May 31, 2004

Imagine

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

Posted by Brian at 03:41 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Wishful Thinking?

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

Death Toll: U.S. Iraq Casualties Setting Records

The actual AP story linked to is here.

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


Posted by Brian at 01:45 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 30, 2004

Who needs to give it that old college try?

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

This is what caught my attention:

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

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

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

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

Posted by Brian at 03:32 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 28, 2004

Hey, I've Got an Idea!

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 03:18 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

China, France, Germany, Russia

Lileks:

I wonder if I’m alone. I love current events and politics,, I’m fascinated to see history roll along before my eyes, and I’m sick to death of it. All of it.

In a word, no.

Posted by Jeff at 12:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Language and Moral Bankruptcy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 12:05 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

May 27, 2004

What is the Philosophy of Government Schools?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 07:00 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Dress #3

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

Posted by Jeff at 05:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Drooling at High Speed

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 04:00 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

Wilfully Stupid

What's the proper term for this?

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 03:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

History Then and Now

In the constant pursuit of materials for homeschooling our children, Steph finds a lot of great resources. For example, here is an American history written in story form in 1917. Here is the author's preface:

DEAR PEGGY,

Four years have come and gone since first you asked me to write a Story of the United States "lest you should grow up knowing nothing of your own country." I think, however, that you are not yet very grown up, not yet too "proud and great" to read my book. But I hope that you know something already of the history of your own country. For, after all, you know, this is only a play book. It is not a book which you need knit your brows over, or in which you will find pages of facts, or politics, and long strings of dates. But it is a book, I hope, which when you lay it down will make you say, "I'm glad that I was born an American. I'm glad that I can salute the stars and stripes as my flag."

Yes, the flag is yours. It is in your keeping and in that of every American boy and girl. It is you who in the next generation must keep it flying still over a people free and brave and true, and never in your lives do aught to dim the shining splendour of its silver stars.

Always your friend,

H. E. MARSHALL

(emphasis added)
And here is Henrietta Marshall's description of King Philip's War:
You remember that the Pilgrim Fathers had made a treaty with the Indians when they first arrived. As long as the old Chief Massasoit lived he kept that treaty. But now he was dead, and his son Philip ruled.

You will wonder, perhaps, why an Indian chief should have a name like Philip. But Philip's real name was Metacomet. He, however, wanted to have an English name, and to please him the English called him Philip. And by that name he is best known.

For a time all went well. But very soon Philip and his tribe grew restless and dissatisfied. When they saw the white men coming in always greater and greater numbers, and building towns and villages further and further into the land, they began to fear them and long to drive them away. And at length all their thoughts turned to war.

Friendly Indians and "praying Indians," as those who had become Christians were called, came now to warn the Pale-faces and tell them that Philip was gathering his braves, and that he had held a war dance lasting for several weeks. In the night, too, people in lonely farms awoke to hear the wild sound of drums and gun shots. But still the English hoped to pacify Philip. So they sent him a friendly letter telling him to send away his braves, for no white man wished him ill.

But Philip returned no answer.

Then one Sunday while the people were at church and the houses were all deserted Indians attacked the little town of Swansea, burning and plundering. The next day and the next they returned, tomahawk and firebrand in hand, and so the war began.

Other tribes joined with King Philip, and soon New England was filled with terror and bloodshed. The men of New England gathered in force to fight the Indians. But they were a hard foe to fight, for they never came out to meet the Pale-faces in open field.

At first when the British began to settle in America they had made it a rule never to sell firearms to the Indians. But that rule had long ago been broken through. Now the Indians not only had guns, but many of them were as good shots as the British. Yet they kept to their old ways of fighting, and, stealthily as wild animals, they skulked behind trees, or lurked in the long grass, seeking their enemies. They knew all the secret forest ways, they were swift of foot, untiring, and mad with the lust of blood. So from one lonely village to another they sped swiftly as the eagle, secretly as the fox. And where they passed they left a trail of blood and ashes.

At night around some lonely homestead all would seem quiet. Far as the eye could see there would be no slightest sign of any Redman, and the tired labourer would go to rest feeling safe, with his wife and children beside him. But ere the first red streaks of dawn shivered across the sky he would be awakened by fiendish yells. Ere he could seize his gun the savages would be upon him. And the sun when it rose would show only blackened, blood-stained ruins where but a few hours before a happy home had been.

Yet with this red terror on every side the people went on quietly with their daily life. On week days they tilled their fields and minded their herds, on Sundays they went, as usual, to church, leaving their homes deserted. But even to church they went armed, and while they knelt in prayer or listened to the words of their pastor their guns were ever within reach of their hands.

One Sunday, while in the village of Hadley the people were all at church, the Indians crept up in their usual stealthy fashion. Suddenly the alarm was given, and, seizing their guns which stood by their sides, the men rushed out of the meeting-house. But they were all in confusion: the attack was sudden, they were none of them soldiers, but merely brave men ready to die for their homes and their dear ones, and they had no leader.

Then suddenly a stranger appeared amongst them. He was dressed in quaint old-fashioned clothes. His hair and beard were long and streaked with grey. He was tall and soldierly, and his eyes shone with the joy of battle.

At once he took command. Sharply his orders rang out. Unquestioningly the villagers obeyed, for he spoke as one used to command. They were no longer an armed crowd, but a company of soldiers, and, fired by the courage and skill of their leader, they soon put the Indians to flight.

When the fight was over the men turned to thank their deliverer. But he was nowhere to be found. He had vanished as quickly and mysteriously as he had come.

"What did it mean?" they asked. "Who was the strange leader? Had God in His mercy sent an angel from heaven to their rescue ?"

No one could answer their questions, and many decided that indeed a miracle had happened, and that God had sent an angel to deliver them.

This strange leader was no other than the regicide, Colonel Goffe, who, as we know, had for many years lived hidden in the minister's house. From his attic window he had seen the Indians creeping stealthily upon the village. And when he saw the people standing leaderless and bewildered, he had been seized with his old fighting spirit, and had rushed forth to lead them. Then, the danger being over, he had slipped quietly back to his hiding-place. There he remained hidden from all the world as before, until he died and was buried beside his friend.

Autumn passed and winter came, and the Indians gathered to their forts, for the bare forests gave too little protection to them in their kind of warfare. When spring came they promised themselves to come forth again and make an end of the Pale-faces. But the Pale-faces did not wait for spring.

The Indians had gathered to the number of over three thousand into a strong fortress. It was surrounded by a marsh and the only entrance was over a bridge made by a fallen tree.

This fortress the New Englanders decided to attack and take. So, a thousand strong, they set out one morning before dawn and, after hours of weary marching through the snow, they reached the fort. Across the narrow bridge they rushed, and although many of their leaders fell dead, the men came on, nothing daunted. A fierce fight followed, for each side knew that they must win or die. Shut in on all sides by impassable swamps there was no escape. But not till dark was falling did the white men gain the victory. The ground was strewn with dead and dying, and in the gathering darkness the remaining Indians stole quietly away, and vanished like shadows. Then the New Englanders set fire to the wigwams, and, taking their wounded, marched back to their headquarters.

This was a sad blow to the Indians, but it did not by any means end the war which, as spring came on, broke out again in full fury. But gradually the white men got the upper hand. Instead of attacking, the Redmen fled before them. They lost heart and began to blame King Philip for having led them into war, and at length he was slain by one of his own followers.

Soon after this the war came to an end. But whole tracts of New England were a desert, a thousand of the bravest and best of the young men were killed. Many women and children, too, had been slain, and there was hardly a fireside in the whole of Massachusetts where there was not a vacant place. Numbers of people were utterly ruined and the colonies were burdened with a great debt.

As to the Indians their power was utterly broken, and their tribes were almost wiped out. Except the Mohegans, who had remained friendly throughout the war, there were few Indians left in south New England, where there was never again a war between white men and Indians.

My how things have changed. Here's a description of King Philip's War from a more modern source:
KING PHILIP’S WAR : THE CAUSES

Colonists’ hunger for land, as well as the heavy-handed treatment of the Wampanoag and other Native People by government officials, led to one of the most disastrous wars in America’s history.

Governor William Bradford died in 1657; Massasoit, the principal leader among the Wampanoag, died in 1660 and was succeeded by his son Wamsutta, called Alexander by the colonists. With the passing of the first generation, which had forged an uneasy alliance, the personal bonds which had helped to create a working peace ended.

The two cultures’ different ways of life and concepts of land use had caused tension for many ears. A continuing problem was the trampling of Native cornfields by colonists’ livestock. While colonists were legally responsible for damage, such laws were difficult to enforce in remote areas such as Rehoboth and Taunton. Increased competition for resources (particularly land for planting, hunting and fishing) caused friction between the two groups. Changes in the regional economy, such as collapse in the fur trade, led many Native People to support themselves by selling their land. With other governments (Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut) all competing to establish their territories, Plymouth wanted exclusive rights to purchase land from the Wampanoags.

KING PHILIP’S WAR : THE WAR

In 1662, in an arrogant attempt to exert control, the Plymouth Court summoned Wampanoag leader Wamsutta to Plymouth. Major Josiah Winslow and a small force took Wamsutta at gunpoint. Soon after questioning, Wamsutta sickened and died. His death greatly angered the Wampanoag.

Wamsutta's brother Metacom (also called Philip) succeeded him. Plymouth’s continued unyielding policy toward Native leaders, as well as the events surrounding the murder of Sassamon, a liaison between the two groups, caused the breakdown in relations that led to war.

In 1675, hostilities broke out in the town of Swansea, and the war spread as far north as New Hampshire, and as far southwest as Connecticut. Not all Native People, however, sided with Philip. Most Natives who had converted to Christianity fought with the English or remained neutral. The English, however, did not always trust these converts and interned many of them in camps on outlying islands. Also, some Native communities on Cape Cod and the Islands did not participate in the war. Native soldiers fighting on the side of the colonists helped turn the tide of the war, which ended in 1676 when Philip was killed by a Wampanoag fighting with Captain Benjamin Church.

KING PHILIP’S WAR : THE EFFECTS

King Philip’s War was one of the bloodiest and most costly in the history of America. One in ten soldiers on both sides was injured or killed. It took many years for Plymouth and the other colonies to recover from damage to property

The outcome of King Philip’s War was devastating to the traditional way of life for Native People in New England. Hundreds of Natives who fought with Philip were sold into slavery abroad. Others, especially women and children, were forced to become servants locally. As the traditional base of existence changed due to the Colonists’ victory, the Wampanoag and other local Native communities had to adapt certain aspects of their culture in order to survive.


Both accounts are biased. In general, though, the first is far more dispassionate, while the second strikes me as strident and accusatory. The beauty of this, though, is that we can let the kids see both accounts (and other, more dispassionate accounts) and form their own opinion.

Posted by Jeff at 01:50 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Ability to Speak Well = Ability to Teach Well

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

Posted by Jeff at 11:32 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Nude Zero-Gravity Futureball

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

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

(Link via Winds of Change)

Posted by Jeff at 09:36 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 26, 2004

One Thing Missing

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

The media as a whole serves several discrete functions:

  • information gathering
  • information filtering
  • analysis
  • opinion molding
  • opinion modeling
  • entertainment

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

Information Gathering and Information Filtering

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

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

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

Analysis, Opinion Molding and Opinion Modeling

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

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

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

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

Entertainment

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

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

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

  • There needs to be some equivalent of the wire service, which feeds raw information into the blogosphere for digestion. Due to the bias in news gathering, filtering and presentation, the existing wire services are inadequate to the task.
  • There needs to be blogging software which includes information management as well as content management, or an easy way to link content management and information management software together, in order to uncover unsuspected links when filtering information.
  • There needs to be some extension of blogs into short video presentations and photographic presentation.

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

Posted by Jeff at 09:02 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Lighten Up, Already

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

Posted by Jeff at 04:01 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Strength

Bill Whittle has a new essay, Strength, in two parts: 1 2. It examines the underlying nature of the Terror Wars, including our domestic enemies, and our fundamental strength: the idea of America. Read it all. Here is a small bit on our foreign enemies:

We are a co-operative society. Compromise, agreements and webs of trust run through our culture in mind-blowing levels of complexity. The most virulent Islamist Arabs, on the other hand, live by completely different rules and values, and time and again we who should know better by now refuse to try to see things through Arab eyes because the view is frankly so jaundiced and horrible we really can’t believe what we are seeing.

Honor and shame trump everything in that world. A pithy sentence, eh? So instead, think about what it would take for you to kill your own daughter with a knife, with your bare hands, because she was seen in the company of a man not her husband or a relative? Think about that. Think long and hard. What kind of hatred and shame could drive a human being to do such a thing? What kind of pressures does that society bring to bear on an individual to make him capable of that? How different is their view of women, of family, of honor and shame? What would it take for you to murder your daughter with a knife, or a knotted cord – with your own two hands and against her pleading, her protestations, and her begging for her life? If your response wasn’t “there is nothing that could make me do that,” then stop reading right here and get the hell off my property.

Multi-culturalists will respond that Honor Killings are not the norm and not representative of Islam and life under Shariah. We can debate the exact numbers of these horrors for days, but the fact remains that no matter how many individual cases there are, there is de facto legal protection for committing these crimes. When Islamic schoolgirls attempting to escape a burning building with their faces uncovered were sent back inside to die by the religious police rather than dishonor Islam …well, that is a brush that will carry a lot of tar.

There is a simple enough reason why these Islamists so hate and despise the West, and America especially. It has little to do with our foreign policy. We have taken the side of oppressed Muslims in Kosovo, Chechnya, Kuwait and many other places. We spend billions of dollars a year in aid to Egypt. We’re still waiting for the love to pour in.

No, this is not about reason, as we understand the term. This is about shame, it is about denial, and it is about transcendent revenge. Shouts of Allahu Akbar! were not overdubbed by western propaganda agencies as they sawed through Nick Berg’s throat and twisted off his head. Those are authentic. As they got down to their filthy work they were screaming, over and over in a fit of religious ecstasy: God is Great! Nick Berg was nothing more than an animal sacrifice to them. That is Radical Islam.

The only thing that will appease them is your blood. All of it. Remember that.


And here is a small bit on our domestic enemies:
Senator Kennedy claims Abu Ghraib is simply Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers “under new management – U.S. management.” Taking him at his word – a somewhat iffy proposition right out of the gate – he apparently cannot see the difference between the humiliation and bullying of enemy combatants, which is shameful, disgusting and reprehensible, and the gleeful, mocking murder, torture and gang rape of over 300,000 innocent men, women and children -- which is something worse. So Senator, here is a helpful analogy which you may find useful: The difference is about the same as pulling over and leaving a young female secretary on the curb in the rain, which is shameful, disgusting and reprehensible, vs. leaving her trapped in the car at the bottom of a river while you look at the bubbles and ponder the political repercussions.

Which is something worse, Senator.

Americans living today have never known torture or oppression or state-sponsored murder, and so it becomes nothing more than a rhetorical concept for most of us. People who defend Saddam and Kim and Castro have no idea at all about what that life entails. None. And so, in their safe and antiseptic little worlds of coffee shops and chat rooms, it all reduces to rhetoric. And since, in the end, it’s nothing but words anyway, they feel they can win an argument because their rhetoric goes up to eleven.

Bushitler.

In extreme cases – sadly rising in frequency -- these people not only hate America. They hate everything. They see nothing in American history beyond slavery and the Indian Wars. They often claim to live, or would prefer to live, in more refined, decent and civilized nations, like Canada and Britain and New Zealand: as if white, English-speaking Canadians grew out of the ground like corn on an empty, Indian- and Eskimo-free horizon, or the thousand years of English conquest over India, China, Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Wales was in a parallel universe, or that the warlike Maoris invaded and took over the North and South Islands from the peaceful, indigenous white settlers. As if France were not the most blood-soaked patch of land on the surface of the earth, as if Russia’s leaders never so much raised a hand against its own suffering people, as if Scandinavia was not the epicenter of centuries of rape, pillage, murder and misery, as if the Aztecs said gracias in Castilian Spanish as they cut the living hearts out of their prisoners. As if the Spanish themselves had never known the Inquisition, Italy no Papal Wars or Duces or Ethiopias, as if Belgium had no Leopold and Leopold no Congo, as if Germany…well.

As if African slaves were only held by whites and Christians, as if Japan has practiced nothing but calligraphy and origami for a millennia, as if South America was a spotless white linen of freedom of expression and individual rights, as if China was a champion of democracy and the common man, as if Indians never spat on anyone, as if, as if…as if the entire bloody history of conquest and war and displacement were the unique domain of America alone, or, equally absurd, that we deserve to die for not being born perfect and without sin – as they, in their own self-obsessed, one-person Universes expect everyone else to be.

And so they trot out every single example of human atrocity as if they were Atticus Finch sweating under the heat in that courtroom in their mind; these snipers and critics and ‘activists’ who have no plans of their own, no solutions, no answers to these dirty and difficult and eternal issues, and so sit in the warm cocoon of perfection afforded the man who attempts nothing. And while better men and women – better men and women by every measure – struggle and fight and bleed to make the world a better and safer place, they grow more and more disconnected from the essential ugliness and brutality that is half – and only half – of this flawed and broken and hopeful and noble human existence.

And because we are all born with this legion of devils inside every heart, more than anything else in the world they hate themselves. Carrying all the guilt of the world on their stooped and broken spirits, their eyes cast so far down that they can see nothing of nobility or progress or redemption of any kind, these people are broken. They are miserable, bitter, cynical husks. And we all know what misery craves.

See them for what they are: nothing more than the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons: Worst. Country. Ever.

They are useless people. They have heeded the last and final boarding call and pushed back from the gate of reality. They have left the building.


Posted by Jeff at 12:33 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 25, 2004

One Day?

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 12:29 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 21, 2004

The Obsession With Abu Ghraib

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

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

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

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

Posted by Brian at 01:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

California Cheating

All the B's are wrong (all the B's are wrong)
The answer is A (the answer is A)
I've been giving hints (I've been giving hints)
On the test today (on the test today)

My job is safe and warm (job is safe and warm)
Teaching here in LA (teaching here in LA)
California Cheatin' (California cheatin')
On the big test today


May I direct your attention to the 'real world' of public education?


May 21, 2004

THE NATION

One Poor Test Result: Cheating Teachers


By Erika Hayasaki, Times Staff Writer


One cheater whispered answers in students' ears as they took the exam. Another photocopied test booklets so students would know vocabulary words in advance. Another erased score sheets marked with the wrong answers and substituted correct ones.

None of these violations involving California's standardized tests were committed by devious students: These sneaky offenders were teachers.

Since a statewide testing program began five years ago, more than 200 California teachers have been investigated for allegedly helping students on state exams, and at least 75 of those cases have been proved, according to documents obtained by The Times.


The story continues:


Some educators say teacher cheating comes as no surprise, given increased anxiety surrounding state tests and the federal use of them under the No Child Left Behind law.


Pardon my language, but BULLSHIT! Excuse-Making 101


"Some people feel that they need to boost test scores by hook or by crook," said Larry Ward of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a watchdog group that has criticized many standardized tests.


How about boosting test scores by doing a better job of teaching? Or is that just too much to ask?


In the Los Angeles Unified School District, testing official Esther Wong said her office investigated three to four potential teacher cheating cases a year. Most cases were cleared after inquiries showed that "there were just as many erasures from wrong to right as right to wrong."


Oh, well that makes it ok then.


Beverly Tucker, California Teachers Assn. chief counsel for 16 years, said the number of teachers her office defended against allegations of cheating had risen. She could recall one or two cases stemming from the decade before the current testing began. Since 1999, she estimated, the union has defended more than 100.

"It's serious," Tucker said. "And I can understand there might be cases where dismissal is warranted because of a blatant violation….


The examples cited are of teachers giving answers, changing answers themselves, giving hints to answers, telling students how many answers they have wrong, telling students to go back and change some answers, etc. All of those are blatant violations, and every teacher involved in such behavior should be fired.


California Teachers Assn. President Barbara Kerr said that the union didn't excuse cheating but that she felt bad for teachers who broke rules under what she described as "horrendous" pressure.


Read: 'California Teachers Assn. President Barbara Kerr said that the union didn't excuse cheating but here's our excuse.'

"We have gone to such extremes — where your whole life and existence is measured by one test — that the pressure is on the kids, the pressure is on the teachers..."


Again, bullshit! Nobody's whole life and existence is measured by one test. But if it were, would those that fail become public school teachers? Students and teachers should feel some pressure. Students should feel the pressure of being challenged. Teachers should always feel pressure to do a good job.


State education officials contend that the numbers of proven cases are small in a state with more than 200,000 teachers.

But a study in Chicago schools suggested that teacher cheating might occur in 4% to 5% of classrooms. Harvard professor Brian Jacob and University of Chicago professor Steven Levitt made that estimate last year after analyzing more than 700,000 students' records.


For every proven case, there are most certainly far more that are unknown. Five percent of California's teachers would be more than 10,000!


California officials concede that they are not doing much to curb cheating.


Speaks for itself


In 2001, the state flagged test results for five Bakersfield classrooms with a lot of erasures. District officials concluded that three teachers had coached students to change answers.

Marvin Jones, director of research and evaluation for the district, said the teachers' explanations included not understanding the rules, "everybody does it" and "I was trying to help the students do what I knew the students can do."

The teachers were not fired — partly because "we have unions to deal with," he said.


I feel a Rumsfeldian "GRRRRRRRR!!!!!!" coming on.

Posted by Brian at 01:12 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 20, 2004

April 9 in Baghdad

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:26 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Public Intelligence

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:59 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

City and Country

Michael Totten sums up my recently-discovered opinion almost perfectly:

The way I see it, the suburbs combine the worst of the city with the worst of the countryside. In the suburbs you’re stranded as if you were way out in the sticks, but you also get traffic. You have no choice but to get in a car to go anywhere, just as if you lived in the middle of nowhere. But you get none of the peace, quiet, and expansiveness of the woods, or prairie, or desert, depending on where you live.

I've lived in the suburbs pretty much all of my life, until this past January. Since then, I've been in downtown Chicago. You can get anywhere in downtown Chicago without getting in a car. And it's faster to get places. And there are so many places to get to: world class museums and an aquarium, the boat rides, the lake shore walk, the Miracle Mile shopping, art galleries, parks, Wrigley field, etc.

On the other hand, when you're downtown, you don't have a yard to go to, and sometimes getting to, say, a Target can be an experience, since they don't tend to be built downtown. There's also a cost implication to being downtown; everything is generally more expensive than in the suburbs or the country.

The advantage of the country is the peace and quiet, and the ability to know your neighbors (even the ones who live a few miles away) pretty well. (The city is anonymous, and the suburbs nearly so.)

The advantage of the suburbs over the country is that it's easy to buy mass-market goods cheaply. The advantage of the suburbs over the city is that you can let the kids run around in the (small) yard without having to take the whole family out to the park.

All in all, I think the country within an hour's drive of a mid- to large-sized city is ideal, followed by an active downtown like Chicago (and unlike, say, Dallas, which is pretty much just corporate), followed by the suburbs.

Posted by Jeff at 10:36 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

May 19, 2004

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 08:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Sign Me Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted by Jeff at 02:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

That Saves Some Time

I don't have to write about actual sarin (nerve) gas found in an actual shell made into an actual IED actually used against actual US troops in Iraq, and the chirping of the media crickets who spent months telling us that no such thing exists, because James Lileks has taken care of that quite succinctly already:

So they found a sarin shell? Eh. Halliburton put it there, it was old, and besides everyone knew Saddam had WMD, and we gave him the sarin anyway, and it would be news if we found 400 shells, but if they were old undeclared shells they wouldn’t count because they weren’t a threat to us anyway – do you know that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi? Why aren’t we invading them? Not that we should, that would TOTALLY be about oil, anyway , did you read Doonesbury today? He had this giant hand talking in a press conference. This big giant floating hand. I think it was a reprint. I like when he has that bald dude who’s in charge of some Iraqi city. Bald dude is like, wasted.

The rest of the Bleat is - like almost all Lileks' writing - also worth reading.

Posted by Jeff at 10:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Kasparov on the War

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 09:52 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Incredible Performance

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

Posted by Jeff at 08:19 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Lot o' Links

Instapundit has some good stuff right now:

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 07:59 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

Spam Comment Killing

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:42 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Random Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Brian at 08:46 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

America and the Olympics

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Brian at 08:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Not That I'm Bitter...

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

Posted by Jeff at 07:54 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Lie Down with Dogs, and You Wake up with Fleas

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

Posted by Jeff at 07:48 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Hardly Appropriate

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:08 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

More MT Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 06:50 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Mantra

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 03:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Oh Those Cubs

Sometimes the jokes write themselves.

Posted by Brian at 03:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

An Introduction (Drum Roll Please...)

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

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

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

Posted by Brian at 03:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 15, 2004

Always Hopeful, yet Discontent

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

May 14, 2004

Now With Random Quotey Goodness

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:43 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

The Unreported Story of Abu Ghraib

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

Posted by Jeff at 08:14 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Being in the Minority

Some things don't tend to go together:

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 07:46 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

The Place is a Madhouse; Feels Like Being Cloned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 07:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

New Version of MovableType

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

  • Price - At $100 for 5 weblogs/3 authors - and we'll want the 6/8 option eventually because of our large family, at $150 - this is getting to be expensive software. (Yes, there's a free version - but it's far too limited on users/blogs for my family's needs.) On top of that, this is a price that doesn't include major-version upgrades (not too surprising). With the introductory price and the credit for previously-purchased keys, we would end up paying about $25 for the lowest-end personal license (with the two older kids having a shared account for their blog), or $75 for the license we'd really need. Frankly, I'm not sure that's worth it to us, when in extremis we could just use 2.661 from here on out - it serves.
  • TypeKey - Why do I have to register for TypeKey to even download the product to try it out? I'm not sure I want to do that and I am sure that I don't have time to investigate it in the near future.
  • LDAP - There is still no LDAP database support, which would if implemented be enough of an incentive to get me to upgrade regardless of other issues.
  • Comment Spam Features - I cannot see any effort having been put into the product to fight comment spam. I don't want to implement user registration (which I seem to recall seeing on the feature list) because some people want to be anonymous, and that kind of thing is a headache. It would be nice to be able to, say, delete and comment and block it's IP at the same time, though, or to integrate shared IP blocking among participating blogs.
  • Comments and Trackbacks - I see no indication that there are improved features to view comments or trackbacks (similar to, say, the edit entries function). This is a major pain right now for comments or trackbacks that are not among the last 5 entered.
  • Blogrolling - Blogrolling - particularly detection of recently-updated blogs - should be integrated into the product. It doesn't appear to be, so I'm still stuck editing the template by hand instead.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 04:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 13, 2004

Amazed, Really

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 11:49 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

The Moral Judgement of the Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 11:32 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

"War is Cruelty and you Cannot Refine It"

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 12:16 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 12, 2004

"Where do we Get Such Men?"

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

Posted by Jeff at 11:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

How Jingoistic Are You?

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

Posted by Jeff at 11:15 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Things I'm Tired Of

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

  • Americans being beheaded by Muslims - whether or not it's filmed
  • Israeli women and their children being murdered by Muslims, with special attention to putting a bullet in her belly if she's pregnant
  • bombs on trains, at night clubs, in pizza parlors, on buses, at police stations and so on
  • Muslims celebrating the above acts
  • the claims of the monsters carrying out the above infamies that they are "in retaliation" for anything - let's just stop fooling ourselves and admit that they are barbarians who don't need a particular event to "avenge"
  • assertions of moral equivalence between humiliating prisoners and the acts mentioned above (which understates barbarism)
  • assertions of moral equivalence between humiliating prisoners and torturing them (which understates torture)
  • the tendency of the Western media to overplay both of those assertions, and thus to underplay barbarism and torture
  • the tendency of the Western media to ignore heroism and good deeds on the part of American and allied soldiers
  • Western guilt over minor crimes trumping in public perception the major crimes of the enemy
  • the war dragging on without a major advance or attack
  • politicians thinking that this whole war means nothing beyond its effect on domestic opinion polls

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:50 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 09, 2004

The Sarcasm Comes Early (I Hope)

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:17 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 08, 2004

Oh, Canada!

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

Posted by Jeff at 09:47 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 05, 2004

Morality and Law

Donald Sensing finds a particular attitude about abortion to be "[c]hilling". The attitude in question is pointed up in this article. While there is more to the article than just the excerpt Rev. Sensing uses, I will use the same one, as it points up the thesis of the article:

"I think abortion is killing a life. [But] the person who is pregnant should decide whether to do it or not." ...

Ms. Flores’s attitude is deeply troubling, especially when you realize how widespread it is. Over and over again, people at the march made similar comments—the kind of comments that make your hair stand on end. The political debate is changing among activists on the ground. They’re now willing to admit that abortion is killing. But they’re arguing that their right to do what they want, without restraint, justifies that killing.

What we are seeing, of course, is the logical consequences of the desire for personal autonomy in an era of moral relativism. People can say with a perfectly straight face and without a twinge of conscience, "Yeah, it is wrong. It is murder. But nobody is going to tell me I can’t do it."


Actually, the protester did not claim that abortion is "murder"; that claim is by Mr. Colson. Instead, she claimed abortion is "killing a life". There are more ways of killing than just murder, as a legal matter. Murder is specifically an intentional, unlawful killing (ok, it's more technical than that, but that's the gist of the definition).

Since I happen to share the belief that abortion is morally wrong, but should not be illegal (generally), I'm willing to defend it. But first, a note about law. The law is not a moral instrument; it's purpose is not to compel ethically- or morally-upright behavior. Instead, it is the purpose of law to prevent anarchy and its inevitable conversion to tyranny, by providing a mechanism of settling disputes and enforcing contracts which does not require the private use of force. Since the law imposes behavioral constraints by force (the force of arms wielded by the government), it is wise to limit criminal law's reach to only those areas where there is a tangible victim, a tangible harm, and a tangible perpetrator; and civil law's reach to only those areas where there is a tangible plaintiff, a tangible defendant, and a material or contractual cause of action.

Abortion, in certain circumstances, fails the first test. That is, if the abortion occurs before the foetus is able to live outside the mother's body1, who is the victim? The child, who is killed, or the mother, who is compelled by force to carry a child she doesn't want, and to risk her own life in delivering the child? Since it's not clear who the victim is, it would be unwise to make abortion an issue of criminal law. Once the child can survive outside the mother, the situation changes, because the risks to the mother from c-section delivery (the riskier method) of the child and from the putative abortion are similar enough that there is now a clear imbalance of harms and thus a clear victim, the unborn child. If the government is allowed to criminalize any behavior it finds morally reprehensible, it could criminalize something as personal as private prayer at school. Hmmm...maybe this concern is moot.

Abortion also fails the second test, that of civil law, if the government attempts to use civil law to abolish abortion. Who would sue? Who would be the plaintiff? The government should not sue on behalf of putative victims, because the government should be neutral in civil matters. If the child's father were to sue, or if someone else could show cause to sue, that would be fine by me, but I don't want the government intruding here, lest it then decide to sue me because I called someone an epithet. (Of course, it should be noted that our tendency to invite the government into all aspects of our life has borne such fruit that we can now be taken to court by the government for complimenting someone when they didn't want the compliment, so this may be moot.)

Anyway, ignoring the fact that we've already given too much latitude to the government to abuse us via the mechanism of criminal and civil law, there is a clear legal difference between abortion (under some circumstances) and murder. There is no moral difference.

As a result, I could not stand by and let my wife have an abortion (should she be so inclined), but I do not feel that I have a sufficiently compelling interest (nor that any body of people do) to compel a woman by threat of imprisonment and impoverishment to not abort her baby. Abortion is immoral, but should not be illegal.

1The rule I would tend to use for "the foetus is able to live outside the mother's body" is the gestational age where 50% of babies would live, assisted by current medical knowledge and capability, which has been steadily getting earlier as time goes by, but in any case is a quantity resistant to falsification or political manipulation. There are other reasonable measures, though.

Posted by Jeff at 10:00 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Cause and Effect

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 12:33 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Naming the Enemy

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

Posted by Jeff at 11:38 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Allies, Friends, Opponents and Enemies

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:51 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

Comment Spam

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 02:55 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

Slogging On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jeff at 10:18 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)