27 February 2005

Running dogs of Syrian imperialism

I was thinking about the recent reaction of the Palestinians to the suicide bomb attack in Israel. It seems to me that the accusations of Syrian complicity are particularly apt at this point in time. With Lebanon restive against the Syrian occupation, it would be a most excellent psy-op to promote the idea that the attack was done by Syria in order to do to Palestine what they’ve done to Lebanon. This would

  • Put pressure on Syria to be more cirumspect and less helpful to terrorist groups attacking Israel
  • Promote the idea of self-rule
  • Provide a face-saving way to allow the PA to attack the terrorists — i.e., they’re not really Palestinians, but agents of a foreign power attempting to covertly control the emerging nation.

It seems like a definite winner to me.

Spending time with my first love

I’ve not been updating this weblog as much because I’ve been spending a lot of time on coding for Movable Type. For those interested, you can see some of my intermediate results over here. One of the effects is noticeable in the comments of this post. Note how the term “EUlite” is linked in comments that I didn’t write. Andyou thought my readers were so dedicated that they would set up the links on their own! The auto-linking is done using my Webiki plugin which lets me link to posts by keywords just by putting those keywords in the post.

In any event, the correct solution for reading low frequency weblogs is to use an RSS reader. if you’re not using an RSS reader yet, you really should. It would certainly make my life more convenient.

I have to wait to upgrade until I can buy two

Augh! One of my D70 cameras has failed yet again and has to go in to the shop. I’ve been using digital cameras for close to a decade now and the D70 is by far the most unrealiable one I’ve ever had. I’ve got two bodies, both of them less than a year old and both have already been sent in for repair. Now one will make its second trip in the first year.

I will admit that when it works, it works very well and that I’ve taken more pictures with each camera than all of the other cameras I’ve owned combined. And mistakes happen. But a 150% failure rate for the first year? That’s a bit much. I don’t know what I’m going to do when the one year warranty runs out.


In honor of cjm

25 February 2005

Only 1 of 43 is not good odds

The big buzz in the blogosphere seems to be the excellent picture of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that showed up on the front page of the Washington Post. This has of course lead to talk of Rice running for President (although websites promoting that have been around for a while).

One can talk of whether Secretary of State is enough of a resume, or whether Rice will get support from conservatives, and other such things. But the bottom line is — she’s not married. She needs to pick herself up a Dennis if she plans on running.

23 February 2005

It's the end of history - write with it!

Random Jottings writes about his disappointment in modern science fiction being behind the times (kind of an odd thought, eh?). In particular he’s gotten tired of the “over-crowded, environmentally destroyed Earth” scenario. As he points out, the trend toward a lower population, environmentally recovered Earth is now decades old. It would seem that science fiction writers should be ahead of the curve, not behind it.

I’ve noticed that myself, as well, although I must read a sufficiently different selection of works that it’s not been a major impediment for me (although it did detract from the Reality Dysfunction where an overheated Earth is a key plot point yet requires an interstellar civilization that can’t hang a simple heat shield between the Earth and the Sun).

The plot trope that’s been bugging me for the last decade or so is the doughty little liberal polity threatened by the massive and overwhelmingly powerful fascist empire. It’s never explained how, against historical trends, a repressive government becomes so large and wealthy as to be an overwhelming threat against the little liberal polity. That’s just not believable. In the future, repressive regimes will end up poor, not wealthy. A couple of examples are the Catherine Asaro Skolian Empire, or the David Weber and John Ringo’s March to the Stars. The last is kind of odd because Weber does a much better job in his Honor Harrington series.

But I agree with Random Jottings that it’s very disappointing for a field alledgedly as forward looking as science fiction to be so caught up in long discredited notions of how the world works.

Playing war

A while back the Brothers Judd had a post about future military technology. What this made me think about was the video gamer community as a research resource.

What is going to be a big problem in deploying advanced technology on the battle field is ease of use. In war, everything is simple but the simplest thing is difficult. Ease of use is already a problem with modern technology and it would seem that any problems in an interface would be magnified in the confusion and stress of battle. Therefore, technology needs to be able to be used as second nature.

Now, there is set of people who spend a lot of time in simulated combat and have lots of first hand experience on using various computer interfaces. While the experience of simulated combat isn’t that similar to real combat, it would be an excellent area for exploring interface styles and displays. For instance, when displaying a quantity, is it best to use a number? A shaded area? A pie chart? Which of these gives the best information for real time decisions? What kind of menu structure (fat and short or thin and long) works best? Unlike many other applications, gamers have to make decisions in real time. Normal office workers can pause for seconds or even minutes to ponder the best alternative. In contrast, gamers a few seconds of indecision means the difference between winning and losing. That’s the kind of thing a real soldier will need to do as well.

I think it would be cool to try out various control gadgets on gamers. Rig them up to interface with various games and then give them out in exchange for debriefings later on. Even that might not be necessary as one thing gamers do incessantly is talk about micro-optimizations in their game playing.

This is going to be one of the drivers of USA supremacy in the 21st century. As in WWII, where Americans had far more technological know-how in the field because of the society they came from, modern warfare with its high tech, fast decisions and fluid battle field will be something come naturally to a generation raised on multi-player games.

21 February 2005

Fighting against Wile E(Ulite). Coyote

As I watch President Bush engage with the EUlite in Brussels this weak, I can’t but picture him as a gracious player who is willing to provide some comfort to an obviously beaten opponent. Bush is giving them the rhetoric they like while the EUlite scramble to pay homage to him.

What I think really spells the end of any serious contest with the EU is the EU Constitution. The EUlite have once again forged a mighty political weapon (like Fascism) intended to damage the USA but instead will detonate in Europe. The EU Constitution is a thousand points of darkness, a confused, self-contradictory hash of obscure policies. If you’ve ever been to a modern Leftist protest, with its endless waves of unrelated if not contradictory booths and agitators, then you know what the EU Constitution is like. Just gather up all the position papers from the various protestors, slam them together and there you are.

Because of this, either the EU Constitution will be adopted and drop another 16 ton weight on Europe as it struggles under its existing challenges, or it will not be adopted and the EU is likely to fracture as a result. Worst of all, from the EUlite point of view, is that a failure on the Constitution might force the EU back to the EEC stage. Such a move would likely be strongly favored by the UK and Eastern Europe. The problem is twofold for the EUlite:

  • It would rob them of much of their transnational power
  • It would benefit the USA by improving the economy of Europe

The EUlite is caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of maintaining their own power and competing with the USA. It’s another example of the end of history.

20 February 2005

Putting pressure in the keg

I’ve been following the debate about immigrants in Europe and the coming population crash. While clearly something has to change (aphorism: “If something can’t go on forever, it won’t”), it’s not obvious that Europe can be revived via immigration. A key difference between the USA and Europe is the extent of the welfare state. It doesn’t do any good to have immigrants if their fate is remain largely unassimilated and unemployed. One wonders why Europe allows immigration at all, but I suspect it’s primarily to benefit the EUlite at the expense of their subjects by increasing the set of people directly dependent on the state. It’s now gotten out of control but what can the EUlite do? Cutting the welfare system is right out and their reliance on multi-culturalism hard to either restrict immigration or strive for assimiliation. What I expect is that the situation will be tolerated as long as possible but when it breaks the EUlite will turn on the immigrants with the kind of sectarian / ethnic fury that has been such a part of their history.

19 February 2005

Quantitative not qualitative change

Via WizBang is the stunning event of someone making sense in The Guardian:

[…] the internet has strengthened the American right […] You would also expect this electronic revolution to be good for the Democrats, but the American left’s relationship with the internet has been disastrous. The internet has sunk a knife into Bill Clinton’s moderate Democratic party. Mainstream business people were Clinton’s principal funders, simultaneously approving and driving his centrism. But the Democrats’ new paymasters are the 600,000 computer users who, in 2004, supported Howard Dean’s bid for his party’s presidential nomination. Dean energised an unrepresentative group of voters with a stridently anti-war message.

I can’t remember the link now but I read someone claiming that this was going to turn around because eventually the truth will come out via the filtering effect of the blogosphere. Obviously, I believe that the truth is already coming out and that’s why the Internet has been disastrous for the Modern American Left / Democratic Party.

But more than that, I think that the key difference is that the Conservatives / Republican Party have a basic idea of where they want to go and therefore try to convince people to fellow travel with them. The MAL, in contrast, is either completely lost or has only tactical goals (e.g., get person X elected). The Internet is an amplifier, not a transformer.

16 February 2005

Not all credentials are positive

Winds of Change notes that Eason Jordan’s journalistic credentials are a little thin:

Long before Jordan’s rise and fall at CNN, he worked the overnight shift, often alone, on the network’s international assignment desk.

[…]

Certainly it was heady stuff for a twentysomething college dropout with little journalism experience.

Much as it pains me to defend someone like Jordan, I simply can’t agree that this is a bad thing. Frankly, as best as I can tell, “official” journalist training is far more likely to ruin someone as a reporter than improve them. Aren’t graduates of journalism school the frequent target of mockery and disdain? The fact that Eason worked his way up without going through the standard training is the first positive thing I’ve heard about him.

14 February 2005

Doing political time

I understand, a little bit, why Israel is releasing Palestinian prisoners in order to bolster Mahmoud Abbas’ administration. But I can’t help wondering if that isn’t counter productive in non-obvious ways, beyond putting criminals on the street.

I note that one of the things that the Ba’ath did before the fall of Baghdad was to empty many prisons, an act which has contributed greatly to the power of the Caliphascist efforts there. I suppose Israel may view the situation as so lawless that a few more aren’t going to make much difference, but it still seems that it won’t contribute to the formation of a civil society in Palestine.

The other thing is that it seems to re-enforce the idea that being in jail is a matter of politics, not law. The prisoners were not released because they had been proven innocent or their sentences finished, but because it was politically convenient. This will encourage similar thinking about the people in Palestinian jails, which will make Abbas’ efforts (presuming he actually makes some) in reigning in the Caliphascist more difficult.

08 February 2005

EUlite

I use the term “EUlite” (European Union Elite) to label the ruling class in Old Europe.

I don’t like to slam on “Europeans” because frequently the worst things that come out of Europe are creations of this ruling class and don’t correspond to the European Street. More over, the population of Europe is highly diverse, in contrast to the EUlite who seem to be interchangeable apparatchiks with remarkably consistent views. I tend to view the EUlite vs. Europeans the way I view

Havana second thoughts

As I read things about the EU sucking up to Castro (temporarily squashed by the Czech Republic), the more I wonder what the point is. Why does Spain, for instance, consider a working relationship between Cuba and EU valuable? The EUlite seem to care more about having a good relationship with Cuba than with the USA. It’s as if Cuba were such a major world power that friendly relations were worth any appeasement. Now, while I disagreed on that with respect to EU/USSR relations, at least I could understand the point, especially for nations on the borders of the Soviet Empire. But Cuba? Can it really just be anti-Americanism? Or is it a bizarre form of celebrity worship? I just can’t grasp why any European leader cares enough about being well thought of in Havana for this to be a contentious issue.

06 February 2005

New Model Empire

As Orrin Judd notes, American declinism is coming back in to fashion (although it’s never all that far out of fashion). To some extent this is the legacy of former President Jimmy Carter, who did more than anyone else to legitimize this line of thought.

In my view, what most of the declinists miss is that the American Hegemony is unlike any previous empire in its structure and means. The former British Empire is the closest, but it still depended on far more direct control than the American Hegemony. The USA has little need of directly dominating its client states, as empires have done in the past. The essential point is that liberal democracies empower the USA regardless of the actual attitude of the government. Even Old Europe is of net benefit to the USA, despite the overt hostility of its two largest states, France and Germany. This creates a dynamic of low effort, high reward that eliminates the problem of imperial overstretch.

Let us consider Western Europe for a moment. The presence of imperial troops there is not for our benefit but for Western Europe’s. In contrast to previous empires, the USA would in fact be better off if its troops were removed from the area, except for a token amount. When the imperial dynamic is less troops, better payoff, it’s hard to see where the overstretch comes in to play.

Of course, there are places and times that demand a large military committment from the USA. But these, again unlike previous empires, are limited in place and time. While we had to maintain troops for decades in South Korea to protect our interests, we could now (as in Europe) pull out all but a few without little or no cost to our security interests. I don’t see Iraq being any different. It may well be decades before we can drop our military efforts there to token levels, but on the time scale of empire a few decades is a but a moderate length of time. It will certainly not be the kind of endless, low level grind that, in large enough number, have brought down previous empires.

Why do the declinists miss this? We could point out their fundamental hostility to the USA, but that’s not an interesting avenue to explore. While certainly part of the reason, it’s not the entire reason.

We can begin to see the root of it if we notice that the American Hegemony is local Anglosphere politics writ large. The Hegemony is much more like a village of free but cooperating people in the Anglospheric tradition than the various forms of despotism that formed the structure of previous empires. I think most of the declinists can’t see this because they come from a Leftist tradition that cannot envision a society of freely cooperating individuals and so have no model for the same thing among nations. As Adam Smith pointed out, a collection of free invididuals naturally benefit each other, via trade and other interactions. In the same way, a community of free nations (externally and internally) benefit each other without any need for explicit control. That is the missing concept that informs the declinists’ world view.

One can see this most clearly in the structure of the European Union. This project is to a large extent an effort to duplicate the success of the American federal structure. Yet it is a failure precisely because it consists of ever more centralized control. When it was the European Economic Community, i.e. like the Anglosphere, it was of great benefit to Europe. But now that it is becoming true to its roots as a poor imitiation of the American Hegomony with the centralized structure of previous empires, it is the EU that is beginning to falter from imperial overstretch, exhausting itself fighting endless battles against recalcitrant populations.

The American Hegemony may not last forever, but it’s certainly going to outlast any of its existing competitors.

Stockholm syndrome?

Via Instapundit is this article about the claim that one of the big reasons the Modern American Left is losing ground on the American Street is the lunacy of many of its front men (e.g. Noam Ch0msky, Michael Moore).

Worth reading, but I was struck by this point about the Daily Kos and his infamous “they’re mercenaries, screw ‘em” remark about the four contractors killed in Fallujah. The article cites this quote from Kos about why he feels that way:

Unlike the vast majority of people in this country, I actually grew up in a war zone. I witnessed communist guerillas execute students accused of being government collaborators. I was 8 years old, and I remember stepping over a dead body, warm blood flowing from a fresh wound.

So, having watched Communist guerillas kill people, Kos ends up

  • Having a political point of view that about as friendly to Communism as one can get in the USA without actually being a Communist
  • Seeming to hate people with an anti-Communist ideology

Is it just me or is this as bizarre as it sounds?

03 February 2005

Get me the story!

A recent mention of Rigoberta Menchu, I was going to point out that I had brought up the “fake but accurate” concept a couple of years ago. However, while searching for that I found a write up on the subject that’s better than I could do, which highlights a number of other similarities between the Menchu incident and CBS News’ memo problems.

One thing that I wanted to bring up but is covered in the comments there is that “fake but accurate” can be a term of approval, if one is talking about fiction (think “Red Badge of Courage”). Perhaps it’s the case that too many journalists have learned in journalism school that they are “telling stories” rather than reporting facts. Plausible, given how little exposure to facts many of these journalists seem to have.

02 February 2005

Don't clean up the stage, I need it like that

While some on the Left have been willing to look past partisan politics to celebrate with the Iraqis on their recent elections, others have not. In one thing that seems to be a strong parallel with Vietnam (for once), we have a clear victory being spun as a defeat or fake victory by many on the Left. It seem difficult to do with all of the pictures of jubilant Iraqis but there are a lot of dour Leftists up to the task.

This bring homes clearly to me that most of these people don’t believe that the USA is unalterably evil, but require it to be. There is no forgiveness in them. It seems that even if one has the view that the USA has trampled the globe with destruction and misery since its founding, it would still be a good idea to provide some positive feedback on something like the Iraqi elections, to set at least a floor on what can be expected. Moreover, as many former Communist leaders found, mouthing the rhetoric is often a short stop on the way to having to live the rhetoric. But then, what would form the stark background against which the postering Left could perform their internal psychodrama?

Other election consequences

So, is it the case that Israel is no longer the only Middle Eastern nation where Arab women get to vote?

It's still worth the trouble

While it would obviously have been better for the mullahocracy in Iran for the recent elections in Iraq to have failed, it seems to me that continuing violence in Iraq is useful of itself.

One of the issues that comes with the poor security situation in Iraq is the possible rise of a strong man who will at least create order (even if he ends up killing more people than the violence does). But this works just as well for the mullahocracy, in that they can claim (either directly or implicitly) that the disorder in Iraq is what will happen in Iran if the mullahs are overthrown. It certainly makes overthrowing the existing regime less attractive, if that overthrow (unlike Eastern Europe) doesn’t really get rid of the regime’s capability for violence.

It doesn’t seem to me that it would be all that hard for the Iranian mullahs to be making (or have made) many of the same arrangements that the Ba’ath did before their regime collapsed. The mullahs might let this fact leak, to discourage overthrow, or not, because it would indicate too much weakness.

I think it’s clear that the mullahocracy still has a strong motivation for funding unrest in Iraq, even after the elections. Why President Bush doesn’t lay down some rhetorical smack on them is beyond me.