March 2003 Archives

BOMBERS: The Iraqi Airforce was a no-show, and the Iraqi anti-aircraft systems have been nearly completely shut down. Coalition forces have total air supremacy... now what? Bombers, that's what. Let's look at the three main types of bombers that the US uses.

B-52 -- The last of the 102 B-52H's currently in service was delivered to the USAF in 1962, and is expected to last until 2037; a 75 year service life. The B-52 has been the backbone of US bombarbment capability since the Vietnam War, and has been one of the three prongs of US nuclear deterrence (the other two being nuclear-armed subs and ICBMs). B-52s can fly as high as 50,000 feet (out of range of most surface-to-air weapons) at up to 650 mph; they have a range of more than 8,800 miles without mid-air refueling, and essentially unlimited range with refueling. A single B-52 can carry up to 70,000 pounds of munitions, including JDAMs and cruise missiles.
B-52 Image Gallery

B-1B -- The B-1 flies at a lower altitude than the B-52 (over 30,000 ft. ceiling), and carries fewer munitions (still more than 60,000 pounds), but can fly at supersonic speeds and "holds several world records for speed, payload and distance." With a range of over 7,500 miles the B-1 is close to the B-52, but can move more quickly and has a much smaller radar signature and advanced electronic countermeasures that greatly increase its survivability.
B-1B Image Gallery

B-2 -- The B-2 Spirit, also known as the "stealth bomber", is the most recent addition to the US bomber force. Its stealth characteristics and high aerodynamic efficiency make it harder to detect and attack than other bombers, and its high payload capacity allows the B-2 to pack quite a punch. Like the B-52 it is subsonic (essential for stealth, to avoid sonic booms), and it has a range of over 6,000 miles. In 1987 the USAF ordered 132 B-2s, but with the end of the Cold War and the fragmentation of the USSR, this number was reduced to 21; because of this drastically shortened production run, the cost-per-unit skyrocketed to $2.1 billion each.
B-2 Image Gallery

The future: HyperSoar -- The HyperSoar concept represents the potential future of bomber design. Flying 6,700 mph at an altitude of 130,000 ft., the HyperSoar would "skip" in and out of the atmosphere and be able to deliver its payload to any location on the globe. Crazy stuff, but more economical than ICBMs if the concept can be made to work.

NO-LIMIT: Via GeekPress, a Boston Globe article by James McManus on the relationship between military strategy and no-limit poker. It's quite an interesting read that covers a bit of game theory, history, gambling, and bluffing, and how all of those play into military and political strategy.

I would absolutely love to work on a space elevator; maybe when I finish up school I'll have the chance. Meanwhile, I have been emailing some of the groups involved and trying to scope out the scene, and I think that the project concept is entirely realistic, even if it sounds like science fiction.

The basic idea is simple: put a large satellite or space station in geosynchronous orbit, and then drop a cable down to the surface of the earth. Since the satellite would be stationary relative to the planet below, the cable would hang motionless in the atmosphere and could be used by an elevator system to lift cargo and people up into orbit at a tiny fraction of the cost that current rocket technologies require. The science needed to make this concept a reality already exists, and LiftPort Inc. (and the related company, HighLift Systems) intends to follow through and build the thing within 15 years.

Rather than rehash what has already been written, please take a look at the links below:

How Space Elevators Will Work.
LiftPrt Inc., a company created to build a space elevator within 15 years. article, "The Space Elevator Comes Closer to Reality".
Wired article, "To the Moon in a Space Elevator?"

HISTORY: If you haven't noticed yet, Bill Whittle has another excellent essay up on his site.

DEMOCRATS IN CRISIS: Robert Bartley highlights some problems that the Democratic Party is facing. Most significant, in my mind, is that "barring some sudden swing in public opinion, Democrats are caught between grindstones; their primary base is irreconcilable with the broader electorate." Some 70% of the American population supports the battle in Iraq, but the Democratic base (who votes in the primaries and thus selects their presidential candidate) almost entirely contains the remaining 30% who oppose the war.

Similarly, Democrats are holding up the confirmation/rejection of Miguel Estrada by filibustering rather than allowing a vote, and this is playing poorly to most Americans but playing well among the Democrats' base. The main issue that unifies the Democratic Party is abortion, and there is a primal fear that Mr. Estrada will eventually be appointed to the Supreme Court and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade (which may or may not be the case). Along the same line, 70% of Americans are opposed to leaving partial-birth abortions legal. Congress has already passed bans on partial-birth abortions twice and had them vetoed by Clinton. Bush is ready to sign the bill that the Senate recently passed banning the procedure, but which fewer than a third of the Democratic senators voted for. Appearing to be anti-abortion in any form is a death sentence for any Democratic with political aspirations.

Summarizing the situation well, Mr. Bartley concludes that: "When the dust settles, Senate Democrats are likely to find that their current obstructionism has put them on the wrong side of a defining event."

CONFLICT RESOLUTION: Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Conspiracy points out a Washington Post article that connects "conflict resolution" as taught in public schools to the perspective of our youth on the battle of Iraq.

"My school was telling us not to call names or beat people up, and now we see the government bombing Iraq," [a high school student] says. "It seems it's 'Do as we say, not as we do.' I'm very against the war."

Certainly not everyone the age of Mulligan and Miles views the conflict in Iraq as wrong. But talking with even young supporters, one is struck by the lens through which they view the war: the way they examine arguments pro and con, assume that none of the players is irredeemable, and fault President Bush and his advisers for poor communication skills.

"Americans are dictating for the Iraqi people what a 'good life' looks like," says Puneet Gambhir, a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. "Why didn't we communicate directly with the Iraqi people, ask them what a government for their families and friends would look like, allow them to buy into our dream? We never created buy-in."

Classic conflict-resolution talk.

Teaching kids that "violence is never the answer" is foolish, and it's interesting to see this connection if it truly exists. It's easy to see why the kids might be confused, however, since even the Pope doesn't seem to get it.

POST-WAR IRAQ: Continuing my earlier posts about the future of Iraq, I offer you this article by Amir Taheri in which he gives some background for the current despotisms in the Middle-East and describes what needs to happen for them to be overcome.

Via Instapundit.

BIG MEDIA ISN'T MEETING EXPECTATIONS: Does this mean they're losing the media war against the net and the blogs? Obviously! I routinely make the mistake of hitting Instapundit as soon as I fire up my computer, and then I read every story and find myself with nothing left to write. Oh well.... Go read Glenn's Tech Central Station article about how big media is missing the boat, and how pleased the Pentagon must be about it.

Yeah, I was just about to write that.

AMERICAN MEDIA: I made some disparaging remarks earlier about unpatriotic "American" media, and so I wanted to point out the recent Peter Arnett situation to stand in contrast to my previous remarks. NBC, MSNBC, and National Geographic Explorer have fired him "after the journalist told state-run Iraqi TV that the U.S.-led coalition's initial war plan had failed and that reports from Baghdad about civilian casualties had helped antiwar protesters undermine the Bush administration’s strategy."

"IT WAS wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state controlled Iraqi TV — especially at a time of war — and it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview," NBC News President Neal Shapiro said in a statement. "Therefore, Peter Arnett will no longer be reporting for NBC News and MSNBC."

National Geographic, for whom Arnett first traveled to Baghdad, said it too had "terminated the service of Peter Arnett."

"The Society did not authorize or have any prior knowledge of Arnett’s television interview with Iraqi television," it said in a statement, "and had we been consulted, would not have allowed it. His decision to grant an interview and express his personal views on state controlled Iraqi television, especially during a time of war, was a serious error in judgment and wrong."

NBC originally backed Arnett's interview (purely on reflex, no doubt), but then higher-ups changed the company's position and fired him amidst widespread criticism. Giving an interview to Saddam-controlled Iraqi TV was stupid enough, but the nature of his remarks were additionally despicable and will likely directly lead to many Iraqi civilian deaths.

THERE IS NO POINT SPREAD IN WAR 2: Continued from directly below:

SDB writes to me that he never said that we need to humiliate the Iraqis in order to defeat Saddam, but that he has made a similar point with regard to the Palestinians. I can see how the situations are different, since the Iraqis as a whole loath Saddam, but the Palestinian people themselves are waging war against Israel. I stand by my original point, however: it may not be necessary to humiliate the Iraqi people, but when the fighting stops there must not be any doubt in anyone's mind that we have achieved complete victory.

THERE IS NO POINT SPREAD IN WAR: SDB has a long article about the mistaken mentality that many reporters have regarding the war. He says that because the Iraqi army is causing "more damage than we expected" many reporters are acting as if they're winning. Additionally, the fact that US supply lines are being harassed by irregular forces means that we aren't living up to expectations, and so we're "losing". SDB points out that war is not a sporting event where one side can win just by "beating the spread". Even if Iraqi units aren't behaving the exact way we hoped, we're still prepared for reality and we're still decimating them.

On another note, in the same post he writes:

We hoped in this war it would be possible to cause wholesale surrender of major Iraqi units. That turned out to be less successful than some thought it might, although it may instead have encouraged wholesale desertion in many units, which would be less apparent to us now but no less significant militarily. It was worth a try, but the plan didn't require it. Since many of the remaining Iraqi units won't surrender or sit out the war, we're going to have to destroy them. That means that we're going to have to kill a lot of the men in those units, which means that all hope of a nearly-bloodless war are now gone. And it also means our units will be in combat, which means some of our people will die or be wounded.

I read somewhere a couple of weeks ago (maybe even on USS Clueless) that there is a school of thought that believes that the only way we can ultimately win and meet our international political goals is to actually inflict heavy casualties on the Iraqi army, and to completely break the will of the Iraqi people to fight. That's how we beat Germany and Japan in WW2, and the fact that we utterly broke their spirits was instrumental in allowing us to occupy their territory and rebuild their cultures from the ground up. Since we hope to accomplish similar objectives in Iraq, it may be reasonable to believe that we will need to break the Iraqi people as well.

Mass surrender would be nice from a humanitarian standpoint, but it is essential that when the war is over there is absolutely no question but that Iraq has been completely defeated. We must annihilate their ability to make war, and we must eliminate their desire to do so. This total defeat will also serve as a warning to other oppressive Arab regimes, and to other dictators all over the world. We're through cutting deals, and we're through letting you finance the murder of Americans with nothing more than a wink and a nudge.

ANOTHER CHANCE: It's been a strange day. Here's a short piece called Another Chance. As always, if the direct link doesn't work, just go to The Forge and look for March 30, 2003.

ANOTHER CHANCE: If I had the chance, I know I'd do it differently. What would I change? Maybe I'd be a little younger. I see the kids and they sure look like they're having a good time. Of course, when I was in high school I couldn't wait to get out. So I'd make myself younger again, and more popular.

I'd drive a Corvette instead of a Civic, for one thing. I'd think a lot more about what I wore than I did last time. I'd buy cool clothes; oh, and shoes. Girls always notice guys with good shoes, so I'd definitely get some good shoes. I wouldn't wear t-shirts, and I wouldn't wear white socks, only the colored kind that would match my perfect pants. I'd keep my hair nice and messy like the people in the catalogs.

If I had the chance to go back, I'd lose weight so that I wasn't the fat kid. I guess I just didn't care the first time; I didn't realize how important it really was. I'd work out every day and learn to play a sport. Maybe basketball. Or I could run track. Something like that. I'd have a six-pack and nice arms, and I'd have a tan.

I'd listen to more music, and learn about all sorts of underground bands that no one else knew about. I'd be able to recognize whatever was playing on the radio. I would learn how to play the guitar, and I'd stick with it this time. I would write lots of dark, brooding melodies about the girls I missed and all the people that just couldn't understand me, like my family.

I wouldn't tell so many jokes, and I wouldn't smile all the time. I'd be a rebel, and there wouldn't be anything to smile about because the whole system would be against me. But that's ok, it wouldn't bother me. I wouldn't need anybody - that's the point of being a rebel. No one could ever hurt my feelings, because I just wouldn't care.

Yeah, no matter what happened it wouldn't bother me because I wouldn't care. No one could hurt me, that's for sure.

NORTH KOREA: North Korea is in deep trouble, as I've written before. Their only lifeline to the outside world is China, and the Chinese have always maintained that North Korea is their friend, and that they would oppose any economic sanctions against them. Without Chinese participation, no sanction regime could possibly be implemented successfully. In fact, North Korea already has little money to buy goods from anyone even without sanctions in place. Now that the US has cut off the oil supply we were bribing them with, China is North Korea's only real source of energy.

According to this article,

For three straight days in recent weeks, something remarkable happened to the oil pipeline running through northeast China to North Korea - the oil stopped flowing, according to diplomatic sources, temporarily cutting off a vital lifeline for North Korea.

The pipeline shutdown, officially ascribed to a technical problem, followed an unusually blunt message delivered by China to its longtime ally in a high-level meeting in Beijing last month, the sources said. Stop your provocations about the possible development of nuclear weapons, China warned its neighbor, or face Chinese support for economic sanctions against the regime.

This might send the tough message that the North Koreans need to hear. Ideally, China will cut them off and their government will collapse with a wimper.

THE WAR: Well, after being out of the news loop for two whole days... I realize that I didn't miss very much. Most of America seems to be treating The War as the latest in a long line of reality shows, and I certainly admit that there is a voyeristic attraction surrounding the life and death of those directly involved. In spite of this, or because of it, I am finding myself reluctant to post a bunch of links to recent war news. Until something actually happens, there just isn't much to say, and I don't feel like writing filler.

URBAN COMBAT: You may have seen this type of thing elsewhere, but Phil Carter has a good primer on urban combat, which includes some info on why it's so dangerous.

CURIOSITY: Here's a short story inspired by a display I saw during my recent camping trip: Curiosity. As always, if the direct link doesn't work just go to The Forge and look for the entry on March 29, 2003.

CURIOSITY: John had always been curious, but he didn't much like going into the ocean. When his parents would drag him and his sister Kate off on a family trip to the beach he would usually pout for the whole drive there, and only relent when his dad finally pulled the station wagon off to the side of the road. John would then peek his head up over the edge of the door (he was too short to see out the window without stretching) and forget all about the misery that he had feared lied before him.

His parents knew this, as did Kate, and so they were not surprised this particular time when they saw John bound out of the car and down the concrete stairs to the sand as soon as the car stopped. John's mom saw that the beach was deserted, and so she didn't see any harm in letting him run free while the rest of the family unloaded the beach supplies from the car. Dad got the ice chest, mom carried the umbrella and the towels, and Kate brought up the rear with a pile of folding chairs stacked on top of her head.

It took the three of them a little while to get organized, and John was impatient. When he reached the sand he looked back up towards his family and sighed mightily; what in the world could be taking them so long? He kicked his shoes off and rubbed his feet through the sand, tracing long lines down the beach towards the water. He walked down onto the wet sand, but kept a close eye on the lapping waves to make sure that he didn't come within their reach.

John looked up and down the beach. There was a rock formation a short distance off, and he started making his way towards it, picking up as many shells as he could find while carefully avoiding the surf. When he reached the rocks he craned his neck upwards to take in the whole site. In awe of the towering spire, the shells he had collected fell numbly from his hands, forgotten for the moment. The rocks looked a little sharp, and John looked back up the beach towards where he had dropped his shoes. Too far away. Besides, he saw plenty of suitable places to step.

He approached the rocks gingerly at first, and climbed up the nearest using his hands to keep his balance. They weren't steep, and he grew more confident when he saw his family trudging down the slope from the road. His mom stooped to pick up his shoes when she passed them, and it made John laugh.

"Mom!" he yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth, "look at me! Mom!"

His mom turned to look, and waved the hand holding his shoes at him. John watched his family deposit their things a safe distance above the water line, and saw his parents say something to Kate and point over towards him. His big sister groaned and started walking to the rocks where he was standing. She was coming to get him, or at least to watch over him? this wouldn't do at all.

John laughed and started climbing higher. There were plenty of footholds and he didn't have any trouble until he approached the top. He looked down and saw Kate walking up after him; she looked grouchy, and that probably meant that she would take him back down. Kate used to be a lot of fun, but she hadn't wanted to play with him much at all recently, and had barely talked to him for months until school ended and summer began. If she thought she was going to carry him back down, he decided he would at least make her work for it.

John reached his hands up onto the top ridge of the highest rock, and stood on his tiptoes to see what was there. There weren't many places to step, but if he could find something to grab onto?. When his eyes poked above the ledge he saw that the peak was covered in roses.

"Kate! Look at this!" he yelled back down to his sister.

She sighed again. "What, John?" she called up to him.

"Roses!" he said, and grabbed one from over his head and held it out so she could see it. Kate looked curious, and hopped up the final few feet to stand up next to him. She was tall enough to see the roses without having to reach, and she surveyed the scene. "I want to see," John told her.

Kate grabbed him under his arms and lifted him up onto the ledge. Roses indeed, piles of them! John kicked at them lightly with his feet, and saw that under them all was a metal plaque. There were words written on it, but he couldn't read them. "What's this?" he asked his sister urgently.

"I can't see it," she said. "Come on, let's go." She was impatient, and wanted to go back down. She never wanted to play with him anymore.

"Read it, Kate," John begged her, curious to know what the plaque said and hoping to stay on the rocks for a few more minutes.

With another sigh Kate braced herself on the ledge with her hands and started to push herself up. John moved his feet out of the way and Kate gasped. The rock wasn't wet, but it was smooth and slippery and when Kate saw the plaque her arm lurched out from under her. John watched as she trembled on the brink and lost her balance; Kate screamed as she fell backwards off the step she had been standing on and turned end-over-end until she hit the rocks below with a solid thud.

John looked down for a few seconds and then started crying when he saw that Kate wasn't moving. His parents had heard Kate scream and fall, and ran across the beach towards the rocks; they found Kate's body lying crumpled below, lifeless. John's mom collapsed on the sand and cried, and his dad climbed up to bring him down. When he picked John up he saw the plaque underneath the roses, inscribed "In memory of our beloved Kate."

HOME AGAIN: I made it back home safely. The laundry is in the washer, the food is back in the fridge... everything is in its place. We all had a good time camping, but it's nice to be home. Originally we were planning to spend two nights out there, but for various reasons we had to come back early, and I'm glad we did. I need to take about four showers.

It appears that while I was gone the site got around 20 hits, thanks to a link from Emperor Misha. So, if anyone comes back here twice and sees this message, then I guess that means you read something interesting, which is nice. I'll post a bit more tonight once I check on the news.

I haven't seen anything since I left on Friday afternoon, but I'll betcha nothing's changed very much. I imagine there's been a huge story about a missile striking civilians that's turned out to be wrong or fake. I bet there have been more chemical weapon scares but nothing substantiated. And I bet I can find the word "quagmire" on the BBC's homepage.

Gotta wash off, be back soon.

GOIN' CAMPN': I'm going camping until Saturday night, so there won't be anything new until then.

As I was leaving work I heard a helicopter that sounded really close. I looked up, and... WHAT THE HECK? There's an Apache flying right towards me, about 20ft. off the ground. I was stunned for a second, but then realized that it was circling and coming in for a landing in the parking lot. I looked around some more and saw several tanks and a half-dozen helicopters of various flavors, all sitting within 100ft. of where I was standing. Apparently there's a Jr. ROTC event this weekend and they're using our parking lot to show off some of the military's nifty toys.

I have to admit, I was a little scared when I first saw that Apache barreling down on me. I'm glad it's on MY side.

Another pointer from Instapundit gives us an article debunking the threat of the new "super-pneumonia". That's fine... to tell the truth, I wasn't scared at all anyway. When the news reports an emergency, a crisis, or a disaster I just divide whatever danger they relate by 100 and take a nap.

I am reminded by the article of a real, and ongoing, health crisis: malaria. Sure, as an American it's not much of a threat to me, but malaria afflicts up to 500 million people per year, and kills more than 3 million people per year. It's not as glamorous as ebola (kills dozens per year, maybe), or the new super-pneumonia (which has killed around 200), but malaria is a real and present danger to millions of people in undeveloped parts of the world. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes... isn't there something we can do to eliminate it?

Good question. In 1955, the Eighth World Health Assembly adopted a Global Malaria Eradication Campaign, and by 1967 malaria had been eradicated from every developed country where the disease was endemic, and from large tropical areas of Asia and Latin America. The program was also used successfully in three countries in tropical Africa. How did it work?

"To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT... In little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that otherwise would have been inevitable."
[National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Research in the Life Sciences of the Committee on Science and Public Policy. 1970. ...]

There are a lot of "reasons" that DDT use has been largely abandoned, but the vast majority of them are based on flawed science and the politics of the environmentalist movement. DDT was linked to everything from cancer, to shell-thickness among bald eagle eggs, but none of these claims are really substantiated or even supported by actual science. DDT can be dangerous when it is used improperly, as can all chemicals, but it can also be an incredibly powerful tool when used safely.

The history of DDT is just one example of how the environmental movement leads directly to human death on a massive scale. Of course, that may be part of the point.

Population control advocates blamed DDT for increasing third world population. In the 1960s, World Health Organization authorities believed there was no alternative to the overpopulation problem but to assure than up to 40 percent of the children in poor nations would die of malaria. As an official of the Agency for International Development stated, "Rather dead than alive and riotously reproducing."
[Desowitz, RS. 1992. Malaria Capers, W.W. Norton & Company]

Via Instapundit, a very sad article on the recent history of Zimbabwe. Mugabe is as ruthless and terrible as Saddam Hussein, but far less organized and unable to even feed his own people. Before he "freed" Southern Rhodesia, the country was rich and prosperous and exported food to all its neighbors. Now, Zimbabwe is ruled by Mugabe's corrupt cronies who divert all the country's wealth into their own pockets.

CHEMICAL THREAT: I'm watching Fox News Channel now, and Rick Leventhal who is embedded in the 1st Marine division, 3rd LAR, just said that he has witnessed Iraqi soldiers in chemical suits unloading steel drums from trucks. I hadn't heard this anywhere before, so I'm going to see if I can find any more info. I believe that the marines are near Nasiriyah. Remember, you heard it here first!

SDB writes along the same line that I did earlier. The key to understanding France's decision-making process is understanding their economy and their social welfare system; I don't think that can be understated.

Further proof of French perfidy. Say that five times fast.

DOCTRINAL PURITY: Tacitus has a post up that gives a little analysis of the current situation with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq. According to him, the 3ID has lost some operational flexibility because of their fast advance towards Baghdad. They're spread too thinly to maintain momentum, and he believes (as does a Washington Post article) that they'll have to delay until the 4ID arrives to back them up (some time in April). Interesting, if true.

I've read a lot of speculation about the current campaign, and there's widespread concern among pundits that we don't have enough boots in the sand to handle the "fierce" resistance the Iraqis are putting up.... Time will tell. We would have had many more strategic options open to us if the 4ID had been allowed to deploy from Turkey as we had originally intended. Or if we had known that Turkey would ultimately refuse we could have deployed them from Kuwait with 3ID. As it is, we have to wait several weeks for their equipment to arrive by boat and be offloaded. Thanks, France.

FROM THE TIP OF THE SPEAR: CNN has a report from the 3-7th Cav, the unit which served as the lead element of the 3rd Infantry Division thrusting towards Baghdad.

"It was sad," [Tank machine gunner Sgt. 1st Class Paul] Wheatley said Thursday. "They were forced to fight against odds they would never have a chance to overcome -- shooting rifles at tanks. They are driving Toyota pickup trucks at Bradleys and tanks. I couldn't even explain it." ...

Wheatley was handling a medium-size 7.62 mm machine gun.

Bullets ricocheted off the side of his tank. "It was almost like somebody was throwing rocks. But, against the side of a car when you kick up rocks."

"They were probably 150 meters away," he estimated. That far away, "their AK-47s won't do too much damage to a tank."

The RPGs couldn't have done much against the tank either, he said. "If you don't see it and just feel the percussion from it, not much is going to happen. ... But if you're hanging out of the hatch, it could mess you up pretty bad."

Wheatley said he didn't know how many Iraqis he took out. "I wouldn't even begin to guess. Probably 30-35. During that one stretch of road."

BUY A GUN FOR MICHAEL MOORE DAY: Via lots of sites, but particularly Emperor Misha, I have found the perfect way to express my [checking thesaurus for synonym of "loathing"] abhorrence for Michael Moore: BUY A GUN FOR (TO SPITE) MICHAEL MOORE DAY.


"AMERICAN" MEDIA?: StrategyPage has an excellent point about CNN and other "American" media sources. I'll just quote it:

It is apparent to many that when an American News network like CNN reports facts as, "the American military views Iraqis displaying POW's as a violation of the Geneva Convention." CNN is unwilling to take sides and views American corpses being lifted off the ground, their hair pulled back and the bullet holes in the foreheads shown to the audience, as possibly acceptable behavior.

CNN views the interrogation of American POW's for a TV audience, some badly wounded and forced before the camera by the interrogator to raise their heads, as open to interpretation as to whether it violates the Geneva Convention or the norms of civilized behavior. CNN is headquartered in Atlanta, though it sometimes appears they would prefer it was Baghdad.

It disgusts me that some American reporters find nobility in refusing to be patriotic. It disgusts me that they are "journalists" first, and Americans only second. It is certainly important to present factually true news, but it is morally offensive to remain neutral when one's own country is fighting against such evil. It is cowardly to hide anti-Americanism behind a cloak of "objectivity".

THINK OF THE CHILDREN: Dorothy Rabinowitz writes on the Wall Street Journal editorial page about the dangers of false accusations and witch-hunts, particularly as they relate to child abuse.

Shortly after a jury convicted Kelly Michaels in 1988, a Los Angeles Times reporter put a question to the victorious prosecutors, Glenn Goldberg and Sara McArdle. He was curious about certain of the charges, said the journalist--things like the accused inserting knives into childrens' ears and such. Did they, the prosecutors, actually believe that kind of story?

No, Glenn Goldberg answered.

Oh, absolutely, came the reply from prosecutor McArdle. Both had answered at the same instant--doubtless a moment of revelation for Sara McArdle.

How jurors could have believed child witnesses who had given clearly fantastic testimony--another question often asked--was easier to answer. ...

2ND AMENDMENT: New Mexico has become the 35th state to pass a "shall-issue" concealed weapon permit law. As opposed to "may-issue" laws, a "shall-issue" law requires the government to issue a permit to an adult who meets the objective qualifications, and does not leave it to the discretion of the issuing authority (usually a police chief). This is important, because in states like California that have "may-issue" laws, the police basically NEVER issue permits to anyone except their own friends and celebrities -- a gross abuse of power, in my opinion. This makes it impossible for normal people to get permits even if they meet the legal requirements.

This CNSNews article has a lot more information, and also has quotes by Dr. John Lott, an economist and senior research scholar at the Yale School of Law who's research statistically proves that violent crime decreases in counties that willingly issue concealed gun permits.

"When you're an academic, one of the reasons you do research is that you think you can do a better job than other people have done," he explained. "So I started looking at the gun issues more, and the one that stood out in terms of having any significant, real benefit on the crime rates was the 'right to carry' laws.

"The effect was fairly dramatic," Lott recalled, "and I was very surprised."

When ordinary citizens are allowed to carry weapons for their own defense, violent crime drops. Period. This means that the more people that carry guns, the less likely it is that anyone will have to actually use one in self-defense.

France is in trouble, and its recent surge of anti-Americanism is only a symptom of a far greater problem. If anti-Americanism is the cough and fever, the cancer that is eating the country from the inside is its untenable socialist economy that props up its population of 5 million unemployed, unassimilated, uneducated Arab Muslim immigrants. Read this CNSNews article for a taste, and particularly note:

With up to 90 percent of the population supporting President Jacques Chirac in his opposition to the war in Iraq, the French government has found itself for the first time sharing common ground with the country's largely disenfranchised Muslim youth, who often live in housing projects where drugs, violence and unemployment are rampant....

"What is extraordinary," said Jean-Louis Borloo, the minister for cities, "is that the whole immigrant community completely supports France's position. There has never been such national solidarity."

The problem is that France has been guided to this anti-American position by its leaders for precisely this reason: mere solidarity. Anti-Americanism is designed to appease these violent, angry immigrants -- anti-Americanism is the aspirin France is taking for its cancer, and although it may provide relief for a moment, it will not cure the disease.

THAT'S UNNATURAL!: Eugene Volokh has a good post about "unnaturalness" arguments. Hope that's not too awkward a phrase. Arguing that something is "unnatural" is purposely vague, and generally used to appeal to pseudo-religious or -emotional feelings that the speaker believes he shares with the listener. It allows them to agree on conclusions based on these feelings without having to actually deal with the details behind the feelings, on which they may disagree (different religious backgrounds, or whatever).

I think that similar arguments can be made in another realm: environmentalism. It's not "unnatural" to eat animals, or cut down trees, or dig oil and metal out of the ground. It may or may not be a good idea, and it may be wrong for other reasons, but it's not "unnatural".

NEW WORLD ORDER: Via Instapundit -- President Bush 41 used the phrase "new world order" when the USSR collapsed, but only now is that new order actually taking shape. So says Michael Ledeen in this New York Sun article. He describes therein how France and Germany pressured Turkey to refuse America's request to deploy troops into Iraq from their territory by threatening that if they did so, "Turkey would be locked out of Europe for a generation." Thanks, friends.

And in the Times, Anatole Kaletsky tells us what form this new world order is taking by telling us which countries/organizations he believes will end up winners after this conflict, and which will be losers. I don't particularly agree with his analysis on several points. He claims that the UN will be a loser, and that is certainly true, but he also believes that "Nato will probably cease to exist in its present form." I'm not sure what he means by this exactly, but I doubt that NATO will be disbanded or changed significantly in structure. This is not the first time that NATO has been tested and found wanting, and in fact two of its own members have fought each other in the recent past: Greece and Turkey over Cyprus. NATO may be weakened, as is the UN, but it will not change substantially over night.

France and Germany will obviously come out as losers in the long run. He also writes that Europe as a whole will suffer as American money moves ever eastward into Asia. This is probably true, but I don't think it's strongly connected to the Iraq situation. Europe is a poor investment because of its largely socialist economic systems, not because some of its countries back the US and others don't.

Russia will fare poorly, and that to me is a mystery. It would have been easy for Russia to stay mostly neutral (as China has done) or even to support the US, and there would have been little cost other than lip service. Why did they so vehemently oppose us? Merely for money? I suppose it's possible, but if that's the case then it would appear to have been a gross miscalculation since it will cost them far more in the long run than they could have ever hoped to collect from Saddam Hussein.

Kaletsky also believes that Israel will come out a loser because the Bush administration will abandon it in order to create peace, so as to give its newly reconstructed Iraq the best possible chance to survive. I don't think this is likely, and I think Kaletsky underestimates "the fanatical attachment to aggressive Zionism among many of Bush's neo-conservative supporters." As of this moment, Israel is the only democracy in the region; soon there will be two, and I doubt that the US will throw the first to the wolves just as the second is coming on line.

Finally, he claims that the only sure winners, other than Iraq, "are the governments of Iran, North Korea and other rogue states. After this unexpectedly difficult war in Iraq -- and the even more difficult occupation -- America is most unlikely to be able to summon up the political will, the money, or the military resources to attack any of its other perceived enemies." Frankly, this is absurd. It will certainly be a year or so before we take on the next of our enemies, but I doubt it will be more than six months before the next domino falls, be it North Korea or Iran or Saudi Arabia. Our terrible, swift strike against Saddam himself in the first hour of this war should give every ruthless dictator reason to tremble.

We can find you, we can kill you, and we don't need to fight through all your cronies to do it.

One of my friends asked a question about the number of people who get married. I consulted the source of all knowledge, The Internet, and found this page. It cites reliable sources, but otherwise I can't vouch for its accuracy. Nevertheless, let's look at some of its statistics:

  1. Median duration of marriage (1997): 7.2 years
  2. Likelihood of new marriages ending in divorce in 1997: 43%
  3. Adults between 25 and 34 years old never married in 1998: 14 million (35%)
  4. Percentage of population (by area of US) who had never married in 1999: Midwest: 28%, Northeast: 28%, South: 26%, West: 29%
  5. People (by gender) 15 years of age and over who have never married: Males: 32,253,000 (31.3% of men), Females: 27,763,000 (25.1% of women)
  6. Median age at first marriage: Males: 26.8, Females: 25.1
  7. Average age of marriage [first marriage and later] in 1997: Males: 28.7, Females: 25.9
  8. Percentage of people that married under the age of 20 who eventually get divorced as of 1995: 40%
  9. Percentage of people that married over the age of 25 who eventually get divorced as of 1995: 24%
  10. Percentage of women whose parents were divorced who get divorced within 10 years as of 1995: 43%
  11. Percentage of women whose parents stayed together who get divorced within 10 years as of 1995: 29%
  12. In 1996, children of divorce were 50% more likely than their counterparts from intact families to divorce.
  13. Fatherless homes account for 63% of youth suicides, 90% of homeless/runaway children, 85% of children with behavior problems, 71% of high school dropouts, 85% of youths in prison, well over 50% of teen mothers.

All very interesting. Waiting until after age 25 to get married seems like a good idea. It's also scary that children who have divorced parents are 50% more likely to get divorced themselves.

Jacob Levy over at The Volokh Conspiracy has a different take on the Canada issue than I do. He mentions serveral legitimate grievances that Canada has with the US, and although I don't know a lot about each specifically they aren't all minor. I don't think, however, that these issues are the reason that Canada has refused to support us in Iraq.

THE PRINCESS AND THE DRAGON: Everyone likes princesses and dragons. I particularly like princesses. Here's a story about a Princess who finally gets rescued by her knight in shining armor. If the direct link doesn't work, just head to The Forge and look for the entry on March 26, 2003.

THE PRINCESS AND THE DRAGON: Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess who lived in a giant castle with a mean old Dragon. She had been trapped in the highest tower of the castle for a very long time, and she desperately wanted her freedom. She had none, of course, because the Dragon held her prisoner -- and she doubted that he would ever let her go. Whenever the Princess would walk down, down, down the many hundreds of stairs to the bottom of the tower, the Dragon would always be sitting there in the courtyard of the castle, lying upon his vast treasure trove, waiting for her. The Princess would get so scared that she would run back up, up, up into the tower even faster than she had run down. It was a terribly frustrating situation, but the Princess was quite confident that a knight would come to rescue her eventually; that's what happened in all the stories, after all.

The great beast could talk (the Princess had heard him speak), but he rarely did so. He spent most of his time lounging upon the vast piles of gold and jewels that filled the castle. When he did talk to the Princess almost everything he said was nonsense, and she had absolutely no patience for it. There was nothing she wanted to say to him, her captor, in any event, and so she saw no reason to listen to what he had to say to her. The Dragon brought her food (no doubt cooked with his own dragonfire, she thought) and clothing, and whatever else she might need, but otherwise left her entirely alone.

When the Princess wasn't otherwise occupied by running down or up the stairs of the tower, she spent most of her time reading through the many books that sat on the shelves that lined the walls of the uppermost room. Inside the books were hundreds of stories, and many of them contained princesses and dragons. By reading the stories she learned a great many things, such as the fact that the only weakness in a dragon's armor is on his belly. Unfortunately, she knew she could never fight the Dragon herself, even with this important knowledge.

From her books she also knew that a knight would someday come to slay the dragon and save her. He would be handsome, as all knights are, and brave of course. In truth, the stories made it clear that the knight wouldn't even need to be strong enough to fight the Dragon face to face, if he was clever enough to steal her out from under the Dragon's nose. She was certain, however, that her knight would be both strong and clever.

One day, as the Princess was sitting on the balcony of her tower and reading a fascinating treatise on turning frogs into princes, she noticed a tiny cloud of dust on the horizon. As she watched, she saw that the dust cloud was coming closer and closer to the tower; in fact, she saw that the dust cloud was not a cloud of dust at all, but a man upon a horse. She put her book down and looked more closely. The dust cloud that was really a man upon a horse was actually a man in armor upon a horse. Her knight had finally come!

The Princess' heart began to beat very rapidly as she started gathering her things. She had no suitcase or luggage, and so she tore the sheets from her bed and used them as sacks, piling her favorite books into them. Every few minutes she would rush back to the window to check on her knight, and he gradually approached the gate of the castle. When she heard his powerful knock at the door far below, she nearly leaped with excitement. The Princess tied the corners of the sheets together around her books, her favorite dresses, and all the other things she could not bear to leave behind, and then ran to the balcony.

The knight pushed open the castle doors and rushed bravely into the castle as the Princess watched from above. When he saw the piles upon piles of gold and jewels he turned and looked in every direction; the Princess could see the wonder and amazement on his face. She sighed, because he had such a handsome face.

The Dragon awoke from his slumber and beat his wings furiously when the knight entered, tossing treasure in every direction and nearly knocking the knight off his feet. But the knight was strong, as well as brave, and charged towards the Dragon with his sword held high over his head. The Dragon breathed deeply and fire engulfed the knight, and for a moment the Princess' eyes filled with tears and her heart stopped.

The Princess rushed down, down, down the stairs of the tower, desperate with fear that her shining knight had been slain by the terrible Dragon. When she finally reached the courtyard, the smoke from the Dragon's breath was clearing; over the stacks of treasure she saw that her knight had cleverly deflected the flame with the shield strapped to his arm, and that he hadn't been hurt at all!

The knight climbed back to his feet and attacked the Dragon again. He swung his sword against the Dragon's scales over and over, but he couldn't cut through the Dragon's powerful armor and eventually he began to get very tired. The Princess knew that her knight would never be able to slay the Dragon by attacking his hard scales, and she realized that he didn't know the Dragon's weakness.

"Brave knight," she yelled to him, struggling to be heard over the noise of the battle. "Strike the Dragon on his belly; that's his only weakness!"

Both the Dragon and the knight heard the Princess shout, and they were both surprised. The Dragon spun around to face her and tried to push her back into the tower, but the Princess would have none of it now that her knight was here to rescue her. While the Dragon was distracted, however, the knight recovered from his surprise and ran towards the dragon at full speed, holding his sword out in front of him like a lance. The Dragon was paying so much attention to the Princess that the knight was able to attack him from the side, and plunged his sword directly though the soft scales on the Dragon's belly and into his heart.

The mighty Dragon collapsed to the ground; all of the strength had gone out of him. The Princess was jubilant -- the Dragon was dead! She ran to the exhausted knight and threw her arms around him. "You saved me!" she screamed with delight, and hugged the knight through his armor as hard as she could. "I knew you'd come and slay the Dragon and save me, I always knew it!"

"I'm glad to have been of service, of course," the knight said, and began to survey the immense treasure hoard that the Dragon had been guarding. "Actually, I didn't know there was a princess here at all. Thanks for the help with the Dragon though, that bit with the belly was quite tricky."

"You didn't know I was here?!" the princess asked the knight, almost bursting into tears again. "Then why did you even come?"

"I knew about the treasure. Everyone knows dragons have treasure, and that beast sure had plenty," the knight answered cheerfully. He called his horse to him, and the Princess watched as he began to fill his bags with diamonds and other jewels. Once he had all he could carry, he jumped back up onto his horse and turned to leave.

"Wait!" the Princess yelled at him, and the knight turned his handsome face back around to look at her. "What about me? Aren't you going to take me with you?" she asked in tears.

"Well, I don't think my horse can carry any more weight," the knight said, and shook his head. "But I really am grateful for your help. In fact, to pay you back, why don't you take some of the treasure for yourself?" With that, the knight turned away again and rode out of the castle without looking back.

INSECTS: I just had a discussion about insect eyes with a man in the elevator. He tried to tell me that some insects have non-compound eyes, and he cited as an example the praying mantis. I told him that I was quite confident that all insects have compound eyes, but he remained unconvinced when I had to get off at the 3rd floor.

As it turns out, I appear to have been correct. Some insects don't have eyes, but the ones that do all have compound eyes. Take that, anonymous-man-in-elevator.

Opinion Journal posts an article by Collin Levey (a woman, if it matters) that discusses some of the issues involved with allowing women to take part in combat operations. She rightly points out that in most circumstances women are able to be as effective as men in combat. 90% of military job types are open to women, and 15% of the American military is female. She further notes that:

In a small nation like Israel that's constantly fighting for survival, young women have always been seen as fit to serve. Keeping half the population out of warfare is a luxury of a country that can choose its wars carefully. Still, if doubts about the capabilities of women soldiers have been put to rest, our own capability to endure seeing them come home in body bags has yet to be tested.

She is right, it is a luxury. There are very compelling reasons to exclude women from special forces and front-line ground combat, but for the other 90% of military jobs the only real reasons are based on emotion. Seeing Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson on video in Iraqi custody made me feel sick to the stomach in a way that seeing the men did not. Why? Probably because, to some degree, I'm sexist.

Would it be right for society to forbid women's participation in high-risk military positions for emotional reasons? We make a lot of decisions for emotional reasons (such as government entitlements), and I'm generally against such motivations. Maybe I'm more reluctant in this case because I share the emotion.

An except from the New American link above:

The issue of violence against women was crystallized when former prisoners of war appeared before the Commission, including one of the two women captured during Operation Desert Storm. Testimony about the indecent assault on one of the women drew further attention to POW training programs already in place that "desensitize" male POWs to the brutalization of women with whom they may be held captive. An interview with trainers at the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training center at Fairchild Air Force Base uncovered a logical but disturbing consequence of assigning women to combat:

"If a policy change is made, and women are allowed into combat positions, there must be a concerted effort to educate the American public on the increased likelihood that women will be raped, will come home in bodybags, and will be exploited. The consequence of not undertaking such a program would be large-scale disillusionment with the military should the United States get in a protracted military engagement."

CANADA, FAIR-WEATHER FRIEND: Canada has a lot going for it, mostly because of its proximity to the US. Unfortunately for them, their French roots are showing and its starting to have a negative effect -- from the National Post:

"There is no security threat to Canada that the United States would not be ready, willing and able to help with," Mr. Cellucci [the US ambassador to Canada] said in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto. "There would be no debate. There would be no hesitation. We would be there for Canada, part of our family. And that is why so many in the United States are disappointed and upset that Canada is not fully supporting us now."

Well, what does the esteemed Mr. Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada, think of this?
"Of course [Mr. Cellucci] is disappointed. We are all disappointed somewhat that we could not agree," Mr. Chrétien said. "They have the right to make their own decision, as I said, and we have the right as an independent country to make our own decision .... Being independent and sovereign nations, we can disagree and remain good friends."

However, his diplospeak either deliberately or inadvertantly misses the point. We are not disappointed that we couldn't agree on what flavor of ice cream to get. We are pissed off that when we could have really used their help, they balked. The problem isn't one of mere words, as a "failure to agree" would seem to imply. The problem is one of action.

He is certainly correct that Canada is free and sovereign and can oppose the United States, but he is incorrect in thinking that such opposition will have no effect on our relationship. We aren't friends with Canada because we like to hang out and watch Buffy together. The truth of the matter is that Chrétien knows all this, and he's playing to his electorate. I hope that they aren't as ignorant as he believes they are.

Perhaps they are not.

IRAQI TV PRETTY MUCH SUCKS: The Times Online has a little bit of info about what Iraqis watch on TV. "Normally, in peace time, there is news focusing for about 60 per cent of the time on the country's leadership, the actions and statements of Saddam Hussein and other government figures." Sounds like a blast.

"There is a channel for young people, Shabab or Youth TV, run by Uday Hussein. The content is mostly the same but with a focus on things with more of an interest for youth and on Uday's cult of personality." I'm sure that made it easier for him to rape and murder young girls.

WESLEY CLARK: I don't know a lot about Wesley Clark, but I do know two things. First, the mean kids made fun of his name when he was in the third grade. Second, and more important, he has since then far-surpassed even the coolest third grader by attaining the coveted title of SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER EUROPE. He's retired now, and is contemplating running against Bush for president in 2004 (good luck). I'm sure that there have been nights that he's laid awake in bed and just thought to himself about how incredibly cool he is.

(Nicholas drew my attention to his title a couple of days ago, but he hasn't been writing much recently. I think he's sick.)

MY FIRST LINK: I was perusing the recent network traffic (which mostly consists of hits from my mom and brother) and I noticed that someone has linked to me! Take that, France! Despite their best efforts, France's Monkey Force has utterly failed to "eliminate me", "put me out of action", or "take care of me". At first I thought The Diablogger had linked to me on accident, but after emailing him I can now confirm 100% that it wasn't a mistake. Apparently SDB mentioned me to him, and so I say to both of them: you are very wise. I have no doubt that my upcoming post on the eternal question of "Pirates or Ninjas?" will make you proud.

NORTH KOREA: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (a.k.a., the last Stalinist nation on earth) continues to make noise as it tries to capture US attention while we're distracted by Iraq. If North Korea is going to start a shooting war, now would be the best time to do it, and they know that we know that they know this. So, Pyongyang is making threats and issuing ultimatums and, as usual, we're ignoring them. They also now claim that they aren't trying to build nukes.

Since we cut off the fuel oil supply we were bribing North Korea with (as a response to their announcement that they were, in fact, pursuing nuclear weapons), the government has become more and more desperate. Without that oil they cannot generate electricity to run their trains, transport food, heat homes, or run any sort of industry. It is only a matter of time before the government collapses, but there is one trick. If Pyongyang knows that it is about to go down, it might trigger an attack on South Korea as a last-ditch attempt at survival. This scenario is what the US is hoping to avoid by refusing to enter into negotiations. If there are no negotiations then they cannot make demands of us, and they cannot claim that we provoked them to war.

Just as we used diplomacy and the UN to lull Saddam into a sense of security so that he wouldn't attack our troops while they were being deployed, we are using diplomacy to buy time so that North Korea can fall on its own, without the need for a messy ground war.

THE HAND IS QUICKER THAN THE EYE: SDB theorizes that part of the reason that the military allowed reporters to be embedded in certain operational units is to distract attention away from other units without embedded reporters. I guess Tommy Franks figures that if you can't beat the media by keeping them out, you may as well join them and subversively enlist them to your cause.

UPRISING IN BASRA: Info from this Telegraph article:

Iraqi troops fired artillery pieces horizontally into crowds of their own people last night after a civilian uprising in Basra, the second city.

Watching British troops encircling the city of 1.3 million inhabitants said there were "horrific" scenes. One officer said: "We have seen a large crowd on the streets. The Iraqis are firing artillery at their own people. There will be carnage."

How can you even read that without disgust? Fortunately, our friends and allies the Brits are on the scene to help:

British artillery targeted the Iraqi emplacements, and the Ba'ath Party headquarters, home of pro-Saddam forces within the city, was destroyed by laser-guided bombs from US aircraft.

Later British forces took "significant action" against mortars and artillery pieces in Basra. An official said: "They have all been destroyed."

Tank commanders from the Black Watch battle group, part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats, had been urgently seeking permission to intervene. But British commanders decided to wait for daylight.

I trust them that it's smart to wait for daylight so that they don't inadvertantly kill even more civilians while trying to help them, but I can only imagine the agony that the wait must have put the soldiers and the Iraqi people through.

Two weeks ago I was overly optimistic and didn't realize how many people were so intimately tied to Saddam's regime that they would rather die than let it fall. These are the worst of the worst, the people who know that if they are thrown out of power they will be killed by angry mobs, screaming for their blood as payment for the decades of death and oppression they have inflicted on the Iraqi people.

(Via Instapundit.)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE MIDDLE-EAST: I picked up an actual newspaper this morning, and found a great article in the business section of the LA Times by Jim Flanigan about the economy of the Middle-East. Naturally, the article is also online; free registration required. The article points out some of the difficulties involved in building a flourishing economic environment in this region of the world, and correctly links economic development with political and social development.

Mr. Flanigan notes (as others have, including myself), that the vast oil wealth of the Middle-east has not generated any actual economic development. For example, he writes that although there are 200 million people in the region, there are zero automobile manufacturing plants. In fact, there is almost no industry whatsoever except what is invovled with pumping oil from the ground, and most of that infrastructure was built by Western companies under contract.

But who will help to turn things around?

For starters, don't count on those living there. The richest families in Saudi Arabia, far from being enthused at the prospect of increased U.S. influence in the region, are looking to invest more money in Europe, not on their home turf. Similarly, investors in Lebanon and Kuwait are questioning "whether there will be stability and rule of law" across the Middle East after the war ends, according to an investment manager who has wealthy clients in those countries.

It is a pattern that is all too familiar. As of the end of last year, the oil-producing countries -- including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar -- had piled about $70 billion into U.S. stocks and bonds.

That's $70 billion not looking for genuine business opportunities in the needy nations of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and the West Bank and Gaza areas of the Palestinian Authority.

Part of the obvious problem is that no one, including the political rulers of the countries in question, is confident that any investments made in the region will be secure. Not merely secure from economic risk (which is always present), but secure from military threats, government seizure, terrorist attacks, and the like. In such an environment, no one invests at reasonable rates; the oil infrastructure was bought with cash, and in cases where it was financed it was done so at absurd interest rates.

OMEGA POINT: If you're in the mood for some light reading, take a look at The Omega Point and the Final Fate of Life. Some thought-provoking stuff about the future of life in the universe, and some various hypothetical scenarios for the end of the universe. From an atheist perspective, of course.

THE FUTURE OF EUROPE: If you're at all interested in European politics, take a look at this UPI article that explains the current goings-on in great detail. There is a power struggle between Chirac (who wants to shape the EU into an anti-American socialist paradise with France at the head) and Blair (who wants to shape the EU into an American-friendly slightly-less-socialist paradise), and the war in Iraq is only one component. Via Andrew Sullivan.

HEAVY EXPANDED MOBILE TACTICAL TRUCK (HEMTT): Via the Federation of American Scientists, I give you the HEMTT. These bad boys are the workhorses of the US Army, which uses its 16,000 HEMTTs to keep our armor and infantry divisions supplied with fuel, ammunition, food, and other essentials while they're operationally deployed (as they are now in Iraq). Each truck can be configured to carry fuel (up to 2500 gallons) or other cargo (16.5+ tons), or to serve as a tractor or a wreaker. They've got winches and cranes and all sorts of nifty devices, standard!

But what if you need to move something really big, like a 70 ton M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank? Then I guess you'll need to upgrade to one of these.

PRIME NUMBERS: Nature has an article that briefly discusses the distribution of prime numbers. The idea presented is interesting, and one I've thought of before, but I'm not yet sure where it can lead. Statistically analyzing the first 1,000 or 1,000 trillion prime numbers could be an interesting exercise, but unless it leads to a method for exhaustively predicting larger primes, what good is it? If prime numbers are distributed randomly, then there are an infinite number of infinitely long sequences of primes that will fit an infinite number of patterns. Perhaps one such sequence starts with the number 1, and this is what they have stumbled upon (although even that I doubt).

I am not a number theorist, but I play one on TV.

POST-WAR IRAQ: The New York Times reports that the US is planning to set up a civilian administration under military command to immediately take control of Iraq once the fighting cools. Additionally, this civilian authority will be under the sole control of the US (what about the UK?), and there will be no initial role for the UN.

Bypassing the United Nations and setting up an American civilian peacekeeping administration under the military, however temporary, is a huge break from recent tradition and a denial of one of the United Nations' central roles since the end of the cold war.

You can imagine how I feel about this. Everything the UN touches becomes twisted and malignant, generally to the detriment of the US. So I say: screw 'em. According to Fox News, France and Russia don't want the UN to have any role in post-war Iraq, because they feel that UN involvement would serve to "legitimize" the war that they so recently opposed.

This Fox News headline says "Powell: France Has Role in Post-War Iraq", but that is misleading. What Powell means is clear from a quote in the article:

On postwar Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac also has thrown up roadblocks, threatening to veto in the United Nations any attempt to "legitimatize the military intervention" and "give the belligerents the power to administer Iraq."

Powell made clear Chirac's objections would not deter the U.S. drive, which British Prime Minister Tony Blair is due to take up with President Bush in their talks here and at Camp David beginning Wednesday.

Still, Powell said, France is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and so anything done through the council on administering Iraq would require France's support.

"Hopefully, France will play a helpful role," he said.

"What we need to do now is to recognize the fact that this regime is finished," Powell said of the government in Baghdad. "It will be removed, and then how do we get together to quickly to help the people of Iraq to a better life."

France's role, then, is to shut up and let us do our job. The more they complain, the more they undermine the remaining usefulness of the UN. It's already clear that the UN is powerless to speak on issues of war and peace; if France eliminates the UN's role as a charity organization as well, what will be left of it?

FALLEN HEROES: FoxNews has an article giving names and vital statistics for the American men and women who have thus far given their lives for us in Iraq. I say "us", because no matter where you are from on earth, they were fighting to make your life safer and more secure. Unless you're Saddam or one of his cronies, I suppose. Or any other murderous thug. Otherwise, the "us" includes you.

Continuing my previous postings about the free-rider problem, I see an article on TCS by James Miller that explains it very clearly.

No one likes cleaning bathrooms, but most people like their bathrooms to be clean. When several people share a bathroom, a free rider game may manifest in which some attempt to free ride off the efforts of others.

He then goes on to describe how this type of game plays into the situation with Iraq and other foreign policy issues. It's an interesting article, and easy to understand. He concludes by writing:

After victory in Iraq, many will suggest we have a choice between acting morally or vengefully towards reluctant allies like France and Germany. I believe, however, that the vengeful path is also the moral one. If we don't reward our allies and punish our detractors, free rider problems will doom U.S. troops to act alone in future conflicts.

Spotted via Instapundit.

UPDATED LINKS: I updated the links on the left bar of the site. I added a few blogs, several news sites, and some good resource sites as well. Take a look, they should all prove interesting.

RUSH-N-ATTACK PART 2: An update to my earlier post about Russia selling military equipment to Iraq. Via the Command Post, I found a Donald Sensing post where he repeats that Russia is just "screwing the Iraqis over and making a few bucks off them doing it" when it sells them GPS jamming gear. Our weapons can land within a meter of their target even without GPS guidance.

IT'S BETTER THAN THAT, HE'S DEAD JIM: Via The Command Post, a National Post article that presents pretty strong analysis that Saddam and his inner circle are all dead.

If ever there were a time for a "mother of all battles" speech, this is it. But there seems to be a noticeable lack of folks around to give it. Whether or not Saddam is dead or dying or hideously disfigured or lightly bruised or looking as relaxed and roguish as Jack Nicholson picking up a Lifetime Achievement Oscar, the rumours of his death have spread quickly around Iraq and the regime seems to be incapable of restoring the appearance of authority. Whether or not Washington succeeded in its aim of "decapitating" the regime, the Iraqis are doing an awfully good impression of behaving as if they're headless. The significant indicator is not the units that are surrendering, but the ones that are disbanding -- they've concluded they don't need the protection of the British and Americans to keep them safe from the regime's wrath, because the regime is no longer in a condition to enforce its wrath....

When Jean Chrétien told reporters in Mexico that you can't just go around removing leaders you don't like, one assumes he meant it at least in part as a matter of practical possibility -- the human cost of taking out the butchers is too great, the civilian casualties too high. Dictators from Kim Jong-Il to Robert Mugabe rely on that argument.

But, if it emerges that Washington effectively disabled the entire leadership on Thursday morning, that the first casualty of the war was a Mr. S. Hussein of Baghdad, well, that's an awfully cautionary tale for Kim and Co. America will have invented not the neutron bomb but the neuron bomb: They'll have shown they're capable of disconnecting the regime's nervous system while leaving everything else standing -- bridges, hospitals, men, women, children. If I were M. Chirac or one of those other fellows who think the real threat to the world is American hegemony, I'd be longing for a reassuring call from Saddam. Otherwise, that North Korean crisis is going to go very differently.

They're all dead. Or, even better, horribly maimed and in terrible agony. It kinda makes me feel bad to wish unimaginable pain and suffering on someone, but I can only read so many stories about raping girls, gouging childrens' eyes out, and pushing people into shredding machines before I really start to dislike someone.

I HATE YOU: Good riddance, Uday Hussein.

HOLY HELMET: I really have no idea what to make of this. The article describes an apparently serious effort to induce "the kind of holy visions of prophets, even in those who have never experienced religious belief." It operates by running high magnetic fields through the brain's temporal lobes.

THE WEASEL-POODLE PACT: Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs speculates that the announced France-Germany-Belgium military alliance "may lead to the creation of the mightiest force for appeasement and capitulation the world has ever known."

RUSH-N-ATTACK: It appears that Russia has sold prohibited equipment quite recently, and that there might have been Russian scientists on the ground in Iraq as recently as two days ago. Russia denies these claims, and says that it will investigate. It may be that certain Russian companies sold technology to Iraq without complicity from the government (plausible deniability: a benefit of Russia's newfound capitalism). Personally, if these reports are true, they don't really surprise me or anger me the same way such reports about France and Germany would. Russia has never pretended to be our close ally, and has made no secret of the fact that they have different goals around the world than we do. Unlike France and Germany, who make friendly noises to our face and then stab us in the back.

Additionally, unlike France and Germany, Russia actually has power outside of UN conference rooms. In some areas, our interests do line up with theirs, and so there is a much richer and more complex diplomatic situation between the US and Russia than there is between the US and the countries of Europe. Russia agreed to our abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, for instance. So even though Russia is on the US Security Council and may have violated UN sanctions, they actually have the power to offer us other things in compensation (unlike the Weasels). So with Russia, Iraq is just one piece of a large puzzle, and we can continue to work with them in the future. We may never have even really expected them to respect the sanctions in the first place (which underlines the futility of the UN process).

However, France has pretended to be our "close ally" and "friend" for quite a while. Similar revelations about France would (will) have a much more serious effect, and rightly so.

SADDAM IS DEAD: Another speech by Saddam Hussein has been aired by Iraqi TV. FoxNews discusses it briefly, and it seems pretty obvious that it was pre-recorded. Saddam doesn't mention any specific battles or dates or places, and gives vague assurances and praise to various elements of the Iraqi military... some of which have already surrendered.

Senior U.S. officials told Fox News that they believe the person in the tape is indeed Saddam, but that the message was taped before the war began.

This conclusion has been drawn, in part, because Saddam praised the 51st division of his troops, which surrendered in the early stages of the war.

"Hussein praised people who were not praiseworthy," the official said, adding that Saddam mentioned units that were not engaged in the fighting. There were also jump cuts in the tape, suggesting Saddam or Iraqi television took out pieces that were even more off the mark.

As I wrote before, I believe that Saddam's surviving henchmen are just playing for time. They're trying to delay the inevitable long enough to escape the country with whatever money they can grab, and are using the remaining Iraqi military forces to shield themselves.

Also known as the Warthog, the A-10 is a close air support plane that is used to take out enemy main battle tanks. It's main weapon is the GAU-8/A Avenger, a seven-barrel gatling gun that can fire 4,200 rounds per minute (that's 70 per second). Each round is 30mm in diameter, weighs more than a pound and a half, and travels 1067 meters/second (that's more than 2200mph). The gun itself is larger and heavier than a Cadillac.

Click on the picture to learn more about the plane, via the Federation of American Scientists.

Click on the picture to learn more about the GAU-8/A Avenger via Stravonski's A-10 Page.

COMBAT DOZERS: Americans and Israelis use large Caterpillar-built bulldozers in combat. I love huge machines, so here are a few links with some pictures of the D9 62-ton armored dozer, and the D7 armored dozer. These massive vehicles are used to breach set defenses such as walls, buildings, barriers, and barbed wire, as well as to clear mine fields. Their blades are heavy enough and strong enough to absorb the blast of an anti-tank mine without significant damage, and with their armor kits they are impervious to small arms fire.

FRIVILEDGE: Go read James Lileks; you should read his column every day (there's a link there on your left). He will explain what friviledge is, and how it relates to the Oscars. Tell him I sent you.

FLIRTATION: It's spring! The thoughts of young men turn towards romance, and all the terrible awkwardness that portends. In honor of such, I've written a little piece called Flirtation over at The Forge. If the direct link doesn't work, just follow the link to The Forge and look for the entry on March 23, 2003.

FLIRTATION: She laughed. That's always a good sign. It's important to be funny, so say something clever. Something not too hard to follow; you want her to laugh, but if you tell a joke and she doesn't get it or doesn't think it's funny then there'll be one of those horrible awkward moments. So say something light, and not too sarcastic.

She's smiling now, so smile back. Look into her eyes, but don't look too long. Eye contact is good, but don't overdo it. Look for a few seconds, and then look away. Keep smiling, but try not to look like an idiot. Don't smile too much. Focus on what she's saying, lean towards her, show her you're interested. Keep your mouth shut and don't talk over her. Don't let her think that you're just waiting for her to stop talking so that you can start talking again.

She sure is looking cute today. Wait, eye contact, remember? Keep your eyes on hers. And don't forget to listen, act interested. If you can learn a few things about her, then you'll have an easier time saying funny, clever things later. Don't try to be too funny though, no one likes the class clown.

Ok, she stopped talking and she's looking at you now. She's fiddling with her hands on top of her lap, toying with her skirt. Maybe she's a little nervous too, although you can't imagine why. Say something serious. No, not politics, that's too serious. It's too late to tell her how beautiful she looks today, that would just make the conversation stall. Quick, think of something! No, not the weather!

Good, that made her think a little. She's pushing a few strands of hair away from her face and behind her ear. Her eyes glance up to meet yours and then dart off to the corner of the room. What is she thinking? What a fascinating creature she is, it's hard to believe you're actually having a conversation. You've said hi to each other many times, and even made her laugh, but now you're making her think. Good work, she's certain to talk to you again now, as long as you can get away without saying anything stupid.

She's nodding now and looking at you. Did she say something? You must have missed it. You nod back and agree. Laugh a little. No wait, don't laugh, it makes you sound nervous. Say something sensitive, something that will make her think you're deep. Maybe something a little unusual. You're not like all the other guys. You're someone she should want to know, someone she should want to be around -- so say something unusual, but not too strange. Don't make it sound like you're bragging. Just say something that will make her remember the conversation.

Now make another little joke and get ready to leave. Everything went well, it's time to get out before there's one of those awkward pauses. A little more humor, and then tell her you'll talk to her more later. She's smiling again and pushing her hair back. You stand up and she tilts her head to look up at you; meet her eyes again for a few seconds. Smile. You never want to turn away, but you have to... soon.... She laughs and blushes a little, and then looks down into her lap. She totally likes you, and you can't stop grinning.

Say bye and do something with your hand. You want to touch her, just a little, but don't. Next time you talk you can touch her shoulder or her arm, or maybe even her hand if you're feeling brave, but for now take this victory and walk away. Leave her wanting a little more, just like you do.

KEVIN'S OSCAR PICKS: My Hollywood inside connection (a.k.a., Kevin) made some predictions, and ended up batting a respectable .500. Let's recap:

CategoryKevin's PickWinner
Best PictureChicagoChicago
Best DirectorMartin ScorceseThe Child Rapist Roman Polanski
Best ActorDaniel Day LewisAdrien Brody
Best ActressNicole KidmanNicole Kidman
Best Supporting ActorChris CooperChris Cooper
Best Supporting ActressMeryl StreepCatherine Zeta-Jones
Best Original ScreenplayTalk to HerTalk to Her
Best Adapted ScreenplayThe HoursThe Pianist

ORGY OF SELF-CONGRATULATION: The Oscars are over, and Hollywood can tuck two more disgraces under its belt.

First, Michael Moore. As I believe I've mentioned, I loathe Michael Moore. The lying fraud took advantage of the forum to slander Bush and America; at least some in the audience had the courage to boo him. Still, there was a standing ovation for him among the Hollywood elite.

Secondly, and even more disgusting: the child rapist Roman Polanski was awarded an Oscar for best director. They announced the award, everyone stood up and clapped, and then they moved on, without even mentioning why he wasn't able to be at the ceremony to accept it. Hmm, maybe they didn't want to tell the audience that the child rapist, Roman Polanski, has been hiding out in Europe for 30 years as a fugitive, after having been convicted for raping a 13-year-old girl and then skipping bail.

THE TIDES OF WAR: Although just about everything in the battle of Iraq is going smoothly for the US, there have been two rather startling incidents. First, the traitorous attack by Sgt. Asan Akbar against his commanders in the 101st Airborne Division camp; second, the apparent capture, torture, and execution of up to 12 American soldiers by irregular Iraqi forces. War is not pretty or glamorous, even when you win. It's important to remember that. Often times when I read reports of the battle and speculation on Hussein's death (along with his sons, we can only hope), it's easy to distance myself from the real horror that war entails.

War is brutal and ugly, make no mistake about it. The best thing we can do for our own solders, and for the people of Iraq, is to finish it as quickly and humanely as possible.

Of course, it makes it hard to be humane when Iraqi soldiers pretend to surrender, and then attack when we try to accept.

THE DECEPTIVE DAMSEL: It's never easy to turn down a pretty dame, especially when her face is flushed from tears she's barely had time to wipe away. This one stood before me, paced really, and refused to sit down or accept a drink until she had finished her story. There's always a story. I leaned back in my chair and propped my feet up under my desk, silently waiting for her to finish and working my way through most of my last deck of Luckies at the same time.

She kept talking, but her eyes never met mine; I could tell she was lying and planned to play me for a fool; I knew that the moment she walked through my door. A mink stole and too much jewelry marked her uptown, but the plain flats threw me off for a little while and I couldn't quite place her. Her face had that kind of familiar look to it, as if I'd seen her in a crowd the day before. Every few minutes she would pause and look towards me, not at my eyes but at my chest, and earnestly wait for some sort of acknowledgement. I'm listening, don't worry kid.

"Oscar left with the ledgers we'd been fighting over, except for the pages I'd taken earlier. I found a note that said he'd be back, but it's not his writing. I know my husband's handwriting," she repeated for the tenth time, shaking her finger at some point halfway between us. She'd shown me the brief letter, and it lay like a deflated ghost on my otherwise bare desk.

With flustered women, it's best to just sit back and let them run out of steam. I nodded at the right moments and let my eyes wander over her body as she paced back and forth. There are worse ways to spend an evening.

"I've called his family in Lakeshire and they haven't seen him. It's not like Oscar to disappear like this, it just isn't. We've fought over expenses before but he's never run off."

Maybe he got his fill of looking at your legs and ran out of cigarettes while you babbled. Eventually I did the same, and extinguished her as I dropped the Lucky to the floor and rubbed it beneath my shoe. "Mrs. Vinson, I understand your situation. What I don't get is what you want from me." I laid it out there and let it hang in the air with the stale smoke. Finally exhausted, she collapsed into the chair I'd set out for her nearly an hour before.

"I want you to find my husband; find Oscar," she said, pleading with me. Her body said agony, but her eyes were dancing everywhere.

I stood up quickly and she lurched back in the chair, a frightened look flashing across her ivory cheeks and creaseless forehead. I checked my movement and sauntered over to the cabinet; straight whiskey times two, and mine a double. I set hers down on the edge of the desk closest to where she was sitting, and when she leaned forward to pick it up I snuck a glance down her coat. A sheaf of paper was secreted in an inside pocket, and everything else I saw was gravy. I leaned against the hard oak corner and nursed my drink, letting my mind wander over Mrs. Vinson's flesh. When my double whittled down to a single, I circled behind her chair. Her head turned quickly to follow me, but I kept walking, making a semicircle around her and finishing back behind my desk.

I sat, drained my class, and dropped it sharply on the dark wood with a crack. My fingers itched for another smoke, and I made a mental note to pick up another carton downstairs on my way out. "Your husband's dead," I told her plainly, and she gasped. She looked shocked, but her eyes searched the floor. "The letter was written by a woman. That should have been obvious, even to you, but you didn't mention it. Why's that? Either you're desperately afraid for your husband's reputation -- and you'd let that fear slow down an investigation -- or you didn't want to draw attention to the only woman involved: you."

Her mouth moved wordlessly, and I tapped my finger on the arm of my chair. Her eyes met mine now, unchained by revelation, but her head shook with incomprehension.

"You changed your shoes to get around more quickly -- to see me? -- yet you had time to grab the remnants of the ledgers before you left." Her hand went immediately to the breast of her coat before she caught herself. "You brought the papers, but after more than an hour of storytelling you never showed them to me. The rest of the ledger's been stolen, and that's what you really want me to find, isn't that right?"

She stammered for a few seconds, and I let her turn it over. Her skin was flushed again, but this time there weren't any tears. When she started to speak I cut her off. "Whoever took the ledger could have killed Oscar, but if that's the case then why would you forge a note to try and throw me off? No, you killed him, but you were too late. Most of the records are gone. You brought the rest with you because someone's still looking for them." Every word hammered her deeper into the plush cushions, until she nearly disappeared. She huddled like a trapped animal and winced each time my index finger rapped against the dark grain. I waited while she gathered her mental strength. She still cradled the whiskey in her shaking hand, and she tossed it back with one swallow as she pulled herself together.

"I want the ledger," she said. "Will you help me or not?"

My lips twisted in what I've been told is a frightening grimace. It's been many men's last sight, and sometimes gets more of a reaction than finding my .45 cannon in your face. Mrs. Vinson's eyes went wide, and I told her in measured tones, "I don't help murderers. I'd call the police, but I'm sure that whoever has your ledger will come looking for the rest of it soon enough, and that's fine by me. Now get out."

She sat motionless for just a couple of seconds before leaping to her feet and darting out of my office, leaving the stenciled doors swinging behind her. I knew who'd be in my dreams tonight, and another double was most definitely in order.

THE DECEPTIVE DAMSEL: I've been reading a lot of Mickey Spillane recently. My little contribution to detective noir is over at The Forge: The Deceptive Damsel. Ah, but aren't they all?

The direct link to The Deceptive Damsel doesn't seem to be working, so just go to The Forge and look for it on March 22, 2003.

KEVIN'S OSCAR PICKS: Kevin passed along his Oscar picks and gave me permission to post them here.

Hey all,

Sorry there's no contest this year. In fact, I haven't done one in three years! But I've made my Oscar picks anyway... not that you really care.
It's a tough year to call, and I'm still not totally sure about a couple of the categories. But if you think you can do better, I'd love to hear your suggestions. Bring it on! (These are the only categories I care about, really.)

Picture: Chicago
Director: Martin Scorcese
Actor: Daniel Day Lewis
Actress: Nicole Kidman
Sup. Actor: Chris Cooper
Sup. Actress: Meryl Streep
Org. Screenplay: Talk To Her
Adap. Screenplay: The Hours

I guess I'd better go see Chicago! Unfortunately, the last two (new) movies I saw were pretty terrible. Old School was funny, but I don't think it's in Oscar contention. We'll see how Kevin's selections hold up... but I'm still hoping for an alternate ending to Oscar night.

POPE THINKS HE'S IN HEAVEN: The Pope says: "Violence and arms can never resolve the problems of men." Apparently, he has not only forgotten the numerous disputes and disagreements over the millenia that have, in fact, been resolved by war and other sorts of organized violence, he is also ignorant of Jesus' own words in Matthew 10:34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Not to mention, of course, the final war which will resolve all the problems of men:

Revelation 19:11-21
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

It appears that God disagrees with the Pope's position on violence in general, and that in at least some circumstances finds it justified.

'PEACE' PROTESTERS STEAL FOOD FROM KIDS AND HURT OLD PEOPLE: Ok, it's a long title. Clayton Cramer over at the Volokh Conspiracy talks about the hidden costs that 'peace' protesters impose on society when they protest rather uh... violently. This is a thought I've had before, but it hardly seems worthy of comment since it falls so neatly into the typical mold of liberal hypocrisy. Protests in San Fransisco have already cost the city and state more than $450,000, and that money has to come from somewhere. Taxes won't be raised, so guess what? It comes from the liberals' pet social programs.

He also links to an article in the San Fransisco Chronicle on the same topic.

PICTURES OF CELEBRATION: I'm going to use this post to link to some pictures of Iraqis celebrating their liberation.

American protesters vs. Iraqis

'You're late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious.' Not a picture, but I like it.

'The human shields appealed to my anti-war stance, but by the time I had left Baghdad five weeks later my views had changed drastically.' Also not a picture. Via Instapundit.

A BREAK FROM REALITY: I decided to segregate my fiction from my commentary, and so I started a new blog to host any such future offerings. It's called The Forge, and I put a link to it in the left-hand column. I'll post a note here when I write something new, and any interested readers who need a break from reality can meander down that path at their leisure. I'm not going to put much effort into its layout and design at this point (unlike this graphical masterpiece), but I probably will at least change the color scheme when I have a few minutes to rub together.

The story I posted here a few days ago, "A Long Night", has been moved to the new location, and I'll add more as the muse leads me.

A LONG NIGHT: The rain had finally stopped. All the lights were off in the house and Martha was upstairs crying. I sat in the dark for a few more minutes and waited for the last drops of rain to quit rattling the gutters and let the silence of the night take over, but the clatter in my head just wouldn't shut up. I swirled the plastic cup in my hand one more time and lifted it to my lips, tilting back the last of the Jack before tossing the red plastic across the room. It was Jenny's favorite cup and I shouldn't be using it to clear my mind.

I sat slumped down, my head at a sharp angle and the small of my back nearly against the seat of the leather recliner I had indulged myself with the Christmas before last. The rain had stopped, and there was a lot more to do before the sun peeked over the roofs and chimneys of suburbia.

My lips were welded shut, but I groaned inwardly as I pushed myself unsteadily to my feet and trudged back upstairs. Even in the utter blackness I knew my way, and even in my half-drunken stupor I avoided the kids' toys and displaced knick-knacks that littered the floor of the hall at the top of the stairs. Martha was still crying in the bedroom, and the lights were still off. How could she stand it in there, crying in the dark with that thing?

I didn't want to surprise her (again) and I made enough noise in my boots to wake the dead. The crying was muffled before I flipped the lights on and surveyed the harsh reality I had wrought. Martha was huddled in the near corner between the nightstand and the wall, and she didn't even look up at me when I stepped into the room. She had wrapped herself in the ragged blue terry-cloth robe she loved and looked like such a tiny thing, trying to disappear from the world. She was silent.

I moved my gaze over the rest of the room, the walls, the bed, there wasn't a lot of blood. My rational mind fought to push my panic aside. The sheets would have to go. The walls could be scrubbed with bleach -- I'd seen that work on CSI. The carpets too, I guess. Jim was still lying where he'd fell, half-hidden on the far side of the bed. I assumed he was dead, and when I walked over to get a closer look it was obvious that I was right. The back of his skull was a bloody mess, smashed, and with the obvious imprint of my flashlight embedded in the bone and flesh.

There wasn't a lot of blood. He must have been dead before he hit the ground, and it was just as well. He was my friend. At that thought the animal within me surged to break free, but its time was past and it was well-sated with alcohol; strangely, that particular poison gave me an acute clarity, and the thoughts poured like rain through the gutters of my mind.

The shower curtain came down easily enough. I didn't like the floral pattern that Martha had chosen at Wal-Mart, and I tore it down with relish. That's what happens when you cheat on me, say goodbye to your florals. If my jaw could have moved I would have laughed, but the muscles wouldn't budge and I just grunted. Maybe I wasn't as clear-headed as I thought. I dropped the plastic over Jim and wrestled it around him as best I could. He was a lot heavier than I had expected. Tape.

There was some duct tape downstairs in the kitchen. I turned to look at Martha again but she was still sitting motionless, sobbing silently. You'd better not let me hear you crying for this bastard. Don't worry, everything will be fine by morning. The plastic was secure enough to let me drag Jim downstairs by his ankles. Gotta keep the blood from getting all over the house.

Through the door, down the hall, down the stairs, into the kitchen. There was blood in the curtain, but I hadn't left a trail behind me. The tool drawer coughed up a half-roll of red tape and I pulled the end up and stuck it to the plastic near Jim's ankles. Round and round she goes. Tear. A few times around the waist. Tear. Fold the plastic over his head, tape around the forehead and neck (gotta keep the plastic tight if you don't want blood in the car). Tear. Good enough.

Jim wasn't being cooperative, and it was a struggle to get him into the back of the station wagon. I tried to be as quiet as possible, and it was so late that I'm sure no one heard me. Once he was in I sat down in the front seat and turned the engine over. Mike had come early to take over for me, and he'd be there until Tony showed up around six. All I'd have to do is tell him that I dropped my wallet over by one of the far pits and he'd let me through, no problem. Drop Jim off next to one of the gravel piles and push enough onto him so that he wouldn't be found for a few days, and I was home free.

I put the car in drive and pulled slowly out into the street. The bedroom light was off again upstairs, and I got the feeling that Martha wasn't busy scrubbing the blood off the walls. She just wasn't thinking clearly tonight; there must be a lot on her mind. It's ok, there should be plenty of time to sort it all out before morning.

MIDNIGHT MOVIE MADNESS: I went to see Goonies with a few of my friends last night at the Nuart, and it was as fun as usual. The only bad experience I've had there at a midnight movie was when we went to go see a pseudo-live re-enactment of the movie Clue. It was pretty boring, due in no small part to the fact that Clue isn't nearly as entertaining as an adult as it was when I was a kid.

The crowd that turned out was largely hipster types, and nearly all of them seemed to smoke. This is unusual in Los Angeles, where in general there just aren't as many smokers as you'd find in other places around the country, or around the world. The audience was enthusiastic at all the right points in the movie, and I had enough candy and chips to keep me awake through the whole thing. Next week is Ghostbusters -- another one of my favorite movies -- but I won't be able to see it because I'll be camping in Malibu.

There was more protesting going on last night near UCLA (and thus near the Nuart); according to the radio more than 12,000 protesters marched around and disrupted traffic. I didn't actually see any of them, but the police were out in force around the theater and had several major roads (Santa Monica and Wilshire, at least) blocked off to traffic. I asked one of the cops what was going on, and she told me that the protesters had threatened to storm the police station on Santa Monica. Is this America, or what? I felt bad for the police who have to deal with this kind of nonsense, but I'm sure they get paid overtime so they probably don't mind.

LET'S TALK TURKEY: Turkey continues to waffle over cooperation with the vast, world-wide concensus that Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq needs to be toppled. First it appeared that they would allow the US to deploy ground forces from our military bases in southern Turkey, and then they changed their mind. Then they said we could fly over their territory, but they have apparently changed their mind on that as well. Why?

"Turkey closed its airspace Friday, saying it would remain closed until the United States agreed to allow Turkish troops to move into northern Iraq."

Well, that will never happen. The Turks want to move into northern Iraq for two reasons: to terrorize the Kurds who live there, and to take over the oil fields. Neither of these coincides with US/UK interests, and in fact:

"After Turkey's decision on Friday to suspend the overflight rights, a senior U.S. administration official said the administration is "very worried."

"We told them to stay the hell out and it is a major problem which we are going to be watching very closely today," the official said.

Needless to say, the billions of dollars in aid that the US had offered to Turkey are already off the table.


Fortunately, we have our coalition of the willing.

Update 2:

Turkish Troops Enter Northern Iraq. Did the US allow it? The article doesn't say.

TROUBLED WATERS: I see via Best of the Web that my representative in Congress, the lamentable Maxine Waters, was one of eleven House members to vote against a non-binding resolution whose purpose is "Expressing the Support and Appreciation of the Nation for the President and the Members of the Armed Forces Who are Participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom". She's in good company, such as Jim "Baghdad" McDermott and John "Impeach Bush" Conyers. Five of the eleven House members who voted to not express support for our troops are from California.

To quote a little from Best of the Web:

In addition, 21 Democrats, including presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, voted "present," which we guess means they can't decide if they're for or against America's troops. Also voting "present" was Republican Ron Paul, the isolationist feather of the GOP.

By our count, 23 members of the Congressional Black Caucus--a clear majority--voted either "no" or "present" on the resolution. This goes a long way in explaining why so few black candidates are able to win statewide office in America. Racial gerrymandering produces districts that elect black candidates who are so far to the left that they cannot even bring themselves to endorse a simple expression of patriotism during wartime.

Sorry for the horrible pun in the title.

I changed Conyers' middle name to avoid causing unintended offense.

I also wanted to note that the Senate passed the same resolution unanimously, which goes to show that representatives who have to worry about facing state-wide electorates tend to be a little more moderate. As Best of the Web aludes to, racial gerrymandering may result a greater number of black elected officials, but it also eliminates the possibility of any of the radical officials so elected continuing on to higher office. This fact works against the interests of racial minorty communities in the long run, but as long as playing race politics benefits the Democrats in the short run it's sure to stick around.

PERSUASION: Here's a quote from CNN:

Rumsfeld said the latest waves of air attacks were launched after senior Iraqi officers failed to turn against Saddam following initial U.S. airstrikes Thursday, including one aimed at Saddam himself, and a U.S. and British invasion of southern Iraq.

"What we've done so far has not been sufficiently persuasive," Rumsfeld said.

This surprises me. Of what do they remain unpersuaded? Maybe I'm too rational (or maybe I have more information than the Iraqi generals do?), but it's almost incomprehensible to me that anyone in a leadership position in Iraq still has doubts that they're going to lose, and lose badly. So, assuming they know this, why are they refusing to surrender?

  • They're biding their time, hoping to use the fighting as cover to escape (with money or other assets).
  • They think Saddam is still alive and still has a gun to their heads (literally or figuratively, through blackmail) and are more afraid of him than of us.
  • There is some sort of surprise plan that they think will change the tide of the battle (it seems unlikely that they think this, and it's even more unlikely that it's true).
  • They expect the UN or some other group to try and step in and save them (also implausable).
  • They're all meglomaniacal madmen, just like Saddam. This seems unlikely to me as well, since I don't think Saddam would want to surround himself with henchmen who didn't kowtow to his meglomania.

    I'll send this post to SDB and maybe he can enlighten us.

  • SURRENDER? WHAT?: Unless Saddam shows up on TV again, I'm going to assume he's dead. Nevertheless, someone in Baghdad thinks he's got a few hairs left in his moustache, and is still living in fantasy land:

    At least 60 and as many at 250 Iraqis surrendered. Col. Steve Cox of the British Marines told the Reuters news agency that U.S. Marines under British command captured 250 Iraqis near Umm Qasr. Television images from other parts of Iraq also showed Iraqi prisoners, marching in single file with their hands behind their heads. Sahhaf, the Iraqi information minister, said the images were fabricated.

    "Those were not Iraqi soldiers at all," he said. "Where did they get them from?"

    BOWLING FOR OSCAR: I loath Michael Moore, and every time someone I know comes up to me and asks me in an excited voice whether or not I have seen "Bowling for Columbine" I almost want to poke them in the eye. Yes, I'm a mean person, but I have to be honest; everyone has vices and mine is poking ignorant people in the eye. Anyway, sorry for the condescending tone of this post, but as this article will explain in detail Michael Moore is a fraud and a liar, and if you like him then you have fallen for it.

    A LONG NIGHT: This short story has been moved to my new fiction blog, The Forge.

    STRATEGIC TIMING: Call me petty, but I think it would be extremely excellent if our military could time some significant battle (the initial ground assault on Baghdad, say) such that it coincides with the Academy Awards. Two birds with one stone! Take over Baghdad and eviscerate the most annoying anti-American faction at home with one fell swoop.

    MOMENT OF LIBERATION: Via Andrew Sullivan, a quote from John Burns who reports for the New York Times from Iraq:

    Iraqis have suffered beyond, I think, the common understanding of the United States from the repression of the past 30 years here. And many, many Iraqis are telling us now, not always in the whispers he have heard in the past but now in quite candid conversations, that they are waiting for America to come and bring them liberty. It's very hard though for anybody to understand this. It can only be understood in terms of the depth of the repression here. It has to be said that this not universal of course... All I can tell you is that as every reporter who has come over here will attest to this, there is the most extraordinary experience of the last few days has been a sudden breaking of the ice here, with people in every corner of life coming forward to tell us that they understand what America is about in this. They are very, very fearful of course of the bombing, of damage to Iraq's infrastructure. They are very concerned about the kind of governance, the American military governance, that they will come under afterward. Can I just say that there is also no doubt - no doubt - that there are many, many Iraqis who see what is about to happen here as the moment of liberation.

    THE BEGINNING OF THE END... not for Saddam (it's the end of the end for him), but for the appeaser-states. Saddam has already launched at least one SCUD that he said he didn't have, and I'll be really surprised if there aren't more. I obviously won't post every single bit of news relating to the war (that's what news sites are for), but this seemed significant.

    It also raises a question in my mind. It seems virtually certain that Saddam will order chemical attacks on our troops, but:

  • will his commanders be able to receive orders from him, if we cut all their communications?
  • will his commanders follow his orders even if they are received?
  • will his chemical weapons actually be a real threat to us, even if they are delivered?
  • (and the big one) will our government tell us?

    I'm not normally a big government conspiracy nut, but there are many plausible reasons why they wouldn't want to announce Saddam's use of chemical weapons. The biggest reason I can think of is that it might make create political pressure for us to escalate and utilize tactical nukes. It might also make it harder for troops on the ground to peacefully accept surrenders if they get word that their brothers have been gassed.

    These factors need to be balanced against the potentially huge political gain that would result from Saddam's use of chemical weapons. It would serve as a vivid vindication of everything the US has been warning of for the past year, and for that reason alone I am skeptical that we would try to cover it up.

    The biggest obsticle to Saddam's use of chemical weapons is the problem of delivery. Even if he does have dozens of SCUDs left, they aren't very accurate weapons. His most reliable distribution method would be to set up gas traps in and around Baghdad, but that type of operation would take months to set up. Oh wait, he's had months. Thanks, France.

  • WONDER BOYS: Something about the movie "Wonder Boys" really struck a chord with me. It was hilarious and fascinating. I don't want to get into a detailed analysis of the characters, language, or events, but a particular quote from this movie has been running through my mind for the last few days. If you've seen the movie, you might recognize it. Professor Grady Tripp, having just witnessed his most brilliant student shoot the blind dog of a University administrator, says: "He's dead James. Believe me. I know a dead dog when I see one."

    IT'S ON: The President has spoken, and war has begun. My prediction was off by a few days, but now it doesn't matter -- that's all in the past. War is a horrible thing, but I actually feel a sense of relief that it's finally underway. France, Germany, and the other appeaser-states can complain all they want, but within a few weeks they will be silenced by the powerful truth that comes out of Iraq -- stories of unimaginable evil told by eye-witnesses grateful to be finally free from Saddam's cruelty.

    I just came from a prayer service at my church where we prayed for the safety of our brothers, sons, fathers, and friends, as well as for the deliverance of the Iraqi people. There were tears, and a few laughs, and a lot of hugs. I told one of my friends about a photo of soldiers being baptized in the Kuwaiti desert, and here it is:

    For some excellent videos of our troops and equipment blowing things up, head on over to

    It's very hard to focus my mind and finish my take-home final exam while other young men my age are fighting, and possibly dying.

    Michael is right about Daschle. Not to mention the fact that, even had Bush's diplomatic efforts been "successful," armed conflict would have been almost as likely as it is right now, realistically. The only significant difference is that it would have come much later. Hussein will not cooperate peacefully even when the UN stands united against him, as he has demonstrated. So, eventually, either the UN would have had to change it's collective mind about the unacceptability of Hussein's behavior, or the UN would have had to enforce its collective will physically, militarily. And so it is not clear at all that a diplomatic "success," as Daschle might call it, would have saved lives. But it is clear that such a "success" would have cost much time.

    Furthermore, I see no honesty or sincerity behind Daschle's symbolic use of language. He is advertising himself, not expressing true sentiment. Call me cynical. Color me skeptical.

    A STAUNCH ALLY: Tony Blair has stood by the US, and for all the right reasons. Not merely because of our countries' historical ties and close friendship, but also because he truly believes in both what we are fighting for and how we are fighting for it. He's basically a socialist -- and I wouldn't want him directing my nation's domestic policy -- but he has been dealing with the War on Terror in a brilliant and admirable manner. Read Andrew Sullivan's comments on Blair's speech to the House of Commons. Read the text of the speech itself.

    I want to add that Tony Blair has risked a lot for taking this position on Iraq. Although his approval ratings are trending upwards now that troops are in action, there were times over the past few months where his political survival was not even close to a sure thing. Nevertheless, both he and President Bush have been willing to put their political careers on the line to do what they know is right, and that's more than Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter or Jacques Chirac or Gerhard Schröder or Tom Daschle can ever say. Our soldiers, men and women who are mostly younger than me, are willing to risk their lives to do what is right and what needs to be done. How can any of the "leaders of the free world" do less?

    SADDAM'S SUPER GUN: Note to self: don't believe everything you read on the web. often has some interesting information on the Middle East from an Israeli perspective, but articles like this (Google cache) make me question the site's reliability.

    EARTH TO TOM DASCHLE: Senator Tom Daschle said on Monday: "I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war, saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country." Well, aside from his misinterpretation of the events (as the Emperor would say if he were President, "Everything is proceeding as I have forseen"), this was a foolish thing to say. As Michael Barone points out, it's a lose-lose statement: if the war goes badly then Bush et al. will be hurt politically regardless of what Daschle says now, but if the war goes well then Daschle's words will make him look like a vulture, hoping for political gain from the corpses of dead Americans.

    FINAL FINAL: I just finished my final final exam. It is now just after 330am. I started the second half of the exam before 5pm, and haven't taken a break since.

    I've had a lot of jobs over the years: tutor, law intern, librarian, programmer, process analyst, baby-sitter, writer for a Stanford newspaper, and a few others. But being a student is the most demanding occupation I've ever had, and I'll tell you why.

    Being a student is a 24 hour job, and the material is purposely designed, by experts in the field, to keep you pushed to the limits of your ability to reason, plan, and work. It is fun and fascinating, but it is also incredibly draining. By the end of every academic quarter I can remember, I have suffered from a form of mental and spiritual fatigue that cannot be healed by sleep, or by medicine, or by hearty meal after hearty meal.

    A 24 hour job. At every single moment, the student has to choose between studying and something else. Eat breakfast, or study? Go to class, or study? Sleep, or study? Should I go back to the dorm so that I can call my family, or should I stay here in the library and finish this article / problem set / essay / chapter ? Can I wait until next week to interact with the people I love? Wait, how long has it been? One week, or two?

    Working in an office is hard, mainly because you depend on so many other people, and they depend on you. Close coordination becomes key, and I know this can lead to internal politics and other frustrations that students do not have to face, in general.

    But in none of my other jobs have I had to stay up for 72 hours straight just to get by. My other jobs had things like food and sleep built-in to the program, if not during the day then sometime after the whistle blew at 5pm or 6pm or 7pm or 8pm or 9pm. It is after 330am right now. And 330am is relatively early, for finals week.

    The flexibility of being a student would be a blessing, if it weren't simply stretched and abused to the point of constant, painful tension, just one tiny tug shy of snapping.

    But it feels good to be done for this quarter. Now I can begin the long, slow, stiff, and desperate process of releasing the tension without just letting it loose to flail wildly.

    FRUSTRATION: Remember, I warned you that this blog would contain periodic complaints. I am frustrated. Why? I don't know, my life is great. Blah.

    OPERATION LIBERTY SHIELD: Geesh, could they come up with dumber names for these programs? It doesn't even have a cool logo like TIA. Anyway, what does Operation Liberty Shield mean to you? More of everything! According to the press release, we'll get:

  • More Sea Marshals
  • Security measures that are proactive, sustainable, and focused, based on intelligence information
  • AMTRAK will implement security measures consistent with private rail companies
  • Tracking Suspects - The FBI will continue to closely monitor individuals suspected of links to terrorism.
    Et Cetera. Just like your average threat level day, but more so. I would have liked to see national guard troops at the borders, or an announcement that the 2nd Amendment would suddenly be respected, but whatever. I don't mean to sound bitter, but the whole Homeland Security thing seems like it was devised to appease the soccer-mom masses, rather than to actually accomplish anything.

    From Senator Diane Feinstein's webpage:

    ... in the last fiscal year, 23 million people arrived in the U.S. from 29 different countries under the so-called "visa waiver program" with no visas and little scrutiny. More than 7 million tourists, business visitors, foreign students, and temporary workers arrived last year as non-immigrants, yet the INS does not have a reliable tracking system to determine how many of these visitors left the country after their visas expired.

    Among the 7.1 million non-immigrants, 500,000 foreign nationals entered on foreign student visas alone. The foreign student visa system is one of the most under-regulated visa categories, subject to bribes and other problems that leave it wide open to abuse by terrorists and other criminals. In fact, in the early 1990s, five officials at four California colleges were convicted of taking bribes, providing counterfeit education documents and fraudulently applying for more than 100 foreign student visas. …

    Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the attack, was admitted back into the country through the Miami airport on January 10, even though his visa had reportedly expired. ... Suspected hijacker Ahmed Alghamdi remained at large in the United States after his student visa had expired. Another hijacker, Hani Hanjour, was here on a student visa that the INS still cannot determine was valid as of September 11.

    I'm not a fan of Feinstein, but this bill was a good idea; Bush signed it in May of 2002. This makes me feel safer than all the alerts.

  • ANTI-WAR == STALINIST?: Old news to Instapundit readers, but here's a FoxNews article that explains a little bit about how large anti-war protests are mostly finianced by Stalinist and Islamofacist organizations.

    DO YOU THINK SADDAM WOULDN'T DO THIS TO US? PART 2: If you really want more evidence of Saddam's evil brutality, read this Times Online article written by a British Minister to Parliment.

    Via Clayton Cramer on the Volokh Conspiracy.

    (Continued):(Update part 2)
    Dr. Boyd responded and told me:

    The metapopulation is made up of 128 populations. Payoff biased imitation tends to reduce the frequency of punishers in each population. Random variation due to sampling variation in who gets imitated causes frequencies to jiggle around randomly, but if these were the only two processes populations would all eventually evolve to all defect. However, competition between populations causes some populations to become extinct, and this is more likely to happen in populations in which have fewer punishers because such groups tend to have fewer cooperators. Sometimes these processes balance out so that the metapopulation frequency of punishers reaches an approximate steady state---only approximate because stochastic variation in which groups go extinct and who reproduces causes variation in punisher frequency around the long term means reported in the paper.

    Very interesting. I emailed him back and told him a little about my MS thesis and my PhD dissertation, and he offered to send me the VB code that he used for this paper. How exciting.

    Also via GeekPress, an article in the Economist that discusses evolving cooperators and 'punishers' as a solution to the free-rider problem. On the most basic level, the free-rider problem arises in situations where groups of organisms are cooperating for the common good, and a few members of that group cheat the system by taking advantage of the cooperation without giving anything back to the group. The problem is also known as the Tragedy of the Commons, meaning that any resource that is held in common by a group will tend to be abused by individuals rather than used in a coorperative manner, because there is just too much short-term advantage to cheating the system.

    Anyway, back to the Economist article. I'm working on my PhD in artificial intelligence, and so I have quite a bit of experience with evolutionary systems such as the one described in the article. I haven't yet read the entire paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but based on the description in the article, I can't see how their model could achieve cooperative punishment as an emergent phenomena. The author of the paper, Robert Boyd, is a professor at UCLA, so I think I'll email him about it (after I read the paper, of course).

    The paper can be found here.
    It's pretty interesting. The formulas the author gives are satisfying, but in his discussion section he states that the punishers never do reach a stable equilibrium frequency, which is what I would expect given that they will always be at a disadvantage to the meta-free-riding cooperators. I emailed the Robert Boyd to ask for clarification, in case I am mistaken.

    THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES...: Via GeekPress I found an interesting article on the science behind flirting. It starts off with a great quote: "Male over-optimism - often followed by a clumsy chat-up attempt - is triggered by women sending out a series of subtle and highly deceptive flirting signals known as 'proteans' when they meet a prospective mate." Allow me to paraphrase: women send mixed-signals that lead men on. Gee Science, thanks for that revelation. Also,

    "By sending erratic and ambiguous signals in the early stages of an encounter, women manipulate men into showing their hand," Fox said. "It's not entirely surprising, given the levels of ambiguity and deception to which they are subjected, that males tend to become confused."

    What's this?! Women manipulate men? Impossible. I'm glad I'm in on the secret now -- these little games won't work on me anymore!

    It all plays into my new theory on women. I don't think I'm going to post it right now though, because it's just too much for you to handle.

    DO YOU THINK SADDAM WOULDN'T DO THIS TO US?: This article from the New Yorker is very difficult to read. It describes the horrors of Saddam's use of mustard gas against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988, and I found it via Lagniappe, an excellent medical/chemistry blog. Here's an excerpt:

    "On the road to Anab, many of the women and children began to die," Nouri told me. "The chemical clouds were on the ground. They were heavy. We could see them." People were dying all around, he said. When a child could not go on, the parents, becoming hysterical with fear, abandoned him. "Many children were left on the ground, by the side of the road. Old people as well. They were running, then they would stop breathing and die."

    And another:

    Nasreen would live, the doctors said, but she kept a secret from Bakhtiar [her husband]: "When I was in the hospital, I started menstruating. It wouldn't stop. I kept bleeding. We don't talk about this in our society, but eventually a lot of women in the hospital confessed they were also menstruating and couldn't stop." Doctors gave her drugs that stopped the bleeding, but they told her that she would be unable to bear children.

    Nasreen stayed in Iran for several months, but eventually she and Bakhtiar returned to Kurdistan. She didn't believe the doctors who told her that she would be infertile, and in 1991 she gave birth to a boy. "We named him Arazoo," she said. Arazoo means hope in Kurdish. "He was healthy at first, but he had a hole in his heart. He died at the age of three months."

    How about this:

    Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, who led the campaigns against the Kurds in the late eighties, was heard on a tape captured by rebels, and later obtained by Human Rights Watch, addressing members of Iraq's ruling Baath Party on the subject of the Kurds. "I will kill them all with chemical weapons!" he said. "Who is going to say anything? The international community? Fuck them! The international community and those who listen to them."

    Saddam Hussein and his cronies are evil, and even if it were plausable that our own security isn't at stake, I would be willing to take him out.
    (Update: Here is the first article in a five-part series that Derek Lowe has written about chemical weapons in general.)

    MARRIAGE: I want to get married sometime. I think that most people have, at some point in their life, a desire for the companionship and mutual support that are typically associated with an ideal, happy marriage. However, I've read many studies that show that marriage does not make you happy, which doesn't surprise me but seems to surprise some of my unmarried friends, and to cruelly surprise some of my married friends. This particular article says that people who are happy and content before they get married tend to remain so, and that people who are unhappy tend to remain unhappy after they are married. Additionally, people who are happy before they get married tend to have longer, more satisfying marriages.

    THIS YEAR'S SUPER-FLU: SDB has an insightful analysis of the recent (likely) flu strain that is spreading around the world. Looks like it started in Communist China, which as SDB describes is often the case due to Communist China's collective farming system. Go read his site, as you should every day.

    This is what happens when a society allows crazy people to freely wander the streets. Yes, it's unfortunate that some people are comlpetely insane, but we shouldn't let our pity move us to foolishness. I'm not a psychologist or a medical doctor, so I don't know exactly where to draw the line, but I believe that a fair and just system of civil committment could be developed that would benefit both society as a whole, and the crazy people who were locked up. How crazy is too crazy? I know it when I see it. Society should be willing to bear this cost, as it does with the prison system, but money should not be wasted on largely inneffectual "treatments"; innmates should be housed in as comfortable a state as is reasonably possible, and should be prevented from hurting themselves or others.

    Our prison system is awful in many ways, but it is better than any other in the world. Nevertheless, it is still in dire need of improvement, and I'm not talking about greater access to gym equipment or cable TV -- I'm talking about eliminating the daily routine of rape and assault that goes on in many of our nation's jails with a wink and a nod from society. A more robust civil committment system would be in danger of this same corruption, in addition to the danger of abuse by authorities given charge over it. It would need to be closely supervised by the public, and its power divided between competing branches of government. It would also not be cheap, but it would be cheaper than the costs of allowing dangerously erratic and insane people to roam freely, beneath our notice until they commit some horrible crime.

    EXPERT WITNESSING: In my imagination, being an expert witness has always sounded like a dream job. Throw on a suit, go to court, answer questions for a few hours, and take home a nice fat paycheck. Not only that, but I would contribute to the general welfare of society by disseminating truth in an otherwise shady legal system. Imagine my shock, shock I say, to read that expert witnesses sell their opinions to the highest bidder. And for such paltry sums!

    Sign me up.

    I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but I have trouble evaluating the rigor, applicability, and validity of a theory whose key terms are only defined in terms of each other. As described up to this point, civilization advances interconnectedness (which increases as a result of innovations like language, writing, moveable type, digital information processing, etc, and which determines the rate at which such innovations can spread), which is directly related to functional density. There are no definitions here, and so the given relations between concepts cannot be verified or evaluated in any substantive or analytical way. I do not question whether Michael has rigorous definitions for these concepts, as he has clearly given the theory much thought. But without being provided with a more precise, concrete, and independent formulation of each of the key terms, interested and careful readers will be unable to reproduce the logic inherent in the theory and thereby achieve non-trivial agreement.

    For example: the idea of interconnectedness is frustratingly ambiguous. Does interconnectedness refer to frequency of communication, or accuracy of communication, or some particular quality of communication such as coherence or relevance? And how would these aspects of communication relate to each other, within the definition of interconnectedness? In the vague sense of it that I currently grasp, it seems like interconnectedness would also increase conflict and confusion, as individuals are exposed to a wider range of opposed and irreconcilable communications. Couldn’t this increase in conflict and confusion lead to societal stagnation, at least enough to balance out the positive effects of innovation dispersal? Isn’t it possible? Maybe not, but without a more rigorous formulation of the concept of interconnectedness, the reader may be left with such unanswered doubts.

    I have to go study for final exams, but I want to give this horse one more swift kick. I am still dissatisfied with the idea of advancement as described. You’ve given four dimensions of advancement: “increased freedom for individuals, increased health and standard of living, increased happiness and fulfillment, and increased security from internal and external threats.” But you have not given any account of the fact that it is often the case that an increase in some of these benefits comes only with a decrease in others. For example, it is a major concern that increased security from the threat of terrorism in the United States will only come with a decrease in personal freedom. Innovations that provide for greater security may cost us in terms of freedom. Or again, maybe such trade-offs are not necessary in your theory- but the reason why your theory excludes this possibility would have to be explained before it can be accepted. Furthermore, each of the four given dimensions of advancement is of so complex a nature that it is impossible to gauge how they might be affected by interconnectedness or functional density, as they are currently described.

    But believe me, I wouldn’t be so nit-picky if I didn’t see great potential in what you have described thus far. I look forward to hearing more, if you have the time and desire to provide it.

    (... continued): Like the light bulb, most world-changing innovations required a low marginal cost to implement, allowing every person in a society to quickly and cheaply reap the benefit of one man's genius. The rate at which an innovation can be spread throughout a civilization is directly dependent on that civilization's interconnectedness, and its functional density. Consider the written word, the cotton gin, mass production, agriculture, the wheel, sidereal navigation… each of these innovations had a low marginal cost of implementation and provided a huge benefit to any people-group that could take advantage of it.

    The benefits of a high functional density are twofold: first, the benefits of innovation spread more quickly through a civilization; and second, there is less duplication of effort among geniuses because they are more aware of each other and are better able to collaborate together. The net result of all this is that functional density fuels innovation, and innovation reinvests to yield ever-increasing functional density (through the spoken word, writing, the printing press, the internet, &c).

    I promised earlier to post a little more detail about my theory on the advance of civilization and its relation to what I termed functional density. Nicholas pointed out that I should define my vocabulary in more detail, and so I'll attempt to do that as well.

    I believe I explained functional density in sufficient depth in my earlier post, and covered how it relates to interconnectedness and actual population density. To take a step farther back, what do I mean by the advance of civilization? Nicholas is correct that this is an essential definition. To me, and to all who live in and value a liberal democratic society, the definition should be fairly clear: increased freedom for individuals, increased health and standard of living, increased happiness and fulfillment, and increased security from internal and external threats. A Nazi or a communist might disagree with some or all of these principles and with good cause -- totalitarian governments are in fact harmed by greater interconnectedness among their subjects and between their subjects and the outside world. But if one desires a populist society that is based on freedom for all, then I believe that my theory will hold true.

    Now, to the theory itself. I have described functional density and what I hold as the principles of civilization that are to be advanced. How does greater functional density lead to this advance? Let me first define another term that I will use in a specific way: genius. defines a genius as a person of extraordinary intellect and talent and in general I am inclined to agree; in this particular context, I want to focus on a certain kind of genius: a person who creates or conceives of an innovation that leads to the advance of civilization. One example would be Edison and the light bulb. The invention of the light bulb was instrumental in the industrial revolution, and made it possible for factory workers to labor night and day through every season, immune to the vagaries of the sun and the weather.


    ON THE OTHER SIDE: Nicholas makes a good point: renaming french fries "freedom fries" is a silly symbolic gesture. Aside from anything else, their name doesn't have anything to do with France, but rather refers to the process of "frenching" -- to cut into thin strips before cooking. This renaming isn't a new idea... in The War To End All Wars sauerkraut was rechristened “liberty cabbage”.

    In any event, it is a silly symbolic gesture and it strikes me as strangely appropriate considering France's silly symbolic grandstanding over the Iraq situation. I suspect that France is hiding a great deal of sinister activity behind its newfound public pacifism (at least insofar as their pacifism doesn't prevent them from meddling dangerously in small African countries.) So yes, it is somewhat juvenile, but it makes me grin and it lets us stick our tongue out without sticking our neck out.

    ON THE SIDE: I visited a friend's dorm room today seeking some lecture notes that I had lent to him a few days earlier. It turns out that my classmate wasn't there, but his roommate was, sitting at his desk with a Styrofoam take-out container half full of chili-cheese fries.

    "Hey, want a freedom fry?" He smirked at my puzzlement, and lifted the container toward me a little as though offering me a better view. I looked closer. What on earth was a freedom fry? They seemed like normal fries to me, if maybe a little soggy.

    I said as much, and he laughed. Then he explained the sad and ridiculous truth.

    I did not believe him at first, of course. It sounded like the kind of word-game school children play to tease and exclude the dorky kids. "You can't join the club, because it costs a nickel to join and you're Nickel-less Williams! Ha!" I remember that one very well. Even as a second grader, it seemed dim-witted, annoying, and petty. A silly symbolic gesture, easily shrugged off, serving only to diminish those who wielded it so proudly.

    Like I said, I did not believe my friend's roommate at first, but I believe BBC News, when it comes to easily falsifiable stories such as this. Our statesmen are behaving like second graders, only this isn't an elementary school playground we're talking about. Silly word-games reminiscent of propaganda from the Second World War, the war after The War To End All Wars, and the main reason that we helped create the United Nations in the first place.

    I read the BBC article, and after my amused huffs, puffs, snickers, and chortles were over, I was left with sense of dread. Who are we? What are we trying to get ourselves into?

    Looks like I jumped the gun again. I was one of the crowd predicting that war would start near the end of February, and that mistake should have taught me that Bush isn't quite as impatient as I am. According to this FoxNews item, Bush says that tomorrow will be the "moment of truth" not for Saddam, but for the world. "Asked whether Monday was the day that would determine whether diplomacy could work, he replied, 'That's what I'm saying.'"

    Everyone knows that Saddam has no intention of disarming. His moment of truth was some 12 years ago. Finally, though, France, Germany, and the other appeaser states will be forced to stand up either with the United States and the peace-loving nations of the world, or to stand up with Saddam, a murderous, torturing rapist.

    I really hope that tomorrow actually is the last chance. That phrase is thrown around far too liberally in diplomatic circles, and I'd like to actually see it stick.

    WAR, CONTINUED: Well, no cruise missiles flying yet, as far as the major news sites know anyway. I thought that Bush and Blair &c. would be in the Azores already, but it looks like that might not happen until later today. That FoxNews article also has a quote by Colin Powell in which he says, "It's not a war council, and ultimatums are not the issue today. The issue today is, 'Has the diplomatic track run its course?'" That doesn't necessarily mean that the bombing won't start today, but it makes me a little more doubtful.

    Donald Sensing has predicted a Monday attack already, and maybe he's right. I haven't looked at his site much before, but SDB over at the USS Clueless has some links to him, and his site, One Hand Clapping, has some very interesting posts. I'd link through to a few more, but I have to go running this morning so I should tear myself away from the computer screen.

    One other concern I have is that Saddam will attack Israel again, as he did in Gulf War I. This FoxNews article indicates that Israel will not refrain from retaliating as it did 12 years ago at our behest, and to the best of my knowledge we haven't asked them to. Obviously, if Israel strikes Iraq it could inflame some of the other Arab states nearby... not that they love Israel now, but it would give them a more immediate grievance. Sorry, I should use quotes... "grievance".

    If you're familiar with the Al Samoud missile destruction charade that Iraq has been performing over the past couple of weeks, you'll have read that their range exceeds the UN-mandated maximum of 150 km. That range was established as the maximum because that's just about the shortest distance between Iraq's border and Israel's.

    WAR: I expect to wake up tomorrow morning and see headlines announcing that we've started our air campaign in Iraq. Baghdad is 11 hours ahead of Los Angeles, so by 7am here it will be dusk there, and just about time to launch our Tomahawks. It might all be over by the time I go to lunch (with Saddam killed in a coup, or in the initial bombardment). The first Gulf War was arguably the most successful military operation in history, and our rout of the Taliban in Afghanistan topped it. It never pays to be overly optimistic, but from my position as a spectator I feel safe in predicting that Gulf War II will go over even faster, and more safely.

    There is one scenario I dread though, and that's the possibility that we don't cut off Saddam's communications to his forces quickly enough and he has time and opportunity to use checmical weapons against his own people. Our forces (and his) have fairily adequate defenses against the rudimentary chemical and biological weapons that are likely to be used, but the Iraqi civilians don't have any means of protection. It seems likely that Saddam will order attacks against the Kurds in the north, and it's also possible that he will order a suicidal chemical holocaust in Baghdad itself, once he's convinced that he's going down.

    God bless the United States of America, and deliver the people of Iraq.

    AWANA OLYMPICS: I just got home from taking my kids to the Awana Olympics. Not actually my kids, you understand, but my kids nonetheless. I'd post a link to a website about Awana and/or the Olympics, but all the websites I see are a little cheesy. If you know what it is, then great; if not, you'll get the idea as I explain. We took 32 kids from church (16 boys and 16 girls, 3rd through 6th grade), and they competed against teams from other churches in some fun indoor games. It's pouring rain today, so it's good we were inside. Our boys team came in third on their circle, and our girls came in second -- neither good enough to advance to the finals. The kids had a good time though, and my friends and I had fun watching them.

    I love being around kids. Five years ago (or even three) there weren't a lot of kids at my church, but recently there has been a huge influx of young parents and kids from the neighborhood and it's made quite a difference in the atmosphere. There have been a half-dozen new babies born in the last year alone. It's amazing to me. Having children around adds a sense of life and a feeling of vibrancy to the church and our events, and it's hard for me to imagine how dry and dusty things would feel without them.

    Sometimes they won't be quiet, sometimes they run around like maniacs or cry or pout or scream, but sometimes one will just smile at me and it makes me forget the dozen times I had to tell her to stop poking me in the head with her umbrella. Two of the little girls couldn't stop giggling over how fast the windshield wipers were swooshing while we were driving on the freeway. When the rain let up a little and we turned the wipers down, it was equally hilarious that they were now moving so ssssssloooowwwwly. It doesn't make any sense to me, but hearing them laugh and laugh over such a small thing makes me thankful for the rain.

    ADVANCE 12 PACES, TURN, AND FIRE!: I am looking forward to learning more about the theory that Michael introduced in MORIA REVISITED, but before he elaborates, I would like to raise a specific point for future clarification. In his earlier post, Michael provided a general sense of what he understands as civilization and interconnectedness, but he refers to a third, spectral concept that remains in need of illumination: advancement.

    The notion of societal advancement can be a powerful motivator and justifier of political values and strategies, including such diverse and questionable values and strategies as the encouragement of technological research and development, education, freedom, globalization, war, free trade, economic sanctions, censorship, human rights, ethnic violence, and racial purity. But unless civilization advancement is described in a concrete way, critical minds cannot evaluate the truth or legitimacy of the claim that it motivates, justifies, or is logically related to any particular policy or value.

    Furthermore, advancement implies movement as well as the existence of both positive and negative directions. Without the additional notions of positive and negative directions, we could claim advancement and yet still be treading in circles.

    Society quite literally is always moving, and the question is: how do we know when we are moving in a positive direction and when we are moving in a negative direction? What is our point of reference? Is there some goal we have in sight, which we might one day reach? What if ours is the plight of the duelist, who advances just as far as he must before turning back, drawing his weapon, and meeting his fate? Then the question of whether we are moving in a positive or negative direction can only be answered after it is too late for such knowledge to influence our behavior. How do we recognize advancement as it happens, rather than merely after the fact, and how do we balance advancement in one aspect of civilization with retreat in another? Or do all aspects of civilization advance together, in unison? None of these questions can possibly be answered without a concrete account of the notion of civilization advancement.

    I do not doubt that Michael has a well-developed sense of civilization advancement, and my only real point is that it will be critically important for him to include in the elaboration of his theory a solid, grounded description of this rich and forceful concept.

    One of my little pet theories is that civilization (however you define it) advances at a rate proportional to the interconnectedness of humanity. I generally take "civilization" to include things like health, technology, art, engineering achievements, and that sort of thing. "Interconnectedness" is a little more abstract; in my mind, it increases due to technological inventions like spoken language, written language, the telephone, satellite communications, and the internet. These innovations serve to increase what I call the functional population density -- that is, the more functionally dense a society is, the more interconnected it is, and the faster its civilization will advance. SDB has a neat essay on the four most important inventions in history, and I generally agree with his analysis, since it fits so neatly into my own theory. (I'll explain my theory in more detail in a later post.)

    Of course, if functional density is good, why, actual density must be even better! Check out this Wired article and read about the future of civilization!

    By expanding our cities underground, we will be able to reach population densities unheard of throughout history. Functional density increase due to increased population density creates some difficulties that technological advancement does not (such as crime, waste disposal, heat (you've got to have huge air conditioners for cities a mile below ground), dealing with natural disasters), but I believe that they can all be overcome. Inevitably, there is some equilibrium point where the benefits to civilization and the costs of maintaining a given population density balance out, but we certainly haven't reached that point yet with our current population density-increasing technology of choice: skyscrapers. Major cities continue to drain people from rural areas, and even the largest and most dense cities are still growing (see here).

    Now, as to Los Angeles... I don't know how safe it would be to dig here, considering that we can't even build a subway without plowing into tar and natural gas. Oh, and earthquakes. Better than Balrogs, I suppose.

    "Our character is not so much the product of race and heredity as of those circumstances by which nature forms our habits, by which we are nurtured and live."
    -Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.), Roman orator, philosopher, statesman. De Lege Agraria, II, 95.

    Granted, Cicero did not have the understanding of genetics that we have today. Nevertheless, his is an important perspective to keep in mind. Some culturally or historically derived behavioral traits that are particularly strongly represented among black women or among Asian men may become diluted over the generations, in the U.S.

    ABOUT NICHOLAS WILLIAMS: I am a junior at Stanford University, working on an undergraduate degree in the interdisciplinary major field of Symbolic Systems, with a concentration on decision-making systems and rationality. I will also graduate with a minor in International Relations (IR), assuming that I do in fact graduate, and the list of University departments that contribute to the IR program paints a pretty picture of my intellectual passions: political science, history, economics, philosophy. I speak a wee-bit o' Japanese, and will spend five of the next six months studying and working (and writing) in Kyoto, Japan. I currently work in the Philosophy Department library at Stanford, and I have 22 books checked out in my name, none of which are for class.

    I really do enjoy long walks, though not usually on the beach- too much... beach. I paint (poorly), whittle (often my own fingers), and have a great affinity for the Buddhist mental culture in it's most simple form. And there is no secret cabal. The secret cabal exists only in your mind.

    A fascinating UPI story gives a bunch of statistics about interracial marriages from the 2000 US Census. The two biggest pieces of news are:

  • African-American men had white wives 2.65 times more often than black women had white husbands. In other words, in 73 percent of black-white couples, the husband was black. For every 1,000 black women who were married, there were 1,059 black married men.
  • Asian women had white husbands 3.08 times more often than Asian men had white wives. That means just over 75 percent of white-Asian couples featured a white husband and Asian wife. For every 1,000 Asian women with husbands, only 860 Asian men had wives.

    The article goes on to discuss other statistics, but it never addresses the long term effects that these disparities will have on the US population. The overall racial (and mixed-racial) breakdown of the population won't be affected much, but any traits that are particularly strongly represented among black women or among Asian men will become diluted over the generations.

    Via Andrew Sullivan.

  • A NEW ADDICTION: Ha! The secret to success in writing really IS volume- but the readers aren't supposed to know that! Write as much as possible, then edit out everything that isn't brilliant, penetrating, devastating to your opponents, and enchanting to your audience. It is a thrilling, absorbing, and endless challenge.

    Truly, I am honored to be given a voice in this forum.

    A NEW ADDITION: Everyone knows the secret to success at writing is simple: content. No, not the quality of the content, silly. I'm talking about volume. So to ensure that this blog is as successful as possible, I've invited my esteemed brother Nicholas to be my co-writer. He's a smart guy, an excellent writer, and approaches life from a different direction than I do. I've asked him to write about whatever he wants, thereby ensuring that the volume of writing will be at least somewhat higher than it would have been without him! Excellent.

    In addition, I expect the quality will be higher as well, but that's just a bonus.

    The post below is a little After Action Report I wrote on March 5th, the day of the large anti-war protests at UCLA. I originally sent this to the man who inspired me to blog and he generously posted it on his site. I reproduce it here because it's something I enjoyed doing, and something that used up at least a few of my 15 minutes of fame. I got a nifty AP photo out of it, and even got mentioned on Instapundit.

    So I went to the anti-war protest at UCLA today [March 5th, 2003]; this was my first demonstration and I didn't know quite what to expect. I made up a few pro-war signs and handed them out to some like-minded students to hold up with me. I was surprised somewhat, because it wasn't at all hard to find people willing to hold up the pro-war signs (as I thought it might be). I had:

    1. "Saddam is Mean"
    2. "Give War A Chance!"
    3. "Peace Through Victory!"
    4. "Anti-War = Pro-Murder, Pro-Torture, Pro-Rape"

    We also made "Beat it Hippies", which got a pretty good reaction.

    I'm the devastatingly handsome fellow in the brown jacket who is having his civil rights viciously infringed. Not shown: me totally flipping out and chopping the heads off of like 150 anti-war pansies.

    I had the opportunity to run up on the stage and hold sign #4 up behind the speaker for about a minute before people started boo-ing and security pulled me off stage. They tried to take my sign too, but I wouldn't let them. Then about half an hour later three other guys and I got back up on the stage (near the back) and wouldn't let their security take us down. They called the police over but I guess the cops decided we weren't doing anything illegal and so they didn't do anything. It was pretty amusing. At that point I got bored and left.

    I think sign #4 got the strongest reaction from people, as you can imagine. Several anti-war people got angry, but when I explained to them how the sign was accurate they shut up and walked off. Around a dozen groups and individuals thanked me for being out there, including a lady in a wheelchair who really liked the sign and some construction workers who seemed to hold most of the students in general contempt.

    Most of the people there seemed to really dislike Bush for some reason. Some girl tried to convince me that, although Saddam does murder, torture, and rape people, Bush does too. I couldn't quite pin her down on her sources, but she seemed very convinced. I can't substantiate these claims, but if they're true I think that the media should stop covering for Bush.

    Overall it was an interesting experience. In practical terms it was a waste of time, but entertaining nevertheless. I was interviewed by reporters from a few newspapers after I was dragged off the stage the first time, and several photographers took my picture, so if anyone sees me let me know. There were some TV and radio journalists there as well, but I didn't have a chance to talk to any of them. Good stuff.

    I've gotta say, I love Google's little graphical tributes to great thinkers. Today it's Einstein (it's his birthday), and a couple weeks ago I saw Michaelangelo (on his birthday). Of course, if you don't visit Google today, you won't get to see what I'm talking about.

    War within a week? That's SDB's analysis based on ship movements from the Mediterranean Sea into the Red Sea. As he says, the ships that have been moved through the Suez Canal will be needed for the initial massive airstrike against Iraq, and due to Turkey's waffling we can't be assured that they'll be able to launch their Tomahawks through Turkish air space. So the ships move south, but it can only be for a short time since those ships are parts of the two carrier battle groups that we have sailing around the Med., and it isn't healthy to leave carriers unscreened for long periods of time, especially with war pending.

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