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July 31, 2005

American Hero - Brian Chontosh

This site talks about Marine CPT Brian Chontosh, and his heroic actions on the drive on Baghdad in 2003. While the site focuses too much on an anti-media crusade, and too little on CPT Chontosh, the story needs to be told. The Marines tell it better. America still makes heros, we still find men like this among us. Thank all the gods that be that it is so.

(hat tip: My Pet Jawa)

Posted by jeff at 8:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 30, 2005

Blogrolling

Gerard Van der Leun expands on the concept of blog communities I talked about earlier, and Dave Schuler adds his analysis as well. Both hit upon blogrolls. In a further display of the amazing synchronicity that this topic has been generating, it so happens that one of my current TODOs (too long ignored) is to port MT Blogroll to work with Postgres as its backend database (different schema from MySQL, which is where MT Blogroll is targeted).

I think that blogrolls are an under-exploited feature of the blogosphere. As Dave notes, most people set up their blogrolls with their blogs, and seldom alter them thereafter; and when they are altered, it is mostly additions. I treat mine a little differently: I maintain it actively, both adding and deleting, and move blogs around in the list frequently as well. This is because my blogroll is who I actively read. But there's a problem: it's too big, and so the bottom 2/3 or so of the blogroll is seldom read. That's a shame because there is some excellent material down there.

But for most people, the blogroll seems almost to be a statement of community by its mere existence, which means that it becomes stale quite quickly. (How many blogs still link to BBB, which has been dormant for over 2 years now?) And there's really no need for this, except that there's not a good, universal blogrolling tool. Blogrolling.com is useful, as is MT Blogroll. These tools will become more useful as they add new features, and particularly as they are incorporated into blogging tools.

What this all presages is the concept of communities of blogs, koinonia, becoming more easily detected and more commonly understood. I will contribute what little I can by creating a definitional framework. In the definitions below, the "central blog" is the one that forms the starting point for discovery or definition of the community.

Neighborhood: A central blog's neighborhood consists of all of other blogs to which the central blog links in its blogroll, and which also link back to the central blog in their blogroll.
Koinon: A koinon is the intersection of a set of neighborhoods, containing at least three blogs.

For example, taking myself as the central blog, ZenPundit, The Glittering Eye and American Digest are all part of my neighborhood, because I blogroll all of them and they all blogroll me. In addition, The Glittering Eye and ZenPundit blogroll each other, which means that the three of us form a koinon.

Do those definitions work, or are they too broad, too narrow, or not useful?

I should note, by the way, that these definitions are in part meant to be specific enough that koinons and neighborhoods could be discovered automatically, either with crawlers or with reference to Technorati and the Ecosphere.

UPDATE: Actually, I've thought of a better definition, more expansive of what a koinon is. The definition of koinon above should be for a "family" or "cluster" of blogs. A koinon, then, could be the intersection of a set of neighborhoods, where at least three members of each neighborhood are common. By this definition, then, the koinon would represent a larger order community, with a more diverse spectrum of members, which is what I believe was first intended by the term. For an example, see here.

Posted by jeff at 1:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 29, 2005

Gatekeepers and Keeping Score

American Digest has a thought-provoking essay on how blogs are becoming more like traditional media: we're evolving gatekeepers that strongly influence what's covered in the blogs. Well worth a read, and too much good stuff to excerpt. I think that Gerard Van der Leun's thesis is right, for a large part of the blogosphere: it's necessary to have someplace to go to find out the gist of what's going on, and sites like Instapundit (it's that near the top of my blogroll for a reason) and Kos are great places to find that. It should be noted, though, that this is primarily true in the politically-obsessed part of the blogosphere, which is already, and will become more so, a shrinking part of the total blogosphere.

But I think that even the political blogosphere has more to it than that. Perhaps Van der Leun is speaking only within the context of media and political blogging - both of which he is a part of - and to that extent I have no alteration to make. But even within that world, it's not that simple. There are three factors that the blogs have that are critical: depth, breadth and reconsideration.

Depth comes from there being so many blogs. While there are a top tier of maybe 1000 right-wing and perhaps 200 left-wing blogs (drawing roughly equal traffic between the groups) and a few dozen centrist blogs that draw high traffic, there are a lot more blogs sitting below the surface. These blogs tend to form koinons, which discuss certain topics and matters amongst themselves. When these reach a critical point, or become part of a larger context, the big blogs take note and incorporate those elements through the magic of hyperlinks. And this draws more people into those lower-traffic koinons, as they are discovered by new readers.

Breadth comes from the fact that many blogs require many authors. Each of those authors has a particular life story, particular training and particular skills. I am, for example, an expert on identity management, information security, directory services, UNIX systems, and enterprise-level systems integration; and as an IT consultant for several years, I've worked with a wide variety of companies and people in a wide variety of places. I have some hobbies and areas of interest that intersect with other blogs (in fact, I originally became interested in blogs because of Transterrestrial Musings (mostly about space) and became determined to blog by reading Steven Den Beste (mostly political analysis, and sadly dormant). I am a husband, and father of four boys. I was born in Okinawa and spent much of the early part of my life in SE Asia and Europe. All of this taken together gives me a particular voice.

There are experts on so many areas, and people who live in so many places, who write blogs, that any issue has an instant set of experts to comment on it. These, too, find their way into the top-traffic blogs as the relevant issues arise. These people all have their own voices, such as the Christian pastor who used to be in the military, or the gay, Republican author of computer books or my wife (who mainly writes about homeschooling and family issues, with a more active comment section than mine).

The third feature of blogs that is critical is reconsideration. This just means that issues can be - and are - revisited over time. Issues don't entirely die in the blogosphere until and unless there is consensus, which as far as I can tell will never happen. What this means in real terms is that reputations are sticky, and in part they are based on people's willingness to change their minds when they figure out they were wrong. People look at the partisan blogs, but generally only if they really agree or really disagree with them. I'd rather read Winds of Change or Balloon Juice, which which I sometimes agree and sometimes do not, than read the partisan blogs. Part of the reason is that the partisan blogs are stuck on their positions as premises, and rarely change them, except when it's politically expedient. The reason that reconsideration is critical, though, is that except for the partisan blogs, issues will eventually gravitate to one or two opinion sets (eg: CBS used obviously fake documents in Rathergate because they were out to get the President and couldn't be bothered to be responsible journalists; or CBS used obviously fake documents in Rathergate because they were duped by a source they trusted). In other words, as new evidence comes in and those who are not emotionally invested in a position change their minds, over time there is a coalescence around a generally-accepted set of facts.

I do think a lot of people are overly obsessed by traffic: what matters to me, though, is not traffic but comments and discussion. I care about comments. I care about trackbacks. (And thanks to Technorati and the Ecosystem - when they work - it's possible to find other people talking about the same topics, but who don't have trackbacks from their sites.) Right now, I'm engaged in a wonderful discussion about polytheism on a post I did on the pantheism and Wiccan cosmology. That matters to me. Others are, of course, welcome to obsess over how many visits per day they get (I checked, and I get about 1500 visits a day on average, which is just utterly wonderful).

UPDATE: Francis Porretto has observations on the same essay.

Oh, and I fixed the spelling of Gerard Van der Leun. Mea maxima culpa.

Posted by jeff at 11:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Media Credibility Goes Boink

Ever since the end of major combat operations in Afghanistan, just a few months after 9/11, there have been two major media themes: the US is failing in the war on terror because of George Bush, and the US is failing in Iraq (which has nothing to do with the war on terror) because of George Bush. But the media has a serious problem now, because of two developments with the latter theme. The first development is that the US has apparently turned the corner in Iraq: we could be reducing troop levels in Iraq next year, and without the country falling apart. The second development is that the terrorists keep insisting on linking their terrorism to the "provocation" of Iraq, as once linked their terrorism to the "provocations" of East Timor, the Gulf War, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the fall of Andalusia (hundreds of years ago).

As the Iraqi political process moves forwards, and the terrorists continue to be beaten down or driven out, and the US begins drawing down troop strength in Iraq, the media will have to report these things, even if they put a decidedly negative spin on events. (If? Of course they will!) With the war in Iraq clearly being won, there will be no way to look at the media coverage of the last few years and see how it happened. How did a series of negative events, coupled with a few minor successes (like the January elections), lead to a positive outcome? And there will be, at that point, a huge drop in media credibility.

Let me pause here for a moment, because there's something that we in the blogosphere frequently forget: we aren't normal. Most Americans don't follow news obsessively, and don't seek out multiple alternative sources of information to tease the strands of truth from the mass of reporting available. Most Americans barely watch the evening news. For the vast majority, news comes mostly second hand. And so only the surface flows of the news story make a real impression on most people. While the non-news obsessive public has already been discounting much of what the media says, and their credibility has already been dropping, this will massively accelerate with events so obviously opposed to the media narrative.

And this will cause the second part of the media template to bite: how will the media be taken seriously on their pronouncements of how badly the war on terror is going, when the media was so wrong on the war in Iraq? And the media will have a hard time pulling the two apart, because the terrorists themselves are linking Iraq to their actions.

So the most dangerous theater of war for the US - public opinion as formed by the media - may not be a danger for too much longer.

UPDATE: This kind of crap doesn't exactly help the media, either. Far too many reporters (not the one named in Mark's piece) are ghouls, and far too many MSM news organizations feed off of the ghoulishness. And that's going to haunt them (no pun intended) in a world where they no longer have the only loud voice.

Posted by jeff at 7:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005

Hanoi Hussein Jane

Let me just say that Jane Fonda is a waste of oxygen and can bite my ass.

UPDATE: Speaking of people who can kiss my ass....

Posted by jeff at 11:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 25, 2005

Defense in Depth

One of the things that really bugs me is that people tend to think very thinly - even supposed experts. Sometimes, I suppose, that is simply a result of not being willing to say what they really, think, because it would be unpopular. I prefer to think that people are Machiavellian, rather than dumb. (Evidence suggests I'm probably giving too much credit.) A key example, the one that got me writing this, is immigration.

I am a strong supporter of immigration. I think that it should basically be legal for anyone (with a few exceptions, like terrorists or organized criminals or people who have been expelled) to come to the US, for any or no reason, with next to no requirements except that we know who they are and where they are, so that we can get hold of them if we need to. I think that to make this possible, it should be very, very easy to immigrate legally to the US. Would this lower our standard of living? Temporarily, it undoubtedly would, as labor supply overbalanced labor demand, particularly at the low end.

On the other hand, if we have really open trade policies and minimal subsidies (for example, if we had only reciprocal tariffs to balance tariffs and subsidies from particular places), then the balance would be quickly struck with the rest of the world, and we'd grow in synchronization (as we do internally in the US, for the most part). This would be good for all concerned.

With all of that taken into account, we don't live in that world. And it's true, whether we like it or not, that our immigration policies are such a mess that it's easier to get and stay here illegally than legally. This will last until shortly after we figure out that coyotes smuggled a group of jihadis over the border, and they afterwards carried out a mass casualty terrorist attack. But for the moment, the proponents of illegal immigration (however much they deny it) have the field.

OK, but we have these laws about immigration, and as a matter of curiosity, I'd like to think about how we could enforce them, to prevent the aforementioned terrorists from getting and staying here. And here's where the bad thinking comes in. Most people I've been able to find recommend that we go after the employers, or that we build a wall on the border, or some other magic bullet method. Here's something that I've learned about magic bullets in my life: there aren't any. Perfection simply isn't attainable except in very, very limited areas for very, very limited times. Try going to the store to get something, and see how many times such a simple trip goes wrong due to a flat, or the store being out of stock, or forgetting your credit card.

The only kind of defense that works is a defense in depth: it is necessary to put so many different layers between your core and that which you want to stop, with different characteristics (both strengths and weaknesses) in each layer, that one of the layers will catch any given attack or effort. If we want to stop illegal immigration, we need to do all of these:

  • Make legal immigration easier for non-criminals and non-terrorists (or terrorist supporters). This includes such efforts as guest worker programs, as well as dramatic reductions in the wait times and paperwork necessary to come here.
  • Patrol the borders much more vigorously, land and sea.
  • Make deportation of non-citizens who do not have legal documents illegal unless they make a valid claim for asylum.
  • Make that deportation fast.
  • Make deportation ironclad: do not release illegals from custody until they are in their destination country.
  • Heavily fine any employers who hire illegal immigrants.
  • To catch such employers, offer a conditional amnesty: the first illegal immigrant who turns in a particular employer, provided they are otherwise eligible to be here (ie: would not be kept out if they applied legally to immigrate), gets citizenship short-circuited, while the rest of the illegals that work there are deported.
  • Do not give automatic citizenship to children born in the US: only if their parents are here legally should they be given citizenship.
  • Require proof of legal residence before issuing any government identification or providing any government services.
  • Hold liable, and fine, anyone who knowingly aids an illegal immigrant in remaining in the country.

There are more things we could do, really, but this would go a long way towards fixing the immigration problem.

If, that is, we cared about fixing the immigration problem. My hunch is that we, as a society, don't.

UPDATE: Mark in Mexico notes one part of the problem that I mentioned above: illegals who are caught get released with an order to appear before the court for a deportation hearing later. Guess how many show up?

Posted by jeff at 9:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Denial - It's not Just a River in Egypt

Marc at American Future excerpts a Guardian commentary by Osama Saeed, spokesman of the Muslim Association of Britain. The core of Mr. Saeed's argument is that fighting terrorism is Britain is Tony Blair's job, not the job of the Muslim community.

The position of Muslim organisations and mosques has been consistent for years. Killing civilians is murder, and a crime in Islam. We have consistently said that Muslims must help the police to track down those responsible.

This is why I've found it strange that many Muslim leaders have offered to look deep within our community now. It's a tacit admission of negligence that I simply do not accept. The prime minister has of course welcomed this attitude. Indeed he has led from the front, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Muslims, laying the responsibility solely on us. "In the end, this can only be taken on and defeated by the community itself," he said last week.

[snip]

By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister absolves himself of responsibility. Muslims are not in denial of our duties, but who are we meant to be combating? The security services had no idea about all that has gone on in London, so how are we as ordinary citizens to do better?

[snip]

Unfortunately, a handful of individuals have eschewed this to carry out the attacks in London. You can regard these acts as part of Islam, or as an irrational reaction to injustice taking place in the world. If it's the former you have to explain why this started only 12 years ago and not 1,400. To us it is evident that it is the latter, so we're batting the ball back in your court, Mr Blair.


The commentary is full of denial, finger pointing, tu quoque and so forth. It's not so much an apologia (though there's some of that) but a complete and utter deflection of blame away from Islam and Muslims. And that's OK, in one sense: Saeed is correct that it is in part Tony Blair's job to fight terrorism in Britain. It is also every Briton's job, because every person in a society - at least a free society - has a stake in defending that society.

Now, Saeed may simply be saying that Blair's responsibility is greater, as the society's elected leader, than that of any particular subject of the Crown. That's fine. The alternative, of course, is that Saeed is saying that Muslims are not inherently British nationals, even if they've acquired the status in a legal sense, and therefore not bound to defend the society.

But Saeed should be careful what he wishes for, because there are three options open to the British government: surrender, accommodation of the terrorists, and elimination of the terrorists. But given that the jihadis' goal is elimination of the society, there is a certain point at which accommodation is simply no longer possible, and only surrender or fighting are possible. Assuming that the government does not go very far in accommodation of terrorists before fighting, a safe assumption in Blair's case, then the only two real alternatives are surrender or fighting.

Britain is not going to surrender: there'll always be an England. But how will the British government fight against terrorists hiding in Britain's Muslim community? Most likely, the British will make a determined effort to tackle the problem as criminal, by finding and arresting known jihadis and their enablers. But that will always be a reactive strategy, because it is always possible to hide some, not all, small cells, particularly if the local Muslim population is sheltering those cells. This implies that attacks will continue as long as the treatment of the attacks is as reactive law enforcement.

It's possible, of course, that the jihadis could run out of agents in Britain. But that is unlikely: Marc has an analysis of a survey of Muslims in Britain that suggests that as many as 100,000 of them at least tacitly support the attacks. If even 1% of these tacit supporters - 0.25% of Muslims in Britain - are willing to actively aid or carry out attacks, that still leaves 1000 potential terrorists. Given an average of 4 attackers and, say, 10 supporters (bomb makers, safe house operators, financiers, etc) per attack, and a death/capture rate of, say, 8 terrorists per attack, somewhere around 125 attacks could be made before the jihadis exhausted their pool, and that assumes no one coming in from outside or being recruited given the inevitably greater interference from police. At an average of 20 Britons killed per attack, that's some 2500 dead Britons over a period of a few years. And those are all pretty conservative numbers: odds are you could multiply those final numbers by a factor of 5, given the results in Iraq and Israel, and be nearer the mark.

But treating the attacks as law enforcement is not a stable state with casualty rates like that: no free government can stay in office with its subjects being regularly killed. And the pattern of jihadi activity everywhere it's taken hold is to grow for a while, making statements that are ignored; then to begin small attacks; then to escalate those attacks. At some point, British tolerance with attacks will be surpassed; then what?

Then, it becomes a military fight, and the British will go after not just those who have committed or attempted or helped commit attacks, but those who are likely to commit or attempt attacks. At that point, a very easy method to justify is deportation of the population thought to be most risky. That would be an early step: the English have a backbone of steel, and an immense national pride, and will do anything necessary to defend England, when it comes right down to it. And the community that will be affected by those actions is Mr. Saeed's community, the one he says bears no responsibility to help. (If he's lucky, it will be the British government coming after him: the Brits after all invented football hooliganism, and I would take the British young men over the Muslim community, if it came to a fight.)

Well, I suppose it's up to Britain's Muslims: responsibility now or suffering later.

One paragraph in the article deserves to be fisked point by point:

Mr Blair has attacked the idea of the caliphate - the equivalent of criticising the Pope.

You know, if people were killing innocent civilians in the name of the Pope, I'd be criticizing them pretty strongly. The caliphate is an idea, though, not a person: people are killing to bring about the caliphate. A more reasonable comparison would be terrorists trying to turn Britain into a Catholic nation. Ask the IRA how that went.
He has also remained silent in the face of a rightwing smear campaign against such eminent scholars as Sheikh al-Qaradawi - a man who has worked hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy.

You mean this guy? Yeah, he's a moderate all right, working to reconcile us to acceptance of unequal rights for women (including ritual female genital mutilation), the establishment of a theocracy, and the killing of homosexuals. He's against democracy, and thinks that terrorism is just fine, as long as it's against non-Islamic states. Big moderate, yeah. Now why would PM Blair defend such a person? Why would any person who loves freedom and self-determination defend such a person? Why do you, Mr. Saeed, defend him?
Such actions and omissions fuel the suspicion that we are witnessing a war on Islam itself.

No, but it's certainly the case that there's a danger of that. If, for example, organizations like the Muslim Association of Britain keep telling us to trust that Islam is a peaceful religion, so Muslims of course wouldn't attack innocent civilians, and so we should ignore the evidence of our lying eyes, there will come a point where this will become a war against Islam. And at that point, I would not give Islam a snowball's chance in Hell: have you read anything about how the West fights when it feels its survival is at stake? Or, heck, when it just thinks it would be nice to live in Oklahoma (ask the American aboriginals about that one).
If there is any thought that Muslims are fine but their religion can take a hike then Mr Blair should know that we will never be in the corner, in the spotlight, losing our religion.

If Islam does not reform, and work actively to eliminate the terrorists who kill in the name of its god, then it is only a question of time until Islam is destroyed. Your call, Mr. Saeed, no matter what you think. If you and your fellow "moderates" are unwilling to accommodate us, to worry about our street opinion, to control your worst elements, then it is a matter of time before we will do what is necessary.

I'm sure that some future Prime Minister would issue an appropriate apology.

UPDATE: And via Mark in Mexico, read this editorial from Youssef Ibrahim. That is what we need to here from Saeed and his ilk.

Posted by jeff at 3:13 PM | TrackBack

July 24, 2005

Ethos

Lee Harris has a masterful reflection on tradition, ethics, and cultural survival. I cannot excerpt it sufficiently to do it justice, so put aside some time and go read it. (hat tip: Steph)

Posted by jeff at 10:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 23, 2005

The Mechanics of Madness

Well, Representative Tancredo has certainly set off quite the firestorm, by suggesting that it would be a good idea to bomb Mecca and Medina in the case of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack on the US. Those commenting notably include: Rusty Shackleford, Baldilocks, Zenpundit, riting on the wall, Francis Porretto, The Glittering Eye, Donald Sensing, Hugh Hewitt, and James Lileks. Good: it's a debate we need to have now, rather than in the immediate aftermath of our response to a nuclear, biological or chemical attack on the United States.

My take on it starts with my moral center: "Do what thou wilt, an harm none." This is the Wiccan Rede, the center of Wiccan morality. Essentially, what it means is that it is your right to do what you will, so long as you, in the process, cause the least harm. (Thermodynamics makes pretty clear that entropy increases, so doing no harm is simply not possible; the idea instead is to balance and minimize the harm done.)

So from this we take away a few questions about when it is possible or even necessary to take another's life. And this requires that we put values on lives. (Note: not a value on life, because all life is most definitely not equally valuable.) It is clear that the life of an innocent outweighs the life of a murderer: the murderer is actively causing harm, and so his life has a lower value than one who is not actively causing harm. It is clear that the life of a person advancing human happiness outweighs the life of a person advancing human misery. So, say, Jerry Springer's life would be valued above that of Osama bin Laden, and below that of Hernando de Soto. But such calculations are not easily made clear when the lives being worked with number in the millions: we have to simplify.

If the United States is attacked with nuclear weapons, or to a lesser extent chemical or biological weapons, the deaths and grievous injuries will be legion. Taking revenge by obliterating Mecca and Medina, or Tehran and Damascus, or anywhere else would be morally vile: murder does not pay for murder. The question has to be on how to minimize the number of deaths and injuries, and that puts the question in a very different light, because it brings up a very serious question: are the jihadis deterrable?

If they are, then threatening to obliterate Mecca and Medina in such a case, provided we were to follow through on it, would be useful. The same goes with threatening to obliterate Tehran and Damascus. If such a threat, credibly issued, prevents a nuclear attack on the United States, it is useful. However, the problem is that once a nuclear attack is initiated on the United States, we must then follow up with the nuclear attacks we pledged as collateral, or we invite further attacks. The enemy will not back down when faced with an empty threat, only a credible threat will be meaningful.

But this assumes the enemy to be deterrable. If the jihadis cannot be deterred, then even a massive response will be meaningless in preventing future attacks (unless we happen to hit all of the enemy's supply of nuclear material). If the enemy cannot be deterred, the only way to prevent the deaths of millions (assuming the enemy gets nuclear weapons) is to kill or capture the enemy first. The problem is that this is very difficult: the enemy hides easily in the midst of non-combatant Muslims (a better formulation than "moderate" Muslims, since many of the Muslims sheltering the terrorists are anything but moderate), and separating out the immediately dangerous jihadis from the less dangerous collaborators and the not at all dangerous Muslims is terribly, terribly difficult.

Any response, any strategy, has to take into account how to minimize both the number of people the enemy kills or injures, and the number of innocents we kill or injure in attempting to prevent the enemy from acting. Multiple approaches will be needed, and multiple approaches are being taken, to prevent a nuclear attack from occurring in the first place. But what if they fail?

Well, if the American people perceive the enemy as deterrable, we will likely engage in measured escalation, isolating radical Muslims (hope to catch all the jihadis in the process), overthrowing jihadi-friendly governments (Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc), ignoring the sovereignty of countries like Pakistan that are unable to deal with the jihadis in their midst, and so on. A strong President could make a case for something less than genocide, even in response to a nuclear attack on America, and make it stick.

But a weak President, or a public perception that the enemy cannot be deterred and so will strike repeatedly, means a three conjectures world, and that inevitably means genocide.

Me? I hope the enemy is deterrable, or that we are lucky enough and good enough to keep the enemy from acquiring nuclear weapons. Because if we are not, the results will be appalling.

UPDATE: Francis Porretto said it better, of course:

As your Curmudgeon has already written, the secret to deterrence is discovering what the enemy values more than the damage he plans to inflict upon you, and holding that hostage to his good behavior. It's chancy, prone to miscalculation of several sorts. More, when "the enemy" is not a decision-making monolith, there's always the possibility that your threat will deter some but not all -- and that the undeterred segment will act against you despite all your disincentives. But these observations fall far short of proof that Islamic terrorists cannot be deterred, particularly since history says the opposite.

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July 21, 2005

Terrible Claw

Dr. John Ostrum has died. It was Dr. Ostrum's discovery in the early 1960's of Deinonychus ("terrible claw"), and subsequent work, that utterly changed the modern conception of dinosaurs. We now believe that the dinosaurs, at least the therapods, were warm-blooded (or some similar physiology), smart, fast and agile. In addition, it was Dr. Ostrum's work that established the link between dinosaurs and birds, and his work had an enormous influence on the book "Jurassic Park". Interestingly, while the Deinonychus has not, so far as I know, been found with fossilized feathers or imprints, other dromeosaurs have, much much later than Dr. Ostrum's theories about bird links to dinosaurs having become accepted. Dr. Ostrum was a treasure of the human race, and we are poorer for his departure, but richer for his having lived.

UPDATE: Political Animal also takes note, but of course the commenters cannot resist the temptation to bash the free market, young Earth creationists (which is, well, appropriate in this context) and Dick Cheney. Bah! Just remember the man for what he was; not everything has to be political.

Posted by jeff at 5:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Flooding the Area

Wizbang points to something interesting, in relation to today's attacks in London: the BBC reporters' notes are available online. This brings up two very interesting points, in fact.

The first is that I wish reporters would always do this, would always show the raw material. These are the reports, as opposed to the stories. The stories - in the newspaper, on the radio or on TV - are built from these reports; they are a synthesis. But in with synthesizing the points into a coherent narrative, a point of view is also inserted, and it is from that that most media bias arises. In fact, it is possible to draw multiple narratives from most large sets of reports about related incidents, and by making the raw reports available, a person can read the reports and synthesize their own narrative understanding. This is a good thing.

The second point is that this is what the blogs cannot yet do: flood an area or a sector with reporters and gather information. Blogs are more like the editors who put together a story: they gather information from a variety of places, then inject their own viewpoint and form a narrative structure around the component reports. But there is no coordinating structure to gather the information in the first place, which puts bloggers at the mercy, largely, of the traditional news media for gathering information. But when only the parsed stories are available, not the raw reports, the information gathered can be partial and presented in a biased way. Developing such a capability is far more important to the ability of blogs to bypass the mainstream media than anything else blogs could do. Particularly because, since people with access to computers are just about everywhere, bloggers could potentially develop a news source much more vast than any conventional news organization. But again, this requires a system to coordinate the gathering and dissemination of information, and we don't have that yet.

Posted by jeff at 1:50 PM | TrackBack

July 19, 2005

Pottering Theories

A few theories I've had about what Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was doing below the surface, and many I hadn't really considered very deeply, are recounted here. (Major spoilers there!)

One theory I've had for a while, that for me was "confirmed" by the DA, is that the book will end with Harry being offered the position of Professor at Hogwarts, teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts - and whom better? This didn't come out in the site I linked, so I figured I'd throw it out for consideration.

Posted by jeff at 1:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Constitutional Lesson Plan

Mark Lerner is creating a Constitutional Lesson Plan. Here is lesson one: Our Constitution is one of liberty or negative rights.

Worth following.

Posted by jeff at 1:00 PM | TrackBack

The Best You've Got?

OK, let me make sure I'm up to snuff on the Wilson/Plame thing: the current set of allegations, once all of Wilson's lying and the media's resultant sensationalism has been taken away, is that Karl Rove confirmed a reporter's prior knowledge (and apparently common knowledge on the Washington social circuit) that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Come on, guys, is that the best you've got after six years of relentless digging into President Bush's campaign and administration?

Perhaps you have information on how the President's wife profited enormously from investing someone else's money in futures? No, wait, that was Hillary.

OK, but surely the President and his wife bought some waste land that somehow became quite lucrative? No, that was the Clintons again. Give me a minute here.

Didn't the President receive immense contributions from foreign countries, including one that considers us its "main enemy", during his campaign? Didn't he then make sure that missile technology could be exported to that country? And didn't he lie about that? No, sorry, Clinton again.

OK, certainly there must have been some kind of situation where the President was trading access to the White House and top government administrators in exchange for campaign cash? Darn it, that was Clinton, again.

Firing non-political staff members to replace them with cronies, in violation of Civil Service rules? Nope, still Clinton.

Surely, surely, you have something on the biggest scandal of all: the President perjuring himself (that is to say, illegally lying) in front of a grand jury, and then attempting to obstruct the investigation into that perjury? Nope, still Clinton.

Taking FBI files and "losing" them, only to be found once certain investigations were completed and the files could no longer be used as evidence? Nope, Clinton.

How about the Agriculture Secretary accepting bribes and committing fraud. Wait, no, that was Clinton's Agriculture Secretary, Mike Espy.

Attacking fringe religions with armed force? No, that was Janet Reno. How about taking children from their relatives and sending them to tyrannical a communist dictatorship? Oops, Clinton and Reno again.

Pardoning campaign contributors? No, still Clinton.

There has to be something we can get the President on. How about putting a price on the head of political enemies, helping criminal organizations to launder drug money, bribery and fraud, obstruction of numerous investigations, trading promotions for sexual favors, or fabricating charges against political opponents at critical times in order to derail criticism? Those were all Clinton, too.

The Democrats really need to get on the ball here. They're starting to look like pikers at generating scandals.

Posted by jeff at 9:57 AM | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

The Enemy's Strategic Problem

The enemy has a very serious problem strategically: they attacked too late, and they picked the wrong form of attack. From the beginnings of widespread access to network television to the mid-1990s, when talk radio became powerful enough to get disputes with the mainstream media into people's heads, opinion was by and large shaped by about a dozen people at two newspapers and three television networks. It is common perception that the news networks drove (and largely still do) their coverage based on what the New York Times was covering. There was no effective alternate voice, and since these dozen or so über-editors were from similar backgrounds, there was basically one narrative in American opinion.

The talk radio shows, Fox News Channel, and later the blogs have changed that: there is once more a competing set of narratives in the US, as it was when we depended upon newspapers and magazines for our news. This onset of choice has led to, gasp, a better-informed public (scary though that can be) and a fragmentation of opinion. This has, in turn, led to a reduced ability to scare the US (and to a lesser extent, Europe) into a stampede, which in turn has made us stronger.

The reason we are stronger for this is that our military is unbeatable in any practical exercise. Even the Chinese admit they would lose a conventional war with us, which is why they recently declared their willingness to use nuclear first strikes to prevent US intervention in any Chinese attempt to take Taiwan. The only way to beat the US is for the US to give up from lack of will. And compelling the American will now requires more than stampeding the dozen or so mandarins that used to push the rest of us along. There is still an American herd, but it is increasingly smaller than the American pack.

So into this comes the enemy, attempting to shape our will. Why? Because the enemy's intermediate goal is a caliphate - a theocracy claiming authority over all Muslims - in the entire Middle East. To get that caliphate, local governments have to be overthrown or co-opted. To overthrow the local governments, the West must not have troops in the Middle East, nor the will to use force to support local governments (particularly Israel, which is not subject to the slow process of jihadi conversion, nor to being driven out, and so must be destroyed in place). And since the only forces with any decisive and intransitive power were the Soviet Union and the US, those two had to be driven out.

The Soviets broke on a combination of Afghanistan and poor leadership (Brezhnev took two years to die after he became incapable of rule, and his two successors served short and uninspired terms). The Soviet will broke, and soon thereafter the USSR literally disintegrated. It should be noted that the Soviets were unable to win militarily, but they were not beaten militarily, either: the Soviets only committed about 90-100,000 troops to Afghanistan at any one time, a small fraction of their force. (And appallingly, some 484000 of the 642000 or so Soviet troops that served in Afghanistan were casualties, mostly to diseases like typhoid and hepatitis!)

That leaves the US, which is similarly unbeatable militarily, and due to the increasing fragmentation of opinion, unlikely to be scared into submission. There were (and remain) two means of altering US will to support the regimes in the Middle East: direct attack and co-option.

The enemy could try to break our will to support the regimes - pretty much all some flavor of appalling totalitarianism - through attacking us in the Middle East and elsewhere abroad and, eventually, at home. The idea was that by terrorizing the population, we would force the government to withdraw into a shell and leave them alone. An attempt to co-opt, on the other hand, would look like South Africa or India: resistance that is, or can be portrayed as, the non-violent struggle of people for equality and decent treatment.

It's an interesting question whether a strategy of co-opting our will could have worked: as it is, a shockingly large percentage of the Western Left is ready to be co-opted even in the face of massive violence against the West and anyone in the Middle East seen as "not Muslim enough". It's telling that the Left is not scared away from arguing the jihadis' case by attacks - real, physical, brutal killings - of women and homosexuals and children, shutting down schools by bombing them, and so on, sacred objects of the Left at home. Given that, and a prominent realist strain in US policy, it's possible that a co-opting strategy could have driven the US out of the Middle East utterly. The sticking point would have been Iraq, but I can think of a few ways that could have been worked around, including by enlisting the US to help jihadis overthow Saddam Hussein, as the mujahideen overthrew the Soviets in Afghanistan.

But the enemy was impatient, or felt it had a better chance with violent attack, or maybe just didn't understand the power of ANC appeals in the West. Whatever the reason, the enemy chose violent attacks. And that presents them with a paradox: since the Western will is, by and large, stronger than it used to be (particularly in the US), attacks more often strengthen Western will than weaken it (London, 9/11, Bali, as opposed to Madrid). So to break the West's will, it is necessary to attack targets more and more sensitive or innocent. I believe that Beslan presages attacks in the West, and it would surprise me not at all to see hospitals, day care centers and so on attacked with suicide bombers. The point is, to break our will, the enemy has to get our attention. Short of nuclear or chemical weapons (and the resulting genocide of the Arabs), this means more spectacular attacks. But those attacks, as I noted, are actually driving people away from the enemy.

It's probably too late for the enemy to switch to a full-on attempt to co-opt our will: who would believe them who is not already effectively arguing for surrender? But the enemy cannot continue to attack us without eventually building our will to a point that, if the Western governments do not crack down brutally on Muslims in the West, the mobs will. That is not a best-case scenario for us, but it's pretty much a worst-case scenario for the innocent Muslims among us.

I'm sure some President would apologize for our behavior, in a couple of decades.

But the enemy cannot retreat, either, because an obvious systemic defeat (as opposed to defeats in specific campaigns, like Afghanistan or Iraq) would undermine the central tenet of the jihadis: God sent them. And if their god didn't send them, or won't help them, then who would follow them?

So the enemy has only one real option: ratchet up the violence in the West. And they have to do it before we pull the rug out from under them by co-opting to democracy or imposing democracy by force of arms. And they have to create a sufficient level of fear and panic to cause us to run, but not a sufficient level of fear and panic to cause us to rise up and destroy them in the West, along with the innocents they hide among.

Our options are not great, but I wouldn't trade strategic situations with the enemy: their options are dismal.

Posted by jeff at 8:27 PM | TrackBack

July 17, 2005

Saddam Charged

John Cole shares some good news: the first formal charges against Saddam Hussein have been filed. He will apparently stand trial before the end of the year.

Posted by jeff at 2:10 PM | TrackBack

July 16, 2005

The Memory Hole II

Think about how, say, just about everyone on the Left is constantly saying there was no link between Saddam and al Qaeda. Then note that this is an ABC report, from 1999, detailing those links. (I've seen this in several places, so I'm not sure whom to credit.)

But I suppose, once the news becomes politically incorrect, it, too must go down the memory hole.

Posted by jeff at 9:10 AM | TrackBack

July 15, 2005

...and That's a Good Thing!

Our enemies are complete wimps. Cowards we knew - who else would strike primarily at unarmed civilians? Bastards we knew - who else would slaughter children? But wimps? That is new.

It's pathetic, really.

Posted by jeff at 11:23 PM | TrackBack

Taiwan

QandO (especially see the comments), The Glittering Eye, and ZenPundit are all discussing the recent statements of Chinese General Zhu regarding Chinese strategic posture towards the US over Taiwan:

“If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,” said General Zhu Chenghu.

Gen Zhu was speaking at a function for foreign journalists organised, in part, by the Chinese government. He added that China's definition of its territory included warships and aircraft.

“If the Americans are determined to interfere [then] we will be determined to respond,” said Gen Zhu, who is also a professor at China's National Defence University.

“We . . . will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds . . . of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.”


Having lived in Taiwan for 4 years, it is a particular interest of mine. (I do not claim particular expertise, merely interest.) General Zhu's comments, clearly, are primarily a statement to the US of how seriously China takes the Taiwan issue, since China seems to perceive the US as supportive of Taiwanese independence, at least as long as President Bush is in office; and to Taiwan that China is prepared to sacrifice greatly to prevent Taiwanese independence. It is, in other words, part of China's deterrent effort to ensure that the situation remains static.

Brian Dunn is convinced that China will attack Taiwan on the eve of the 2008 Olympics, while the world is not willing to upset the Olympics over the issue. I am not. It has been the position of the American defense establishment - more particularly, the position of the title X guys - since the end of the Cold War that China was the next emerging threat. In large part, this is "fighting the last war", particularly now that the war we are in is against 4GW threats like al Qaeda.

China would put up with a lot, even economic collapse, to take Taiwan if it felt it could. And China probably could take Taiwan with its current amphibious, army and air capabilities (though at great cost). But the US could retake Taiwan - even prevent the attack from succeeding with enough forewarning.

Put simply: the US has sufficient conventional capability to beat China in China's backyard in a major war, and China knows it; hence, China has to have some way of credibly threatening the US in order to maintain the status quo, and thus this threat.

But "China" in this case is the government, not the people. China has, recently, been really opening up internal markets, and private property and private enterprise are growing rapidly in importance - it's one of the reasons China is even a contender. And the Chinese entrepreneurial classes would simply not stand for the inevitable result of war: blockade. The US would shut off all sea routes into China, and the land routes out are sufficiently poor and through sufficiently hostile territory that China's economy, which depends upon exports, would collapse in short order. The Chinese government maintains its rule by the people's belief that the government has the mandate of Heaven, and that belief would collapse with the economy.

In other words, even without a direct US counterattack to retake Taiwan, or just to punish China, our naval blockade would force the Chinese government out of power in short order, to everyone's benefit except the CCP.

I see this warning as deterrence, not a serious threat.

UPDATE: Brian Dunn weighs in.

Posted by jeff at 9:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Shortest Path to Heaven

When you hear someone say that suicide attacks have nothing to do with religion, that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, it would be well to remember that some who attempt suicide bombings fail and survive the attack. Here is one who was interviewed:

"How did you feel when you heard that you'd been selected for martyrdom?" I asked.

"It's as if a very high, impenetrable wall separated you from Paradise or Hell," he said. "Allah has promised one or the other to his creatures. So, by pressing the detonator, you can immediately open the door to Paradise — it is the shortest path to Heaven."

[snip]

I asked S to describe his preparations for the suicide mission. "We were in a constant state of worship," he said. "We told each other that if the Israelis only knew how joyful we were they would whip us to death! Those were the happiest days of my life."

"What is the attraction of martyrdom?" I asked.

"The power of the spirit pulls us upward, while the power of material things pulls us downward," he said. "Someone bent on martyrdom becomes immune to the material pull. Our planner asked, 'What if the operation fails?' We told him, 'In any case, we get to meet the Prophet and his companions, inshallah.'

"We were floating, swimming, in the feeling that we were about to enter eternity. We had no doubts. We made an oath on the Koran, in the presence of Allah — a pledge not to waver. This jihad pledge is called bayt al-ridwan, after the garden in Paradise that is reserved for the prophets and the martyrs. I know that there are other ways to do jihad. But this one is sweet -- the sweetest. All martyrdom operations, if done for Allah's sake, hurt less than a gnat’s bite!"

[snip]

None of the suicide bombers -- they ranged in age from 18 to 38 -- conformed to the typical profile of the suicidal personality. None of them was uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle-class and held paying jobs. Two were the sons of millionaires. They all seemed entirely normal members of their families. They were polite and serious, and in their communities were considered to be model youths. Most were bearded. All were deeply religious.

I was told that to be accepted for a suicide mission the volunteers had to be convinced of the religious legitimacy of the acts they were contemplating, as sanctioned by the divinely revealed religion of Islam. Many of these young men had memorised large sections of the Koran and were well versed in the finer points of Islamic law and practice. But their knowledge of Christianity was rooted in the medieval crusades, and they regarded Judaism and Zionism as synonymous.


Nope. Nothing at all to do with Islam.

Posted by jeff at 2:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Let's Play a Game

Democrat or French?

The insurgency cannot be overcome easily by either United States military forces or immature Iraqi security forces. Nor would the situation be eased even if, improbably, the United Nations, NATO, our European allies and Japan choose to become seriously involved.

In other words, no victory is possible over this unbeatable enemy; we must surrender. The quote is from John Deutch, Undersecretary of Defense and Directory of Central Intelligence in the Clinton administration.

I got this from Rusty Shackleford, and this gist of his post is that al Qaeda fights the way it does because it's worked for them in the past:

Terrorism, as a tactic, is chosen because terrorists believe those tactics will work.

Goal: U.S. Marines out of Beirut.
Tactic: Suicide car-bombing.
Result: U.S. Marines out of Beirut.
Lesson learned: Terrorism works.

[snip]

Why would they think they can defeat us in Iraq using geurilla warfare?

Goal: Soviet military out of Afghanistan/imposition of Islamic law.
Tactic: Guerilla warfare.
Result: Soviet military out of Afghanistan/imposition of Islamic law.
Lesson learned: Geurilla warfare works against super-powers.

But Afghanistan was not the only place where this lesson was learned.

Goal: U.S. military out of Somalia.
Tactic: Guerilla warfare.
Result: U.S. military out of Somalia.
Lesson learned: Geurilla warfare works against super-powers.

So, what will happen if we pull-out of Iraq? Can our long-term national interests be met using this tactic?

Goal: U.S. military out of Iraq/imposition of Islamic law.
Tactic: Guerilla warfare.
Result: U.S. military out of Iraq/civil war possibly leading to Islamic law.
Lesson learned: Geurilla warfare works against super-powers.

If we truly wish to win the second war in Iraq, we cannot abandon her to our enemies. If we do then the lesson they will learn is that the U.S. can be beaten. And if the U.S. is beaten in Iraq, then the U.S. can be beaten elsewhere.

That is a lesson we cannot afford our enemies to learn.


Posted by jeff at 2:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Perspective

John Cole of Balloon-Juice has a point that needs to be made:

While it is fair to characterize the over-the-top hysteria from some quarters on the left regarding Rove as, well, over-the-top hysteria, some perspective should be offered. If it turns out that someone in this administration really did 'out' an agent, I want their head on a platter. That it might have been done for petty political revenge just makes it even more odious.

Yes, exactly. I have not to this point see convincing evidence that a government officer "outed" a clandestine agent for political reasons, but if it happened, such a person should be fired, prosecuted and reviled.
But, it is worth examining- What if this had happened during the Clinton administration? What if it was Paul Begala or someone like him who was accused of outing a CIA agent? What would the right be doing?

If your answer is anything other than what the left is doing, only louder, you are fooling yourselves. Rush Limbaugh would have talked about nothing else for 3 years, and unlike 2004, this WOULD have been the chief issue of the election.


Yes, that is pretty much the case on the Republican reaction. Neither party has clean hands. The Republican partisans were bat-shit insane when Clinton was in office, and that was before blogs were available to amplify their voice.

But something interesting about the election of 2004. Since 9/11 happened before that election, the major point of the debate would have been the same as in the real election: the administration response to 9/11. And this issue would have been a talking point, but a minor one.

Posted by jeff at 10:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More on the Rove/Wilson/Plame/MSM Kerfuffle

What is the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame story about anyway?

Initially, the kerfuffle was that someone in the Bush administration had "outed" CIA covert operative Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband, Joe Wilson's, op-ed in the New York Times criticizing part of Bush's rationale for going to war. Revealing the identity of an undercover agent, knowingly and purposely, would be a crime, i.e., someone in the administration may have commited a crime. Apparently, the source was Karl Rove. But did he "out" an undercover agent, which is what this was all about in the first place?

According to Joe Wilson on CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity."

So let's see, Novak blew her cover, but she didn't have a cover to blow when he did it.

So what's this story all about again?

Well, for the media, their tack has certainly changed. If you read their questions, it doesn't even matter whether Rove commited a crime. All that matters now is if he even dared mention her name, because, you see, Bush said he would fire anyone involved in this matter, and Scott McClellan said Rove, among others, was not involved in this matter. The only problem the MSM seems to have, is remembering that this matter was "outing" a covert agent, not simply acknowledging her existance as a CIA employee.

Posted by Brian at 1:35 AM | TrackBack

July 14, 2005

An Insightful Point from QandO

QandO makes a fantastic comparison of London to Oklahoma City.

Posted by jeff at 11:18 PM | TrackBack

Political Game Show

TheOtherBlogger called to tell me about a "man on the street" thing that a local radio station was doing: how many justices on the Supreme Court, and who are they.

I was telling Steph about this, and she was seeing how many she could name. I mentioned that I could name the British Defense and Foreign Ministers, and 1/3 to 1/2 of our cabinet, and Steph said, "There has to be a game show for people like you."

"C-Span?", I suggested.

Just thought it was funny.

Posted by jeff at 5:55 PM | TrackBack

The Karl Rove/Valerie Plame Kerfuffle

I am already sick and tired of this non-story! For those of you unclear on the particulars, let me sum up, because I don't want to talk about this again, barring an actual story emerging.

In the 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush uttered these words: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” (Interesting to note, Bush wasn't basing this on Joe Wilson's report, but on British intel. Some good info in the link under the "The Senate Intelligence Committee Report" and the "We No Longer Believe" headings.)

A little over five months later, Joe Wilson wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times saying that a year earlier the CIA had sent him to investigate the claims of Saddam trying to buy uranium in Niger, and that he could find no evidence to support the claim. (Interesting that it took him five months to publicly dispute this part of Bush's speech...)

A few days later, according to Michael Isikoff's story in Newsweek, Time's Matthew Cooper contacted Karl Rove and had a brief discussion in which he asked Rove what to make of Wilson's op-ed piece. Rove corrected a misinterpretation brought on by Wilson's article. Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by CIA Director George Tenet or by Dick Cheney (as some were claiming at the time), but instead had been authorized by Wilson's wife 'who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues'. (Note, Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame was a CIA analyst. There is no way you can infer from Cooper's purported e-mails to Time's editors that Rove knew she was anything more than that, specifically a covert agent. In fact the first mention I can find of Valerie Plame as a "covert" agent comes from this New York Times article, almost a month after the Rove-Cooper conversation. Bob Novak used the term "operative", but when looked at in context, he is simply referring to her CIA work on WMD [actually counterproliferation] which wasn't covert, and never called her a "covert" operative, as the Times erroneously states.)

So there's the story. Karl Rove, while setting the record straight, mentioned Wilson's trip was authorized by his wife. There is no evidence that Rove knew she was a covert agent or that he was intentionally blowing her cover. Thus, there appears to be no illegality in Rove's conversations. Thus, there is no story here (at least no Rove is a criminal angle). This is nothing but blind partisanship of the left and their willing accomplices in the (we're not biased!) MSM, notably NBC's David Gregory and ABC's Terry Moran.

Now excuse me if I stop paying attention to the MSM's latest anti-Republican obsession.

Posted by Brian at 1:04 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

TSA Log #1

CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Last Sunday, a traveler at the airport who worked for the FAA noticed an unattended bag at curbside and alerted TSA to its presence. Excellent! A short time later, I learned one of the Skycaps saw the shuttle bus driver put it there (presumably mistaking it for the luggage of one of the people getting off) and drive away leaving it there. He did not inform us. Not good! Anyway, I watched the bag, while one of my co-workers called upstairs to our supervisor, who contacted DPS.

Now, what troubled me was the behavior of passersby in the 20 minutes or so it took DPS to respond. Only two times did any individuals seem to take any overt notice of the bag and look to tell someone, and one of those times it was fellow TSA employees. I can understand no one taking note when there were vehicles or people next to or near the bag. It could easily have belonged to those people. But there were several times when nobody was near that bag, when I was the closest one to it, at least 20 feet away. And invariably cars would pull up and park right next to it, or people would walk right by it, without ever seeming to notice it, even though it was so conspicuously alone.

Keep in mind, this was just three days after the attacks in London!

Folks, this is not good! Please, please, be more vigilant. That innocuous bag may just contain a bomb. Especially be wary in transportation facilities and around large groups of people. And if you see something suspicious, please report it.

Posted by Brian at 12:37 AM | TrackBack

Farscape meets Stargate SG-1

I love Farscape. I have no interest in SG-1. SciFi canceled Farscape after acquiring SG-1 from Showtime. This made me unhappy, to say the least.

But it's time for a new season of SG-1 starting tomorrow. And lo and behold, MacGyver is gone, replaced by none other than Farscape's Ben Browder. Fellow Farscape alum Claudia Black is scheduled to do six episodes as well.

Like I said, I have no interst in SG-1. I don't care about the show's past eight seasons. But I do enjoy Ben Browder and Claudia Black so I guess I'll have to give it a try.

Posted by Brian at 12:13 AM | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

The Fire Brigade and the Fire

A suicide bomber today in Iraq detonated his car bomb in the midst of children who had come to talk and get candy from US soldiers. The media are shocked. Apparently, this is only because they do not want to remember that this has happened before. This is not a time for neutrality between the fire brigade and the fire; this is a time to name our enemy, to call them out for what they are. The difference in this war is that the Japanese and German soldiers were by and large innocent; it was their political leadership and a particular few soldiers that were responsible for the inhuman parts of their behavior. In contrast, our enemy today are monsters.

For a normal person not to realize that is problematic but understandable; a large number of people in the US can't even name the Vice President. But for the media to not understand this is inexcusable: it is willful blindness, or taking the side of the enemy. It cannot be claimed to be ignorance.

UPDATE: Joe Katzman is thinking along similar lines.

Posted by jeff at 4:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ending Jihadi Terrorism

Background has begun to come out on the terrorists who committed the 7/7 London attack. Wretchard, of course, is all over it, with his usual insightful analysis. Wizbang, Danny Carlton, Captain's Quarters, and My Pet Jawa all have more. There's one aspect of this story that I haven't seen much addressed, though: the tradeoff between freedom and safety.

If you wanted maximum safety, to make sure that no suicide bombings were ever carried out by domestic terrorists, you would have to be able to do a few things: identify the terrorists before they could commit a terrorist act; ensure that you didn't miss any terrorists; take the identified "proto-terrorists" out of circulation before they committed a terrorist act; vigorously follow up any terrorist act netting anyone who was likely involved. This is a non-trivial set of tasks.

To begin, how do you identify the potential terrorists? If you look at the known information on the London terrorists, and the 9/11 terrorists, and the numerous other terrorists that have operated outside of predominantly-Muslim countries, you find that they are by and large middle-class, educated, not particularly rigidly observant, young Muslim men, entranced by the ideology of particularly rigidly observant and intolerant old Muslim men. There happen to be a large fraction of the immigrants to Western nations (particularly Europe) who are middle-class, educated, not particularly rigidly observant young Muslim men who are not entranced by the ideology of particularly rigidly observant and intolerant old Muslim men. So how do you separate out people whose only distinguishing characteristic is what they believe and whom they follow?

Cast the net too narrowly, and terrorist attacks will be carried out by native or immigrant terrorists living freely in society. Cast the net too broadly, and you sweep up a great number of innocents along with the guilty - a much greater number, in fact, than of the would-be guilty, let alone the actually guilty. But in order to distinguish the would-be terrorists, you would have to be terribly, terribly invasive of your citizens' rights: shadowing them as they attend religious events, planting agents in domestic religous places to observe the worshippers, secretly invading their homes to search for evidence while they weren't there (lest you accidentally arrest a not-guilty person). This would not be tolerated by the public at large, and for good reason. And even were it tolerated, you would still miss some.

So you have to cast the net more broadly, to avoid being overly invasive or missing potential terrorists. But this means that you will, as noted above, be netting more innocents than terrorists. After a very few incidents of this come out, casting the net broadly is right out, and for very good reasons.

But let's say that you somehow managed to figure out a way to get more or less all of the proto-terrorists without getting so many non-proto-terrorists that the backlash ended all of your efforts. How, then, do you keep these men out of circulation? You cannot charge them with crimes they have not committed, nor (particularly if they are citizens) can you hold them without charge. And if they are citizens, you cannot expel them. Would the courts revoke a person's citizenship on suspicion that they might, at some point, commit terrorist acts domestically? I certainly hope not! Because if they did, we'd already be at the point of no longer being a free society.

I suppose you could wait until you could catch the terrorists red-handed, but that runs into a problem as well: you will often be too late to catch them. Look at the furor over the ill-named PATRIOT Act, which does little to prevent terrorism, but does make it easier to investigate terror attacks and round up the cell mates who weren't killed or captured in the attack: this mild measure allowing for some domestic surveillance has raised intense (and often ill-informed) anger. Would any system actually capable of detecting preparations of a terror attack be allowed at all? And if so, could you catch every terrorist after they had incriminated themselves enough to be convicted in court, but before they had carried out their attack? Not likely.

So it's inevitable that even the most vigorous possible attempts to detect terrorists and prevent terrorism will fail, and some terror attacks will be committed by native or immigrant terrorists. At least you can clean up afterwards. Big help to the victims and their families, but maybe you can prevent future attacks. I suppose, but the problem there is that you still have to convict the conspirators, and that has proven remarkably difficult. Terrorism is designed to fit into the holes in our system: it frequently leaves too little evidence to overcome reasonable doubts, particularly amongst the planners and agitators, as opposed to the attackers and bomb makers.

And I haven't yet covered the "useful idiots" of the terrorists, who do everything possible to help the terrorists win, for noble or (mostly) ignoble reasons, including simply that the wrong political party is in power. (And there are enough buchananites that it's likely a Democrat administration would face the same kind of opposition.)

So in the end, it is simply impossible to prevent domestic terrorism. How, then, we deal with terrorism? There are a few options: surrender, retreat and accomodation, engagement and accomodation, and genocide. Which we choose depends on the enemy's goals and his means, as well as our will.

The enemy's strategy and goals are clear enough: the jihadis intend to establish a unified theocratic Muslim state (Caliphate) in all Muslim majority countries, then all Muslim minority countries, then all countries. His means are currently limited to small arms, infantry weapons and crude artillery (mortars and rockets), improvised bombs and suicide attacks. The enemy can move more or less freely in democratic countries, and fundraising is only somewhat impaired, due to the Western unwillingness to see Islamic charities for what they are. Similarly, conversion is unimpaired, due to Western unwillingness to interfere in religions or to target jihadi ideologues, planners and sponsors who are also religious figures. State sponsorship is somewhat available at present, but at the point that the enemy gains control of a Sunni state (as opposed to Shia Iran, which distrusts the Sunni jihadis who are after all always preaching that the Shia are apostate, though they allow the Shia are probably not infidels as such), the enemy's means will expand exponentially. The jihadis already seek chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; once they have a state under their control, they will almost certainly get those weapons in short order.

Given those characteristics, surrender is unthinkable. Surrender would mean converting to Sunni Islam, and adopting its most stringent tribal or philosophical forms (Wahabbi or Pushtun or Silafist); overthrowing our entire cultural and religious heritages; adopting strict Shari'a law (including such fun characteristics as stoning adulterers and homosexuals, treating women as chattel, accepting total theocratic regulation of every aspect of life and beheading those who don't go along with all of this); ending most representational art, music and non-religious literature; giving up on science because it might discover things that contradict the Koran (I've seen one Saudi science teacher explain that oxygen and hydrogen come together to make water if god wills it!); and totally submitting to the most reactionary, extremist, and illiberal ideology extant in the world today.

But surrender is not only unthinkable: it will not bring peace. Ignoring the casual violence of the Muslim world, such as killing your daughter for dishonoring the family by getting raped by her uncle, there is still the problem that even the most extremist Islam - the jihadi sects - is not unified. There are differences between the different groups, as there are differences between Sunni and Shi'a. And if there's one thing that the jihadis don't do, it's tolerate differences. Even after we surrender, those differences would lead to the kind of blood feuds and raiding that is common in tribal Muslim societies. Give a bit of credit to the Communist pan-Arabists: they did at least dampen these tendencies in countries where they took hold, though it was at the cost of, well, becoming Iraq and Libya and Syria and Egypt and the Arab areas of Palestine as we know them today.

If even surrender will not bring security, what about retreat and accomodation? This is what people are recommending we do when they say that we should pull our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, stop supporting Israel, stop supporting Arab dictatorships and the like. This amounts to geographically-defined surrender: we will give up on all Muslim-majority countries, and let the locals fight it out, while we deal with the spillover attacks in Western countries (whether London-scale or 9/11 scale or really anything short of nuclear attacks - and maybe even then for people like George Galloway). The problem with this is that it's how we got here: we tried in the 1980s and 1990s to take a very even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; we defeated the Serbs who were killing Bosnian and Albanian Muslims; we tried to help the starving in Ethiopia (really Eritrea) and Somalia; we stopped the Israelis from completing their conquest of the PLO in Lebanon; we kept Saddam Hussein from holding Kuwait. All of these led to more and more brutal attacks, which we promptly ignored. Which led us to 9/11, when we finally decided that was enough. There is no evidence that retreating now will do anything other than embolden the jihadis to attack us even more strongly in the future.

Worse than that, it is very likely that a policy of retreat would lead to genocide as the Israelis defended themselves in a world where all their neighbors were once again literally gunning for them and where they had no assurance at all of outside support.

So we come to the position of the Coalition: engagement and accomodation. The idea here is to overthrow the governments most supportive of terrorism, replacing them with representative governments. Since the jihadis are, so we are continually assured, a "small minority" of Islam, that should theoretically lead to countries that are basically free and considerably more prosperous. And basically free and prosperous countries don't tend to be very hospitable to creating jihadis, theoretically. In other words, provide an alternative means of political expression to jihadi ideology, and combine this with productive ways to use time, and over time the threat will diminish radically. In the meantime, we accept that there will be some terrorist attacks on us in our home countries, that we will deal with as best we can.

This strategy has some obvious problems, the most important of which is that there is evidence, most recently in London and Madrid, but also from California and elsewhere in the US, that Muslims can be radicalized and converted to jihadis even in prosperous, free nations like England, Spain and the US. Still, if we can remove the possibility of the jihadis gaining control of a state, and can end support from existing states (particularly Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia and potentially Pakistan, China and N. Korea), we may be able to reduce the enemy to the point that law enforcement methods, keeping pressure on finances, and denying lawless territory to the enemy would be sufficient to reduce attacks to a level where we could accomodate them, as we did with Leftist terrorism in the 1970s.

If this fails, though, eventually we are once again led down the road to genocide, ours or theirs. If we won't surrender, and they won't stop, and we cannot reduce the attacks to the point where they don't threaten our existence as free and prosperous societies, it is virtually inevitable that genocide will occur. And given the imbalance of power, which itself is the reason that a stalemate will never happen as long as the West is threatened, the likelihood is on the side of the Arabs/Muslims being the targets of the genocide. Short of surrender or us being the targets of genocide, that's the worst outcome I can imagine.

All of this is why I deeply, sincerely hope that the President's strategy is correct, and that we can stay with the strategy long enough for it to have determinative effect. The alternatives range from aweful to unthinkable to unconscionable.

Posted by jeff at 11:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 12, 2005

LA Police Get it Exactly Right

A tragic situation occurred Monday in LA, where LA police officers shot and killed a man and his 19 month old daughter. (hat tip: Best of the Web)

The standoff started when officers were called to an intersection in South Los Angeles west of Watts where Pena was behaving erratically and aggressively.

He fired at the officers and ran inside a fenced area that included his apartment and his car wash and detailing business. He had a 9 mm handgun and a shotgun and was intoxicated on drugs and alcohol, police said.

Police called in a special weapons team and tried to talk to the man. At one point, as officers helped a neighbor escape, he fired at them and they fired back, police said.

[the following text was actually earlier in the referenced article]

"You aren't going to stand there with somebody shooting at you," Bratton said. "The person responsible for any loss of life ... was the individual who held his child out as a shield and continued to shoot."


The situation, as I said, is tragic. Yet the police had it exactly right: Jose Pena (the father) was posing a danger to the entire area, having already shot at least one police officer. How would it be if the officers, for fear of hurting the child, had not returned fire? Well, the first bad thing would be that anyone killed by Pena at that point would have been killed because of police inaction. The much worse and longer-term effect would be that criminals would be tempted to kidnap small children to use as shields, leading in the long run to more children being killed.

That said, if it turns out that it was the police, not Pena, who fired the shot that killed the child (an autopsy apparently has yet to be performed), those officers involved will be haunted by this their entire lives. That is a further tragic cost of such incidents as this.

By the way, I'd like to commend CBS for their article: that is how news reports should be written; there was no editorializing, and the entire incident was portrayed without sensationalism and in a "just the facts" manner. This is how reporting is supposed to be done.

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Patriots? Hell, No!

So Karl Rove was wrong about liberals? The media aren't on the other side? Don't question their patriotism?

I don't question: I deny utterly that a significant fraction of the American Left is at all patriotic. I categorically state that a significant fraction of American and Western media is on the other side.

Posted by jeff at 11:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Memory Hole

In the aftermath of the London bombings, the BBC did something amazing: it called the perpetrators terrorists. Without even using scare quotes. Given that the perpetrators of such attacks in the past - with the same background, ideology, methods and targets - have been called militants, gunmen, fighters and even activists by the BBC, this is nothing short of stunning. But that was when the targets were in Israel. Of course, once the immediate reaction of being targeted wore off, the BBC has been pushing 'terrorist' down the memory hole again.

Thing is, Europe has a problem: they are beginning to approach the point in some countries where the Muslim immigrant minority is large, unassimilated and radicalized, and it's a good bet that Europe could be in Israel's position (interleaved large radicalized Muslim population willing to kill and die randomly while posturing as victims) within a decade or so - and the position is actually worse, because Europe is not as segregated as Israel and the territories are. Will they simply wall off the European cities and evacuate the non-Muslims from them?

As long as this reality continues to be denied and minimized, the odds increase that Europe will slip into disaster. And the BBC, Reuters, AFP, the European Left and pretty much all of the involved governments seem content to travel that path, hoping that the obvious can be wished out of existence, that the lessons of history are irrelevent because history has truly ended, and that at least if they keep their heads down and feed the crocodile, it won't be they themselves targeted by the terrorists...yet.

Posted by jeff at 9:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 11, 2005

There is no God but God

Francis Porretto has a rumination on the Christian commandment "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." It's worth a read, but there's a place in it where he loses me:

The ancient Hebrews, liberated from bondage in Egypt by a series of miracles and the leadership of Moses, entertained no fantasies about consciousness preceding reality, or reality as the creation of the mind itself. They faced a different temptation, albeit equally deadly. In their time, the delimitation of gods, most notably their instantiation as physical objects -- idols -- was commonplace. The mind likes to have tangible, perceptible things it can fasten on, even during contemplation of the numinous. But such reductions of the nature of the Divine to delimited physical forms, or alternately, to areas of authority, are anathematic to monotheism. More, they beg the regress question: Who created and empowered these deities, and maintains the order in the Universe despite the divisions and tensions among them? And if there's a God above all gods, why would He tolerate lesser deities, whose participation in the ordering of the Universe would be rendered unnecessary by the very fact of His existence?

It is defensible, in a rather joyless and fatalistic way, to suppose that there is no God. It is equally defensible to maintain that there is One. But higher numbers are beyond all rationales.


Who created the Christian god? There are two possibilities for the origin of gods: either they exist outside of time, that is, always were and always will be; or they exist within time, and thus must have come into being either by creation by another entity, or as an emergent phenomenon. While Fran denies the possibility of a god creating gods (for example, the way the Greek mythos posits the gods to have come into being), he does put his finger on a problem with this idea of deigenesis: who created the first god. At some point, it's just turtles all the way down, or you adopt the Christian solution: the first god exists outside of time, and was the genesis of both the Universe and the other gods.

(As to why a god would create other gods, the same question applies to why a god would create a sentient inferior species. And I suppose the answer is the same: no one wants to be lonely. Though with a god creating gods, at least the god was creating his intellectual equals, rather than mere playthings for his amusement, which is how the Christian mythos strikes me.)

The Christian god is tripartite: God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In any non-monotheistic framework, these entities would be seen as distinct gods, as would Satan, the Christian evil god (note: actually evil, as opposed to the dark god/desses like Kali, who are cruel and vicious, but not necessarily evil). In fact, all of the angels, given their claimed powers, would be at least demigods in most polytheistic views. For that matter, the veneration shown to the saints by Catholics, and their claimed powers, put them into the category of demigods, as well.

Given the above, I'd like to focus on Fran's claim that "higher numbers [of gods than one] are beyond all rationales." From a polytheistic view, the Catholics already have a multitude of gods, and all Christian sects have at least four. (One of the Jewish criticisms of Christianity, in fact, is that the Bible says there is one god, but Christians created several and semantically call them one to avoid conflict with the text.) But even discarding that, and even assuming that Fran's contention that a god would not create or tolerate gods (and thus, Fran's implicit dismissal of many religions that claim just that), there is a method of deigenesis that Fran neglects completely: Deity as an emergent phenomenon.

Let us start with a few simple facts, on which few would disagree (and I'm prepared to ignore most of those who would as simply insane):

  1. The Universe exists.
  2. The Universe is constituted of numerous objects or entities of various types, but in the end these constituent parts are either matter or energy or some combination of both. (In fact, matter and energy are convertible, per Einstein and numerous follow-on discoveries.)
  3. These entities interact.
  4. The human mind is constituted of numerous objects or entities, primarily neurons, certain chemicals, and the electrical discharges that neurons create.
  5. These entities interact.
  6. Thoughts and memories appear, given the best evidence available to us today, to be the result of the interactions among the entities of the brain; that is, our cognitive ability, self-awareness, emotions and other higher brain functions appear to be an emergent phenomena of the interactions between the constituent parts of our brains

Given this as a starting point, I reason thusly: Since the constituent parts of the Universe are numerous and diverse, and communicate (perhaps interact would be a better word?) with each other constantly, it is reasonable to conclude that higher functions would have arisen in the Universe analogous to those which have arisen in the human mind. If such functions included self-awareness, a distinct singular entity would be formed, so far beyond human and mortal that the only proper term for it is Deity. (This term is also appropriate in that such an entity, comprising everything in the Universe, would literally be the Prime Mover - everything would be, by definition, a result or a genesis of the thoughts of the entity. Moreover, all that exists would be the creation of that entity as well as a part of the entity.)

But what would these higher functions be like? The scale in both time and space is, literally, inconceivable to the human mind: we just can't grasp it. The analogue of a thought that, in the miniscule distances inside the human mind, is effectively instantaneous, might instead take millenia to form, and eons more to express. But the mere fact that such scales are beyond are comprehension does not mean that their effects are beyond our awareness. We constantly sense in the world around us the twitchings of local interactions, and sometimes can sense the end point of the processes of the Universe.

So we can sense Deity's existence, dimly, and we can sense its activity, dimly, and we can put two and two together and figure out that this creative and destructive force, this vibrant and patient entity, is monumentally important to all that we are and all that we have and all that we know. We feel a need to connect with this Deity, yet we cannot approach the Deity directly, because the scale is too vast.

In order to approach the Deity, it is necessary to conceive of the Deity in constituent parts: the gods. In Wicca, the gods are polar opposite forces, most important (and, apparently, utterly sufficient for most Wiccans) male/female. Other polar opposites that are useful for working include creation/destruction, light/dark, day/night, infant/elder, wise/foolish and so on.

The male and female division is generally called the God and the Goddess, but even this is too vast to directly approach, and so it is necessary to further focus our view of Deity onto the aspects or characteristics of the God and the Goddess. For example, a primitive tribe might need help most with the cycles of fertility that keep the tribe alive as a corporate entity, and the individuals within the tribe alive physically. Thus, the God would be approached as the Horned One, the god of the forest, of the hunt. And the Goddess would be approached as the Venus, goddess of the fields, of the crops. The God would also have a warrior aspect in protecting the tribe, which grows from the hunt, and the Goddess would have a fertility aspect in propagating the tribe, that grows from her role in the fertility of crops.

In the Greek and Roman and Egyptian societies, the problems to be solved were multiplied by their civilization, and thus their need for gods became greater and the gods themselves became more sophisticated. There were gods for industry and goddesses of aesthetics, and gods and goddesses for the different types of social relationships.

These were not just created entities, but actually different ways of looking at the Deity we sense around us; different divisions and slices. Christianity, too, divides its god into parts: judgement and creation and intellect (God), forgiveness and growth and wisdom (Jesus), empathy and sustenance and passion (the Holy Spirit), vengeance and destruction and fury (Satan). And the Catholics, in an almost Pagan way divides further into saints for every occasion: travel, health and so on, that are semi-divine. (Perhaps this is a consequence of the sainthood of so many Pagan god/desses, like Brigid.)

It's no more unreasonable to imagine the gods and goddesses as our limited human view of a Deity emergent from and imminent in the Universe than it is to imagine a single, transcendent god.

UPDATE: Thanks to Steph, for catching my repeated spelling error.

I should note, here, that the above represent my thoughts and beliefs alone. Most Wiccans would probably disagree with my reasoning: though we end up coming to the same point, the path I take to get there is decidedly different from what most branches of Wicca postulate.

Posted by jeff at 10:07 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

July 10, 2005

Pretty

This is such a beautiful picture of the Eurofighter Typhoon that I had to steal it from Strategy Page.

typhoon_2.jpg

Posted by jeff at 10:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What's in a Name?

So it seems that news organizations have a problem figuring out what to call the forces fighting against the US and Iraqi governments in Iraq, as well as against the government of Israel in Israel. The media frequently calls these loathsome individuals insurgents (generally correct for the Ba'athist remnant in Iraq, but not for the other forces fighting us there) or militants, and sometimes even activists (I kid you not). It seems that, at least for US and British media, the choice would be simple: the enemy.

Nah, I suppose it's not "nuanced" or "balanced" enough. But then, that's why it's so easy to slip into thinking that the media is on the other side.

Posted by jeff at 10:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Two Observations on the Current State of the Terror Wars

Thanks to the excellent Fourth Rail, I have two observations on the current state of the Terror Wars.

The first involves Iraq, where Bill Roggio has been tracking ongoing operations. With the Iraqi Army no longer leaving an area without governmental authority after operations, we have switched from "seek and destroy" to "clear and hold". These garrison forces are small - around 100 men - but represent the permanent authority of the government forces to exert their will (that is, govern) over an area. With Zarqawi's recent declaration of a switch in main enemy in Iraq from the US military to the Iraqi military, it is likely that the enemy will attempt to overrun these garrisons, and in the short term may succeed (as the enemy for a while succeeded in overrunning police stations). These tactical defeats would undoubtedly be spun as major strategic defeats, and as evidence that the President's strategy is hopelessly wrong, but in truth the stationing of garrisons, and their eventual ability to defend themselves against all comers, indicates that we are moving forward in a dramatic way strategically: for the first time we are not just attacking the enemy in depth (as we began to do with the second Fallujah battle last November), but actually beginning to occupy enemy territory to deny the enemy control, freedom of movement, logistical support and bases of operations.

The second observation involves Guantanamo and London. Justin B did some research on the British inmates of Guantanamo that were released. If it turns out that any of these people were involved in the London bombings of 7/7, how much do you want to bet that the very same people calling now for releasing all prisoners from GTMO and closing it down will instead be calling for President Bush's head for "enabling" the London bombings?

Posted by jeff at 10:04 PM | TrackBack

PSA

CPT 4ever went off to training today, preparatory to his deployment. Good luck and good wishes are always appropriate, though it may be some time before the CPT can check back in.

Posted by jeff at 7:06 PM | TrackBack

OK, That's It!

So I found Pat Sajak's opinion columns on his web page - I don't even remember who pointed me in that direction. But after reading a few of them, I'm hooked, and Pat Sajak goes into the sidebar. Here is a taste, in conclusion to a modest proposal for having the UN headquarters rotate locations every few years:

The fairest system would be to go alphabetically. That means Afghanistan would have the first chance to be the new host. There would be some embarrassment, I suppose, given the U.N.’s opposition to the United States’ ousting of the Taliban, resulting in free elections in that country. And I’m not sure the Kabul Restaurant Association is quite ready for the expensive and varied tastes of the delegates, though they’ll have a few years to prepare.

The next two hosts, Albania and Algeria, provide their own unique sets of challenges. My guess is that, given the current leadership in those countries, at least the delegates would be more likely to pay their parking fines.

It would be sad to see the U.N. moving out of the United States in 2008. But take heart. Depending on how many countries want to host the organization in the meantime, it could be back in just a few hundred years. Alphabetically, that would place us right after the United Arab Emirates.


Posted by jeff at 6:49 PM | TrackBack

Optimism

Pat Sajak (yes, the game show host) has a wonderful column on optimism and hope.

Posted by jeff at 6:45 PM | TrackBack

What to Do

Dan Darling has an article at Winds of Change that summarizes, among other things, what to do to win the war on terror. The summary he presents of how to win the Terror Wars is from Gunaratna's Inside Al-Qaeda:

  • Military and non-military responses to al-Qaeda on a region and issue-specific basis, with military responses providing the necessary security and political conditions to facilitate far reaching socio-economic, welfare, and political programs that will have a lasting impact.
  • The destruction of al-Qaeda and allied infrastructure, denying them rear bases, killing their leaders, exhausting their supplies, and disrupting their recruitment.
  • Ending Pakistani covert and overt military, political, and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri jihadis while mediating to provide diplomatic solution to the Kashmir issue.
  • Strangling terrorist financing, tightening control over the manufacturing and supply of weapons, exchanging personnel and expertise with allies, and building common terrorist databases in the Third World.
  • Developing new vaccines, medicines, and diagnostic tests, enhancing medical communication and disease surveillance capabilities, and improving controls on the storage and transfer of pathogens and their equipment so as to address the threat of a catastrophic terrorist attack.
  • Enhancing the protection of nuclear facilities while monitoring rogue suspected scientists and technicians.
  • Killing Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mullah Mohammed Omar in order to diffuse the momentum of the terrorist campaign [to which we can probably add Zarqawi].
  • Relying on black ops operations to assassinate terrorist leaders and ideologues.
  • Recruiting intelligence agents and agent-handlers within Muslim immigrant communities and sharing existing intelligence with the wider decision and policy-making community.
  • Engaging al-Qaeda as an organization militarily while working non-militarily to erode its active and potential supporters by discrediting its ideology through broader action in areas where international neglect has legitimized the use of violence among many Muslims.
  • Replacing unilateralism with multilateralism wherever possible and developing far-reaching policies designed to grapple with protracted conflicts and contentious issues currently fueling anti-Western sentiments by answering the real and perceived grievances of many Muslims and frustrating the current wave of open and clandestine support for al-Qaeda.
  • The Islamic world as a whole must answer whether al-Qaeda and its actions are Koranic or heretical and credible Muslim communities and religious leaders must stand up and denounce bin Laden and his acolytes as power-hungry murderers rather than men of God.
  • Muslim rulers and regimes must compete with Islamism and Wahhabi NGOs, building schools and community centers that both impart a modern education and instill humane, non-sectarian values.
    The international community should prioritize reform Islamic education, fostering an independent media, and establishing criminal justice and prison systems that truly reflect the rule of law rather than the whims of the current ruler.
  • Terrorism as a tactic must be rejected and a societal norm built against its deployment similar to that which now exist to varying degrees against slavery, colonialism, fascism, Nazism, sexism, and racism irrespective of the legitimacy of the struggle.

The thing that strikes me about this list is how much of it is being done, and how much of it is not. By and large, the things that are not getting done are those that are traditionally the province of intellectuals and NGOs, that is, the Leftist establishment. The Left wonders why so many question (or in my case deny) their patriotism, and it is this: their patriotism seems too often contingent on who wields power domestically. They were all patriotic when a Democrat was in office, but seditious the moment a Republican was in office.

It's ironic, really, because the very things that would allow voters to take the Democrats seriously are the ones that their far-Left colleagues are denying them: actively participating in the Terror Wars on our side.

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July 8, 2005

Trading on Panic

Sorry Kevin, but Brit Hume was right.

Posted by jeff at 10:22 PM | TrackBack

Conclusions

Frances Porretto has two posts, one quoting John Derbyshire on what kind of attitude it will take to win the Terror Wars, and another discussing why it is necessary to win the war fast - even if brutally - rather than drag it out to a more-destructive conclusion.

Our enemy, the jihadis, has goals (including our death or enslavement), on which he is unwilling to compromise and which are utterly unacceptable to most Americans, Britons, Australians, Israelis, Indians, Japanese and frankly most everybody else if it comes down to it. Our enemy craves death, and glories in slaughter of the innocent. Our enemy has a vast area and large population in which he can hide and from which he is not generally distinguishable when he chooses to hide, and that population is, even when not actually sympathetic to the enemy's goals or methods, generally willing to conceal and materially support the enemy. Our enemy can move freely within our own societies, with very little inconvenience or chance of detection, because a part of the enemy's concealing population lives in our societies, and we are unwilling to tolerate the massive police powers necessary to find and eliminate the enemy in our own territory. Because of our unwillingness to slaughter innocents, and our unwillingness to kill those preaching the ideology of jihadism, our enemy can replenish his numbers indefinitely (though replenishing those numbers with trained and effective cadres is somewhat difficult for him).

In addition, the existence of supportive states gives the enemy shelter, sustenance, transportation, armament, training and funds. Furthermore, the technology required to develop nuclear weapons is such that a growing number of states are capable or becoming capable of doing so, including a few who also fall into the category of harboring and supporting the enemy. This axis of evil, though the term is much derided rhetorically, includes N. Korea and Iran most prominently, and also includes Syria and Saudi Arabia (though they do not appear to be developing nuclear weapons at present), and is a quite real threat. It is not inconceivable that an enemy cell could obtain from one of these states a nuclear weapon, nor is it unlikely that the enemy would use such a weapon (most likely in Israel, somewhat likely in the United States, and not inconceivably in Europe) once having obtained it. As time goes on, the probability of our enemy obtaining nuclear arms grows to an almost certainty, though this might take decades.

As time goes on, too, and casualties mount - particularly as enemy attacks continue to target our countries directly, and the casualties are civilian - the American character is such that we will become less and less tolerant of those who might be the enemy, and more willing to kill innocents amongst whom the enemy is sheltering. The enemy likely doubts this. The French, having never seriously warred with us, likely doubt this. The Japanese, the British and the Americans have no questions at all on this score. After all, we are a country that fought a four year civil war - in which something like 20% of the military-age men were killed - over a matter of principle: whether or not all men were truly created equal, as we claimed in our Declaration of Independence. Our capacity to wage war - even unmobilized - is unequalled and indeed unprecedented; our ferocity in war, once inevitably committed, is virtually unlimited; and our ability to adapt to changing circumstances as needed to defeat any threat has been repeatedly proven. We only get out of a conflict if we force the enemy to surrender unconditionally, destroy the enemy, or where we went in as good samaritans. This is a subtlety the enemy (and many of our own people) miss: the only exception to this rule was Vietnam, where our interests, but not our existence, was at stake, and our leaders were uniquely incompetent. In Somalia and Beirut, we simply went in to do a good deed, but we weren't willing to die to feed the hungry or protect the endangered.

Certainly, any provocation along the lines of, say, detonating a nuclear weapon in an American or allied city, would result in a nearly-instantaneous and nearly-complete genocide of Muslim countries not absolutely on our side.

The most threatened country in the Terror Wars is not America, but Israel. Israel has the most competent armed forces in the world, excepting only our own and possibly Britain's; is fighting on home ground; is fighting for its very survival; and has a literally living memory of the Holocaust. For the Israelis, "never again" is not just a slogan. Israel is also a nuclear power, in range of all of the terror-supporting Muslim states.

Given all of these facts, there are only a few possible conclusions to the Terror Wars: the enemy will give up, either through an ideological transformation or because a democratizing populace stops providing them with concealment and support; the enemy's supporting states will all be overthrown or will democratize, depriving the enemy of sufficient resources to continue an effective campaign, and will recede to nuisance level attacks; the enemy will attempt to destroy us, and will instead be destroyed; the enemy will attempt to destroy Israel, or will appear to seriously threaten Israel's existence, and will be destroyed. The remaining alternatives, involving the enemy defeating us, simply will not happen. While it is possible that we would attempt, in the short run, to walk away from the fight, our enemy will not stop at that, and will eventually attack again in our territory, which will put us right back to the options we have now. And utterly destroying us is beyond the enemy's capacity.

In short, the options over the long term boil down to two: the enemy is defeated or gives up; or the enemy and his supporting population is slaughtered en masse.

As Fran said, "Winning this war quickly will save a greater number of innocent lives in the long run, even if the methods used seem brutal and callous."

UPDATE: Dave Schuler of the excellent Glittering Eye has expanded his comments with a discussion of the various positions staked out in the blogosphere - and for that matter in society in general - vis a vis the Terror Wars. It's well worth reading.

I'd like to make two additional points. The first is that while the mainstream Lefty blogs tend to positions 3 (Denial), 4 (Fortress America) and 5 (Focus on the Real WoT), their commenters tend to have a large number of proponents of position 2 (anti-American/anti-Western) and 3, and somewhat less of 4 and 5 (although those arguments often show up in point scoring comments).

Similarly, mainstream Rightest and Libertarian blogs tend to position 6 (Neocon), but the Rightest blogs that allow comments, such as Little Green Footballs, tend to have a significant section of their comments in position 8 (Kill 'em all).

In other words, the commenters tend to be more extreme than the bloggers themselves. The reason LGF sometimes gets called a hate site tends to be more because of the comments than because of Charles Johnson's posts per se.

The second point is that while I certainly support position 7 (faster, please), I don't think that fighting a more vigorous war on terror-supporting states is itself sufficient for meeting our long-term objective of ending jihadism. In fact, I'd say that doing so requires a stronger neocon position (rebuild the conquered states as democracies) than simply trying to democratize the states requires. The reason for this is that the pure neocon position allows a lot of changes to be made in place, essentially fixing the societies as best we can from where they are now; the faster, please position requires first breaking some societies that are already dysfunctional, so that the rebuilt societies will be stronger. But because there's more breakage to start the rebuilding with, the rebuilding effort is harder and more expensive.

Posted by jeff at 9:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Not All the Way

Michael Totten has an interesting column where he posits that the US will withdraw completely from Iraq while there is still fighting:

So we aren't going to stay and finish off the terrorists and insurgents. Iraqis will do it. That means that whenever we stop fighting and leave...people in Iraq will still be firing at us.

Withdrawing under fire emboldens our enemies. It gives them a tremendous propaganda victory. "The Americans can be beaten," they'll say, just as they said the same thing when we withdrew under fire from Lebanon in the 80s and Somalia in the 90s. "We sapped their will to fight. They ran just like the Soviets did in Afghanistan...and look at what happened to them." The US will be called a cowardly "paper tiger" and all the rest of it.

This would be, as Rumsfeld himself likes to put it, not helpful.


Totten goes on to explain that this would not actually be an eventual victory, though, for the enemy:
The propaganda victory for both the Sunni Arab insurgents and the terrorists from outside the country could turn into a pyrrhic one. There is such a thing, after all, as a tactical retreat. It could work to our advantage if we don't do it prematurely, if the Iraqi government really is strong enough to mop this up on its own.

[snip]

We may be able to pull a similar and more effective coup of sorts inside Iraq even if we leave under fire -- if, that is, Iraqis really can finish the job on their own. (Otherwise a retreat would clear the way for a catastrophic world-historical victory for the most vicious gangs of terrorists on the planet.) Those who still want to fight -- the Sunni rejectionists and the foreign Islamists -- will be emboldened, no doubt. But the number of people who want to fight in the first place will drop, and it may drop precipitously.


I think that Michael is incorrect, somewhat. In particular, I do not think that the US will completely withdraw while the active fighting is still going on; we learned from Viet Nam. Instead, I suspect that we will begin (maybe as early as 2006) drawing down our forces until only about 35000 or 40000 remain, in perhaps two bases. This will provide a credible presence to deter Iran and Syria from full-scale intervention (as well as providing a convenient launch pad for later operations in the region, which Iraq will, as Kuwait has done since 1991, likely facilitate).

But with our forces essentially in their bases and training areas, working with Iraqi forces in training but not in the field except in emergencies, the feeling of US presence as an occupation will be gone, and the Iraqis will know that they have to be self-reliant in their own defense. It may then be several years before the terrorists are beaten, though I'm coming to the conclusion that the insurgency (that is, the Ba'athist remnants) is indeed in its last year of effective existence.

I do think we'll tone down our forces in Iraq, but I don't think that either President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld was trying to imply that we would draw down to zero there. It's more likely that we would draw down to zero in Germany or Korea, than that we would do so where we have troops stationed in the midst of our enemies.

Posted by jeff at 2:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

In the Beginning...

Wizbang asks when the War on Terror began, and gives some suggestions. Some of the suggestions, though, and others made in the comments, are way off track, because they fail to distinguish between the beginning of an event and the precursors of an event, and tend to see named events as distinct from the history within which they occur. Let's take WWII as an example: when did it start?

WWII started in 1941, when the US declared war on Japan and Germany within a few days. Prior to that point, what would come to be known as WWII was actually several different wars: the Japanese wars in SE Asia, which led to the Pearl Harbor attack (the Philippines were in Japan's way, and if we took up with the Australians, as we showed signs of doing, Japan's southwards expansion would fail unless the Philippines were reduced and the US Navy kept in the eastern Pacific); the German war in Europe, beginning with the invasion of Poland, which later subsumed the Russian wars in Europe, including the joint campaign with Germany in Poland and the attacks on Finland; the Italian war in N. Africa (beginning with the attack on Ethiopia). It was when the US joined into the major wars already ongoing that it became WWII in any real sense. Without US involvement in the Pacific, we would likely today talk about WWII (meaning the war in Europe) and the largely-forgotten (by the US, anyway) Sino-Japanese War. WWII didn't start with the Treaty of Versailles, the Beer Hall Putsch or the failure of the League of Nations to oppose Italy in Africa; those were all precursors.

I prefer to call the War on Terror the Terror Wars. There are a series of wars and almost-wars going on around the world, that all tie together because one side in each of them is the jihadis attempting to restore the Caliphate and put first the Arab world, then the Muslim world, then the rest of the world under its rule. These separate conflicts include:

  • The terror campaigns against Israel that began after 1967's Six Day War and continue to this day, and subsume the war in Lebanon in the 1980s and the two Intafadehs.
  • The wars in Chechnya, lately spreading into the whole region, that began with the breakup of the USSR.
  • The Muslim insurrections in the Philippines and Indonesia and other areas of SE Asia.
  • The cold war between Iran and the US since 1979.
  • The invasions of Islamists throughout northern Africa, including Somalia, the Sudan and others.
  • The Muslim insurrection in Kashmir.
  • The Algerian civil war.
  • The GWOT as Americans usually define it, beginning with the attacks of 9/11 and including the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The point is, there are a lot of different wars going on that are tied into the Terror Wars, because of US involvement after 9/11. Without that, there would be a series of disconnected (to our eyes) events: Chechnya has nothing to do with Israel, right? Well, no, it's not right: there is an enemy that has started a series of wars on its borders, and those wars are becoming tied together because of US involvement in all of them.

And the start of the wars won't be truly determinable until the wars are much further along, because we don't yet know what will happen to change our perception of today when we look back on it. Israel may get tied much more closely into the Terror Wars more broadly (for example, the US and Israel could theoretically jointly invade Lebanon (going after Hizb'allah) and Syria). Russia might realize that Chechnya is not isolated, and might tie into the US campaigns in the Middle East. India could invade Pakistan to root out jihadi training camps. Iran could become actively belligerent against the US, attacking our shipping in the Persian Gulf. And so on.

If you have to pick a date now, the logical date to my mind would be 9/11, because that's what tied all of these disparate wars together, and defined the enemy.

Posted by jeff at 10:41 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 7, 2005

Condolences

My condolences to our British cousins on this terrible day.

Rule Britannia

When Britain first at Heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter, the charter of the land,
And guardian Angels sung this strain,

Chorus
Rule, Britannia, Britannia rule the waves,
Britons never will be slaves!

The Nations (not so blest as thee)
Must in their turns to Tyrants fall,
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

Chorus

Still more majestick shalt thou rise,
More dreadful from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies,
Serves but to root thy native oak.

Chorus

Thee, haughty Tyrants ne'er shall tame:
All their attempts to bend thee down,
Will but arouze thy gen'rous flame,
But work their woe, and thy renown.

Chorus

To thee belongs the rural reign,
Thy cities shall with commerce shine;
All thine shall be the subject Main,
And ev'ry shore it circles thine.

Chorus

The Muses still with Freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coasts repair; Blest Isle!
With matchless beauty crown'd,
And manly hearts to guide the Fair.

Chorus

UPDATE: Steph, who has more of a connection to London itself than do I, has thoughts.

Posted by jeff at 8:22 AM

July 6, 2005

Treason - the Real Kind of Treason

Apparently, five Americans have been captured in Iraq over the last few months, possibly insurgents or terrorists. These people are Americans, and deserve to be brought to America and tried in our civilian courts or courts martial (depending on the bill of particulars). If guilty of treason, that is, fighting against America, then they deserve to be killed.

It seems to me that we are going too soft in this war. It's one thing for John Walker Lindh, who went to fight with the Taliban against other Muslims and ended up fighting against the US when we invaded; there's a case to be made there that there was not treasonous intent. On the other hand, if you are in Iraq fighting against Americans now, there can be no doubt of treasonous intent. Nor in the two known fragging cases.

If a person is guilty of treason, as Hassan Aqbar most certainly is, and these guys may be, upon conviction they should simply be killed.

Posted by jeff at 1:09 PM | TrackBack

Sturm Abteilung

Brian Tiemann dug further into the Kos fever swamps than I could stomach, in their reaction to a satire that is not even actually about the Left. (If a satirist makes fun of the enemy adopting your rhetoric, and you jump on that as if the rhetoric were legitimate and it's not the enemy, but your domestic critics that are to be hated and pilloried, well, let's just say I don't so much question your patriotism as outright deny that you have any patriotism at all.)

The Sturm Abteilung (the original brown shirts whose ferocious thuggery has been defined down by Al Gore, no less) were brutal thugs who specialized in the use of violence to disrupt the peaceful assembly of their political opponents, demagoguery of their opponents and vilification of their positions by associations with hated or feared groups, and outright slander and demonization to promote the Party as the savior and defender of the People. All that's missing, at this point, from the Kos Kidz is the presence of an armed faction. And before you argue that the Left doesn't like guns, remember the Weathermen.

Posted by jeff at 12:54 AM | TrackBack

July 5, 2005

Is Zarqawi Getting Desperate?

Maybe there's something to those "last throes" after all.

The reputed leader of al-Qaida in Iraq said the Iraqi army is as great an enemy as the Americans and announced the formation of a new terror command to fight Iraq's biggest Shiite militia, in an audiotape found Wednesday on the Internet.
The comments, purportedly from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, appeared aimed at discouraging armed Iraqi groups from entering talks with the Iraqi government. The tape challenged critics who maintain that fighting U.S. troops is legitimate, but who oppose attacks on Iraqi forces.
"Some say that the resistance is divided into two groups — an honorable resistance that fights the nonbeliever-occupier and a dishonorable resistance that fights Iraqis," the speaker said. "We announce that the Iraqi army is an army of apostates and mercenaries that has allied itself with the Crusaders and came to destroy Islam and fight Muslims. We will fight it."

Let's see, a terrorist from Jordan looks to win support from Iraqis by advocating the killing of Iraqis. Doesn't seem like the best way to gain support for the cause to me.

The fact that Zarqawi has the need to issue this statement shows that he is facing criticism about the killing of Iraqi soldiers. It appears many insurgents consider it dishonorable. It would seem that a number of Iraqis, while having no love for the U.S., may be tiring of killing their fellow countrymen and may be considering entering the political process. Heck, he even acknowledges the resistance is divided!

Surely many insurgents must be noting that their current strategy is not working. America is not leaving any time soon. The move toward democracy is continuing pretty much unabated. They are losing this war. If they want any power, any say in Iraq's future, their only recourse may be through politics.

Zarqawi doesn't care about that; he's a cold-blooded killer, plain and simple. He is waging jihad against the Great Satan and the Zionists. But I would bet many insurgents care far more about their place in society than killing for killing's sake. They didn't want to give up their stranglehold on power, and that's why they have been fighting. But their days as Iraq's overlords, the favored of Saddam, are over and they aren't coming back. Better something than nothing, which is what they are faced with. The longer they remain separate from the political process, the more leverage they lose in any future Iraqi democracy.

The speaker tacitly acknowledged pressure to abandon the struggle against the Americans and their Iraqi allies, saying he was "saddened and burdened" by people "advising me not to persist in fighting in Iraq."

Well, what more can you say about this? If this is Zarqawi, this is stunning! There is no clearer evidence that the insurgency is losing steam and victory is close at hand. He's losing support.

He also said the Americans began speaking of negotiations to end the conflict after al-Qaida had "humiliated" U.S. forces on the battlefield.

Sure doesn't seem that he really believes that by the tenor of his comments. Wishful thinking, propaganda, and it sounds utterly unconvincing, even to the insurgents I bet.

Folks, Dick Cheney may very well have been right!

Posted by Brian at 10:30 PM | TrackBack

Rest In Peace Admiral Stockdale

Admiral James Stockdale passed away today at the age of 81.

Most people will remember Admiral Stockdale as Ross Perot's running mate in 1992. But they should also remember Admiral Stockdale for being the highest ranking Naval officer held as a POW during the Vietnam War, for surviving seven and a half years of brutal torture that left his body nearly broken for life, four years of that in solitary confinement, for severely wounding himself to prevent the North Vietnamese for using him as propaganda, for nearly killing himself to show his captors that he would never capitulate to torture, and for earning the Medal of Honor and four Silver Stars among his many citations.

I wish you fair winds and following seas Admiral.

JEFF ADDS: In 1992, I left OU to come to Dallas to be with Stephanie. I took a temp job while I was looking for real work, and the temp company immediately sent me to a phone bank that Ross Perot had established. This was just after Perot's appearance on Larry King, when Perot Systems' phone lines had been overwhelmed and they needed some way to handle the incoming calls. A day or two later, someone came into the room (Mike Poss maybe? I can't remember) and asked if anyone there had computer experience, as they needed to set up a database to track and categorize the calls, because their paper system was being overwhelmed. Since I had computer experience, I stepped up, and worked on first the call database, then later on the FEC reporting systems as a member of the Perot campaign's national staff. (Off topic: best moment was being told by the FEC that we were filing our reports too promptly and too completely for them to process.)

During the early days of the campaign - before it was a campaign, really, when Perot was just trying to find places to stick people, I ended up on the same floor as Perot's office, not far down the hall, for a few weeks. I only met Admiral Stockdale once, and that was before he was named as Perot's vice-presidential pick. He was a truly amazing man: intelligent, well-spoken, humble to a fault, and genuinely funny. I can see where his embarrassing debate performance came from - it's hard to be a real person in the midst of politicians, where truth is irrelevant and no man's honor or reputation is safe from the opposing vultures; how can an honest and humble man compete in a contest of first impressions with two men perfectly comfortable with lying and dissembling and slyly undermining because they honestly feel that it's their right to wield power over the rest of us?

The Admiral is a true American hero, and deserves all the glory and accolades that this nation can bestow upon its best. Wizbang has the MoH citation.

Posted by Brian at 9:56 PM | TrackBack

Who Will Remember the Cold War as it Was?

The memorial at Checkpoint Charlie is no more. (hat tip: InstaPundit)

This is a shame and a tragedy, as such memorials keep alive the consequences of bad decisions. Think of how hard it is to convince someone who has seen Auschwitz that the Holocaust never happened. Yet as such memorials of the brutality of the Soviet sphere are removed - ironically at a time when Russia is again turning its imperialist eyes to the near abroad - it will become easier and easier to pretend that there was nothing more to the divide than a difference of opinion, a political matter of degree rather than of kind.

And then we see the tragic demonstration of the truth of Marx's reply to Santayana: "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."

Posted by jeff at 6:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"To me, dissent is the real patriotism"

Iowahawk has a brilliant parody, taking off from the tendency of jihadis to adopt Western Leftist rhetoric to muddy the moral waters. (hat tip: The Jawa Report)

The waters are certainly muddy. (hat tip: Little Green Footballs)

Posted by jeff at 2:56 PM | TrackBack

July 4, 2005

My Independence Day

I don't really care for baseball - fun to play, boring to watch. Or maybe just boring on TV? To celebrate Independence Day, I decided to take in a baseball game (only my second ever). After all, what's more American than baseball, the nation's pastime. Honestly, the reason I went was largely that I figured the postgame fireworks display would be one of the best in my area.

Professional baseball is expensive. One ticket (one of the cheaper ones - lower level, just over the wall in left field) and two Dr. Pepper's cost about $34. That doesn't include parking, which would have been about $12 more had I driven to the game. People in Texas don't walk, they drive everywhere; you pretty much have to. I walked, probably a longer distance than anyone else at the game (an announced crowd of over 50,000, the fourth largest [second largest in the regular season] crowd in the, admittedly short, history of The Ballpark). It's a five minute drive from my apartment to The Ballpark, maybe ten with the traffic, but the walk took only 35 minutes. I would prefer to drive, but for the cost, I'll take the walk. It's good exercise, and I need it! I stopped to get a soda from a concession stand, and because of it, unfortunately missed the singing of the national anthem and actually seeing the F-16 flyover. But that, I heard - a roaring like the sundering of Heaven itself coming from out of nowhere, a thunder that shook the stadium. That's a sight and sound I remember so well, from all those airshows of my childhood, when the Thunderbirds, in their F-16's, would soar low over the crowd, coming up from behind, just under the speed of sound, so that you didn't know they were there until they were directly overhead. I would love to have seen that again!

The matchup, itself, was excellent symbolism for Independence Day. Texas, a state that knows a little something about independence, having once gained it from Mexico to become its own sovereign nation, and whose team colors happen to be red, white and blue hosting Boston, one of the most important cities, and site of many important events, during the Revolutionary War.

The home team provided the fireworks early, its first five batters all reaching base safely and taking a 3-0 lead after the first inning. But twice in the next few innings the Rangers left the bases loaded. Boston edged back into the game, tying it in the sixth. Then in the eighth, Beantown's Manny Ramirez hit the game's only homerun giving the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. Things began to appear dicey for the Rangers, but they did score a run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to make it 5-4. Then with one out in the ninth, the home team pulled it together. First, Michael Young hit a shot to center field getting a triple. Then Mark Teixeira doubled to right scoring Young to tie the game. Hank Blalock drew a walk and Alfonso Soriano was hit by a pitch loading the bases. Then with the outfield playing in, Kevin Mench popped one to left field over Manny Ramirez to give the home team a thrilling 6-5 victory.

Then the fireworks began, and they were wonderful. I watched them, thinking about just what we are celebrating today, cherishing the memory of those who faught, those who led, and those who fell in the effort to secure the blessings of Liberty for this great nation. I am not ashamed to say that I teared up a couple of times. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was chosen for the grand finalé.

John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776. In it, he spoke of how Americans should remember the momentous events taking place: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

I think John Adams would be proud. In beautiful, spacious skies, over amber waves of grain, over purple mountains' majesty, above the fruited plain, from sea to shining sea we have illuminated this continent tonight.

We are America and we are free!

Hope you had a wonderful Independence Day!

Posted by Brian at 11:27 PM | TrackBack

"Our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor"

If you haven't read Rush Limbaugh Jr.'s (the famous Rush's father) story of the men behind the Declaration of Independence and just how much they sacrificed when they pledged their Lives, Fortunes, and sacred Honor, I encourage you to do so. If you have read it, it is still most definately worth reading every Independence Day. Let us not forget or take for granted the actions of these men.

Go here for the full version of the Declaration of Independence.

Posted by Brian at 12:01 AM | TrackBack

We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident

Declaration of Independence


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


[The 56 signatures on the Declaration were arranged in six columns:]

[Column 1]
Georgia:
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton

[Column 2]
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton

[Column 3]
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

[Column 4]
Pennsylvania:
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
Delaware:
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean

[Column 5]
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark

[Column 6]
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple
Massachusetts:
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
Connecticut:
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton

UPDATE: I had also intended to publish Lincoln's speech regarding the meaning of the Declaration in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Powerline has done so. Posted by jeff at 12:01 AM | TrackBack

July 3, 2005

George Bush is a Good Man and the Democrats Can Go to Hell

It's almost Independence Day and President Bush and the Democrats have each issued their weekly radio addresses. Here is the summary of the addresses:

President Bush is asking Americans celebrating the Independence Day holiday to thank the U.S. men and women serving in the military, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Party criticized the president for what it says is a failure to be honest about the cost of the Iraq war.

Is there no shame in the Democratic party? Are they really so bitter, so clueless, so damn UNPATRIOTIC, that they cannot put partisanship aside for one weekend to honor, literally, the defining moment of this nation's history.

Everything we have been, are, and will be is interwoven with the ideals espoused in Declaration of Independence - "that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness - That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it".

While these four truths do seem self-evident to us today, they were radical, indeed, revolutionary ideas at the time, neither practiced nor espoused by any nation on Earth.

And the best the Democrats can do is attack Bush on Iraq. In fact, having Patty Murray being the one making the attack. You remember Patty Murray, right? Let me refresh you:

In December 2002, Murray made the following controversial comments before a high school audience at Vancouver, Washington:
Osama bin Laden has been very, very effective being we've got to ask, why is this man so popular around the world?
Why are people so supportive of him in many countries? He has been in many countries that are riddled with poverty.
People don't have phones, no sewers, no roads, no schools, no health care, no facilities just to make sure their daily lives are OK.
He's been out in these countries for decades building roads, building schools, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. It made their lives better.
We have not done that. We haven't been out in many of these countries helping them build infrastructure.
How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?

I did not want to be partisan this Independence Day, but this got me angry.

To all those who still love America and cherish her and respect her, I wish you all a Happy Independence Day!

Posted by Brian at 10:58 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 2, 2005

A Friendly Reminder

There are four dominant strains of thought in American foreign policy. The Jeffersonians, at best warning against hubris and focusing on making ourselves better as an example to others, at worst the Michael Moore school of fiddling while Rome burns and self-loathing (isolationists); the Hamiltonians, who would as soon buy the loyalty of the world as anything, and don't really have guiding principles beyond a rigid adherence to our interests of the moment (realists); the Wilsonians, who believe in bringing representative self-governance and economic prosperity to the world by evangelizing American philosophy (Truman Democrats); and the Jacksonians, who act like Jeffersonians and Wilsonians as much as possible, but will are the vengeance of the Old Testament God made manifest when we're attacked (the neocons). The President is a mix of Wilsonian and Jacksonian, as are, I think, most Americans.

Now, the Jeffersonians are loud but powerless, and we're not going to disengage from the Middle East no longer how loud they whine. The Hamiltonians just want to preserve the flow of oil, and don't care about much else. The Wilsonians are giving a try in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere to convert the Arab nations to benign, self-governing, representative liberal democracies. The Jacksonians are quiescent, waiting to see how Afghanistan and Iraq shape up as long as we seem safe at home.

So with that as background, I'd like to make a couple of points to the jihadis, and to those Muslims unwilling or unable to stand up to the jihadis. The selection by the Iranian mullahs of a terrorist, murderer and kidnapper as president makes this particular Jacksonian pretty nervous, particularly combined with Iran's push to develop nuclear weapons. The pyramids and Karnak are pretty in pictures, but I've never been there. The oil is useful, and we'll do our best to preserve it no matter what happens, because we need it.

Outside of that, the Muslim world offers nothing to the rest of us, and if every Arab/Muslim between Algeria and Pakistan were to die in a day, we'd be shocked and appalled for a few weeks, then go on with our lives as if we never existed. Hence this warning: you live at our sufferance, and die at our will. That will will be galvanized, and almost instantly acted on, if there is ever another 9/11-scale attack on the US mainland, or a nuclear or chemical attack on American or European or other first world countries, or a series of suicide bombings in the US.

Think before you act, jihadis and apologists. America is benevolent, but not infinitely so.

Posted by jeff at 8:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 1, 2005

Mmmmm, Wonkishness

Open CRS collects Congressional Research Service reports (which are short, non-partisan summaries of issues requested by Congressmen) online. Woo-hoo!

Thanks to Kevin Drum for the link.

Posted by jeff at 8:59 PM | TrackBack

Supreme Court Nostradamus

Pennywit saves us the trouble of listening to the Democrats and Republicans about the upcoming Supreme Court fight. Of course, he neglects to point out the inevitable personal attacks (is Anita Hill available?) from the Left, and the inevitable personal attacks in reverse (yeah? CHAPPAQUIDDICK!!!) from the Right.

Besides, I've got popcorn and a comfy couch and satellite TV with 2 C-SPAN channels. This is going to be fun.

Posted by jeff at 8:09 PM | TrackBack

"almost as if God has spoken"

Nancy Pelosi is, if you'll forgive my language, a fucking idiot. Actually, she's a fucking idiot even if you don't excuse my language. I have to hand this to her though, some people really do treat Supreme Court decisions as if they were graven in stone tablets and passed down from the top of Mount Sinai. Still, Pelosi's complete inability to even grasp the outline of the issue and the possible legislative responses to it (including ones that don't alter the decision, but comply with it, since the decision explicitly said that the decision of when taking property from A and giving it to B is justified is a matter for the legislatures to decide!) is more stunningly stupid than I generally expect from politicians - even Democrats currently in the leadership. This was actually less intelligent than Dean's rantings! I feel my IQ draining just thinking of how stupid Pelosi is, so I'll stop ranting now.

Posted by jeff at 5:38 PM | TrackBack

Who Knew?

Steph points to a truly revealing story of pure Idiotarianism. If a homeschooling support group advertised themselves as "welcom[ing] all educators regardless of religion, race, teaching style, politics, marital status, age or sexual orientation", what would be your first reaction? Would you describe that statement as "Christian bashing"? How about the thought occurring to you that "not discriminating on sexual orientation basically means discriminating against most major religions, since the two are mutually exclusive"? Nope, me neither.

It is not uncommon to find homeschooling support groups that do not allow members who are not of a particular religion, or race, or economic background, or teaching style, or political or sexual orientation. That is a result of the homeschooling movement largely arising in the 1980s among radical Christian fundamentalists. It's getting easier all the time to find groups, resources and curricula that are secular or non-fundie, but it is still the case that some of the best homeschooling material is explicitly Christian and sometimes rabidly so, necessitating (in our case) considerable editing to be useful. But it is also, sadly, still easy to find jerks like the Prides.

Posted by jeff at 5:20 PM | TrackBack

The Soviet Bear

"The Bear Went Over The Mountain" by Lester W. Grau is a book I have just read. It is a gold mine on soo many levels. If you want a perfect case study in how not fight Islamofascists. It is also a good book on a clinical tactical analysis of how the Soviet war machine would have stacked up against Western armies. I am reading "Afghan Guerrilla Warfare" by Ali Ahmad Jalali and Lester W. Grau. It is a perfect case study in how not to let the Jihadis win. Oh, I could go on for hours, but I need to help the DW clean. I would love to discuss specifics if anyone is interested.

Posted by CPT 4ever at 2:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Be Careful What You Wish For

How is it that I could have grown up ignorant of the man without a country? Oh, yeah, I went to public schools.

This is a fabulous story of a man who got what he wished for, to his detriment.

(many thanks to Brian Dunn for this)

Posted by jeff at 12:45 PM | TrackBack

Supreme Court Vacancy

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has resigned, which means that President Bush will appoint the first new Supreme Court justice in about a decade (the last was Justice Breyer in 1994). While President Clinton's nominees - even Ruth Bader Ginsburg - sailed through their confirmation hearings, the Democrats showed with Clarence Thomas and, earlier, Robert Bork and (of all people) David Souter that they are looking for blood on the floor, a knock-down drag-out festival of hatred and lunacy.

Make lots of popcorn; this will be fun.

UPDATE: Good coverage at Wizbang and Blogs for Bush.

And Confirm Them has an interesting statistic on timelines. Short version: two to three months' worth of popcorn will be needed.

Posted by jeff at 11:58 AM | TrackBack

The Legacy of Colonialism in Iraq

Dan Darling has a three-part summary/review of Anthony Cordesman's analysis of the Iraqi insurgency. Part I, Part II, Part III

Cordesman's analysis is a must-read for understanding the Iraqi insurgency and how events in Iraq might play out. Cordesman, as is typical and necessary in this kind of review, is very harsh on the mistakes made - and Bush critics will love it for that - while also being fair in recognizing the things done right. This kind of analysis is critical to correcting problems, and it's a shame that it will most likely be used as a simple rhetorical club for bashing the Bush administration. That would in fact be not just shameful, but tragic, because it's likely that we'll have other occupations and reconstructions to work through in the years ahead, and this document contributes to the body of knowledge necessary to make fewer mistakes the next time.

UDPATE (7/5): Dan has posted part four of his review of Cordesman's paper.

UPDATE (7/6): and part 5

Posted by jeff at 9:29 AM | TrackBack