IT COULD be argued that since Ahmadinejad’s central message failed to register on his Western audiences that his visit to America was a failure. The fact that no media organs felt it necessary to analyze what he was talking about could be seen as a clear sign that no one is interested in buying what he is selling. But this is a dangerous argument, for it misses a basic truth.
Ahmadinejad is not interested in convincing the US government or even the majority of Americans to convert to Islam. He is interested in convincing adherents of totalitarian Islam and potential converts to the cause that they are on the winning side. He is interested in demoralizing foes of totalitarian Islam within the Islamic world and so causing them to give up any thoughts of struggle. In this goal he is no different from any of his Sunni counterparts in Saudi Arabia, al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or their sister organizations throughout the Islamic world and indeed throughout the West.
[. . .]
The thing of it is that aside from blind narcissism, there is a reason that the West ignores the dangers facing it. The Western media ignored Ahmadinejad’s message, just as it has insistently ignored the messages of bin Laden and Fatah throughout the years, because Westerners have a hard time believing that anyone would want to abide by the Islamic world view which denies mankind’s desire for freedom.
But no matter how ugly an ideology is, in the absence of real competition it gains adherents and power. The only way to ensure that jihadists’ demonic views are defeated is by stridently defending and upholding the fundamental principles on which the Free World is based. And the West hasn’t even begun to take up this challenge.
As a result, it has handed its enemies two victories already. It has demoralized its potential allies in the Islamic world, and it has failed to rally its own people to defend themselves.
In spite of what the West would like to believe, Ahmadinejad and his allies from Ramallah to Waziristan, from Gaza to Kandahar to Baghdad, are not negotiating. They are fighting. Rather than ignore them or seek to find nonexistent common ground, we must defeat them – first and foremost on the battleground of ideas.
Archive for September, 2007
Part two of a two part series. Part one is here. Click any photo for larger.
The traditional topping for key lime pie to me is a meringue. I am not that big of a fan of meringue, so I whip my own cream. Again, so easy just about anybody can do this.
This is the first of a two part series. Part two is here. Click any photo for larger.
Before I begin this two part series about Key Lime Pie, I must first and foremost give a tip of the hat to the inspiration for this recipe, Steve H. His original blog post and recipe can be found here and I basically followed it to the number. There are a couple of minor variations, and I took some photos of the process. So lets begin.
Click the photo to display a 1600 x 750 pixel (huge) version in a new window.
Dr. Jack Wheeler reveals how the recent Israeli raid on Syria has provoked near-panic in Syria and Iran, by the simple fact that the Israeli aircraft breezed right through Syria’s supposed state-of-the-art air-defense net without raising the least alarm to their presence.
In game theory, demonstrating you can do something like penetrate another’s defenses can have as much effect as actually doing so in open conflict. The Israelis pulled a similar trick when they chased the PLO out of Lebanon. Then too, the Syrians had created a state-of-the-art Soviet air-defense net in southern Lebanon and Israel wrecked it within a few hours. That event not only stunned the Arab despots but the Soviets as well. They well understood that if the Israelis could waltz through their air defenses then the Americans could as well. At that point, all ideas of provoking any kind of conventional conflict with the West got swept off the table.
The Israeli invasion of Lebanon helped marginalize those within the Soviet Union who sought a violent solution to their increasing problems, and helped pave the way for Gorbachev. I suppose it is too much to ask that one little raid should provoke such major changes in the Arab world, but history has turned on stranger things.
It is sad when two of my more depressing prophecy-type posts intersect…
Cook County is the vast county within which the city of Chicago resides, along with a large number of affluent suburbs. Cook County has a population of over 5 million and is the 2nd largest county in terms of population in the United States.
In this post from March of 2007 I discussed how a succession movement could be in the future of Cook County. Specifically, I noted how the huge expenses of maintaining hospitals was burdening the county and killing their ability to live within a balanced budget.
In this post from December 2006 I went through sales taxes, which are among the most regressive taxes in the arsenal of tax tools and the fact that Cook County and the City of Chicago have one of the highest and most unfavorable sales tax regimes in the country.
Now, in a single article in the Chicago Tribune titled “County Urged To Boost Sales Tax – City Total Would be 11% Under Plan” dated September 25, 2007 shows the likely intersection of these negative trends. Todd Stroger, the epitome of political nepotism, who campaigned on a plan to streamline the bloated Cook County work force, has done nothing of the sort and is now looking about for a revenue boost to cover the inevitable annual increases in expense growth.
The line from Mayor Daley says it all – “A sales tax is a hard pill, but how do we fund three hospitals?”
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About Columbia. Is it just me or did Bollinger seem arrogant on a grand order? In the first place, he assumes the right to free speech rests upon Columbia’s platform. This confusion often is voiced in academic surroundings – not supporting a particular kind of art or scholarship or speech is not censoring it – despite the artist’s or scholar’s or speaker’s belief they deserve support; this only has weight in a world in which all art or scholarship or speech is cleared through and supported by the government. Then, there is the irony of Bollinger’s position in relation to army recruiting and the Minutemen.
A&L links to reviews of two new books – one on the nature of Al Quada and the other on the nature of man.
I was very intrigued to read that a major film is being made about the life of Noor Inayat Khan. For those who aren’t familiar with this WWII heroine, a brief synopsis, after which I’ll discuss the plans for the movie.
A few months ago the Senate Democrats here in the State of Wisconsin floated a plan to provide universal health care for all residents of the state. The first question most will ask is “who is going to pay?” The answer is that the plan ($15bb worth) will be funded through a payroll tax.
The plan is dead in the water as the Republicans who control our State Assembly are having nothing of it, but in the next election there is the distinct possibility that the Democrats will win back the Assembly, and will then control the Governor’s chair, the Senate and the Assembly.
In his novel, Count Zero, William Gibson has his billionaire cancer patient Josef Virek say:
“Yes, Marly. And from that rather terminal perspective, I should advise you to strive to live hourly in your own flesh… I speak as one who can no longer tolerate that simple state, the cells of my body having opted for the quixotic pursuit of individual careers… I was touched, Marly, at your affairs of the heart. I envy you the ordered flesh from which they unfold.”
It turns out that the cancer cell’s pursuit of an individual career may not be as quixotic a pursuit as once thought.
There must be something in the water lately as I have been getting an upsurge of inquiries and public comments regarding information operations, public diplomacy, “soft power” agents of influence, 5GW and similar matters. There are other blogs I can recommend as being better on this score – Beacon, MountainRunner, Kent’s Imperative, Swedish Meatballs Confidential and Whirledview to name but a few. Also, I would suggest that interested readers search the archives of Studies in Intelligence, PARAMETERS, The Strategic Studies Institute, Combined Arms Research Library and the threads at The Small Wars Council. Genuine expertise may be found there and for discussions of theory and emerging trends, I recommend Dreaming 5GW.
That being said, I will offer my two cents anyway.
One point of agreement across the political spectrum and that of informed opinion is that the USG has not done a particularly good job of managing “the war of ideas” in the conflict with Islamist terrorism. Or against state adversaries. Or with persuading neutrals and even our own allies to our point of view. When you are having difficulty drawing even in global popularity contest with a crowd of bearded fanatics who put beheading videos on the internet, it’s time to admit there’s a problem.
A recent article in Barron’s magazine was titled ‘Weathering the Storm in Style’ and it discussed what retirees could do if the market tanked in the years while they were living off their retirement savings. The article mentions people who planned to retire just prior to the 2002 market meltdown but whose portfolios went down significantly (25% – 40%) and they had to change their plans and keep working as a result.
Later the article mentions how many “good years” you need in the years following the meltdown in order to make up for the bad times. For example, if the market drops 25% in one year, you will need to gain 46.67% in the following year to recoup the gain plus make 10% more (i.e. if you have a base expectation that the market will make you 10% in a year, you don’t just need to recover the drop, you need to make up for the ‘lost year’.
I covered a similar conceptual issue in a post titled “Percentage Returns… and other Lies” about how the portfolio managers could have a series of good looking years after a debacle like 2002 and yet investors still hadn’t recovered their initial investment (let alone make 10% / year to boot). I used a bit of my own portfolio for color commentary in that post, to “humanize” it, like a good journalist should.
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He seemed to particularly like my Parliament of Clocks metaphor.
It continues because of human nature. Indeed, the tension between our egos and appropriate limits is always a problem; of course, power is implicit in the student/teacher relationship. We always think we know more than we do. We may get so used to standing at the front of the classroom and instructing our students in the metrics of sonnets that we may think we know about politics as well. And, of course, we tend to think we are right. These rather natural human tendencies have also been attracted to current theories which allow us to rationalize. Our relationships with our students have also been somewhat soured by many things, not the least of which are the numerous government regulations and the ease of litigation. But, in the end, we always need self-awareness, respect of those in front of us, and a healthy skepticism about our own motives.
The AAUP and its challenger, the young Turks’ National Association of Scholars set out these contrasts, first in the AAUP’s “Freedom in the Classroom (2007)” paper countered y the brief Peter Wood’s review “InTruth R Us ” in Inside Higher Ed, as well as Peter Wood and Stephen Balch’s response, a point by point dissection at the NAS site.
Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd September 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
So I just raved about the Fleshtones. Well, they are going to be part of this nutty Cavestomp 3 day rockfest in New York City. Work and other stuff prevents me from going – bitter fate. But you, dear reader, may have the cash and the freedom to get to this thing. Cavestomp will feature the mighty, the legendary, the incendiary Sonics! It will be their first and only show in 35 years. Total rock madness. If you go to the Cavestomp link above it plays a huge string of Best of the Sonics, the Kings of 60s Punk, and the Sonics own MySpace page, there are a few more classics … . If you missed them 40 or so years ago, here is your big second chance …
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Robert Fulford sees Naomi Klein, “a friend to Hezbollah, an enemy of logic,” in battle with the Chicago boys. We are not surprised by the winner. Not that her technique can’t be exasperatingly effective with those who actually try to engage: “Her rule: When facts conflict with theory, change the subject.” (From A&L)
There are many health care plans being proposed to “fix” the growth in medical costs in the United States. Each of these plans has different elements but I haven’t really seen the particular linked issue addressed that I am going to speak of in this blog post.
I make a point of reviewing my medical bills. When you have surgery, for example, you receive an itemized bill. In that bill you can see services from each provider and also the cost for the room, medicine, etc… Frequently the costs seem far out of line from reality (outside the walls of medicine); a room could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a night; an aspirin or readily available over-the-counter medicine could cost many dollars per pill.
The real issue is that the medical industry is primarily a “fixed cost” business, with very low “marginal costs”. For example, if you look at the Northwestern Hospital facility downtown, a vast series of interconnected buildings, and asked yourself this question:
“How would costs vary on a given day if the facility was full of patients vs. having NO patients?”
The answer is that the costs for that day would be virtually identical whether or not the hospital had patients. You still need to pay for the facility, the doctors, the electricity, and all the support workers and nurses. Virtually the only “variable” costs that would be avoided are the cost of medicines and food, but the medicines are inventoried and they need to hold stocks in advance and the food must be purchased based on planned demand and the spare food would just be thrown away (the costs would be pretty much the same).
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Wont as I am to see the silver lining in every cloud, I can’t help but think that two recent racial episodes represent a sort of progress in racial relations.
In the Jena-6 case in Louisiana, a group of six black teenagers sucker-punched a white teenager and then kicked the crap out him while he lay unconscious on the ground. They did so after the white teenager made racially derogatory comments.
In the Duke non-rape case, a white, vote whoring D.A. framed a group of (mostly) upper-class white jocks for the rape of a black women. He appears to have been motivated by a desire to curry favor with local black voters.
I wrote earlier about the fairly widespread erroneous belief that the Bush administration advocated the invasion/liberation of Iraq due to the mistaken belief that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the 9/11 attacks.
As a sociological phenomenon, this error fascinates me. The liberation and democratization of Iraq is the major political event of our times, yet we see that a significant minority of lay people and cognoscenti alike honestly do not understand the rather clearly stated rationales for attempting it. Why do so many people make such an important decision based on an erroneous premise and what does this say about the overall quality of our general political decision making?
We take too much for granted when we are looking at terrestrial materials such as rocks and then assume that they are representative for those on other bodies within our solar system in general:
Conditions on Earth scarcely resemble those elsewhere in our own solar system. We live on a wet and tepid exception to the chemical and physical norms of the planets that contain most of the solar sysytems mass. Being made largely of water like the rest of the life on Earth, we think nothing of life’s inorganic substrate being the product of wet chemistry…
Earthly quartz and feldspars, micas and clays, all contain water and have been re-arranged by it. Likewise, compounds that are decomposed by water and elements that react vigorously with it are largely alien to the surface of the Earth. Not only have we never seen them in the state of nature, but they scarcely figure in our imagined view of the chemistry that gave rise to life…
To plug the gaps in our knowledge and to overcome our (understandable) failure of imagination, we would have to send out a fleet of robotic spacecraft to collect samples from the various rocky bodies in the solar system. A systematic analysis of those samples would offer some important insights in how materials develop and self-organize in and on rocky planets and moons that are solid like the Earth but unlike it are non-aqueous. These results would in turn provide some clues on how emergent and autocatalytic processes can lead from inorganic to organic chemistry and maybe even to life, under conditions that are radically different from those on Earth.
Yes, today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, which has little significance but gives me license to post this photo again.
Here’s a thought. Wouldn’t it be cool if the entire US Congress would dress up as pirates? They might be more productive that way. Also, there’s the truth-in-labeling thing.
Previous Talk Like a Pirate posts:
Introducing Jim the Pirate
Posted by Lexington Green on 18th September 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The great loves of your life define you. What you are exists in reaction to them, is defined by them. God. America. People, friends, spouses, children, parents — ideals, art, books, what have you. And somehow they all hang together even if you are the only person on the earth who embodies that particular configuration.
Rock’n'roll –You either get it, or you don’t. I used to think that if someone didn’t get it, that was a moral failing. That is the attitude of an adolescent who gets it. Of the people who have contributed to this blog I know that me, Mitch, Captain Mojo and Carl Ortona get it, for example. But I can still be pals with the rest of ‘em. I just cannot have certain conversations with them and make myself understood. This love affair with Miss Rock’n'Roll is more or less ardent, and those of us smitten by her all have our memories of great moments with her, and some foolish escapades, and some regrettable behavior.
The most ardent of her devotees? I will tell you, without question or cavil, without doubt: It is the Fleshtones. They have been at it for more than 30 years. They put on the best live show I have ever seen. They invented Super Rock. Their hearts are in the right place. They make you dance, they make you laugh, they make you sing along. They are survivors, they are relentless, they are visionaries who have clung to their vision like the knights of old growing grey on a ceaseless quest. If you already know and love the Fleshtones, you are already smiling. If you don’t, I can only say, go see them when they come through town. Their records and their videos cannot capture their greatness, as good as they are (There are some here). You have to be in the room.
I just finished a biography of the band, called Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band. I would have given this book 873 stars, but they only let me give it five. Me? I live to read. I lust for the book that I cannot bear to put down. That is what I like, that is what I look for. This is one of those books. A love letter, a labor of love, and a gripping read about people who have brought nothing but happiness to thousands of people for a long, long time. It helps to already have spent some time living in total intoxication of the Fleshtones, of course, but it is a brilliant book no matter what.
In the comments to this post, commenter JP left a link for an article Mr. Lewis wrote in October of 2005. I think this article needs a little more publicity than to be buried in a comment thread. The link JP left was for Times Select, but you can find the article for free here.
The essay is truly outstanding if you are interested in Katrina and the aftermath. I recommend you print it out, take a few minutes out of your day and read it.
Thanks to JP for leaving the original link.
Belmont Club posts on Zimbabwe.
And so the toll that mounted to a hundred million victims in the twentieth century continues to climb in the twenty-first. And, in America, mid-west farmers are described as voting against their interests when they choose candidates who value limited government. The independence that land gives us, the productivity that comes when we till our own fields are lessons we forget over and over, but then are taught again by the harshest of experiences.