The Third Rail

Friday, August 01, 2003

All right. That's the big catch up. It's Friday night and I need beer. But before I leave I'll leave one question.

Who else knows that "cannot" is one word?

I frequently see "can not" as two words. This is important to me. One of the rudest shocks I received in my life is when my second grade teacher marked off a point for misspelling cannot because I used "can not" as two words. She explicitly wrote that "cannot" was the spelling. The gross injustice of the act was forever seared in my mind as I futilely tried to justify it because obviously "can" and "not" were individualy spelled correctly. Ever since, I have forever spelled it "cannot" lest some other evil witch likewise take away hard earned letter grades.

But no one else seems to care. Many may think me a curmudgeon for complaining so, but believe me, if you had Mrs. Rostenkowski in 2nd Grade you'd insist on "cannot" too.

Let's face it, I missed an amazing 12 months. What would I have thought about Bush's speech to the UN? The debate in the Security Council? The prelude to war, and the major fighting itself? And that's just the main narrative. Then there would have been all the minor interesting anecdotes along the way. Of course I can't state everything, but for those of you who care about the major points:

I supported the war in Iraq. 9/11 required the US to rethink our security concerns. One important element was to adjust the criteria on when we considered ourselves at war. Looking back it was obvious we were at war with Al Qaeda ever since they bombed our embassies in Africa - years before the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, much less 9/11/01. Our standards for war (fighting back) before 9/11 was inadequate. We needed a new criteria and then needed to reevaluate our current relations according to that.

To give an example of what I mean consider the Pan Am Locherbie bombing. We knew Libya did it, but pursued legal remedies, not by war. If anything like that happened again, we'd invade Libya not send Qaddafi stern telegrams.

In Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech he basically warned three nations - Iraq, Iran, and North Korea - that their activities were peirlously close to being considered acts of war with the US. With Korea is was their policy of nuclear blacmail. With Iran it was their support of terrorist organizations. And with Iraq it was Saddam's continued non-compliance with the terms he agreed to in 1991 that ended the Gulf War. Everything Bush did prior to war stated - comply with those terms or we'll remove you. He didn't, so we did.

I don't think we could have continued to let Saddam Hussein get away with non-compliance. It was 10 years and it needed to end. Continued stalemate at the UN was not an option. President Bush cut the gordian knot, and now we can move on. Non-compliance covered many issues. It certainly involved the UN, but I don't think that tied our hands legally in deciding to go to war when France and others decided to not fulfill their responsibilities in the Security Council. It certainly involved the issue of WMD, but I don't think that not finding them (so far) means this issue was void. By the UN's own standards Saddam did not comply. The only debate was whether to enforce the resolutions. It also involved Saddam's brutal treatment against his own people. The US already had ongoing military involvement in Iraq for 10 years in enforcing No-Fly Zones to help the Kurds and Marsh Arabs. And Saddam also supported terrorist groups as a foreign policy - even if direct ties with Al Qaeda was nebulous. I think all these issues together are compelling reasons for war - even if one might not have been sufficient.

I think our boys are doing splendidly in Iraq, and while I'm concerned over ongoing sniping I don't share the defeatist tendencies of too many in this country's media. Mass uprising does not seem to be in the making, and there is no foreign source that can supply or intervene the Baathist sympathizers who fear the coming order. I think within the year we'll be pulled out of Iraq except for perhaps some small units in intelligence.

My estimation of George W. Bush has certainly grown. I still criticize him heavily, but I've noticed that my criticisms of him are different from the criticisms of my liberal friends which concerns me as a Democrat. I don't think they understand how canny and successful a political operative he is (or whoever the mysterious "they" who pull his strings as some put it). They dangerously underestimate this man. Who the Democrats nominate is very important. While I do not intend to vote for Bush, if a real loser gets nominated I'm likely to look for another candidate - and at this point Bush himself is an option.

OK, it's been another 8 months. Lay off.

I've had terrible experiences with Internet Explorer all this time. It simply didn't want to access certain sites. I tried fixing it by downloading patches and bringing in tech friends, but it was hopeless. A frequest recommendation was to delete IE entirely and install a new one, but I was a) too lazy, and b) worried that it might somehow complicate things more. However, I finally listened to one friend and downloaded the free browser Mozilla and things seem to be good.

I intend to delete my old Microsoft email and browser program this weekend and load it again. If something goes wrong, I'll still have Mozilla to work with. In other words, I'm back to blogging. This should exicte the few family members and friends who may still check this site.

However, I also think I'm known to a few comments boards on other blogs, so who knows.

Friday, January 10, 2003

OK, I know it's been 4 months. Lay off.

I wish there was an epic story about it, but it's really quite pedestrian. Late night Spanish class really took up the free time I used previously to post on the Third Rail. Late October and beyond are due to my motherboard exploding. That took over a month to fix. Then my modem wouldn't work it. After I installed a new one my browser and email programs acted up where they'll shut down due to an illegal error. Most of that problem has now been fixed, but it's continued.

I hope to start blogging on a regular weekly basis again soon.

So for those few who still vainly show up to read this, it'll be back.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Orrin Judd is still claiming that Dr. Strangelove is not a leftist comedy. I can't tell from his post if another person entered Dr. Strangelove before ey so the Ike bio may go to someone else, but I'll defend the movie nonetheless. Orrin Judd's case rests on one of two propositions:

1) Dr. Strangelove is not a comedy

2) Dr. Strangelove is not left-wing.

I believe he concedes the first. He has not denied it in any case. Some people in the comments section claim it's not funny, but I feel that's simply a matter of taste. Black comedy is not for everyone. Enough people have found Dr. Strangelove hilarious enough to be a classic, so he must therefore prove the movie is not leftist. In fact, he claims the opposite. He thinks it has a conservative message. I don't buy it.

I think two things mitigate against it--first, it's mostly a send up of precisely the kind of big government bureaucratic mindset that conservatism opposes.

Unfortunately, the movie does not parody a big government bureaucratic mindset. It parodies the politics of the arms race and MAD (mutually assured destruction). The alternate title of the movie is, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Loved the Bomb," not "What an Awful Time I had Dealing with the Small Business Adminstration." It's a black comedy pushing the idea of disarmament -a leftist cause.

Sometimes Orrin Judd mentions that conservatism does not necessarily mean being pro-military, but he takes a hardline anti-Communist, pro-nuke position here:

Second, and here I imagine that few would agree with me, the nutty generals are right. We should have just gone ahead and attacked. I've always viewed it as a docudrama rather than a comedy.

It also seems to me that watching the movie today one realizes that the nutso military guys were right, specifically Teller, Patton and LeMay, and that we should have just juked it out with the Ruskies.

This is exactly the attitude that Dr. Strangelove is making fun of in the character of Air Force General Buck Turgeson. It's ridiculing the entire notion of the arms race and nuclear defense. However, Orrin Judd then concludes with a rather bizarre reason on why Dr. Strangelove is a conservative movie.

If at the end of Strangelove we are forced to conclude that even national defense must run amok in the hands of government, then what is left of the case in favor of government?

First, is Orrin advocating a type of free market armed forces here? This is a relatively recent innovation in conservative thought then. Second, the point of the movie is not, "Oh no, the government screwed up self defense, if only we had Boeing handling it instead (maybe that's a bad choice because many leftists probably think Boeing does dictate military policy)." In order for Judd's position to hold, the movie must have shown that a private system of armed defence was preferable, but it never did. It didn't even hint at it. It's an invisible message if it exists. Kubrick wanted to show the insanity of the arms race and Western-Soviet confrontation.

Now it doesn't matter whether that position was right; it's certainly not my belief. However, the movie is clearly leftist, and it is a comedy.

Over to you, Orrin.

Hilarious. I've often wanted to do the same.

I remember. It's easy to tell who your enemies are.

Thank you, but I have a mother. I trust America's parents to determine what they need to tell their children over the September 11 anniversary. In as much as they can see it given their ages, they must see it in my opinion.

Children need assurance they are safe, and it's important to remember and mourn those who died and support victims' families, she said.

Children need assurance that they're safe? Maybe ADULTS need assurance too, which we are not getting as the President has decided to hold no one accountable for the attack and allowed these Washington hacks to keep their job despite their incompetence. Homeland Security is a joke, and I'm all in favor of the Impeach Norm Mineta movement.

The first lady, speaking in English, recalled how insecure she and other Americans felt after learning of the attacks but said security has improved since then.

Oh, yes, the images of airport security hassling old ladies from Minnesota has really made me feel better. Never know when one of them may hijack an airline. In the meantime, the government is giving classified information to terrorists and approving them for flight training. Both Republicans and Democrats need to be punished at the polls for this.

This pisses me off. Will anyone get fired by President Fredo? Don't think so, but please prove me wrong some day. Please.

I remember the initial days after the September 11 attacks when all sorts of crazy people disputed whether Al Qaeda was responsible. Now of course, the cowards have finally confessed. In an interview with Al Jazeera designed as a propaganda move to bolster faith in the failing organization Khalid Sheikh Mohammed talked as if Bin Laden was killed during the American operation in Afghanistan:

During two days of interviews, Mr Mohammed referred to bin Laden, who has not been seen since the fall of Afghanistan’s Taleban regime, in the past tense. The reporter Yosri Fouda, London bureau chief for al-Jazeera, concluded that bin Laden is now likely to be dead.

I remain unconvinced because I am a pessimist. However, this is indeed a blessing. The US government could not claim Bin Laden was dead without risk of embarassment if he showed up alive - it would be a huge propaganda coup if he appeared hale and hearty after claiming he was dead. But now we can have the world media harp on a comment made by Al Qaeda itself that he's dead. It's time for either Al Qaeda to admit he's dead, sufferring a huge propaganda loss, or be in a position that Bin Laden is a coward for being so frightened he won't give the American's proof he's alive. Let's put these jerks in the ringer.

Jane Galt asks why doesn't the US take advantage of its overwhelming power to conquer the world. The immediate answer is of course America's natural inclination of isolationism, an isolationism particularly strong in the Midwest where I grew up. If you grow up near Chicago like I did, not only are you protected by two vast oceans, any enemy would have to slog through a thousand miles across the Appalachians or Rockies to get to you.

However, there are other answers that make a very smart geopolitical and strategic sense.

Let's start with America's unique geography. We are a continent sized nation with only two neighbors, neither of which is able to threaten us in any way, unless you fear the rise of Mexican restaurants. Both countries do pretty much what we need them to do. Incorporating Mexico into the union would entail great economic and cultural identity costs. As for Canada, the United States already gets what it needs out of the relationship. Joint hemispheric defense is done out of NORAD and under American control. Canadians and Americans can travel and work freely between both countries. NAFTA creates an internal market almost as efficient as that within the union. Conquest nets us nothing but ego points and a lot of pissed off Canadians.

Conquest may appear to be apotheosis of power, but it always brings about excess burdens that saps that selfsame power. Armies can conquer, but but the cost of garrisoning your winnings saps your strength for the next battle. The Wehrmacht was a terrifying force in World War II, but one reason Hitler lost the offensive was the need to divert troops to garrison his conquests. Thus, power can be seen as the inverse of actual, as opposed to potential, force used.

In other words, it's easier influence people by threatening people than it is to force them to do something.

The US finds more advantage in NOT using its power than it would in using it. Expending force to achieve an aim is just that, spending it. Once lost, you cannot regain it. Much better to conserve your energy.

It's like being in a fight with three people. No one wants to be the first one to get hit, so they all stay back. The moment you hit one though, that gives the opportunity for the others to get in and knock the crap out of you.

Of course, the threat that is can and will be used must be there, but as long as the threat is credible, people will act out of fear of that force. You could call it the Tarkin Doctrine>, something known to Star Wars geeks (Rule by fear of force, rather than force itself) as Grand Moff Tarkin's strategy of using the Death Star to maintain order in the galaxy. Hey, Peter Cushing was one bad mother, what can I say?

The US has a fairly unique way of fighting wars: we let others do it for us. In every modern war, we have always used proxies to absorb casaulties for us as our owned armed forces act as a force multiplier. In World War I we let the British and French fight on our behalf to drain Germany's armed forces. Only when it looked like they would fail in containing the new European hegemon did we intervene and tilt the balance. In World War II, we let the Russians take the brunt of the fighting against the Germans and the Chinese against the Japanese. In Korea it was the South Koreans, and in Vietnam it was the South Vietnamese. This is not to discount the heroism of American troops, but the historical record speaks for itself.

How did we fight in Afghanistan? We used native troops augmented with Special Forces and airpower. When we fight in Afghanistan we'll be using a proxy force as well.

To a strong extent, this is the ONLY way the US can wage a war. We do not have the advantage of masses of easily disposable troops. Every US soldier is highly trained and a huge investment. We can't sustain losses the ways Russia or China could in World War II. Likewise in terms of military usefulness, an American soldier was much more valuable than a corresponding member of the ARVN or Northern Alliance. I'm not comparing the intrinsic worth of people here, just their military value as soldiers. You always fight according to your advantages.

Besides that, the US must always project its power across the globe. It is extraordinarily hard to project power. While no one in the Eastern Hemisphere can even contemplate an invasion of the Americas (a real invasion, not just a terrorist strike), we can routinely go anywhere. But that is not without cost. The logistics involved are enormous, and to keep an American army adequately supplied it must be small. In order to reduce risks to such a small army, we need allies that can provide a much greater manpower.

Every country in the world knows that we can destroy them if we wished. They simply can't stand against us, but let's say they end up fighting us anyway . When that occurs the rest of the world knows we can't take the time to pound them into sand. This is why we had the "fight two regional wars simultaneously" doctrine; we didn't want the North Koreans getting frisky if we had to fight another war in the Persian Gulf. Thus even if we are fighting Iraq, the North Koreans aren't likely to start trouble. But let's say we try to fight both wars in Jane Galt's let's conquer everyone scenario. That means we're completely busy and everyone knows the chicken coop is now open. What better time for China to take Taiwan, Russia to conquer Georgia, or any number of African countries to begin slaughtering each other?

By using our force, we reduce our ability to affect events, not increase them. By withholding our power, nobody knows when we might strike and therefore they behave better than they would otherwise.

This is not unique in history. For centuries China, as the Middle Kingdom, dealt with a variety of client states. The Romans pursued a similar policy when their power was at its height. But therein lies a good lesson.

Just as the Romans began to dismantle their old client system (where they would support various small kingdoms on the Empire's edge to keep out invasion), their power began to decline as they had to devote more and more of their military and political assets to protect the new parts of their empire. Why did the Romans integrate the previously independent, but allied, frontier states into the empire? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The client state system could seem very inefficient as it required constant diplomatic efforts. In addition, the client states themselves desired some of the benefits of the Pax Romana. What else was being an ally of Rome if the only you did was fight border skirmishes on their behalf instead of having the powerful Roman legions make you safe as well. By doing so though Rome lost the initiative and gradually adopted a Maginot Line type of mentality that eventually doomed them.

The inability of our modern leaders to articulate any of our thoughts, hopes, and mourning speaks ill of us. I don't expect every President to be a great orator, but then somebody needs to pick up the challenge - whether Rudy Giulani, Tom Daschle, or hell, David Lettermen.

Utter barbarity.

An Iranian man cut off his seven- year-old daughter's head after suspecting she had been raped by her uncle, the Jomhuri-ye Eslami newspaper said on Sunday.

And wouldn't you know...

A post-mortem, however, showed the girl was still a virgin.

So ignorance is now combined with malice, and a young girl is now dead. The obscene actions of one man does not necessarily fault society, but something is vile and corrupt in any land when justice cannot be done for the following:

Local people have called for the man, who has been arrested, to be hanged, but under Iran's Islamic law only the father of the victim has the right to demand the death sentence.

When faced with such corruption and depotism, the people must take the law and justice into their own hands. I hope they lynch the bastard.

Cardinal Martini is a good man, but no Jesuit will ever become Pope anytime soon. My own predictions for the next Pope:

A) He will not be Italian.
B) He will be European. I'll be pleasantly surprised if it's Cardinal Arinze however.
C) He will be old. The Cardinals do not want another long pontifacy.
D) At least one major reform will happen - either married men will be allowed to become priests or birth control be considered acceptable. Abortion will still be anathema, and the Church will not permit homosexual marriage however.
E) There will be a move to weaken the office of Pope so that the spirit of Vatican II can take over.

The next Pope will preside over a mere interregnum. The true war for the direction of the Catholic Church will happen with the one afterward.

After a promising start, Robin Wright is headed into all types of bad territory. While it is good to see he acknowledges that poverty does not cause terrorism, he still clings to the idea that traditional left wing interpretations still apply. I don't exactly see how "poor nations" rather than "poor people" resurrects this idea, but he tries. He has one major problem.

If poor nations cause terrorism, why aren't there terrorists from African countries, as opposed to oil rich Middle Eastern ones?

Wright is right that terrorism - like all forms of political violence - basically rests on overeducated young men who can't get jobs. These men need something to put their talents too, and lacking a good job market, they gravitate to extrajudicial means. Whether it is Al Qaeda or the SA is really quite irrelevant.

What's terrible is that there are jobs available - but not at the level that these educated men desire. Saudi Arabia is flush with all sorts of migrant labor, but they perform menial tasks that calls into question why these men earned degrees in the first place. Instead of investing in the sons of the very rich, Saudi Arabia should have invested in basic education that would build prosperity from the bottom up. But you can't expect a kleptocracy like the Saudi Royal family do so.

Policy Prescription No. 6: Draw Islamic nations—and for that matter all nations—into the web of global capitalism.

The one problem with this is that this cannot be imposed from the outside. Saudi Arabia's problem is not being cut off from international markets, it's the low level of internal development that can take advantage of such markets. This low development is a direct consequence of policy decisions taken by the House of Saud, and the US will not be able to change that without taking over control of Saudi Arabia, which I think would be a short term disaster.

There is a tendency for various analysts to look over the policy gap of intervention in the form of nation building and the solution to our problems. It implies that only if we did a Marshall Plan for every country that hates us our problems would end. This is not the case. While our generosity towards Japan and Germany helped them, it was their own culture of hard work and order that created their economic miracles. Marshall Plan aid was given to many countries in Europe, but Italy still lagged behind the others. American guidance helped Korea to prosper, but the Philippines stagnated. The American involvement was a constant, the difference in results must be a consequence of inherent qualities in those national cultures.

If the Afghanis cannot make it work, no amount of American involvement can save that land. Likewise for the Saudis. Too much depends on how others will perform, and therefore it makes a poor public policy. It basically is a more sophisticated version of "Wish real hard and it'll come true."

The only way such nation building enterprises can work is if we impose American rule over them for a long time, and are willing to use draconian measures to enforce our well. Otherwise, we cannot impose change on them. The Germans and Japanesewanted American troops to protect them from the Soviets - the Arabs have no reason to tolerate a new "Crusader state." A better solution is to inflict such a crushing defeat on militant Islam that it becomes discredited among Arabs.

The secret to eternal life is within our grasp. Unfortunately, the French have mastered this technology before us.

The mayor of a French Mediterranean town, faced with a cemetery "full to bursting," has banned local residents from dying until he can find somewhere else to bury them.

If only those darn French weren't smarter than us. I demand Congress ban dying immediately. I just hope whatever country Osama bin Laden is in doesn't beat us to it.

I hope this is true. If so, another major financier of Al Qaeda's war is in our hands.

We are all going to die because we're morons.

But he added that if the word "niggardly" was used in a nondiscriminatory manner, he doesn't have a problem with a teacher teaching the word. He said he could not be sure of the teacher's intentions in this case.

For those who don't know, the word "niggardly" is not in anyway related to the word "nigger" and therefore can't be used in a discriminatory manner. A teacher was reprimanded not only because a kid's parent was too ignorant to know what is and is not a racial slur, but also because her union are a bunch of cowards who are too afraid to simply tell the truth. Found via Opinion Journal.

I still remember the television images of retrieving the bodies of dead US Marines as a kid in 1983. I'm all for finally getting those bastards who did it.

It's the same damn war then as now. It took twenty years, and I'm glad to see we're starting to fight back.

Some astute writing from Christopher Hitchens. I like Hitch because he's always willing to buck the groupthink of the left. More people - whether liberal or conservative - should follow his example.

Some good news on the economy at least.

Evidence from documents seized in Afghanistan, and from interrogation of foreign al-Qaeda fighters detained at Guantanamo Bay, have helped MI5 to uncover the terrorist tentacles that lead back to Britain.

I almost want to give up the posts on the little victories that are eroding Al Qaeda's capabilities to launch new attacks, but then I read ramblings such as this and despair.

Some people try to downplay the threat of our enemies so they can condemn our counterattack as too severe. Of course, one reason Al Qaeda may seem less like a threat is that we're winning, and that our victories in Afghanistan has given us vital information on the terrorists. One thing that I have not heard over the Iraq debate is that a US capture of Baghdad may net us substantial information on the terrorist network in the Middle East which will prove invaluable for the war.

Part 3 of Robin Wright's series of terrorism, and this is where our views begin to diverge. We agree that a major problem is how other countries see us. In a world where failed governmental policies of many countries have widened the divide between them and the success of the United States, such disparity is bound to create some sense of frustration, envy, or resentment. We need to be aware of this and flaunt our power little. TR's dictum of speaking softly is quite appropriate, just as if you're a rich man in a bad neighborhood - if you don't want to be robbed, don't flaunt your wealth.

However, Wright seems to be pursuing the theory that only if somehow we can make these people like us, they'll stop attacking us. However, that falls into the trap that we can somehow avoid war by sucking up to terrorists. I don't think Wright means that, he'll support fighting back once attacked, he simply thinks we should abandon policies that provoke others. There are several problems:

1 - Anti-US terrorism is almost exclusively an Arab or Muslim phenomenon. IRA or ETA are distinctly European features, and the IRA at least has shown consistently in pursuing a peaceful resolution to the conflict since 1994. We need to take the salient feature that only Muslims attack us - never Latin Americans despite as past history of interfering in their lives that dwarf anything we've done in the Middle East or Africans whose socio-economic state would make them more desperate than any Arab.

2 - We don't know where the magic mark is that will stop people from hating us. It's basically a reactive strategy we hope will work. It depends entirely on others to succeed. It'll mark us out as perpetual victims.

You can see where Wright's analysis is going by this specific paragraph:

Though 9/11 made Americans aware that in some sense the attitude of the world's Muslims toward America matters, this fact has yet to enter foreign-policy debate very explicitly. This summer, in a big policy shift, President Bush demanded that Yasser Arafat step aside as Palestinian leader, even if he is elected to office by a majority of Palestinians. Bush made no counterbalancing demand of Israel, even though there is one demand—ending the construction of new settlements in the West Bank—that has the support of roughly every American who thinks about these things. Bush caught some flak on this count, but I'm not aware of a single pundit who put the criticism in its most elemental terms: The speech's conspicuous asymmetry had in some intangible but real sense reduced America's national security.

Wright misses the point: America has fundamentally allied itself with Israel in this war now. You don't betray an ally in the hopes your enemy will cut YOU a better deal. The entire Palestinian issue is a huge ruse.

This is entirely between Israel and the Arabs. The US was not involved in any of the wars. True, we now give aide to Israel, but this is counterbalanced by the aide we give Egypt and other Arab countries much less the petrodollars. Throughout the entire peace process the US has constantly put pressure on Israel to make concessions because the Arabs and Palestinians could not do it themselves.

No country has expended greater effort - or gotten better results - on the behalf of Palestinians, yet these people hate us. They hate us not because we're being unfair, but because the result they're getting is not what they want. The Palestinians don't want peace with Israel, they want to destroy Israel. The meme we're fighting against is the delusion that Israel didn't win, that they somehow cheated, and that as long as the Palestinains continue fighting they will someday win.

The only way to get rid of that meme is to destroy by a show of force that demonstrates once and for all the moral and strategic bankruptcy of the Palestinian terrorist leadership.

Have a few days to make up. Third Rail - where all the news is several days old.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Note to all my friends: Now that I'm a pop culture barometer, I can share the love by promoting all my friends' personal blogs. So far, I only know of Jess Hammer's in New York. Having a blogroll of "Friends' Blogs" with Jess alone will no doubt make her feel lonely. So if you have a blog, let me know!

Orrin Judd is holding a contest on his blog for the first person to identify a movie comedy whose laughs originate from leftist politics. His view is that conservatism is the basis of laughter. While I admit pain is the origin of laughter, I don't quite agree that only conservatives can be funny. After all, at one point in time Doonesbury (and Bloom County) were hilarious, but Mallard Fillmore always sucks.

I entered Dr. Strangelove as my contestant. The esteemed Mr. Judd replied, "Is that a comedy? I always took it literally."

Of course, this may be a joke on his part. However, I'm willing to forgoe my usual sense of irony in order to win the big, bad book on Eisenhower he's offered to give away. Therefore, I'm writing an open letter to the blogosphere in the hopes of getting support that Dr. Strangelove is in fact, a comedy.

Hopefully, "Orrin, give this man his Ike biography!" will become as renown as the Open Letter to the Iranian People.

I'm counting on you!!

Warren Ellis on contemporary comics, quoting Ziggy:

With the rest of the mainstream business retreating to tried and tested properties, I feel it's only right and proper for me to follow my usual path of doing the opposite of what is currently successful and therefore earning no money at all. Thankfully, DC Comics are subsidising all this, and it'll take a couple of years for me to totally destroy them.

I just want to write stuff I can read. All this Now Is The Time To Serve The Icons and Let's Bring Back What We Liked As Unloved Children shit is killing me. I'm reminded of what old David Bowie said of Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue: "It's cruise-ship entertainment, really, isn't it?"

Yes it is.

I'm sure everyone by now knows of the assassination attempt on Karzai. I'm just glad he's OK. Just a little while before head dirtbag Hekmatyar recorded a message for the Afghanis. Something tells me Hekmatyar's message for uprising was to coincide with the assassination of Karzai to make America look weak and feeble. It fits Al Qaeda's profile of killing resistance leaders before major strikes. While I do not think a successful assassination would mobilize Afghanis against the US, it would have given Hek the iniative in this next stage of the war.

Big win for the environment here. Now if only we can combine this with those hybrid electric engines that get 70 miles to the gallon. One note: I noticed that none of the car companies mentioned were American. The Japanese beat us the hell up once again.

Thank God we're fighting Al Qaeda and not the Falun Gong! The banned spiritual movement in China has hacked into Bejing-controlled satellite transmissions to broadcast a 70 minute propaganda reel outside the capital. This comes after a wave of earlier hacks by Falun Gong in China's cable systems. This has to scare the hell out of Jiang Jemin and the rest of the geriatric tyrants of the Middle Kingdom.

I've become very impressed by Falun Gong. I never would have anticipated that they could transform themselves into such an effective resistant movement. I guess Beijing was right when they saw it as a threat - of course would it have become a threat had they not tried to destroy it?

This would have been huge. If the Israel's can celebrate Rosh Hashanah in peace, then their efforts of the past few months will have had a real end result.

The world owes this man much. I'm not qualified to speak of the Prime Minister's domestic agenda in Britain, but America appreciates his and the British people's friendship.

Wooo boy! Linked by cool Aussie Tim Blair. This makes only the second time I know of that the Third Rail's meanderings have percolated to the top of the Blogosphere. In both cases it was due to people whose wit is even more acerbic than mine, the first being Fred Pruitt. Hmm, is there a pattern?

I am utterly, utterly confused as to how word spreads that causes a link like this. Guessing that my mom is not some sort of old buddy with Tim Blair, how did he find out? Did he trace a link I had posted from my site? Did some regular and trusted correspondent of Tim's see it and pass word on? Did he Google "Kill Free Willy" and come across my site? I expect such mysteries will never be known so I bow before whatever bizarre god of the weblog caused this.

I'm easily pleased at this point. I'll probably stop such celebrations after the fifth time someone's linked to me.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Kill 'Free Willy'. Will this be the new, "Can't sleep, clowns will eat me?"

Listen to this hooey:

His friend says he is a devout Muslim who never would have engaged in such a violent act as hijacking.

Of course, devout Mulims have never been known to hijack and kill people.

His family says he was getting his life together after a wayward decade of petty crime, mob activities and brawling.

Was he a devout Muslim then too when he was a criminal and mobster? And if not, when did Al Qaeda decide he was the perfect type of Muslim to recruit?

Oussama Kassir, a Stockholm resident who has been identified by U.S. authorities as a participant in an alleged plot to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, acknowledged today that he had befriended Chatty in a Swedish prison in 1998 and had taught him Islamic lessons and prayers.

Of course, this has nothing to do with him being a devout Muslim who doesn't hijack planes.

Some people may wonder if I'm being dysfunctional. One moment I'm standing up for Muslims and another I'm tearing into statements like the above. Let me clarify. I don't believe simply because you're a devoted Muslim you'll start hijacking planes, but let's not pretend that there aren't these whackjobs who do so in the name of Islam. The sooner Muslims stop denying there is a problem and start working to solve it is the minute I'll stop with the snide remarks. Too many seem outraged at alleged bigotry and not enough at the ones who slander Islam by their actions.

I hope we do get a free trade agreement with Australia. One thing I can never figure out is why things such as agriculture policy should obstruct an agreement when all other areas are mutually beneficial. Why not just exclude agricultural products, and move on to everything else?

The New Republic is right on probably the single most important thing we can do to prevent terrorists from getting money.

Part 2 is up. However, all that's really said is a basic primer on why asymetrical warfare will be easier to pull in the future and why it's especially dangerous to the US. It's obvious he's taking baby steps with this, so it'll probably be around Part 6 before we read anything useful.

Found via Damian Penny. I agree completely.

Does stuff like this work? I'm giving a call to all my friends: maybe if we pull together all our credit card debt, we can pay it off like Karen. This especially goes for all my female friends. I'm not stupid enough to think that people will give money to a guy, but they might if it's a good looking woman.

Now I'm being consistently embarassed by my (albeit non-leftist) environmentalism. Can these people descened even more into self-parody?

Check this out:

Under interrogation, the Palestinian disclosed that a few months ago the Palestinian police decided to confiscate stolen Israeli cars that reach PA territory. "We take the cars from the Palestinian thieves, and use them for the Palestinian police," the suspect told Israeli questioners.

Oh, yeah. The Palestinian police simply find these stolen cars from thieves - and then use them themselves. It's not like the Palestinian police ARE the thieves.

Israel's victories continue. While the Palestinians succeed less and less in killing innocent civilians, Israel has been capturing or killing a large number of Palestinian terror leaders. I expect Israel will keep these losers locked up forever, denying future generations of Palestinians much needed teachers in how to kill women and children.

I don't agree with everything Steven Den Beste writes, but we think a lot alike. Like me, he wargamed when he was younger and had a strong sense of history. That inspires you to really learn what war is really like, how to think strategically, and why people act the way they do. Having such a knowledge of history gives you a better idea of how things actually work in the world than the soap opera theatrics that too many people interpret world events as.

The problem with all the rhetoric about UN approval is that it pretends that the Security Council will actually listen to the case that the US makes, and grant or deny approval on the merits of that case. It pretends that the Security Council will act as a disinterested judge of the issue, concerned only with international justice, peace and security.
The reality is that every member of the council except the UK, and in particular the veto powers, will vote strictly on the basis of their own self interest. They will pay no attention whatever to whether the US makes a convincing case on whether Iraq represents a potential danger to the United States. They will base their decisions entirely on whether they themselves will be more helped or harmed by a US attack.

And if that's the case, then what moral authority does the UN Security Council actually have? The argument is that the US shouldn't be driven by its own self interest, but the alternative is for us to be ruled by everyone else's self interest, to the exclusion of our own.

This is the heart of the entire problem with the UN right now. At one point in time, the UN was still a functional entity that could do good. The UN could have done so much more had the Soviets not sabotaged it during the Cold War. Many may not remember it now, but the UN recognized and aided many cherished American ideals in the years between 1945 and the Korean War when Stalin paid little attention to it. Afterwards, it descended into gridlock and later became a farce. But that was then. The UN has not achieved anything substantial since the end of the Cold War (except when the US found it convenient as a cover to advance its own agenda). Why?

The reason is that in the aftermath of World War II, the UN represented the true powers in the world. It reflected reality of who was really in charge, and thus could actually get things done. The Security Council was nothing more than a modern version of the old Congresses of Europe where Metternich would have tea with Talleyrand and the British ambassador and decide what needed to be done. However, 2002 is not 1945, but the UN is still a creation of the World War II era. It doesn't reflect what the world is really like, and its attempts to force the international system to conform to it is making the entire system dysfunctional. It's quite painful to watch.

The UN does little other than to provide salaries for a bunch of educated people from the Third World who can't possibly find real jobs in their home countries. In the years to come I think the UN will become further divorced from reality to the point it becomes as obsolete as the League of Nations once the Allies no longer dominated power politics as they did in 1919. The UN does not serve the interests of the US, China, or any number of rising Asian economic powers who will no longer see self-interest in supporting the delusions of their former Third World compatriots in Africa or the Middle East. Eventually, the dysfunction will become so severe that new institutions, whether de facto or de jure, will replace the obsolete post-World War II structure. There's a possibility that the UN could be reformed, but there are too many vested interests who would oppose it. I expect that slowly alternative forums and bodies will develop that go around the UN as it slowly becomes irrelevant.

It'll be interesting to see what new world the US and China create.

About damn time.

Amidst an article detailing the general intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesberg comes this tidbit I will remember for future use:

The Zimbabwean government has chosen to import generic versions of patented HIV/AIDS drugs. This comes despite the fact that only half of the available anti-retrovirals are actually patented and those that are patented have been offered at discounts of around 90%, and sometimes are handed out for free. It is possible that the imported generics will end up costing more than the patented versions and will definitely come without the important logistical support of the drugs companies.

It seems clear that the move to import generics had nothing to do with increasing access to essential drugs, but rather was a political move to undermine the rights of private pharmaceutical companies.

I have a friend who rants about the lack of attention the world pays to the AIDS crisis in Africa. He may be right, but the leaders of Africa are particularly responsible for such inactivity.

Robert Wright will be detailing his ideas on the war and how to win it. It'll be interesting to see how his argument develops. I've liked Wright's previous articles in Slate, but don't know if we follow similar logic this time. However, we're in agreement on one thing at least:

The initial, sheerly military phase—which the Bush administration had handled capably—was just the beginning. Now, a year after 9/11, pretty much everyone realizes that we'd better have a very good, very long-run strategy.

I don't think we do. I think the Bush administration's long-run plan, to the extent that one can be discerned, is at best inadequate and at worst disastrous.

It is obvious that both parties have failed in the debate of how best to prosecute the war effort. The war has been non-existent in the 2002 campaigns so far. I hope 2004 will be different, but it will require the GOP to have the courage to call the President into account, and the Democrats to find a capable war leader after doing their best since 1968 to drive out everyone in the party who could be.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

One of the things I've learned in life is to never pay attention to people's claims on what they believe. Look at what is in their interest to do. The latter and not the former will predict people's actions 99% of the time. Knowing this, whenever sales people come up to me I remember that they are acting in their interest, not mine. A mark of a good salesman is when he is able to convince me that our two interests can lead to mutual benefit. That's honesty. However, I never trust a salesman when he argues exclusively from what he thinks is in my best interest. Sorry, but no thank you. I'm not so stupid I don't know what's good for me, and your refusal to state this is good for you makes me suspicious it'll just screw me over.

Thus when non-Americans say things like this:

"We don't want to have another Vietnam; we can't afford another Vietnam," stressed Walid, a nephew of King Fahd.

My BS detectors go off. Whether the US gets involved in another "Vietnam War" doesn't affect the Saudi royal family. They don't care how many boys come home in body bags or whether it will split America. So don't tell me you fear for us.

Why is it in Saudi Arabia's interest for the US to not go after Saddam. They don't have one that also meets US interests. They don't want us to take out Saddam because his removal makes us less dependent on them. In fact, we might remove all those troops in the Middle East that serve the royal family's interest because they can scapegoat their horrible rule of their country on the big, bad Western power of America.

We know how much the Saudi's care about us after the Khobar bombing. Piss off.

Besides Hanoi Jane we now have Bagdhad Clark. Traitor.

The US has achieved its aim in Afghanistan. Hunting down the remnants is not cost effective in terms of where our men and material could best be used elsewhere. We can prevent an Al Qaeda victory simply because our air power prevents them from real conquest. However, we must play this guerilla war smart. We cannot be suckered by the international community that this is some inane "nation building" project. This is nothing of the sort. There is no real Afghanistan nation. It is still in civil war. Karzai's "government" is nothing more than one faction - although one the UN bureaucrats have been fooled into thinking represents all of Afghanistan. Maybe we must pretend that other US-allied warlords are "under" Karzai, but we best not act that way when dealing with them. We must continue to support them even if they don't tow Karzai's line. Ambiguity is good right now. We can't afford our allies fighting. We need the warlords to destroy the Taliban remnants internally in the short term as we build up Karzai's long term prospects and army. I also think that besides forming a strong, but small core of "professional" soldiers in an Afghan national army, both Karzai and the US needs a loyal and large force of irregulars that can fight the same way the other warlords fight. Any "professional army" is too costly to squander in dire combat with the Taliban. We need to take advantage of the one material advantage Afghan troops give us which is their cheap ubiquity. We simply need to give them enough ammo and money so that they'll never be outgunned. With that in play, we only need to do simple economic improvements that raises the material welfare of the Afghan people and we'll be fine (I say simple for two reasons - 1) simple is what works and 2) we can expect Taliban to blow up any "prestige" expensive improvements so we need to not provide them those targets).

I'm really against the need to expand America's military role in Afghanistan. We accomplished our mission. The Afghans need to fight the Taliban. Give them what they need to do it. I think an army of Afghan irregulars can provide security better than US troops who can't blend in, don't speak the language, and frankly provide too many opportunities for a propaganda victory to the Taliban. These people will claim losing 1000 men into a "victory" as long as 3 American soldiers die. There are many negatives and few positives to having more US troops. Karzai's government has more legitimacy than the Soviet's puppet regime. Allow them to keep it by having them defend the Afghan people themselves.

Thank NAFTA. The integration of Mexico into North America may become America's most important achievement of the early Twenty-First century. If Mexico is to modernize, I would say it's best bet is to invest in its common people. The last thing Mexico needs is to promote the already well off and do nothing for its poor. The gap between rich and poor is hurting things as they stand already. The thing that will promote the most growth is to avoid fancy info-tech fads and concentrate on improvements on the basics - rebuild Mexico's roads, telephones, sanitation and other basic infrastructure that benefits both rich and poor.

One of the few good things President Fredo has done. Let's hope we can articulately advance (note: not defend) our position. And Glenn is bullseye on his last comments. I'm a committed environmentalist, but we need a market based approach that properly internalizes the environmental cost of actions, not a command based approach.

Another example of how people vote with their feet - this time in terms of popular support of the Saddam regime in Iraq.

Close to one in every five Iraqis, after all, lives in exile-having fled Saddam's regime-and more than 700,000 have perished in wars or government purges since Saddam formally assumed Iraq's presidency in 1979. That means most Iraqi families have a murdered or exiled family member or friend.

I like reports like this because even though it shows how we're screw-ups, we now know what we need to do next. I just wish that President Fredo is able to take the necessary next steps.

How much better are things in Afghanistan now than under the Taliban? Remember people vote with their feet.

Friday, August 23, 2002

When an article begins with "World faces polyster crisis" you know it's a must read.

I wonder when the common Palestinian will realize he is being used to further the agenda of an elite who sacrifice nothing but constantly call upon others to give their lives.

Publication of this dialogue must have been rather embarrassing to Abdel Rantisi, given that it underscores an uncomfortable reality about the young suicide bombers blowing themselves up for the Palestinian cause: Not one has come from a prominent Palestinian family.

The rich and the well to do Palestinians will fight to the last poor Palestinian. This entire affair sickens me.

As a student of World War II history, I remember so many people writing that Hitler could have been stopped in 1936 when he reoccupied the Rhineland. Not stopping him there encouraged the Nazis enough to start World War II three years later.

Khidhir Hamza, former chief nuclear scientist for Saddam's nuclear weapons development program and another Iraqi defector, estimates Iraq now has "12 tons of uranium and 1.3 tons of low-enriched uranium" and asserts that Saddam will have "three to five nuclear weapons by 2005."

That's three years from now. We shouldn't wait.

Ha, ha, ha! And my friends called me insane when I told them I would never abandon the paradigm of the "4 basic food groups" for the new Food Pyramid. Now who's the fool! Bwu-ha-ha!

I couldn't even stand school lunches. I'd never listened to the government on how I should eat.

In the years after high school, some old friends started smoking marijuana and entered a subculture where listening to Phish became mandatory and the most inane conversations were viewed as insightful dialogues about life. Being the sober one in this group gave me a slightly altered perspective (the one good thing out of this affair was a new friendship with someone else who palled with that same group who was likewise unimpressed).

My opposition to their smoking was well known, and inevitably as part of their defense they would state how the Founding Farmers all grew hemp for paper and how many trees it would save if we used hemp now. My response was always asking how the composition of paper resulted in their smoking pot? The whole discussion was simply a ruse - and a bad one at that - to obfuscate that they were becoming boring, hippie losers.

A similar exercise exists about medical marijuana. I'm not against cancer patients avoiding horrible pain, so I'm been benevolently neutral during the whole debate. I just wonder how impassioned the stoners of the world will be about it once the word of this gets out.

Has everyone gone mad?

Libya is to be elected chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights - despite its links with terrorism and torture.

When the world has become as dysfunctional as this, you know a lot of people are going to die at some point. The current international system does not reflect reality, just a bizarre expressionist fantasy. Dr. Caligari is laughing at us.

I stopped reading George Will a long time ago, but I was pointed to this article.

The debate about regime change through preemptive war is reaching a rolling boil before the administration is ready to respond, so the war's first surprise has already happened.

Any competent President would have been ready for this debate the moment he decided to include Iraq in any "axis of evil" speech. Then again, what can we expect from Fredo when he's left in charge of the Corleone family? I'm expecting Moe Green to show up at the White House and slap him sometime.

Why the hell is this even the government's business? Spending $190 million to fight child obesity? Here's my solution for free: have one kid at every playground make fun of the fat ones. After all, we need the money to save us from anorexic, clove-smoking goths.

People who were never slaves seek money from people who never owned slaves. You don't think it might not be about "justice" at all, but merely about a free lunch? Let's ask a sympathetic observer on the scene:

One of the most jarring aspects of the rally was the alarming rhetoric flowing from center stage. "I heard black people get happy on pay day," shouted Hashim Nzinga, the national chief of staff for the New Black Panther Party. "Well it's pay day!" he continued excitedly, before introducing Malik Zulu Shabazz, the 34-year-old party chairman. Shabazz's group, it should be noted, has been denounced by members of the original Black Panther Party and its heirs for some of its more reactionary views and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Shabazz followed Nzinga's stereotype-laden comments with a bit of race baiting: "You've heard of pin the tail on the donkey? Well now it's time to pin the tale on the honkey!"

In one of the rally's many low points, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, of the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, New York, informed the crowd, "I don't care how many welfare checks you get, they will not pay you for the labor of your ancestors." He immediately followed this with the arguably contradictory adage, "just don't get a welfare mentality while you're collecting your checks!"

To the central question of the afternoon -- namely, "how much they owe us" -- the answer generally came back as some nebulous, astronomical and amorphous amount, oddly enough often invoked as an actual paycheck (something more mainstream reparations advocates have cautioned against).

Oh, yeah, these people are making their case very persuasive. Is Alex P. Kellog truly so clueless about what this is about that he thinks the whole reparation issue is thought of as "oddly enough... an actual paycheck?" Why, that would make it just a scam as opposed to a glorious moment when the Alex P. Kellog's of the world can woo the black man and woman with his white symapthy.

My favorite line:

"Knowing what I know about what my people did, I wouldn't be able to respect myself if I weren't doing everything I can to have this country and white people face up to the crime we committed and to right this grave wrong," said New Yorker Donna Lamb, 53, a member of Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation.

600,000 Americans died during the Civil War that ended slavery. I guess that wasn't a high enough price. Would she prefer the families of the dead men to have given money at that time (and if so how much), or just would have liked a higher body count to salve her conscience? Just how many Americans should have died so that the nation paid for the crime of slavery?

Found via Little Green Footballs. The best part:

The GLA refused to give permission to Al-Muhajiroun, a militant organisation that has called for terrorist attacks on western targets, to hold a rally in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, but it found that it had no legal right to do so.

Do you think they wanted Osama to blow up Trafalgfar Square while they were in it?

This man should be commended for the fantastic work he's done. He's the closest thing to William Shirer this war has.

Why can't I have magical powers like bloodthirsty North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il?

Kim, who enjoys god-like status at home where he is known as the Dear Leader, hates flying and arrived in Russia, as last year, by armored express.

Back in Pyongyang, the official media sustained his image of a miracle-worker, telling his people Friday that on his trip to Russia last year his very presence had chased away rain clouds.

His fabled powers, however, failed Friday when torrential rain met him on arrival at Vladivostok rail station, forcing him to skip a scheduled welcome by Russian officials.

For those who know even less about Islam than I do, Sharia is Islamic Law. It's quite different from any Judeo-Christian Biblical law like the Ten Commandments. In Judaism, if I understand rightly, you always had the secular power of the King - David, Solomon, what have you, but there was always a higher law - God's - the people could appeal to if the King ended up tyrannical. In other words, Biblical law (like its secular counterpart Natural Law from which American political philosophy is based) does not serve to justify secular power, but to constrain it. Likewise, the centuries-long persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire (and Christ's admonish to render to Caesar what is his, and to God what is God's) there has always been a division between spiritual authority and the temporal. No matter the power of the Pope, he was no King or Emperor. Thus was established the precedent that people could govern themselves in assemblies.

Sharia is different because it's supposed to directly from God. There's no need for democratic assemblies because God has already given man a perfect law. Who can improve on that? Thus the ruler was merely suppose to enforce the law, not create it. Hence democracy is dangerous. Of course, even not considering whether Islamic law is preferrable, the lack of counterbalancing institutions enables corruption and tyranny. Hence the Islamic Republic of Iran where the people have voted in reformers that dominate the legislature, but they aren't able to change anything (what do you a call a government where people can vote who they want a slong as they don't change anything? It's not a democracy, I know that.)

Thus Tim Blair quotes this guy:

All these comments about Sharia law being barbaric and a crime against humanity make me angry. Sharia is a law for the community whereas western law seems to be for the criminal. Do you think that you would have all the crime that you have in the West if we had Sharia Law? I think not!
Ibrahim, UK

That's because in areas where Sharia is the law, there are no criminals on the street because they are all in the government. It's easy to have a low murder rate when the murderers kill their political opponents and don't count them in the statistics. Likewise, it's easy not to have crime, when all the thieves take your money by taxation instead of burglarly. And who needs prostitution when you can have a harem?

I judge laws and societies based on their results, not any fancy political theory. It's what happens when you're raised in farm country in the Midwest (I wasn't raised on a farm myself, but my friends were). We are richer, more free, and live in less fear in America than anywhere in the Middle East or where Sharia is in place. There's a reason for that