Thebastidge: 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004
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    Sunday, October 31, 2004

    Questioning

    Earlier I wrote:
    We (most veterans) find Kerry not credible on matters of defense and the military. Most of us have doubts about his official record, and his self-aggrandizing public statements. We have doubts about his courage, character, and commitment.

    I just wanted to add: We're not brain-washed or subject to a sheep-like follower's mentality either. The significant minority who will vote for Kerry demonstrate that there is diversity among us. But they are just that; a minority.

    I just finished reading an analysis of the Iraq (2003) war's media embedding by the McCormick Tribune Foundation. Good stuff, but close to the end, there's a statement that the conflicting world views of two very different professions increased tensions. To whit, that military people do what they're told, are taught to do what they're told, while journalists question everything.

    Well, don't write our soldiers, sailors, and airmen off on that point either. The modern US military does not want or need unthinking cannon fodder. In fact, many of us are quite well educated (click "read more").
    US Air Force Academic Education
    -- 49.4 percent of the officers have advanced or professional degrees
    -- 39.7 percent have master's degrees, 8.3 percent have professional degrees and 1.4 percent have doctorate degrees
    -- 22.5 percent of company grade officers have advanced degrees; 16.2 percent have master's degrees, 6 percent have professional degrees and 0.3 percent have doctorate degrees
    -- 86.4 percent of field grade officers have advanced degrees; 72 percent have master's degrees, 11.6 percent have professional degrees and 2.9 percent have doctorate degrees

    (All officers have at least a Bachelor's degree.)
    And:

    -- 99.9 percent of the enlisted force have at least a high school education
    -- 73.3 percent have some semester hours towards a college degree
    -- 14.1 percent have an associate's degree or equivalent semester hours
    -- 4.2 percent have a bachelor's degree
    -- 0.6 percent have a master's degree
    -- .01 percent have a professional or doctorate degree

    I don't even know offhand how to find out how many finish or begin to pursue college degrees after discharge, but I do know that it is quite a few.

    We are encouraged and taught to attempt to understand everything. Not to reflexively challenge, but to understand.

    I'm not sure the media stand up to that standard so well.

    OBL's new tape (or The Emperor's New Clothes)

    Granting that the tape has many stylistic inconsitencies with Osama Bin LAden's eralier work on the small screen, one thing seems to jump out at me:
    I will be honest with you on the moment when the decision was taken to understand. We never thought of hitting the towers. But after we were so fed up, and we saw the oppression of the American Israeli coalition on our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind and the incidents that really touched me directly goes back to 1982 and the following incidents. When the US permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon with the assistance of the 6th fleet. In these hard moments, it occurred to me so many meanings I cant explain but it resulted in a general feeling of rejecting oppression and gave me a hard determination to punish the oppressors. While I was looking at the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it came to my mind to punish the oppressor the same way and destroy towers in the US to get a taste of what they tasted, and quit killing our children and women.

    Anybody else remember that way back when, Al Qaeda kept plausible deniability about 9/11, and many pacifists and those who opposed the administration's actions claimed that there wasn't even evidence that Al Qaeda was invilved?

    Saturday, October 30, 2004

    Clear Choice (Click "read more" for complete post)

    I’m a little tired about the snickering so-called jokes about “Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam, but not Iraq.”

    Kerry had a plan for keeping himself out of Vietnam, it just didn't work. Volunteering for the Navy after his draft deferment was denied, was supposed to keep him out. Then volunteering for the Swiftboats (at the time, not involved in combat) was supposed to keep him out.

    Finally, he got it right third time around by writing up some after-actions reports and medal recommendations.

    But Air National Guard pilots were quite likely to go. Evidence exists that Bush volunteered to go.

    For the record, I served in the Oregon Air National Guard. I served proudly, with other people of honourable character and deep commitment, and I find disparaging remarks about the Guard to be personally insulting. The crap about Guardsmen volunteering to stay out of combat is insulting. Some may have, others did not. Do not tar the entire institution with that same broad brush.


    Let's be honest: Kerry is a decorated veteran with combat experience. Bush is a veteran pilot who risked his life stateside (piloting is inherently dangerous).

    The two candidates' records are essentially neutral in regards to military credentials.

    However, those who endorse Kerry and tout his war record, are overwhelmingly people who have not served. Yes, he has a few veterans on his side. But mainly, those who believe that war is never justified, those who are committed pacifists and ideologically leftist, those who believe that America deserves whatever ill treatment she gets from 3rd world fascist terrorist scum, cynically use John Kerry's war record in an attempt to neutralize Bush's record as president.

    Now examine what Kerry did when he returned from Vietnam. Met with enemy leaders. Coordinated his strategies with a foreign power whom we were currently at war with, to achieve their agendas. Maligned and slandered his fellow veterans.

    Those of us who have served, overwhelmingly (about 70%) endorse Bush. (click "Read More"

    It is not that those who have not served in the military are incapable of judging the Kerry’s military record, but if it is indeed his war record that we are judging him on, doesn't the overwhelmingly negative opinion of veterans count for something?

    We (most veterans) find Kerry not credible on matters of defense and the military. Most of us have doubts about his official record, and his self-aggrandizing public statements. We have doubts about his courage, character, and commitment.

    Strip away the less coherent rhetoric about Bush, and we find that some people consider him to have made mistakes.

    That's a clear choice to me.

    Friday, October 29, 2004

    The Right to Abstain

    In response to my last post, as modified to be appropriate in that forum, a classmate of mine said:
    Just want to make you aware that we also have the right NOT to vote. We should be able to NOT vote without being looked down on or talked down to.

    Wow. I almost completely disagree with this statement, for so many reasons. Let's take the last point first:

    If one performs an action, or fails to perform an action, you are, undoubtedly, unequivocally, and quite fairly, open to criticism. You have no right to be free of criticism. You have a right to criticize, and so do I. But nowhere in our philosophy of law, the consitution, or our society, does one have the right to be free from criticism (otherwise known as consitutionally protected free speech). If one does not vote, you are foolish, probably ignorant, and likely lazy. (There, I just exercised my right, see?)

    Now the first part: Of course we are not compelled to vote in this country by force of law. Note that this is not the case everywhere. Most of our laws prohibit things, rather than compelling things. Not all, but most of the just ones. Those laws that are in philosophical congruence with our basic law, the Constitution, do anyway.

    Now, I'm NOT saying the following is the case with my classmate, as I believe that individuals and orgnizations usually have different motivations, but if I were to hear her statement from an organization (and it's possibl she got that opinion from hearing a case made by some organization) then I would suspect that the organization in question had an agenda of attempting to disenfranchise some demographic that they did not agree with. My ultra-right-wing friend John, for example, encourages people he disagrees with not to vote, saying, "it doesn't really matter." As he is right-wing, and a common idea on the left is that the world is controlled by vast, shoadowy forces beyond our control, he's probably successful with this strategy, at least a little bit.

    And on to the meat of my attempt to persuade people to vote, any way their conscience leads them:

    Why is it foolish not to vote?
    Because you've let the way the country around you works, be dictated by people around you, who by more or less random distribution may well disagree with the way you think. With increasing immigration in this country, there is less committment to the original ideals of liberty and individuality. Certain principle uipon which this country was founded and has run more or less successfully for 200+ years, require the participation of the individuals that consent to be governed. We KNOW that government needs to be watched vigilantly, as even good men with good intentions can make mistakies, particularly when they feel threatened as many in our country do now. We must make our will known to prevent the erosion of liberty to a culture of zealotry.

    Why is it ignorant to not vote?
    Because it shows a profound lack of understanding of the democratic process. I understand some cynicism, and you may well be outvoted many times in your life. But being in the losing position on a vote doesn't mean the process is flawed. Whether John Kerry or Bush is elected in a few days, you won't see me denying the facts. There will be no "He's not my president" from my lips. I will continue to make my opinions know, try to sway public opinion to my point of view, but I won't be throwing bricks and rioting because "the wrong guy was 'selected'".


    Is it ever a valid political statement to abstain?
    Of course, there may be situations where you don't wish to endorse either candidate. There are still other issues on the ballot that you should consider. I did not vote for superintendant of schools, because it's not a partisan race, I was not familiar enough to make an informed choice with that particular local election, and when I did the research, I couldn't find enough information to be compelling one way or the other. I voted for or against every other measure and candidate. Many people only vote for those that they consider 'important'. Well, I think they're all important, and elections come around rarely enough to be worth putting the extra few minutes in to vote for them.

    The only really good reason to abstain, however, doesn't obtain in this country very often. It's when you refuse to give moral authority to a rigged election by participating. In this case, we should not only be refusing to vote, we should be screaming as loudly as we can...

    Thursday, October 28, 2004

    Please Vote

    Please Vote. I won't say I don't care who you vote FOR, but I would rather that you vote even if I think you're wrong about who to vote for. If nothing else, voting for a bad president may make you think twice about your choices next time.

    It is important that you vote, if you're qualified. In most states you can vote right down to the deadline even if you have not pre-registered, so please do not let that stop you.

    It doesn't take long, it's not difficult, and it is very worthwhile. I guarantee that even if your condidate does not win, you will feel better for having been part of the process. If your guy loses, then you get to say "I told you so!" whenever something goes wrong. Same thing if your guy wins and something good happens.

    Voting is not only your right, it is your responsibility. As citizens of this great nation, enjoying the blessing of liberty, we have a responsibility to the past AND future generations to participate in the process, this greatest experiment in human history.

    Thank you.

    Nice Rant

    Samizdata on Gloablization's opponents
    The anti-globalization movement is intellectually bankrupt. It is capable of shouting slogans and protesting international meetings. But in terms of providing solutions to the world's problems, it has nothing to offer.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2004

    Abducted girl: Amber alert

    Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with this picture

    and the accompanying information, including the guy who may have taken her

    Tuesday, October 26, 2004

    Done voting

    Yeesh.

    I'm brain-fried. I just spent the last 3.5 hours voting. Here in Washington we get the ballot and voter pamphlet in the mail, then we can either mail it or take it to the polling place in person.

    While I've been following politics pretty closely on the national level, and somewhat on the state level, I still needed to do more research before actually punching the card. Thank the deities for a fast Internet connection.

    I found a couple of sites useful, notably Issues2000.org for a quick over-view of voting records.

    It would've been a lot easier if I were a straight party-line kind of guy, but though I lean Libertarian, I firmly believe that the philosophical divisions within each party are less than that between them. I have to look at each individual's voting record, and what they stand for (as much as one can tell, and as much as they actually do stand for any clearly identifiable principle).

    So on the state and local levels I ended up with some Democrats, some Republicans, and a bunch of Libertarians. I didn't really have to think much to vote Libertarian for things like attorney general and state auditor. It just seems obvious to me that I want a Libertarian for attorney general. It would sure be nice to swap a Libertarian for Ashcroft.

    Monday, October 25, 2004

    Angry in Seattle

    My angry moment of the weekend: The sight of an aging hippie in a VW van (of course) with signs in the window saying "Support the Quartermaster Mutiny".

    Now, details have yet to come to light on exactly what went down, but it seems pretty clear to me that one should never support mutiny. Refusing an illegal order is not mutiny. Refusing a stupid, senseless order that will hurt your cause might have a little moral authority behind it.

    Refusing an order our of pure concern for your own safety is cowardice in the face of the enemy, and you should be shot for it.

    This guy might as well have had a sign saying "Support rape and murder", or "Hug a Child Molester today."

    Stupid fucker.

    Blackfive has some comments on the situation

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    Up for thought:

    Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States

    This goes right along with the Core/Gap kind of idea. As does this: Why Arabs Lose Wars. I present also A View from the Eye of the Storm, just because these articles all seem to revolve around the same thing, even though they don't quite put it together.

    State Sponsorship of Terrorism

    I wrote before:
    There's an argument out there that the Bush administration's focus on state-supported terrorism is a mistake. That terrorist organizations don't need the support of nations to be a threat, because they are amorphous, diffusely organized, and fueled by other than patriotic ideology.

    I recognize that as a valid argument, but I disagree. Here's why:

    The rule of law and respect for social/civic standards is a 'critical mass' type function. Just like children who aren't given a leavening of civilized behaviour in their environment will do a "Lord of the Flies".

    In war, the aphorism that 'armies march on their bellies' is still valid. Logistics is more important than ever. As a terrorist, you can't just pillage your way to the target any more. You have to fit in, which means money, a certain amount of training...

    The idea that terrorists' effectiveness is dependant upon safe bases, willing sponsors in the arms market, and money funneled from governments (and, to be honest from front organizations that can only exist with the approval of the country they're operating in. We even have this problem here, but as racketeering laws are applied, we're starting to get a handle on them) is a very valid one.

    Once we take away or coerce other governments into denying state sponsorship of these essentially criminal organizations, then terrorism can be reduced to a law enforcement problem. Until then, it's primarily, or at least in large part, a military issue.


    I've been writing about Barnett's "The Pentagon's New Map" quite a bit lately. His 'new rules set' idea is very relevant to this discussion.

    There's an adjustment to our thinking that needs to be done. The biggest adjustment for leftists in this country, is that we no longer apologize for American culture. If a 20-year-old person in Riyadh wants to eat at Mc Donalds, well, they're an adult and have the choice to make. I WILL NOT apologize for the fact that American culture, American fast food, American fashion and American movies are more successful than native grown varieties. If you have to legislate your competition with American products, then it is clear that yours are inferior. If we have to legislate against your products, then ours are inferior- and trust me, Americans are smart enough to buy what they want, no matter who tells them to 'Buy American'.

    The biggest adjustments for people in other countries, is that the 'big dumb dog' that is America, 'bumbling along in good natured, obnoxiously friendly behaviour' has been teased to the point of snapping back. We're not unaware of how you view us anymore. Frankly, we're a little offended, but mostly, just deteremined not to be changed from our fundamentally freedom-loving nature.

    And honestly, the opinions of third world nations full of ignorant people and fascist dictators really shouldn't bother us much.

    Most of these people are not working with the same moral compass we are. You're talking about people only find an action morally reprehensible when it hurts them or their in-group, but it's perfectly fine to kill and steal from infidels or lesser races or outsiders. Our very tolerance and openness and ideas of what are right and wrong offend many of these people- we cannot be moral in their eyes and our own at the same time, and I'll take my own conscience over popularity any day.

    The 3rd world will continue to cry out for revenge until they are educated on what justice is. Promoting that adjustment to world thinking, spreading that new meme, is important.
    Sometimes we'll be spreading that meme by proving (militarily) that 'resistance is futile'. Sometimes we'll bribe people to accept it. Sometimes we'll have spontaneous conversions, and sometimes we'll have to kill people who don't play by the new rules.

    State Dept
    SE Asia Analysis Group

    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    Guns to Africa

    I've been thinking about what we can do to help Africa, and I think the best thing we could do is probably to export more small arms to them. Weapons are probably the most useful thing we could give them. With weapons they could stand off the raiders while having the chance to keep what they earn through their own hard work. "Big Men" in uniforms wouldn't find it as easy to take aid shipments away from the intended recipients quite as easily if the weapons weren't overwhelmingly one-sided.

    Some people will of course, argue that we would just be prolonging conflict by increasing the number of weapons available to said conflicts.

    However, I imagine everyone in the Sudan who is not a Muslim Arab (Janjaweed militia) would probably greatly appreciate prolonging the conflict, maybe even escalating it, since the only other option is to be dead. Well, to be positive about it, I suppose being a starving, displaced refugee is slightly better than being dead, in that you have the potential, however slight, of recovering from that situation.

    Much better to be a lion defending your home though. After all, genocide can really only happen if one side is immeasurably stronger than the other.

    Freedom is 90% economics. Private property and the means to defend it are likely to be the best indicator of a just society. That means to defend may be a system of laws and government enforcement that actually works, as Barnett makes the point when he talks about the Functioning Core. In a place where that situation does not obtain, private security, in an individual's hands, is the other option.

    Guns are the great equalizer. While a professional does have a significant advantage over a neophyte with a weapon, many of the natural advantages of the strong are erased or attenuated by the technology of firearms. Physically weaker women can level the playing field with physically stronger men, for example.

    Those Black Christian and Animist villages being razed, raped, and pillaged by Arab militias might just have a chance if they were armed. (Note that I am not automatically prejudiced in favour of Christian groups- I am NOT a Christian) It might even have had a deterrent effect before the hostility erupted into the mess it is now.

    Counter-balancing Michael Moore's lies

    Michael Moore thinks Americans are fat, lazy and stupid. On his website, he compares the terrorists who murdered four American contractors in Fallujah to the Minutemen who helped America win its independence.

    Now, Moore's lies have found their way to our troops on the front lines. This past summer, Moore gave unofficial permission for his fans to share bootlegged files of Fahrenheit 9/11, many copies of which have made their way to US troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Worse, Military theaters -- caught in a bind between a successful yet polemic film and a possible charge of censorship if they didn't run it -- chose to run Fahrenheit 9/11 at troop installations around the world.


    Take a look. Maybe order FahrenHYPE 9/11 for yourself.

    Saturday, October 16, 2004

    The Pentagon's New Map

    I'm reading this book right now, and it's making a WHOLE LOT of sense. The basic theme is that there are two types of places in the world: some belong to the Functioning Core, and Some are in the Non-Integrated Gap.

    The difference in the two basically comes down to widely accepted rule sets. For example, the Core is typified by freedom; freedom of speech, universal suffrage, personal, private property rights, and affluence.

    The Gap is typified by lack of freedom, political repression, ignorance, poverty, etc.

    Tha major differentiating factor? Connections to the rest of the world. The Gap doesn't Integrate. For whatever reason (religious or cultural "purity", maintenance of control by a fascist minority, whatever) these countries, cultures, and economies have very little exchange with the rest of the world. Little exchange of ideas (because speech and communication are not free and open), little exchange of money, because the economies are tightly controlled either through ideology (in communist-leaning states) or because of corruption and the 'Great Leader' syndrome.

    I'm not done with the book yet, but it's helping me pull together some facets of my political beliefs that I have instinctually gravitated towards, into a coherent and logical tapestry.

    When we export security to the Gap, what we should really be focusing on, is exporting logical and workable rule sets: belief in the rule of law, in common identity and defence. It's not enough to merely pacify through military force and leave, because these places are not experiencing a temporary abberration in the normal orderly existence; they don't have the basic underpinnings of civilization.

    Anyway, I'll have more to say when I finish the book and have time to chew on it for a while.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    Post-nationalism

    Tell me again exactly why we want to relinquish our sovereign rights under the constitution to a bunch of collecivist crusaders (who already have an axe to grind on America anyway)?

    There's no way I want to USA to join the conventions on the International Court of (so-called) Justice or the International Criminal Court

    Don't people see that stuff like this (and much worse) will happen?

    See also: Den Beste's essays on Transnational Progressivism

    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Some thoughts on Africa

    I've been thinking about the problem thatAfrica presents for some time, and I haven't come up with a lot of concrete ideas, but I'm sort of leaning towards two paths: "Sink or Swim" and "Imposing Some Order". Helping out without requiring any sort of guarantees, or imposing any conditions on aid, don't seem to be working too well.

    Like some some others:
    And, excuse me, but surely the last thing that Africa needs is more sodding environment? They have got environment up the ying-yang. In fact, they have got bugger all except bloody environment and most of it is wild, dangerous, parasitical and extremely detrimental to human life. What Africa needs is machine tools and lathes and tarmac roads and heavy trucks and great, big smokestack factories turning the sky black with their belched-out fumes. Given her commitment to maintaining the untamed savagery of that continent, I would judge that the most suitable award for Mrs. Maathai is a Serious Pain in the Arse Prize. People who build tarmac roads and heavy trucks no longer qualify for prizes. They only qualify for taxes, regulations and internationally-recognised opprobrium.

    ...I'm concerned that the aid we do give rarely helps, and often harms because it's geared toward helping out a disaster. Africa is not a natural disaster; all the problems there are basically caused by people, and since I don't buy into genetic reasons for incompetence (for example, all black people being of inferior intelligence because they are an inferior race), then that leaves only the possibility that their cultural practices are screwing themslves.

    Multi-culturalism

    Okay, before I begin, let me frontload this with disclaimers. I know this may or may not work in reaching those who will already have formed an opinion based upon the title or premise of this little offering, but here goes anyway:

    I am firmly on the side of multi-culturalism. I believe that our country was built upon the strengths of the ‘melting pot’. Our culture is as strong as it is precisely because of the various elements which have come together here, perhaps not uniquely in the history of the world, but certainly to a greater degree here than anywhere else, any other time in the long development of mankind. The richness and usefulness of English as a language, for example, is due to the fairly unique quality of its inclusiveness. The grammar of English does cause some tortured word construction when foreign loanwords are used, but it’s still acceptably comprehensible. Most Americans cannot even point to the etymology of many words (which some will point out as a lack) but to me, this is merely evidence of integration.

    I myself am bilingual, with a smattering of knowledge of a couple other languages. I spent a good portion of my adult life outside the United States. I have good friends who are not of my own ethnicity (which happens to be Caucasian; not Anglo-Saxon, and not Protestant Christian, thank you very much.)

    However evolution is only partially a positive process. Random mutation happens, and competition eliminates that which is not competitive. The same is true of the somewhat ‘Social Darwinist’ view that I’m about to express. We’re a great nation not only for what has been contributed to our melting pot, but also because the dross has been drawn off and discarded. To whatever degree we’ve been successful at creating a strong amalgam of cultural memes, it is due to these two processes.

    This is why it is important not to abdicate our responsibility to judge elements of culture; our own and that of others. While it would be stupidly shortsighted to blanket characterize any culture, subculture, or ethnic group as wholly evil (or conversely, as wholly good) there is no reason to accept every element of a set of cultural memes as a package. The very strength of our society is based upon the ability to pick and choose individual elements, as an individual.

    There are cultural apologists who would argue for moral equivalence between say, Western rationalist philosophy and the religious/superstitious elements of fate-based societies which remove responsibility from the individual and place it upon nebulous and unknowable ‘forces’ beyond human control or understanding. They would have us believe that logic, cause-and-effect chains of reasoning, are no more valid than the emotional decision-making systems of non-Western societies; Western Logic is just another superstition or quaint custom. This despite the empirical validation of logic: reproducibility.

    More later…

    Self-sacrifice?

    I suppose, since this year's supply of flu vaccine is compromised, and other people at greater risk need it more than I (a basically healthy, early-thirties male), that I won't bother searching out a clinic that has it.

    But I reserve the right to bitch about it if I feel crappy later this year.

    Monday, October 11, 2004

    Psychotic hero-worship

    With the upcoming release of a movie based upon the diaries of a madman, it might be instructive for people to take a look at what Che Guevarra really stood for, and what he accomplished (and failed to accomplish).

    Let's see, fomented violence and promoted hate.
    "Hatred is an element of struggle; relentless hatred of the enemy that impels us over and beyond the natural limitations of man and transforms us into effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machines. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy."

    There's a message for you. A message that some are still perpetuating.

    Che also enabled and assisted Fidel Castro in strangling the economy of Cuba, and managing to absolutely control that nation for decades,long after promising democratic elections. Of course, Fidel has been the subject of recent film maker's praise as well. Oliver Stone just seems to love him. Of course, Casttro does have an impressive record as a statesman and humanitarian.

    Globalization

    Globalization: I'm basically for it. I think that it can hurt a bit in the short term, but in the long term is the only realistic and viable option. I'll probably have mnore to say later, but in the meantime I thought this was interesting, and thoughtful, if not exhaustive and conclusive:
    Many environmentalists fear that the WTO promotes policies which enable corporations to escape national restrictions on business and environmental practices by calling such restrictions "trade barriers". For instance, one of my hero’s, the environmentalist and human rights activist Ken Sara-Wiwa, was slain by Abacha’s regime which was supported by Shell Oil. The argument goes something like – corporations such as ADM will now prop up similar horrid regimes (think Zimbabwe) and bypass the types of responsible environmental regulations forced on them by developed countries.

    That’s a valid argument.

    However, many environmentalists do see that cooperation fostered by international institutions is critical to effective environmental.

    Thanks for sharing: Globedoc's globe

    Deterrence

    Bill Whittle has another excellent article up:

    In a moment, we’ll look at what both men said, and through a very specific filter: not their Aggregate Presidentiality, or their respective Molar Charm Ratio. We’re going to look at what both men believe in respect to deterrence: whether their positions increase or decrease the likelihood of further attacks on the US.

    That’s it. That’s all. That’s the sum total of this election for me. We’ve survived boobs and crooks and idiots and charlatans of all stripes and colors, struggled through booms and recessions, surpluses and deficits, and wars on poverty and drugs and crime and General Public Lasciviousness and come through just fine, and we will again.

    But the nuclear destruction of the heart of Manhattan, or Long Beach Harbor, or the Capital mall – these things are serious business and as Sam Johnson once said, the prospect of being hanged in the morning tends to focus the mind.


    As they say: read the whole thing.

    Sunday, October 10, 2004

    Iraq working to secure borders

    I was reading some headlines on the MNSTC-Iraq website which my good friend Tara happens to maintain. I thought this story was pretty interesting.
    The resulting plan lays out border fort construction locations in Suly, Diyala, Wassit, Maysan, Basrah, Muthanna, Najaf, Anbar, and Ninewa provinces and directly supports the national elections by helping to stem the flow of anti-Iraqi forces, money and weapons into the country.

    As far as I can tell, these seem to be mostly on the border with Iran. Hmmm, very interesting, no?

    See the thing is, I was having a dicussion with another news-junkie ex-military friend of mine a few weeks back. We think that if GWB is re-elected, we'll be bombing Iran within a year.

    "Ah, but we can barely deal with the numbers needed in Iraq," I hear the chorus. The biggest mistake, apparently, in our prosecution of the war in Iraq, wa not engouh troops. Iraq is still not really pacified, so how can we remove out troops to start a war on another front? Wouldn't that be insanity, or at the least, stupidity?

    Consider however, that when we started our war with Iraq, we had some logistical problems with just getting our troops in place. Basically, the last-minute Turkish denial of our request to stage our troops through Turkey was a huge factor, as was the Saudi denial.

    Well, none of that is a factor any longer. We have, and will continue to have for some time, a large military presence in Iraq. The troops are already there this time around. And Iran has at least two borders to worry about: Iraq and Afghanistan. Depending on how much Pakistan feels like helping out, there's another stretch of border. Iran has significant border mileage with 6 countries, and significantly, several US allies or otherwise US-influenced nations. Regardless of whether any given nation on those borders decides to help the US or not, the border must be guarded. That is a huge pool of manpower. Much of the unrest in Iraq right now is directly caused by Iranian interlopers, and fomented by the Iranian government. How much of those sources will dry up when the border gets hotter? In the meantime, the US has relatively secure bases to operate out of in Iraq, striking across the border in little day-jaunts; literally minutes by fighter jet. Is there any doubt that air superiority would be established in hours?

    In the light of this strategic view, these border forts represent an escalation in tenseness between the US-Iraqi coalition and Iran.

    Of course, the average Iranian will not welcome US occupiers and interlopers, messing around in the governance of their nations. Some probably will, there's quite a bit of unrest there too, and the mullahs are not so popular. But the major argument against the possibility that we could force change in Iran, the idea that we're already overstretched, may not be as valid as many think.

    Pat Tillman exploited

    I see that a professor in Arizona is exploiting Pat Tillman's memory for an anti-war message. How utterly despicable. I wonder where the photo came from. It looks as though it may have originally been someone's copyrighted material, perhaps an Army press release (since I highly doubt that this asshat professor just happens to have a bunch of Pat Tillman photos lying around from the last family picnic.)

    It would be nice to see someone push back on this guy for copyright infringement. His first amendment rights do not trump other people's intellectual property.

    Note that I don't mean this merely as a suppression tactic of a message I don't like. The fact that I disagree with the message is hereby acknowledged. What I mean is that while this professor is and should be free to express his opinion, he doesn't have the right to exploit an individual soldier, particularly an individual who can no longer defend himself.

    Whatever else one may say about the greater right or wrong of the war, Pat Tillman followed his conscience and gave the greatest sacrifice possible to his country- not just to some nebulous concept of patriotism, but out of a sense of duty to his neighbors and community. That deserves a hands-off approach in political commentary out of simple decency for the pain of his family. The mere fact of his celebrity does not give anyone the right to exploit him.

    Tuesday, October 05, 2004

    John Kerry in his own words

    The New Soldier is online in .PDF format. It's a good time to read it, before the election. See what John Kerry really thinks about the military. Via Little Green Footballs.

    Interesting site

    X-prize!

    Colour me excited- the X-prize has been won! SpaceShipOne took it.

    It's about time that space exploration has moved into the realm of private investment. It's one of my dearest dreams to see space become accessible to ordinary, or at least very determined ordinary people. Now there's a chance it will happen in my lifetime. NASA has done some good things, but they are not the way any longer.

    Update:

    Some people will complain about ANYTHING

    Monday, October 04, 2004

    Bringing back the draft

    I'm STILL hearing a bunch of crap about this- How many times must this be discredited before the tin-hat crowd lets go?

    The Pentagon has spoken out against it. The Prez and SecDef say it's not true. The only people proposing it are Democrats, so why are the leftist conspiracy whackos up in arms thinking Bush will re-instate the draft if elected? And why are college students freaking out about this? Isn't college supposed to promote critical thinking?

    Recruitment is easy, and has been for many years. When I joined the AF 13 years ago, my recruiter was responsible for the entire eastern Washington region- by himself. His 'quota' was 2 persons per month. This was before the 'RIF' (reduction in force) of the mid-90's.

    The military turns away far more kids than it accepts, and has been steadily raising the bar on military entrance in terms of test scores on scholastic and aptitude tests, as well as requiring a clean background (too many traffic tickets can get you rejected- any serious brush with the law is a deal-breaker).

    While those high standards contribute in large part to the professional, kick-ass military we have today, some of those standards were introduced merely because we have long had too many applicants for the force levels that are authorized and funded by congress, and we needed some sort of discriminator when sorting potential recruits.

    No, the problem with adding 30 or 40 thousand folks to the current military numbers is not recruitment, it's training. That's a couple divisions. You can't stand up a unit as big as a division in a short period of time without serious cadre. Building a cadre to deal with large percentages of raw recruits means you have to have the best for your core. Which means you have to strip the top performers from MANY other units to do it. Leaving them all suddenly floundering because they have (not necessarily half trained but) less experienced people running everything from platoons to laundry detail (I said, NO STARCH!) lol.

    Highly skilled, valuable soldiers aren't found; they're created. A raw recruit is just building material. Some are better material than others, but no matter how smart and educated they are, they're still worse than useless until *trained*.


    Update:

    the measure was finally defeated once and for all, and even Charles Rangel (Democratic sponsor of the bill) voted against it. House kills Draft bill 402-2

    Another Update:

    Rangel Retreats: Some good commentary on the issue.

    Yet Another Update:

    Now John Kerry gets into the fear-mongering, spreading-irresponsible-rumours act. Un-frickin'-believable!