Proustian Almonds

I had to fly to DC for work. I was given a packet of salted almonds on the airplane. As I ate them the thought came back to me of the little white, paper cups of salted nuts they would give you on the side, if you asked for them, with a hot fudge sundae at Friendly’s Ice Cream. They were good, and added a whole dimension of sweet/salty, to go with hot/cold and chocolate/vanilla — to say nothing of the cherry on top. I don’t know if the nuts are available anymore, but I somehow doubt it, at least in the paper cups. When you had poured the nuts on there, you opened up the paper cup so it was flattened out into a disk, and then you got the last few crumbs and grains of salt out of it. There was a Friendly’s in Brockton, Mass. There was another one, I think, at the Braintree mall. I’d go in these places with my mother when I was a kid, if we were out shopping for school clothes. That was our ritual. No particular episode stands out, it is a whole category of memories (tactile, visual, olfactory, auditory as well as the taste of things), all in one bin in my head. This is all a long time ago now. It was a time before the issue of whether or not to eat such a thing would have occurred to me — if it was available, I ate it. And now as in so many other details, the torch has passed. It is part of my job to be the parent taking the kids out for ice cream. The kids are not particularly grateful. The kids are not distracted by other concerns when the ice cream appears — it is a brief but all-consuming episode. And the parent sits there, with a cup of coffee, having bought a moment’s quiet, or time to worry about something else in peace for a minute, which is even better than a hot fudge sundae with nuts. Or at least almost as good.

Public Cameras, Private Cameras

Glenn Reynolds says it’s fair for ordinary people to take photos in places that have surveillance cams, even places that forbid photography.

Yeah, screw the rules: carry a camera everywhere. Even a video camera.

Here’s another market – a useful one – for discrete mounting fixtures for car cams and front-door cams and living-room cams. How credible are cops’ and prosecutors’ rationalizations for no-knock searches going to be after people start blogging videos (preferably with sound) of what actually happens during these official home-invasions?

Back to School

In a classroom exercise tonight, the instructor in my community-college Spanish language class read to us, from a text, a couple of paragraphs in response to which we were supposed to ask questions.

The passage the instructor read was about immigration. It asserted that immigrants come to the U.S. because life is easy here due to material abundance, and because our relatively strong economy makes for more opportunity than exists in most immigrants’ countries of origin. It also asserted that many Americans oppose immigration because they don’t like or understand the foreign ways of immigrants (or words to that effect). It did not mention that some foreigners might be attracted to the U.S. because of its freedom. Nor did it suggest that some Americans might object to immigration for reasons having nothing to do with disliking them there furriners – e.g., because they object to transfer payments generally, and particularly to taxing U.S. citizens to subsidize indigent non citizens.

Is this kind of subtly anti-American multi-culti bullshit typical of language texts nowadays? I guess I know the answer. It doesn’t make me feel any better that the chapter from which the offending passage came is titled: “Los Estados Unidos: Un pais multicultural.” Of course it’s true that American culture is an amalgam. I just wish the multi enthusiasts would, for once, pay as much attention to such essential parts of that culture as personal liberty and representative government as they do to material wealth and the supposed provincialism of our native citizens.

UPDATE:I don’t think the students in my class, who are mainly mature adults, or the instructor, who is an immigrant, actually believe the snake oil or even pay attention to it. I’m just taken aback by the casual attempt at indoctrination on the part of the textbook author. Maybe, to get a more balanced idea about American culture, we should ask immigrants, as Joanne Jacobs did.

Dick Morris almost says the word “Anglosphere”

This remarkable article by Dick Morris is an excellent short analysis of Britain’s most promising future world role — primarily as America’s ally, in alliance with the other English-speaking countries — and not as a province of the EU. Morris notes that during the Cold War, and under Clinton’s econo-centric foreign policy, Britain was not able to play a leading role.

But, post 9/11, things have changed:

But September 11 shattered the assumptions that underlay Bill Clinton’s world view. Suddenly, terrorism became the pre-eminent problem and the military-diplomatic-intelligence matrix we need to confront it our dominant need.

In this construct, the size of one’s economy is no longer the admission card to the top levels of global leadership. Japan’s large economy is of little use in addressing these new priorities and Russia’s small one no impediment. Britain need no longer come as a diplomatic package with France and Germany.

In the new era, willingness to act counts for more than any other factor in attaining global power. The war against terror does not require a massive economy to sustain years of expensive combat, but a relatively small and proficient military, combined with political will – among leaders and voters alike – to use it.

The political lesson of the war in Iraq is that the people of America and Britain have far more in common with one another than do the British people with the French or the Germans.

Our common linguistic heritage, shared values, renunciation of appeasement as a policy option, commitment to do battle against injustice, and our essential optimism about the possibility of success make us partners in a way that continental Europeans, with their history of foreign occupation, can never hope to match.

This is all very solid stuff.

I have long been an admirer of Morris as an astute analyst of practical politics, despite his occasional lapses and howlers. (The prostitute-on-the-phone thing I chalk up to an unusually bad case of plain old human weakness in the sex department leading to a severe stupid attack. Not like lying under oath or anything.) And in recent years I have been pleased to see Morris’s progress as a bitter enemy of his former masters, the Clintons. His book Behind the Oval Office is gripping, an excellent insider’s “how to” book, and one of my favorite books on nuts-and-bolts politics.

Now, on one of the major issues of the day, though under-appreciated as such, Morris has tipped his hand. He is, at minimum, an Anglospherist “fellow traveller.” I’m glad to have him aboard. I hope he will in the future offer some sage thoughts on the practical politics of the Anglosphere project both here in America and in other places.

And maybe Morris will even use the “A word” next time. C’mon, Dick, just say it. This might help, repeat after me:

It’s here. It’s the Anglosphere. Get used to it.

(Thanks to Iain Murray for the heads up on this article. )

Let Us Now Praise INTEL DUMP

Yeah, we’ve got it permalinked on the blogroll. But I want to mention here that Phil has been exceptionally good lately, so if you haven’t checked out his coverage of defense issues, please do so, and you will become a regular visitor.

This recent piece, War game’s outcome stuns decisionmakers, blew me away.

To summarize, the military had a wargame and then they were surprised that “Our overwhelming conventional superiority is bound to trigger a massive, unconventional, asymmetric, possibly terroristic response.” This causes Lex to scratch his head. Open and obvious sources, e.g. well-publicized books and articles on the Internet, have been saying plainly, for years now, that this is the type of approach America’s enemies are going to take. So how is it possible that senior military personnel who participated in this exercise were surprised, let alone stunned, by these results? Can it be that these senior military personnel are so out of touch with basic reality which is openly available to the entire world? Can it be that they don’t understand the fundamental nature of the world we are entering and the threats we are facing? Or, is it that they are willfully blind to that reality? Why are they preparing to face a non-existent state-based threat? Because that is all they know how to do?

Damn. Not good.

I am thinking more and more that any “state-based-threat”, in the tanks-planes-howitzers category, is a mirage — North Korea and China being partial exceptions. Cynically, I wonder why the anti-war crowd argue more forcefully that we attacked Iraq because it is the only country on earth inept enough to fight us in a fashion we are able to handle?

The many people out there who want to destroy America are short on means, other than willpower and brains, so they are doing some innovative thinking. If we don’t match that innovative thinking we are going to suffer unnecessary disasters before we rally and respond. We have abundant human and material resources to identify, engage and preempt, deter or destroy any possible threat. We need to employ these vast capabilities wisely. (Speaking of rallying, responding, etc., be sure to see this tour d’horizon by den Beste.)

A first step might be to stop thinking about and talking about “asymmetric threats” at all. Let’s just look at threats. A threat is only asymmetric because we have not yet developed a “symmetric” capability to address it. The Wehrmacht was an asymmetric threat in 1938, as far as America’s tiny army was concerned. We acquired the human and material means to deal with the threat, period. It stopped being asymmetric when we understood it and spent the time, effort and money to acquire the needed “symmetric” capability. Then we hammered the Third Reich into the dirt, with a little help from the Red Army’s tank armada.

The key thing here is that terrorism used to be primarily a nuisance from a military standpoint. For fifty years our former friend the Red Army’s tank armada was the monster symmetric threat we had to worry about. We could survive the loss of Vietnam. (We did.) But we could not survive the loss of Western Europe.

But those days are long gone. Now terrorism is the major threat because the means of destruction the terrorists are likely to obtain are so enormously powerful. This is a novel situation. We need to look carefully at military history to cull out any the lessons which are pertinent to this current situation, and to “fill the box” to deal with asymmetric challenges. We must not suffer a nuclear Pearl Harbor before we figure out what the real threats are. That would be a catastrophe, and it would be positively criminal if it occurred as a result of bureaucratic inertia.

(This Intel Dump piece about the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly is spot on. The essay about JFK’s dealings with the military, and the rotten advice they kept giving him, strongly support Eliot Cohen’s thesis, in his book Supreme Command — i.e., the military must be subject to strict scrutiny and control by the civilian leadership but, unfortunately, skillful or even competent civilian leadership in this area is rare. A quandry. Anyway, a discussion of Cohen’s book, and other historical and contemporary examples, merits a long post in itself. Too many topics, too many books, too little time.)