Wednesday, August 31, 2005
  Jimmy Bush



I'm afraid this emergency is Bush's hostage crisis, his Waterloo. (Pun intended.)

Minimal and reticent government is wonderful in normal times. It's not wonderful in wars and disasters.

I keep hearing the Call of the Wild Bureaucrat echoing in my ears. The entrenched, unionized, solidly Democrat permanent Washington, unwilling to move under the best of circumstances, totally intransigent when the President wears an R. There may have been things happening under the surface, especially in military circles, but it's fairly obvious that the bureaucrats didn't start moving for real until Bush returned from Texas, two days late.

Basic rule of any institution, first codified by C. P. Snow: BE THERE.

If you want to have any effect, you can't assume the other players will do what's necessary, especially when they are Democrats and you are a Republican. Herbert Hoover, who ironically made his bones by effectively leading the Red Cross to assist New Orleans after the 1927 flood, nevertheless showed the same kind of Republican naivete after he was elected President. He figured Congress and the bureaus would help him deal with the Depression. Nope, Congress turned Dem just after the stock crash, and proceeded to block all his efforts. Hoover didn't crack the whip, and the blocking worked; FDR was elected in '32 and immediately implemented Hoover's programs. (They weren't very good programs, but that's irrelevant here.)

No New Tone. No New Tone. No New Tone.

-----

Addendum: I'll bet Osama's research staff is learning from this event. For best results and maximum chaos, don't pick a city with a tough mayor like Giuliani. Cities with good leadership will recover quickly. Instead, pick a city like New Orleans where criminals have been allowed to run free, and where infrastructure has been allowed to decay.

And I hope (which means I do not expect) that the mayors of other cities will also learn from it. Serious local governance is a matter of national security now. Stop protecting the owls, clams, gangsters and illegal immigrants; start protecting the law-abiding people.

-----

Another addendum: Former Okla Gov Keating clarified things nicely in a comment on Fox this aft. He said that emergency response -- including the decision to call in Federal support -- is strictly up to state governors. He didn't explicitly say that Blanco was incompetent for failing to start the ball rolling, but his meaning was perfectly clear. Unfortunately, the ball still ends up in Bush's hands, because anyone with a television could see how quickly things were falling into chaos. Even if he doesn't watch the news, a President presumably has people who do that for him. And if he doesn't have such people, or if he doesn't listen to them, that's still his failure. The Pres is supposed to know more than the common yokel, not less.
 
  Jack it up!



Sort of shocked into silence.

Few comments:

1. Disasters are a litmus test for competent leadership. It's obvious that Louisiana and New Orleans do not have competent leadership, while Mississippi does.
Blanco is falling apart. The Feds are not moving anywhere near as aggressively as they should. This is not the time for careful delegation of power; this is the time for someone to grab the wheel.

2. Since the only part of New Orleans that will be worth saving is the big downtown buildings, the rest should be rebuilt elsewhere. Turn the low land into a park, re-channel the Miss into the Atchafalaya where it's been trying to go for a century, and build a new city on higher land. If necessary, generate the higher land. The need for this change has been known in detail since the Miss flood of 1927.

Impossible? Hardly. Dozens of small towns in the Plains states moved and rebuilt on higher land when they realized their original townsites were flood-prone. Even poor East Saint Louis regraded its downtown at one point.

3. Of course, all of those rebuilds happened in an era when Americans were builders and fixers, and they also happened before the state-sponsored terrorist organization EPA took over our government. Maybe we should bring in Japanese or Korean companies, since they are now the sole owners of the former American spirit. Maybe we should outsource government to the Koreans while we're at it.

Update: Texas Gov Perry is firmly grabbing the wheel. He's even attempting to break out of the EPA's iron grip to get something done. Good.

 
Thursday, August 25, 2005
  Random

BRAC

The leftover media seem to be focusing on BRAC's decision to close Walter Reed Hospital.

Though I've been strongly opposed to closing many of the military bases on the list, I don't see the fuss about this one. Hospitals are not uniquely military; there are lots of civilian hospitals available. More importantly, there are plenty of empty beds at other VA Hospitals, and beds are far more interchangeable than firing ranges or ammunition storage areas.

-----

Operation

Also, what's wrong with labelling gravestones at Arlington Cemetery as "Operation"? That's how we label wars nowadays, so it's the simplest way to describe the time and place of service.

We would do better to return to accurate labels for the wars themselves, though. When Bush peculiarly gave the exact casualty figures a couple days ago, he announced "We have lost 1,864 members of our armed forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom".

What's an Enduring Freedom? I assume it was the Afghanistan war, but I don't recall hearing anyone except possibly Bush himself use the title. "Operation" formerly referred to a short campaign like the Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord), not an entire war.

-----

Prose

This is just the most breathtaking bit of writing I've encountered in quite a while. From the WPA Guide to Mississippi, a way of life condensed to one magnificently architected paragraph:


For us calendars are bits of advertisements that the storekeeper mails out about the time taxes are due. They are usually of oblong dimensions, with brightly colored Biblical pictures at the top and small neat pads of black numerals at the bottom. They are pretty and tasteful and fit to tack up in our bedrooms; but beyond that and the fact that our very hopeful imaginations may see in the receipt of one an indication of extended credit, they have little to do with our year. For, eating hog jowls and black-eyed peas on New Year's Day notwithstanding, our year neither begins with the first day of January nor ends with the last night of December. Our year begins with planting-time and ends with the gathering-in. Between those two extremes comes the hoeing-and-chopping season and a spell of laying-by. In all, this covers a period of about seven months -- from March, when the snowy white blooms of the cottonwood tree tell us not only to put our cottonseed in the ground, but, more happily, to resume our charging at the store, until sometime in September, when we pick, gin, and bale the soft white bolls we have raised, and are told in a way less subtle than by the receipt of a calendar to stop our charging at the store. Yet it is enough. It is a "year", and for us complete. Come the tenth of the month following and we will have weighed it, tagged it, and laid it quietly aside as having been simply "good" or "bad".


------

Modern WPA

My favorite haunt on the Web (aside from the sleazy parts, of course) is one LiveJournal community of photographers. Rural Ruin gathers some pro and semi-pro chroniclers of local life and history. It's marred by a few Gothish fans of abandoned mental asylums, but those aren't the rule. Search especially for entries by a fellow using the name Wander. He may not be Walker Evans or Russell Lee, but he's mighty close.
 
  What if...

If Homeland Security controlled the Weather Bureau...........

[This is a 1 MB SWF file, so dialup beware!]



 
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
  Walt, you up there? Spinning?

Walt Disney, Missouri born, was a great patriot. During WW2 his studio switched over to 'war work', trying to uphold our national morale.



His successors have turned the other way with a vengeance. They fire radio talkers who call the enemy by its correct name, and they disavow preachers who, however inappropriately, advocate fighting our enemies.


 
  GMO takes over oil's most critical use....

From a Press release:

Finding "green" methods to make key chemical intermediates like succinate is a high priority for the chemical industry. Green technologies use renewable resources like agricultural crops rather than non-renewable fossil fuels, and they produce less waste.

"Succinate is a high-priority chemical that the U.S. Department of Energy has targeted for biosynthesis," said process co-developer George Bennett, professor and chair of the department of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice. "One reason for this is succinate's broad utility -- it can be used to make everything from non-corrosive airport deicers and non-toxic solvents to plastics, drugs and food additives. Succinate's also a priority because some bacteria make it naturally, so we have a metabolic starting place for large-scale fermentation."

The centerpiece of Rice's succinate technology is a mutant form of E. coli that makes succinate as it's only metabolic byproduct. The bug contains more than a half-dozen genetic modifications. It was created over the past four years by the research groups of Bennett and collaborator Ka-Yiu San.

The technology is taking its first step from the lab to the marketplace this month with the start of industrial scale-up efforts in Kansas. These efforts resulted from an $80,000 award from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bennett and San are working with Manhattan-based AgRenew Inc., which just began testing how to use farm-grown products like grain sorghum as feedstocks for the succinate-producing bacteria.


-----

GMO science is the most under-reported story of this decade. Partly because of the old country mouse / city mouse thing: elites, conservative or liberal, look down on anything that sounds rural. Conservatives trash ag research as silly waste and abuse (cow farts and all that), and libs just hate science. More to the point, libs hate GMO's ability to break the mainsprings of their power. They have already inoculated their pet African leaders against using GMO to relieve famine, because self-sufficient farmers break the welfare cycle. It will be interesting to see how the Left plays this development. You might call it a battle between Mutant Organisms and Mutant Thinking.

Meanwhile, good things are developing rapidly and quietly -- yes, even in the Flyover Manhattan.
 
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
  Yup again.

Andy McCarthy again. NRO again. Ipse dixit again.

The Kurds should have been our chief ally from the start. Of course, that should have happened in 1990 as well, which gives us even more reason to do it this time -- at the very least we should give them everything they want in the reformed Iraq.

As you might expect, FDR knew how to handle a similar situation. Sicily broke loose from Mussolini, and we used them as a fulcrum to work on the rest of Italy. Here's a bit from Chat 25, July 1943. Again as you might expect, Roosevelt did not try to distinguish the 'moderate' and 'pure' forms of Fascism from the 'militant' forms. They're all bad, and all need to be eradicated from the earth.

So our terms to Italy are still the same as our terms to Germany and Japan -- "unconditional surrender."

We will have no truck with Fascism in any way, in any shape or manner. We will permit no vestige of Fascism to remain.

Eventually Italy will reconstitute herself. It will be the people of Italy who will do that, choosing their own government in accordance with the basic democratic principles of liberty and equality.

...

We are already helping the Italian people in Sicily. With their cordial cooperation, we are establishing and maintaining security and order -- we are dissolving the organizations which have kept them under Fascist tyranny -- we are providing them with the necessities of life until the time comes when they can fully provide for themselves.

Indeed, the people in Sicily today are rejoicing in the fact that for the first time in years they are permitted to enjoy the fruits of their own labor -- they can eat what they themselves grow, instead of having it stolen from them by the Fascists and the Nazis.


Given my perceptual-filter problem with Bush speeches, it's possible that he has made a similar point about the Kurds and I didn't hear or register it. Somehow I doubt it, though. Emphasizing the civilized nature of the Kurds would have hurt the feelings of Arab savages. Can't have that.

-----

Update: Ledeen says the Kurds are thoroughly happy with the new Constitution. If the Kurds are happy, I'm happy!


 
Monday, August 22, 2005
  Rhetoric

Listening to Bush's speech to VFW this morning. By the standards of the aphasic Bush family, it's not bad. But it's not good, either.

Basic fact of human nature: we sense change, not repetition. When a stimulus, be it temperature, color, or words, is repeated often enough, we stop attending to it. We notice a suddenly cool day, a suddenly dark room. We can be awakened when the 2:45 train fails to pass our house. Good teachers and good speakers understand this. You do need to repeat the concepts, but you need to approach them from new angles each day if you want your listeners to stay with you.

Bush repeats the same ideas in the same words with no fresh information, so the only thing I hear in each speech is "mlmlmlmml A strong mlmlmlmlm mlmlmlml THEE strong mlmlmlml A broadermiddleast uuuuuuuuhhhhh THEE gooderservice mlmlmlmlm ...."

----------------

Compare with FDR's fireside chats during WWII.

Some excerpts from Chat 27, Christmas 1943. Note the personal detail mixed with actual military news; note that FDR mentions specific things that have been accomplished, specific things that are about to be accomplished, and links them to create a sense of progress. Note also that he doesn't promise democracy or women's rights in the reformed Germany and Japan; only that they should become "respectable" nations.

-----

But -- on Christmas Eve this year -- I can say to you that at last we may look forward into the future with real , substantial confidence that, however great the cost, "peace on earth, good will toward men" can be and will be realized and ensured. This year I can say that. Last year I could not do more than express a hope. Today I express -- a certainty though the cost may be high and the time may be long.

...

At Cairo and Teheran we devoted ourselves not only to military matters, we devoted ourselves also to consideration of the future -- to plans for the kind of world which alone can justify all the sacrifices of this war. Of course, as you all know, Mr. Churchill and I have happily met many times before, and we know and understand each other very well.

...

The Cairo and Teheran conferences, however, gave me my first opportunity to meet the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek, and Marshal Stalin -- and to sit down at the table with these unconquerable men and talk with them face to face. We had planned to talk to each other across the table at Cairo and Teheran; but we soon found that we were all on the same side of the table. We came to the conferences with faith in each other. But we needed the personal contact. And now we have supplemented faith with definite knowledge.

...

Essential to all peace and security in the Pacific and in the rest of the world is the permanent elimination of the Empire of Japan as a potential force of aggression. Never again must our soldiers and sailors and marines -- and other soldiers, sailors and marines -- be compelled to fight from island to island as they are fighting so gallantly and so successfully today. Increasingly powerful forces are now hammering at the Japanese at many points over an enormous arc which curves down through the Pacific from the Aleutians to the Jungles of Burma. Our own Army and Navy, our Air Forces, the Australians and New Zealanders, the Dutch, and the British land, air and sea forces are all forming a band of steel which is slowly but surely closing in on Japan.

...

After the Cairo conference, Mr. Churchill and I went by airplane to Teheran. There we met with Marshal Stalin. We talked with complete frankness on every conceivable subject connected with the winning of the war and the establishment of a durable peace after the war. Within three days of intense and consistently amicable discussions, we agreed on every point concerned with the launching of a gigantic attack upon Germany. The Russian army will continue its stern offensives on Germany's Eastern front, the allied armies in Italy and Africa will bring relentless pressure on Germany from the south, and now the encirclement will be complete as great American and British forces attack from other points of the compass.

...

The United Nations have no intention to enslave the German people. We wish them to have a normal chance to develop, in peace, as useful and respectable members of the European family. But we most certainly emphasize that word "respectable" -- for we intend to rid them once and for all of Nazism and Prussian militarism and the fantastic and disastrous notion that they constitute the "Master Race."


-----

Addendum: Some of the solid content and clear explanation in the fireside chat is wildly false in hindsight (especially all the stuff about dear Uncle Joe); and some of it was known to be false at the time. I don't have any problem with that.

Untruth -- or at least omitting the truth -- is sometimes critically necessary to maintain morale and get the job done. Bush's problem is that he doesn't seem to know which truths to skip and which to emphasize. In today's speech, he gave loyal Americans no positive news to "hang our hats on"; he only gave the exact casualty count, for no discernible purpose. Authors like Richard Miniter and Victor Mordechai give us positive info about the successes of Homeland Security, while the administration tells us nothing ... leaving the field wide-open for Comrade Sheehan, Comrade Kerry, and, yes, Comrade Shep Smith to spread their vicious virus. If Miniter can give this information without being arrested, presumably it's not top secret. So why not tout it officially?
 
  Plus ça change ....

At least among American Commies.

Here's a 20-second segment from the 1952 radio show "I was a Communist for the FBI", overacted but largely factual stories drawn from the experiences of a double agent. In this episode, the Commies were planning to protest the House Unamerican Activities Committee. You should be able to recognize precursors of Comrade Gore, Comrade Sheehan, and Comrade Kerry in this short bit.

Sidenote: I think "Plus ça change" must be the single most popular title for blog entries. I googled the phrase in order to paste the cedilla character without having to dig out my old ASCII documentation. [This trick works well for all sorts of diacritic characters, because Google searches by the unmarked character but shows the marked.] Google gives 25 million responses to the phrase, and the majority seem to be blog entry titles!
 
Sunday, August 21, 2005
  Yup.


Can't say it any better than Andy McCarthy at NRO.

Increasing the size of the Caliphate is Osama's goal, not ours. Or so I naively and mistakenly thought.

To be sure, sometimes you have to retreat or avoid an important battle for tactical reasons. But finishing one stage of the war by giving the enemy exactly what he wanted is not a tactical detour. It is self-imposed defeat.

And when America and Israel commit partial suicide at the same moment, Allah is ecstatic.
 
Thursday, August 18, 2005
  More seriously,
I'm astonished to hear all the great gray experts, including the big-name Neocons, saying things like "Well, of course, the burden is now on the Palestinian leaders to fulfill their side of the bargain."

Burden? Burden? Their only burden is to gather enough weapons and external support to retake Jerusalem.

Funny, all these years I thought "Never again" was shorthand for "We will never again allow Jews to be pushed around." Obviously I was wrong. When spoken by the establishment, it obviously means "We will never again go to the trouble of protecting those pesky Jews."

-----

Fair & balanced update... Michael Medved, in attempting to defend Sharon's actions, makes a couple of worthy points. He says (1) trying to rule over Gaza was a tremendous burden for Israel, using military resources that could have been elsewhere. (2) The scattered Jewish settlers were in effect serving as hostages, making it harder for Israel to strike at terrorist supporters in Gaza. The latter point will be worth watching. It will require some fast and lethal proof to counter the sense of Arab momentum, though.
 
  The Sharon Solution

Wow! What a refreshing new non-linear idea! Surrender your country to the enemy to gain peace! Say! If it works for Ariel, why won't it work for George? Let's do it!

The central part of this map, still confusingly marked as "United States", will actually be given to the Original Tribes to divide among themselves, after disarming all the non-Original settlers.




[Just in case there's any doubt at all, I am being sardonic here. Given the infinitely literal-minded nature of many Webizens, this type of disclaimer is necessary.]
 
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
  Guinness book of suckers.
5. He trusted Democrats.

4. He trusted Saddam.

3. Nuff said.

2. He trusted Hitler.

1. New entry: He trusted Arabs!!!!!!
 
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
  Hot & Cold Running Science

Here's a little quiz. What do you think will happen to the car at the end of this repeating clip?




Do you think it will go up like this?



Or down like this?



If you chose Up (A), congratulations! You are either a six-week-old kitten or a Professional Climatologist!

If you chose Down (B), you are more likely a full-grown mammal with some experience of the way the world works.

Granted, the last hill is slightly taller than the previous ones. So a full-grown human with some knowledge of history might ask if we've been on a taller hill before, and if so, what happened then? Well, we have been on a taller hill before, around 1000 AD. And some interesting things did happen in that period. Northern countries became more friendly to human habitation. Mohammedans took over most of Europe. After several decades of dillying around, Christians picked a strong Pope, and Christianity finally fought back. (Sounds familiar, for some reason.) Christians were also starting universities, and the Renaissance was just popping up. Was Africa uninhabitable? Not 'ardly. There was a high civilization in Mali, of all places. How could that be? Well, for one thing, Karl Marx wasn't born yet, so Africans hadn't been hopelessly ruined by his evil philosophy.

-----

Here's a set of graphs scanned (atrociously) from a 1976 National Geographic, at a time when science was still science. That is, scientists were capable of reading graphs, asking questions, and waiting for the data before answering the questions.

At that time, the consensus was that we were heading for a cooling trend, because the last little piece of the graph was going down. But that consensus was not a Religious Axiom, and there was no Inquisition in academe.


Zoom
 
  The Old Tone

Listen.

This is a 2-minute segment from the end of Fibber's radio program, NBC's top-rated comedy, marking V-E day in May of 1945. Note the explicit Christianity; note the appeal to continue our efforts until the whole thing is done; note the mention of Gold-Star mothers. At that point, it looked like we might need one or two more years to finish off Japan. Luckily, the miracle of fission shortened that time.

Now compare with any 2 minutes of today's enemy-occupied media, lionizing traitors, weakening our morale, and turning Gold Star Mothers into a vicious mocking slander.

Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.

 
Sunday, August 14, 2005
  Polistra's Plea to the President

Replace Spokesjelly Scott McClellan with Gordon Cucullu. Give Cucullu free rein.

Now.

It's probably too late, but at least you can stop further damage.

Read my lips:

 
  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Listening to the Fox Sunday morning discussion on Traitor Sheehan. One of the reporters just mentioned that he had talked with Sheehan, and that she was 'engagingly naive', stating that she knew very little about the intricacies of politics and didn't want to influence people on those other subjects. Absolute bullshit. Reporter, you're the naive one. "Oh, I'm not really political; I just happened to get passionate about this one issue" is THE OLDEST FUCKING LEFTIST GAMBIT IN THE GODDAMN BOOK.

Rosa Parks wasn't a housemaid who happened to get tired of sitting in the back of the bus; she was a long-time leftist activist. Betty Friedan wasn't an abused housewife who had an epiphany; she was a lifelong Stalinist. And on and on. Among the serried ranks of American Commie heroines, the only one I can remember who was not a Commie first was Karen Silkwood.

More generally, why in the fucking hell do we expect a wartime President to be the National Counselor and Psychotherapist? Why do we expect any President to pay attention to any individual? His job is to protect the Nation. Doing that job properly, especially in wartime, requires ignoring and even coldly sacrificing individuals. He will do far more for national morale, which happens to include individual morale, if he concentrates on HARD AND FIERCE fighting, if he tells us about our successes, and if he honestly explains what he is doing and why. I don't know if any of those things are happening; if so, the information isn't reaching this neck of the woods. This is why Traitor Sheehan has resonance.
 
  Random notes [Introspection alert!]

Dreams

Over the years my dream mode has changed, presumably reflecting changes in daytime brain usage. Up till age 33, I was doing jobs with low mental requirements and engaging in considerable social activity on the side: traveling, volunteering, hanging with friends. Dreams were quite dull and standard: houses, womb-escape symbols like narrowing stairways, naked in public, falling, all that textbook stuff.

At 33, after encountering a PC with a primitive sound card, I jumped feet first into graphics programming, which absorbed 100% of my mind for the first time. Suddenly dreams became more structured and closer to reality. Before that point, a naked-teaching dream would have used a superficial childlike view of technical matters. Circuit schematics would look vaguely like circuits but would be meaningless. After that point, if I was nakedly drawing a circuit on the blackboard, it would be fully genuine and often helpful to my current project.

A second change happened around 1998, as my work transitioned toward more graphic design and less programming. Some dreams became fully plotted, with original characters and story-lines that I'd never encountered in books, and often with Lucid segments.

One of those this morning. The world was divided into psychics and non-psychics. The psychics were called sorcerers, wore flowing black robes, and had special privileges. (I've never done any of that role-playing stuff, nor read any books of that type, so have no idea where this came from!) I was a lowly non-psychic; toward the end of the dream, I was cleaning a coffeepot, wishing that I could have the privilege of drinking coffee. At that point I thought, Wait a minute, dammit, this is a dream; if I want coffee, all I have to do is wake up and go into the kitchen. So I did.

--

Semi-related:

After about 5 months of building this illustrated blog, I notice that it makes time slow down in a pleasant way. The Theory of Geritol Relativity is well-known: Time accelerates with increasing age. [Also known as the Lorentz-Welk Contraction.] The previous two years, when I was working hard on courseware projects, ran entirely too fast -- as seen in the rear-view mirror, anyway. Since I started this blog, time has regained much of its old mass and substance. Each of these 5 blog-months feels as solid and long as one courseware-year. And, as Martha would say, that's A Good Thing. Not sure why it's different, though. Described objectively, the work involves the same set of skills. Maybe it's a question of 'dailiness': on the previous projects, I had a year or so to complete an entire blob of stuff, so spent that year in a cycle, adding pieces here and there, debugging the result. With a blog, each day's bit of text and image is new. That's one theory anyway.

-----

Just-onces

Just once I'd like to see a news item relating to Marilyn Monroe that does NOT use the Happy Birthday JFK clip.

Just once I'd like to see a President do the State of the Union the way it was supposed to happen: a document sent to Congress. It was not meant to be a circus.

Just once I'd like to hear a Bush speech that doesn't include the word 'strong' in every sentence.

Just once I'd like to hear Bush talk about economics without using that mysterious technical term 'gooderservice'.

Just once I'd like to get a letter from a charitable organization that doesn't use "Changing the world one _______ at a time" for its slogan.

-----

Busy signals

The Web, for all of its wondrous complexity, still gets along without the clear and predictable signals of the good old landline phone system. On the telephone, a busy signal means busy; a fast busy means a busy trunk line; a continued ringing means the party isn't answering; a 'disconnected' voice message means the phone is disconnected. The Web has dozens of specific-sounding error messages, but none of them predictably signal the condition they nominally describe. Any one of the messages could, and often does, mean 'temporarily busy'.

=====

Later sidenote about dreams: Most dreams feature familiar people, not original characters. But the familiar characters are an oddly restricted set. They are drawn from the people I knew in the 1970s, or more precisely 1966-1979. People I knew only before high school never appear, and people I met after 1978 never appear, even in dreams that are otherwise set in the present.
 
Saturday, August 13, 2005
  Weldon and Able Danger

Rep. Curt Weldon is unquestionably the man of the hour. While the Administration continues to kowtow to State and CIA, following the atrocious New Tone rules which leave it unable to call evil by its correct name, Weldon is telling the story that desperately needs to be told.

In the blog world, Captain's Quarters is master of the story.

Considering that Iraqi intel agents were working in Germany at the same time when Atta was working in Germany, I'm inclined to think CIA's denial of Atta's Prague meeting is a classic piece of misdirection. Sort of like "No, Mom, I didn't break Mr. Wilson's window on Tuesday morning at 9:30", or "I didn't have sex with That Woman in the Oval Office." As long as everyone is arguing about Prague, nobody bothers to ask whether they could have met in Hamburg, which would have been considerably easier.

Update 8/16: seems to be a lot of backtracking, handwashing, and mea-culpaing on this question. I'm going to stick with Weldon. Over the years, living on both sides of the political spectrum, I've learned a few things. First, the authorities almost always have some kind of informers or double agents in troublesome groups. Second, the presence of such informers makes it hard for the authorities to state the full truth. Third, when a story gets as fuzzy and contradictory as this one, you can be sure the gov't is tripping over its own feet because of such informers. Fourth, we knew a whole lot about Atta and his buddies immediately after 9/11. If they were strictly a surprise, it would have taken months to gain that much info.

Now, at this point in the argument, a leftist would take off into the stratosphere of screechy rage, blaming the gov't for "creating" al Qaeda. That's nonsense, of course. I just wish the gov't would get over the whole Watergate phobia, and find a positive way to acknowledge that it does gather internal intelligence, and that we are generally safer because of such information. Wouldn't it be refreshing?
 
  Sorry, wrong number



News item: "Scholars studying a newly discovered fragment of the oldest known copy of the New Testament have determined that the Mark of the Beast is actually 616, not 666."

What a waste. All those centuries of paranoid brainpower devoted to finding 666 in the names and serial numbers of people and things.... and all those gallons of tattoo ink and spray paint wasted by young would-be Satanists marking their bodies and neighborhoods.

Hmm... If a real Satan wanted to protect his pet number, so that his marked minions could do their dastardly deeds undetected, wonder how he'd do it? Hmm.
 
Thursday, August 11, 2005
  Towels and nickels

I heard this little story from one of my father's K-State coworkers when we moved to Manhattan in 1956. Supposedly this had occurred the previous summer, so it's 50 years old now. As far as I know it's never been published anywhere; if the WPA Writers Project had still been active then, I suspect they would have appreciated and included this story. Probably true, possibly apocryphal, certainly iconic.

Integration was a hot topic in 1955.

The city of Manhattan had a separate black high school, which was merged immediately after Brown vs Board. But the city swimming pool wasn't affected by that legal change. Blacks were still relegated to Douglass Pool, down by the railroad, while whites had the nicer pool in the City Park.

K-State, though, had been integrated from the start, and had graduated important black scholars and writers as early as 1880. In the '50s K-State, being a world-class engineering and agriculture school, had a wide variety of foreign students. (Cosmopolitan Kansas? Yep.) K-State also had a long history of contrarian tendencies, dating from the Abolitionist origins of northeastern Kansas. Aggies were protesting long before protesting was cool.

So a group of college contrarians decided to do something about Douglass Pool, and decided to do it mathematically. One fine summer morning, they gathered up a dozen nice clean-cut foreign students, made sure each of them had a towel and a nickel for admission, and walked them down to the city pool.......



 
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
  Well, poop.
A while back I noted some potentially good news from Oklahoma, in the form of a plan to rejuvenate two oil and gas refineries that had been dormant for years. Turns out I should have stuck with my initial skepticism. The planner has disappeared, leaving behind nothing but unpaid rent.

A former refinery manager, Paul Nicholson, said he volunteered much of his time and effort to Winkelman's plans to reopen the Thomas refinery after Winkelman initially contacted him early this year.

Nicholson said his skepticism grew more and more as Winkelman told him he was securing financing from Texas underwriters to the tune of $400 million, yet in the same breath told him he was getting around Enid on a bicycle.

"He (Winkelman) pulled the rug out from all of us. Apparently he was a dreamer. He has done a lot of things to the wrong people. He left me high and dry," Nicholson said.


Grrrrr.

He doesn't appear to have gained any money from the whole scheme, though, and I don't see how he could have gained money without actually building things.
 
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
  NRO's pin-dance

Podhoretz at NRO observes this morning:

What astonishes me in the course of this discussion (to judge from the blizzards of e-mails and other blog items done on this debate) is that I, a relatively secular person, am arguing the position that we cannot understand the mystery of life without faith -- and that a great many pro-llfers, whose commitment to life is religious in nature and whose religion plays a far more central role in their lives than it does in mine, are arguing with me on the grounds that the whole business can be discerned entirely through reason and science.

What should astonish him is that he's essentially taking the leftist side in this discussion. The crossover itself shouldn't be astonishing; Reagan discussed it in the early '80s.

Plain fact: Fundamentalists do agree with science on this point, and secularists, or more precisely 'bio-ethicists', disagree with science. The only possible scientific position is that an egg tells us it's human when it starts dividing. After that, it's human until all signs of organismic function are gone.

This doesn't mean we must say that every death is murder. We don't do that with regular macroscopic visible adults, after all; we can separate death by old age, by disease, by accident, by an unintentional act of another human, by a fully intentional act. Within the latter, we also make various fine distinctions. We've been doing this as long as we've had any form of law.

So we don't need to describe a miscarriage, or the normal slough of menstruation, as murder. Those are natural deaths. We unquestionably need to treat a deliberate abortion as illegal, though we don't have to call it murder. Some abortions have the character of self-defense. And so on. Law already contains the mechanism to make these distinctions.

But any definition, whether allegedly 'scientific' or legal, that gives a less-than-human status to any intermediate stage of life, is religious, because it depends on some notion of ensoulment. And any such definition leaves the field wide open for thanatophiles like Felos and Kevorkian.

[I've discussed this overall point before.]
 
Sunday, August 07, 2005
  De leg bone connected to de womb bone....

A fairly large discovery in the realm of stem cells. [From 6 Aug paper issue of New Scientist; I don't see it in the online edition.]

Women have long been told that they are born with a fixed number of eggs that eventually run out, triggering the menopause. But now it seems that there may be a way for a woman to replenish her egg stocks. More surprising still is where this egg recharge comes from: stem cells lodged in the bone marrow. If the researchers can show that these bone-marrow-derived eggs can be fertilised and produce healthy offspring, the implications for fertility treatment are huge.

The theory is that germ-line stem cells in the marrow make immature germ cells, which travel through the bloodstream until they hit the ovary, which grabs them and nurtures them into eggs.

Implications for cloning and stem cell research are also huge; if you can develop an egg from bone marrow, you don't need to harvest "genuine" eggs that were "intended" to become actual humans. No zero-sum game, in other words. It will be interesting to watch the ethicists juggling this one.

Hmm... wasn't there something about this in a considerably earlier journal? Something about ribs developing into humans?
 
Saturday, August 06, 2005
  Hit the 'Undo' button on 1920.

Still thinking about symmetrical vs asymmetrical. Concluded that the ant model is not a bad idea; trouble is, we haven't really implemented it. We've kicked over some piles of dirt, and flushed out the upper layers of one nest, but we've made it crystal clear that we won't kill the queen.

Our original strategic reason for doing Iraq was (1) To show Iran, Syria and Arabia that we can exert force in their back yard. (2) To rig up a base of operations in their back yard.

Iraq was the best choice for such a base because it was central to those three countries, we were already operating in the North, and we had plenty of reasons to revoke Saddam's probation. So okay, now we have the base, but because we didn't have enough sense to kill Saddam when we captured him, we're dealing with constant irritation by Arab ants, which prevents us from exerting the force that was the original reason for the whole business.

I never understood why we didn't explain the operation along those lines, instead of the nonsense about WMD and women's rights, but that's irrelevant now.

Fall back to the original idea. Separate Iraq into its three natural parts, since the 1920 British 'welding' of those parts was a major source of the problem.

Let the Brits have a protectorate on the Shia South, extended over to cover the Syrian border.

Let Kurdistan be a US protectorate. The supposed "reason" for not separating Kurdistan was a bunch of Kissingerian bullshit about stability and Turkey, which never made sense; and Turkey gave up any right to consideration when it refused to help in this war. On top of all that, we owe the Kurds a big one, after Bush Senior's betrayal of their help in 1991.

Fence in the area around Baghdad, cut the pipelines, and let the Sunnis return to their primitive ways. Fill the North and South with tactical nukes, ready to throw outward or inward. Any time we hear a rumor that Damascus, Tehran, Riyadh, or Baghdad is funding, supporting, or thinking positively about terrorist activity in the civilized world, we give the appropriate city a U-235 beauty treatment. Remove unsightly blemishes, leave an attractive glow. After three such makeovers are necessary, we toss in a free bonus: transform the queen (Mecca) into a lovely mirror-like pool of glass.
 
Thursday, August 04, 2005
  Fatwaaaassssup?

For twenty years now, Mohammedans have been striking at American and European interests in the West, without any apology or protest from the allegedly 'moderate side' of that religion.

Suddenly we get heaping helpings of unconditional no-buts apologies and anti-violence fatwas all over the place.

Some trusted experts say that the fatwas are fatuous, but we'll leave that aside for the moment.

What's changed? Why now? The London bombing wasn't the biggest attack by any means, nor the only one that killed fellow Mohammedans.

Polistra has an answer, and a plea to American authorities, in musical form:



Karaoke, anyone?

----

Later (8/5 morning) It's being reported that the International Assn of Police Chiefs is endorsing shoot-to-kill as well. The story as given on TV is a bit misleading, though .... turns out the Assn. actually recommended shooting kamikazes before the London bombings, and they were following the lead of the DC Capitol Police who recommended the procedure a year ago. So the idea began here, oddly enough. Still remains to be seen if any US city police forces will publicly join the crusade. Here's a well-organized collection of stories on the subject.

-----

Benchmark: July 2005 will be remembered as the moment when WW4 was really joined by the West. Up till now, this war has been asymmetrical. Mohammedans in Western countries have mounted a crescendo of attacks for 20 years with no direct response. When we responded at all, it has always been in the Middle East. The London 'shot heard round the world' marked the first symmetrical answer by civilization, the first return fire directed at the local savages. Until now, we were throwing our bullets elsewhere in a peculiar form of lethal ventriloquism.

-----

Yet another irrelevant addendum: Just realized that my own mindset has been changed. Until now, I appreciated the ant analogy: easier to kill the nest than to stop the ants from entering the house. Now that I see the dramatic results of killing ants just before they sting, I'm more inclined to favor the latter method.
 
  Random notes

American police, at least in big cities, view their job as protecting criminals and serving the ACLU. The Brits have a radically different view: protect law-abiding citizens from criminals. On the ground, the difference may not be so striking, but the public utterances of police officials are dramatically opposite.

Is there no equivalent of the ACLU in the UK? If there is, how do the police avoid doing its bidding? Could this be a consequence of the British loser-pays system in civil law? Less monetary temptation for anti-civilization forces to take down the police?

-----

Watching the BRAC hearings on C-span is edifying, and not just in terms of statistics about military installations.

From the usual network coverage of Congress, you get the impression that the Party of Treason owns all the articulate speech and oratory, while the Republican 'party' just sits there cowering, or at best stumbles and stutters. You also get the impression that corporate and military leaders are dull and dumb.

BRAC shows an opposite picture. Retired generals and admirals speak with passion and brilliance (and even a few unfeigned tears) about the places and troops that they love; obscure politicians of both parties are articulate and organized. Only a few of the 'big names' appear in these hearings, and they are surprisingly dull and unprepared.

The difference is not primarily media bias; it's more a matter of self-selection. The 'big names', who are mainly Dems, are driven to find cameras with global reach to satisfy their grandstanding addiction, while the executives and generals know that their best loss-cutting strategy in those situations is silence. In BRAC, the networks aren't watching, so real work happens. The back-benchers get a chance to do precisely what they were elected to do: protect the interests of their districts. And they do it magnificently.

It's refreshing and heartening to see that democracy does in fact work.... sometimes. Especially when the legislature is taking responsibility for its own proper job, instead of handing it off to commissions and courts. So why do we need the commission in the first place?

-----

Great news: China has withdrawn its bid for Unocal. This is also heartening, and more evidence that Congress can be effective even without making laws. As a non-social technical type, my first instinct is to discount the power of words: if it ain't concrete action, it ain't nothing. Good to be reminded now and then that I'm wrong about this!

-----
 
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
  Steven Vincent, RIP



I've written to the Murrow Center at Wash State Univ, suggesting that Steven Vincent would be an ideal recipient of the next Murrow Award... posthumously, of course.

Hard to think of anyone in the modern world who comes closer to the tradition of Murrow's London reporting.

Email address:

murrowsymposium@wsu.edu


 

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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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