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While I’m generally opposed to zoning, for property-rights and practical reasons (zoning tends to ossify the civic status quo), I was initially sympathetic to these guys because I thought their scheme might introduce more openness, consistency and accountability into the politicized zoning process. Let citizens have only themselves to blame for major zoning decisions.
But then I looked at the group’s web site and realized that my initial impression was naive. I had thought that the idea here was to make the system more accountable. However, the referendum advocates appear to be most interested in making the zoning reclassification process so burdensome as to halt development. They want to limit development to only those projects which are approved by socialist master-plans drawn up by unaccountable local-government planning agencies. They believe that a referendum requirement for major zoning changes would make it extremely difficult to change those master plans, and that this rigidity would be a good thing.
Read the rest of this entry »
Martin Devon comments thoughtfully about an innovative approach to evaluating geopolitical risk. He also quotes a couple of idiot pols who are agin’ it.
If you can create a real-money market in risk evaluation, it’s usually a good idea to do so, if only for price-discovery (in this case, risk discovery) purposes. People in the aggregate, voting with their own money, generally make better bets than do individuals who are merely writing position papers. And creating a market in risk assessment facilitates the pooling and hedging of risk. Of course these are the same principles that underlie insurance markets, which may be why some pols don’t like them. Imagine: individuals and businesses dealing with risk on their own, without needing politicians to “help” them. Too bad there’s no organized market for hedging away Congressional risk.
UPDATE: From Instapundit’s post on this topic and the comments here, there seem to be several objections to this idea. I paraphrase some objections (italics), below, and then respond. (Feel free to leave additional comments if I left anything out.)
Moral hazard: terrorists or other bad guys might cash in by betting in advance of their own terror attacks, or by committing terror attacks solely to make money. There is also incentive for govt officials, journalists, et al to manipulate the market by hyping nonexistent risk and then taking the other side of trades made by people who are betting on an attack.
There may be reason for concern, but it’s already possible to bet on terrorism: all you have to do is buy a large quantity of stock-index puts. And trades of this type, especially in a market dedicated to terrorism risk, would serve a valuable function by telling the world that something was up (in much the same way as an out-of-nowhere jump in the price of a stock may suggest that a takeover bid is imminent). The more narrowly tailored the market was — e.g., an assassination market for a particular leader — the more useful the information so transmitted would be. I think the benefit would probably outweigh the moral hazard, though I may be wrong.
With respect to people falsely hyping nonexistent terror attacks, markets are effective at discriminating this kind of false alarm. The first time it happened the market would probably move significantly, but after one episode of crying wolf the same tactic might not work again. It might also be possible to create legal penalties for false alarms. Such penalties wouldn’t deter everyone, but would at least impose a high expected cost on anyone who had something to lose, e.g., government officials and journalists, who are also the kinds of people most likely to be able to move the market by hyping terrorism concerns.
Innocent people might avoid participating in the market because there is a hypothetical risk that they would be arrested for knowing too much if they profited from terrorism predictions.
I don’t know. Whether this is an issue probably depends on how many people use this market and how much sense the government has. And it’s only a problem if they arrest innocent people. If they arrest guilty people it’s a benefit.
Information about pending terrorism is by nature private, and therefore public markets such as the envisioned terrorism-futures market would not be useful to predict attacks. As Glenn Reynolds put it:
An InstaPundit reader who is too smart to be in Congress emails with a more meaningful criticism: the futures market won’t identify “unknown unknowns,” since the betting — as with ordinary futures markets — must take place within the context of standard “products.”
It’s true that a public market would not discount private information, a.k.a. “unknown unknowns.” That’s generally true of markets. However, markets have a good record of making predictions based on publicly available information. The mistake is to compare a futures market to a crystal ball. The real comparison should be between the futures market and “expert” analysts who have no accountability for their biases. Markets look good by this standard, and the government could still do its own private research, much as financial firms do proprietary research in stock and futures markets, to supplement what it learned from public terrorism-risk markets.
Also, private information may become public if there’s money to be made. That’s a big advantage of markets in this case, as publicizing incipient terror attacks brings better countermeasures or the possibility that the terrorists will call off their attack.
It’s wrong to bet on misfortune and people’s deaths.
If this assertion is true, insurance is immoral, as are futures markets in agricultural commodities (betting on crop failures!) and stock indices (betting on, um, misfortune and people’s deaths). These markets are insurance by another name and are just as useful.
The reinsurance industry already does what terrorism futures are supposed to do.
This is partly true, though the reinsurance market operates largely out of the public eye and therefore may not transmit information as well as a futures market would. But if it’s really true that a futures market is unnecessary, then a futures market won’t succeed. It’s impossible to know for sure without trying.
If we’re lucky, someone overseas, like Tradesports, will start offering systematic opportunities to bet on terror-attack odds. Unfortunately, DARPA’s idea has unleashed so much demagoguery by American pols that it may be some time before anyone will be willing to set up such a futures market, even outside of the U.S. Pity.
Virginia Postrel has additional relevant links here.
Paul Marks at Samizdata speculates about the end of Castro. It’s a familiar discussion. Predictably, the reader comments are full of jabs about the U.S. embargo, with one or two blame-the-U.S. assertions thrown in. Most of these arguments are beside the point.
One of the U.S. govt’s bigger blunders in recent decades was not overthrowing the Castro regime when it would have been relatively easy to do so. Instead we played around with tepid subversion and lost our nerve after a half-assed invasion which we allowed to fail.
Since then we haven’t had the will to do anything serious, and the result has been the transformation of the most advanced country in Latin America into a festering dung heap, and the destruction of the dreams, freedom and life potential (and in many cases the lives) of several generations of its citizens. The embargo is a sideshow that won’t change any of this.
Yet God forbid anyone suggests we deal with the root of the problem by overthrowing the Cuban regime. No, can’t have that — we must have stability. (Where else have we heard that recently?) Never mind that the vast majority of Cuban immigrants from the supposedly disastrous 1980 Mariel boat lift have been successfully integrated into U.S. society. Never mind that the Cuban populace is increasingly unhappy. Never mind that Cuba is militarily weak. No, we must take no risks. We must wait Castro out, even though doing so may consign more generations of Cubans to wasted lives; and even though it’s conceivable that, absent external pressure, the communist regime will survive Castro.
If we can consider destabilizing Iran, we should consider destabilizing Cuba. The risks of not acting may not be as great in the case of Cuba as for Iran or Iraq, but neither are the risks of taking action. Cuba is a damaged society and would take years to recover to a point where it would contribute more than emigrants to the Caribbean region, but that’s a reason to start the process ASAP. Just as the Middle East will be a better place with a democratic Iraq and Iran, so the Americas would be better without a dysfunctional communist kleptocracy led by a senile thug. Bush may have more important things on his mind, and our foreign-policy bureaucracy and think tanks may have given up on Cuba long ago, but perhaps it’s time to reconsider our tacit policy of non-intervention.
One of the more satisfying scenes from this year’s Tour de France was Armstrong on the winner’s podium in Paris with the rousing strains of the The Star Spangled Banner reverberating from the Arc de Triomphe. Yet somehow the moment was incomplete, not quite perfect. It was missing only a certain small gesture on Lance’s part, a mere bagatelle. Ah, yes:
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Go Postal
Lex claims to be too busy to blog, but he threw me a scrap in the form of this Ralph Peters column. It’s one of the best pieces on the subject so far.
Posted by Seth Tillman on 25th July 2003 (All posts by Seth Tillman)
Senator Clinton said this yesterday about the assassination of a distinguished NYC Councilman: “a tragic, terrible irony.”
Notice the cognitive dissonance. She can’t call it an actual tragedy — something shared. The situation here is something she observes as an outsider looking in, like reading a book — the situation is ironic or tragically ironic. Literature can be ironic, but an assassination? And even if in some abstract sense her analysis is correct, aren’t her words shameful? Her words don’t comfort the grieving — they just rub in the waste as useless. The proper words at such a moment would be: “A good man was wrongly struck down, we share in his family’s and friends’ grief. It is a tragedy of the first order.” Her commenting about the situation’s irony shows a real disconnect from the common fate of her constituents.
The Left’s problem is not that they see the world differently or in a socially constructed way at odds with facts. But rather that they think they are observers to a reality that mere plebeians (like you and me and the person next door) are content to live in. We are mice in a maze and they are the social scientist running some experiment. But when the mice don’t cooperate, they are exasperated because we don’t notice that they are our social betters.
And they wonder why they lose elections.
The Iron Law:
Female correspondents will be competent in inverse relationship to how good-looking they are.
I inadvertently corrupted our blog’s DB while making a backup today. However, we are now back in business thanks to the Lara Croft-like coolness and competence of Stacy at Hosting Matters. The only problem is that any comments left after 10:38 EST today have been deleted. I apologize for the disruption.
A link to my friend’s daily market-centric blog (also named Andy).
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Markets, Politics, etc…
Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd July 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Everyone throughout the wide realms of Blogistan will have their opinions about the killing by our troops of Uday and Qusay.
I am elated. This is good news for America, Iraq and the world. One of the secretaries at my office told me about it. She’s the only other hawk I know of there. She has a niece in Iraq.
This sends a powerful message to the whole world in a language Neanderthal man would have understood. These guys took on the USA and its allies, and now they are dead. That will help quell further bad behavior from any number of sources. Plus, its plain justice that these mass murderers have been killed. Anyway, they were participating as commanders in an ongoing war against the USA, so they were military targets. Another factor is the ongoing fear in Iraq that the regime will return, that the US and the other Coalition countries will just cut and run. Hunting down and killing Uday and Qusay sends a message to the Iraqi people that the victorious powers are serious about tearing out the former regime root and branch. That will help create confidence and cooperation among the Iraqi people. All in all this 100% good news.
I will add that this is further evidence that (as I said here and here) the news media are liars by omission, and that the United States and its allies are winning this part of the war — the rat hunt, the roundup of Saddam’s cronies, dead-enders, and foreign trouble-makers.
Strategy Page has a good summary What Is Really Happening In Iraq?.
A lot of the “combat” is now taking place in the shadows. Special Forces, Delta Force and SEALs are doing what they’ve been doing since before the war began; sorting out the Iraqi underground. This mélange of criminals, Saddam’s secret police and various Baath Party big shots (including Saddam and his sons) terrorized and plundered Iraq and are trying to get back to the good old days now that the war’s over. … Special Forces and military intelligence troops have been creating a growing network of informers and anti-Saddam Iraqis. … SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has more Civil Affairs troops than it does Special Forces. And that’s no accident. Special Forces has been practicing, for over half a century, to deal with what is happening in Iraq today.
So much for the quagmire. (This item: How to interrogate Iraqis, also provides some good insights.)
Now, get that last ace. Get Saddam.
Update: den Beste weighs in.
Update II: Phil Carter notes that this may or may not lead to any decrease in the guerilla activity. Hmmm. OK, but it cannot possibly hurt that our people killed these two dirtbags. No. It is a win. How big a win is yet to be determined. (via Instapundit).
Update III: Steven Green at Vodkapundit has an excellent post (also via Instapundit). He takes on two topics I have been mulling but have not had the time, discipline or willpower to research and post: (1) the long “trailing edge” of sporadic violence that follows most wars, and (2) the uselessness of any comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. On (1) In addition to the post-WWII cases he cites, I’d also note that there was a long period of irregular warfare after the Franco-Prussian war, after Napoleon III’s regime had been sh*tcanned, including a siege of Paris. There was a lot of mob and irregular violence following the American Civil War, by the Klan and by others. After Napoleon lost finally at Waterloo, his army disintegrated into bands of brigands who raised Hell for a long time. In other words, this is all pretty normal post-war activity. Wars don’t end neatly. On (2) he notes that there were a few successful communist guerilla campaigns, backed by the USSR, but “The difference to our country is: Russia was too smart to strike New York, and the Islamists weren’t.” One thing I’d add to his list of factors differentiating Iraq from Vietnam is the fact that the Vietnamese communists had become battle-hardened experts in guerilla war by the time we got involved. There is no comparison between the skill, courage and determination of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese regular troops and the human detritus which is still running around in Iraq. There is no Giap or Ho Chi Minh among their leaders, either, count on it. The Americans and their coalition allies and the forces they will construct in Iraq are going to impose peace on Iraq, within months, not years. Another difference is that there is no way any of the neighboring countries will allow themselves to be major bases for guerilla activity, such as the Vietnamese communists were able to employ. There will be no equivalent of Cambodia, with enormous bases and arms caches which the US will choose not to attack out of some psychotic devotion to formal legalism. If Syria or Iran were stupid enough to try that crap, the US would attack them and make them pay a heavy price, and they know it.
The United States is a powerful, wealthy, successful country. That means, human nature being what it is, and original sin being what it is, that most people looking at us will hate us for these things. Sad, maybe, but inevitable. Under Clinton we were hated, but despised as weak. Now under Bush we are hated, but also feared. Hated and feared is better for the safety of Americans and the peace of the world. It would be nice to be respected, but we can live without it, as long as we are feared.
Somebody calls the FBI about a young bearded guy reading lefty literature in a coffee shop. The FBI contacts the young bearded guy, who consents to be interviewed. Agents visit him and he is taken aback to discover that they look and talk like cops rather than ironic twenty something bookstore employees. They ask him some questions, explain why they are interested, and leave. He later telephones one of the agents to provide more information about what he was reading in the coffee shop. That’s it. Then the guy publishes an online column in which he frets about the dire state of our country.
His article is actually more revealing about his own dire intellectual state, and perhaps that of self-identified future journalism students generally. The person who reported him to the FBI may have been malicious or foolish, and most such tips about possible terrorists are undoubtedly smoke, but how is the govt supposed to know which tips are bogus? There is no alternative to checking them out. The FBI has done a lot of bad things but this isn’t one of them. If it really were a police state they would have done more than ask him a few questions and leave, and he probably would not have written publicly about the experience.
On the other hand, a published article about a run-in with the feds looks good on the aspiring journalist’s resume.
Posted by Lexington Green on 21st July 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Val has an excellent post providing at length and even-handedly the facts on this topic. Like most liberal folk tales, the truth bears little resemblance to the mythology.
Update: Bernhardt Varenius at Anti-Socialist Tendencies has this post about Allende’s attempt to create a computer database to centrally manage the Chilean economy. What madness. This led me to flip through the chapters on socialist planning in Hayek’s best book Individualism and Economic Order. I thought I recalled a passage where he discusses how a central planner, even if he had every scrap of articulable knowledge that could be gathered, and even if he could digest it all in a timely fashion, would still be missing most of the essential knowledge which is required to carry on the daily business of life. I did not find a pithy one-liner, but I do recommend that you read those essays, written in the 1930s and not outdated one iota. In fact, the idiocy they rebut is still prescribed with a straight face routinely to this day.
Posted by Lexington Green on 21st July 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Check out this post on Winds of Change, an email from a special operations soldier in Iraq. A sample:
Our search and destroy missions are largely at night, free of reporters and generally terrifying to those brave warriors of Allah.
The only thing that frightens them more is hearing the word “Gitmo”. The word is out that a trip to Guantanimo Bay is not a Caribbean vacation and they usually start squealing like the little mice they are, when an interrogator mentions “Gitmo”.
No wonder the International Red Cross, the National Council of Churches and the French keep protesting about the place. They know it has proven to be very effective in keeping several hundred real fanatical psychopaths in check and very frankly would rather see them cut loose to go kill some more GIs or innocent Americans, just to make W. look bad.
We have about 200 really bad guys in custody now and probably will park them in the desert behind a triple roll of razor wire, backed up by a couple of Bradleys pointed their way, if they decide to riot. Maybe a few will get to Gitmo but most are human garbage that wouldn’t take on your five-year old grandson face-to-face. The more we go after them and not vice-versa I think we will see the sniper attacks go down. Yeah, they’ll get lucky now and then, but it’s showtime, fellows.
This ain’t no quagmire. It’s a rat hunt. And it smells like victory. Not fast, not pretty, not easy, but certain and permanent.
Read it all. (Via Donald Sensing)
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on “…the end of hostilities and the start of the real war.”
Posted by Lexington Green on 21st July 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Jonathan had this post linking to a review of The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which I’ll get when it comes out in the USA. This book was also reviewed in the Spectator, and described as a “spectacular” work. It is good to see the Soviet Union getting the scrutiny it merits. We know all about Hitler, not enough about Stalin and his entourage of drunken, murderous thugs, lickspittles, lackeys, toadies — a gang that mouthed the platitudes of communism while grabbing the goodies with both hands, and living in bowel-freezing terror of even a harsh glance from the homicidal maniac who was their master. “The horror of private property was such that some leaders did not own their own towels.” Perfect. (One of the timeless golden oldies on this subject is Conversations With Stalin by Milovan Djilas.) This deranged circus was the entity that American liberals made excuses for, lied for, spied for, compared favorably to their own country. Henry Wallace said, “we have political democracy, they have economic democracy.” Yeah, and they also had Genghis Khan with a telephone, and a death camp the size of Canada.
It appears that the time is now to snatch these scraps of history back out of the memory hole. I’m currently slowly wending my way through a sterling example of this revived interest, Anne Applebaum’s recent book GULAG: A History. At about page 150, I can say that it is very good. When I’m done I’ll have a few words to say about it here. For some reason I was put off by reviews I read of Martin Amis’s Koba the Dread: Laughter and the 20 Million, which is also about Stalin. I got the sense it was flippant and really about the author, so who needs it. So I didn’t read it. But if it helped to raise consciousness about the horrors of Soviet communism, well and good.
Finally, as an aside, I’ll note that the book review section in the Spectator is always good, and it is a weekly. It is one of my regular stops in my ambles through cyberspace, and I have found out about several interesting books there which I might not otherwise have heard of.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Kremlin Life II
Steven Den Beste is back in form with a monster post summarizing the case for our being in Iraq as part of a reasonable long-term strategy for protecting ourselves by reforming the Arab world. He also effectively slaps down (not that it’s difficult to do) the “Bush lied!” idiots.
Posted by Lexington Green on 19th July 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
OK. This should be three posts, but its late, I’m tired and I just kept typing. You have been warned.
What a vacation. Work issues ate a chunk, then a medical issue (don’t worry we’re all OK) ate a bunch more, and the return trip with four small kids was an ordeal. But mostly it was good. My sister got us a terrific house about a five minute walk from the beach in Ogunquit. With little kids, we don’t do a lot of restaurant dining, but you can get good fried whole clams at any of a dozen places, and I availed myself of this relatively inexpensive local delicacy.
I managed to finish Max Boot’s Savage Wars of Peace, (buy it here). It is a decent book, though it falls short of some of the raves it got. It is especially useful if you are not well-acquainted with America’s smaller wars. I also finished Neils Bjerre-Poulsens book Right Face: Organizing the American Conservative Movement 1945-65. That one is a great honking slab of all-beef political history of the type I like best. I may do a post at some point on the history of Conservatism, but there is a wave of current scholarship which I am not current on, and I’d like to be. It may be while on that one. I also read Bruce Gudmundsson’s book On Infantry, which is superb. I have read a shopping cart full of military books in the last several months, many of which touch on the themes which Gudmundsson focuses on like unit cohesion, and military effectiveness not being primarily a function of technology. I hope to do a big blog post on all that, too, time, energy and Divine Providence permitting. I ended up re-reading James Burnham’s (see this also) somewhat dated masterpiece Suicide of the West: an essay on the meaning and destiny of liberalism. I grew up with Burnham’s columns in National Review. He was the coldest of Cold Warriors. Like many of the initial National Review crowd, he was a former commie, and he brought an icy, hard-headed Leninist ruthlessness to the struggle against communism, which he was only able to wage through his writing. This book, once I finish rereading it, certainly merits a few good paragraphs of analysis here. I went to the Book Barn in Wells, Maine, which is a pretty good used book store. I got, for $1.50, Luigi Barzini’s American’s Are Alone in the World. Barzini was a great writer and very insightful about the United States. This will go on the shelf until the cows come home, probably, but anything by him is sure to be good and I may even get to it someday.
I also got, for $3.50, a damaged copy of G.R. Gleig’s Personal Reminiscences of the Duke of Wellington. This is a justifiably forgotten book, almost raw data for a real narrative biographer to refer to. Still, if you like this kind of thing, its very banality is a window into the political and cultural world of England circa 1830, when Gleig worked as a minion of the Iron Duke in the struggle against the Reform Bill, which was a major reform of the election of members of the House of Commons. The Duke, bless him, was a conservative of a stripe we can no longer even imagine. He loathed democracy which, with reason, he saw as mob rule. He remained a tough old bird, long after he left the army. At the time he was opposing the Reform, there was a lot of “agitation” in the country, “mobs burnt towns and sacked gentlemen’s houses”. Gleig warned Wellington to be careful coming out to his country house. Wellington responded, “I suspect that those who will attack me on the road will come rather the worst out of the contest, if there should be one.” Gleig, with a few gentlemen from the area rode out, each armed with “a heavy hunting whip, and pistols”, to meet the Duke: “I found him in his open caleche, provided with a brace of double-barrelled pistols, and having his servant likewise armed, seated on the box.” No mob emerged, so the Duke did not have to work the execution of any rustic miscreants with his own firearms. (Blair may make a good speech, but I’ll be believe he is the Iron Duke’s equal when I see him in an open-topped car with an automatic rifle in his lap.) Gleig, an Anglican clergyman, treats with admirable delicacy the question of Wellington’s relations with Mrs. Arbuthnot. I can say that as of page 224, I have gotten more than my $3.50 worth of utils out of it.
I saw Joschka Fischer on Charlie Rose. Fischer is a smooth and soothing phony. I read a column by William Pfaff in the Boston Globe, which I fished out of the trash at the airport — I’d never give a cent to the Globe. Both made the same point that it is simply awful how the Atlantic Alliance is crumbling, and how it is imperative that Europe and America work together, and according to Pfaff, how European intellectuals roll their eyes at the supposed global menace of Osama bin Laden. The only sane response to this, shorn of fully-merited profanity, is so what? Who cares? If the American public agrees with the president that there is a danger requiring a military response, and the European intelligentsia, lefty pols like Fischer, and would-be sophisticates like Pfaff don’t like it, so what? Why do we need them to do anything? If they don’t perceive a danger, stay home. Regulate the fat content of cheese, mandate a 32 hour work week, keep the grocery stores closed at night, create a “consitution” with a right to a government-employed guidance counsellor for anyone who is sad. Whatever. Do your thing, Europe. (Anyway, the Germans are in Afghanistan, because they agree it is important to be there, not out of sentimentality.)
We’ll do ours. “Ours” includes demolishing the Taliban and Saddam and hunting down al Qaeda, the purportedly imaginary menace that massacred 3,000 Americans. I was forwarded an email from an officer in the 101st Airborne recently. He had a lot to say, including this:
I know it looks bleak right now, but do not despair. Today they started to count the bodies at just one of the grave sites, and they counted at least over a hundred, and they believe that they can identify nearly a thousand bodies in this cave. I saw the photos from the sight. It’s in this cave and the bodies are pretty well decomposed though some still have hair and what not. Almost all are women and children with gunshot wounds to the head. They literally tossed the bodies into the cave into massive heaps like garbage, and then they left them there. It is pretty disconcerting to see. I have never seen so many bodies, and it reminds me of the Holocaust. We allowed this to happen twelve years ago, and after you see it, you can never be the same. You realize how you cannot allow these people to return to power. It will be a long fight.
He goes on to say: “We are America. We are the greatest country in history — not because of the countries we conquered, not because of the lands that flew our flag, we will be remembered for we are liberators, for the lands whose flags we returned.”
William Pfaff and liberals like him, for reasons of their own, would be embarrassed by these types of sentiments, and facts. They live in dread of the ironic smirks of Belgian journalists or French bureaucrats or German university professors. As for me, I don’t care about such people and I feel perfectly assured that a solid majority of Americans think and feel the same way.
The worst thing of all for these people is that what the United States is doing is working. I got an email containing some language from a senior officer in Baghdad. He does not sound like he is bogged down in any quagmire:
I travel with a loaded 9mm pistol on my lap. This place reminds me of Max Max and the Road Warrior movies. … We are fighting former regime-backed paramilitary groups, Iranian-based opposition, organized criminals, and street thugs. We have stood up governing councils from neighborhood to district to city level. We have conducted humanitarian action in numerous areas to include repair of electricity, water, sewer, hospitals, and schools; created refuse collection systems; and built numerous recreational facilities (particularly soccer fields). We have cleared hundreds of tons of UXOs and weapons caches. … On any given day I deal with the political realm of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the humanitarian realm of the NGOs, and the military realm of firefights/improved explosive devices/snipers/mortar attacks. [The brigade] contains active duty, reserv ists, and National Guardsmen. [It] has lost 4 soldiers since taking over the sector. The soldiers are staying focused and disciplined, and are getting more effective with each passing day. Our snipers have had some success of late – enough said. Even though we are still being shot at daily, the vast majority of the population supports our objectives and just want to get on with their lives. We are doing some excellent humanitarian work, but it doesn’t make the news because all the press wants to talk about is the attacks. The infrastructure is up and running and the shortfalls in electricity, water, sewage, etc., are being addressed. We have local advisory councils of Iraqi citizens set up in Baghdad and a functioning city council. The people we kicked out of power can’t stand our success, however, and will do everything they can to try to make us fail. Thus the ongoing gun battles in the streets. There is also a lot of organized crime here. I have flashbacks to “The Godfather” all the time. … We had a visit from a team from the British Army experienced in operations in Northern Ireland, and we were already doing everything they talked to us about.
These are the voices of an army which is winning, which has the momentum, and which knows it is serving a just cause. Don’t let the misleading news media reports fool you. They want the United States to fail, they want our soldiers to die for nothing, both out of malice and out of a belief that this outcome will help elect a Democrat president. But they are not going to get their wish.
To wrap up, we spent our last day out East in Natick, Mass., where my sister lives. We walked down to the town square. Like every New England town there is a Civil War monument, with the town’s dead listed by name. Natick lost about 100. Several names are in groups, three Manns, I noticed. Three brothers, maybe? The monument says that it there to preserve the memory of those who gave up their lives to save their country “in the war of 1861.” Nothing changes. Everything we have and everything we are was bought and paid for with blood. American soldiers are fighting in a remote place, tonight, now, to bring peace and order to a foreign land to advance our ideals and to preserve our safety and freedom. What they are doing is right. Those who oppose them, jeer at them, lie about them, are wrong. I will continue to pray for the souls of the ones who died so far in this war, and for their families, and for an end to these horrors for the people in Iraq and for a more peaceful and orderly world. God bless America.
Funny story here
chickens cross road to search for WMD on other side
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Kremlin Life, Back in the Day
Robert Cringely writes thoughtfully and at length about the numerous vulnerabilities of new governmental info-tracking schemes. Problems are unavoidable, both because of the vast scope envisioned for these databases and because they will be created and administered by government officials who will lack both the incentive and the ability to prevent theft and misuse of sensitive data.
No sane person is in favor of terrorism or lawlessness. But at a time when intelligence agencies are under fire for being not very intelligent, when our leaders are sometimes in too big a hurry to cast blame and take credit, we are building huge information gathering systems that we can’t completely control, we can’t completely validate, that can be turned against us by our enemies, and that can ultimately be used to justify, well, anything.
Of course he’s right. CARNIVORE, CALEA, TIA, etc. have been and are being driven by concerns about organized-crime and terrorism. Most citizens are unaware or unconcerned about problems with these systems, government agencies have lobbied vigorously for them, and legislators have consequently brushed aside concerns in allowing them (though TIA’s status is uncertain). But the existing systems are all vulnerable to hacking — and have been hacked, as Cringely points out — and the proposed TIA system, which promises to be much bigger than the previous systems combined, is likely to be at least as vulnerable to such problems and to false positives as well.
(Link: Don Luskin)
UPDATE: This is encouraging, though I think it’s too early to know if the level of public opposition will prove sufficient to stop the government’s data-mining program for good. TIA legislation has been “killed” at least once before, yet the security bureaucracy and its legislative supporters got it reintroduced in slightly different form. Time will tell.
Posted by Lexington Green on 11th July 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Lex is off to Maine. No blogging for a while. Now, y’all behave yourselves while I’m away.
Interesting article here with national security and freedom of speech implications. I agree with the statement “Why in the world have we been so stupid as a country to have all this information in the public domain?”, but I fail to see the net benefit from squelching this guy’s work, as it does not seem to be prohibitively difficult to reproduce. Even if it took a year of dedicated effort by a group with nefarious intentions, would these assets be adequately protected by then?
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Posted by Lexington Green on 9th July 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
I should mention that I saw a truly fabulous set of shows at Fitzgerald’s on July 4th. They have a party on the 4th every year, called the American Music Festival, with a tent with a stage outside, and bands playing all day. It’s worth checking out if you live in the area.
I actually had to work the morning of the 4th, which was unfortunate. But I got home in the mid-afternoon and my wife talked me into going to Fitzgerald’s, with the kids, to see a western swing outfit called the Hot Club of Cowtown. These guys were excellent. Girl fiddle player plays in Bob Wills style, but with a hint maybe of Stefan Grapelli. They did an instrumental version of Faded Love, which is originally a Bob Wills song. They played it so well the crowd fell silent — it brought tears to your eyes. They asked for requests, and I was able to bribe my 8 year old to go up and ask for Bubbles in my Beer, which they played. They also did a nice one called “Silver Dew on the Blue Grass Tonight”.
Cowtown was followed by a zydeco-type outfit called Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie. I danced, sort of, with my two oldest daughters (4 and 6) to this stuff. I just sorta flung them around. They dug it. Let me state candidly that it is my considered opinion that zydeco, which really does all sound exactly the same, is nearly useless where the listener is sober. Starting at mildly buzzed and ascending on into the higher realms of inebriation, it becomes a valuable enhancement to the natural inclination to rhythmic bodily movement. So I derived what enjoyment was to be had from Monsieur Delafose and his colleagues.
As an aside, I will note that I drank bourbon and ginger ales throughout this extravaganza. I highly recommend this nutritious and flavorful drink. I suggest you get your friendly barkeep to give it to you in a large glass, in this case a plastic beer mug, with a lot of ginger ale so it is somewhat dilute. This method enhances the drink’s natural thirst-quenching qualities, while not getting you so blotto so fast that you are rendered useless as a caregiver to small children. (Please pass on any memorable experiences you may have with this delectable cocktail. The Summer is young.) (My Mom used to drink these. Maybe three of them a year. She insisted on Old Grand Dad and crushed ice. I had Makers Mark. And ice schmice — just go easy on the ice.)
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