Thursday, June 29, 2006

In Thrall of the Yo-Yo

It is possible that oil prices are coming down soon. This does not surprise me. The markets function marvelously to get us more of what we want. And we seem to want oil. It does, however, distress me. People who are trying to develop and promote alternative technologies are being jerked around by this jolly jumper price game.

Since the price is going inevitably up in the long run, and since as rational people we don't really want to depend on oil, the government should take measures to stabilize prices. Don't you think?

Personally, I'm willing to go even further and say that the government should take steps to raise prices. For the sake of the environment, I don't really care too much how they do it. A carbon tax seems to me to be the most reasonable approach, but I consider the climate problem serious enough that I would be delighted if we decided to blockade the Straits of Hormuz. Better yet, we should find some way to annoy the Iranians to such a degree that they cut off our oil in retaliation. That way they would have less money to make trouble with.

High oil prices right now are also essential to keep India and China from committing themselves to a carbon future.

6/29/2006 8:38 PM

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Inhobbited Links

The Loom has lots of good posts on the Hobbit dating back to post neolithic times.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

As Foretold

Gregg Easterbrook, having converted, is seeing signs in every raindrop.

6/27/2006 9:00 PM

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The Minimum Wage and Some Stories

When it comes to the minimum wage, conservatives and libertarians have no idea what they’re talking about. The theoretical discussions about this issue are just bizarre. The self-fulfilling logic is as follows: 1) Lots of people are getting paid at the minimum rate. This implies that many people who are worth less than the minimum will not be able to get jobs. 2) Not many people are getting paid the minimum rate . This shows you that everybody is worth more than the minimum rate and therefore the minimum wage rule is a wasted effort.

I’m gonna tell you a little story – actually two little stories, compare and contrast. Assume there’s no truth to either. Fiction. It’s just for entertainment. See if you can ascertain the moral.


My daughter goes to school downtown. She takes public transportation. She buys a bag of tokens every week for the bus at student rates and I get her a monthly pass for the train. The other day she calls me on her cell phone. That is, she calls my cell phone from her cell phone, which is OK because we’re on a family plan. She says, "Daddy, I fell asleep on the bus and when I woke up we had passed the station. Now I’m lost. What do I do?" So I ask her to read the street signs and she gives me a couple names, which I plug into MapQuest, which is already up on the screen. Bad section of town.

Two minutes later, still on the phone, I’m in my car heading downtown. Her cell phone has a good charge on it, but mine doesn’t, so I plug in the adapter and start charging while I’m still talking with her. My map is open on the passenger seat and I see she’s approaching a bus intersection, so I tell her how to get a transfer and when to get off. She goes the wrong way, but we get it fixed up after she gives me a few more street signs and landmarks. I meet the second bus at a convenient location and realize that we’re not going to be able to get home before her lesson, so I stop at a local store, buy her another notebook and pick up a gallon of milk. Then I take her straight to her lesson, whereupon I call my wife to find out whether she can pick her up after the lesson. If not, I wait. Otherwise I go to the Home Depot to look at the insulation and replacement windows for the house. Our house, I should say. We just paid off the last of the mortgage. My wife wants to re-mortgage to pay for home improvements, but I’d rather do them myself or wait until we can afford it.

Now, my other kids go to private school because quality education is extremely important to us, but my youngest was able to get into the special public school, which was up to our standards. We were thrilled For one thing, we saved a lot of money. After-tax money, I wanna tell ya. So, the transportation money and the cell phone and half a dozen other things that we used to think about, that’s just chicken feed. Our other kids carpool and ride their bikes, so it works out well.


My daughter has a friend in the public school whose mother works in a warehouse up in the northeast some place making minimum wage. I know she could get more over the river for the same work, but then her daughter couldn’t go to the same school and she wouldn’t be close to the grandmother who does daycare for the younger ones. She asks for a raise every so often, but the boss just laughs at her. She’s a little ADHD and imagines this is the only job she could do. The boss tells her she’s lucky.

She’s on the bus route, but usually walks to work so she can afford the daughter’s tokens, and also because she buys three cigarettes at the corner store for a dollar. The train would get the daughter to school much faster than the three buses, but there’s never enough money for the rent at the end of the month, much less for the monthly pass. The only reason she shells out for the tokens is that her daughter can buy them at school. Since she often works a double shift, she doesn’t have time to go buy one at the train station.

The prices of public transportation are really outrageous. I believe there are three reasons for this: 1) Unions are greedy and always schedule their actions around the election cycle, so the mayor usually just folds rather than endure the negative publicity. 2) Every time an accident takes place, somebody sues the bus company for a zillion dollars, and they usually get it. 3) The public portion of the funding seems to just disappear. … But then again, I might be all wrong. Maybe the prices reflect legitimate market forces.

So anyway, the girl’s half-brother goes to the same school. One morning he gets yelled at by a teacher. He and his friends decide to ditch school for a day. They jump the turnstile and take the train out to one of the friend’s houses. Transit police do nothing. Meanwhile, the girl finds out what her half-brother is up to and decides to call her mother. She borrows my daughter’s cell phone, sneaks into the bathroom and calls the warehouse. The mother is on break smoking one of her cigarettes under the exhaust fan. She can’t hear the supervisor yelling for her, and the supervisor doesn’t want to leave his post. He makes a couple dollars more and doesn’t want to be docked. The girl then calls the grandmother, who can’t really understand the situation or what to do about it. The girl won’t call the boy’s father because the father is abusive and she doesn’t want to get the boy in trouble. She walks out of the bathroom thinking about the problem with the cell phone in her hand. A teacher confiscates the cell phone and it’s several hours before she can contact her mother.

When the mother finds out, she waits until break time, tells the boss her problem, clocks out, and walks over to her friend’s house. Can she borrow the car? OK, if you gas it up for me. She arrives at the house to find two drunk boys. Her son is missing. The alcohol had a bad effect, and he left the house in some sort of rage. They thought he might be walking home. Hours later she finds out her son is in the hospital, badly injured. She goes to visit the boy three days a week. The father refuses. The daughter now lives with her biological father, who is happy that he doesn’t need to send grocery money any more.


At the end of that day, I got a phone call from the school saying I had to pick up the phone. I scolded my daughter that night for lending the phone out and grumbled about the inconvenience of driving to school.


So what is my feeling about the minimum wage? IMO, the market is not fair. The market is not efficient. The market is not wise. Many people are trapped into very inefficient decisions. It’s not as bad as the old company store scam, but it’s not good either. People don’t know what they’re worth. They lack mobility. They may be unassertive, even meek. They are often uninformed and poor negotiators. Some of these people may also have issues that make them vulnerable to manipulation. Employers don’t fire them because it’s too hard to replace them, but they don’t pay them any more than the minimum because they don’t have to. In general, the assumptions behind the economic models do not apply.

Poor people don’t have sufficient flexibility to fix problems ahead of time, before little problems turn to big problems. They don’t know how to defend themselves. They don’t know where to go or what to do. So poor people end up paying for social corruption, economic distortions, crime and stupidity. The middle class pays for the mistakes of the poor, and the upper class campaigns against taxes and opines on such academic subjects as the minimum wage, the death tax, socialized medicine, real estate prices and why Ted Kennedy is a buffoon.

Society is not well organized. The class strata are pulling apart. People in a position to change things don’t really understand what’s happening, and may not care. We need to institute social mechanisms that have a chance of addressing these problems.

6/25/2006 12:57 AM

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

High Rise Emissions

Here is a counter-intuitive article from the Sydney Morning Herald showing that, at least in Australia, per capita CO2 emissions in high rise buildings exceed those from other dwelling types. I would have expected some sort of economies of scale to apply.

6/22/2006 1:16 PM

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Spam in Oz

One of the areas in which I act responsibly -- there are a few -- is spam and virus control. I get very little spam, mostly because of AOL's spam control features, but also because I religiously report spam to AOL. They have very effective bayesian filters, but you have to keep on top the problem.

According to The Age, two thirds of all e-mail is spam and one-tenth of that is scam, i.e. malicious efforts to swindle, mislead, and steal from you. The Aussies have nationalized some of what AOL does for you by building a national dataset of spam. They hooked up with Microsoft for a fix to Outlook that allows automatic forwarding and deletion of spam. Does anyone use Outlook? I wonder if Americans can take advantage of the feature? At any rate, they take it a little more seriously than we do. Companies can be fined up to $10 million for spamming.

Ah yes, Evolution in action. That which does not destroy us, makes us strong.

6/22/2006 10:58 AM

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Freedom and Prosperity in Vietnam

The prosperity of a country is, admittedly, a complex issue. What are the causes? I'm inclined to believe that free markets, honest business practices and political freedom have more impact than natural resources. The freedom accorded to women seems to have a particularly large impact. And, in fact, some people have speculated that natural resources may work against you. So why is Vietnam poor?

At any rate, there is a long running discussion about Vietnam and its prospects over on FreeFrankWarner. I am not an expert on Vietnam. I try not to think about it at all. Nevertheless, I can't resist posting rebuttals to one individual, now living in the West, who thinks that the US is bad, Vietnam is good and Ho Chi Minh was the George Washington of his people.

Here's my latest effort:

The following data comes from the Wikipedia lists of countries series, first by GDP, second by degree of political freedom.

Here is a combined list of the Central and Eastern European countries or those formerly associated with the Soviet Union. Next to each country is its average national income per person as it appears on Wikipedia (GDP using PPP adjustment). To the left is an indication of the current status of the country, where F indicates Free, P indicates Partly and N indicates Not. Please note that 11 of the first 12 are functioning multi-party democracies. 12 of 12 if you insist on Russia.

Status / Country / GDP per capita

F Slovenia 21911
F Czech Republic 18375
F Hungary 17405
F Estonia 16414
F Slovakia 16041
F Lithuania 14158
F Poland 12994
F Latvia 12622
F Croatia 12158
NF Russia 11041
F Bulgaria 9223
F Romania 8785
NF Kazakhstan 8318
NF Turkmenistan 8098
NF Belarus 7711
F Ukraine 7156
PF Bosnia and Herzegovina 6035
F Serbia and Montenegro 5348
PF Albania 4764
NF Azerbaijan 4601
PF Armenia 4270
PF Moldova 2374
PF Kyrgyzstan 2088
NF Uzbekistan 1920
NF Tajikistan 1388
PF Georgia (country) ?
PF Macedonia ?

Is this sufficient reason to infer that democracy and freedom have something to do with prosperity?

6/21/2006 11:43 PM

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Homo floresiensis Just Big Enough

Argument over Homo floresiensis making tools despite small brain

There is a real knock down, drag out battle going in anthropology today. It’s ostensibly about Homo floresiensis, the so-called Hobbit. One group insists that this is a new species of tool-using hominids which has "devolved" from ancient Homo erectus, losing stature and brain size because of environmental pressures. The other group insists just as adamantly that the fossil evidence suggests an unusual variant of Homo sapiens afflicted by microcephaly.

Tools have been found near small-brained hominid fossil bones, which suggests that the two finds are related. Can such a small brain support such a complex activity? We’re not talking about trimming sticks to go fishing for termites. We’re talking about tools that the average person today would have great difficulty learning to fabricate.

Whatever the outcome of this particular contest, it should be understood that the subtext is more important than the issue. The real question is whether human evolution is irrevocable. Are we evolving today? Can we evolve in a direction that makes us less human? Many people, including scientists, are uncomfortable with this possibility.

Those who discovered the hobbit believe it evolved from a larger bodied, larger brained ancestor that shrank over time as it was isolated on the island.
The fact that the hominid could still make stone tools despite its shrinking brain suggests toolmaking was key to survival on the island.
This supports the argument that technology helps humans survive changing environments.

CBS’s 60 Minutes recently had a segment on the Hobbit. Science News had a snippet recently. The possibility that humans evolve is big news to many. The idea that they can evolve in this particular way is even bigger news. In fact, as explained by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel, humans areevolving rapidly as a reaction to disease more than anything. Increasing population density since the advent of agriculture exposes us to pandemic and endemic pathogens that represent serious challenges to survival and constant selection pressure. Anything that helps protect us from these scourges will come to predominate in the gene pool. In recent centuries we have also been confronted by manmade toxins of various kinds: pollution, lead, chemicals, radiation, medical and pre-medical practices, recreational drugs, and most definitely alcohol. These things also have an effect. They provide differential filters, i.e. selection pressures.

This idea, that we adapt to dangerous aspects of the environment, is, however, more comforting than disturbing. Sure we get tougher, people might think. The disturbing aspect is that we might be sacrificing brainpower as we adapt. Very few adaptations are for free. When salamander populations are trapped in a lightless cave, they develop intensified senses. But, a big but, they lose their eyesight. Evolution moves away from the unnecessary as quickly as it moves toward the advantageous. Bird species can lose their wings. How much more fundamental can you get? If I were a bird, I would be against that.

The ability to run fast seems to be an unalloyed benefit for humans. Suppose that a mutation occurs which reduces running speed, but helps to prevent malaria. It would quickly spread through the population, at least of Africa. The relative benefit is what matters. Humans run fast enough for most purposes. Malaria causes more problems for us than slowness. Natural selection doesn’t care about excellence. A population of thoroughbred horses released into the wild would probably become slower in subsequent generations.

Excellence of thought is also an expensive luxury. Does it pay off? Maybe not. I believe that raw brainpower has actually been diminishing for centuries. It probably peaked in the Neolithic. If you look at the cave paintings of Lascaux, you’ll see what I mean. Who could do that? Within a very small population were the skills needed for making sophisticated hand weapons, tracking animals, identifying edible plants, where and when they appear, making clothing from raw materials, memorizing rituals, and making beautiful paintings in the caves. How many of us today could perform these tasks? The artistic skills may have been byproducts of survival skills. They may also have been used by individuals to advertise their mental fitness.

In either case, the skills became unnecessary as time went by. Agriculture has imposed different selective pressures. Agriculture has also given us substitutes for brainpower. Place and custom propel our daily actions. Writing substitutes for memory. Good teaching practices make us more easily smart. The brute processing power of the brain is no longer as necessary. Maybe Einstein was a throwback.

Suppose, for some reason, that our diets were to become severely restricted for many generations, that malnutrition became common, even in the most sophisticated cultures. What would be the evolutionary response? I think that bodies and brain sizes would become smaller, but those parts of the brain which support necessary learning functions would not shrink. This is essentially the Hobbit’s story.

6/19/2006 11:50 PM

Previous posts on Homo floresiensis:

Hobbits Unleashed 10/12/2005
The Hobbit and Our Self-Image 06/18/2005

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Zarqawi and Iran

Allahpundit has an interesting article in Salon about Zarqawi, Iran and Michael Ledeen. Ledeen is apparently claiming that the captured strategy document, presumed to be written by Zarqawi, is bogus, a plant to take our eyes off the real enemy, which Ledeen sees as Iran. The question to me is, who would benefit? The forces in question are 1) Iran, 2) Al Qaeda in Iraq, 3) the Iraqi government, favored by Sistani, 4) the Sadrists, 5) the Baathist insurgency, 6) the Neo-cons, 7) Bin Laden, 8) the Kremlin, 9) Israel, 10) Saudi Arabia, 11) the Paleo-cons, 12) anti-war leftists in the US, 13) the CIA, 14) China, 15) ET.

Opportunity certainly points to the American forces. Those forces are under control of the military that reports directly to the executive branch of the US government, meaning Bush and the Republicans. Is there a battle between the Neos and the Paleos that would warrant such sophisticated disinformation? I really have no idea how all these other groups feel about the document. I imagine that 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 13 are happy about its publication, although 1, 4, 8, 11 and 12 would be happy about its effect of taking Iran off the hook. Not knowing how the document was obtained, I can only guess that opportunity was limited to Americans, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Baathist insurgency, but who would have such a document ready to plant on a moment's notice? Only the Americans, which means one of the Cons or the CIA, not the leftists. (3 is conceivable.)

I have noticed over the last year that there has been an impressive persuasion campaign designed to make war with Iran look necessary, inevitable and winnable. Michael Ledeen has played a big part in that phenomenon. I have to admit that I have been onboard with the necessary and inevitable part of that argument since before the argument was made, probably since 1979. The Zarqawi document makes me wonder, though. And Ledeen's single-minded alarmism has begun to rub me the wrong way. He seems to have an inside track, but I have no reason to believe that he wouldn't say anything to further his cause.

It may be that the Mullahs can be persuaded, that only Ahmadinejad is crazy. If Zarqawi truly believed that they needed a push, then I'm in favor of rethinking the issue. Let's put our support behind Condi and see what she can do.

6/17/2006 12:32 PM

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Friday, June 16, 2006

SciAm to Stem Cancer

The July issue of Scientific American just arrived in the mail today. Among other interesting pieces, it has an article on mechanisms of cancer, a subject that I was thinking about recently. Michael F. Clarke and Michael W. Becker have produced a very convincing summary of research on stem cells and their relation to cancer. They contend that the treatment of many cancers is partial and doomed to fail because it addresses only the end result of the development cascade. Malfunctioning stem cells are the real culprits.

Stem cells are, of course, those undifferentiated cells that are capable of reproducing and programmed to produce specific tissue types in specific situations. The surrounding somatic cells, called a niche, send signals to the stem cell, sometimes causing it to reproduce. Each time stem cells split into two cells, one cell is a perfect copy and the second is more specialized. They spin off such daughter cells in a very choreographed manner, where progressive specialization and carefully controlled reproduction are used to create a non-reproducing final product.

Injuries and insults to the stem cell, such as radiation or copy errors, may cause its programming to change. The aberrant stem cell may appear normal, and so may its daughter cells of the first several generations, but the abnormal end result may lose its self-regulation capacity. There may even be a feedback process by which the abnormal niche cells signal for aberrant stem cells to reproduce. If the tissue is detected as abnormal and medically treated, the treatment will probably be designed to target abnormal growth only and to preserve surrounding healthy cells. Those "healthy" cells, however, may harbor the true source of the cancer. Maybe we need to attack the cannon rather than the shells.

Clarke and Becker outline four scenarios of malignancy. A) The cancerous stem cell either induces or waits for a change allowing proliferation of the niche cells, which then call for more abnormal stem cells. B) A change in the stem cell allows it to adapt to other, perhaps inappropriate, niches. C) Mutation in the stem cell causes it to ignore signals from the niche cells. D) Progenitor cells, already holding one or more mutations from the damaged stem cell, independently develop another mutation that pushes them over the edge into self-reproduction.

The only weaknesses I see in the theory are 1) it struggles to explain the time lapse between the original trigger and the inception of the cancer, and 2) it doesn’t explain the unexpected self-defense mechanisms that some cancers develop.

6/16/2006 12:46 AM

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Andy Green's Green Machine

An engineer from the U. of Bath, UK, has created a 90-pound car that can get 8,000 miles/gal. OK, maybe he's exaggerating, but he built it himself. I'd like to know what Detroit (if that's still where it's at) is doing wrong. Too many cooks maybe? I'd also like to know whether Mr. Green could build me a version, say ten times bigger, that only gets 800 miles/gal. That would be OK, don't ya think?

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Was Bill Gates in Slytherin?

If you were ever thinking of changing over to Linux, now might be the time to do it. Apparently Microsoft's new update to verify the legitimacy of your OS is apparently a Trojan Horse. It basically changes your system from passive support to active. MS can shut you down at will. Now, I've noticed this happening anyway when MS has a "security" upgrade. They shut my system down. No matter what I have going on. Even with their own software. It has infuriated me of course. I usually lose something I considered valuable. Maybe my computer and I are already in deep doo-doo. I don't know.

Have I ever told you, I also hate their software? Looks great. Less useful. Lots of crashes. Bulimious bloatware. I've also got issues with AOL for the same sort of meddling, and same sort of crashing.

Why do I have the feeling that every upgrade is roughly equivalent to a home invasion? Are my gestalt enemy sensors going hypercritical on me? [ed.: He wants to know if you think he's paranoid.]

6/11/2006 9:22 PM

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Honor Zarqawi

Give him the respect he deserves. I have penned a few odes in his honor. Forgive my inadequate skills. Contributions welcome.

There was a young thug named Zarqawi
Whose friend told the Air Force here are we.
They dropped a full plate
Split open his pate
And twenty-five mil. to canary.

The bombs blew a part of old Zarq
From Baghdad to Asberry Park.
Where it frightened a dog
Who bit that old log
Beheading it neat with a bark.

He prayed with an "Allahu akbar!"
Gave sermons with only a ka-bar
His words were so pious
To his parents surprious
‘Cause he spent his youth drunk in a rock bar.

6/9/2006 11:25 AM

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Haditha and the Uses of Brutality

Haditha and the Uses of Brutality

People think of Hannibal as a bloodthirsty conqueror, sort of an early version of Atilla, the famous "Scourge of God". Hannibal was the product of an admittedly bloodthirsty religion that worshipped the monstrous Baal of the Furnace. What people don’t realize, however, is that Hannibal failed to conquer Rome only because he was insufficiently ruthless.

The people of the Italian Peninsula hated Rome, but were terrified of her. They well knew that Rome would avenge any betrayal by decimation, killing every tenth man, or more likely by total destruction. Hannibal, on the other hand, merely asked for their help and tried to win their support for his cause by reason and bargaining. In the end his approach did not work, and the consequence of his forbearance was that his people were ultimately destroyed, obliterated, removed from History. The very soil of his homeland was plowed with salt.

The US has in the past well understood Hannibal’s failing. In the Civil War Lincoln made a mistake with General George McClellan who was famous for preparation and forbearance. After realizing his error, Lincoln then hired and fired until he found some generals that "would fight", Grant and Sherman. You may have heard of them. In World War I, the US allowed Europe to call the shots and negotiate its own peace terms. That was a mistake. Those terms, both too punitive and insufficiently stern, led to World War II. Both wars can easily be viewed as an interrupted whole because nothing had really changed. The US learned the lesson that the Europeans could not learn and, being sufficiently ruthless, accepted nothing short of unconditional surrender in both theaters of WWII.

We still beat our breasts about it, but Harry Truman did the exact right thing by dropping the A-bombs on Japan. He saved many months of war and hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. He was, by disposition, a nice guy, but he was not one to pull a punch. But the most important thing he did was to prosecute the postwar occupations of Germany and Japan with the intent of effecting change. He had no nostalgia for days gone by and no high-minded love of cultural preservation that would have stayed his hand. He had sufficient ruthlessness to irreversibly disrupt the antiquated and disfunctional social mechanisms that were the real enemies of world peace. He created (with the help of McArthur in Japan) two miracles of modernity. From the ashes of the phoenix there arose choirs of angels. Boy was he a bastard!

Now we have recently discovered something else he did which was not too nice. An event took place early in the Korean War where a large number of desperate civilians were mowed down by American guns. The meaning of that event was suppressed for 50 years. Well, the story as partially uncovered became that American soldiers had fired on these civilians in a fit of panic. Untested soldiers in retreat did not know what to do. Uh huh. Now, a new story is unfolding that puts a different spin on it. The action was deliberate, ordered in fact by the officers. Shades of Haditha or Mai Lai perhaps? Another reason for Americans to hang their heads in shame?

I would argue that this is not so. The political nature of the World hung in the balance. We were fighting what would become the most brutal, totalitarian government on the planet. Indirectly, we were also fighting Chairman Mao, the Obliterator, the Merciless, the greatest political exterminator of all time, and in fact we were engaged in an orderly but hopeless retreat. The full story, as it has come out (if it has come out),

is that we had warned the civilians repeatedly and firmly that they must not approach American lines or they would be killed. Assuming the worst is true, these civilians ignored the orders and were deliberately killed to prevent agents of the North from infiltrating American lines.

Who am I to judge such a thing? It was a horrible choice, but was it for the best? For myself, I think the present state of South Korea is a blessing worth the many prices that were paid. I believe the South constitutes its own section in the aforementioned choir.

Now, what was the biggest act of ruthlessness on the part of America? It was called MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction. It could have destroyed Civilization. It could have ended the Age of Mammals. We may not be home free even today. It was, however, the only conceivable defense against the Soviet Union, holder of the title as second most ruthless annihilatorof innocents. MAD sustained us for decades until the Soviet Union collapsed from the weight of its own wickedness, and a particularly inefficient economic model. MAD ended up killing exactly zero innocents. Many intellectual Americans thought that MAD was the primary wickedness, including my personal hero, Carl Sagan. I do not agree. I believe that the primary responsibility of the US was and is to preserve the flicker of hope represented by the shared values of Western Civilization.

Let’s compare a couple of events. Looking at the mistakes of Versailles and Munich, and the accomplishments of Harry Truman, where would we place the following events? The Hostage Crisis of 1979. The bombing of the US Marine Barracks in Lebanon. The Somalia Campaign. The Overthrow of the Taliban. The Overthrow of Saddam. The Occupation of Iraq. Should I mention the Abandonment of South Vietnam? I think you can guess my answers to all of these items. It’s nice to be nice, but there is no substitute for victory. Unless, of course, you are fighting someone more civilized than yourself.

OK, so let’s talk about Haditha. Here’s my take. If you want a reasonable balance of warfighting and police work, you send in the Army. If you are prepared to be ruthless, as ruthless as the enemy is, send in the Marines. Please note that I am praising the Marines here. Maybe they shouldn’t have been sent to Haditha, but there are times when you need them, because there are times when you must be ruthless in the face of a ruthless enemy. And when people are shooting at you from behind a bulwark of innocents, you need to effect measures that will stop that from happening. God, how we try to soften the blow.

6/5/2006 10:01 PM

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Send Alaa Home!

And, incidentally, Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt and also Egypt

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Don't Tell Me to Shut Up!

I just got the last copy of the June, 2006, Harper's magazine over at Borders. I was over there first thing in the morning (10AM). I don't know whether they've sold out or they're only putting out one copy at a time.

As you may be aware, this is the copy with the twelve cartoons of Muhammad. I've got to say that Harper's relies heavily on the First Amendment. Not only did they publish them, but they included a careful critique by Art Spiegelman explaining and evaluating each according to its artistic merit as a political cartoon. Instead of stars, he has awarded little bombs to each cartoon -- zero to four according to its merit toward warranting a fatwa. Border's claimed they weren't going to put these things out

I greatly admire Art Spiegelman, famous for his graphic arts depiction of the Holocaust, the Pulitzer winning Maus. He started a graphic arts phenomenon with that book. You can read an interview with him about the cartoon jihad here. He's basically a reasonable guy, rare in the world of political cartoons.

I'm going to subscribe to Harper's now just because they had the nerve to print the cartoons. Believe me, most of what they print sets my teeth on edge. The first article in the issue also tests the limits of the First Amendment. It is basically a rancid diatribe by Ben Metcalf against President Bush. It is so graphically violent that I think he must be a pulp novelist. It ends with an explicit threat against Bush. He’s hoping to be arrested, I think. I’m hoping no one’s dumb enough to give him the publicity. It’s no accident that Harper’s put this in the same issue.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the few American papers to print the cartoons, is also on my purchase list, though it would have been anyway. Yesterday's column by Trudy Rubin is an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the bravest opponents of Islam's tendency to violence.

6/2/2006 10:42 AM

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