Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Go read this Ralph Peters article on the lessons learned from the Iraq war and occupation. The key quote:

"And there will be a next time." (Emphasis in original)

I found it heartening. Take your bets now on who's next, Iran or Persia? (Note: they are the same)

Documentary or Schlockumentary?

Film critics behavior toward the schlockumentary/mockumentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been deliciously hypocritical. Just see this article (link via Pejman). It compares the reviews of Passion of the Christ to those for Michael "experiment gone wrong" Moore's latest. They don't even bother to feign objectivity.

One in particular disturbed me. The film reviewer for the "Christian" Science Monitor (aren't scare quotes fun?) said:

"Is the label "documentary" appropriate for this openly activist movie? Of course it is, unless you cling to some idealized notion of "objective" film."

Ummm, OK. I have to agree with Imao, who compares it, unfavorably, to Jackass: the movie. If the film reviewer for CSM is unable to look up "documentary" in a dictionary to see that part of the definition is to be "objective" then I think it fair to say that he is a jackass (and I mean that in the nicest way possible [not that there is a nice way to take it]).

I'm tempted to go see 9/11, though. Why? I think it would be great fun to laugh and clap at inappropriate times, with the express purpose of irritating the crap out of the Moore-o-philes. For example, after the scene that's been in the commercials where Bush says "we will hunt down the terrorist killers, now watch this drive" I would cheer and clap. The problem with this is that some of my money would go to making that fat bastard even fatter, and I don't know if I could live with that. But it would be great to heckle his supporters.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hitler = ?

The Bush campaign has new ad (which can be seen here and is entitled "Coalition of the Wild-eyed") in which scenes from a TV ad created by Kerry supporters at are spliced with images of Al "he betrayed this country" Gore, Dick "miserable failure" Gephardt, Michael "experiment gone wrong" Moore, and John F'n Kerry. Slate and Citizen Smash seem to think these ads are suggesting that Kerry is somehow equal to Hitler.

Have these people actually watched the ad? The purpose of the ad is to show just how wacky many of Kerry's supporters are. Listening to these clips, you can't help but marvel at how stark, raving mad with Bush-hatred these people are. The Hitler images are showing mainstream America that it is the LEFT that thinks "Bushitler" is the same Hitler (Kerry is waaaay too boring an orator to compare). Many of Kerry's supporters are loons of the first degree, and if Bush's crazed supporters were half as vocal I can guarantee the media would never let go of it. Turn-around is fair-play; Kerry should pay a price for having these wackos on his side. Clinton certainly took advantage of lumping the people who thought he killed Vince Foster in with the rest of his opponents. Apparently Democrats can dish it, but not take it.

And have no doubt that people compare Bush and not Kerry to Hitler. A simple google search, revealed over 500,000 hits for Bush and Hitler and only 156,000 for Kerry and Hitler (all of which on the first page were discussing the aforementioned ad). To give you some idea of the craziness of the Bushitler crowd, just visit here, for a list of wild conspiracy theories that are even crazier than the Vince Foster murder stories (which were made semi-plausible by the general sleaziness of "because I could" Clinton).

Nee Moore no badda. Me chaade su goodie.

Drop whatever you're doing and go read the new In My World, over at IMAO. He has Michael Moore as Jabba the Hut, it's hilarious. Here's a teaser:

"Who the hell is Michael Moore?" Bush asked.

"An experiment gone bad," Clancy said ominously, "The liberals were always trying to create their own Rush Limbaugh since Limbaugh first became a success. To this end, they got some Limbaugh DNA from a discarded cigar. The genes were incomplete, though, and they finished the chromosomes with genes from warthog, gorilla, and skunk DNA. Thus came about the hideous creation known as Michael Moore."

Friday, June 25, 2004

Balloons in Space?

DefenseTech links to an article about a "near-space" balloon that was badly damaged by 20-25 knot (23-26 mph) wind. This balloon is meant to go the 100,000 ft and hover over a battlefield to collect intelligence or serve as a communications hub. Which brings up a simple question: if the balloon can't handle a pidly ~25 mph wind, how exactly is it supposed to stay together on the way to 100,000 ft?

There is a very good reason that there have been very few balloons or airships since the 1930s. They just aren't very robust in bad weather. The idea for this particular one is that at 100,000 ft the conditions are pretty calm, but the damn thing still has to be tough enough to make it that high. So that's a little questionable, but apparently the company is working on the idea of eventually building up to the point of having a BALLOON GO TO SPACE!?!?!!!

----- This is Earth calling JP Aerospace, where are you? Over. -------
----- Could you repeat, Houston. We seem to have our heads in a place where the sun does not shine. ------

The guy from JP explains how it would work like this:

"What if you flatten it out and give it a little bit of aerodynamic shape, and point it up a little bit so you have some of that thrust turned into lift?" Powell asked. "As you climb up, your drag is dropping, and now you're accelerating. The question comes, can you get aerodynamically clean enough, while still supporting the lift enough to slowly get faster and faster ... to get all the way to orbit? Is there a drag-power combination to do that? We think there is. It looks like there's a wide margin."

Wow, let's go over a few of the problems with this concept. First and foremost, what do you make the thing out of? It has to be able to be strong enough to handle the aerodynamic loads, plus any gust conditions, on ascent. Light as possible to accelerate the vehicle. And it must be able to handle the thermal loads from going very fast. Even at high altitude, where the air is thin and cold, at high speeds the friction makes things hot enough to melt most materials (drag increases with the square of velocity). Unless these guys have access to the stuff that UFO's are made of, it will be a bit of a problem.

Next you can't count on purely the buoyant force to make it to space, as beyond a certain altitude, what's inside the vehicle will become more dense than what is outside, reversing the acceleration. The propulsion system would have to be light, and it would have to be attached to structure that could handle the thrust loads.

The placement of the payload for the vehicle would have a similar problem. Wherever it is attached will have to be strong enough, which will make the vehicle heavy and impair its performance again.

As an orbital vehicle, the idea of a frickin' balloon is fundamentally unserious. It might be a concept worth exploring only to determine where the biggest problem areas are such that they could be worked on, but it will not be technically feasible in the foreseeable future.

Opportunities Not Rights

The past couple of days at the Volokh Conspiracy there has been a series of articles about FDR's proposal for a second Bill or Rights. These are the rights listed in the first link:

"The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education."

Following the links will take you to a discussion on so-called "constitutive commitments" that FDR is supposedly naming. None of the conspirators has directly commented on the rights themselves but something about them strikes me as horribly wrong, and I'm shocked that no one else (at the Conspiracy) has pointed it out. There is no Constitutional basis for ANY of these, with the possible exception of the anti-monopoly "right" being an outgrowth of the interstate commerce clause. I'm no Constitutional scholar, but the only possible justification of these is meeting the "provide for the common welfare" part of the big C (and that would be a HUGE stretch).

Reading the list, it is clear that FDR is proposing Socialism in the Swedish sense (a hop and a skip [but no jump] from Communism). The anti-monopoly one is the only one I have no objection to, the rest do not qualify as "rights". This is not Europe, people have the OPPORTUNITY for a job, a nice home, good medical care, education and so on. No citizen has the "right" to even eat if they are unwilling to work for it (in my opinion, with the obvious exemption of children, the elderly, and sick people [who may be willing but unable]). This is America and these supposed "rights" sound way too much like the EU Constitution. See the following as examples from the EU Constitution that sound just like FDR's proposals:

"Article II-14: Right to education
1. Everyone has the right to education and to have access to vocational and continuing training.
2. This right includes the possibility to receive free compulsory education.

Article II-34: Social security and social assistance
3. In order to combat social exclusion and poverty, the Union recognises and respects the right
to social and housing assistance so as to ensure a decent existence for all those who lack
sufficient resources, in accordance with the rules laid down by Union law and national laws
and practices.

Article II-35: Health care
Everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical
treatment under the conditions established by national laws and practices. A high level of human
health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and

This list would be a recipe for disaster. First, it would bankrupt the country as the government would have to vastly increase in size, raising taxes and/or the national debt. Second, it sets-up all kinds of powerful dis-incentives to improve your lot in life, as the big G would have to give you everything you needed to live (and live well). Socialism has NEVER and will never work, let's kick it to the dust-bin of history and move-on.

What did we expect?

I was thinking about all the supposed bad war news, and how pretty much everyone seems to think that things are going poorly in Iraq and I was thinking: what the heck did we expect? Obviously things are not all hunky-dory; the Iraqis aren't holding hands with Americans singing Kumbaya around a campfire in the desert making smores, but has anything particularly horrible and unexpected happened? I can't come up with anything. Perhaps our ass-kicking of Saddam's army was too complete and it set-up unrealistic expectations in peoples minds for the following occupation.

It should be no surprise that there has been a low-level insurgency. We just put 130,000+ targets right in the middle of terrorist country, OF COURSE we were going to attract some fire. But the level of casualties has been miniscule when compared with essentially any other conflict in history. In World War I more people would die in an hour than we have lost over the past year. In a roughly similar situation in Chechnya, the Russkies have lost many times more people (they have been less than forthcoming with actual numbers). I'm not saying our casualties have been insignificant, but our troops have been performing very, very well. Even when Sadr and his thugs tried to rise up, we kicked his butt, killing thousands of his militamen.

The problem is truly one of perception not reality. The media have been pounding in every shred of bad news and reporting very little of the good. And it's all in pursuit of the selfish aim of undermining Bush. I was not a fan of Clinton, but there was no way in hell that I would have rooted for Serbia to beat us in the Kosovo war. Craven political calculation seems to be driving reportage on this war, and it's disgusting. The only hope of our enemies is for us to shoot ourselves in the head and surrender, and the Chomsky-ites and Michael Moore's among us are only too happy to comply.

My biggest complaint with the Bush administration is the spectacularly poor job they have done of communicating our goals and progress in the war in Iraq. Even with a hostile media there is much more they could do to aid in their own cause. There's been plenty of negative propaganda and an extreme lack of positive propaganda. This is something that blogs do a good job of correcting, the problem being that blogs have limited readership and thus influence. Especially when you average eight hits a day like me ;).

Finding the Right Troop Levels

Sorry for the dearth of posts. I haven't been lacking in ideas or motivation, only in time, as I've been writing a paper for a conference (basically done) and I had a big meeting Wednesday for my research project. But while I was thinking of work-related material yesterday I saw this Slate article entitled "The Pentagon's Fuzzy Math."

Note: I'm an engineer coming from the standpoint that if you can't quantify it, it doesn't exist. Fortunately you can quantify almost anything. The following is mildly technical, but the concepts should be understandable for smart people of any background. [Note to the Note: I may not be the best judge of who will understand this, so if you don't, it doesn't mean you're an idiot.]

The problem of determining optimal troop levels is obviously difficult due to all the uncertainties involved in what wars/peacekeeping/nation-building/insurgent-crushing/war-mongering/et-cetera will happen in the future. But there are techniques for managing uncertainty and risk in these situations that aren't that complicated. How so?

First, assume that the Pentagon has some kind of model that can determine the troop levels required for a wide-range of scenarios. If they don't, heads should roll and some quick assumptions can be made to create a rough one based on past experience and war-gaming results.

Then the intelligence people should develop a list of possible scenarios and provide a range of values capturing the probability of that scenario happening over some specified period of time. For example, suppose they say there is a 0-40% chance of war with Iran over the next five years, that would be one input.

The last step is to integrate these into a combined model that will randomly determine, based off the distributions provided by the intel folks, what scenarios will occur and calculate the required troop levels for that. This model should be run many, many times (tens of thousands, the process is called Monte Carlo simulation) and the results can be analyzed to show what the chance of any troop level being insufficient will be (based on the assumptions made by the troop-required model and the intel scenarios). This gives some idea of the risk associated with any given troop level. See, not so hard. It can be made much more complicated, but this kind of technique is not that difficult to apply, and I'd be surprised if somebody in the Pentagon hasn't done it. I would be tempted to make my own BS assumptions and troop-model for illustrative purposes but since I can't post pictures here I wouldn't be able to share it (oh yeah, and I'm lazy).

The problem is that people aren't interested in getting a real answer; this being politics they are mainly concerned with scoring points at Bush's expense and/or burnishing their tough-on-defense credentials, not that I'm cynical or anything (*cough* *cough*).

Thursday, June 17, 2004

What Does International Law Really Say?

I'm tired of hearing about how the U.S. is violating the Geneva Conventions and other "international law" (see this link to see why I believe this term requires scare quotes). So I looked up the Geneva conventions and the UN Convention against Torture to see what they REALLY say.

First a little background information on the documents. The Third Geneva Convention describes the treatment of prisoners-of-war, including who is a POW and endless regulations on how they are to be treated. The Fourth Geneva Convention describes how civilians are to be treated. And the UN Convention on Torture defines torture and explains how torturers are to be punished and torture is to be prevented. The last is a more recent document which was only ratified by the U.S. ten years ago, the others date from ~1950.

Third Geneva Convention (Prisoners-of-War)

Article 4 defines who qualifies as a POW and hence is protected under this treaty as follows:

"Article 4

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.

4. Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civilian members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents, supply contractors, members of labour units or of services responsible for the welfare of the armed forces, provided that they have received authorization from the armed forces which they accompany, who shall provide them for that purpose with an identity card similar to the annexed model.

5. Members of crews, including masters, pilots and apprentices, of the merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do not benefit by more favourable treatment under any other provisions of international law.

6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war."

Terrorists clearly do not qualify under any of these six categories. The closest would be the second one; however, terrorists do not generally "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance" or "carry arms openly" and they most certainly do NOT "the laws and customs of war." Therefore, the Third Geneva Convention grants NO rights to terrorists.

Fourth Geneva Convention (Civilians)

Protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention are defined as:

"Art. 4. Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it. Nationals of a neutral State who find themselves in the territory of a belligerent State, and nationals of a co-belligerent State, shall not be regarded as protected persons while the State of which they are nationals has normal diplomatic representation in the State in whose hands they are."

This one is a bit more tricky. Terrorists would qualify under the first paragraph. The second paragraph brings up the question: do terrorists count as Nationals of their original state or do they sacrifice that by affiliating with state-less terrorist groups? Let's assume that they qualify as Nationals of whatever state they are citizens of. Even if this is the case the last sentence in the above quote excludes them from protection as protected persons, as the countries they are from generally "have normal diplomatic representation in the State in whose hands they are." Even assuming they would be protected persons there is another loophole by which they could be excluded:

"Art. 5 Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention."

Under the most generous interpretation possible, even if terrorists would have been protected, they are no longer if they are "definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State [i.e. U.S.]" if that is "prejudicial to the security of [the U.S.]."

This explains why the secret detention
of some prisoners in Iraq is not in contravention to the Geneva Conventions.

Geneva Convention Conclusions

Terrorists are not protected under any part of the Geneva Convention (feel free to read the References at the bottom of this post to see for yourself). Journalists who claim the Geneva Convention rules "unquestionably apply" to prisoners in Iraq are either lying or inexcusably ill-informed. Only members of Saddam's military who were captured in uniform, carrying arms openly, and haven't committed any war crimes are eligible for Geneva's generous rights and privileges. Others need not apply. Does this mean that the U.S. has not violated "international law" in its treatment of prisoner and detainees? Not necessarily, there's more.

UN Convention on Torture

The UN Convention defines torture as:

"the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."

There are two unclear portions of this definition: how is "severe pain or suffering" defined (i.e. how severe is severe), and the last sentence, which opens a loophole if it arises as part of "lawful sanctions." A clue is perhaps provided in the following section:

"Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture."

This makes it pretty clear that there are no exceptions to the provisions of the treaty. There is still the question of what "severe" means but less us presume that our behavior of detainees in Iraq qualifies, does that mean the U.S. has violated "international law"? We can now answer with a firm maybe.

My Opinion

I would define "severe" as "causing permanent harm." Anything short of this threshold does not constitute torture in my eyes. Therefore only a very small number of the "torture" allegations made against the U.S. actually qualify as such. Interrogation techniques like using dogs for intimidation, depriving prisoners of sleep, and "mild non-injurious physical contact" (to quote the Pentagon) do not qualify as torture.


Third Geneva Convention
Fourth Geneva Convention
UN Convention on Torture

Color Me Confused (the 737 ?!?)

Color me confused. I've seen several articles on how the Navy has selected the Boeing 737 to be its replacement for the Lockheed P-3 Orion as a submarine hunting vehicle (the best of which is here). The 737 does not compare favorably to the existing P-3 for this mission.

The P-3 originated from the Lockheed Constellation airliner back at the beginning of the jet age in the 1950's. The Constellation was eclipsed by the Boeing 707 and its ilk which were capable of much better performance. It found a niche use in the Navy as sub-hunter and maritime reconnaisance vehicle, for which its slow speed was an advantage, not an impediment. The 737 has been one of the most successful passenger jets of all time, with Boeing having sold many thousands. It was designed for much higher speeds, though its size and range are roughly comparable to the P-3.

Submarine hunting requires the ability for long endurance, low and slow flying. The P-3 handles this mission beautifully. According to this site, it has an endurance of 16 hours at 203 knots (233 mph) and an altitude of 1,000 ft. In contrast, this site lists the 737 specifications. It has a much higher cruise speed (533 mph, and presumably at a much higher altitude, though that's not listed), and a much reduced loiter capability. The site does not list its loiter ability but calculating based off the given cruise speed (938 km/hr) and the cruise range (6,038 km) yields an endurance of 6.4 hours. It is possible that flying slower could improve this, but not by enough to match the P-3. And this is also at a higher altitude at which the vehicle will not likely be operating.

The P-3 is able to loiter more effectively because it is a turbo-prop powered vehicle (see this old post of mine on propulsion systems). Turbo-props are more efficient at moderate subsonic flight speeds (about half the speed of sound). It does not make sense to use a turbo-fan powered vehicle like the 737 for this mission. It makes even less sense to use a vehicle with only two engines (note that the P-3 has four). A submarine hunter will spend much time over the water (obviously) and, even with today's much more reliable jet engines, it still makes sense to have some redundancy for this type of mission.

The only explanation I can come up with for how this vehicle won is that the decision was taken for purely political reasons. The Strategy Page article I link to above hints at this, saying the decision may have been influenced by Boeing's losing the Joint Strike Fighter contract. The contract is also a cost-plus contract, where Boeing's profits increase the more expensive the vehicle is, creating all kinds of dis-incentives for efficiency.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson's Secret Victory Plan

Victor Hanson makes a somewhat questionable claim in his latest column:

"Nearly three years after 9/11 we are in the strangest of all paradoxes: a war against fascists that we can easily win but are clearly not ready to fully wage. We have the best 500,000 soldiers in the history of civilization, a resolute president, and an informed citizenry that has already received a terrible preemptive blow that killed thousands."

If Hanson has some secret victory plan perhaps it is time he shared it with the rest of us. We're not at a point in history where we can go about the world conquering other countries (I'm speculating on this point). The proliferation of small arms is such that we would have to be incredibly ruthless to succeed. That's just not politically feasible for any democracy. Which is unfortunate, because it might be the only way to truly defeat them without destroying the Middle East (which itself would only become tenable after a particularly horrific attack on us). The optimum solution (not requiring divine intervention [hopefully]) is the path we are on, transforming the Middle East such that the terrorist fishes have no sea in which to swim.

In the article I think Hanson gives the terrorists entirely too much credit in creating a strategery with which to "defeat" us. He says:

"I think Islamofascism is brilliant in its reading of the postmodern West and precisely for that reason it is dangerous beyond all description..."

Bin Laden and his ilk are not nearly that brilliant. They are fortunate that the West has become so decadent as to contain a Fifth Column of Leftists who control the media and are desirous of the West's humiliation and destruction for irrational reasons (as it would also mean their own death). Most Leftists are not so idiotic as to voice this goal, but there are some who are; such as the environmentalist wackos who believe killing all human life is necessary to preserve "Mother Earth."

Our terrorist enemies are far from a monolithic foe. Theirs is a behavior that has emerged from many different sources. There are dozens of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and of course Al Qaeda, that do not (and indeed cannot, for fear of being found and destroyed) communicate to the point of creating a grand strategy. Any global strategy that appears is an emergent behavior analogous to an ant colony developing a "hive mind." (The comparison of terrorists to ants is quite fitting, as they are truly on that level) Let us not give our enemies too much credit, for they clearly have not thought their course of action to its only logical end: they all die premature deaths (hopefully at our hand). I would flesh this out more, but it's late and I'm lazy. B-bye.

An Intellectual Basis for Conservatism

Wanted to share this quote from Hayek (from this article in Reason about gay marriage):

"It may indeed prove to be far the most difficult and not the least important task for human reason rationally to comprehend its own limitations. It is essential for the growth of reason that as individuals we should bow to forces and obey principles which we cannot hope fully to understand, yet on which the advance and even the preservation of civilization depends. Historically this has been achieved by the influence of the various religious creeds and by traditions and superstitions which made man submit to those forces by an appeal to his emotions rather than to his reason. The most dangerous stage in the growth of civilization may well be that in which man has come to regard all these beliefs as superstitions and refuses to accept or to submit to anything which he does not rationally understand. The rationalist whose reason is not sufficient to teach him those limitations of the powers of conscious reason, and who despises all the institutions and customs which have not been consciously designed, would thus become the destroyer of the civilization built upon them. This may well prove a hurdle which man will repeatedly reach, only to be thrown back into barbarism."

Much truth is contained in this, the primary point being: don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The glue of civilization is the things we do (or don't do) without thinking about them. Things like waiting in line, where everyone is equal (most of the time, obviously rich people aren't as affected). One of those things used to be the definition of marriage, until recently. People have difficulty coming up with a reasoned objection to gay marriage because the definition of marriage is something that has been taken for granted for...ever, basically.

Unfortunately this is a logical extension of the path we have placed ourselves on a long time ago, with shortsighted policies like no-fault divorce. Even the Reason author (who later in the article comes down on the side of gay marriage) says:

"But when modern societies abolished the stigmas on illegitimacy, divorce, and all the rest, whole portions of the social structure just caved in."

Foolish dabbling with social policy has gotten us to this point. Change should not be pursued for change's sake. That's the point of conservatism.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Not In My Vacation BackYard (NIMVBY)

A friend of mine, has post on her blog type-thing and I thought I'd comment. It's about how city folk in New Zealand are going out to the country and then complaining about the noise the farmers create.

First of all, does New Zealand have big enough cities that people need to escape the "stresses of the city"?

Second, it's not really that surprising. If I've learned anything as an adult it's that adults sure act like children a lot. If, as a kid, I whined about how my mom's vacuuming was disturbing me playing with GI Joe's it's a sure bet that I'd be in trouble. Maybe adults that act like children should be treated like children. For example, these people complaining about the farmers could be sent to their rooms to think about what they did.

How is it that people maintain this child-like sense of privilege into adulthood? I'm thinking it has something to do with the current anti-spanking mindset. Instead of having laws to outlaw spanking, maybe we should have laws that outlaw not-spanking children. Because ALL children deserve to be spanked at some point. I know if my mom didn't spank me I'd be a mess.

The attitude displayed by these people is the same type of attitude that is responsible for higher airline ticket prices. How? Because people who chose to live near airports complained about how noisy airplanes are, there are now regulations limiting the noise levels for aircraft. This constrains the engine such that it is less efficient as well as incurring additional design and maintenace costs, making ticket prices higher. I have a simple solution:

If you don't like the sound of airplanes, don't live near a frelling airport!

Problem solved. No one's forcing anybody to live near an airport. Move, and/or quit yer bitchin'. Same to the New Zealander pansies.

"Everything cool winds up looking like Darth Vader's helmet"

The title is a quote from this post by new blogroll member Ace of Spades. The other new blogroll member, Bastard Sword, has a post
with a picture of a new Swedish stealth destroyer that illustrates his point.

Note in the second article that the Swedes say the key to stealth is angles and that they used a "secret angle." Unless I'm mistaken, we've been stuck with the same angles since Euclid formalized geometry over 2,000 years ago. Perhaps the Swedes have found a dreaded "imaginary" angle.

Also note that the Swedish destroyer "controlled by state-of-the-art computers using a Windows NT operating system." Two points, first Windows NT is not state-of-the-art. Second, WINDOWS? You're placing the defense of your country in the hands of a Microsoft product. Thank God I don't live in Sweden (for more reasons than just that, though).

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Paradox of Political Compromise

I was reading this article on how Reagan won the Cold War and it got me thinking about how and why it is that only those who previously held views on one extreme can implement policies on the other extreme (another way of saying this is that a politician on one side of the political spectrum is better able to implement the policies of the other side). Reagan is a good example of this.

He came into office the consummate Cold Warrior, spending money on defense like a drunken sailor and spouting very hawkish rhetoric about the Evil Empire of the Soviet Union. But in his second term he negotiated myriad arms control agreements with the Soviets, even offering to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely. If someone like Carter or Mondale (who has the unique distinction of being the only politician to lose an election in all 50 states [losing 49 states to Reagan and recently losing a Senate race in his home state]) had tried to follow this policy of detente, he would have been eaten alive by conservatives. Because Reagan had already established his bona fides as a hawk, he was able to act like a dove.

This can be very irritating for those on the same side as the perpetrator, like when liberals got angry at Clinton for signing the welfare reform bill. So the paradox is that sometimes the only way to get something relatively extreme enacted is for the other side to do it. Sad but true.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Maybe Osama bin Laden Was Right, Maybe We Are A Nation of Pansies

Sorry I've been away. I took a vacation, and I haven't really felt like posting since. I'm getting weary of it all and haven't thought I had much of an original contribution to make. So I'll talk about that and hopefully I'll bring myself around. Or not, let's see.

Osama bin Laden clearly misjudged the United States short-term response to the 9/11 attacks, thinking he could draw us into an extended guerrilla war in Afghanistan (a la Soviet Union). We kicked terrorist butt by matching their asymmetric attack with our own brand of asymmetry (Special Forces and JDAMs). But Osama may have been correct in thinking us to be a weak, impatient society ready to crumble.

In any war there will be times when victory seems an eternity away and the temptation to give up is great. We are in one of those times now in Iraq. While things are clearly getting better the security situation is still poor and the poor performance of the Iraqi police and security forces make it unlikely that it will change in the near future. Things seem pretty bad.

Once one steps back from the distressing media reports from major media outlets the negativity of the situation seems much more suspect. Many of the links on my blogroll to your right have letters from servicemen who have first-hand knowledge of the situation in Iraq and say that the media greatly exaggerates all negatives while ignoring positive developments. This is unfortunate in that it provides normal people with a distorted view of the true situation.

And yet, even with the media's excessively negative portrayal of Iraq there is no excuse for the lack of resolve displayed by many in the formerly pro-war category (the anti-war people have the excuse of being idiots [or at least woefully misinformed]). Support for the war has fallen significantly and now may be below the .500 level. Are we to give up this easily? Was Osama correct in calling us weak and impatient fools?

I hope not, but it is beginning to look that way. By any rational measure our post-9/11 course has been a resounding success. Al Qaeda has been weakened and splintered, its ability to pull-off massive coordinated attacks destroyed. Saddam Hussein ... rotting in jail. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan ... more free than ever. Attacks on U.S. soil ... ZERO. American military dead ... fewer than a thousand. And yet still we prevaricate and navel-gaze with the 9/11 hearings and the Abu Ghraib prisoner crap.

Hello people, we are winning! Merely because we aren't hearing an unending stream of only good news does not mean we face defeat. If the U.S. had given up after the first six months of WWII when the news was unendingly bad, where would we be? We must have the same level of resolve in facing our own battle. It's time for people to buckle up for the long haul. This will be a "long, hard slog" to quote Rumsfeld. It would be better if we could just snap our fingers and change terrorists to law-abiding citizens, but that's not the way the world works. It's time to pull yourself together and quit yer bitchin'.