Tuesday, June 29, 2004

As I read, watch news, and listen to the bile and hatred dumped on our current President by certain segments of our society I can’t help but feel at a loss to understand the obvious loathing, disgust and contempt that is being expressed in some camps. As another demagogue launches into a Moorian invective of hyperbolic denunciation, I wonder how anyone imagines any of this will sway anyone. Bush = Hitler? You have got to be kidding me! Is there any sense of perspective in political debate these days?

A very common meme that unifies the current anti-war movement is that the Bush Administration lied to get us to war. IF this hypothesis is correct then we must also assume the Clinton administration lied about the presence of WMD in Iraq in order to continue the disruptive Sanctions program in place. Did Bush et al lie? I don’t know but a simple application of Ockham’s Razor would imply that as opposed to ‘purposefully misrepresenting the truth to forward an agenda’ (aka a lie) our administration acted on what was almost universally agreed on intelligence. Clinton and Bush thought Iraq either had or was pursuing WMD. Saddam’s behavior clearly supported the presence of WMD hypothesis. After all, we have clear examples of co-operative nations disarming without any sort of fuss: Ukraine and South Africa for example. Given this data, plus Hussein’s known ties with terrorist organizations (how long was Abu Nidal a ‘guest’ in Baghdad? How many ‘Palestinian suicide bomber pay-outs’ did he make?). Was this data exaggerated? Misrepresented? Incomplete? Possibly. Maybe even probably. As I stated in Mariskova maybe Hussein was bluffing the whole time in an attempt to save ‘face’ on the Arab street. I don’t know if such a thing is knowable at this point. In any case, I cannot see how one could construe it as ‘lying’.

And on this whole Bush = Hitler thing. When The Patriot act inters 35 million American muslims then perhaps we could debate who was more Fascist, Bush or FDR.


I think one of the problems with our modern society is that we are so comfortable sipping our triple-shot latte’s in the air-conditioned theatre watching the latest Moorcumentary that we forget what totalitarianism really is like. What deprivation is like from the view of our tinted-windows out of our SUV. What struggle encompasses when the greatest scandal of the past decade is a President’s ability to get Oral sex.

But don’t take my word on it, because I’m just as far removed from these things as the rest of America. I’ll rely on Adam Michnik, who’s memory of such things is much more recent than ours.

I remember my nation's experience with totalitarian dictatorship. This is why I was able to draw the right conclusions from Sept. 11, 2001. Just as the murder of Giacomo Matteotti [leader of Italy's United Socialist Party] revealed the nature of Italian fascism and Mussolini's regime; just as the great Moscow trials showed the world the essence of the Stalinist system; just as "Kristallnacht" exposed the hidden truth of Hitler's Nazism, watching the collapsing World Trade Center towers made me realize that the world was facing a new totalitarian challenge. Violence, fanaticism, and lies were challenging democratic values.

That seems to me to be a reasonable perspective on the issues of the day. Hopefully the rest of us can learn from it.

Friday, June 25, 2004

NASA: so long, and thanks for all the fish.

On June 21st, Mike Melvill piloted a hybrid rocket/plane funded by private investment (principally Paul Allen, Burt Rutan et al) to the edge of space, for a mere $20,000,000. Mere? That seem rather expensive for a plane, some might say. But remember, people buy boats that cost this much.

One of the problems with government run institutions is that they are, by their very nature, self-preserving, siloed, risk-adverse, and subject to the whim of politics. Someone may ask NASA what is the point of Cassini, or a stupid ‘Space-shuttle’, which is a godawful way of delivering satellites to orbit. Or a bureaucrat may cancel ‘Blue Atlas’ in the UK because they really aren’t certain what to do with it. But no one can stop the free market once it has decided something is feasible.

A friend of mine has asked me in essence why any private citizen needs to make gobs of cash from a private business venture. My answer to him is very simple: in almost every case, a private citizen will find more productive uses for capital than any government body. In one case, it was to build a silly, pointless hybrid rocket-plane.

Economy of scale is well understood, and has reams of verifiable evidence. It quite clearly demonstrates that once something is proven profitable, competition and efficiency will reduce costs rapidly. What will we do with Space Ship One? Maybe nothing. That doesn’t matter. Because once you show the free market something is feasible, the desire of profit will be the engine driving things. And, while a Sr. NASA bureaucrat may be able to point out that NASA has understood the principals behind this aircraft for years - alolowing him to dismiss the entire veture as pointless on NPR, NASA never did anything with it. NASA had no need to do so. In fact, there was probably significant institutional gestalt and resistance to upsetting the apple cart by pursuing such a risky gamble.

Maybe Space Ship One will never lead anywhere. But what about Space Ship 2? Or some other hair-brained idea that someone will try – because now we know we, as individuals, can do this?

To paraphrase Jerry Pournelle; once you get into Low Earth Orbit, you aren’t half way to the Moon, you are half way to everywhere. 4 days ago, a group of private investors demonstrated that LEO is not all that far away, and not all-that expensive.

On June 21st, 2004, NASA died – and the space age finally began.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

What he said.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Russia’s Intelligence on Iraq

In this report we see that V. Putin forwarded intelligence that Saddam was planning terrorists attacks against the United States prior to the Invasion. Can we now put the whole justification for the war hand-wringing to rest now? Finally? Hussein was our enemy. He had been for over 12 years. He’s now out of power.

And no matter how you spin it that is a good thing.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Dear Mr. Kerry. I wholeheartedly recommend you follow the advice of Ted Rall and motivate the hard left – Democratic wing of the Democratic party. I suggest you attend as many Mecha and International ANSWER rallies as possible, ignore history and adopt a fully protectionist rhetoric and in general screech as loud as Howard Dean as often as possible. I’m certain in this manner you’ll win at least one states Electorate vote come November.

Or, if you are actually interested in winning this November, suggest the left fringe wackos of your party put their money where their mouth is and form the Socialists Workers Party of America and shut the hell up.

Your choice really.

More on the Press
Case in point on yesterdays topic. Today, headlines around the world are blaring US report finds no Iraq link to 9/11. Yet, if one were to, you know, actually READ the report it clearly states that while there was no active support by Iraq to commit the 9/11 attacks, there were clear links and ties between Iraq and Al Quaida. It’s the ‘omission of important details’ al la the Kay Report all over again.

It’s dishonest. It’s misleading. And it demonstrates gross incompetence. Again. Report the facts. All of them. Not just the bits that support your opinion. Let us ignorant plebes form our own opinion based on an accurate portrayal of the data, thank you very much.

Update: More pesky facts getting in the way of a lovely story

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Scientific Method and Journalism.


Why a good number of Americans think their ‘fair and impartial’ press is anything but.

Stephen denBeste of USS Clueless and Wretchard of the Belmont Club (and many others) seem to be trying to tackle the fickle nature of the press in its reporting of the Middle Eastern conflict.

To many, the press seems to have an agenda instead of zeal to determine facts.
Now, I’m not going to add my voice to the cacophony lambasting the press for bias. I think bias is not only unavoidable but it is in many ways desirable. However, journalists should and must separate fact from opinion. As a Journalist, it is your primary responsibility to inform. That means in many ways reporting and sifting through boring, uninteresting data, and then presenting an opinion.

Forensic Anthropology has always held a bit of a special interest for me. It is the process by which an investigator teases out fact from a locale. When did this person die? How did this person die? How did this person end up here? What is this piece of fiber? Etc. In many ways, journalism has far more in common with Forensics than with literary scholastic studies. Sure, it helps if you con communicate effectively, but that isn’t the point of a journalists job? A journalist needs to sift through data, present said data in a fair manner, then and only then, render an opinion.

Carl Sagan was one of the foremost and effective proponents of ‘Critical thinking’. Not adolescent ‘Question Authority’ but rather the process by which people need to apply a ‘BS detection kit’ to the data presented to them and try to come to the simplest, most reasonable and hopefully most accurate answer. Do magnets in the feet promote blood circulation? Does an ‘air spray’ destroy ‘odor molecules’? And on and on the barrage of weird data drums on.

Journalists need to be on the front line of employing a ‘BS detection toolkit’. In many ways, journalists need to act as a filter against spin and nonsense. However, when a journalists claims impartiality while clearly agitating an opinion, they loose credibility. We all have opinions, even journalists. Which is fine. Just don’t present it as ‘impartial’ or label yourself as the ‘impartial press’ if that is what you are doing. It’s insulting. Everyone has an opinion, and it is going to show through in your writing. At least be honest about it.

To be ‘Impartial watchdogs, a check against government’ the press must engage in forensics, not journalism. And until the press understands this a significant portion of their audience will mistrust the message as presented.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Abu Gharib, misconduct, and general stupidity

Well, I’ve tried to avoid commenting on Abu Gharib simply because I don’t know what happened. Was it institutional stupidity? Poor training? A directive to the intelligence operatives in the field? I don’t know. But I am seeing a very ugly pattern developeing. From the case of Sean Baker to Justice Department memos describing the legitimate use of torture I can’t help but feel that someone is abusing my trust. I think a proactive, forward-engaged Middle East policy is the only way we will ever ‘drain the swamp’ of totalitarianism and fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East. But it is not worthwhile to pursue these laudable goals while sacrificing our own ideals. Between all of the above, the misnamed ‘Patriot’ act and my unease over the suspension of fundamental rights for ‘terrorism suspects’….

If only the Dem’s would nominate anyone other than the vile toad Kerry. 20 years ago I probably would have been a ‘Regan Democrat’. Kerry does not appeal to me in the least. But then again, neither does Bush really.

At the end of the day, I fear that while we may have won the battle for Iraq, we are loosing the war for our principles.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

No Blood for Oil!
Man, but we Americans certainly are the worst stripe of Imperialists. Everyone knows when you engage in unilateral, colonialist, adventures to expand the Imperium you generally should keep control of the natural resources! Otherwise why bother oppressing and subjugating the hapless natives?

Reality Check: Nope, still not paying $0.50 per gallon for gas. Time to mark Operation Steal The Black Gold for Halliburton as a failure and bring the troops home.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Mutually Assured Destruction

Once upon a time, an entire generation of people was convinced that ‘The Day After’ was how it was going to end. Any day now. Nuclear Annihilation. After all we were still reeling from our self imposed defeat in Viet Nam, the Iran hostage crisis proved our impotence, and the Soviets were still promising our ruin.

Then came the cowboy who promised victory. Spoke simply. Ignored conventional wisdom about detent and engagement. He was bellicose and brash and said what he thought and meant what he said.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" he said. And not to long after, it happened.

Thank you, Ronald Wilson Regan, for helping make the world a place where ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ and ‘the Wall’ nothing more than the ramblings of a weird father in the eyes of his children. I can think of no better legacy for a ‘stupid actor pretending to be President’.

Friday, June 04, 2004

The Baath Party and Al’Quaida

Oh look! More non-links between Al-Quaida and Baathists.

Why do I even bother? Modern political discourse seems to be more about screaming a ‘believed’ meme louder and longer than your opposition cares to refute it, rendering it truth as opposed to actually debating facts and reason. At this point I really can’t find anything ‘believable’ about the anti-war stance. It seems that someone has decided the position must be war=bad always and therefore proponents will seize anything that re-enforces that meme to the hilt, facts be damned.