Monday, December 18, 2006

Just beginning

This war is just starting to get interesting. Until everyone's against it, there's really no reason to be for it. You'll just be one of a crowd. But now, when everyone's saying it can't possibly work, why that's the time to get into the details and figure out what's going on and what startling results could occur if things don't go as expected. And, of course, they never go as expected. That's why I can't believe these global warming buffoons. They're tying their whole view of the world to their ability to predict - wait for it - the WEATHER!! And not just next week, but a hundred years from now! Who could imagine anything so stupid could gain a mass following? Oh, sure, Spengler, but he must be the Antichrist. Me, I will decline the opportunity to be wrong about the weather. It's too easy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Did you dance for rain?

So everyone is dancing for rain today, even though it was sprinkling most of the day here in Tallahassee. I didn't bother to dance. But I thought of another metaphor for voting. It's sort of like buying a lottery ticket, and thinking your purchase is going to affect the outcome of the lottery. Or buying a ticket on a horse and thinking you've made a difference in how the horse runs. The difference between voting and buying a lottery ticket is that your chance of winning anything - unless you're actually running for office - is vanishingly small. Hmm. Actually that's also true of buying a lottery ticket. But there at least you've got a hundred-to-one or so chance of getting a free ticket or five bucks. So if voting gets you nothing, why do so many people do it, why do all these idiots insist that everyone has a "duty" to vote?
I guess idiocy loves company. It's like the emperor's new clothes. If anyone admitted the true state of affairs, that, no, an individual vote doesn't do anything except gain you the transitory approbation of your fellows, the system would collapse. Of course further analysis reveals that not only does an individual vote not count for anything, even if it did, it wouldn't matter at all which candidate won in most times, most situations. And buying into the voting myth cements the officeholders in power, the last thing most people really want. But it is a spectacle.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Islamic analysis

Rants and Raves has a sharp and interesting essay on Arabs and tribalism and what he found out by living in Saudi for a year. A sample:
1) They don’t think the same way we do.

3) Their values are fundamentally different from ours, their self-esteem is derived from a different source.

And you know what? Theirs is PHONY.

So I just had to comment, based on observing my sister's attitude after living among Muslims for almost ten years now and my own observations from a mere ten days, but an interesting ten days, in Egypt:
Excellent. The amazing thing is that so many Westerners can live among Arabs for years and fail to grasp the obvious facts you lay out.

I gleaned an interesting factoid from Spengler's The Decline of the West: the rise of Islamic civilization was largely traceable to the role of Jews, who were especially important in Moorish Spain. Arabs were as dependent on Jews then as they are on Westerners now. I believe many educated Arabs realize this and know that when they kicked all the Jews out of Arab lands, who then mostly went to Israel, they doomed themselves to social and cultural primitivism. This despair makes a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian problem impossible.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Thinking of the idiocy that is global warming theory, I was reminded of another collectivist delusion. Communists and fascists have long thought that a government can run an economy more efficiently than the free market. All it takes is massive amounts of computing power and the right theory, which they figured was handed to them by Marx or Hitler or Mussolini. How complex could it be? And for decades, seven in the case of Russian Communism, economies were massively screwed up, with hardly enough money produced for military needs. North Korea today is the poster child for the success of central economic planning.
Apparently collectivists cannot let go of their obsession with central planning. After losing on the economy, costing many millions of lives, they've turned their attention to the weather. Just put enough computers together with really smart people and not only can we come up with a theory that will convince people that the earth is in danger, but we can show them how to save the planet by simply turning their economic prosperity over to the weatherman computer geek. Right, the same computer geek who can't tell you within a thousand years when the local volcano is going to erupt next. And the same one who can't tell you within five degrees what the temperature will be five days from now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Help with smoking

I need some help with my smoking. I never smoked tobacco when I was younger. I'm 58 now and I think it would be appropriate to my dignity to start smoking a pipe. My father smoked one and I have often remarked on the attractive fragrance of pipe tobacco. I bought myself a pipe and some tobacco and tried it out. Twice so far. The second time I felt a bit sick and disoriented. I still want to smoke, though and don't want to fail at this endeavor. I don't seem to be able to get myself to keep at it long enough to make it a habit. Sort of like playing my violin. I wonder if there's some easy way to get started. I aspire to the Sherlock Holmesian state of heightened mental functioning, which he attributed in part to smoking shag tobacco. Maybe I need a deerstalker cap. Hey, and he played the violin, too!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What he said

From the Ayn Rand Institute website (hat tip to Diana Hsieh):
It is often said that we must win the "hearts and minds" of supporters of totalitarian Islam. Indeed we must: their hearts must be made to despair at the futility of their cause, and their minds must be convinced that any threat to our lives and freedom will bring them swift and certain doom.

Amen, brother. Amen.

I am impressed by this Adamant guy. I just can't see why he has so few commenters when idiots like Kos and Andrew Sullivan have hundreds. You don't think that's because most people are idiots, do you???

Here's a sample of Adamant:
Al Qaeda cadres and Islamist Kashmiri separatists can readily lose themselves among the flux of refugees in a region famed for discreet hospitality. It cannot have escaped Osama Bin Laden's attention that in the 19th century the Aga Khan spent tranquil years in Hunza while internecine war made him a hunted man elsewhere in the Islamic world.

Lots of stuff you won't see anywhere else.

Monday, September 11, 2006

John Buchan, Greenmantle:
As I follow events, there's a skunk been let loose in the world, and the odour of it is going to make life none too sweet till it is cleared away. It wasn't us that stirred up that skunk, but we've got to take a hand in disinfecting the planet.

Plus ca change, eh? And at that particular time British troops were having a hot time in Basra and the Persian Moslems were stirring up trouble.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

As I continue to read Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West", I get a clearer and clearer picture of just what Islam is and how it works. This is useful in an era when, as related by Victor Davis Hanson at RealClearPolitics:

Islamic fascism is also anti-democratic and characteristically reactionary. It conjures up a past of Islamic influence that existed before the supposed corruption of modernism. Like Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, who sought to recapture lost mythical Aryan, Roman or samurai purity, so Islamic fascists talk in romantic terms of the ancient caliphate.

many are reluctant to call Islamists "fascists" because, after all, they're just like us. Well, they're not just like us. Their thinking is completely different from that of men reared in the Western tradition. To use concepts borrowed from Julian Jaynes' "The Emergence of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", the Islamic consciousness does not recognize individuality at all. For instance, for Muslims there is no such concept as the separation of church and state. It isn't considered and rejected. It just isn't imagined. Anyone who mentions it must be mad or evil or both. The words of the Koran (which word itself, Spengler relates, means "reading") are not just a historical account or a series of exhortations. They are the stuff of life, or, as we might perhaps say, the fabric of space/time.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rate your spam

Certainly spam can be mocked and hated, but why not get a little more analytical about it? There's well-done, technically and artistically proficient spam - that almost, very nearly gets you to open it - and there's terrible, loser spam. I say tackle some of the boredom of wading through sixteen spam messages when you sit down to the computer and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, or ! to !), if you want to be consistent. I mean, Mrs. Suha Arafat sat there typing for hours to get the information to you that she has six billion dollars that she desperately needs to transfer into your bank account and all you have to do is come up with your numbers. You could at least be grateful and appreciate her grammar, spelling and diction.

It's interesting to consider the art of misspelling spam messages just enough to get past the spam filter but not so grotesquely that the message doesn't get through. There's a PH.D. thesis there for some semiologist or semioticist or linguistician of some stripe. I mean, who would have thought years ago that everyone in the world who spoke English would have known immediately what the string "e*&^$#e your p(*@!s!" meant? It could mean "enrage your pyjamas" if it had a slightly different character count.
If you didn't dance, you can't complain

Today is Primary Election Day in Tallahassee and everyone is going around wearing those self-righteous "I voted" stickers. I've been searching for a metaphor to explain the voting phenomenon. And finally it came to me. It's like a rain dance. Your village is having a drought and everyone gets together and someone says,
"I have an idea! Let's do a rain dance! That will propitiate the gods and bring rain. But only if everyone participates!"
So everyone runs around strong-arming everyone else into doing the rain dance. But when they come to you, you assert your independence and say, "I don't think rain dancing will bring rain, so I won't dance."
They all dance and wear little stickers afterward, saying "I danced for rain".
Now one of two things will happen, although it won't matter to you, because they'll probably kill you for not dancing. It will rain or it won't. If you do survive, and it rains, everyone will mock you and say, "Since you didn't dance, you can't share in the benefits of the rain." If it doesn't rain, they'll be even more likely to kill you, but if they let you live, they might well say something like,
"Since you didn't dance, you can't complain about there not being any rain."
So that's how much sense voting makes. It won't do you any good to explain calmly that not only do rain dances not bring rain, but that, even if they did, your single non-participation in a rain dance would hardly be crucial to the success of a rain dance that had any pizzazz to it at all. I guess I should be glad that society has progressed from rain dances to voting. You don't get killed for not voting. Yet.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rare Headlines

In the category of headlines you don't see very often, from Fox:

Balloon Fire Kills Circus Clown

Continuing the Eastern Europe theme from the last post, the doomed clown (I know it's heartless to say so, but that's still funny!) was from Belarus.
Cossacks and Tartars and Poles, Oh, My!
I just finished reading Henryk Sienkiewicz's "With Fire and Sword", a mind-bending 1100 pages of fury and passion in the steppes of the Ukraine and Poland. Well, OK, today you've got Belarus and maybe a bit of Moldava in there as well. But I was swept away by the narrative. And there are two more volumes to go! It has pre-echoes of The Lord of the Rings, even Star Wars. It perhaps owes a bit to Gogol's Taras Bulba, but outdoes it by a mile. As a commenter says on another Sienkiewicz work:
This man constructs plots like Alexander Dumas and ranks with Tolstoy's greatest novels for sheer scope.

I like him better than Tolstoy because he is more unapologetically masculine and consumed with notions of honor that are only shamefacedly acknowledged in order to be criticized these days.
I inserted a "meme" I've never seen anywhere else on a backtalk post that opined thusly:
...the only real question is this: what approach would you favor if you became convinced that Iran's actual plan was to develop a nuclear bomb no matter what they verbally agree to do in response to UN demands and no matter what the cost might be in terms of economic sanctions?

What then?

Here's the comment:
If Iran gets the bomb, why not let it slip that the Iraqi government has also been given access to nukes, to establish the same kind of balance of power that has kept the Indian and Pakistani governments from using their nuclear devices against each other? Iraq and Iran are the only two countries in the world that have fought each other in a war with over a million casualties since World War II.

The immediate response would be that we can't trust the Iraqi government to do the right thing, that giving access to a nuclear bomb to Shi'ites and Sunnis is nothing short of suicide. But those critics will have to explain why we're giving Muslims billions of dollars for all kinds of other weapons. Any Iraqi politician who would stand up to Iran, brandishing a nuke, would win over all the various sects within Iraq and gain enormous standing in the Arab world as their savior against the Persians. To say the least, it would change the political calculus.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Comment on Jihadwatch

Radical, infidel-butchering Islam is as powerful an ideology in large parts of the Islamic world today as Nazism was in the early twentieth century in Germany. So it will take as much death and violence, proportionate to population, to extirpate radical Islam from the Islamic world as it did to root out Nazism from Germany. And if that job is not done, we can expect the same results as if Nazism had not been excised from Germany. Not a nice prospect, but where has my reasoning gone wrong?
Name-dropper extraordinaire

Just finished reading The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig. What a wonderful book! It starts before the turn of the twentieth century and ends with Zweig's suicide in Brazil during World War II.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I love you, Caroline Glick!

This splendid piece in the Jerusalem Post is delivered by a splendid young woman who may be the last real man left in Israel:
Diplomatically, in the space of five weeks the government managed to undermine Israel's alliance with America; to hand Syria, Hizbullah and Iran the greatest diplomatic achievements they have ever experienced; and to flush down the toilet the unprecedented international support that US President Bush handed to Israel on a silver platter at the G-8 summit.

The job of the foreign minister is to defend Israel and advance Israel's national interests to foreigners, not to be their friend.

Because of the Olmert government's failures, ever greater battles await us. As the dangers mount by the hour, we must replace this misbegotten government with one that can defend us.

I don't really have to tell you to read the whole thing, do I?
Government, Lebanese-style

Let it never be said I lack for ideas. I didn't say good ideas, but:
Israel needs to proclaim that they recognize Hezbollah as the only legitimate government of Lebanon and Nasrallah as the head of government and then transfer the state of war to Nasrallah's regime. Then they would be free to attack and destroy the Lebanese army and Hezbollah, wherever they can be found within Lebanon and force Hezbollah to surrender.

Alternatively, they can recognize Syria as the de facto government of Lebanon, with borders containing what is now Lebanon and the capital at Damascus. Then a notice can be sent to Damascus that any aggression toward Israel from Syrian territory will be punished by an immediate attack on Damascus.

This was in response to a post on Pejman's Chequerboard, called "Why Should The Lebanese Government Be Strengthened?" linking to a New York Times story about Hezbollah's role in the reconstruction of Lebanon that they caused to be destroyed. What a bunch of guys! How good is that? Reminds me of that line in Back to the Future where the bully Buzz or Fuzz or whatever his name is (Biff - ed.) wrecks Marty McFly's father's car and then upbraids the wimpish dad thusly: "I have your car towed all the way back to your house and all you've got for me is light beer!@?"
Diana Hsieh's rather despairing post about the outcome of the Hezbollah War of 2006, typified by this line:
Without a doubt, any supposed military victory in which the enemy is also capable of declaring victory to the world is no victory at all.

stimulated me to leave this comment on Noodlefood:
The only good thing about Olmert's half-war is that its outcome seems to have stiffened Israeli spines considerably. I am now seeing talk about transfer of Islamic terrorist sympathizers and reannexation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank (Judea and Samaria) that would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago. It is now utterly clear to anyone who really wants to see that Israel needs defensible borders. And I wouldn't worry about the Muslims calling a defeat a victory. They do that every time. There's a huge square in downtown Cairo called Midan Tahrir (apparently "Tahrir" means "victory"). I asked what victory it commemorated. I was told the great victory over the Israelis in 1973 (The Yom Kippur war). That war ended with Israeli armies 101 kilometers from Cairo and occupying all of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Islam is nothing but self-deception.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

This VDARE article by Steve Sailer about how to deal with Islam:
"Can we all get along?"
Well, when it comes to Muslims and Westerners, the answer is:

No, we can't.

So, deal with it. When we get in each other's faces, we get on each other's nerves. It's time to get out of each other's faces.

In particular, as I outlined last fall, Europeans need to begin a push-pull system to persuade Muslim legal residents to leave.

prompted me to email Sailer thusly:

I agree that we should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and stop supporting Israel just as soon as we are sure that no Muslims live in this country who could possibly harm us and that we will let no more in. So as soon as Congress passes a Muslim exclusion measure and it is enforced at our borders and all foreign students from Muslim countries are prevented from attending US colleges and universities and all Muslim "scholars" are barred from conferences in this country, we can retreat from their godforsaken dustholes with little danger. And soon after that pigs will fly over the frozen reaches of Hell.

Since our political system will never - as in NEVER - bar Muslims from this country on the basis of their religion or ethnicity, your suggestion is futile at best and disingenuous at worst. Until the concept of "diversity" and the deity called "multiculturalism" are expunged from the minds of liberals in positions of political power, such a measure will never be passed and enforced. When will that happen? Oh, did I mention the word "never"?

Robert Speirs
Tallahassee, Florida

So the obvious question arises - what to do, since "disconnect" is politically impossible, at least right now? And the obvious answer is to support a policy that makes the Islamic world pay a price that discourages them from causing trouble for the US. Like, for instance, toppling a couple of regimes that support terrorism. And supporting Israel. Just like Bush is doing. And Sailer's obsessive repetition of the mantra "Invade the World, invite the world" is just as disingenuous as his "disconnect" strategy. For Bush hasn't "Invaded the world". We didn't invade Iran. Or Lebanon. Or the Gaza Strip. We left Saudi Arabia, where we had gone in at the request of the Saudis. The main "invite" problem is with Mexicans, who even VDARE would admit do not pose a significant terrorism problem. The US has hardly invited the rest of the world. The presence of millions of illegal, "uninvited" aliens is evidence of that. Sailer's becoming increasingly "disconnected" all right. From reality.

Monday, August 14, 2006

This is excellent:
Dignity is having your entire neighborhood bombed, your children killed, and your only reaction is to dance in the streets like zulu warriors in support of Hezbollah. That's what dignity, pride and honor are all about. I get that now.

Friday, August 11, 2006

You never expect the Objectivist Inquisition!

Polipundit had a news post about the difficulties of controlling Islamic access to airlines after the recent bomb plot:
Tell me again why it’s ok that security isn’t allowed to pull more then 2 Middle Eastern looking passengers off of airport check-in lines for searches or how nuts it is that security is strip searching a 75 year old grandmother or making a new mother drink her babies formula from the bottle

I have an easy solution:
Require each potential passenger to step on a picture of Mohammed in order to board a plane. Serve pork with every on board meal or snack.
More realistically, all flights from or to nations with a significant portion of Muslims should be funneled through a "quarantine center" where lengthy and utterly thorough investigations of every Islamic passenger are carried out as slowly as possible. They want to mess up the air travel system? Fine. They suffer.
Come to think of it, they should have to pay for it, too. And they should be required to contribute to a disaster fund to compensate victims of any terrorism perpetrated by any Muslims who are citizens of their countries or who trained or plotted with any citizens of their countries. Let's see how long that oil money lasts.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mice, bees and Castro

Marginal Revolution had a speculative post on Castro's situation:
Note that Raul has not shown his face either. Are there alternative hypotheses? The desire for a grand reentrance? After all, a growing number of Cuban officials are talking of Castro's return...

I had to respond to a comment about how if you judged someone's potential for continuing tyranny by whether they appeared on television or not Mickey Mouse would be a tyrant thusly:
"a lot of the world thought that Mickey Mouse was a tyrant during the last century..."

Better ask Minnie about that. And maybe, while you're at it, ask her to answer the question of the century: You and Mickey are mice, Pluto's a dog, Donald's a duck but what the heck is Goofy, anyway?

I can't help thinking though, that the queen bee who is born first after the old queen dies has to go around and kill her royal sisters before they emerge from their cells. If she doesn't act quickly and one emerges, there's a fight to the death.

Maybe El Beardo is in a coma. If Raul is his closest relative on the island and the doctor asks if extraordinary measures should be taken to keep him alive, I wonder what Raul would say? Because I think we know what his daughter in Miami would say. I predict a radical reversal of positions since the Schiavo affair on whether people in comas should be kept alive, especially by the lefty Fidel-is-God crowd.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mark Steyn gets it

A propos of my last post, it would appear that Mark Steyn understands the importance of using the right terminology:

"In the struggle between America and global Islam, ...

After all, since the Islamists are railing against the whole "modern" world, to treat them as a unit would only be "proportionate", right?

Friday, August 04, 2006

War on Islam

OK, for Conundrum purposes, it's no longer the "War on Terror". It's the "War on Islam". Amounts to the same thing, anyway. A real concentration on undermining the existence of the Mohammedan religion is the only practical path to reducing the risks of terrorism. Whatever it takes.
Nazis as role models?

The Cap'n posts about German soldiers protecting Israel's borders:
So now we have the spectacle of another genocidal nutcase threatening to kill off millions of Jews in the form of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the nation that will protect them will be the last nation with the same genocidal impulse, if Olmert gets his way.

Some German history would appear to have application to the process of reducing Islamic terrorists to the Middle Eastern analogue of a bunch of drunken thugs universally despised by the people they live among who are permanently barred from political power:
The involvement of Germany may send a message that a murderous, racist, warmongering ideology which controlled millions of people can, with enough time and effort, be expunged from the soul of a nation. If the influence of Islam in Lebanon or Iraq can be reduced to the level of influence exerted by Nazism in present-day Germany, modern rationalism will have won. Unfortunately, the example of Nazism in Germany shows how much blood and time it can take to extirpate such a violent cult.
Posted by: Robert [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 4, 2006 11:10 AM

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Spengler agrees

I have always said that instability in the Middle East favors the US, not the Islamists.

Now Spengler at the Asia Times agrees with me.:
The benefits of chaos most likely redound to the US and Israel, even though squeamishness prevents Washington from thinking this way. The Iranians, who are utterly ruthless, profligate in the expenditure of human blood, and adept at the use of chaos as a strategic weapon, know just what is afoot.

I think I'll write him a letter.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cedar Fraud

I'm bemused by the lack of attention paid in the press and among pundits of all stripes to the obviously fraudulent nature of the "Cedar Revolution" that supposedly marked the emergence of an independent Lebanese state a couple of years ago. It's now clear that everyone, including me, was fooled by the euphoria of a few upbeat pictures of proud, independent, young Lebanese women into thinking that Lebanon had freed itself from rule by Syria and by Hezbollah and that it was master in its own house. This obviously was only a cover strategy by Hezbollah to lull the Israelis and the West into a false sense of security, into thinking that Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian masters would not cause trouble because they were afraid of the reaction of the Lebanese. In retrospect, it was absurd to think that the Islamonazis cared one little bit about the well-being of anyone, themselves included, and that the Lebanese had any real power over Hezbollah's actions. I just hope that no more surprises of this sort await us.
Freedom and The Scotsman

David Farrer, one of the intrepid blogsters at Freedom and Whiskey, posted (scroll down) about his surprise that Brian Wilson (no, not that one!) founder of the West Highland Free Press, published an article in the Scotsman showing some sense about the Israeli reaction to Hezbollah aggression:
When criticised, it (Israel) can point out with justification that listening in the past to the same voices calling for restraint would have led to it being wiped off the map many years ago.

So I had to add my favorite analogy for Lebanon, which supplies grounds for approval of Israel's actions and explains the status of Lebanon in terms most Westerners can understand:
I like the comparison of Lebanon to Vichy France in WWII. Certainly the French weren't one hundred per cent in favor of the Nazis, but that made no difference to the tactical realities. Many French "civilian" facilities - train stations, factories, docks, road junctions - were bombed in order to deny resources to the Germans. But Paris escaped nearly unscathed. Then again, the Nazis didn't launch V-1s and V-2s from the roofs of French kindergartens.
Or the towers of Notre Dame.

Monday, July 31, 2006

VDH agrees

Victor Davis Hanson must have received my thought transmissions. He points out the factor that is energizing the terrorist world:
Why, then, are socialists such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia now expanding an anti-capitalist bloc in Latin America--nationalizing companies, jailing dissidents, and whipping up the cult of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro from Peru to Mexico? Why here at home, when the stock market is near all-time highs, the unemployment rate low, and home ownership at record levels, with interest rates and inflation both in check, do the American people express little confidence in their economy and President Bush's leadership?
The answer to all of these diverse anomalies is oil, oil, and more oil.
I need to think not only outside the war, but outside the Middle East as well. Establish a rule for the American century: Mess with America and we take your oil. All of it. Anywhere in the world. Sounds "proportionate" to me.
Thinking outside the war

Remember all those people saying that without oil the Muslims would be irrelevant? Well, let's do something effective about the Middle East, something to convince Bill in DC that, though he's right:
there's a common idea, almost exclusively promoted among right-wing pundits, that more force is necessarily more effective force.

that more force exerted against the right target can be more effective force:

Perhaps the answer lies in concentrating on the source both of the terrorists' power and their leverage over us, namely, oil. Protesters incoherently shout that the GWOT is a "war for oil". Maybe the problem is that it isn't. So let's make it one. Let's go in and take all the oil fields of the Middle East and put them under US - not NATO, not UN, not EU - control. Anyone who tries to stop us gets nuked or at least carpet-bombed. Let's see how many Iranians are willing to die for control of oil, how many Muslims will fight when we make it clear Mecca and Medina and Qom aren't threatened. Limited objective. Result - Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, etc. no longer have any oil. They can eat sand. We control the oil price. The EU and Japan and China and India pay the price we set. Hezbollah gets no more oil money for missiles. Gasoline, eventually, goes down. Win-win.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Four Mothers

If you want to understand the last few decades of the struggle, you have to understand this article and especially this statement from it:
I am in Israel, because only in Israel will my child not be turned into soap.

Haaretz is one of the most left-leaning Israeli newspapers. And yet even they understand. The latest Hezbollah outrage makes me understand even better the nature of this war. It is a war to the last civilian. Hezbollah kills as many Israeli civilians as it can and then uses its own civilians as cannon fodder. Makes sense to the average Arab/Iranian fanatic. If the death of a two-year-old living in a house with rocket launchers on the roof can put pressure on the Israelis so they stop bombarding Hezbollah "fighters" then that two-year-old is worth as much as, perhaps more than a fighter. I can just hear the shouts of "Praise be to Allah!" when that tactic was discovered. And in two years there can be another two-year-old. Yep. It's that nasty and that inhuman.

Friday, July 21, 2006

From Marginal Revolution, a post on how agriculture got its start stimulated this comment:
I remember reading somewhere (Spengler?) that agriculture developed because some smart, aggressive guy realized he could use control of agricultural resources like water to expand his power over other men and expand the size of the unit over which he has control to maximize his wealth. Sounds very - human. Settling down and farming was not a collective decision but a command directive. There does seem to be some evidence that agriculture did not benefit the individual hunter-gatherer sufficiently so that it would have been adopted without force being used. Cowboys, for instance, don't see "sod-busters" as having a better life. All changes in society don't have to lead to better lives for the masses. But those that lead to more power for those in power may be falsely portrayed as leading to better lives for all.
I'm right again
On a trenchant post titled "Is Israel's strategy working?" on Alenda Lux, a blog I've just found, after this statement:
Even without taking Israel's side, world opinion has clearly come down against Hezbollah as the instigator of the crisis. Admittedly, this is a somewhat more complicated situation than those that simply involve two governments and the people of the target state. In some cases, therefore, nationalism could be causing the Lebanese to side with the Hezbollah-skeptic government over the arguably more powerful Hezbollah. At the same time, claims by the usual suspects (which, as I mentioned, I considered myself) that Israeli bombing would turn the Lebanese back to Hezbollah are apparently unfounded.
I had to lay out my analysis of the Hezbollah attack on Israel, in terms I've seen nowhere else. Which makes me think I'm right:
The most interesting aspect of the Hezbollah attack is their lack of success. They've had six years to accumulate weapons and refine tactics. Their rockets have accomplished nothing. Those who say Israel cannot win without going in on the ground do not apply the same logic to Hezbollah, who cannot win by standing off and sending inaccurate rockets. They cannot invade Israel in significant force. They cannot keep the IDF out of South Lebanon. They have been condemned by Saudi Arabia (!). Looks like a loss to me.

I might add, that when the only suspense in a military situation is whether one side (Hezbollah) is going to be completely annihilated or not, it isn't too hard to figure out the balance of power. And the lack of practical non-verbal support from the Muslim world, thanks to the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, is also remarkable. Those Islamic terrorists (but I repeat myself) who think they can make a career out of sending a few rockets over the Israeli border and getting other murderers to blow themselves up in crowds of Jewish civilians had better think about getting some job retraining.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel=North Korea?
I was playing War Nerd, considering how things could be if Syria got crushed and its territory could be used by our - and Israel's - military. this post on The Adventures of Chester stimulated my thinking with these remarks:
In the past few days, Tigerhawk has excerpted two reports from StratFor discussing the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Syria. First was an excerpt on Friday with this tidbit:

Israel will not put ground forces in Lebanon, particularly in the Bekaa Valley, without first eliminating the Syrian air force; to do otherwise would be to leave Israel's right flank wholly vulnerable. If al Assad does nothing, Israel will have to assume that Syria is waiting for an opportune moment to strike, and will act accordingly.

So I kicked this in. I don't know if it will make it into the comments any time this century:
On the plus side, consider the tactical situation if Boy Assad is overthrown, even if no invasion/occupation of Syria occurs. The Syrians would end up fighting each other as well as the Lebanese factions that hate them. Iran has all of a sudden no staging ground for resupply to Hezbollah and Hamas. The battle space is clear from Israel right through to Iran. This prospect must be irresistible to US war planners. Israel is our North Korea. Jordan and Egypt and SA will stay out, not knowing which side to back in Syria. Iran will back down, end their nuke program or see it utterly destroyed and blame the Arabs' lack of fighting ability, as always.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Trouble in the Mideast?
Yeah (And I don't just mean the misspelling of a three-letter word in the title of the post):
On Sunday, Jeff Jacoby writes “It all boils down to Iran.”:

A sustained assault into southern Lebanon, one that leaves Hezbollah in shards and Israel's northern border at peace, would be welcome evidence that the old Israel is back. And it would represent a significant victory in the worldwide war against Islamist terrorism.
For Hezbollah:
Hezbollah is in trouble. If they don’t bring down Israel in this new offensive - and they won’t - they have nowhere else to go, nothing else to try. Iran and Syria aren’t going to intervene, thanks to the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Sooner or later Hezbollah will run out of rockets and suicide bombers and hideouts. Then we will see that this was their last effort. Faster, please.

Friday, July 07, 2006

40. Denial of reality

This story makes it clear how far the organs of Western culture will go to deny an obvious threat to the very existence of that culture:
“In investigators’ offices, an intricate graph plotting the links between the 17 men and teens charged with being members of a homegrown terrorist cell covers at least one wall. And still, says a source, it is difficult to find a common denominator.” But illustrating the story was a photo of two women in full Islamic dress, their faces entirely covered except for a slit for their eyes.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair joined in the denial, noting proudly that during the press conference following the arrests, “I would remind you that there was not one single reference made by law enforcement to Muslim or Muslim community.”

No reference at all to the fact known by everyone that it is Muslims - and Muslims alone - who are willing, eager and at least somewhat able to kill innocents in the name of destroying Western Culture. For the Unabombers and Timothy McVeighs of the world are not attacking the culture per se, on behalf of a competing - but even more decrepit - culture. They are simple nihilists, as have existed on the fringes of all cultures, even at their heights. No culture has ever thrived, though, when it appeases and simultaneously denies the existence of threats from competing cultures. The lack of self-confidence and simple unmanliness shown by this reaction is definitely a sign of the death of Western culture.
The post from Samizdata containing this:
For myself I'm only surprised the cops did not take careful note of the brand of footware, and take his footprints for the national footprint database, which they have recently acquired the power to do - I kid you not. Or perhaps they did...

inspired my favorite comment of the day:
If we all started wearing Bozo-size shoes when wearing offensive T-shirts we could get the clown in all kinds of trouble.
39. Too many laws

This preposterous story from the Washington Times relates the failure of the bureaucracy responsible for administering the Social Security system to, you know, ADMINISTER the Social Security system:
Privacy concerns prevent the Social Security Administration from notifying an employer that a hired foreign national is not authorized to work in this country, including someone who may be a potential national security risk, says a government audit.

Since 2003, the SSA has issued Social Security numbers, dubbed "non-working," to foreign nationals who need them to collect state or federal benefits, such as public assistance.
But, gee, guess what? Some are using these non-numbers to work and report income to the SSA. To the tune of $4 billion dollars a year. And no doubt expecting to qualify for SS benefits in due time. All illegally.

Can anyone still maintain that our culture knows what it is doing? As in late Rome and Hellenic Greece, laws are ignored and confidence in the right is absent.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

39. The decline of Suspenders, rise of the proletarian belt

Not to be confused with the Bible belt, where I'm sure some men still wear suspenders. At least some people still revere the suspender:
In theory, suspenders should be functionally superior to belts and therefore belts would be expected to be the rarity. Suspenders, provided they don't become detached, can be adjusted just so in order to keep trousers at a desired position. The crease is maintained and there is no piling up of the legs atop one's shoes as can happen wearing a belt that can work its way down an inch or two during the day. This is why men's formal clothes are worn with suspenders and not belts.

I made a related point:
Every stall in men's bathrooms has a survival from the suspender era - the hook on the back of the door. When men wore suits, with suspenders, the hooks were absolutely necessary. Suspenders make it impossible to take your pants down without taking your jacket off. And the hook gave you somewhere to hang your jacket - and your hat. Today's suits have belts, so the hooks are no longer necessary. But they're still there. Perhaps the suspender revival will happen before the hooks are discontinued or rust away from disuse.
and Spengler would agree, I'm sure. Can one even imagine him wearing a belt?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

38. "Humankind" instead of "Man"
Need a man say more? What reason is given for this replacement? What argument is allowed or listened to? A Man's a Man for a' that.
37. oikophobia

Hatred of the culture within which one has been brought up is an unmistakable feature of decline. And I do not mean to imply that such hatred does not exist in cultures on the rise or at their zeniths. But in such times self-hatred and the lack of self-confidence it signifies is not tolerated or even glorified the way it is today. This feeling is certainly relevant to 31. on immigration and 27 about the reluctance to punish treason. An obvious marker of the predominance of such feeling is the failure to exhibit such symbols as the national flag. How many homes in Britain or America fly the flag? Or display any symbol, such as the Cross or a picture of the Queen or the President - formerly de rigueur, at least in governmental offices - that would express cultural self-confidence? Nowadays the foreign and the destructive are the only "cool" symbols allowed in most homes. Even taxpayer-funded bureaucracies shy away from any display that might express solidarity with Western culture.
36. He/she and Ms

Of course these are related to 2. and 3., as part of the attack on men and the family. The rewriting of history to portray women as the stupid powerless dupes and victims of men by insisting on the need to remake the language is one of the most arrogant and irrational aspects of the attempt to restructure the culture. The irrationality is not hidden, it is proudly on display, as in the use of a "." after the new abbreviation "Ms." even when there is no ellipsis to be memorialized. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of "Ms." - and I cannot believe it is unintentional - is that the pronunciation approximates that of the sound made by uneducated Southerners when pronouncing the traditional "Mrs.". And this from a group which despises the regional and redneck dialect! No further proof could be needed of the corruption of thought. One is brought close to tears by this pathetic attempt to insist that a change in the language can cause a change in power relationships. And this from the generation that always insisted that those in power would never give up that power without physical violence! The horsemen truly ride.
35. Loud cars

Surely there could be no more certain sign of imminent collapse of a civilization than idiots crusing around in flashy cars booming out loud music that they know 95 per cent of the public hates. This is done simply to annoy and proclaim the idiots' immunity from punishment or even verbal chastisement. Not that I don't try. Add in that this occurs in the early morning on a holiday like July 4th and the signal is clear. I noticed a similar phenomenon in Paris last April, but on a much smaller scale. That is, the cars are all smaller, and there were fewer of them, probably because most of them were burned in the recent rioting. Can anyone still believe that Western culture is on the upswing?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Not doom, just change
I hasten to make clear that my new pessimism about the chances for survival of classic Western culture have nothing to do with the moronic doomsaying characterized by Frank Furedi in spiked as:
fantasies of romantic primitivism

I do not see any prospect that the race of Man will disappear from the Earth, even through lack of breeding (both kinds!). We will struggle on and in some distant future a new culture will arise that will delude its adherents that theirs too will last forever, increasing without end in power, complexity and spirit, until Truth holds sway at last. I'm just saying it's entirely possible that will never happen and it might not be the best thing for Man if it did.
34. Depopulation

An older A/Spengler column that I don't remember reading before goes over the descent into infertility that characterizes declining cultures:
In fact, the main reason societies fail is that they choose not to live. That is a horrifying thought to absorb, and the average reader would much rather delve into the details of obscure ecosystems of the past than reflect upon why half of Eastern Europe will die out by mid-century.

There's some good commentary in there, too, about Jared Diamond's hodgepodge mishmash "Collapse". Why is it people can't see what's right in front of their faces? This one relates to the preservation of species, too (29).
33. Primitive authenticity

I stole this one from another Spengler:
Primitive peoples, it appears, were nasty, brutish, and short, not at all the cuddly children of nature depicted by popular culture and post-colonial
academic studies.

Rousseau is the archetypical villain here. And the acceptance and promotion of his "noble savage" idiocy was among the first indications that it was all over with Western culture. Spengler's on about Nicholas Wade's book "Before the Dawn" here. There's another one I have to read. I really don't have time to work.

32. International law, in general. (Higher level than 21. Related to 27. Hey, maybe I should make this a sort of organizational chart of stupid ideas, ranked by internal relatedness and level of stupidity. Hm. Thinking hyperlinks here.)
Can't believe I missed this one

31. Control of national borders. This one is obvious:
In recent times it has been fashionable to talk of the levelling of nations, of the disappearance of different races in the melting-pot of contemporary civilization. I do not agree with this opinion, but its discussion remains another question. Here it is merely fitting to say that the disappearance of nations would have impoverished us no less than if all men had become alike, with one personality and one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities; the very least of them wears its own special colours and bears within itself a special facet of divine intention.
But if Western countries can't prevent people who have zero commitment to their culture from infiltrating the lands where that culture thrived, they have given up on defending that culture. This is exactly what happened to Rome. Again, to be clear, I should say these signs are not exhortations to action. They are merely notes of the movement towards the ultimate destruction of a rationalist, active view of the world. This includes the death of individualism, the end of the true competition of ideas and the disappearance of any possibility of victory over the sempiternal enemies of Man - Nature and mysticism. Heck, even my sentences are getting as complicated as Spengler's. But that should make the German translation easier!

Update: VDARE, as usual, has a trenchant post on the failure to even pretend to defend American culture from the alien tide. Gee, it's almost as though everyone knows Western culture is on the way down and is determined to make their way to its center to bleed it dry before it's gone. I started to think, though, if poor foreigners are desperate to come to America, why are relatively prosperous Americans such as myself eager to leave and live in the wider world? And the only answer that came to mind was "in order to get away from the negative effects of the immigrant tide". Or, more generally, to find the living situation that enables me to live the best life I can while I watch the culture deteriorate. Me and St. Augustine. But he couldn't hop on a jet plane and leave Hippo any time he wanted.
More signs

27. (From a comment on Rush) The decline - heck, the absence - of a desire and commitment to punish treason, not just to a particular nation but to a culture. Again, the failure to defend a culture equals and is caused by apathy toward its loss.

28. Global warming, ozone layer, etc. hysteria. Acceptance of such myths on feeble grounds and without even considering whether they would really make things worse even if they were true. Related to guilt-worship. Note the self-flagellation:
MEPs voted in favour of the “immediate introduction” of a tax on jet fuel for flights within the 25 member states of the EU. The charge would double the cost of millions of budget airline flights.

29. Preservation of species, even the ugly ones. Failure to even ask for or wonder whether there is a reason for such nonsense.

30. Tolerance - in general - and especially for dissenting viewpoints that transcend reason and self-preservation.
More signs

21. The UN. World peace through empowering bloody dictators with a vote on policies meant to assure collective peace.

22. Socialism - sort of goes without saying, but I had to get it down. And of course guilt-trippers have been around forever. What changed was the response by the dominant culture to this dishonest piece of corrupt pathology.

23. Worship of youth and childhood. This leads to the final obscenity - fifty-year-old women in capri pants.

24. Cell phones. Newly predominant. But a true straw in the wind. No one wants to explore the world alone any more.

25. The waltz. Positively demonic.

26. Sweet foods. The decline of pickles is obvious and horrific. (OK, this one's kind of a joke). The rise of hot peppers, though, is a sign that the tastelessness of life is becoming more and more clear to the meanest intelligence. Any stimulant, even if it involves physical pain, is wildly popular.
Untergang des Alles

I am in the process of reading The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler. It is as mind-boggling as advertised. So I thought I'd start making a list of signs that Western culture is becoming a "civilization", that is , declining, becoming a "thing-become" rather than a "becoming":

1. The Cold War (set the seal on the culture's unwillingness to defend itself)

2. The attack on men (who also do not defend themselves)

3. The attack on the family (parallel to 2)

4. Toleration, amounting to idolatry, of homosexuality (related to 2 and 3)

5. Jazz

6. Prohibition of alcohol and drugs, going back to the beginnings of temperance. I know such movements have been around forever, but they became mainstream in the middle of the 1800s.

7. Dieting

8. Allowing women to vote.

9. Allowing anyone to vote.

10. Worship of exercise.

11. Worship of pets.

12. Unearned guilt.

13. Novels, especially detective stories.

14. Democratization of dress.

15. Credit.

16. Non-representational art.

17. Obsession with cleanliness.

18. Obsession with a long life.

19. Obsession with being "happy".

20. Psychoanalysis.

As Dylan said, "he not busy being born is busy dying." Perhaps I can be the chronicler of our death as a culture. More to come, if and when I get around to it.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's that bad

I am totally disgusted. Global warming, tobacco fascism, cholesterol, alcohol puritanism, ADD, Universal allergy panic, it's all wrong and no one will listen to me. Believe nothing you read in the papers. Especially about "the environment" or tobacco Michael Fumento has pretty much nailed the passive smoking nonsense on
“Secondhand smoke debate ‘over.” That’s the message from the Surgeon General’s office, delivered by a sycophantic media. The claim is that the science has now overwhelmingly proved that smoke from others’ cigarettes can kill you. Actually, “debate over” simply means: “If you have your doubts, shut up!”

But you definitely should have doubts over the new Surgeon General’s report, a massive 727-page door stop.

The comments on that column provide a perfect example of people talking right past each other, with some apparently not even having read the column, just seeing that it was about smoking and copy-and-pasting their decades-old rant for a grant about smoking. They don't even pretend any more. I definitely need to start smoking a pipe. Right in their faces.

Monday, June 26, 2006

These guys are just as bad

I blogged about how pathetic the play seemed at the US Open, but I have been equally unimpressed lately with the sorry spectacle that is the World Cup of soccer. Is it my imagination, or is the standard of play noticeably lower than four years ago? Germany is the only team that has shown me anything, and then not much. And yes, since you ask, I will pick the Deutschies to win the whole thing. I watched the English beat Ecuador yesterday, 1-0, and boy was that a snoozer! If you had been asleep for the whole match and just woke up for Beckham's free kick goal and went back to sleep, you would have missed nothing. Even the near-goal by Ecuador was pathetic. The Ecuadorian would have scored that nine times out of ten, but dubbed around just long enough to let the diving Englishman deflect the ball just enough to hit the crossbar. Snooze.

I have yet to see any team, even the Krauts, which passes accurately and can keep control of the ball all the way down the field. Pro players at this level still don't seem to realize they have to avoid being offside. And when one side gets up by two goals, it's just dum-de-dum and kick it back to our goalkeeper and dum-de-dum for five more minutes and kick it back to our goalkeeper again. Maybe now and then a shot from fifty yards that goes twenty feet over the goal will keep everyone from going to sleep. Blah. I guess there's an analogous tactic in American football where one side gets ahead by a couple of touchdowns and then calls nothing but running plays, but even that requires the team to move down the field somewhat, now and then. And the fouls! Or, to follow Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos, I should say "fouls"! How hard is it to fall down in front of someone when you've lost the ball to them? Haven't the referees had a bit of time to realize this might happen? How many players can be carried off the field on a stretcher, moaning and clutching the opposite knee to the one that was just barely touched by an opposing player, then can jump off the stretcher and run back into the game when something exciting happens before the refs, you know, catch on??

OK, so maybe this is all a setup and sooner or later I will see a good match and it will seem even better by comparison. But this World Cup will not make the fantasy of pro-soccer-in-the-US that's been touted for decades any more real or more desirable.
Birthday whisky and bacon

So why shouldn't I have a bit of single malt with my breakfast on my 58th birthday, when I'm off work? Who knows if I'll make it to my 68th? I changed the spelling of "whisky" after consulting a certain great Scotblog even though they're on a mild hiatus. My that sounds painful.

And my sister from Nigeria is coming to visit tomorrow and my older son is moving in with me next week, so things are happening. Movement clear, direction not quite so well defined.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I pity the altruist
Been reading"Beware of Pity", by Stefan Zweig, one of my favorite authors (The Buried Candelabrum, Balzac, Erasmus, etc.) So coincidentally (lot of that going around these days!) I found a discussion of pity on Noodlefood:
In the case of pity, I'm struck by the difference between his concept of pity and our modern concept thereof. In particular, notice that Aristotle holds that the object of pity must be morally good -- and thus not deserving of his fate.

So I appended a comment:
Stefan Zweig wrote an insightful novel, "Beware of Pity", wherein he differentiates two kinds (page 256, Viking Press, New York, 1939):

"One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one that counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about, and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond. It is only when one goes on to the end, to the extreme, bitter end, only when one has an inexhaustible fund of patience, that one can help one's fellows. Only when one is prepared to sacrifice oneself in doing so - and then only!"

So Zweig neatly makes the wrong but powerful point that pity can only be purged through absolute altruism. Yet it is a natural, an understandable emotion. I imagine this "com-passion" or fellow-feeling, stems from fear that what has happened to another may happen to you, especially in the bygone (for some!) demon-haunted days. Roark's pity for Keating, therefore, is only another emotional obstacle to be overcome through reason. Rand never denied the humanity of her characters.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A realistic proposal

A sensible approach to the Mexican border problem has to deal with two realities. First, Mexicans and other immigrants with few skills and low cognitive awareness levels are coming to this country illegally because they have no or very little economic opportunity at home. Second, illegal immigration poses an unacceptable risk of economic and cultural dislocation, as well as real security threats, to the United States. I have an approach that tackles both problems.

The key is to secure the present border at the Rio Grande and west to the Pacific. This means a highly secure fence or wall, patrolled and electronically monitored 24/7/365. This is well within our capabilities. That doesn't deal, however, with the fact that it is the economic opportunity available in the United States that is attracting undesirable immigrants.

I propose the creation of an economic and security zone in northern Mexico, extending from the present border with the United States to a line joining the Gulf of Mexico shoreline to Monterrey to Chihuahua to Hermosillo and then to the Gulf of California. All of Baja California would be included in the zone. Special security and identification measures would be in effect in the zone, so that all residents would be unequivocally identified and their status clearly established. The idea will be to establish within this zone the economic and legal framework which has been so successful in making the states of the United States prosperous and attractive. This would have to include clear and effective real property and commercial transactions regulations, as well as incorruptible law enforcement and political organizations. The United States will consult with Mexico as to the nature of these changes in the present failed and fragile social framework within this area. The only real difference between this zone and the states of the United States would be that social welfare provision would remain at the level that obtains in the rest of Mexico. It is to be anticipated that economic development in this zone would be rapid and healthy. All the economic migrants who pose security and cultural risks to the United States should be able to find the opportunity they seek for legitimate economic activity in this zone. It may even turn out that this zone will be a magnet for those migrants from around the world who cannot meet the standards that legal US immigration should require. Perhaps many Mexican citizens who have immigrated illegally or legally to the United States will find this zone just as economically attractive and more culturally and linguistically comfortable than the areas in the United States where they find themselves today.

Should it become impossible to establish this zone by agreement with Mexico, it will become necessary to impose, by whatever means may be required, a border control zone, a hundred miles wide, from the present border south into Mexico. Within this zone travel will be prohibited and all existing settlements will be removed. Such a drastic measure should not be necessary, however. If Mexican immigrants only want to come to the United States to work and prosper, they will have that opportunity within their own country. Perhaps when the rest of Mexico, and eventually the rest of Latin America, observe the results that can be achieved by a rational regime of laws and a government with integrity, they too will adopt the measures prevalent in the zone. Then the border zone will no longer be necessary and men of all cultures and ethnicities can be free and prosperous in their own countries.

Update: Just to show I'm not a complete nut, there's a good article by Tom Bethell at the American Spectator about Hernando DeSoto's theories as they apply to the third world, and specifically to Mexico:
Hernando de Soto's organization was invited to Mexico and did some work on the question. He says that only 6 percent of Mexican enterprises are legal, the rest are informal. If you want yours legalized, it will take you four years with no certainty in the outcome.

This is the kind of problem that could be addressed in the economic and security zone.
Cheapest so far?

Another fare to Istanbul in the fall - but I know I can do better. What amazes me is that the fare right from Tallahassee is so little larger than the fare direct from Atlanta or New York. It's almost like they're flying me to Orlando or New York for free. Every time I think of driving to another airport I look at what I'd save and it just isn't worth it.
The only kicker in the QIXO fare is that they haven't disclosed all the taxes and fees yet, so it may not really be the cheapest. Maybe by Labor Day I'll have a fare I can live with - and fly with!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Whale of a tail

A story on Samizdata about the fishy goings on at the World non-Whaling Conference led me to hook up with this burger saga about whaleburgers. This is one of the reasons I want to go to Japan - so I can eat some good cetacean. So let's look at a package tour:
Package details
Price details
Total: $1,746.55

* Items selected, taxes, & fees for flight.

Flight: 1 roundtrip ticket flight
7:00 am Depart Tallahassee (TLH)
Arrive Tokyo (NRT) 3:00 pm tip+1 day Tue 24-Oct
Duration: 19hr 0mn
United United United 3588 operated by US /US AIRWAYS EXPRESS-PSA AIRLINES -- US22383588 / United 2265 operated by US AIRWAYS -- US9262265 / 881
Connect in Charlotte (CLT), Chicago (ORD)
3:20 pm Depart Tokyo (NRT)
Arrive Tallahassee (TLH) 6:49 pm Tue 31-Oct
Duration: 16hr 29mn
United United 884 / 432 / United 3480 operated by US /US AIRWAYS EXPRESS-PSA AIRLINES -- US22693480
Connect in Chicago (ORD), Charlotte (CLT)
Choose a different flight for this package.
Hotel: 1 room for 6 nights hotel
More lodging info
Shinbashi Atagoyama Tokyu Inn
2.0-star Tokyo, Japan
# This 14-story high-rise, located in downtown Tokyo, is less than two km (one mile) from the Imperial Palace.

# Refrigerators come in all ... More lodging info
Check-in: Wed 25-Oct-06 Check-out: Tue 31-Oct-06
Room options Price
Std Single - Annex Main Wing Sale! Included
Std Twin - Annex Main Wing Sale! + $23.55 per night
Choose a different hotel for this package.

Hey, not bad, but I'll probably have to get another flight to Sapporo to get the advertised whaleburger. I'll settle for a Tokyo version.

And of course I couldn't resist the chance for a good comment:
It's just a fluke, that's all. Whale "meets" with my approval! It may seem fishy, but I wouldn't beef about a whaleburger. See whale? Se(a) - food! Now don't blubber, get to the meat of the matter. You have to loin there's a lot at steak here. Stop spouting off and being such a blowhard!
I always hope this sort of thing causes a pun-demonium. Or at least a pun-demic.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

These guys are ... terrible!

Just finished watching the US Open golf tournament. I don't think there was one birdie in the last six holes among the top leaders. It was drives in the rough, in the sand, in a garbage can, in the corporate tent - and that was only Phil Mickelson! And the iron play wasn't any better. The putting made one think these so-called professionals had never seen a fairly complex green before. A good college player could have won today. I kept wishing Tiger was playing, because I knew he would have won by fifteen strokes. Then I remembered he didn't even make the cut, with two successive 76's on Thursday and Friday! Then I also remembered John Daly, not the most successful golfer, if perhaps the most obnoxious, saying that he lost $55 million dollars gambling. When someone pointed out he hadn't won any more than $15 million in twenty years on the Tour he explained all the other ways a golfer could get money. I guess I'm in the wrong business. I wonder if a fat 58-year-old can take a few lessons and go on tour and win an easy million or two and then retire. How hard could it be?

OK, I'm glad Ogilvy the Aussie won, but really - he didn't win, the others lost. I watch to see men win by making great shots, not to see someone back into the trophy because the leader double-bogeys the last hole. Disgusting

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Compared to what?

I am getting mighty disgusted by all these articles yammering on about how much the liberation of Iraq has hurt the President's political standing. I have to ask, "Compared to what?" Compared to if he hadn't done anything, if Saddam was still in there killing thousands every month, threatening his neighbors, moving confidently forward on his nuclear program? What's that you say, he didn't have a nuclear program? Sure. Once the inspectors left for good and the no-fly zones were dismantled - or does someone think they would have been continued forever? - Saddam's scientists would have dug up all the machinery buried in their back yards, brought back all the stuff from Syria and continued on their merry way. And today we'd be facing a nuclearized Iraq under Saddam. And, as I mentioned before, Libya's nuclear program would still be active. And in response Iran would certainly have moved well towards nuclearization. And on the War on Terror front, with no Iraq liberation, all those "insurgents" would have flooded into Afghanistan. And how long would the "multilateral" force there have lasted?

So sometimes in life there are no really good choices. But doing nothing about Saddam was not an option. Here's a retroactive prediction: If Bush hadn't invaded Iraq in 2003, he would never have been re-elected in 2004. By now the situation would have been very bad in Afghanistan and there would have been multiple large terrorist attacks here at home - maybe even in Tallahassee! Things would have been bad enough that the public would have considered John Kerry a better choice. Hard as that may be to believe. And if this president can help Iraq become a viable polity, he will go a long way to soothing my anger at him over immigration and overspending and the war on drugs. I'll still be mad at him, but I'll probably still vote Republican. Considering the alternative.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Forget South America

OK, so forget South America. What do they have down there I want to see, anyway? I admit the main attraction in BA was steak. But I won't beef about giving that up. Now on to Turkey (Oops. Link appears to be broken) in the fall. I've been wanting to go to Turkey for a long time, since I read a book about Trebizond and started dreaming. Sure it's now called Trabzon, but it's still the former terminus of the Silk Road to China and a former Greek city-state and on the Black Sea. It's got a Russian bazaar and it's only twenty miles inland to a Byzantine monastery that looks like something out of Indiana Jones or an H. Rider Haggard novel.
Travel blogging

Ever since spending a week in Paris in April with my two older kids, I've just been crazy about travel planning. So many countries, so little time and money. One example that drives me crazy came up last week. I looked at a flight to Buenos Aires. South America in the summer seemed like a smart idea, right? Southern Hemisphere winter is a good break from Tallahassee in August. So I found a flight from Tallahassee to BA, via Miami and Santiago, Chile, for about $954. Not bad. Then I started thinking. Chile sounds pretty good. And since it's on the way to BA, if in a roundabout way, it should be cheaper, right? Well, that's not the way it works in airline world. I searched the same database, on the same dates, same everything, but Tallahassee to Santiago only. What came back was a trip via Atlanta this time, but for more than the price for the ticket through Santiago to BA! OK, so, clever me, I think I'll buy the BA ticket and get off in Santiago, right? Oops. But how do I get back? You can see how this is driving me crazy. Will they let me on the plane coming back from BA? Do I really want to take that chance? Can I get a stopover in Santiago? What is the factor that makes it cheaper to fly all the way to BA than to stop at Santiago? Demand?

Update:And look at this from Aerolineas Argentinas. $920! But I do have to get to Miami. So why is this so much cheaper? Or am I missing something?
Randi - Snarky?

James Randi's in good form today, slapping around defenseless psychics:
When you say psychic, many people have an image of an old woman in a gown with a crystal ball. They don't associate themselves with that.

Randi: Then what image should we conjure up – pun intended – Simon? A middle-aged opportunist with no other means of support, who has attended the College of Psychic Studies and learned how easily he/she can make a living by delivering bad guesses and generalities to vulnerable persons who really need some help and attention to make their lives temporarily seem easier, but will settle for any scam?

Sounds about right to me. The shock of recognition will pass. Substitute "law school" for "the College of Psychic Studies" and you have a description of my life!
Economics and immigration

Steve Sailer reports on the VDARE blog about a plan to charge immigrants $2000 to immigrate:
And, two polls conducted by the Pew Hispanic Trust showed that over 40% of Mexicans say they would immigrate to America if it were legal. And, just about anybody could borrow $2,000 based on their future earnings in America.

So $2000 isn't the right price. But that got me thinking. What is the right price? $1 million? $10 million? Because there's got to be a market clearing price, right? Hey, I almost sounded like an economist there. But really. How much is it worth to a willing buyer to be able to live and work in the USA? Or, to put it another way, how much would the USA have to get to deal with the costs and risks of another immigrant? I wonder if Sailer has considered that. But maybe he thinks that no price is enough. Since the government controls (HA!) immigration, the government would get the money. And the taxpayers, not the government, would have to put up with the dislocations caused by the immigrants. However. The US does have a product to offer - a good investment climate, relative social peace, prosperity, opportunity. It must be worth a certain amount of money to foreigners who don't enjoy these things. I'm going to post this and then look up something on the INS (sorry, ICE or something) website about "treaty investors". This question may already have been answered.

Update: OK, I think I've got it, but it's disappointing:
(2) Treaty investor. An alien, if otherwise admissible, may be classified as a nonimmigrant treaty investor (E-2) under the provision of section 101(a)(15)(E)(ii) of the Act if the alien:

(i) Has invested or is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States, as distinct from a relatively small amount of capital in a marginal enterprise solely for the purpose of earning a living;

(ii) Is seeking entry solely to develop and direct the enterprise; and

(iii) Intends to depart the United States upon the expiration or termination of treaty investor (E-2) status.
Looks like it doesn't really confer resident status. And it doesn't define what a "substantial amount" of money is. But if you have enough money to invest here you can come in and keep an eye on it. It's called an E-2 visa. I'd look for cases, but I'm too lazy right now. I have to check up on whether Tiger's going to make the cut in the US Open. Doesn't look too good. He's at +10 after 14. Sigh.
Update to Update: +12 in the clubhouse. No cut line yet. And the leader is someone named Steve Stricker I've never heard of. Golf is one weird game.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

No wage, José!

In a Chequerboard post about the minimum wage even Pejman gets a little snarky:
And to support an increase in the minimum wage is to be on the side of the angels? Right?
So I had to leave a supportive comment, dragging in the immigration issue:
I've always found it strange that the strongest supporters of the minimum wage tend to be those who also support the rights of illegal aliens to work in this country. Don't they realize that employers take on low-skilled, generally uneducated illegal alien workers so they can pay them less than the minimum wage, or, at any rate, less than "documented" workers? Seems like a simple connection to make.

Another question comes to mind - how can illegals get Social Security credit for jobs which violate the minimum wage laws AND, conceivably, the hours and conditions of employment laws AND the immigration laws? Gee, you would think the government would want to discourage people from breaking all those laws, not pay them for doing so.
He's ... different

The lefties gang up on Jeff Goldstein to hilarious effect:
Jeff: Do you have a response to this essay about your writing?

I suggest you read it (or have your therapist read it). It is quite enlightening.

By the way: why haven’t you finished your MA or PhD yet?
Posted by dartmouth prof


So, I saw this post about at SadlyNo. Instead of taking Klonopin to mask your personal problems, how about some honest reflection or some professional psychological care?

I don’t intend this as an attack; I just read some of the things you wrote, and to be honest, if you only said half of them, you come off as man desperately in need of help. I realize you’ll mock, attack, or ignore me, but seriously - find help.

The return fire is worth a read, but cover your keyboard first.
Oh, yes and I did contribute a little teeny bit at the very end (so far):
Wait a minute. You mean Jeff’s NOT crazy???!!! I’m going away.
Of course, I'm not really. Going away, I mean. That was just a joke.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Tears for the murdering clowns

Tears come to my eyes to read this swissinfo article about internecine strife in "Palestine":
Gunmen set fire to the Palestinian prime minister's office on Monday as clashes escalated between his Islamist Hamas followers and President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.
In the southern Gaza confrontation, Hamas gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank rockets at the local headquarters of the Preventive Security Service, witnesses said.

Five people were wounded in the clash in the town of Rafah, which followed the killing earlier in the day of a gunman from a Hamas paramilitary unit.
I've got an idea! Why not split the West Bank and Gaza up into two states, one controlled by Fatah, one by Hamas? Then everyone could live in peace, right? We could call it the "three-state solution". Wait a minute. Some of Southern Lebanon is occupied by Hezbollah. OK - the "four-state solution". But then there's the "Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade". Oh, dear, we've run out of land. Let's see. How about Madagascar? Or didn't Stalin have a little place in mind out in Siberia, on the Amur River, for one of his minorities? The Evrey Avtonomichesski Respublik or something. Hmm. What does "Evrey" mean? Anyway, there should be lots of room out there. And we can all rest assured in the knowledge it was all Bush's fault if it goes wrong.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Just War

An excellent article in the American Thinker on just war theory swam into my gaze. It's by Don Crawford, a radio talk show host I'd never heard of before. A sample:
The cause in Iraq was unquestionably just due to Saddam’s continuing efforts to:

• attack our pilots who enforced his agreement to air restrictions that ended the ’91 Gulf War;

• torture to death in the most horrific manner an average of 300 innocent Iraqis a day;

• pay suicide bombers world-wide to attack innocent men, women, and children;

• aggressively develop WMD’s;

• have the highest echelon of his military run at least four training camps where virtually every Islamic terrorist organization in the world including al Qaeda were trained how to make and implement WMD and other terrorist attacks against the west; the cause was indisputably just.

He lays it all out. His litany of the reasons behind the Iraq liberation led me to think about the current standoff with Iran on nuclear weapons development and how that situation would be different if Saddam were still in power. That horrible prospect stimulated me to send him this email:

Great article in the American Thinker about just war theory and the Iraq liberation. You lay everything out clearly and comprehensively. In the matter of justification for deposing Saddam, does anyone really think that Saddam was not on the road to developing nuclear weapons? Without the US pressure, all he had to do was wait out the ridiculous UN and the EUnuchs. Once the inspectors gave up and left, he would be back on track in weeks. And if that had happened, we wouldn't have just Iran to deal with today, we would be facing two near-nuclearized powers in the Middle East. And without the example of the Iraqi deposition, Libya would probably not have given up its program, either. So there could easily be three powers going down that road. And given the rivalry between Iraq and Iran reflected by the war in the Eighties that cost a million dead, the conclusion is unavoidable that Saddam's progress toward nuclearization would have pushed Iran even more quickly in that direction.
So by following his instinct to protect America, George Bush has significantly lessened the threat from nuclear proliferation and the unbearable prospect that a terrorist group might get their hands on a working nuke. This is an historic achievement. I only hope I see it recognized in my lifetime!

Kudos again,

Robert Speirs
Tallahassee, Florida
Ann Coulter is God(dess)

At least, she must be a minor deity to me. I always find myself worshipping her and defending her against all threats. Even against Pejman's histrionics:
Won't Ann Coulter just go away? We'd all be so much better off if she did.
And those of a commenter:
Coulter's caustic columns are examples of how outrageous rhetoric will obfuscate substance and logic.

Since Ann was talking about the 9/11 widows who have used their husbands' deaths to spread collectivist propaganda, how could I not defend her? So I did:
Odd. I thought Coulter made her point exactly and emphatically. And she got loads of attention for it. And why was it wrong to call these women irrational and vindictive when that is exactly what they were? By not letting them get away with irrational vindictiveness because they had suffered grievous losses, Coulter honored those bereaved who didn't lurch into idiocy and claim an "absolute moral authority" to which even the most grievous loss would not entitle them.

How is their behavior any different from that of the odious Mother Sheehan? Does anyone really want to defend her? Is the concept of the reverse ad hominem argument carrying all before it, so that a statement made by someone seen as noble or victimized (or both) is unquestionable no matter how loony and vicious it may be?
Anti-intellectualism rears its ignorant head

I really never thought I'd read a Samizdata comment like this:
"Oops - dictated, not written. Mohammed was illiterate."
As was Socrates. Surely you aren't suggest that ability to draw shapes with a pen correlates with quality of thought, are you?

What an insight! The ability to write (which kind of goes along with the ability to read) is irrelevant to one's ideas. So I got a bit snarky:
"Surely you aren't suggest that ability to draw shapes with a pen correlates with quality of thought, are you?"

No, of course not. The ability to read (and write) couldn't possibly affect the sophistication of a man's thought. Never having read a book shouldn't mean a man is less knowledgeable about the real world or less able to express himself than anyone else. All of those other books either conflict with the Koran and are therefore lies or agree with it and are therefore unnecessary.


I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself. I find it a bit hard to believe that Socrates was illiterate. I'll have to confirm that for myself. Someday.
The headless snake goes nowhere
Lots of thinking about the Iraqi terrorist organizations post-Zarqawi is happening in the blogosphere. Not only do we not have to wait for the NYT or Newsweek to tell us what to think about these events, we don't even care any more. Which is great. Patrick Porter on Oxblog, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers, has some thoughts on the utility of killing heads of terrorist groups:
The cumulative effect, in other words, is to hurt the cohesion of the group. Its not so much about a cycle of violence, but about an ultimately finite number of seasoned and clever warriors.

All this is tempered by the chaotic situation much of Iraq faces. Were this one highly structured enemy organisation operating within a population living in greater stability and with basic services working, etc, who could be effectively divorced and separated from such groups, this kill would be more valuable.

In response to another commenter who said charisma was more important than a tight organization, I made the following point:
However, a loose organizational structure prevents a group from having a well-defined program and especially from changing its goals and structure quickly. One could well ask what the insurgency's goals are. What exactly have they accomplished since the liberation except nearly random killing? Now, without the head of the snake, it will thrash around even more. But it won't get anywhere.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Oldie but goodie
A polygamy post on Econlog inspired this comment:
If you legalize both gay marriage and polygamy and still allow citizens to bring their spouses into the US and make them citizens, at some point one legal Mexican will be able to bring in the entire remaining population of Mexico to East L.A. with one signature.

I know I've used it before, but I don't think I've blogged it before.

Sometimes libertarians don't think out the consequences of the things they say:
How about social sanctions? After seeing the human face of polygamy - fictional though it be - I would go out of my way to put any polygamist I met at ease. The people who need to be stigmatized are those who won't mind their own business.

I admit the consequence I lay out is unlikely, but that it exists at all should be a warning sign that something is wrong. What are you going to do, impose a numerical limit on the number of wives, like Islam? And how do libertarians propose to calculate that?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Blogging is good for the brain
This is why I love reading blogs and commenting on them. I've been thinking about the Vietnam war for forty years, like most American men my age. This post on Oxblog about Vietnam, therefore, attracted my attention, especially this part:
Why was the Army so intransigent? The answer is that old saying about the hammer and the nail. When you have a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. The US military's first and foremost mission during the 1950s and 1960s was to prepare for a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Building on its success in World War II, the US military prepared to repel a Soviet invasion by building up a heavily-armed and heavily-armored fighting force.

Then I had a thought that hadn't occurred to me in the last forty years. Yet it's pretty obvious:
Perhaps the Cold War influenced the way the Vietnam war was fought. Small wars are training grounds. There's no better training than live combat. During the Cold War, the army wanted to train its soldiers to fight conventional war, because those skills might be needed at any moment against the Russkis. Now, the army knows it needs counterinsurgency combat skills for the WOT. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it's developing a cadre of tested veterans that should be very effective in the long war to come. The UAV is getting a good test, too, just like the Stuka did in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

Friday, June 02, 2006

To Fed or not to Fed

This sort of statement in a linked article:
Conservatives claim to believe in federalism, until the states do things they don’t like. Then they turn into New Deal liberals, believing that the federal government should correct the errors of the 50 states.
almost forced me to
comment on this post on Pejman's Chequer Board.
I've always thought it ironic that it was the liberals who federalized abortion law in Roe v. Wade. Before Roe, there was no feeling that the Federal Government should be involved in telling states whether or not they could criminalize abortion. Now that topic is firmly federalized, the door has been opened for the nationwide criminalization of abortion, a prospect never imagined by the progressives, and one that wouldn't have appeared but for Roe.

Similarly, federalizing marriage restrictions - or liberalization - on civil liberties grounds may endanger the ability of any state to define marriage in a way that conservatives would prefer, if the tide turns. I guess I would only be happy with a Supreme Court decision that said that neither states nor the Feds should be defining marriage. But I know that's not going to happen.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More path-ology

Now Samizdata, in the person of Dale Amon pontificating about the minimum wage, is stimulating comments about the "path to citizenship":
The interesting thing will be what would happen should amnesty come to pass in the US. Once all the aliens become citizens they too can demand the minimum wage. If employers have to choose between a worker that speaks perfect English and costs $6.50/hr and one that doesn't speak English (or speaks it poorly) at the same wage, then guess who will win out. It is in some of these "migrant worker's" best interest to stay off the system. For the ones that do get "in the system" and don't have the skills to compete for higher paying jobs they will simply join the ranks of the perpetually unemployed welfare mooches.

So I thought I'd chime in:
By making it harder to get a job as a citizen than as an illegal, minimum wages make nonsense of the "path to citizenship" argument. And increasingly, it seems, illegals don't want to become US citizens, certainly not if it means paying a fine, learning English, paying taxes and abiding by a host of regulations. Why should they, since they know the laws aren't going to be enforced? And we'll all be Mexicans before long.
Path, schmath!
I hate articles like this one that say voters want to provide illegal aliens a "path to citizenship" (via Kaus). Not only do most illegals not even want to become citizens, as shown by their behavior, but they already have a "path to citizenship". Namely, they can go back home - shouldn't be too hard, with everyone coming the other way - and apply for legal admission to the US, wait in line like everyone else and become legal citizens like my father's family and millions of others have done.

Wait a minute. If you actually read the article, it says there's a ton of opposition to the "path to citizenship":
Shays, one of the few vulnerable House Republicans open to a broad compromise with the Senate, said strong protests from his constituents this month prompted him to speak out for the first time against citizenship for undocumented workers. "It would be a huge mistake to give people a path to citizenship that came here illegally," he said.

Well, no wonder. Because "path to citizenship" in this context really means, "path to citizenship that doesn't require as much time or effort as is required of everyone else who didn't violate the laws of the country everyone assumes without much evidence that they want to become citizens of". Because, after all, they've already benefited from years in this country illegally. We can't make them go back and suffer from the years of oppression and poverty that their compatriots who actually, you know, RESPECT American laws have to go through to get US citizenship. I mean, we don't really want all those foreigners who actually think our laws mean what they say to come here, do we? What a bunch of party-pooping spoilsports they would be! Nah, let's go with the nihilist punks. That's the modern way.