Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Carnival of the Optimists #20: Signing Off

Thanks, folks, it's been fun.
I received two comments from folks who'd like to see it continue... but none from actual post submitters (which makes one wonder: do they actually read their own submitted carnivals?), and this week, have not received sufficient submissions to hold the carnival.

Don't be mad, Audie and Todd: thanks for the enthusiasm, but you can't run a carnival on one post. There was one other, but it was a simple reference to something the author had written some time ago -- and that won't do. There are plenty of news articles out there, but that's for Reuters/Yahoo, not the blogosphere, to cover.

If there's interest further down the road, #21 might happen... but under current conditions, the honest thing to do is to admit it's dead from lack of interest.

Have a good one, y'all.

-BA

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Suddenly Desert Storm looks hopelessly primitive...

It is still a matter of wonder how the Martians are able to slay men so swiftly
and so silently. Many think that in some way they are able to generate an
intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute non-conductivity. This intense
heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they choose, by means of
a polished parabolic mirror of unknown composition, much as the parabolic mirror
of a lighthouse projects a beam of light. But no one has absolutely proved these
details. However it is done, it is certain that a beam of heat is the essence of
the matter. Heat, and invisible, instead of visible, light. Whatever is
combustible flashes into flame at its touch, lead runs like water, it softens
iron, cracks and melts glass, and when it falls upon water, incontinently that
explodes into steam.
-- HG Wells, The War of the Worlds, ch. 6

Here's one from Yahoo News...(via their Reuters feed)
(Hat tip: Searchlight Crusade)
(Yahoo! has a bad habit of letting its newslinks expire within days, so here's the full quote)
A U.S. Pentagon invention could make air combat resemble a battle scene from Star Wars, with a laser so small it can fit on a fighter jet, yet powerful enough to knock down an enemy missile in flight.
The High Energy Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS), being designed by the Pentagon's central
research and development agency, will weigh just 750 kg (1,650 lb) and measures the size of a large fridge.
To date, such lasers have been so bulky because of the need for huge cooling systems to stop them overheating, that they had to be fitted to large aircraft such as jumbo jets, New Scientist magazine reported on Wednesday.
But the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency reckons it has solved the problem by merging liquid and solid state lasers to cut the size and weight by "an order of magnitude," according to its Web site.
Liquid lasers can fire a continuous beam but need large cooling systems, while solid state laser beams are more intense but have to be fired in pulses to stop them overheating.
"We've combined the high energy density of the solid state laser with the thermal management of the liquid laser," New Scientist quoted project manager Don Woodbury as saying.
Dubbed the "HEL weapon" by its developers, a prototype capable of firing a mild one kilowatt
(kW) beam has already been produced and there are plans to build a stronger 15-kW version by the end of the year.
If everything goes according to plan, an even more powerful weapon producing a 150-kW beam and capable of knocking down a missile will be ready by 2007 for fitting onto aircraft.
Okay, let's get some basic perspective here. Here's what Robert Duncan of Phoenix, AZ says about the effects of a single-kilowatt solar furnace he built (and which is very much on my "tbd" list as a cheap home forge, since I've already obtained the mirrors -- heliostat party?):
The result was approximately 1000 watts of solar influx concentrated on anarea
the size of a silver dollar. Wood ignited with an audible "pop" theinstant it
entered the focal point. Toast burns instantly. Aluminum melts after 15 seconds.
Half inch copper tubing deforms under it's own weight after 20 seconds. Steel
glows red in about the same time.

Unless you're getting into the end of its practical range due to lack of coherence, you're talking something quite a bit "denser" than 1kW/27cm^2. Although time on target is an issue, it's no stunning intellectual leap to figure out that the "Bright Boys at DARPA"(tm) are packing a weapons-quality laser here. Whether the effects of a 1kW laser is linear when scaled up or not I'll leave to people who have a better science education than me, but if, in the space of three or four more months, they can field a 15kW laser, you're definitely dealing with something that can reduce You and Your Important Parts (tm) to char, quickly and quietly. Scale that up to 150kW, and "killing a missile" translates to "so hot it doesn't matter if it clears the beam in a tenth of a second." In other words, range to target and target-hardening becomes a non-issue compared to concealment. Since it's, again, DARPA and people who like them doing the only credible work on force fields, the only other option is the incredibly-unwise spoof of mirror-surfacing the target.

In other words, power supply and number of shots aside, if you can see it, you can kill it.

Yahoo!/Reuters has missed the boat. I'm a squishy civvie without a clearance, but even I can see that they're way, way underselling what's going to happen here. This weapon isn't going on fighter planes. No way. US fighter doctrine far prefers to make over-the-horizon kills. This is going to be used for something dramatically different.

Weaponization of Space: whoever gets these into space first gets plenty of practice eliminating orbital debris, and gets the chance to either create or avoid "pearl harbor in space." This is critical, because the US' opponents know that our military and an increasingly large portion of our domestic economy, including your spiffy wireless pda, is space-dependent for communications.

The Death of Static Indirect Fire: I'm sure that artillery will still have a major role to play. But I'm smart enough to know that I don't have a clue what it will look like. Any serious radar defense with a half-dozen of these slaved to the system --and programmed to automatically take down anything fitting a specific ballistic profile, such as a mortar round, or else flying within a certain distance at better than Velocity X-- will make Hamas' katyushas and the average 20th-c-tech mortar battery simply irrelevant unless used against civvies and low-tech opponents. The only options I see from my current vantage point as a squishy civvie is truly massive time-on-target fire in order to overwhelm the system, Metalstorm-style, or else kinetic-kill artillery rounds that are going so fast that nobody cares whether they're solid or liquid at impact (railgun rounds, such as proposed for the new Navy DDX class). Against first-rate opponents, shoot-and-move is going to go from its already-urgent status to blanket do-or-die.

UAVs and True Airspace Dominance: If this is the sort of thing Rumsfeld was thinking of when he started plugging his "transformational technologies" bit, then a lot of his more vociferous critics are going to have to eat crow. These lasers aren't going on fighter planes. They're going on UAVs that can linger for long periods and rotate in shifts, over a battlefield or any other relevant space, and completely own both the skies and whatever they can see on the ground. Iran wants to use the threat of nuclear-equipped cruise missiles? To do what, embarrass themselves? Whoever is able to get these in place first, in numbers, will have such a head start in terms of dictating the terms of engagement, that any catch-up will be predicated upon the possession of first-order technology, and the economics to continually produce dramatic improvements upon it. Reverse-engineering a one-trick pony isn't going to cut it any more. It'll be a race... our deployment of UAVs to their ability to develop warheads *and* obtain a geopolitically-rational target. As a long-term strategic threat, the value of low-number-large-warhead ballistic missile strikes is going to be nil. And *that* single, important fact-to-be may become the single-most-liberating fact for the hundreds of millions still living under tyrants' bootheels.

Science fiction is here today, folks. Not only that, but, for once, the advantages are sitting entirely in the corner of the good guys.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Religion of Peace continuing to spread murder in Thailand

This time, a Buddhist priest has gotten whacked by jihadis.

Southern Thailand is a mess, and getting worse by the week.

Now that I've gotten my ass kicked...

why can't we all just... get along?
Poor Muqtada. Maybe he's just misunderstood.

(Hat tip: Winds of Change, for the best use of "heh" I've read all morning.)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sanctuary

Everybody, remember that post a little bit ago with the Pyramids:

Here are the original essays, by Bill Whistle of Eject! Eject! Eject!: Sanctuary, parts One and Two.
If you lean left, you may not like some of what he has to say in part One: the author's one of the 9/11 "mugged by reality" crowd. But Part Two should be required reading, if, for nothing else than its particularly eloquent defence of "civilization" and apologia for Hobbes.

I didn't have time yesterday to look them over... and did a serious misservice in the process. I wish I could write like that. Excerpts:

Sanctuary, p1:
And why do soldiers wear uniforms?
It certainly is not to protect the soldier. As a matter of fact, a soldier’s uniform is actually a big
flashing neon arrow pointing to some kid that says to the enemy, SHOOT ME!
And that’s exactly what a uniform is for. It makes the soldier into a target to be killed.
Now if that’s all there was to it, you might say that the whole uniform thing is not such a groovy idea. BUT! What a uniform also does -- the corollary to the whole idea of a uniformed person – is to say that if the individual wearing a uniform is a legitimate target, then the person standing next to him in civilian clothes is not.


Sanctuary, p2:

Assume that we could transplant a corner 7-11 to the Egyptian desert, with all of the support systems that make it what it is. It is a tiny speck compared to the gleaming white marble sides of the pyramid. It looks small and poorly made.
From afar.
Pharaoh comes by barge and litter to inspect the competition, laughing at the mismatch. He and his princes and a retinue of servants approach the plain, unadorned metal doors and step inside.
By the Gods! It is cool inside! As cool as the desert night, here, in the middle of the relentless day!
Outside the servants sweat and minor officials fan themselves, but Pharaoh is, for the first time perhaps, comfortable in the middle of the desert sun. He turns to exclaim this wonder to his underlings, and -- By the Ghost of Osiris!! The walls! You can see right through them!
Ten seconds into the contest, and already Pharaoh has been rendered mute by miracles.



This is only "the sizzle." Don't take my word for it... "the steak" is much, much more.

Hot Pink on Red?

Wait a minute. This latest from Iraq the Model:

There are news about clashes extending to reach parts of Baghdad and apparently
followers of Muqtada have attacked some offices tht belong to the Badr
organization of the SCIRI while the news are confirming that the first clashes
originated between the Sadrists and civilian residents.

WTF!?
Now, this was after the residents of Najaf declared "game on" when the Mahdi Militia attempted to (illegally) reopen their offices.

But Mahdi Militia vs. Badr Brigades?

Sadr and his Mahdi (read: "Enlightened") Militia was supposed to have significant Iranian support. Badr itself is a known creation of the Mullahcracy.

Holy Cognitive Dissonance, Batman!

I'd kill to be in an S-2 briefing right now.

UPDATE/ASIDE: Interesting to note that the Iraqi security forces have apparently been giving Sadr's boys some major bitchslapping, unlike last time. No real surprise, given the quality of the Mahdi Morons... but nevertheless, contrasted to last time, this definitely constitutes progress.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Carnival of the Optimists #19: Radical Assessments

The blue futon, or the tan one? And which wicker chair?
My wife and I made the pilgrimage to IKEA, which is nearly a religion in Europe, but pretty new here in Dallas... and her eyes sparkled at simply seeing some styles of furniture that she'd completely missed since she let me drag her back to this country... of course, the question is: where to put that good stuff?

Welcome to the Carnival of the Optimists.

Good News:

No Good News submissions for this week? Come on, I know that SOMETHING good happened out there... no good news is too small.

Bootstraps:

Ze'ev at Israel Perspectives holds strong opinions regarding the recent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip... but disagrees wildly with the "Never forgive, never forget" signs he's been seeing. He has a different slogan.

Harvy at Bad Example has 10 suggestions for the overworked. Nope, ain't gonna spill da beans.

Spending lots of effort, but not getting anywhere? Steve Pavlina suggests that you figure out Your Superpower and your Kryptonite...

Progress:

This is another one of those "under the radar" technological leap... nanotube capacitors. Putting out seven times the power of a conventional capacitor, pound for pound, this is directly applicable to the hybrid/electric and hydrogen vehicle industries. Necessary if we're going to start saving our oil for plastics, rather than for fuel. You like what you see in Star Wars and other scifi shows? Muh of it we can create already, or know how we would.... but we can't power it. So, if you, like me, have been wondering where your hovercar is... it's waiting in the wings for technology like this.

And that's it, folks! Catch you next week!

--------------------------------------------------
This Carnival has never grown past two or three regular submitters, and has a quite small circle of readers, judging by my logs. Is it still of interest? Let me know, otherwise next week will be its last run.

A Humble Proposal concerning the US-Mexican border

Recent surveys indicate that nearly half of Mexico, irrespective of social class, would like to come to the United States, and that one in five is willing to risk life and limb on an illegal border crossing to do so.

Equally, anger of illegal immigration and out-of-control border violence is also at a fever pitch, with significant resentment of those who would like to come north without actually becoming Americans. The border has gotten to be such a mess that it will certainly be a significant electoral issue in the '08 Presidential election.

But we could easily be drawing a half-million a year over the border, legally, with more standing in line. That's a lot to absorb economically, and a lot in terms of sheer living space. I wonder if anybody's done a study on whether Mexican immigration is part of our long-lasting housing boom.

The problem is, of course, that "becoming American" means something very different depending on what side of the border one lives. For an English speaker, that means abiding by the law, and eventually assimilating into citizenship.

For a Mexican emigre, of course, that "becoming American" is some sort of nonsense phrase. He already is one. In Spanish, everybody in the western hemisphere is American. That's why guys from Mexico, Uruguay, etcetera, go so annoyed when we call ourselves Americans, contrary to them. What are they, Chinese? Canadian is one thing: but "American" is about as useful a designation in Spanish as "African" or "European." But since, unlike "Canadian," "United Statesan" sounds moronic, we call ourselves American, and Spanish speakers call us "norteamericanos" -- "North Americans," for lack of a better word to use. Perhaps that's why residents of Texans, living in a republic, now a state by treaty, which has since it's inception kept both English and Spanish as official languages, call themselves... Texans. Or if they're really traditional, Texicans.

The basic issue is one of state, not culture. As a Texan "anglo" (I hate that stupid term), I may not celebrate the Day of the Dead, but I sure have a lot more in common with Mexican emigres I've met, especially from Gerrero, Tamalpais, and Coahuila, than I do the typical New Yorker or Bostonian, both of whom, to judge by the newspapers, are regularly embarrassed at my state's mere existence. And the average guy in Indiana probably has an easier time understanding one of the many Mennonites in Chihuahua than he does the Chomsky-worshipping residents of Berserkely, let alone the Hawaiians, who aren't shy about admitting that they hold the rest of the country in open disdain, and would secede on the spot if they could figure out how to do so without losing their pork-barrel money from Congress.

Given the choice, if I had to choose between Hawaii and Mexico as a place I could visit without a passport, I'd take Mexico in a heartbeat. Mexicans believe in family, hard work, and freedom -- and have proven themselves ready to bleed for the latter on numerous occasions. Had Santa Ana not abrogated the Constitution of 1824 and brutally crushed everybody who stood for it (which is why Texas is part of the US in the first place), Mexico would be vastly more free today -- maybe more free than we are now. Instead, half the Mexican population is held under the poverty line by blatant corruption and abuses of power. And this isn't the cushy US definition of poverty, which means "no cable t.v. and your car was built in 1985," but real poverty, meaning serious hunger and none of your children will attend 7th grade. Thanks, Santa Ana, good job. And since it was Texan independence and the Gadsden Purchase that provided the tinder for the Mexican-American War and got half of Mexico given to us (the US), it's no surprise that most Mexicans don't have a whole lot of respect for the border.

In fact, language is pretty much the only barrier Mexicans face to assimilation, at least when politicians aren't busy using race as a divide-and-conquer issue in LA. It certainly isn't the ranchero music, which sounds alarmingly close to something you might hear a couple of old guys playing at a Polish wedding in upstate Wisconsin. Mexicans who desire to assimilate do so almost instantly, as soon as they can speak English, because their values are so nearly identical to our own. Much closer than other groups, even those who integrate well, but steadfastly refuse any notion of assimilation. Go on, tell some cute girl from India that she should marry a white guy or a Navajo. G'wan, try it. **That** got you a reaction, didn't it? You might see it every now and then, but it's hardly what you'd call normal. And you're a dude, you're more likely to be hit by lightning than you are to have a casual conversation with an Arab girl, unless she happens to be a Christian. Heck, I couldn't even get one to give me directions when I was literally soaking wet in the middle of a freezing rain. You know, unclean kafir and all that. Integration? Yeah, okay. Assimilation? Sorry man, but by and large, these other guys just ain't interested. But Mexicans? Racism? Unless they're part of the tinfoil hat brigade caught up in some b.s. identity politics, like those clowns in "Uncle Adolf's jug band" somewhere in rural Idaho, they don't care any more about that racist craptrap than we do.

Well, culture is what it is. But the State? The State's at the core of the issue, but this shouldn't be some hypernationalist US-vs-Mexico thing. Buddy, the State/Government is a tool for my convenience, a means to an end, and that's all it is. Loyalty to my community and my country is one thing -- nobody ever said I had to be loyal to my Congresscritter. In fact, he'd better be loyal to me, or else. If that sounds shocking, you've probably been paying too much attention to those wacky government-worshipping Europeans again. Go ahead, read the Declaration of Independence. Like the old spaghetti sauce commercial, "it's in there." And because it's in there and deep in our hearts we all know it, none of us are insane enough to support going to war and shooting the hell out of Hawaii in case they decide to thumb their noses at us AND our tax dollars. There are lots of issues in my life that need caring about. Whether some jihadi asshat decides to set off a dirty bomb in the middle of Manhattan is one of them. Whether or not the People's Liberaton Army decides to start WWIV over Taiwan is one of them. Whether or not H5N1 keeps spreading west, kills thousands and puts Tysons out of business, is a third. The number of stars on my flag is most definitely not one of them.

So, if "America" isn't necessarily a nationalist term, or need not be, why not offer to buy the rest of Mexico, and see if a plebiscite would prefer to live under the aegis of our State, rather than theirs? Offer every man, woman and child in Mexico a five-grand starter stake in exchange for their citizenship. Sure, that's a lot of money, but as a one-off, I'm sure Congress will manage to waste that much in the next couple of years, anyway. In the mean time, it'll buy a lot of the basic infrastructure you and I take for granted, and their kleptocrats are too busy lining their pockets to provide.

It's just a government, after all. NAFTA has worked just fine, so there's no economic barrier, unless you're planning on shedding tears for the sugar lobby and a few other protectionist types. I'm certainly not. What's not to like? Language is no big deal: Texas has been bilingual since before anybody was driving a car, and it hasn't caused us any trouble. We put together a package that respects both countries' histories, and voila: the Mexicans get the benefits of the United States government without having to pack up and suffer from heatstroke in the back of a sealed furniture truck, and I get to drive from El Paso into Chihuahua to buy some good Mennonite quilts without having to navigate the poverty of a border-and-corruption-inspired shantytown in the process.

Why not?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What good is Western society?

Well, let's see what Winds of Change has to say regardin a commentary on "Pyramid vs. 7-11."
(worth reading the commentary before progressing to the original link).

And yes, my archaeologist wife is pumping her little fist in the air hissing "yes, yes!"

The "Axis of 'Up Yours!' "

(Not to be confused with the Axis of Evil or the Axis of Sitzpinklers)

Read this. Turns out that, pushed by Putin's megalomania and occasionally bizarrely aggressive behavior, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Georgia, have decided to throw in their lot together.


Yours truly is thrilled, for a variety of very good reasons. Take a look at the map, here to the right.
Poland, in Green, Ukraine in Orange (nice touch, don't know whether it was intentional), Lithuania, in the puce color to the Northeast of Poland and the Northwest of Belarus, and Georgia, Northeast of Turkey in the center bottom.

What do they all have in common?
1. They're sick of the Russian government using the old Soviet oil infrastructure as a club with which to beat Europe about the head and shoulders.
2. They're all trying to break Belarus free from the Vampire's (fn1) grip.
3. They are all solidly pro-freedom, unlike sitzpinkler Germany to the west, which is equally dependent upon Russian oil, but, hammered by socialist politics leading up to the elections, seems adamant upon cementing its position as France's degraded submissive in the "Old Europe" experiment on how to run a country with neither an economy, a military, nor, judging by demographic projections, a population.

What are the ramifications, with just these four?
A. A unified foreign policy vis-a-vis Putin means that Russia won't be able to play divide-and-conquer.
B. With a wall of pro-democracy nations to his west, Putin may scrape harder than ever to hold onto Belarus as an economic puppet (and its Stalinist kleptocracy will certainly try to hold onto power), the old insistance of the Russians that they actually are part of Europe and possess European values will be severely put to the test. When Old Catholic Europe was distinct from Eastern Europe, the Russians could insist on some difference. Under the current situation, Moscow doesn't get to indulge itself in any illusions regarding its position relative to Central and East-Central Europe.
C. With solid sea connections from the Black sea to the Baltic, a new oil "pipeline" can be created that wouldn't leave old grannies across Eastern Europe vulnerable to freezing every winter as Putin continues to substitute Soviet materiel-realpolitik for regular diplomacy.(fn2)

Now.. what happens if this opens up a little, as is certainly intended?
1. With Armenia and Azerbaijan on board, it becomes Caspian/Black/Baltic. Serious trade potential.
2. With Kazakhstan playing along, the whole region is theoretically freed from the slow formation of an SCO (fn3) economic stranglehold on Central Asia.
3. On the basis of shared values(fn4) conforming to economic advantage, were rest of the "Visegrad" nations to come on board, with Slovenia and Croatia, you then have Caspian/Black/Baltic/MED. In other words, not only do you get an axis that protects individual countries from power-vacuum politics, which tends to come just as often from the Axis of Sitzpinklers as it does from the Vampire (though from the west typically in economic terms)... but you also cement the old geographic situation that made the Persia/Caucus/Eastern Europe swath one of the wealthiest regions on Earth before the Mongols came through and murdered half the population of the region. Doubly so if a peaceful Iran that wasn't being strangled by the mullahcracy were ever to emerge.
4. In geopolitical terms, as Western Europe's nonsensical, bordering-on-suicidal economic politicies continues to take their toll, this axis has the possibility of becoming an active bloc similar to the Anglosphere (see Huntington, vindicated.) ... and highly compatible with it. Theoretically, if this gets on its feet, it bodes poorly for the Strongmen, and very poorly for the Statist West's attempts to supplant the Anglosphere. The "Axis of Up Yours!" already has more military credibility than France, Spain, and Germany combined.

It's fairly certain that they won't be facing any centrally-planned bra shortages any time soon, either.


Footnotes
-----------------------
1. "The Vampire," is a nickname for Putin. IIRC, the moniker actually comes from his wife...
2. What do you expect from a KGBFSB hack?
3. SCO: Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Not so much an actual organization, as a Moscow/Beijing axis to put pressure on the US in Central Asia and Taiwan, while promising to prop up tyrants and shield them from human rights gadflies and the concept of not slaughtering one's own citizens at will. **cough** Uzbekistan **cough**
4. Geographially, Turkey would add quite a bit, but politically speaking, Turkey has its own serious problems, and plenty of them, and would be unlikely to even consider getting involved. However, if the EU continued to play hardball, it's conceivable that Turkey might try to go this way as an alternative simply to spite France, whose EU referendum vote can legitimately be described as significantly anti-Turkish. Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia, not to mention the Czechs all chafe at notions that they should somehow kowtow to the cheese-eating sitzpinkler alliance within the EU, and the economic reforms of East-Central and Eastern Europe, though not particularly impressive in tax-crushed Hungary, clearly sets it on a divergent course from "we still love socialism" Western Europe.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Welcoming our giant sugarcube masters...

The Micro-compact home is unlikely to appeal to people like, say, um, my wife... who prefer a bit more floor-space for guests. This thing looks like it wouldn't even hold our books.

However, it has some real potential if it were to be viewed with the "support reeds" and integrated into the surrounding landscape. In an area with good climate such as Texas, the indoor/outdoor house (particularly kitchen!) concept has a good deal more going for it. With an appropriate economy of scale, one could actually create quite the neat living space. And as the web page suggests, it is a really nice option for small student apartments. If cozy and minimalist, particularly cozy, minimalist, and integrated into the landscape, is your bag, it'd be worth checking out.

You'll want to do something about that flat roof, though. That's a spanking offense: flat roofs have been known to be trouble for at least the past thirty years.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Cindy sealed the deal

Scott Randolph finally gets it: life isn't just about what you're entitled to, but also about what your duties are...

I actually felt myself become a republican today. It was around 10am, when
I read the latest update of the Cindy Sheehan saga in
CNN.com. I then shot over to read some blogs
about it, and perused the comments in some of them, which was nothing but a long
series of petty (albeit entertaining) partisan bickering.

Then it happend. The good little democrat in me tied the little noose
around his neck and jumped off the stool. He just couldn’t take it
anymore.



And now, the part that everybody who knows me knows made your little Boxing Alcibiades simply cackle with glee: emphasis mine...

Take what? The whining. The constant whining by the extreme
left about the reasons for war, the incompetence of this administration, and how
we’ve all been lied to, and how we should pull out of Iraq immediately, because,
*gulp* our soldiers were in danger.


I'm going to quote the rest herein, because I don't know whether Mike and the Sandbox Boyz are able to browse, and I want him to at least get this by email:
-----------------------------------------

Guess what folks….they signed up to join the Army, not the boy scouts. Anytime your orientation to a new job involves an automatic weapon, you should be smart enough to figure out there’s danger involved. I actually read some people’s comments about many of the soldiers over there being naive….they weren’t expecting to go to war, so, they should be allowed to go home. Wow.
Soldiers know, when they enlist, that it is entirely possible they will be shipped out and never come home. It’s part of the job. The fact that people still walk in to recruiters’ offices and sign that piece of paper make them heroes. To imply that they are simple kids who didn’t know what they were getting into, or even worse, that they died for no reason, or an immoral reason, does a horrible thing. It strips their sacrifice of the honor that it deserves. Even though those folks sitting out there in the Texas fields claim to honor and support the soldiers, they obviously have been blinded by their own selfishness as to the real way to support them.
Because, long story short, we can’t end this war now. That would send the message that those bastardly little terrorists have won. It doesn’t matter if the adminstration told us the desert sand was made of gold, and we are going over there to collect it in little buckets to bring home, the concrete fact that we are at war doesn’t change. We are there, and we have a job to finish. We’ve toppled a regime that was dangerous not only to its own people, but also to the rest of the world. Now, we are there fighting the same terrorists we are fighting in Afghanistan. We’ve given liberty to millions of people, and we’re trying to help create a government, in an area that is very volatile, that will be a bastion of freedom and hope for an entire race of people. I hate the fact that our boys are getting killed over there, and I wish it didn’t have to happen.
But, it is, there’s nothing we can do about it, except for doing everything we can to offer support and hope to the folks fighting over there. Arguing and whining about the reasons we’re there, and the need to come home not only kills morale, but it is a complete waste of time.
I just re-read the above post, and I apologize for the rambling….just needed to vent a little. Here’s a breakdown of the way I see things:
-right or wrong, we’re at war. no amount of yelling will fix that now.-we have to finish the job. HAVE TO. it may take another 1800 soldiers, but it has to be done-whether or not we’re there for the right reason, we’ve done something great for that country
I never was a big fan of Bush. But, one thing I do believe….he honestly wants to make this country, and this world a better place. Think about it…the war almost cost him the election. If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, he’d have won in a landslide.
I think it’s just my personality that lead me to this decision. I think the left is too concerned with everyone’s immediate rights and needs, and refuses to sacrifice a bit of comfort and happiness in the present, for something that will make life better for everyone in the future. You can take the environmental stance on that, and I’d have no argument…but I think there enough conservatives concerned with that to make it a moot point.
Mostly, I’m just really pissed off. We’re in a crappy situation, and it’s time for all of America to stand together, put on the big boy pants, and get through the next few years.


(We'll be introducing Scott to the glories of clean coal and an excessively protein-rich diet shortly. Anybody want to sponsor him for an NRA membership?)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hamas and Fatah: Dead Men Walking


Hamas and Fatah believe that it can take over the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority. They may be right. Certainly the PA, living as it has under the tutelage of terrorists from abroad such as Arafat, has shown that it wishes to do little for the Palestinian people.(fn1) If these groups, with their significant international funding, is able to do so, it stands a good chance of seizing control from Abbas.

They stand no chance, however, of leveraging the Israeli forced-withdrawal into lasting victory against Ariel Sharon. Consider the picture at right. The Gaza strip is tiny, and of marginal strategic significance vis-a-vis Israeli survival.(fn2)

That the Gaza withdrawal will somehow enable Hamas to defeat Abbas in the West Bank, which is by far the greater threat to Israeli security, is simply wishful thinking. Should the Israelis build the same sort of security cordon(fn3) around the Strip, it will no longer matter whether the Palestinians smuggle explosives in from Egypt for bombings. There will simply be no convenient land route by which Hamas could possibly leverage a tiny slat of beachline into a means by which to hit Israeli towns. Rocket attacks are still an issue, but one that can be handled by back-azimuth radar tracking, and specific attacks to hit rocket squads while they're still moving to cover.


Israeli security concerns are predicated primarily on stopping suicide bombings. It's hard to hold society together when you're busy cleaning your mothers and daughters off the wall with a hose. The security cordon solves that problem handily, making infiltration vastly more difficult. By staking Israeli peace on geography, rather than demographics, Sharon has created a situation where separation becomes an actual possibility. Israel benefitted for years from relatively cheap Palestinian labor, and suffered shocks to its economy due to security shutdowns during the Intifada. The Palestinians, on the other hand, also suffered due to not being able to go to work. This, of course, played directly into Arafat's hands, since he became one of the only purse-holders left in the region. What Hamas doesn't seem to grok is that Sharon has fundamentally changed the nature of the game with this withdrawal. Geographic separation is a much more deadly political weapon against Hamas than any helicopter gunship. Up to now, Hamas, Fatah, and other anti-semitic terrorist organizations have profited mightily by blaming Palestinian poverty on the Israeli occupation. They have also profited from being able to point to victorious terror operations against the Israelis. The more they are forced to attempt attacks based on conventional warfare, the more those operations are going to fail.

But what happens, on the other hand, when Israelis are blamed for Palestinian poverty, but there's not an Israeli in sight, or even over the next horizon? Hamas and Fatah are certainly not going to engage in the building of proper civic institutions and economic development: that would undercut their arms budget, and develop precisely the sort of societal strength that tends to get people like them strung up from streetlamps by otherwise quiet people who previously were too weak to take action. The first acts of any tyrannical force always includes breaking the economic backs of its victims and creating the dependence which the tyrant requires for its survival.

The moral equivalence theory which Fatah and Hamas require for their ongoing international political "air cover" is going to start ringing hollow when international groups decry Palestinian poverty, and the Israeli response is "what does this have to do with me?" Hamas' fiscal support may loom large for a time in the Gaza Strip, but in the West Bank, Abbas will be able to point to feats of actual governance, rather than sick millenarian fantasies and bloodshed... and this will count for those who both want peace, and increasingly begin to obtain the freedom from desperate want to make their desires felt.

Hamas is a corpse sculpted from sand, and doesn't recognize that what it regards as triumph, is actually the flipping of the hourglass on its existence.

-----------------------------------------------
Footnotes.
(fn1) The PA is not exactly known for financial transparency, and infamously so under Arafat, who did not allow anyone besides himself to have a solid knowledge of Palestinian finances. With US aid alone having run somewhere between 80-100 million USD/yr, it's quite clear that the PA could have delivered vastly superior infrastructure and basic services to its people had it chosen to do so.
(fn2) Yes, these are the terms under which it must be discussed. Though there are those who adhere to the "two scorpions in a bottle" theory, I have yet, for all of Israel's numerous faults, heard any Israeli political party call for the worldwide extermination of all Arabs or Muslims. Hamas has degenerated quite a ways from when it could reasonably attempt to claim that it only engaged Israeli military forces.
(fn3) In the supercharged, eternally hyperbolic political rhetoric of the area, one may call it, on the one hand, a "security fence," as do the Israelis, who overwhelmingly approve of it, or even the "apartheid wall" by those who, well, don't. Either way, the
barrier itself is impressive, and infiltration by Hamas' murder squads will simply not be possible on a regular basis.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Carnival of the Optimists #18: Back in the game.

Rudy here is an old cat. As close as we can tell, he's pushing or slightly past 17, and in very good health for his age, minus a recurring gastric problem, but is still, so far as indoor/outdoor cats go, older than dirt.

So when he disappeared unexpectedly at the beginning of the week, suspicion was that he'd gotten sick again and had hauled himself off somewhere to die.

Instead, what we got was his return in a day or so, limping and laying down in an obvious "I hurt I hurt I hurt" marathon of pseudo-sleep. We figured he'd been in a fight, seeing as there was a mark or two on him where he'd clearly bled.

Then later, taking careful stock of the nature and location of his injuries, it became quite apparent, that the old crafty orange-and-white hadn't gotten mauled by the local young tom trying to establish a territory... but had instead had an up-close and personal encounter with the neighborhood's young raccoon. Given that said coon weighs probably twenty pounds and has opposable thumbs, and Rudy weighs eight soaking wet and is now too stiff and slow to bag squirrels every day like he used to, we're impressed.

What we're more impressed by is the fact that after a day of licking his wounds, he's outside looking for some bugs to swat, and will undoubtedly come yowling back to the house in about an hour to tell us all about it. Who says you can't learn from a critter with a brain the size of a walnut?

Welcome, to the Carnival of the Optimists.

Good News

Kevin at Technogypsy would like to gloat: Robin Hood is a verb!

Big Picture Guy at Big Picture Small Office gives a taste of how he keeps the faith, in far from the madding crowd. (Somewhere between Good News and Bootstrap)

Harvey at Bad Example really likes a lingerie ad, particularly ones that use typical women, rather than brutally-starved supermodels. Hrm... safe for work, but... unrepentant masculinity warning? How do you phrase that?

Bootstraps

Fred Fry International has a problem: he doesn't like buying products from other countries. He knows folks who don't like manufacturing going overseas, too. But unlike those people, he does something about it: going through the effort of checking the label. And no economic-theory debates here, folks: we need more folks who get off their tails and take steps to solve problems, rather than just grousing about it. Kudos, Fred-Fry.

Steve Pavlina has a post up about getting organized. As usual, he ties it to a coherent, simple idea that makes sense...

Progress

Just too cool. Yet another buried story about progress that's under the radar, but has theoretical ramificaitons that could change our world... how'd you like to be able to regrow the thymus in adults, and in the process, drop-kick the immune system back into gear? Right now, it has promising applications for those suffering from cancer and AIDS. Later, this alone might significantly boost both lifespans and quality of life for everybody.

And that's certainly worth applauding.

Thanks for reading, folks. Keep 'em coming, and see you next week!

Avian Flu pandemic likelihood: 100%?

From the Asian Times.

Still plenty of time to sell your Tyson stock.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Experimental archaeology: the value of dictionaries.

I could beat myself with a stick.

Well, I finally figured out what it was that the Cumans would have been using for their leather armor... turned out I was simply barking up the wrong tree with my vocabulary.

~"they make farsetti of cordovano ....[in four layers].... and these are good for fighting in blah blah blah"

So sayeth Matteo Villani in his Cronica Nuova (highly abridged Armour Archive translation, 2005, year of the barking moonbat).

Well, hello, dumbass... modern cordovan is uberquality veg-tanned horsehide... medieval cordovan is tawed leather... likely of horsehide, but could be any number of things... which handily explains the following issues:

Q. Why does Villani use a term from clothing instead of a term from armor, you know, "breastplate" or something?
A: Because it's not cuir boilli, and so basically resembles nothing that the southern or western Europeans use for armor: it's just tough as old boots, quadruply so in this instance. So it's not an armored vest (a.k.a breastplate), it's a very protective doublet (a.k.a. multilayered leather caftan).

Q: If this is some kind of leather armor, why do the period images seem to show regular old flexible clothing or leather as their caftan?
A: Because tawed leather is as stiff or flexible as its maker wants it to be, that's why...

Q: Why is it made of lots of layers?
A: Because it's not tanned leather, and therefore doesn't harden the same way cuir boilli hardens. If it's glued together, the glue boundaries help resist damage via the Strong Effect, and otherwise, it slows a projectile down to where it then doesn't have the energy to defeat the underlying mail shirt, which is as fine as 15th-century glove links.
A2: Plus, it keeps the inner layers less likely to absorb moisture and de-taw as the alum salts wash out if it happens to be rainy, especially if they were curried before assembly.


There's more. There's lots more, from all the primary sources. And it all falls right into place. Oh, how I could beat myself silly by means of a stick with a nail through it.

Well, that's why we call it research, boys and girls. Eventually, you stumble onto the right answer...

Huntington, vindicated.

Whose vision best describes the current world?

With revisions, one would now have to say that Huntington has won. Let's look at the evidence.

1. Moderate Islam. Post-9/11 and Post-7/7, the voice of moderate Islam is finally being heard (fn1). And what is moderate Islam saying? It's saying that Church and State are really different things. In other words, moderate muslims are saying that it's good to live within western civilisation... while the home-grown islamist thugs are living in western society, and coming to the conclusion that said entire civilisation needs to be splotted.

2. Geopolitics: Palmer's movement is fracturing. Palmer (The Real Axis of Evil) is certainly correct (from the perspective of yours truly, small-l libertarian in the west) that we should do everything we can to stomp on tyranny. But as time has passed, one sees more and more that what happens after that is explicitly culturally based. The Orange and Rose and even Tulip revolutions have gone off just fine, as did the revolutions in the Balkans... because we're seeing over time that the Orthodox civilization and the Catholic/Post-Catholic civilization have little in the way of incompatibility. Indeed, Poland coming out to bat for the average Belorussian has much to say in this regard. However, the other side of the coin also holds true. In regions where more than one civilization's ideas are represented, it's not so smooth. Iraq and Egypt both have protestors who clamor for Western freedoms, and similar groups of protestors for whom the phrase "Church and State" is a complete redundancy. Palmer's vision of "freedom from" is clear and obvious to all: Palmer's vision of "freedom for" is readily absorbed into Huntington's vision.

Which, oddly enough, doesn't necessarily cast Huntington as a vindicator of the realpolitik school.
What Huntington missed, was that he got his factions wrong. And in doing so, he documented but misunderstood a key feature of "The West."

The New Civilisational Players:

The Strongmen
The Anglosphere
The Statist West
The Islamists

There's really not a lot of further options involved here in terms of real political players. Certainly Confucian civil society has failed to assert itself in any pronounced way under the PLA. And "Latin America" seems to be less a unified cultural theory or "political culture," than a heritage, currently bitterly contested between the Strongmen (local and Chinese) and the West.

The Strongmen: Politically speaking, one can see, as Palmer suggests, a worldwide alliance of dictators, regardless of whatever surface ideology is used for domestic support. Ideologically, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has nothing in common with the strongmen in Cuba or Venezuela, let alone the Sudan. But they're more than willing to do whatever it takes to prop each other up in the face of the West, and the PLA is perfectly happy to prop up anybody anywhere, no matter how blood-soaked, who will give it politically-unquestioned access to raw materials.

The Anglosphere: It turns out that the British Empire left a lasting legacy. Much of what we call libertarian or "classical liberal" ideas come from a framework of laws and attitudes towards the rule of law that essentially boil up out of Common Law and reactions to it. Therefore, while India point-blank refuses to carry our water in any US-China friction (and rightfully so), it turns out that culturally, there's so much common ground that a strong strategic relationship is inevitable, and good for both parties involved. This has been written about elsewhere recently, notably in The Anglosphere Challenge, which I haven't read (waiting for it to hit my local library, but I'll take a review copy if somebody has a dozen available on his shelf) and therefore won't get into.

The Statist West: Oddly enough, Britain is the state most likely to leave the Anglosphere and become something else, as it more and more accepts Continental European ways of doing things. Culturally speaking, civilizationally speaking, there's not much separating the Secular West and the Anglosphere. The similarities vastly outweight the differences: take politics out of it, and the differences are so tiny as to be meaningless. Primarily the differences are that leftism in general are taken for granted as the political mainstream, (fn3) and that Continental Europe is almost entirely secular, with only Islam as a growing religion, as opposed. The Statist West has a problem, though, insofar as they would love to wield political power separate from the Anglosphere... but their top-down, centralized, often openly leftist policies have left them simply too weak economically to do anything in the face of opposition. Put bluntly, the Statis West has no muscle to flex, as can rapidly be seen in the decline of Canada from global player to complete irrelevance. Politically, this means that NATO is frequently compromised by what amounts to a brother-sister squabble between its various members, and a wholly-justified sense that some of its member governments are simply not reliable partners. Cooperation between the Statist West (which also tends to be somewhat squishy on individual rights) and the Anglosphere is by no means guaranteed.(fn3)

The Islamists: When leftists or anti-religious bigots in America want to really demonize somebody who's religious, they characterize them as being the equivalent to the militant Islamists, incapable of distinguishing right from wrong in their quest for a civilization based on the strictest and most misogynistic interpretation possible of Salafi Islam. Huntington is absolutely correct to point out that Islam seems to be incapable of being at peace with its neighbors -- as yet another murderous Islamist insurrection, this time in Thailand, seems to bear out. The current track record of militant Islamism, which seems to openly rejoice in the outright brutal murder of the innocent, whether they are men, women, or little children, justifies an interpretation that says that "militant" doesn't simply mean "interested," and that its proponents are simply uninterested in any of the civilized behavior that the rest of the world takes for granted. To some extent, one can posit Turkey and Pakistan as teetering between West and Islamism (fn5) in general outlook. A state with Islamic culture enshrined in its laws is no threat: Islam is not a political player any more than Methodism is... it is the political culture of militant Islamism that is the player. So far, the west has been pretty good about appreciatng the difference, much to Al Quaeda's disappointment.

On the other hand, how does one explain the cooperation of Kifaya and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? It si simply another case of the western-influenced sheep cooperating with the wolf to get rid of the lion, at which it is inevitably to become the next course for dinner?
Maybe... maybe not. But the mere existence of Kifaya, and many other reform movemnts, suggests that Huntington missed the boat on one crucial aspect of understanding the West at large (Statist and Anglosphere) . The West is both different, and universalist in outlook. Huntington suggests that this universalism is inherent to westerners' conflicts, and should be canned in favor of open particularism... the suggestion that the West is completely different. What Huntington misses is that the West, Anglo or Statist, has become influential far out of proportion to its otherwise culturally-set boundaries, precisely because its civilization works so well economically and militarily. The Anglosphere doesn't need to occupy other places in order to wield economic power... unlike the strongmen, they don't need to engage in mercantilist economics, because capitalist economics is more efficient, and much better at making the other half of the economic equation rich, to boot... at which point, they start to think a lot like we do. Huntington's theory has completely failed to accurately predict Japan's response to a resurgent China, because it has missed the extent to which Western universalism creates an atmosphere in which cultural assimilation on the econopolitical level can be nearly taken for granted after long exposure. It would be insulting to the Japanese to say that they've assimilated into Western culture... but it is highly accurate to say that they've kept up quite a bit of it economically and politically, long after they could have chosen to discard it.

The ramifications here are quite clear:

1. Realpolitik is alive as a tool but dead as a general thesis, because strongmen don't behave the way "they're supposed to." Learning this has cost the West tremendously during the Cold War, and continues to be a serious problem now, both for America's prestige, and in the memory of states such as Iran.
2. Similarly, the fact that Islamists seem to ache for a chance to murder non-Muslims across the globe suggests that isolationism continues to be a non-starter. Saving thousands of lives in the great Tsunami has not stopped Islamists from protesting our existence in Malaysia, and as the "Islamist butchery of the week" in Thailand suggests, it's only going to keep expanding until it's forcefully beaten.
3. Cultures and civilizations are like a salad bar: they really can pick up the parts that are useful to them, and gradually discard the rest. The PLA are not Confucians, and Al Quaeda is dependent upon Western rhetoric and intellectual capital for its own revolutionary ideals and propaganda.

Does subsuming Palmer's thesis into a slightly modified Huntington thesis constitute an endorsement of "neoconservative" policy? I don't think it does, or at least not directly. It certainly endorses smacking the hell out of militant Islamism for as long as it takes for their attitudes to change, or them to die. And this might involve us going to war in both Syria and Iran, because both are exporting well-equipped, well-financed, well-organized murderers on a daily basis. On the other hand, globally, it seems that our greatest weapons are a combination of basic security guarantees -- for example, Taiwan -- and the greatest spread of free trade and its close facsimiles possible. If one were to make politics a game of Civilization (Sid Meier's Benthamite cultural simulation game), free trade could be considered to be the geopolitical equivalent of several divisions worth of occupying troops. No wonder Pyonyang can't stand it.

What prescriptions does it endorse?

1. Defeat Islamic extremism.
2. Guarantee military stability and cooperation whenever reasonably possible.
3. Do not engage in realpolitik deals with strongmen and tyrants: conversely, support freedom movements both on their own merits, and because they're in our geopolitical interests.
4. Spread free trade, and do not use economic sanctions except where specifically required to keep military technology out of the hands of potential aggressors.

(as a side note, if anybody can tell me how to hardcode a footnote in Blogger, I'd greatly appreciate it.)
==========================
Footnotes:
1. No counting CAIR, which says one thing to the dhimmi and another to the "faithful."
2. 3 schools of geopolitical thought: realpolitik, neoconservatism, isolationism. #3 is an unmitigated failure, #1 is a horror in its own right, and #2 is hotly debated. The standard libertarian position is to push the return to isolationism coupled with free trade -- effectively abandoning our treaty partners to twist in the wind. Most Americans would like nothing more than to tell the rest of the world to solve its own problems, except that they know that the results would be a global bloodbath.
3. Catholic fundamentalists in Germany who are regarded as a mere twitch away from Al Quaeda status actually hold positions not that far away removed from the Democratic Party, barring gay issues on which the Democratic leaders differ only rhetorically from the Republican party, and actually use "outing" politicians as a political weapon.
4. Realize, of course, that we're painting with broad brushes here. Where does Poland sit in this politically, for instance, vis-a-vis France?
5. Not because they're Europeans (some Turks are, some aren't), or westerners in terms of culture, but because the two nations are divided in terms of political culture between the two of them. This is not meant to be a chauvinist view of the rest of the globe by any stretch, but one must realize the extent to which western political philosophy has fundamentally either dictated the rules of the game or fueled local reactions against it (ironically, often dependent upon it intellectually, such as Baathism or other forms of Islamofascism) for the past hundred years.
-- unattached musing. Political cultures representing "Church != State, Church of the State, Church as State, and finally Thugocracy?"

Friday, August 12, 2005

Kissinger speaks up.

"Lessons for an exit strategy."

You don't have to agree with Kissinger. But if you're serious, you do have to read and carefully consider his points. Kissinger's handling of Vietnam may have earned him lifelong enemies among the '68ers, but by doing so he showed the Russians that we were serious enough that sending tanks to the Saudi oilfields was going to be a non-starter. In short, the guy has played the game at a level most of us will never have to even consider.

UPDATE: Link Fixed.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Farting wetlands will doom us all...

or, so says The Guardian, concerning siberian permafrost that's about to be perma-bassfishing country. Apparently all these old peat bogs have... well, peat in them, and they contain methane, and now we'll all die.

Silly Guardian, we're not going to die of global warming and its tipping points. We're going to keel over from Bird Flu at the local El Pollo Loco.... get your hysteria straight, mon!

EU to Iran: You have three weeks to stop producing nukes, or we'll pout at you.

You'd think these theoretically-sophisticated people would get it: diplomacy is an extension of power politics. I care what the EU thinks, because I'm a nice guy. Dictators and uranium-producing terror sponsors, on the other hand, want to know how many divisions you have.

This is getting interesting, though. We've caught them shipping bombs. One of their militia groups has staged a municipal coup. Their president openly brags about how many suicide bombers he has... sounds an awful lot like "asymmetric warfare" to lil' ol' me...

You think we're moving an armored division from German to Fort Bliss so we have it free to slap these guys silly once they cross the line? You want to bet the collective EU ministers will cry like children presented with the wrong flavor of ice cream when we do? You want to bet anybody with an actual stake in the game will care?

Useful Idiot collects her fifteen minutes of fame

Just in case you've missed it, let's all have a moment of silence for this poor benighted woman, who decided to milk the loss of her (clearly morally superior) son as an excuse to engage in politically correct hoo-ha outside the President's ranch. Makes me wonder who raised the boy to have enough morals to step up and lay it on the line as a soldier. Sure wan't this woman, who's been reading from the "Gore really won" playbook since the publicity started... and trying to milk her son's death to score cheap political points.

When will these asshats learn that as soon as they're no longer useful, the media will drop them like a hot rock? And shiv them in the kidney if that helps their bottom line?

Fortunately, what they haven't learned is that politically b.s. like this drives their own poll numbers down like a balloon tied to an anvil, since most thinking Americans are able to do the moral math when it comes to "posturing for peace" versus taking out tyrants and splutching asshat baby-killing religious freaks.

Just in case anybody wonders why "New York" is a pejorative term...

NYC is now planning to try to ban trans-fats in its restaurants... "you don't want to tell people what they can't eat," says one waitress.

Well, guess what, Virginia? Yes they do....

Let's face it. Hydrogenated vegetable oil is crap, an industrial-age manufactured food substitute. But then again, last time I checked, fruit juice containing 80% corn syrup is crap, too, and all sorts of folks enjoy drinking that. Many of those people will probably outlive me.

But it's so much easier to worry about what people are eating than trying to solve some of the City's real problems, like unsafe nightmare schools, and a rent-control-fueled housing situation, that in the words of the Wall Street Journal last year, makes it "economically irrational" for a member of the middle class to try to have a career and retire there.

Nevertheless, I'm sure the next transplanted New Yorker I bump into down here in Texas will somehow try to convince me that he's somehow more sophisticated than all his fellow economic refugees from tax-ridden, corrupt "opportunity-free zones" such as Lagos, Addis Ababa, and the State of California...

UPDATE: Yes, I'm aware that there are really cool folks upstate. man, do I feel sorry for you guys. Maybe you could, I don't know... engineer a political coup or something in the State House?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Carnival of the Optimists #17: Going for the win.

Just celebrated my fifth anniversary this weekend. It was dicey, because I was down and out with the "not-the-flu-but-close from Planet Fever" the night before I had to leave, and not fully recovered until late yesterday. But we went anyway, albeit with me really pacing myself. Life is like that, you know. All the really cool stuff requires you to damn the torpedoes, go for the win, ...and pace yourself, just like Billy Joel says.

Welcome, to the Carnival of the Optimists.

Good News

At Technogypsy, the badger is back! (Having gone scouting and survived Death Camp 2005...). GREAT shot of the Washington monument by the Badgie... and in spite of seeing some bad things, he's up for more. Check it out.

At Wayne's World, Wayne's Mom demonstrates that Vietnam's over and buried. Those who put it on the line for the rest of us are finally starting to be openly given the expressions of gratitude they deserve, as this story at DFW airport illustrates.

Bootstraps

Read this article. Steve Pavlina has hit it out of the park with "Life Lessons from Blackjack." It's not what you think. It's better. This is the best I've seen from a long line of good posts out of Steve, and the sort of thing that ought to be stuck under every teenager's nose, right about the time they have to start making decisions for themselves.

Harvey at Bad Example posits the importance of taking out the emotinal garbage in "and a **really** big broom." Hoo boy. Good advice.

Progress

Tired of having to take medicines, and then suffer through the unwanted effects as the body deals with the medicinal equivalent of carpet bombing? Then this little breakthrough just might be for you. It's precisely the sort of thing upon which progress rests... a relatively small but important discovery, with a number of open-ended applications. Like helping us all to hang around just a wee bit longer.

That's all for this week, folks. Keep them coming, and we'll catch you next Wednesday.

That's great, it starts with a sick drake...

Lenny Bruce may not be afraid, but the CDC continues to quake in its boots.

Oddly, I don't think there's been a single mention of how the current rapid spread of H5N1 is due to affect the Arkansas economy... talk about timing your market shorts...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Unmitigated Geekery

Anybody want to buy a full suit of body armor? Guaranteed not proof against modern munitions...

Am making and will sell two sets of lamellar armor in order to finance the production of some very, very specialized leather. Part and parcel of this is that my next research project is on, just as soon as I can muster the fundage for the testing.

Armor vs. Weapons System: the "heaviness" of heavy cavalry in the Crusading Kingdoms.

Much as I dealt with in my most recent paper (awaiting the return of the editors from their summer break, theoretically to be published in a year or so), medieval military historians, being primarily linguists and text-based researchers, tend to focus on one element of a given weapons system to the exclusion of other considerations. Thus, at Crecy, historians tend to focus on the longbow primarily in terms of either rate of fire, or maximum poundage, without considering that the bow is an analog-power weapon, not a digital/binary one, in contrast to the crossbow, which must be drawn to its maximum force (as strung) in order to be loaded and fired. Similarly, historians tend to depict the Genoese as "crossbowmen," while giving short shrift to the large shield which was very much an inherent part of their weapons system.

As soon as I have gotten the leathers made, I will build on my previous study of archery and mail, to conduct another archery penetration test in order to determine the relative effectiveness of various sorts of soft armors, and then compare the tactical methods to the totality of the weapons systems involving Norman and western men at arms, and two of their more dangerous opponents in the field, the Cuman and Seljuk "light cavalry" horse archer. The conceit of weapons system as a combination of "equipment strategy" plus "tactical method" should provide a way to discuss the differences in cavalry much more meaningfully than simply marking them as "heavy" or "light."

------------------------------------------------
This would make a hell of a fun dissertation. I wonder who I might be able to sell it to locally?

Wow. Apparently I've been banned...

... and it wasn't on a political site, either. Pity that, since I wrote up a thoughtful reply to a meaningful question posed on said blog. Well, THAT was a waste of fifteen minutes... banned? I thought that was what teenagers running bbs systems did to each other when they were playing the clique.

How sad. How... predictable.

In other news, the Bunny comes back from traveling this evening, and it looks like I'll even be healthy enough to appreciate it. I haven't unpacked my bag, nor opened a single bill (though I *will* have the dishes done when she arrives), on the grounds that, dammit, my anniversary isn't over until BOTH my wife and I get back to the house.... go us!

Means I'll at least get to divide up the laser-like focus of two furry aminals that REALLY want attention after our absence, too...

Friday, August 05, 2005

Read the Pundits today!

Over under the "Great Game," serious shit is happening. I'm home, ill, trying to get in good enough shape that I can drive to SA this evening for my anniversary -- so it's a hot bathtub asap --... but with the Iranians using helicopter gunships on the Kurds, Jordan pimpslapping some of Zarqawi's men, etc etc... pay yourself a weekend dividend, and grab a quick heads-up on what's going on in the middle east, Egypt, Belarus, etc.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Iran's President may be a jihadist

who thinks that the "art of martyrdom" is the most beautiful thing on earth, but judging by the way that his security men and now mullahs are being tracked and assassinated, it seems like that strategy might be backfiring. Oh, the schadenfreude...

Islamic Jihad and Al-Quaeda linked in Gaza

... like anybody's actually surprsed. But, when the guys lobbing the rockets into Israel brag about their uncompromising operations against the "corrupt peoples," it puts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a different light.

This has been a long time coming. But the end game is abundantly clear:

either

a) Mahmoud Abbas wins the Palestinian civil war and these asshats are all dead

or

b) the asshats win the civil war, and the Hammer of God comes down hard on Gaza and roots them out house by house.

So, why pursue such a stupid long-term strategy? The same assumption that the jihadis have been operating under since the 70s, often correctly: that their opponents are too corrupt and weak to fight back effectively.
(Hat Tip: Winds of Change)

...

Good. Deport their asses.

It looks like the domestic front in the great war has begun, and we're set to start getting serious about people who come here solely for the purpose of committing crimes.

As has been seen time and time again, terrorism and organized crime are twin sisters. One has political motives, the other may have political motives. Otherwise they are nearly indistinguishable from each other in method, and are often the same people.

"How can you say that? How can you compare street gangs to people who want to establish dhimmitude across the globe?"

Give me absolute control, over every living soul,
And lie beside me baby, that's an order...


You don't have to have a political action statement, in order to want to impose tyrannical power upon the weak, the helpless, and the merely polite and law-abiding.

1. The IRA's money supply in the U.S. has dried up because people have become aware of the extent to which it is involved in gangsterism.
2. MS-13 is a street gang with international ties, among which are ties to Al-Qaeda...
3. Criminal drug trafficking, whether it's cocaine and FARC, or the heroin pipelines through Albania, fund very nasty people.

I'm a libertarian, not a conservative. But there are times when Order must be marshalled in the support of Liberty. If you can't go out in public wearing red or blue because that's an automatic death sentence in your neighborhood, you aren't free. If every house in your neighborhood is a monument to ornamental iron, and you teach your kids to stay away from the windows at night, you aren't free. If "stop, drop, and roll" in your neighborhood is a response to random shootings, rather than what to do if you accidentally catch fire, you aren't free.

It doesn't matter whether the tyrannical force crushing your liberty is a single dictator with his goon squad, or a group of smart, selfish people who have no concept of the value of any life but their own -- your freedom is crushed just the same.

Right now there's a major nationwide sweep going on. In Dallas alone there have been more than 600 felony arrests in the past couple weeks. Now, those arrested are entitled to the presumption of innocence. Many of them will be. But if the police have screwed up so badly that more than four out of every five of these guys is innocent, does anybody seriously think Dallas wouldn't be better off with a hundred felons off the street?

Would it be better policy to simply legalize illegal drugs, in order to take the profit out of them? Sure. We have some crappy laws on our books, and will until we get the votes to change them. But turning dope into a worthless commodity wouldn't stop Mara Salvatrucha from hustling stolen guns and cars, and kidnapping women for the gang-rape-slave-fest politely referred to as forcible prostitution. It sure wouldn't stop these groups from being involved in the identity theft that is now estimated to have affected literally one in four Americans.

Round them up, give them their rights as defendents, and, if found guilty, jail or deport their sorry misanthropic asses. We may be playing with kid gloves on globally, but we are not, and should not, keep them on domestically -- our self-restraint has been abused long enough.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Carnival of the Optimists #16: Hashing it out.

So, this week, I got this really nifty book in the mail. It's all about a piece of legislation, that I personally think is very cool, although currently -- and unfortunately -- pigeonholed into partisan lines.

Now, why am I talking about a book on tax policy? While I happen to like the idea, it may turn out that the ideas contained in The Fair Tax Book turn out to be total bunk. But, for over a year now, the first and foremost objection to this legislation has been "it can't happen. 'Group X' will never let it happen." Well, to answer that, Linder and Boortz wrote a book, and now, simply because a lot of people want to hash out whether it stands a chance, said book occupies Amazon's #2 slot, right behind Harry Potter. That's "can do," right there, and "can do" is the spirit upon which the freedom of our republic rests.

Welcome, to the Carnival of the Optimists.

Good News
Everybody go swing by Technogypsy, who just celebrated his 22nd Anniversary. "The Goddess" will surely appreciate it.

Holly Aho of Soldiers' Angels is going for her second podcast. Woo-hoo! Check out the site and interviewee...

Bootstraps
Is everybody refusing to leave comments at your blog? Is your brilliance going un-commented-upon? Try this one, from Harvey at Bad Example: say less.

Feeling Down? Check out Steve Pavlina's advice. One size doesn't fit all... the trick is to find the one that fits you...

Progress
We have found extra-terran water. Turns out there's a frozen lake of it, conveniently at the surface of Mars, to be used as soon as we can get there (which is good, because it will give us time to go after the subsurface water). We have to leave the cradle of life eventually, if only so that we're protected against diseases as this world's peoples are bound ever-more-closely together. One of the first and foremost problems of doing so has now been definitely answered.

Are these things hard? You betcha.
Are they worth it? You betcha.
Can it be done?

"Can Do."

See you next week.

Has it ever occurred to anybody here

that Chavez down in Cubazuela looks an awful lot like a Narn? No, seriously. The unhealthy pallor of his double chin/double cheeks. The beady little reptilian eyes. The way he constantly raves incoherently about the US, as if were were the Centauri on a bad day.

You think he's been taking too many acting lessons from the wrong t.v. shows down there?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Tons of news in the world...

Mostly through Gateway and Publius Pundits... otherwise, things are slow here on the home front. I'm going to make a knife sheath, and assemble some armor to raise mad money, and am enjoying using a stupid computer game (Medieval Total War) as an impromptu teaching tool for the masses. Learning should be fun.

Otherwise, this weekend is my fifth anniversary, so blogging this week will be fairly light, and if you want to reach us on the weekend, GOOD LUCK.