A brief perusal of the traditional media outlets, yields some really fascinating responses.
WaPo: Missed Opportunity
USA Today: Kerry vows to defend country, restore credibility to White House - this one's pretty much just straight coverage, at least at first glance.
UPI: Kerry promises strength and values - Fairly favorable reaction. A bit of a surprise coming from UPI.
AP via Guardian UK: Kerry Vows to Restore 'Trust, Credibility' - Apparently rather favorable impression of performance.
UPI via WashTimes: Kerry sets military tone to start speech
WaPo: A Swift, Stirring Race Against the Television Timer - Evidently this guy thought it was good except that Kerry got rushed. Interesting.
NYT: Democrats Vowing to Bring Allies Into Iraqi Fight - Roger Cohen swoons.
Salon: No retreat, no surrender - gets quite aroused by Kerry evidently.
AP via SF Chrnoicle: Top Republicans _ and a Democrat _ attack Kerry on his big night - fascinating lede for an SF paper to put out right now.
And evidently, there was a problem with the baloons that resulted in a gaffe that got broadcast on CNN. Oops.
And too all, a good night.
Ok, in another first for today, I'm actually linking to other convention posting because of this gem:
10:50 weak attempt to sex up the fact his staff told him to plug his website: 'So now I'm going to say something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech: go to johnkerry.com.' Umm, that's because they have different names....
I'm not generally big on convention blogging - but I just wanted to share a few thoughts. I've not actually watched more than a couple of minutes with actual sound, so this is really my first entree into the DNC, other than reading about it.
First of all, his had gestures were off - to many, too fast, and too expansive. Nothing critical, but he just needs to work on that. He may have been trying to rouse, but it didn't work - at least over TV.
Secondly, the firehouses in Baghdad v. firehouses here - not the kind of thing that I want to hear from a guy bitching about exit strategies. Sounds like a recipe to yank folks out. Freaked me out that he got such a huge round of applause.
40 k additional troops? That's a great idea - provided it's funded. Not using them in Iraq, but simply to relieve troops already deployed? Cheap ploy to get military family votes. But a stupid cheap ploy. Basically, what people with family in the combat zones will hear is that Kerry intends to leave their loved ones overseas, bring on additional troops, and then not use them to bring their family out of harm's way. Not that great of a spin.
The "backdoor draft" thing royally irritates me. The basic premise that the sacrifice that reservists make is somehow more minimal than full-time troops is asinine. I don't think that's where he meant to go, but it is where he ended up going when he equated signing up for the reserves as being equivalent to getting drafted. Either that, or he meant to say that reservists are dumb. God knows they don't do it for the cash.
The rest of his military/defense talk is, of course, total crap. But that's not a super big surprise. All it did was generate quotes for attack ads.
He made some good unity points, but I think they can be used against him. We'll have to see.
The drum beating about national health care scares the holy living hell out of me. The demographics mean that we simply cannot support it, yet the increasing confluence of boomers and retired folks make it a near certainty that we’ll get it sooner or later. I’m just hoping to hold the damage off for as long as possible.
I was a bit torqued about his assertion that healthcare is a right. It isn’t a bloody right. That kind of thinking stems from that pernicious patrician crap that FDR set in motion with two of his four freedoms and the idealists of JFK and LBJ took through the roof with all that
Mediocre Great Society garbage and the friggin’ War on Poverty.
I was also really intrigued by his picking up the notion of being accused of being unpatriotic in the same speech he mentions the good old days of unity after 9/11. Leads down an interesting path that.
The thing that did strike me (and even compelled me to write this post) was this closing line: "Our best days are still to come." The thing that hit me as I heard it, but know it's not where he was intending to go, is that I thought he was trying to say that the best days of Democrats are yet to come. This struck me as a fantastic insight into the party, since his harkening back to great presidents included FDR and JFK, not his speakers, Carter and Clinton.
I wonder if that is a brief blip that might mean that they genuinely fear that the party is really that ill. Odd sentiment for a convention.
Overall, the whole thing wasn’t too bad. I found it fairly strong in stretches when his language about unity was actually matched with language about unity. That said, super self-contradictory, and clearly an effort to keep all the kids in the tent. But it doesn’t help his waffling. I also wonder about the incessant beating of the Vietnam drum. Military service didn’t get us a President Dole in 1996, and didn’t get Clark the nomination in 2004. But it does keep opening up this nasty bitching match. That also kind of ties in with some of my theories of the Democrats being particularly backwards-looking this time around. Finally, the speech mechanics were so-so. Good, but not compelling tone, meter and intonation. Got people excited, but didn’t seem to get them excited about him.
Granted, I'm not an unbiased observer - no shock there - but I don't think this was the homerun he needed to hit. That said, he did give himself some room to manuver to the center without losing too much of his base. As with every other presidential election since 1992, it'll be interesting to see how much he can get away with contradicting himself on the campaign trail.
I've never linked to a drudge article before, but this one pisses me off. The meat of it is here:
""The American people are terrified," says Streep's villainous senator early on as, John Ashcroft-style, she wields a national security report promising "another cataclysm, probably nuclear." And so we watch her and the rest of the Manchurian Global cabal exploit that fear in any way possible, using the mass media as a brainwashing tool, manipulating patriotic iconography for political ends. "Compassionate vigilance" is one campaign slogan. A televised election night rally features a Mount Rushmore backdrop (as in a signature Bush photo op) and a chorus line of heroic cops and firemen (reminiscent of the early Bush-Cheney ads exploiting the carnage at ground zero)."
In my talks with a lot of folks, people are becoming increasingly distrustful of the media. For some moonbats and think that the media is in the hands of Bush, et al. For others, they've noted the extraordinary difference in the amount of attention focused on certain issues, while other things have gone quietly into the night.
Well, if the MC is that blatant and veers that far to the hard left, I think the Democrats may just lose the centrists. Folks have a pretty good fair-play vibe, and between the news reports, Fabrication 9/11, and now this, they will genuinely lose them votes, or even energize people who are just pissed about the actions of the entertainment and media complex.
At the very least, there's really not any way for either the media or entertainment industry to ever regain the amount of credibility they're burning with this assault.
It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds.
I find it more than a bit puzzling that I should agree with John Edwards on things, let alone so completely and thoroughly. Sure, even folks who disagree vehemently can see eye to eye once in a while.
But this was something so central to his campaigning and speechifying that I'm still amazed.
I agree with John Edwards about the two Americas.
I see an America where a black applicant is 174 times more likely than a white candidate with equal qualifications to get into the University of Michigan - in the name of fairness.
I see an America where diversity and tolerance is championed. And an America where Christians are not allowed public display of their views.
I see one America where censorship reigns throughout the land and those who question Bush are denigrated. And I see an America where Fahrenheit 9/11 has more than $100 million in box office receipts.
I see one America where terrorism is an imaginary boogeyman conjured up to create fear and to control a population. And I see another America where the party that espouses that view implements unprecedented security precautions for its National Convention.
I see one America where Iraq is an imminent threat and possesses WMD while a Democrat sits in the Oval Office. And I see another America where Iraq becomes containable and ceases to be an imminent threat when a Republican sits in that same seat. [ed: One could draw the conclusion (incorrectly) that we should vote for Bush, because other countries become less dangerous while a Republican is in office]
I see one America in which John Kerry voted against the use of force in Iraq (that country being America circa 1990) and another where Kerry voted for the use of force.
I see an America in which the Republican party is controlled by its religious fringe. And another America in which the Democratic party has a Reverend as a keynote speaker at its convention - more specifically, one who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination.
I see one America in which Kerry flips, and another in which he flops. [ed: Never mind that's one America - not two.]
All of these things bother me, but there is one division that terrifies me:
I see one America, happy, content, and peaceful. I see another America that knows we're at war.
USS Clueless has a good primer on the Iraqi reactor at Osirak that was destroyed in 1981 by Israel.
There is a little tiny technical blip worth noting (and no, it doesn't detract in any meaningful sense from the overarching article) and I wanted to touch on it simply because a lot of people are unwaware of it.
While most folks know that a big step in producing weapons grade Uranium is seperation of isotopes to get large amount of U-235, while the Plutonium deal is getting Pu from irradiated U-238.
However, beyond that, the Plutonium isotopes themselves need to be further separated.
Pu 239 is the isotope preferred in weapons systems, while Pu 240 is preferred for power generation. The difference is that Pu 239 is relatively more difficult to make react than Pu 240. So starting a chain reaction is a bit easier with Pu 240, making it easier to use in reactors. Conversely, the problem with Pu 240 in weapons is that it can (if the concentrations are high enough) cause the device to start reacting too early. By starting off too early, the device would "fizzle" and while still producing a large weapon, would not create nearly as large an explosion as the weapons was intended to produce.
More reading on fissile materials can be found here.
As you may know, all of Munuvania is currently being censored by the South Korean government (check out Big Hominid for the latest on government censorship - he also got tagged in a Newsweek article). It just dawned on me that the ban on the mu.nu domain is probably a direct result of my posting the video of the South Korean hostage being beheaded.
As someone who's a brand new arrival in mu.nu, I feel like quite the ass for getting my new homeland banned in an entire country.
So, all and sundry affected by this turn of events, please accept my abject apologies for this turn of events.
One thing that I do find interesting is the relative bias (as indicated by the ratio of the number of stories putting out Wilson's original claims, versus those indicating that the claims were disputed)* indicated by these numbers by media outlet:
|Media Outlet||Ratio of Wilson coverage|
|New York Times||23.3|
*The CBS number is calculated assuming that they put out one story on the Wilson correction. If we calculate the entire set based on the assumption that they each put out one more correction story, then the series of numbers (from top to bottom) then looks like this: 32, 17.5, 16, 30, 20, 9.
This is an interesting gut check of the recent Yale study on media bias. With their estimate of ADA* added (on this scale 0=Conservative, 50=Centrist, 100=Liberal), the numbers look like:
|Media Outlet||Ratio of Wilson coverage||ADA Estimated Score|
|New York Times||23.3||71.2|
*I'm using the numbers from Table 9, left-hand column from the report.
The interesting thing that I'm seeing about this is the tight way this is tracked. If we look at the standard deviation between (1/ratio) and the ADA estimates, the r value is -0.365 (a poor correlation), while if we look at the ratio itself and the ADA estimate, we get 0.158 (a weak, but positive correlation). Now, there are a couple factors to consider here, one being that the time frames used to evaluate the media outlets were, in no way, shape, or form, similar to the time frame used on the Wilson count. For example, the CBS sample used in calculations covers 1990 to 2003. Secondly, this is an incredibly small sample size (in the social science world) to get too excited about. Third, the sensitivity to the number of stories is so huge that it is a very badly behaving function.
All that said, I find it fascinating that, at least at first glance, the more liberal media outlets tended to report on this a bit more than their more moderate counterparts.
Today, the folks over at Spaceship One have given their formal 6--day notice of their attempt at the X-Prize with a launch on September 29th, and one tentatively scheduled for October 4th. An additional launch is planned in the event that either one of the first two fails.
Elsewhere, the daVinci team will be will be rolling their craft out on August 5th for an attempt on the prize this fall.
Something seems to be brewing, from the sounds of folks over at the X-Prize. The X-Prize is a 10 million dollar prize to the first private outfit that can take two passengers on a suborbital flight on a fully reusable vehicle. Furthermore the same vehicle must make two such flights within two weeks.
Contestants are also required to give the foundation 60 days notice before they take a grab at the gold.
Well, this just comes from Yahoo news:
A media alert was issued today by the X Prize Foundation of St. Louis, Missouri noting that "several key announcements" are to be made July 27.
This is on the heels of the June 21st test run by Spaceship 1 of Rutan Composites.
Other things of interest in the aritcle include the appearance of another possible rival, as well as some information that Rutan seems to be thinking good and hard about making this an actual functioning business.
Keep 'yer eyes open kids.
Since everyone else is doing it, I'll shoot forth my two cents worth on the Berger Bust. For those of you who are getting up to speed, I'd recommend Vodkapundit ( here, here, here, here, here, here) for a fairly critical view of things. Roger Simon's comments offer "Jerry" who has a somewhat more moderate view of things, while Roger's other post on the matter rounds things out a bit. Finally, Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall engages in some down right foolishness in regards to the Berger kerfuffle, in trying to parse this one out of the painful spotlight. Among other things kids, copies of classified documents are still classified. It doesn't matter whether or not you were handing your sister's diary around your grade school or Xerox copies of it - your butt is still getting grounded.
Well kids, much like anyone else with some honesty might do, there's not a lot to be said until the all the evidence comes in (don't you wish they had done that with the Niger/WMD claims?).
That said, I think I have a pretty good bead on what's going on here: institutional culture. Just about every agency has radically different cultural views towards secret documents.
Anecdotal Evidence Approaching
For instance, in the State Department, people have to be reminded to do things like return copies of classified documents used in classroom exercises, or instructed about keeping two sets of class notes: those based on classified materials, and those based on unclassified materials. For these folks, classification means diplomatic embarrassment. By and large, they tend to view classified materials in much the same way as a lawyer might view confidential or privileged documents - don't leave it around so just anyone will find it - someone could get embarrassed.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the military and even more so, the intelligence agencies, for whom leaks mean deaths. These people tend, in general, to be good about following procedure. For example, when Mark Bowden (author of Black Hawk Down) was invited to speak at a conference on his book, a separate unclassified conference room was rented for his presentation. Just before he began to speak, all the attendees shuffled in, and just after he finished answering questions, they all shuffled out, back to their classified briefings, with classified handouts, classified notes, and classified conversations. Folks in these cultures have grown used to the notion that anything classified that needs to be studied has do be done in a secure environment, and that violating procedure and taking either the materials themselves or notes based on the materials is a quick route to a long walk off a short plank. Secrecy isn’t a matter of protocol, it’s quite literally a matter of potential life or death.
Now, meanwhile, these State Department folk aren't nearly as rigorous about these items. So how does Sandy Berger fit into all this?
Well, take a look at his bio. You'll note that one of his first jobs out of Harvard Law School was as a lawyer for a Washington law firm doing international trade (hence the notion of confidential and privileged information). And yep, from there he got that whole fuzzy classified/confidential/privileged notion muddled further in his first government job in the State Department.
So yes, what he did is illegal, but he's not been in environments in which the 'sanctity' of classified materials was really either drilled in or reinforced.
From what's come out so far, he knew it was a no-no (otherwise, why the socks?), but he didn't regard it as a cardinal sin, but rather a venal one. How this plays in the press is yet to be seen, but you have to recall that Watergate and Lewinski were both venal sins, until the cover-ups made them mortal and cardinal sins respectively.
I didn't get the nomination right, but I wasn't too far off...
From February 18th:
Edwards wins nomination
Ok, one little additional item of linkishness, because if I don't post now, I won't remember. Well, I'll remember all right, but I won't be able to find the link.
Authorities said the man had apparently scaled an 8-foot tall fence while naked and covered in nacho cheese and was seen running toward a ... an open bottle of vodka. Dowdification intentional
Although, I do wonder if Stephen Green (aka Vodkapundit) doesn't have something to do with this:
Show me a hot tub, and the pants are coming off. If it's after dark, or at least in a neighborhood nice enough that the cops aren't on patrol, then what's under them is coming off, too. Give me a cocktail or nine and some friendly company, and there's a good chance my pants will end up on the floor long before I do. But that's just the life-of-the-party side of me, and one of the few things about my life marriage has yet to change. Although I'm certain my bride is working on it.
Once, when I was young and foolish, I almost spent the night in jail for dropping trou in public.
You be the judge.
Another entry in the It'll be a while before anyone will cut them slack on that whole WW II thing file:
Once in the Pyrénées for two hard climbing stages, Armstrong punched the accelerator with his trademark high-cadence rhythm, and the favorites fell away like the French defending Paris.
"But there are a surprising number of sensitive nerve endings living it up in your ass-crack. For the most part they spend their time enjoying the warmth and doing their jobs, sensing the proximity of the opposite ass-cheek or whatever, but get ‘em all riled up on psoriasis and shift in your chair wrong and I swear by all that is fucking right and proper it feels like you just got zapped in the shitter by a lightning bolt made out of mentholated scorpions"
Since he's on blogspot, you'll have to click on the link and then search for "mentholated scorpions"
Well, in addition to being about the drought of recent posts and longer absence of actual thought, I submit that blogging is a seasonal enterprise.
Granted, I'm just beat to death with work, and whatnot, but in mooking around I've noticed a couple interesting things (purely anecdotal observations to be sure). The main among them, is that summer just isn't prime blogging time.
Now granted, since much of the blogging community is relatively young, it is easy to look back to summers previous, but in so doing, one will note that last summer we were dealing with the recent Fall of Baghdad and the summer prior, the lead up to war. While we do have the election this time around, I imagine (at least based on my own feelings) that election saturation is beginning to set in.
In looking around at blogs, I've noticed summer is a time when many bloggers go into hibernation, or just plain old quit with their screeds.
One blogger of particular interest on this front is Roger Simon. For those of you who have not read his stuff, I would highly recommend it, as he is a crisp writer, with a matching mind and his very own original thinking. Much like others in that niche of the pantheon, agree or disagree, between the posts and the comments, there aren't a whole lot of wasted trips over that direction.
The reason his blog caught my eye in the context of this post, is that he recently tried to give the blogosphere a gentle nudge to remind them that toil without compensation is prone to lead to a fickle font of wisdom indeed. More accurately, he shook the tip jar. In Roger's case, it is interesting, as he originally didn't even have a tip jar, but encouraged visitors to buy his books. Over time, his halo did slip ("My halo just slipped. This blog now has a Tip Jar. "), and he joined the dark side inhabited by zillions of bloggers elsewhere.
Why, you may ask, does this have anything to do with the fact that I'm not writing a whole bunch. Well, I got to thinking about this proposition. What if you, a happy little blogger, had to write. I mean seriously, doesn't matter if you give a rat's patootie, or not. Boring subject matter? Doesn't matter.
Well, what I think you'd end up with is the kind of low-grade shoddy reporting that we see in much of the dead tree media. Granted, for most bloggers it never gets that bad, because we do have all the editorial freedom we desire. But still, I could imagine, during these blog days of summer when attention drifts to cute little things in sundresses, I could imagine that being chained to a word processor in a largely indifferent world could grate on your nerves.
Which brings us to the whole notion of turning blogging into a paying enterprise. Clearly, blogs would run the risk of churning out nightmares like the one above - listless writing, uninspired vapidity, and other dead-blank stares at the screen.
The best analogy I can think of is what happened to Rock & Roll with the advent of Album Oriented Rock. Prior to this (and to a lesser extent with the rise of independent record labels) people wrote and performed rock music because they liked it. They could live with paltry incomes and endless hours on the road because they were having fun. With the advent of this format, the raison d' etre of having a band was to get signed. Once signed, big record labels would push the albums onto FM radio stations, who would then beat one or two songs into pureed horse meat, thereby generating sales, which would then result in great big tours by the bands, and so on. The fun left the music. It became about contract fulfillment, market share, product positioning. Much less about lost love, shattered dreams, drunken stupors or any one of a number of things that fuel the muse. In other words, having a band quit being about music.
It remained in this state, until the early nineties release of Nirvana's Nevermind album. Up until this point, a host of small, independent record labels put out small bands and supported a subculture, descended in large part from the punk rock of the late seventies and early eighties, of bands that would never make a million bucks, but would at least be fun. Or whatever.
Around 1990 or so, some clever record industry guys decided to rank the Top 40 albums based on record sales nationwide, rather than what was getting the most airtime. And they discovered this grunge band from Seattle, Nirvana. The album was selling like hotcakes, despite its lack of airplay. So big companies moved in and commercialized the whole shebang. So even the unpopular niche folks got over exposed by the bright klieg lights of income and market-driven demand. As a result, that entire sub-genre got burnt out and quit producing its best and most intriguing music in short order. Since then, big record labels have been looking for the next "unknown" thing, and they keep finding, overexposing it, flooding the market with it, and sucking it dry.
Which brings us back to our original point. When bloggers write for links, they know in their heart of hearts that that metric of popularity doesn't mean a lot in and of itself, but lets writers know their appreciated. But when cold, hard cash starts to enter the equation, some of the joie d' vrie of it disappears.
I'm not against capitalism in the slightest, but I do have some reservations about something being done for fun and interest turning into a job. Just like having Christmas everyday, it might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
So do you want to be good? Or do you want to be popular?
You can be good and popular, but when money starts becoming the metric, then you end up with a premium being placed on popularity (because that's where the money is).
Far as I'm concerned, I think blogs are very good at being good. And when blogs become better at being popular than good, then I won't feel so bad when I don't give the carcass another whack.
Depending on who you talk to, media bias exists in varying degrees. This recent Yale report tends to suggest that the assertions that the television and print news media are biased rather strongly to the left. This said, nobody seems to be talking about why the media would be left rather than right biased.
Well, if you think about the fundamental philosophical tenets of the Left, there exists more than a small amount of paternalism (excepting, of course, certain social issues involving genitalia and saying certain types of rude things in public). Along with this (and opposed to the fiscal conservatism that is associated with certain elements of the Right), there is naturally a desire for government intervention to right the wrongs of the world.
This point of view – that governments are, in some cases, actually good – is informed, in part by the notion that the masses are a poor, benighted people who can’t help themselves. Now, not all people who agree with this assume its because people (when working in corporations or government) are of the opinion that the smart people go off and either become evil and work for corporations (to crush the little guy) or government (to protect the little guy), but it’s not hard to see how one could assume that folks of that opinion would be almost unanimous in their support for government meddling in things for ‘the greater common good.’
With this perspective, one might also imagine that the reason that some folks should go off into government to protect the foolish little guy is that, well, not to put too fine a point on it, they know better than the little guy. Think about it, if your neighbor is developmentally disabled, then is it not your moral obligation to help take care of him, insofar as it is reasonable, to prevent him from hurting himself or others?
Along these lines, we can see clearly that the protection of the proles depends in part on informing them of the terrible things being done to them or being done in their name. Given the super-complex way the world works, then you simply can’t expect Joe Couchpotato-simplisimo to go forth boldly and seek the truth when he’s being anesthetized by commercialism and distracted by a never ended torrent of bread and circuses that are fully intended to blind them into something a Marxist might recognize as ‘false consciousness.’
If you’re some bright young thing, particularly one who saw the near-revolutionary efforts of Woodward and Bernstein as archetypical examples of exposing the mendaciousness of big business and their proxies in the Republican Party to the witless and feckless masses, how could you not be attracted to the pursuit of journalism? Conversely, if you were more or less of the opinion that people can figure things out by their own damn selves, why chose a low-paying stressful career regurgitating information that the public will sort through with horse sense anyway?
So, it isn’t surprising that the media has become populated by folks who are looking out for the best interests of the ignorant and ill-informed public. Moreover, as someone who peddles in current affairs and the truth day in day out (and not to mention, someone who isn’t deluded by the ‘false consciousness’ created by big corporations and others bent on keeping the people down and making the rich richer) you would have a pretty accurate view of things, wouldn’t you?
So, when the public doesn’t seem to really grasp the deeper significance of events, or isn’t well informed enough to focus on the things that are really important, doesn’t it become your moral obligation to focus their attention? Granted, things may be getting better in Iraq, but isn’t that really significant news to the Iraqis, rather than the Americans? Abu Ghraib, on the other hand, is the tip of the iceberg, showing how truly morally and spiritually corrupt Bush and Cheney (and by extension, their Iraq Adventure) really are? Sure, the incidents themselves don’t hold a candle to Saddam’s atrocities, but everyone knows Saddam was bad, while a large portion of the country seems to be willfully blind to the dangerous and nefarious character of the Bush Regime?
Isn’t one of the moral obligations of journalism exposing people to the truth? And since most people need things like government to look after them, and media to inform them, as a journalist, you really have to step up to the plate to look out for people. If journalists don’t do it, the people will simply buy the propaganda hook-line-and-sinker, and end up following demagogues who really are out to exploit them. When it really gets down to cases, if these evil folk weren’t out to exploit the masses, then we’d have social justice, and a liberal, humanist, secular utopia with wealth and plenty for all. But the fact that there are children starving in the streets, but the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars on foes that don’t really exist, that’s prima facie evidence that American citizens are being bilked and stolen from. And for that matter, anyone who espouses spending on things like that and not splurging on social services, well it’s similarly evident that these are the party of people who are really out to line their own pockets by stealing from these poor people who have neither the ability or will to succeed on their own, let alone the intelligence to really understand what’s being done to them.
So, as a journalist, you are the knight in shining armor who is commissioned to protect the poor and downtrodden. Partnering with your peers, the Robin Hood Trial Lawers, and the druids and dryads of Greenpeace and PETA who protect nature from man’s worst excesses, so Mother Earth can truly care for all of her children, you fight against the physical manifestations of man’s worst nature.
So, not only are journalists terribly left-leaning, they also live in a fantasy land.
As much flak as Canada does get, I just wanted to give all y'all a bit of a perspective.
Gratned, they haven't done much at all in Iraq, but they are busting their butts to the best of their 1.1% of GNP expenditure in Afghanistan.
To wit - Canada has about 59,000 men under arms - 12,000 of which are land combat forces (the sort most needed in peacekeeping).
Overall, Canada has about 3,800 men deployed overseas in peacekeeping operations (2,000 in Afghanistan). Now, keep in mind that for every soldier deployed overseas, 6 soldiers are tied up at home ither in support or training rotations. So, keeping 3,800 overseas taps out 26,600 of their 59,000 troops. Moreover, the amount of ground combat troops deployed means that they are deploying roughly a third of their ground troops at any one time.
This isn't a huge amount, but hey, its worth something. And it's a damn sight better than some of our other allies have attempted.
This is something that I've expected, although when I've spoken about it to African-Americans I've either effectively been told to shut up because they face worse discrimination or a tepid and lukewarm assent-because-I-don't-want-to-have-this-conversation.
Well, JJ Walker, (yep, the "Dynomite" guy of Good Times fame) has a blog in which he writes a post on this very subject. One post won't change the world, but it puts my mind at ease to know that I'm not alone in my fears about race dialog.
Ok, I am ass-hammeringly busy these days, and a bit burnt out, so I'm going to get the hell out of the office for a while (until tomorrow, that is).
But, in passing, I wanted to leave y'all this tidbit from the Big Ho Kevin. He has come up with an absolutely brilliant reason to love Michael Moore. It is truly embarrassing to me, as the notion is fantastic in its elegance and brilliant in effect.
But, rather than spoiling the whole deal here, go read the real thing here.
Far as I can seem to recall, no western totalitarian movement has made murder-suicide a central tenet of their philosophy. Conversely, every mad ideology that has enshrined the concept of the suicide murderer has been non-western.
It might just have something to do with the western psyche that, even at its most twisted, is more interested in killing others, than demonstrating our macho virtue or whatever by dying in some spectacularly virtuous, public, and messy fashion.
As I’ve written about in past, humans are spectacularly good at recognizing patterns. This includes, among other things, recognition of patterns in systems and behaviors. A lot of this is due to the way that the human critter actually thinks. In fact, folks tend to be far better than they imagine at discerning changes in the behavior of systems then they can possibly imagine. It takes a long time and a lot of practice to be able to listen to changes in the pulse of an operating system to start to find underlying problems which haven’t yet manifested themselves clearly. But, the intuitive reasoning powers of humans are still surprisingly useful in getting a handle on vague and difficult to read situations. But, sometimes, a shortcut to understanding can be created if the flavor of the change is explained such that the reader can compare it to their own experiences. An experienced bartender at a small local bar might be able to sit back and watch a social interaction that closely mirrors the machinations of the UN Security Council. A avid sports fan can clearly understand the role of command, control, and intelligence in military operations by looking at how coaching staffs work together and against an opposing team. In particular, there are three kinds of behaviors that I want to write about in this post: the Culminating Point of Success, the Tipping Point, and Jumping the Shark.
Now, I’ve mentioned in passing, that one of the things that thought on history and strategy reference the idea of the “Culminating Point of Success.” To refresh, this is simply the point in an engagement between two hostile forces (most commonly two forces at war) in which a successful strategy outlives its usefulness and encourages the creation and adoption of successful countermeasures. A great example of this is the notion of an enemy on the offensive. The attacker might have a huge initial advantage (think the German drive into France in World War II) which is further accentuated by the fact that the enemy troops fall back in disarray. But as the advance continues, the attacker’s supply lines get longer (and therefore easier to interdict). Similarly, the attacker starts moving into hostile territory with insurgents that require troops be detailed to protecting supply lines. Meanwhile, the defender is falling back on terrain they know and can control effectively. As this situation evolves, these trends become more and more pronounced until the attack just runs out of steam, setting the stage for the counterattack. For this one, think about the German drive into Russia during World War II
Ok, if we get dorky about stuff, the culminating point is roughly analogous to a change in sign of the first derivative of a function. Or, for a more physical analogy, think about a car (with an automatic transmission), that is heading up a hill with the accelerator pressed down a (very small) constant amount. As the hill gets steeper and steeper, the car loses momentum, and eventually comes to a halt. Following that, the car will start to roll backwards, even though the gas is being pressed down. That point at which the car quits moving forward is the culminating point of success – the point at which the same old same old ain’t going to get you any farther.
Now, looking at a strategic term that came into vogue more recently, we have the notion of the tipping point. While the term had a more-or-less specific meaning prior to the Iraq War, it developed a life of its own when it came to develop a life of its own. In this case, it was used to refer to the point at which the total amount of stress placed on a system started to overwhelm that system’s ability to ‘heal’ itself (a behavior seen in some types of chaotic systems). Thus, once this series of injuries to the system has accumulated sufficient weight, then the opponent’s force simply can no longer recoup its losses and just starts to come unglued. This is behind a lot of the thinking involved in the concept of ‘Shock and Awe’ – or rather Harlan Ullman’s “Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance.”
For those inclined towards sticking with the mathematical analogies (all others, please skip to the next paragraph), one could think of a tipping point as being the inflection point of a curve, or when the value of the second derivative changes sign, which, in and of itself, doesn’t portend a change in direction of the curve, but does indicate a change in direction of the first derivative, which, if left uninterrupted, will result in a change of the value of the equation.
To get back to our mystical car, assume the car is on a slope and stationary (because we’ve cleverly balanced the pressure on the accelerator with the force of gravity pulling the car back down the hill). In this case, imagine if we just stomp on the gas. The car doesn’t do anything right away – in fact, it might even roll back a few inches despite the fact that we’ve just floored it. The moment at which it becomes apparent that, even though the car is rolling down the hill, very shortly indeed, you’ll be rocketing up the hill. In other words, the car is rolling down the hill, but is accelerating up the hill. This acceleration up the slope will result in forward uphill motion shortly, but just not right this instant.
The final notion, is that of jumping the shark. Many of you may be familiar with the term in its pop culture context, in which it is used to describe “A declining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on … it’s all downhill.” More broadly, it’s similar to the point of diminishing returns – the marginal benefit of a given course of action is starting to rapidly fall off.
This case is a bit different from the other two phenomena as it seems to be uncannily appropriate to cultural and informational topics. That being said, don’t dismiss the phenomenon out of hand – if we acknowledge that the information and narrative generated by an event tells us as much about the event as the facts communicated, then this kind of behavior reflects the way that we change in response to our circumstances. Jumping the shark doesn’t tell us as much about the situation itself, but rather when we are done with the situation.
It’s a bit harder thing to pin down than the above two, because it describes a more complex behavior. First of all, it’s an irreversible change – in this sense, it’s kind of like bending something out of shape. You can bend a bit of metal and it springs back into shape – up to a point. After that point, the distortions become permanent and can’t be undone. Secondly, jumping the shark doesn’t necessarily imply that future results will be negative – they could just be flattening out, such that additional inputs result in smaller and smaller changes. Once the shark has been jumped, you can’t go back, and there’s not a whole lot of reason to continue.
So, you may ask yourself, what, exactly, is the point of all this nonsense. Well, I wanted to write a great big post about what’s going on in Iraq, and whatnot, but found myself unconvinced that the basic terminology was inadequate to describe the situation fully. So, given the flavors of behavior that I’m describing, let me try to give my sense of what’s going on. Before we get any further, it is important to keep in mind that these three sorts of behaviors are very similar and hard to tell apart –so your mileage may vary.
For starters, if we look at the interval between murders of hostages we note, that from Daniel Pearle onward, the amount of time between killings has changed as follows: 125, 697, 26, 31, 6, 4, 6, and 5 days. Of note, the first and second were outside of Iraq. Then we get to the Italian, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was shot on April 16. We then get to the decapitation of Nick Berg about a month later. The next month, a Lebanese national was killed in a particularly grisly fashion. We then go to Paul Johnson, followed by Kim Seon Il. Finally, within two weeks of that, we start the execution of US military personnel. As of the writing of this, the fate of Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun is uncertain.
The pattern of note here, is that once the bad guys started killing folks in Iraq, they moved from foreign contractor to the beheading of an American followed by the torture and killing of a Lebanese contractor– but at this point, the frequency was still rather low. So essentially, the brutality of the murders escalated while they were still going through contractors. But, it is entirely possible that the disgust of the Nick Berg tape led to the beheading of Paul Johnson shortly thereafter. At this point they were still sticking with contractors and the decapitation on tape motif. I think the lack of response is what drove them to the shooting of Keith Maupin. That generated little response, so I think it is entirely possible that they were testing the waters with an announcement that they were going to cut the head off of a Marine.
It could be that much of the uncertainty surrounding Corporal Hassoun’s status might be that they’re trying to figure out exactly how to get the media bang for their buck, since the execution of Private Maupin didn’t generate the kind of uproar they expected (particularly after Somalia). So, as it turns out, I think the jihadis have realized that they’ve may have hit another plateau in the business of chopping the heads off of bound captives.
So, in keeping with my earlier post I do believe that the actions taken thus far mean that the beheading issue has jumped the shark for Americans in this conflict. This is in opposition to the culminating point of success in this tactic, insofar as I don’t think that there is anything that they can do that will return this course of action to profitability – the transition has been made and is over.
Now, this ties into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal which has most assuredly jumped the shark due to simple media overexposure. By that same token, the PR battle fought by the US has pretty much flattened out and is unlikely to get significantly better until the streets are patrolled by Iraqis.
The hand over of Saddam coincident with the transfer of sovereignty is a tricky one. I think that the trial – if done correctly, can be a tipping point for Iraqi self-governance. The benefit doesn’t derive so much from fact as the symbolism that Iraq is in the hands of Iraqis. But, as mentioned above, a highly visible American security presence on the street could certainly contaminate these developments.
So, towards that end, the American security presence is only mitigated by the fact that the large scale insurrections by al-Sadr and his ilk have reached their culminating point of success when the powers to hold him in check opted to play the game with the interim government, rather than buck the system. This fact alone prevents the continued American presence from being a total, continuing loss.
Internationally, once the Iraqi government is in place, the anti-war arguments will all be essentially moot. The finding of the chemical weapons, the 9/11 commission report, and the burn out of the prison abuse scandal seems to suggest that the anti-war folks have hit their culminating point of success in argument after argument. By getting shriller and shriller about WMD and terrorism links, it makes it easier and easier to stymie those claims with smaller and smaller bits of evidence. Their very shrillness can lead some observers to start watching the movement of goalposts, thus requiring a smaller burden of proof to convince the undecided.
Going with that, if, as these things suggest, that the Iraq-as-quagmire/disaster theme is jumping the shark, then we find ourselves in an interesting position vis-à-vis the Madrid bombing type scenarios. A US that has essentially quit caring about Iraq becomes a fundamentally different sort of target. If we’ve gone down that path far enough before the next big attack on US soil, then they’ll get a much more 9/11-style reaction than the one they saw on 3/11. Furthermore, if our mindset has moved over that far, further attacks will hurt Kerry and embolden Bush. If sufficiently gruesome (and a year or two down the road) we’ll be asking why Bush Jr. stopped at Baghdad and do a one-two Damascus-Tehran combo or some such.
The swing vote, then goes to Europe. This makes the Al Qaeda assertion that the truce is lifting more interesting. If they do sense that Europe is a riper political target, then that has interesting implications, insofar as the attack would not be directed against European political opinion, so much as views in the states. By attacking Europeans, they can generate some (but a bit less) political momentum without invoking the Jacksonian response.
This has interesting implications, as it would suggest that the absolutely anemic nature of European military forces could finally turn around and bite them in the ass. By much the same token that all of our tanks and planes didn’t stop 9/11, all the forward basing in Europe and deployment of American troops can’t save them either. This could be the point at which a groundswell of European opinion changes, since there is precious little they can do (other than influence the US) to redress the grievance and sate their own calls for vengeance.
On the flipside, it could absolutely rip open the growing transatlantic divide. But I’m not sure how much that would hurt the US. Likely results from that would probably be a complete freeze up of the UN for years to come. Other results could include a great weakening of NATO – and it remains to be seen how that would play out with Muslim fighting in the Balkans and the integration of Muslim immigrant populations in Europe.
So, in summary, as some commenters have hypothesized, the al-Sadr uprising may have been spectacularly bad timing by the bad guys. By rising up when he did (at roughly the same time as the Abu Ghraib thing) it could be that he caused the prison scandal and the subsequent beheading of hostages to play out before its time, leaving the terror tactics strangely impotent, while pushing Sistani into having to sit on the side of the government and align the other undeclared militias on the side of law and order, rather than against the Americans exactly. This allowed for the US to start shifting policing responsibilities as well as setting the stage for an important early symbolic move as Hussein goes to the green mile. This is further aided by the, what amounts to, quiet acquiescence of the anti-war left in Europe to the realities on the ground today. European irrelevance is compounded by the cries that the Iraqis should not make their own butcher pay the price for peddling his trade.
All in all, the handover is not important for the handover itself, or even necessarily the transition of which it speaks, but rather that it is a proximate time marker for several trends which have been coming to a head for months.
On both sides of the fence, there’s more than a small smidgen of historical revisionism. Generally, this revisionism is not willful, so much as a case of post facto projection. For example, in all the recent talk about whether or not Reagan was responsible for the demise of the Soviet Union, we end up with two (among many) flavors of discourse on the subject. On one side, there is a group of folks who, to this day, will maintain that had Carter been re-elected, Soviet tank commanders would be drinking beer in occupied Bonn, while Mexican insurgents were conducting guerilla raids across the Rio Grande into El Paso. Conversely, there are those who will argue that the Soviet Union was in such dire straights that the only thing that kept them afloat through the 80s was the specter of American imperialism: had Carter been re-elected and had we been conciliatory, the wall would have fallen in 1982 as a crumbling Soviet economy came to its inevitable end.
Obviously both arguments are exaggerations, but their less histrionic cousins highlight one of the fundamental problems of analyzing public policy. As fond as people are of the saying that hindsight is 20/20, we are still forced to view the past through the same lenses that color our perception today.
So, faced with the notion that we cannot absolutely rely on our understanding of past and present events to be a flawless guide to the world at large, what can we do?
Well, to look at a smaller subset of events, if we compare intentions to actions carried out, one notes that the folks who say that they will not rest until, let’s say, Group X is completely annihilated sometimes really do mean that. More specifically, if a group says that they’ll do something (which to your mind is utterly irrational) sometimes they really do mean it. In the effort to avoid being banal, let me give you an example. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was more than a little bit of an inkling that nuclear war was quite likely. The American view was informed, in great part, by intelligence they had received indicating that the missiles were unarmed, but that the Soviets were shipping some 20 warheads to Cuba. The American thinking was that this would represent a sufficient existential threat that all measures in response should be kept open.
Many decades later, when Robert McNamara met with Fidel Castro to look into the deeper historical lessons of the crisis, he asked him three questions: 1) Did you know if the Russians had nuclear warheads in Cuba? 2) If so, would you have counseled Khrushchev to use nuclear weapons in response to an American attack? 3) Would you have still done so even if you knew it would result in the total destruction of Cuba?
Castro evidently was a bit irate at this line of questioning. He responded that at the time of the crisis, he knew there were 167 nuclear weapons in Cuba (90 of them were tactical weapons). Moreover, he had adamantly recommended the use of nuclear weapons to Khrushchev. Above and beyond that, he would have still fought for their use even in the face of the certain destruction of Cuba. (His response to McNamara’s shock was along the lines that ‘You would have done the same thing too.’) [ed: And before you answer that too early, think about whether or not you’d rather see the US under Sharia]
On the other hand, we look at a counter example of secession in the United States. During the 70s, a group of folks declared that a big block of the heavily African-American Deep South should withdraw from the Union. The area, if I remember correctly, included states such as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina. These folks even went so far as to issue a formal declaration of secession. Now before one reflexively dismisses this claim, look at the example of the Civil War and the nearly automatic reaction we have to such claims now. These people were ignored and their claims dismissed. Now, to avoid overstretching the analogy, I do not suggest that such a movement was feasible or viable, regardless of the intent of the activists.
The parallel that I draw between these two sets of events is that sometimes when another entity makes a threat, it occasionally is a much more serious threat than you could possibly imagine, while at other times, it is simply whistling in the dark.
You may wonder why it is that I am devoting this much verbiage to what is, at the end of the day, an essentially pedestrian point.
The underlying thing is this: absent information about whether or not a threat is valid, or even useful historical perspective about whether or not such a threat is real, how do you respond to this array of vague and baffling threats to you?
Now, one might note that the general tendency of the Left is to assume that the threats are simply hot air, and that the people issuing the threats can be reasoned with, ignored, or can otherwise be dealt with without using organized violence. On some level, these folks view the world as being full of people who are, on some level, just like you and me - people who are amenable to conflict resolution and susceptible to negotiation.
The opposite tendency on the Right is to look at the world from a much more Hobbesian perspective, that the world is predatory, venal, and mercenary. While not all verbalized threats are to be taken seriously, it’s better to admit that “There’s no way to be sure, we’ll just have to nuke the site from orbit.” This killer take all perspective is, at the least, a very harsh approach.
Without getting into a lot of the implications, tangents, and various and sundry mechanics of these differing worldviews, let’s flash forward to the present. As has been said many, many times before, this election will be fundamentally between those who understand the noises made by Islamofascists as being serious and viable threats, while other folks will tend to hear those same noises as the rants of those who are fairly similar to folks like you and me, but just disenfranchised. The yammerings of the Islamic extremists are simply the screams of the truly excluded which can be hushed by inclusion into a kinder, softer world.
Absent a hard and fast way to prove the issue, we are compelled to guess. And I have no go mechanism for divining these choices. The only reliable way I can figure to parse such dilemmas is to note that if you disregard the threats, which of them will become lethal? If we had continued to disregard Al Qaeda, the potential cost is enormous. If we, on the other hand, had started carpet bombing every vocally violent opposition group, then the nightmare at Waco would have been a mere appetizer to the relentless carnage that would result in trying to quell all threats. But which ugly choice would you rather live with decades down the road? A failure to disregard an existential threat, or something that made it difficult to look at yourself in the mirror each day?
For my part, I don’t note a lot of people losing sleep over the firebombing of major Japanese cities during World War II (which resulted in the death of 50-90% of civilians in the largest 67 Japanese cities), but I do imagine that there are a lot of folks in Washington who lose a fair amount of sleep over not being nearly aggressive enough in their assault on Islamofascism prior to 9/11.
There are no easy answers to this war folks, only an array of less bad choices.
This is just cool.
Y'all remember some years ago, folks developed thermochromic pigments - chemicals that change color with temperature? The first commercial product marketed with this stuff was the Hypercolor line of clothing. This stuff faded off into pop obscurity.
However, some guy has figured out how to incorporate this stuff into Silly Putty, and, as it turns out, you can use this stuff and your household microwave to estimate the speed of light. No kidding.