30 April 2004

Posted by aog at 09:08 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

But, how could he do that to us?

Random Jottings is excised about the perfidity of Western media with regard to the war against the Caliphascists:

because we are willing to fight at last, we are avoiding a probable war in the future, where millions die…The press and the Democrats are trying to create that war, by undercutting our efforts now.

I’m not sure I agree with that. I’ve mentioned earlier that I’ve come to believe that it’s far more a matter of parochial ignorance than maleficence. The members of the press corps who are being so counter-productive are simply unable to concieve of a world suffering from a true catastrophe such as nuclear warfare against Islam. In fact, I suspect that deep down they believe that if only we could get President Bush and his Republican theocracy out of power, then everything would be OK. I believe that the press corps, by and large, has drunk the Kool-Aid on the “Bush is the greatest danger to peace in the world”. In that belief system, their distortions are actually in the service of peace and prosperity.

It reminded me one of my favorite South Park episodes, the one where Jesus and Satan fight. The tagline is that everyone in town bets on Satan except for one (unknown) person. Satan then throws the fight. The audience is shocked! Satan asks “who do you think bet on Jesus?”. The crowd is silent. Frustrated, Satan says “You fools! I did! Now I get all your money!”. The audience walks out, complaining about what a jerk Satan is - how could he do such a thing? Think of the Western press as that audience, ignorant and uncomprehending even after they’ve been blatantly screwed over. In some ways, that’s actually more frightening than overt maliciousness.

29 April 2004

Posted by aog at 12:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's best to test before shipping the product

In reading more articles which relate to my previous post and the situation in Fallujah, a common report is that the Marines will pull back in order to have an Iraqi force start engaging in security operations. This is actually a good sign. If things do not get to the state where local forces can handle the security situation, there really is no hope. I consider it better to find out whether we’re there yet while the Iraqis can be backed up by the Coalition better than wondering about it till the hand off. Moreover, the earlier we detect problems the more time there is fix them. We have to do this sometime - why not now?

Posted by aog at 12:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

We still haven't ceased fire

Spoons is dispirited again over our policy in Fallujah. I must admit that the article from Fox News that he cites is unsettling. Spoons quotes

Easing the prospect of an assault on Fallujah, a tentative agreement has been reached under which the United States would end its siege of Fallujah and withdraw Marines from around the city over several days, Los Angeles Times reporter Tony Perry told a cable news network on Thursday.

However, I can’t find that in the cited article at all. Instead, I read this:

a senior military source told Fox News that the Marines were packing up their gear in the southern industrial zone of the city as part of a simple repositioning of troops - not a pullout from the city.

In addition, we have articles like this:

Explosions and gunfire were heard in Fallujah on Thursday in new skirmishes despite an agreement to lift the Marine siege of the city. Warplanes circled over the city.

Perhaps we can depend on the insurgents to always do something stupid enough to save us from ourselves. That said, it seems that it would be very wrong to back off now since it appears that things are beginning to turn on the insurgents.

28 April 2004

Posted by aog at 10:11 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Correlation vs. causation

I have to say, the reports on the state of electoral play in Ohio here and here mystify me. The claim is that a Republican presidential candidate has never won the national election without also winning the Ohio election. The strange part is the conclusion that therefore, it’s critical to win in Ohio for both sides.

It’s a classic mistaking correlation for causation. Do these people really think that in some mystical way, winning Ohio will cause a ripple effect across the nation, affecting the votes in other states (some of which may have closed their polls before Ohio has finished voting)? Or is it possibly that there is some other, larger cause that affects Ohio in particular and that just changing the result in Ohio won’t determine the overall race? No, that’s silly - it must be that Ohio is a mystical place that controls the rest of the country.

Clearly Ohio is an important state with lots of electoral votes, so it’s not irrelevant. But I just don’t see how it can be more important than its electoral votes. If there’s a problem on the Republican side which might cost them Ohio and other states, wouldn’t it be better to work on that problem rather than tactical maneuvering in Ohio?

Posted by aog at 10:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Time for some remote control firepower

Via BBB, we have this interesting tidbit in which Metal Storm announces plans to put some of its hardware on an unmanned helicopter, the Dragonfly DP-4X. Metal Storm is the company with a 36 barrel proto-type that has achieved fire rates for 180 rounds in excess of one million rounds per minute. A 40mm test device (which is the same size as would be put in the UAV) has achieved a single barrel rate of fire of over 20,000 rounds per minute. A UAV packing one of these could lay down some serious smackie.

I suspect that another advantage of this technology is that it’s completely electronic. No moving parts are required to fire the weapon. Moreover, the firing rate is completely controllable - every single round can be fired on command so the operator has complete control. It’s definitely cool.

Posted by aog at 08:14 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Fighting the zero-sum view

One of the unique things about American culture is that it is, by and large, not locked in the zero-sum mentality. We don’t see our success as requiring the failure of others, or vice versa. That’s a big part of why there’s not much class envy in the USA. Non-zero-sum means not only that we can create wealth without having to take it from our “betters” but the fact that others have more doesn’t mean we can’t get more as well.

On the other hand, most of the rest of the world seems stuck in the zero-sum view where the only way the USA can get rich is by stealing the money from other nations. Given this viewpoint, it easily follows that the only plausible reason for invading Iraq is mercantilism of some sort, either via looting or colonization (or both). My impression is that this view is fairly common in Europe, which is a partial explanation of why Americans and Europeans can talk right past one another on this issue. To one the idea of mercantalism is obvious while it doesn’t even enter the mind of the other.

With regard to Iraq, this attitude means that America doesn’t see a successful Iraq as a loss for the USA. In fact, I have little doubt that the large majority of Americans view a self-ordered, prosperous Iraq as a win for America. We would be happy to see such an Iraq emerge from the horror of the Ba’ath and the invasion. This is why the concept of the USA colonizing Iraq is so ridiculous. The mercantilist view that our riches require impovershing other countries has no traction on the American Street. Because of this, it would political suicide to promote such colonization because the citizenry is far more likely to view it as a revenue drain than as a revenue source. There isn’t anything there we couldn’t get cheaper and easier by buying it rather than occupying it.

I wonder if it’s also because of the lower esteem of government here. Mercantalism, if Americans thought about it, would be seen as good for government revenues, but Americans much prefer things that are good for their own, personal revenue. A lot more Americans could envision themselves benefitting from a prosperous Iraq than from a colonized one.

If only the rest of the world could realize this.

27 April 2004

Posted by aog at 12:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Complain locally, blame globally

Over at Tacitus is a discussion about the USA’s lack of resolve in dealing with the insurgents in Iraq. Commentor JKC says

going into Najaf to get al-Sadr will be seen by most of the Shia the same way invading the Vatican to take out a renegade cardinal would be seen by the world’s Catholics

to which spc67 says

If there was a Cardinal in the Vatican calling for suicide bombers, it wouldn’t be necessary for troops to go get him. The Catholic population would demand his ouster.

That seems a little too sanguine for me. We all remember how the world and the Vatican blamed the Palestinian terrorists who took over the Church of the Nativity, right? What? It turned into a blame fest of everyone except the actual terrorists? Seems like another parallel in world views.

Posted by aog at 11:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's just a negotiating ploy

Porphyrogenitus notes that the EU-lite doesn’t seem to take open calls for Jihad in Europe seriously. I think this is in tune with my thoughts about how the Left (or Tranzis) view the world. It’s a common theme that the EU-lite believe that any dispute can be handled via negotiation and compromise. Part of the world view that allows such delusion is that inability to see how things could be different than they are. The EU-lite doesn’t react seriously even to open threats of the destruction of their societies because they can’t, deep down, believe that such threats are real. Instead such things are viewed a hyperbolic negotiating ploys.

As I’ve stated before, I don’t expect the Caliphascists to win in Europe. At some point the EU-lite will grasp the fact that the Caliphascists are a real threat to the EU-lites power and can’t be assimilated in the EU-lite power structure. I doubt the EU-lite will understand the real reasons for this, but that’s irrelevant. The EU-lite will react as it would to a rival faction and crush the Caliphascists ruthlessly, the same way the brown shirts and Communists fought it out in Weimar Germany. I expect that it will be the Caliphascists who are taken by surprise by the viciousness of their opponents.

Posted by aog at 10:41 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The next phase

The opposition to the invasion of Iraq has gone through a number of phases - the “no imminent threat” phase, the “no blood for oil” phase, the “quagmire” phase, the “brutal American oppression phase”. What can we expect once control of Iraq is handed over to Iraqis?

I’m betting on the “death squad” motif. I expect that the Iraqis will be far less restrained in dealing with the insurgents that Coalition has been. Given that the goals of the insurgents aren’t much different from most (if not all) Latin American insurgents, I have no doubt that any violent response to them will be labled “American trained death squads of the illegitimate Iraqi regime brutally suppress dissent”. Anyone want to take the other side of that bet?

Posted by aog at 10:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's a sea, not a continent

I’ve realized that there is yet another strong strain of similarity in the world view of the modern, Western left and the Caliphascists. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that people who view the world in such fundamentally similar ways should end up allies, even if they disagree on minor details such as whether homosexuals should be killed or honored.

It seems to me that despite the post-modern view of reality as socially constructed, the modern Left seems to take current Western social structures as a given, a bedrock reality1. A constant question on the Right is how the Left can take positions and actions that are so destructive to their stated goals (such as an open society). I believe it’s because the idea that the social structures that sustain our self-ordered socieity could fail is beyond the mental horizon of most of the Left. Despite their constant talk of “fascism”, “repression” and “silencing of dissent” they have no idea what real repression is like (such parochialism!). If one thinks that the suppression of dissent in America today is the equivalent of that in a Ba’ath regime, it naturally follows that it can’t get any worse. Therefore any actions (such as supporting armed enemies of the USA) aren’t risky because the Bush Regime is as bad as it gets already. Ultimately it’s not that the Left is willing to take the risk of destroying our self-ordered society but is unable to conceive that there is a risk2.

In the same way, the Caliphascists presume that Western and particularly American society is fixed an unchanging, the the limits to our actions are intrinsic, rather than conventions we’ve adopted during a time of peace and prosperity. Both the modern Left and the Caliphascists would probably find it quite an unpleasant experience to discover how much things can change.

1 Which is odd, given how the same people tend to view physical law as flexible. However, I suspect that the root of this is the inability to view other people as being different.

2 In this I’m speaking primarily of the rank and file. The leadership is well aware of the risk but presumes that they will be the new ruling class and the risk is a feature, not a bug.

26 April 2004

Posted by aog at 21:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Poor little dears, brainwashed by the Pentagon

Did anyone else catch this story on NPR this morning? It was about how US military personel overwhelming support the invasion of Iraq. Even more oddly (from NPR’s point of view) is that those closest to the front were the most supportive. There was one expert, Steve Robinson1 at the National Gulf War Resource Center, that claimed that this was because the soldiers were indoctrinated during training. Not only that, Professor Shelly MacDermid at Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University says, the soldiers were given “important” tasks, the completion of which boosted their self-esteem. Now, I was under the impression that self-esteem was an unalloyed good among the NPR set, but apparently not when it’s a soldier and leads to support for military action. Finally, MacDermid also says support for the war is also a defense mechanism to comfort soldiers while they’re risking their lives.

Does this strike anyone else as extremely insulting to our troops? It sounded to me like a bunch of smug poseurs wondering how anyone could be so daft as to support military action, especially if they would be part of it, before finally concluding that it could only be a psychological malfunction brought on by brainwashing. The concept that maybe either the soldiers had thought about what they were doing and supported it, or joined the military because they already supported it was outside the poseurs mental universe.

I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s exactly the kind of condescending tripe that is a specialty of NPR.

P.S. I will note that NPR at least admitted that they had to talk to a lot of soldiers before they could find one who was against the invasion. On the other hand, the narrator, Jeff Brady, stated that support for the war was due to “special training”.

1 Steve Robinson is listed on this page as “Executive Director” but the link to his biography doesn’t work.

Posted by aog at 17:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Who's actually ceased firing?

It’s reasonable to wonder what we’re really trying to accomplish in Iraq with regard to the situation in Fallujah. Spoons cites a downbeat article from the Wall Street Journal which points out that the jihadi / Ba’ath remnants in Iraq are going to keep coming back for blood until they’re dead. That’s hard for to dispute. However, there is a big question about whether the cease fires in Fallujah make that more difficult. One would normally think so, but since the jihadis tend to observe this cease fire about as well any any other, it’s certainly not the case that our boys aren’t fragging theirs. The Brothers Judd cites another article which describes a very recent battle where in a US Marine sniper was the sharp end of an attack involving AC-130 Specter gunships and 30 dead jihadis. I’m going to guess that Spoons is OK with that kind of result. If that’s what a cease fire means, I’m OK with it as well. My co-worker BBB pointed out that perhaps the cease fire is a psy-op designed to get the jihadis to come out to play with Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. I’m not sure I buy that, but I am willing to believe that the Marine corps is taking advantage of the situation in that way, even if it’s not what higher ups meant.

What this really brings home is how poor a job the USA has done in countering Caliphascist propaganda, most notably by Al-Jazeera. If a crack down in Fallujah leads to revolts elsewhere, that communication failure will be the primary cause. It’s just mind-numbing that the Marines had to beg for the money to set up a competing information source. That worries me more than cease fires in Fallujah.

Posted by aog at 16:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Sometimes it's OK to go with the flow

Via The Brothers Judd we have some comments by Walter Russell Mead. He’s been traveling the Middle East and has apparently come across a startling fact - the Arab world claims that the USA doesn’t care about the Palestinians. This is bizarre on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.

How can his be a surprise to the guy who invented the term “Jacksonian” for a segment of American political opinion? Mead provides no reason why the USA should care about the Palestinians, other than vague entreaties to even-handedness. That kind of ahistorical view is stunning from a historian. Furthermode, the idea that Americans have a natural affinity for open, liberal societies over brutal dictatorships seems to elude Mead’s grasp even though it would seem to be a natural outgrowth from his previous work.

There’s one final point that argues strongly against caring about the Palestinians. Neither the Arab world, the UN nor the Palestinians themselves seem to care about the Palestians. Why should the USA be so unilateral as to care and discard the judgement of the rest of the world?

Posted by aog at 16:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's not the poor who revolt

Instapundit has a long post (yes, I know, actual content, but it is his website) on the discrediting of Big Media. This was inspired by an article by Jay Rosen. The thesis of that article is that President Bush is dealing with the press less by trying to out-play them than by dealing them out of game. Bush stated to one journalist “You’re assuming that you represent the public. I don’t accept that.”. I agree with both the tactic and the view of Big Media it is based on.

As noted in the comments, this is similar to the Nixon / Agnew assault on the press. However, Bush has two big advantages:

  • Bush himself has a far higher level of trust than Nixon did at the time (Nixon was “Tricky Dick” before Watergate).
  • Big Media is in far more ill-repute among the general public than in 1970. There are large swaths of the electorate that actively distrusted Big Media before Bush said anything.

Because of this, I think that the majority of American citizens are more likely to believe Bush than Big Media in any dispute if no other facts are known. As Rosen says, journalists might ask themselves how they got to this state.

But I want to hit on another point that one of Instapundit’s readers makes:

As a former print journalist I’d like to make a brief comment about the non-representative press. Journalists may be out of step with mainstream America, but for the vast majority of them it is because they are woefully underpaid, not overpaid. I suspect that many more newsrooms would swing to the middle if reporters were paid enough to live above the poverty line.

As a current college professor I could say the same thing about academia. If assistant professors were paid enough to live in middle class neighborhoods, then more of them might actually consider themselves middle class.

I think that’s completely bogus. To start with, the anti-Western people are predominantly middle and upper class. This is the case from the Michael Moore-loks to actual terrorists. One can trace the rise of overt bias in Big Media in direct correlation to the change of reporting to journalism and its colonization by the children of privilege instead of working class. One notes that the major ringleaders of the anti-Western forces in both journalism and academia are frequently multi-millionares and rarely (if ever) not well off.

Moreover, I live in the one of the ritzy neighborhoods in my region, central Illinois. The other inhabitants are largely professors and other members of academia. Yet the local University is still heavily tilted towards the liberal side of the spectrum.

Maybe we could solve this problem by applying the principles of the journalists to themselves. Congress should pass a law stating the no journalist can be paid more than twice as much as the least well paid journalist. Big Media constantly harps on how evil income inequality is. Is it fair for Tom Brokaw to pull down a huge salary while there are (apparently) starving journalists out there? Clearly not! It’s time to take journalists at their word and give them what they’re clearly asking for.

25 April 2004

Posted by aog at 16:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

On me, peevishness looks good

I have to agree with Spoons that The Corner is one of the worst weblogs I read in terms of linking. I noticed the same post where in the author talked about linking to a website but didn’t bother to put the actual link in.

But it’s worse than that - because I don’t have “auto-underline for links” turned on in my browser, I can’t see the links that are actually there. Why, if underlining links is the visual style they want, The Corner can’t spend 2 minutes tweaking the style sheet to do that, I don’t understand. Yes, I could change my browser settings but I prefer to let the website define that, not me.

As to why they don’t fix things, I suspect that the software they use probably doesn’t make that easy. I doubt they have Movable Type with w.bloggar to make things easy. I know that gritty, down to earth is hip these days but I think a little bit of professional gloss is a good thing.

Posted by aog at 16:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

And the problem is?

Marcus at Harry’s place writes

After getting rid of two Hamas leaders in the space of a month it’s difficult to know whether Ariel Sharon really does plans to target Yasser Arafat for assassination or whether his words are part of some ongoing psychological war.

Let’s hope, for all the obvious reasons, that it’s merely an example of the latter.

I guess I’m just dense, but I don’t see what the “obvious” reasons are. I can think of some standard tropes:

It would incite more violence — That seems unlikely, given that the response to the Yassin and Rantisi killings was actually less violence. It is the belief of many that the Palestinians and their allies are being as violent as possible, so there’s little to lose on that score.

It would remove the last person who could negotiate — This seems wrong on two counts. The first is that Israeli PM Sharon’s plan seems to be to achieve those things that are possible without any negotiation. The second is that Arafat has had 40 years to negotiate and hasn’t done so in good faith yet.

It would destroy the chances for peace — That doesn’t seem likely either. Does anyone really doubt that Arafat sponsors, organizes and pays for terror? It’s not implausible to argue that Arafat is actually the singlest largest obstacle to peace.

Overall, I can’t think of a single person who has done more to harm the Palestinian cause than Arafat. He’s lead them into death and poverty, looted and cheated them, and squandered any moral capital they had. I’d like to know how Arafat’s continued existence is good for anyone except Arafat and his fellow dictators in the Islamic world.

Sorry, Marcus, I guess I’m just a troglodyte but I can’t think of a single reason, much less an obvious one, to hope that Sharon is just engaging in psychological games on this point.

Posted by aog at 10:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

Hit the turbo button

I doubt even this will generate traffic for me, but in the discussion on male vs. female webloggers recently re-ignited by Right Wing News I see a clear lack of communication.

In my view, the anti-RWN side is reading “female bloggers should do sex talk and boobies (ST/B)” whereas I think that the actual point is that “female bloggers can do sex talk and boobies”. It’s like having a little turbo button on your weblog. You don’t have to use it, but it’s an easy way to generate additional traffic/links. There’s no “should” involved. The counter argument is “I’ll get less traffic/links if I don’t”. Yes, but less traffic/links option is the only one for guys.

The problem is that the supply of traffic/links is very limited compared to the demand. The most likely fate for any weblog, even if it’s very well written, is obscurity. It is certainly not the case that if you’re a male weblogger you get lots of traffic/link that can only be obtained as a female weblogger through the ST/B option.

This is really very similar to the academic career option. Most academic appointments are based on what seem to be very peripheral and irrelevant facts (like, say, political affiliation). There’s an unspoken assumption that this will have a negative effect on quality but that’s not at all clear. If you have 100 candidates for every position, almost all of them highly qualified, one can select the winner based on some very esoteric things without any impact on the quality of the candidate. Weblogs are the same way - there is a vast oversupply. It’s not a choice between a well written weblog and a mediocre one with a cute chick, it’s among a set of well written weblogs some of which are written by cute chicks (or people who claim to be).

What strikes me as odd, though, is that some of those who complain about these facts of life also insist on how their weblogs are expressions of themselves, not about conforming to someone else’s view. But why doesn’t that apply to the weblogs that preferentially link to weblogs with a “hot” author? Isn’t complaining about not getting traffic/links because one isn’t “hot” in effect complaining about how other people run their weblogs?

I think that one should decide how much additional traffic/links are worth and what one is willing to do to get it and learn to live with that choice of trade off. I’ll never be any where except the fringe because I’m not willing to spend the time on writing, but I’m OK with that because I decided I’d rather spend that time doing other things more important to me.

24 April 2004

Posted by aog at 11:14 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Know your market

So Instapundit has finally noticed online jewelry. He mentioned that Amazon was starting to sell jewelry online but of course, as a reader mentioned to him, Blue Nile has been doing that for years. What surprised him was that people would buy jewelry without touching or seeing it directly.

As someone who got She Who Is Perfect In All Ways some lovely earings from Blue Nile last year for her birthday, I can provide the explanation. It’s simply that for many of us clueless guys, actually seeing the jewelry wouldn’t help. If it’s really low quality, I could tell but that kind of thing comes through even in web pictures. Any judgement of quality requiring better images is not something I could do anyway, so it’s not much of a loss.

On the other hand, Blue Nile is a website that clearly geared toward clueless guys who want to buy some nice jewelry to give to their Reason For Living. It took me all of about 10 minutes to locate and purchase an appropriate item. SWIPIAW had specified that she was interested in sapphires and earings. Three clicks got me to a page of those. When the earrings arrived, they seemed allright to me but the recipient quite liked them and is still wearing them, which is all I really care about. I doubt I could have done better at a “real” jewelry store and online was far less hassle.

I strongly doubt that online jewelry will replace or even be as big as physical ones because the afficianados will want to see and touch first, but the niche market of clueless guys who need to buy is certainly a big enough niche market for a company to do well.

Posted by aog at 08:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

A debt of honor

Pat Tillman is an example of why we owe so much to all those who serve in our armed forces. Tillman gave up a lucrative professional football contract to serve in Iraq and was killed there, in an ambush, last Thursday. I’ll quote Robert Tagorda, who says it better than I can:

On the one hand, as countless observers point out, he redefines the meaning of military service because his path to Afghanistan is unique: he reminds us that our cause is even nobler than we believe. On the other hand, he simply represents the story of all service members: he serves as a lens through which we see and understand that every warrior gives up something valuable.

Posted by aog at 08:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Putting money where my mouth is

I finally got around to donating $100 to Spirit of America via Dean’s World and the Liberty Alliance. They’re behind and therefore by the logic that runs this world, the most deserving, even if one of the weblog authors is selling her virtual flesh to bring in the cash.

Spirit of America is getting money together to help the Iraqis and our troops in Iraq. Our troops aren’t legions, a separate caste that goes off and fights for us. They’re us and one small part of what we owe them is to provide support on the home front. Please donate today.

23 April 2004

Posted by aog at 12:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Electronic paper comes to market

Via Roger Simon is a report from Gizmodo of an electronic book by Sony. The device has its problems (the biggest one being that it only supports restricted content) but I think it’s really neat that electronic paper is finally becoming commercially viable. I think that we’re more likely to see “book on demand” before we see “video on demand”. Even if the electronic version isn’t quite a physcially nice as the paper version, imagine have one “book” that can turn in to any book in your library (or the Library of Congress) on demand. That would be sweet.

Or consider the possibility of an “author’s cut” of a book. One of the things we saw emerge from DVDs was alternatively arrangements of the raw film material, additional commentary, review comments, etc. Suppose you could do that with a book, where with the click of a button you could switch between an edited for the general public version vs. the full blow author’s version vs. a reviewed / annotated version. What would that do for students studying literature? One could also put in cross-references to previous works in the same ficton to make reading the nth book in a series easier. This is a new technology I’ve been waiting for for a long time.

Posted by aog at 10:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Selective quoting

Via Pejmanesque is a post by Eugene Volokh that reminds why I’ve never liked the “Great Orators of the Democratic Party” part of Best of the Web.

Volokh takes Jacob Weisberg to task for his “Bushism of the day” column by quoting various mangled sentences that Weisberg has himself uttered. I competely agree with Volokh’s point, both that it’s easy to cherry pick verbal mistakes of a politician and that even if President Bush’s syntactic skills are not optimal, it doesn’t follow that Bush is a moron. Weisberg is just demonstrating pointless petty nitpicking.

The BotW item is in the same vein, where Taranto compares various current era off the cuff remarks with the judged by history remarks of past political leaders. Unsurprisingly, the day to day utterances of modern politicians don’t stack up very well. It’s the same effect as comparing current popular music to golden oldies, the latter of which is of course much higher quality because most of the dreck has been purged (one need only consider what shows up in a worst song ever contest to see this). It’s not funny nor meaningful, just annoying. Even the eponymy stuff is better.

22 April 2004

Posted by aog at 19:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The shifting tides

One of the problems we (the West and the USA in particular) have had in fighting the Caliphascists is the restraints of multi-culturalism and it’s code of enforcement, political correctness. Our opponents see these restraints as weakness and happily exploit them. Their failing in this regard is to consider this a permanent situation. One thing that American culture is, generally far more than other cultures, is dynamic. If you’re living in and advocating a society that hasn’t really changed in over a thousand years, it’s probably hard to grasp how much a society such as ours can change in as little as a decade.

In addition my sense is that the Ummah is believing too much of its own press, that it is in fact a persecuted community and one that is “owed” by its host culture. The basic concept of dhimmitude is probably a factor as well. This sets up the expectation that the rules are different for Muslims. The pattern of a community that simultaneously believes that it is a persecuted / agrieved and deserving of privilege has been seen before and it generally doesn’t end well for that community.

Already we are seeing signs that the constraints of sensitivity to other cultures is wearing thin with regard to Islam. The blogosphere has been noting this issue since early on in this war. With no real voices of moderation, I have no doubt that the “American Street” will gradually change its view to one far more hostile to Islam.The problem for the Islamic community is that the longer things go on drifting, the more costly the remediation is going to be. At some tipping point, remediation will start to look cynical. What will the Ummah do then?

UPDATE: There are a few in the Ummah who see the problem, such as Razi Azmi in Pakistan who points out that it’s not helpful for Islam to simply blame Western media Islam’s image problem when Al Qaeda is putting out videotapes of hostages being killed. [via Dhimmi Watch via Little Green Footballs]

On the other hand, we have delegations from Muslim countries protesting the leak of a report on Sudan which reflects badly on the Islamic government there. This is a classic example of my main point, which is leaders of the Ummah not viewing the commission of atrocities as the problem, but instead knowledge of or complaints about them as the issue. [via Dhimmi Watch].

21 April 2004

Posted by aog at 18:02 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

I wonder what he meant by that

According to Rantburg the Israelies are claiming to have infiltrated Hamas.

the [“senior Israeli”] official claimed that individuals “sympathetic” to Israel have been key in helping Jerusalem “eliminate” the two former Hamas leaders.

I wondered about this quite a bit. If it’s true, why would it be revealed to a news organization? What is the win from outing the fact that Mossad has sources inside Hamas? Perhaps it doesn’t matter - unless the Hamas leadership is completely stupid (which, I admit, is not outside the realm of possibility) they have to be assuming they’ve been penetrated to some extent by Mossad. Such an admission wouldn’t really change anything with regard to Hamas, but consider the effect on potential future recruits. It doesn’t seem like a smart move.

On the other hand, if it’s not true, if instead Israel used mini-drone technology to target Yassin and Rantisi, it might well be worthwhile to claim informants in order to sow suspicion and distrust in the ranks. The flip side of this is the same as the previous paragraph, where one presumes there was already about as much internal paranoia and suspicion as possible.

On the third hand, there could be informants that are not friendly to Israel, but had their own motivations (say, someone from Fatah who’s keen on having the PLO take control when Israel withdraws, or someone whose little brother was sent off to be a splodey-dope). I find this one the most plausible. The “sympathetic to Israel” is the misdirection, generating the advantages of the two previous options with little downside.

Overall, though, perhaps this entire post is part of the disinformation effort.

Posted by aog at 14:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The price of mercy

Given the state of knowledge on the issue, debunking the myths of the October Revoluion in Russia can’t be done too often. The biggest myth is that Lenin fronted a popular revolution against the Tsar. In real life, that revolution occurred without help from Lenin and in fact the Bolsheviks actually destroyed an emerging representative government in Russia. The other part of that myth is that the October Revolution was a popular movement. In fact it was a well organized coup by a splinter faction of a faction of the revolutionary groups.

But there are a few lessons for Iraq. The new Iraqi government is likely to have a number of similarities to the Kerensky Government. It would seem that a good lesson is that if there are professional revolutionaries around, it would be best to find them and kill them before they manage to bring down the representative government. The October Revolution is a blueprint for how a very small group of dedicated, well organized radicals can take over a huge government and country. Most of the Bolsheviks spent time in the Tsar’s jails - had they been executed instead, the history of Russia in this century might well have been positive instead of one of the greatest tragedies of history.

Posted by aog at 14:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Letting the insurgents have a mulligan

I have to agree with Porphyrogenitus that I don’t understand the goal of our policy in Fallujah. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the suicide bombings have started up again now that the insurgents have (in effect) managed to escape to fight another day. Aren’t we in effect giving them a “do-over”? Who can possibly think that’s a good idea?

20 April 2004

Posted by aog at 09:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Not a good policy to take advice from one's opponents

Orrin Judd has a post that cites “experts” comparing the occupation of Iraq with the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. I find the analogies weak at best.

My first objection is basically ad hominem. The two primary experts quoted are Timur Goksel, a university lecturer in Beirut who served with the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon from 1979 to 2003 and the Iranian Foreign Minister. Given the effectiveness of the UN mission in Lebanon, I don’t see Goskel as being very creditable and the idea that the Iranian Foreign Minister would be offering useful advice to the Coalition is risible. It’s obviously in Iran’s best interest for the Coalition to not use force because if it does, Iran’s proxy forces in Iraq would be wiped out.

In a similar vein, the idea that the indefinite end of the Israeli occupation in Lebanon is what goaded the Shiites to armed resistance I find highly implausible. Israel invaded in the first place because of attacks from Lebanon which means there was “armed resistance” before there was an occupation. It’s hard to see how A can cause B if B preceeds A.

The biggest problem with using force is that it’s an “in for a penny, in for a pound” kind of thing. Using force and failing to achieve the objectives is the worst of both worlds. My view is that the “experts” cited in this article are hoping to thwart the Coalition effort against the insurgents after the fighting has started because that will count as a major victory for the insurgents and their supporters (such as Iran).

What we might want to do is, rather than having a fixed date, have a fixed set of conditions. Perhaps that would encourage greater cooperation in order to achieve those conditions. Right now, there’s little incentive to cooperate if a turnover is going to happen on a fixed date. I suppose the counter-argument is that there is no way to really get more cooperation so we might as well be specific and offload the problems on to those who are best situated to solve them.

Posted by aog at 08:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

King of Libya?

While Colonel Gadaffi is dictator of Libya, his children seem to have a different view of things. I wonder if they’re not thinking of the British Monarchy as a model. While the Queen clearly doesn’t have the kind of governmental power that a full monarch has, it’s not a bad life. Pomp, prestige, wealth. In exchange for not much temporal power there would be very little risk of assassination or a coup. No more plotting and scheming, just time to enjoy the good life of a dissolute constitutional monarch. I’d certainly find the latter more fun than being a real ruler.

19 April 2004

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Some people just don't read enough conspiracy theories


An Iranian diplomat has been shot dead in Baghdad while apparently trying to broker an end to the Sadr Revolt. No doubt the reason for his killing makes sense to somebody, somewhere …

I wonder if it wasn’t an Iraqi who didn’t want to let Iran get involved in picking the government for Iraq. I don’t find it implausible that are a few Iraqis, here and there, that might still be a tad bit bitter about the whole war thing.

Alternatively,if it looked like the negotiations were going to fail anyway, why wouldn’t Al-Sadr have the diplomat whacked in order to blame it on the Americans or provide an excuse for the failure?

18 April 2004

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Somehow the sympathy meter is stuck at zero

I spotted this story about some woman who had an affair with some married sports star and ended up “feeling like a whore”. Imagine that! The real shocker is it turns out that the sports star was just in it for the sex - it wasn’t a real relationship. Who could have anticipated that a sports star (a soccer player even!) who was married and sleeping around would treat a woman that way. Hopefully some kind of legislation will be put in place to prevent this kind of thing in the future. The worst part, of course, is that the poor woman ended up with only £800,000 for her story. Someone should look in to setting up a PayPal donation fund to help out. I doubt that even that kind of money will be enough to buy enough clue to overcome her current deficit.

Posted by aog at 14:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Looking out for your own

One of the counter arguments is that Iraqis naturally resent being occupied by a foreign power. I find this a bit unpersuasive. I certainly don’t expect the Iraqis to act in the best interests of the USA out of gratitude for taking out the Ba’ath, but I don’t think it’s too bizarre to expect the Iraqis to act in their own best interests. One can of course compare America to other imperial powers, but it’s difficult in such cases to explain why the very different historical records, particularly of the last century, should be ignored (i.e., that the USA has been far more willing or even eager to return conquered territory).

On the other hand, what the choices for Iraq?

  • Ba’ath style dictatorship
  • Iranian style theocracy
  • Somalia style anarchy
  • Self-ordered society (liberal, representative, rule of law)

I consider it obvious the the last option is antithetical to the others. If the Iraqis prefer one of those three to the last, then I would agree that it’s hopeless. However, it is very odd for people who make that argument to frequently be the same people who castigate the USA for supporting such governments - why is that a problem if that’s what the people want?

The presumption of the neo-cons was that the Iraqis would prefer a self-ordered society and that they would act in ways to help bring about that result. The current crop of insurgents are clearly fighting against a self-ordered society in Iraq. Any aid or comfort given to them increases the likelihood of one of the other outcomes. The claim that the insurgents have such support is equivalent to claiming that they’d prefer to not have a self-ordered society. As noted, that doesn’t seem like a politically correct position to take.

On the other hand, based on the fading of Al-Sadr’s effort and the lack of blow back for the partial investment of Fallujah, it’s not so clear that the Iraqis are actually rejecting the USA or a self-ordered society. Big Media, both in the West and the Al-Jazeera ilk, are doing what they can to stir up anti-Coalition fevor (I’ll leave to the many other weblogs an analysis of why Western media thinks that is a good idea) yet still there’s not much reaction in Iraq. Plenty of non-Iraqis seem hot for a last ditch fight against the Marines, but of course they’re not the ones who’ll be on the receiving end of the guns nor living in the resulting society. I’m still cautiously optimistic. But ultimately, the choices are pushing through, puppet oppressive regimes or nuclear persuasion. Why so many apparently intelligent people prefer the latter two escapes me.

17 April 2004

Posted by aog at 19:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Political movies

I just found out this week that Predator is one of the most political movies around. Why, not only does it have the wonderful policy statement “if it bleeds, we can kill it” but it has two state governors as main characters in it! Every political junkie should see it.

16 April 2004

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Simple thing, big impact

I want to highlight Mohammed Bah Abba who has won an award for technology innovation. He invented a simple, double pot system that uses wet sand to keep good cooler in hot, dry climates. It’s very simple yet has had a significant impact on the economy in Nigeria. Because perishables last longer, wastage in the food system is reduced. Moreover, because it’s simple it doesn’t require any technology that’s not already present (something inventors of fancy gadgets frequently overlook). It’s a small thing but it’s good to have at least one sign of hope in Africa.

Posted by aog at 15:20 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Petard watch - Blair and the BBC

Norman Geras cites a tale of how Greg Dyke, former head of the BBC, fell out with Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the UK. It’s entertaining and well worth reading. But the lesson I draw from it is that Blair made a big mistake in appointing Dyke in the first place. Here’s a key quote:

Will Wyatt, former managing director of BBC TV, who was deeply opposed to Dyke’s appointment as D-G in the first place. “I thought his politics disqualified him,” Wyatt has written, adding that Dyke’s gift of £50,000 to Labour and his open support for the party as a cheerleader was potentially dangerous for the editor-in-chief of the BBC, who was traditionally impartial and whose politics were best left unknown. The prospect of a strong-minded, emotional, impulsive and politically active D-G worried not only Wyatt but other people within the BBC news division.

Yet it seems very likely that it was Dyke’s partisanship that lead Blair to appoint him in the first place. It’s one of Blair’s big failings (which is how he is most Clinton-like) that Blair doesn’t seem to hesitate to remake fundamental elements of the Britsh government for his personal convenience. At least in this case it came back to haunt him along with the rest of the victims.

Posted by aog at 15:14 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Privileges come in many forms

I never thought I’d miss Bill Clinton, but Senator John Kerry actually makes me feel sad for the Democratic Party (just a little). David Cohen comments on Kerry’s exceptionally maladroit political instincts with regard to a recent Kerry campaign event.

“You said, `Stay the course,’ but what the U.S. is doing is bombing hospitals, bombing mosques, killing hundreds of civilians,” Mr. Daum, 64, said. “Is that the criminal course you want to stay? […]

Mr. Kerry answered: “I have consistently been critical of how we got where we are. . . .”

Senator Kerry is running to be commander-in-chief in wartime. He is a veteran. He needs the votes of people who respect the military and support the war. He voted for the war. Shouldn’t we expect him to disagree with Professor Daum as to whether our soldiers are war criminals?

A skilled politician would at least publically disagree, although my view of Kerry’s record is that Kerry doesn’t actually disagree.

In the comments, there is inescapable comparison to former President Clinton. One complaint about Clinton was that he lived externally. He didn’t really exist in Clinton himself, but only in the perceptions others had of him. He was the complete extrovert, a truly post-mordern being who was both actor and audience. This has its problems, but it does enable one to be exquisitely tuned to to others and their views.

Kerry seems to have the same internal vacuuity but without any sense of other people. Kerry is a book, a written history while Clinton was a folk-tale, an oral tradition. Kerry gives deep, finely nuanced book answers to questions while Clinton used tricks of language and answers of the moment, tuning the tale for the needs of the listeners.

This brings to mind the oft-heard claim that Bush has had a life of privilege, with others greasing his path. That may well be, but doesn’t that apply even more strongly to Kerry? How can anyone with such a severe lack of political skill have made it to US Senator for all those years? Had Kerry been exposed to any real politicing, he would have long since been culled from the political herd. It looks like it will be the Democratic Party paying the price for having a soft, over-privileged candidate this time around.

Posted by aog at 09:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's the same, only different

Talking Points Memo has a post on the recent elections in South Korea which were a very strong showing for the moderately left Uri party. TPM makes two points, both of which I think are weak at best.

The first is an analogy to the Clinton impeachment, where the ruling conservative party impeached the liberal party’s president and then suffered a large electoral backlash. This seems to not be a good parallel, because the Republicans have done better in every national election since the impeachment. But why let little facts like that get in the way?

The other points is that running on weaker ties to the USA is good electoral politics in much of the rest of the world. Why yes, it’s certainly done wonders for Gerhard Schroeder.

Posted by aog at 09:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Weakness in truce?

Now this is interesting. Jonah Goldberg says

One point I did mean to mention, which numerous readers have reminded me of, is that the “truce” offer from Bin Laden could also be a great sign of our success. Crying uncle is never a sign of strength, even if you’re just crying uncle to your European relations.

In a related (in my warped view) we have other people claiming that Al Sadr’s attempt to negotiate a truce is also a sign of weakness.

Isn’t this exactly what is so frequently complained about on the other side? That any attempt at negotiation or truce means weakness, not strength? The next time someone goes off about how about bizarre and counter-productive it is for the Arabs to view asking for a truce as a sign to press harder, you might wonder whether how different that really is from our viewpoint.

Posted by aog at 08:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's OK, they're related

While I’m not any more enthusiastic about negotiating with Al Sadr, one needs to always keep the strategic picture in mind. As has been noted widely, it will be politically feasible for an Iraqi government to behave in ways that are far more harsh than the Coalition. Certainly the historical records demonstrates that world and Muslim opinion has no concern about how many Muslims get killed by their own government. It will be sickening but fascinating to watch the pro-Ba’ath forces complain about harsh measures used by the new Iraqi government after having ignored the Ba’ath atrocities. Will they call for military intervention by the USA to put a stop to it?

14 April 2004

Posted by aog at 16:22 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Guided by expectations

This is post number one thousand for this weblog. That is not counting my posts on my clippings weblog, Low Earth Orbit.

I have some sympathy for the view that the Iraqis should be contributing more the fight against the Mahdi and Ba’ath remnants in Fallujah. However, from the point of view of Sistani, it’s not clear why he should get off the fence. He appears to be someone with a good connection to reality. If so, then he’s very likely to have realized that the Americans are going to turn over control of Iraq to Iraqis at some point in the not distant future. The idea that the USA will be directly running Iraq as we are now five years down the road is completely implausible. When that happens, Sistani will be a player as long as he’s still alive. What might get him killed? Direct confrontation with either the Americans or the wreckers. Fence sitting has to look pretty good.

As for the general Iraqi public, it is very irritating to hear things like

Nanou Ali, a 54-year-old mother of four in Baghdad, told The Associated Press by telephone in Cairo that she heard the news from radio stations.

“We are not interested in new U.N. resolutions or sending more troops to our country,” she said. “The only thing we want from Bush is that security be restored. We are living in a prison.”

Blaming the wreckers might be a better point of view than those trying to stop them. Moreover, if security is her primary concern, it’s difficult to see why she objects to more Coalition troops.

But putting that aside, the sputtering of Al-Sadr’s offensive demonstrates that Iraqis, in general, if not on the side of the USA are at least not on the side of the wreckers. I just hope that they’re on the side of Iraq, rather than temporary gains for their local tribe. In many ways, the situation reminds me of a “common front” setup, where a wide variety of factions are putatively working together for a common cause but in fact are busy selling out everyone else for local gains, frequently sabotaging the overall effort. It’s still an open question whether Iraqis can coalesce in to large enough factions to make a democracy workable. Since our other choices are to sell them back in to slavery to some dictator or nuke them back in to the Stone Age, I suppose we’ll just have to find out.

Posted by aog at 15:58 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The simplest explanation is the best

Transterrestrial Musings has a post on the Law of the Sea Treaty and its relationship to the ‘Moon Treaty’. These treaties are basically efforts to impose a de facto tax on any economic activity in the deep oceans or in space. Simberg notes that

if you or I were to go develop some extraterrestrial resource (and “moon” in this phrasing really means “moon and other celestial bodies”) we would have to share in the proceeds with all other countries, including those that in no way contributed, per the decision of an as-yet-undefined international authority under the auspices of the United “Oil for Palaces corruption” Nations. I can’t think of a better way to guarantee that space will not be developed, which is perhaps the intent of the authors.

I don’t think that was the intent. I think it’s much more of a cargo-cult thing. The presumption is that economic development will happen automatically in its magical way and therefore there’s no reason not to heavily tax it for the purpose of “social justice”. Plus it’s a great way to create a bunch of new sinecures for one’s relatives and cronies.

It’s another example of international “law” that not only doesn’t serve the purpose of law but de facto prevents the very activity that it should be promoting. This stems directly from the reality dysfunction of the international law community in the UN. I won’t disparage the entire community of international lawyers but the UN in particular lives in a bubble from some different continuum which makes its legal output less than applicable to our world. Why the UN is taken seriously is beyond me.

Posted by aog at 13:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Playing the odds

I was thinking about tort reform on the way to work this morning. One question that comes up. It seems to me that it doesn’t take many big jury awards to encourage a lot more lawsuits as opposed to settling out of court. If the court settlement is roughly congruent with the actual injury, then there’s a big incentive to take something that’s a good portion of that result while avoiding the expense of going to court (if for no other reason than avoiding the 30-40% cut for the lawyer). On the other hand, if there’s some possibility of a huge, non-proportionate payout, why not take the chance?

One might think that a small number of massive awards (many of which are overturned or reduced in appeals) wouldn’t make any real difference. However, one need only look at state lotteries to see how small a payout is required to get a lot of people to play. Having also seen both state lottery and ambulance chasing advertisements, I would have to side with the state lotteries as being on a higher moral plane. In addition the overturnings and reductions aren’t publiciized nearly as much and the point here is that it’s public perception not legal reality that is the cause.

There are lots of problems with a lottery style legal system as we have now — this is just one more.

13 April 2004

Posted by aog at 11:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Living and learning

Over at the Brothers Judd was a discussion about the TV show Everybody Loves Raymond. In the comments was the claim that Happy Days and The Cosby Show did poorly in syndication. I’m not surprised by the latter. I, for reasons I can no longer recall, liked The Cosby Show during its initial run. However, these days I literally can’t bear to watch it. I change the channel or just turn it off. Perhaps it was Little Bill that turned me - I couldn’t handle that show from day one. I had thought that Barney was the ultimate in cloying, sacharine shmaltz, but I was wrong.

But why can’t I stand The Cosby Show anymore? The theory in the comments is that the first season or two was very good and that colored the perception of the rest of the run, which stunk. After a while, the glow from the early episodes fades and one is left with the obviousness of the dreck. Or, alternatively, that one is but a leaf on the currents of the zeitgeist. I prefer to think of myself as young and naive in those days, because that implies that I was young not so long ago.

07 April 2004

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No bridges in sight

I’m still amazed at the ability of various people to read the exact same document and come to diametrically opposed conclusions. The current case in point is the final national security report from the Clinton Administration. The issue is, how seriously does that document take the terrorist threat? More specifically, how serious was the threat from Osama bin Laden / Al Qaeda. On one side we have Oliver Willis and CalPundit who read it as vindicating the claim that the Clinton Adminstration took the threat seriously. On the other side are people like Orrin Judd and Captain Ed who read it as vindicating the claim that the Clinton Administration viewed terrorism and Al Qaeda in particular as purely law enforcement issues. These aren’t people citing different documents but the exact same report.

As for my view, I have the context that the Clinton Administration was big on rhetoric and weak on action in this regard and I read most of this document as much of the same. I also find that counting references is less important than looking at the context in which those references occur (what ever happened to nuance?). I think the Clinton Administration took the threat seriously but didn’t take responding seriously. It reminded me of people who are scared of their credit card debt but unwilling to make any substantive cuts in their lifestyle. Instead the goal became to get by until it was someone else’s problem. Not exactly the stuff of legend that’s being promoted as the Democratic Party line these days. However, as has been noted, it was symptomatic of the times. This is unsurprising because one of the best skills Clinton had was to tune in to the zeitgeist. But that was a different time and a rehash of that unwillingness to act seriously is not something we can afford now.

Posted by aog at 13:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

I want to care, I do...

Parade Magazine (which is a weekly insert in many newpapers) had as its cover story child hunger in America. When I first saw the headline, I wondered “what happened to the child obesity epidemic?”. I figured I’d read it anyway, to see what it said on that score but there was no mention of it. There were a number of pictures of children who went hungry and their parents and, in my opinion, all but one of the pictures would have been more appropriate as illustrations for a child obesity story. Seriously. The parents and many of the children looked unhealthily overweight. The one picture that didn’t give this impression was the one where you couldn’t see the overall body shape. However, you could see some arms and while they didn’t look overweight, they certainly didn’t look undernourished.

I don’t want to mock anyone with children who are actually hungry, but I have to wonder how much of a problem it really is if a national magazine can’t find pictures of poor children who don’t look obese. I suspect it would have required going outside of major cities which is clearly out of bounds for modern day journalists. It’s another example of a story that tries to make a case for compassion but instead serves to discourage it. Do the authors not actually read their own material?

06 April 2004

Posted by aog at 21:13 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

There has to be an original stain


CHRIS DODD’S REMARKS ABOUT ROBERT BYRD, which many in the blogosphere have been comparing to Trent Lott’s remarks about Strom Thurmond, are starting to get some Big Media attention.

Background here and here. And here’s the Kennedy School study of the Trent Lott affair, for those who would like to make a detailed comparison.

All you need to know about how this is going to play out is that the Lott affair involved Big Media denouncing Strom Thurmound while this one would involve denouncing Robert Byrd. Which one was savaged in the press before the related imbroglio, and which wasn’t? It’s no different than Big Media savaging anyone who cuddled up with Pinochet while writing mash notes to Castro syncophants.

Posted by aog at 20:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The lesson is clear - don't mess with the Americans

As we hear of the battles in Iraq, one claim is that, due to concerns from the State Department, we played a role more neutral than would have been best. I have to agree, if “neutral” meant letting Sadr’s army demolish villages for indecent behaviour. The claim is that the Mahdi Army surrounded the village of Kawlia and used mortars to level it, while nearby Spanish led troops did … nothing.

At least now the Marines are actively cleaning up the problem. I have to agree with those expressing disdain for the paniced reaction on the right to Sadr’s rebellion. One of the primary tropes of the right has been that we didn’t smash Iraq flat enough during the initial invasion. Now we have that chance and better still, we can smash more thugs and fewer buildings, which is a definite plus.

Posted by aog at 14:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Having it both ways

In the speculation on Senator Kerry’s pick for vice president one view is that he shouldn’t do it early because that will

  • rob the convention of any general interest
  • cast his running mate as an attack dog

Another avenue of speculation is that Kerry will make such a bad pick that it will end up a reprise of Senator Eagleton being replaced by Sargent Shriver.

I ask, why not both? Kerry could pick a “grenade man” who would go on the offensive against President Bush. After getting in some good hits, Kerry would “reconsider” the nastiness of such a running mate and announce the selection of a replacement at the national convention. The only question would be whether it could be sustained until shortly before the convention so as to maximize the interest and political boost from the convention.

05 April 2004

Posted by aog at 11:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Yeah, I need it - what's your point?

A while back I picked up a Rainbow Leek knife because I like knives and I’m overpaid. It’s quite a nice knife, but it has caused me to be asked why a sedentary, overweight code slinger needs a very sharp one hand opening knife. It’s clear to me that these people do not drink corporate coffee.

I tend to get in a little late and normally there’s already coffee burning on the machine, but much less often lately. Not that people don’t drink the coffee as generally the pot is a couple of cups low between when I start it up and I get my fix. Anyway, when I need to fire up the coffee maker, having the one handed flick open saves me vital seconds in getting those plastic foil coffee bags open. Without mechanical aid, one must tug the bags open. But not with your full strength, which can lead (if the bag is a bit tougher than normal) to coffee ground explosion. It’s not pretty and delays that first cup even longer. My blade goes through them like a sharp knife through thin metallized plastic so I can get the coffee in the filter in a matter of seconds. I need the one hand opening so I can pull the coffee bag out of the drawer with one hand while my other is pulling out the knife and opening it. The two meet right in front of me, the bag is sliced and those beautiful grounds drop in the filter like Ba’ath insurgents meeting the US Marines.

Which reminds me - the coffee’s got to be ready by now. Later!

Posted by aog at 10:22 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The muddle of the middle

William Saletan wrote an interesting article for Slate about the political realities of the abortion debate and the recent federal law on harming unborn children.

Saletan’s point is that the pro-choice faction has responded to pro-life actions by “treating the fetus as a nonentity”. The problem with that is that’s an extreme and doesn’t resonate with anyone except the hard core. The issue there is that if one wants to support a complete right to abortion, right up to the moment of birth, then that’s a necessary view. The political reality is that not only does the large majority think of a fetus as being a baby at some point before birth but you’ll probably find more people who are willing to accept the other extreme (that a zygote is a full human being) than the view that the fetus is a non-entity until birth.

I suppose it’s another “perfect is the enemy of the good” issue for the pro-choice side. It seems that it wouldn’t be that hard to take a more gradualist view which would see a gradual change from just another bit in the mother’s body to a baby. The pro-life side has been more accepting of this view which is much more congruent with what the muddle majority believes.

The root of all of this discussion is the recent bill which makes harming a fetus a criminal act as much as harming the mother. It’s a well picked wedge issue where the pro-life side can achieve an incremental change with the support of the majority while helping to discredit the hard core pro-choice side. Perhaps the pro-choice side should have tried for an admendment to the bill which left the choice of whether to prosecute on behalf of the fetus to the mother or her estate. Then there would be a choice about whether the fetus counted as a baby, a choice that would as much as possible to be left to the mother. And isn’t that what “pro-choice” is about?

Posted by aog at 09:33 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The dangers of pretense

Another morning wasted at the Brothers Judd. This time it was a post about the renaming of government agencies in the UK and how this exemplifies what Orwell meant by “newspeak”, the corruption of language to serve ideological ends.

What I thought of was the situation in Israel / Palestine. I wonder if the villification of Israel, that debasement of “Nazi”, “fascist”, “racist” didn’t contribute to the Palestinians destroying their own future with their most recent Intifadah. Israeli PM Sharon is able to succeed in his current efforts because the Israeli people have, generally, decided that the Palestinians are being as violent as it is possible for them to be, therefore the Israelis have little to lose from additional provocations. In the same way, might not support for the Intifadah have been rooted in the view that the Israelis were the ultimate evil and therefore regardless of how violent the Intifadah was, the Israelis couldn’t get any more evil? In fact the Israeli oppression was quite mild, especially compared to the surrounding Arab states and the Israelis and it could (and did) get much worse for the Palestinians (although much of this worsening was Israel not helping as much, for instance not hiring Palestinians). Just one of the little dangers when one abuses the language for rhetorical purposes, that of people taking the rhetoric seriously.

Posted by aog at 08:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Looking for signals in a world of noice

Via “Instapundit”: we have a claim that there was evidence of the Al Qaeda attacks before 11 Sep 2001. Instapundit is somewhat dubious. I’m not, but I don’t think that this is very interesting.

The truth is that I find it completely unbelievable that no information at all ever leaked from the Al Qaeda operatives with regard to their plot. That just doesn’t happen. As someone who works in security, the problem isn’t getting the information, it’s in making sense of it and determining its importance. As one of the commentors notes, it’s easy after the fact to go back and find the key bits of information that were the good ones. It’s just a bit more difficult to before the attack. It’s not like the analysts sit around waiting for a fact or two to show up on their desks. The better image is trying to drink from a fire hose.

This is one of the reasons that different analysts can come to very different conclusions, because they’re sampling different subsets of the total information flow. Moreover, there’s so much information that it’s usually not hard to find a subset that suits one’s preferences. We have to let go of the idea that we really know anything about what’s going in in totalitarian regimes until after the fact, and frequently not even then. Were there WMDs in Iraq that were moved to Syria or was it all a big scam by the contractors? We still don’t really know.

This is the same line that the Pearl Harbor conspiracy theorists take. There was in fact evidence of the pending Japanese attack, but as here it was a few needles in a haystack of other information. In addition, without at least one new weapon1 invented by the Japanese and used for the first time in that attack the attack would not have possibly succeeded. If you buy this line about the Bush Administration, you should probably also join the “FDR knew” group as well.

1 A fin stabilized air dropped torpedo. The water depth in the harbor was too shallow for known (to the USA) air dropped torpedo. All of the battleships sunk were sunk with these torpedos.

02 April 2004

Posted by aog at 08:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

How can I stay on script if they keep rewriting it?

Over at Tim Blair’s place is an interesting quote from John Pilger, idiot journalist in December, 2001.

The twin towers attacks provided Bush’s Washington with both a trigger and a remarkable coincidence. Pakistan’s former foreign minister Niaz Naik has revealed that he was told by senior American officials in mid-July that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October. The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, was then travelling in central Asia, already gathering support for an anti-Afghanistan war “coalition”.

While some of the commentors make the excellent point that if your case depends on Pilger’s veracity you might as well just give up, It’s certainly amusing to see the anti-Bush forces get caught up in their own mess of internal contradictions. It sets up the nice question to ask such people, “So which one’s delusional, Pilger or Clarke?”. But remember, it’s not an either / or question.

Posted by aog at 06:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Killing me softly with his speech

Here’s a nice juxtaposition. Over at Critical Mass we have a post about the travails of a conservative professor named Mike Adams. It is noted that in academia, any deviation from right-think is labeled “conservative” so it doesn’t take much to be a conservative professor (and yet they’re still rare …).

The problem with Adams is that he didn’t have a keen grasp of the fact that he works in academia - he thought he was in a place where he could respectfully air his opinions. However, doing so made his fellow academicians “uncomfortable” so the administration did the only reasonable thing and told Adams to not discuss his opinions anymore if they could make someone “uncomfortable”. Adams himself noted that this doesn’t apply in reverse, in that there’s no restriction on anyone else making Adams uncomfortable.

One is reducing to wonderment at students and now apparently faculty as well who cannot handle being made “uncomfortable” by other’s opinions.

Which brings me to a related post, which is about the fifth place winner in the Collegiate Network’s Annual Campus Outrage Awards

Many Georgetown University students and faculty were shocked when commencement speaker, Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, gave a speech reiterating the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics. His assertion that “the family is…mocked by homosexuality,” led some students and faculty to walk off stage and the Dean of Georgetown College, Jane McAuliffe, to write an e-mail apology to all students offering counseling sessions to those who suffered psychological trauma as a result of the speech. [emphasis added]

Just the exposure to a priest taking his religion seriously was enough for the administration to assume that some of the students would be so badly damaged mentally that they would need help to recover! I can’t imagine what kind of job these students will be able to have when (if?) they graduate. What will happen to them when they see campaign advertisements for the current presidential campaign? Will they have to be committed to a mental institution?

01 April 2004

Posted by aog at 17:41 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Reality starts to catch up with me

InstaPundit reports that Nick Denton has created a new “meta-weblog” service, Kinja. I plan to give it a whirl because it sounds like the implementation of something I thought would happen. It is inconvenient to troll low frequency weblogs (like this one). A customizable meta-weblog that rolls a set of such weblogs into a single, virtual one automatically should be very nice.

Posted by aog at 16:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

What good is a doomsday device if you don't tell anyone?

One of the questions one must ask about the atrocity in Fallujah is what, exactly, the Coalition could do in response. While it’s cathartic to think about a scorched earth response, it’s not clear that would be the best option overall. On the other hand, not responding would turn a tradgedy into a major psychological victory for the Caliphascists.

One option that has been discussed is using the pictures and video tapes to determine the offenders and quietly disappearing them. The problem here is that the key figures organizing the Caliphascist efforts would view that as a worthwhile trade off, if not an actual bonus. If it’s done quietly, then the one benefit (“an example for the encouragement of others”) is lost as well.

This is the root of the problem. What ever response is done, must be at least an open secret, if not heavily publicized. Yet for many around the world and even in the USA, any response will be held up as American barbarism. However, since the response will be the same no matter what the Coalition does, it might as well be effective. It would never happen, but the perfect response to the question “how could your Administration do that to those Iraqis” would be to hold up a picture of the burnt bodies on the bridge and say “would you prefer more of this?”. Regardless of what world opinion thinks, I still believe the American public would have a clear preference against the latter.

I am a bit concerned about this because we have from Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt

”We will pacify that city. … It will be at the time and place of our choosing,” Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said, pledging to hunt down those who carried out Wednesday’s killings, which were reminiscent of the televised abuse of the corpses of American soldiers in Somalia in 1993.

Kimmitt promised a response that will be ”deliberate” and ”overwhelming,”

Isn’t that what they said after the attack on the USS Cole? Why, yes it is. It should be a lot easier to find those responsible in this case than for the USS Cole, but I expect about the same ratio of talk to action.