support one blog per installation.

Slashcode is too much.

I'll likely stick with MT and roll my own extensions if they don't fix their licensing and features.

Posted by: Jeff on May 15, 2004 12:25 AM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Lighten Up, Already

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People are apparently taking The Day After Tomorrow way too seriously. In the end, it's just a movie by the director of Independence Day, and bears about as much resemblance to reality.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Drooling at High Speed

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Sorry, Steph, but we can't leave Keller until Verizon rolls out elsewhere.

I'd still like to know the bitrates, costs and whether the service will allow symmetrical uploads and downloads. (this is as close as I've found). But I'm already drooling in anticipation.


Comments

Well, what's taking you so long? Come home, for cryin' out loud!

Posted by: Mark L on May 27, 2004 07:13 PM

They had a similar setup in Cedar Rapids with McLeod. It was done some years ago, but I do believe that almost all, if not all, of the telephone cable in CR is fiber. I never experienced dsl or cable with the all fiber lines, but my guess is you get to pay extra for all the bells and whistles.

Posted by: Susie on June 1, 2004 05:19 PM
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May 15, 2004

An Introduction (Drum Roll Please...)

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Hi, I'm Brian, 28, SWM seeking SWF, age..."What's that Jeff? Oh, a blog?" (Note to self: Apparently this site is not a dating service.) Ok then, moving right along...

Well, I guess it was inevitable that from the moment Jeff led me to Right Wing News I would eventually be sucked into the blogosphere. Now that day has come. Muhahahaha!

Let me thank: Jeff, now I can ramble incoherently to a much wider audience than just the random passersby I accost on the street, God, my parents, my agent, the Academy voters, and you the fans, without whom none of this would be possible. Good night!


Comments

I'm reminded of the music that plays when Academy winners go on too long.

And Sally Field: "You really LIKE me!"

Posted by: Mark L on May 17, 2004 03:31 PM

Eh, the jury's still out ;-)

We did feel the need to inflict you upon other people, though. Make of that what you will.

Posted by: Stephanie on May 17, 2004 09:41 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Oh Those Cubs

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Sometimes the jokes write themselves.


Comments

First day on the job, and you're already joking about Jeff's cubs? You like to live dangerously. :)

Posted by: Mark L on May 17, 2004 03:32 PM

Somehow, gesundheit doesn't seem to cover it.

Posted by: Jeff on May 17, 2004 06:24 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Mantra

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Some things you just have to keep repeating to yourself until you believe them:

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush lied; people died. The inspections would have found any weapons if they existed.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush lied; people died. The inspections would have found any weapons if they existed.

Or maybe that's all a bunch of self-deluding crap to avoid any moral responsibility. Yes, that's more like it.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Wilfully Stupid

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What's the proper term for this?

It's not treason: no information or aid is being given to the enemy; "comfort" is a stretch here; and certainly Franzen is not waging war against the US.

It's not sedition: no attempt is being made to undermine the Constitution or the rule of law.

It's certainly repugnant and unpatriotic - even un-American in that it shreds the very concept of collective sacrifice for freedom and justice.

It's not even ignorant: no person could be so ignorant of human nature as to assume that disarmament will cause an enemy to not attack you. The best term I can come up with for this attitude is "wilfully stupid".


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Hey, I've Got an Idea!

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Let's get the UN involved in Iraq. Then, they can use their ambulances to shuttle around the terrorists attacking us, and run weapons to them, like they do in Israel.

Tell me again why we are still a member of the UN? It's questionable whether the UN could continue without the US, but it's pretty obvious that people would still talk to the US on much the same terms whether or not we are a member of the UN.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Who needs to give it that old college try?

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From the May 27 New York Times comes this story about stagnant graduation rates at colleges and universities.

This is what caught my attention:

As growing numbers of Americans enter college, most colleges and universities have failed to ensure that those students will graduate, according to a study released Wednesday by the Education Trust in Washington.

When did it become the job of colleges and universities to ensure that students graduate? Isn't that the responsibility of the students themselves? And how does one ensure that students graduate? Is this a call for even more grade inflation? Should we just give students a degree and skip the entire educational aspect (such as it still exists) of college.

The trust also recommended that states link their financial support for colleges to the progress their students make and their graduation rates.

The practical upshot of this proposal would leave my questions answered with an emphatic yes. A college degree is quickly becoming meaningless as an indicator of achievement or ability.


Comments

As such, it's just following primary and secondary education down the path of "least common denominator", and thus college degrees will soon be as meaningless as high-school diplomas.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is an inherent conflict of interest when the institution that teaches a subject also certifies that the subject has been learned.

Posted by: Jeff on June 1, 2004 09:43 AM

Honestly, college diplomas right now are probably the equivalent of what a high school diploma was a few generations ago. High school diplomas, on the other hand, mean absolutely nothing.

While I have abhorred the Marxist love fest that permeates many college campuses, in my early years I could get past that. Colleges, for all their faults, still largely had rigorous classes and high standards, and they were very proud of it. That has been rapidly changing, especially in my lifetime. It's a sad thing to see.

Posted by: Brian on June 1, 2004 08:35 PM
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Imagine

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P.J. O' Rourke imagines giving the world what it wants, an America more like them. Read it; it's brilliant.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

An Introduction (Drum Roll Please...)

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Hi, I'm Brian, 28, SWM seeking SWF, age..."What's that Jeff? Oh, a blog?" (Note to self: Apparently this site is not a dating service.) Ok then, moving right along...

Well, I guess it was inevitable that from the moment Jeff led me to href="http://rightwingnews.com">Right Wing News I would eventually be sucked into the blogosphere. Now that day has come. Muhahahaha!

Let me thank: Jeff, now I can ramble incoherently to a much wider audience than just the random passersby I accost on the street, God, my parents, my agent, the Academy voters, and you the fans, without whom none of this would be possible. Good night!

| TrackBack
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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Sign Me Up

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Expat Yank links to an Italian blogger's comments about Italy's direction in the Terror Wars, which includes this:

This country,this Left,this "right", this Europe did not understand what this Defensive Global War on Terror is about.

They did not realize this because they still live in the dream that one day it will be America that will rescue us.

Yet,America and the Americans are rightly suspicious of the Europeans and they would not come to rescue us if something bad happens to our Old Continent.

It will be the Europeans themselves who will have to rescue themselves.

Unlike Oriana Fallaci, if someone offers to me the American Citizenship, i will accept immediately.

It's hard to renounce to one's nationality.but when your country surrenders to the Evil, you have no othet option but join the American Dream.


OK, I have no idea what the requirements are for immigration, but I would be willing to sponsor anyone who loves the idea of America enough to come here.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Comment Spam

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Comment spam is the most annoying thing about blogging. I was going to try MTCloseComments, but that only works on SQL-hosted blogs, and mine is currently sleepycat. Anyone know of a similar solution that works on sleepycat-hosted MT blogs? (I'll move everything over to Postgres if I have to, but I don't want to.)

UPDATE: Actually, converting everything to Postgres was not difficult - though it was time consuming - because SixApart has a script for the purpose. I had to delete the IP ban lists from all of our blogs, and also the activity log. I've installed MTCloseComments, but it won't take effect for another week because now all of the posts are newly modified (as a side-effect of being moved to the new db). On the other hand, this should make the site a little faster to load, too, so the time was worth it even if MTCloseComments doesn't end up doing what I want.

Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

The Obsession With Abu Ghraib

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Ok, this story is preaching to the choir, but it's nice to see some in the press noting it.

I am so sick of hearing the constant refrain of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib. Why the continual slow release of pictures in the press? We know what kind of things happened there. The news value of these photos is minimal to nil at this point. The only story left is the investigation and punishment. I don't care about the media's sick fetish with these pictures. Of course, we all know this story is no longer about the actual events, but is instead a means of attacking the war in Iraq, and by extension and more importantly the Bush administration in an election year.

It's interesting that the press often defends their actions by saying they are giving people what they want (especially with their frequent obsessions of celebrities on trial). However most people do not seem to want this continued coverage of Abu Ghraib. The public was far more interested and appalled by the killing of Nick Berg. Yet, the media dropped that story after a day and a half. Where is the continued hand-wringing about what happened? Where's the outrage in the press over the killing? Where's the call for stepping up efforts to get Zarqawi? Where are the stories regarding Zarqawi's links to Bin Laden? Why was the story of an American strike on an Iraqi wedding party big news all over the place, but quickly dropped once it appeared it was a legitimate strike against a safe-house for foreign fighters?

Why does the Western media oppose the system that allows them to function? Why do they seem to want us to lose the war on terror? Do they not realize they would be among the first people to be oppressed by those whose cause they are championing?


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Wishful Thinking?

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Netscape's home page currently has this headline as their Top Story:

Death Toll: U.S. Iraq Casualties Setting Records

The actual AP story linked to is here.

Nowhere in the story is there any mention of any record number of casualties. AP itself doesn't mention records being set in its headline. This is either wishful thinking or complete ignorance by the person writing the headlines for Netscape. Unless they're going for the 'deadliest American war of the 21st century angle', I have no idea what records are being set.



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May 12, 2004

"War is Cruelty and you Cannot Refine It"

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The quote that is the title of this post is from General Sherman, famous for his systemic way of war that, above all, laid waste to Atlanta (nod to my current project manager: Sherman spared areas that put up no resistence). Rev. Donald Sensing, a former artillery officer, makes a post worth reading on how Americans approach war. As I said a year ago (and frequently before that, though not on this blog), "If you pose an existential threat to us, we are the most ruthless bastards on the face of the Earth, and we will bend you to our wills, or we will kill you." Rev. Sensing points to this chilling quote by D.W. Brogan:

For Americans war is almost all of the time a nuisance, and military skill is a luxury like Mah-Jongg. But when the issue is brought home to them, war becomes as important, for the necessary period, as business or sport. And it is hard to decide which is likely to be the more ominous for the Axis - an American decision that this is sport, or that it is business.

For some reason, people around the world (even many in America) fail to understand that our surface civility is a result of our deeper understanding, seldom expressed, that Americans are able and willing to slaughter without mercy or limit when pressed. If they could understand that, they'd be less likely to press us. Because eventually, when the mask of civility falls away (as it did in the Civil War and WWII), there will be hell to pay, and we will be collecting the tab.

I fear we are near that point now. I feel it in my bones. How many more Daniel Pearls, how many more Nick Bergs, before America decides that it is us or them? And when we do, how many will graves will we leave behind when Johnny comes marching home?


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I think that mas of civility was shattered on 9/11. Had Bush decided to employ nukes against Afghanistan at the time, most Americans would have been behind it. I think that attitude has lessened with the passage of time coupled with the administration's deliberate prosecution of the war on terror. But if another attack on the scale of 9/11 or worse happens on home soil any time in the near future, woe be unto anyone connected to it. I believe a fury unimaginable would sweep this nation leading to the 'us or them' propsition you mention. I tremble at the thought of what we would do, knowing our capabilites.

Posted by: Brian on May 13, 2004 04:04 PM

mask of civility

Posted by: Brian on May 13, 2004 04:04 PM
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May 11, 2004

Naming the Enemy

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Michael Totten names the enemy. One of the points he brings up is that there is not broad agreement on who the enemy is, precisely. This once again points out the need for a formal declaration of war by the US: such a declaration would officially name the enemy, and make unity of policy far more likely than it can now be. However, I don't know that this would be politically possible now prior to the election, because the process would become a way for the Democrats to embarass President Bush, rather than a way of formalizing American policy.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Ability to Speak Well = Ability to Teach Well

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Apparently, it's a good thing Steph has high verbal ability.


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May 10, 2004

Slogging On

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Like any other human activity, war is so varied and complex that it is hard to generalize; so hard that virtually no categorical statement about war will ever be true in every case. Thus this thesis is open to challenge:

I see war as generally dividing into six (not entirely linear) phases: tension, attempt to overthrow, stabilization, pursuit, collapse and aftermath.

Tension builds as two (or more) parties realize that they have conflicting goals. Each side believes it can win (if not, there will be no war, because the side which believes it will lose will cut a deal), and each girds for war - so long as each recognizes the threat posed by the other. The vast majority of people will not recognize this as any different from normal diplomatic wrangling, and will generally tend to dismiss those tensions that would naturally lead to war while playing up those that can be solved. Even diplomats are not immune to this tendency.

The attempt to overthrow is the first initial burst of offensive activity. The goal is to induce the enemy to collapse utterly without a prolonged war. The action here is fast and furious and large-scale - in modern wars it is always at least an attempt at a blitz. The associated emotion is euphoria on the part of the attacker and determination on the part of the defender: the attacking side is convinced they can win without a long war, while the defender is certain he can beat back the attack.

If this fails, a stabilization period sets in, where the sides are relatively well-matched. The goal is to shape the war to provide structural advantages to one's own side, such as ensuring that the enemy is deprived of some critical resource that is used over time so that a long war will favor you. The action here is incremental, unpredictable to those not in on the grand plan, often confusing and generally small-scale. The associated emotion is concern: the attacker is let down by his failure to overthrow, while the defender sees a host of problems besetting him and, though happy at preventing an overthrow, is not yet convinced of his ability to win.

These two stages can go back and forth. The initial attacker, having been repulsed, might renew the offensive in another attempt to overthrow the defender, or the strategic defender could gain an advantage that allows him to make an overthow attempt. More usually, among well-matched powers, the stabilization will be a long, hard slog of incremental gains and incremental losses. The longer and harder this looks, the more despairing both sides will be, especially so in a democratic nation, where the free press naturally amplifies negative news to a hoarse shout, while burying positive news in amongst the comics.

Eventually, one side or the other will have gained a structural advantage large enough to start turning into tactical advantages, and the battles will become increasingly one-sided. As this happens, victory becomes noticably at hand for the side which is now on the offensive. Action begins to look like an attempt at overthrow again, which in fact it is, and the prevailing emotions now are back to euphoria for the attacker, and despair for the defender.

Finally, the defender will collapse (note that this might not be the same party who started the war on the defensive; by 1944 Germany was the defender, even though it had started WWII as the attacker), and be routed, followed by either disengagement or occupation by the attacker. This sets up the aftermath, wherin the costs and benefits of the war are tallied up, the new international order recognized and formalized, and the seeds of the next war usually sown (WWII being a notable and rare counter-example).

I think that this war has followed the pattern, with a small twist. The enemy attempt at overthrowing the US came after a long period of increasing tension characterized by major attacks which, by and large, were seen by most Americans as background noise; a pair of destroyed embassies and the other attacks simply don't excite us much in the post-Viet Nam era. On 9/11, the enemy attempted to overthrow us, causing us to accede completely to their demands. (Much as they did in Spain, more successfully, on 3/11/04.) When this failed to break our will, the balance of forces was such that we immediately seized the initiative (that being the twist - normally this is not possible to do quickly), attempting to overthrow the enemy first in Afghanistan, which shook the enemy deeply but was unsuccessful, then in Iraq, which was only partially an overthrow attempt: mostly Iraq is part of the stabilization phase, where we've realized the enemy won't go easily, so we have set ourselves up with a base of operations in the enemy's back yard, which we now must defend against all comers until we are able to shape the long-term war to our advantage.

The enemy strategy has become pretty clear: 1) divide the US from its allies; 2) demoralize the US via a complicit or at least credulous Western media; 3) make incremental gains in border skirmishes like Nigeria; 4) terrorize non-radicalized Muslims to keep them off the coalition's side.

The US strategy is also clear: 1) hold the coalition together, and broaden it if possible; 2) grind down the enemy resources in the field (which we can replace more easily than they); 3) remove enemy sources of supply and refuge; 4) win the non-radicalized Muslims to our side (or at least make terrorism their problem); 5) prevent additional enemy overthrow attempts within the US or major allies if possible.

The war in Iraq hurts us with item 1 in our strategy, while helping greatly with items 2, 3 and hopefully 4 (if we can create a stable representative government there).

I believe that we can expect the Iraqi occupation to be ongoing - whether directly under our control or just with our assistance to the Iraqi government - for at least another 3-5 years, possibly longer. One way to shorten the war, and to bring the advantage of time and resources more to our side, would be to invade Iran or, with lesser effect, Syria. We cannot do this with the current force structure, however, and I don't see us being able to do so for at least another two years unless we make some major changes in our ground forces, either by enlarging them, or activating the reserve component more fully, or by reorganizing more quickly that appears to be the plan, or by ditching commitments to the Balkans and Korea.

It's unclear where the incremental work now going on will lead, though I suspect that the major attempt will be to attrit enemy personnel and deny them secure bases of operation while we attempt to stabilize Iraq. The war could thus be inconclusive for several years, and I believe that it is incumbent on the President to show us enough of the plan to give us reasons not to give up, while it is up to us to not give up, and to ensure that the President we choose in November will not give up either.

Donald Rumsfeld was right, though, it's going to be a long, hard slog.


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Syria would be the easier, but less fruitful, next step. Obviously, dealing with Iran is the next big step. It's a more urgent problem, but we can't take it until Iraq is relatively stable, so that we can take most of our forces there and use them in any attack while Iraq itself largely maintains it's own stability with a small American force as basically a garrison.

My hope is that Iran revolt with the US then following on with support, quickly toppling the mullahs. It would just be so much easier for us if the revolution start before we go in; that way we won't be seen by the populace as precipitating it ourselves. If that happens, there would be far less internal resistance to the change in regime.

Second, I would point out that the seeds of the next war were planted at the end of WWII. The dividing of Berlin led nicely into the Cold War. I guess you were alluding to actual combat.

Third, although their own previous experience had led them to believe we were soft, Al-Qaeda would have done well to heed the words of Yamamoto before executing 9/11.

Posted by: Brian on May 5, 2004 05:02 PM

To your second point, I was. We have neither fought with our WWII enemies since, though the Korean War did come out of the post-WWII division of the peninsula. Our involvement in Viet Nam (where Soviets participated) came out of the collapse of the French colonial system, rather than WWII.

Interestingly, to a large degree, the Terror Wars arise out of the aftermath of WWI, and the way the League of Nations divided up the Middle East. In fact, my long-offered plan for getting the Israelis and Palestinians to work together would be to put a large number of British troops and diplomats into the area. Everyone would stop killing each other until the Brits were dead or gone.

Posted by: Jeff on May 5, 2004 05:19 PM
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Allies, Friends, Opponents and Enemies

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While Steven Den Beste and I differ slightly on criteria for classifying the parties in the current global struggle (he looks at long-term philosophical trends, while I look at present goals and their antecedent philosophies); and thus would differ at the margins over who are allied, friendly, opposed or enemy; those differences are very minor in the range of philosophies about the Terror Wars. Steven lays out his classification, and explores some of the implications of it. It's a worthwhile read.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Things I'm Tired Of

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Here are a few things I'm tired of, all in relation to the Terror Wars:


I'm certainly at the point of more-or-less ignoring the Western media; I don't trust any of the major media any more. I don't trust the instincts, institutional culture, political biases, cultural assumptions and passing fads built into or endemic to the Western media. I don't trust their judgement. Many of the American journalists, I don't trust that they think of themselves as Americans before they think of themselves as journalists. More to the point, I don't think that they by and large either journal events or report events; instead, they craft a story, into which they fit or reject events.

I'm not yet at the point of demonizing Muslims in general, but I can feel myself sliding in that direction. At the least, I would now countenance acts by our side that I would not have during, say, OIF; for example, I would be fine if we flattened Falluja instead of trying to win Fallujans over to our side. And that doesn't make me particularly happy, because it means that my anger is beginning to trump my reason.


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Obviously your anger isn't trumping your reason yet. If it was, you wouldn't notice it and remark on it. But I know what you mean; I am sick and tired of all the same things you list. I guess I've become innured somewhat, though. My anger is much more muted than I would expect. I just get more steely and much more cold-hearted inside as events unfold. I turn it all inwards and let it stew and burn. Not very healthy I'm guessing, but maybe it's necessary for the task at hand. I just have an attitude that the ONLY option is victory, and the only way of achieving it is the complete annihilation of this murderous ideology. EVERYTHING else is secondary at this point. I have no time, nor inclination, to worry about the seditious words of Ted Kennedy, nor the lunacy of like-minded individuals. They are a hindrance to ending the barbaric ideology of radical Islam, thus are not worthy of my concern. My only thoughts regarding them is to make sure they never have any power to influence events in any significant way.

I, too, sometimes feel that maybe we should just take them all out, in a very general sense. But unrestrained unleashing of fury, while feeling good, is not helpful in the long run. It's important to remember that what we are seeing are the acts of a minority of Muslims - even if it's a significant minority. We cannot be just another version of brutal killer; we must show those Muslims who want to throw off the yoke of oppression that our's is a better way, that we are better than those murderous thugs.

That being said, I would like to see us ramp things up some. We seem to be operating at half speed right now. But I like Bush, Rumsfeld, Myers, etc. and trust them. I know they are walking a fine line trying to keep the majority of Iraqi's supportive of our actions.

So I'll sit and stew and be angry, but I'll be patient. This is going to take many, many years, and in the meantime we will see more and we will see worse. I fear that we will eventually see a catastrophic act that will make 9/11 seem mild. But I know that there is only one possible course, no matter how long it takes - victory. Radical Islam is doomed; it cannot cheat the inexorable tide that will wash over it. It is destined to the ash-heap of history. Despite the overblown hand-wringing we see by many in the press and on the left, America really does seem to have reached it's breaking point. I do not see American resolve crumbling any time soon. And as long as we are resolved, the forces of radical Islam have NO chance at winning this war they have started.

Posted by: Brian on May 12, 2004 01:48 PM

The Islamists are causing decent people to despise them. Yes, they are trying to provoke a reaction from the west that will bring all muslims into the battle.
That was the idea behind 9/11. The idea was a bad one then, and it is getting worse.
Other than Turkey, muslim countries are cesspools. The people are miserable because their leaders are incompetent, and their religion and ancient customs prevent the people from using their natural abilities to rise above their current misery.
That's why the islamists are trying so hard to drive out the americans from Iraq. If Iraq becomes another muslim success, like Turkey, it will drive muslims away from the radical islamist message. Things might get much worse before they get better.

Posted by: Brigand on May 12, 2004 02:24 PM
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Hardly Appropriate

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At a San Diego high school, two teachers showed their students all or part of the video of Nick Berg being beheaded. By the time my sons are in high school, I hope that they are capable of handling the evil of the world and thus watching this video with sickness, rather than sick fascination, and without emotionally being harmed; if not, I will have failed my duty as a father. But not everyone has the same standards, and this is terribly inappropriate for a public school to show. It's also particularly inappropriate for a government employee to actively campaign against the country's actions.


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Public Intelligence

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If you think that the issues of WMD stockpiles in Iraq, 9/11 happening at all, and other such incidents shows that our governmental intelligence is a sad joke, check out the dissection of our public intelligence system - the major media - by Belmont Club. The main point of his article is about the lack of context and orientation in media reporting: how the reports are like traffic reporting, unconnected in space and time.

He notes something also that I've been watching for a while: how initial reports overlay later, more accurate reports, and once the accurate reports are available the event is no longer "news". So the image the public is left with is the initial, inaccurate report, which is usually taken primarily from sources hostile to the US, in the case of reporting in Arab countries.

I believe that this is why the major news media is falling apart: people are beginning to realize that there is not continuity between a military "quagmire" and a total victory less than a week later, "economic disaster" and rapidly-rising economic growth and jobs. People on the whole are basically logical and intelligent over time, and as more people get to cognitive dissonence over new reports, there are two responses: distrust the reports, or join the rabid Left or rabid Right folks who think that black is white or white is black, as long as it's not what the domestic political opposition is saying today.

Since most people aren't political, the result is generally increasing distrust of "news" sources.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 9, 2004

Oh, Canada!

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The Canadian government is slow, but it does have a plan for dealing with gun buyers.


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Kasparov on the War

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Garry Kasparov has a good editorial in the Wall Street Journal today, well worth reading, on the nature of the war and the necessity to name the enemy.

I've long been of the opinion that we need to declare war and in the process to name our enemy. This would not only free the hands of this and future presidents to pursue the war effectively, it would also end the ambiguous nature of the fight. It almost doesn't matter how the war is named, as long as it's against an identifiable enemy (rather than, say, a tactic, such as terrorism). My preference would be "people and organizations which practice terrorism; nations, organizations and people who support people and organizations which practice terrorism or protect those who do so; and nations, organizations and people who proliferate nuclear weapons technology to nations, organization or people who practice terrorism or support or protect those who do so." There needs to be a term for this, because that's a mouthful.

More to the point of Kasparov's article, it would change the terms. Right now the opponents of American or Israeli or coalition action can simply change the terms any time they see fit. Israel is the classic example of this: armed Arab fighters who are in the process of attacking Israeli children are "militants", while armed Arab fighters who are not in the process of attacking Israeli children (but who were on their way to do so) are "civilians". When Israel raids terrorist bomb factories, only "civilians" or "Palestinians" are killed, and they are always named and, if under 18, given an age. The same does not happen to Israelis, where terms of derision are applied to the victims of Arab violence, and they are seldom given names, ages or pictures.

By naming the enemy in a declaration of war, everyone would have to take sides. One couldn't avoid this by changing the terms, because a declaration of war makes the issue concrete: either you are with us, or you are with <insert enemy here>.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

Nude Zero-Gravity Futureball

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This may be the most realistic wargame design request I've ever seen. I particularly like this bit:

I want to have to choose between sending marines door-to-door to be killed in the streets or leveling the block from afar, Nuns and all, with 30 carriers. I want to have to choose between 40 dead troops or 400 dead children, and be damned to Hell by chubby pundits from the safety of their studios regardless of which way I go

(Link via Winds of Change)


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 8, 2004

Incredible Performance

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The Arizona Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game against Atlanta. And that included thirteen strikeouts! This is his second complete game in the last 10 games he started. If he keeps up this performance, he could be looking at a Cy Young award in the Fall.


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Posted by jeff at 12:00 AM | TrackBack

May 7, 2004

Lot o' Links

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Instapundit has some good stuff right now:

Dust in the Light looks at Jimmy Massey, perhaps the next John Kerry - in a bad way.

Chrenkoff has a roundup on the stories you're not likely to see in the news: it's the good news from Iraq, and there's a lot of it.


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