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October 31, 2005

Another Post #1

First, I need to thank Jeff for his generous invitation to start posting here. Caerdroia has been around for quite awhile, and Jeff has been a great contributor to the blogosphere. My blog, Ut Humiliter Opinor, hasn't been around that long, and getting real readership in a saturated market is a tall order - especially if you aren't someone who posts multiple times per day.

I suppose the next thing to address is "Why Nemo?" Nemo is Latin for "nobody". It seemed the perfect pseudonym for a blog name that means "In My Humble Opinion". No, I'm not a Latin scholar. I could probably give you the basics like "caveat emptor", "e pluribus unum" and even "post hoc ergo proctor hoc", but I think that's about it.

Lastly, what do I hope to bring here? What's different about me from our host? I suppose I could say I'm more normal , but that's probably a bit relative. Jeff and I have similar political views, though I'm almost certainly more conservative to his libertarianism. His kids are home schooled, we use the public schools. Jeff's Pagan/Wiccan, and I'm - well, I guess the phrase "Christian in remission" might be a good way to describe it. I was raised in, respect and know the faith well, but I won't say I attest to it anymore. That should give a bit of a hint on what I'm about. For more, fell free to peruse my old stomping grounds at UHO.

Thanks for reading. I hope you find my contributions here interesting.

Posted by Nemo at 8:26 PM | TrackBack

Welcome, Nemo

We are being joined by Nemo, formerly (still?) of Ut Humiliter Opinor. I look forward to seeing Nemo's writing here, and hope you all enjoy it as well.

Posted by jeff at 3:22 PM | TrackBack

Party Boundaries

The US system, because of the nature of how we elect officials, is inherently only stable with two major parties. More than that leads to one party attaining dominance, and the others coming together to counter the majority party, thus resulting in two parties. Fewer than two major parties leads the internal divisions in the major party to come into full play, eventually resulting in a split as the non-dominant faction seeks other outlets to maximize its influence; and again resulting in two major parties. The only way to change the dynamic is to change the electoral rules from simple plurality, so that smaller parties can have a reasonable assurance of representation. (For an idea of some of the possible electoral systems, see this summary.)

You can look at opinion as being a range, centered about a line. (Politics being a zero-sum game, any given issue will break down into two camps in the end.) The obvious division is Left and Right — that is indeed the division that is pushed on us every time a political discussion happens, even if it's not the appropriate division to draw for that particular issue. (I really hate the "Left/Right" paradigm, because it's so non-descriptive. Sadly, without a new political vocabulary, it's the best we've got.) But there is not merely one center around which the whole population is distributed on any given issue: each subgroup of the population also has a center. The centers of each of these subgroups stand in some relation to the center of the population as a whole. The MSM, for example, centers somewhat to the Left of the center for the whole population.

The political parties are, in the end, nothing but subgroups of the whole population who so identify with a particular political label that they see it as their highest calling to politically support others who identify with the same label. It seems petty and shallow — face it: it is petty and shallow — but that's how political parties work: they maximize their power by maximizing the number of people who identify with that label regardless of policies. The balancing act required to maintain that maxima is what has party positions moving around a little at a time, but constantly; the idea is to prevent either of the extreme ends of the party from getting so upset with the balance that they leave the party.

The balancing act is imperfect, and all political parties change their centers somewhat drastically over long periods of time. Since each party is a coalition of what would be several mid-sized, or many minor, parties under a different voting system, parts of each party break away or join over time, leading to shifts in the party's centerline. The Democrats' "solid South" that turned into the Reagan Republicans are one example: that shift was so large as to realign the parties, giving the Republicans a clear and lasting majority for the first time since the 1920s. The breakup of the Whigs and the formation of the Republicans prior to the Civil War is another example. There are many more, most quite smaller than that. And as the parties change their centers, in response to groups moving in or out, new opportunities for unity or disunity are exposed. (The coming of the neocons — economically and socially somewhat liberal and hawkish on foreign policy — to the Republicans for foreign policy reasons, for example, diluted the power of the economic conservatives that had dominated the Republicans during the Reagan years, and led to the current profligate Republican Congress. This is leading the economic conservatives to look for options.) This will happen despite the party's attempts to keep the party center consistent, because even minor shifts throw off the groups at either extreme, and draw them in at the other extreme. The Democrats can't keep both the DLC and the MoveOn/DU crowd happy for long; one or the other will give up.

In the most extreme cases, the center of a party will shift so far so fast that the party falls apart. This is how the Whigs were destroyed and the Republicans created. What happens in such a case is that the party's center moves too quickly for the subgroups of the party to react to it. When the center stops moving, one or another very large subgroup finds that it has no power, will have no power, and cannot abide the center of opinion of their party. So that subgroup will break off. In a case where the group that breaks away is quite large, the party splits. Otherwise, the group that breaks away will generally move to the other party, shifting its center closer to their ideal, and probably driving other subgroups away from that party.

The Democrats are shifting fast at the moment, indeed have shifted so far to the Left as the MoveOn/DU crowd comes increasingly into power within the party that people who used to be moderate Democrats are finding themselves voting Republican (mostly for foreign policy reasons, because that is the current impetus for the shift in the Democrat Party's center). This is leading to a major regrouping of the Democrats, which is why they cannot consistently beat the Republicans, who are quite disorganized and tend to offer up weak candidates of their own.

The Republicans, too, are undergoing a rapid shift of center, as a result of electoral success, the influx of many former moderate Democrats, the pressures of the war, and the differences between fiscal conservatives (now in the minority of Republicans) and social conservatives (reemerging into the majority). It is beginning to look like the current Republican pattern is that fiscal conservatives take over when the Republicans are out of power, and social conservatives when the Republicans are in power.

Will either of these shifts result in the breakup of one of the parties? I think so. There are basically four groups that come out of the two parties at the moment: the international socialists (far Left Democrats), the DLC (moderate left Democrats), the fiscal conservatives (moderate right Republicans) and the social conservatives (far Right Republicans). In the Republican case, the far Right within the party is still reasonably close to the moderate right. But in the Democrat case, the far Left is not only much further to the left than the DLC, they are also moving further Left as fast as possible. If this continues, and if the DLC cannot regain control of the party, the DLC will soon find itself leaving the Democrats. Then what? The rapid leftward shift in the Republican's party center caused by the DLC aligning with the Republicans would spin off the social conservatives so fast it will make you dizzy. This would leave three groups remaining: the international socialists in charge of the smoking remains of the Democrat party, the classical liberals (DLC + social liberal/fiscal conservative Republicans) and the social conservatives.

The Democrats, in that context, would be too small to stand on their own. Stripped of a large numbers of moderates, the Democrats would collapse as a major party. In the meantime, we would once again settle down with two parties, and I believe they would look a lot like the two parties we had in the period between 1930 and 1965: they would largely agree on foreign policy, and the fights would be over money and how far government can go in pushing a social agenda.

The key potential tipping point will be 2008: if the DLC puts forth Hilary, and loses, the far Left will pull the Democrats further to the Left than the DLC can tolerate. If the DLC wins, or if the international socialists end up picking the candidate and lose the general election, differences might be papered over long enough to become irrelevant, as new issues arise.

Posted by jeff at 11:27 AM | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

Justice Kozinski?

As speculation has increased on the blogs about whether Judge Kozinski would be a good nominee for the Supreme Court (the consensus seems to be yes), I have come across some wonderful discussions, of which this has been my favorite. Besides abstracting some of Judge Kozinski's opinions, Arms and the Law has a suggestion: write to comments@whitehouse.gov with your suggestion that the President nominate Judge Kozinski to the Court. (hat tip: Instapundit, who has been all over this)

Out of curiosity, I was searching on Google, and found something I hadn't known about Judge Kozinski, which is that he brings a much-needed intellectual property skill set: he is quite knowledgeable about Internet issues, as witness his opinion in Kremen v. Network Solutions, Inc. Frankly, that kind of knowledge is sadly lacking on today's court, which is hearing and will continue to hear an increasing number of IP cases.

Posted by jeff at 7:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Education, Schooling and Dependency

I heard a report on NPR this morning, about tent schools opening up in the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Everyone was pretty happy about this, because the parents "need a break" and the kids could have "age appropriate reading" lessons and were "getting bored" at home. It had me despairing within minutes. What are the lessons being taught by this?

These kids are learning that when there's a problem, other people take care of it. They are learning that they are just in the way. They are learning that "The Phantom Tollbooth" is more important than what it takes to get your house and goods and family recovered after a disaster. They are learning that order above all, regularity above all, is what is key.

In contrast, in such a situation, children that are being educated, rather than schooled, would be learning how to find the salvageable goods amongst the wreckage of the home, how to clean and repair the home, how to reconnect the broken parts of your old life into a new life. They would be learning how you can survive and thrive after a disaster, that friends and family are more dependable than strangers, that all help is welcome, that giving help is as or more rewarding than getting help. They would be learning how to live as independent adults, in other words.

It's not about the building or even the students. There are almost certainly publicly schooled kids learning the latter lessons, and homeschooled kids learning many of the former. It's about the attitude: are children the center of a family's life, or are they a peripheral to be enjoyed nights and weekends, as long as there's still time for the parents to have time to themselves then, and maybe on vacation? Schooling is not the same as education, and putting schooling above all leaves very little time for practical learning.

Posted by jeff at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 29, 2005

Uncommon Law

Should the US Supreme Court — or any other US court — quote foreign courts in their legal decisions?

When that question first came up, my immediate thought was, "No. Of course not. It's a different system with different laws." But upon reflection, I've modified my opinion quite a bit. I still think that it is meaningless to quote foreign courts in Constitutional matters — even harmful, to the extent that this gives the idea that our Constitution might not be sovereign. But on criminal law, I think that quoting foreign courts from other countries whose legal systems are based on English common law is not only valid, but admirable. (I'd be delighted to learn of more judges having read, say, Blackstone.)

The whole basis of common law is that it is the law that has evolved among free people to keep them free. Up until a hundred or so years ago, in fact, it was not unlikely for a bad English law (or a bad American law) to be put by the board simply because no judges would hear a case brought under it, and no jury would convict. Common law was mostly based on common sense: it was law made largely without benefit of legislatures or lawyers. The closest thing to it in America today is, ironically, TV court shows like The People's Court. Under common law, you would not see multi-million dollar settlements against big companies just because they are big companies, nor would you see people being put in jail for simple self defense (as they often are, now, in England).

More and more, our laws are coming to resemble the French system: they cover every aspect of everything, and are self-referential. There is no possibility of going outside the law to common sense, and all respect is given to the law even if it is tyrannical and arbitrary. To the extent that quoting foreign common law courts brings us back to our justicial roots, I'm all for it.

Posted by jeff at 5:53 PM | TrackBack

Judge Kozinski

My absolute favorite judge from what I know of his decisions is Alex Kozinski, of the 9th Circuit Court. (Yes, though I am a non-lawyer, I sometimes read circuit court decisions. I have no life.) I suggested Kozinski back in June. Now Glenn Reynolds has been mentioning Judge Kozinski repeatedly over the last few days, and today has some great bits from Judge Kozinski's dissent in Silveira v. Lockyer. But there are two other great quotes from that decision that I'd like to pass on, including possibly the most brilliant words ever written on the Second Amendment. But, first, a reminder of the role of inferior courts in our system:

As an inferior court, we may not tell the Supreme Court it was out to lunch when it last visited a constitutional provision.

And now, the Second Amendment rationale:
The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed—where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

There's a lot more in the decision worth reading. For that matter, the other dissent in the case, written by Judge Kleinfeld, also has some notable points, including this one:
The panel's protection of what it calls the "people's right to bear arms" protects that "right" in the same fictional sense as the "people's" rights are protected in a "people's democratic republic."

Posted by jeff at 9:57 AM | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

Disgusting Anti-Americanism

Here is a disgusting view of America, by a French-born photographer living in Rome. Interestingly, a similar gallery featuring the enemy doesn't need to be photographed: the enemy almost always photographs or films the actual beheadings and tortures they undertake (as opposed to the metaphorical ones we've been slandered as doing). But that would hardly fit the enemyEuro-leftist agenda, now would it?

(hat tip: LGF)

Posted by jeff at 10:20 PM | TrackBack

Pieces of Jewel

In the course of my job I get to see many well-known individuals. In the last few months I have seen Emmitt Smith, Shawn Bradley, Michael Finley, Sam Perkins, John Riggins, John Fogerty and Erykah Badu. I'm sure there are a few others I'm forgetting on top of those.

Additionally, others who were nearby, but I missed include Dennis Rodman and Sharon Stone.

Sadly, in that latter category was today's just missed run-in with Jewel. It may be worth noting here, that I'm a big Jewel fan. I would really have liked to see/talk to/get an autograph from/propose to her, had I had the opportunity. Alas, I was only about four feet from her, but with a partition obscuring her from my view. I was busy working at the time, or I might have seen her. Unfortunately, my co-worker who got to talk to her (lucky bastard) didn't recognize her (damn electronic music listener) or he probably would have given me a heads-up. By the time a fellow co-worker showed me a Ty Murray (Jewel's long time boyfriend) championship belt buckle that belonged to someone named Jewel Kilcher, she was leaving and I was still too busy working to do anything about it. Sigh...

And while I'm at it, here are more gratuitous pictures of Jewel:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10

Posted by Brian at 10:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Generations of Warfare

With Morenuancedthanyou's question on this post, it is clear I used jargon I should have spelled out. The question: "What exactly is 4GW?"

4GW is an abbreviation for fourth generation warfare. It is also called "asymmetrical warfare". Modern warfare began in the late 1700s, roughly between the American Revolution and the rise of Napoleon in France. The first generation was characterized by mass conscription, fighting without regard to seasons, the use of formations such as rigid drills and fighting in a line to maximize the firepower of musketry, and a distinct lack of operational maneuver except among the best commanders (Napoleon was master of the art of operational maneuver).

Second generation (modern) warfare came about with the appearance of breech-loaded rifles, which made massed formations suicidal. The US Civil War was perhaps the last 1GW war, and showed elements of what was to come: reliance on indirect fire, dispersed lines in the advance, a reluctance to give ground in the defense and the development of operational art, particularly in the German army. WWI was a perfect example of this generation of warfighting at its peak.

3GW was also developed by the Germans, who saw a need to compete with numerically superior enemies and also an opportunity in new technologies. The result was the blitzkrieg: non-linear warfare, emphasis on logistics and maneuver, targeting enemy populations as a means to reduce future enemy supplies and on fighting in time (as well as space) and combined arms (aircraft acting as scouts, infantry supporting tanks in a breakthrough, tanks supporting infantry in defense and so on). WWII was the prime example of 3GW war, and its zenith in theory was the American AirLand doctrine developed after Viet Nam.

4GW is really almost a return to pre-industrial war, for at least one side. Realizing that America brings overwhelming strength to bear, and cannot be defeated on the battlefield by virtually anyone, leads non-American forces (and non-Allies) to develop suitable tactics to counter American strength: terrorism, attacking civilian populations exclusively, media-centric war, using criminal enterprises as instruments of covert war and the like. In effect, it is cheating, by the standards of "gentlemanly warfare" that more or less prevailed between the 1600s and today, at least in the West and most industrialized countries. The Iraq insurgency/terrorist campaign, 9/11, the second intifadeh terrorism against Israel, and the drug lords' war against the Mexican government. Viet Nam was, in effect, the first 4GW war by the end, being won by the Communists in the media, by attacking our will to resist or even to allow our allies to buy weapons and ammunition, rather than on the ground, where the enemy was pretty much slaughtered until the 1975 invasion, the second conventional invasion of South Viet Nam since American withdrawal.

It has been the case that each generation of modern warfare, by targeting the weakest points of the militaries of the prior generation, has been uniformly able to overcome the prior-generation army. 2GW weaponry made massed, linear attacks suicidal (ask both sides in WWI, and the Polish and Russians in WWII) and ineffective. 3GW tactics made 2GW weaponry ineffective because it couldn't reorient to the threat, and would be cut off and destroyed in detail. 4GW basically targets the enemy's will to fight, on moral grounds rather than practical grounds. A perfect 4GW war is one where the enemy chooses not to fight in the first place.

This has not yet been proven of 4GW vs. 3GW militaries. While the Americans were beaten in Viet Nam by 4GW tactics, the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Mexicans in Mexico, and so on, the second intifadeh was crushed by Israeli application of an immortal practice: building a wall and killing the enemy's leaders. Similarly, the US campaign in Iraq will be studied by future historians, barring a tremendous reversal of fortune, as a prime example of how to militarily defeat a 4GW force that is tied to a place, and how to tie them to a place initially. It's unclear as of yet, and will be for quite some time, whether the jihadi campaign globally will be beaten by American and allied force, by the adoption of 4GW tactics by America (as was done in Afghanistan with great success), by creeping democratization and liberalization of the Muslim world, or not at all.

It's pretty clear that a 3GW military with 4GW capabilities of its own can beat a 4GW force under some circumstances, and that a 4GW force can beat a badly-trained and badly-motivated 3GW force. It's pretty clear that 4GW won't work against authoritarian and particularly totalitarian regimes, because they can be as brutal and "unfair" as the 4GW forces and to much greater effect, since they have State resources behind them. It's pretty clear that 4GW forces cannot win without the support of States, particularly in weapons, financing, training and safe havens. Much else is still unclear, and will be resolved over time.

My personal view is that 4GW forces are more or less indistinguishable from pirates: no quarter given. If all nations begin to treat 4GW forces that are not the normal forces of a State (including but not limited to terrorists) as pirates and criminals, rather than as useful tools, 4GW forces will almost immediately lose their effectiveness. If the media would refuse to act as the propaganda agents of 4GW forces, the 4GW forces would almost immediately lose their effectiveness. If America becomes brutal (which may happen if we suffer a terrorist nuclear, chemical or biological attack), or the UN ceases to protect the "democratic rights" of States that are not in fact democratic, or Western citizens stop seeing themselves as their own enemies — in any of these cases, 4GW will collapse as an effective tool.

This leads me to conclude one other thing: it may turn out in the end that 4GW is nothing more than pre-modern warfare, ancient warfare even, fought with modern warfare before the unblinking gaze of the camera. If that is the case, 4GW will be seen in historical hindsight not as a generation of modern warfare, but as an attempt to win a gunfight with a knife.

Posted by jeff at 9:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Liar! Bah! Fools.

So Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the Vice President's Chief of Staff, has been indicted for lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice, in the case regarding the leaking to the press (and subsequent publication) of a CIA agent's name. Of course, the case could be made that this was unimportant lying, because it was only to a grand jury and it was only about talking to reporters. I do not, though, expect to see any Democrat partisans making such a case, though they did so most forcefully during the Clinton administration, when the President lied to a grand jury. (Or is it that sex is less important than talking to reporters? Will MoveOn move on?)

The case could also be made that any public official lying to a grand jury or obstructing justice is deeply damaging to open government and the rule of law, and that Libby should therefore never be allowed to serve in government again (having already resigned his office, he could not now be removed by impeachment). I do not, though expect to see any Republican partisans making such a case, though they did so most forcefully during the Clinton administration, when the President lied to a grand jury. (Or is it that discussing a CIA agent's career is less important to the nation than talking about who gave you blow jobs?)

Me? I fall into the camp that says that perjury on the part of government officials is a terrible weakening of the rule of law, whether the perjurer is the President (very damaging, as the President is the chief of all Federal law enforcement) or some more minor official (potentially very damaging, because if they are willing to lie about this, what else is hidden from the people, who employ them). This is the same position I held when President Clinton was impeached.

So the Democrat partisans are reduced to whining "Liar" as if they were paragons of virtue, while the Republican partisans are reduced to putting their hands in their ears as though they were innocent lambs. Both look like fools to me.

UPDATE: As usual, Planet Moron has a great take on this.

Posted by jeff at 4:29 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Meeting the Needs of the Company

Francis Porretto, like most people who actually have to do something to be successful at work, hates meetings. Until my job recently became largely a matter of attending meetings to prepare other people for the meetings they would soon be having for yet a third set of people, I would have joined him utterly in his rant. Now all I can think about is how much I'd love to cut down to 25 hours of meetings a week (one alone runs 4 hours, and usually runs over); yet on the other hand I have essentially no deliverables, so I'm getting paid for this, rather than having to do it at the expense of what I am getting paid for, which is the more normal situation. Interestingly, though, Fran brings up something that strikes a false note:

Companies tend to absorb the character of their most important customers, and a defense contractor has but one.

Certainly, the Pentagon side of the military is bureaucratic, officious, meeting-prone, inefficient and almost irrelevant in the short term — unless they badly bungle their jobs, such as forgetting to order enough MREs for next year or something like that. But the real model might be the other part of the military, the fighting part.

A friend and I have been discussing this idea for years, and it begun with two simple ideas: that any problem that persists in an organization for more than a few days is a management problem; and that if one is not efficient in some way, one should work on that problem from a management angle, rather than from a process or oversight angle. From this has flowed many, many ideas about corporate organization, and in the end the model we've come up with, for an organization that produces something other than reports, is very close to the military fighting leadership model. (For producing meaningless reports, the current normal business structure can likely not be improved upon.)

The key factors in this are personal responsibility at all tasks, and sidelining the waste in the organization. Waste, in general, is highest in those parts of the organization that do not directly create something. Finance, legal and HR come immediately to mind as great sources of waste. The corollary to this is that those departments should be small, and should be purely advisory, with no decision-making capacity of their own, except for their responsibilities over their own people. Instead, the central organizations of finance, legal and HR should exist to create and promulgate policy, and to train the people in each department who will act as liaisons to the actual managers in that capacity. The managers, in contrast, should have absolute control over what their group does: if they want to break a legal or financial rule, they may do so without regard to what the lawyers or accountants think. However, they will have to be accountable for that, to their managers, should their overriding of such a rule lead to troubles for the organization, or to failure to deliver.

In other words, past a certain level, all managers would have a staff of specialists for support services, and no one but the manager would be responsible for everything done underneath him. That leads to some interesting changes that would have to be made otherwise, as well. For example, groups would have to be attached from supporting organizations to business organizations. Take an auto manufacturer and their IT support. Putting an IT person on each team in the plant would be inefficient due to the small support load of each. Putting only a single person as staff advisor would be insufficient because there would likely be several plant-specific servers, as well as the connections to other plants and to regional and corporate offices. So there would probably be a small staff of IT people at the plant, detached (in organizational terms) from the corporate IT department, but entirely reporting to the plant manager. They would be responsible for both the in-house servers and the connections to other IT resources outside the plant, and the plant manager, not the corporate IT manager who has a hundred plants begging for priority, would be responsible for solving the IT problems of his plant, even if that means bypassing or ignoring corporate IT standards, restrictions and constraints.

There is more to this, but I think that conveys the flavor. It would be interesting to see how this would work in a real organization.

UPDATE: I suppose I should spell out one important part of this; the one, in fact, that led me to write the post. The purpose of meetings is to coordinate different groups that do not report to the same management chain, or to pass information to people in your own chain (up or down). The latter type of meetings tend to be short, and the former would be greatly alleviated by this kind of organization, because "units" would be cross-attached, and so any given project would not have responsible groups outside the management chain with whom coordination is necessary.

Posted by jeff at 1:33 PM | TrackBack

October 27, 2005

Power and Control in a 4GW World

Mark Safranski has an interesting and pessimistic look at the ability of the State to defend itself in a 4GW world. Myke Cole, whom Mark quotes, sees the dissolution of the State in the face of a threat it cannot overcome. Mark sees the possibility of death squads as a State defense. I see a more optimistic scenario.

It seems to me that there is another option as well, and that it is not necessarily a bad one.

In the US, and in some other Western States, the government is not some god-installed authority against whom there is no power and over whom there is no control. Instead, the government is the agent of the people, and exists to serve the people's will. Indeed, the institutions of government are nothing more than a delegation of agency by the people to the State to do full-time what any given person can only do part-time, and not nearly as effectively.

The military is little more than the delegation of the power of self-defense against foreign foes to the State - the militia power, if you will. The police forces are nothing more than the citizens' delegation of authority to the State to enforce the law (which all citizens are duty-bound to do). And so forth.

The practical result of this is that, at least in the US, the State can fail utterly at some task without leading to dissolution — even at the task of defense against enemies, foreign or domestic. Let us say, for example, that the police make a total mess of fighting against a domestic 4GW threat. While it's possible the government could turn to death squads, it is unlikely (again, at least in the US). What is far more likely is that the armed citizens would organize themselves into a group and go solve the problem. There is a name for this: a Committee of Vigilance. Perhaps better known as vigilantes. While not the best solution — such groups tend to get out of hand — it is certainly better than giving up to death or at least chaos.

If you think that this will not happen in today's world, you should read up on the Minutemen.

Posted by jeff at 10:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

Wrong Word

Bill Roggio used the wrong word:

The attack on the Palestinian Hotel has created a media backlash against violence directed against journalists, but not against al Qaeda in particular. Media giant Reuters weighs in on yesterday's multiple suicide assault. While Suicide bombings have been the calling card of al Qaeda in Iraq and its Islamist affiliates and allies, incredulously, Reuters feigns ignorance of the origin of the attackers; "Until now, the perpetrators remain unknown." Reuters does not even hazard an educated guess.

The word "incredulously" means "not able to believe" or "not able to credit". As in, Reuters is incredulous at the advance of freedom in Iraq.

The word "incredibly" means "not able to be believed" or "not able to be given credit". As in, Reuters is, even more than most of the MSM, incredible.

Posted by jeff at 8:50 PM | TrackBack

October 23, 2005

Too Good Not to Repeat

Dale Franks at QandO said something too good not to repeat. In the context of discussing the recent action by a Spanish judge of bringing arrest warrants against three US soldiers, Franks noted:

Frankly, with all due respect for the hallowed traditions of Spanish law (among which are the Inquisition, the bastinado, and the auto da fé, I decline to be lectured on justice by representatives of a country that was a fascist dictatorship until 1975, and had its last attempted military coup d'etat in 1981. I hope I may be pardoned for suggesting that such a country may not yet have enough of a history of, or experience with, impartial judicial proceedings to offer us lectures on the administration of justice.

And that's my opinion on Spain, a country that has been part of—or, at least, an idiot stepsister to—Western Civilization for the last 700 years. If the dismissiveness of my opinion of them upsets you, then I assure you, you'd find my opinion of being dragged before a tribunal called by Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Indonesia, or Myanmar would be so harsh as to hardly be bearable.

Posted by jeff at 10:32 PM | TrackBack

Ummm..... Duh!!!

From Dare to Know comes this stunning scientific research result:

One of the longest and most detailed studies of UK childcare has concluded that young children who are looked after by their mothers do significantly better in developmental tests than those cared for in nurseries, by childminders or relatives.

The study on children from birth to three will reignite the controversy over the best way to bring up young children. It found babies and toddlers fared worst when they were given group nursery care. Those cared for by friends or grandparents or other relatives did a little better while those looked after by nannies or childminders were rated second only to those cared for by mothers.

In the immortal words of James Taranto, what would babies do without detailed studies?

I am a huge believer in the scientific method: it gives us a way to find new knowledge from prior discoveries and new observations, coupled with reason and testing. But I abhor the fetishization of science, and in particular the seeming need by some to do large, expensive studies on things that are well known through centuries of observation and noting of human behavior or the properties of the world around us. We don't need studies to tell us that the Sun is hot, though some careful observation and measurement can tell us how hot, and that can give us insights into properties of the Sun that are not directly observable, like its internal processes. But the whole reason that we need a study like this is because of all of the pseudo-scientific babble about the "right" way to raise your children and so forth.

Sometimes, it just takes a little common sense to find the right answer, and all the scientific approaches to problems that are not fundamentally ones of discovery amounts to rationalization of a profoundly inhuman "solution" that someone is eager to push. And if we would just stand back a moment and think, "Hey, babies are built to be with their moms", we could save a huge amount of effort and wasted lives. (Dr. Spock may have been responsible for more psychopaths than any other human.)

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October 22, 2005

I Wish This Were Funny

Sadly, it's just apropos.

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Ideology and Relationships

Francis Porretto has a thought-provoking essay on women's desires and constraints, well worth reading. It brought to mind something that I've been thinking about in another context: co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is the practice of having very young children sleep in the bed with their parents. For the advocates of co-sleeping, the benefits are numerous and significant: children generally seem happier and better-adjusted when they sleep with their parents, until (generally around age 4) they desire their own bed; the children obviously know that they want and need this closeness, security and protection, as evidenced by how they cry and cry when they cannot have it, and are contented when they get it; the parents also want and need this closeness, as evidenced by how difficult it is to not go pick up the babies and bring them to bed with you; the babies, especially, wake up in the middle of the night, but both wake up less often and go back to sleep far more easily if they are already with their mother. For the opponents of co-sleeping, the detriments are numerous and significant: it makes it much harder to find time and space for sex; you probably need to buy a bigger bed than you had before, or an accessory bed that attaches to the normal bed and where the baby can sleep; numerous child experts advise against it, and their "advice" usually takes the form of "you will suffocate your baby!!!!!!!!"; toddlers also wake up in the middle of the night, and when they are being potty trained they might wet the bed if they aren't wearing pullups, or the pullups might leak; children sleeping in the same bed as their parents aren't as "independent".

Frankly, I come down on the co-sleeping side, because of one and only one thing: I could not allow my first child to cry himself to sleep merely because he wanted his parents' comfort, because he couldn't deal with the world on his own and sleep soundly. Because, in effect, I didn't want my son to learn that "independence" often means "being alone and without protection, guidance or help". It worked so well, I kept it.

But here's the thing: there are enormous social pressures brought to bear on anyone who parents in a traditional way, if that means the way that humans have parented in all societies for all but the past 150 years or so, before we began to fetishize science over tradition. What is "traditional" now, and this is a big argument against anyone who parents otherwise, is to let children cry themselves to sleep, to feed from a bottle, to make birth and growth into medical events, and to fob your children off on strangers any chance you get and for as long as possible. The pressures — on mothers in particular — are enormous, particularly if the mother doesn't work outside the home. Perhaps this explains, at least in part, the rampant drug use and sex among teenagers, denigration of one's elders, and general rudeness of Americans these days: they've been taught their entire lives to grab what they can, because there's no one there to help out, particularly if you're not already in a massive crisis.

The problem here is the same as that faced by Fran's amalgam woman: too many people don't trust themselves. To live without fear of arbitrary death or dismemberment, to do what you want without the unwarranted interference of others, and to seek your own happiness in whatever way seems most appropriate to you are all that matters; everything else is bunk. Unless you are an absolute idiot, if you do what feels most comfortable to you — in relationships, child rearing, career choices, politics, home computer preference, or whatever — you are almost certainly going to do the right thing. If you are an absolute idiot, no amount of help or advice is going to make a difference in any case.

Ideology will be the death of us.

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October 19, 2005


I was going to write about the decision striking the Georgia law requiring voters to show ID, on the grounds that that was discriminatory. It's a dumb decision for a couple of reasons, but I find I just have to let Glenn Reynolds say it, since he was so pithy about it:

GEORGIA'S VOTER ID REQUIREMENT was struck down as discriminatory. That's to vote though. You still need one to buy beer. . . .

Yup. That about says it all.

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October 18, 2005

Small Annoying Things

Technorati does a terrible job of tracking links. It just doesn't seem to have scaled well; that, or it is badly designed. In particular, links will disappear from the list for a particular blog, even when the link is still there and can be verified by visiting it. Sometimes, the links never show up at all.

Truth Laid Bear's Ecosystem does a fairly good job, but it seems like links just appear and disappear somewhat randomly. I have gone from 80 links to 40 to 63 in a three-day span. Heck if I know why. It's not the variation that bothers me, but the fact that it's hard to tell who's really linking to me.

Blogspot doesn't do trackbacks out of the box. Or at least, not by default. This means that blogspot blogs don't show up in my trackbacks when they link to me.

The combination of all three of these means that I don't necessarily know who's linking to me on what topics, and that is annoying. The reason it is annoying is that they are clearly writing about things that interest me (or I wouldn't have written them), and I sometimes don't even know that they are linking to me unless I run across the post accidentally.

That's annoying.

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Pattern of Operations

Bill Roggio offers another excellent flash presentation showing the pattern of allied operations in Iraq over the last year. It's a wonderful counter to the police blotter coverage that saturates the media, and shows both our plan of action and where it's likely headed.

The majority of operations in the last year have been to first disrupt enemy operations and strongholds, then to occupy those strongholds, along the major enemy logistics routes alongside the River Euphrates. There have been some operations as well along the Tigris River, and some operations to disrupt enemy communications between those rivers. These were aimed at pacifying Baghdad, a task which has actually been quite successful, reducing enemy activity there to periodic car bombings, generally against civilians.

Where, then, might we see operations in the future? With the Euphrates nearly locked down, except at its far western tip, I believe the center of gravity for American troops will shift to the Tigris logistics lines. The Iraqis will stay in force along the Euphrates, but the Americans will move to where the hardest remaining fight is, and that will be the line from Baghdad to Baqubah to Kirkuk to Mosul to the border. Once the rivers are both secured, operations will become more intense in far western Anbar province, particularly the routes from Jordan and Syria through ar Rutbah. But this latter extension, into the West, will not require a very large troop presence, and so it is possible that it will be undertaken entirely by the Iraqis, as they gain in competence and equipment.

Don't expect to watch on the news, though: the media doesn't tend to cover things that are going well, and that are not a point in time and place with an immediate emotional angle. Basically, expect the media to continue covering this war as if they had the understanding and attention spans of five year olds.

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Government, Vigilence and Freedom

Mark Safranski has a long excerpt from Bruce Kesler on what the recent attempts to move Internet oversight to the UN, and to license journalists (essentially preventing bloggers from commenting on politicians near elections), mean for freedom. At the end of the quote, Mark provides this bit of commentary:

The admirable vigilance of Mr. Kesler is the price of liberty. We need to watch our Congressmen closely. Republican or Democrat, both kinds of elected officials are by definition insiders. Some of whom have forgotten where they came from and why they are there.

Indeed, such vigilance is laudable. It is just a shame that it is so necessary. And the reason that it is necessary is that government has massively overrun its bounds. The whole point of the American system of governance was that the Federal governments would not interact often or decisively with individuals; it was to be indirect governance. By so strictly constraining Federal powers and abilities, the Constitution as originally written made it unnecessary for individuals to be concerned with the day to day machinations of government at the Federal level.

But the increasing interference of the Federal government in everything, particularly following the removal of Federal limits on spending (16th Amendment) and political limits (17th Amendment) , requires every citizen to be well informed about the minutiae of not only the Congress' actions, but also those of the myriad Federal bureaucracies and courts. Otherwise, you could easily wake up and find that the First Amendment no longer protects your right to political speech, or that the Fourth Amendment no longer prevents the government from taking your property and giving it to your neighbor.

Sadly, the anti-Federalists appear to have been right in their criticisms of the Constitution (not limiting enough on government, so that government would grow into tyranny over time), even while they were unable to articulate a way of keeping the US together as a single nation in the absence of a stronger national government.

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October 17, 2005

New to Me

I found a blog that I had never seen before: Sovereignty Blog. Orrin apparently has published as far back as 2000, but regularly since last August. Sovereignty blog is a wide-ranging set of quotations from other sources about topics related to sovereignty, usually followed by a Glenn Reynolds-length comment from Orrin. Worth checking out.

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October 16, 2005

Leading by Example

Fran Porretto from time to time writes about writing, and his latest such piece, about adjectives and similes and related aspects of writing style, contains such a gem I want to share:

The really maddening cases are those writers who, seized by an ineffable ambivalence about the entire, controversy-strewn topic, ping-pong between the two opposed poles. In perusing these, the reader finds himself at times swimming lugubriously through a chow-mein sea, strewn, as though by some malevolent god from the depths of Lovecraft's unrecorded nightmares, with every conceivable kind of adjective, adverb, participial, gerundive, and ablative absolute known to the logophilic hordes. Sentences of a complexity that would have choked William Faulkner, involute as the general theory of relativity and twice as opaque, festooned with terms of that obfuscatory anfractuosity that characterizes the inferior mind struggling to pass itself off as a temple of erudition, wrap themselves around the reader's forebrain in braids of simulated profundity seldom properly equipped with the appropriate punctuation marks which after all are supports to both reading rhythm and comprehension and really shouldn't be dispensed with no matter what the effect the writer is striving to create. Then will come a paragraph break.

After the break, the writer is gripped by the other pole of the obsession. His sentences are all simple declaratives. His writing becomes as terse as a first-grader's primer. No commas are required. Your Curmudgeon's read a lot of stories like that.

The great crescendo of the first paragraph, with its sudden full stop, and the timid, mousy companion of the second paragraph, make this a perfect example of how not to write. The post concludes with a wonderful observation, too:
  1. In fiction, there are no absolute rules.
  2. Rule 1 is not binding.

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October 15, 2005

Marzipan Babies

Some serious artistry was at work here.

UPDATE: Thanks, Undertoad, now I have a source for these: according to Snopes, these are not marzipan, but clay. They are the creations of Camille Allen. (I'm actually relieved no one will be eating these.) Still, serious artistry, and quite cute.

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Assumptions, Victory in Iraq, and Strategy

The Iraqi referendum on their new Constitution has come off with high turnout. The assumption I am seeing on blogs that follow Iraq closely seems to be that this means that the referendum is going to pass. Not necessarily. The Constitution could well be voted down. But that is unimportant; there are only two important things: the election went off with such low violence — less than a typical American election in terms of number of incidents, though not their severity — and high rates of participation that it must be taken as the authentic opinion of the Iraqi people, and in failing utterly to prevent or disrupt the vote, the enemy's current strength has been revealed as lower than expected (and I expected it to be low). This indicates that the insurgency truly is over, and the terror campaign is fading faster than I had expected.

So even if the Constitution is voted down, this means that the political process will simply be re-engaged to negotiate a new attempt. And it is that political process that signifies victory for the US and for Iraq: by defeating the terrorists in Iraq, which appears to be happening more quickly than I had expected, and turning to the political process to allow free people to rule themselves as they choose, Iraq sets a magnificent example in the Arab and Muslim worlds of what Arabs can do. (It is, perhaps, too much to hope that the Western Left will take a similar example to heart.) In fact, in some ways, a defeat for the Constitution and a successful renegotiation would be an even better example, because in every other Arab state as it now stands, such a defeat would mean revolution and violence.

Given this, it is reasonable to expect the American presence to draw down within the next 18 months. Not all the way down, but down to the point that the Iraqis are basically in charge of the ground combat except in unusual circumstances, with the US providing air power, artillery, heavy weaponry, logistics and a deterrence against Iranian or Syrian invasion. Let's say 1/2 to 2/3, at a guess, of the US service members in Iraq and supporting Iraq can be retasked by the end of next year.

Now, this has some interesting implications. The US has learned much in the Iraqi fighting, and has kept those lessons because it's institutionalized the knowledge. (This is largely untrue for the enemy, who have not been able to learn as much because their people get killed too frequently, and their main source of intelligence is the media, rather than their own assets.) The Army is not, contrary to the puling of the critics, worn down, but rather has been sharpened. And that sharp point now begins to come available for follow-on operations. We can, after, say, next Spring, credibly threaten an invasion and occupation of Syria if that is necessary. As such, we can use that threat as leverage to pull down Syrian support of terrorists.

We could also credibly threaten Iran with attack and destruction (though not actually occupation). And if Iraq's oil reserves begin to come online in greater amounts, we could also credibly threaten to bankrupt Iran by cutting off their oil income. These threats can be used to hopefully get Iran to back off of their nuclear program, or to lessen their support of terrorists. If those don't happen, we can certainly attack Iran in much the same way that we attacked Serbia, using the destruction of their assets (less than total attack) to get them to back away from key policies (less than total defeat).

As a third option, we could use our available strength to undertake a lot of minor options, such as pressuring Chavez, Mugabe, the Sudan and some of the other third-rate problems around the world.

What will we do? The tea leaves don't reveal. But we will have a lot more options in six months than we now do, which will allow the US to take new steps towards advancing freedom and destroying terrorism. And that is a good thing.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds and Bill Roggio for many of the links in this post.

UPDATE: Wretchard has similar thoughts, more eloquently put.

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October 14, 2005

Meta Solutions

There's a lot of discussion of spam this week, of various kinds. Charles has been battling spammers in referrer logs, as has Aubrey. Then there is the solution to fax spam. I've recently spent quite a bit of time tweaking the anti-spam filters under MT3.2 (they're pretty good at this point, with only a very small number of false positives and an acceptable number of false negatives) as well as the .htaccess (for referrer spam protection) and my daily additions to the ipchains (that blocks an IP from even connecting). It occurs to me that we're putting obscene amounts of hours of productive people's time into fighting people abusing the Internet's mechanisms for their own (minimal) gain. (Really, just what is referral spam supposed to accomplish on the vast majority of sites that don't post their referral logs???)

What is needed here is a meta solution, a way to step outside the current problem and solve it at a higher level. Now, it would be nice to just shoot the offenders, since they obviously add nothing to human existence, but sadly, many of the offenders are in countries that would not take kindly to us shooting their citizens (generally, I suspect, because it usurps their prerogatives).

But there's another way: take it a level higher. If you get spammed from xx.xxx.yy.zz, ban everything from xx.xxx.yy.*. If that does not do it, ban everything from xx.xxx.*.*. Eventually, you'd be able to totally eliminate spam. It would not take more than 254 rules. (Of course, that would block everyone everywhere, but hey, it would fix the problem.)

For some reason, I keep coming back to the "just shoot them" solution, though.

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October 13, 2005

Chinese Send Second Crew into Orbit

The Chinese have sent a second crew of astronauts into orbit. Good for them.

Jay Tea worries:

A lot of people are saying it's nothing to worry about, as all they're achieving is things we did nearly fifty years ago, and they have a LONG way to go to catch up.


China is going to be our next great rival, and possibly adversary. It's no secret that much of their strategic planning revolves around countering us, overtaking us, even defeating us. And this is one more step we should watch very, very carefully.

Well, I think we've already proven we can build the world's best socialist space program. And like all socialist programs, the one we built had its great, momentary success, then went off to die in the field of broken dreams and could have beens. Frankly, I'm far more interested in the fact that we are now engaged in an effort, as individuals rather than as a bureaucracy, to prove that a capitalist space program can succeed.

And when we do so, the Chinese will be even further behind, relatively, than they were before they started their manned program.

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October 12, 2005

Freedom, Governance and Emergent Behavior

Many would argue — do argue, in fact, loudly, self-righteously and continually — that government not only can but should determine the nature of society. And by determining the nature of society, what they really mean is controlling the behavior of individuals: society is a myth, a convenient abstraction.

If "society" wrongs you, to whom do you turn to complain? How does "society" act to enforce its will? How does "society" even express its will? If you wish to plead with "society", to whom do you go with your plea? In each case, the only possible answers are direct and unfettered democracy, meaning that the mob expresses the opinions of society and it is to the mob you must go for justice, or tyranny, meaning that the government is the arbiter of all that happens and will take care of you, you poor deluded person thinking you know what's best for yourself.

We find our self edging more and more towards a strange combination of the two: the mob pushing the government, which then overacts and compels obedience. Take, for example, MADD's effort (apparently successful) to get the state of Texas to arrest people who are not driving drunk, in an attempt to further reduce drunk driving. Here we have an unreasoning and unreasonable demand, arising from moral self-suredness, that the government act to control individual behavior that is otherwise legal, to avoid the risk of later illegal behavior. If that is not a tyrannical act, I don't know what is. And yet this effort will pass almost unnoticed, along with the numerous other tyrannies, petty or outlandish, that government has foisted on the American public over the last seventy years.

The government is best which governs least. — Thomas Jefferson

For many years, I've noted (some would say "preached") that the role of government is not to form society, but to create a safe environment in which society could form itself. That government in a free country cannot effectively control society is evident from two facts: individuals are perverse, and the government is not ubiquitous. You cannot change the essential nature of people, as the various philosophical dead ends of the twentieth century (the pure Aryan, the New Soviet Man, etc) have amply shown, and were the government ubiquitous you would no longer have a free country, since the effect of government is forcible control.
The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else. — Frederic Bastiat

Let's look at the government efforts to change human behavior. There have been numerous attempts, even an all-encompassing "war on poverty", to raise people's economic status so that no one is poor. Yet for most of the time that this effort has been being actively undertaken, true poverty has been a rarity in the US: it only exists where individual will is weak. Think of how often lottery winners end up, a few years later, broke and miserable. Why is this? Because it is generally the poor who play the lottery, and the poor generally are poor because they make bad decisions. A person with money who makes bad decisions soon ends up poor again. Similarly, the many efforts at welfare created generations of people whose entire incentive was to not work, not put forth anything more than their hand, and those people sank into a deeper poverty (materially and morally) than they were in prior to welfare, despite being essentially given money. What fixed the problem? Welfare reform, where the amount of welfare you could receive was time limited. What has happened to those who have left the welfare rolls? In general, their material and moral wealth have both increased. Welfare is still necessary in some transitional cases, but by ending welfare as a permanent condition, by removing the power of government to control, human dignity and wealth as well as individual freedom have been increased.

Or let's look at the "war on [some] drugs". Here again, the government saw something intrinsically bad (people destroying their lives through drug abuse) and decided to "do something" (the universal rallying cry of would-be tyrants). Here, the government decided that simply making the drugs commercially unavailable would be sufficient to get people to take care of themselves. Well, we all know how that worked out, yes? But what interests me about the war on drugs is not the unconstitutionality of it, its creation of a black market, its probable effect in increasing drug use and certain effect in increasing drug-related violence and property crimes, nor even the naive belief that it's possible for the government, without becoming a police state, to prevent a product in demand from being supplied. No, what interests me most about this is simply that, past the first few hits, there is no benefit in drug use for the user. There are numerous drawbacks, of course, to one's financial state, family, friends, wealth, and so on. But once the pleasure is gone, which is very short-lived, from what I understand, there are no benefits.

Both of these illustrate the perversity of human nature: some people — a frighteningly large number of people — are simply willing to act against their best interests as others perceive them. Why is this? What do they get from staying poor or drug-ridden? I can only hazard a guess, because I cannot truly understand that frame of mind. My guess, based on observation, is that what such people long for is an escape from responsibility for themselves and their lives. If you are poor, others must take care of you; if you are drug-ridden, you cannot control yourself. In fact, it seems to me that this attempt to avoid personal responsibility pervades most of the attempts inexorably to extend the nanny state into our wallets and minds (from the Left) and our bedrooms and souls (from the Right).

But the "war on drugs" also illustrates the propensity for government to slip into tyranny. If, despite all of our efforts to control people, they still treat themselves badly, the answer must be ... more government attempts to control people. If you cannot eradicate a destructive behavior like using drugs by making the product illegal, then you can bend all other means of control towards punishing everyone involved in the trade, even where that has perverse outcomes. My "favorite" perverse outcome is the zero-tolerance law that would deprive you of your property if someone stole it from you and then used drugs on it. (I recall cases of people having their cars or boats stolen and taken for a joyride, and when the police found the vehicles and arrested the drugged up thief, they would then confiscate and auction off the property because it had been used in a drug crime. No, I'm not kidding.)

The same thing is happening with drunk driving. Moral suasion was insufficient to end drunk driving. Making drunk driving illegal and subject to punitive action cut down drunk driving, but didn't eliminate it. Increasing the penalties probably didn't even cut down drunk driving. Tightening the laws so that even non-drivers in a vehicle could not be drinking didn't fix the problem. But we're not done yet; oh, no! Reducing the availability of alcohol didn't fix it. Reducing the level of alcohol in the blood considered "drunk" didn't fix it. Prohibition of alcohol by the Federal government is unconstitutional1, and dry-county laws don't help because you can get alcohol in the next county over. But perhaps if we arrest people for drinking in bars, yeah, that'll do it. All we have to do is government unrestricted power, and it can solve anything, right?

But even then, the perversity of human nature rears its grip: tyrannies are uniformly corrupt. (Indeed, one of the major flaws of the computer game Civilization was that corruption disappeared under Communism, which is blatantly counter-historical.) If the government has the power to control all, those who want the control to pass them by, or to hit their opponents or enemies, have ample incentive to bribe officials. And in a tyrannical government, officials have ample incentive to be bribed: even a tyranny cannot be everywhere at once, so why not take money for not doing what you didn't have the resources to do anyway? But of course, this is a downward spiral, that ends with true power being exercised by those who are the most corrupt and the most ruthless. What was that about the road to Hell and good intentions?

The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers. — Star Wars

But if government cannot force people to act in society's best interests (or, for the well-intentioned fools, in their own best interest) with any consistency, then how can you possibly form a good and just society that will last more than a generation? Oddly enough, we already have the recipe, and it contains only two ingredients: individual liberty, and personal responsibility.

The first is laid out in John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, from 1690, which can be summed up as "life, liberty and property", and was slightly expanded upon in the Declaration of Independence with the realization that property was only one part of a larger need: the pursuit of happiness. When individuals are allowed to act in their own interest, they will sometimes fail to do so (that is part of the perversity of human nature), but as a whole they will produce a better society than if their actions are constrained. Not only are free people better able to perceive their interests locally, but the interaction of those local interests creates a series of beneficial emergent behaviors.

Dr. Von recently posted on emergent behavior (hat tip: Mark Safranski), so I won't go into it too much here. But there are two instances of emergent behavior that I would like to mention. The first is insect colonies, and the second is the working of a market economy.

Insect colonies, particularly ants and bees, exhibit an incredibly complex and intelligent behavior pattern, yet the individuals that make up the colony have essentially no intelligence, only a simple set of rules for their behavior. But each of those simple behaviors has its own reward. For an ant, for example, to get back to its nest, it must follow chemical trails left by itself or other ants. But due to the essential randomness of the outward wandering of the ants in search of food, the trails cross and re-cross. So how does the ant get home? It simply makes the smallest possible turn. Because of the nature of ants' movement outwards, this brings the ant home by the shortest route. However, this leaving of chemical trails has another feature: when food is found, the returning ant leaves a different chemical trail, and this trail is picked up on by other ants, who then take the shortest possible route to the food. By acting in their own self-interest, leaving different chemical trails as they move, the individual ants contribute to an act of apparent intelligence far beyond their ability to comprehend: the organization of the colony to efficiently gather food.

Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (generally called The Wealth of Nations) is the first description of which I am aware of an emergent behavior: the "invisible hand" that guides a free market. Essentially, the basis of a money economy (as opposed to a barter economy) is this: I have a product, or can provide a service. I need things. I have something you need, but you don't have what I need. You give me money for what you need, and I take that money elsewhere to get what I need. But if, say, you can go to lots of places to get what you need, I am limited in how much I can charge you; if I charge too much, you will get your needs met elsewhere for less. This results in a series of transactions based only on local knowledge: I don't necessarily know how much of what I have to offer is in circulation, but if you aren't willing to pay what I ask, it means that you probably know you can get it for less elsewhere. On the other hand, if I cannot produce fast enough to meet the demand, that means that I can make more by producing faster. It is utterly unnecessary to control the economy at the macro level: the invisible hand will do that.

But what is the invisible hand? In essence, nothing more than the presence of cues and the acts of self-interest they generate. If you need something that a lot of other people need, and I have it, I will sell it to you at a high price: I know I can find another buyer. Consequently, there is an incentive for others to produce what I produce so that they too can get relatively high income for relatively low labor, and can then use their income to obtain what they need or desire. As more people come online producing that good or service, the price I can charge goes down, because now you can go elsewhere to get what you need. The result is that, over time, supply expands or contracts to meet demand, and the economy produces pretty much exactly what is needed with very little waste.

That these simple, basic lessons in political economy are lost on most people can be demonstrated by the frequent calls for price controls, especially in the aftermath of disaster. If the government compels me to charge a lower price than I could get on the open market, there are two possibilities: either I will sell on the black market, to avoid regulation, or I will avoid increasing the supply since the additional labor nets me less income than it would otherwise. So attempting to, say, regulate the price of lumber after a hurricane to prevent "gouging" actually works to reduce the supply of lumber available to rebuild. Talk about a perverse incentive! Or look at Hawaii's recent regulation of gas prices. As happened in the US generally in the 1970's, it's a small matter of time before Hawaii runs short of gas. After all, if I can sell the gas elsewhere at higher profit, why would I bring it to Hawaii to sell?

So, just as the ant colony or the economy is self-regulating, so are interactions among free people. Let's take crime as an example. If robbing someone's house is likely to get me killed, I am less likely to rob someone's house unless losing my life is unimportant to me relative to the potential gain. I am not likely to lose my life, or even my freedom, if I rob a house where the owner has no incentive — or is not allowed — to protect his property. On the other hand, if I am likely to face an owner who is armed and will not be legally sanctioned for defending his property, my risk is much higher. Consequently, disarmed societies have higher property crime rates. Don't believe me? Look at the crime rates in England and Australia before and after those societies were disarmed.

On the other hand, if I can protect my property adequately, I am likely to invest labor into that property, to make it more useful to me. In doing so, I am also investing money in all of the various suppliers that make the things I need to improve my property. I am also as a result producing something (even if it's only my own comfort and ease) of value, that can be consumed by others. For example, whomever buys my property. This is not particularly evident with a suburban house, but consider a farm or a blighted neighborhood; in those cases, the ability to realize the gains from property improvements is a powerful monetary incentive to invest in the farm or in urban property.

The point of all of that is that simply being free — being secure in life and limb from random or capricious deprivation, being able to act in your own self interest, and being able to realize the gains accruing from your actions — leads to emergent behaviors that produce abundance, happiness, charity, health and justice. The more free a society is, the more of all this things it will have.

So if individual liberty produces a good and just society, why is personal responsibility also needed? In a word: sustainability. A system of absolute liberty coupled with lack of consequences quickly devolves into libertinism, nihilism and excess. The reason for this is that there is no controlling mechanism to prevent self-interest from becoming selfishness. This is why the ruling elites in a tyranny, or the very rich in an aristocratic society, become so horrible (the root of liberal discontent with the rich, by the way): their insulation from the consequences of their actions breeds very, very bad behavior, including exploitation of those less fortunate than themselves and bending the rules to obtain rents (in the economic sense). Look no further than Ted Kennedy for a prime example of the depravity and self-exhaltation of a life of liberty without consequences for one's actions.

By removing the consequences of a person's actions, one removes the incentive to act correctly. Why produce, which requires work, when you can be indolent and still fed? Why respect others, when it will not result in any negative effects for you if you are disrespectful? Why consider your rhetoric, if you know you cannot be called to account for inflammatory slanders?

Yet our society has spent the last hundred years progressively (no pun intended) removing any consequences for bad actions. We can be sexually irresponsible, knowing that medicines or abortions are available — often at taxpayer expense — to insulate us from the consequences of our irresponsibility. We can be financially irresponsible, knowing that bankruptcy laws shield us from stupidity as well as risk. We can be irresponsible about where we live, knowing the government will rebuild our flooded house for the fifth time. And so forth.

The reason that we have removed the consequences of our actions is the toxic desire for equal outcomes, what the "progressives" call equality or justice or fairness. If we accept that people are different in their abilities and desires (which is self-evidently true), then it follows that they will differ in their attainments: a clumsy person will never be a good ballerina, nor a foolish person a good judge, nor will a slothful and stupid person likely be wealthy. But in the progressive conception of equality, these unequal outcomes are simply wrong: why shouldn't a mediocre mind be a great philosopher if he desires? His mere inability to produce useful philosophy should not hinder, say, Noam Chomsky from being recognized for it, should it? Well, I suppose that depends on whether or not you want a useful and productive society, or one that allows you to congratulate yourself on how equal you are. The practical outcome of this doctrine is that incentives for good behavior are reduced, and good behavior becomes more rare as a result.

Similarly justice, where it is defined as the ability to get the "right" outcome regardless of law, custom, morality or truth. After all, the progressives say, it is not right to make the poor suffer for their bad decisions, when "it's not their fault they are poor", again ignoring all evidence that it is very much the fault of the poor if they remain poor; the rules for not being poor are simple enough, and available to everyone regardless of how much money one starts with. It's only bad decisions, not a society stacked against them, that leads to poverty in America. Even the crippled and orphans and so on are cared for by the state to the degree that they enter adulthood with a good chance of a productive and happy life. The practical outcome of this doctrine is that those who make good decisions and improve society are penalized in favor of those who make bad decisions and are a drag on society.

And again similarly with fairness: why should someone get less of something he wants than another? Even if the relatively deprived person is unwilling to work, argue the progressives, this should not be held against them. It's not fair that a person might not have a nice house and two cars and other things they desire, if someone else can obtain those things through an effort that the deprived person "cannot" make. The practical outcome of this doctrine is the transfer of wealth from the productive to the unproductive through taxation and government handouts.

But all of these come down to the same thing: removing a person from the consequences of their actions and decisions. And the consequences are also the same: an increase in bad behavior and a decrease in abundance, happiness, justice, charity and health.

So if we want to create a good and just society, all we need to do is to overthrow the idea of equal outcomes, restoring personal responsibility as the guiding principle of justice, and getting the government out of our lives and economy as much as possible so as to increase individual liberty. It's been done before; it can be done again.

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power. — Thomas Jefferson

1Arguably unconstitutional, anyway. In practical terms, it won't happen because of the experience with prohibition. Why we needed an Amendment to ban alcohol but not to ban drugs is the subject for another rant entirely.

Posted by jeff at 5:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 11, 2005

What the Fuck????

OK, what country do we live in again? What is the deal about not arresting people for crimes they haven't yet committed, and may therefore not commit? Apparently, the State — my state, Texas — has decided that it's just fine and dandy to arrest people for drinking in bars, for public intoxication, on the premise that it will deter drunk driving! (hat tip: Planet Moron)

Even if they have a designated driver.

Even if they are not actually drunk.

Even though the bars are actually private property and thus, ipso facto, not public.

One simple, quick observation: what the fuck???? I used to think MADD was a worthy organization; lately, not so much. I'd rather take the risk of a drunk driver than take most of the intrusions on individual liberty promoted by MADD in the service of reducing drunk driving: drunk drivers can only kill me; MADD is trying to enfeeble or enslave me.

Posted by jeff at 10:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Unicef War Crimes

So, let me get this straight: Unicef wanted to call attention to war crimes, so it carpet bombed the Smurfs? (I had read about this earlier, but the picture just makes it so much more interesting.) So let me get this straight: according to Unicef, actual atrocities are beyond our willingness to grapple with, but killing Smurfs, man, that'll bring on the peace movement full bore.

Yeah, that'll comfort those the UN has abandoned in places like Rwanda and Darfur and the Balkans.

UPDATE: Rusty Shackleford at Jawa Report has links to the full video. Kinda makes you wonder what other adult-only Smurf films might be coming. (I feel dirty for even typing that.)

UPDATE: I wish I were this funny:

Don't let war affect the lives of Smurfs.

To that I say, "Why the hell not?" What has their merry little hippie commune given the world anyway? The sing, they dance, they do shrooms, and they smurf that little tart Smurfette in her smurf day in and day out. And don't even get me started on that gray-haired know-it-all. I think we can all agree it's been a long time coming for someone to give Smurf Village the "Belgian Congo" treatment. Who better to kill in cold blood than Belgians? If only they weren't blue, but black, I bet the Belgians would really get a thrill.

Honestly, I don't think they went far enough here. Bombs from the sky? C'mon, how about some nice poison gas? You know, the kind Saddam "Completely Innocent" Hussein used to choke Iranian and Kurdish tykes in their own bodily fluids? I won't be happy until Brainy Smurf blisters yellow from mustard gas. Okay, I guess technically he'd turn green, what with that "yellow and blue make green" bit going on.

And really, if you're going to go this far, go whole hog. I want a sequence of Gargamel riding a chopper door with a '60, yelling "Do the whole fucking vil! Do the whole fucking vil!"

A little joke: how do you tell the difference between enemy Smurfs and friendly Smurfs? You fucking don't, you peacenik. If they run, they're Smurfs. If they stand still, they're well-disciplined Smurfs.

Man, I hope this concept catches on. I want napalm spattered across Teletubbies. I want Lazytown firebombed. I want those pigfucking Wiggles eaten from the inside out by cockroaches like E.G. Marshall at the end of Creepshow.

Okay, so that last one has nothing to do with warfare. It's just my own personal affectation.

Posted by jeff at 8:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 10, 2005

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, an amazing thing happened. Brittany Medcalf was born and I became an uncle. That was really pretty cool for a nine year old, let me tell you.

The only thing that has ever really made me feel old has been watching Britt's milestones. I was taken aback when she started high school. I was shocked when she turned 16 and started driving. Wasn't I just picking her up from school...in second grade? She's been out of high school for over a year now, but I feel like I just got out within the last five years myself. Honestly, I was just 20 years old!

I have watched a beautiful little baby girl grow into a beautiful young woman. Many things have changed in that time, but one thing certainly hasn't - how much I love and adore her.

Happy Birthday Brittany!

Uncle Brian

Posted by Brian at 10:50 PM | TrackBack


By request, and with the help of A List Apart, this blog now supports two styles. If you look on the upper right, just below the flags, you will see a list that allows you to change from the normal light on dark style to a dark on light style, which some will hopefully find easier to read.

This is really rough at the moment, since it's the first alternate style I've implemented, so there hasn't been any time to work out the kinks. If you find pages that don't accept the style choices correctly, or any places where the colors are not right, please let me know and I'll get it fixed.

The steps to do this are:

  1. Download and install styleswitcher.js.
  2. Create a new index template in MT's admin interface, with an output file of styles-site-reversed.css, and copied from the current index template.
  3. In each template, change the default link from:

    <link rel="stylesheet" href="<$MTBlogURL$>styles-site.css" type="text/css" />


    <link rel="stylesheet" href="<$MTBlogURL$>styles-site.css" type="text/css" title="Light on Dark" />

    This changes the stylesheet type from "persistent" to "preferred".
  4. Add an alternate stylesheet, by putting this line right after the one above:

    <link rel="alternate stylesheet" href="<$MTBlogURL$>styles-site-reversed.css" type="text/css" title="Dark on Light" />

    There can be more than one of these, but right now for this blog there's just one.
  5. Add in the switch code:

    <a href="#" onclick="setActiveStyleSheet('Light on Dark'); return false;">Use Light on Dark</a>
    <a href="#" onclick="setActiveStyleSheet('Dark on Light'); return false;">Use Dark on Light</a>
Posted by jeff at 4:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Peace of the Grave

Glenn Reynolds rounds up some opinions on the so-called "peace movement". This leads to a thought I've had since the 1980's, when the "peace movement" was active in attempting to get the US to stop defending Europe and Latin America and pretty much even the US against the Soviets:

The "peace movement" always and only focuses on the actions of the US, our allies, or Israel [hereinafter "the good guys"]. They never condemn the side that opposes the good guys [hereinafter "the enemy"], even — in fact, especially — when the enemy is actually doing what the good guys are being falsely accused of1. Always and forever, the "peace movement" urges us to disarm, to back down, to forgive, to forget, to sleep, to sleeeeep....

The "peace movement" does not advocate peace: it advocates surrender. And to surrender against tyrants is to advocate the death of Liberty and its adherents — that is to say, they want us dead, or at least powerless and enslaved.

And interestingly enough, if we look at the "peace movement" from the 1960s onwards, the same people are always at its core: the hardcore Communists. Even today. Some people are simply evil right through; and let's face it, the only way to stop them is to kill them. Their minds are not changeable, and they will not give up until they win. Fortunately, that doesn't seem to be necessary, in that there aren't very many people who fall for it any more, as the picture in Glenn's post demonstrates. Perhaps time will take care of the problem for us.

1For example, war crimes in Viet Nam or torture in the current war.

Posted by jeff at 8:47 AM | TrackBack

October 9, 2005

Fighting Low

The interesting thing about how we are fighting the propaganda war against the enemy and his hangers on is that we don't seem to get their worldview at all. I can kind of understand that: we at least pay lip service to being logical and reasonable1, and in the main we2 tend to actually be at least somewhat logical and reasonable. But the Arab cultures are not logical and reasonable cultures; they are superstitious, tribal, honor/shame cultures. This shouldn't be hard for us to get a grip on — our ancestors were much the same — but for some reason it is. If we want to win the propaganda war in the Arab world, we need to fight the propaganda war in the Arab world symbolically.

To get an idea of this illogic, the jihadis claim that god is on their side — sorry, for them, it's GOD is on their side — and He will smite the invaders, and cause the very rocks and trees to call out against the infidels (that's you and me), in order to bring about the global Caliphate as has been ordained. Nothing shakes that kind of faith except alternate superstitions. It's like using methodone to wean addicts from heroine. On top of that superstitious base, the Arab world is conspiracy-oriented (I think that this is the true connection between Western extremists and the jihadis), rumor based, and deeply suspicious. So to argue against this kind of thing, we have to fight on the level of rumor, conspiracy, and superstition.

It so happens that the world offered a prime example this weekend of the kind of event we should be exploiting: the Pakistan earthquake that killed, apparently, over 18000 people — Katrina math: 2000 or so. We should be playing this up as proof that god hates the jihadis, and wants the US to win in the war, and was shaking the ground beneath the feet of the heretic jihadis who have been slaughtering Muslims3, including women and children, in Iraq and, of course, Kashmir (where the earthquake hit hardest). And so on. We should also deliberately target well-known terror-supporting imams and mosques (and governments), killing the imams and desecrating the mosques.

Fighting low? You bet, but then this is for keeps, and we'd better fight to win.

1This is the reason for the intelligent design argument: the supporters know, deep down, that they cannot win an argument on the emotional or faith arguments (which are powerful in and of themselves, at least to the Abrahamic religions), because those arguments are not given credit in society. Since it is the scientific — or at least seemingly-scientific — logical and rational arguments that society tends to give credit to, the intelligent design proponents are forced to try to win the argument by the nonsensical claim that what they are doing is science. It may be true, though they would have a long way to go to convince me, but it's not science.

2Excluding the mid- to far-Left and the far-Right, anyway.

3This is apparently somewhere in the Koran, because the terror-supporting imams quote it all the damned time in their sermons.

Posted by jeff at 10:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Following One's Muse

I generally don't write about my blogroll. This is because I don't, unlike some bloggers, obsess over it; I just put in it what I read. But this is a special occasion. Planet Moron has been creeping up my blogroll for a while now, and it just moved into the daily reads on the basis of a quote so precious I had to share:

When engaging in the artistic endeavor of creative writing I allow my mind to wander and so feel compelled to follow my muse wherever it may lead.

And by "muse" I mean "gin-induced psychosis."

Ironically, his post was about blogrolling.

Posted by jeff at 9:53 PM | TrackBack

October 7, 2005

Oh, That Tradeoff

My first thought was, "What tradeoff?" But then I realized, we'd have to use up a rocket.

Posted by jeff at 10:33 AM | TrackBack

Yes, That's it Exactly

It's rare that I find something online, or anywhere else for that matter, with which I can agree 100%, without any reservations or clarifications.

Here's one. Mark Safranski notes the utterly craptacular Al Gore speech calling for government regulation of speech in order to further "the marketplace of ideas". That is, to be blunt, pure newspeak: shutting down your ability to make your points means my ideas win, and that's free speech. Um, yeah.

Just this morning I was mentioning to Steph that this is yet another reason I'm not a Republican, and this is immediately followed Gore giving me yet more reason to support the Republicans anyway. The Republicans are stupid and moralistic, but the Democrats are odious and tyrannical. A pox on both their houses.

UPDATE: Fixed the link to ZenPundit.

Posted by jeff at 8:49 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Not Like It's a Surprise, or Anything

Iran's "peaceful" nuclear program has been put firmly into the hands of the Iranian army. Like I said in the title: big surprise. But hey, I'm sure that the Europeans will be able to negotiate Iran away from nuclear weapons; it worked with North Korea, didn't it?

Posted by jeff at 7:27 AM | TrackBack

More, Please

President Bush gave a speech which was one of the best he's ever given. The President laid out the nature of the enemy and the elements of our strategy in the war. It's a shame that these points are not being continually made by the administration, or by the media. There's too much good stuff for excerpts to do justice, but I did want to address the strategy angle. The President noted five elements to our strategy:

  1. "First, we're determined to prevent the attacks of terrorist networks before they occur." The President divides this into two sub-areas: strengthening defenses here, and killing or capturing the enemy's current leadership and disrupting their organization.
  2. "Second, we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes, and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation."
  3. "Third, we're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes." Here, the president puts Syria and Iran on notice by name.
  4. "Fourth, we're determined to deny the militants control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and a launching pad for terror."
  5. "The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East."

I guess the executive summary would be: defend locally, attack globally, deny unanswerable weapons to the enemy, deny sanctuary and bases of operations to the enemy, reduce the enemy's ability to replace their cadres. It's a useful strategy, because it simultaneously attacks the enemy at several pressure points: their current leadership and cadres, their capabilities, their sanctuaries and their ideology. In the long run, I suspect that the last will be the most important to ending the threat. Everything else is focused on containing the threat.

Like I said: good speech; give it more often and in prime time.

UPDATE: Juan Cole, not surprisingly, sees it differently. But calling names and shading the facts outrageously is not very convincing.

Mr. Bush, I don't recognize the world you paint. I find your speech a form of sheer propaganda, having almost no relationship to reality.

Likewise your post, Juan. But moreso, since I recognize the world the President paints, but not the one you paint. In particular, asserting that none of al Qaeda, Syria, Iran or anyone else in the region could possibly harm the US, and that it's all our fault anyway, followed by a tired repetition of Democrat talking points, just turns my stomach. Where the President offers a strategy for winning against the enemy we discovered on 9/11, Juan Cole offers nothing but handwaving and a denial that anyone except the US is the enemy. Pathetic.

Posted by jeff at 7:06 AM | TrackBack

Latest on the OU Bombing

According to newsok.com:

University spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said OU officials have reviewed their ticket records and determined that Hinrichs did not buy a football ticket from any university outlet.
She said university officials have heard nothing to indicate Hinrichs attempted to buy a ticket from one of the fans selling tickets outside the stadium.
The FBI has reviewed surveillance tapes taken by cameras around the stadium. OU President David Boren said Tuesday that, so far, agents have found nothing to indicate Hinrichs tried to enter.

This doesn't disprove the terror angle, but is reason to be patient and wait for more facts.

Posted by Brian at 1:33 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 6, 2005

Naming Things, Logic, and Humanity

I'm a big believer in calling things by appropriate names. This is not mere sophistry: the naming of a thing tells us how to respond to that thing. To name a thing is to assign a moral role to that thing. The enemies of clear understanding, the Derridas and Chomskys and Zinns, use names to blur the moral nature of otherwise repugnant people or activities, as did Markos Zuniga when he called contractors working for the military in Iraq "mercenaries", and said "screw them" when they were killed and treated barbarously. It's why our external enemy are called "freedom fighters" by those who view us as their internal enemies: freedom fighters are morally legitimate, and thugs and terrorists are not.

Setting aside for the moment how this abuse of language leads words to become meaningless, and thus leads to the inability to clearly articulate moral choices, we come to another term that is meaningless and needs to be abandoned: "suicide bomber". A person who goes into the middle of the desert and kills himself by detonating explosives is not what we mean by "suicide bomber", even though he used a bomb to commit suicide. Similarly, a person who goes into the middle of a crowd, and sets of his bomb killing many, but who somehow survives (it has happened) is what we mean by "suicide bomber". But what to call such a person? The point of the act is not suicide, but homicide and "martyrdom" (a term that needs an essay or two to do justice to, particularly in the jihadi sense of the term) together — or frequently just homicide.

But "homicide bomber" doesn't work. Tim McVeigh, in destroying the Murrah Federal Building, certain committed homicide using a bomb, but that is not the same thing as what we mean, because McVeigh did not intend to die in the act. (This is why Fox News calling the Madrid train bombings the first homicide bombings in Western Europe was so ridiculous; clearly Fox missed the entire era of Communist terrorism in Western Europe, and for that matter the Irish bombings in England over several decades.) So what term does express the act itself: the intentional killing of others with a bomb, in order to attain a goal (terrorizing others into cultural and political surrender, these days), with the intent of killing one's self in the process? The only term I can come up with is "kamikaze". It expresses both the intended suicide and the intended homicide aspects of the act, and is morally neutral for the most part. It is understood to be a tactic, rather than a cause. And so it can be equally applied to attacks on military or government targets (morally legitimate) or attacks on civilians (morally illegitimate).

And now to some logic, and current events. Joe Hinrichs killed himself with a bomb at OU last Saturday. Was he or was he not a kamikaze? I tend to think not, for a few reasons.

  • First, he doesn't fit the profile of today's kamikaze's. As Fran Porretto ably pointed out, the next one or ten or one hundred of these attacks are not going to be committed by middle class non-Muslim white guys. (Don't worry; we'll come back to this point.) As far as I can tell, Joe was a middle class non-Muslim white guy.
  • There were several easy, spectacular targets nearby (including both the ongoing football game and a popular and crowded Irish pub) where, were Joe a kamikaze, he could have killed many, many people.
  • In many ways most importantly to me, Joe was a member of the Oklahoma Chapter of Triangle Fraternity, an organization I am also privileged to be a member of. I know the kind of people involved in the fraternity in general, and the Oklahoma chapter in general. I know, as an initiate, the central mystery and ethics that are assumed as a part of becoming a Brother. Joe would have had to utterly renounce that creed — would have broken every part of it — to kill himself and others in this way.

Now that last point isn't logical. It is an intuitive feeling based on things that I know that are not amenable to logic. And as such, I'm perfectly ready to abandon (with accompanying grief and disappointment) that last point if it turns out that in fact Joe was intending a kamikaze attack. In fact, if it could be shown that Joe was a Muslim convert, I would have to acknowledge the likelihood that in fact this was a kamikaze attack, intended to kill numerous of my fellow citizens.

But let's pause there and look at the logic of many whose opinions I otherwise respect, who claim that Joe was a kamikaze. There are many examples, but I'm going to pick on The Jawa Report, because the format is easiest to deal with:

1) Hinrichs seems to have converted to Islam and attended a nearby Islamic center. (see map at Zombietime) However, the president of the University of Oklahoma Muslim Studeant Association denies that Hinrichs was a Muslim. Other witnesses, though, claim Hinrichs was a frequent visitor to the mosque.

2) It appears that the Islamic center is affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and which has been investigated for funding terrorism by Congress.

3) The ISNA linked mosque may have been the same one attended by Zacharias MOUSSAOUI. Much more on the Zacharias MOUSSAOUI link at Cao's blog.

4) Hinrichs' roomate, Fazal M. Cheema, was a Pakistani national and neighbors claim the apartment was a center of activity for Middle Easterners. He is described as a 'really nice guy' by his friends. Unfortunately, all terrorists are described this way by their friends. NEIN now reports that Cheema and his associates may have been on the FBI's terror watch list.

5) Hinrichs attempted to buy a large amount of ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient in large explosives such as the first World Trade Center bombings or the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing.

6) Hinrichs was later known to the FBI because of his attempted purchase.

7) Evidence at the scene of the bombing suggests that shrapenel was part of the bomb. This is a strong indication that Hinrichs planned to kill more than himself.

8) Witnesses now report Hinrich may have attempted to enter the OU football game, but that he fled when security attempted to check his backpack

9) Northeast Intelligence Network, who's earlier reports we had dismissed because of that website's long track record of alarmism but who are increasingly looking like they got this one right, claims a source is telling them:

It appears that HINRICHS was part of a larger plan that included members of an Islamic terrorist cell based in and around the Norman and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area. As a Caucasian, it was much easier for him to obtain the materials needed to create a large bomb, act in concert with members of the local terrorist cell, and strike when relative calm was the word of the day.
All of this evidence suggests that there may have been a wider plot by Islamic terrorists to use Joel Henry Hinrichs III as a suicide bomber in exactly the same way as terrorists use suicide bombers around the world: to kill civilians. Hinrichs, like so many other suicide bombers, failed in his attempt and killed only himself.

OK, so let's look at this. Point one might be convincing, if in fact it turns out that Joe was a convert to Islam. But was he? The only sources I've seen that say he was are either unreliable (I think NIN is as surprised as anyone any time they get something right; they're like the American Debka) or refer only to "anonymous sources", which I've learned not to trust. In contrast, named people will go on the record saying Joe was not a member of the mosque. Does anyone have a source that is not anonymous, and that is not NIN or WND or some equally untrustworthy site?

The most ridiculous evidence I keep seeing is the map showing the proximity of the local Islamic Center to Joe's apartment, the blast site, etc. Um, guys, the College Republicans, the office of the local Representative, and a lot of other things (including bars and bookstores) are equally close. That's not only unconvincing; it's blatantly illogical.

Points 2 and 3 are irrelevant if point 1 is unproven.

Point 4 is based on NIN "reporting", which I will not take without corroboration elsewhere (involving named sources).

Points 5 and 6 are essentially the same point (of course you're known to the FBI if you try to buy a large quantity of ammonium nitrate; they're not idiots, and learned to watch that after the OKC bombing), and certainly show that Joe might have intended to build a bomb. Of course, the fact that he killed himself with a homemade bomb showed that already, so I'm not sure how this is evidence of anything that isn't already proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Point 7 might be convincing, but there is no attribution and this is not something I've seen elsewhere. Is it from a reliable site, and a named source, or is it just rumor or third-hand reports?

Point 8 is a secondhand report, which is also known as "rumor", if you want to go back to the topic of naming things. The library security guard may be telling what he knows accurately, but given that he is telling about something he did not witness, it's not reliable testimony of what actually happened at the stadium, nor whether the student mentioned as running from the stadium guards was even male, never mind whether the student was Joe.

Point 9 is more rumors and unnamed sources from NIN.

So it comes to this: my prejudices lead me to believe that Joe was not a kamikaze, and a lot of people's prejudices lead them to conclude that he was. But the "evidence" being bandied about is not very convincing on either side, and perhaps it would be better to remember that no matter what else, Joe has a family and friends who are very badly affected by Joe's death. In the absence of good evidence, isn't it a bit better to wait to pronounce from on high, so as not to unfairly smear a possible innocent and his family? Otherwise, just how are conservatives any better morally, any less conspiracy-addled freaks, than the DU moonbats?

To Rusty's credit, he does at least have a disclaimer: "A word of caution is necessary here. It is definitely possible that Hinrichs did act alone and was just a sad nut with a death wish. Some of the facts presented above could turn out to be untrue, and even if true could be interpreted in a number of ways. We'll just have to wait and see. But, as of this writing I am inclined to believe that Hinrichs was part of a larger plot." I wish others were at least as responsible.

UPDATE: Lewy14 notes in the comments: "I recall reading something last year to the effect that _real_ kamikaze pilots (there were a few who went through the training and survived the war) were indignant at being compared to terrorist suicide bombers. Calling the latter "kamikaze" elevates them to the dignity of soldiers. It effectively claims that their civilian victims are legitimate combatants. Whatever else the Japanese kamikazes were, they were not murderers or terrorists."

I actually considered that. The problem is that our enemy doesn't think like we do, while the Japanese basically did. Our enemy does not have an idea that separates soldiers from civilians; they are tribal. But when a "suicide bomber" attacks a military or government target that we would regard as legitimate, then they are doing exactly what the kamikazes did. The only difference is that our enemy doesn't regard civilians as non-combatants.

UPDATE: Classical Values has great coverage of this story, by the way. I have gone through the last few days of posts, and it's exactly the tone I was trying to hit (except without the emotional involvement I have): skeptical of unsourced claims from any site.

UPDATE: Cathy Young has an interesting post today, 10/18, where she takes apart Michelle Malkin, Powerline, and Jawa Report for basically the same reasons I did. Here is the graf that had me saying, "yep":

Malkin, Powerline, and The Jawa Report claim that the blogs have not made any assertions, merely asked questions. First of all, that's a common, and rather poor, excuse for irresponsible speculation. If a prominent left-wing blog ran an item titled, "Did George W. Bush know in advance about the 9/11 attacks?", I doubt that Malkin & Co. would consider the question mark to be much of an attenuating circumstance.

I do have to say one thing in Powerline's favor: they didn't consistently refer to Joe as "Joel Henry Hinrichs III", as the other blogs did. That full legal name thing just screams "suspect", and I'm happy that not everyone jumped onto it.

UPDATE: Turning off comments, because I'm getting really weird ones now, that are complete junk (just a few words) rather than real comments.

Posted by jeff at 6:20 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Don't Use Slang You Don't Understand

Howard Dean, certainly, seems to have misunderstood the term "hide the salami."

Posted by jeff at 5:57 PM | TrackBack

More on the OU Bombing

The Daily Oklahoman's online site has this report from the local CBS affiliate about Joel Henry Hinrichs III and events surrounding the bombing.

I don't find it as troubling that he attended the same mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui as I do that he attended a mosque period. According to islamicvalley.com, there is only one mosque in Norman, so it stands to reason that any Muslim in Norman would attend that mosque. The trouble lies in that it appears Hinrichs was a convert, which could point this event in the more sinister direction.

Also on the site is this report on the reaction of the blogosphere. Near the end is a comment that Jeff made at another site.

Posted by Brian at 12:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 5, 2005

Get the Picture?

Need more evidence of significant parts of the media being on the other side? Sir Humphrey's has it. (hat tip: InstaPundit) Note the long history of Bilal Hussein's generation — and AP's willing use of — enemy propaganda.

It seems to me that the military should find this guy, and track him. He would probably lead us to interesting places.

UPDATE: Wizbang also noticed, as did Jawa Report and others.

UPDATE: Michael Yon describes one aspect of the media's culpability as spreaders of enemy propaganda:

It was not a long or particularly hard battle to recover the [police stations abandoned in Mosul after an enemy attack], but what made the news lead that day was the Mosul police abandoning their stations.

To an enemy in need of assets, a press that is increasingly disengaged is like an empty car with keys in the ignition--begging to be stolen. How the keys came to be left in the car, and how the inevitable theft managed to go unreported are questions for a different dispatch. To really understand the dynamics of the Battle for Mosul, it suffices to say the enemy started with a media advantage that they continue to exploit even now.

Insurgent leaders must have spent hours watching western television, particularly news broadcasts. They planned attacks that would create dramatic footage for the nightly news, and in many cases, they provided the camera crew and made the footage available for streaming and downloads on the internet.

Posted by jeff at 7:26 PM | TrackBack

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

The British are falling all over themselves to be PC to Muslims. Mark Steyn has the story.

Why is it that tolerance is only a one way street?

(hat tip: Glenn Reynolds)

Posted by Brian at 12:58 AM | TrackBack

October 4, 2005

Politics Test

You are a

Social Liberal
(63% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(86% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

(hat tip: Peeve Farm)

I would note that I am not a social liberal, but rather a social conservative. However, I believe that government's role on social issues should tend to be more libertarian than not, generating this score. But I would trend libertarian/conservative more than libertarian/liberal. Otherwise, I am satisfied with being a wart on Ted Nugent's left cheek.

Posted by Brian at 12:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 3, 2005

Harriet Miers Nominated to Supreme Court

The President has nominated Harriet Miers, currently White House Council and a Texan, to the Supreme Court. The Glittering Eye has a great roundup, with more at Wizbang here and here. Due to her job history, there is not a lot of public information on her positions, so it's hard to comment knowledgeably. Given the social-rightists' reaction, I'm guessing she's fairly moderate, in somewhat the same mould as the President. I'm OK with that, if so.

My criteria for a Supreme Court justice are these:

  • Strict constructionist
  • Wise
  • Intelligent

I don't want a conservative activist any more than I want liberal activists like Ginsburg. I want someone who will interpret the Constitution according to its plain meaning, who will understand when correct legal results lead to bad outcomes and how to deal with such cases to produce the best possible outcome consistent with the most just legal results, and who understands at more than a surface or ideological level. Is Ms. Miers such a person? No clue. But the reaction of the social conservatives is heartening. We'll have to see if the social and policy liberals also go nuts; if so, this could be a good nomination.

Now it's up to the Senate to see if they can dig out any ideological information. (Which, I might add, they'd have a better chance of doing if they started focusing on philosophy instead of particular issues.)

Posted by jeff at 2:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Creative Cookery

My wife can cook. Here is proof of her creativity. Tasted great, too, but that's difficult to convey in text or pictures.

Posted by jeff at 10:32 AM | TrackBack

October 1, 2005

Bombing at OU

Apparently someone decided to kill himself at OU by blowing himself up. My friends are up there now because they were at the ball game, but all is apparently well. Except, of course, for the bomber.

UPDATE: Much more at Flopping Aces. Also commenting: Wide Awake Cafe and Free Republic (though what I read of the Freeper thread wasn't particularly interesting or informative)

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has much more, including the saddest news of all for me: the decedent was a fraternity Brother of mine. No, I didn't know him. No, I don't have any "inside information". My heart goes out to Joe's family, and to my Brothers, and to Joe himself. FS&C

Joe Hinrichs
Posted by jeff at 9:51 PM | TrackBack

Fighting for Control of the Internet? How Pointless

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: the Internet is not controllable in any meaningful way. At least, not permanently.

Lately, the UN (and then the EU) have tried to "take control" of the Internet away from the US government, and have fortunately been refused. There are a lot of bloggers commenting on this, including:

Meryl Yourish
Mark in Mexico
UPDATE: ZenPundit
UPDATE: The Glittering Eye

And Belmont Club, who asks: "BTW, who does control the Internet?"

Well, here's the thing: if you don't live in a country that controls everything that you can do with telecommunications (including to whom you can place phone calls), you do, if you want it. All you have to do is decide which networks you want to connect to, agree with them on how addresses are provided and which systems will act as root servers for the naming services, and establish a physical connection between your networks. In actual fact, that is exactly how the Internet came into being, as university and government and corporate networks began to connect to each other. (The naming service has already completely changed once; google "dns history" without the quotes.)

So should some tyrannical agency start compelling the existing backbone providers (that is, the companies that provide connectivity and bandwidth to the ISPs that provide you with connectivity and bandwidth), an alternate Internet would spring up within a very short time period, using different name servers, a different body controlling addressing and ports, and not connecting to the existing Internet, except maybe through a controlled and isolated gateway system. (In an ideal world, the first step would be to fix the underlying problems with IP, such as lack of encryption/non-deniability at the lowest protocol level and the too-small address space), but we don't live in an ideal world, and getting OS vendors to release patches for all of their extant OSs, including ones they no longer actually sell or support, just isn't going to happen.)

That's it. All it takes is agreement on two things (who assigns numbers and where to go to look for names) and a physical connection, which could be anything from a phone connection periodically dialed to a direct physical line. And it's a given that middlemen would evolve immediately to make it unnecessary for everyone to connect to everyone else — that's a lesson we've already learned. Then middlemen would evolve to connect the middlemen, and voluntary groups would come into being to reach consensus on protocols and standards, and we'd be back where we started, having moved anyone who wants and is not denied freedom over to the new internet, leaving behind the censors, tyrants, and those unfortunate enough to be compelled to live under them.

There's a shorthand term for all of this: the Internet routes around censorship. The Internet was designed to survive a nuclear war; the UN doesn't have a chance.

UPDATE: Little we can do but acquiesce? What are they going to do to make me (or anyone else) change the addresses of a. b. c. and so forth? Frown at us really hard? Issue an ultimatum? They can kiss my named.ca.

Posted by jeff at 7:15 PM | TrackBack

Here Endeth the Lesson

Well, not quite. The end of the lesson is when it turns out that the terrorists behind the latest Bali bombings are likely the same ones behind the last Bali bombing; you know, the terrorists the Indonesians let go with a slap on the wrist.

Posted by jeff at 6:35 PM | TrackBack


Strategypage has an important article on winning the Terror Wars. The article points out the number of Islamist/jihadi insurgencies defeated recently, and notes that another jihadi campaign is about to join those earlier defeats:

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken the battle to the heart of those regions that supply the leaders, and foot soldiers, for Islamic terrorism. In Iraq, this revived a civil war that had been flaring up periodically for decades. This time, the Sunni Arab minority were not able to crush the Kurds and Shia Arabs who comprise 80 percent of the population. Aided by Islamic radicals who want to establish a religious dictatorship, the Sunni Arabs have been losing rather visibly. The towns and neighborhoods where the Sunni Arabs could operate openly have been shrinking over the last year. Over the last few months, the number of terror attacks has gone down as well.

Finally, though, and most importantly, the article cuts straight to the heart of why I believe invading and democratizing Iraq was necessary, and why it may be necessary to invade any or all of Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia as well over the next decade or so:
On a wider scale, the Islamic terrorism is a response to tyranny and self-delusion in the Arab world. Islamic terrorists fight the former, and embrace the latter. But both the acceptance of tyranny, and fondness for self-delusion, are still problems in the Moslem, especially the Arab, world. Until those two self-defeating habits are overcome, unrest in the Moslem world will continue. The invasion of Iraq kick started the process, removing the local tyrant, and forcing all Iraqis to confront the delusions that have led them to defeat after defeat over the last half century. The Islamic terrorists can be beaten down in the short term. That’s been done a lot of late. But unless the bad habits are changed, the terrorists will keep coming back. [Emphasis mine - JKM]

It is this argument that the "anti-war" folks tend to avoid, and that the anti-tyranny forces need to make more often and more forcefully in public fora.

Posted by jeff at 2:20 PM | TrackBack