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November 30, 2005

Propaganda, Perception, and Human Behavior

Go read this, but ignore the part that you see normally and read everything after the "read more" link. It's fantastic.

Posted by jeff at 9:57 PM | TrackBack

Staged Hostage Taking?

I could be wrong, but given that the four hostages taken in Iraq were anti-American activists, it is certainly possible that the hostage taking was staged with the cooperation of the hostages, or in that event "hostages". It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

UPDATE: Rusty Shackelford has more here, and seems to agree, speculatively, here.

Posted by jeff at 5:18 PM | TrackBack

That Looks Familiar

The White House has released a strategy document on Iraq that is well worth reading. But the most overlooked sentence is the first one:

The following document articulates the broad strategy the President set forth in 2003 and provides an update on our progress as well as the challenges remaining.

I have been saying for some time, and other bloggers (notably Steven Den Beste and Wretchard) have also noted, the strategy is apparent and has been talked about for years, but there are some things the President just can't say while there is a chance for the enemy to undermine the strategy. What is most important about this document is the fact that it has been released at all, which indicates that the administration now thinks that, without a tectonic shift in conditions, we have already passed the point where the enemy can defeat our strategy in Iraq.

InstaPundit links to some other bloggers writing on this.

UPDATE: Fixed the Belmont Club link.

Posted by jeff at 11:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 28, 2005

Good Customer Service

I am supposed to be in the air, nearing Atlanta, on my way to Flint, MI. Since I'm typing this from DFW, you can guess how that plan is working out. (Yay, weather in Atlanta.) Knowing I'm going to be hours late getting into Flint, and well past their normal closing time, I called Hertz's customer service number. I got a real person immediately, who gave me the direct number to the Bishop Airport Hertz center at my request. Again, I got a real person immediately, and then explained when I would be getting in. The agent thanked me for letting her know I was definitely going to make it, because she had already been planning on waiting for me, and was hoping it wouldn't be in vain.

Kudos, Hertz.

Posted by jeff at 8:11 PM | TrackBack

Civilian Casualties in Iraq

I've long figured that Iraq Body Count, an anti-war site that chronicles civilian casualties in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was deposed, was very far off in its numbers, even though they are reasonable given the intensity of fighting and the fact that the enemy hides among civilians (and for that matter, frequently kills civilians to terrorize others). But it's interesting to see how far off they appear to be. Apparently, they count even police killed by the enemy as victims of the US occupation (and they don't distinguish between the period before handing sovereignty to the new Iraqi government and after, either.

Posted by jeff at 8:00 PM | TrackBack

November 27, 2005

PFC Daniel McClenney, USMC

McQ and QandO has his second tribute to an American hero posted: PFC Daniel McClenney. I could not find his Silver Star citation online, but there is a partial transcription in this article.

In brief, PFC McClenney was part of a fire team that was ambushed in Kunar Province, Afghanistan by a much larger enemy force that was moving into position to attack a coalition firebase. PFC McClenney was wounded in the initial enemy fire, but stayed in the fight. After his team leader was killed, PFC McClenney took over radio communications, and half an hour was both fighting and calling in fire support and medical evacuation on the radio. Despite a critical abdominal wound and a broken arm, PFC McClenney fought hand to hand until he was mortally wounded. PFC McClenney's actions were instrumental in preventing the enemy from staging a large attack that would have killed many of our troops.

Thank you, PFC McClenney, for fighting so bravely for the nation. Resquiat in pacem.

Posted by jeff at 1:28 PM | TrackBack

November 26, 2005

Staying the Course, and Paying for It

Dave Schuler carries forward a discussion started by Dan Darling: whether you think we should stay in Iraq or leave, or something in between, what are the costs?

I personally feel that we should stay. In part, this is because of the downsides of withdrawing. More than that, though, are the benefits of staying, most importantly that our current apparent grand strategy has a chance of working. Sadly, neither the President nor the media has done a good chance of explaining our grand strategy, so let me start with that. (Note: I could easily be wrong here; the lack of communications on our grand strategy is understandable, but makes this kind of discussion hazardous.)

When you look at the enemy, it is clear that terrorism is not what we are at war with. While terrorism is abhorrent, it is a tactic that is neither unique to our enemy nor even the most abhorrent thing about our enemy. (In my book, their inability to coexist with anything or anyone that doesn't share their ideology is the worst thing about them.) Rather, it is militant fascist theocrats with an extremist Islamic flavor — the jihadis — that we are at war with. The jihadis have expansive goals: restoring or creating theocratic control (led, of course, by them) over all of the lands that have ever been governed by Muslims, and the spreading of that theocracy to every place where Muslims live or have lived. The jihadis are willing — indeed, eager — to kill every person in their way, and every person who doesn't believe the way that they do: women who "don't know their place", homosexuals, Jews, Christians, pagans, other non-Muslims, ex-Muslims, any Muslim who is not sufficiently extremist or sufficiently ideologically pure (note that the Shi'a in Iraq are bombed more than "collaborators" or Americans or other coalition troops), intellectuals, communists, atheists, and so forth. In other words, the jihadis are an implacable enemy: we cannot surrender to them except by becoming them, and joining them. We cannot run from them or hide from them: they will come until they are dead, or we are dead. They believe that god is on their side. They are not driven by poverty.

Considering these facts, and the actions of the Bush administration in fighting the enemy, I hypothesize that our grand strategy is as follows: remove the sanctuaries of the jihadis (in order of size) to disrupt their ability to carry out large-scale plans; remove the state sponsors of jihadi terror groups (in order of risk of transfer of WMD to the jihadis) to ensure that small terror cells cannot carry out raids with consequences disproportional to the size of the cell; eliminate the terror cells person by person and by disrupting the cohesion of the network, both by direct action and by, for example, cutting funding and transport links; and undercut future recruiting efforts by creating and expanding democracy within the Muslim world.

Now, if this is indeed the grand strategy, then how does Iraq play into it? First, Iraq was a potential sanctuary for the jihadis. The combination of Salman Pak and Iraq's tendency to give refuge to terrorists is sufficient to indicate that Iraq was at least potentially a sanctuary. But the combination of these with the payments made to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, the sanctuary given to Abu Nidal and other terrorists, and various other things makes it certain that Iraq was (was) a major state sponsor of jihadi terror. Since Iraq was also believed to possess chemical and biological weapons and to be developing nuclear weapons, this made the perceived risk of WMD transfer quite large. Further, Iraq had a largely secular population, with a minimum of overt jihadis and sympathizers. All of these factors made Iraq an ideal target after Afghanistan was neutralized.

All of that is, however, fairly irrelevant to what we do now, except to the extent that we might regress — or worse — by pulling out. So let's assume that I get my way and we stay in Iraq, building democracy and killing jihadis. What then, are the costs of that course, and what must we be prepared to do? What challenges do we face?

First, we have to realize that our reserves and in particular the National Guard are near the breaking point. We have deployed so many, so often and for so long that we are nearing the statutory end of our ability to deploy the Guard as units, though some individuals will be able to be deployed for some time to come. Second, we cut the military dramatically after the end of the Cold War; in essence we cut about half of our combat forces. This means that we are able to sustain deployments much smaller than we might like: perhaps 125000 ground troops indefinitely, 300000 for up to three years (after which training and morale issues would leave us unable to fight large campaigns for as much as 5 to 7 years). Our commitments in Kosovo, Korea and other areas make this even harder than it would otherwise be. Military transformation increases the number of deployable combat units, but not sufficiently to drastically change those numbers for some time to come. Third, we are nearing the point where large fractions of our equipment are getting worn out from use. This will require a replacement cycle, with the corresponding investments. Finally, we have to realize that we are not done with the war even when the Iraq campaign ends: at the least we will almost certainly have to deal with Iran by use of force, and we may have to deal forcefully with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as well.

In order to fix these problems, and be prepared for ongoing campaigns, we need to make many changes, and they are going to cost. We have to extend transformation to include changing the role of the Guard and reserves, so that we can fight extended wars without calling up Guard and reserve units and troops on a continual basis. We must increase the size of the military, particularly the Army. The Army, in fact, needs to be expanded by at least 50% in order to undertake continuous operations and occupations and still maintain our other commitments. This should have been done soon after 9/11, and not having done so is perhaps the largest mistake the Bush administration has made in the war. We must also be prepared to replace much of our military equipment (particularly trucks and personal equipment, but also including armored vehicles). All of this is going to cost. Worse, all of this is going to take significant expenditures of political effort, and cutting of non-military programs and pork in large swathes.

Two other questions that Dave raises are metrics (how do we know when we're done?) and usable subsets (what do we get along the way, even if we fail to reach our final goal?).

As far as metrics go, that is a very difficult question. Enemy casualties is useful as a side effect (it makes the future enemies we fight less well trained, less capable), but not as a metric, because the enemy does not need large numbers of people to stay in the fight. More useful is the amount of territory under enemy control in various degrees. When we get to the point where the enemy controls no territory at all, though, the enemy might still be able to fight, because he doesn't have to control territory to carry out attacks, though controlling territory makes carrying out attacks much easier. Another useful metric is the number of Iraqi government security forces capable of carrying out operations with US logistical and heavy weapons support, and the number capable of carrying out operations without such support. But again, this is not a complete metric, because the operations have to be effective. The number of Sunnis involved in the political process is also a useful metric. But the reality is that none of us are in a position to really know what metrics are useful; for that we actually have to trust those we've elected to run wars for us.

But I believe that Dave is wrong in saying that there are no usable subsets of our actions in Iraq. In fact, we have already accomplished several of these: we have ended the torture and killings that Saddam used to maintain control are ended; Iraq is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism; Iraq definitively no longer has WMDs nor the capability to make them; the United States has gained useful bases in the heart of the Middle East. Some or all of these might be undercut if we leave too soon, while others will not. If we do stick it out, as I hope, until the Iraqis effectively control all of Iraq, we will gain other benefits besides democratization of Iraq. These include, not least, dealing a body blow to the idea that the US will just cut and run when things get tough.

Are there costs? Yes. But as Dave points out, there are costs to cutting and running, too, and in my estimation those costs are much, much higher.

Posted by jeff at 11:39 PM | TrackBack

November 24, 2005

Yes, That's it Exactly II

Sometimes, someone says something so perfectly it cannot be improved.

Posted by jeff at 11:34 PM | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

The NY Times and Iraq

Marc Schulman is demonstrating a point I've long held: the NY Times opinion page is nothing more or less than a mouthpiece for the American progressive movement. I suspect that this traces back to long, long before Viet Nam, even, back to the late 1800s. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does kind of put the lie to statements often heard from the Left that the media is basically conservative. In any case, I'd love to see this analysis expanded to cover other issues that are very dependent, in policy terms, on which party holds power at any given time. I suspect that you would find, for example, that the Times is relatively hard-line on the Iranian theocrats when Carter is in power and when Clinton is in power, and not so much when Reagan or either Bush is in power.

UPDATE: Part 2 is here.

Posted by jeff at 11:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 22, 2005

Right Move

José Padilla has been indicted. Excellent, and about time. While I realize that this was, in large part, to head off a battle in the Supreme Court, it is still the right thing to do. The rules should be simple:

An American who is not in the military, wherever taken and under whatever circumstances, should be subject to the jurisdiction of US civil courts. If he's fighting for the enemy, he's committing treason, and should be charged with it. (This covers Padilla, who if guilty of conspiracy to set off a dirty bomb (the original reason he was said to have been arrested) has committed treason and if not guilty should be charged differently or released.)

An American who is in the military, wherever taken and under whatever circumstances, should be subject to US military courts. In the case of SGT Hasan Akbar, for example, who attacked his fellow soldiers, a summary trial and field execution would have been appropriate: he got more access to the justice system than he deserved.

A non-American, taken in the US and not having attacked the US (presumably such a one would be charged with conspiracy), should be subject to a determination by civil courts whether or not he is an enemy combatant, and after that to US military courts.

A non-American, taken in the US in the act of attacking the US or after an attack on the US, should be subject to US military courts so far as is necessary to determine his status. If he is determined to be an illegal combatant, he should have no further access to US justice systems. Summary execution is just fine in such a case.

A non-American who is a member of a regular armed force, taken overseas under any circumstances, should be subject to the provisions for POWs.

A non-American who is not a member of a regular armed force, taken overseas under any circumstances other than in the act of attacking the US, should be subject to a military tribunal to determine his status, and if an illegal combatant should have no further access to any system of justice.

A non-American who is not a member of a regular armed force, taken overseas in the act of attacking the US, should have access to no system of justice. Summary execution in this case is just fine, should we decide to do so.

Of course, these are entirely my opinions, and I suspect the courts might differ on some of them.

Posted by jeff at 1:01 PM | TrackBack

Confused and Off the Deep End

Kos is both confused and deranged (I know, little change) about white phosphorus. (Thanks to Rusty Shackleford for the heads up) So I wish to set him a little straighter, at the sad expense of actually giving him a link and a small increment of publicity (that he doesn't need).

White phosphorus is a chemical, as is salt or magnesium. In the case of WP, it burns quite brightly (useful as illumination when fired into the air) and smokily (useful both as a smoke generator and to drive people out of hiding places when fired on the ground) and in its most common weaponized form burn spontaneously on contact with air. WP is used, when fired at the ground, on a point target, and as such is not remotely a "weapon of mass destruction" as those are, by definition, area weapons. There is quite a bit about chemical weapons here, and you'll note that not only is WP not listed as a chemical weapon, it also doesn't share characteristics with chemical weapons.

Perhaps Kos is thinking of phosgene? Phosgene is a chemical weapon that disperses over a wide area and kills on inhalation, by destroying the respiratory system. (It reacts with water in the respiratory tract to form strong acids. Nasty, nasty stuff.)

As far as WP goes, one might as well accuse the US of using chemical weapons on the assumption that we kept the swimming pools at captured palaces chlorinated. Chlorine gas is, after all, the first chemical weapon used in warfare (phosgene came soon after).

Why the Pentagon document used the phrase "WHITE PHOSPHOROUS (WP) CHEMICAL WEAPONS " I do not know, unless it was simply another bad attempt at propaganda. It is classed by the military as an incendiary. Perhaps they were referring to a complex chemical munition, that mixed WP and carbon tetracholoride. I seem to recall human rights groups talking about Saddam using complex chemical munitions on Halabja, including some that had a cocktail of chemical agents, to make treating the injuries much more difficult. This was, of course, when Saddam was not an enemy of the United States, and the memory hole seems to eat those kinds of statements when circumstances change.

In any case, here is the summation Kos gives:

Saddam tortured, we torture. Saddam used WP chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians, we use WP chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians.

I have always found Kos to be annoying in the past, when I've noticed him at all. Now, I'm simply ashamed to think of him as an American at all. He is certainly an immoral ass, but then, we knew that already.

Two additional observations: to Kos, if your thesis is correct and WP is a chemical weapon, is it not then true that Saddam had massive stocks of chemical weapons and that therefore President Bush did not lie (by your own standards) about the justification for war? Can't have it both ways.

To Rusty: Kos' feelings towards America do not seem to me to be like an abusive husband towards his wife. Rather, I believe Kos and his ilk truly love America: an idealized, fictional America in which there are no actual people, just automatons carrying out roles preordained by the priestly progressive elite (which is to say, Kos himself; see Michael Totten on that one), towards an end that is as impossible as it is inhuman. It seems always to be the intellectual children of Rousseau, in search of the perfect "system", that slaughter by the millions in their efforts to remake men — and nations — into the perfect image, without ever considering that the nature of a man is mutable, but the nature of mankind is not. Yes, Kos loves America, but it is an America that does not and never can exist. And all us proles that get in the way, well, we'll learn the folly of our ways come the revolution. Oh yes, we will.

Posted by jeff at 12:13 PM | TrackBack

November 21, 2005

Why the "Cut and Run" Proponents are Morally Bankrupt. In Pictures.

If you want to understand the moral bankruptcy of the "cut and run" faction on Iraq, consider the people they would condemn to death and slavery, without any moral qualms at all.

Posted by jeff at 11:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Federal Catechism

The American Spelling Book, by Daniel Webster, published in the late 1700s/early 1800s, included in some editions a federal catechism. (Hat tip: Steph) I reproduce it here in full and without commentary:

                A FEDERAL CATECHISM
Containing a short EXPLANATION of the CONSTITUTION of the
   UNITED STATES of AMERICA, and the Principles of

               For the Use Schools.  [sic]
   Q.  WHAT is a constitution of Government?

   A.  A constitution of government, or a political constitution,
consists in certain standing rules or ordinances, agreed upon by a
nation or state, determining the manner in which the supreme powers
shall be exercised over that nation or state, or rather how the
legislative power shall be formed.

   Q.  How many kinds of constitutions are there; or in how many
ways may the sovereign power be exercised over a people?

   A.  Constitutions are commonly divided into three kinds; monarchy,
aristocracy, and democracy.

   Q.  Explain these sorts of governments?

   A.  When the sovereign power is exercised by one person, the
constitution is a monarchy.  When a few rich men or nobles,
have the whole supreme power in their hands, the constitution is an
aristocracy.  When the supreme power is exercised by all the
citizens in a general meeting or assembly, the constitution is a

   Q.  What are the faults of despotic governments?

   A.  In a despotic government, a whole nation is at the disposal
of one person.  If this person the prince, is of a cruel or
tyrannical disposition, he may abuse his subjects, take away their lives,
their property or their liberty.

   Q.  What objections are there to aristocracy?

   A.  In an aristocracy, where a few rich men govern, the poor
may be oppressed, the nobles may make laws to suit themselves

p. 149

and ruin the common people.  Besides, the nobles having equal
power one with another, may quarrel and throw the state into
confusion; in this case there is no person of superior power to settle
the dispute.

   Q.  What are the defects of democracy?

   A.  In a democracy, where the people meet for the purpose of
making laws, there are commonly tumults and disorders.  A small
city may sometimes be governed in this manner; but if the citizens
are numerous, their assemblies make a crowd or mob, where
the debates cannot be carried on with coolness or candour, nor can
arguments he heard:  Therefore a pure democracy is generally
a very bad government.  It is often the most tyrannical government
on earth; for a multitude is often rash, and will not hear

   Q.  Is there another and better form of government than
any of these?

   A.  There is.  A REPRESENTATIVE REPUBLIC[,] in which the
people freely choose deputies to make laws for them, is much the
best form of government hitherto invented.

   Q.  What are the peculiar advantages of representative

   A.  When deputies or representatives are chosen to make laws,
they will commonly consult the interest of the people who choose
them; and if they do not, the people can choose others in their
their room. [sic]  Besides, the deputies coming from all parts of a state,
bring together all the knowledge and information necessary to show
the true interest of the whole state; at the same time, being few
ion number, they can hear arguments and debate peaceable on a
subject.  But the great security of such governments is, that the
men who make laws are to be governed by them; so that they
are not apt to do wrong wilfully.  When men make laws for themselves,
as well as for their neighbours, they are led by their own
interest to make GOOD laws.

   Q.  Which of the former kinds of government is adopted by
the American States?

   A.  The states are all governed by constitutions that fall under
the name of representative republics.  The people choose deputies
to act for them in making laws; and in general, the deputies, when
assembled, have as full power to make and repeal laws, as the
whole body of freemen would have, if they were collected for the

   Q.  By what name may we call the United States in their
political capacity?

   A.  A federal representaive republic.

[page image]

p. 150

   Q.  How are the powers of government divided?

   A.  Into the legislative, judicial, and executive.

   Q.  What is meant by a legislative power?

   A.  By legislative is understood that body or assembly of men
who have the power of making laws and regulations for governing
state.  [sic]

   Q.  Where does the power of making laws for the United
States reside?

   A.  By the constitution of the United States, the power of making
laws is given to the representatives of the people chosen by
the people or their legislatures, and assembled in two distinct
houses.  This body of representatives so assembled, is called "the
Congress of the United States."

   Q.  What are the two separate houses called?

   A.  One is called the Senate, the other the house of Representatives.

   Q.  How i[s] the senate formed.

   A.  By two delegates from each state, chosen by the legislature
of the state, for six years.

   Q.  Why are not senators chosen every year?

   A.  Because one branch of Congress is designed to be distinguished
for firmness and knowledge of business.

   Q.  How is the house of representatives formed?

   A.  This branch of the national legislature is composed of
delegates from the several states, chosen by the people, every second

   Q.  Can every an in the states vote for delegates to

   A.  By no mans.  In almost every state some property is
necessary to give a man a right to vote.  In general, men who have
no estate, pay no taxes, and who have no settled habitation, are not
permitted to vote for rulers, because they have no interest to
secure, they may be vagabonds or dishonest men, and may be
bribed by the rich.

   Q.  Why is congress divided into two houses?

   A.  When the power of making laws is vested in a single assembly,
bills may often pass without due deliberation.  Whole assemblies
of men may be rash, hasty, passionate, tumultuous, and whenever
this happens it is safe to have some check to their proceedings,
that they may not inure the public.  One house therefore
may be a check upon the other.

   Q.  Why may Congress regulate the election of its own members
or why is not this power left entirely to the states?

   A.  For this good reason; a few states might by neglect, delay
or wilfulness, prevent the meeting of a Congress, and destroy the

p. 151

federal government.  It is necessary that Congress should have
power to oblige the State to choose delegates, so that they may
preserve their own existence.

   Q.  It is not unjust that all should be bound to obey a law,
when all do not consent to it?

   A.  Every thing is JUST in government which is NECESSARY to
the PUBLIC GOOD.  It is impossible to bring all men to think alike
on all subjects, so that if we wait for all opinions to be alike
respecting laws, we shall have no laws at all.

   Q.  How are the members of Congress paid?

   A.  Out of the treasury of the United States, according to a
law of Congress.

   Q.  Would it not be politic to refuse them a reward, and let
them serve their country for the honour of it?

   A.  In such a case none but rich men could afford to serve as
delegates; the government would then be wholly in the hands of
the wealthy; whereas there are many men of little property, who
are among the most able, wise and honest persons in a state.

   Q.  How far do the powers of Congress extend?

   A.  The powers of Congress extend to the regulation of all
matters of a GENERAL NATURE, or such as concern ALL the United

   Q.  will not this national government in time destroy
the state governments?

   A.  It is not probable this w[i]ll be the case; indeed the national
government is the best security of the state governments; for each
state has pledged itself to support every state government.  If it
were not for our union a powerful state might conquer its weaker
neighbour, and with this addition of power, conquer the next state,
and so on, till the whole would be subject to one ambitious state.

                        F I N I S.
Posted by jeff at 10:53 PM | TrackBack

Writing Unmaintainable Code

This is a brilliant discussion of how to code badly. Sadly, a few of my favorite examples have been left out. For example:

  • In the interest of efficiency, unroll subroutines and methods. Not only does this avoid the overhead of a method call or a JMP instruction, it also allows you to write, for example, your logging code with subtle differences based on where it is called. Make use of the latter property.
  • Object orientation is so confusing. Use large objects filled with procedural code — preferably code related to several different subproblems — so that you can instantiate the minimum number of objects. However, every single utility method should have its own class, as an efficiency. You don't need logging all the time, for example, but you always want to be able to get your hands on an employee, and if you need an employee you will probably also need to know about the building the employee works in. This is particularly useful when someone is trying to reuse your code without truly understanding it.
  • If you program in an object oriented language, and store your data in a SQL database, you can arrange things so that you can create objects like Employees — iterate the structure to find the one you need, and be sure to maintain the array reference to which employee that might be — rather than having an Employee object with the one employee you want. Clever use of this technique can make it impossible to get one row of data, or even all data related to one particular entry, at any one time.
  • Use design patterns, but not for their designed purpose. Create a data access object that contains all of the SQL queries you might need, but open and close the database in your main logic, and be sure to have a separate data access object, complete with application logic, for LDAP queries. If the maintenance programmer doesn't understand how the data is stored, how can he use it properly?
  • Lie to introspection routines.
  • Document a method as follows:
    // MUST return a FOO, or misc. calculations of financial returns will be subtly wrong
    Then return anything other than FOO. Make the maintenance programmer figure out if its a bug or a bad comment. As a bonus, a multi-billion dollar bank might lose confidence in years worth of calculations, requiring much manual audit work to determine whether or not the calculations are correct. Be sure not to mention, anywhere, which calculations might be subtly wrong.
  • Create two methods that do the same thing, in different ways. The arguments should be in different orders, and the names entirely dissimilar. Use the methods interchangeably.
  • Be stylistically inconsistent about blocks. Use all of:
    abc {





    Feel free to mix and match.

  • He mentions using tabs instead of spaces, but neglects the joy of having tabs used in some cases, and spaces used in others. This is particularly fun with odd tab sizes, like '3'.

Posted by jeff at 4:30 PM | TrackBack

November 20, 2005

1LT Brian Chontosh

McQ of QandO has taken on a project I've been meaning to do for some time: honoring the heros in the war, by printing the citations for their medals. Since McQ is doing so, I'll link to him instead. The first honored hero is 1LT Brian Chontosh, who was awarded the Navy Cross (the only higher medal for valor is the Congressional Medal of Honor) for:

For extraordinary heroism as Combined Anti-Armor Platoon Commander, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 25 March 2003. While leading his platoon north on Highway I toward Ad Diwaniyah, First Lieutenant Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and automatic weapons fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone. He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, First Lieutenant Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy. He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers. When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Thank you, LT Chontosh, for fighting so bravely for the nation.

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

Too Soon to Tell

... but Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may have been killed in Mosul. If so, it's good news for us, the Iraqis and in fact anyone who is not a jihadi, so I'm hoping it's true. Sadly, I first saw the report on CNN at the gym, so I have to assume that it's false until I hear it from more reputable news agencies.

UPDATE: This makes me wonder if the tip that led to the house didn't come from Jordan. After all, it is certainly the case that the Arabs have better intelligence in other Arab countries than, say, we do.

UPDATE: Bummer.

Posted by jeff at 5:32 PM | TrackBack

The Military and Political Implications of Disclosing Strategy

There is a critical point that needs to be made, that the media and the administration's opponents have been glossing over, and that the administration has characteristically not been making, or has made badly. The iron law of warfighting is this: the leaders of a country at war can publicly explain neither the underlying strategy being used nor the full extent of their successes and mistakes.

To see why this is so, consider two historical examples of grand strategy, and how knowing the actual strategy could have enabled the enemy to win: the American Civil War and WWII in the Pacific.

The Union strategy in the Civil War was known as the Anaconda Plan. This plan, developed by Winfield Scott (hero of the War of 1812 and commander of the Mexican War), essentially consisted of two elements: the first was to divide and isolate the Confederates by blockading the entire Southern coast and occupying the Mississippi river valley; the second was to then sit back and wait for pro-union sympathizers to rise up and force the rebel governments out of power. President Lincoln adopted the first principle, but the second was not enough when the Union public was clamoring for aggressive action to bring the South back into the Union. Instead, the Union adopted a plan to destroy Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and take Richmond.

The Confederates could have countered the second part of the Anaconda Plan. To do so, they would have had to conserve the Confederate armies, risking them as little as possible, while cutting Union communications along the periphery. While the Confederacy could not have overcome the blockade, they could have used their advantage of interior lines to frustrate Union attacks intended to either take Richmond or destroy the Confederate armies, while simultaneously inflicting great costs on the Union just to stay in the fight: it's hard to ship goods and people thousands of miles today; it was much, much more difficult in the 1860s. Eventually, the Union would have been exhausted if they had been unable to retake the Confederate states, and it's likely that the Confederate states would have been able to gain their independence.

Instead, the Confederates — Lee, at least — appear to have thought the key to victory was to take Washington. As a result, Lee was constantly fighting, and constantly pushing into Northern territory. And it was in doing so, at a small Pennsylvania town, that Lee's army was finally defeated so badly that it could never recover. There were still two years of war to go, but the South had passed the point where it could win without a massive Union blunder or failure of will. (General Longstreet recommended that the Confederacy instead use its railroads and interior lines to relieve the siege of Vicksburg, which would in fact, if successful, have both demolished General Grant's career and likely have led to a failure of the Anaconda Plan: the Confederacy could have kept the lower part of the Mississippi open.

But since the Confederacy did not know the strategy, they made fundamental errors that cost them the war.

The second example is WWII in the Pacific. The US intended to enter the war as soon as reasonable cause could be found. President Roosevelt knew that despite the anti-war (and in some cases actively pro-fascist) sentiment in the US, it would be necessary to defeat Germany; he was looking for a pretext, and the constant submarine warfare in the Atlantic had come close to supplying him one by late 1941. Apparently, Japan was seen as a considerably more minor problem — or at least one to be solved further in the future.

But Japan didn't know that. Japan saw the cutting off of raw materials shipments from the US as a clear provocation, and decided that it needed to act in order to maintain its ability to run a modern industrial economy. This required Japan to control a large part of the Pacific and SE Asia, where significant oil, rubber, mineral and other resources were located. This would inevitably bring Japan into conflict with Australia, which was actively defending New Guinea, in particular, which was a significant problem for the Japanese. The Japanese figured that the US would come to the defense of Australia (likely, but not certain), and that would pose a problem of major proportions: the US territory of the Philippines lay across the route of Japanese expansion southwards.

Looking at it from Japan's point of view, it was necessary both to keep the US from supporting Australia, and to keep the US from blocking Japanese expansion. This meant that the Philippines had to be captured, and the US Pacific Fleet destroyed, disabled, or kept away from the theater. And that is why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Guam and other US installations in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, after which their defeat was as close to inevitable as war ever gets.

But had Japan understood that America saw Germany as the main enemy, Japan could have waited six months. By that time, the US would almost certainly have joined the war against Germany, and in the process would have transferred significant resources from the Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet. This would have given Japan the ability to advance southwards without worrying about the US. Already involved in a war taking all of its resources to fight, the US would not have been likely to intervene in Japan's expansion. By the time US attention could have been focused on Japan — probably 1944 at the earliest — Japan would have been much more powerful, perhaps too powerful for the US to see intervention as useful, absent a Japanese attack on Guam and the Philippines.

So as a practical matter, while a free society must always debate its goals in order to come to consensus (required for maintaining any policy over the long term), discussing strategy openly — at least on the part of those charged with developing or implementing it — is folly. Yet this is precisely what the opposition in the US demands. Absent this complete disclosure of the strategy well in advance, the opposition claims that there is no strategy, and that's why so much "needless" losses are happening in places that simply "have nothing to do" with the "real war". Why do they do this, knowing as they must that the administration cannot get involved in a deep discussion of strategy without possibly losing the war?

The iron law of political opposition in a representative country in wartime is this: the opposition can make use of the iron law of warfighting to undermine the government, if it is more concerned with its own power position than with the country's success or failure in the war. The way that the opposition does this is to challenge the administration to account for funds it cannot admit to spending without tipping off the enemy to our plans, to bring forth evidence of intelligence the government cannot disclose without allowing the enemy to stop that source of intelligence, to detail the strategy in ways the government cannot do without telling the enemy how to fight us more effectively, and to constantly beat the drum of incompetence and irrelevance of the leaders of the government.

If you think that the US is bad about this now, you should read up on the political infighting in England during the Napoleonic wars. The Democrats are amateurs compared to the Radicals, or even the Whigs.

It might be possible to publish milestones for our success in Iraq, at this point, since we've mostly won that fight in real terms (assuming, of course, that we don't just give up, as we did after militarily winning in Viet Nam). But it would be a grave mistake for the government to talk about the wider strategy in the war, and why Iraq is so important as a campaign in the war. Yet that is precisely what the Democrats want to debate, because they know it's a one-sided debate: the government cannot answer without giving vital information to the enemy. It's a cowardly and self-interested and treacherous. And yes, I am questioning their patriotism: patriotism consists in putting the interests of the country above your narrower self-interest, and the Democrats right now are (at least rhetorically) doing the opposite. I am glad the Republicans called them on it.

Posted by jeff at 12:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 19, 2005

Comprehensive Foreign Policy Discussion

Mark Safranski notes Commentary's gathering of 36 of the most impressive thinkers on foreign policy, in order to ask them what they think about the Bush doctrine. More specifically:

1. Where have you stood, and where do you now stand, in relation to the Bush Doctrine? Do you agree with the President’s diagnosis of the threat we face and his prescription for dealing with it?

2. How would you rate the progress of the Bush Doctrine so far in making the U.S. more secure and in working toward a safer world environment? What about the policy’s longer-range prospects?

3. Are there particular aspects of American policy, or of the administration’s handling or explanation of it, that you would change immediately?

4. Apart from your view of the way the Bush Doctrine has been defined or implemented, do you agree with its expansive vision of America’s world role and the moral responsibilities of American power?

It's going to take me a while to get through all of these, and I will probably comment on several of them as I go. However, I'd like to note up front that this is the kind of debate we need to be having in America.

Posted by jeff at 10:19 PM | TrackBack

Hopefully the last on Joel Hinrichs

Jeff and I have both commented on Joel Hinrichs, the University of Oklahoma student who killed himself outside the packed football stadium. The FBI has finally unsealed their records on the subject. It's plain he intended to kill himself, but the possibility of his being a suicide bomber is inconclusive. As I said originally, there's no reason to believe he was anything other than young man commiting suicide in a dramatic fashion. I had hoped they would have totally cleared up the "suicide bomber" notion, just because of the conspiracy nuts out there, but at least the information is now out there for everyone to see.

New details emerged Friday when U.S. Magistrate Valerie Couch made public the records on the FBI search of Hinrichs' apartment, his e-mail account and nine OU computers.

Federal prosecutors told the magistrate "there is no longer any necessity" for the documents to remain sealed.

FBI officials have said in the past that the probe did not uncover any links between the student and terrorist organizations. They have said they may never know whether the student wanted to get inside the stadium.


During the search of Hinrichs' apartment after the blast, the FBI found the student's laptop computer was still on and had on the screen notes apparently written by Hinrichs to himself, the records show. At the cursor was a phrase that began with profanity and continued " ... all this. None of you are worth living with. You can all kiss my ass."

Posted by Nemo at 7:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Short History of a Long War

Greyhawk gives a timeline of the events in Iraq, primarily focusing on the war that began in 1990, simmered through the Clinton administration, and continues through today. (hat tip: InstaPundit)

Posted by jeff at 9:59 AM | TrackBack

Goblet of Fire

Just got back from seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I suppose the best description of this film is "compressed". There's just too much story to go around. It really makes me wonder how they are going to get Order of the Phoenix done.

Still, they did a good job with the film overall. A few parts (like how Krum was bewitched) were glossed over, and required knowledge of the book to realize what was happening. However, the young leads did an admirable job. They played a real range in this movie - from general teenage confusion to fear and then grief. I truly felt for Harry after he returns to Hogwarts through the portkey.

Michael Gambon is much better as Dumbledore in this movie as well. In Azkaban he just seemed out of place. I really was worried that such an important character was getting left behind. However, while still not Richard Harris, at least now Gambon seems to be playing the part more naturally.

The first two movies suffered by focusing too much on action and not enough on character. Azkaban and this movie have been changing that. Since they don't have to redevelop the wizarding world over and over they have the time to focus on the people. It's a welcome change to say the least. It doesn't take more than a few scenes to do it right - Neville dancing (and perhaps more importantly watching the Cruciatus curse), Hermione coming nervously down the stairs, Ron and Harry arguing, etc.

I suppose my only complaint about the rushed feeling of the film is the resurrection scene. While adequate, the scene didn't really build to the rebirth - it just came about quickly. A little anticipatory fear would have helped the scene quite a bit.

As for the PG-13, I think it's probably about as graphic and tense as Fellowship of the Ring. Not too much, but perhaps enough for the really young ones who might be frightened by snakes, blood or transformations.

Next movie up: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Posted by Nemo at 12:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 18, 2005

Nemo Maximus???

I really disliked this movie, but being tied with Spidey isn't half-bad.....

You scored as Maximus. After his family was murdered by the evil emperor Commodus, the great Roman general Maximus went into hiding to avoid Commodus's assassins. He became a gladiator, hoping to dominate the colosseum in order to one day get the chance of killing Commodus. Maximus is valiant, courageous, and dedicated. He wants nothing more than the chance to avenge his family, but his temper often gets the better of him.



The Amazing Spider-Man


Lara Croft


Neo, the "One"


Batman, the Dark Knight


Captain Jack Sparrow


Indiana Jones


The Terminator


William Wallace


James Bond, Agent 007


El Zorro


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com
Posted by Nemo at 11:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why is it Called the Ninth Circus?

Well, here is a bit of clue. The Ninth Circuit court — the court that thinks that the word "god" should not be in the Pledge of Allegiance (despite its non-sectarian connotations) because it "promotes religion" — apparently thinks that the government forcing children to pretend to be Muslim (to the point of taking on Islamic names and reciting lines from an Islamic prayer and simulating fasting) does not promote religion.

While I don't think that parents have any automatic rights to control what is taught to their children in public schools or how — that is an administrative decision, and the school board and legislature are the places to argue that — it is quite pointedly the courts' responsibility (as it is every citizens' responsibility) to yank the government up short when it goes off violating the Constitution. And this clearly does violate the Constitution, based on the common meaning of the words in the First Amendment, and based on prior precedent from the courts (the 9th Circuit, ironically enough, in particular).

Maybe the court would have found the courage to rule correctly if the students had been similarly introduced to Judaism, or if the students had been required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance first.

Posted by jeff at 2:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


The change of heart today by Congessman Murtha (D-PA) on support for the war is very troubling, the more so because he did not change from supporting the war to suggesting we should eventually withdraw from Iraq: he changed from supporting the war to suggesting that we should run from with our tails between our legs, claiming victory of some sort:

The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. … We can not continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.


The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats.


I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won “militarily.” I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.
I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a “free” Iraq.


Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily.

While, as InstaPundit notes, and as the Congressman himself notes, the Congressman's change of heart is not new, the sentiment is certainly becoming more widespread. Ignoring for the moment that the Congressman's reasoning (that I largely did not reproduce, but encourage you to read) is largely specious (quick example: how does withdrawal improve our intelligence services?) and while his claimed facts are open to question, the call for total and immediate withdrawal is worrying, because it is part of a major offensive on the part of the Left to force the US to concede defeat, and thus needs to be addressed. I would like to address it in part, by looking at the consequences of US withdrawal.

To begin, it should be remembered that the best case and the worst case almost never happen. So it is unlikely that the terrorists would throw down their arms and stop attacking the US; our friends and allies would rally to our side with support and assistance in achieving our foreign policy aims without our using force against well-defined enemies; Iran would stop developing nuclear weapons; China would suddenly come around and see us not as a competitor but as a friend; and the world would march on in freedom and peaceful coexistence. It is equally unlikely that the terrorists would immediately take down the Iraqi government; the Israelis would use their nuclear weapons against Iran and (since they would face incredible isolation and political pressure after such an act) against nearer enemies and potential enemies as well; the US would be unable to act abroad unilaterally; Afghanistan would fall; and Musharraf would bow to the inevitable and start giving nuclear weapons to terrorists in order to avoid being assassinated. But what is likely?

First, let's look at what the Congressman apparently hopes will happen: the military will be able to fight elsewhere and sustain that fight; recruitment will increase, and the recruits will be of better quality; procurement will increase, both in replacing worn out equipment and in getting new gear; there will be less military spending, easing the deficit; fewer Americans will be killed and wounded; fewer Iraqis will be killed and wounded; the insurrection and terrorism in Iraq will stop; terrorism globally will decline; the Sunnis will join the political process. (All of these are inverse statements of what the Congressman declares to be wrong; presumably he believes that our withdrawal will put them right.)

And the Congressman has a plan:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq

So let's look at his plan, and his hopes, and whether his hopes are likely to be fulfilled or his plan is likely to work to fulfill those hopes. Also, let's look at the things that he didn't mention that might happen on the other side of the ledger.

In the very short term, as we were withdrawing, attacks on Americans would dramatically increase. By attacking us in this way, the enemy could plausibly claim to have driven us out by force, not because we lost our will. Given the, um, interesting ideas that are widely believed in the fantasist Arab culture already, this idea would have wide currency. And how could we refute it? By saying not that we were defeated, but are cowards? This would not only lead to the revival of the jihadi movement, which has taken some major body blows in the region because (a) they can't drive us out and (b) they are killing lots of Muslims instead of lots of Americans and Jews, it would also lead to the essential collapse of reforms towards democracy or at least political concessions on the part of the other Arab states in the region. It would also destroy any chance of a peace in Israel, because it would confirm the thesis that a Western power, including Israel, could be driven out by persistent and violent terrorism. In Iraq itself, of course, the government would face a problem with the terrorists and insurgents already operating in Iraq.

What the US military presence in Iraq provides the Iraqi government currently, besides more people and weapons to conduct operations against the enemy, are two capabilities: the ability to relatively precisely target the enemy, and defense against foreign invasion. Without the US, Iraq could probably manage sufficient logistics and support to protect its oil infrastructure, keep the Shia and Kurd areas relatively peaceful, and ensure its continuation in power absent a foreign invasion. The Iraqi government can also defeat the enemy in country, but the methods will be different. Absent US air power, electronic assets, heavy weaponry like artillery and tanks, and exquisitely-trained soldiers, the only option for the Iraqi government is slaughter. Not only would more pro-government Iraqis die in the bloodbath that would follow American withdrawal, but more civilians — by far — would be killed, particularly Sunni civilians. Given their capabilities, it's the only way the Iraqi government could stay in power. And since the Iraqi government and other "collaborators" would be killed by the Sunnis and the terrorists if they were defeated, the government has a powerful incentive to kill first and thoroughly. The idea of "diplomatically pursu[ing] security and stability in Iraq is laughable: who in Iraq would listen to us after we abandoned them?

If Syria or, much more likely, Iran were to invade Iraq, the government would almost certainly collapse. The Iraqi military and police have been being tuned for counter-insurgency, with the US providing defense against foreign invasion. The Iraqi military simply doesn't have the capability to defend the country against an invader who has tanks and artillery and even a few aircraft. The government would fall, probably within months, and likely to be replaced by a Shia theocracy satellite to Iran. This could even kick off a regional war, because the Saudis, Syrians and even Jordanians would be unwilling to let Iran have the Iraqi oil fields.

But with Iran the regional power, and the US uninvolved, it's a certainty that the US would lose pretty much all of its regional bases except perhaps in Afghanistan. The Saudis have already kicked us out. The premise is that we would withdraw from Iraqi bases. The Gulf states would kick us out, probably all of them would, because they know we wouldn't defend them, but our presence would draw terrorists and Iranian ire. The latter, in particular, would be a problem, because again Iran would be the regional power, and could get its way pretty easily.

And the idea that our "quick reaction force" (which would not be "in the region" for the reasons noted above) or our "over-the-horizon presence of Marines" would deter anyone after we ran from Iraq is ridiculous. Why would we use the military where we would undoubtedly take more casualties for less gain, after we showed in Iraq that we weren't willing to take a trickle of casualties for a huge gain? And why would we intervene to save Iraq after we had abandoned it?

Domestically, of course, the Republicans would be turned out of power in a way that would rival the post-Watergate gains made by the Democrats. The Republicans have not been socially conservative enough to excite the social conservative part of the Party, while not being fiscally conservative enough to excite the libertarian part of the Party. The only thing that's kept the Republicans in the majority domestically has been support for the war. If the war is abandoned, the Republicans will be seen as uncommitted to principles domestically or economically, as feckless and ineffective, and they will be (rightly) turned out in droves. (And make no mistake, this is the end that the Democrats most hope for and cherish; in the process, they tend to not see or to discount all of the other things that would follow our defeat in the war.)

Beyond domestic and Iraqi issues, there would be a number of secondary effects. Our ability to get our way in international fora would be even more reduced than it is now: with what would we threaten or promise? Few people fear our economic retaliation, because WTO rules make that virtually impossible, at least on a large scale. And no one would consider our military, because we would have proved that we could be beaten. Would we collapse, as the USSR did, after it was beaten? Clearly not. On the other hand, our ability to conduct diplomacy would collapse, as the USSR's did, and for the same reasons.

Iran, of course, would get its nuclear weapons eventually. The US certainly would not have the political will to act in Iran when it had lost that will in Iraq. Iran would be a tougher fight altogether, and there would be less provocation (no string of UN resolutions or of firing at US warplanes enforcing those resolutions), while attempting to use intelligence of Iran nearing nuclear capability would be laughed out of the forum of public opinion, since that was part of the justification for intervening in Iraq, and is being painted as the entire justification for intervening in Iraq. What it would do with them is anyone's guess, but a very good guess is "destroy Israel". Whether Israel would attempt to keep Iran from getting them is not clear, though I suspect that they would, knowing what the Iranians have said about losing several Muslim cities being worth destroying Israel. If Israel did attempt to stop Iran from completing nuclear weapons development, their only real option is preemptive nuclear strikes. The Israeli aircraft don't have the range, and they do not have the refueling capacity, to keep up a sustained conventional strike against the Iranians.

So now let's go back to the Congressman's hopes, and pitilessly demolish them.

Would withdrawing from Iraq increase the military's ability to fight elsewhere and sustain the fight? In purely military terms, yes. Since we would no longer be involved in one fight, those resources would be available elsewhere. Of course, politically that would be a non-starter, unless the US or, say, Western Europe were directly attacked, which means that our ability to fight elsewhere would be irrelevant. For at least a decade, the US would be unable to intervene militarily virtually anywhere in the world. And would we then get our second Reagan, or our second Carter? Would we resurge or decline? It's impossible to tell.

Would recruitment increase, and recruits be of better quality? Um, no. First, the morale of the military would be shattered. Experienced troops and officers would flee the military at their first chance to do so, and the result would be more unfilled slots. Recruiting is a kind of economy, with the demand being unfilled slots, the supply being recruits, and the cost being the quality of the recruits. With a booming economy (which, despite the MSM's continual gloom seeking, we have), shattered military morale, the inevitable budget cutting (see below for more) and so on, means that the demand would far outrun the supply. This would be made up by raising the cost, that is, by lowering the standards. We would likely end up with the kind of recruiting situation we had in the late 1970s: extraordinarily low quality coupled with constant retraining because of high turnover rates. That was horrible in the late 1970s; with today's demands from both technology and doctrine, it would be unsustainable: the Army would lose the ability to effectively conduct low-casualty wars.

Would procurement increase? Would there be less military spending, easing the deficit? Of course, these two hopes of the Congressman are pretty much mutually exclusive: you cannot cut the budget and increase procurement at the same time. During the 1990s, we were burning through Cold War surplus (our military is about half the size, in fighting units, as it was in 1991) to replace equipment. That equipment will be burned through in the next few years, and so we will face using worn out equipment or raising military spending. We cannot do both. Well, we could, if we again dramatically cut the military, probably by half again. In the process, we would get rid of a lot of capabilities, likely including sufficient amounts of our capabilities that we would be unable to mount an Iraq-sized intervention without a couple of years of rebuilding first. We would be limited to small-scale missions, because we wouldn't have the troops, equipment and logistics to support a large-scale operation. Current weapons systems are expensive, and you cannot both cut the budget and keep current, especially when you have to replace a generation of the most expensive weapons (aircraft, ships and armored vehicles) all at the same time.

Would fewer Americans be killed and wounded? In the very short term, while we are withdrawing, no. More Americans would be killed because, as noted above, the enemy would attack more in order to claim they beat us, rather than our will collapsed. In the medium term, probably, because we wouldn't be fighting in Iraq and it would take the terrorists a little time to recover. But within two years or so, our casualties would increase. First, the terrorists would be intent on driving us completely out of the region, so they would be attacking our troops in Afghanistan, as well as our embassies, American universities, and corporate and military interests throughout the region. Even if the terrorists did not resume attacks in the US on the scale of 9/11, our casualties in civilians and non-military government agents in the Muslim world would likely exceed our current military casualties.

Would fewer Iraqis be killed and wounded? Clearly not, as explained above. But who would notice, since it wasn't Americans dying? While 30000 civilians in two years seems like a lot of dead people, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Sunnis put down with civilians dying at a rate of 30000 every few months. Again, the Iraqi government's options are limited. And like the killing in Cambodia and Viet Nam, I expect that the Left would not notice; and to the extent that it did notice, it would be to blame it on the US for not protecting the enemy after we abandoned our friends.

Would the insurrection and terrorism in Iraq stop? Probably. Absent a foreign invasion, I suspect that the Iraqi government could kill terrorists, insurgents, sympathetic civilians and uninvolved civilians at a high enough rate to end the terrorism and insurgency. Assuming, of course, that the army and police don't desert en masse out of fear after we leave. If they do, then the terrorism and insurgency would likely continue until either foreign invasion intervened, or the government of Iraq collapsed.

Will terrorism decline globally? Um, not hardly. Why would a tactic that had proven successful be scaled back or abandoned? In short order, there would be a sharply increased amount of terrorism in the Muslim world. Shortly thereafter, there would be increased terrorism on the periphery of the Muslim world, Islam's bloody borders. And if the terrorists were to succeed in pulling down some governments and establishing a caliphate (a possibility the Congressman is either unaware of or simply declines to mention), there would likely be serious attacks against Western and Jewish targets generally. For that matter, it's not even necessary to establish a rump caliphate to do this: the Syrians, Iranians, Saudis and Pakistanis would probably be willing to provide sufficient support to the terrorists to ensure that they could plan, train for and carry out attacks in Europe and the US.

Would the Sunnis join the political process in Iraq? No. The Sunnis are increasingly participating because it looks like we are going to win handily. If it begins to look like we are going to lose (or if we simply announce we've lost and run away), there would be no incentive to counter the strong disincentive of being killed for "collaborating". So the Sunnis would withdraw from the political process, and turn to violence. And they would have to do it quickly, to avoid the slaughter the Shia and Kurds would try to inflict on them, both for revenge and for the practical reason of not putting themselves back in the position they were in under the Sunnis last time.

There are two other significant downsides of withdrawal not addressed by the Congressman even in the negative: international cooperation and Korea. International cooperation, both on terror and on other matters, would become a much more rare commodity. First, the US would be seen as needing the cooperation more, and so (politics also being an economy) the price would go up. In many cases, the price would be out of our reach, because better deals could be found by cooperating with our enemies than with us. Ask the French, or George Galloway, about "oil for food" deals and how much you can profit, with essentially no risk, by adhering to US enemies.

As to Korea, China has been allowing North Korea to slowly starve. This would not continue. The South would know it could not count on the US for the harder task of fighting or occupying North Korea, since we were unwilling to take on the easier task of occupying Iraq, and so the South would likely build up its military significantly. China does not want a free North Korea to encourage the Chinese people towards freedom, so they would prop up the regime. With nothing to fear from the US, the Chinese would have every incentive to do so and would see little in the way of downsides. Japan and Taiwan and South Korea, realizing they have to fend for themselves, would likely develop nuclear weapons as fast as they could. There would almost certainly be a series of wars, probably including China invading Taiwan, over territory in SE Asia.

It has always been the case that most casualties are suffered not in the battle, but in the rout afterwards. If we allow ourselves to be routed, the likely consequences are severe. We should be aware of them, and ready to face them, before we incur them.

UPDATE: Instapundit has lots of concurring opinions. In particular, read Pejman Yousefzadeh.

UPDATE: Dave Schuler also has thoughts on this, and in particular on what responsibilities grown ups in a free society should have when their nation is at war.

My own preferences are that Congressional Democrats should alter their current trajectory from withdrawal to establishing a lasting peace in Iraq, the White House (and Congressional Republicans) should alter their stance from counter-confrontation to fixing whatever is wrong and speeding the pace of strengthening the Iraqi government’s position (even if doing that has political cost), and that bloggers would start confronting each others’ arguments rather than each other. Tain’t gonna happen.

Dave also points to Joe Gandelman's excellent roundup of opinion on this.

UPDATE: Kevin Aylward has also read Murtha's plan.

UPDATE: Ralph Peters has bitter words about the Democrats' electoral be-damned-to-the-consequences maneuvering.

Posted by jeff at 11:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Memory Stick Nightmare

Bob Sullivan points out a real story of data loss - and what is certainly going to be increasingly common the next few years in HELP! I LEFT MY IDENTITY IN THE BACKSEAT OF A TAXI:

Last month, Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Kauai had to inform 120,000 past and present patients that their private information had been misplaced. Their names, addresses, Social Security numbers, even medical record numbers had been placed on one of those tiny USB flash drives -- and now, according to a letter sent home, the drive was missing.

I've thought I've lost my own personal USB widget any number of times. Most recently, I thought I had left it in Philadelphia. I found it two days later in the bottom of my briefcase. On the widget is a variety of things both business and personal: a Quicken file with personal finances (encrypted), resume, remote access certificate for the office, pictures, etc. No customer data from the office, but the certificate could have been a problem. It's password protected, but within another 3-4 days, I was going to get my certificate revoked if I hadn't found it (I'm just that anal about it).

I expect that as more stories like the hospital become public, more of these flash drives will use encryption - which I'm starting to see in the marketplace, but not commonly yet. I would guess that within 12-24 more months, it will be standard. In the meantime, more letters like the one the hospital sent home will be happening.

Posted by Nemo at 8:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 17, 2005

Where is Sanity?

I've asked before where the thinking anti-war bloggers are. That is, where are the people who opposed the war at the beginning, who still oppose the war, and who can convince me they are right. Where is the Left's Steven Den Beste or Bill Whittle? And every time I've gotten recommendations, they've turned out to be a bust. Demosophist takes apart one of those recommendations (that I had long abandoned): Josh Marshall. There are some who were anti-war to start, but believe that as a practical matter we should win. There are some who were pro-war to start, but who have become defeatists on the grounds of unrelated issues (like gay marriage) turning them against the administration. But where are the Den Bestes and Whittles of the Left? Are there any?

Posted by jeff at 12:52 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Corporate Sponsorship - of Towns?!

And here I thought it couldn't get any worse.

However, if Mercedes were to make this offer to our town, I might have to go for it :)

Dishing themselves up a treat in Texas

A Texan town has changed its name to Dish in exchange for 10 years of free satellite television service.

All 125 residents of the town formerly known as Clark will get basic service and a free digital video-recorder and satellite-TV receiver, a move that has some people joking the Fort-Worth suburb will become a town of couch potatoes.

Posted by Nemo at 12:30 PM | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Et tu, Harry?

On November 14, 2005, Harry Reid had this to say:

Tired rhetoric and political attacks do nothing to help us bring the troops home or achieve success in Iraq.

On November 1, 2005 (the day the Dems shut down the Senate), Harry Reid had this to say: [note: these are individual statements taken from one speech]

"This indictment raises very serious charges. It asserts this Administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant.
"The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the Administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.
"As a result of its improper conduct, a cloud now hangs over this Administration. This cloud is further darkened by the Administration's mistakes in prisoner abuse scandal, Hurricane Katrina, and the cronyism and corruption in numerous agencies.
"The record will also show that in the months and years after 9/11, the Administration engaged in a pattern of manipulation of the facts and retribution against anyone who got in its way as it made the case for attacking Iraq.
"There are numerous examples of how the Administration misstated and manipulated the facts as it made the case for war. Administration statements on Saddam's alleged nuclear weapons capabilities and ties with Al Qaeda represent the best examples of how it consistently and repeatedly manipulated the facts.
Playing upon the fears of Americans after September 11, these officials and others raised the specter that, left unchecked, Saddam could soon attack America with nuclear weapons.
"What has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress to the Administration's manipulation of intelligence that led to this protracted war in Iraq? Basically nothing. Did the Republican-controlled Congress carry out its constitutional obligations to conduct oversight? No. Did it support our troops and their families by providing them the answers to many important questions? No. Did it even attempt to force this Administration to answer the most basic questions about its behavior? No.
"Unfortunately the unwillingness of the Republican-controlled Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities is not limited to just Iraq. We see it with respect to the prisoner abuse scandal. We see it with respect to Katrina. And we see it with respect to the cronyism and corruption that permeates this Administration.
"Time and time again, this Republican-controlled Congress has consistently chosen to put its political interests ahead of our national security. They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican Administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why.
When Joe Wilson stated that there was no attempt by Saddam to acquire uranium from Niger, the Administration launched a vicious and coordinated campaign to demean and discredit him, going so far as to expose the fact that his wife worked as a CIA agent.
"Given this Administration's pattern of squashing those who challenge its misstatements, what has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress? Again, absolutely nothing. And with their inactions, they provide political cover for this Administration at the same time they keep the truth from our troops who continue to make large sacrifices in Iraq.
How did senior Administration officials manipulate or manufacture intelligence presented to the Congress and the American people?
How did the Administration coordinate its efforts to attack individuals who dared to challenge the Administration's assertions? Why has the Administration failed to provide Congress with the documents that will shed light on their misconduct and misstatements?
"At this point, we can only conclude he will continue to put politics ahead of our national security. If he does anything at this point, I suspect he will play political games by producing an analysis that fails to answer any of these important questions.
It is time this Republican-controlled Congress put the interests of the American people ahead of their own political interests."

Senator Reid, what was that about "tired rhetoric and political attacks" again?

Posted by Brian at 11:42 PM | TrackBack

Public Humiliation

This is a rather interesting story. (hat tip: Drudge)

Frankly, I think humiliation may be a viable option in some circumstances. While it would take me some time to reach the level of taking this step, I applaud Tasha Henderson for caring enough about her daughter to do this. She's trying to help her daughter, not hurt her, and any humiliation felt now would be better than the life Mrs. Henderson obviously felt her daughter was heading for.

Posted by Brian at 11:28 PM | TrackBack

Clinton Lied, People Died?

Let us look back to the day when President Bill Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox against Iraq's WMD capabilities, courtesy of CNN (emphasis mine):

Timing was important, said the president, because without a strong inspection system in place, Iraq could rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear programs in a matter of months, not years.
"If Saddam can cripple the weapons inspections system and get away with it, he would conclude the international community, led by the United States, has simply lost its will," said Clinton. "He would surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction."
Clinton also called Hussein a threat to his people and to the security of the world.
"The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people," Clinton said.
Such a change in Baghdad would take time and effort, Clinton said ...

I think the first two paragraphs above are interesting. After Desert Fox, inspections ended until President Bush went to the UN and got Resolution 1441. Assuming President Clinton wasn't trying to mislead the public to justify airstrikes, it would seem logical to conclude, by Clinton's own arguments, that Iraq would have been rebuilding its WMD arsenals between 1998 and 2003.

The final two paragraphs above are interesting for their prescience. We've accomplished paragraph one; we would do well to remember paragraph two.

(hat tip: Drudge)

Posted by Brian at 10:18 PM | TrackBack

Law Review Online

The latest Harvard Law Review is available online in PDF format (hat tip:Instapundit). Of note this issue: several obituaries of the late Chief Justice Rehnquist by Chief Justice Roberts, and Associate Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg.

Also, there is a major section on the use of foreign law in judicial decision-making (which I haven't read yet), and lastly a commentary on Kelo vs New London which I scanned over:

In sum, the Court rightly chose to continue its “longstanding policy of deference to legislative judgments in this field” by underenforcing the Public Use Clause. The condemnation with which libertarian conservatives have responded to Kelo — and their mobilization in legislatures across the country to overrule the Court by statute — vindicate the wisdom of the Court’s approach: apparently, the legislative process can be trusted to impose constraints on a state’s eminent domain power. Certainly, land use and development are important issues of public policy and should continue to be the subject of vigorous democratic debate. But the proper for a for such deliberation are city councils and federal and state legislatures, not the federal courts.

I'm glad the Kelo decision has prompted so many states and cities to change their eminent domain laws. It's a good outcome to the case overall, but it's still criminal that property was lost in the process.

Posted by Nemo at 9:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 15, 2005

The Old, Gray Lady Has Alzheimer's

The New York Times continues to rewrite the history of how the war began.

The White House continues to set the record straight.

Meanwhile Robert Kagan at the Washington Post reminds us of where the NYT editorial page stood on Iraq and WMD between 1998-2000. The significance of these years? It was after weapons inspectors left Iraq and before George W. Bush was elected.

From 1998 through 2000, the Times editorial page warned that "without further outside intervention, Iraq should be able to rebuild weapons and missile plants within a year" and that "future military attacks may be required to diminish the arsenal again." Otherwise, Iraq could "restore its ability to deliver biological and chemical weapons against potential targets in the Middle East." "The world," it said, "cannot leave Mr. Hussein free to manufacture horrific germs and nerve gases and use them to terrorize neighboring countries."
Times editorials insisted the danger from Iraq was imminent. When the Clinton administration attempted to negotiate, they warned against letting "diplomacy drift into dangerous delay. Even a few more weeks free of inspections might allow Mr. Hussein to revive construction of a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon." They also argued that it was "hard to negotiate with a tyrant who has no intention of honoring his commitments and who sees nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as his country's salvation." "As Washington contemplates an extended war against terrorism," a Times editorial insisted, "it cannot give in to a man who specializes in the unthinkable."
Another Times editorial warned that containment of Hussein was eroding. "The Security Council is wobbly, with Russia and France eager to ease inspections and sanctions." Any approach "that depends on Security Council unity is destined to be weak." "Mr. [Kofi] Annan's resolve seems in doubt." When Hans Blix was appointed to head the U.N. inspectors, the editors criticized him for "a decade-long failure to detect Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program before the gulf war" and for a "tendency to credit official assurances from rulers like Mr. Hussein." His selection was "a disturbing sign that the international community lacks the determination to rebuild an effective arms inspection system." The "further the world gets from the gulf war, the more it seems willing to let Mr. Hussein revive his deadly weapons projects." Even "[m]any Americans question the need to maintain pressure on Baghdad and would oppose the use of force. But the threat is too great to give ground to Mr. Hussein. The cost to the world and to the United States of dealing with a belligerent Iraq armed with biological weapons would be far greater than the cost of preventing Baghdad from rearming."

So between 1998-2000 the Times was greatly concerned about Saddam's desire and ability to create more WMD's and the systems with which to deploy them. The Times was adamant that Saddam's acquisition of WMD's would be terribly dangerous to the United States and the world. The Times was worried about the UN's lack of resolve for keeping the sanctions in place. The Times had little faith that the UN was determined to have an effective inspections process.

My how the Times has changed!

What else has changed since then? Everything the Times was concerned about was still relevant prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nothing had changed to make us believe Saddam wasn't still trying to acquire WMD's. His possesion of WMD's was even more dangerous to the US and the world following the events of 9/11. There was still ample reason to doubt that the UN inspections process was effective.

But there has been one rather important change since the 1998-2000 time period - the election of George W. Bush.

President Bush used pretty much the exact same arguments of the NYT in the runup to Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the Times would have you believe that the history of Iraq and WMD began with the election of Bush - that Bush created this Iraqi menace out of whole cloth to justify war. He misled us all; he lied.

But as Mr. Kagan concludes:

As we wage what the Times now calls "the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq," we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.
Posted by Brian at 6:38 PM | TrackBack

Media as Weapon, not Theatre

The Officers' Club addresses the idea of the media as an instrument of war, but Brian points out in the comments something that is vitally important to understand, and often lost on bloggers: the media is not a theatre, but a weapon. (hat tip: InstaPundit) This is a fact often lost on bloggers, who tend to view the media as a thinking enemy of the US.

To an extent, that view is correct: many in the media seem to be actively working against the US war effort. But that view is not complete: the media has motives, incentives and goals beyond simple anti-Americanism or transnationalism, and the media is not a unified body, either. It is precisely these different motives, incentives and goals that jihadis exploit: frequent bombings on the road to the Baghdad airport tweak reporters' incentives to show spectaculars, while the fact that the road has been safe for many months now has not been worthy of a single report, so far as I can tell. Similarly, by attaching the victim label to themselves, the jihadis get a free pass on atrocities, while by not being the victim, the US is blamed even for the acts of the jihadis. (This happens in domestic politics as well.)

To really understand how the press can be used as a weapon of the West, though, you have to understand one key fact: the only way to defeat an enemy (in the strategic sense) is to defeat his will to fight. The only way to defeat an enemy's capacity to fight is to kill him, if necessary to the last man. In practice this pretty much never happens, because human willpower is not infinite. As the Iraq campaign shows, even an enemy incapable of resisting on conventional ground can, if he is determined enough, continue fighting long after any rational analysis tells him he can prevail. Even at the very end of WWII in Europe, with all of Germany in flames, there were millions of Germans who could have taken up arms, and the arms were available. But the Germans had lost their will to resist. Indeed, the German people and even military would probably have been willing to surrender much sooner, but one of the drawbacks of totalitarianism is the inability of the people to bend the leaders' wills.

So to make the enemy stop fighting, or never fight in the first place, requires you to defeat the enemy's will to fight. For less rational enemies, like the Nazis or the jihadis, this is a task that requires the almost complete destruction of the enemy. For more rational groups, like the US or the Germans of WWI, once you demonstrate to them that winning is not possible, there is generally a point at which a negotiated settlement is preferable to continued fighting. Note that you don't have to convince a rational actor that he will lose a fight, only that he will not win it, to eventually force him to concede the field. This is, at its heart, the way that the jihadis use the press (and the way that anti-Americans, anti-capitalists and anti-Republicans in the press itself use the press): as an attempt to defeat our will to fight. Hence the boasting price; hence the videotaped beheadings; hence the endless accusations of the evil nature of all Americans and American institutions; hence the endless comparisons to Viet Nam. All of this makes using the media as an aid to war, or even neutralizing its effect, difficult for Americans in general and almost impossible for Republicans.

But we don't have to necessarily win the same way our enemies do. All we have to do is show ourselves to be strong enough to not lose our will because of excessively negative press coverage; that is, to convince the enemy that the press is not a sufficient weapon to defeat us. We don't have to use the media ourselves as a weapon, though it would be nice if we did, since it would shorten the war. That is why the 2004 election was so important: it denied a significant hope of the enemy. And the 2006 and 2008 elections will be important for the same reason. If the enemy comes to believe that he cannot defeat our will, then his own will will be weakened. In combination with the morale losses from field attrition, and the loss of supporters as media stunts staged for the West, like the attacks in Amman, result in a loss of respect among the semi-neutral Muslims the jihadis want to recruit, the enemy will have a very difficult time maintaining his will to fight, and many of the enemy's fighters will in fact stop fighting.

In the end, there are still jihadis who will only stop fighting when they die, but I suspect that that number is not sufficient to maintain an international campaign against us, and that the jihadis' will can be beaten sufficiently to not necessitate actually hunting down and killing each of the most fanatical of the enemy. Or if we do, it will be more like the Israeli hunt for Nazis than it will be like open warfare.

Posted by jeff at 5:26 PM | TrackBack

Important Reading on the War

Joe Katzman compiles some of the most important speculation and analysis on the war. The three highlighted posts are particularly good reads.

Posted by jeff at 7:16 AM | TrackBack


The first president I recall while he was in office was Jimmy Carter, the disastrous buffoon who destroyed our economy and self-image while simultaneously almost fatally weakening our defense and foreign policy (go, Jimmah!). President Carter was unable to catch a break from the press or the public. Largely, it is true, because he was incompetent, but there is another factor as well: he was passive when dealing with both foreign enemies and domestic opponents.

Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, had a mixed record dealing with foreign enemies; mostly aggressive but not always (such as his withdrawal from Beirut after his attempt at acting charitably to terrorists by protecting them from the Israeli Army was answered with bombings of our embassy and Marine barracks). His domestic behavior, though, was always very aggressive towards political opponents. While his knives were more humorous than grim, he used them frequently and well.

The first President Bush was quite aggressive with foreign enemies, but quite tame with domestic opponents. Not actually timid, as President Carter was, but certainly respectful and seeking consensus, even in the face of quite brutal political attacks against his policies and personal attacks against himself.

President Clinton was far more like Reagan in domestic terms: he was constantly on the offensive. There was no Clinton administration scandal that was not really just the Republicans up to their dirty tricks and lies, until it became clear that the scandalous behavior really had happened and it was done by the administration. At that point, of course, the Republicans were clearly overreaching in their criticism, because while Clinton may have stumbled, the Republicans were actively evil — look, shiny things. In other words, President Clinton was masterful at attacking his domestic opponents constantly not only over their own stumbles, but over his stumbles. And Clinton's attacks were not confined to jest and outmaneuvering the opposition on legislation: Clinton went after his opponents hammer and tongs, with personal attacks against the weakest points he could find (no matter how misogynist, racist, or irrelevant those attacks might be). And of course, he was the most popular president since Roosevelt, other than Reagan.

The current President Bush is much like his father, or has been until recently. And his approval among the public appears to have been taking a beating lately, under the constant attacks (fair and unfair) leveled by his political opponents, and with his base frustrated and feeling politically homeless. But interestingly enough, now that he has been making a strong attack, for at least the last several days, pointing out the misrepresentations, falsehoods, hypocrisy and sometimes simply the meanness and low character (more real than rhetorical, as far as I can tell) of his political opponents, his base at least is strongly responding in a favorable way. It is too early to know what the general public's reaction will be.

But I have a theory that President Bush's approval ratings will be going up as long as he stays with the aggressive stance. It appears to me that the American public, by and large, favors a strong President, and the President does not look strong when he's attempting to govern (as Carter did disastrously, and the first President Bush did successfully), but does look strong when he's attempting to lead (as Reagan and sometimes the current President Bush have done) or rule (as Clinton tended to do).

Interestingly, I think that the Democrats figured this out long ago. Note the Democrat stance towards any Republican officeholder or Republican policy: almost uniformly vicious and hostile and constantly attacking in the press. Note also the tactics of the Clinton administration, and of Howard Dean. And most tellingly, notice whom the Democrats most viciously and personally attack, and most seek to keep out of the Republican leadership: Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney. In other words, the loudest and most sustained attacks are against the few Republicans who seem to believe in taking the political offensive, those whose removal would not necessarily most affect policy, but which would most affect the tone of the Republicans' rhetoric.

Posted by jeff at 7:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 13, 2005

Narnia vs. Tolkien?

I'm a little puzzled by Charles McGrath's article The Narnia Skirmishes

this could be the mother of all screen battles - not just your basic struggle of good and evil but a $200 million smackdown between the religious right and godless Hollywood, between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

followed shortly by:

If you read between the lines - and sometimes right there in them - these stories are all about death and resurrection, salvation and damnation. From a moviemaking point of view, this is excellent news if you are hoping to reach the crowd that packed the theaters to see Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," probably not so great if you're also hoping to lure all those wizards-and-weapons fans who made the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy such a hit

Reading this, you would swear that the audiences were totally distinct. However, I don't know of many people who read Tolkien (at least before the Jackson movies) who didn't first read Narnia. Narnia's target audience is younger, but anyone who read them and enjoyed fantasy literature was almost certain to pick up The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as they got older. Sentimental reasons alone will pull these people in (I count myself as one of them).

As far as godless Hollywood vs. the Religious Right, well, the Tolkien books have typically gotten a pass from the Religious Right because Tolkien was such a devout Catholic. Tolkien doesn't have the hit-you-over-the-head Christian overtone to it, but neither is it hostile to it, so it's hardly a concern.

I'm sure there are some hardcore fans of each author that doesn't like the other for one reason or another, but generally, fans of one will enjoy the other. I just don't understand the desire to pit these two works against each other like a prize fight.

McGrath did close with one thing I can agree with:

Like all the great children's books, they're not really concerned with explaining or defending this or that orthodoxy. They're interested in mostly the same thing Hollywood is: escape.
Posted by Nemo at 5:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 12, 2005

Satire by Musical Parody

Via the ever-wonderful Iowahawk, a brilliant take on the French riots. My favorite bit:

Go greased Peugeot you're burning up the Rue De Ville!
(Greased Peugeot, burn greased Peugeot)
Go greased Peugeot you're burning up by Allah’s will !
(Greased Peugeot, burn greased Peugeot)
It’s bitchin’ sweet to see it light up the street, greased Peugeot!
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go!

Well, it's either that or the parody of Age of Aquarius.

Posted by jeff at 11:23 PM | TrackBack

About 1:1

I had never thought to look at the ratio of young Muslims in France to young non-Muslims in France. Mark Steyn did. (hat tip: Wretchard) The article is behind a registration wall, but you can use BugMeNot. Here is the meat:

Now go back to that bland statistic you hear a lot these days: ‘about 10 per cent of France’s population is Muslim’. Give or take a million here, a million there, that’s broadly correct, as far as it goes. But the population spread isn’t even. And when it comes to those living in France aged 20 and under, about 30 per cent are said to be Muslim and in the major urban centres about 45 per cent. If it came down to street-by-street fighting, as Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, points out, ‘the combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one’ — already, right now, in 2005.


So the question is: do you think M. de Villepin’s one last shot of failed French statism will do the trick?

The implications for that in terms of France's ongoing riots and the possibility of a civil war in Europe in the near term are staggering. Particularly when you consider that the Europeans don't seem to be very motivated, but the young Muslims do.

Posted by jeff at 8:19 PM | TrackBack

John Kerry is a Lying Dick

From Deb Riechmann of AP quoting John Kerry's response to President Bush's Veterans' Day speech:

"This administration misled a nation into war by cherry-picking intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition. That's why Scooter Libby has been indicted.

I am going to emphasize this next bit in bold so that maybe that asshat clown can see it!

From Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference regarding the Libby indictment:

QUESTION: A lot of Americans, people who are opposed to the war, critics of the administration, have looked to your investigation with hope in some ways and might see this indictment as a vindication of their argument that the administration took the country to war on false premises.

Does this indictment do that?

FITZGERALD: This indictment is not about the war. This indictment's not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel.

This is simply an indictment that says, in a national security investigation about the compromise of a CIA officer's identity that may have taken place in the context of a very heated debate over the war, whether some person -- a person, Mr. Libby -- lied or not.

The indictment will not seek to prove that the war was justified or unjustified. This is stripped of that debate, and this is focused on a narrow transaction.

And just in case Kerry is not a drooling moron and can actually read, here is the actual indictment so that he can see what Libby was indicted for.

And asswipes like Kerry have the nerve to talk about Bush misleading people!

Predictably, AP did not correct Kerry's claim of what the Libby indictment was about.

Posted by Brian at 12:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 11, 2005

The Libertarian Case Against Roe v. Wade

Steph asked me to put forth the argument for how a libertarian who believes the government should have no control over women's bodies could believe that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Conveniently, I am a libertarian who believes the government should have no control over women's bodies and who believes that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, so I suspect I can make the argument. But to do so, we have to realize just exactly what claims are at stake in the debate. We have to go back to first principles.

Those who are anti-abortion (I cannot call them pro-life, since so many are fine with the death penalty) make the claim that abortion should be illegal because the State has a duty to protect the lives of its people, and a baby is just as subject to protection — more so, even — as an adult. But when does a baby become a living person? The moment of birth is fairly arbitrary. Would we not condemn as murder a person striking a pregnant woman in labor with a blunt object, in order to kill the baby? Moreover, it's not like the baby is delivered and is suddenly independent of its mother; it must be fed and cared for in order to survive; and absent access to things like infant formula or wet nurses, it must be fed and cared for by its mother. And if we would call that murder, then how can we justify allowing an abortion — murder by knife held by a doctor, but the baby is just as dead — at the same point? And if we cannot justify it then, how can we justify it the day prior, when the baby was certainly as viable as on the day of birth? And if not the day prior, how can we justify killing the baby a week prior to not be murder? At what point does the baby become a baby if not when it is created, at conception; or if not then than when the heart starts beating, or brain waves become detectable, or when the baby would likely live — given all the help technology can provide — if removed from the mother? In any event, at some point that baby is a baby, and that moment is prior to birth, and from that point forward, killing the baby is murder.

Those who believe that abortion should be legal (I cannot call them pro-choice, since so many of them would deny individual choice in all other matters) make the claim that prior to a baby's birth, the baby is simply a part of the mother's body; not an independent person deserving of any protections or rights. For surely, the fertilized egg that is still a single cell is not independent and possessed of rights: it is a cell that is in the mother's body. And when it's divided many times, and attached to the uterine wall, there is still a pretty good chance that the mother's body will spontaneously abort the pregnancy, probably without her even knowing she was pregnant (a late and very heavy period might be all she notices). And even once the fœtus starts to develop an independent circulatory system, that system is still dependent on the mother's system for its function, and the fœtus does not become a person with protected rights until the baby is actually born. What "search" could be more unreasonable, in any case, than government agents searching inside a woman's body to see if she's still carrying her baby, or in her medical records looking for evidence of care of which they disapprove? What abrogation of rights is more severe than the abrogation of a person's right to decide what will be done with their own body?

So the rights claim from the anti-abortion folks is that every person has a right to live, the State has a duty to protect the lives of its people, and a baby is reasonably a person some time well before its birth: thus the State must protect the unborn baby. The rights claim from the legal abortion advocates is that every person has a right to control their own body and decide what medical care they will have, the State has no right to invade the privacy of a person regarding their health or their medical care, and the fœtus is not a person worthy of government protection until it is born: thus the State must stay completely out of such matters and abortion must be legal.

Each side also has practical arguments, but Roe v. Wade makes those arguments meaningless, because such arguments are political and Roe v. Wade altogether removes any arguments about abortion from the political sphere. Actually, this is only partly true: the decision allows government regulation at the state level in the second trimester, and even prohibition in the third trimester as long as an exception is made for saving the life of the mother. Roe v. Wade is even more complex than that, though, because it reaches out and creates or expands a few more Federally-protected rights, most importantly the "right to privacy". And once there is a Federally-protected right to privacy, and that right encompasses abortion, then any regulation of abortion other than a purely medical one (regarding sanitation, for example) is pretty much out of the question, and virtually every limitation on abortion that has been attempted, has been subsequently struck down by the courts.

Now normally, I'm pretty sympathetic to claims of unenumerated rights, on the basis of the Ninth Amendment. But there is the problem of the Fourteenth Amendment, which throws up some conflicting claims if read more broadly than it was intended, and part of what it has since been read to mean is that rights granted at the Federal level must be granted by each State as well. And this means that a finding that the Constitution protects a right to privacy and that right to privacy encompasses not having the government interfere with obtaining an abortion also applies to the States, and prohibits them from interfering with obtaining an abortion. But there's something else interesting about Constitutional rights: some are more protected than others.

To pick the easy and cheap shot, the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms is nearly meaningless in practical terms. The right to speak freely has been abrogated to the point that political speech can be regulated by the government during political campaigns. While the right to not be compelled to practice religion has been upheld zealously, the right to practice religion has been upheld hardly at all. The right to not have your property taken by the government for the use of some other private person? Nope, not there any more in practice. Illegal search and seizure? Not really, no. In other words, a right not specifically mentioned in the Constitution has in practice been given more weight than virtually every right specifically mentioned in the Constitution. That does not seem very useful for a nation supposedly governed by laws rather than men.

Moreover, just go trying to assert the right to have your bank accounts kept private from the IRS. Or even try to assert privacy in medical decisions other than abortion. "Privacy" is a very slippery right indeed. The word, in fact, has become as meaningless in the context of Constitutional law as "choice", or "shall make no law". Because of this, the reality is that Roe v. Wade does nothing more than express the policy preference of the Justices who wrote and signed on to the decision: it has no more meaning than that which we accord it by observing the Court's decision. Because of Marbury v. Madison, though, that is a great deal of meaning indeed.

The problem is, this puts the Court in the position of solving political disputes. And that's really what the dispute over abortion is: a political dispute where conflicting claims of rights are made. But the Court was not intended for that purpose: that is what politics is for, what legislatures are for. Where the Court has interfered in political issues, it has generally met with grief. The appeal to Dred Scott was the Civil War.

So my case against Roe v. Wade is simply this: it's not the Court's place to decide contested claims of rights in a permanent manner; that is the purpose of the law and the province of the legislatures. The Court's only role should be to decide the conflict between different claims of what the law does and does not allow in a particular case. (In other words, I also object to Marbury v. Madison.)

And the ironic thing is, most states were moving towards making abortion legal at the time Roe v. Wade was decided. But by making the issue moot, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the intervening culture war over abortion (which has done so much damage to the nation that it is hard to overstate) makes it likely that many states would immediately outlaw abortion, or severely restrict its availability. But what I think about abortion per se is irrelevant, as is the potential outcome should Roe v. Wade be overturned: the issue should be decided in a way where my and other voices can be heard, rather than by a group of unaccountable mandarins. The only other outcome is to remove our ability to self-govern, and that is far more damage to a free society than abortion itself can ever do.

Posted by jeff at 8:48 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

API Abuse

It seems that whenever someone releases an API, there is always someone else ready to abuse it horribly. Here is a cool example: Risk with Google maps.

Posted by jeff at 9:15 AM | TrackBack

November 10, 2005

Free Speech is not an Online Thing

It is an American right. It is a natural right of all mankind, and it is an American civil right as well because of the first amendment to the Constitution. And while I wish these guys well, I cannot help but wonder why the movement's aims are so limited. Is it only online that people should be allowed to voice opinions on candidates within 60 days of an election? Surely, we should be able to do that at any time, and any reasonable place (that is to say, not in our neighbors' house, without his invitation).

Posted by jeff at 1:49 PM | TrackBack

November 9, 2005

Political Preference and Easy Faith

Some things are easy to have faith in; others are quite difficult. It is, for example, easy to have a faith in government control over the economy as leading to an efficient economy: if the smartest economists around were allowed to control as many economic (and, necessarily, behavioral) variables as possible, they could certainly produce the most efficient economy, couldn't they? This result is intuitive; we believe that the best people to undertake a task are those who have spent their lives studying the subject and who are respected for their knowledge of and insights on the subject. It is also easy to believe that bureaucracies are so inherently inefficient, government so inherently corrupt, that any sustained government interference in economic matters is likely to completely fail; but at the same time that the government must sometimes interfere to solve problems that "capitalism" — by which is really meant free, individual economic choice — cannot solve. Like "price gouging" after a natural disaster or other countries putting excessive subsidies into place. After all, we've all seen government make virtually any problem, real or imagined, worse in their hamfisted, intrusive and belated attempts to solve the problem.

It is difficult, on the other hand, to have faith in the free market as producing the most efficient economy. How can it be that price shocks, the business cycle, layoffs, robber barons, monopolies and trusts, and sending work overseas can be efficient, never mind humane? The problem with the invisible hand is that it is invisible, and only great experience and much thought and observation can bring it forth from whole cloth. And let's face it, if they aren't made to do so in school, and aren't becoming economists themselves, who is going to read "The Wealth of Nations", or even some modern derivative work that seeks to make the logic simpler and more accessible? Yet experience shows that it is inevitably the freer market that is more efficient, and the more that government interferes, the more prolonged are economic problems and the less amenable those problems become to solution.

Similarly, it is easy to believe that people in general are incapable of choosing wisely according to their best interests when it comes to public policy. There is, again, the easy faith of the appeal to expertise on any given policy subject. There is the common experience that most of the people around us — and sometimes, we whisper, even we ourselves — habitually make bad choices. Anyone who could choose badly in one sphere should certainly not be trusted in others; far better to let the experts and elites decide for us what the policies should be. And it is easy to believe that people in general are incapable of choosing wisely according to their best interests when it comes to private morality. Again the common experience shows us drunkards and drug addicts, the homeless and the bankrupt, the lonely and the unhappy — sometimes it seems that there are more people who are miserable than are getting by. If only we could make them follow the right morality, perhaps the right god, certainly they would be improved by this.

But it is not easy to see that the collective behavior of a mass of people given free reign to do as they will results in better public policy — certainly in less likelihood of public policy disaster — and more complete and natural morality — certainly less likelihood of false facades and otiose public preaching — than when the "chosen few" make those decisions and attempt to enforce them on others. Such faith is difficult.

It is easy to be a progressive: the premises to be believed are few and self-evident and unchanging. And once you believe them, you can throw off any amount of reason and logical argument by simply noting that it does not match the premises. It is easy to be a social conservative: the premises to be believed are few and self-evident and unchanging. And once you believe them, you can throw off any amount of reason and logical argument by simply noting that it does not match the premises. Either being progressive or being socially conservative is comfortable, and thus fairly easy.

Being a classical liberal, or a libertarian, on the other hand, can be quite difficult: the premises are many, because the problem domains they address are small; the premises are not self-evident, but require much logic, reasoning and experience to reach; and the premises are changeable: it is easy to make mistakes and difficult to avoid them. It takes years, perhaps decades, of thought and experience to become a libertarian or a classical liberal, and to absorb the premises to the point that you can reason from them dependably. And it takes a great deal of humility and restraint to be a libertarian or classical liberal, because the very first premise you must come to is to convince, not compel, others to your way of thinking.

We were very fortunate in the States to have a group of founders who were, by inclination and learning and force of circumstance, all more or less libertarian. This confluence may never happen quite the same way again.

Posted by jeff at 1:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 8, 2005

Weird Science

I've written before about the discussion in Kansas about teaching "intelligent design", and now the decision has been made. What bothers me about this is not that Kansas has decided to teach critiques of evolution alongside evolution; we in fact intend to do that with our kids. What bothers me a little is the attempt to insert blatantly unscientific information as if it were science:

[The new standards] also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.

Not really. The fossil evidence and molecular biology evidence is still overwhelmingly in favor of evolution. In fact, I have been unable to find any site that was not promoting intelligent design that has said this with anything to back it up. And the intelligent design sites back up the claim with handwaving and mumbo jumbo, rather than any serious attempt at science. The statement "there is no evidence of A" is not equivalent to "there is evidence of not A", yet this is what passes for science among the intelligent design advocates. To the point, indeed, that the Kansas education board made the second and much more deadly mistake: they redefined the meaning of the word "science".
In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Sad for the Kansas education board to hear this, but someone has to tell them: they don't get to unilaterally redefine words. Science is explicitly the search for natural explanations of observed or inferred phenomena, and explicitly disavows non-natural explanations. This does not mean that non-natural explanations must necessarily not be true (a mistake many scientists and many atheists in particular make), merely that science cannot discover a non-natural explanation for a phenomenon. What is science, despite the pronouncements of the Kansas education board (also known, IIRC, for trying to define PI as exactly 3 to make the math easier, or was that just a hoax)? Science is knowledge gained by the scientific method, which has four steps:
  1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.
  2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.
  3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.
  4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.

OK, so the phenomena observed include the diversity of living things, the relationships of living things to each other in behavior and appearance, the similarities and differences in DNA and RNA structure, the existence of fossils of plants and animals, and numerous related observations in fields other than biology; hundreds and thousands, in fact, of different observations in dozens of different fields interlock to contribute to our understanding of how life began and has changed over time. Where do the intelligent design folks stand on this? By and large, they don't challenge the observations, but their interpretation. That brings us to step two: formulation of a hypothesis.

Evolution is, in brief, a set of hypotheses that together state that these observations can best be explained by life initially arising from non-living chemicals, and diversifying in numerous ways collectively known as "speciation", with some types of living things dying off entirely due to environmental effects or internal design problems, and others surviving and continuing to diversify. Intelligent design says that this did not happen randomly, but was guided by god — well, they're careful not to say god, but merely to define god and call that definition an "intelligent designer" that happens to share all of the characteristics of their god.

OK, let's dignify this by assuming it is science (even though it does not conform to the requirement of science to not include supernatural explanations, since they don't meet the test of "reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary" that science uses to try to minimize bias and prejudice). Then intelligent design must make predictions; that's step 3. But intelligent design does not make predictions. Intelligent design says nothing about how life might have changed, or might not have changed. All it says is that it happened through a transcendent, undetectable and irreproducible agency. So how can it be tested? How can it be disproved? The answer is that it cannot. Intelligent design cannot be taken seriously because no evidence can disprove it; no test can be made to reproduce it. As such, it cannot be called science, though it can be called a critique of the evolutionary hypothesis.

As such, redefining science to try to fit in intelligent design has some interesting possible side effects. For example, if we are now allowing — indeed, requiring — the teaching as science of theories which are compelling to some believers if you accept the possibility of supernatural events and entities, does that mean that Kansas will now teach, alongside scientific speculation about the beginning of the universe, the Pagan creation tales that have the universe coming into being as the result of sex between a God and Goddess? And how does intelligent design, for that matter, offer anything more or less scientifically reasonable than the idea that new living things spring from the good will of a Goddess of Fertility, that needs to be propitiated appropriately at Beltane? And if intelligent design is to be taught, should not we also teach interpretation of the classical philosophical elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water alongside psychology — for that matter, should we not also teach astrology as part of psychology — since though they cannot be proven, they do make predictions about human behavior and psychology is far, far less provable than evolution. (In fact, psychology may in some ways be no more explanatory than astrology, when it comes right down to it.)

In the end, of course, such attempts would be thrown out with hardly any discussion, as not being scientific. Intelligent design should likewise have been discarded as part of the science curriculum. That it has not been thrown out shows that, in the end, the Kansas education board have simply made monkeys of themselves.

Posted by jeff at 10:31 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

On the Uses of Torture

Should officers of the US government be allowed, under any circumstances, to torture people? Setting aside the definition of torture, I have to say "under some circumstances". Jon Henke disagrees on libertarian grounds, and I'd like to argue my case on libertarian grounds as well. (The comments thread at QandO is fantastic, as well.)

Should officers of the US government ever be allowed under any circumstances to torture American citizens, regardless of where and how captured? No. American citizens are covered by the 8th Amendment to the Constitution: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." In fact, they are also covered by the 5th and 6th Amendments, and we've probably already gone too far in a few cases of this sort.

Should officers of the US government ever be allowed under any circumstances to torture people of any nationality, captured in the service of a nation state with which we are at war and which is a signatory nation to the Geneva Accords? No, because our treaty obligations under the Geneva Accords prohibit that.

Should officers of the US government ever be allowed under any circumstances not covered above to torture people? Yes, in at least a couple of cases. There are two in particular, but they are special cases of a more general case. The two are non-citizen pirates and terrorists captured abroad, and the general case that covers both is unlawful combatants waging war against the United States and who themselves give no quarter. One who gives no quarter can ask no quarter. Whether or not the US should torture in such cases is a practical decision, best left to the executive, within the limits set down by the legislature. But to deny even the possibility of torture in such cases means that the enemy — in these cases one who would, as noted, give no quarter — will know in advance how far he has to resist in order to win, and that will mean that our lesser methods will be ineffective. Indeed, limitations already placed on US officers may have already made most of our lesser methods ineffective.

So there are, I think, limited cases in which torture might be justified. However, I have no problem with the legislature setting that bar lower than I would. I only ask that the executive act within the bounds set by law, and it seems that so far they have been doing so, with the caveat that the law is quite unclear on such questions in some cases.

Posted by jeff at 5:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Riots in France

Fortunately, the riots in France do not appear, at least to date, to be turning into Islamist-led hate fests. While there has been some evidence of that earlier, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence so far is that the riots are being fed by three factors: anger over discrimination against immigrants and their descendants; turf wars between various criminals and the police; and the fact that something like half the young men in the cités are unemployed, and Muslim cultural practices mean that many young men in the cités cannot find suitable mates, and unemployed and unattached young men tend to find violence to be fun.

As long as this does not become a more organized and directed violence, the odds are that it will peter out eventually. (I forget who made the joke, but someone said the rioters are organizing a union, so they'll cut their rioting down to 32 hours a week like the truckers and civil servants. France is well-known for union and Left-wing Cause violence. Remember all the burning McDonald's? This could be just a larger version of that kind of thing.) As Steven Den Beste points out, this can change if there are bombings, or if rioters or police begin to be killed by gunfire.

On the other hand, I certainly don't think that this will be "a total collapse in all the socialist nations of Europe", as Den Beste seems to hope. At least, not so long as it doesn't turn those nations nationalist: Europe has very little tradition of actual centrist democratic rule.

And as usual, Planet Moron has a great sarcastic take:

"There's no way of getting their attention,” lamented one of the rampaging youths/student philosophers, “The only way to communicate is by burning." Alas, if only there were one or more historical examples of nonviolent protest movements successfully launching broad social revolutions benefiting the lives of tens of millions and serving as an example to others for generations to come.

Oh well, burn it is!

Posted by jeff at 3:55 PM | TrackBack

Why do Men Join the Military

To go to war. The only people that this should surprise are those who ignore all evidence and common sense about the reality of gender roles, and how humans developed. Let's face it: men are genetically predisposed to protect and provide, and women are genetically predisposed to nurture children and provide a safe home environment. Not all the hand waving and cultural conditioning in the world will do more than make people angry and lonely when they deny their nature.

I came to this belief relatively late in my life, after I had children. Before that, I was perfectly happy with either traditional or culturally-approved gender roles (still am, really), but figured that child rearing and cultural conditioning was the chief determinant of behavior. Having had four boys, and seeing them turn a baby doll into a gun when they had never seen a gun or had a toy gun, I've been forced to change my mind on that one. Some of the effects of public schooling take a long time to be worn off by experience.

Posted by jeff at 9:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Election Day

Well, after posting last week about the probable low turnout on the Constitutional amendments, I've done some reading from both the Legislative Council document and getting some historical background from the Dallas Morning News, I've finally got a bit of a handle on these things.

Jeff, you were absolutely right. There is so much minutia in here, it's really pathetic. Frankly of all the amendments on the ballot, only Props Two and Seven seem to rise even close to the level of what a Constitution should cover, and even those are debatable.

Here's the list:

Prop 1: Allow the state the authority to use funds to move rail systems. For: infrastructure project to big for private sector; Against: don't use state funds for business development.
Prop 2: Define marriage as legal union between one man and one woman. For: prevents judges from overturning existing law by making it part of Constitution; Against: too broad, may undermine common law marriage and some contractual arrangements between non-married partners.
Prop 3: Clarify law allowing public funds to be used for economic development. For: Clarification of the original intent needed to survive court challenges. Against: Too broad and removes some taxpayer protections on public debt practices.
Prop 4: Allow judges to revoke bail for felony defendants under certain conditions. For: Address public safety, some checks on system by requiring hearings. Against: Unnecessary under current law and may imprison innocents.
Prop 5: Define commercial loans exempt from usury laws. For: Compete with similar laws in other states. Against: Inadequate protections for some borrowers, legislature may lower limit in future.
Prop 6: Change size of judicial oversight board from 11 to 13. For: Adds needed diversity to board. Against: Increases size needlessly.
Prop 7: Allows reverse mortgages. For: Allows reverse mortgages like other states, increasing options for seniors. Against: May increase debt load on seniors who don't need it.
Prop 8: Revokes state claim to property in two counties. For: Clears long-standing dispute where state has no interest. Against: Some land tracts not fully resolved in court.
Prop 9: Terms on regional mobility boards from two years to staggered six year terms. For: Stability and institutional knowledge on boards. Against: Terms will decrease accountability and increase conflicts of interest.

Once I read some of the background in the Dallas Morning News, a lot of these became a bit easier to deal with (Prop 8 comes to mind - I have a hard time being concerned about the land in those two counties, but the history fills in quite a few gaps).

Once upon a time, I would have voted against Prop 7, because I liked Texas' protections against property seizure. However, recent cases in D/FW for mall developments and football stadiums make it clear that Texas isn't that serious about property rights anymore.

Prop 2 is the biggie - it is forcing us to deal with the question of what should marriage be about in our society. Homosexual marriage is too big a topic for this post, though. It deals with an awful lot of issues: property, sex, religion and families. I'll admit to still struggling with it. I still don't know how I'll vote on this one, yet. It may well be an in-the-booth decision. The fact that it seems to be so badly written doesn't help. It just means we'll be "clarifying" this in a few years like some of the above ones.

Prop 6 is about the only one I'm almost certain to vote against. Granted, it's small potatoes compared to giving authority to build infrastructure, or giving authority on loan amounts, but I just don't see any reason why 13 is supposedly so much better than 11. It just seems like blatant cronyism to me.

Posted by Nemo at 9:04 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 7, 2005

Murder by Any Other Name

Ecoterrorism scares me quite as much as anti-abortion terrorism or any other domestic terrorism. Why? Well, read this. There are, let us be clear, some people who need killing. The entire reason that government has the monopoly on the legitimate use of force other than in self defense is so that people like Jerry Vlasak — or for that matter people like me — don't get to unilaterally decide who it is that needs killing. That doesn't appear to be enough to stop Vlasak, though.

Be very afraid of people who are convinced that they are right, and that their position justifies any extremity of action. Be very, very afraid of those who are convinced of that and that acting in the name of a higher good (be it a god or a Cause).

Posted by jeff at 3:07 PM | TrackBack

Why Spammers Suck

Aubrey notes that the FBI has arrested and charged a young man with spamming, and if found guilty his life could get quite miserable indeed. (Good, says I.) Aubrey then goes on a little rant, which I will reproduce in part:

I’ve heard it said by spam apologists that it’s nothing personal that they attack your website. To them, it’s all business. Your PC is simply a commodity, to be infected with a bot and traded amongst spammers. Your website is another commodity to be used to gain hits for their clients. And it would appear that despite our best efforts, there is still money to be made

I've never understood the idea of defending spammers, particularly the kind of spammers who are not sending emails, but are using other people's computers to attack third parties or send spam emails, or are posting spams on blogs and other websites in order drive up a third party's rankings in search engines.

If someone were to break into my house, and store illegal or illicit goods in an unused part of my attic, and tell others how to break into my house to get the illegal goods, that would be wrong even though it is utilizing resources (attic space) that I was not myself using.

If someone were to break into my house, and use my phone to make telemarketing calls to others, that would be wrong even though it isn't costing me anything extra unless they call internationally.

If someone were to paint advertising slogans on my garage door without my permission, that would be wrong even though it does not detract from the utility of my garage.

And virtually everyone sees such actions and considers them wrong without any explanation. Yet some still defend people setting up peer-to-peer servers on hacked-into computers, using hacked-into computers to send email spam, and posting spam comments and trackbacks on blogs. Yet the cases are directly analogous. These kinds of computer attacks and misuses are nothing more than lowlife scum attempting to make me pay for things they want, or to direct possible legal retaliation at me rather than them. While I'm not sure that I would necessarily sanction the use of small caliber weapons at body extremities, I'm pretty sure I'd go for expulsion and exile following very public humiliation and the seizing of all the spammers' property, with the profits from auctioning it off going to the people the spammer inconvenienced.

Posted by jeff at 2:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Living Down to a Reputation

John Henke of QandO put together a satirical list of right-wing bloggers as a wonderful companion to his previous list of left-wing bloggers. Then he described Wizbang as:

[Y]ou know how you and your friends used to get into wandering, but interesting, all-night conversations about every subject imaginable -- school, politics, jokes, sports, news, girls, philosophy, etc -- in your younger days? Well, they're blogging at Wizbang now.

Well, Wizbang is certainly living down to that reputation.

Posted by jeff at 12:01 PM | TrackBack

Poetic Justice

Sony included a rootkit with its copy-protected CDs, with the intention of limiting purchasers' use of the CDs (particularly how many copies can be burned). But the rootkit is so badly written that simply renaming your ripping program makes it invisible to the Sony rootkit. So Sony's compensation for millions of dollars in probable lost sales from the bad publicity is to somewhat control the use made of CDs they produce by people who cannot use Google to find the way around their copy protections.

Sell Sony short: they are going to have a rough quarter.

Posted by jeff at 10:57 AM | TrackBack

Qu'est Que C'est "Bong"?

I love reading Gerard Van der Leun.

Posted by jeff at 10:29 AM | TrackBack

November 6, 2005

When Tomorrow Comes

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

The riots in France's Muslim ghettos are becoming more worrisome by the day. While many blogs are covering the events, and at least a few are doing good analysis, there is a paucity of writing about the implications of this rioting. The implications are, indeed, potentially horrific.

The first fact that is important about the French riots is that they are not confined to France. And within France, they are not confined to the Paris suburban ghettos. In other words, riots that began in a confined area have been spreading across France, and to a lesser degree across Europe.

The second fact that is important about the riots is that they are becoming organized. I don't believe there is any evidence that they began as an organized insurrection: the riots appear to have begun as a result of simmering discontent, which is common among European Muslims, but is exacerbated in France because of the terrible economy (unemployment of young men is around 25%, which has long been a formula for disaster) and the French have been taking steps against Muslim encroachment, such as banning the wearing of headscarves in French schools. But the riots were, within a few days, being instigated by gangsters and drug runners, and appear lately to be increasingly directed by radical Islamists. There is some evidence that jihadis may be getting into the act, as well.

The third important fact about the riots is that the young Muslim men who are rioting don't merely hate the Europeans, the despise them and feel superior. They feel entitled to benefits as superiors, and are emboldened by the passive response of the Europeans on both an individual and government level. This, in combination with massive unemployment, means that the Europeans are hosting what amounts to an untrained and unrecruited guerilla army. With the current unrest, the jihadis have a huge opening to begin training and employing these men much as they have done in Chechnya, Iran and Afghanistan. There is evidence that this is already happening in the tactics that the rioters have adopted.

The fourth important fact about the riots is that they have not reached their height. The lackluster French response — it appears that only Sarkozy sees this as a serious threat, and most other politicians seem to see it as a way to get Sarkozy — will encourage, not discourage, the rioters. Worse yet, the lackluster response risks letting the rioters think that they can escalate the level of violence further (there have already been attempts to set people on fire).

The fifth important fact about the riots is that the French (and Europeans in general) appear to not be buying the stance of their leaders. The French realize that these are not "gangs" or "youths" or "North Africans" rioting; at the core, these are Muslims. The very Muslims that Le Pen was demagogueing in the last election. This means that Le Pen and other nationalist ideologues may gain in strength as frustration rises among the people, and they turn to Le Pen in lieu of the non-existent center-right in French politics. (Sarkozy and Chirac, widely regarded as center right in French terms, are in the American sense moderate left, about the same degree as President Clinton was.)

The combination of these facts leads to a few possibilities for the future.

The rioters could simply stop. Whatever energy sources are feeding the riots could simply give out: they could get tired and go home. If this happened, it would be unlikely to be a permanent state, where everyone suddenly became happy with the situation. More likely is that the Muslims would continue to be unhappy, and would become increasingly radicalized. This would lead to a worse set of riots — or an actual uprising — in the next few years.

The riots could continue as they are, with neither a stronger response by police nor an escalated level of violence and killing by the rioters. This could be sustained for some time, but the increasing frustration of the French citizens — particularly with rioters now burning cars in the Place de la Republique, which is perhaps not coincidentally now known in large part as a place where Jews and homosexuals congregate — make it likely that this would not be stable once an election was underway. Once Le Pen and his nationalists began gaining real traction in the polls, the French "leadership" would be forced to act to have a hope of winning the election.

The riots could spread and escalate. At the moment, this appears to be the most likely result. It is already happening, as the various links above point out. But to what end? There are two likely ends: either the French will crack down, but not hard enough, or the rioters will eventually run out of control. In either case, a true insurrection could break out in France. (One wonders what term AFP would use for the enemy then? Presumably "activist" and "insurgent" would no longer be the proper terms. Assuming AFP supports the French government and civilians against the Muslim invaders, that is.) Were an insurrection to break out in France, it could trigger a widespread European insurrection, particularly in London, Germany, Scandinavia and the Low Countries. This is close to the worst case scenario.

It's also possible that, instead of a widespread insurrection breaking out, the rioters will pass a certain point and then subside into low-level guerilla warfare. This might be the second best case, because there would be a chance of this low-level warfare simply petering out over time. Sadly, this is not a very likely case. Even if low-level warfare breaks out, the social pressures driving events in Europe today would almost certainly cause an escalation within the next few years. The Islamists do not see anyone else as having any right to tell them what to do even in minor matters, and they cannot see themselves as part of France, unless it is as the rulers of France.

The two most likely cases are the best case and the worst case scenarios. (This is pretty unusual: it is more generally true that the best and worst cases are quite unlikely.) The best case scenario is a strong government crackdown. While this would lead to significant short-term violence, it could lead to long-term peace, particularly if it were followed up by a program of either selective deportations or (better) real attempts at assimilation. This would also be the path most likely to prevent the nationalists from profiting by the situation. (And let's be clear, the nationalists in France are pretty far right, particularly for Europeans.)

The worst case scenario, though, is also fairly likely. If the French remain true to form, and try to offer political solutions like a "millet" system (well-mocked here), this could both enflame the rioters into even more outrageous demands (and how do you surrender to a mob, anyway?), and enflame the French citizens into demanding hard-line solutions. If the government failed to comply, it could fall. In this scenario, if the French delay and delay, while offering concession after concession, it is possible that the situation could go from widespread rioting to widespread warfare between Muslims and right-wing thugs. And that is a situation that could easily spread throughout much of Western Europe.

Where will we end up? Hard to say. My hopes argue for a strong French response to shut down the rioting and end the "no go zones" and ability for Muslims to terrorize others. My fears whisper of a broad European civil war. The Europeans would certainly win a clash of arms; the French would certainly win such a clash in France. But only if they were willing to defend themselves, and my fear also whispers that this may be a skill that has atrophied in Western Europe.

Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France!

UPDATE: Wretchard has compiled a map of the locations of the rioting. It shows just how widespread the unrest has been within France.

UPDATE: Eric at Classical Values explores similar thoughts.

UPDATE: Truth Laid Bear has a topic page on the riots. Good one stop shopping on blog debate.

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

November 4, 2005

What do People Expect?

The 9th Circuit, ruling in Fields v. Palmdale, holds that parents have no due process or privacy right to control what their children are taught in public schools, and no right to be the exclusive provider of information about sexual matters to their children.

The district court dismissed the federal causes of action for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and dismissed the state claims without prejudice to their right to re-file in state court. We agree, and hold that there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it. We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students. Finally, we hold that the defendants' actions were rationally related to a legitimate state purpose.

This, to put it mildly, has upset a few people. The problem the critics have is that the court was right to rule the way they did. Parents simply cannot have any direct control over how their children are taught in public schools: there are too many students to have any kind of organized school and yet accommodate all of the preferences and opinions of all of the parents. Government-run schools do not exist to serve the parents, but to serve the State. They serve the State by ensuring that most citizens are, at adulthood, minimally trained and capable of work. They may indeed serve the parents, too, at least by providing subsidized babysitting for much of the time, but that is incidental to the purpose of government-run schools.

So what do people expect when the State decides that it is going to further its interest? That the State will decide that some parents wouldn't be comfortable with that, so that it's best not to go ahead? When has any bureaucracy ever acted that way? Whatever the purpose here, and I assume without further evidence than the questions asked and their form that it was nominally to catch children who were being abused at home but had fallen through the social-welfare cracks, the government has a near-absolute right to control what your children do, see, learn and are exposed to when the government is acting in loco parentis; that is, while your children are at school.

Now there are things you can do about this if you are upset: you can go to school board meetings and raise a stink, you can run for school board, you can withdraw your children and educate them privately or at home, or you can throw a tantrum. But you won't get anywhere filing lawsuits, because the government controls your children when they are in public schools.

UPDATE: Bat one was certainly unhappy with the ruling. I guess I get to be the "sort of idiot will try to rationalize this latest bit of leftwing lunacy". Heh.

UPDATE: Daryl Cobranchi makes the point that if you take the king's gold, you play by the king's rules. (via Dare to Know)

Posted by jeff at 12:48 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Acting White

Apropos Brian's recent post, there is a serious problem in the black community in this nation. The first problem, of course, is that many blacks see themselves as a separate community in the first place, rather than part of mainstream life. But arising from that are all kinds of subsidiary problems, one of which is the set of differentiators the mandarins of black separatism have used to enhance the feeling of distinctness. For example, many blacks have internalized the idea that achievement is "acting white" and ipso facto bad.

Not only does this tend to make racial demagoguery (a favorite passtime of such luminaries as Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Cornel West and Al Sharpton) easier, it has the pernicious effect of ensuring the future poverty of those blacks who fall into the trap of believing it. You see, "acting white" encompasses such skills as reading for understanding, writing for clarity and succinctness, clear verbal communications, and any kind of skills that might lead to attainment in the sciences, mathematics, or other subjects not based on emotion. This means that by the time these unfortunate kids graduate — assuming that they do — they already have two strikes against them. Not because of institutionalized racism, as the demagogues suggest, but because of their own cultural aversion to success, as Bill Cosby frequently notes.

This also leads to the "beaten monkey" problem, which was described in an interesting scientific experiment some years ago. A banana was suspended above a mound, and monkeys were put into the room with the mound and banana. Any monkey getting to the top of the mound would get an electric shock. Within a very short period of time, any monkey attempting to get onto the mound would get pulled down and beaten by his fellows. Even after the shocks were turned off, this behavior continued, and new monkeys introduced to the room learned the behavior from their fellows, to the point that even after all the original monkeys had been removed from the room, and none of the monkeys in the room had ever been shocked, attempting to climb the mound would result in a savage beating. The "acting white" stigma in the black community has a similar self-sustaining quality to it, and leads easily to the tearing down of any black who succeeds on their merits, rather than being given a handout.

I don't know how this can be overcome, but our options as a society are to overcome it, or to confine about an eighth of our population to the status of permanent underclass.

Posted by jeff at 9:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Strategypage has some excellent observations on al Qaeda's current strategic problem: they have no secure territory from which to fight, and secure territory from which to fight is a requirement of jihad. But what I thought most notable was the conclusion:

In practical terms, al Qaeda is less an organization, and more of popular madness, dedicated to terrorism and mass murder. Al Qaeda is more dependent on mass media, than anything else. Whatever it does, if the message is spun the right way, then the contributions, volunteers and atrocities will keep coming.

The thought of al Qaeda as popular madness is really interesting, and given the loose nature of the terrorists' organizations since the destruction of al Qaeda's Afghan sanctuary, explains a great deal about the increasing lack of ability to conduct mass-casualty attacks in America and Europe.

But of course, as the author notes, as long as the atrocity's can get sufficiently wide play in the media without meaningful criticism, there will not be a definitive end to this war.

Posted by jeff at 9:39 AM | TrackBack

November 2, 2005

Racism and Bigotry in Maryland Politics

Read both pages of this, for some illuminating insights from black Democrats in Maryland regarding race. (Note: None of this is new, but it's still intersting/appalling when it manifests.)

Some of my favorite bits:

Black Democratic leaders in Maryland say that racially tinged attacks against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in his bid for the U.S. Senate are fair because he is a conservative Republican.
Such attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an "Uncle Tom" and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log.


Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat, said Mr. Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black.

followed by,

"That's not racial. If they call him the "N' word, that's racial," Mrs. Marriott said.

and finally,

State Sen. Verna Jones, Baltimore Democrat and vice chairman of the General Assembly's legislative black caucus, said black Republicans deserve criticism because the Republican Party has not promoted the interests of the black community.
"The public policies supported by Democratic principles are the ones that most impact the African-American community," she said. "I'm not saying [Mr. Steele] is a sell-out. That's not for me to say."

I'm not saying many of Maryland's black Democrats are racist bigots - oh wait, yes, I am. That's for me to say.

Posted by Brian at 10:53 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Constitutional Amendments

Going into work today, I heard the Texas Secretary of State talking about the upcoming Constitutional amendment election. Texas has nine amendments going to a vote. Two years ago, a similar ballot had 12 percent turnout. This time they are projecting 16 percent.

Honestly, I couldn't believe my ears. 16 percent for Constitutional amendments?! Surely we can do better than that.

What's driving the "increased" turnout is Proposition Two - defining marriage between a man and a woman. There's others on the ballot, but I'll admit I haven't done enough due diligence myself yet to read all of them.

One thing I give the state of Texas, though, they make it easy to research. The Texas Legislative Council has a PDF file that tries to list the pros and cons of each proposition on the ballot. So, there's really no excuse to not at least try to be educated before Election Day. Once I read up a bit more on the entire list, I'll have to try to post some commentary on them.

Back to my original thought, though. The Secretary of State made a comment that I really liked. Basically, he said that he wanted people to realize that the people in power may come and go, but the changing the State Constitution should matter more to people since it stays with us a lot longer.

It's a sad state that we can only manage 16% of eligible voters for such an event.

Posted by Nemo at 2:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Purpose of the Courts

Dale Franks has a penetrating essay on the purpose of the courts. Here's the best part:

The Supreme Court's job—the whole judiciary's job, in fact—is not to represent anyone. It's to apply the law as written to the facts of the controversies that are argued before them. That's it. There's no "black" meaning to the 3rd Amendment. There's no "feminist" reading of Admiralty law. There's no "hispanic" theory of tortious liability. There's reason, and the law, and that's about it. There is nothing at all about the judiciary that's representative. That's what we elect Senators, representatives, and to some extent, Presidents to do.

This is a microcosm of whole problem with the way the Left views the Courts. They view the Courts as another governing branch, which makes interest in "proper results" and "looking like America" and "making history" important to them. But the Judiciary is not a governing branch. At best, it's a referee for the real governing branches, the executive and the legislative.

Once you've bought into the idea that the Courts are there in some way to govern us, then you've already subscribed to a feeling of equanimity with tyranny. You've already become comfortable with the idea that a coterie of unelected lawyers who serve for life can become a sort of peerage—a legal nobility—who can legitimately direct our lives in any way they wish, whether we, the people, agree or not.

The really funny thing is that such an attitude is what's now known as "progressive" thinking.

Posted by jeff at 10:34 AM | TrackBack

Self-Loathing, Domination, Multiculturalism and Hatred

Theodore Dalrymple, a psychiatrist working in an inner-city area in Britain, looks at the nature of Western-bred Muslim suicide bombers. This is an absolute must-read.

Posted by jeff at 8:47 AM | TrackBack

November 1, 2005

Vaccines and Politics

Apparently a couple of drug companies are close to producing a vaccine that can prevent several strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer. News to celebrate? Apparently not for some social conservatives, who fear teen sex more than they hope for healthy women. Yet another reason I cannot be a Republican.

You know, the first political party that comes up foreign policy Wilsonian/Jacksonian, social libertarian and fiscal conservative has my thorough support, and would, I suspect, have a lot more than just mine.

Back to the vaccine: I have a problem with any vaccines being mandatory, except during the middle of an epidemic. I have a bigger problem with objecting to vaccines being mandatory not because the government should not compel medical care, but because it is somehow associated with sex (tenuously, in this case).

Posted by jeff at 2:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Important News You Probably Haven't Heard

The news media is terrible at reporting trends — in fact any development that extends past a single moment in time. The news media is also terrible at reporting anything that doesn't fit a story template they are already using (none of these templates tend to be favorable to Republicans). In combination, these two mean that many very important stories don't get widely reported, or only get reported in a form that misses the point entirely. So in an attempt to at least partially rectify that, here are three stories you probably haven't heard, but should have.

1. Paris is burning. There have been four nights of riots, in a suburb known as Clichy-sous-Bois [UPDATE: We're up to six nights, and the riots are now spreading], by young Muslims, after two young Muslim men were chased by police and were electrocuted when they vaulted a fence, and landed on a transformer. This is a larger problem than the riots themselves show, because Muslims in Europe are largely unassimilated, and the areas they live in tend to be no-go zones for police because of the violence (particularly the violence aimed at police and rescue workers). Strategy Page has more background. Most interesting, and most frightening, to me is that the long-term threat of a European civil war between Muslim immigrants and native Europeans seems to be growing more likely. With events like the murder of Theo van Gogh and the refusal of European leaders to take an unveiled look at the problems being created by public policy, the pressure relief valves for young Muslims will continue to be crime and radicalism. Not a recipe for civil peace, that.

2. The economy is booming. Growth has been positive since 4Q2001 — some four years now — and all but one of those quarters has exceeded 1% seasonally-adjusted GDP growth. For the last 10 quarters, GDP growth has been above 3% per quarter, seasonally adjusted. (That is to say, for the last 30 months, we have had consistently better than 3% GDP growth per quarter, which is a better economic performance than President Clinton ever presided over.) Meanwhile, interest rates are slowly rising and inflation is maintaining its remarkably low impact, as it has more or less done since the end of the Carter presidency. In other words, we are in the midst of a wonderful economic growth, and a resulting shrinkage in real poverty. But don't expect to hear that in the MSM, particularly as next year's campaigns for Senate and House start to get serious.

3. We are winning in Iraq. To make this point clear, I will posit a very unlikely scenario: the invasion and occupation of the continental United States by a foreign power, to free the vast majority from the oppression of the Catholics among us. (I used the Catholics only because they are not an insignificant part of the population in statistical terms, but are also quite the minority.) By using groups in American society and American geography, I hope to show how much progress we've made in Iraq.

Now imagine that immediately after the Catholic armies were driven from the field, and the government fled or were arrested, Catholic insurgents began to arm, and within a year were in full-scale uprising across the country, with the Catholic strongholds of Boston, New York and New Orleans in particularly violent uprising. Catholic supporters, pouring in from Europe and South America, brought particularly vicious methods of killing will them, as well as money and supplies. For that first year, the occupying troops could find hardly any people willing to enter the newly-created police force or army to face the Catholic terror gangs. Worse, any place not housing occupying troops was effectively under Catholic control, and the occupying troops were being attacked and killed daily in large numbers, while the full force of world press opinion was against the occupying troops.

Now imagine that the next year, the Catholic leadership in the United States had been captured or forced to flee the country, except for a few, that the non-Catholic police and army were being trained in large numbers, and that the occupying forces now effectively controlled everything except Massachusetts, southern Louisiana and the area within, say, 100 miles of New York City. Within those areas, attacks were still coming almost daily, but the country outside of those areas was quiet and beginning to for local and national governments and to talk about long-term self-rule. The Catholics, having failed to drive out the occupiers by attacking them, switched instead to attacking the newly forming police and government, in an attempt to ensure that the US stayed occupied, instead of becoming self-governing and non-Catholic. The international media, or course, continued to portray the occupation as a disaster, and the occupier as the reason why the police and government were being attacked, which of course the Catholics didn't do when they were in charge.

Imagine further that the year after that, a new non-Catholic government had been established, all of the country was pacified except for Manhattan (and even there the occupying forces were clearly in control), a Constitution had been agreed to, and the Catholics, having failed to stop the new government, were now concentrating on attacking civilians — even Catholic civilians — in order to keep things as chaotic as possible so that the Catholics could continue their operations as much as possible. The international media, meanwhile were saying that the occupation had failed utterly.

Now under that scenario, does it look like the occupation forces are winning or losing? They are continually expanding their ability to act, narrowing the Catholic ability to act, and standing up a government behind them so that it is not even necessary for them to act. Any reasonable measure says that the occupation forces are winning, except one: listening to the reports of the foreign media.

Given that this is a fairly good analogue to the situation in Iraq, the reality is that we are not only winning, but winning handily. But not if you listen to the media.

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