September 24, 2009

Educational Indoctrination

I just sent this off to my school's principal. She was just so provincially clueless about why any parent would be concerned about Obama's school address that I knew I had to write to her. With the recent pro-obama schoolkid video showing up, I finally had a visual hook to explain what the worries are.

When I dropped in the week prior to the presidential speech to children, you said you didn't understand why anybody would object to the President speaking to the nation's schoolchildren. Looking at you, I took you at your word because I'd seen that face before in coworkers and friends who simply had no exposure outside their own subculture and were encountering something truly new, different, and diverse from their normal experience. I'm sure that I've worn that same face myself a time or two. It happens.

For the record, George HW Bush's speech to the schoolchildren of the United States had Democrat led congressional hearings into the propriety and legality of such a speech. In the end, there were no prosecutions but at the time, they were apparently threatened.

When the speech transcript came out shortly prior to the speech, my immediate concerns were put to rest. This is why I did not protest when you deviated from the procedure you outlined verbally to me in showing the speech to my 4th grader. No opt out form came prior to it being shown.

When I read the White House released transcript, I did note that the original version DoE curriculum materials didn't make much sense paired with that speech and guessed that whatever was there originally had been scrubbed down to the proper neutrality it should have had from the start. The White House later admitted that the speech had been changed and the original version has never been released. But that's just of academic interest. What truly concerns me is the children, my own and our community's.

The public schools, being public, have an obligation to political neutrality with regard to partisan politics. It's a public trust. In the normal course of life, there is a proper assumption that the professionals are doing their job and not engaging in indoctrination.

Some of your professional colleagues have violated that trust and this violation is the source of that parental concern you seemed so puzzled at in our face to face meeting. One school in NJ actually was so wrapped up in their little cultural bubble that they filmed one of their indoctrination sessions which ended up on the 'net. I'm including the youtube URL for you.

The inclusion of policy buzzwords straight out of the Democrat party is simply inappropriate for a children's song taught in a public school. It is doubly inappropriate for children who are as young as the ones in the video.

Unfortunately, once you start seeing evidence of indoctrination this blatant, the question naturally becomes what about my local district, my kids. Are the teachers teaching my kids really neutral or are they just smarter about how they're betraying their public trust? You have not been proactive in dispelling these questions so far as I can tell. I suspect you just have been unaware of videos like the one I referred to above (there are a couple I've seen out there and I don't purposefully look for them). Now you know.

I have sympathy for the position your ethically challenged colleagues have put you in. I wish you the best in navigating these waters. Please let me know if I can be of assistance.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:42 AM

September 07, 2009

The Right as Rebels

Tigerhawk asks "why has it taken so long" for the right to adopt the guerrilla tactics of the left. In short, what is known today as the right's become the guerrillas again, for the first time since the 1780s. Here's my note responding at more length there.

While the Constitution was in ascendency, while the Founders were, more or less, in the driver's seat, those on their side were smart to adopt the tactics of defense and conservatism. It is only when the Constitution no longer is top dog and the Founders are no longer animating our politics that it makes sense for their advocates to adopt the aggressive tactics of an Alinsky.

The left expects to be the barbarians at a tea party but grandma just pulled out her scattergun and they haven't even realized how much the rules just changed.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:22 AM

July 20, 2008

Letter to the Paper LXI

The international gun control movement keeps working on gun grabbing with an eye to eventually killing off the 2nd amendment. It's a King Canute enterprise because the technology for distributed manufacturing is coming and guns are inevitably going to be on the list of things to build right along every other tool. Once every man can be a gunsmith simply by hitting print on a computer, the foolishness of control efforts via law instead of via personal responsibility will have been fully exposed.

A culture of responsible use will never grow in a regime where weapons are unavailable. Upcoming technology (home replication machines) will make it technically feasible to make primitive and eventually quite sophisticated firearms with plans inevitably available for free over the Internet. This is going to make any sort of international treaty regime impossible to enforce as home replication machines are also obvious technology for poverty reduction in the 3rd world.

The first self-replication of a home replication machine in May 2008 was a warning shot that has so far not been heard widely. The rep-rap project is a worthy one but they aren't kidding when they say that it's a disruptive technology.

The only solutions left are to embrace poverty and deny access to replication as well as guns or to create a culture of responsibility that can handle this upcoming disruptive technology. Cultures of responsibility take a long time to take root without an opening blood bath. We might have enough time at this point if we start soon but it is pretty obvious that the same international gun controllers who want to end-run the US' 2nd amendment protections are not going to accept this idea with open arms.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:34 AM

June 28, 2008

Letter to the Paper LX

I'm going to our eparchial assembly in a bit but I decided to take a quick dip into the Catholic blogosphere first. Mark Sheas disappoints as usual when he's talking about the Bush administration because he has no understanding of the underlying dynamics or issues and is relatively uninterested in developing same. Just for old times sake I dropped a mini primer on our actual foreign policy developed by this administration.

Our actual foreign policy for some time under this administration has been to promote 'regional sheriffs' to do much of the heavy lifting and to defuse the possibility of the world ganging up on the US in order to balance our power (this balancing phenomenon happens every time a dominant world power emerges) and drag us down. For Asia we have three major sheriff candidates, India, Japan and the PRC.

N. Korea's submission to the PRC is a recognition of their status as local sheriff and so the US pulls back on threats encouraging the sheriff dynamic. But who is the sheriff in the Middle East? There are no candidates right now. The closest we have is Iraq itself, a sheriff that is years away from being ready. But their armed forces emergence into competent, even-handed action against militias gives a bit of hope that a decade from now they will be able to emerge as sheriff. That has something of a protective effect on Iran.

In short, while some were chanting about no blood for oil and even about bronze aged barbarians, we developed our first real foreign policy that fit the post-cold war age under this administration. It's even marginally more moral than our previous cold war realpolitik because the playing field is still tilted for the local sheriffs to be free states and to encourage liberty in their regions. In 20 years the historians may even notice.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:42 AM

December 13, 2007

Letter to the Paper LIX is hosting a war debate on the moral justness of the Iraq War. The first installment is the pro-war opening prompted me to write the following:

There is a real need for Catholics to agree on the facts of the Iraq war. When did it start, end, what are the stakes, these are all things that are in contention and create unnecessary acrimony. The stakes are often minimized and when it happens, of course the cost looks much more unreasonable.

We are currently running the very dangerous end game of a multi-century decline of the Islamic civilization (this decline predates US independence). Go read Bernard Lewis for the details. There is a real need that there is a way out for the muslims but a pernicious interlocking web of pathologies has prevented a fix for centuries and it's just getting worse.

At the same time we are on the verge of a revolution in military affairs where smaller and smaller groups can create larger and larger amounts of trouble, the ultimate expression being the "superempowered individual" a real life embodiment of every James Bond villian you've ever seen. Osama Bin Laden is just an early model. It goes downhill from him.

We are still at war with N. Korea. We were still at war with Iraq. These sorts of extended cease fires have happened all the time in the history of diplomatic affairs and the Vatican has certainly encountered them before. To deny these diplomatic facts is to ignore an important point of reality. You cannot ignore reality and hope to arrive at a proper moral judgment as to the justness of a war.

The overflights of Iraqi airspace were not police runs. The US military never conceived of them as police actions and its police arms (military police/shore patrol) did not manage them. Our establishment of independent Kurdistan cannot be viewed as a police action. Such an action follows no accepted police model. To call it policing is an abuse of language and has no place in the proper discussion of the justice of war.

It seems now (though history has not yet finalized its say) that Saddam's 2003 nuclear program was a chimera designed to counter a real nuclear weapons program in Iran. To kill someone who tries and succeeds to deceive you into thinking they are armed and an immediate mortal threat to your life is usually not considered immoral. The state equivalent seems to have happened here.

Our best understanding at this point is that this invasion stopped two illegal nuclear weapons programs, Iran's and Libya's. Creating a demonstration effect to improve safety throughout the region was always part of the point of the war. We succeeded at that and those good effects should be put in the balance as to whether or not the war did more good than bad.

I have a feeling I'm going to be writing more in the rest of the debate series.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:05 PM

August 05, 2007

Letter to the Paper LVIII

A comment I put over on Gateway Pundit. This issue has been bothering me ever since I saw Abu Aardvark'spiece on his blog and Noah Shachtman's attempted skewer over on Wired. It wasn't until I read the Saudi piece that the "compare and contrast" difference struck me.

There's a similarity between fobbing off the Golden Mosque bombing on zionists and current US strategy to fob off most attacks in Iraq on Al Queda in Iraq. In both instances, it's a bad habit but one I'm comfortable with in the US case and not so much in the Saudi one. The difference is that the US distortion is for a specific purpose and time limited. By allowing this fiction, we encourage non Al Queda groups to put down their weapons in the hope that their acts will be glossed over and they can still successfully integrate into a new, democratic Iraq. It's a time-limited strategy that will eventually disappear with this campaign in the War on Terror. There is a reasonable exit and the overall effect is to save lives. That makes the lie an acceptable wartime gambit.

The Saudi case is different because it does not appear to have an exit strategy and has been going on for decades. The demonstrated overall effect is not to save lives, but to geographically shift where lives are lost, jews instead of arabs, Israelis instead of Iraqis and Saudis. That result is not worth the cost.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:44 AM

May 05, 2007

Letter to the Paper LVII

The new OPSEC regulations have caused a bit of controversy as they (as written) require every blog post to be approved. This has generated some controversy. Over at Mudville Gazette a "get along to go along" effort seems disappointingly vague with the author claiming that things are not really so bad. Supposedly, local commanders can ameliorate the regs as written but the reg itself is not so generous as I note in comments.

People keep asserting that the locals can somehow simply change the regulation locally. There is a section titled "Supplementation" that seems to address this.
Supplementation of this regulation and establishment of command or local forms are prohibited without prior approval from HQDA G–3/5/7 (DAMO–ODI) , 3200 Army Pentagon, Washington, DC 20310.

Exception authority also seems to be relevant

The proponent of this regulation is the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–3/5/7. The proponent has the authority to approve exceptions or waivers to this regulation that are consistent with controlling law and regulations. The proponent may delegate this approval authority, in writing, to a division chief within the proponent agency or its direct reporting unit or field operating agency, in the grade of colonel or the civilian equivalent. Activities may request a waiver to this regulation by providing justification that includes a full analysis of the expected benefits and must include formal review by the activity’s senior legal officer. All waiver requests will be endorsed by the commander or senior leader of the requesting activity and forwarded through higher headquarters to the policy proponent. Refer to AR 25–30 for specific guidance.
This lays out, formally, the hoops one has to jump through to get an individually initiated, informal, "spare time" activity like a blog through the system. Does anybody really want to bother colonels and generals in the Pentagon with this sort of thing? Maybe it's because I'm a civilian. Maybe it's because I don't know military bureaucratese but a lot of the "calm down and STFU" interpretation seems to handwave the existence of these two sections on the signature page away and they do it unconvincingly.

The key to blogging success in infowar is the combination of sincerity and quick OODA loops. This regulation, at best, radically slows down the OODA loops of blogging and entirely destroys the sincerity because bloggers are very likely to get nervous at the formal scrutiny.

Supposedly, they're editing this thing to improve it but if they don't preserve speed and sincerity any regulation will be destructive of the meta-effort, the collective "opening the kimono" effect that gives us civilians insight as to which Washington politicians, mass media outlets, and various activists are lying and which are telling the truth. This is critical to the DoD information effort and this informal effort is, so far, the most effective part of it.

CounterColumn claims this is a Third Commandment issue but it's not. When you get out of the vehicle everybody can easily affect willful blindness on whether somebody, at some time, wore their seatbelt. Blog posts, while not forever, are much more permanent and every jerk of an officer can type in an URL and cut and paste the offending post to local storage in preparation for lasting persecution.

We can sort of, kind of, ignore this for a time but this is a major friction point between the old army and the new and compromise will not last forever.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:48 AM

April 25, 2007

Letter to the Paper LV

Something I just submitted to Transterrestrial Musings

Out of the 18 Iraqi provinces, 3 kurdish ones have their greatest security threats being foreign incursion from Turkey and Iran. Terrorism is successfully kept out. 4 arab provinces are under local management and we rarely, if ever, do anything there. That's 7 down, 11 to go with the rest of the provinces in various stages along the road towards handover. I fully expect that when the balance is 10:8 instead of 7:11 that we're going to see a sea change in coverage because "a majority of Iraq is under local control and relatively quiet" and all the MSM is going to realize that if they don't get on the right side of this quickly, the deluge of broken credibility will very likely worsen and shorten their personal careers significantly.

I expect at least 3 more provinces to get handed over between now and the height of campaign season 2008. I'd like to think that at least 6 more would make the transition by then (obviating the need to explain Kurdistan's special situation in the stats). The defeatists have to change the natural progression of Iraqi government and security institution building and do it soon or they're going to be in deep trouble in 2008.

An Iraq where they're either begging us to be a tripwire against renewed war (a la our mission in Sinai) or we've successfully turned over a majority of the country and continuing to turn more over every month or two is a situation that can easily be shown to be a win. The Democrat party political investment in losing Iraq is so heavy that they can't reverse course in time for 2008. Iraq has to still look bad by then or they're in trouble which is why you see Harry Reid saying such imprudent things.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:47 AM

March 21, 2007

Letter to the Paper LIV

Bjoern Staerk asks What Went Wrong taking Bernard Lewis' book in a different direction. He disclaims a discussion of Lewis but he disclaims too much because one cannot productively discuss the West's own errors without clearly understanding the larger situation in the Islamic world. The paper is very useful as an examination of the pro-war fallen away. Here is my comment.

I have to say that I disagree with the essay and much of the commentary here. For someone who has heard of (and presumably read) Huntington's "What Went Wrong" this is a remarkably unreflective essay. Several hundred years of civilizational decline are to be quickly and easily reversed by the US, how? It is not that the Islamic civilization had its bubble pricked once but again and again and they have fallen further and further behind in a process that started well before 1776 and arguably before 1492 as the Spanish Reconquista was an early harbringer. Either Islam must die or a new Islam must arise. Since they have the nasty habit of killing their reformers, such a change inevitably must be violent and, yes, quite a bit chaotic.

But *why* these are the only two choices before us gets rare coverage. The plain fact is that even in the most disconnected corner of the world, people are becoming more empowered. The rates of growth in power are highly variable but cell phones, access to electricity and other signs of modernity are reaching out across the globe. The power necessary to create a mass casualty event, however, remains flat and will continue to remain flat. Hardening our society to meaningfully raise that threshold is largely beyond us. Thus we face a growing number of entities, first subnational then down to individuals, who have the capacity to do serious harm. Absent their integration into the world system, a significant number, much more than we can tolerate, will turn to terrorist methods and create those mass casualty events. Civilization may be able to shrug off a certain number of mass casualty events a year but past a certain point, the cool will shatter. How many of our dead must we sacrifice until we reach that breaking point? How many until we turn fascist and brutal or simply give in and bend our neck to our new masters?

As well, the multi-century Islamic decline outlined in Huntington's book does not allow for meaningful integration with its root causes unaddressed. Regressive recent trends, like the rebirth of aggressive veiling dating from the 1970s in Egypt are making the situation worse, not better.

In the US Civil War, Bull Run I was a high point of northern delusion. The ladies of Washington, DC came to picnic as "our boys" were going to give the rebels a thrashing. Reality turned out very differently and the results were infinitely worse than Iraq. But this was not a cause to abandon the war but to get serious about it. In the US Civil War it took several years and many changes in leadership before the project of actually getting good enough to win was accomplished. Rivers of blood were shed and entire cities of the dead were created in the meantime. The very real wastes and lost opportunities of the Iraq War and the wider war on Terror pale in comparison (though by no means are they trivial). They were worth the eventual victory in both cases.

Where did we go wrong is a useful question. We've gone very wrong on tactics, on logistics, on any number of small things and we've paid in blood and treasure. But the very large question of fight or not, we got it right. The battlefield of Iraq was also picked well. Both Sunni and Shia *must* pay attention to Iraq in a way that they do not have to in Afghanistan or some hypothetical battlefield in the Maghreb or southern or central Asia.

Today, the stakes are raised on all sides. In this too, the essay is a bit unreflective. When you rouse the troops and plant the flag, the stakes grow. To retreat in Iraq now is to give the green light to all sorts of schemes and plots that we barely perceive exist and certainly have not counted the cost. There are no pleasant choices. The Sudanese, for instance, have made the calculation that the US is too busy, and everybody else is too incapable or spineless to prevent genocide in Darfur. They are not alone in making such calculations, just the most imprudent.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:33 AM

August 16, 2006

Letter to the Paper LIII

Just added this to the "purge the pro-war libertarians" thread over at qando. Libertarianism is a small enough tent already that it certainly shouldn't schism over war policy.

The fundamental problem of libertarian foreign policy is that there is anti-libertarian repression inherent in the current international system (westphalianism). Westphalian sovereignty means, among many good things, that one guarantees to repress your own population that wants to cross borders and deal with a foreign tyrant who has personally wronged them or at least wronged their sense of justice. This is why we regularly patrol our cuban-americans to make sure they're not going to assassinate Castro or invade Cuba and why we had persistent problems with the UK over US support for the IRA. There is no nice, neat solution for this from a libertarian perspective.

If you let the private groups go redress their wrongs, you end up with foreign squads over here making war in the US on behalf of dictators who are scared spitless of free men who have the resources to overthrow them. If you repress the private domestic groups, you're giving vital support to profoundly anti-libertarian evil regimes. So how do you square the circle?

For the Iraq invasion supporting segment of libertarianism, you support the invasion and try to end the problem's recurrence by pitching in on nation building, advocating as much private involvement as possible. If you're against the invasion you... what? Do you just whistle past the graveyard and try and pretend that this sort of repression isn't a major contributor to the persistence of dictatorships these days?

As a condition for avoiding perpetual war, we engage in some serious repression of liberty minded people. It's a pretty stable tradeoff and we're *very* socialized to accept it but the consensus is breaking down, not least because Al Queda and co is making a frontal assault on that westphalianism.

Westphalianism is obviously not going to last. It's doomed by technology that provides sub-national groups and even individuals with power levels that used to require at least a small state. At most, a holding action is necessary until we come up with something better. So the choices are to either allow Al Queda to win and push us back to a pre-westphalian state (a state where the islamic caliphate had distinct advantages) or we need to create a post-westphalian consensus that takes into account the new technological reality but uses that as a springboard to improve the old order. The neo-libertarians have an answer. I'm trying, but not seeing any serious alternative to that answer coming from other strands of libertarianism.

That doesn't make other strands of libertarianism verboten or purge worthy. It just means that they haven't gotten around to dealing with this question. But it certainly means that those other strands have no cause for purging the one strand that does have an honorable libertarian solution for one of the crucial policy questions of our time.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:44 AM

July 31, 2006

Letter to the Paper LII

This missive goes out to The Belgravia Dispatch because it comes so close to my own views on the great challenge facing confirmed civilians all over the world today, but most of all in the 1st world where military service is either non-existent or a joke.

I read your post on 'quasi-genocide' via Josh Marshall (and him via Glenn Reynolds) so I guess that you are addressing a fellow more comfortable on the right half of the blogosphere. I also have been wrestling on some of the Catholic boards and from *that* non-left/non-right battlefield I discovered one simple fact that you seem to have *almost* nailed, that the West is largely ignorant of military theory and facts. This ignorance has made moral idiots of people all across the blogosphere, left, right, or off the scale.

The US has made a warrior caste of its volunteer army and thus 95% of the society is virtually ignorant of military thought while the countries of W. Europe who practice conscription use it as much as an indentured servitude pool of labor as an actual military force. Germany, famously, stopped its military's plan to end conscription (a professional army is more effective, they say) because the loss of conscript labor would collapse their healthcare system.

So where are we? I think that we have a positive duty during a long war to either fight it or study it so that we can wisely support the military by electing good politicians and influence the domestic debate. Given that the vast majority of us are beginner students without a teacher, we're going to say stupid things along the way. This is where you went astray in my opinion. Students say stupid things but the cure is not to brand them with a scarlet G for genocide advocate but to educate them past their idiotic opinions with a "why do you want us to lose the war by going against military doctrine?" The military blogosphere may very well save us from our foolishness by providing an ongoing primer on strategy and tactics. The religious blogosphere, at least the part that has knowledge of military matters, has a crucial role too. A 5 minute conversation with a retired US army chaplain put my head on straight more that years worth of blogosphere debates among the similarly untutored as to moral issues in war. That sort of knowledge demands to be shared. And so I write letters and neglect my own blog ( to comment on others in odd places here and there that might have more influence because my quest to build a platform that others will read seems less important than writing so that others will read right now.

I hope that you will pick up this theme and seek out experts in military matters and especially military morals. I have placed you on my daily "to read" list and look forward to reading more of you.

TM Lutas

Posted by TMLutas at 08:04 AM

January 28, 2006

Letter to the Paper LI

Donklephant contends that there is no difference between Bush and Kerry Iran policy. I beg to differ in comments.

So what was GWB's last Iran policy? In public, it was non-interference with EU diplomatic efforts. Today, it's non-interference with Russian diplomatic efforts. The hidden caravan moves on despite all the noisy barking.

Iraq's shia are playing a dangerous cross-border game and the US is going to support it. The end result, if it works, will be a declaration of heresy from Najaf/Karbala and the fall of the Iranian regime as it's remaining support, religious conservatives, breaks apart.

Religious fights aren't fought the same way that secular ones are. The bombs can be one phrase in a 50 page document. Take Pope Benedict's 1st encyclical. It's ostensibly about love and that is, in fact, its real object. But then we have this:

In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant.

In other words, pay attention muslims! Pay attention haters of all stripes. God is love, not hate, and when somebody says that you have a duty to hate someone, that person is not from God.

No doubt, what will set off the Iran/Iraq religious strife is going to sound just as innocuous outside of Shia Islam as an agnostic may perceive the Papal statement above. Hopefully, it will have deadly consequences for Khomeinism and the current regime in Iran.

Getting back to the Kerry/Bush thing, I was absolutely convinced that we were sending troops into Iraq long before we declared hostilities to have resumed in order to prepare the battle space. I don't think a President Gore would have done that. I don't think that President Kerry would have instituted a hidden campaign against Iran or would push the wedge issue of Shia heresy as a solution for the problem of Iran. Later events showed that we had, in fact, sent troops in to prepare the battlefield in Iraq in advance of hostilities. Only time will tell if the hidden campaign that I (and probably many on the right) assume is going on is also a reality or just wishful thinking.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:55 PM

January 26, 2006

Egoism Is Not the Only Sin

TCS has an article talking down manifestos and romanticism. This is all well and good and cold water does need to be dumped on an absurdly large number of "head in the clouds" scatter brains. Unfortunately, he picks a poor example, the idea that the Internet has created a different enough experience that we've got something truly new going on. In fact the Internet is something new, something different in the form of orders of magnitude cheaper information storage and transmission. This radical change means that the information stream is significantly harder to reduce and filter than it is to just let pass. The larger that gap gets, the more behavior is going to go on that is useless or annoying to the powers that be but just isn't worth squashing. This is important because it creates a growing gap between contol regimes, reminiscent of the old medieval "free cities" that escaped feudal restrictions and eventually led to the downfall of the system.

Anyway, here's my comment.

With the Internet suite of technologies the cost (both monetary and nonmonetary) of transmitting and storing information has been lowered by orders of magnitude. Whenever you lop a few zeros of any cost, odd things happen. When the commodity being altered is as widespread and useful as information, the odd things that happen filter throughout society and have large impacts everywhere.

While it is true that the volume of traffic devoted to porn is quite high, this says more about the failure of moral guardians in our various societies than anything about the Internet. The only thing that the Internet is doing is lowering costs to transmit/store and increasing the ability to search out whatever you want in comfortable pseudonymity.

Radically reducing costs increases the amount of unimportant things committed to information systems. Past a certain point, it's more expensive to sort than to just store it all.

This virtual society of abundance leads to a quest for attention, influence, and reputation, Things that are not affected by the lowered costs of the Internet. There are tens of millions of blogs but how many operate at the level of an Instapundit or Daily Kos? The long tail of blogs create the bulk of the traffic but they have no influence, no reputation to speak of. They are generally unimportant unless they consistently offer good content at which point they rise in the standings and start to be widely read. The same power law phenomenon that affect blogs affect most other communities on the 'Net.

The writer sees unfamiliar rules presented in insider shorthand and imagines there are no rules at all. I recommend a decent course of ESR. Homesteading the Noosphere is especially apropos.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:28 PM

December 08, 2005

Letter to the Paper L

I think the torture debate is being conducted on the wrong grounds. If a uniformed soldier from the other side of a conventional war were to successfully secrete a nuclear device in NYC, he should not be treated the same as a terrorist who has accomplished the same act even though the ticking time bomb problem is exactly the same in both cases.

Neither anti-torture nor torture proponents want to touch this case with a ten foot pole. It's uncomfortable for both sides.

The Glittering Eye had an article on torture recently. Below is what I left in comments.

I'd like to chime in with a plea for a good definition of torture. The difficulty of drawing the line between coercive interrogation and torture is exactly the battlefield of lawfare, the use of the law to conduct warfare against those who believe in the rule of law.

There is an important principle at stake in the treatment of warriors who adopt a pre-westphalian ethos such as Al Queda. They are retrograde and evil in attempting to bring back a form of warfare that has long been abandoned as too indiscriminate and cruel. They do not respect the notion of civilians and the immunities that civilians have from combat. Read about atrocities carried out prior to the adoption of westphalian limits and you will see the horror that we can descend to. Without those limits we *will* descend to that form of warfare again.

We are charged, both as a civilized nation and under treaty obligations to enforce the Geneva conventions and the customary laws of war. One of those obligations is to punish any side that habitually violates the conventions and the customary laws of war. We are morally charged with treating them in a manner that will induce their compatriots and superiors to change their policy and to adopt the customary laws of war in order to restore the immunities from combat that civilians traditionally have.

I would suggest that some of the things that anti-torture activists want to ban (prisoner sleep deprivation, loud music, water boarding) fall into the realm of legitimate penalties for abandoning the laws of war and endangering civilians to the level that Al Queda and, frankly the entire so-called Iraqi resistance has descended to. The Chechen rebels are in the same boat as far as I am concerned.

If you take away legitimate punishments for these crimes without even trying to offer up better solutions for the problem, you're essentially discarding the customary laws of war of the past several centuries including the Geneva Conventions.

The truth is whatever we've done in order to induce compliance with the laws of war, it hasn't been harsh enough. The war crimes continue on a daily basis and endanger civilians all over the world. The other side is not deterred.

I don't think that filleting KSM and feeding him his own body parts fried in pork fat is the answer. There is a line past which we should not cross. But the argument about where to draw the line on interrogation has to deal with the wider question of the thousands who have died because one side habitually violates the laws of war and the other side is not harsh enough in punishing them for it.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:58 PM

May 28, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILVII

Joe Gandelman is outraged that Arlen Specter came under fire when he made an emotional appeal regarding his own health in favor of embryonic stem cell research facilitation. I think that Gandelman's got a good heart but he got taken in.

A few thoughts:

My heart goes out to Arlen Specter and I hope that he wins his fight with cancer. I'm not sure that anybody is on the other side of that statement, even the "poster boy" guy at the AFA.

Arlen Specter could be wrong. Embryonic stem cells could be a dry hole and hold zero appreciable medical benefits that couldn't be done easier some other way. Specter made a personal appeal to his coworkers in the Senate to save his life. His appearance, his demeanor are legitimate parts of the discussion because he's using them to emotionally manipulate his colleagues. There's a reason for the old tradition of not talking about your illnesses. This sort of discussion is why talking about your illnesses used to be considered unseemly. It places unfair demands on the other side of a conversation.

As a practical matter, Specter will be cured or die before the first embryonic stem cell treatments get to a stage where they can be used on humans. We are very far away from any embryonic stem cell treatments. His charge that he will be denied the best in medical care based on funding decisions for the next budget year is simply a lie. It is an understandable lie and I don't hold it against him as staring mortality in the face can do very odd things to even the best of us. In Specter's case it seems he's got an inflated idea of how long he's going to survive without a cure from present state of the art medicine.

Specter is likely to be less beholden to transportation special interests (for example) but I think that he's far more vulnerable to special interest agitation on medical matters. He's got a very personal stake in medical issues now and his new perspective may not be good public policy for the US.

Children who were adopted as embryos point to an alternative to discarding. I would say that it would be a reasonable challenge for the pro-life community to come up with the cash to save these embryos and for the legislature to facilitate the transfer to embryonic adoption groups as an alternative for intestate estates and more generally. What, precisely, is the harm a woman suffers when an embryo that is not in her body is passed on to a woman who wants one? Even more stark is the question of where is the harm when a dead woman's external embryo is given to someone who eventually brings that embryo to life?

Posted by TMLutas at 01:46 PM

April 26, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILIII

Publius Pundit is puzzled by Putin mourning the Soviet Union This isn't the first time that Putin has done it. It's also not surprising that he is doing it as Putin is failing at the most important task he has, finding a proper replacement for the USSR in the imagination of the people. Below is what I put in comments on the thread.

For good or ill (and in my opinion almost entirely ill) the USSR was the image that most Russians had of their civic identity and. You take it away and the replacement had better be at least as good.

Today's Russia isn't as good for civic identity purposes. What's inspiring about it? Why is it worth dying for? It's a new flag that echoes but does not bring back their czarist past. It's a recycled Soviet anthem with new words that seeks to identify with ancient peasant wisdom and territorial grandiosity (see the words). Unfortunately for Russia, ancient peasent wisdom isn't going to cut it on its own and territorial grandiosity is just setting yourself up for humiliation. Russia is a brand new political system, without any cultural roots that could be changed at any time.

What Putin is mourning, IMO, is that hollowness at the core of Russia today. A better economy will not cure this problem, nor will political liberty because while political liberty is an animating force worth dying for, it is not in the russian social matrix, at least not for enough people to create a self-sustaining cultural template.

The only cure is to create that self-sustaining template and, in the meantime, dodge the bullet of totalitarian/authoritarian shortcuts.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:00 AM

February 21, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILI

World Changing ran a recent article entitled How Green Was My Atom taking apart a prior paean to nuclear energy. Since getting the entire world to a 1st world lifestyle is not achievable using any one energy source, I found a great deal to take exception with in the article. My critique (in their comments) is below):

It's not a case of either/or, as any serious consideration of the PRC and India would demonstrate in about five minutes. There are a few billion people who want into the 1st world lifestyle and, frankly, conventional sources of power are not sufficient to do it at current rates of efficiency even if you used all available energy sources including renewables and including nuclear. Clearly there is a great deal of gain to be made in making inefficient 3rd world economies run as efficiently as the 1st world. But even if that is accomplished, the amount of energy available via renewables is insufficient for them to handle the job alone. The same goes for any "silver bullet" solution.

This is why hydrogen is so important. Hydrogen provides, not energy per se but, a middleware that allows most types of energy sources to plug into the same major infrastructure and go into the same end user markets, making all sorts of energy sources more economical.

This will lead us all to a future that is persistently multi-fuel. That means that everybody's pet energy source has a place and if you want to drive out all "bad" competitors, your clean/moral/ultra-nifty energy source just has to be the lowest cost producer that can scale to supply everybody. Oh, you can't do that? Back to the lab for you boy scout and let us know when you solve those problems.

In the end, we won't end up back in the caves where Luddite fantasy would like us to go. We also won't end up with the oligarchic Seven Sisters of previous decades either. The energy business will be fed by a large number of small, medium, and large firms that, as a side effect of their other businesses, also produce hydrogen or something that converts very easily to it. Sewage plants, agriculture (all up and down the chain), and various manufacturing concerns will all dip a toe into the energy markets because they all have the potential to turn current waste streams into energy profits. No doubt even "green gyms" will show up with little generators attached to workout machines instead of iron plates. Generate enough energy and your membership is free!

What is not worthwhile, however, is wasting a great deal of time attacking somebody else's favorite form of energy. Sure, we don't want hidden subsidies to distort energy markets but everybody can point to subsidies from petroleum to nuclear to renewables. Let's not have the pot calling the kettle black but figure out a way to fairly unwind them all.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:07 PM

February 19, 2005

Letter to the Paper IL

Tech Central Station has an ultimately disappointing examination of dhimma from a muslim perspective called Reductio ad Jihadam. I wrote the author a letter expressing my dissatisfaction.

I read with interest your TCS column on dhimma from a muslim perspective ( Unfortunately, I find it filled with straw men and other disappointments. An analogy to US practices on race makes the real objection to dhimma more clear. In the era of slavery, an advocate of Jim Crow would have been considered a radical progressive, lumped in with the abolitionists as a threat to the even more oppressive slavery system. But after the Civil War and the freedom of blacks under Reconstruction, the same policies were a method of partial re-enslavement, a reactionary movement that increased suffering and was a form of evil.

In the time of christian intolerance the dhimma system was jim crow in a world of cross-confessional harsh repression and admirable by comparison to many christian practices. In the time of universal human rights, dhimma is still jim crow and a black mark against Islam where it is still practiced.

But where is dhimma still practiced? I would suggest that a habitual repression is hardly noticed by the masters in a system. It is felt far more keenly by the people at the bottom of the heap. Ask the Copts of Egypt whether it is true that the Pact of Umar has no relevance to their lives. You will find that Copts can only build churches with special permission. Liberalization on this matter means that instead of a church repair or construction being personally approved by Hosni Mubarak, in recent years he has increased the number of people who can issue such approvals to two. You cannot say that it is as bad as before but it is also certainly repression and worthy of condemnation that mosques not only have easy approval but public subsidy while the remnants of the Egyptian christian community struggle for simple things. Sticking to just Egypt, the apostasy laws are certainly still in force and muslims who convert to christianity receive a very hostile reception from the Egyptian state. Those whose spiritual journey is in the other direction have no such impediments as changing their ID card or worrying about christian assassins killing them. Muslims killing apostates is a real issue.

Today, in the US, to openly call for the reestablishment of Jim Crow is not just a small minority opinion. Publicly advocating such is a sure route to social ostracism, political unpopularity, and a multi-racial economic boycott. Openly calling for the worldwide establishment of a dhimma system as Osama bin Laden has done seems to lead to rock star status from Indonesia to Morocco. When the reaction to wearing an Osama bin Laden t-shirt is the same in Indonesia as wearing a 'Bull Conner' or Lester Maddox t-shirt is here (ie you'd have to explain who he is and would get a hostile reaction thereafter), Islam can claim to have caught back up to the civilized world.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:18 AM

November 29, 2004

So Said Al-Qa’ida II

I previously speculated that a particular letter purporting to be from Al Queda might have been made up as the original was not available, the Internet held few copies analyzing it (essentially one analysis over four publications), and the original was published on April Fool's day.

I jotted off a note to Reuven Paz, the Israeli addressee of that letter asking as to its authenticity. He confirmed that it did exist (the original was in arabic) and was part of a larger series of correspondence. He speculates that his correspondent was arrested or fled Saudi Arabia sometime later in 2004 as the ongoing discourse between the two has stopped.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:59 AM

June 22, 2004

Using Immigration as a Foreign Policy Tool

In a followup to my earlier piece I privately corresponded with Mark Krikorian over the need for immigration restrictionists to make their arguments from net costs, not gross ones.

Unfortunately Mr. Krikorian has yet to be convinced and gave an almost rote repetition of the great (but gross) costs of large scale immigration of poor people. He did give a good link on immigrant ingratitude but Steve Sailor isn't quite getting at the problem that I usually address, the problem of the core and the gap. My latest salvo is below:

You are pointing out real, true costs of immigration, some which could be ameliorated via changes in public policy. I find it very puzzling that you would not want to make those changes in the very real immigration overhaul that should happen in the nearest possible future.

Most of the costs, from a conservative perspective, are ones that ought to be reformed anyway. Welfare reform may have added urgency due to immigrant abuse of it but it needed reform irrespective of the level of immigration. Linkage provides leverage for faster reform.

Regarding the foreign policy benefit of letting people into this country, the effect is greatest among immigrants who come, work, go home, and build a business there, not here. A middle class business owner may not be an advocate for economic freedom and the rule of law but, really, do you want to propose that on net that group won't strongly trend in this direction?

You also mistake the character of the foreign policy benefit. The existential challenge of the US in this age is not to be liked. To be liked is the cherry on top of the whole enterprise. The real problem is that we have a huge portion of the world that is disconnected from the functioning core of civilization. In that gap, the group of countries that are non-integrating, the pathologies of the world concentrate and periodically erupt. Yet no matter how poor the gap is, there is money, there is ability. There will always be people able to pry into the chinks in our armor and create ever larger attacks, killing and terrorizing us more until we cut ourselves off at the knees and drop to their height.

With the growing ease of creating WMD of all types and the utter simplicity of creating mass carnage even without WMD (see the Padilla plot for mass death via gas explosion in apartment buildings for a practical example), the US must resolve this challenge or utterly abandon any hope of fulfilling the most basic function of government, protecting the lives of its citizens.

We must use every tool, even if it depresses wage growth, even if it threatens certain industries with powerful competition (for example our sugar industry quota system has got to go). The most basic function of government must come first. We are vulnerable, highly vulnerable, to the most simple attacks. That our enemies either do not know this or are too disordered by our offensive operations is great good fortune and hard work that is not something we can depend on in perpetuity.

Immigration, in this context, can be a powerful tool for connection, for shrinking the Gap. This may create legions of people who cordially hate the US as LA residents hate NYC but who do not bomb NYC. I used to live in NY. I can take it. I suspect you can too.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:47 AM

June 18, 2004

Promoting Virtue

Steven Den Beste's Singapore article provoked a bit of thought and some private conversation. SDB thought that his thoughts (yes, he does it long in email too) was easily adapted to a post and asked whether I wanted to put my own take up here so he could play off me.

Starting from the idea of Singapore being a society that intensely promotes virtue, I wrote:

Let me give you the story of two wives.

One does not look at other men because she loves her husband The other does not look at other men when she can be caught but lusts after them and fantasizes about sleeping with others.

Which woman is the more virtuous? Which woman's virtue would be safer if challenged (ie she came into a situation where she could sleep with someone without being caught)?

I suggest that virtue via state action is akin to the second woman. It is a hollow thing that is all too frail. It is not more intense at all. It just is more overbearing.

I would suggest that you would get a lot further with talk of reform by talking about replacing inefficient and ineffective government efforts to promote virtue with more effective and efficient private ones. Take a moment to look from the eyes of your poor opponent in such an argument. How would he counter it? He can only insist that public efforts be maintained where they are more effective. He lays himself open to the step by step destruction of his position as public controls are demonstrated to be worse than private social consensus.

One of the great secrets of the monotheistic concept of free will is that God knows that puppets are of little worth compared to those who freely choose Him, freely choose virtue.

I'll leave SDB to elaborate his own theories but he expands out my model to three wives (when the article goes up, I'll link to it here). I like the extension but saw what I thought was a rough spot and expanded to four. I'll save that (brief) note for later.

Update: SDB's article is here

Posted by TMLutas at 05:23 PM

June 10, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXIII

Dhimmi Watch asks "where, o where, is this deep knowledge of Islam that will refute the radicals? Virtualy every analysis I've seen from self-proclaimed moderates is superficial and doesn't confront radical exegesis of the Qur'an and Sunnah at all." It's a fair question with a very simple answer. When alternate interpretations are burned, the Koran subtly changed shortly after its compilation, and heterodox muslims subject to death for centuries, the cruel jihadists have an enormous amount of their authority tied up in the idea of an unchanging Koran:

I will attempt to answer this challenge. The first key to disarming Islam is not some sort of alternate Koran. For centuries, any alternate Korans have been destroyed and a myth promulgated that the Koran of today is exactly the same as always, that the book is unchanging. This is a lie which has been disproven by the discovery of early koranic fragments which differ in minor ways from the modern Koran. That the Koran has a history, a history that has been ruthlessly suppressed by religious authorities and secular rulers in the muslim world is a huge deal. It means that it is possible to be an honest heterodox muslim and simultaneously be closer to true Islam than the hidebound imams who preach the cult of death.

If the apostates are those who kill to defend an inauthentic koran, the entire muslim world is turned on its head. These strident apostates have been masquerading as the true believers. Without the authority of the unchanging Koran, they are lost entirely. There is the loose thread that will unravel the Islamist abomination.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:42 AM

June 09, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXII

Thomas Barnett's got a review of reviews series going and he picked a negative, pseudo-libertarian one this time. I say pseudo-libertarian because I don't believe that libertarianism is properly about accepting brutal foreign tyranny in preference to the risk of domestically losing our souls. I wrote as much in comments:

There are times when olympian judgment is necessary to judge the morality of a particular war. Then there is now. If you have somebody declare war (Islamists, Osama bin Laden), you should take that seriously and oblige the declarer with a war. The fact that we did not led to thousands dead in NY and DC. The war that was declared was a very old fashioned sort of war, non-Westphalian. We haven't had one of those in a very, very long time.

Non-Westphalian wars are incredibly destructive. That's why we stopped having them after the 30 Years War via non-interference in domestic affairs (enshrined in the Peace of Westphalia, thus Westphalianism). But non-Westphalian wars are the only ones that the Gap can reasonably have a chance at winning.

I'm a libertarian. I believe in reducing government to the maximum extent possible so we're dealing with a campfire, not a forest fire. That being said, when the wolves come out of the darkness, it's time to grab a burning brand and swing away. The scary part of formal Libertarianism has always been the unwillingness of too many libertarians to risk the forest fire to save ourselves. It is raising the forest's health as fetish over the value of our own lives and freedoms.

If we swing our flaming brands too energetically, we may end up lighting a conflagration of tyranny. But baring your own throat to the wolf instead of taking the risk to defend yourself is no solution, not even a libertarian one.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:37 AM

June 08, 2004

Campaign Questions I

I just sent off the following to the Badnarik campaign's media email. It's a list of 9 questions that I hope will provoke not only interesting answers but more than a little thought into what exactly a Libertarian candidate should be thinking and talking about during the campaign and beyond:

I would be interested in the candidate's position on the following 9 questions which I will post on my blog, Flit(TM)

1. Muslims run a parallel judiciary which, unlike most western religious courts, includes physical punishments for both believers and nonbelievers. The muslim judiciary's judgments (fatwas) can and have had the effect of reducing freedom of speech and artistic freedom. What do you think is appropriate government action to defend americans against these foreign courts who assert jurisdiction over us without our consent and while we stay in our own country?

2. What should the government role be in restraining private individuals from conducting their own foreign policy. And when such individuals inevitably offend foreign governments what should be the federal government's role regarding any attempts by foreign governments at retribution?

3. Lax government prosecution of corporate crimes such as fraud have led to substitute legislation such as antitrust and RICO law. How should government act in order to establish that corporate fraud will no longer be tolerated even in highly complex and technical cases such as Microsoft?

4. If elected, what are the measures you would take to ensure that transition to a libertarian society will be orderly and fair? How will you act in order to minimize injustice during the changeover?

5. Do you believe that the right to restrict copying via patents, copyrights, and trademarks is an acceptable compromise of our liberty? How should a proper balance be struck between copiers, derivers, and innovators?

6. Do you think that marriage should entail civil privileges, on what grounds, to what extent, and to what end?

7. What is the appropriate executive response to courts that base judicial decisions on foreign, not domestic legislation? What is the appropriate response for mixed cases where judicial decisions are rendered in part under the Constitution and in part under foreign law not incorporated via treaty or legislation?

8. If elected, how would you handle the rights of US citizens in space? With the imminent dawn of successful non-government space programs, how far should the US government go in extending constitutional protections to citizens in orbit and beyond?

9. At what point does a human gain constitutional rights and at what point do such rights cease and do you think the lines are properly drawn today?

If I get any response, it will be posted.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:51 PM

May 28, 2004

Reader Mail I

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?

Posted by TMLutas at 12:19 PM

May 08, 2004

Letter to the Paper XIX

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.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:21 PM

January 31, 2004

Correspondence: Jonah Goldberg

In regards to your recent column I think you're not giving Bush credit for what he's doing. Beyond the political grandstanding problem that you rightly point out will likely afflict an investigation into the intelligence failures of the CIA et al there is another problem, one that you yourself have fallen prey to and it seems to be a common failing in the US. The destructive temptation is to go off half cocked, to call for heads on pikes all around and to destroy careers and lives without first going to the trouble to not only understand that something is deeply wrong, but the specific problem that needs fixing and who materially contributed to that problem.

Do we have the answers to these questions? Are you confident that we are not going to besmirch and destroy the reputations of honest patriots in the intelligence bureaucracy whose major fault is being less adept at the CYA internal blame game? I'm not confident of that and the idea of rushing to the head of the mob and storming the intelligence castles without knowing precisely what we're doing fills me with a certain dread.

There is a 9/11 commission which will report soon. After it reports, resignations will likely be in order and those resignations will not cause the damage to our government they would have caused if they would have been demanded before the results of the commission are published.

It appears that there will likely be a subsequent investigation into systemic failures in intelligence gathering. It is vital that an investigation is as sober and as free of grandstanding as possible with investigation first, trial afterward, and only then a verdict. The verdict has already been reached by many. Is it really just pique that President Bush resists giving in to a witch hunt mentality?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:30 PM

October 17, 2003

A Letter to Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell's recent column The War Against Success is largely spot on but he makes the mistake of including Microsoft in his list of persecuted entities who are undeservedly pursued. He's wrong to do so. Microsoft is an odd case because it is both villain and victim simultaneously. The anti-trust case is a travesty of justice but Microsoft is a bad actor who violated criminal laws to get to where they are, most conspicuously criminal conspiracy and fraud statutes.

Below is the letter I sent to Thomas Sowell:

Microsoft, aside from being a successful corporation that provides a great deal of useful software and some hardware to the world is also a company with a history of illegal dealings that nobody should support.

The entire point of an operating system (OS) is to provide a base, a platform upon which application programs can run with a reasonable set of well documented facilities to take care of the basics that all applications need.

Microsoft is guilty (as has been documented in court) of altering its OS in order that competitors products would break. The DR-DOS case is a treasure chest of evidence of Microsoft's legitimate bad guy status.

Another basic requirement of a modern OS is that the tools used to develop applications are made available. Now one of Microsoft's big selling points to the independent programmer community was that, unlike many of its competitors, Microsoft did not hold back any part of these tools. Microsoft application programmers used the same tools and documentation as the independents and there was an even playing field. Microsoft sold programming toolkits in the billions based on that promise and became the premier choice for a generation of programmers because of it.

It was a lie. Microsoft has now admitted that not all tools available to Microsoft application programmers are released in their development kits which cost thousands of dollars yearly. Most would call this criminal conspiracy and fraud but prosecution on anti-trust grounds is oh so much sexier (if ultimately far less effective).

The list could go on with the number of small independents who have been steamrolled, crushed, and otherwise abused but these two documented points suffice, I think. Please take Microsoft off your list of good guys. Even with their unarguable success, they don't deserve to be there.

Unfortunately, all too many people find it very difficult to separate Microsoft's dual role as the unjustly persecuted black hat. It's a sad testament to the West's flagging commitment to justice for all that the too simplistic assignment of Microsoft to the category of all guilty or all innocent is so common.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:49 PM