Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Response from Orrin Hatch

In response to the letter that I sent to my three congresscritters (2 sens and 1 rep), I got the following letter from Orrin Hatch (R-Utah):

Dear Ms. XXXX:

Thank you for contacting me to express your views about the results of the recent election. I appreciate hearing from you.

I have spent many years in the Senate as a member of the majority and the minority party, and I am known in the Senate as one who can reach across the aisle and work with the other party. I can get legislation through, regardless of which party is in power.

One thing that I have learned over the years — and it was a message sent to Congress by this election — is that Utahns and people throughout American [sic] want members of Congress to do something, not just oppose something. I am always grateful when members of both parties work together to move forward on issues that make a difference in the lives of those we represent.

Again, thank you for writing.

Sincerely,
Orrin G. Hatch
United States Senator

Wow! He really got the message! We Utahns don't want a party to just oppose stuff, despite the fact that the party that did nothing but oppose (Dems) won and those who did nothing at all lost.

Way to go, Senator. Way to read the tea leaves.

BTW: Who is hogging all of Blogger's bandwidth these past couple of days? It takes forever to reach any Blogspot site, including mine.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Getting the News from the Enemy

Ever since the original "fauxtography" scandal, there has been increasing scrutiny over the use of local stringers to cover stories in the middle east. The latest set of questions comes from the reporting on Iraq, which most agree is heavy on the gloom and doom side. It's all been chalked up to "if it bleeds, it leads," mentality of the press.

However, one alert blogger has noticed that many of the sources for the news in Iraq are not reliable, to say the least. People claiming to be representatives from the Iraq police force or army are feeding reporters exaggerations and outright lies in an attempt to further dishearten Americans and push us closer to a Vietnam-like withdrawal.

The AP has been getting a large number of its stories from one Captain Jamil Hussein, who does not exist.

I just sent the following to AP:

Dear AP:

I just read your statement on journalistic integrity. It's good stuff. Especially this part:

That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise.
It means we always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information – not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable.


So it puzzles me that you frequently use one Captain Jamil Hussein as a source for many of the more bloody stories out of Iraq. There is no Captain Jamil Hussein in the Iraqi police. http://floppingaces2.blogspot.com/2006/11/getting-news-from-enemy.html.

That blogger's query to CENTCOM yielded the following response:

Sir:
Unfortunately, we do not have a direct contact into the MOI so we cannot provide you with that. We have to work through a CF organization called the CPATT (Coalition Police Assistance Training Team), an MNFI organization that seems to be made up of retired police officers.

Since September we have been engaging CPATT to verify the legitimacy and employment status of various MOI/IP spokesmen. Our contact at CPATT has been quite helpful, however, I know helping us is not his full-time job. Interestly, MOI has apparently issued an edict that no one below the level of Chief can speak to the media. We have reminded AP of this but without proof that these spokesman are not employees, they have pretty much ignored us. (If you were a reporter, would who give up a primo source because of rank? Probably not.)

I personally engaged CPATT about Capt. Jamil Hussein’s legitimacy within an hour of seeing the burning alive story — which we cannot verify from any source, but how do you prove a negative.

Of note, we definitely know that one IP spokesman - Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq of the city’s Yarmouk police station (a.k.a. police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq) is not authorized to speak on behalf of the IP and the MOI supposedly issued a warrant for his questioning. That happened a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t seen his name recently.

Below is an incomplete list of MOI spokesmen we are tracking since the middle of November and trying to verify.

Very respectfully,

LT Dean

Given that the Iraqi police have mandated that no officer below the rank of chief is to make statements to the press, you shouldn't even be talking to a captain, real or imaginary. What gives?

I don't know who's at fault for this oversight, but given that the blogosphere is keeping such a close eye on y'all, doesn't it behoove you to check your sources more carefully? I mean, this is embarrassing.

Good luck getting the egg off your face,


This is a link to the AP Statement of News Values and Principles, and you can send e-mail to the AP at info@ap.org.

I'm going to send a similar letter to my local newspapers, asking them to refrain from using AP stories unless they can confirm the identities of their alleged sources.

It would also appear that the LA Times is also relying on unreliable sources for their reporting about Iraq.

This is worse than disgusting. It's positively criminal.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Say It Again, VDH

Sometimes, it's not enough to refer to VDH; one must quote him at length to put the underline under the row of exclamation marks...
No, no, no….

The problems in Iraq, in the radical Middle East at large—with democratization, with nuclearization, with Islamism—are not, repeat not, a lack of dialogue with Syria and Iran.

We know what both rogue states wish and it is our exit from the Middle East and thus a free hand to undermine the newly established democracies of Lebanon and Iraq—in the manner that all autocracies must destroy their antitheses.

They both sponsor and harbor terrorists for a reason—to undermine anything Western: a Western-leaning Lebanese democracy, a Western-style democracy in Iraq, a Westernized Israel, or soldiers of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Syria, as we see once again with the killing of Pierre Gemayel, is practicing serial murdering in Lebanon. I was on the Hugh Hewitt show last night, and he was right to make the point that Syria is like the Nazi regime of the late 1930s that sent its agents into Eastern Europe and Austria to assassinate and undermine republican leaders, to pave the way for the ‘necessary’ and ‘welcome’ entrance of the order-bringing Wehrmacht into a ‘brother’ state.

Iran is a rogue nation that seeks bombs to use them against the region’s only viable democracy in Israel. Neither Damascus nor Teheran can tolerate a democratic Iraq—no more than the Soviet Union would have allowed the Baltic Republics to have pro-Western democracies or Nazi Germany wished to be a partner in peace with republican Czechoslovakia.

Yes, yes, we need perhaps to have a national “dialogue”, but not over talking to Iran and Syria—but instead whether we wish to continue to fight and win this war.

Tell us it ain’t so?

As I understood the President, whether in his ‘Axis of Evil’ speech or his ‘with us or against us’ construct, the United States is no longer seeking Clintonian short-term, stop-gap palliatives of cruise missiles and federal indictments. Instead we are at war with both terrorists in the field, and the regimes that sponsor, pay, and host them. In such an existential struggle, democracy is as destabilizing to them as jihadism is to us, and so we promote it whenever we can as the right and smart thing to do—especially given the hysterical hatred toward it voiced by bin Laden and Dr. Zawahiri.

And for all the conundrum, the war against the jihadists is still going well. Iran and Syria are striking out because they feel surrounded—democratic Turkey on one side, Israel on the other, with nearby democracies struggling to become established in Kurdistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is being dismantled, and a Europe galvanizing against Islamic fascism. Even the impotent UN is beginning to stir against Iran and Syria. If we can stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq, we can bring enormous pressure on both these two rogue nations. So why give up now—which is what talking to these amoral governments constitutes, given our previous rhetoric and vow to quit the appeasement?

Cui Bono?

But why would either Damascus or Teheran wish to talk? The answer is plain. The former wants to profess to cool it a bit in destabilizing Iraq in exchange for us turning a blind eye in Lebanon; the latter wants to act like stopping the sending of agents of our destruction into Iraq in exchange for cooling our rhetoric about their bomb. What we would be doing in essence by “dialoguing” is saying to both the democracies in Lebanon and Israel, “Sorry, but we have to find a way out of Iraq, and these fascists will promise to turn away from us if they can turn on you.”

All this is dressed up with realist “maturity” and “concern” but it would be consistent with those who brought us Iran-Contra, aid to both Iran and Iraq in their war, stopping before Baghdad, hugs with the House of Saud that paid money to those who killed Americans, and on and on. If Syria and Iran can be assured of a truce, that we won’t destabilize them at home or stop their adventurism abroad, then they might let us save face in Iraq. That they would ever honor such a deal is absurd, that we would ever believe they would is worse than absurd.

For five long years many of us have praised this administration’s constancy and idealism, in removing the Taliban and Saddam, and then staying on to do the hard, the easily caricatured work of democratization. The liberal hawks have long bailed. The paleos have turned venomous in their criticism. Many of the neo-cons have sought escape by blaming the flawed occupation for ruining their supposedly perfect three-week take-down of Saddam. But there are millions of us still out there who, Jacksonian in spirit, close ranks and will support our troops wherever they are. But we simply cannot ask Americans to die in Anbar province while talking to the Iranians and Syrians who are doing their best through surrogates in killing them.

.... [break for rant about bad apologies]

Which brings us to the concluding thought.

Most in the West profess, albeit secretly, that these particular, regional and perceived Middle East grievances really are connected. We nod in approval to each pundit and expert as they deceive us by convoluted exegeses—the West Bank is not Lebanon that is not the Taliban that is not Iraq that is not the Iranian bomb-making that is not Wahhabism, that is not…

But inside perhaps we know that they are really akin to the generic hatred that our fathers battled in Nazism, Italian fascism, and Japanese militarism—disjointed, often unconnected ideologies of evil that, nevertheless, found their common purpose—surely enough to go to war together—in hating liberal Western society.

And we all know, for all our self-doubt and self-loathing, that the West really is strong, at least strong enough to smash jihadists and their patrons.

So apparently we are in another Phony War circa October 1939 to May 1940, awaiting the provocation—another 9/11? A nuclear strike on Israel? A full-fledged brazen Syrian invasion of Lebanon? A terrorist killing of the Pope or mass murder in Paris or Berlin?— that sets us off.

And we know that like a Nazi Germany that invaded Russia and declared war on the United States, or a Japan that bombed Pearl Harbor and hoped for our instant surrender, that these jihadists have not a clue about the danger they are courting, apparently thinking that most Americans care only about Mark Foley’s email or Britni Spears’ divorce.

But tragically time will tell for these naïve and self-destructive killers. Their clock is ticking…

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wacademia, Impotence, and Envy

No, not that kind of impotence, though if I were a Freudian (and I most emphatically am not), I would argue that it amounts to the same thing.

What I mean is the nagging suspicion that is held among the humanities types--most notably those in literature--that what they're doing might not be all that important, in the great scheme of things.

After all, if you're an engineer, you make things, real-life things that operate in the real world in a real way. People pay you real money for them. And depending on what you make, you could be offering the world something of great importance.

And if you're in medicine, you heal people or make discoveries that lead to better health. Or even if you're in law, you at least do something tangible that affects the way the world works, even if for one person only.

But if you major in Comparative Literature or Spanish Literature or Women's Studies or Philosophy, you are being groomed for one thing only: to teach your subject in a university to other students who will eventually grow up to teach your subject in a university. There is no practical, real-world application for these Humanities degrees outside of the university.

I should know; I majored in Spanish Literature, went up to the PhD level at Cornell University (didn't finish the dissertation), decided I didn't want to spend the rest of my life teaching, and was loosed on the world with no marketable skills. (What skills I now market as a technical writer I mostly learned independently of my degree.) Trust me, no one is going to pay you to write a killer essay on the metafictional elements in Don Quixote outside the university.

On the other hand, the professors who teach chemical engineering or biology or even math are teaching students who will go out into the world with some very definitely marketable skills, skills that make a difference in the world. Some of those students will spend some time in the field, then return to the university to impart that field experience to their students.

In other words, majoring in the humanities is supremely incestuous in that all you have is professors producing more professors who produce more professors. The sciences, on the other hand, produce people who make the world go, from airplanes to computer software to skyscrapers.

Consequently, the humanities (and often the social sciences) receive less prestige and certainly less funding than their hard-science peers. (For handouts, I had to use a mimeograph machine instead of a copier at 10¢ a pop!) And that reallygets under the skins of the humanities types. As would be expected with ordinary human beings, this perceived impotence provokes envy of the worst kind.

When you're in a position of lesser power and prestige, it's natural to want to remedy that inequality, to catch a little sunshine for yourself. You can go about it in a positive way, by making sure you are actually doing something that merits prestige, or you can go about tearing the other guy down. One of these is easier than the other, and therefore is the one that most people will choose.

See if you can tell which path many humanities academics have chosen in the following example: physicist Lee Smolin explains the debate scientists had with his "lesser" colleagues.
The social constructivists [a group of humanities and social science professors] claimed that the scientific community is no more rational or objective than any other community of human beings. This is not how most scientists view science. We tell our students that belief in a scientific theory must always be based on an objective evaluation of the evidence. Our opponents in the debate argued that our claims about how science works were mainly propaganda designed to intimidate people into giving us power, and that the whole scientific enterprise was driven by the same political and sociological forces that drove people in other fields. -- Lee Smolin. The Trouble with Physics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, xix.

This approach elevates the humanities without diminishing the sciences, right?

Ok, not so much. What interests me here are the accusations of intimidation and power-grabbing. Have you ever noticed that people who are extremely insecure will often accuse you of having the very motives that they have? It's called "projection," for those of you not up to speed on this kind of thing.

(I have just barely started reading Smolin's book, but he tells us the punchline in the introduction: that in studying String Theory, physicists unmoored themselves from their own prime directive -- prove it -- and went off spinning thousands of theories (actually, there are 10500 string theories, according to Smolin), none of which could or even can be proven. And the result was that physics began to take on the unhealthy characteristics of the humanities: lock-step thinking, shunning for not believing in or studying String Theory, denied funding and hiring for those who didn't take the Official Position, and in general a huge void in the progress of theoretical physics, something unheard of in the past two centuries.)

At any rate, the point is that one of the reasons that humanities has become so unhinged is that they're frustrated beyond belief at their own impotence. They're at the bottom of the scholarly pile and they know it. So they take on various "causes" meant to change the world -- feminism, socialism, queer theory -- and make those the subject of their study, rather than what novels and poems and plays actually say.

Because like I said, no one cares if you can describe the differences between a sonnet by Garcilaso de la Vega and one by Góngora. But if you can persuade people that you've got the key to solving the world's problems, maybe people will take you seriously for once.

Monday, November 20, 2006

It's Not What We Did, but What They Want

In this electrifying article about an ex-Jihadi, we learn what drives jihadis.

Hint:
It's not Israel, it's not Iraq, it's not Afghanistan, it's not "western imperialism."

Quote of the Day

From Victor David Hanson:
Now we have yet again the ubiquitous Jimmy Carter. Not content with a failed Presidency, he is determined to turn his legacy into even a greater failure, lecturing us in his new book about an apartheid Israel.
....
Carterism is a new postmodern pathology in which smug piety, dressed up in evangelical new-age Christianity, pronounces from afar moral censure on the more righteous party—on the theory that acting well but not perfect is worse than acting badly. Carter reminds me of the timid parent who spanks hard the good son for the rare misdemeanor because he takes it with silence while giving a pass to the wayward son for the daily felony because he would throw a public fit if corrected.

UPDATE:
Here's a related post by Dr. Sanity, in which she explains the psychological defense mechanism known as "displacement" and how it affects the Left in general and the MSM in particular.
One way you can usually tell that psychological displacement is being used is that the emotion being displaced (e.g., anger or fear) is all out of proportion to the reality of the situation. The purpose of displacement is to avoid having to cope with the actual reality. Instead, by using displacement, an individual is able to still experience his or her anger, but it is directed at a less threatening target than the real cause. In this way, the individual does not have to be responsible for the consequences of his/her anger and feels more safe--even thought that is not the case.

And, in the case of the MSM, the side effect of the displacement is that they can safely denounce "evil" and be the "brave rebels" without having to risk anything! From their perspective, their courage and daring knows no bounds! Why, at any minute, the fascist, torturing, despicable regimes of Bush, Blair etc. etc. might come for them and put them in death camps! Yeah, right.

In order for them to be brave, they must, of course, play up the evil of the forces they are "speaking truth" to. Hence all the exaggeration of mistakes that Bush and Blair have made. Exaggeration all out of proportion to reality--while almost completely ignoring the real atrocities that are committed on a daily basis by those we fight against in Iraq.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Some Hope on the Front

I really need to read Wretchard at The Belmont Club more often: even though some of his stuff is too dense for me to parse (when I'm not feeling like getting deep into the intricacies of international politics) he also provides needed, granular analysis of the situation(s).

One of today's posts, Double or Nothing, provides some analysis of how an increase in troop levels does in fact reduce the amount of violence in Iraq. That might seem like a dumb thing to point out, but I've been hearing people say that increasing the troop levels in Iraq will only provide more targets for the terrorists.

However, casualty rates among Iraqis and soldiers alike are actually reduced by the increased troop numbers.

I also just finished listening to the exchange between Hillary and Gen. Abazaid, in which she told him that hope was not a strategy. He reminds her that despair isn't a strategy, either, and that when he is in Washington, he feels despair, unlike how he feels in Iraq when he talks to the actual people on the ground, including Iraqi leadership. They believe they can get the situation under control, with US help.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wacademia and Peer Pressure

I posted this originally over at Muslihoon's blog, as a comment in response to a post about the Left and Right in academia.

*****

This is what makes the academic Left who they are:

As S. Weasel said, they'd rather be dead than uncool. Academics think they score extremely high on the cool scale, and in some ways they do. They tend to like high-falutin' music (jazz, classical), they are into the arts, theatre, and languages, they are capable of engaging in extremely interesting conversations. And they can be quite clever, too. For this reason, I tend to prefer friends who are academically inclined.

However, academics are universally plagued by the overwhelming fear of being thought foolish by their peers, of not being good enough to be in the Cool Smart People Club. Remember, academics were usually the shy, unpopular kids in elementary through high school. They spent their time with their noses buried in books and encyclopedias, soaking up as much knowledge as possible. Their academic skills earned them the praise of their teachers but the scorn of their classmates.

So when they get to college, suddenly they are the only ones on campus. All of the "cool" kids from high school took other paths. Maybe they're in the sciences or they went to trade school or they got jobs straight out of high school.

At any rate, all of the formerly uncool kids find each other in college, and they are more than happy to dump on all of the "bourgeoisie" who tormented them as children. All of the stuff that interested the uncool kids becomes cool, and they can easily justify their tastes as "better" than those of the masses because the tastes are not as easily cultivated, and they are not as widespread.

If you want to humiliate an academic, accuse him or her of being bourgeois. Or in other words, "common." Unenlightened, like the rest of those rotters who didn't have the brains to go into academia.

So of course, the Left makes a point of seeking out those values that are held by Middle America and deliberately embracing their opposite. They do not in any way make an honest evaluation of traditional or common values to decide which to keep and which to discard; instead, they hold it as a truism that common values are a priori wrong and must be destroyed. They hold up the sacred triumvirate of racism, sexism, and homophobia as societal wrongs that prove that they are in the right.

That's why they call themselves "progresssives": they believe that human society naturally evolves toward perfection, and that conservatives object to the changes they propose out of old-fashioned bigotry and the desire to maintain social status. Again, they point to racism, especially, as an example of how everybody in a society can believe something that is totally wrong and how it takes the actions of brave "radicals" to change society for the better. Because no one today can argue with the fallacy of racial superiority, they claim the high moral ground.

But like I said, they don't differentiate between traditional values that are good and those that should go. They are enamored of the idea that they are at the avant garde of social progress because they, and they alone, are smart enough to see injustice. They, after all, are educated. And education makes you moral.

That's how they see themselves. What they don't see is the degree to which peer pressure informs their opinions. While I was in academia, I heard the siren song of conformity, but I didn't heed it because I knew that the only reason for dropping my old beliefs and conforming to theirs would be to escape ridicule. And no one, especially an academic, likes to be thought a fool.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Banging the Vietnam Drum

As everyone on the political side of the blogosphere knows, the Left and Right view the current war through different lenses, and each of those lenses represents a 20th-century war. For the Left, Iraq is Vietnam; for the Right, it is WWII, specifically, 1938.

The Left sees Iraq as Vietnam because they see Vietnam as the emblem of the futility of war, of its brutality and meaninglessness, of the US getting involved in a situation it had no business being involved in, of the power of the people to reverse a government's bad decision and bring the boys home before more of them get killed.

The Right sees Iraq as WWII because they see WWII, especially the years leading up to it, as the time when people should have taken Hitler seriously, as the time when a small war in the Rhineland would have prevented atrocities untold, as a time when it was evident to all but the intellectuals and politicians that the Nazis posed a mortal threat to Western Civilization.

We on the Right have been impatient and contemptuous with the Left's trotting out of Vietnam again, because frankly it's tiresome: after all those movies and TV shows (M*A*S*H, especially) that beat the Futility Of War drum so incessantly, we can safely say that we get it--War Is Hell. As in, duh. Like we need 13 years of Hawkeye Pierce's pacificst tantrums to figure that out. (BTW: I have always been and still am a huge M*A*S*H fan; it's probably the best TV series ever, but I have come to resent the distorted view of the military and war that it provided.)

But now that the Democrats have taken Congress, the Left's use of the Vietnam paradigm threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They very well could cut the funding to the troops, who are currently in a support position relative to the Iraqi police and military. If we go, all their logistical support dries up, and without that support, the Iraqi army will fall. And with it, the democratically elected government.

The word the folks on the Right are using now is "chaos" to describe what will happen afterwards. Well, yes, chaos is not entirely inaccurate. But you can use that same term to describe what happens at 7am when Wal-Mart opens its doors the day after Thanksgiving. Chaos doesn't sound all that bad, because chaos has a tendency to resolve itself into some kind of order eventually.

The trouble is, when an unstable country goes chaotic, the only way the chaos will resolve itself is when the strong subjugate the weak and create a totalitarian or near-totalitarian state. Populations have a hard time being chaotic when they've got a boot on their neck.

What will that resolution look like in Iraq? Well, there are a few possibilities: the Shia and Kurds maintain control, and they go after the Sunnis with gusto. Or the Sunnis manage to wrest power from the government and they go after the Shia and Kurds. Or Al Qaeda by sheer force of arms establishes itself as the de facto power, and they go after anyone who cooperated with the US or was engaged in the democratic process.

I used the term "go after" in the above paragraph, but what I really meant was "engage in wholesale slaughter." If you think they're killing Iraqis by the bushel now, you ain't seen what will happen if we leave before they're ready for us to go.

We on the Right also have criticized the Left (and rightly so) for their bumper-sticker mentality, for their empty and misleading slogans, for the relentless memes and assertions that have nothing behind them but hysteria and distortion. However much I might dislike sloganism, I also have to admit that it is highly effective. Sound bites are what it's about in our culture, and peer pressure is easily exerted thereby. If everybody's saying it, it must be right, right?

I mean, what's more effective?

"BUSH LIED, PEOPLE DIED"

or

"BUSH MAY HAVE EQUIVOCATED ABOUT WMDs, BUT THE WAR IS STILL JUSTIFIED AS A MEANS OF ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF TERRORISM, AND BESIDES, THEY ARE MYSOGINISTS, FASCISTS, PRIMITIVE, AND SUPREMACISTS, SO THEY CAN'T BE ALLOWED TO TOPPLE WESTERN CIVILIZATION, WHICH STANDS FOR FREEDOM AND PROGRESS"

You get the point. I would very much like to see the Right embrace the cause of not only refuting the Vietnam paradigm, but of actively fighting withdrawal, because it would certainly result in widespread death and destruction in Iraq. There are other consequences, to be sure, such as the continuation of jihad in the rest of the ME and Europe and possibly even on our shores. But the Left cannot imagine that the jihadis might do us serious harm beyond a few blown-up malls or airplanes. So we won't challenge their lack of imagination at this point.

We should frame the current conflict in terms of Vietnam, but not in the same way as the Left does. They emphasize the bloodiness of the war; we need to emphasize the much greater bloodiness of the aftermath.

Because as I grew up, I never heard any of those self-righteous boomer protesters discuss what happened in Southeast Asia after we went home. I never knew until recently that millions upon millions died after our withdrawal, far more than died during the actual conflict. For that alone (though there are many other reasons), I cannot ever, ever trust the Lefty boomers to provide me with any degree of perspective when it comes to war. Ever.

But I can co-opt their methods. Mindless repetition of bumper-sticker slogans works, folks. Let's get to it. How about these, for starters?

WIN THE BATTLE; WIN THE WAR

WE WITHDRAW; THEY RECRUIT

FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS WITHDRAW FROM IRAQ

WITHDRAWAL IS GENOCIDE

Any more?

UPDATE:

Here's one inspired by a comment at LGF

WITHDRAWAL: GREAT BIRTH CONTROL, BAD FOREIGN POLICY

Friday, November 10, 2006

USB Gadgets

Here's the latest in computer innovations: office gadgets that you plug into your USB port, which supplies the power for the gadget.

Items include heated gloves for chilly offices, fans, lighted Christmas trees, and mug warmers.

Also included on that site is a license plate flash frame, and Lileks suggests a few things you can do with it, to wit,

  • Display pi up to 118 numbers after the decimal point, but make one error, and wait for the sweet day when some math nerd leaves an angry note on your windshield.

  • Serialize the entire Warren Commission Report. The fix was in! The world's gotta know, man!

  • Bawdy limericks in Morse Code. It may take years, but eventually someone will sound out HA HA in Morse on their car horn, and it'll all be worthwhile.

  • Elaborate on your bumper stickers: "By 'Visualize World Peace' I mean imagine a global structure based on cooperation and love, led by unicorns." This would be helpful; for years I've heard a village in Texas is missing an idiot -- well, did they ever find him? Was he OK? Did he just wander off? I worry about the fellow.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Redneck Hootenanny

I never saw this before: the Redneck Scrapbook over at Neil Boortz's place. At the bottom are several links to more Redneck stuff. I have a feeling I'll be over there all day…

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Over at One Cosmos

Gagdad Bob expounds at length about progress as defined by the horizontal versus the vertical man (animal vs. spiritual, mortal vs. transcendant), or what in my tradition is called "Natural Man" and "Reborn Man."

Bob freqently comments on this difference, but I felt that this post was especially succinct. I reluctantly agree that there is a limited number of the "'educable few,' the enlightened minority who 'simply want to get at the plain truth of things.'" Reluctantly because I despise anything that smacks of elitism. And yet, there is no denying that we are not all equally able in every thing. Spiritual awareness happens to be one of those things that some people have and others do not, to varying degrees.

Am I one of those few? I try to be, but I also know how badly I falter and how often I let myself get caught up in the "horizontal" concerns of the world. I would have to classify myself as one of those conservatives for whom "there is a painful awareness of what we as a country have already lost and can seemingly never regain." These people are called the "Remnant" by Albert Jay Nock.
You know you are a member of the Remnant if you realize that a genetic man is merely the raw material for a human being; ….

Members of the Remnant "are everywhere; everywhere they are not so much resisting as quietly eluding and disregarding all social pressure which tends to mechanize their processes of observation and thought." You might say that the Remnant is an order of Cosmic Raccoons "unassociated in any formal way, living singly or nearly so, and more or less as aliens, in all classes of our society…" Yes, you are a member of the vertical aristocracy, but you don’t make a big deal out of it.

One more salient point:
For while we all know that the illiterate cannot read, it would be a gross misunderstanding to hastily conclude that the literate can. We should never confuse knowing psychology, or history, or religion, with understanding it. Most any ignoramus can be trained — not educated — to become a university professor. Which is not to say that all professors are idiots, but that all idiots are ignorant of their ignorance and therefore halfway to tenure.

I wish this were not true of academia, but unfortunately it is true in all too many cases. There are a few bright lights in the universities, but they are playing their cards close to the chest and are careful not to make waves. Not because they are cowards but because they'd rather quietly go about their business than beat their heads bloody against a wall that is simply not ready to fall. As long as they keep quiet in the faculty lounge, they can still inspire a few students to learn critical thought; if they are cast out of the academy, they can have no influence at all.

Open Letter to the Republicans

You. Morons.

This is your fault, and nobody's but yours. Not the Dems, not the Alien Media Nation, not the "ignorance" or "stupidity" of the electorate.

They ran on a campaign in which they proposed exactly nothing, and they still won. Which means that you guys were running on less than nothing.

Let me tell you why you lost.

  • When you had the presidency and both houses of congress, you didn't act like you'd won. Instead of pushing your agenda, you kept playing nicey nice with the Dems. What do you want to bet they'll not return the favor?

  • The president is well-known for not being an articulate man. He did not and cannot sell the war in Iraq. You guys should have had his back. You should have chosen the most well-spoken among you and put in as much face time as possible in the media. Yes. That media.

  • The Gang of Fourteen. What the Sam Hill were you thinking? The Dems in the Senate behaved shamefully throughout the whole SCOTUS confirmation process, and instead of slapping them down for their bad manners, you rewarded them with a compromise. What a bunch of wusses!

  • You think that because you've got talk radio and half the blogosphere shilling for you, that you can sit back and let them do the talking for you. Guess what? The MSM still has the big microphone, and partly because of talk radio and the blogosphere, they've become even more shameless in their partisan attacks. You didn't stand up for yourselves.

  • You abandoned the Contract With America that got you into congress in the first place and ended up spending like drunken sailors. Pork, pork, pork, was what you indulged in, instead of selling the president's social security reforms. Let me give you a hint: pork is haraam.

  • Because the media is becoming increasingly shameless, they have been relentless with their "failure in Iraq" message. You needed to be just as relentless with the reality of Iraq, which is admittedly complex, but I don't think most Americans know that.

  • The border issue is extremely important to most Americans, but it didn't seem so to you all. We had to twist your stupid arms to get you to do anything at all, and in the end you did almost nothing. Way to go.

  • The Dems *coughReidPelosicough* behaved like spoiled children with all their name-calling and mud-slinging. You didn't fight back. You didn't need to be as nasty as they were, but you should have been firmer. You should have shamed them publicly for their nastiness. You should have stood up in righteous indignation and blasted them into ignominity. But you didn't utter a peep.
In short, you guys lost because you acted like a bunch of self-satisfied, pussifed, helpless imbecils. We had your back, but you didn't have ours.

I didn't vote Democrat this time because I don't want them to pull funding for the troops in Iraq. But I'm not sorry you lost. You deserved it. You lost Santorum for crying out loud. What the hell were you thinking?

Just remember one thing: in liberal Connecticut, the hawk beat the dove and beat him soundly, despite the intense support from the "netroots." They may be loud and insistent, but you need to be louder and more insistent.

Don't take your base for granted. Don't abandon good solid conservative principles like fiscal restraint. And most of all, DO NOT let the Dems pull the funding on Iraq. We don't need another Vietnam.

And we definitely don't need you all to fumble the ball on the two-yard line like you've been doing for the past six years. The stakes are too high. Get with the program or get out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On Hypocrisy

From the sci-fi book The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson, we get a fictional retrospective on our age's obsession with hypocrisy (h/t Instapundit):

"You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices," Finkle-McGraw said. "It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, you are not allowed to criticise others -- after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism?"

"Now, this led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticise others' shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever of his behaviour -- you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy.

"We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy," Finkle-McGraw continued. "In the late-twentieth-century Weltanschauung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception -- he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course, most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it's a spirit-is-willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing."

"That we occasionally violate our own stated moral code," Major Napier said, working it through, "does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code."

Dennis Prager states frequently that you're a hypocrite if you

  1. espouse a high moral code and bust others for violating it,
  2. break this moral code in private, and
  3. when busted, explain that it's OK when you do it.

My musings on the nature of hypocrisy have yielded the observation that if there is a disparity between what you espouse and what you do, and you are cynically exploiting that disparity, then you're a hypocrite. For example, if you go around busting other people for adultery for the simple reason that it gives you moral standing among your peers (or it gets you elected into political office or something similar) -- but you blithely commit adultery yourself because in reality you don't see anything wrong with it -- then you're a hypocrite.

But like so many other powerful words in the English language, post-modernism has emasculated the words by inflating their meanings to include everything that merely resembles it. Waterboarding is "torture," regretted consensual sex is "rape," attending church on Sunday but a strip club on Saturday night is "hypocrisy," favoring capital punishment but not abortion is "hypocrisy."

I think that one reason many on the Left enjoy leveling the charge of hypocrisy is that they themselves are so often immune from it. You can never accuse them of not living up to their high moral standards because they don't have any. And as the fictional Finkle-McGraw said, when you've done away with all objective standards, the only standards you can use are those that individuals hold or appear to hold.

Folks, here are some less-forceful yet more-accurate words for those things that are often mislabeled:

  • not torture but "hardball" or "coersion"
  • not rape but "poor judgment" or "promiscuity"
  • not hypocrisy but "inconsistency" or "weakness" or "stupidity" or "not getting it"

But please, let's reserve words like "torture" and "rape" and "hypocrisy" for when they're actually called for. Anyone who can't see the difference between waterboarding and ramming a hot poker up someone's rectum has some serious problems with perspective.

New Whittle Essay

Over at Eject! Eject! Eject!, a new essay titled "Seeing the Unseen, Part I," in which Mr. Whittle discusses Critical Thinking and takes down the following bumper-stiker memes of the Left:

Chickenhawks
Somewhere in Texas, a Village Is Missing Its Idiot (idiots can't fly supersonic, jets)
No Blood for Oil!
Coexist!
End US Imperialism Now!
You Cannot Simultaneously Prepare For and Prevent War
Give Peace a Chance
War Is Not the Answer
Bush Lied, People Died
Support the Troops -- Bring Them Home Now!

The essay includes a link to one of the coolest animations I've seen in awhile.

If you have time, give some of those other essays a read. They're all worth it.

Blog Japery

At Protein Wisdom, on Dan Rather's continued insistence that the forged TANG memos are, in fact, genuine:

Wonder how many times his family has to drag him back into the house after he wanders the neighborhood in an open robe. --Tom


From Lileks, on the Minnesota elections:

Likewise, the ascension of Keith Ellison will thrill the good and decent folk, because he is a Muslim, the first in Congress, a stately rebuke to George Bush, who hates Muslims and wants Jesus to come tomorrow waving the Danish cartoons and shouting BOOYA.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

OSC on Winning and Losing the WoT

Gotta hand it to Orson Scott Card again. His latest essay takes on the intricacies of the war on terror, including the reason for its dubious name, and explains how Bush's warfighting policy in the Middle East could unseat the Iranian mullahs in a relatively bloodless way.

And why we can't put control of Congress into the current crop of Dems.

America Alone Excerpts

If you haven't read Mark Steyn's America Alone yet, here is a large collection of money quotes from the book to give you an idea of its main points.

Steyn has been sounding the demographic death knell for Europe for some time now, but no one in Europe is listening. I hold out no hope for Europe. They will never wake up but will slowly sleepwalk into oblivion.

And the reason for the demographic decline? Some of it is industrialization, some of it birth control. But sexual immorality is also responsible, because people (read: men) who can get some by merely hooking up or shacking up have no motivation to put a real home together and raise children. It is better to sit in outdoor cafés, sipping fine wine, nibbling fine cheese, and talking about politics, undisturbed by nattering toddlers. It's the good life, you see.

In other news, by the year 2050, if current trends continue, 60% of Italians will have no aunts, uncles, or cousins, because everyone will have been an only child.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Real Narcissists Don't Apologize

I've long suspected that John François Kerry was a cerebral narcissist, but now my amateur diagnosis is pretty much proved by his reaction to the reaction to his now infamous "stuck in Iraq" comment.

Or perhaps "reaction" isn't the right word: "lashing out" is. Which is what cerebral narcissists do when they're caught making a mistake.

You see, cerebral narcissists are convinced that they never make mistakes. It's their one core truth, the thing that holds them together. As children, they were severely and cruelly criticized for everything they did, right or wrong. The protective mechanism is to think of themselves as incapable of making mistakes. Because if it can be shown that they have made a mistake, it means that they are utterly worthless to the core, and that's too painful a "reality" to face.

So when cerebral narcissists are accused of making mistakes, they totally freak out. They accuse their accusers of the worst motives. And they never, ever say they're sorry. Because that would be tantamount to offering your jugular to a wolf, a deliberate and pointless suicide.

I know this because my father is a cerebral narcissist, and I've seen him react to accusations that he is wrong about something. He isn't insulted, he's mortally threatened by it. And I've never in my life heard him apologize for something. I know that psychologically and emotionally, he just can't do it, because then his breathing privileges would be revoked by the universe or whoever holds the sword of Damocles over the heads of the psychologically damaged.

Frankly, I don't know for sure that Kerry was repeating the old Leftist cant that the military is filled with only the economically desperate or if he really was aiming for Bush and misfired. Either is credible, but the Left has to understand that the Right jumps to the former conclusion because we know what the Left thinks about the military. We know that Michael Moore said that the military is made up of those who have no other options in life.

We also know that the assumption is flat wrong; as this study shows, the military is a fairly close cross-section of the general population in terms of family income, race, education, and other factors.

It's hard for me to listen to the other side's arguments when I know, a priori, that many of their initial assumptions are factually wrong. How can you come to a logical conclusion when you're starting from a bad set of assumptions?

Answer: you can't.