Friday, April 29, 2005

Victor Davis Hanson's Weekly Article

VDH's weekly column is always a must read. Of course, it's in NRO, which as I've previous noted, is a daily strongly-encouraged-to read.

Perhaps if I get a break from this trial prep stuff, I'll actually get to post a reaction to the article....

Last year the hysteria about the hostility toward the United States reached a fevered pitch. Everyone from Jimmy Carter to our Hollywood elite lamented that America had lost its old popularity. It was a constant promise of the Kerry campaign to restore our good name and "to work with our allies." The more sensitive were going to undo the supposed damage of the last four years. Whole books have been devoted to this peculiar new anti-Americanism, but few have asked whether or not such suspicion of the United States is, in fact, a barometer of what we are doing right — and while not necessarily welcome, at least proof that we are on the correct track.
Pssst... VDH, it's the RIGHT track!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Doctor is in...

A great blog, Dr. Sanity, has a take on the MSM's obsessive-compulsive disorder over the Abu Ghraib scandal. (Via LGF.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Wonderful Bit of Fiction

Once, I asked a true-to-life submariner what he thought of the movie, The Hunt for Red October. His reply was, "Oh, it's a wonderful bit of fiction." Sometimes I think large segments of the American audience for popular media thinks all those "dramatizations" and "based on a real story" bits are, well, more true than they are. And, I think Hollywood knows this, and so builds movies around real-life institutions in a way that portrays the institution in the light that conforms to Hollywood's politics. Case in point, according to Front Page Magazine is The Interpreter. Somehow, I can just imagine myself in a debate with liberals, having to remind them that movies like The Interpreter are just wonderful bits of fiction.

The definition of "rich."

A blogger I'm just beginning to discover, Asymmetrical Information, has thoughts on that subject.


If you click through AI's post, you get to an article by MP Dunleavey about the definition of rich. Which discusses, in part, the fear some of us have (especially egalitarian-minded women) of admitting that we really want to be really, really RICH according to standards set by contemporary society. "Really, I just want be comfortable." But, comfortable means a house with a garage on Manhattan's Upper West Side, a job doing "what I what" (read - working low stress 6 hours a day), and the ability to jet all over the world at whim.

Anyway, aside from that rant, there is an interesting link at the bottom of Dunleavey's article with a link to the "world wealth calculator" to let you know how wealthy you are, based on annual income, to the rest of the world.

Air America's Contribution to the Political Debate...

You know, I understand the need for robust political debate. And I'm a big advocate of freedom of speech--it's what conservatives have been relying on for years to get their message out while Liberals took over so many of the "opinion leader" institutions in America -- newspapers, the academy, the courts. I even understand that irreverent humor has a role in discourse. I get a chuckle when I hear Rush Limbaugh call John Francois Kerry "Lurch." Ha ha. I can even chuckle at Dave Letterman making fun of Bush's "lip curl" when the President's talkin' tough. O.k. Everybody's human.

I also understand that any given point, a certain segment of the population will just be absolutely exasperated at whoever occupies the White House. Clinton frustrated the heck out of me, for example. Also, I favored his impeachment. But, I just wanted to see the man humiliated, disgraced, and tossed from office so that he could get an early start on what he does now. That is, flop around the World laughing that big, raspy laugh of his, and telling Europeans what they want to hear about America: that Americans are just a bunch of ignorant rubes except for those who are in love with France.

However, as much as Clinton's shenanigans drove me to exhaustion, I never wished for his violent end, as the would-be liberal response to Rush Limbaugh, Air America seems to be looking forward to with respect to Bush. Oh, the gentle pacifistic enlightened left in America...

Mao in Minneapolis

Yesterday James Lileks (via instapundit) blogged about the Minneapolis public library using a picture of Mao Tse-Tsung to pump up its new library. Reportedly, Mao was a librarian before he decided to become a genocidal dictator. What a rise, huh? Anyway, Lileks makes a point about how hip it has become amongst a certain liberal set in America to trumpet murderous tyrants. (See also, e.g., any number of Che Guerva t-shirts.)

Last night, while IM'ing with a friend in Phoenix, I was struck by an urge to listen to Beatles' tunes. Hey, this happens sometimes. So, I have a CD version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, and a pretty generic compilation. Listening to the compilation, wouldn't you know, I came across "Revolution" (the complete lyrics here), and caught on this verse:
You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
Oh where, where did the sane radical left go? Apparently not to the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More religionism in public policy...

This time it's Social Security:
Elizabeth Anderson, a philosophy professor at the University of Michigan, has put forward a defense of Social Security even more emphatically communitarian than Barber's. Social Security, she argues, is like "the Amish practice of community barn-raising. When a young farmer starts out on his own farm, he does not build his barn all by himself, nor does he pay others to help him build it. Instead, he enlists his community to build it without pay." Cohesion and reciprocity accomplish within the Amish community what individualism and calculations of self-interest do outside it in the raw world of capitalism.

After the vats of red and blue ink spilled since the 2004 election, it's strange to learn that some Democrats want to base social policy on the construction practices of an old-fashioned, intensely devout religious sect. Ms. Anderson misses the point when she rejects the idea that Social Security, unlike a barn-raising, depends on government coercion. "The Amish system isn't voluntary. Ever been shunned? Private associations have their own legal means of coercion."

-William Voegeli in the Opinion Journal

Administrative Professionals' Day...

Is tomorrow, I've been informed.

This is a new consideration for me (I'm a newly-minted attorney, and for some reason my admin clerk in the Army didn't expect anything on that day).

But, you know, I'm just an associate, here. Isn't it up to the partners to take care of this? If not, what should I do? Do I owe cards to each staff member, or just the ones I work with most closely? Would I insult the male file clerk by getting him a card (I'd rather buy him a beer, frankly), since this firm still calls it "Secretaries' Day," and he's the only male non-attorney in the office?

Oh, the conundrum!


So one of the other associates and I ask one of the two named partners about this. He sheepishly admitted that the partners were a little off the ball this year, and didn't plan anything; he was also a little frustrated at the office manager for not reminding him. Anyway, we decided that the three associates would get two cards for the two secretaries (disregarding the other staff members), and give them jointly. The Office Manager got little gifts, then, for each staff member out of the firm's kitty. Then, the Partners are putting together a firm luncheon for next week. Whew. All is settle, and I didn't have to get the file clerk a card!

National Review Online

I should probably just tell people to read National Review Online every day as a matter of principle, because they almost always have important reads (like the previous post). And frankly, being their echo chamber, doesn't really add a whole lot of original thought to the conversation.

But so long as you are over there today reading Whalen's article, also check Anne Bayesfky's review of the recent session of the (U.N.)human Rights Commission. A taste:
The dynamic reveals a great deal about the underlying U.N. pathology. With no democratic pre-conditions for membership, the commission, like the general assembly, is a forum through which non-democracies can trump democracies. Furthermore, situating democracies in an organization where relationships with non-democracies provide leverage over other democracies divides democratic states rather than bringing them together. Though the EU relishes the role of middleman between the state sponsors of terrorism or genocide and the United States, the halfway point is not where the U.S., or its fellow democracies, ought to be.

Justice Ginsburg should've taken an International Law course in law school

Because then this wouldn't happen:

[Ginsburg] has no response to Scalia's criticism: "To invoke alien law when it agrees with one's own thinking, and ignore it otherwise, is not reasoned decisionmaking, but sophistry."

-Ed Whalen

The other side of Powell

I used to have high, high regard for the man... His recent leaks concerning the Bolton nomination though are bringing out reviews like this. If Lasky's reports are true, then its time for a long hard look at the man, which, admittedly, I'm a little slow to coming around to.

Of course I don't like Powell's attempt to sink Bolton's nomination. Powell's positions also tend to represent too much of what is wrong with "paleocon" thinking that would have American power hamstrung by the Lilliputians in the security council. But, the success of neocon philosophy is not a foregone conclusion, although, in my mind it offers the best hope for future security. (I remarked to friends as late as the summer of '02 that a Security Council resolution would give us the needed legitimacy for an invasion of Iraq--A postion I have now seriously re-thought.) Accordingly, I would not fault a loyal conservative simply for having a different philosophical take. So, is Lasky's article simply responding to blood in the water as Powell wounds himself with his antics over Bolton, or was Powell's leak really just the most recent episode in a string of such conduct?

And for why we should care about Lebanon...

See here.

(Via instapundit)

Syrian Pullback

As usual, Belmont Club has excellent analysis.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Free Muslims Rally for Peace

An organization calling itself the Free Muslims Against Terrorism will be holding a first-of-its-kind rally in Washington, D.C. on May 14. (And, um, pardon me, but why has no word of this been published in the MSM?)

This sort of thing is very encouraging. Many see the GWOT as essentially a civil war within the Islamic world that spilled over onto American soil, thus compelling the U.S. to engage directly and pick sides. (This action, if you haven't deduced already was the correct action in this commentator's mind; the laissez-faire alternative would only have protracted the Islamic Civil War, causing an increased security risk to the U.S.)

The two sides of the Islamic civil war are the radical conservatives and the reform-seekers. I know the stronger view on the right (to the right of the Right Track, if you will), doesn't think Islam, being a cult, is capable of reformation. However, comparing, say, Turkey, on the one hand, with Iran on the other shows a huge qualitative differences between what are essentially Islamic societies. (Midnight Express notwithstanding.)

Turkey's balking at supporting the Iraq invasion while certainly annoying, and perhaps damaging to the U.S.'s efforts in Iraq, should not be taken as an indicator that Turkish society is on the wrong side of the Islamic Civil War. Rather, Turkey should be seen as a reformed Islamic Society that was more-or-less geopolitically secure and so not wanting to thrust itself into a conflict that it had already won for its purposes. Similarly, the freedom-loving, and thus conflict adverse, segments of the Islamic diaspora have been unwilling to engage in a high-profile ideological fight against their radical segments. This rally is an indication that this might change, and change soon.

Such efforts by reform-minded Muslims are also important to the U.S. (and, to look a bit more short-term, the Bush Administration), because these efforts show that at least some Muslims ratify the American efforts, which helps to win the ideological fight abroad and on the homefront. In other words, maybe one or two aging hippies who can't get over their Vietnam Complex will see rallies like this and start to think a little better about the motives and moral grounding of their own country. One can hope, anyway.

On a personal note, I really wish I could attend this rally, but since we go to trial on May 12, and expect it to last 4-6 weeks, I expect I will be otherwise engaged that weekend. Bummer.

Where are the Carriers? And the Humvees for that matter...

This article is already nearly three weeks old, but the topic is the political tug-of-war over the Navy's carrier fleet. However, as any defense budgetary matters go, it's moving at, well, a Titanic pace; so the underlying issue is still fresh.

The Navy needs to reduce costs, and to do so, it wants to mothball one of its two conventionally powered carriers. (The other ten are nuclear powered.) But, of course, the defense budget is turning into a political football that is more about local economies (and, in the case of our carrier based in Japan, local sensibilities) than about strategy.

I'm posting this article mainly to illustrate how peacetime defense decisions are made, and then to make a point about the unexpected ramifications once war breaks out. I know, know, the country is in fact at war, and so all services are of course playing their role. However, at moment, the operational fight is focused on land based forces (read "Army"). So, the Navy has a, well, operational pause to figure out what its strategic force should look like. Just look at the substance of the debate: it's about location of basing, the number of carriers in the fleet, aggregate capabilities, theater-level regional considerations, etc.--things that we discuss at the strategic, as opposed to operational or tactical level. However, as the article demonstrates, in peacetime, we don't discuss those considerations in a rationale way. Rather, we discuss local politics.

O.k., so what? Well, in the '90's the peacetime Army spent an inordinate amount of time debating its strategic mission, and the structure of its forces, including how "heavy" or "armored" the force should be. Change, or as Gen. Shinseki termed it, transformation, was stymied by institutional lethargy as well as irrelevant considerations like local German economies. The result? A dearth of light- and medium-armored vehicles which are most useful in counter-insurgency operations on urban terrain. Huh. But, that deficiency was still somehow rested at Secretary Rumsfeld's feet, even though he didn't take office until sometime in 2001.

More worrying is this: the structure of the carrier fleet is being most influenced by two senators who have fairly narrow interests that don't bear directly on whether the fleet can actually accomplish its missions. Given the importance of the carrier fleet to strategic power project, any miscalculations would result in far larger adverse consequences, than those resulting from a scarcity of up-armored Humvees in Iraq (and those were bad enough).

You thought it was bad when they frisked grandma...

But now, TSA is scanning penguins!

via malkin.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Crichton: Environmentalism is a Religion

Best-selling author Michael Crichton gave a speech before the Commonwealth Club in which his main thesis is:

I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

(Hat tip: Atlas Shrugs.)

Read the whole thing!

Pictures of tanks

If you are ever looking for a website with cool pictures of M1A1s in action, check out Armor in Action. It's not a blog, just a web site. I served in the same battalion as the site's owner, and I swear some of those pictures might be of my platoon. Those images are seared SEARED into my memory, I tell you!

Technical Update

So I figured out how to embed links using Blogger's interface. How cool is that? Ahunh- hunh. This is good news: now my sidebar appears in the right spot, because I don't have that huge link to the amazon page for Freakonomics exceeding the column width.

You know, I figured out how to do the link thing right away while posting in the comments at LGF. But, took me a 24 hours here at Blogger! Oh well...

Read Sailer's Article, and...

I have to say it appears to be a pretty thorough fisking of Levitt on the claim that legalized abortion caused the drop in crime in the '90's.

Most damaging was Sailer's simple observation that Levitt did nothing to describe the cause of the initial INCREASE in crime that occured at about the same time that abortion was legalized (in some places, it was legalized prior to Roe). If Roe v. Wade caused the steep decline in crime rate, the crime rate would have to have been steady since abortion bans were first introduced in the early 20th Century. Instead, as Sailer demonstrates, the 70's and 80's ushered in a huge spike in crime that seems to have been uncorrelated with any abortion policy, whether pro-choice or pro-life. Thus, a change in abortion policy likely had no effect on the underlying causes of that spike in the crime rate.

Anyway, divorcing abortion policy from crime control is good news for activists on both sides of the abortion political spectrum. (Just observe how both sides reacte to the notion that there is some sort of link.) Pro-life people rightfully bristle at the notion that pre-emptively destroying an innocent life is a legitimate policy to achieve any decline in crime. The Pro-choice crowd, then, doesn't want to be accused of offering such a, well, Swiftian not-so-modest proposal. And to be fair, the Pro-choice crowd in fact does not proffer crime control as a policy aim of its position.

Rather, the pro-choice activists simply don't see any human value, and thus no human rights vesting, in a fetus until it's cranium "breaks the plane" of the birth canal. In my mind, this is as arbitrary and divorced from reality as the other extreme -- that a egg becomes a full-fledged life the instant it is fertalized. Becoming alive should not hinge on one's head making it to the "end zone". Further, I haven't yet heard any pro-choicer distinguish a partial-birth procedure from infant euthenasia on any grounds other than simply pushing the legal fiction that life starts at the threshold of the birth canal.

Further, I haven't yet seen the intellectually honest pro-choicer come forward to distinguish between the legal problems represented by the Roe decision -- specifically that it represents gigantic overreaching by the Supreme Court to invent a constitutional right out of whole cloth simply based only on the notion that such a right would be popular in the current Zeitgeist -- while still arguing that pro-choice policies are the best. But, hey, that's how liberal activists work--convince life-appointed lawyers to act as a super-legislature and then pound their decisions as immutable law.

Response to Freakonomics

Steve Sailer, who contributes to has responded to Levitt's assertion that legalized abortion lead to lower crime:

Haven't read the whole thing or digested it yet, but note how much effort Sailer exudes to show that he is not just having a pro-life knee jerk reaction.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I'm currently reading...

I'm currently reading Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner.

It's an easy read, with interesting insights. But since I just joined Blogger, I realized that the authors have a blog Huh.

The authors take on such thorny issues as the social benefit derived from Roe v. Wade, viz., a steep decline in crime caused by (that's right "caused by", not just "correlated with") a steep decline in the number of unwanted pregnancies. However, the authors then conclude that unless you de-value the fetus to zero (which a huge swath of the pro-choice crowd does), then the benefit is far outweighed by the costs. Specifically, even someone that believes that the "value" of a viable fetus constitutes only 1/100 the "value" of a full-fledged human, must conclude that the costs of abortion-on-demand (1.5 million aborted fetuses a year) far exceeds any social benefit in decrease in the homicide rate (far less than 15,000 homicides).

The last chapter (which I'm reading now) deals with the Black-White gap in standardized testing, and it's causes. The authors offer some badly-needed objective economic analysis of the gap first noted in the controversial Bell Curve. Causes associated with the socio-economic class of the parents are not the end of the inquiry! Black and White children from comparable socio-economic backgrounds test statistically equally upon entering kindergarten (and, no, headstart has nothing to do with it). However, within two years, the test gap appears even within a socio-economic group. In other words, middle-class blacks fall behind middle-class whites, and working-class black fall behind working-class whites, even though they started at comparable levels. And, as is widely known (and accepted without inquiry for the purposes of affirmative action in college admissions), the gap remains throughout the rest of a child's academic career.

How to close the gap? Well, I'm just getting to that part... I'll let you know. But, the authors thesis is that "it's the schools, stupid!"

First Post

This blog will be a place to discuss developments in social and strategic issues, with an occasional note about Scotch Whiskey (single malt, of course), and perhaps some interesting wines.

This blog has come about now that my interest in "high profile" blogs, which arose during the memogate scandal, has come to a head.

What can I say--I have a burning desire to shout at the sea that is the Blogosphere with rocks in my mouth, and hope with no realistic chance of success that someone, somewhere might think that I had an original thought.