Listening to the debate and the two candidates arguing about Saddam Hussein and whether he was a threat, I realized that I didn’t really care. It’s not just that it’s water under the bridge, but that I didn’t care all that much at the time. The local problem was the Ba’ath regime, a regime that is naturally ruled by someone like Saddam Hussein. Beyond that, we’re really at war with the caliphascists, the forces that are striving to bring back the Caliphate (which includes both secular Ba’athists and hard core jihadis). Personalizing the war to Osama bin Laden or even just Al Qaeda shows (to me) a fundamental misunderstanding of the dangers facing the USA.
I suppose this is the key fault point for the pro-invasion vs. anti-invasion. To me, the invasion of Iraq was an excellent choice for bringing the war home to the enemy. There’s only one exit strateg that makes sense for American security interests, and that’s leaving when the caliphascists are a broken and discredited force. We’re nowhere near that yet, but we certainly need to be working on it. Iraq is now the primary battle ground where we are contesting the future with the caliphascists, but it’s not the only one. However, if Kerry can’t see how Iraq fits in I doubt he’ll figure out the rest of it.
I watched about half of the debate. Overall, I thought Senator Kerry did somewhat better. I agree with some of the talking heads that the debate was more substantive than I had anticipated and that neither candidate had a good zinger or a serious stumble. Kerry had the advantage of hind-sight and hand-waving in his attacks on Bush’s record, particularly with his comments on the UN and “allies”. Someone needs to convince Kerry that just because some nation says it’s your ally doesn’t mean it will actually help out.
In the meta-narrative, however, a win is much more important for Kerry than for President Bush, so I expect the continued gradual rising of Bush’s numbers.
In reading a post about the pointlessness of the upcoming Presidential debates, I thought about why they are so useless. The bigs ones were
So, I’d prefer steel cage match debates. In this format, the debate is divided in to 15 minute chunks. During that time, one candidate gets to be moderator and questioner and grill the other candidate. After each chunk, the roles are switched. Not only would the answers be interesting, but so would the questions. It might even tell us something about how the candidates would run a government, or at least if they’re capable of engaging in an actual discussion of ideas.
Sadly, the candidates would never agree because it would be so easy to destroy one’s career in such an unstructured event. But of course, that’s exactly what I like about it.
No Illusions is pondering the make up the UN Security Council. I’m in favor of giving UNSEC membership to any nation that asks. Even the delusional UN-philes may finally give up on it when it takes the unaminous votes of most of the governments on the planet1.
But I have a few better ideas.
The first is the simplest - the UNSEC shoud consist only of superpowers. I.e., the USA. It would make UNSEC debates much faster.
The next is some sort of contest, say every 2 or 3 years. In the simple case, a remote location is selected and winners must be able to airlift in a battalion fully equipped for at least a week of active combat. This is in many ways similar to the first plan, but it’s possible that the UK might get on board. Alternatively, a noxious dictator ship could be selected and whoever ends up with the dicator’s body gets to replace a current UNSEC member. I’m not sure if current members should be allowed to compete in that case. Maybe it should be stretched out to four years and done in parallel with the Olympics…
UPDATE: BBB asked me about the logical hole in this plan and I came up with a solution. The UNSEC size is fixed and the members are ordered (#1, #2, …). Which ever country wins the Dictator Scavenger Hunt™ becomes member #1 and everyone else shifts down. The bottom member gets booted. Current members get to compete as well, to preserve or improve their position. This way, every UNSEC member has to prove their capability every so often.
1 David Weber uses this as a plot point in his Honor Harrington series. The Solarian League (which sounds much like a UN successor) requires unaminity for foreign policy decisions and as a result doesn’t have an official policy except for crushing anyone who bombards a planetary surface. So it’s not quite as bad as the modern UN.
I was reading an interesting post and comments about Christopher Hitchens. There was some discussion of whether Hitchens was sufficiently supportive of the Palestinians these days and whether he had said that their cause was “doomed” (there wasn’t any discussion of whether this was accurate, only whether Hitchens had said it).
But it made me realize that Caliphascism is doomed in the long wrong as well, because the Palestinians have hitched their cause to it. When have they ever picked the winning side? They sided with the Nazis in WWII, Arabia after that, and then the UN, Old Europe, the Iraqi Ba’ath. It’s like an Al Gore endorsement. Palestinian admiration - the anti-weather vane.
One thing that seems to have been missed in Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi’s speech is that of course he painted a rosier picture than one that is strictly based on the facts. What he’s trying to do is create a self-fufilling prophecy. Most of the time when such a thing is mentioned, it’s in a negative connotation. But such a thing could easily go either way in Iraq. Allawi’s vision could become reality if the people of Iraq (and to a lesser extent Americans) believe it.
I’m reminded of Churchill and the Battle of Britian. Was a war-weary nation facing the German onslaught really ready to “fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills”? What Churchill is remembered for is stating this as a fact and thereby making it a fact. Yet when another leader of an embattled people, struggling for peace and freedom, speaks out to his people and his allies, the petty minded stoppers can think of nothing but to mock him. How small a time we live in.
Over at Just One Minute is yet another discussion of the Evil Republicans claiming that a Kerry administration would be make the USA more in danger from the caliphascists. The whining about such claims has always struck me as very odd.
Here are two statements:
These are, logically, the same statement. They have the exact same truth value — if one is true, both are and if one is false, both are. Yet it seems OK to make the first statement but the second statement is a horrendous slur. But making that claim simply precludes any political discussion of whether the USA would, in fact be more or less vulnerable to attack depending on the outcome of the election. I somehow doubt that anyone on either side believes that the election outcome is completely irrelevant to American security, so why de facto forbid discussion of it?
In doing some research for an earlier post, I stumbled across this post of mine from back in March of 2003. The key line was
Apparently the plan is to “transform the infrastructure” of Iraq within a year of the end of the invasion.
Well, that doesn’t seem to have happened. It is an example of the falsely placed triumphalism that existed before the invasion. Sadly, we don’t seem able politically to say “we screwed up and thought it would be far easier than it was”. We must either maintain the triumphalism or believe that it’s hopeless. There are some voice out there that realize that what’s done is done, the question is how to best proceed from here but that doesn’t seem to be making in to the national political arena. Here is where the failure of the Democratic Party to provide a serious candidate truly hurts. If the counter argument is either “run away!” or fanciful delusions of broken down anti-American European states helping out, then we’re a lot less likely to fix things than rather than fix blame.
I’m torturing the poor guy over at BAGnews Notes about President Bush and his service in the Texas Air National Guard. I’ve included my comment in the extended text because it’s all old news for people who have been paying attention.
But two things struck me while writing it.
The first is that, if fudging on his replies about his TxANG service and not completely fufilling that service is the worst perfidity Bush has committed, then he’s almost a saint. And given the nastiness of the campaign so far, the obsessive attention to that issue might well project that very thought to the voters and in the long term actually benefit Bush. The voter is exposed on one hand to claims that Bush is evil incarnate who will be the ruination of not just the USA but the entire world order. These come off as just lunatic hyperbole to the non-Bush haters. On the other hand, the biggest substantive issue seems to be his TxANG service. The rational view of Bush based on just those two views is not one that’s going to win Kerry the election.
The other was the analogy to the criticism of how Senator Kerry got his medals in Vietnam. My view is that those charges are quite a bit more creditable than the TxANG charges but still, I don’t care. Apparently neither do most voters. But unlike the walking undead issue of the TxANG, the medal flap has been allowed to fade from the scene. It’s not getting exhumed on a regular basis despite having failed previously. Of course, it might just be that the GOP has a target rich environment in Kerry but then that would just re-enforce the previous point.
It just boggles my mind that so many in the Democratic Party, even what appear to be otherwise intelligent people, just can’t let it go.
On what evidence do you believe Bush hasn’t owned up? He got an honorable discharge and your own chart here shows that he made up his credits. In terms of getting out, the ANG was flooded with combat experienced pilots who wanted slots from the winding down of the US presence in Vietnam. Getting out was easy. Moreover, the honorable discharge which puts the burden of proof on the critics.
As for getting in, there are now witnesses from the time claiming not and Barnes’ tale is hardly more creditable than the CBS documents. Barnes is a long time Democratic Party politician, the third largest contributor to the Kerry campaign, wasn’t Lt. Governor when Bush entered the TxANG in 1968, although Barnes claimed he was. Oh, and that whole Sharpstown stock scandal. And this is the primary witness! The “Vince Foster was killed” moonbats would be embarrassed by that kind of evidence. This doesn’t even take note of the fact that Mary Mapes at CBS spent five years hunting this down and in the end had to go with obviously forged documents. That certainly speaks to the strength of her case.
Now, I don’t expect you to change your view on this. I will admit that while the preponderance of evidence is on Bush’s side, it’s not open and shut and Bush has tried to fudge things. What I am asking is that you consider the possibility that the non-hard-core will look at this and give Bush the benefit of the doubt for good reason and not just because they’re brainwashed drones.
You might take a lesson from the Swift Boat Veterans. The arguments about Kerry’s medals falls in this same grey area. Although, as a partisan, I find the accusations more substantial than those against Bush’s TxANG service, I still can’t bring myself to care. Neither could the average voter. And look, that issue has been dropped. It doesn’t get dredged up over and over even after it’s failed because of weak evidence and lack of relevance. Yet the Democratic Party just can’t let the TxANG issue go. Why not? I’d really like to know. If this is Bush’s greatest perfidity then he’s nearly a saint. Have you considered that, and how this obsession might communicate that view to the voters?
Authorities have made little progress worldwide in defeating Islamic extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda despite thwarting attacks and arresting high-profile figures, according to interviews with intelligence and law enforcement officials and outside experts.
Ah, the old unnamed “officials” and “experts”. One is left wonder, as Judd does, why thwarting attacks and arresting members of the organization doesn’t count as progress. The story labels the Bush Administration’s view as “overly optimistic” but provides no explanation about why this is the case. For instance, we have this
Since the loss of its base in Afghanistan and many of those leaders, the organization has dispersed its operatives and reemerged as a lethal ideological movement.
And Al Qaeda wasn’t a lethal ideological movement before the Coalition conquered Afghanistan? Its operations weren’t dispersed, either?
Just as bizarre is this:
Osama bin Laden may now serve more as an inspirational figure than a CEO, and the war in Iraq is helping focus militants’ anger, according to dozens of interviews in recent weeks on several continents. European and moderate Islamic countries have become targets.
Ah, Iraq is focusing the anger of the caliphascists. Isn’t that basically an endorsement of the fly paper strategy? Not to mention that the reason Europe and moderate Islamic countries are targets is that Al Qaeda either can’t or hasn’t the will to attack the USA directly. How can that not be seen as progress? Oh wait — it’s progress for the USA but not for the people the LA Times views as important.
Buried in that same paragraph is a key point that bodes very ill for Al Qaeda but which the LA Times views as a failure of the Bush Administration’s efforts:
And instead of undergoing lengthy training at camps in Afghanistan, recruits have been quickly indoctrinated at home and deployed on attacks.
That, my readers, is a recipe for failure. History is replete with examples of why sending out raw recruits with minimal training is a sign of desperation of the side that is losing the struggle.
A primary reason why the Japanese naval efforts basically collapsed towards the end of the war was precisely this. Japan spent its highly trained, effective pilots during the bloody and apparently stalemated fighting in the south east Pacific. They weren’t rotated back to train new pilots and eventually Japan was forced to send out newbies against battle hardened American pilots and pilots trained by those same combat experienced pilots. This created a downward spiral in pilot quality for the Japanese from which they never recovered. The kamikazee tactics were driven more by this fact than any other reason.
On the other hand, Germany during WWII never stinted on NCO training, even when there were desperate shortages of sargeants and corporals. It was considered more important for the troops to know that if they had a sargeant, he was fully trained. This greatly helped in keeping the Wehrmacht an effective fighting force until very late in the war.
But even if the LA Times is completely ignorant of military theory and history, one is still left with the logical problem of, if shipping out ill-trained operatives is better for Al Qaeda than spending the time training them, why did Al Qaeda set up the training camps in the first place?
To top all that off, the LA Times also fails to look at any possible connection between lack of training of Al Qaeda operatives and the increasing ability of Western forces to thwart attacks. You might think that poorly trained operatives would be easier to detect, infiltrate and capture but the LA Times doesn’t, nor do its “experts”.
And finally, the LA Times offers this:
Officials say the terrorist movement has benefited from the rapid spread of radical Islam’s message among potential recruits worldwide who are motivated by Al Qaeda’s anti- Western doctrine, the continuing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the insurgency in Iraq.
Officials warn that radical Islam is fanning extremism in moderate Islamic countries such as Morocco, where the threat of terrorism has escalated with unexpected speed and ferocity, and re-energizing adherents in old hot spots such as Kenya and Yemen.
Yes, there was no spread of “radical” Islam before the invasion of Afghanistan. Isn’t it also odd that the LA Times expects societies whose members are slaughtered by the caliphascists to respond by embracing the caliphascist program and organizations? “Yeah, your bomb killed my neighbors and destroyed my tourism business so where do I sign up?”. Grudging submission (e.g., Spain) would at least be plausible but active support? Or it might be plausible if Al Qaeda were hitting American targets. I’m sure the LA Times thinks that the USA would reap a whirlwind of blowback for killing Arabs, destroying their livelihoods and attempting to overthrow their governments. Why is it when Al Qaeda does the same thing, the LA Times expects Arabs to flock to their banner?
This is yet another tenditious article whose purpose seems to be defeatist propaganda. Why the LA Times writers and editors think that’s a good idea while we are at war, I will leave to the reader’s imagination.
It’s odd how uncontextual much of the Left is these days. I suppose it’s because their views / policies don’t make much sense if one actually considers them in a realistic situation. And of course, the context most frequently elided is any that would reflect favorably on the USA.
As case in point, we have via Bagnews Notes, a video of Naomi Klein discussing an article of hers in Harper’s magazine concerning her experiences in Iraq. Alledgely Klein is considered one of the better voices of the Left on this issue, which certainly makes me feel sad for the rest.
She harps on the idea of a “neocon utopia”, by which she seems to mean some kind of lassiez-faire Hong Kong like system. One of course is left wondering why the prosperity of British ruled Hong Kong would be such a horrible fate to visit on the Iraqi people, but let that pass by as the actual goal of the invasion was to replace the Ba’ath regime with something resembling a liberal democracy. Klein elides that bit of context, one of many she drops in order to get her story arranged.
Klein does manage to hit a couple of good points.
The first is that the CPA didn’t do a good job of hiring locals, that it in fact imported non-skilled workers from other countries or giving sub-contracts to local firms. I remember this being a source of complaint from the conservatives at the time. It’s a case of being penny-wise and pound foolish, but it seems to be far more rooted in the whole “accountability” issue that permeates the beauocracy and is heavily promoted by the same factions that complain of this. We see a repeat of this in Klein’s second reasonable point, which is the slow pace of spending by the CPA. It’s another point on which conservatives have complained as well, but at least the conservatives aren’t simultaneously complaining of no-bid contracts and Halliburton. Spending the money fast to achieve policy goals can only be done by accepting a higher level of waste and fraud and far more no-bid contracts given to firms with a proven record, e.g. Halliburton. It is precisely this kind of dream world, contradictory demands that makes it so tiring to argue with much of the Left these days.
But after hitting these points, Klein descends in to the valley of no context. At the highest level, Klein seems to believe that the Iraqis would be better off with either the previous Ba’ath regime or the national socialism that has done so much for Africa. She talks disapprovingly of “smashing Iraq” and “every government building decimated”. Of course, Iraq was run down far more by the Ba’ath and sanctions than the war, which in historical terms did phenomenonally little damage (woops, there’s that context thing again). It was the Ba’ath regime that was smashed, not Iraq. Does Klein not think the Ba’ath regime deserved to be smashed?
The oddest bit is her view of the “resistance”. I find it unarguable that the primary cause of lack of infrastructure, death and delay of full Iraqi sovereignity is the actions of the violent caliphascists terrorizing Iraq. Yet Klein seems to think well of these people, that they’re a natural outgrowth of frustrated citizens rather than the foreign agents, dead end Ba’athists and religious extremists that they are.
Klein doesn’t bother with wondering why, if the Iraqis are upset with the slow pace of infrastructure reconstruction, an organic resistance would spend its time blowing it up.
Klein doesn’t wonder why, if the Iraqis was the Americans out of Iraq, an organic resistance would slaughter Iraqis wholesale and deliberately target those organs of government necessary for self rule, with out which the occupation will continue.
Klein herself brings up that the continuing unrest has diverted billions from reconstruction to security. But she blames the USA, not those causing the violence.
The questions would require context and not just faulting the USA which seems to be why they haven’t occured to Klein. And once you wonder about that kind of thing, most of her case falls apart. I think she could have made a good one if she’d just consider a bit of the context in which our actions in Iraq take place and the trade offs required.
Never has the US (according to international public opinion polls) been so resented, if not loathed, by so many people around the world.
This is a key point on which the argument about the invasion of Iraq hangs. Most supporters don’t believe that the USA is any more loathed or resented, it’s just come out in the open, the way the political biases of Old Media have become undeniable. In a way it’s actually a good thing to know who is really a friend and who is an enemy.
It’s time for me to ask for some help out there.
She Who Is Perfect In All Ways will be teaching a class at the local University next semester on computer security. She plans to have an “isolation laboratory” where the students will interact with live threatware such as viruses, worms, etc. One of the points of the lab is to teach students about informational hygiene and to that end she’d like to use procedures similar to biohazard ones (e.g. no digital media leaves the lab, things that “touch” contaminated things are also contaminated, etc.). What I’d like is any references or suggestions for a “technohazard” symbol in the same vein as the biohazard symbol. As far as I know there is no such thing, but I’m more of a systems than a security person. SWIPIAW is a security expert and she didn’t know of any either. This means that suggestions from the artistically inclined would be appreciated (I am a man of many talents, but I am not even remotely talented at visual artistry).
I think it’s a fascinating subject. When we talked about the required procedures it was clear to me that there were strong parallels to biologically hazardous material procedures, the primary difference being the infectious agent vectors. The strongest one is that you don’t think about whether something is contaminated — if it’s possible that it is contaminated, then it must be treated as being contaminated. The lab has to be isolated (electronically rather than physically), there must be decontamination procedures, etc. Finally something that will make computer science cool.
Now that some are openly calling Dan Rather insane, one is left with the question — how did Rather get to be so powerful that his corporate masters dare not punish him for even flagrant abuses of his position? After thinking about it a bit, I believe that Rather is like the pampered athletes who are never told “no” and have someone else taking care of whatever whims strike their fancies. If the prima dona is a star that brings in the paying fans then the pampering is simply acknowledgement of that profit power. Certainly there have been scandals enough in the sports world where stonewalling and excuses were made that were just as lame as the defense of Rather. One might hope that Rather would disappear in disgrace but my response is “Mike Tyson”.
The wrinkle in the public-service spin on Wi-Fi is who will bear the cost for the service. The answer splits proponents into two camps, and both are problematic. On one side are those who see wireless broadband as a public amenity—a basic service that cities and towns should provide free to residents as they do, say, trash pickup. […]
In the other camp are those who eye Wi-Fi as a potential revenue generator. Proponents of this model say cities and towns could negotiate affordable residential Wi-Fi rates as part of the bundle of wireless broadband services they purchase for local government departments, such as fire, police, and schools. A more hands-off approach, already being tried in some places, is to contract out the installation and management of local Wi-Fi in exchange for franchise fees paid by the contractor.
All I can say is, not one city I’ve lived in had free trash pickup. But there’s a number of other interesting bits that I’d like to mention.
Sheridan compares this effort to the previous efforts of municipalities to deliver cable TV which turned out badly. I agree with him that trying to profit from a municipal WiFi network isn’t likely to fare much better. I don’t think that direct management or franchise fees will make much of a difference in the end1. The potential competition from private networks would mean either subsidies for the civic one (negating the original motive, profit) or suppression of the competition which is likely to be legally and technically difficult. While WiFi wouldn’t have the content provision problems that cable did, I still can’t see direct profit as feasible.
One can make a better argument for a municipality putting in WiFi is to make the area more attractive to high pay people and businesses and thereby improve the cash flow of the municipality (which can be thought of as indirect profit). This is a common theme, it’s just that the newest buzz word — “WiFi” — has been inserted in place of such perennial favorites as “sports arena” or “casino”. One naturally asks, what are the chances that WiFi would do better than previous (failed) civic improvement efforts such as stadiums or the downtown renewals? I think one can make a case, but it’s a weak one.
One might argue (as Sheridan mentions) that WiFi is more akin to improving roads and traffic than event oriented efforts such as stadiums. I would tend to agree, which is why I think if the choice was between WiFi and some new sports arena, I’d go with WiFi. There are number of issues, though, that make it far from clear that the city would actually be better off.
A effort similar to WiFi has been municipalities buying high bandwidth “pipes” (such as this initiative in Colorado) to make Internet connectivity easier for consumers and businesses. I don’t have any hard numbers but I suspect that it hasn’t been too successful or we would have heard more about it. It suffers from the competition effect (once cable modems are available, what good does the pipe do?) and the tragedy of the commons effect. The latter is the sad fact that if only one municipality gets a big pipe, it benefits strongly from it. However, each time any other city does so the utility for all cities decreases, just as telephone connectivity was once important but now is just assumed (Omaha not withstanding).
I believe as telephone did and broadband is doing, WiFi will become a presumed commodity service in the next twenty years and that there’s little to no point in any municipality spending large chunks of tax money on speeding it up. Improve the basic business climate and private companies will build the network. In other words, be friendly and get out of the way.
1 The biggest problem in my view is the “entanglement” problem. If it’s a cable company then you can get the service or not and provide feedback about the cable service. If it’s run by the municipality or even just a franchised monopoly, one can effectively on provide feedback via voting, which has two failure modes for rapid response and customer service:
This kind of sporadic, entangled feedback makes the kind of immediate and specific feedback required for proper delivery of complex products.
When I think about the relationship between the modern, western chattering classes and the Caliphascists, I am strongly reminded of a similar relationship between the Eloi and the Morlocks. As the Eloi ultimately depended on the Morlocks for their physical sustenance, the chatterati depend on the Caliphascists to for their psychological sustenance. At some level the Eloi/Chatterati are aware of just how the Morlocks really feel about them but they put that away and pretend not to, because it’s a bright sunny day and they have overflowing bounty built by someone else. On the other hand, at least the Eloi were smart enough to not actively help the Morlocks…
Only two years ago I was just a regular commentor over at the Brothers Judd. Then I got my own weblog and … I’m still a regular commentor at the Judd’s. Hmmm.
I just keep thinking about the White House passing through the fake National Guard memos. Everything I read just re-enforces my earlier view that the White House recognized the forgeries and declined to get involved. I think it’s reasonable to presume that CBS News thought it was doing a fork attack on the White House but instead the White House realized it could set up a win-win scenario by refusing to get involved. If the forgery is discovered on its own, fine. If not, a cutout could be used to get the ball rolling. And if neither of those, then is it really so bad for the Democratic Party to put most of its effort in to the story of Bush’s National Guard service? It would do damage but very little for a large effort. Even many on the Left realize that (at best) it’s flogging a terminally ill horse. If the Democratic Party spent the rest of the election pounding this for a 1% shift while the Bush campaign had a free hand to hit on other issues for a 5% shift, who wins?
White House communications director Dan Bartlett had agreed to talk to “60 Minutes” […] Half an hour later, Roberts called “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. […] At that point, said “60 Minutes” executive Josh Howard, “we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down.”
Two patterns of behavior leap out at me on this.
First, there’s the Evil Genius / Idiot meme. Rove is this super-villian level Evil Genius yet there’s no reason for CBS to expect that he might be setting them up in this instance. There’s not even a “trust but verify” view. If a White House spokesman simply declines to challenge the authenticity then that’s all the confirmation needed. If Rove was involved this is precisely the point at which he could intervened in a believable way. The White House doesn’t even have to lie.
Second, this is a pattern that also exemplifies the Left’s approach to the USSR, where there was an obessive fascination with words and documents. The important thing to them then was signed agreements, the idea that a totalitarian regime like the USSR would lie was simply inconceivable. It’s probably another aspect of the logo-realist worldview of so much of the Left. Other nations have long since figured this out, as for instance France’s latest international ploy. What’s astonishing is that cynical governments like the USSR and France can go to this well again and again and the pathetic trusting stream never goes dry.
UPDATE: It’s more pathetic than I thought. Josh Howard, executive producer at CBS News, says
If we had gotten back from the White House any kind of red flag, raised eyebrow, anything that said, ‘Are you sure about this stuff?’ we would have gone back to square one
Openly depending on the Bush Administration to protect them from the Bush campaign! This is truly flourescent idiocy.
Via Little Green Footballs we have the LA Times claiming that the original Free Republic post about the TANG memos was “highly technical” and therefore must have been originally written by a Rove operative. If you look at the post, it would appear technical only to someone with less knowledge about modern technology than most high school graduates (a class of people that apparently includes the staff at the LA Times).
It makes me think of Karl Rove coming in to work and being presented by his staff with the latest claims of Rovian super powers. Now, Rove’s a smart guy and a top notch political operator but many claims of his powers would be beyond the capabilities of most comic book super villians. Lex Luthor could take lessons from the Rovian mastermind portrayed in moonbat faction of the American Left. I’ll bet it would be a fun contest to see who could find the most ludicrous claim of Rove’s political genius. The only problem would be distinguishing between satire and moonbattery.
Folks worried about a Kerry comeback should keep in mind that probably no more than a fifth of the electorate has seen his 1971 testimony.
I wonder how many depressed Rove operatives there will be after the election. Think of it — they might have spent months, possibly years, constructing highly detailed and meticulously documents attacks against Senator Kerry. And then the work is just thrown away because there were too many other, better attacks. It’s like all those aircraft carriers we built in WWII. By the time they were ready to go, they weren’t needed because Japan had already been pounded down. As long as CBS is sucking all the oxygen out of the political environment, why should Rove launch anything major? Rove is a commander holding his fire because he’s watching the opposing army get chewed up by the local partisans and telling his minions with their varied and powerful weapons “sorry, boys, it just doesn’t look like we’ll need those this time”.
Now, as the father of a three year old, I can understand just what kind of melt down that could cause, so I don’t want to minimize the trauma. The worst part would be trying to explain it to your daughter. So it was certainly a very mean and inappropriate thing to do.
But I just can’t get upset with Kerry about it. Are we now going to play the “who’s got the most obnoxious supporters game” instead of the 30 year old history game? What will happen when the Democratic Party drags out some incident involving a Bush supporter (and you know that’s happened, there are jerks everywhere)?
We can blame Kerry for the ancient history “gotcha!” fest, but rude supporter tag? Let’s just not go there. The sign ripper is a just a jerk. Public humiliation of him is fine. Reading greater political significance in to it? Simply silly.
I wonder what is irritating Dan Rather the most:
It’s a personal humiliation trifecta.
The demonization of Bush is going to cost John Kerry plenty, if it has not done so already. It so overstates the case against Bush that a levelheaded listener would be excused for thinking that there isn’t one in the first place. It squeezes the middle, virtually forcing moderates to pick which bunch of nuts they’re going to join.
What’s interesting is that this seems to be game plan of the Caliphascists as well - demonize / incite the enemy so that one’s prospective co-religionists / party members must chose one side or the other. Look how Kevin Drum was beaten like a rented mule for daring to suggest that
It’s the perfect example of Bush hatred forcing moderates to choose sides by making co-existence impossible.
It’s also an example of how much personal difference Bill Clinton made to the Democratic Party. Clinton was an expert at triangulating winning Republican issues / strategies. Now that he’s gone, the Democratic Party is stealing and retreading Clinton hating which was a losing strategy. Heck, they’re just one step away from taking Pat Buchanan as well! I say, go for it.
I hate to pick on Harry’s Place, but this post first lauds the declaration that the Saudi Entity doesn’t have religious freedom and then credits Farenheit 911 as creating the political pressure necessary to shift the State Department. If there’s one thing that movie didn’t do, it’s put any political pressure on President Bush. The claim also ignores the fact that the neo-cons (that clever cabal controlling the country) have been bashing Bush about the Saudi Entity for years. The bottom line is that the Saudis just aren’t popular with much of anyone in the USA these days, except the State Department. Hmmm…
Related to my previous post is another thought. What if a period of authoritarianism is the least cost path? Yes, innocents are killed in such states but it’s not clear that more do than in the chaos of failed states. People like security and it may be that the only way to convince them to accept the risks and costs of liberty (which are not trivial) is to first provide more security and less liberty. I’m not claiming this is so, but what evidence is there that it’s not? Even American democracy was forged out of the English civil wars and a number of rather oppressive colonial governments.
It’s hard to watch a country gradually slip in to authoritarianism, but some one living in the real world needs to ask, “what could be done to be better?”. Good intentions don’t guarantee good results, something that is far too frequently overlooked.
Gene at Harry’s Place is upset about Russian President Putin’s latest political move. He’s also upset about President Bush not doing something about it. It’s not clear what Bush should do, but at least he is castigating Putin.
While I agree that Putin’s latest political changes are indeed worrisome, there are two counter points that occur to me which I will discuss in this post and the next one.
It’s odd for Gene to complain about Bush applying different standards to our friends and our enemies. Well, yeah. One set is our friends and the other our enemies. One can tolerate some kinds of behaviour in friends that’s intolerable in an enemy because the friend isn’t a threat. While I’m sure Gene and I would love to live in a world of self ordered societies (even if created by American hyperpotency) the fact remains that for all of America’s strength, it can’t fix the entire world all at once. Therefore priorityis given to those changes that most benefit the security of the USA. Russia is not currently a threat to the USA. Caliphascism is. Is this really so hard to understand? As the cleanup of the failed states in the Middle East by the USA had to wait for the conclusion of the Cold War, it may be that places like Russia will have to wait until the defeat of Caliphascism. Perhaps the EU could step in and do something while the USA is busy elsewhere…
This changed world can be a time of great opportunity for all Americans to earn a better living, support your family, and have a rewarding career.
and Gene at Harry’s Place responds
would any “family-values” Republicans concede that many of these working moms would prefer to be stay-at-home-with-the-kids moms, but can’t afford to do so on one paycheck— especially in a time of stagnant wages?
A quick check of the reference shows that it is tracking percentiles and not actual families. Population growth and immigration can easily make the median family income go down even while no single family income decreases. Of course, that’s extremely unlike to have been the case but it does indicate why statistics like these should be considered in context.
The other thing to keep in mind is that many families are struggling because the expectation of life have grown larger. Larger cars, larger houses, air conditioning, music systems, computers, cell phones — these are all relatively recent. In fact, when parents are willing to make sacrifices for their children a stay at home parent is still quite possible. My personal, anecdotal experience is consistent with that (although I suspect it’s easier out here in the suburban / semi-rural areas than in big cities). What such a life style is, however, is more work and one where the rewards are family and not possessions. It is the beauty of capitalism that allows people to make the choice of these tradeoffs for themselves instead of some bureauocrat deciding for them.
Gene also wonders
Is it really an unmixed blessing of contemporary capitalism that fewer and fewer Americans can count on a lifetime job with health care and a pension?
No, it’s not an unmixed blessing. If you want your blessings unmixed, you’ll need to live in Utopia. Have a nice time there. However, overall it’s a good thing and if there is a workable solution it’s more likely to be Bush’s Ownership Society than the kind of intrusive state we see in the UK and Europe.
On the other hand, like individuals, a society could emphasize lifetime jobs with health and pension at the cost of an overall less materially blessed standard of living. That’s the choice Old Europe has made but they don’t seem very happy with it. It also might not be sustainable as corporations and more important the young and the talented escape. Of course, they could fix that with a wall around Europe to prevent people from escaping…
I think that a congressional investigation of CBS is a terrible idea, and I’m surprised Chris Cox is proposing one. CBS right now lacks defenders. An official investigation will cause a lot of media outlets to spring to the network’s defense, citing First Amendment concerns. Whether or not those concerns are justified, there’s no reason for Republicans to raise them in the first place. Besides, right now the story is about CBS vs. the truth. Why would Republicans want to make it Republicans vs. CBS?
That’s the point I made in this post. Given the overall weakness of the accusation, it just doesn’t pay for the Republican political establishment to get involved before the forgeries are completely undeniable in public opinion.
Volokh Conspiracy is saying ‘enough with the memos’. I tend to agree, but it’s interesting that it’s time to move on when an issue is damaging the Democratic Party candidate. It’s Old Media that gone back to the Bush National Guard issue over and over again. In this case, all that has to happen for the issue to fade away is for CBS to
That’s it. And it shouldn’t be that difficult because as bad as that would be for CBS, it’s hard to imagine an alternative scenario that wouldn’t be worse.
It reminds me of the Plame issue, where that minor kerfluffle dominated the news for a long time, when it could have easily been resolved by Old Media being more forthcoming.
But I think the memo thing is about played out. It’s just a matter of waiting for CBS News to crack or fade in to irrelevance (or both).
UPDATE: Spoons weighs in with what I should have said.
I’m going to do something painful and defend (slightly) one of CBS’s experts.
As noted at RatherBiased, there is the claim by one CBS defending expert that the document uses letter lower case ‘L’ instead of the digit one. The claim is that this would be difficult using modern computers. Most people simply laugh at this — how does using a computer make it hard to hit the ‘l’ key instead of the ‘1’ key?
Let’s look. I produced this image using Microsoft Word and the default typeface, Times New Roman. There is a set of digits, a set of letters and then a letter / digit pair. Underneath are “187” with a letter and then a digit for the leading character.
The spacing difference for the proportional font is obvious. Note, however, that the only difference between the two characters at the default font size (12pt) is a single pixel. It’s not clear to me that one could reliably distinguish these on the dirty copies that have so far been made available. But setting that aside, the different spacing is precisely why Katz claims it would be hard to use a letter for a numeral. If the letter is used, the spacing is tighter. This is very hard to prevent using modern word processing. So, if you can show that
then you have evidence against this being produced by MS Word. This point seems to have eluded people ragging on Katz. What he means by “there wouldn’t be a font available” is that there is no proportional font that has the same spacing for the letter and the digit.
That minor defense made, I don’t think this works for CBS for a couple of reasons. First, as noted above, the difference in the characters is so slight as to be unreliable in the released images. Second, a typewriter doing proportional fonts would have the exact same issue. The test only works for documents claimed to have been produced by a monospaced typewriter. Yet in that case the proportionality would be so obvious elsewhere as to render the test pointless. That’s precisely the case here where CBS is scrambling to prove the availablity of proportional spaced typewriters.
Like all of CBS’s peephole defenses, it only makes sense when considered in complete isolation from any other issue. When combined with other facts the claim simply evaporates as irrelevant. That’s the standard mark of grasping at straws.
Even the Lefties are starting to realize that CBS News has done more to help President Bush than most of his putative allies.
Maybe when Bush is re-elected and the Left needs a scapegoat, they’ll go after Dan Rather instead of Ralph Nader. Wouldn’t that be sweet?
One question that haunts the fake memo issue is why the White House passed on the documents. My view is that the White House knew the documents were faked but didn’t see much upside to getting involved.
If the White House had disputed the memos (instead of the pajama clad horde) then the story would have been about the White House. I think there’s little doubt that had the White House lead the charge the Old Media story would be about the dirty attack politics of the Bush campaign instead of the mendacity of CBS and Dan Rather.
On the other hand, given the triviality of the charges and the irrelevance to the Bush campaign, even if the forgeries weren’t detected it’s difficult to see the effort as being particularly damaging.
Finally, the memos are such weak fakes that the White House may have figured that it was very likely to break anyway.
Overall, that adds up to a very weak case for getting involved, with little upside (derailing a insect bite attack) and a significant downside (getting distracted and dragged in the mud of forgery accusations). Given how things worked out, it was clearly the right strategy for the Bush campaign.
UPDATE: I was just talking about this with She Who Is Perfect In All Ways and she asked the obvious yet unanswered question — why did CBS think they’d get away with it? I gave the stock “because they’ve done it in the past” but then something else occurred to me. Did CBS consider the options I describe above and think that they had a fork on the Bush campaign? I.e.,
The key point is that the idea that someone other than a major player would get involved isn’t considered. A bit of a rude shock if that was the scenario.
UPDATE 2: More here.
This post has a good roundup of conspiracy theories concerning the provenance of the FANG memos. My favorites
The other subplot is a variant of the standard theory that the Clintons are sabotaging the Kerry campaign (although frankly, who could tell?). This of course is to clear the way for Hillary Clinton to run in 2008 against a non-incumbent Republican.
What’s my theory? While I find the Robin Rather angle interesting and the only plausible theory, I still lean toward an internal joke that got out of hand. That’s why the CBS can’t find the source - the contact point has forgotten it because it was just some momentary silliness with disposable campaign staff. Arrogance and stupidity did the rest.
Any journalist who starts mistaking himself for an oracle needs to be reminded who he is from time to time. […] Rather can blather all he wants about the political motivation of some in the blogosphere—but what matters is not bias but accuracy.
I think that’s the key point right there. Much of the Left has succumbed to logo-realism, a mental paradigm presumes that reality is socially constructed. It privileges words over actions, opinions over facts, that with the right rhetorical incantations one can create the reality one desires. In such a worldview, bias does indeed matter more than factual accuracy because facts are subordinate to opinions. This would be an easy disease to acquire in Old Media, particularly as a big network news anchor. These people used to be able to shape much of what is viewed as facts (such as, the USA was militarily defeated in Vietnam) as they pleased. The fact checking of the blogosphere is not just damaging to their careers but jarring to their worldview. That’s what really upsets them.
Speaking of safe areas and insurgency, I’m still puzzled by Russia’s support of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Even before the Beslan massacre it seemed foolhardy for Russia, which has had a problem with Islam in Central Asia for centuries, to support an Islamic theocracy.
The essential problem with an Iranian nuclear weapon is that it renders Iran basically a no-go area for other nations (which is, of course, the primary reason the mullahs want such weapons). In the past, the USSR spent much time and effort in undermining other regimes via insurgencies from safe areas beyond the military or political reach of the target regime’s allies. Vietnam was a classic example of this. Given these two things, what good did Russia think would come of creating a safe haven for Islamic insurgents next to Russia and its client states? Especially after the debacle in Afghanistan? Surely the Russians didn’t believe that Iran would remain deferential and cooperative after the mullahs obtained nuclear weapons. Could the geostrategists in the Kremlin be that naive?
I expect that it’s going to get a lot worse for Russia in the near to medium term. I doubt Russia will even half way successful resolve the issues with Chechnya, as Soviet and Russian geostrategy in Central Asia has been a series of debacles and horrors since the late 1970’s. Russian support for a nuclear armed Iran even to the present day and Ba’athist Iraq until the invasion shows that the Kremlin still hasn’t learned any lessons.
Apparent the Coalition forces in Iraq are holding off pushing forward into insurgent held towns until November. As I’ve noted I’m not too concerned about places where our troops can’t go as long as our weapons can.
This marks a big change in warfare. Creating “no-go” areas used to be key to a successful insurgency, because it provided a safe area for organizing, R&R and storage of supplies. But because of the reach and precision of our weapons, not one of those is available in the no-go areas of Iraq. “Safe” houses are being hit on a daily basis. The insurgents have finally learned not to bunch up in the streets anywhere. In effect, the insurgents have trapped themselves in a kill zone where the Coalition is increasingly free politically to engage in targeted strikes. Attrition has always been a good strategy in war.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the goal is victory, not a body count. If letting the jihadis run Fallujah means that we can steadily thin their ranks while contrasting the fate of those in the no-go areas to those not, then it might well be that the population of no-go areas decides it’s just not worth supporting the jihadis. That is the victory we need.
Via The Brothers Judd we have the story of how Vietnamese immigrants are organizing against Senator Kerry. They’re just a tad bitter over the whole “selling them out to the Communists to boost my career” thing that Kerry did back in the early seventies. Kerry didn’t see any difference between North and South Vietnam, or even much between the USA and the North. Who are those who suffered under Communist oppression to dispute his view?
Here’s the commercial I’d like to see from this. It would start with Kerry’s statements about how the North Vietnamese were simple, generous folk would fought only to expel the evil Americans. The announcer would say “Kerry’s view won the day. How did that turn out?”. We switch to a Vietnamese refugee such as the one in the story, who survived three years of labor camp and lost most of his family to Communist execution squads. The announcer states that this is a common tales, repeated hundreds of thousands of times. Next the announcer asks “what of the issue of today, Iraq?”. Segue to an Iraqi talking about the oppression of the Ba’ath and how, for the first time, his life has hope. How he fears the return of chaos and the jihadis. The announcer makes the final voice over. “John Kerry. Trying to do for the Iraqis what he did for the Vietnamese”.
People keep saying that small weblogs have as their primary audience friends and associates of the weblogger. I find that somewhat odd. As far as I know, only two people I’m personally aquainted with have even visited this weblog. I’ve drawn my limited audience from the random … people I’ve met on the Internet. Now, my kidlog has an audience that consists entirely of family and friends, but that’s a little different since children are really only interesting to their own kin. But if you can interact with people directly why would they read your weblog? I started mine in no small part because few people I know personally care to listen to me pontificate on things, but there seemed a ready market for it in the blogosphere. Now that it’s made me fabulously wealthy, though, I do it just for fun.
Sometimes at work, when I’m crushing the spirit of some co-worker, he will attempt to erect a defense based on my personal failings. This commonly takes the form of a claim that I am arrogant. I simply respond to that with “Yes. Your point is?” which frequently causes some very gratifying verbal stumbling. It’s a clear sign of a weak attack if your opponent simply admits it.
In this vein, one of the major attack vectors against President Bush from the Left has been the claim that Saddam Hussein had no direct connection to the 11 Sep attacks. Now Colin Powell has said the same thing. Like the curt dismissal of Al Gore’s attacks it makes one wonder why the Democratic Party can’t generate anything substantial. Oh, right, I already explained that.
I wonder — did the fact that the Left has drunk the Kerry Kool-Aid on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth issue lead them to issuing these fake memos?
Look at it from the Left’s point of view, i.e., that the SBVfT are a bunch of obvious liars and Republican operatives throwing completely bogus and easily disproven accusations at Senator Kerry. If that’s the state of things, then what’s a few faked memos that are true in essence? How is it any different than what the Republicans have already done?.
If you’d asked me a few years ago if serious people could be suffering from that level of reality dysfunction, I would have laughed in your face. Now having seen the Kerry campaign and read a number of leading Left leaning weblogs, it seems very plausible. Sic transit gloria sinister.
UPDATE: Orrin Judd agrees with me although he fails to credit me. What, you think he works up all that stuff without me whispering in his ear? The question is, what did Judd know and when did he know it? I’ll be working on a photonic analysis to prove that some of the very same pixels were used in both posts…
Instapundit is still following the fake memo issue. This re-enforces the view I expressed earlier which is that this scandal might not discredit just CBS, not even just Old Media but documentary evidence in general.
Note that the point that’s harped on again and again in the coverage of this event is what a pathetic attempt at forgery this was. Every few hours some new facet of evidence pointing towards a fake shows up. On the other hand, we are accumulating in a very public way a check list for future forgers. Moreover, people are becoming aware of just how easy it is to put out reasonably good fakes. What happens when that lesson sinks in? If you think political factions in the USA don’t believe each other’s facts now, imagine what it will be like when any document can easily be put under a cloud of suspicion.
Everyone is naturally concerned about the recently reported large explosion in North Korea. However, there seems to be a lot of concern about whether the cloud is a mushroom cloud or not. Nuclear explosions generate mushroom clouds not because they’re nuclear but because they’re very hot. Any explosion that involves high temperatures generates a mushroom cloud. Just watch any action movie / show for a gasoline explosion. You’ll see a nice little mushroom cloud form. So people should wait for just a bit more data than the shape of the cloud to make any firm conclusions.
While I was perusing some lefty weblogs I noticed that a common complaint in the comments was the SCLM, “so called liberal media”. The basis for claiming that Old Media was supporting the Bush campaign was
It seems that the essential difference is driven by one’s views of the authenticity of the two issues. If one assumes that the SBVfT are inauthentic and the memos are authentic then it might well look like Old Media is supporting the Republicans. One is left with a few loose ends, though:
The case for Old Media be biased conservatively seems to have some internal consistency probolems. The other case, biased toward liberals seems more solid. It does have the question of why the forgery issue has been pushed, but I think that the blood in the water theory1 is at least plausible.
It’s always good to check things from the other guy’s point of view to try to keep at least some connection to reality in one’s own views.
1 This is the theory that Old Media will hang together, regardless of the facts, if the story is widely spread. But if only one organization backs the story then it can be attacked. If this is true, then the speed at which the blogosphere churned out the analysis on the forgeries may have created the story in Old Media by making the counter story available before the original claim had spread and become locked in.
Couldn’t Democrats have found a better candidate? Honestly?
No, I don’t think they could. Of course, theoretically they could have picked the very best person in the entire country for the President (which, IMHO, is not George W. Bush). But of course, the essence of the problem is that modern political parties can’t just pick someone.The candidate must pick himself and then best other candidates. It is here that, as many have noted, the Democratic Party is so far out of the main stream and driven by such furious partisans that no candidate with a consistent program can get elected. I don’t think it’s even just the disconnect between the Democratic Party and the American Street but that the internal factions of the party can’t agree either. The primary ideologies of the party have been shown to be false and now it’s essentially reactionary. At this point, I find it more likely that the Republican Party will split to create the two primary parties than that the Democratic Party will recover. I doubt that Senator Kerry’s loss in November will make much difference. The 2008 primaries will be a repeat of electability (Hillary Clinton) vs. purity.
Some have suggested that the Democratic Party needs to nominate an unelectable but pure candidate, take the drubbing and learn from it. But I don’t think that will happen. Any loss will be blamed on the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, not on the fundamental bankruptcy of the platform. That’s why I think the two major parties twenty years from now will both be Republican Party successors. I believe that the two will be the “compassionate conservatives” in the manner of President Bush and the “minarchists” who will push for limited government. It’ll be a far different world.
It occurred to me while reading yet another post about faked National Guard documents is the point of the White House passing on copies of the documents. Did someone at the White House look at the documents, realize that they were very weak forgeries and pass them on as part of another reeling out the line for their political opponents to hang themselves with? Could the minimalist response by the White House be because they were planning on attacking the authenticity at a later time but have been pre-empted by the blogosphere? I can’t believe that such documents would pass through the White House without anyone taking a careful look at them.
One of the commentors over at this post wondered about what will happen when weblog regulars (either the webloggers themselves or a commentor) runs for political office. Will the opposition researchers paw through their posts and comments to look for “interesting” statements?
If so, what will the rules of evidence be? The weblogger has complete control over the content on his weblog, including all comments. I can edit any comment here and leave no trace of the edit. I only do that for typographic reasons (primarily cleaning up links or double posts) or at the request of the commentor. If we are considering the situation 5 or 10 years from now, there is unlikely to be any cached versions around. As more content migrates on line, the concept of “hard proof” may well fade away.
Some have claimed that in the Internet era, pundits will find it harder to escape their past mistakes because they are so much easier to find. That will apply only to the more popular pundits for whom others are willing to maintain copies of their work. Even there, who’s to say that those copies are accurate? Digital media makes accidental mistakes much rarer but intentional inaccuracies much easier.
Well, you say, let’s just make copies of everything. But who decides what to copy and pay for the storage? Perhaps the Library of Congress should do that, although that still leaves the decision about what to maintain copies. On the other hand, if there is an “official” record there’s what the security concious call a “single point of failure”. Putting someone inside that single source then becomes very attractive because if that record is altered, it might well rewrite history.
Perhaps we’ll move back to more of a character driven society where things are judged by the overall view of a person more than the increasingly unreliable “physical” record1.
1 Who can trust pictures anymore? Well developed photo modification skills used to be the province of dedicated experts with expensive equipment. Now we have Fark.
The comments at Daily KOS and Calpundit about the recent documents (likely forged) concerning President Bush and his National Guard service. The lack of ability to process information already posted in previous comments (or even in the main) post is amusing. But what really strikes me is the fervor for the issue itself, which has failed to make any difference twice before. As others have noted, the voters will be far more likely to judge Bush on his last four years as Commander in Cheif than his disputed records from 30 years ago. It will be really ironic if CBS, Dan Rather and Senator Kerry go down in flames because some deranged Bush haters faked memos to support an issue that hasn’t ever been significant. It’s like arguing about whether the concrete in the Maginot Line was up to snuff as the Panzers roll in to Paris.
UPDATE: Orrin Judd wonders the same thing.
We’ll know that WWIV is over and the Caliphsascists have lost when heavy metal bands start adopting Islamic / Arabic outfits instead of militaristic German ones.
When I think of just how incompetent Old Media seems to be these days, I wonder if it’s not a result of the “objectivity” that journalism has prized all these years. Good weblogs are much sharper than Old Media but I don’t think it’s because webloggers are intrinsically better. I suspect it’s much more because it’s so easy to rip apart another weblogger for faulty logic or facts. On the other hand, if everyone is “objective” then there’s really only one truth. This would seem to encourage both laziness and groupthink. After all, if you’ve already seen the “objective” story line, how else could it be? There’s too much concern about physical competition among media companies and not enough about competition among ideas. Recent history has clearly shown that these are not synonymous.
My biggest relief after the Republican National Convention was that John McCain wasn’t selected as the vice presidential candidate but blessedly the rumours failed to pan out. President Bush is often accused of various horrific crimes and traits, but the one of his that actually frightens me is rarely, if at all, mentioned by his opponents. That is Bush’s apparent support for criminalizing political speech. The issue of 527 groups sponsoring political advertisements (and illegally coordinating them with the DNC) lead not to Bush denouncing the idea of legal evisceration of the First Admendment but a plaint that the bill Bush had signed didn’t have enough restrictions to shut down the 527 groups. With McCain, of course, this tendency would be strongly enhanced.
Now, it may just be a political ploy (although, the fact remains that Bush signed the McCain-Feingold law). However, the problem there is that once one starts toeing a line, even hypocritically, that line tends to become more real. It’s the standard way the Right trips up the Left, by tricking the Left in to mouthing support for conservative values and then choking them o the resulting contradictions. Bush’s statements set him up to have that done to him the next time some scandal haunted Senator wants to buff his good government bonafides.
But we won’t be talking about this, a real substantive issue. And, sadly, it’s not clear Kerry is any better on this piont. This is why we need two healthy political parties. We could also use some media that wasn’t highly biased and incompetent at the same time. Unfortunately I don’t see much hope of the Democratic Party getting its act together for at least one more presidential campaign.
Perhaps I’m just partisan, but I just can’t get worked up very much over this, even if it’s true, in no small part because it’s not something Bush or his campaign brings up. Senator Kerry and Vietnam - that’s a little different. I wouldn’t get worked up over his scamming himself some medals — whatever the truth of that, Kerry was without doubt in actual combat — if Kerry didn’t keep the issue front and center. What’s alarming is not the idea that Kerry is doing something stupid by keeping such a weak issue for him in play, but that perhaps it really is the best he can do. It sure beat the Department of Wellness.
What I ponder in this whole document mess is, was the use of forgeries or at least very poorly vetted documents caused by rage, incompetence or hysteria? Is it yet another example of the media cocoon that wraps the Kerry campaign and its supporters? I don’t believe that CBS thought that the fraud would be detected so quickly nor so thoroughly. Or, if even CBS was fooled, that anyone could be a better judge of authenticity than CBS itself. After all, they’re professionals. I concur that the biggest loser here is unlikely to be Kerry or Bush, but Old Media itself. It’s not just the story getting out but the speed of it so that the counter-story comes out while the original one is still in play. It’s not going to be a pleasant 7 weeks for Old Media this time.
I’ve finally put a blogroll up. I’ve been using Blogmatrix the last couple of months and I’ve grown quite fond of it. Tonight I figured out how to get it to publish the weblogs I have listed in it directly to a template module in MovableType. So now if I make changes, I can update the weblog on this page directly from BlogMatrix with a few mouse clicks. So now my blogroll will be a fairly close approximation of what I’m reading. I don’t expect many click throughs, but it is polite to provide the links.
I’ll note that the primary reason I use BlogMatrix is that it tracks low traffic weblogs for me. It reads the RSS / Atom feeds and maintains a list of weblogs with posts I haven’t read. I can then click through to read them. As a low traffic site, I highly recommend the use of a tool of this type.
I think that I should start getting my records sealed in case I ever run for political office. It’s embarassing to admit just how law abiding and staid I’ve lived my life, but there it is. Heck, I didn’t even have a beer while I was in college. (“Yes, there were open beer cans there but I didn’t imbibe”)
It seems that the best way to advertise my boring dependability without coming off a total geek in a political campaign would be to get the records sealed and then have my opponents spend their efforts on getting them unsealed. Then when there’s nothing there, my opponent has wasted his time and I get a boost from the free advertising of my lack of illegality. (“Oops, it turns out that he did pay off his student loans”) A nice win-win scenario.
Hmmm. It’s past Labor Day and it’s still Senator Kerry.
The problems I anticipate the Russians having in executing against the Caliphascists points up another reason for anti-Americanism. We’re incredibly spoiled in that things that are so hard for other nations are very easy for us. Our special forces, rather than being worn away by the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq have instead gotten even better. Our regular Army and Marines are doing better as well. We can see this in the gradually rising kill ratios that our forces are experiencing. We’re not in an imperial decline from overstretch but still “getting warmed up” for the ongoing struggle.
This kind of thing disguises just how hard force projection in modern warfare is for established states. This leads to resentment by putative allies (such as France) and fuels anti-Americanism. Domestically it causes “multi-lateralism” which doesn’t work very well in practice because of the inability of pretty much the rest of the world to operate at the American level. Those allies who aren’t with us in Iraq are almost all not just unwilling but incapable of effective force projection. I think Americans would understand other nations better if they had a better understanding of just how exceptional we are.
Another post by Orrin Judd on taxing gasoline to reduce consumption reminds of me a common science fiction trope that always bugs me. This is the “fossil fuel depletion” problem. The essence is the postulate that a technological society has a narrow time window between discovering fossil fuels and moving on to more advanced forms of energy. If the transition doesn’t happen, then the planet will never be able to escape to the stars. The classic example is in the Skylark series where the adventurers encounter a scientifically advanced race that is trapped on their planet (a necessary plot device, of course, because otherwise the other race would have found the humans instead of the humans finding them).
It bugs me because it’s so transparently untrue. Fossil fuels are convenient and cheap, but hardly necessary. Moreover, while things such as solar power satellites are expensive, they’re not all that expensive compared to a planetary energy budget. Such things are also self sustaining once a tipover point is reached.
Our technology in this area is primitive not because it’s all that hard but because fossil fuels are so cheap. This is the reason I don’t worry so much about running out of fossil fuels. It’s a self correcting problem. If fossil fuels stay cheap, it’s because we have plenty. If we don’t have plenty, the price will rise and we’ll develop alternative technologies. This means that science fiction authors need to come up with a better plot device. This one is fifty years old and never made sense.
Orrin Judd writes about the bizarre concept that competition improves quality, except in things the goverment happens to run these days, such as education. Bart, one of the commentors, raises the standard trope that private schools would do better because they would siphon off the better students. I find that argument sad for two reasons:
One of the problems with current public schools (among a large set of them) is that school boards can be captured by people who view the schools as a jobs program more than an education effort. Vouchers would put control back in the hands of those most likely to care about education first, the parents. And if the parents don’t care, there’s not much a school can do anyway.
One of the refrains about the need for reform in Islam is that the current situtation is unstable. Either Islam reforms and discards its expansion by conquest or the American Street will become so enraged that it will deal with the threat of Islam the way it dealt with the native Americans, the Confederacy and National Socialism.
But what of the Russian Street? Does not the same logic apply there? I’m not so sure. Russian President Putin has vowed to aggressively respond to the recent attacks on Russia but can he? The performance of the Russian military has not been impressive these last few decades. Chechnya still smolders. Even Russian special forces have performed badly in the theater attack in Moscow and in Beslan. Russia doesn’t have the wealth to do for Chechnya what the USA has done for Iraq either. I think that there is real question as to whether Russia can react effectively to the Caliphascist threat, short of nuclear attack.
The bigger question is, what happens to the Russian state if it tries and fails to take the initiative? I think the Russian citizenry would be accepting of a long struggle if they perceived Russia as advancing. But if Russia can’t? If it turns in to a long twilight struggle of Russia against forces it can’t combat effectively? What if Russia tries to use a nuclear weapon and it doesn’t work? I think that the Caliphascists have posed an existential threat to Russia, which is itself not far from a failed state. There’s not much the USA can do to help — any substantial direct aid might well do more harm than good by pointing out the Russian failure. We can only continue to act where we can.
Over at Kevin Drum’s there is much commentary about how the Republicans are playing hard ball and the Democratic Party is just too nice to respond. This ignores just a wee bit of recent history but no matter.
The funniest comment I read was someone who claimed that instead of focusing on Vietnam, Senator Kerry should highlight his service during the Cold War. Luckily I wasn’t drinking anything at the time or I’d need a new monitor. While Kerry’s actions during the Cold War weren’t as bad as his actions after returning from Vietnam, it’s not that far off.
Internally the Democratic Party and the Left in general seem to have rewritten the history of the Cold War into a bi-partisan unified fight. But of course, through much of the later decades of the Cold War much of the Left was accomodationist or outright supportive of Communist regimes. After Kennedy the Democratic Party started abandoning the fight against Communism and after LBJ it was over. Kerry was part of this crowd, if not a leader. He sided with the North Vietnamese, the Sandinistas and mocked Reagan’s efforts against the USSR. I can’t think of one single act where Kerry supported the USA against its Cold War enemies. And this is the history Kerry supporters want him to bring up? I say bring it on — the Republicans can always use some more votes.
You can’t learn from history if you continually rewrite it.
Even for me, an ultra-loyal Republican, the two creepiest words in the English language are “Christian rock.” […] Because rock music—and most other forms of entertainment, when you really think about it—is fundamentally about carnal desire. And Jesus, when you really think about it, is fundamentally not.
I think this is where Long goes wrong. A lot of entertainment is about carnal desire, but a lot of it isn’t. Does Long think his own humorous essays are read by people seeking carnal gratification? Maybe he does, but if so I’d prefer not to know. Andwhile carnality may have spawned rock&roll it certainly was not the end-all of the genre. For instance, I’d like to see Long pick out the physical desire in Close to the Edge by YES. Long’s view of music seems to be rather cramped.
Certainly in the past the music of the era was used for religious purposes. Many people like to think of “classical” music as intrinsically classical, but in fact it was “popular” music for the time. It was used for religious songs then, so why the “creepiness” of using the music of our era for religion? Moreover, the idea that a particular type of music belongs to a particular lifestyle group seems overly possessive. Perhaps he should try to get out more and see the wide variety of experience in the world.
The biggest question for me about the fake booing story was — what was the author thinking? Did it not occurr to him that there were thousands of witnesses along with online records demonstrating the falsity of the claim? We should acknowledge, however, that in the past the author might well have gotten away with similar calumnies with the victims unable to respond in any significant or coherent fashion or readily provide the evidence. Now one notes that it took no more than a few hours for the pressure to be great enough to cause an update.
One is left with the question of whether the author will suffer any career repercussions for such blatant bias and just how many times Old Media is going to get smacked like this before there is any change in behaviour.
One thing that will be interesting to watch as the final numbers come in for the election is how strong of a candidate President Bush really is. Back in 2000 I was of the opinion that if Bush even came close to Gore, that would show he was a strong candidate because by non-candidate measures Gore should have clobbered Bush. The current situation is very similar in terms of non-candidate measures (such as the economy). On top of that is the shear ineptness of the Kerry campaign. Objectively, this puts Bush in an even better position with respect to Kerry than Gore had with respect to Bush (Gore had friendly Old Media when they still mattered, but Bush has incumbency).
There have been claims that since the candidates have been polling even, it means that Bush is a very weak candidate because he should have pulled ahead. But earlier polls are very unreliable, both because many people don’t care and will say anything and because voters do, eventually, pay attention to facts on the ground which may be quite different during the election than before it. Ultimately, of course, we can’t just Bush in this regard until the election is held. But if Bush doesn’t have at least a 10% advantage (e.g., 55% to 45%) it should be somewhat embarassing for him. If he loses, he deserves to be mocked like Gore.
There are those claiming a bounce for President Bush after the Republican Nation Convention. I’m not so sure, but I think I would agree he got at least a small bounce. Looking at the numbers in the various polls, the widening gap looks more like Kerry getting a splat than Bush getting a bounce. Bush seems to have gone from around 48%-49% to about 52%-53%. That’s significant but not major. What’s really made a difference in the gap is Kerry dropping from that same ~48% down to 41%-42%.
I’ll certainly admit that the RNC went far better than I anticipated. Bush’s speech, while not magnificent, did do the two things he really needed to — be adequate while hitting some specific policy proposals (as opposed to “improve” or “reform” kind of proposals, i.e. things one could actually debate like privatizing Social Security).
I’ve been thinking that the political conventions are becoming more Internet-centric. Like primary news sources, it’s more about catering to a rather narrow demographic who in turn pass it on to their associates. It’s an extension of the “buzz” commercials which play in limited media markets but are spread around by Old Media and word of mouth. To make that happen, though, the commercials need to have some bite to them. I think that the RNC was run the same way. The targets were the loyalists and the political junkies. These people in turn spread the word to everyone else. To make this work well, you need much stronger content so that people will linger over it and rehash it, which I expect will go on for weeks, if not until the election. The Democratic Nation Convention? Who remembers anything that happened there?
If the poll number hold up, I would think that this will marked as the tipping point. The Kerry campaign is floundering and you know that the Bush campaign has a lot of material all set up to go. Between that and the long ringing of the Convention buzz, it’s hard to see how Kerry gets back in the game. His only real hope at this point would be mistakes by overconfidence on the Republican side. Unfortunately for Kerry, the Convention was his best hope for that.
Vox Day writes the article I was going to get around to, which is that the idea that the Japanese could have mounted any sort of significant invasion of the continental USA was ludicrious, even at the time. As Day does, I find it difficult to believe that anyone could take the idea seriously. I’d add that even the Japanese would have known this, their own nation having been saved from invasion by the difficulties of resupply over the ocean (from whence “kami-kazee”, divine wind). All of this concerns Michelle Malkin’s book about the internment of Japanese in the USA during WWII. Whatever security risks there may have been from the Japanese in country, support of an invasion wasn’t one of them.
In the comments to the original posts are questions about long term Japanese war aims. These were not invasion of the USA and probably not even the invasion of Australia. Instead, the goal was to seize a large chunk of south east Asia with a defensible perimeter, making it too expensive for ANZUS to break through. This was the “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere”. In many ways it resembled Confederate strategy in the War between the States and ended badly for the other side for much the same reasons.
Interestingly, the Doolittle Raid may have actually played an important part in defeating the Japanese grand strategy. After the raid, there was such a panic (despite the completely negligible damage) that the Japanese extended the perimeter, weakening it and themselves. It’s not only democracies that are susceptible to such panics during wartime.
While I’m (sort of) on this topic, why doesn’t the United States address the Afghan opium trade by just buying the stuff up? Presumably, farmers would be just as happy to sell their poppies to us, and that would keep them off the market, as well as depriving bad guys of a revenue source.
Moral hazard, basically. This would work for a while but would fail long term.
If the price paid by the USA is high enough to be effective the end result would be a country that grew almost nothing but opium. This doesn’t happen now because there are risks to growing opium which tends to discourage it. If, however, the buyer is the USA then the USA is effect subsidizing the production in reducing the risk premium. Eventually we get either
Neither seems like a very desirable outcome. There’s also the minor problems of secondary sources springing up, or suborndination of the program staff (that’d be good - the USA buying the opium on behalf of the drug lords). It’s not like Afghanistan is the only place one can grow poppies, it’s just the handiest at this point in time.
On the other hand, it would be a perfect “pass the problem (with interest) to the next Administration” solution so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
I’ve been involved in digital photography for a number of years, although I only recently upgraded to a digital SLR camera (the D70). I used a film SLR back when I was in high school and other point&shoot fillm cameras but I was never very good at it. With today’s wonderful technology, however, even I can take nice photographs on a regular basis.
Overall this should make for some interesting effects down the road. I take a lot of pictures of my family. When I think back to photographs of my youth, they’re generally of fairly low quality. There’s also the fact that my mother, who lives in a different state, has them so I get to see them only rarely.
My children, on the other hand, will have much readier access to much better and far more numerous photos. Digital photography is so much cheaper on an ongoing basis that I’ve trained myself to take pictures if there’s any possibility of wanting to remember. If not then out I’m out so little money that it’s irrelevant. I remember my mom telling me “it’s not the cost of the camera, it’s the upkeep” meaning the cost of the film and processing. With digital photography, it is to a large extent just the cost of the camera. I got my D70 in early June and I’m already well past 3000 pictures. I doubt I’ve taken that many pictures on every one of my previous cameras put together. Even though I delete many of them (because even a D70 can’t always save the image from my “talent”) that still adds up to a lot of images.
What will also be interesting is the EXIF (“extra information”) data on the images. For old film photographs, it’s easy to lose track of when the photograph was taken. Now, every one of my pictures is tagged with a time and date. Most photo gallery programs will sort based on that to give nice chronological arrangements of the photos. This is really incredibly handy. I wonder how long it will be before GPS units are built in to cameras and that data recorded as well.
Given how fallible people’s memories are, will the pervasiveness of this image and secondary information help improve memories by correcting them or atrophy them because it’s all in the image files?
The Caliphascists are on the move - murdering Nepalese janitors and hold school children hostage among the suicide bombings in Israel and kidnapping of French citizens. The question that comes up is, what does this accomplish except to piss off every other power bloc on the planet?
I think that, in fact, that’s the goal. Despite the endless stories of the “Arab Street”, the facts on the ground seem to be that the Caliphascist cause isn’t catching on. Oh, there are the street demonstrations and shouting masses, but the only real support is from oppressive regimes. A mass movement it is not. How to make it one, then? One way would be to make it impossible for Muslims to live in non-Islamic states. Then the Ummah might well become as radicalized as the Caliphascists, or at least have to support them for their own protection. The periodic riots and massacres in India probably serve as model for this. The reaction of the Nepalese is likely considered a positivie result by those who executed their countrymen.
There’s much disinformation spread about the West concerning jihad, which is primarily about violent expansion of the Dar Al-Islam, not inner struggle. The Caliphascists are simply forcing the contradiction.
BBB just pointed out to me that Senator Kerry must have a large number of copies of the book The New Soldier. They’re now going on e-Bay for $500 a copy. Kerry could probably get a couple weeks worth of campaign expenses out of his stash. Or, even enough money to buy Teresa jewelry on his own.
It used to be fun to be able to cite obscure lyrics, especially ones that people usually misinterpreted. But now with Google nobody asks “what song was that?” anymore, allowing one to bask in a moment of superiority. No, they just cut and paste in to a Google search window and wham! — context. What’s the fun in that?
Is anything actually going on?
While the divorce rate may be climbing, there’s no historical context for the key statistic, i.e. the higher divorce rate for the 25-29 crowd. Is that really any different than it was, say, 10 years ago? 20? No information is given in support of the claim that the divorce rate spike is recent phenomenon.
What’s the problem?
The article cites “academics” who in turn blame “new laddism” — “a backlash against feminism. It involved a pub and porn narcissism, which centres around football, lager and hedonism”. As if men didn’t much like those things before feminism and have only taken to them to spite feminists. OK…
Personally, I think that if something is going on, it’s far more likely to be the result of feminism. That age group in question is one of the first to be raised in a society where feminist views are dominant. It seems more plausible to me that men are behaving about the same as ever but that women are less willing to put up with it rather than men are behaving worse1.
What’s the big picture?
One of the interesting demographic effects of modern civilization is the initial spike then long term decrease in the effective fertility rate. This is normally viewed from the female point of view, because women are the limiting factor in reproduction. It’s noted that in a technological society, women not only need to have fewer children in order to have some survive to adulthood but that there are many other options than raising children available to women. Yet perhaps there’s some effect on the male side as well. The issue raised in the previous point leads to this. It might well be that women are demanding more in order to remain married, but men aren’t willing to accomodate those demands because men don’t value children nearly as much. Marriage is an institution primarily about raising children and if you aren’t interested in that, marriage in turn becomes much less valuable. Orrin Judd notes this in Italy, where large numbers of men in their 30’s still live at home with their parents. In the original post, Sheridan remarks about “boorish men who need to grow up”. This leaves the question I’ve raised — why, from the point of view of those men, should they grow up?
1 I’m sure that if I had a woman reader, she’d be saying to herself right here “like they could behave any worse”.