Archive for May, 2007
This should probably be filed under new examples of age-old conflicts – a discussion which gets us nowhere:
The lack of response to the “torture manual” by so many who decry the very existence of Guantanamo is discouraging, but the comment string on Surber’s post raises a different (more theoretical if perhaps no larger) question. An early comment by Talboito argues:
Yes, the United States must be above even “false stories” of torture.
We are the United States.
Most of us (probably all) would agree that the United States needs to hold itself to a higher standard than such barbarism. A telling if minor reason is that while beheadings may be seen as a recruiting tool in some cultures, they are not likely to be in ours. Recruiting people drawn to swear allegiance to the party of the torture manuals is not likely to lead to a very disciplined or very intelligent army. Then of course, as my student said of Hester’s “adultery thing”, there’s always that “moral thing.” And, of course, we become what we do. A country that values both self-consciousness and action needs to intertwine the two.
A local hit seems appropriate on Memorial Day. Sent out to those Aggies, still going to the wild & heavy places duty calls: Granger Smith’s “We Bleed Maroon.” Rough version (originally bootleged on local stations). Lyrics.
There late at night if I listen real close
The spirit still whispers through the crooked live oaks
I hear my father and his dad before
And all those brave Aggies who never came back from war
My mother was sharp-tongued and, perhaps I am as well; we were not particularly close. But reading Ann Althouse’s post today, I recognize and salute an attitude. It is true that my mother wanted to leave the village in which she grew up; it is true that she worked her way, first through high school and then college. The Waves, as the service is for so many, was a way out and up. But she joined the Waves in the first months of the war because she embraced duty as she embraced rights. As her mother had “demonstrated” because she thought women deserved the vote, my mother enlisted because she wanted to ensure that right. I was shocked when a woman in my Sunday School class described her work as a nurse during WWII in terms of oppression – we weren’t given the same money as the men, we weren’t. . . and I thought how such an idea would never have occurred to my mother. She felt lucky to serve.
She remembered those years fondly because she traveled the country; she met and worked with politicians and a variety of women, all of whom wanted to give. She spoke with pride of the women she recruited. One had parents who invited my mother to dinner and fervently said that their daughter didn’t want – and they didn’t want for her – a “feather dusting” job. She wanted to serve. She spoke of African-American girls with all the qualifications for officers who wouldn’t, yet, be enlisted into that route (she held back for a couple of weeks one such application, hearing that officer training would be soon integrated; her African-American enlistees were then put early on that fast track.) In Oklahoma, in the forties, she worked late in old office buildings, following communication paths. Fifty years later, when she died, a group of Waves, now, too, in their late seventies, drove the hundred miles and paid their respects at her funeral.
Posted by Lexington Green on 28th May 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Lexington & Concord, Saratoga, Valley Forge, Yorktown, the burning of Washington, Battle of New Orleans, Chapultepec, Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, Appomatox, Little Big Horn, San Juan Hill, Belleau Wood, Meuse-Argonne, Pearl Harbor, Bataan Death March, Midway, Kasserine Pass, Normandy, Bastogne, Okinowa, Inchon, Chosin Reservoir, Ia Drang Valley, Hue, Linebacker II, evacuation of Saigon, Desert Storm, 9/11, fall of Baghdad, Falujah — victories and defeats, a hundred battles, a thousand skirmishes, countless deeds unknown to history.
Gratitude and respect for America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and all who have gone in harm’s way to defend America and destroy America’s enemies. God rest the souls of those who died, God give strength to those who were harmed or maimed in the course of their service, God sustain the families of all who serve. God bless America.
(Wretchard discusses the evil of our current and future enemies. If you smirk at the word “evil” you are going to have a rude awakening in the years ahead.)
Posted by Lexington Green on 28th May 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Currently reading Jean Edward Smith’s very good new bio of FDR. I am picking at or stalled on Steven Ambrose’s 2nd volume of his bio of Eisenhower, Andrew Roberts’ A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, Geoffrey Faber’s bio of Benjamin Jowett, Gen. D.K. Palit’s War in High Himalaya: The Indian Army in Crisis, 1962, Jack P. Greene’s Peripheries And Center: Constitutional Development in the Extended Polities of the British Empire And the United States, 1607-1788. Picking at a recent bargain purchase — $4! — of an ancient, two volume biography of Lord Bryce, which provides one of contemporary life’s few great pleasures — time spent in the company of the men of intellect and action of the Victorian and Edwardian era. Recently finished Stanley Jaki’s, dense, erudite and fascinating The Road of Science and the Ways to God. Also recently finished John Robb’s excellent Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization (go get it!), Tom Barnett’s review here. (Zenpundit links to an interview with Robb, here.) I also recently devoured G.C. Wynne’s classic from 1940, If Germany Attacks: The Battle in Depth in the West, which is really about the Germans’ defensive tactics on the Western Front in World War I. A “must read” if you are into that sort of thing. Another good recent read was The Definitive Drucker by Elizabeth Haas Edersheim. Drucker’s depiction of business as it ought to be, and sometimes can be, can be a little depressing if you look at your own situation and see most of his wisdom turned on its head. Drucker is the gold standard, but Dilbert is too often the reality.
Posted by Lexington Green on 27th May 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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Today marks the 66th anniversary of the sinking of the major German warship Bismarck, concluding a naval engagement that extended over several days and hundreds of miles.
How might this sequence of events have been portrayed by today’s media?
How about them pics! I was half-expecting the final image to show a group of pale, dour-faced cadets standing solemnly behind a blue/green rotting corpse, with a big “WAR IS BAD” banner displayed in the background. Or maybe I am overreacting — the faux-crossprocessed look is big these days.
The actual article isn’t bad. The cadets come across as intelligent, thoughtful and morally serious. I wish more journalists and elected officials were like that.
UPDATE: I’ve posted, below the fold, a composite image showing the original photos from the articles superposed over versions of the same photos that I spent a few minutes roughly editing in Photoshop. Even though the photos were made in different settings with different lighting, they all appear more natural after approximately the same types and amounts of color and lighting adjustments (red levels: 1.15; green levels: .85; blue levels: .90; midtone levels: 1.15-1.40). IOW, it appears that the photographer or photo editor dialed in extra blue and green, desaturated the reds and darkened the images overall. There may be another explanation but it sure looks as though the magazine was trying to make these cadets look less than bright-and-rosy. The grim facial expressions add to the negative effect and, consequently, bolster my impression that the image manipulation here was intentional.
UPDATE 2: OTOH there’s this photo from an unrelated article on a newspaper’s Web site. In this case it looks like the photographer inadvertently used the wrong white-balance setting and they ran the photo without correcting the color cast. I’m sure it’s unintentional, since the accompanying article is a favorable profile of the subject of the photo. Could a mass-circulation magazine make a similar error with images used in a feature article? Maybe, but it seems unlikely.
Plato was a philosopher. He neither “sowed nor reaped.” Instead, he made his place in the world by thinking and talking persuasively. In “The Republic” he turned his intellect to the question of creating the perfect society. He thought about the matter very hard and discovered that the best people to govern society were philosophers, i.e., people just like Plato.
Imagine his surprise.
Why do parlor tricks convince even very intelligent people that they have witnessed a paranormal event rather than a bit of magic? Because even many intelligent people are too foolish to realize that they are not so intelligent as to be beyond being fooled.
One of our regular commentors has no idea who Iowahawk is – clearly we owe our readers more than this. He’s the man, the Michael Yon of the Midwest, reporting on the always risky flyover territory. Like Lileks, he sends back reports, embedded in the seething ethnic enclaves. (Of coure if he’s the Michael Yon then Garrison Keillor is the Fisk.) Today, he analyzes a poll of that poorly understood group, the Lutherans.
Although a majority 87% of respondents agreed that “The world should be brought to submission under global Lutheran conquest and eternal perfect rule,” there was a great deal of disagreement on the means to accomplish it. More than 95% supported “pancake breakfasts” “popcorn fundraisers,” but support dropped to less than 80% for “cow tipping” and “T-P’ing infidel houses.” Support dropped even more dramatically for more violent means of conquest, such as “suicide bombing” (28%), “decapitation” (24%), and “running over Presbyterians with my Ski-Doo” (23%)
Via a Chicago Boyz Forum poster, 1250 free baseball tickets are available this weekend for veterans and active-duty military people who want to attend Chicago White Sox games.
See the post for details.
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Some go to Montaigne for them, some to Ben Franklin. Certainly Poor Richard’s “God helps them that helps themselves” fits a philosophy that is libertarian economically but hawkish internationally. Ron Paul seems not to understand that Franklin’s observation is hardly an argument for isolationism, though it is for libertarian economics.
Of course, not all recognize the richness of the axioms of country music but Fred Thompson won my heart if not yet my vote when I read Liz Garrigan’s piece:
Shortly after I wrote in 2000 that Thompson bears a striking resemblance to the Klingon “Star Trek” character Worf — high forehead, wide nose and a hairline that exposes a bald top (Google it) — a package from the then-unmarried senator arrived in the mail. It was a picture of Worf that Thompson had signed with this message: “In the immortal words of Sawyer Brown, some girls don’t like boys like me. Ah, but some girls do.”
Ten years ago, Colombian writer Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner, and I wrote Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, a book criticizing opinion and political leaders who clung to ill-conceived political myths despite evidence to the contrary. The “Idiot” species, we suggested, bore responsibility for Latin America’s underdevelopment. Its beliefs—revolution, economic nationalism, hatred of the United States, faith in the government as an agent of social justice, a passion for strongman rule over the rule of law—derived, in our opinion, from an inferiority complex. In the late 1990s, it seemed as if the Idiot were finally retreating. But the retreat was short lived. Today, the species is back in force in the form of populist heads of state who are reenacting the failed policies of the past, opinion leaders from around the world who are lending new credence to them, and supporters who are giving new life to ideas that seemed extinct.
The Idiot’s worldview, in turn, finds an echo among distinguished intellectuals in Europe and the United States. These pontificators assuage their troubled consciences by espousing exotic causes in developing nations. Their opinions attract fans among First-World youngsters for whom globalization phobia provides the perfect opportunity to find spiritual satisfaction in the populist jeremiad of the Latin American Idiot against the wicked West.
Read the whole thing, the article is well worth the time. Llosa describes the various species of predatory socialists who rule some key countries in South America and goes on to argue that there currently is a major conflict between pro-Western forces and those who would like to keep it on its present course. The negative influence of European and American intellectuals could well make it impossible to overcome the ‘Latin American Idiot’ and so finally get over economic stagnation and the subsequent, widespread lack of trust in democratic institutions.
The article also is very timely, the (mostly) European variety of economic and ideological idiot is currently preparing to protest the upcoming G8 Summit.
I used to think of Ron Paul as a thoughtful libertarian who was naive about foreign affairs. Who can forget his probing, contrarian questioning of Alan Greenspan on Humphrey-Hawkins testimony days over the years? It was nice to have someone like Paul in Congress. But Paul is a minor figure in national politics and most Americans probably didn’t know much about him until recently.
Kerrey’s editorial made me wonder how often he is asked for an opinion, how often his point of view is solicited in the constant attempt by the mainstream media to balance out panels, to seek other views. Here is a Democrat – not one running for President, but then neither is Hagel. Perhaps he is asked but my sense is that a certain framing of debate, by both right and left, is less likely to seek out his voice than that of, say, Kos or Ann Coulter, those who repeat the Democrats’ talking points and those who repeat the Republicans’. Nuance isn’t entertaining. This partially explains the complaint of Steven Schwartz in his “The Myth of Muslim Silence” at TCS. And the absence (or twentieth paragraphing) of the turnover of Maysan Province to the Iraqis in Michael Yon’s “A Small Battle in the Media War.”
Bob Kerrey’s “The Left’s Iraq Muddle” gives voice to a position we are not surprised to hear from him, but have begun to fear few with a D after their names hold (always with the exception of Lieberman). Clearly prompted by much that he is heard from his own party and from cliches that he knows don’t make sense, Kerrey argues:
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.
To: Mrs. Obama
Never mind that your husband is running for president, your 9-5 job is more important! Because you are a WOMYN (or whatever the current feminista term of petulant self-assertion is). God forbid that you and your husband should work as a team or that you should put your personal and familial interests, as you see them, ahead of rote ideological prescriptions from some busybody you’ve never met. And never mind that taking a break from your current job to help your famous husband campaign is, in the real world, more likely to boost your career prospects than harm them. You are oppressed, dammit. Now go out and fulfill your destiny as an avatar!
Highly intelligent people often have problems in predicting the likely behavior of thugs.
In his 1982 book Rethinking Systems Analysis and Design–a work whose relevance is considerably broader than might be imagined from its title–Gerald Weinberg briefly discusses a contemporary book called How Real is Real?–An Anecdotal Introduction to Communications Theory. Although he finds value is many aspects of this book, Weinberg strongly objects to a passage in which the author (Paul Watzlawick) suggests ways in which communications theory could have been used in the Patty Hearst kidnapping case. Watzlawick suggests that the authorities should have used “Erickson’s confusion technique” as follows:
Utilizing the same channels of delivery as the abductors, it would have been relatively simple for them to deliver to the mass media fake messages, contradicting the real ones but similarly threatening the life of Patricia Hearst if they were not complied with…Very quickly a situation of total confusion could have been set up. None of the threats and demands could have been believed, because every message would have been contradicted or confused by another, allegedly coming from the ‘real’ abductor.
It’s very difficult for me to believe that Watzlawick ever thought critically about this idea for fifteen seconds, but its naivete is typical for this genre of speculative systems writing.
…and goes on to suggest that a good way to consider the possible real-world consequences of ideas like this is to imagine a movie (specifically, a thriller) based on the situation and the proposed actions, and to imagine how the plot might develop.
Our friend Henry Gomez has started Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty (BUCL), a worthwhile campaign to pressure Spain to stop being one of Castro’s principal enablers.
(Cross posted at 26th Parallel.)
Three days ago, I spotted something unusual lying on the gravel walk of my small garden. Grey, heavy … a yard or more of dead iguana, which is quite a lot. I don’t know where iguanas usually go to die, but I’d never come across a dead one before and was quite shocked.
It was dusk, so I thought if I said out loud, “I believe in magic!” it would be gone on the morrow. And indeed, it was! The next morning, gone!
The niggle was, having noticed the previous day that its head had been eaten, I was pretty certain it hadn’t woken up and ambled off. I also noticed my cat Anand, a tall, thin cat, sitting on the path, self-consciously regarding his claws.
I was gripped by a sudden memory of the episode in Fawlty Towers in which a guest dies in the hotel. In order not to upset the elderly permanent residents in the lobby by taking it down to the front door, Basil, the waitress and Manuel temporarily hide the corpse in an empty room. Unwittingly, Basil’s wife,on the front desk, assigns the empty room to a guest and the rest of the episode is Basil, Manual and Connie running around Fawlty Towers shifting the corpse in a panic.
An economist named John Schmitt is quoted extensively in this Reuters news article. It seems that he is rather upset with the way we do things here in the United States. You see, we are “the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays.” Mr. Schmitt says that it is a “national embarrassment.”
The article then goes on to point out that French workers are guaranteed 30 days of paid leave per annum, but only one paid holiday. Most of the other European countries force employers to provide a mere 20 days of paid leave, but the workers also are allowed 15 paid holidays.
That sounds nice on the surface, but I seem to recall that Europe is seriously lagging behind the United States so far as GDP is concerned. In fact, didn’t Europe just manage to reach the level of prosperity that the US attained a full generation ago?
It seems to me that there might just be a connection between government mandated vacation time and slow economic growth, a connection that Mr. Schmitt seems to have missed when talking about our “national embarrassment.”
But economists probably suffer more from embarrassment than I do. If I was Mr. Schmitt, for example, my face would certainly be red after that Reuters article came out.
Helping to support your favorite bloggers in the style to which they are accustomed.
I’m trying out Google ads in the hope of catching some of that good Chicago themed search-engine juice that I have so far allowed to flow through my fingers. Or so I imagine. Now, finally, after thousands of years of suspended animation we shall see what my dreams are made of! Or perhaps not. My guess is that this experiment won’t generate much revenue but, in the Chicago spirit of empiricism, why not give it a try.
UPDATE: Someone pointed out to me that Google’s TOS prohibit suggesting or implying that viewers should click on one’s ads. So, in case it is not clear, I am not suggesting or implying that Chicagoboyz readers should click on my ads.