May 31, 2004

Libertarian Nomination I

Posted by TMLutas

The Libertarian Party has nominated Michael Badnarik as its candidate for the presidency of the United States. For the first time in my voting career I can't vote for a Libertarian Presidential candidate.

War is the most important responsibility of the state. It is the protection of the polity against outside enemies in its most elemental form. The following (from Badnarik's campaign site) simply disqualifies him in my eyes:

Michael doesn't have enough information to know whether or not the United States should be there or not, however he strongly suspects that the real motivation for being there is probably economic rather than ethical.

You just can't say "I don't know" to the foremost question of the hour and hope to get my vote. Even Kerry would have a better chance of getting my vote than this guy.

HT: Hit and Run

May 30, 2004

Battlefield 'Net VIII

Posted by TMLutas

Reading Strategy Page's latest (again, no permalink) on the battlefield net, one thought kept cropping up in my mind. Does the thing have an accessible API and what are the 3rd party application opportunities for it?

A battlefield PDA in this generation handed out to squad leaders and sergeants will be a really cheap piece of occupation tech four generations down the road handed out to native families because it's the cheapest way to provide connectivity and plug them into the Core. The satellite phone may morph into something cheaper or we may get really cheap satellites in the meantime, who knows? In any case, we're not likely to see the original manufacturers make the transition without third party software. One route might be military intelligence wanting to take a few of these and give it to their higher quality assets among the natives. Then, as software comes on line for intelligence work, some people figure out that it's cheap enough to hand out to all intelligence assets. The PR/education corps will see enough of these among the natives to start giving lessons in freedom via FAQ and cheap web apps on a variety of subjects and somebody is just going to open up the whole net to the general public in a country in forcible transition courtesy USAF.

This is something similar to what happened to the Internet and what will happen with Internet 2. Technology is rolled out to a select few and people who used to qualify or almost qualify for access agitate for their inclusion on the list and, with pull, they get it. This just extends the number of people who almost qualify and the process starts happening again.

May 29, 2004

EZ Shareholder Activism

Posted by TMLutas

An article at Innocents Abroad demonstrates a gaping need for a changeover in how stockholders are empowered to vote. The problem is that corporate governance gets to be too much trouble if you are an index investor or highly diversified with a great many small positions all across the market.

The problem has a solution but only if stockholders get into the current century in the exercise of their voting rights. What is needed is a group of corporate governance improvement organizations that can solicit voting rights from shareholders. Let's say that you think that stock options should be expensed (I'm not taking a position pro or con on this and the example could easily be reversed). If you could assign stock expensing votes on all your holdings in a short amount of time, you would be much more likely to do so rather than going through your entire portfolio, identifying which companies aren't up to snuff and composing a shareholder proposal that you personally present at the yearly shareholder meeting.

Essentially, it's an information technology problem, something that isn't really all that difficult to solve. All that needs happen is for some big wheels to come up with a universal system that anybody with a governance idea can plug into and make all public corporations plug in too.

Wretchard Starts to 'Get It'

Posted by TMLutas

I've written frequently in the past about post-westphalianism, the breakdown in the consensus that war shall only be conducted between states and that statecraft shall largely respect the strictures of national sovereignty. Possibly the biggest disconnect (and it still amazes me) is that both sides in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have renounced Westphalian geopolitics and nobody really has examined what that means and will mean as westphalianism continues to break down in the years and decades ahead.

Wretchard is starting to examine a part of the consequences. He's discovered that there is no more front line and that politics and war have lost almost all distinctiveness from each other. The total war that was rejected in horror at the end of the Thirty Years War will come back with a vengeance, something that few understand even today. The jihadists have opened pandora's box and we must follow suit into the madness they have unleashed or condemn ourselves to eventual defeat as we sell our birthright of freedom away to stop the terror that cannot be stopped within the strictures of westphalian geopolitics.

The US has several handicaps in this brave new world of post-westphalian war (PWW). PWW is total war using all forms of warfare and all arms of society. The US is constrained by current law not to organize and take part in religion and the press while at the same time, neutrality acts prevent private US organizations from organizing these areas of society to conduct the fight. The first amendment must be eviscerated, letters of marquee and reprisal must be updated to the modern world, or we must abandon the concept of the private sector being restrained from conducting its own war and foreign policy. These are the only three ways out that I see for the US. The first solution is abhorrent to american principles, the third would lead to a great deal more chaos and violence than we are likely prepared to tolerate in the US and the 2nd? The 2nd is intriguing but needs so much work that we're nowhere near ready to take that step.

These are all very profound changes for the US, so profound that we may not survive them. But the alternative, as will become clear in the coming years, is to have terror creep into this country, both by immigration and local conversion and recruitment and wear us down into submission.

May 28, 2004

Spilling the Blood of Tyrants and Patriots

Posted by TMLutas

A new militia called the Black Flag seems to be taking shape across Iraq. Anti-Baath, anti-terror, this militia seems to be willing to cooperate with the police and the international coalition occupying Iraq but impatient if the police and the coalition forces do not take action on their information.

It was from a group like this (actually a worse one) that Menacham Begin started his career in politics, culminating in the Israeli prime ministership. We'll see how things evolve but I'm not so sure that armed groups, as long as they're willing to submit to the new Iraqi government as it gets stood up, are necessarily such a bad thing. To the contrary, they show the oft-spoken idea that Iraqis are too passive and uninterested in defending their own liberty to be a lie.

Reader Mail I

Posted by TMLutas

Mark LaRochelle writes:

As  I pointed out to you nearly two decades ago, China may find it more efficient to export surplus males rather than import females. Look for aggressive military expansion as a means of depleting the surplus male population.

Several problems with that scenario:

1. High status males who have all the women they want are growing increasingly connected to the world economic scene. Think of them as medieval scottish noblemen with english lands. Their financial position (and also societal status) is largely put at risk by military aggressiveness. Every year of economic reforms increases the numbers and influence of this group.

2. This is not a black and white situation. Importing females is the reality of today. Whether this will be paired with expansionist military activity is an open question but it's not realistic (IMO) to deny the day-to-day reality of female imports. I think that a militarily aggressive streak will emerge in the PRC but you can send an awful lot of conscripts into UN peacekeeping slots without risking your global connectivity, a connectivity that is supporting the survival of the current elite. The PRC has an obvious interest in mid-east resources as well as african resources. A militarily aggressive PRC could simultaneously earn good guy kudos all over the world by being Kofi Annan's blue helmet wet dream.

3. The timing is wrong. The PRC is vulnerable to resource interdiction in a way that was even more profound than Imperial Japan. Their resource supply lines are longer. The PLAN is relatively weaker than the Imperial Japanese Navy was the day after Pearl Harbor vis a vis the US Navy and relevant allies. For the PRC to get away with striking at a Phillipines, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. they need a PLAN that can maintain their energy and raw material supplies sufficient to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion. By the time that happens, we're well past the explosion date of their demographic time bomb. All the "near peer" analysis by DoD that I've been exposed to (all public stuff, no big deal) has the PRC becoming a real threat no earlier than two decades from now.

4. Russia is unlikely to be happy. Russia is likely to be the only natural resource source that the PRC could draw on without credible fear of the US Navy. But Russia is paranoid scared that the PRC's expansion will come north and that they will replicate the Mongols, rolling up Siberia in a drive westward. Russia is not going to underwrite the PRC's needs to the point where they can win and become strong enough to take Siberia. Russia would apply to join NATO first, and would be accepted in a heartbeat. That gives the PRC a very nasty nightmare with NATO on its northern border.

5. Nuclear proliferation would explode across Asia as the small nations on the PRC's border became nuclear powers in order not to become a new Tibet. These are engineer rich societies and many have enough money to build their own nukes or buy them from N. Korea. With private suborbital rockets being developed by teams from several nations (X Prize), it wouldn't be too hard for the designs to be licensed and weapons to be carried as cargo. Goodbye Beijing. Beijing knows this and will simply not become aggressive enough to trigger the nuclear proliferation explosion. It's a hard limit to their moves.

My prediction is that we're going to see a combination of effects. The PRC will build up its military but will also build up its ability to absorb foreign women. Neighboring nations will become rabidly anti-chinese because of this female poaching and any militarily aggressive moves will be to protect long-established chinese ethnic communities in these nations. PRC contributions to UN peacekeeping missions will undergo a secular increase. The big invasions that everybody fears will not happen but regional instability will increase with unpredictable results. A for instance, what are S. Koreans going to do in reaction to N. Korean wife/prostitute imports into the PRC?

And Now For Enemies on the Right

Posted by TMLutas

Thanks to Damien Penny I've finally confirmed what I've sadly suspected for some time. Pat Buchanan has become a domestic enemy of the United States. I think it's a vain hope that this is a forgery or that he was just having a bad day. Buchanan's already had too many bad days to get the benefit of the doubt.

He simply is making common cause with islamic conservatives who nod sagely as honor killings go on virtually unpunished, as women are mutilated, homosexuals are killed, and religious heterodoxy gets death sentences from religious courts, sentences that are all too often fulfilled.

If the "peace Democrats" are to once again be Copperheads, we are left to our own devices to come up with a proper name for the likes of Pat Buchanan. Or is it just better to have done with it and put him in the Copperhead basket as well?

May 27, 2004

Just Got Back From Hospital

Posted by TMLutas

No, not for me, my younger daughter needed some imaging, which was given under anesthesia (otherwise it's impossible to get a 4 month old to sit still). We get results tomorrow.

Can Military Women be Disciplined?

Posted by TMLutas

An article over at Master of None brings up an alarming question. Can women be disciplined as men are in today's US armed forces? If female soldiers have a built in disciplinary shield marked sexual harassment this would be a very dangerous long-term situation for both the effectiveness of the armed forces themselves and the safety of the armed forces to the larger civil society that created them. The military must be utterly disciplined or we risk falling into the problems that so many other nations have had, military coups. Discipline always slips in minor ways at first but once the culture of equally disciplined soldiers sharing a common rule book has been cast away, it is inevitable that other groups will want to carve out their own protected fiefs, and almost inevitable that one of those protected fiefs will eventually go bad.

The time process is very long on such things but if female soldiers are being held to a different disciplinary standard, the process is well underway.

Can Military Women be Disciplined?

Posted by TMLutas

An article over at Master of None brings up an alarming question. Can women be disciplined as men are in today's US armed forces? If female soldiers have a built in disciplinary shield marked sexual harassment this would be a very dangerous long-term situation for both the effectiveness of the armed forces themselves and the safety of the armed forces to the larger civil society that created them. The military must be utterly disciplined or we risk falling into the problems that so many other nations have had, military coups. Discipline always slips in minor ways at first but once the culture of equally disciplined soldiers sharing a common rule book has been cast away, it is inevitable that other groups will want to carve out their own protected fiefs, and almost inevitable that one of those protected fiefs will eventually go bad.

The time process is very long on such things but if female soldiers are being held to a different disciplinary standard, the process is well underway.

May 26, 2004

Arbitraging Instability

Posted by TMLutas

ParaPundit is on to a very big story but he doesn't quite understand what a tiger he's got by the tail. He thinks that the PRC will export their female shortage to North Korea by massive purchases of North Korean brides.

What he's missing is that there is no reason whatsoever for the PRC to be either especially attracted to N. Korea or limit their female poaching to that benighted land. Anywhere there are females who are within the available price range is a potential source of bought brides and forced prostitutes. You just have to map out the economics of it to see how this can be a regional problem and even a worldwide problem if sex selection abortion continues in both the PRC and in India, another country that is on the anti-female abortion express ride to social instability.

Once you see how this female shortage is going to be arbitraged away, the question is whether the resulting shallower shortage, spread out over many more countries, is going to be sufficient to cause regional stability problems and if so, how much? When the low hanging fruit of the N. Korean "market" is cleaned out, single PRC men are not going to stop looking. Look for all the PRC border states to see pressure for their poorest and most desperate females to cross the border.

The only positive (and it's a very small one) is that this is going to vastly increase genetic mixing in east Asia and will possibly have a small effect in lowering racism, a perennial problem for outsiders.


Posted by TMLutas

Reading about the Martin campaign kickoff it seems there seems to be a Canadian disease floating around the great white north. With the incumbent prime minister acting as if the US has cooties, it seems to me that he is put in a bit of a pickle. Anytime the US gets to some new social science innovation first, any canadian who advocates imitation to keep up, or adoption and improvement, can be tarred with the libel of betraying canadian values. Or at least that's the logical conclusion of PM Martin's apparent campaign strategy. Such a strategy of reflexive anti-americanism has not stood Gerhard Schroeder in good stead and is more than likely to turn around and bite Martin even sooner as Canadian dependence on the US is much greater than the FRG's.

It really is sad that the incumbent liberals can't seem to come up with something better than updating the kindergarten taunts of cooties.

Cool, I'm a Baritone Today

Posted by TMLutas

Usually I'm a tenor but a nasty bit of something brought home by my son has turned me into a very deep baritone. A cranky, sore throated, deep baritone. I've been fighting this off for about three days and it's getting nasty. Blogging will be variable. The crankiness tends to increase output but all other symptoms tend to work the other way.

Stop back later anyway.

May 25, 2004

Twelve Ministries

Posted by TMLutas

One of the things not likely to be highlighted by many in President Bush's speech of last night is that since my last note on the subject another four ministries have been handed over to Iraqi control for a total of twelve ministries. I bet you didn't notice the strong media coverage of this good news either. And it's not like reporters would even need to exit the Green Zone to find this out. I'm sure that press releases were dutifully issued and dutifully ignored by those who have an interest in spinning negative news about the transition to Iraqi rule.

So if you're depending on news sources that verifiably aren't giving you important good news about Iraq, why are you wasting your time and money to continue to patronize them?

May 24, 2004

How to Humiliate the US

Posted by TMLutas

Iraqi, and arab, humiliation seems to be a continuing issue. I've written previously about how to handle Iraqi humiliation. But for those who want more, a thought occurs to me. Run Iraq, run it as a free state and run it better than the US ever did, than the British ever did. Expose their efforts as 2nd rate and humiliate the West with your competence, with your brilliance. Go ahead, do it and not only restore your own pride but make the "democratizers swallow theirs.

Walking Again

Posted by TMLutas

A new study has shown incredible promise by combining three new spinal cord injury treatments in one triple treatment. Taking cells from the rats' own bodies, researchers were able to create a huge improvement, allowing 70% average mobility for all the experimental rats. It's very good to see an improvement in patient prognosis free from all the political controversy that seems to accompany so much biotechnological progress these days. Hopefully, they'll be able to translate these rodent results into human studies very soon.

HT: Slashdot

Social Shock, Libertarian Style

Posted by TMLutas

Clayton Cramer commits a minor libel of libertarians when he blames us heartless libertarian types for not being in favor of social adjustment spending. The problem is that he downplays two issues. First, social adjustment spending, like just about all government spending that libertarians want cut, isn't somehow better or more effective when it is done via the government. The only functional responses he noticed at all were private efforts that were proceeding without government assistance. The government, huge and bloated as it is, is not taking care of the people in the rural community devastated by the closing of the local logging industry.

The second issue is that the local logging industry did not die a natural death. It was knifed in the back by government. This sort of knifing drastically accelerates and makes social change more jarring and less predictable. There is reason to think that a property regime more in line with libertarian principles would have balanced economic and environmental interests better, managing the decline of logging in a way that would have created more replacement jobs on a longer, slower glide path for the accomplishment of the wider social goal of preserving the environment. The majority would not be denied, logging would have slowed down and ceased in the area anyway in a libertarian regime but it would do it in a different, less disruptive way.

Fixing what ails rural america is an important goal, and I'm glad Clayton Cramer is going to focus on this underexamined issue. But government solutions are very unlikely candidates to solve the problem in truth, rather than erect another permanent bureaucracy that is committed to managing the problem, not solving it.

Calling All Moonbats

Posted by TMLutas

If Kerry actually goes through with the idea of not formally accepting the nomination at the convention, the tinfoil brigade is likely to be looking very carefully at the DNC bylaws. At stake is the right to continue to dip into the money pool raised for the primaries and not touch the general election funding until later in the campaign. This is major league silliness but some people are taking it seriously so before the rush, somebody really ought to ask the FEC what is the triggering event before we get too close to the convention and pure partisanship reigns.

Then again (putting my own moonbat hat on), maybe Kerry's maneuver is a blessing in disguise. Why not just not accept the nomination at all and just go forward in the "primary" portion of the election cycle through to election day? That would be one way to get rid of the odious public finance portion of the presidential election.

May 23, 2004

Silly I

Posted by TMLutas

For something on the lighter side, Nununce!

Protecting Oil Infrastructure

Posted by TMLutas

There is an awful lot of oil infrastructure out there in the world and a great deal of it (as insurgents in Iraq prove frequently) that can be destroyed at acceptable risk. There are two ways of protecting the infrastructure. One is the brute force approach, station a man with a gun to guard every 25 yards of pipeline and oil refinery in the world. That's not practical. Another way is to make sure that there aren't any pieces of infrastructure that are high value targets. Sure, you can take out some oil port facilities, and that will reduce the amount of oil that the US can import but such a disruption only matters if our strategic oil reserves can't make up the difference and the reserves will run out before the repairs can be finished.

This is the real reason why Kerry's election year calls to drop gasoline prices by tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) are so fundamentally irresponsible. The more the SPR is filled, the fewer attacks on oil importation facilities make sense. The emptier it is, the more tempting the facilities are and the more likely we will have our oil import terminals bombed. The economic and environmental catastrophe that would ensue is bad enough no matter the level of the SPR. If you live near such a facility, you might quietly ask your local police and fire officials about how bad it could get. Be prepared to be shocked by the answer.

A few cents on the price of a gallon of gas are a small price to pay to keep such vulnerable targets low value for the jihad brigade.

Rolling Back Failed Social Experiments

Posted by TMLutas

Let me share a guilty secret. I have a grudging admiration for the utopian communists. They didn't really know what they were doing but they wanted to make things better. They tried their solutions out in the real world on an experimental scale. When the experiment didn't work, they stopped long before a gulag appeared to allow things to continue. Compared to Marxian systems, that's a giddily happy outcome.

I was reminded of this reading Robert Robb's piece on gay marriage and how it affects traditional marriage. He compares the current fight to the old fight over easy divorce and you really ought to read the whole thing. The point that struck me was how far we've sunk from the utopian communists. Since the evidence is overwhelming that the christian orthodoxy that lost the no fault divorce fight was right and the liberals were wrong the one thing left to do in that failed social experiment is to stop it.

This is a large reason why people on the anti-gay marriage side have so little faith in assurances that gay marriage will be rolled back if it turns out to be a disaster. We have the disaster staring at us in the face and we show no sign of rolling back our previous experiment with easy divorce.

So the next time you get a gay marriage advocate talking about rollback if there ever was failure, ask his position about divorce and rolling it back since it is a failure. The resultant sputtering should be highly informative

May 22, 2004

Incest Legalization

Posted by TMLutas

Clayton Cramer notes a pro-incestual marriage proposal in New Zealand. So far, New Zealand seems to be in no danger of running out and acting on the presentation but if you agree with the arguments regarding gay marriage, it's hard to construct a long-term successful defense on the grounds the gay marriage advocates have left. Health effects of male homosexual sex are worse than genetic abnormality in incest. Incestuous marriages would be fertile, so as long as everything is consensual, why not?

I can say why not, but not without using arguments that also keep gay marriage illegal. Anybody out there able to do better?

Unforgivable Desecration

Posted by TMLutas

Juan Cole ladles the "woe is us" on pretty heavy:

Even if the shrines were not damaged, you can't imagine how much Shiites don't want to hear phrases like "American tanks and AC-130 gunships pounded insurgent positions near two shrines in the center of the holy city of Karbala early Friday . . . " I cringed when I saw it. I don't see how Iraqi Shiites are going to forgive us for this. Ever.

Perhaps he should ask christians how they have forgiven muslim fighters invading the Church of the Nativity. The ire in the christian world to that military desecration seems to be a realistic model for what is likely to happen regarding Shiite outrage over anti-Sadrist operations in Najaf and Karbala. Near does not mean in and it's pretty obvious that if only military considerations were being taken into account all the shrines (which are being used as strong points by Sadr's Mahdi army) would be leveled by now. The fact that the worst damage in most of them is the mess that the muslim cartridges make as they clatter on the floor after firing shows an extraordinary level of sensitivity to Shiite religious feelings. We're spending our blood to protect their buildings. I find it hard to believe that a billion muslims will tip over from their previous, more friendly attitudes to a more hostile one because of this.

Strange American Reform

Posted by TMLutas

I've been reading stories from the left and the right on prison reform, especially regarding rape in prison for years. In the category of positive unintended consequences, one of the things that the horrible events over at Abu Ghraib seems to be provoking in the US is a strong impetus to accelerate prison reform in the US. The prison guard history of some of the MPs has shined a very unflattering light on the darker corners of that profession and americans don't much like what they see. It's not a central point, and doesn't lessen guilt on iota. But it does illustrate a sort of political hygiene ethic in american politics in that when abuses are discovered, it's not only the direct problem area that is the focus but related areas as well.

Divine Border Conditions

Posted by TMLutas

Donald Sensing today refers to an older post of his which asserts that the God of Islam is not the same God that Jews and Christians worship. I have to stand in disagreement with the good Reverend because he ends up oversimplifying the criteria by which we must understand border conditions. A Catholic and an Orthodox mutually recognize that they each worship the same God. Their sacraments are valid. The differences between them, the borders that define the two faiths center on the role of the Pope (if you're Orthodox and want to argue I'm wrong, first go convince Patriarch Theoctist of Romania and then get back to me) in the Church.

But if you get much beyond Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism (though the latter is getting more dubious by the day) sacraments start not being recognized. The authority of most protestant ministers to conduct sacramental service is not considered valid by Catholics because the necessary conditions are not fulfilled. Every church has its own rules as to who is close enough so that the differences are viewed as administrative, and which differences are viewed as too big to be merely administrative.

Beyond that, the subject of Rev. Sensing's note, is the level of difference at which point you are talking about a different God. Again, the level of difference is somewhat arbitrary. Rev. Sensing's idea that both christian and muslim ideas about God cannot be simultaneously true is useful for him, but it is not a universal standard. The choice is one of sharpening differences versus blurring differences. Blurring differences between christianity, judaism, and islam permitted the victorious muslim conquerors to set up dhimma treaties with their christian and jewish subjects. This is a process that let sephardic jews and a variety of eastern christians survive, albeit in a second class status while living in muslim lands.

These communities, which exist to this day, are virtually forced to concede the commonality of their deity with muslims or they set themselves up for slaughter. For them, such blurring is not just a potential way to bridge differences, it is life and death.

But even for those of us who are not under muslim domination, we would do well to have a care in casting Muslims completely out of the family. Unless we, as christians, are really going to embark on a crusade to convert muslims, our duty to evangelize must come in the form of a softer road, persuasion. And that persuasion is made easier by the idea that it is the same God, wrongfully worshipped, rather than a different God, rightly worshipped.

In that vein, I'm more than ready to concede the sameness of the muslim and christian God. The differences are great and it's sometimes tempting to declare that they are not the same but it would serve little purpose but personal satisfaction to deny the muslim claim that they are the same.

May 21, 2004

Barone Reviews Barnett

Posted by TMLutas

A friend of mine sent me an email link to a US News Michael Barone column reviewing Thomas Barnett's ideas about Core/Gap. Barone 'gets' much of Barnett's thesis, missing badly only on the PRC. The line between Core and Gap can be viewed sharply, and for simplicity's sake, mostly is. But if you look at the map that Barnett is referring to, in small print, you see that it's not a black and white line but a "95% confidence" line. Barnett recognizes that it's possible for the line to move in either direction, positively (adding states to the Core) and negatively (losing "New Core" states to the Gap). What Barnett is saying is not so much that the PRC can't turn into a strategic threat but that for it to do so, it would have to cross back over to the Gap (possible but hard) and strike before its military fell to pieces from lack of money to maintain it.

Barone brings up the specter of WW I where globalization I countries traded a great deal but still went to war. But the more apt comparison isn't WW I but England and Scotland. Today, it is not that Germany and the US trade (though we do) our economies are more interlinked than that with German firms buying up American ones and vice versa. The pain of disentangling a corporate structure that is half in enemy territory is a powerful incentive to exert yourself on behalf of peace. And, as time goes on, this intertwining of fortunes will increase, making war even less likely.

On the Care and Feeding of Copperheads

Posted by TMLutas

The American Copperhead is a North American poisonous snake renowned for striking without warning.

It's also a political label:

The Copperheads were a group of Northern Democrats who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement. They were also called Peace Democrats. They were against emancipation, formed groups to persuade Union soldiers to desert, and helped Confederate prisoners of war escape. The name Copperheads was given to them by Republicans, explicitly comparing them to venomous snakes that strike without warning.

I'd previously noted that there's a delicate balance between labeling members of the loyal opposition too harshly and letting people get away with disloyalty, hiding behind the skirts of honest opponents. The encyclopedia article really provides a good working definition. Copperheads self label as Peace Democrats, seeking a cut and run, pull out end to the war. They don't want to liberate the muslims or arabs and may be self-interested in doing so or bigots who do not subscribe to the general american proposition that all men are created equal.

At the same time, we need to do better than Lincoln, who suspended habeus corpus and arrested Copperheads to influence an election. The nation survived but the incident is rightly viewed as a blot on our national honor. We must not fall into that trap again.

Do Americans Really Not Understand?

Posted by TMLutas

Victor Davis Hansone writes:

Americans do not grasp that should a constitutional government emerge in Iraq, al Qaeda is faced with an enemy far more formidable than the United States. The old false choice between strong-armed dictators and Islamic fascists will start to crumble with a third option that says to the Arab Street: “Look to your own elected government—that is, yourselves—not the United States or Israel, when the sewers back up and the power fails.” So, yes, what happens in the next two or three months is the most critical event since September 11.

I have to admit that I'm a bit stunned by the assertion. Of course it's true that getting rid of the blame the jews and americans attitude is critical to keeping the US safe. I just can't imagine that a working majority of americans, or the rest of the world for that matter, doesn't understand that.

All over the Middle East autocrats are very adept at blaming outsiders for their own failings. The US is one of the top targets of blame. A democratically elected Iraqi government will still have people who blame the US and Israel first but they will have to suffer periodic challenges from both people who say that they can successfully stand up to the perfidious jews and those who say that the whole thing is nonsense and covering up personal failure, taking responsibility for the success or failure of government domestically. Over time, this will produce the most reasonable government in the Middle East, possibly bar Turkey.

May 20, 2004

Copperhead Fedayeen

Posted by TMLutas

The Llama Butchers are spreading a meme, calling domestic supporters of Al Queda Copperhead Fedayeen. I think that'll eventually get shortened to simple Copperheads and I think they might be a little over broad in their criteria, they bring to my mind an important point. There are domestic supporters of the enemy on our shores. Who are they, and what should be done with them as they are uncovered?

At the far end of the scale, they are traitors an will go to jail for it. But there are lots of aiding and abetting that is done that fall far short of treason. And there are lots of people who don't particularly care for Bush who are very much part of the loyal opposition yet would be vulnerable to a charge of being a copperhead. So how do you differentiate? What's the criteria of being a copperhead and what are the legitimate defenses against being falsely smeared with the label?

This is an important topic and I'll probably return to it as I get my own answers but I think that a key part of it is to talk to those on the left who are most vulnerable to being swept up in any future hysteria and to engage them in nailing down a reasonable and workable method of short circuiting any action that goes overboard before the next terrorist mass carnage event demonstrates just how restrained the US has been after 9/11.

Kerry Shifts on Abortion?

Posted by TMLutas

Bush's official blog is poking at Kerry's new abortion statements but I think that it's more aimed at the bishops than at the electorate. Kerry might have decided that he needs to at least feint pro-life to toss his hierarchy supporters a bone so that there is no unified opposition to him in the Church. He doesn't need to get all the bishops on his side but even having a few will greatly reduce the ability of the orthodox bishops to move forward in a way that affects Kerry personally.

Communion Controversy

Posted by TMLutas

The controversy regarding pro-choice politicians being banned from Holy Communion has got to puzzle the Orthodox. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches are so close that they recognize each other's sacraments for Holy Communion, a real rarity in the christian world. But Orthodoxy has always had a more stringent set of requirements to gain Holy Communion. My wife, who is Orthodox, is used to having to fast a minimum of seven days prior, confess her sins right before, and only then does she qualify. The Orthodox fast is a vegan fast, with no meat, egg, or milk allowed and you're supposed to reduce your calorie intake as much as you can.

The idea of going up every week for Holy Communion is viewed in the Orthodox world as something for the really hard core old folk and monks. Go to an Orthodox Church sometime and you might end up seeing nobody, or just one or two people come up for Holy Communion. Frankly, I think their bishops are going overboard but it's their right to do so. Each individual bishop, Catholic or Orthodox, can set criteria for qualifying to take Holy Communion. Some are more lax, others more strict. It is incredibly presumptuous for the laity of any stripe to lecture bishops on an intrinsic part of their job. For Catholics who are being challenged by their bishops to follow standard Catholic teaching on abortion to challenge this fundamental episcopal right is appalling.

One of the more interesting framing aspects of this controversy is the mainstream press' attempt to spin this as a partisan problem. Catholic pro-choice politicians exist in the Republican party. I have yet to see any news story that is sympathetic to Kerry's side of the story talk to any Republican pro-choice politicians who come under this decree just as much as their Democrat colleagues do. Republican pro-choice pols must remain invisible for now, otherwise it becomes clear that it's not a partisan issue and the hierarchy does not actually have it in for the Democrat party.

Stealing Elections, PRC Style

Posted by TMLutas

Gweilo Diaries shows that the PRC can show modern US machine politicians how to really steal elections. They're threatening public figures into resigning and fleeing with their families if they are pro-democracy, and threatening voters mainland families, prompting many phone calls of relatives pleading to vote pro-Beijing in order to escape persecution. That might be something your everyday banana republic might try but they have a disturbing twist, they are insisting that Hong Kong residents take their completed ballots and take a picture of them with their cell phone cameras showing how they voted and send them in order to save their families.

The PRC doesn't even need to send one thug to a polling place.

I'm Getting Stale

Posted by TMLutas

I read the same blogs daily with minor changes and detours and I'm getting a bit stale because of that, I think. So I went over to The Truth Laid Bare's Ecosystem and went through all the blogs bigger than me that had updated and saved them as a separate list. I skipped over the ones that were on my regular reading list but included a number that I recognized as rejects from that list that I'd deleted. Hopefully the new material will spark new ideas and posting subjects.

May 19, 2004


Posted by TMLutas

The Corner has an item on politician excommunication. Apparently, the last time it happened was in New Orleans in 1962. Three politicians defied the Archbishop's order to integrate the parochial school system and were excommunicated for it.

Two days later, President John F. Kennedy was asked at a press conference, "Mr. President, would you care to comment on developments in New Orleans where the Archbishop excommunicated three people for hindering school desegregation?"

He replied: "No, the action of the Archbishop related to private acts and private individuals, which did not involve public acts or public policy, so that carrying out the spirit of the Constitution which provides a separation between church and state, I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that."

Nowadays some find it amazing that bishops even consider lesser punishments for politicians. How far (and low) we have come in some areas.

Waving the Bloody Stump

Posted by TMLutas

While it is not a new challenge, countering heartrending accounts of people whose relatives are ill and who want ill-considered public policy adjustments has always been a very difficult job. Jonathen Turley doesn't make it easy. I feel badly that his father is ill. I hope that one of the treatments under development to treat Parkinson's comes in time for his father. But Turley's grief has led to some public policy dishonesty on his part and while understandable, cannot be permitted to go unanswered.

Would it do Turley's father any good to have the benefit of embryonic stem cell treatments and start to recover from Parkinson's disease only to gain brain tumors and die of treatment induced cancer? Or would the expensive immunosuppressant drugs needed to do in his immune system enough that he succumbs to an opportunistic infection? The truth is that some of those treatments would derive cells from embryos and some of those treatments would derive cells from the patients and nobody, not Turley, not anybody can say for sure which is the wiser course for government to fund research.

But what is clear is that politicization of the process is hazardous. But politicization comes in many forms, sometimes from the religious right who have moral concerns, sometimes from the secular left who want to promote a lucrative secondary tissue market that abortion providers would be so well placed to take advantage of. It is a tactic of that second sort of bias to pretend that adult stem cell research either does not exist or is somehow less worthy of support. Turley's article is steeped in the conventions of that bias.

At the heart of the controversy is a civil rights issue. At what point in development does a child gain rights? If the point is too early, women are murderers every 28 days if they do not get pregnant and men are mass murderers. But if it is too late then we justify infanticide to get rid of the inconvenient. Secular human rights theory agrees with the great monotheistic traditions that man is an end, not means to an end. Turley assumes the question is settled and he may use these human tissues as means to the end of restoring his father's health. The question is not settled, not in the least.

Iraq Didn't Declare Binary Chem Shells

Posted by TMLutas

I just discovered a new blog, which claims Iraq never declared binary chem artillery shells throughout the entire post Kuwait sanctions period, not even in the full, final, and accurate declaration they made just before the invasion. They declared that they had some binary chemical bombs but that those had all been disposed of long ago.

So they had lots of documentation, lots of programs, and now they're starting to uncover actual munitions that weren't covered by the Iraqi declaration. But Hans Blix and the rest of the international community was willing to take this document and use it to start the process of ending sanctions and normalizing relations. That's where we would be today, with Saddam in power, reconstituting his weapons programs, and with some stock of binary chemical munitions on hand without any further meaningful sanctions.

When are the commissions going to get formed into this disastrous failure of the international community? Is it only the US that cleans up its dirty laundry?

HT: IraqNow

May 18, 2004

Bush Screwed Up

Posted by TMLutas

I've been challenged by an old friend to list some of the mistakes of the Bush administration. He thinks I engage in excessive cheerleading to the point where I never admit Bush could be wrong. So, here's a list in no particular order.

1. I think Bush has fouled up explaining an awful lot of things. This includes:
a. marriage
b. his space initiative
c. what the end of the GWOT would look like
d. Alaska drilling
e. and other items I'll probably think of after I hit send

2. I think that George W. Bush has failed to follow up on Social Security reform sufficiently, tort reform is just paid lip service, judicial reform to reign in legislating from the bench is a missed opportunity, and malpractice reform is a no show.

3. George W. Bush has failed to reform the State Department in any meaningful way and this is a serious failure when you have a bipartisan judgment that our State department is institutionally handicapped.

4. The steel tariffs were a mistake.

5. Defending our agricultural subsidy regime is a mistake too.

6. Tenet hasn't been fired yet. In general, too much dead wood is still around in various departments

7. Ashcroft needs to concentrate more on security/crime with actual victims

8. Too little fat has been cut in Bush's budget proposals

9. Greenspan is not God and not immortal. Bush hasn't gotten us ready for the upcoming post-Greenspan era.

10. Bush didn't veto the execrable copyright extension act.

I'll still vote for him come November.

Embracing the Dark Side

Posted by TMLutas

The Atlantic is singing the praises of authoritarianism. I don't know whether to get angry or just shed a tear in sadness. It literally is advocating abandoning traditional american virtues of limited government and handing our freedoms over to an isolated set of security practitioners that the legislature will have a hard time reigning in.

Instead of reluctantly ceding our freedoms, temporarily, as a war emergency measure and structuring things so we may climb back up the slippery slope when the crisis has passed, this article, bereft of any traditional suspicion of government power, would sacrifice freedom to purchase security, and does it in the most brazen way I've ever seen a mainstream american publication advocate in my entire life.

This, unfortunately, is the thin edge of the wedge. And unless there is an awful lot of outrage at this trial balloon, expect more and more articles, then legislation, to surface along these themes.

Condolences to the Heterosexual Women of Massachusetts

Posted by TMLutas

As I noted previously marriage certificates from San Francisco were no longer being accepted for name change purposes by the Social Security Administration. No doubt, additional proof of marriage will now be required of Massachusetts women who wish to change their names in the traditional fashion. Sorry ladies, you can thank your four friendly Supreme Judicial Court Justices for your new difficulty.

Iraqi Democracy Will Be Weird

Posted by TMLutas

Reason Magazine isn't much for cheerleading George W Bush or the Iraqi campaign but this article does good service in identifying a huge culture clash. That Iraqi culture is part of a larger Middle East culture and that it's different is hardly revolutionary but I don't think that many people 'get' exactly how different it is.

For people in America Iraq has been, is, and will continue to be weird. It's a different world there. But there are some constants. Fathers love their children and nobody likes to have a boot on their neck. Freedom and democracy look like a good idea. And when you sit back and talk about what really matters, ordinary people aren't too far apart on goals.

The differences in traditional means will drive us crazy, both us and them. The article talks about the souk culture, how people are, just now, starting the lengthy negotiating session with the US as to what kind of government they will have. For them, all that has happened the past year has only been the preliminaries. But if you try tossing that out in a water cooler conversation in the Midwest, the idea that all this craziness is just round one of a bargaining session in the souk is likely to provoke a very unhappy response.

They do not understand us and we do not understand them. But that doesn't mean that we can't connect, nor does it mean that they are incapable of freedom, democracy, or the rule of law. What it does mean is that the connections between us and them have to be loose. We don't have to get out of Iraq, but we do need to get out of the daily patrolling business. We don't have to compromise on insisting that Iraq's women have freedom and dignity, but we do have to give up any idea that what's going to come out is going to bear any resemblance to Cosmopolitan's vision of the modern woman.

At the same time the challenges for Iraqis are huge. They have this extraordinarily force camped in their country and it is at the same time hyper-competent and utterly hopeless by turns and they can't figure out who's going to come out hour by hour, Gomer Pyle or Sgt. York. They utterly fail to penetrate the fundamental reality of the US government, that it is just as incompetent and foolish as their own regimes, only smaller.

I know how hard that is to swallow. Every time I tell a romanian visitor/immigrant that, they never believe it straight off. They sort of look at me like I'm crazy and move on. I've been doing this for about 20 years and it never changes. About six months later they have enough context to see the US private sector and the US public sector and how they interact and the light bulb goes on. At the short end it's four months, and the longest I've seen it take for someone to understand is nine months.

But these are all people who see the private sector in the US and understand that an enormous amount of the competent part of the public sector is people taking their private sector competencies and adapting it to public sector use. Iraqis in Iraq don't have that ability to immerse themselves in the US and thus they simply don't understand us. They may love us, hate us, or be anywhere in between but their understanding of us does not permit them to predict us. That's a very bad place to start a negotiation from.

So are we doomed to mutual incomprehensibility in perpetuity? I think there will always be some amount of culture clash but as Iraq starts to adopt global rule sets, things should get a bit better. But we will always point at each other and say "that guy's just weird". I only hope that we can say it with a smile a decade from now as we are speaking as friends.

Policing the Media

Posted by TMLutas

Iraq Now is doing very good service with posts like this. The idea he is running with is to embarrass journalists with their errors on military matters until they start to address their awful military coverage and get the facts straight. He's got the right idea. It isn't only about ideological bias. The media get the plain facts wrong all too often and then wildly spin from there.

Until people are ashamed of putting out such poor product, we're all going to be in trouble by depending on such voices to inform our opinions on what's going on in the world.

May 17, 2004

Communion Politics

Posted by TMLutas

Andrew Sullivan needs a remedial course in his own faith. His latest in Time is remarkable to the point of being insulting.

In 2004 John F. Kerry has to convince the Catholic bishops that he is not too American.

By "too American," I mean in the sense that religious faith is a personal matter, that it can be sealed off from public life, that it doesn't dictate political views on any one issue or another.

The Catholic Church does not currently, and has not demanded lock step obedience down the line. However, there are certain things that have always been automatic disqualifiers to participation in the sacraments under the heading of mortal sin. It is possible to commit a mortal sin in the course of any profession and when you do so, you have to reconcile with the God through confession and penance before you may resume your normal routine of taking Communion. Those are the rules and there are no exemptions for politicians.

To ignore this is in itself to pile a sin on top of another. For a priest to knowingly facilitate the sin is, in itself, a sin. So the Church is currently cleaning house in several fields and one of them is sacramental abuse, a subset of which is abuse of Communion, a subset of that is the sinful taking of Holy Communion by public men who are in a state of mortal sin and whom the priest at the rail knows is in a state of mortal sin. Andrew Sullivan thinks that it would be "a terrible self-inflicted wound for the Catholic Church to enter the culture war so brazenly in a political year" by actually cleaning up this mess that draws not only the politicians but the priests into sin.

One thing that Sullivan doesn't note but is perfectly true, there are no nonpolitical years in the US. There will be elections this year, next year, and every year thereafter for as far as the eye can see. Catholic, pro-choice politicians will be running on pro-choice platforms and presenting themselves for Holy Communion during their election campaigns every year. What, pray tell, does a nonpolitical year look like? Do you count by number of politicians whose election campaigns you are going upset? And by that count, is this year a more political year than next year when many local, county, and state elections are held? And why should you, as a bishop or priest, care? News flash: Rome doesn't care.

The controversy over communion erupted after a lengthy document on Eucharistic regulation was recently issued. Rome did not time this to destroy John Kerry's electoral chances. Rome can do that much better in other ways if it wanted to. A huge, much footnoted (295 end notes) document that has maybe an oblique paragraph or two that addresses the subject is not how you do such things.

It strains credulity to imagine that if politicians advocate mortal sin as policy to a death toll of millions that the Church should maintain neutrality. The Church will never close the door to repentance and reconciliation but it has an absolute duty to speak out against evil and act within its powers to correct its membership from falling into mortal sin. It doesn't much matter if you, as reader think that abortion is the taking of innocent life or not. The Church does and if it accepts those it characterizes as bearing the burden of all those deaths as not in need of repentance, what sort of moral stature can it maintain on any of its pronouncements?

Sullivan wants to preserve Democrat viability at the expense of compromising the Church's moral voice. The Church has enough troubles on that front right now. It doesn't need to make things worse.

Gay Marriage Update VII

Posted by TMLutas

The Iron Bloggers are debating gay marriage and it's not looking very good from a technical standpoint. The Chairman obviously is tilted pro-marriage (perhaps he hasn't been exposed to good arguments on the other side) and so the question framing stinks. The challenger is taking the pro-amendment side and is only saved from serious embarrassment by the horrible job that Iron Blogger - Democrat is doing in his opening statement.

What's worst is that there's a 1000 character limit in comments and my fisking of the Iron Blogger - Democrat wouldn't fit. So here it is below in all it's bilious glory:

This is a very poor argument.

The first question reads "Is marriage a sacred institution to be protected by Constitutional means if necessary?"

The answer is that marriage is a sacred institution, and it is already protected by constitutional means. Read the first amendment and ponder the free exercise of religion clause.

Oopsie. Our iron blogger is turning a bit rusty before our eyes. You see he is conflating the two marriages. That's poor form Rusty Blogger - Democrat. Religious marriage is constitutionally protected. The part about social acceptance, love, honor, cherish, all that stuff is constitutionally settled and has been since the 18th century. What we're talking about is the other kind of marriage and you shouldn't be so imprecise.

State (could have said government but state is shorter) marriage is not a sacred institution. It's a set of tax privileges and legal obligations that are granted like every other privilege in the tax and legal code, in order to gain some sort of societal benefit, we give people a privilege (and sometimes oblige them to do things to get that privilege). So what are the things that state marriage gives as privileges and what are the legitimate obligations that the state can impose?

I suggest that separate but equal only applies when you have established equality. You haven't even begun to demonstrate such a thing. You merely assume equality because you haven't established the preconditions to meaningfully measure whether it does or does not exist (hint, it doesn't). The rust accumulates.

Civil unions are a recognition that loving homosexual relations fulfill some of the obligations that we have traditionally obliged marriage partners to undertake and that to the extent that they do so, they deserve some of the privileges of marriage. If there is no equality, there is no problem in separate responses for different categories of relationships.

The problem is that judicial activists are spinning horribly idiotic theories regarding equality and some judges are buying it. The system of checks and balances is breaking down before our very eyes and we don't seem to have the votes to impeach the judges who misread the law but we may have them for an amendment.

The biblical proscriptions against marriage are relevant to the law even in a secular nation because the Bible wasn't written by a bunch of idiots. A great deal of what is in there is good sense and good public policy and there's nothing wrong with taking your cues from the Bible if that's the way you view life. The Bible cannot be mandated as we are a secular nation but neither should it be disadvantaged as a source of wisdom against Dr. Spock or some pop psychologist.

The studies regarding gay parenting are not only few and sketchy, they are horribly biased in the main and universally poorly constructed. Gays are asking for the extension of a set of privileges to a very old institution. The burden of proof is on them and ginning up a few biased, poorly constructed studies does not constitute proof.

The state does not have to have a compelling reason to prohibit gay marriage. Gays have to provide reasonable evidence that their relationships are equivalent to the presently married in providing societal benefits and thus they've earned the right to be included in the 1049 relevant federal laws regarding marriage. This doesn't even count the international adjustments of our marriage related treaties, much less state and local laws.

The argument of separate but equal is an interesting flight of fancy because the north wasn't going to vote for such a thing and it wasn't going to get into the Constitution without some historically free states voting for it. If our rusty blogger and all those against an amendment on these grounds would go for removing such justices on grounds of legislating from the bench, that would settle things just fine without an amendment but I'm guessing he wouldn't go for that. The idea of letting the legal system work is just code for letting judges impose an unconstitutional understanding of the prerogatives of the legislature. Sorry, we're a democratic republic, not a bunch of serfs ruled by judges.

Will the rust continue to accumulate on Iron Blogger - Democrat? Will he continue to embarrass himself with such poor argumentation? Tune in to the Iron Blog to find out.

Bumper Stickers For a Sane Islam II

Posted by TMLutas

This inspired my creative juices for another bumper sticker.

Honor killings dishonor the Prophet

Female circumcision is anti-muslim

There are probably dozens of ways that muslims can inexpensively, visibly support moderation as true Islam and fight back against extremists. So where can you get such things and why aren't they being sold by muslims to muslims?

Alright, Who's Making Sarin

Posted by TMLutas

We all know that there were no WMD in Iraq, right? I mean all the papers have told us that so it must be true. So this means that somebody's making chemical shells and importing them into Iraq. But not Saddam. No, he destroyed all those shells before the Gulf War. We have reams of UN paperwork to prove it.

Nope, no chem weapons here.

OK, sarcasm mode turned off.

From what I understand, we've got our first minor military casualties (2 bomb disposal techs) from chemical warfare since WW I. That ticks me off. The normal caveats apply to the story. It could be a false alarm. There have been a few false positives already. But the drugs they use to treat exposure to chemical weapons are a witches brew of nasty stuff that you do not want to have running around your system unless you absolutely have to. This story bears close watching because if Saddam did bury/export the stuff and we're starting to see it emerge it is both incredibly worrying and incredibly heartening.

The reason to worry is the health and safety of the troops both Coalition and Iraqi (and whatever unlucky civilians get caught downwind of the stuff). This is nasty stuff and rightly outlawed decades ago. But the encouraging thing is that the burial/export scenario was always predicated on the idea that getting caught with the stuff was politically more dangerous than it was worth against protected troops. If this scenario is right and they're digging it up now, it's a desperation tactic and the other side has made the judgment that if the US doesn't funk out and very soon but instead stays the course, they cannot win and any political viability issues for them become moot.

Pulling the WMD out and using them has always been the nightmare scenario of a dying regime. This is why nobody seriously models invading a nuclear power. The end game is depressingly familiar. When the loser is pushed into the corner sufficiently he'll unload all his weapons, nukes, chem, bio, the works because he's got nothing to lose. If that's where we are at, we are likely to have a spike in WMD casualties and soon after, a final victory.

Bumper Stickers For a Sane Islam

Posted by TMLutas

Ooh, two business ideas in a morning. Clayton Cramer has this one but he means it as something of a political statement. The idea of muslims putting bumper stickers saying "Al Queda -- Not in Our Name" is great but there's no reason not to make money off the deal, no?

I bet you could make a killing just selling to CAIR, no? Well, it would be interesting to see what would happen if you tried...

Abuse Reporting Channels

Posted by TMLutas

In a longer post regarding Abu Ghraib, the following bothered me:

If a Colonel Flagg from MI wanders in wearing mirror sunglasses and orders the PFCs to help maltreat prisoners, who is going to disobey? Especially if the MP Company Commander is 20 miles away?

This, essentially, is an information systems problem. I can reasonably see a poorly trained low ranking enlisted giving an officer, even one from a different branch, the benefit of the doubt on issues that are grey. What I can't see is not having some sort of communication channel where said badly trained MP can't have access to good legal advice. These people were in rear areas. I find it highly unlikely that they didn't have a way to get ahold of higher ups to sort things out.

The tools are there. E-mail, FAQ lists, distance learning systems, all stuff that could be borrowed from corporate america just as IM actually was borrowed during this conflict. If there really weren't tools to communicate, this doesn't absolve the Army of guilt. It just shifts things around to command and to Army IS.

Close the Door

Posted by TMLutas

Putting my potential business hat on. I think that some engineer has a load of money waiting for him if he could figure out how to make a self-contained door hinge that can be told remotely to close the door. The scenario is you forget to close the door to the bedroom on the way to the shower and, you realize this on your way out of the shower. The current solution is a mad dash for the bedroom door and hope that nobody sees. I'm thinking something that gets its energy off of the motion of opening and closing the door and something that you can trip from a distance (X-10 would be ideal).

Walking a Line

Posted by TMLutas

Supporters of the Bush administration need to take care to walk a fine line between cheerleading and tearing down your own side according to Prof. Bainbridge. He's right, of course, and he's shading over to the criticism side of the line. He sells cheerleading a bit short though.

People need to be reminded of the virtues of Bush 2 or they won't vote for him and there won't even be a Bush 2.1 (his construction but it's a nice one). Grim necessity does not assemble majority coalitions very often. Prof. Bainbridge is going to vote for Bush, he assures us, but he is no happy warrior and is not likely to inspire many others to follow in his footsteps.

For me, Bush support is more than a grim necessity. He's not perfect, but given the hand that was dealt him, he's done a good job as president and deserves another term. For someone who is supposed to be simple, he's taken a finely balanced Congress and done admirably well at passing legislation. Even at his most statist moments (and he's not a libertarian, by no means) the damage has largely been temporary (steel tariffs) or mixed in with important reforms (medicare drug coverage) that had been stalled for decades. There is nothing uglier than legislation that gains a majority in a finely divided Congress. Bush has walked the line admirably.

To a surprising extent, Bush has also managed to keep certain dogs from barking. With an american left that has no shame about criticizing that Republicans are both doing too much and too little, Bush has avoided waking the Democrat dog that savages Republicans as military industrial complex shills and war mongers. This country would be in a far more precarious position today if a bill enlarging the armed forces would have been defeated by Congress. Bush, no doubt counting the votes, avoided the internationally explosive defeat and hardly anybody even notices. Whoever is president in 2005 will be able to push an enlargement bill through on wider margins because Bush, wisely, held his fire.

May 16, 2004

Feeding the Beast

Posted by TMLutas

I currently have great sympathy for the difficulty of hitting your entertainment/news writing goals (being in major writer's block territory). So when I read the following, my interest spiked:

So who's right?

Well, nobody, really: If you look closely, you'll see that neither the Globe nor NBC provide much evidence to support their contentions. But the contradictory stories ran regardless -- the proverbial beast must be fed, after all, even if it's got nothing to eat but gristle and stale crackers.

The story goes on to examine two uninspired stories about John Kerry's presidential campaign in further detail. It unfortunately misses the point. There are people being tortured in Uzbekistan, people are profoundly ignorant about oil supplies and how higher oil prices will make worldwide oil reserves grow tremendously, we are on the verge of a new era in space as private groups enter the space club, there are a thousand interesting stories that could have gone to fill the maw of the beast and then, horrors, when there is actual news to report about the presidential race, everybody could go out and report it.

Maybe, we might get through this very long campaign season without utterly loathing the political process because we're incessantly beaten over the head with uninteresting, uninspired, unimportant "news" just to fill time.

It's a big world out there. Why must people walk in lockstep in their reporting? There is no reason beyond a horribly unproductive, inbreed media culture.

Good Reason to Stay Away

Posted by TMLutas

Michael Williams suggests that we are ignoring S. America by keeping our troops away from that continent. Unlike Europe, Africa, Asia, and N. America, there are no Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) that are within 5 days sail of S. America. The only continent similarly slighted is Australia.

Except that I think that neither S. America nor Australia are being ignored or slighted. Australia isn't covered because we simply don't see any circumstances where the Aussies would need us in that short a time period. And as for Latin America... a short perusal of any history of the region will provide ample documentation that we've got a long, long history of military intervention down there and, frankly, there's a lot of resentment regarding it. Considering there are no major instability points down there nowadays, it could very well be that US policy is to keep troops away from easy sailing distance simply as an informal statement of confidence and friendship in the areas countries. We're no longer playing the northern giant and are encouraging the countries down there to grow up and learn to maintain their own security with sane governments that manage their own affairs reasonably well.

May 15, 2004

US Agricultural Mafia

Posted by TMLutas

Tyler Cowen notes a remarkable story. A lobbying group is pressuring academics not to provide their expertise in WTO court cases when their consistent free market ideology stands in the way of US agricultural protectionism. Daniel Sumner, a Bush 41 administration member, is turning into a living demonstration of the proposition that the current worst enemies of capitalism are capitalists.

The truth is that 1st world agricultural market barriers (which raise food prices domestically) are a huge impediment for the 3rd world. The 90%+ of the population outside the farming industry benefit every time that subsidies are cut and quotas are lifted. Yet the agricultural lobbyists cry treason when a free market economist goes out and speaks the truth because his academic position is with a public university.

It's very simply unamerican, what the lobbyists are doing. Shame on them.

Not Arrested Yet

Posted by TMLutas

The Religious Policeman is back, Saudi Arabia's best current effort showing that there are human beings there, and honorable men. He hasn't gotten arrested yet. It's a shame that he has to worry about it.

Post Notice

Posted by TMLutas

I tossed up a religious/chicago article over at Chicago Boyz. It's on my conception of Catholic Rites and how the laity can use them to avoid bishops who absolutely foul up (think the pedophila scandal level of screwup) without leaving the Catholic Church.

May 14, 2004

Spammer Criminal Conspiracy

Posted by TMLutas

Spammers in cahoots with virus writers, what a revolting development:

Anti-spam activists who've managed to infiltrate some invitation-only bulk e-mailer forums have come away with new insights into the latest spamming techniques. According to Spamhaus' Dave Linford, spammers aren't interested in lists of open mail relays, as much as they are in lists "fresh proxies" -- virus-infected machines. "People selling these fresh proxies are either the virus writers themselves or someone very close to them," Linford told The Register. "I don't know how ties between spammers and virus writers were first forged but there is clearly a strong link there."

If you benefit from a crime and pay people to let you in on what crimes they have committed so that you can benefit, you're guilty of being an accomplice to that crime.

What are the police doing, not prosecuting these individuals on virus charges as well as abusive spam charges?

Spammer Criminal Conspiracy

Posted by TMLutas

Spammers in cahoots with virus writers, what a revolting development:

Anti-spam activists who've managed to infiltrate some invitation-only bulk e-mailer forums have come away with new insights into the latest spamming techniques. According to Spamhaus' Dave Linford, spammers aren't interested in lists of open mail relays, as much as they are in lists "fresh proxies" -- virus-infected machines. "People selling these fresh proxies are either the virus writers themselves or someone very close to them," Linford told The Register. "I don't know how ties between spammers and virus writers were first forged but there is clearly a strong link there."

If you benefit from a crime and pay people to let you in on what crimes they have committed so that you can benefit, you're guilty of being an accomplice to that crime.

What are the police doing, not prosecuting these individuals on virus charges as well as abusive spam charges?

Arabs Promote Democracy

Posted by TMLutas

The Arab League generally doesn't get into the domestic business of its membership. It's something of a tradition. So when the Arab League's foreign ministers ink a document endorsing democracy and promoting reform, it's a big deal.

But this has nothing to do with the Bush administration's initiatives on democracy and freedom in the Middle East.

Of course not.

Man, that Bush is really, really lucky.

HT: Winds of Change

Dictator T Shirts

Posted by TMLutas

The Dissident Frogman is a delightfully subversive French/English bilingual blog. He sells merchandise as well and sells two delightful shirts, Che Guevera and Karl Marx both sprouting Mickey Mouse ears. He's a daily read for me.

Looking at his front page today, I started to think about the shirts and what made them funny. What was the joke? Was it that these self-important revolutionaries were being made fun of? Or was it the fact that the left has long sold shirts without the mockery and worn Che and Karl on their chests with pride?

So who is being made fun of?

As a thought experiment, why not have Ceausescu "get the Mickey" or even more risque, why not give the treatment to Mikhail Gorbachev. He's still around to comment on the use of his image in that fashion.

So which is it gentle readers, that is getting made fun of? Dictators, or the useful idiots on the left who wear their portraits on their chest?


Posted by TMLutas

One of the things about the Nick Berg beheading that doesn't seem to have gotten much coverage is that it's not unique and not even unprecedented for islamist fighters to film. I saw a video of Islamists beheading a russian in Chechnya and that was years ago. He didn't even get the cursory mainstream media coverage that Nick Berg is getting.

I think that it is important to start paying attention to Islamist actions against other countries. No matter what they are doing there, if it is viewed as successful, we'll eventually be the target of it.

Future Reporters

Posted by TMLutas

Imagine a war zone. You can't really send reporters in to a lot of it because they'll just get themselves killed. But what if you had the reportorial equivalent of disposable cameras and could widely disseminate them on both sides of the lines? If you could figure out a secure method of anonymous payment, you could count on a huge increase in the number of reports coming out of the area by participants in the conflict and locals who want to make a quick buck and are in the danger zone anyway.

We're a good 10-20 years out from a world where the technology to do this is affordable, but there are no conceptual barriers for the engineers to conquer. Given an infinite amount of money, you could do it today.

Go Moore's Law!

The reported battlefield would not only change the nature of war reporting but would also change the ability of soldiers to get away with war crimes. With so many potential reporters everywhere, the chance of getting away with it falls to near zero.

May 13, 2004


Posted by TMLutas

Jon Henke of QandO reports that he is a neolibertarian. He sounds suspiciously like me in my beliefs though I've adopted the practical libertarian, or more exact practical minarchist than the neolibertarian label because I thing that this provides more information regarding actual beliefs than a neo-style label.

The libertarian movement is highly fractious but one of the biggest problems is the divide between those who are purists who refuse the responsibility of getting stuff done if they have to compromise their beliefs and those who want to slice the salami nibbling at the statist enterprise and weakening it in small bites every month.

The purists, unfortunately, have the commanding heights of the Libertarian party and just call themselves libertarians while the salami slicers have to put modifiers like neo, or use other terms like classical liberal or practical minarchists to separate themselves from the people who insist on monopolizing conversations with the urgent topic of legalizing heroin parties to celebrate man-boy weddings.


Bush's Ideas Constraints

Posted by TMLutas

I've written extensively about George Bush and his administration's attempts to win the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Instapundit links to two articles which claim that Bush is blowing the war of ideas. I don't think it's quite right.

The unfortunate situation we find ourselves in is one that is largely of our own making. We've won the theoretical war of ideas long ago. Nobody has any great faith that autocracies or absolute monarchies will provide any great measure of justice or even a decent life. The path of freedom and democracy is the only way forward that most people, even in the middle east. But that has been the extent of our victory, theory. The Middle East has decades of evidence that the US does not mean what it says. They do not understand us at all but they know that we supported their autocrats, sometimes changing them around to suit our interests but very rarely did much to free them.

George W. Bush recognized this sad fact. I think that he is one of the few politicians on the US scene today that understands how much hard work that lies ahead of us to redeem our bruised and battered reputation as a champion of liberty. There is no Internet time for this work. It is a work that must be largely made up of deeds. We have to absorb their kicks, their scorn, their suspicion, and patiently go about the business of keeping the goons off their back as they try to make themselves free men living in a free country.

If we do not panic, do not break, if we stay the course and relieve the pressure that is being applied to pull Iraq back into dictatorship, free Iraqis will look back six or seven years from now and say what do you know, they really meant it. And that is the prize we aim for, to redeem the shame of supporting a Fahd, a Shah, a Hussein, even a Mubarak with their prisons and torture chambers and grudging acceptance of sham reforms (only sometimes, and often reversed). This is a shame that we have built up for ourselves for decades. It's not going to be redeemed in a year or even two. It will not be redeemed in George Bush's Presidency. We will have to match words and deeds into at least one other presidency for those who love freedom in the muslim world to start to regain faith in the deeds of the United States.

So all the words that are necessary have all been said. All that can be done on Internet time has already been done. What is at stake now is our constancy, our perseverance in doing the deeds to match our words. That is the only thing that separates us from a transformed Middle East and a dramatically safer US.

May 12, 2004

How to Ensure Large Crowds for John Kerry

Posted by TMLutas

Start rumors that Jim Carrey is coming. They'll be disappointed in the end but will show up.

Iraqi Sovereignty Handovers

Posted by TMLutas

The CPA handed over sovereignty to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry today. This apparently makes the eighth ministry to be handed over already. Quick, can you name the other seven?

I can't either.

Our objective mainstream media, hard at work.

Explaining Libertarianism II

Posted by TMLutas

I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be a good idea to start with the roman numberals on this one and Michael Williams provides an urgent need for a followup. The genesis of my earlier article was my sense that libertarianism wasn't being described properly and what was going on was beating up on a straw man caricature.

The truth is that libertarianism, at the most extreme margins, is about as flaky as your average hard leftist who pulls the Democrat lever or the hard right bircher who pulls the Republican lever. In other words, it can get very flaky indeed. The practical man takes a look at libertarianism as a guiding approach to solving problems and implements it where he can, where the spare theories of the idea men have been fattened up into a program that provides a roadmap to making things better.

The truth is that you can take any american critique of libertarianism and it will fit comfortably in the mouths of statists in just about every country. The only difference is what is to be privatized, what regulations are being abolished, and what freedoms will no longer be infringed by the government. The criticism remains remarkably the same, only most countries are arguing over the impossibility of privatizing and deregulating things in the US that never were privatized or regulated so we tend to look at them like they're idiots. We know that private agriculture works fine but it was an awfully hard argument to convince the Soviets.

But there are some areas of society where we are not the most free nation on earth. Some countries have stolen a march on us (most famously Chile) and liberalized pensions into private accounts long before George Bush had the courage to touch the "third rail" and advocate the same thing for Social Security. Private roads are much more developed in the UK than they are in the US. In such areas, we're the idiots, talking about the impossibility of taking this or that government responsibility and shifting it to private action.

Government ownership of roads does not mean federalized road ownership. It means public road ownership and public roads have a very old history in the US. There are very few private roads around in the age of automobiles and what few exist do not form a critical mass sufficient to justify the creation of an alternative system of regulation. If private roads are a mere appendix, they will just save themselves the effort and just mimic government rules.

None of these solutions emerged even when there was little government regulation, not at the local, state, or federal level; since 1980 (and the founding of MADD (not my favorite group, by any means)) drunk driving deaths have been reduced by 40%, largely due to regulation and law enforcement.

There was little regulation but certainly during the period before and after the improvement one constant existed, government ownership, therefore control and responsibility rested in public hands.

If instead of government roads there had been private roads and MADD was lobbying road company and insurance shareholders instead of legislators, would the improvements have happened quicker or slower? Would BAC or functional tests have predominated? Would there be more or less drunk driving as a result? In short, the question isn't whether government action has made things better. Clearly it has done so. The real problem is whether an alternative system would have been even better. I think it would and as long as the discussion is not on comparative benefit grounds, we're never going to get anywhere.

Private ownership and control is not a magic wand but it's the best structure we've got except for those areas where we haven't figured out how to extend it into. The list of those areas is remarkably short and getting shorter and the US could stand to lose quite a few chunks of regulation and government functions. Where we've figured out how to privately regulate, we should privately regulate and use the advantages of the market to provide better services to society.

Michael Williams is right in that there is an optimum level of size and efficiency that can be gained at any particular time. Where he is wrong is that he doesn't quite put together the fact that government use of technology has usually lagged the private sector (outside some very limited cutting edge priority areas) and so the more technology gets used, the more government will fall behind. Since technological progress is accelerating, it makes sense to shift more and more things over to private sector action to accommodate the shifting reality that the government is getting relatively less improvement out than private institutions.

In a nutshell, that's the libertarian policy prescription. slice the government salami and shift as much as practical every year into the private sector. How that is impractical is a mystery to me.

Core/Gap Wiki

Posted by TMLutas

Thomas Barnett is open to the idea of participating in a Core/Gap wiki.

What I'm getting at is that PowerPoint has a scaling problem If you use too many slides you just getting people whose eyes are rolling into the backs of their heads and have a glazed expression on their faces.

Barnett admits this himself when he talks about "accordion-style editing of the slides (add/compress, add/compress, etc.)". You lose information in the compression. If what you had was something that you could pull stuff out of in any order and at any pace, you wouldn't need to lose the information.

I don't think you can use a wiki for a presentation. That's what PowerPoint is for. A wiki is for taking things to the next level. If you want a sys admin force you're going to need literally thousands of articles to work out all the details of such a huge undertaking. A wiki can scale that high (see wikipedia which has many thousands of documents) while PowerPoint shouldn't ever be used for something that big.

If he were to set up a wiki, it would be an extraordinary opportunity to not just broadly describe a sys admin force but deeply describe it too, in a depth of experience-driven detail that would reinforce the idea to the point where it simply cannot be ignored.

Posted by: TM Lutas at May 7, 2004 12:50 PM

The PowerPoint is just the encapsulation of a lot of live Wiki-like workshops with dozens upon dozens of such experts with real-world experiennce. There we use GroupSystems, which is a wireless chat-room laptop system with sophisticated voting capabilities.

So I'm saying I agree with your point and have used similar technology in fairly advanced workshop settings. That was how I did all the NewRuleSets.Project stuff. My dept, however, is moving beyond GroupSystems to a new system this summer, but same basic deal/concept.

Done well, it can be very powerful in conjunction with PPT presentation of ideas.

Posted by: Tom Barnett at May 8, 2004 08:16 AM

If given the space and the tools, would you be willing to participate in an internet/http accessible version of such a thing? There are people out there who would be honored to host such an ongoing project.

Posted by: TM Lutas at May 9, 2004 10:50 AM

Would consider it. My department is moving in this direction somewhat. Might be able to fashion it as useful experiment.

Would have to think on this (rush of events is not slowing for me yet, but will have to this summer for variety of reasons). Thanks for concept.

Posted by: Tom Barnett at May 9, 2004 02:09 PM

So anybody out there in helping the good professor out?

Explaining Libertarianism I

Posted by TMLutas

Libertarianism comes under assault over at Master of None but while it's a failed assault, it does provide a lot of food for thought.

Libertarianism sounds good in theory, but in practice I don't trust humans not to devolve to the lowest common denominator once the threat of using physical force to enforce morality is removed.

Force is not removed from the enforcement of reality in libertarianism. What libertarians want is a different abstraction layer between societal code enforcement and the violence that ultimately guarantees it. Abstraction layers are very important features of any society. What the judge, in his robes, through to the executioner in his hood do is provide an abstraction layer to replace the direct violence of the mob. In this layer, the errors of the mob are filtered and discarded and justice is done much more often than with direct mob rule.

What libertarianism argues is that the current level and type of abstraction is not the best that we can do and we should change these institutions a different way to foster not only justice but also create an environment for experimentation without sacrificing stability.

Take the drunk driving laws. In a libertarian society, public roads would be replace by private ones. Private road owners would need to carry insurance and, if they were willing to endure the cost in excess premiums, could allow drunks to drive on their road. This is obviously a dumb choice to make but libertarians would permit the theoretical choice while ensuring that people don't consider actually doing it by pinching them in the pocketbook, hard. And the pinching would occur in multiple directions road owner and driver, as well as surrounding property insurance. Driving in an area that permitted drunk driving would raise the cost of automobile insurance as well so even if the road owner is a crazy loon willing to take the financial hit in his own pocket, his customers are not likely to be willing to do the same. Even living on a property next to a road where the cars are more likely to veer off and into your house would increase pressure for a more sensible resolution to the situation than laissez *hic* faire.

In fact, letting habitual drunks even onto your roads at all is likely to trigger the same sorts of insurance problems. A libertarian solution would replicate both the financial aspects of current law on non-destructive drunk driving and also the license suspension aspects. The enforcement of these financial and road access restrictions would ultimately rest on the violence of the state to enforce contract law (fines) and trespass statutes (license suspension). The enforcement efforts of private road owners would likely be more stringent than can be done in a public system.

What is attractive about libertarianism is that it would allow for superior alternatives to the current BAC test levels to emerge much more rapidly and spread quicker. That, and not some theoretical freedom to drive drunk, is what is appealing in the libertarian alternative to current drunk driving statutes.

Band Aid Strategy

Posted by TMLutas

Regions of Mind misses the point regarding the new nation building that responsible people are talking about.

Fighting terrorism does mean contemplating the use of military action abroad over the long term. But it does not follow that the United States is therefore under an obligation, pragmatic or moral, to engage repeatedly in costly and doubtful interventions to pursue nation-building. On that point, Brooks and others including The Weekly Standard and The New Republic have it quite wrong.

The problem with adopting an approach that is military intervention friendly but nation building hostile is that you end up coming back to the same place time after time after time. You stick band aids on a leaky pipe instead of actually fixing the pipe. How many times have we been in Haiti? How many times will we go back without a proper course of nation building to rid them of their self-destructive disconnectedness? How many other countries will have repeat visits or just long ones like our forces along the DMZ between the Koreas?

We're too poor to be cheap about fixing our security issues.

Rationales for War

Posted by TMLutas

Wolfowitz was right in saying that there was a problem in coalescing around a consensus rationale for war.

A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study has reviewed the public literature, looking for all the different rationales used for the launching of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Surprisingly, there are 27 of them, lovingly detailed in a 212 page report. This puts opponents of the war at something of a disadvantage because you only need one valid cause of war and now that the full list has been compiled, they have to dispatch 27 different arguments to make the antiwar case airtight.

HT: The Corner

May 11, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXI

Posted by TMLutas

The Bit Bucket gets suckered by a sob story about stem cell research and I had to set him straight. No, Republicans aren't cruel, heartless Luddites. Democrats are playing a nasty form of special interest politics and manipulating everybody's heartstrings:

Frankly, I smell politics and desperation on this issue and it's not a very good recommendation for the Democrats.

There are two forms of stem cell research. Republicans favor adult stem cell research getting priority with restrictions placed on fetal cell research for moral reasons and cutting funding for it for practical reasons. The practical part is that in terms of medical value, having cells from somebody else, differentiated or not, causes immunological problems.

If you have two treatments of equal effectiveness, one fetal, one adult stem cell you would always go for the adult because you would not have to worry about your immune system killing off the graft, and maybe you. You wouldn't have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of your life.

For the Democrats, I'm afraid, it's follow the money time. One of the big problems is where do you get fetal tissue to harvest the stem cells. Abortion clinics can turn a medical waste product into an important revenue source. With abortion rates sinking and political pressure on the clinics, they need all the ancillary revenue that they can get in order to stay in business so there is a financial incentive for them to push fetal stem cell research.

The kicker is that of all the stem cell therapies out there, it is adult stem cell research that is objectively the most promising because it's providing real results in the form of usable therapies to cure actual patients.

So distraught relatives like Nancy Reagan get told over and over the big lie that their loved ones are being denied treatments because the big bad Republicans are anti-science and some of them bite. It's a cynical, evil manipulation of people under severe stress. The current compromise leaves the back door open that fetal stem cells might have actual value but puts the heaviest government research bets on the stem cell research that is actually producing results. Democrats would like to reverse those priorities.

Why would any normal person without a financial stake in the outcome want to support that?

Letter to the Paper XX

Posted by TMLutas

Over at, Tacitus despairs of our present situation in Iraq:

In your Change of Command article, you mistakenly endorse Shinseki's criticism of troop levels. Shinseki wasn't trying to up the force number to make the invasion better. He talked about the need for several hundred thousand troops for the occupation (the high figure was 700,000, I believe) so that the US would change its political goals and not invade at all.

Shinseki has assured two administrations (Clinton and Bush) that we could handle two regional wars simultaneously or at least one and a half. With that testimony, Shinseki basically announced he had been lying. That's a justified reason for firing a general in my book and should be in yours too.

The priorities of the Army were ignored. We aren't going to have an undeployable Crusader artillery system. We are going to shift to a faster force that doesn't take six months to gear up for a conflict. The Army hates the reforms and is striking back now when they see Rumsfeld is politically vulnerable. The kind of Army they want is the kind of Army that takes weeks to fly helicopters from Germany to Kosovo and then, after some training in area declares them unusable as quietly as possible. We have a misaligned force structure and a Clintonian officer corps that has gone through a major blood letting to get the worst of the rot out.

I disagree that a partitioned Iraq is in the future or a failed Iraq. I think you have swallowed a great deal of pessimism and it has distorted your thinking. We are barely through the first year of our effort to remake Iraq. We've had some reverses but the successes are real and they will be of lasting consequence. Sovereignty will be handed over on schedule. Election rules will be hammered out and a SOFA will be signed with the new government. The forces of disconnection are in their "Battle of the Bulge" phase. They are expending all because they know that once sovereignty is restored and elections become the main preoccupation of the country, they are history. Stand fast for the few months more until we get there.

Blogging Will Likely be Light

Posted by TMLutas

I type for a living and over the weekend strained both hands. Blogging will likely be light and short. Then again, whenever I say something like this it usually clears up any sort of lack of inspiration to write right up.

Check back anyway.

May 10, 2004

Speeding Elections is No Panacea

Posted by TMLutas

Robert Kagan and William Kristol suggest that speeding elections to perhaps as early as September would provide all sorts of benefits to the US. And they might, but snap elections would ill serve Iraq and the resulting mess will not serve the US in the long run.

The problem is this. You need to have candidates, they need to create platforms. They need to demonstrate competence, human feeling, compassion, vision, all the things that politicians do to gather support and votes. What's worse is that most of these people will not have established track records because there were no honest roads to politics before the US army came to town. The people with experience are probably the least likely officeholders for a free Iraq.

So who dominates in a snap election shortly after liberation? People who have ready made cadres of support who can start a bandwagon effect and get people to join them because everybody is doing it. In Iraq today, that means baathist backed empty suits with a clean record, front men for Shiite religious parties, and front men for foreign interests who have networks in Iraq, mostly Iran and Syria (but probably also Saudi Arabia). All these forces will have an institutional advantage that will only shrink as new leaders rise to the top during the transition to a democratic system.

The last thing that the US should be encouraging are snap elections. Panic stricken Washington, DC has its own demands though. The Democrats have already broken and are in rout. Whether Lieberman, Biden, et al can rally them to support a successful transition is very much in doubt. But Kagan and Kristol are not left-wing hysterics. The right is wavering too. Whether Bush will break under this pressure is a key test of his presidency. If he fails, he will gravely harm his own chances in the fall.

Kerry's Honesty

Posted by TMLutas

Viking Pundit notes that at least one of Kerry's fabled "come from behind" wins was due to campaign finance chicanery. This time Kerry seems to be starting early, going along with the full throated assault on the new campaign finance restrictions embodied in Democrats embrace of 527 committees. Now I'm no fan of restricting money in campaigns but it seems to me that civil disobedience is not something you try to pull under the table nor is it appropriate to do it in a presidential race.

When the inevitable last minute charges come that Bush is violating campaign finance rules, remember, this is Kerry's political MO. He's just not trustworthy.


Posted by TMLutas

Token consultancy to keep Benon Sevan on the UN payroll? $1
Diplomatic immunity so Sevan doesn't spill the beans on UN scandals? Priceless

That's what the rule of law at the UN has been reduced to, a cynical Mastercard parody.

Isn't anybody ashamed? Certainly not a voting majority of nation states.

PRC Self-Destructive Racism

Posted by TMLutas

There is nothing worse for blacks than to take successful habits and define them as white and anybody who has that habit an "oreo" (black on the outside, a race traitor white on the inside). The asians have a version of this too, calling such people bananas. I used to think such idiocies were a US minority disorder, a bit of craziness unique to these shores.

Apparently not.

Depending on how widespread the "bananas" name-calling poison spreads within the PRC leadership structure, we're going to start seeing self-destructive behavior on an upswing in the PRC. The US military may end up having to fight there after all, in the end. The only difference is that it'll be in a Barnett style weak, disconnected China and not the strong near-peer that currently figures in medium range Pentagon plans.

May 09, 2004

Imam Questions I

Posted by TMLutas

I'm starting a new occasional series, putting questions to imams as a means of denying them grey areas where they can sit back, have their cake, and eat it two. Below is the first installment.

An article over at Solomonia on Iranian nukes got me thinking on a tangent. The biggest international threat that Iranian nuclear weapons would pose would be to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India from the fallout pattern after they are used to safeguard the revolution when the pro-democracy forces try to take over.

It would be an interesting question to ask imams in the Ayatollah Khameni faction under what circumstances would such domestic use be permitted under Islamic law? And if the answer is never, what would be the appropriate islamic response if such a thing were to happen?

But Will They Submit to Lawful Authority

Posted by TMLutas

Clayton Cramer points out more news on the Thulfiqar Army which apparently is being bankrolled by local businessmen. It's a genuine resistance movement, but like all militias formed in a time of turmoil there is one, bottom line question. When the Iraqis take over sovereignty and start to reclaim the state's monopoly on violence will the Thulfiqar Army follow orders and incorporate into the Iraqi armed forces or disband?

Nobody knows the answer to that question. We should learn it before sovereignty handover.

Tyler's Right, Parapundit's Wrong

Posted by TMLutas

Tyler Cowen is right that increased PRC demand for oil does not impoverish the US. And Parapundit is wrong in thinking that higher prices will necessarily enrich current OPEC nations at oil consuming nations' expense.

The secret is in the difference between oil reserves and oil endowment. We are currently ending an era in the oil market where Saudi Arabia (SA) has kept a great deal of its production capacities off-line so it could serve as a swing producer. This kept high cost producers off the market because SA could, at will, make them take a loss for as long as SA wanted, bankrupting anybody foolish enough to bet against the Saudis. But SA has announced that they don't have any more significant unused production reserves. They're going flat out like most everybody else. This means that marginal, high cost producers like Canada's oil tar sands operations can expand in economic safety. Nobody's going to drop the price of oil below their $12/barrel production costs. Thus, high prices will increase supply and we will all come to a new equilibrium with Canada becoming a major oil supplier.

In fact, a bunch of countries that are outside of OPEC have huge endowments of oil that are not counted as reserves because they fail the test of being economical to extract at current prices. Sure, PRC demand will raise energy prices but it will also enlarge the economy. On net, it will be a boon to the world, including the US, for the PRC to grow rich (and hopefully even free). To say otherwise is to say that for every economic winner there must be a loser and trade of any type is at most a necessary evil. This is foolishness on a grand scale.

What if They Weren't Crocodiles?

Posted by TMLutas

After reading Andrew Stuttaford's recent note in The Corner on arab condemnation of torture in Abu Ghraib I found myself in disagreement. Stuttaford talks about the crocodile tears of arab authoritarians and their lapdog presses finding their voices against torture only at Abu Ghraib and only when done by Americans against Iraqis.

But what if this isn't the case. What if we said instead that we salute and welcome the press and officials of the arab world in their forthright setting of a new and better standard on torture in the Middle East? What if we were to facilitate this new standard by assisting in the publicity and offering to further this welcome sign of cleanup of official abuse across the muslim Middle East?

In short, what if we were to take them seriously as honest expressions of a new reality and then moved to make the facts on the ground match the words?

You could set up a torture report hotline in every embassy and provide quick reporting to the press and ensure that at least Al Hurra did cover the stories. You could hold the press to their words by rating their coverage of domestic or even other foreign torture stories against their coverage of the Abu Ghraib stories. After all, a children's magazine in Egypt that didn't cover Abu Ghraib because it was inappropriate for their audience shouldn't be dinged for not covering such stories in other circumstances. But those that did cover the story have set themselves up as outlets where discussion and condemnation of such things is appropriate. They have set their own bar. They should maintain their new standards.

May 08, 2004

Abu Ghraib Report

Posted by TMLutas

Apparently, Omar from Iraq the Model knows a doctor who rotated through Abu Ghraib for a month (apparently this is SOP for Iraqi doctors) and saw conditions at first hand. It's reassuring to hear that yes, the abuse was isolated. We can't just take one man's word on things but it's nice to see at least some independent verification of the "isolated incidents" meme the administration is throwing around.

Fake Organizational Fights

Posted by TMLutas

SmartMobs has a post contrasting Dean style smartmobs with Bush style MLM grassroots marketing organizational styles. Frankly, I don't buy it. It's not an issue of the future (smartmobs) versus the past (MLM) but rather two competing systems that will grow and borrow from each other as time goes by. I view it more analogous to the RISC v. CISC wars in computer chips. The CISC side, which is championed by x86, looks like it's winning but the guts of the beast have all been redone to be very much like a RISC chip. So who won? Who cares? Well, in my more geeky moments I do but I'm never deluded enough to think this is more than a very small minority opinion.

The problem of smart mobs will be the weak control from the center. The problem of organizationally hierarchical MLM systems will be the lack of ability to take advantage of the full creative abilities of the network nodes. Both sides will seek to shore up their weaknesses but I give the Republicans the edge. It's a lot easier to loosen control and speed innovation than to reign in a bunch of free spirits to stay on message.

Letter to the Paper XIX

Posted by TMLutas

David Brooks writes about our current Crisis of Confidence and makes the point that if we don't fix things, the realists are going to reemerge with their soporifics, lulling the country back to sleep with their siren songs claiming that we can't really fix anything so why not just stay home. I wrote a note because if we're going to avoid the disaster of a worldwide power vacuum we have to retool our military so we don't ever screw up the back half of an invasion again. The text is below:

We have applied ourselves to the problem of taking down tyrants. We assigned the job to the Pentagon and they performed flawlessly, creating a set of military capabilities that are the best in the world at this task. But while they were doing that, they made a fateful decision to downgrade occupation/peacekeeping/nation building tasks to a denigrated category, Military Operations other than War (MOotW). Specializing in solving MOotW was a good way to sideline your career in the military.

But in the post-Westphalian world where we can declare war on non-nation states, there is no such thing as MOotW. It's all war and that's part of what the Pentagon now needs to fix. There's a great deep thinker in the Pentagon that has a solution for this (and a new book out) and other problems of our new age. He's Thomas Barnett and his book is called the Pentagon's New Map. If you haven't had a chance to get to it yet, I highly recommend moving it to the top of your to read pile. The solution he advocates is to bifurcate the military so that there is a branch whose job is exactly the sort of "sys admin" tasks that we're currently falling down on the job delivering.

Once we have a department of the military specifically tasked to handle the jobs we're currently not doing very well, we won't have crises of confidence over them because they'll focus and become the premier force for this sort of thing in the world. The good news is that while our allies are not able to keep pace with us in the traditional battlefield (Barnett calls that section of the military the "Leviathan Force") they can do just fine in the Sys Admin force. In fact, with a formal Sys Admin force structure, they'd fit in even better because they would know exactly what kind of equipment and training they needed to provide to become valued mission partners again instead of almost irrelevant political window dressing.

Drug Reimportation Caution

Posted by TMLutas

Mort Kondrake's column on drug reimportation is a gem in general but one bit deserves extra amplification:

A recent Congressional Budget Office study found that importing drugs might not save consumers much money, especially if demand from the United States causes prices to rise in Canada and European countries, if those countries limit exports or if drug companies limit supply to those countries. Meanwhile, drug discount cards exist - but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others, as part of a general effort to discredit the Medicare law, are urging seniors not to acquire them.

John Rother, national policy director of AARP, told me that the Democrats "have gone off the extreme end. The cards give poor seniors a $600 credit on their cards, giving them drugs almost for free. You'd think Democrats would want to help this constituency."

Rother said that while there "are problems" getting the discount card system started, seniors should be able to get a 30 percent discount, "which is almost what they'll save by going to Canada."

Drug reimportation savings were always a chimera. Price controls were always about cost shifting some of the local fair share to non-controlled states, not cost reduction overall for the development, education, and distribution of pharmaceuticals. But to have politicians try to convince seniors in need of relief that they shouldn't get it in order to score a political point is just reprehensible.

The headlines should be blaring, "Democrats to Seniors, Pay More For Now" and "Conning Granny on Drugs" but they aren't and likely won't be. As seniors figure out that they're being fooled, the traditional Democrat advantage in this age group is likely to erode. That won't change much this election but the Democrat party is eating its seed corn and unraveling its coalition over the long haul. That's got to hurt.

I Just Saw Big Fish, You Should To

Posted by TMLutas

I just rented Big Fish on John Cole's recommendation. He's right, it's a great movie. The only issue is whether to buy it for repeated viewing.

May 07, 2004

Walking Crabwise to Genocide

Posted by TMLutas

What a sad, morose day today is. The Belmont Club writes quite persuasively about my second greatest fear. My fear is that we will win and lose our souls in the process:

One day Ted Koppel will read, in addition to the names of American soldiers who died in Iraq, the names of friends who will have died in another attack on New York. One day Nicholas de Genovea, the Columbia professor who called for a "million Mogadishus" will understand that it means a billion dead Muslims. And then for the first time, perhaps, they will understand the horror of Abu Ghraib while we all raise our glasses,  sardonically like Robert Graves, "with affection, to the men we used to be".

My greatest fear is that we will be forced to look into this abyss and, in recoiling, lose the war entirely.

Banned in Long Island

Posted by TMLutas

Apparently I've been banned from the "Palace of Reason" or at least the Curmudgeon's Corner and lost a long distance friend who I still remembered fondly though it's been many a year since we've met. My offense is apparently a common one for me, trying to talk sense into people on my own side who've lost perspective and are spraying invective somewhat too broadly.

Since I can't write directly (and I wouldn't trespass by disguising my identity) I'll just say this. My hand is still out in friendship, Fran, if you'll calm down and accept it, I'm pretty sure we can talk things out privately or publicly, your choice.

PS: Fran, I didn't say what you say I said so if your words have been misinterpreted in our exchange, you're not the only one that happened to.

The EU Descends

Posted by TMLutas

Samizdata brings to my attention the scandalous treatment of reporter Hans-Martin Tillack who has been nosing around the EU digging up corruption in the EuroStat scandal and was branching out to wider issues of EU corruption. He was arrested grilled for 10 hours without his lawyer and had five years worth of notes seized.

The actual corrupt politicians exposed in the EuroStat scandal, which diverted millions in government funds, have not been treated as harshly. The EU, just as much as the US, depends on upholding the rule of law to maintain its privileged position in the world. Is that going by the wayside as a corrupt elite does whatever it takes to protect itself from exposure?

Blog Tank III

Posted by TMLutas

Reading through this article on the threatened funding for NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts, I had the familiar impulse to drop a couple of bucks to create a foundation to backstop government funding for basic research and outlandish ideas. But there was no donation button, and no way to easily set up something of the sort. This is the sort of infrastructure that a blogging think tank could provide, an organizational umbrella to handle small efforts until they grew into something that could be spun off into its own entity. Do I imagine that you could quickly raise the $40M that it would take to permanently fund an institute to replace NIAC? I'm not that naive. But that doesn't mean that a significant amount of funds couldn't be raised and that those funds could eventually grow to eclipse government funding levels.

What's needed is an organization that could lower the barriers to entry for such charitable endeavors. Enter the Blog Tank, but that idea itself has its own barriers to raising money. I have to rely on donations to get things started myself. Please contribute generously in order that the blogging infrastructure can be enriched for everyone. The donate button is on the sidebar to the left on the main page.

An Apology

Posted by TMLutas

Now, I've stepped in it. My bosnian correspondent did not appreciate being published one bit and demanded that I pull the blog entry. I won't be publishing his further (very interesting) followup because of his now expressed desire but I also won't be pulling the entry. I do believe that blogs are publications and writing a blogger is not too different than writing your local newspaper. You should not be too surprised if what you write ends up in the paper, especially if you're good at writing. You might demand a correction but not a recall.

But I should have handled things better and I am sorry for it.

Upcoming Developments

Posted by TMLutas

As soon as my account gets finalized, I'll be occasionally posting over at Chicago Boyz concentrating on economics and local Chicago affairs for my postings there. The bulk of my material will likely still be posted here.

May 06, 2004

Which Scandal Would You Like

Posted by TMLutas

1. Chalabi cronies get sweet no-bid contract investigating UN
2. Bremer aids in UN oil-for-bribes stonewall, halting investigation

It looks like Bremer chose scandal #2 in this no-win situation. Chalabi wanted to get to the bottom of things and opened up his rolodex to (probably honestly) just figure out who was dirty. Bremer knows that in the current atmosphere in Washington, opening your rolodex and making a few phone calls is just not good enough. You'll get your head handed to you and the chances for a permanent failure in Iraq grow just a bit more with each one of those. So he halts things until a tender can go out and takes the heat until the paperwork is done.

So which scandal would you have taken?


Posted by TMLutas

I have overlays on my mind. I'll explain but first a bit of background. I've dealt with a lot of very paranoid people in my lifetime, dissidents who seriously worry about assassination, people who have been turned in and served years in jail for an ill-timed joke. They very often have a conspiratorial mindset and often react very inappropriately to US society because they interpret stupidity as conspiracy, irritating people as a plot to destroy community, etc. And you know what? Sometimes, they are right. It was amazing in the days and months after Ceausescu fell how certain people changed their behavior in the Romanian-American community, like a light switch. Things that were impossible were suddenly possible and it's never gotten as bad as the bad old days ever again.

But I would never agree with the conspiratorial mindset. I always thought, and could often demonstrate how a superior course was to be followed by giving the person the benefit of the doubt and acting as if they were in some sort of Schrodinger's cat, both innocent and guilty simultaneously. I calibrated my reactions to them so that what I said and acted in respect to them were good irrespective of which scenario were actually true. This permitted me, as a very small wheel in the community, to move around and do largely as I pleased without having to expend the huge amount of resources these conspiratorialists expended on the largely fruitless task of sorting the crotchety from the evil.

I essentially took two world views and put them on top of each other like two overlays on an overhead projector. And darned if 99% of the time there wasn't at least one way to get through both world views with honor and effectiveness. Very often there were multiple ways of doing it.

This tactic of skipping the task of determining friend or foe but acting as if they are both friend and foe simultaneously has the advantage of saving an awful lot of time, effort and emotional investment. I think it's a part of what is behind the old saw in diplomacy that nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests. You go after your permanent interests and if your enemy is tricked into helping you get them, well, make a toast, slap him on the back, and go for the next round and try to do it again. And if your friend is obstructing you, ankle biting, and being generally unpleasant, that also means little. Give him a glare and capture him back for the next round.

The general simplifying screen of viewing the players in the geopolitical game as only playing one game at a time has always been over-simplistic. It is even more so today. Geopolitics is overlay on top of overlay. You might be playing 5, 6, even 10 games simultaneously. It's enough to make your head hurt. Sometimes one game becomes so important that all the other games become subordinate to that one game's needs. Wartime is like that most of the time. But this particular war, the Global War On Terror (GWOT) is a bit different. Since GWOT is an asymmetric war, we both need to fight it on our own terms and on our enemies' terms as well. This ends up being an overlay situation. We have to take down the other side's fighters but at the same time we need to fight them to out recruit them in their target populations. These are two very different wars and you have to not foul up one conflict type via your efforts to prosecute the other conflict type.

in any case, these are just two examples of overlay type thought. It's a generalized concept that can often be used to sort through competing claims on resources.

What About the ITU?

Posted by TMLutas

With all the talk about killing off the UN, there's an awful lot of things that are inside the UN that are there for convenience sake but may or may not be extricated easily. One of the best examples I can find is the ITU. It predates the UN. It joined the UN as a special agency. And I'm sure that no 1 in a 100 UN replacement advocates knows how to disentangle it from the UN system at this point. Until there is some sort of framework of how to shift such organizations over to a new system without much disruption, the great weight of many of the worlds largest companies are going to be against any UN replacement scheme. It's not that they care about Kofi Annan or the General Assembly or the UN Charter (though they may). What really would steam them is the loss of ability to push forward the synchronization of TV signals, standardize new packet switching telecom services, and the thousand other mundane details that can make, or lose, people billions of dollars.

Personally, at this point, I happen to be one of the 99. I think the UN system is rotten and probably irretrievable at this point but what I don't see is a detailed road map of how to improve things without making a bigger mess in a lengthy, and painful, transition. What I worry about is the others in that same group of 99 out of 100 who not only don't know how to fix it right but don't know that they don't know (Rumsfeld's famous unknown unknown in action). Those are the reformers that truly worry me.

A Slave Mentality

Posted by TMLutas

One thing bothers me about the Argus' otherwise great article on the events in Ajaria (Go Saakashvili!) and that's this small snippet:

Say what you will about the Bush administration. Tell me it's all about oil. Tell me it's a plot to substitute fine Georgian wine with Coke. Tell me Saakashvili, a US-trained lawyer, was groomed for this role by the CIA.

I don't care.

Bottom line: half a million people are free tonight that weren't free this morning. Why? The Bush administration, the State Department in particular, did a fantastic job of sticking to its values and convincing Russia to stand by our side to bring freedom to Ajaria.

If that's unilateralism and cynical manipulation in pursuit of profits, pass it on down, I want some more.

This is conceding the intellectual and moral high ground, letting them define the terms when they really have no right and no credibility in doing so. The left that smears the Bush administration with all sorts of libels including blood for oil, can lose everything in terms of bottom lines and factual analysis, but if we still grant them the right to define the terms and agree that even theoretically they're the moral force and freedom was won through cynical manipulation they will hang on and undermine all our victories.

Not only are the pessimistic, anti-Bush left wrong on the facts, they are wrong on the morals, the intellectual foundations, and are incredibly rotten from top to bottom in their own cynical manipulation of public discourse. And the decent left lets them get away with it.

This is the hangover dating back from the New Deal domination of national politics in the US. Not only were they in charge but they were the bright shining light of Camelot and the Great Society. The resisters weren't just wrong, they were disreputable, lesser men and women and such attitudes were internalized on both sides of the political spectrum. This is not quite a slave mentality on the part of the right but it's the next closest thing to one.

Is France Becoming a Failed State?

Posted by TMLutas

If you have laws and a legal system which can be ignored with impunity, your government really isn't in control of its territory and you have taken at least a few steps down the road to becoming a failed state. While the end result is a Somalia, that isn't necessarily where things start. The idea that if you are a jew in France and you cannot expect the same rights and privileges normal for a French citizen, that people can hurl stones at the school buses your children ride on, that they can assault you, even murder you, this seems to be a growing reality.

Now this is horrible for French jews but not just for French jews. What if you're a foreign investor, a non-jewish, non-muslim minority, what if you don't live there but you want to do business, to visit, to fly through, are you safe today in France? Will you be safe tomorrow? Can France safely abandon the principle of the rule of law just because it is at the core of Europe? I don't think so, but I'm increasingly not sure what France's elite thinks on the subject.

Good DOJ News on Torture Investigation

Posted by TMLutas

It looks like CIA employees and private contractors will not be falling in any jurisdictional cracks as the DOJ opens an investigation into their culpability regarding torture in Iraq. Whatever loopholes have existed in the past, it looks like the US government is starting to get its act together on the issue.

UNscam Kickback Levels

Posted by TMLutas

The scandal at the UN just keeps getting worse. It was originally thought that the corruption was limited (limited? HAH!) to a 10% surcharge on all items. But now it becomes clear that 10% was the floor, the ceiling (if there was one) was an unknown higher number.

This means that everything that you've heard, everything you've felt about the UN corruption scandal was wrong, it's worse than you thought. But where did all the money go? This isn't just a forensic accounting question. It's a fundamental issue of how rotten is the present international order. And the answer to that question is the baseline starting point to answer the big issue. How multilateral can we afford to be?

HT: Dissect the Left

Islamic Letters I

Posted by TMLutas

I just got a long letter from a correspondent in Istanbul regarding a piece done by Fran Poretto. He doesn't refer to it by name but I believe it's this one which closes:

By now, Palace readers will be aware that Islam and its followers are toxic to human life.

These are strong words and I disputed the idea in comments.

In my inbox today comes a long letter from a fellow in Istanbul (or he claims to be, networksolutions can't resolve his domain). I'll intersperse my comments with his (though I didn't in the email version):

Thanks for your note on our Fran's typically fuming comments.

I'm saying this as a "nominal" Muslim (a Bosnian + Pomac Turk from
Istanbul, and an atheist). No matter what I'd say, Fran just does not
want to see the combonation of factors that characterize the so-called
"Islamic" world. He is inclined to view and assess it as if it is a
philosophy like Randian objectivism.

It is NOT. It is first and foremest an ethnically-centered creed.

1- The Christian world has remained more or less quite homogeneous for
millennia, and only recently (that is during the late colonial period
and the 20th century) has expanded itself to included non-white masses
to a considerable degree. The reason why I mention this is despite the
politically correct atmosphere's stringent rules of censorship these
days, there is a very strong racial element involved.

(If you think of me as someone like Muhammad Atta, try the car racer
Michael Schumacher. And my father looked like a replica of Burt

For example I descend from Yugoslav, Bulgarian, and Morean groups. And I
do NOT identify with most of the so-called "radical Islamic" groups in
any way whatsoever simply because they, more often than not, turn out to
be either Arab, or Pakistani, or Malaysian, or some other mon-white
group (the Mongolian race mostly excluded, being mostly highly
intelligent and reclusive people with few expansionist ideas.)

This is not a simple fact. Ethnic traditions are too strong to be
entirely bent by religion. Check out African peoples who have been
converted to Christianity.

A small bit of background on me. I grew up in the US but was born in Romania and have heavy contact with romanians acculturated in Romania. I'm on the light side myself but Romanians go from white to quite brown in the SE part of the country. I don't have any preconceptions on the skin color of muslims. Bosnia isn't that far away.

Romania was historically a meeting point of empires and the Ottoman empire played an important role in the nation's history. On the whole, it was not a good influence and the remains of it are seen to this day. As for the whiteness of the Christian world, you are simply historically mistaken. For a clue, take a look at the separate rites of the Catholic Church, such as the indian dominated Syro-Malankara. The muslim conquests were a great blow to christianity and they did serve to lighten up the religion a great deal in the average.

Just an example related to ethnicity. Most Western visitors of the
Ottoman empire frequently related stories of polygamy in outrageous
terms. Somehow they each discovered (?) that such and such a sultan had
120 wives (the magic number appears all over the place).

Then, historians got to the reality. They checked birth, marriage and
death records and see the other truth here.

a) Ottomans used the word "harem" for the part of their houses where
the womenfolk mostly resided, while men passed their time in other
parts of the house. Those Westerners probably saw let's say 20 women
(wives, sisters, daughters, etc.) in those parts and probably though
they all belonged to the owner (sultan?) of the house. Which is at
best comical!

b) Ottomans were fundamentally monogamous, because both the Asian
turkic Turks and the Balkan populations were monogamous by
tradition. In the very rare event that the husband married a second
wife, it happened on certain conditions:

i) the first wife had to fail giving the husband a son -- then,
no one thought the man could the reason;

ii) it had to be after she reached menopause;

iii) she and her family had to consent to the marriage;

iv) the man could not divorce his first wife just to marry a
younger bride, because the courts would not accept it due to
obvious social reasons (his obligation to support her and her
children for life).

v) when the marriage happened, the new bride became also the
servant of the first, as she stopped doing any housework and
only ruled the house economy.

c) The total figure practicing this form of polygamy, statistically,
was not more than 0.2% -- that is, only 2 our of every 1000 man had
more than 1 wife. Even then, only those who could "afford" taking
care of two families could practice it -- which means it was either
an aristocrat, or the richest merchant of the village.

(I happen to know my genealogy back 5 generations. That is 32
families. None of them are non-monogamous. The plain truth is, if a
man so much as hinted at such a desire, her father or father-in-law
would probably want to scrape his... err... cojones.

This is ethnicity, sir. No religious creed can possibly change it.)

Today, in the secular Turkish republic it is against the law.

The monogamy of ottoman muslims is an interesting subject and may explain some of their superior results over the unabashedly polygamous arab muslims (polygamy has some nasty social stability side effects which is the reason the US wouldn't accept Utah as a state until the Mormons banned the practice). And if you wish to challenge the reality of arab polygamy feel free to explain one Osama Bin Laden's multiple wives.
The reason I relate these to you is to point to the danger of
simplifying things to the "USA Today" level -- that is, to dump everyone
labelled Muslim into the same racial group; then to the same ethnic
group; then to the same cultural/historical background.

I agree with you that oversimplification is a danger but it is not simply a danger on the Western side. Muslims, even nominal, white muslims are just as vulnerable to glossing over significant facts as the rest of us.

I, as a South European Slavic Ottoman Muslim, do not fit into any of the
"obvious" groups that Fran has in mind.

(I don't even want to mention mind-numbingly disgusting barbarities like
female circumcision - which is only practiced by some despicably backward
primitives down in the civilizationally "niggardly" continent.)

2- Christians have paid their "civilizational evolution dues" by
shedding a lot of their brethren's blood along the way, and finally
managing to keep their creed under control.

Oh, please don't give me the "the book doesn't say so" nonsense. If
people burned people in the name of it, and nothing stopped them other
than the advance of secular legal institutions, and if the Book by
itself is not capable of stopping such acts, what good is the book, sir?

Oh yes, I know, they misunderstood it. Right. You see, misunderstanding
holy books is a very salient feature of them. For instance, even though
no one legislates it and there is no holy book supporting it, hardly
anyone doubts that 2 times 2 makes 4. Interesting, ain' it?

Oh, and there is also this fact:

Please don't point out that this is from a "Nazi" site, and all that.
That's just name calling. These are facts.

In any case, "practicing" a religion involves only the most practical
fraction/subset of that religion, which is shaped by ethnic, historical,
political, racial etc. factors. No member of my family ever mentioned
murdering any infidel; we were all taught:

- to hate is a sin; we have to love all human beings - it is only up
to God to judge them. All men are God's creation.

- to be a good believer is to not steal, not murder, not covet thy
neighbor's wife (even is she is Anna-Nicole Smith ;-}, etc. (i.e.
the ten commandments which Fran fantastically claims is not even
recognized by muslims.)

Almost all the elders in my family have been the most decent and
peaceful people I have known.

What does Fran really expect me to do? Go back to their graves, spit on
them, and tear the pages of that allegedly holy book (which, to me, is
nothing more than the schizoid rants of a paranoid and demented thug),
and burn them and never mention them again?

What exactly does Fran want, really? That millions of Muslims to rise
and convert to Catholicism? Very realistic expectation. Why didn't we
think of that.

I won't venture to speak for Fran (and how you can think that a name like Porretto is irish is beyond me) but, sorry, if you self-identify with muslims you have a responsibility to contribute to the political hygiene of your community. We all do. This doesn't have to be big actions that result in fatwas and you hiding in an undisclosed location but you have the same responsibility in this matter as the rest of us. I don't judge you personally. Collectively the muslim moderates are only now starting to get their act together. Welcome aboard, you're late but better late than never.

An illustration from the dark side of my own ethnicity so you understand this is not pointing fingers at muslims but trying to include them in the community of the responsible. In my church wandered a newly arrived romanian from the old country. This happens on a regular basis and I try to talk to them to see if they need any help, etc. (I serve on my Church's lay council). This guy knew computers (as I do) and decided to regale me with stories about how he was very good at scamming people over the 'net. I told him a story about how humiliated I've been because Romania is on a watch list of countries rich with Internet scammers and how this affects all Romanians who are in the 1st world personally. You could see the light turn on in his head. He had never considered how he was contributing to the humiliation of his own people and how, now he was in America, he was going to suffer the consequences of his 'good times' in Romania.

3- And last but not the least, the problem with the "moderate" Muslims.

I know you won't buy this, or you'll probably accuse me of "grass-roots
anti-semitism" but think before you accuse (By the way, this is Istanbul
that I'm writing from. The capitol of the Ottoman empire. A place where
a quarter of a million jews and jewish descended people live. Just as
about 16 other tribes who have all mixed and matched for 500 years

If it were not for the problem of Israel, do you believe this hightened
"sensitivity" towards Muslim would have been covering our horizon? Think
of the year 1947, for instance. Do you think people even bothered with
the label Muslim back then? Surely, this ugly reality of Islam did not
emerge last spring, did it? So, how did it all become so prominent?

Just a figure: In the year 1900 the total number of people identified as
Muslims were 148 million. Now it's around 1.2 billion. And let me break
it to you, in case you haven't noticed. The vast majority of them lead
miserable lives in abject squalor. And the reason for that of course
is... well, sorry but racial. (Check out Philippe Rushton, he'll
confirm). With average national IQ's raging between 75-85, and with such
masses all dipped in the excrement of poverty and backwardness, what do
you expect those Islamic countries to be anything but? Is Africa any
different? How about South America? When did Brazil conver to Islam, I
didn't know that?

I'm sure you get the point. And yet you, my "neo-con" friends, are
discussing the "inner ideological quality" of that bloody creed. Who
gives a shit about a bunch of "verily I say unto thee...", really? I
mean, are you serious?

Oh well, maybe Fran would want me - one from the handful among those
labelled as Muslim - who happens to know foreign languages; can program
computers in languages like C++ or Haskell; can transcribe say the
woodwind section in a Rimsky-Korsakoff opera; knows names like Rothbard,
Feynman, Dostokevsky, or Paul McCartney as his old time pals... maybe he
expects me to "come out of the closet" and turn to those pathological
maniacs in groups like Hamas and say "fuck you, suckers"? Maybe I should
draw a bull's eye on my forehead, as well; will make their job easier.

But then again, I know my words are in vain. It is none of these that is
at issue here. It is one of Mr. Francis Porretto's excessively
overproduced bodily fluids: his bile. He just wants to say "we should
whack those *motherf*$½#£%& in Iraq to our hearts' content."

Hey, be my guest. In fact, invent a genetic weapon that will kill all
the Arabs, Pakistanis, Aghanis, Africans, etc. that constitute the vast
body of Islam. Reduce their population to something like 30 million
(that is to those like me.) You'll see, to your amazement, that the
whole "phiolosphical" question of Islam will be solved. And then Fran
can turn to discussing his new novel and quote Ayn Rand to his heart's

But, dear friends, I beg you; just leave my father or grandmother - all
of whom were decent people - out of it and alone.

By the way, I'm not writing these to him simply because I don't want to
hear another fart from him about Muslims not being trustworthy, just
because I did not spit on my dear granny's picture (a woman who was an
aristocrat, who was brought up in one of the finest French schools in
Istanbul, who read me the African Queen herself along with hundreds of
other "universal" children's classics, taught me how to play the lute,
etc. etc.) No sir, I'm sorry but I won't be able to accomodate venerable
Mr. Porretto's darling Irish ass and defame the honorable names of my

Someone, hopefully his significant other, or maybe yours - you know,
just a "she" who is capable of bearing children, who generally have
lives worthier than ideas or creeds - should tell this man to review his
views when (if?) he has grandchildren. Then, he may understand that
there's more to life than political punditry; that there's only one
thing on a mother's and father's minds: to see their grandchildren,
which will be their only consolation for breaking their backs for a
whole life time.

My granny, and my father (a two-star general, who served in NATO), and
my uncle (who served 5 years in Prag during the '68 invasion as a
military attache for providing intelligence to NATO), and many other
members of my family were as honorable as anyone's on this forum.

Alas, until Israel relocates Palestinians outside Israel - i.e. ethnically
cleanses its territory - I'll be denied even stating this fact.

How ironic!


As for Israel, I don't accept that it's the root of the problem. Rather, I think it's an excuse that prevents muslims from looking at the reality of their situation, that if the ottomans and the persians had not warred against each other, christianity would have been extinguished. You guys were that far ahead. And today you are a huge distance behind. This is a multi-century reality, not something that can be palmed off on Israel. The tradition of dhimma agreements and muslim humiliation of dhimmis goes back far, far beyond the creation of the state of Israel. The Wahabi tradition that is the cause of so much mischief also predates Israel by a good amount and they are a highly aggressive faction inside your own religion. The key issue of Islam is its inability to create a form that is comfortable with modernity. The fanatics keep succeeding at killing off sufficient moderates that the rest of you hide away and leave the field to them. That's no way to run a successful community.

May 05, 2004

Letter to the Paper XVIII

Posted by TMLutas

Steven Den Beste just got an e-mail from me and I hope he will address the issues I raised in a future post. For my own readers, my letter is below:

This e-mail is going on my blog as a "letter to the paper" entry but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on a critique I have of your most recent article on the three way war. I believe that things are a bit more complex than the three way conflict. There is a separate conflict regarding connectivity. Here, the three sides still exist but the alignments are different. The p-idealist dominated EU has an interest in extending connectivity and they are doing real work to bring in countries to become new members of the Functioning Core. In this, they are the US' allies in fact, not just in rhetoric. The common EU law body that they are imposing on the candidate states for the EU is something that is fundamentally compatible with the US as it can be modified and improved without resort to violence and revolution.

Islamists, in practice, are advocates of disconnection, though they theoretically want some sort of unified Caliphate which, if it ever happened, would impose a very different sort of connectivity incompatible with the current global system. In this, they are both the US and EU's enemy.

Adding this layer to the conflict creates a very complicated mosaic where a single action is best if it fits national strategy in both the three way philosophical war and the connectivity/disconnection conflict. The high technology industry has this sort of two layer relationship all the time where cutthroat competitors turn around and genuinely cooperate in certain areas of mutual agreement. Sometimes the conflict dominates, other times the competition dominates. The general term for the phenomenon is cooptition. Company CEOs do not serve their companies well when they spurn cooperative opportunities with their competition out of personal pique (see Mcnally and Ellison for real world examples). Similarly, we should not be so quick to close the door on cooperation with p-idealist governments in Europe. They can be our allies in truth, not just in rhetoric. We just have to remember that the position of ally in a multilayer geopolitical conflict is not exclusive. You can be ally on one layer and enemy in another.

Let me give you a particular example. There is a huge hand grenade available to us against the Islamists but we, the US, have not dared touch it. All Islamists are literalist muslims who believe that the Koran has not changed one letter except for the addition of accent marks as a pronunciation aid. Not all literalist muslims are islamists, but there are no islamists that I've heard of who do not hold to this belief. This belief is objectively false and there is archeological evidence in Yemen to prove it.

France, with its position on veiling, has demonstrated that it is perfectly able to sponsor an international symposium on the alternative Koranic texts found in Yemen and to take rigorous action to ensure the conference is both widely publicized and without violence. The changes themselves are rather small, minor stuff that non-extremists could work around, but islamists and very hidebound traditionalists can't because the idea that the Koran has no history is what sets their text above the Torah or the New Testament.

The US dare not sponsor such an effort because the kind of security necessary to pull such a thing off is beyond the ability of the private sector to pull off and government involvement raises basic 1st amendment issues on the establishment of religion.

So let's kick France and the rest of p-idealist dominated Europe when they deserve it but let's keep it very businesslike, with an open mind for cooperation where it serves our interests and let us call them allies and partners when they merit the term. I strongly suspect that they do merit it more often than anybody without a security clearance knows.

Update: Welcome USS Clueless readers. As you already know SDB linked but didn't address my point of the same players fighting multiple conflicts. That doesn't mean you can't. This blog does have a unithreaded discussion group, Flitters and if you have some thoughts, please post them there.

Taking a Knife To a Gun Fight

Posted by TMLutas

I guess sometimes you can take a knife to a gun fight. When an El Salvadoran hero successfully helps his comrades even though he's reduced to fighting with his pocket knife, you know he's going to have a lot of credibility back home. It's inevitable that the entire episode is going to have a lot of play in El Salvador and probably the surrounding countries:

As reinforcements arrived to save Cpl. Toloza's unit, the two camps were under attack, with the Salvadorans and a small U.S. contingent of soldiers and civilian security personnel trying to protect the perimeter and retake an adjoining seven-story hospital captured by the insurgents.

The Spaniards didn't fight and only after a long delay agreed to send armored vehicles to help evacuate the wounded. Col. Flores said he cannot question the Spanish decisions that day, but added that the Spaniards "could have helped us sooner."

U.S. troops have replaced the Spaniards. Salvadoran officers, many of whom were trained at military schools in the United States, say they're pleased to be working with the Americans.

It looks like Zapatero's got a little Latin American problem brewing because of the precipitous about face in foreign policy.

Closing the Contractor Loophole

Posted by TMLutas

Apparently the US Congress isn't always asleep at the switch. Following some truly nasty problems with jurisdiction over criminals who were serving as military contractors under local immunity accords in foreign military operations, they passed the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 which allows for the prosecution of people who were, until then, in a judicial no man's land.

From what I understand, this legislation is a perfect fit to try the contractors involved in the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal.

HT: Intel Dump


Posted by TMLutas

Andrew Sullivan demonstrates how much he misunderstands Catholicism with the following:

But the Catholic wing of the religious right wants not simply for the Church to defend its positions and criticize Kerry's; it wants the Church to deny communion to Kerry, effectively excommunicating him for his political views, principally on abortion.

Now Sullivan's a Catholic and it's a big Church but not going to communion is not excommunication, not even effective excommunication in any branch of the Church that I'm aware of. At issue is the root Christian concept that the sacraments are something that you are not automatically qualified for. There are barriers that you have to negotiate to qualify to receive them. The barriers can be lowered or raised depending on the conception of your local bishop and do change. My own bishop raised the barriers for communion a couple of years back by requiring a somewhat longer period of fasting prior to communion.

What the argument is fundamentally over is whether Kerry, and many other Catholic politicians, is causing moral scandal in the Church by ignoring the barriers and effectively thumbing his nose at a Catholic central organizing principle, that priests and bishops are an individual's spiritual partners, guiding, encouraging, and occasionally bitch slapping you when you need it.

Normally, people don't go up and get communion all the time. In Sullivan's construction, they're self-excommunicating. They might have arrived too late for services, eaten to close to mass time, not be in the proper frame of mind, have a sin weighing down on their soul, the reasons vary. I've been guilty of infractions that keep me from receiving the sacrament myself. Most Catholics have. And most Catholics have the sense to stay in the pews and not show up for a sacrament they don't (at that moment) qualify for. Sometimes people who aren't qualified show up anyway and the priest doesn't know and gives it to them. That's a sin but not any fault in the priest. But if the priest does know, he has a firm obligation not to give communion to someone who is not qualified. This is for both parties' sakes as it is sinful to partake of communion when you aren't qualified and it's a sin to knowingly assist in the first sin.

For Catholics, this is obviously more important than for non-Catholics though some faithful might look askance at someone who's not right with his own church even if they don't share that faith. But excommunication is an extreme judicial punishment that goes far beyond mere loss of communion privileges. Nobody's talking about excommunicating Kerry which would make it a sin to associate with him, even to vote for him until he relents. Sullivan's either ignorant or dishonest in conflating the two sanctions.

May 04, 2004

Leftist Telephone

Posted by TMLutas

The old children's game of telephone is a silly exercise where a person said one thing to a neighbor and it was repeated down a line of children and the last one said the phrase out loud. The phrase had usually morphed into incomprehensibility. A game of telephone usually had more than one intermediary.

Mark A.R. Kleinman asks Is "UNSCAM" a scam?, taking as his source Joshua Marshall who says

Let me be clear, I don't think any of this means that these allegations are not true. I figure that most of them are.

The truth is that KPMG is doing the legwork on this investigation, not "Ahmed Chalabi and one of his trained seals" and if KPMG wasn't reporting events internally in substantially the same way as Chalabi is relating things externally, they'd have blown the whistle by now. Chalabi isn't going to pay them, the US is via the CPA and they know the game well enough not to want to get caught up in falsifying evidence for a client. The Arthur Anderson scandal wasn't so long ago.

Iraqi Psychology

Posted by TMLutas

Is there any doubt at this point that the Iraqis will have no inferiority complexes about being able to run the place better than the US? I can still remember predictions that the Iraqis were too passive, that they would only wait for the Americans before they did anything. That there was no taking responsibility among them.

There is nothing in the world more conducive to wanting to take responsibility than current leadership being seen incompetent and heading towards disaster and at the same time being willing to hand over the reigns of power to the locals. Now if only we can survive the transition, we are at least sure that the Iraqis will take charge of their own fate.

When you have a bumper crop of lemons, concentrate on making lemonade.

Budget Good News Watch

Posted by TMLutas

We could end up seeing a remarkable turnaround in budget numbers. Based on actual payments to the treasury, Citigroup has just put out a new study estimating that the budget deficit will be $377B, down from an OMB (White House) peak estimate of $521B. That's likely to put a crimp in the supply of new Federal Government bonds and ease the feared upward pressure on interest rates. We'll see how things go but we may have just turned the corner on the vicious circle of recession and started a new virtuous circle of improving economic news turning into improving tax receipts and improving government budget numbers, freeing up more cash for more investment and more job creation.

HT: Instapundit

UN Stonewall I

Posted by TMLutas

The UN is stonewalling oil for food investigations by insisting that contracts not be revealed to outside investigators. Former program director Benon Sevan received the backing of Kofi Annan in his effort to stymie accountability.

US Oil Tragedy

Posted by TMLutas

I've been looking at a Stratfor front page item for a few days now, trying to figure out whether to write about it. Since it's likely going to scroll off, I'll just quote below:

Greenspan: Energy Prices Going Up and Staying Up
Apr 30, 2004
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned this week that the global economy has entered an era of permanently higher crude oil and natural gas prices. This will force U.S. producers and consumers to rethink how they use energy. In the near term, it implies higher costs that would impact business investments and consumer spending. In the longer term, the U.S. economy will benefit disproportionately.

Normal economics generally ensure there is no such thing as permanently higher prices and Greenspan is no Malthusian wacko or socialist. He's an objectivist. So what's going on here? A little news googling and a Washington Times piece jumps out with the answer:

Kyle McSlarrow, deputy U.S. energy secretary, took issue with the Saudi's statement and said high crude prices also are to blame for high gasoline prices. He noted that oil prices have been well above OPEC's target range of $22 to $28 a barrel all year.
    "Refineries may be an element of it, fuel specifications may be an element," he told the conference. "But we think the overwhelming factor here is crude oil prices," which are so high that U.S. refiners have avoided adding to their stockpiles.
    But with U.S. refineries operating at 90 percent of capacity, Mr. McSlarrow admitted more refineries are needed.
    "We, of course, welcome investment in the United States," he told Mr. al-Naimi. "If you can figure out the regulatory regime and get something permitted, good luck, and let us know how you did."

The US has not had a new refinery permitted since the Ford administration. No doubt this is good news for those who hate energy use but for the other 95% of the country it's horrible. It's also political and explains the original Greenspan statement. It isn't that the law of supply and demand are being suspended when it comes to oil. It's that we've created a balkanized, creaky, refinery regime that via government fiat ensures that economics becomes less and less dominant a factor in gasoline price setting.

For the rich, it's a nuisance. For the middle class, it's a burden. For the poor, it's a tragedy. Perhaps both campaigns can get off the Vietnam nostalgia kick they're on and address the problem?

What's Going On In Iraq? A Test

Posted by TMLutas

Iraq fits into one of two models. Either it is generally settled down and working towards the sovereignty handover, generally accepting the fact that end of year elections are a 'good enough solution' but with significant dissenters who are trying to throw turds in the election/transition punch bowl or it is spiraling out of control with rebellion breaking out all over the place in a slow motion descent into rebellion and chaos.

I have a gut feeling that the former model is a closer fit to the reality on the ground rather than the latter but I'm a long way away from Iraq so what do I know? I know enough to ask questions and here's what I would want to know from any pessimist who seriously believes Iraq is spiraling out of control:

1. What are the 10 worst places in Iraq (on a map if possible)?
2. In what order would you put them?
3. What's the worst recent incident in the bottom five spots of the top ten list (6-10)

I suspect that the 10 worst hot spots of Iraqi resistence would cluster in the Sunni Triangle and that the number ten hot spot would be relatively mild trouble. One, two, or even three trouble zones do not make an entire country the size of Iraq a seething sea of discontent. By shifting away from hysterical hyperfocus one the worst spots and only implying that the trouble is typical for the situation in Iraq, it would be a wise Iraq optimist who insists on spreading out the discussion to multiple locations, not to dissipate any discussion but to gain perspective by not falling for the tight camera angles and purposeful lack of context that is the stock in trade of the pessimist trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

May 03, 2004

More Stem Cell Progress

Posted by TMLutas

A very nice BBC article on a group that plans to put the tooth implant boys out of business by 2009 using stem cells to grow new teeth. Only one thing wrong with the whole article, it makes no differentiation between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. After a few seconds of digging at the company website it becomes clear that these are adult cells that avoid all the nasty moral problems that embryonic stem cells raise. You can get these stem cells with just a bit of liposuction from your own body.

There's nothing morally objectionable about that but I bet you that 9/10ths of the readership won't make the differentiation because they aren't told in the article. They'll likely, and wrongly, associate embryonic stem cells with the advance and view it as just one more bit of evidence that the moralist types are holding back progress. In fact, adult stem cells seem to be much more promising for actual therapies, rather than grant applications for theoretical treatments that all too often seem to go wrong.

A Call For Support

Posted by TMLutas

I read this email over at

Hello Everyone,

I am taking time to ask you all for your help.

First off, I'd like to say that this is not a political message. I'm not concerned about domestic politics right now. We have much bigger things to deal with, and we need your help.

It seems that despite the tremendous and heroic efforts of the men and women serving here in Iraq to bring much needed peace and stability to this region, we are losing the war of perception with the media and American people. Our enemy has learned that the key to defeating the mighty American military is by swaying public opinion at home and abroad. We are a people that cherish the democratic system of government and therefore hold the will of the people in the highest regard. We love to criticize ourselves almost to an endless degree, because we care what others think. Our enemies see this as a weakness and are trying to exploit it.

When we ask ourselves questions like, "Why do they hate us?" or "What did we do wrong?" we are playing into our enemies' hands. Our natural tendency to question ourselves is being used against us to undermine our effort to do good in the world. How far would we have gotten if after the surprise attacks on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, we would have asked, "Why do the Japanese hate us so much?" or "How can we change ourselves so that they won't do that again?" Here in Iraq the enemy is trying very hard to portray our efforts as failing and fruitless. They kill innocents and desecrate their bodies in hopes that the people back home will lose the will to fight for liberty. They are betting on our perceived weakness as a thoughtful, considerate people. Unfortunately our media only serves to further their cause.

In an industry that feeds on ratings and bad news, a failure in Iraq would be a goldmine. When our so-called "trusted" American media takes a quote from an Iraqi doctor as the gospel truth over that of the men and women that are daily fighting to protect the right to freedom of press, you know something is wrong.  That doctor claimed that out of 600 Iraqis, that were casualties of the fighting, the vast majority of them were women, children and the elderly. This is totally absurd. In the history of man, no one has spent more time and effort, often to the detriment of our own mission, to be more discriminate in our targeting of the enemy than the American military. The Marines and Soldiers serving in Iraq have gone through extensive training in order to limit the amount of innocent  casualties and collateral damage.

Yet, despite all of this, our media consistently sides with those who openly lie and directly challenge the honor of our brave heroes fighting for liberty and peace. What we have to remember is that peace is not defined as an absence of war. It is the presence of liberty, stability, and prosperity. In the face of the horrendous tyranny of the former Iraqi regime, the only way true peace was able to come to this region was through force. That is what the American Revolution was all about. Have we forgotten? Freedom is not free and "peace" without principle is not peace. The peace that so-called "peace advocates" support can only be brought to Iraq through the military. And we are doing it, if only the world will let us! If the American people believe we are failing, even if we are not, then we will ultimately fail.

That is why I am asking for your support. Become a voice of truth in your community. Wherever you are fight the lies of the enemy. Don't buy into the pessimism and apathy that says, "It's hopeless," "They hate us too much," "That part of the world is just too messed up," "It's our fault anyway," "We're to blame," and so forth. Whether you're in middle school, working at a 9-5 job, retired, or a stay-at-home mom you can make a huge difference! There is nothing more powerful than the truth. So, when you watch the news and see doomsday predictions and spiteful opinions on our efforts over here, you can refute them by knowing that we are doing a tremendous amount of good. Spread the word. No one is poised to make such an amazing contribution to the everyday lives of Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world than the American Armed Forces. By making this a place where liberty can finally grow, we are making the whole world safer. Your efforts at home are directly tied to our success. You are the soldiers at home fighting the war of perception. So I'm asking you as a fellow fighting man: Do your duty. Stop the attempts of the enemy wherever you are. You are a mighty force for good, because truth is on your side. Together we will win this fight and ensure a better world for the future.

God Bless and Semper Fidelis,
1st Lt. Robert L. Nofsinger USMC
Ramadi, Iraq

Remember this, the next time somebody throws around the label "chicken hawk" or trots out insults about "keyboard warriors" that this isn't a call to veterans, military, families of those who are serving or who have served. This is a call to all of us and all of us can respond.

We should respond and consciously fight the miasma of pessimism and defeatism that is rising up like swamp gas. It's the very least we can do.

Option This Iraqi War Story II

Posted by TMLutas

As in my previous article on the subject, I still think that Hollywood needs to get right on the story of the Najaf resistence forces taking out the Mahdi's Army thugs. The folks carrying out this justice now have a name, the Thulfiqar Army and are leafleting Najaf.

All the people who were worried that the Iraqis have become too passive to defend their liberty and it's a hopeless cause for the US to try to give them freedom need to reassess. Obviously, not all Iraqis are passive and some are more than willing to take up arms to defend their new found freedom. General Kimmit's demur notwithstanding, I would be very surprised if the US was not happily providing support to the Thulfiqar Army and will be bringing them into the Iraqi armed forces sometime around June.

Waiting For Condemnations

Posted by TMLutas

All churches have been ordered demolished in the Nigerian state of Zamfara as part of the governor's Sharia campaign. The Nigerian Constitution enshrines freedom of worship and his decision was condemned at the national capital.

I'm just waiting to hear the condemnations from all the forces of Islam who wish to coexist with christians and not launch a religious war. It doesn't come any clearer than this folks. He's not even giving them the traditional option of becoming dhimmis so even internally (internal to the worldview of Islam), his order doesn't make sense.

HT: Urban Onramps

How Regulation Gets Messy, A Primer

Posted by TMLutas

Q and O offers this primer on how problems spawn bureaucratic solutions that are neither effective at solving the problem or making very many people happy, but achieve a sort of horrible state of zombie life where they shamble along immune to whatever reformers may do to them, hunting for more victims to destroy.

The commentary says apply it to nationalized healthcare but it's of general use and can be applied anywhere.

Economic Debunking

Posted by TMLutas

Tyler Cowen talks about the sad state of economic knowledge in the US over at Marginal Revolution. The idea is being batted around for economists to collectively concentrate on removing economic illiteracy regarding topics that a broad majority have reached a consensus on. Tyler Cowen isn't so fond of the idea:

I have mixed feelings toward this attitude. Even if more instruction would improve economic performance, I am concerned it would damage our long-run ability to track truth. Plus for me it would make economics less fun. I, for one, would not devote my life to being a missionary for the theory of free trade and comparative advantage.

What he's missing is the idea of attacking economic illiteracy in the same way that junk science is being addressed. You don't need to devote an awful lot of man hours because economic errors tend to come in recognizable varieties and types. There's no real need to craft individualized debunkings, just a Frequently Debunked Idiocy (FDI) list that is maintained and done clearly and entertainingly. Like good economists, there could be a division of labor with each economist participating in the project just taking their usual low level efforts at debunking and submitting them for inclusion into the FDI list. After awhile, you don't even have to do the common debunkings anymore as there will be dozens of relevant ones on most topics available.

Better Than Saddam is Not Good Enough

Posted by TMLutas

Twirling around the blogosphere, I'm starting to get the sense that some people who haven't thought through the issues enough are trying to justify the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in terms of at least we're better than Saddam. That's not good enough, not nearly good enough. The way we win is not being more tolerant tyrants than Saddam's Baathist thugocracy. That's a differentiation based quantitatively. It implicitly places us as a thugocracy and does the enemy's work for him.

The way we win is to be something qualitatively different. We are human beings who have created a free society and want others to join us. We fail, like all other human beings on the planet, to always uphold our principles but we do our best and excise the rot as soon and as thoroughly as we can.

To demand perfection of us is to deny the monotheistic constant that man is a fallen creature, born in sin and doomed to imperfection without the grace of God. But that does not excuse us from doing our best, making up for our deficiencies and striving to rise above our sinful natures and do what is right.

Muslims should be outraged at the torture. There is no excuse. But they should do more than be outraged. They should see what we do next. Because if they see the trials, see the punishments, and demand just that for their own societies, they will do more for themselves than a hundred invasions and the US will become vastly more secure.

Israel's Leadership Vacuum

Posted by TMLutas

Well, it looks like the Gaza withdrawal plan just went down to defeat. Debka's headline

Sharon said he would not step down after disappointing outcome of Likud referendum but will continue to lead nation. Final Likud poll figure registers 59.5 to 39.7 percent defeat for disengagement.

He thanked President Bush for deep friendship and historic support. He will announce his next steps after consultation with Likud ministers, Knesset faction and coalition partners.

I wonder who will be first among the arab critics of this plan to thank the Likud party faithful for killing it and giving them what they want, more Israeli occupation with more pointless negotiations that never lead anywhere. All that seems to be left of Sharon's initiative is a stronger commitment to kill Hamas leaders on an accelerated schedule.

This result can't be too comfortable for President Bush. He went out on a limb for Sharon on the understanding that Sharon could deliver his party. Now that Sharon is exposed as not being capable of this basic requirement of democratic leadership Bush has to cast about for somebody who can speak for Likud and the majority of the Israeli electorate. Unfortunately there don't seem to be very many alternatives around. Netanyahu stood with Sharon and is thus similarly discredited. Peres is moribund just like his party, Labor. There really doesn't seem to be anybody on the Israeli side who seems to have positioned themselves well to be a broad based Israeli leader who can move things forward on the Israeli side. Sharon is scrambling to regain leadership but it's unclear whether he's walking wounded or the living dead at this point.

A lack of leadership has long been a powerful stumbling block to a negotiated settlement of the palestinian situation. But that has usually meant a lack of leadership on the palestinian side. Now it seems like both sides are similarly handicapped.

A small footnote: The Debka article referenced above engaged in a bit of revisionism. I distinctly recall that Netanyahu came on side and supported Sharon's plan but the Debka article leaves the distinct impression that Netanyahu remained opposed throughout the campaign.

Compiling Life IV

Posted by TMLutas

A small technical reference for those who are in need of X11 from Apple and have 10.2 . Apple's taken the X11 references off their website and it's a bit difficult to find. If you download the GIS system GRASS for Mac OS X there's a nice shortcut to where you can find it though. Since the GRASS download is 155 Mb I'll save some bandwidth by giving you the direct link and the bleg is for Google to pick up and make it easier for the next fellow who wants to download it. Enjoy.

Update: this URL is better as it contains not only X11 but the SDK as well.

Serialization v. Parallelization

Posted by TMLutas

Steven Den Beste's commenting on US strategy is reminiscent of a series of posts I've put up addressing US v. Al Queda strategies. In some ways, strategically, the US had it easier in WW II. It had two fronts, Pacific and European, and it really had only enough resources to do one thing at a time in either of those fronts. There never was any serious talk of doing N. Africa and Italy at the same time or Italy and the Balkans. The limits were known and we knew we had to choose. Any idiot who could count could see that dividing our forces would invite defeat in detail.

Today's Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) is different. Since it is asymmetric, we are almost by definition not as closely matched as we were against Nazi Germany. We can walk and chew gum at the same time and thus the temptation is to create more than one front to speed the war to its conclusion.

But the prospect of defeat in detail exists for us too and it is the heart of the enemy's strategy. This is why you will see me speaking out against those who want us to invade Syria or Iran. We simply don't have the forces, we don't have the will, and we haven't secured our gains enough to move on to another challenge. In 2005-2006 we may be able to take advantage of the new government of Iraq proving more stable and better than expected to assist in the success of some domestic uprising in favor of freedom but that's about it.

The problem is that overserialization has its own problems, timidity and lengthening the war being chief among them. Steven Den Beste fires up the warning flares with this:

It feels like the Bush Administration has decided to put the war onto the shelf until after the election. That's what it feels like. And that worries me. This war is much too important to permit such considerations to affect its prosecution.

I don't share in the fear that we're putting the war on the shelf. I'm much more afraid that the war will end with an enemy victory and that the GWB administration will be viewed as a lost opportunity, a period where the US showed some spine before it elected Kerry and resumed its cave and retreat policies on the way to Islamist victory.

We have taken an enormous bite out of our enemies hides with the taking of Iraq. The process of chewing and swallowing that bite has left us with chipmunk cheeks and an awful lot of people asking why isn't the food on the plate getting any less. We need to chew and swallow, incorporate Iraq into the Functioning Core, and then move on as our resources are freed and free Iraqis manage their own security and start to stand with us in liberating their annoying neighbors who will, no doubt, continue to war on Iraq to destroy Iraqi freedom.

The problem of Egyptian, Pakistani, and Saudi Arabian reform is vexing but I don't think we're as quiescent as SDB thinks. Given our status as formal allies with all three states, it would be very inappropriate for teams of Rangers to be wandering around and doing the work. Al Hurra by contrast, is a much more appropriate way to build up a cadre of replacements to these regimes' leadership. And that is what is important. Mubarak is essential in Egypt because there is nobody else around who is viable and who would be better. The same is true for the Royal family and for Musharref in Pakistan.

It would be appropriate to look at Newt Gingrich and his effort to cultivate and create alternative Republican leadership sufficient to take back the House of Representatives. He did it, but it took a decade. I don't think that it's reasonable to think that it will take any less time in any of these countries. If you were looking carefully, you could see the signs of something new cropping up in Republican circles a few years into the process and you can see hopeful signs in the ME as well. Saudi Arabia is starting to debate ending the practice of full veiling. Egypt is starting to give slightly on the issue of Christian persecution. Pakistan is starting to actually control its territory, a prerequisite for success against Al Queda. Potemkin offensive or not, it's more than Pakistan has done on the subject of controlling its NW Territories for a long time. Now the precedent has been set and future such offensives will be leavened with "kindhearted" offers of training so that the Pakistani military won't fail so miserably in future. The generals will be under constant professional humiliation if they don't improve their performance and the (possible) strategy of Potemkin offensives will unravel if they accept the training and follow US doctrine closely.

These are small steps in otherwise unhappy situations but the Gingrich revolution started with small steps too. It would be very educational to see what kind of schedule SDB would like to see results on. As far as I am concerned this is just part of the normal ebb and flow of any campaign.

May 02, 2004

Lessons For the Spooks

Posted by TMLutas

If the tortured Iraqi prisoners of Abu Gharaib were under active intelligence debriefing, if they were being interrogated while being tortured by guards, it is impossible to believe that they did not know about it. The consequences for legal reform to untie their hands will play out over the next few years and are likely to be pretty bad.

Every time Tenet or any other member of the administration will propose some sort of loosening of intelligence oversight that handicaps our operations, thoughts will turn to the poisonous culture that, at the very least, saw torture and did nothing about it. Whether more is wrong will come out in investigation but singlehandedly, the people at that prison have set back intelligence reform for years.

They need the book thrown at them too. People are going to die because of this foul up and the funerals will come in surprising forms and due to apparently disconnected events. But the root of the problem will be the betrayal of US ideals in an Iraqi hellhole prison.

WW II Posters

Posted by TMLutas

After seeing a bunch of WW II parody posters, I finally found out where most of them are probably coming from. This is something of a referral post for myself. After going through the archive, there are a few that I'd like to do myself. Off to look at MacGimp.

Welfare Reform Scofflaws

Posted by TMLutas

The predictions were that welfare reform would lead to huge increases in child poverty and worsening conditions for the poor. This has turned out not to be the case. In fact, requiring social spending to be linked to real effort to find a job and get off welfare has led to significant economic and social improvement in the lives of what used to be known as the "permanent underclass". But it's not working out everywhere as some jurisdictions do what they can to sabotage the law and allow people to continue their decades long history of taking without giving in return and teaching their children to do the same.

This is eventually going to get broken as jurisdictions that don't trap welfare recipients rack up better records than jurisdictions that do but the entrenched interests will not give up their ideas without a fight.

May 01, 2004

Just Saw Laws of Attraction

Posted by TMLutas

Laws of Attraction is a very good movie and worth the money to see in theaters. As I filed out of the theater, it struck me that this movie would not have been made a few decades ago, perhaps even a few years ago. A strong male figure, not perfect but impressive, pursues the female lead. His intentions are clearly matrimonial quite early in the picture and despite the fact that both main characters are divorce attorneys he's quite persuasive in his defense of marriage, that divorce is too often where people fight the hardest when they should have been spending that energy to fight for their marriage.

But like I said, this thought occurred to me after I saw the film. It's not a heavy handed propaganda film. The leads are ably played, forming engaging characters with depth.

Al Queda Strategy Change

Posted by TMLutas

One of the things that Osama Bin Laden decreed early on in his campaign against the royal family was that the oil infrastructure of the country was a priceless jewel and not to be attacked. It looks like that has now changed. So has Bin Laden changed his mind? Have his successors? Or is the attack on a refinery in SA a sign that the central command has completely lost control of the situation and people are acting without control and without thinking through the consequences?

I'm sure this is one of the great questions the counter-intelligence interrogators are going after as a top priority.

Writing a Blog Spec

Posted by TMLutas

One of the great things that separates the pros from the very talented amateurs in programming is the discipline that the professionals exhibit in programming from a specification document. Clients always think that programming is something that just flows forth from mind to keyboard to compiler. It can, but you very often get bad code that way. It may be clever, but it usually doesn't meet actual needs because very few people really understand what they want, they just think they do.

I'm starting to think that blogging is similar in this way. You can just randomly fire off posts and you may end up being a very talented amateur but without some sort of specification of what you want to accomplish and how you are going to get there, that's all that you will remain, a talented amateur.

I'm not sure, exactly, where I want to go with that insight for my own blog but it's something that I'm sure I'll be chewing over for quite some time.

Biased Media

Posted by TMLutas

Right Wing News has an educational analysis of US media negativism about the Iraq war. The only thing missing is the observation that the US media, as negative and biased as it is on Iraqi war coverage, was viewed as jingoistic hyper-patriotic and biased too much in favor of the US side in the war by the majority of the EU press. That is the size of the media gulf that we have to address if we are to avoid a division of the Atlanticist West.

Compiling Life III

Posted by TMLutas

Unfortunately I don't know enough C to fix this one so I'm stuck for the time being:

gcc -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -I../include -I../lib -I../lib -g -O2 -c ldap.c -MT ldap.lo -MD -MP -MF .deps/ldap.TPlo -fno-common -DPIC -o .libs/ldap.lo ldap.c: In function `DynaOpen': ldap.c:88: error: `RTLD_LAZY' undeclared (first use in this function) ldap.c:88: error: (Each undeclared identifier is reported only once ldap.c:88: error: for each function it appears in.) ldap.c:89: warning: assignment makes pointer from integer without a cast ldap.c: In function `DynaGetFunction': ldap.c:114: warning: assignment makes pointer from integer without a cast make[2]: *** [ldap.lo] Error 1 make[1]: *** [all] Error 2 make: *** [all-recursive] Error 1

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