31 December 2004

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How meta is your design?

I’ve been following the latest blogosphere exchange about Intelligent Design. Most of the interesting things have already been written, but I found this quote over at the Volokh Conspiracy a bit off:

One thing that strikes me about Intelligent Design is that it must have been much more intuitively appealing before the failure of socialism. Socialism in the 1920s—1940s was in part based on the idea that the world had become so complex that central planning was necessary to deal with this complexity. Yet Von Mises was arguing just the opposite, that as the world became more elaborate, no one could plan it. ID seems to be based on an assumption that most conservatives reject in the economic sphere—that as the economy gets more elaborate, to work well it must be the product of the intelligent design of a master planner.

This completely misses the point of Intelligent Design, a point that has beaten far past death over at the Brothers Judd. One of the points that came up there was feedback loops. This ties in directly with the quote above because it illustrates the primary error of central planning and Volokh’s misunderstanding of Intelligent Design, which is about different levels of design.

This also ties in with a post I wrote a bit ago about different levels of thinking. When I design systems, feedback loops are important feature. However, I try to not design them explicitly but to structure the system in such a way that these feedback loops emerge as “natural” properties of the system. In the same way, Intelligent Design (or at least the version I’m familiar with) postulates that a Designer doesn’t take a hands on approach to the feedback loops that keep Gaia functioning but took a higher level approach and constructed the laws of reality so that such feedback loops and stability would emerge “naturally”.

Ironically, Volokh’s mistake is exactly the same as the socialists and the co-workers mentioned in the earlier post, that intelligence is required to keep the feedback loops operating. In fact, the more automated the loops are, the better they work. A far better analogy for Volokh to use for Intelligent Design supporters would be capitalism, where the capitalists don’t worry about the precise nature of the economy but instead strive to create a set of laws that enables the spontaneous emergence of a vibrant economy. That’s the essence of “lassiez-faire”, isn’t it? Even Von Mises stressed the need for the rule of law to support the free market and those are in fact designed. This is far more analogous to the claims of Intelligent Design than the central planning theories of socialism.

Posted by aog at 13:22 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's not Vietnam, it's Russia

This post at Dean’s World caused me to realize that one of the closer historical parallels to the situation in Iraq is that of the early stages of the Russian Revolution. It is commonly thought today that the Bolsheviks overthrew the Tsar and took power. Like all significant events, the reality is just a bit different.

What actually happened was that the Tsar’s government collapsed due to a number of factors, although Russian losses in WWI played a large role. As that government collapsed, there was an attempt to form a new one that was basically a liberal democracy. This government was also known as the Kerensky government after the prime minister who served during most of its existence until it too fell and was replaced by the Bolshevik regime (which, nonetheless, spent several years fighting the Russian Civil War before it was in undisputed control).

In both cases a new, provisional liberal democracy was struggling to attain control of a violence wracked state after the collapse of a previous dictatorship. Then, as now, there weren’t just two sides, but a plethora of various factions all striving to dominate the state. The new government was threatened by a “common front” of various incompatible factions. These factions worked (roughly) together to bring down the government because it was an obstacle to all of them. Each faction thought that it would be able to dispose of the other factions after the government was brought down. The cooperation between the Ba’ath remnants, Al Qaeda and other caliphascist variants is purely an alliance of convenience and hardly unexpected, except to those who have no knowledge of history. As in the Russian Revolution, their primary enemy is the provisional government and in particular the legitimization of that government by elections. The Bolsheviks and their allies of the moment managed to bring down the Kerensky government before it could hold elections. This was a deliberate action by Lenin, who knew that counter-revolutionaries would be greatly weakened without an electoral victory.

The caliphascists in Iraq clearly have a far better grasp of this history than any one in Old Media. The elections of themselves are not a make or break event (few things are) but reasonably fair elections with good turn out would certainly create a vastly stronger government to oppose the reactionary forces. This is why the elections need to proceed as planned. Even if they fail, it’s unlikely to make the situation any worse and if the elections are successful it will be a telling blow against the caliphascists. The elections don’t have to be perfect, or even all that good as long as they’re not disastrous. We don’t expect anyone to excel the first time, why should the Iraqis going to the polls be any different? The results in Afghanistan would seem to indicate that success is more likely than failure. In contrast, the voices calling for postponement or post-election adjustment need to stop making the perfect the enemy of the good. Let’s not repeat the failure that gave us the Soviet Union.

29 December 2004

Posted by aog at 22:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (2)Ping URL

Leaders are suposed to be ahead of the curve, not hugging it

The Kerry Spot has an excellent take down of a front page story in the Washington Post. The basic thesis of the story is that President Bush is a bad person because he hadn’t personally acted with regard to the recent tsunami disaster.

Kerry Spot attributes this to the newpaper’s desire to find a down side for Bush in every situation, but I think that the general hair-shirtedness of modern liberalism factors in as well. That is, while I don’t doubt that the newpaper was looking for a shot at Bush, I think that the complaint was (sadly) mostly genuine. As we can see from things like MoveOn.org, the activist liberal mindset has really gone to the personal psychodrama as the touchstone of authentic politics. It’s not about Bush being a leader, or what actions his administration is taking to deal with the disaster. No, it’s about what Bush personally has done, whether he personally has put on the hair shirt and bemoaned cruel fate. Whether this helps those affected by the disaster seems to be a secondary issue. But isn’t that par for the course for modern liberalism?

As for me, what I want in a leader is someone who leads and, if appropriate, gets the $#%@ out of the way of the people who can help so they can do their jobs. A good leader does his job for disaster before the disaster hits by making sure there are people to handle it and that they have the tools to do so. A leader who needs to be personally involved beyond the “this it — get moving!” stage is one who hasn’t spent his time properly beforehand.

Posted by aog at 21:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Our fun now, someone else's problem later

In another part of today’s Best of the Web, Taranto quotes Jeff Morrissette, an “organizer” for the far-left group MoveOn.org’s California chapter. Morrissette claims to have figured out the so-called “Roe Effect”1 a long time ago. It’s worth reading the original for humour value, but what struck me was that Morrissette seems to have quite a narrow view of what’s involved in child raising. He titled his original article “Red Babies, Blue Babies, Liberals Need to F—- More”. It’s far from clear that there’s any difference in frequency between liberals and conservatives. The central point of the Roe Effect is that it occurs after conception, which makes more strenous efforts at conceiving rather pointless. I would also not want to be the child of a man who thinks the primary effort in child-rearing is the love making that gets it started. It’s actually a great analogy to law making by liberals, who think only of the fun of getting the bill passed and none of the hard work of living with the results.

1 The “Roe Effect” is the observation that if pro-choice people have abortions while pro-life people have babies, eventually there will be a lot more pro-life people than pro-choice people.

Posted by aog at 21:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Free Taranto for everyone!

I just have to ping James Taranto, who writes with regard to a letter about abortion

This is pretty interesting, but it does seem to us that there are some flaws in the argument. First of all, this concept of “self-ownership” is archaic at best. The notion that human beings are property that can be owned has been pretty much universally discredited since the 19th century.

Well, if something isn’t property, then it’s free and available to whoever can grab it, i.e. it’s a commons the same way the atmosphere is, because you can’t own that either. I wonder if Taranto really views himself that way. If so, I’ve got some buyers for healthy kidneys…

Owning property is effectively the ability to deny access to the property to other people. If one thinks humans should have this sort of control over themselves, then that’s precisely the same thing as saying people own themselves, i.e. “self-ownership”. I’m disappointed that Taranto overlooks this to score a cheap point against a pro-choice reader.

28 December 2004

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Some things are better unrealistic

As a parent, I am confronting the issue of what computer games are appropriate for my children to play. One of the things that’s become clearer to me is why so many other parents worry far more about sexual content than violent content. I haven’t really changed my opinion, I have just become aware of why I have always been more restrictive of the former than the latter.

It is a standard liberal position that it is wrong to be biased against sex more than violence. After all, wouldn’t you rather your children be out having sex with other people instead of killing them? Even those who are very prudish still think it is OK for a husband and wife to have sex, but not for them to be violent with each other, so why be more restrictive with sexual imagery than violent imagery? Don’t I think it’s normal and healthy for my children to have sex once they’re old enough (and married)?

I realize now that these reasons, rather that mitigating against my bias are actually the reasons I have it. I hope and expect my children to grow up and be intimate with their (future) spouses. I do not, however, expect them to find high powered rocket launchers laying on the ground with which they need to defend the Earth against invading hordes of armed and hostile aliens. Giving them unrealistic expectations or distorted views of how to defend themselves against such hordes will have no effect on their actions in the real world because it’s not a situation they’ll ever encounter. Distorted or unrealistic expectations of sex, however, are far more likely to have a negative impact on their ability to deal with the real world precisely because they are going to be engaging in such activity in the future. While I don’t have much respect for the “children can’t tell the difference between games and real life” (if a child can’t, then that child has much bigger problems that the particular games the child is playing), I would still prefer to err on the side of caution.

Therefore I am far more concerned about my children learning from video games how to pay off hookers than how to hit an opponent around a corner with a shock rifle combo. I am certainly not going to give game violence a complete pass, but on the scale of things that would cause me to forbid a game, overt sexual content is always going to be a much bigger factor than violence.

27 December 2004

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Iraqi aftermath – mistakes and alternatives

One of the big buzzes in the blogosphere these days is a set of photographs by a reporter from the AP of the execution of several election workers, which I remarked on a few days ago in passing. The Belmont Club has been following the story closely and asking hard questions about how, exactly, a report from the the AP happened to be in position to take the pictures and so unconcerned about his own safety. It makes me wonder at what point will I simply stop wondering about such things and just assume that most Old Media organizationsa are acting as propaganda arms of the caliphascists?

Early this month my journalist friend was back in town and we ended up having a discussion about the Middle East which was actually interesting and non-confrontational, despite our strongly divergent opinions. Her main complaints were

  • The misleading of the American public in the run up to the war
  • The mishandling of the aftermath of the invasion

I’m not going to talk much about the former because frankly I wasn’t paying attention to what a bunch of politicians had to say on the matter. I had long abandoned main stream news by that point. My view remains that for all of the Bush administration spinning, they still played better with the facts of the matter than their political opponents and certainly far more so than Old Media.

As for the aftermath, I think that’s an area where one can legitimately criticize. I don’t, however, get too worked up about it for several reasons (all of which occurred to me long after my discussion with my friend had ended).

I will avoid the trope of “nothing goes perfectly” and consider instead the more realistic question of — what were the superior alternatives? I am not thinking of plans here, but of factions and people who would have controlled the process. It’s so easy to write out a plan, or even to take plans from other people, but who would have carried them out? The UN? The State Department? I still think that most of what Bremer got wrong was due to too much influence from the State Department and Congressional oversight1. The defeatism and obstructionism of President Bush’s political opponent is a big reason many of us support Bush, even if we have strong disagreements because the alternatives have made themselves even worse.

The other point, which I think is the stronger one, is that the problems with the reconstruction in Iraq are essentially caused not by Coalition mismanagement but the actions of group of well funded violent psychopaths with active propaganda support from Old Media. Yet even my friend didn’t view them as the problem, seeing them as a natural outgrowth of mistakes by the Bush administration. I see now that it was a classic example of denying moral agency to non-Americans, that the actions of the Iraqis and the caliphascists are not based on their own interest and decisions but are solely re-actions to American actions.

I sometimes wonder if this isn’t another aspect of the liberal mindset not being able to come to grips with the tragic vision, that not everything and everyone is within our power to control. This is the essential argument of the “mis-handled” theory, that ultimately it is Bush’s responsibility to prevent the vicious attacks in Iraq, not the attackers to be civilized or the Iraqis to help. In the liberal view, if Bush and company had only provided the right incentives and mix of programs, the caliphascists would not have tried to disrupt and destroy the potential Iraqi civil society through violence and murder. Somehow I just cannot bring myself to believe that.

1 One of the more interesting complaints from my friend (who, by the way, was actually in Iraq on assignment right after the invasion) was that the CPA managed to get the worst of both worlds on spending money on the reconstruction. A few favored large companies (such as Halliburton) got no-bid, minimal oversight contracts while all of the other companies had to suffer through Congressional committee oversight and maximal red-tape. In addition, she claimed, the favored companies got to cherry-pick projects without regard to proper sequencing, i.e. it doesn’t help much to put up a new school if there’s no sewer and electrical infrastructure. I don’t have any other sources for this claim but it wouldn’t surprise me. I do know that the CERP funds were ill-managed at the high levels in this kind of way.

24 December 2004

Posted by aog at 16:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Spite vs. humanity

NPR had another weepy segment on a military family that had lost their only son in action in Iraq. The family, I understand. The ghouls at NPR are the people who confuse me. It seems to me that the point of these segments isn’t really empathy but rather an effort to magnify the percieved cost of the action in Iraq so as to defeat it. That would, of course, sully the supreme sacrifice made by this young man and his family, but they’re clearly just useful objects to the NPR folk.

What I’d like to see NPR try is doing one of these on an Iraqi family who had lost someone to the caliphascists in one of the many bombings. Or maybe the families of those election officials gunned down in the street the other day.

It’s striking, isn’t it, that during the civil rights movement in this country in the 50’s and 60’s, election workers who were killed or attacked were lionized. When that happens in Iraq, Old Media cooperates with the killers by spreading their propaganda. Can you imagine any reporter referring to the KKK as “insurgents” fighting for their beliefs or treating them as the moral superior of the US federal government, as is commonly done to the caliphascists in Iraq? One begins to wonder if even back then, the real goal was to damage certain political factions more than help the downtrodden and oppressed.

Posted by aog at 10:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The joy of giving

It’s the season for giving. I’m ahead of the game on my annual giving, but She Who Is Perfect In All Ways is just now getting started on her charitable giving. I’ll be giving to Spirit of America although too late to count for any of the weblog groups. Ah well, I suspect they’ll accept the donation anyway.

One of the organizations SWIPIAW was looking at is Heifer International. The basic concept is to buy live farm animals for impoverished people because it’s a gift that rewards work and gives for years afterwards. SWIPIAW liked this idea but then she picked up the catalog and said “Uh-oh, there are Hollywood celebreties on the cover”. She was immediately suspicious, especially after we say personal testimonies from Susan Sarandon and Ed Asner. That was two big strikes. But the next page had Patricia Heaton which made it a wash. In the end, I think SWIPIAW will be able to make a fair judgement despite the endorsement of people like Walter Cronkite.

19 December 2004

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It's easier that way

Orrin Judd wonders why Hollywood would continue to produce movies that are politically and culturally in tune with the minority of the public. It would seem to be anti-profit to make movies appreciated by 30% of the population instead of 70%.

However, this ignores the expected value of the potential viewers. It’s just as good, monetarily, to get 70% of the 30% as 30% of the 70%. The advantage of marketing toward the progressive minority is that they tend to be far more hard core and simplistic than the majority. Think of the small number of key taglines and/or tropes one needs to market successfully to that market segment. Michael Moore seems to have taken this lesson to heart. His movies are badly done, badly written, internally inconsistent and vague. But the movies hit the key political points so none of that matters in terms of bringing home the cash.

This ties in with something I wrote a few days ago, about the levels of ideological principles. For the 30%, the key tropes are specific like “President Bush is evil incarnate”. That’s very easy to work in to a movie, just drop the line in the dialog. On the other hand, majority / conservative tropes are easy to state (“love your family”) but can’t just be dropped in to dialog and expected to work. One needs to have an actual plot that, to some extent at least, makes the point obliquely. That’s harder and less certain. Better to go with the simple and dependable, which is why Hollywood makes the movies it does.

13 December 2004

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Learning on the job

Both readers may have noticed that my posting rate has gone way down. This is primarily because of personal issues involving my job. I am currently employed at a local site of a big high tech corporation. However, the local site is now being closed with the employees given the option of moving to Texas or being terminated. My work on this weblog has been driven to a large extent by my inability to apply my creative energies to my job, so I have opted for termination (which is very generous - effectively six months pay as the severance package). As the bogus job fades, however, I find my energies for my true calling, system design and coding, coming back, leaving less for my writing.

I’ve decided to start my own consulting company, using some ideas that my corporate masters wouldn’t even look at, much less fund or let me work on. Of course, these final months are an endless series of conversations like this:

Boss: “Thing X has gone wrong with the product”.

Me: “Yes. I expected that.”

Boss: “Why was nothing done?”

Me: “You know that Project TW that I was working on until it was canceled by your boss? One of the design goals was precisely to prevent X. No one would read the spec but everyone was still willing to say the project was useless. I guess you’re kind of screwed now. But think of all the time saved by doing the easy thing instead of the right thing! Bummer.”

So now I know what it’s like to be a conservative.

But the experience has given me a bit more sympathy for liberals. The short sighted rule based approach that leads them in to such political disasters isn’t particular to politics or that ideology. I’ve learned a bit as well.

I used to think it was just laziness or lack of intellectual capability that lead people to do the easy / simple thing instead of the right thing. The right thing is usually much harder to do and the payoff is further down the road. But there also seems to be a difference in tactical vs. strategic thinking. What I notice from the short-time horizon types is that the reaction to any problem is to sling some code that handles exactly that problem. No more, no less. There is no consideration of any potential problem that is similar because that problem does not yet exist. When it shows up, then a highly specific solution will be coded for that problem. The solution is always more rules and more specialized rules. It just reminds me so much of the current liberal approach to any sort of problem — just slam out another 1200 page law without regard to whether existing laws might already address the problem or whether the law is comprehensible to the target or how this slab of law might interact with other existing laws. I used to think it was an inability to think at a more abstract level. I’m now of the opinion that, at least from some in this camp, it’s a matter of principle, that a more abstract, generic approach is viewed not as incomprehensible but flat out wrong.

You can see this in the recent EU Constitution vs. the US Constitution. I think like the Founders. They wrote a document that specifies very little in the way of policy. Actual government policy is an emergent property of the set of rules they layed down. This allows solutions to a whole host of problems that any polity must deal with on an ongoing basis. It does not, however, directly address of those problems. In contrast the EU Constitution is a marvel of the tactical approach. It directly specifies policy at an almost micro level. Every political problem that could be anticipated is addressed directly. What if there is a conflict between the rules, or there is some unanticipated problem? Well, bummer.

I think this has strong implications for the Democratic Party’s time in the wilderness. The conservatives were to large extent right about the way the world works, so their time in the wilderness enabled them to reformulate their tactics while preserving the fundamentals of their ideology. The Progressives’ problem is that to a large extent their ideology doesn’t work, because it’s about doing the easy / simple thing in response to highly specific problems. Any fixes will involve not just retooling the practical politics of the movement but deep fundamentals as well. Given my experience with people whose minds work tactically like that, I just don’t see that happening. Moreover, even if it did, would they still be Progressives?

I think that we may well be seeing a major shift in politics in the USA, comparable to the decline of the Whigs and the rise of the Republican party. I expect that the Republican party will split after a short period of dominance as the Democratic Party fades out of existence.

Posted by aog at 17:37 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Just shut it down

Via Transterrestrial Musings I read another update on the Mary Frances Berry saga. While a video tape of federal Marshals dragging Berry out of the building would be quite a visceral thrill, I just have to wonder why a simpler solution is not used. Why not just change the locks? Or post a bouncer to keep her from entering the build? Surely she’s not physically sitting in the building 24×7. Or just stop payment on her paychecks. Or turn off the office water/power/heating until she gives up.

I like the last suggestion best. I mean, what does the Civil Rights Commission do except consume money and provide a media platform for Berry? Why not just shut it down until Berry gets tired of hanging out in dark, cold offices? And if she doesn’t and the Commission is disabled for years — that’s definitely a win-win situation.

08 December 2004

Posted by aog at 20:04 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Why fight for a low value prize?

I’ve been reading more stories lately on the intellectual intolerance of American academia. This is no surpise to anyone who has interacted with that area but there seems to be more first hand tales of it around these days. This is of more than passing interest for me these days because She Who Is Perfect In All Ways is moving over to academia herself and even before taking up her official duties she’s run in to very similar things (if a bit milder). What’s interesting is that she is in a very technical field, not the standard humanities / sociology style pretend fields from which most of the stories seem to arise.

What strikes me is that the non-conforming types leave rather than fight it out. I think this means that an academic career is of limited value. As is said, the most vicious fights are generally over the most petty issues. What I’ve read from those who have abandoned the field indicates that it’s not so much the fight per se but the intensity of the fight vs. the size of the reward. It seems a natural trend that academia would fall to leftish ideologues because conservatively oriented people have far more options and other things to do with their lives. Academia might be desireable but it’s not the most important thing.

On the other hand, the more fringe elements of the Left take the “personal is political” far more seriously. In addition, a professorship guarantees that there is at least one group of people one can permanently one up — the students.

If one is a logo-realist, then it would seem like academia is the place to go to shape the future. Logo-realists also are the most intolerant of divergent opinions because those aren’t just disagreements, but threats to the very fabric of the logo-realist’s reality. A conservative can just say “well, he’s entitled to his own opinion” and move on because the world turns on regardless of what anyone thinks of it. However, the logo-realist can’t let go because the existence of divergent opinions creates competing realities. Think what a mess the world would be if everyone could have their own gravitational constant. That’s how a logo-realist sees a diversity of opinions. Academia allows the creation of safe zones where everyone agrees and where one can keep a job and prestige even with a severe case of reality dysfunction.

All of this together makes the Leftist group think of academia inevitable, once appropriate sources of funding are created. Once great institutions of learning were built by the predecessors of todays academics, those instutitions were colonized by the leftists and logo-realists. They are the termites of intellectual life in this country and I think we’re beginning to see the structural collapse that is the next part of the cycle.

06 December 2004

Posted by aog at 16:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Making advertising copy out of necessity

She Who Is Perfect In All Ways is a gardener and so we get a lot of gardening supply and plant catalogs. I glanced at one this morning and my eye was caught by the bright red label claiming “LIMITED SUPPLY!” for some sort of flower seed. Well, I thought, aren’t they all limited supply? It’s not like in January, stocks running low, the CEO can call up the factory foreman and say “Yeah, Joe, put on three shifts and crank out extra product”. Nice try, though.

Posted by aog at 16:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Context not allowed

Yet another gonzo post over at BAGnewsNotes. This is one of two that is whining about the enormous damage done to Fallujah during the assault (why, some of the soldiers actually slept on people’s beds with their boots on!). Of course, this view can be sustained only with massive historical ignorance.

Why do I keep reading that weblog? Well, I like to read something other than the correct side of the blogosphere and Andrew Sullivan has succumbed to Bush Derangement Syndrome. Michael, the guy who runs BNN, does seem to have a good eye for details and interesting connections. His problem is much more than he applies it to only one side. I think he’d do well to try that eye on the propaganda from his side as well.

Anyway, here’s my response, which I spent too much effort on to not post here as well.

Yet another pile of anti-American propaganda masquerading as “analysis”.

What does analysis do? One thing is provide context. For instance, one might compare the damage in Fallujah to other instances of the USA military taking cities, like, say Aachen in WWII. Alternatively, one might have looked at other recent urban battles involving local rebellions such as Grozny or Hama. Hama’s a particularly interesting and relevant case, although I doubt you’ve heard of it. It’s an excellent antidote for Middle Eastern complaints about the unprecedented brutality of the USA.

If historical context wasn’t a good idea, perhaps some data allowing an estimate of the relative damage. So 200 buildings were destroyed. Is this out of 201? 2,000? 2,000,000?

There’s also the exploration of plausible alternatives (which is precisely what my analysis here is doing). For instance, what alternatives existed to an assualt on Fallujah? Surrender? Allowing the continued existence of an enemy armed camp that was a supply and rally point for much of the violence in Iraq?

But of course no “analysis” here would be complete without gratuitious yet ridiculous shots at the Bush administration. If the strategy was to create parking lots and “just break stuff”, why didn’t we just send in the B-52s and do so? Or do like we did to Tokyo and kill over 100,000 people in a single night by burning them to death? Or use artillery from outside the city? If the goal were parking lots, they’d already be parking lots.

In fact, the USA took casualties and spent enormous efforts to minimize the damage, precisely as described in the military manual entries you cite, which you’d realize if you spent any time analyzing instead of digging for anti-Bush factoids.

The damage in Fallujah, compared to other similar actions (see above) was remarkably light. It will go down in military history books as a historical victory, a turning point in the history of warfare. I actually like the analogies to the Tet Offensive, because of course that marked the end of the Viet Cong. The indigenous Communist forces in South Vietnam were never again a significant factor. But that military action was spun by pundits in to a defeat, exactly the same way you are working on Fallujah.

Now there would be a good piece of media analysis for you. Why didn’t the NY Times nor you provide any of the context I mentioned above? Why no comparative figures, only descriptions of damage? Surely, if the goal were to enable readers to understand the situation, some sort of yardstick would be essential. Yet none is provided. Laziness, stupidity or deliberate misdirection? Analyze that.

P.S. Perhaps I’m judging the NY Times too harshly, and it’s just a form of lamentation rather than the kind of ahistorical contextless “analysis” your post is.

Posted by aog at 12:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Auto-immune system problems

It seems to me that a large part of what Europe is suffering from is strongly akin to immune system problems.

One can view patriotism as a form of immune system for a society. Patriotism creates, at the level of a society, a sense of “self” and acts to both maintain that self and protect it from “other”. Although many EUlite would deny it, some level of patriotism is necessary for the continuation of the society. If there is no positive, emotional feelings for the society by its members, the society is doomed in the long run either from internal collapse or conquest by another society, just as a biological creature without an immune system will fall to internal decay or opportunistic infection.

However, just like an immune system it’s possible to have an overactive one. Societies can have too much patriotism, in which case we call it jingoism. The dividing line in my opinion is where love of country starts to be replaced by hatred of others.

The problem in Europe seems to be a calibration problem, in which the leadership seems to be either jingoistic or apathetic. After the disasters of the first half of the 20th century, the EUlite seem to have decided that it’s better to not have any patriotism than the kind they had then.

I’m not sure why the USA has avoided this problem, but I suspect that it’s because America is an idea, not blood or soil. This means that immigrants (although having a rough time of it) can eventually become just as American as any other citizen. Moreover, America is a high idea, not a small one. For instance, it’s more religious than any particular sect. It’s about cooperation, not some particular organization. It’s about having friends, not about the “right” friends. It’s about a self ordered society, not a particular political party. Because of this, America can aborb the quotidian details of immigrants (like salsa instead of ketchup) while preserving the true essence of America.

02 December 2004

Posted by aog at 08:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

European blood lines

Today is the 200th anniversay of Napolean crowning himself emperor, according to NPR. On the radio there was what passes for discussion of his record. One thing Napolean is given credit for is spreading what is now the standard European legal system across Europe. I have my issues with it but it was a definite improvement at the time. What struck me was the true oddity of the creation of the US government in the form of the US Constitution. Unlike every European political advance that I’m aware of, the USA managed to adopt a radically new and far better form of government with no bloodshed at all. When the Articles of Confederation didn’t work out, rather than descendnig in to anarchy, succession or bloody revolution the Founders got together, worked out a better government and convinced the citizenry to support it. Even I hadn’t really grasped before what a truly remarkable achievement that facet only was. It speaks volumes of not only the Founders but the citizenry as well.