Thursday, May 27, 2004

Colonial House and ‘modern’ attitudes.

PBS ran a ‘reality’ series called Colonial House that my wife managed to suck me into. The basic premise? Put a bunch of modern day people into a Seventeenth Century colony. Needless to say, they lived a rough, hardscrabble existence for four enlightening months.

The end of the series was a sequence of interviews and dialogues with the various ‘Colonists’ regarding their experiences. Carolyn Heinz, a Professor of Anthropology in California said something in her closing interview that I found, well, stunning. To paraphrase as best I can:
I wanted to go back to a purer time, a simpler time, to gain perspective on our modern life. But it wasn’t any more pure or true than now.

I think one of the problems facing people like Mrs. Heinz is that in our modern era many people live in a fantasy that the olden days things we’re simpler, purer, more moral – and when confronted with the greed, self-centeredness, aggression, and all of the other negative parts of humanity that have always has been with us, well they are quite startled by it.

Somehow, in their view, modern man has become venal and vile. Yet, we live in a time where we at least attempt to respect human rights and the rule of law. Anyone who has studied history can clearly demonstrate that man can be brutal specimen.

One of the other cast members expressed her difficulties in acting out ‘Imperialism’, and then reflected on how nothing has really changed.

News flash for all of you who were asleep in history class: We stole this land. Just like our ancestors probably stole their ‘home’ from someone else. After all, we don’t see all to many Saxons any more, let alone the Roman Colonists, or the Celts they displaced, or whomever they also displaced (maybe the Picts). And that is just the British isles.

I guess what I’m trying to say to all those agonizing over the evils of the past (and who would want us to pay reparations to the historically oppressed) is that we really can’t all go back to Olduvai Gorge. Really. No matter how unjust our journey as a species from there to here may have been. Nevertheless, what we can do is try to help as many people as possible achieve their rights to Life, Liberty and Happiness even if in the short term that sometimes means doing some rather unpleasant things. Opportunity. Opportunity to improve, to strive, to succeed. Opportunity is the first victim of tyranny.

If we are able to give others Opportunity to strive toward fundamental rights through our actions then I think we are doing the best we can, in spite of our venal nature. Or perhaps it is because we can see the potential abyss of our venality that we strive to make the world better. For me, the fact that Iraqis now have that opportunity is more than enough justification for both the bad and the good of the war.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Comming War With Iran, part Whatever
In other news, Iranian rhetoric keeps humming along, explicitly linking the mullahs’ with terrorist organizations and their desire to kill lots of Americans.
"We have identified some 29 weak points for attacks in the U.S. and in the West, we intend to explode some 6,000 American atomic warheads, we have shared our intelligence with other guerilla groups and we shall utilize them as well. We have set up a department to cover England and we have had discussions regarding them[;] we have contacted the Mexicans and the Argentineans and will work with anyone who has an axe to grind with America."

Film at 11

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The only thing we have to fear, is Fear itself

Bill Whittle is by far a better essayist than I could even hope to aspire. So go read his latest entires Strength part 1 and Stringth part 2. He does a beautiful job in summarizing, for me anyway, why War in the Middle East in general, Iraq in particular, was necessary and justified.

Bravo Bill.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Three Philosophies

Steven denBeste has recapitulated and expanded on this thesis of ‘three warring philosophies’. While I agree with his philosophical idealism and empiricist categories, I feel Islamism isn’t quite there. A more accurate categorization for Islamism, to me, would be Fundamentalism: a theocratic based rejection of both the empiricist and idealist schools of thought based on ‘revealed truths’. If one looks a militant islam, they have something very much in common with ‘creation scientist’ and their ilk: they completely reject empirical data that contradicts the ‘truth’ as defined by scripture. Any contradiction must be opposed as lies and eradicated for the betterment of all. Failure to do so reveals a lack of faith, and is in many ways a failure to god. Therefore, one can see the philosophical similarities between the idealists and the fundamentalists – both are ‘inspired’ philosophies – but their drive and focus are in many way in direct opposition and antithetical to each other.

But each has a far worse enemy: those pesky empiricists. The idealists sate, “The time is not to blow bridges, the time is to build bridges.” The fundamentalists exclaim,“die in the name of Allah/God/Cause”. Meanwhile, the realists wonder, “How the hell do you negotiate with someone who is shooting at you because you live?”

Is it any wonder the three philosophies are having a hard time ‘tolerating’ each other?

Anyway, as an Empiricist, the best tool and weapon we have against these competing philosophies is ‘Critical Thinking’. Not simply the adolescent ‘Question Authority’ but to really examine the ‘facts on the ground’ and to come to the simplest answer that fits the current data. One of the biggest problems us Empiricists face is the entrenchment of philosophical idealism within academia.

In academic discourse the authority and the verbiage of what you have to say frequently trumps actual content. This can be easily illustrated by Political Correctness, and post-modernists theory.

In conclusion, I’m not exactly certain what can be done about the schism between these three competing philosophies, except for pointing out the facts on the ground, and try to teach our kids that while some solutions may sound ‘elegant’, it is up to them to analyze the data and come to their own conclusions. Appeal to Authority is the ultimate dogma of both philosophical idealism and fundamentalism. Therefore it is up to us ‘little people’, the ‘ignorant masses’ to figure out who is trying to sell what, and what they have to gain by it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Everything you could want to know about the UN 'Oil for food' corruption scandal, but probably haven't heard about.

The lessons of Vietnam

Why did we loose Vietnam? Was it the fierce resistance of the North Vietnamese? Was it the ineptitude of our draftee armed forces? Was it the fierce anti-war protests back home? In many ways it was all of these things. But more importantly, it was the contradictory and self-defeating handling of a military campaign by the political leadership during the war.
North Vietnam was a safe haven for logistics and recruitment for the Viet Cong and the NVA. Yet, the US never dealt with the threat. Now one could easily argue that we were constrained by greater Geo-political concerns. But I think the most important lesson of Viet Nam should have been that we never get into a war that we do not intend to win completely.

Unlike Gulf War I.

And, unfortunately, that may be happening in Iraq and more specifically Fallujah now. However, I certainly hope wretchard is correct on this one. Because the alternative is most certainly not pretty.

Useful Idiots

‘In any conflict, there will be those who support you, those who oppose you, and the useful idiots that support you simply by existing.’ -Vladimir Illych Ulyanov

In many ways, the above quote may be one of the most important, and cynically manipulative observations of human psychology in the Twentieth Century. In short, it states that in any conflict there will be ‘opposition’ of your enemies who you can take advantage of via propaganda and the ‘court of world opinion’ especially in democratic societies. This is exactly what we have going on in the United States today.

Ted Kennedy recently gave a speech in which he compared the ‘quagmire in Iraq’ to Vietnam. He postulated that our military and the current administration have no real goals, understanding of the situation, or exit strategy in the face of the latest round of insurgency. Others have been quick to latch onto the censorship of a paper as evidence of the wrongdoing of BushCo and their ‘inept, two-faced, dishonest’ policy toward the people of Iraq.

It seems that if you say a thing enough times, regardless of any evidence, it must be true.

Let’s break down what has happened over the past two weeks. A paper controlled by Muqtada al’Sadr openly called for violence against coalition forces in Iraq. Now I don’t know about you, but where I come from, incitement is not protected speech under our constitution. Further, Mr. Sadr has openly praised Hizbollah – identifying himself and his followers as an arm of said organization in Iraq. Finally, instead of submitting to an arrest warrant for is alleged involvement in the murder of Imam Koei, he started a campaign of violent resistance throughout south and central Iraq.

This is Mr. Kennedy’s ‘Quagmire’: a thug trying to evade arrest for murder and incitement to violence using his deluded followers to mask his evasion attempts by launching a campaign of violence.

And naturally, Al’Jazerha, the voice of Islamic Totalitarianism everywhere, is confabulating, expounding, and in short trying to portray everything in the worst light possible.

Mr. Kennedy (along with the 'Arab street') is like usual playing along. You can hear them coming out of the woodwork – our useful idiots – holding the current events up as proof of our perfidious and duplicitous nature. We never intended to ‘free’ Iraq. It was hopeless to go there in the first place. Bring democracy to the Middle East? These ‘people’ obviously aren’t ready for any such thing.

Well, I disagree on these points. And Mr. Kennedy, V.I.Lenin would be happy right now were he an Islamist today. Perhaps we should create a ‘Walter Duranty’ prize and award it to Mr. Kennedy for his lifetime of achievement.

Our best course at this point is not to raise the fallacious specter of Vietnam, but rather to stay the course and do our best. Perhaps there will be a second Fall of Saigon. But I think we owe it to the people of Iraq and ourselves to demonstrate that we learned the right lessons from Vietnam and defeat the Islamo-fascists, instead of pulling yet another ‘Beirut’ in the face of resistance.

Or perhaps I’m wrong, and we should fall back to our frontiers, put up the razor-wire and minefields on the borders, and expel all of the ‘brown Muslim people’. Personally, I think such a course of action would be the single greatest mistake we could make. I believe that our current forward engagement strategy against the fanatics is the only reasonable way of maybe, just maybe, changing the current middle eastern status-quo away from the current repressive, despotic model..

Quite frankly, that is something we should all be hoping for, regardless of whichever side of the domestic isle we most closely identify.

The Coming War In Iran?

In this article Saad Al-Faqih outlines what many believe to be Al-Qaida's strategy for the downfall of the US. Something that is implied heavily is that the mullah's of Iran are now actively cooperating with and sponsoring asymmetrical warfare against the U.S.

And our response? Official silence. Is the Bush administration ignoring
clear evidence of Iranian
provocations in order to secure our withdrawal from Iraq later this year? Or is something else going on behind the scenes (in fact, there are some rumors that the recent train derailment in Iran happened because the 'fertilizer' was bound for Kandahar)?

Perhaps, instead of wondering about if or when a war with Iran will break out, perhaps we need to consider wither or not it has all ready begun - and if so, when it will blow wide open?

My fear, is that IF Iran is providing safe harbor and sanctuary to terrorists, will Bush do some thing about it - re-electability be damned? Or will he prevaricate until after the election? Even though Iran appears to be close to acquiring nuclear weapons thanks to a little help from their friends in Pakistan? Because Bush has set us on the course of active intervention in the Middle-east, the cost of 'blinking' at this point could be very, very high. Extremist elements could feel as though they have been forced into an untenable position with the fall of Hussein, and any response they may make will most likely not way for the completion of our election cycle.

Or, to put the problem in perhaps better perspective....

In defense of Jury Nullification

One of the problems with our primary education system in this nation is that it fails, in toto, to educate the electorate about its rights, responsibilities and duties to the body politic. One of the most important powers we have over our government is a concept known as ‘Jury Nullification’ As described by John Adams:

"It is not only his right but his find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court."

Why is Jury Nullification so important? Well, there are times when the Jury is the last bastion of judicial restraint. When our nation was founded, it was considered standard procedure for either the judge or the defense to inform the jury of their duties to consider not only the innocence or guilt of the defendant, but also the just nature of the law itself.

In this article by Phil Sham, the case of Richard Paey presents a clear case of the problems of ‘mandatory minimum sentencing’, and a jury obeying the dictate to ‘just consider the facts’. I would put it to the citizens of our nation that since all laws exist at the consent of the governed, we the people exist as the final arbiter of the just nature of said laws. And if an individual like Richard Paey is convicted for drug trafficking then not only has our legal system failed, but we have failed a fellow citizen.

Shame on us for not exonerating Richard Paey. Even worse, shame on us for not being aware of our ability and duty to do so.


Mr. Mom is an excellent bit of prescient social commentary via cinema. Way back in the ‘80’s, the big three auto manufacturers were suffering the effects of long term market dominance, lack of competition and innovative gestalt. ‘America loves Ford’, even if it was a total piece of crap which would fall apart after 2 years. After all, what else were Americans going to buy?

As it turns out, Japanese cars. The Japanese were supposedly better managers. They made better cars. They had better warrantees. They got better gas mileage. The Big Three were dying. Do the patriotic thing and ‘Buy American’!

And yet, today, the big three are still at it. What happened? They were forced via competition to innovate, to streamline, to cut costs, to improve. With the winner being the consumer.

The current tizzy in IT is India, and how they are stealing ‘our’ jobs. In my previous article, I raised three main counters to this: Software creates the need for more software, Supply and demand will equalize the cost of work per developer, and communication is the hardest part of any software development process (as opposed to hacking out the code, which generally is the easiest part). And every project I work on only reinforces these truisms.

Software creates the need for more software. What happens when a project is completed? Does it get placed in a trophy case where it can be admired from afar for its genius and elegance? Generally, no. it gets used. And whenever anything gets used, it gets changes. Modified. Improved. Made to communicate outside the scope of its original intent. And eventually, thrown away and re-written to take advantage of new advances in theory and technology.

Is this process somehow going to stop if Engineers in India are working on some of the code? What about the East Europeans? Bangladeshi’s? My point is in reality people will continue to discover the need for more efficiency gains through software which will result in more jobs for IT developers. The only caveat is that we may not be able to command the rates we did during the Bubble. Honestly, did anyone really expect the unsustainable rates of the irrational .com era to act as a baseline for wage expectation?

This leads to my next point; supply and demand doing what it is supposed to do. One of the great lefty rallying cries is “A good job for good wages’. I didn’t know that also contained a rider ‘only for Americans!’. Outsourcing has two often ignored benefits: it acts to increase the standard of living where the outsource workers live, and it increases the demand for American exports in those areas. In short, it increases Indian wages, and it opens market-share for Dell et al. And as Indian IT wages increase (as they are all ready doing) the ROI for outsourcing goes down rapidly.

The other effect of this equation is that it results in a suppression of American IT wages to some extent. While I don’t exactly savor this aspect of the equation in the short term, I do like the idea that on average IT workers will become more affordable to more mom and pop institutions.

One of the big advantages that a mega chain like Wal-Mart offers is lower prices of goods. In many ways this is achieved through better supply chain maintenance via IT. The problem that this exposes is that it is expensive to do real-time inventory data mining. And because the mom and pop hardware store can’t afford Just In Time inventory, they charge more. They stock based on what may be false trends. They may waste inventory. Which Wal-Mart can explicitly avoid. Wal-Mart and other national chains are better able to utilize information to increase efficiency and reduce cost to the consumer. Which sort of leads me to my last point. Communication.

Finally, communication is the hardest part of any software development process. In my experience, the absolutely, bar none, most difficult part of a software project has essentially nothing to do with writing the software. It’s gathering requirements such that developer and ‘consumer’ agrees to what is to be delivered – never mind when said consumer is an external client who really doesn’t understand what the want in the first place (like 90% of clients I’ve run into). Yet, in spite of this, someone things that the cost per project will be reduced by the simply expedient of hiring more, cheaper workers. My prediction? Over the next few years we will see an overall reduction in the amount of outsourcing that goes on due to the simple fact that cultural and language barriers will be yet another communication problem to overcome. So while we may see a decrease in ‘cost per project attempt’, more attempts will be required – thereby restoring parity, if not increasing the cost of the eventually completed project overall.

And I still maintain that people prefer to work with someone across the hall as opposed to 12 time zones away.

In conclusion, why am I not worried about outsourcing? Because today the second largest car manufacturer (in terms of employment) in the U.S. is Toyota. And hopefully, someone, SOMEWHERE remembers the wonderful effects of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. We’ve been down this isolationist road before. I’ll be damned if I’m not going to point this out again and again to those volunteering to play isolationist.

Remember, in 1929 the refrain was

“With America’s high standard of living, we cannot successfully compete against foreign producers because of lower foreign wages and a lower cost of production.”
--Herbert Hoover

And we all know how well that turned out.


Today, this year, we Americans stand at the crossroads of the future in a way that is only seen rarely. This November, we must choose a future not only for ourselves, but in many ways for the Middle-East and much of the world as well. And frankly, I think it is a burden most of us would rather not bear. 8 months from now we must choose between hope or isolation, intervention or passivity, progress or death. And frankly, I cannot decide which candidate represents what future.

The past decade was rather staid and predictable. The Berlin wall fell in ’88, and Regan’s Evil Empire of the Soviets was collapsing. Life was easy. The greatest controversies were what today seem trivialities. Violence in the media. ESRB ratings. Irrational exuberance in the stock market. On and on.

Bill Clinton oversaw a drastic reduction in our defense spending and intelligence gathering capabilities. Not because he was a fool, but because there appeared to be no significant threats on the horizon (one could argue that this was a direct result of our reduced human intelligence capabilities, but that is neither here nor there). But we forgot something; the legacies of European Colonialism and the Cold War were still out there. Simmering. But they were over there. Someplace else. Someone else’s problem.

Then, on September 11th, 2001 it all changed. How we viewed the world needed to be reexamined on a fundamental level.

No longer can we sit idly by and let corrupt cesspits be run by tin-pot autocrats. This time is not that of Metternich, trying to contain nationalistic sentiments to hold our multi-ethnic hodge-podge empire together. But rather we live in a globalized world, in which reactionary forces seek to undo our prosperity, our equality, our progress, our freedom to further their ability to exercise personal power.

It is for these reasons that we must intervene. It is for these reasons we must actively pursue policies to alleviate poverty, deprivation and inequity throughout the world. It is no longer enough, to be the example, the Shining City on a Hill, but we must stride forth boldly. For to fail is to invite even greater ruin on ourselves, or friends, and even our enemies.

But don’t listen to me. I’ll let Tony Blair articulate what I mean.

How will we do this? How will we pay for this? Not with cold war mentalities. Not with $600 Billion deficits (not including spending on Iraq and Afghanistan). Where are the war bonds to pay for our servicemen and women overseas? Where is the talk of balancing the budget through taxation and spending cuts? But more importantly, where is the talk of what we must do next? Or is that ‘vision thing’ inapplicable during an election year?

I don’t know who I will vote for yet. There are deep flaws (in my mind) with both of our presumptive candidates. Bush never met a spending bill he didn’t like, and he seems awfully cozy with the religious right of late. Kerry on the other hand, never met a defense spending bill or intelligence appropriation bill for which he would vote, and never mind how some of his past opinions have deeply offended many veterans.

This time, it isn’t The Economy Stupid, it the Future. What I want to see from the candidates is a Stratigic Overview of how they will lead the west in defeating Islamic fundamentalism.Thus far, neither candidate has done anything to do this. You both have 8 months. The world is waiting.

All it takes for evil to take root is for good men to do nothing.

I can’t remember who exactly said this, and even if this is the exact quote, but I think it conveys the idea well enough.

Once upon a time, the ‘left’ claimed to be the party of justice and equality for all mankind. A Noble goal. One to be proud of. One which was worthy of the Party of Jefferson. Somewhere along this path, the left has lost its way.

Sometimes, the only solution we can choose is from a list of bad options. Do we continue to allow sanctions to starve a people? Do we allow a thug to continue his megalomaniac Cult of Personality at the expense of 26 million people for the sake of ‘no war’? Do we turn away, knowing that in some ways we may be partially responsible for the continued existence of a monster?

Recently we’ve seen the Kay report, and the latest brouhaha over the Gilligan story about the Blair government alleged ‘sexing up’ of intelligence data about Iraqi WMD. And in the end it is all a Red Herring. Who cares if there was any ricin or anthrax or mustard gas or a nuke or three on the ground (or not as is much more likely)? It has been well and thoroughly established that Hussein was interested in persisting the knowledge base for creating these things until such a point the west gave up on sanctions and no-fly zones; at which point all of his programs would have restarted.

But even that doesn’t matter when it comes to why Hussein needed to be removed. In 1991, Hussein was given an ultimatum by the victorious coalition after his military was expelled from Kuwait.

688 (5 April 1991): Iraq
and then 778 (2 October 1992): Iraq-Kuwait
and again in 949 (15 October 1994): Iraq-Kuwait.
Or perhaps 1060 (12 June 1996): Iraq.
Or how about 1115 (21 June 1997): Iraq-Kuwait.
Or 1194 (9 September 1998): Iraq-Kuwait.

Even worse, none of this captures the deafening silence toward the torture chambers, or the assassination attempt against Bush Sr., or the invasion of Iran, or the gassing of the Kurds, on and on and on.

Is it really so hard to conceptualize that maybe, just maybe 9/11 made us take a long look in the mirror and realize perhaps business as usual was no longer acceptable? That pursuit of the Metternichain status quo in support of anyone who wasn’t communist was no longer a good idea? That just perhaps things change, and policies must change to reflect a new, clearer view of who is and is not a real monster?

One day, my daughter will be old enough to ask me if there are real monsters. And I’ll have to tell her there are. But they only exist because good people overlook them. Or ignore them. ‘It’s not my problem’. Or ‘it’s way over there’. Or no, there are only ‘enablers’ cause it all and they are usually Americans.

I’m angry that people seem to think it is fine and dandy to vilify the evil Americans, because ‘we supported him at one point’. War is wrong. Peace Now!

We did we remove Saddam Hussein? For a father and a daughter. For all the people like them. And so Manhattan will never be a Halabja.

For them


During World War 2, the Russians developed an ‘Information Warfare’ technique called Mariskova. The idea, in principle was to create a ‘real’ airfield (or oil tanks, or whatever) which contained all of the props of a real thing, and then hide the real airport that the Stromviks would sorte.

It worked remarkably well. The Germans would bomb the hell out of the fake airfield, leaving the real one safe.

Was Saddam engaged in a bit of Mariskova against the west? If so, then perhaps the conclusion of the ’12 year gulf war’ may be a lesson about the dangers of being to good at bluffing. Sometimes, a bluff is called.

We’ll see if Michael Leeden is correct on this one.

An introduction.

Well, what is there to say? I’m 33, married, with a second child due at any moment. I never expected to land in Colorado, but, well, here I am. I’m a member of a group blog, Another Low Beyond Outpost that is currently undergoing some technical difficulties, so I thought I’d post my musings here for a while. Let’s see how it goes.