A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Even Dylan Hates Hippies

Mostly via the influence of Frank J., I make my share of “I Hate Hippies” jokes nowadays (What’s black and brown and looks good on a hippie? A rottweiler!). But the truth is that I enjoy quite a lot of hippie culture; I like 60s-era music, I enjoy camping, hiking, and biking, and I think some counter-culture art is pretty cool. I’m socially liberal, too, being a big supporter of free expression, civil rights, and secularism.

Last year an old friend from college took me to the Live Oak Music Festival in northern Florida. It’s a yearly event that presents a dozen or so bands over the weekend, and most attendees camp out, drink a lot, and generally get crazy for the duration. If you enjoy reggae and don’t mind the smell of patchouli oil it’s a good time. But when I was there I noticed something: About half the concert-goers were your typical hippie types, with their hair in cornrows and t-shirts emblazoned with the latest anti-establishment pejoratives (“No Blood for Oil!” and “Bushitler” were popular in 2003). They drove shitty cars, bummed lots of cigarettes and beer, and if they had kids the kids were generally dirty and poorly-behaved. The other half of the people there were more like me: Twenty- or thirty-something professionals, usually single or in couples, who were there because they like the music and / or the camping. We came with coolers stocked with food and beer and arrived in well-maintained vehicles made within the last 10 years. Everyone got along okay – there are surprisingly few fights at such festivals – but the difference between the two breeds of attendees was rather noticeable. I even heard one young nice-looking couple remark “Hey hippie, patchouli ain’t deodorant and beer ain’t mouthwash” as they passed by a particularly scruffy-looking Rasta wannabe. Everyone mostly ignores the differences, but an observant person can’t help notice: Some people are able to manage a productive life and a somewhat unconventional lifestyle, while others can only swallow the counter-culture mythology hook, line, and sinker.

Earlier this week Bob Dylan released his memoirs, and in them he recounts quite a bit of frustration with hippiedom. Here are a few money quotes from an article in Japan Today:

"The world was absurd ... I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of," Dylan says.

"I was fantasizing about a nine-to-five existence, a house on a tree-lined block with a white picket fence, pink roses in the backyard. Roadmaps to our homestead must have been posted in all 50 states for gangs of dropouts and druggies.”

"I wanted to set fire to these people," Dylan recollects, saying the hordes of fans who turned up at his family home in Woodstock and walked over his roof or tried to break in drove him and his family to seek refuge in New York.


Even though I wasn’t even born until the very end of the man’s heyday, I’ve always liked Dylan; three of his albums are in my truck’s CD case right now. His music is excellent, and to me he always seemed to be saying more and better things than most of his contemporaries. While most of the politically active bands of the era were mindlessly screaming “Fuck the Establishment!”, Dylan’s message was more along the lines of “What is the establishment? How does it affect you? Are you okay with it?”. To some people – the type who show up for a weekend concert without food or beer – the difference might be overly subtle. To me it is hugely and apparently obvious: The former incites revolution only for the sake of revolution, while the latter promotes the legitimate questioning of authority and tolerance for dissent.

There is always a danger in ascribing meaning to an artist’s work, because what we see there might not be what the artist intended us to see. We filter music – as well as all other art forms – through the lenses of sense, opinion, and intellect. That’s how Dylan singing “Tangled Up in Blue” got translated into “come sit on my roof and break into my house”; some folks really think they get it, but they couldn’t, in truth, be further off the mark. I will go out on a limb to say this, however: Bob Dylan’s music is purely American in that it calls for an examination of oneself and the relationship between a free individual and the state. Far from being about revolution, I think his political message - when he had one – was about the responsibility all members of our democracy share to create and participate in a just and accountable government.


S


PS – Why did I link an article like this in Japan Today, you ask? Well, I’m reading a lot of non-western news sources lately to get a better perspective on how American culture is seen around the world. Thusly, many articles linked here over the next few months will come from online periodicals like Japan Today, Xinhua, and Sify. Worldliness is a virtue and it shall be enforc ... er, promoted here at The Zoo.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Sick

Ugh ... had to stay home from work today with a stomach virus. It seems that a few people we had over for the cookout last weekend are getting sick, so I'm guessing that someone there was spreading it around. Anyway, I just went and got some OJ, chicken soup, and the first season of Farscape DVDs (which I've been meaning to watch for years). Hopefully the combination will have me feeling better quickly enough to go back to work tomorrow.

Big BPCP update sometime within the next couple days.


S

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Monday Linkfest, on Tuesday

Ah, another day in paradise. Wind-pummeled, rain-soaked, insurance adjuster-infested paradise, but paradise nonetheless. We successfully weathered yet another hurricane; the house didn’t even lose power this time (I guess mighty Thor figured screwing us three times in one year was enough) but we did have to spend most of the day yesterday cleaning up. Hence the late linkfest.

Frank J. has apparently survived Jeanne as well, but they’re still without power over in his part of the state. The poor guy is posting from work when he can, but it looks like IMAO won’t resume a regular schedule until they get the juice flowing to casa de Frank. That could be days yet, so I recommend reading lots of classic IMAO: The entire In My World saga can be found here and my favorite, Frank Answers, is here. Note: Any advice given by Frank on the subjects of electricity, mathematics, or demonology is followed entirely at the reader’s risk; The Zoo cannot be held responsible for fires started and/or souls damned due to shoddy research by the IMAO staff.

With the state of Louisiana free of tropical weather this week, rockynogin has been working on a couple of interesting articles – here and here – about ugly politics. I’ve never understood people who mess with other people’s political signs or bumper stickers. It’s not as if folks are driving around, see a Bush-Cheney sign (for example), think “I’m convinced, I’m voting for Bush!”, then notice it has a question mark scrawled on it and shift positions: “Well, I was almost convinced, but now that I see the arcane and subtle vandalism that’s been done to the sign I’ll reconsider.”

On the back of my pickup is an Another Democrat for Bush bumper sticker. I can put it there honestly because I won’t be switching my party affiliation to “Independent” until after the elections. I know the thing gets people riled up – I’ve seen the evil looks I get from drivers bestickered with Kerry-Edwards slogans as they pass – but I have yet to have anyone mess with it. I assure all of you leftist vandals out there that anyone caught doing so will have their thumb broken in such a way that rainy days will, for the rest of their lives, remind them of exactly why you don’t touch another man’s truck.

Speaking of switching political affiliation, Brain Shavings links to an interesting article over at Chrenkoff. Until today I’d never done more than give Arthur’s site a cursory glance (there’s only time for so much blog reading, you know) but that’s going to change. In fact, the next time someone on my blog roll slides off for one reason or another, Arthur is getting the spot. I urge all of my readers to stop by his site and pay special attention to his Good News from Iraq section; it’s about all the hundreds of good things that happen in Iraq every day (which of course go unreported in the mainstream media).

Anyway, the article linked above is about how liberal firebrand Christopher Hitchens has found himself with some odd allies as his support for the War on Terror has grown. For anyone who, like me, has spent the last three years moving from the center-left to the center-right it’s a very interesting read.

And lastly, a couple quickies: Steven den Beste is looking into starting a new blog, this one purely about Anime. I’m not a fan of the medium, but I do have a couple close friends who love the stuff so this link is for them – and I promise I’ll eventually watch Ghost in the Shell. And there are soldiers who need more beer. This must not stand; soldiers should have enough beer to drown terrorists in instead of shooting them (if they want to ... I guess they could drink it too). I’m going to be giving $20 a month to this brilliant cause. All of you should as well, so go now!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled week, already in progress.


S

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Monday, September 27, 2004

On the Stem Cell Debate?!

This is one of those issues that frustrates me no end, because of the ignorance of the general public, and the manipulation of that ignorance by those with a political bone to pick.

The good Captain reprints an article from the New York Sun (Ban, what Ban?) on this issue that accurately describes what stem cells are, and what Bush's position on research is.

For me, this falls under the category of "can only be an issue with those who don't care to educate themselves". I need a better name for that category.

I don't expect to see this kind of clear information prefacing the debate from the left. Why explain an issue, when it pays to complicate it?

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Friday, September 24, 2004

Do beheadings condemn an entire people?

Another terrorist saws off the head of an innocent foreign contractor. The left is predictably in high dudgeon: "we brought this on ourselves" "we made things worse" "we never should have tried bringing Democracy to the Middle East"...

Savage events like this can make one wonder... are they right?

Certainly they are wrong in their claims that U.S. policies are to blame. Middle Eastern unrest has a history of thousands of years. European and Russian machinations there were far more invasive, hostile and causative factors in current events than the generally benign actions of the U.S. these past few decades.

It can be said, with absolutely no credible denial, that no country in the history of the world has done more in favor of Muslims than America.

The Left has only one truly compelling argument against the "Domino effect" that the Bush doctrine of pre-emption and installation of democrocies aims for. Interestingly enough, it is one shared by many on the "kill 'em all" Right, and it is the one that should scare us the most.

Are they right in their oft-repeated estimation that these people cannot be brought into the fold of civilized man?

If so, doesn't an affirmative to that question lesson our choices dramatically?

Afterall, if these people are savages incapable of cohabiting peacefully with those who do not share their beliefs, can we afford to allow them to continue to live. Can we afford to allow them to multiply in a world where chemical/biological/nuclear weapons technology is available at the click of a mouse button?

The choices of action when you decide that those "savages" will never rise above repressing and mutilating their women, and cutting off the heads of the kufr can been refined to this: Live, or Die.

To Die under this scenario means to give up on all that you have striven for, all that your parents, their parents, and a thousand years of social progress has created. It means spitting on the graves of those who created the world we live in today.

To Live under this scenario means literally exterminating a group of people from the face of the Earth, because isolating them from us in the 21st century is impossible. It means nuclear bombs, concentration camps, and an absolute and heartless campaign of eradication of a people, it's culture, it's religion, and any references to it historically that might corrupt future generations.

I would submit that it is morally unacceptable for us to decide that some broad group of people are incapable of civilized behavior... because the choices then might be too terrible to deal with.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Samfoolish

Australian leftists are just coming out of the woodwork this week. I had to dismiss the one I conjured forth a couple days ago due to the fact that he proved unstable; when an adversary starts talking about "psycho-energetic forcefields" it’s best to banish him back into the internet ether from whence he came. Toying with crazy people is just wrong, and no one should it. Ever.

This morning Joshua of Hello Infidels! happened across The Samwise Polemic. In two recent posts (here and here) the inaptly named Samwise links and lends credence to the latest conspiracy theory making the rounds on the far left: Terrorists and Islamic Radicals aren’t killing hostages in Iraq, the US Military is killing hostages in Iraq. Such stories are coming from the exact same people who say the CIA (or Mosaad, take your pick) was responsible for September 11th: Al Jazeera and way-out left Islamist sympathizers like Nick Possum and Alex Jones. The only halfway credible source Samwise lists is a CNN article about Nick Berg’s murder, but when you read it it turns out to have nothing at all to do with the theory being discussed; a sub-heading entitled “Family accuses U.S. government” is about Berg’s father blaming the government for not getting his son out of Iraq sooner. At no point does anyone in the CNN piece claim Berg was beheaded by US forces.

Okay, now everyone calm down. Stop punching your monitors, and someone shoot Metallica Rat with a tranquilizer dart before he tries to board a plane for Australia with his guns.

This kind of tinfoil-hat, conspiracy theory vileness pisses me off too. But you have to realize that that’s one of their goals; with few, if any, more reasonable arguments capable of attacking our resolve, the Islamists and their leftist allies-of-convenience must increasingly resort to imaginary US evils as ammunition for their propaganda war. It’s hateful and foolish, but even hateful fools have a right to speak. No, my main problem with this kind of ignorant filth isn’t what they say, it’s the unbelievable credulity of those who accept it as true. Remember that Samwise’s wacky links don’t lead to the only moronic conspiracy theory on the internet: There are people who believe the moon landings were fake, people who think NASA is trying to kill us with nuclear-powered spacecraft, and even a few desperate fools who still believe The Blair Witch Project was a documentary. On the web you can find someone who will say whatever you want to hear – especially if that something takes a cruel poke at the United States and her people.

I would ask Samwise and others who lend credence this sort of crap to carefully consider their position. Why has not one major western news source picked up this story if there is even a grain of truth to it? The French would jump all over something as damning to the US as this, to say nothing of the Chinese. And why has not a single peer-reviewed journal presented a paper by a world leader or a scientist supporting the theory we’re killing hostages and then blaming it on terrorists? Even more importantly, why would we fake something so uplifting to the people we’re fighting and so demoralizing to our own supporters? If we wanted to win over Americans and Iraqis to “our side” with fake video, wouldn’t we make videos of Americans taking care of Iraqis in hospitals, helping them build schools, and teaching them to play baseball? It doesn't take a mental giant to realize that any boost these videotaped beheadings might give us from the “Now I’m Angry!” crowd would be more than counterbalanced by the reaction of the “Jeeze, freeing Iraq isn't worth this!” faction. When you ignore the most reasonable explanation of events in favor of poorly-reasoned conspiracy theories with little or no evidence to support them, it’s definitely wise to examine your own motivations for doing so. If you’re intellectually honest, you’ll almost always find that you’re reaching for the way-out nonsense over the reasonable answers because the way-out nonsense is saying something you want to hear.

Samwise presents us with these theories because they tell him what he desires to believe: The US is evil, the US is an empire, and the US is filled with murdering thugs and liars. Evidence and reason be damned; give me more o’ that America-bashing Mr. Islamist. The truth that these leftists are unwilling to accept is that if it were not for the moderate and conservative administrations currently waging a war on terrorism, Samwise and his liberal pals would be the first ones with their heads on the chopping block when Radical Islam finally got around to invading their country (you can ask the black Africans of the Sudan about that one if you like). The very people who are risking all to protect the ideals of liberal democracy - ideals like individual freedom, pluralism, and equality – are the people that Samwise dislikes and distrusts, the people he is ready to believe almost any nasty rumor about. Meanwhile, the Islamists – who truly detest everything he purports to believe in – are given the benefit of the doubt. Sounds almost as insane as psycho-energetic forcefields, doesn’t it?

Ultimately, there is little to be done about something like this. There will never be a shortage of short-sighted liberal fools ready to believe the next conspiracy theory about evil, evil America. All we can do is try to keep them from preventing the other 2/3 of us from doing what needs to be done before it’s too late. For their sake, ironically enough, as well as for our own.


S

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

An E-mail From Down Under

Last night I got an e-mail, not from a reader of The Zoo but from someone who lifted my address from BookTalk (Chris O’Connor’s book discussion web site). "John Forth" is an Australian who appears to dwell on the far philosophical left, and as such he wrote to both condemn Lee Harris’ Civilization and It’s Enemies and to promote a short list of web sites he believes are of superior reason and methodology.

Dear Sandor,

My name is John Forth from Melbourne Australia. I got your e-address via the booktalk forum on Civilisation and Its Enemies. What a crappy book. Talk about ignorantly blind hubris.

Please find five other appreciations/understandings of the state of the world and the role of the USA.


Forth then lists his five sources, linked here (each link is followed by a rebuttal from yours truly):

The Peace Law

This site is essentially a plea for pacifism from an eastern religious leader I’ve never heard of. It gives the usual reasons for wanting peace: Peace is good, peace is kind, peace is gentle, peace is right. As always, I agree that peace is all of those things and more. The Peace Law, however, also makes precisely the same mistake that all other pacifist manifestos do: It fails to realize that pacifism only works if everyone is a pacifist. As long as there are no bullies, no tyrants, and no genocidal madmen, pacifism works fine.

But as soon as you thrown in a single thug who wants the next village’s silver mine or one religious zealot who dreams of making the rest of us choose between death and conversion, pacifism goes out the window. And there is always a thug or a zealot (or a barbarian, or a tyrant, or whatever) that needs to be dealt with. That is simply the way of the world; we live in an imperfect universe where evil exists, and free people must be willing to fight to defend what they have. Any society that refuses to steadfastly protect itself is doomed to failure.

The Peace Law gets even worse as it pushes for the UN to be the source and enforcer of this pacifism. Getting into the reasons why that is such a monumentally destructive and evil idea is something I’ve already done here and here. For anyone who doesn’t feel like reading those essays (both are a bit long), suffice it to say that the US will surrender its sovereignty to the UN over my bullet-riddled corpse (and those of several hundred million other Americans).

The Idea of a Local Economy

Sigh. What is it with Greens and their desire to live in a thatch hut and die of the flu before they turn 40?

The Idea of a Local Economy is an article about how heavy industrialization, central production of goods, and wide disbursement of product is evil, evil, evil. It’s the same socialist nonsense we’ve all heard a thousand times, but with the twist thrown in that only small local economies are truly manageable while any national or global economy is inherently wasteful and exploitive. I’m not going to argue capitalism vs. socialism here, except to say that one need only compare the real-world results of each system to see which works better in practice. Neither is perfect, of course, but where would you rather live: America or Cuba? As Bill Whittle says, "which way are the rafts headed?"

Like pacifists, the anti-globalization knuckleheads suffer from severe philosophical myopia; they can’t see beyond their pet theories to the real world of necessity that lies beyond. Take, for example, the production of an important drug like AZT (part of the cocktail of medicines that successfully treat HIV). No small local economy – nor a series of them – could support the various industries it takes to produce such a miracle: Universities to train scientists, labs for the scientists to work in and equipment with which they can make discoveries, people and facilities to acquire and transport the necessary resources, manufacturers to create the finished medicine, etc... It goes on and on.

Everything that The Idea of a Local Economy complains about is necessary to live in a modern technological society. Are there costs? Sure. But problems like pollution will be solved by better technological know-how, not by retreating back into the huts of an agrarian society. If you would like to live in such a world, Mr. Forte, you are welcome to do so; there are plenty of places in Africa which still have almost purely local economies. Perhaps the first time you catch typhoid from dirty river water or get a bellyfull of parasites from tainted meat you’ll start to appreciate the benefits of an advanced global economy.

Columbus and Other Cannibals

This one is out there, even though the basic metaphor behind the concept is somewhat appropriate. All I really have to say is the same thing I say to everyone who brings up the admittedly unfair treatment the Native Americans got: If everyone, everywhere, were to suddenly attempt to go back "where they belong" the entire Earth would be nothing but a confusion of moving peoples.

Less advanced cultures have always been replaced by more advanced cultures. Is it fair? Not really. But survival isn’t interested in "fair". It’s interested in "successful". Every society on the planet today was at one time living somewhere else, at least in part. But Anglo and Latin and Chinese and Arab culture was stronger than Iroquois and Inca and Nubian and Mongolian, and thusly those weaker societies have been at least partially supplanted by their more able neighbors.

Personally I think the Native Americans should have been treated better; more land and wealth should have been set aside for them. But nowadays they’re adapting to the Anglo culture (America) that has become dominant, learning to work within it and derive success from it. More power to them; America, as a concept and as a nation, has room for fantastic diversity.

Götterdämmerung

This one is Bush-bashing, plain and simple. Bush stole the election, went to war for oil, and one day dreams of conquering Gondor and getting his ring back. Half the posts in my archives are refutations of one idea or another found in Götterdämmerung, so those who are interested may peruse them at their leisure.

The fifth site doesn’t have anything to do with politics or policy at all, but is instead full of links about travel and advertisements for large international corporations like McDonalds and Nike. I’m not sure where Forth was headed with that one; perhaps it was meant to be a testament to the exploitation of third-world populations in the name of first-world corporate greed. Perhaps he was trying to get me to buy airline tickets. In either case I decided the link wasn’t worth posting … no reason to send hits to what is essentially a collection of "Spend your money here, rich American!" links. Especially seeing as how the person who sent the link had just finished giving me two barrels of socialist buckshot for being a rich American.

I have, however, responded to my new leftist Australian friend:

Dear John,

I disagree wholeheartedly. "Civilization and Its Enemies" is one of
the best books I've read in the last decade. That we are fighting a
completely new kind of war against an enemy that desires nothing less than our complete subjugation - or complete destruction - should by now be obvious to even the most casual observer (many of us knew this as far back as the late 1980s, but it took the events of September 11th to prove it to the world at large). Harris' book shows how alien and irrational Radical Islam's ideology is and that they have, by their actions, brought about an "us-or-them" situation that can only be solved through military force.

However, in the interest of broad-mindedness I will look over some of the sites you included in your (unsolicited) e-mail. I expect - also in the interest of broad-mindedness - that you will read the following essays:

Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States

Why Arabs Lose Wars

The Ideological War Within the West

If you would like to further discuss the reasons for and implications of the present war, I maintain my own web log at http://the-zoo.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to comment on any post I make (at least half of them are about politics and/or The War on Terror).

Regards,

Sandor


So, there you have this morning’s exciting e-mail exchange between sandor and a representative of the outbacker left. Will he write back? Will he read the essays I sent? Will any of the wisdom contained therein penetrate through the haze of Marxism and vegemite?

Don’t touch that dial!


S

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Monday Linkfest

Happy Monday all. I hope everyone's weekend involved something they'd be at least a little embarrassed to tell their grandmother about. I'm not saying one need have gotten arrested for running naked through the Library of Congress brandishing a machette and a bottle of tequila ... just have had enough fun to make the neighbors say "What the hell was that?" once or twice.

Speaking of scandalized neighbors, Moxie is back at the Moxotopia Compound ... one assumes her gay houseboy, Hispanic housemaid, bottomless martini glass (all fictional), and wonderful go-go boots (not fictional) are back as well. She actually started blogging again at the beginning of the month, but this is my first real linkfest since that happened so my "welcome back" link is belated. Well, better belated than benevered.

Her post linked above is rather interesting; it touches on the subject of liberal hypocrisy and prejudice ... something I find fascinating as well as irritating (though I should be over both by now). Notice how the muckadoo writing to Moxie is 1) completely unwilling to see any humor or satire in her work, 2) stereotypes wildly while complaining about stereotyping, and 3) quips meaninglessly about Mox's "anger" (see point one above) without enacting the slightest bit of control over her own.

For those far-left liberals who might happen by: It's still racism, prejudice, and/or stereotyping when you do it. And as someone who's lived on both sides of the fence, I assure you that way more of that crap comes from liberals nowadays than from conservatives. There are legitimate arguments to be made against the right, but more and more often such arguments don't matter to the far left. You people just hate conservatives, plain and simple.

Meanwhile, the guys at PowerLine have made the cover of Time. Well, "sort of", as Hindrocket says. Actually the Rathergate story made the cover, and the PowerLine bloggers are part of that story. I have to say that I find the incident's effect on the blogosphere more interesting than the incident itself. Now don't get me wrong - I love seeing Rather's left-slanted news team with an entire dairy case of well-deserved egg on their face - but it ultimately only proves what everyone already knew: Most of the big-name talking heads dislike President Bush intensely and their desire to see him unseated has made them sloppy.

The bigger story here, in my opinion, is that blogging has finally gotten some positive media attention. Unlike the Washingtonienne fluff (not a criticism, just an honest observation) the Rathergate scandal puts our best foot forward; PowerLine is a fantastic blog and Darwinian fact-checking is our medium's strength. Major Media is going to try to blunt the effect as much as possible by keeping the spotlight off the bloggers, but once a bomb like this goes off you can't put the explosion back into the casing. The next time a blog breaks a big story word will get out even faster, and even more readers will be brought in. And the next time will be even bigger than that. And so on.

Thanks, Dan!

Captain's Quarters is a blog that Krakatoa introduced me to with a post he made last week. Today they report that CBS might give its mea culpa before the end of the day. I wonder, as Captain Ed does, if some heads might roll (making it more of a tui culpa, actually). That someone screwed up is obvious. That Rather and his staff are deeply biased is also obvious. What remains to be seen is if CBS actually cares about any of that enough to do more than make a face-saving apology.

Lastly, some of you might have noticed that I changed the sidebar blogrolls. The Alliance blogroll has simply become too twitchy to keep posted; about half the time I opened my page it would hang at that point. Others have had similar problems, as I know Frank J. recently removed it from his site as well. I'm not complaining - NZ Bear provides that blogrolling service to The Alliance for free - I'm just letting you, good readers, know why things have changed. If anyone was really using that as a portal to other Alliance sites you can still get to them through The Alliance banner at the top of the sidebar; it's linked to the main Alliance page where all members are blogrolled.

Anyway, with the extra space I expanded the Sites of Interest section, and over the next few weeks I'll be featuring one of the new additions in each Monday Linkfest. This week's is SithVixen, the web site of an amazing costume creator, photographer, and model who frequents events like DragonCon. Those who enjoyed my photos of that event should go check out hers (use the "DragonCon Photos Click Here!!!" button on her front page). SithVixen makes amazing costumes, takes great pictures, and is a fellow geek (and she's pretty easy on the eyes, too) so I insist you guys go check out her site.

That is all. You may now return to suffering through Monday.


S

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

BPCP Update

The Blogosphere Political Compass Project has been updated. Go to the BPCP permalink page for a complete list of participants and links to their sites.


BPCP Chart 15Sept04 Posted by Hello

I'm sure everyone will notice that there are no longer labels on the graph; it has simply become too crowded in the moderate and conservative regions to include them. I am working on a plan to remedy this, but for the time being people are going to have to use the coordinates listed with each blogger to find their place on the chart.

Thanks to all of those who are participating, and I continue to urge all bloggers not yet in the BPCP to submit their results.


S

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Bush vs. Kerry on Science

Today's main post is going to be a BPCP update, but I just wanted to drop this article in here for your consideration. In it, Bush and Kerry go head to head on issues of scientific import; the questions are posed by Nature.

Much of what both parties have to say is certainly just so much election-year posturing, but on the whole I found President Bush's answers more concise and satisfying. Remember that this is a man who I disagree with strongly on stem cell research; I consider Bush's record on science to be generally weak, in fact. But Kerry's answers to the questions posed by Nature are the same bland, don't-piss-anyone-off pablum he's been spewing his entire political career. More fence-sitting and nuance that ultimately stands for nothing at all.

Anyhoo, give it a read. Interesting stuff.


S

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Freaks, Geeks, and Hot Chicks in Costume

Here it is, The Zoo’s Great DragonCon Photo Essay of 2004! Yay! So, without further ado:


Roy, Sandor, Tait Posted by Hello

This is Roy, me, and Greg Tait getting ready to leave (Jonathan took the picture). Notice my clear eyes, lucid smile, and general look of sobriety and health. It wasn’t to last.

Also notice the lack of a hurricane beating the crap out of Tampa. That didn’t last either.


Marriott Atrium Posted by Hello

This is the view from our floor, looking down the central atrium. John and I both get vertigo from looking over precipitous drops, so we were unthrilled with our 31st floor room. I actually ended up staying with Tait on the 18th, which was a little better (but nothing compared to the awesome glory that, say, the 5th would have been).


Dealer's Room Posted by Hello

This is the dealer’s room. Actually, it’s a small part of one of the dealer’s rooms. They had stuff for sale at this con that most of us more ordinary geeks didn’t even know existed: All the original Star Wars movies – sans Lucas’ moronic edits – burned onto DVD from laser disk. DVDs of almost everything you can imagine, in fact, from I Dream of Jeanie to Space 1999 to Plan 9 From Outer Space. Fetish gear. T-shirts in thousands of varieties. And giant metal sculptures of aliens.

I bought a new 20-sided die and a couple packs of cards for the new Pirates of the Spanish Main game. What can I say? I’d rather spend my money on good food and liquor.


At the Firefly panel Posted by Hello

If any of you are Firefly fans, this event would have been for you. Nathan Fillion, Jewel Statie, and Adam Baldwin (Captain Mal Reynods, Kaylie, and Jayne Cobb, respectively) were on hand for panel discussions about the series and the upcoming movie, Serenity. We were to far away to get pictures of them – their panels had thousands of attendees – but here’s me and Tait at the first discussion they did. It was the very first day of the con and I was already hung over.


No Caption Needed Posted by Hello

These young ladies weren’t actually in costume, so I can only assume Jonathan took the picture as a test of photographic composition. Notice the delicate interplay of light and shadow, the subtle arrangement of form and texture. The man is a true artist.


The Mighty Chewbacca Posted by Hello

One of the best costumes at the con. I can only imagine the work, or the money, or both, that went into this. Sometimes I wish I had this kind of dedication to geekdom. But only sometimes.


Paint Jobs Posted by Hello

More excellent costumes. That makeup is actually airbrushed on them, which has to be time-consuming and uncomfortable. Lots of people went all-out like this.


The Lady is a Trooper Posted by Hello

The Empire was stupid. If stormtroopers had looked like this, Han and Luke would have surrendered in five seconds flat.

“Freeze, rebel scum!”

“Oh yeah, I’m rebel scum alright. Now give me some sugar, baby.”

I think there are other objects and people in this picture, but I haven’t managed to look at them yet.


Ryan, Reannan, Sandor Posted by Hello

By far the most interesting person I met at the con was Reannan, the beautiful young woman standing next to me here. I’d go so far as to say she is the most interesting person I’ve met in the last five years, in fact. She liked my cowboy hat.

With us in the picture is Ryan, Reannan’s buddy. Ryan is a kind and patient fellow who obliged my lack of sobriety and passionate interest in his friend. Next year I’m going to make him drink with me one night; you don’t know a man till you’ve gotten him drunk enough to throw a punch at a bouncer in a Boba Fett costume.


Parade Posted by Hello

The parade was really something to see. The Star Wars enthusiasts have an entire stormtrooper regiment - the 501st, I believe they’re called – that number in the hundreds. If I had seen something like this when I was, say, 14, I would have passed out from sheer impressed-ness. I still think it’s pretty damn cool.


Gaming Area Posted by Hello

The main gaming area. I ended up doing no gaming at all – the entire time I was either making new friends, drinking in a bar, making new friends while drinking in a bar, sleeping, eating, or sitting in a panel discussion. Con games tend to be kinda lame anyway; I prefer to play RPGs and strategy stuff with people I know. But it was still cool to wander around in here and see what everyone else was up to.


Catwomen Posted by Hello

Great costumes and makeup once again. Next year I’m packing a supply of catnip.


Ironman Posted by Hello

Iron Man, Iron Man, Does Whatever an Iron Can!


Faerie Posted by Hello

There were many faeries at DragonCon, but this one wore the least clothing and thusly garnered the most attention. She’s a cutie, but my first reaction – okay, my second reaction – was “Someone really needs to take her out for a couple hamburgers and a big milk shake.” Then again, I guess you’d need a tiny frame to pull off an outfit like that.


Predators Posted by Hello

Fantastic Predator costumes. In my book, these came in a close second to the Chewbacca outfit. The detail on these is amazing; they could easily pass for the real thing in any movie that cared to hire them as extras.


Scott and Sandor Posted by Hello

Me and Scott. We met Scott – who has a penchant for kilts and rum – on our first night at the con. He and his friends had me out till 5 am ... the only one I really remember is a pretty blonde who wore a sexy leather collar and was generous with her cigarettes (the rest of us ran out by 3 am or so).

Scott is very cool, but I forgot to get his e-mail address before we took off for Tampa. If any readers happen to know the guy (stranger things have happened) give me a shout.


Scott, Sandor, and Reannan Posted by Hello

Scott, me, and Reannan. The girl is a knockout in an elf costume. I, unfortunately, am a dork in cargo pants.


Painted Faerie Posted by Hello

One of the more impressive faeries. That’s airbrush makeup again, this time total-body. I want to do a costume next year – a good one – but there’s no way I’d do anything as intricate as this.

I’m thinking Roland from King’s Gunslinger books or perhaps one of The Magnificent Seven. They’re simple, and I already have a hat.

BPCP update tomorrow. Peace.


S

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Monday, September 13, 2004

Help for Sandor, Ivan Goes West, and Monday Links

I've managed to get caught up at work, which deserves a "yay" or "woohoo" or something ... but I'm too worn out for such exclamations. But even better than being all caught up, we hired a new content writer today. It means I'm no longer the only professional writer employed by my company, which in turn means that not every memo, contract, and bit of web site content has to be written or edited by me! Woohoo!

Guess I had one in me after all. It'll be awhile before the new writer is up to speed, but if everything works out I'll be able to start concentrating on doing our new sites exclusively in a couple months.

Meanwhile, Ivan looks to be headed further west, perhaps as far as Louisiana or Alabama. I feel sorry for those folks - I genuinely do - but all I can say is "thank heavens it ain't us again". If I had to evacuate one more time I was just going to drive up to Tennessee and stay there.


Ivan 5pm Monday Posted by Hello

And some Monday links for you:

Andrew Sullivan has become more and more critical (read all of today's entries, at least) of President Bush over the last couple months. Now seeing as Sullivan is gay one would expect him to oppose Bush's stance on gay marriage and his support of a constitutional ban on such marriages (I oppose the President's policy on those issues as well). But Sullivan has always been supportive of Bush in the War on Terror in general and the invasion of Iraq in particular. To be fair, Sullivan is still clearly a war supporter; his rhetoric, however, is now decidedly critical of the Bush administration's conduct of the war. I'm the first to admit that there are problems - and a couple big mistakes - but I think Sullivan is going overboard when he says "... it is a mess with a potential to become a disaster."

Any war, I suppose, has the potential to become a disaster, but I think Iraq is still pretty far from it. I'd characterize it as "problematic with the potential to become a mess if care is not taken". I'm interested to know what other war supporters think.

Lastly, Mike of Cold Fury has a round up of articles about the (probably) faked documents concerning President Bush's Air National Guard service. Personally, I find the most convincing evidence to be 1) the line breaks (they are precisely where they would be in an MS Word document) and 2) the date on the documents being over a year after the "signing" officer left the Guard. Hopefully something definitive will come out on this in the next couple days. Interesting stuff.

Tomorrow I'll post the DragonCon photo essay ... I have the pictures but I've still got to sort through them and write some witty captions.


S

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Saturday, September 11, 2004

Where were you when...

JFK's ubiquitous ghost has finally been laid to rest, at least in respect to the "Where were you when..." question for those of us who have no memory of that day in Dallas.

For our generation, the end of that query is now, of course, "... the World Trade Center was attacked?"

All the national and international news was not very memorable to me as a child, having been born in 1970 after JFK's assassination, and the following decade itself being just a blur of much more personal near-tragedies including: being hit by a car; being forced out of a town because an allergy to cow's milk meant owning goats that the neighborhood Nazi's could not abide; and dealing with the ostrasism that is inevitable in going to school in rural cow-farm Virginia while living on a goat farm.

Similarly nondiscrept, the 80's were the "salad days" of my youth. Flush with a fledgling national optimism generated by Reagan's steady stewardship of this country through a frightening cold-war and into economic stability and growth, and with having broken through the hard social wall of my peers and become something approaching popular.

The 90's were more or less a wash. While certainly a great many things happened to me that were memorable, both good and bad including a motorcycle tour of the country and death threats from a mobster in South Florida, no single burning event distinguished itself enough as a date to remember.

I've always been fairly nonplussed by events many others seem to commemorate automatically. This will probably create a real problem for me if I ever get married.

September 11th, 2001 was different, because it was the day the suspension of disbelief I'd managed to craft for myself concerning the real world was shattered.

Butte, Montana is an ugly place. It was known as "the richest hill in the world" in it's heyday, a mining town on a hill full of copper being dug out of the ground just as Alexander Graham Bell's device was driving demand through the roof.

By the mid 1980's diminished demand and increased power costs closed the last of the mines, and the city began it's long decline. By the time I arrived in February 2001, a once bustling city of over 100 thousand residents had shrunk to a population of 30 thousand and a landscape scarred a perpetual brown and gray, the results of the environmental unconsciousness of the boom times.

In a town like this where a dollar went far, I was fat and happy. Making as much as 5 grand a week, while living expenses per month was 500 tops. Yeah the town was ugly, I didn't have a girl, and the weather was cold, but on any given day, you would find me flush and carefree.

I walked into the NOC that morning and had barely finished my morning rounds of getting the hand-off information from my night techs and the light bantering of shift change, when someone said the Trade Center was burning, and all TV's were changed to news broadcasts.

Now, I am a hard individual. My first response wasn't, "Oh those poor people". It was truly bemusement at the plight of us humans, to be killed by our inventions. I was even joking around with it with my best friend as he was getting ready to leave work.

And then the world changed as in the corner of my eye I saw the explosion from the second plane impact.

What gives me goosebumps as I write this is the apparent universal thought that everyone had. Up until that moment, lively chatting could be heard throughout the NOC, yet at that moment, the air literally went out of the room as all eyes focussed on the flames and everyone realized the same thing at the same instant: That this was no accident.

The mind struggled fleetingly for a rationalization against the terrible truth, but the evidence of a deliberate attack couldn't have been clearer than the blue sky from whence it fell.

For the first time in my life, I felt my legs go wobbly from something other than a Buick's bumper, and I took a seat. There, along with 40 of my stunned workmates, I stared at the tv screens as the pandemonium, the fear, the anxiety and panic unfurled in horrible color.

As frozen as that moment in time is, the rest of the day passed in a blur of rage, frustration and sorrow, on constant rotation with terrible moments like these.

Any time I am feeling at all complacent... any time I feel any doubt about the Bush Doctrine... I look at those pictures, and I try to imagine for a moment, the horror of those passenger on the second jet in those final seconds, as they realized they were all going to die.

I try to imagine what it must been like for those in the WTC stuck above the flames, faced with only one last choice: How will I die today?

We owe it to those who died that day, to all those who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, and most importantly to our children facing a world of dangers undreamed of by those whose crystallized moment of shared consciousness was November 22, 1963 , to never forget, and to never, ever relent in our pursuit of justice and our focus to try to eradicate the threat of terrorism.

Maybe, if we are resolute, and if we are strong, the toughest choice our children will ever face will be: How will I live today?

And just maybe, just maybe, when asked "Where were you on September 11, 2001", they will look at the questioner with the sort of pinched-brow incomprehensibility that comes from living in a world where the answer to such a question has no context.

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Friday, September 10, 2004

The Apology Many Have Been Waiting For

Go read this. Right now. Here's an excerpt if my advice isn't enough to get you going:

As to apologizing, we will no longer wait for our religious leaders and “intellectuals” to do the right thing. Instead, we will start by apologizing for 9-11. We are so sorry that 3000 people were murdered in our name. We will never forget the sight of people jumping from two of the highest buildings in the world hoping against hope that if they moved their arms fast enough that they may fly and survive a certain death from burning. We are sorry for blaming 9-11 on a Jewish or right wing conspiracy. We are so sorry ...


Hat tip to Scott of Confessions of a Jesus Phreak.

Sorry for the light posting all week, but as I said the convention put me way behind at work. Plus it looks like there's yet another hurricane to prepare for. On Monday, random acts of weather permitting, I will get back to my regular posting schedule.


S

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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Ivan the Terrible, and Some Exoplanet Links

Okay, enough already. Three hurricanes in one season is plenty. One is plenty. Actually, none is plenty. Mother Nature doesn't seem to want to give us a break, however. Shoo, Ivan! Go bother the Mexicans.

Updates will follow.


Ivan's Predicted Path 8am Fri Posted by Hello

For those of you who found last week's exoplanet posts (here and here) interesting, I've listed below three of the best exoplanet sites on the 'net:

The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia is comprehensive, always up-to-date, and science-heavy. Those unfamiliar with astronomy might have a hard time here, as those who maintain the site use lots of jargon and technical terms without bothering to explain them. A fantastic exoplanet site, but perhaps a bit tough for the layman to decipher.

JPL’s PlanetQuest is run by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Like most of JPLs work, care is taken to explain "in plain English" as much as possible. Probably the best exoplanet site for those with a passing or casual interest. Drawbacks: The site is not always up to date and it's not as comprehensive as some others.

Extrasolar Visions is a non-professional site that is nonetheless amazing. Spectacular artwork accompanies many of their exoplanet descriptions, including schematics of each star system's layout. Updated often, and if they don't have an entry for something yet they at least link to The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia's description of it.

Enjoy, and comments and questions are welcome. Now I'm off to continue catching up on work. A BPCP update and the promised DragonCon photo essay are in the works.


S

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America as a Just Aggressor

Due to technical difficulties with Blogger, this post comes in a day late, so welcome back to Sandor, fresh from his perilous journeys to the Dark and Dangerous land of Atlanta. Here then, is what I was thinking about a couple days ago:

______________________



I've been in a particularly dark mood lately, from the events of last week in Russia, so I haven't been able to complete my piece on Space.

I've been busy reading Cap'n's Quarters, Powerline, and reading and commenting to Eject cubed, as well as IMAO and Mountaineer Musings in an attempt to lighten up. I've also been answering email, so I figured I would drop one of my emails here, as it holds up fairly well against charges of moral iniquity as an argument for action.

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“On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked, “Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open?’ Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management--US management.” -- Ted Kennedy

I'm not very familiar with My Lai, except as a passing reference. As cruel as that episode may have been, history has proven that it was not representative of the U.S. Some, like Ted Kennedy, would argue that the Abu Ghraib incident is proof that we are on the same moral plane as Saddam. However, the fact that the military self-policed this prior to any sort of media circus shows how far indeed we have come out of the barbarism that we all descend from.

I have become familiar with the realities of war, and with the deplorable depths humanity shows all too much interest in plumbing. I've looked at a lot of sites on the internet, read a lot of stories about previous wars and the current conflicts, and particularly reviewed many accounts of the actions happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. Worse, I've seen pictures and videos of the horrors these creatures we call Terrorists visit upon their victims.

There are so many things I've seen that I almost wish I hadn't, but, like so many things in life, being a grown-up in this world means making the best decisions I can based on the fullest information. Seeing a young Russian soldier held down with a knee pressed against his head while an ululating savage screaming Alu Akbar saws at his throat with a dull knife is not something I would force anyone else to see. But having seen that, and having seen the images of Islamic women dressed in white gowns to better contrast the blossoms of blood as they are stoned to death in sports arenas for having done the unforgiveble act of having been raped, gives me a certain insight into the darkness our enemy wishes upon us under Sharia.

I would never force anyone to watch these things. They are absolutely brutal and can leave you in that sort of numb resonance you feel after having bounced your head off an icy sidewalk. But I have absolutely no respect for those who would argue for dialogue with these brutes under the pretense of moral equivalency, all the while averting their eyes from the incontrovertable: these barbarians are NOT LIKE US. And they don't want to be.

Atrocities happen every single day. What distinguishes us from the ululating animals is how we respond to those atrocities.

They rush to the streets chanting and singing and cheering when 156 children are cut down from behind when fleeing the martyrs of a Death Cult, vowing more death, more mayhem, more Terror.

We, on the other hand, resolve to bring our malefactors to justice. We rightly decry those among us who eschew the tenets of good citizenship and prop them up for everyone to see as an example of how NOT to be.

And then we, most of us I'd like to think, resolve to be better.

We ignore those differences, and we ignore the resolve of the enemy, at the greatest of perils.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Back From the Lost City of Atlanta

Howdy kids! I'm back from my adventure at DragonCon 2004, and what a shindig it was! There was much drinking of whisky and beer, many new acquaintances well-met, and lots of interesting geek stuff to ogle and buy. Later this week - as soon as Puppy Pincher and Johnathan send me the pictures - I'll be posting a lengthy photo essay. Those of you who've never been to a media / popular culture convention like DragonCon will be surprised to see some of what's there, I assure you.

So, it looks like Krakatoa did an excellent job of keeping the political discussion rolling along while I was away ... a thousand thanks to him for minding the store. Hopefully he enjoys the medium enough to stick around for a while and make us all smarter with his posts.

I have a lot of work to catch up on today - I've been out of the office for almost a week - so normal posting won't resume till tomorrow or Friday (but I'll get the DragonCon photo essay up ASAP). I'll have more on exoplanets and my thoughts on Kerry's apparent slide in the polls ... and if I have time, an interesting piece about a European who's seen the frustrating, sickening downside of socialized medicine.

Great to be back! Talk to you all soon.


S

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Saturday, September 04, 2004

Re-Affirming an Ideological Solution to Terrorism

My apologies for the off days. My dog ate my video card. Well, not really, but the card was most definately defunct, and I didn't get a new one installed, and all the drivers for it and the motherboard, until late last night.

I was going to post something about Space, but contemporary events intrude:

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Look at this picture. It should win a Pulitzer; it captures a moment in our history more eloquently and evocatively than any other image I have seen in recent years.

You gaze upon this grieving mother's face, and you cannot help but be there, sharing in her anguish, clutching your own throat in an unconscious and hopeless attempt to try to stem a cataclysmic flood of grief, of horror, of anger.

How could this happen? We are living in the 21st century, for God's sake. We've all but wiped out small pox, polio, tuberculosis and god knows how many more killers of our children. How can we have come so far, only to see this child brought down in a brutal instant?

How?

This answer to this is the answer to the incomparable Bill Whittle's fleeting doubts in "Flight Safety" , and can be found, in part, in the words of the caption beneath the photo:

"A woman grieves over the body of her child killed when Russian troops stormed a school seized by gunmen in the town of Beslan, in the province of North Ossetia near Chechnya, September 3, 2004. Russian soldiers battled Chechen separatists on Friday to end a two-day-old school siege ..."

"gunmen"

"separatists"

Reuters is, like much of the world's press, an international mouthpiece for the left. They operate under a bias so ingrained as to immediately evoke terms of moral relativity for any agent with the good sense to stand up to "the man", despite the most horrific of means. They possess a worldview that they cling to as desperately as if it were a lifeboat in hurricane-driven seas. When the lifeboat starts losing air, they instinctively clutch it harder, with the predictable effect of forcing out the remaining air even quicker.

The Leftist ideology maintains that every human action of depravity is explicable by following a tenuous string of emotionally causative factors, and bestowing the mantle of victimhood upon those wielding the grenades, the machetes, the plastic shredders or whatever tool will suit the purpose of carrying out their expression of rage.

Thus these monsters who stormed a school, set explosives so as to make the end result inevitable, and ultimately detonated those explosives and scattered automatic fire into the backs of fleeing children, are called "gunmen" and "separatists".

I have a confession to make:

I am a gunman and a separatist as well. I own guns. And I would prefer to be independent of our current bloated and ineffectual government.

How then is it that I, and millions just like me, don't enter schools and kill innocent children to accomplish this? If I can be wrapped up in the same contextual label as those creatures in Ossetia, who just happen to be Muslim while I am agnostic, how can I not act the same way as them?

So which is more likely:

That the ideology of the American Right is somehow bucking the odds when it doesn't turn out inhumane killers like those "poor" "misunderstood" "fundamentalist" "separatist" "rebel" "freedom-fighting" "gunmen" who happen to be Muslim?

Or that the ideology of the international Left has, despite the lessons of history in the application of it's formula, and despite the lack of supporting evidence in any free society, accurately identified the root causes and proper solution to Terrorism?

How did it come to a school full of children being blown up? I submit that it did in no small part due to entities such as Reuters failing to accept the reality of the world: Bad people do exist, and will commit evil acts without even a pretense of civil discourse.

In the end, regardless of cause and effect of policies past, what remains is the defining of a solution to the problem that faces us.

The Left's proposals on this issue the past 30 years are heavy on pop-psychology platitudes, but are dangerously light on the desired results. Indeed, judging from the words of Osama bin Laden himself in calling the US a "paper tiger", it has been demonstrated that the ideology of the Left cannot help but encourage monsters such as him, in promulgating the idea that these terrorists can be reasoned with, paradoxically if only we don't antagonize those who have chosen to be antagonized merely by our existence.

The Right's proposals have simply resulted in the liberation of 50 million people in the last 2 years.

I occasionally question my ideology as well, as an exercise in keeping myself honest. It is an excellent thing to do, and I have no fear that Bill Whittle's introspection will result in his abandoning the principles of rationalism and empiricism when defining the world in which we live.

UPDATE: On a related issue, from Winds of Change. Concluding point:

What kind of states would be born if they were led by bin Laden, Arafat or the terror masters of Chechnya? Do we want to grant statehood or political power to people whose vision is so clouded in rage and blood?

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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Is the War On Terror Winnable?

Many thanks to Sandor for the honor and privilege of posting my own thoughts here while he is attending a Very Importand conference. Something about Dragons and Orcs, which everyone knows should not ever be ignored. ;)

Apologies ahead of time for any inelegance in form as compared to Sandor's refined prose.

Without further ado, onto a question of war:

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President Bush's (mis)statement the other day claiming that the War on Terror (henceforth WOT) could not be won was more accurate than I think most people are willing to accept.

Terrorism is a method. It is not a distinct opponent that anyone can identify and target, rather it is a tool that widely disparate and often disorganized groups of people can use to great effect in their cause.

Among many things required to win a war, one of the big ones is that you must know who the targets are. Another is that you must have the popular support of your citizenry. The fundamental error of our current approach is that we haven't officially and definitively identified for the citizens of the U.S. just who is the current enemy in a very broad war. And the Lauer/Bush exchange perfectly demonstrated the naive ignorance of the Left as to who the enemy is, and the failure of the Right in explaining and reminding the world of who that enemy is.

In a narrow sense, our clearest and best organized enemy in the WOT is the deeply fundamentalist wing of Islam that violently divides the world in two, Dar al-Harb, and Dar al-Islam.

In a broader sense, that war also includes those people and nations who enable terrorists: Moderate Islamists who tacitly approve through inaction and non-condemnation of terrist members of their faith. Also included are China, Russia, France and Germany who have each continued to play the cynical game of trading values and lasting peace for profit and short-term immunity from attack.

In the end, however, the WOT can not be won simply by destroying those players, or by convincing them to abandon Cold War era foreign policies. As long as there is a human being willing to attack others indiscriminately, the tool of Terror will always be in play. And I would submit that there will never be a lack of people willing to wield that tool, and consequentially, there will never be an end to terrorism,.

The rationale behind the the Bush Administration's demure explanation is quite simply driven by the influence of the media and the delicate sensibilities of the Left. Bush knows, in the case of this battle in the War on Terror, he cannot come out and say definitively: Our enemy today is Islamofascism. The media will not allow a full explanation of this sort of statement. It will not allow for the case to be made clearly before playing the race card, signifying the end of rational debate, and the beginning of a dizzying spin into inaction and national self-recrimination.

These are the consequences of a lost PC war: Political Correctness was aimed primarily and to the most scathing effect at conservative "offenders" and now, when we most need someone to speak plainly about the threats we face, our President has blinked, and left the door open for anyone with a political axe to grind to question a patently absurd aspect of the WOT as waged under his administration.

The War On Terror will never be won, any more than the War On Drugs, or Poverty, or Cockroaches. The battle against our enemies this day however, can most assuredly be won, and I believe will be won. Furthermore, actively promoting the growth of democracy has in the past, and will in the future, help ease the conditions which decieve people into thinking violence against innocents is a winning strategy.

So while the media and the Democrats play their silly "gotcha" game over a poorly stated concept, and while Bush fumbles to clear things up while kowtowing to the PC gods, the rest of us should try to keep above the fray and not allow ourselves to be confused by semantic arguments that have absolutely nothing to do with policy. Politics are what they are. We the people need to keep our eyes on the prize and make our decisions based upon the realities of the world, not the machinations of political campaigns and their camp followers.

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Sacrifice a Virgin ...

... and He Won't Destroy Your Village!

I'm on vacation. Yay! Six days of gaming, boozing, shmoozing, and general whooping it up in Atlanta. A much-needed break.

I leave The Zoo in the capable, intelligent hands of Krakatoa, whom some of you surely know from his presence in Frank J.'s and Bill Whittle's comments. Krakatoa has shown himself to be a clear thinker - and he's quite level-headed in the face of screaming muckadoos - so I've invited him to guest blog for a while. I hope he decides to stick around even after I get back from vacation. Bring him nubile young women and he won't cover your pathetic huts in hot lava!

Have a great holiday weekend, all. If I can post pictures from DragonCon I will, but that might have to wait till next week. Peace.

S

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Few and Far - Very Far - Between

NASA's announcement about the newest exoplanets - Discovery Channel has a great article about them here - includes not one but two planets that fall into the new "super terrestrial" (my term) category. These are rocky worlds about 2 or 3 times larger (and 14 to 18 times heavier) than Earth. That might sound big, but they are by far the smallest planets we've discovered orbiting stars other than our sun; until now, all we've found are gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn.


Hypothetical Rocky Planet Posted by Hello

In the comments to yesterday's post, Krakatoa remarked that planets like Earth are probably rare ... really rare. This is called the Rare Earth Hypothesis - first advanced by Peter Ward and Don Brownlee - and essentially states that the huge number of fortunate coincidences required to get a mild, temperate, stable planet like the Earth mean such planets will be uncommon in the extreme. There are definitely lots and lots of planets, and a small but significant number of them probably develop critters like bacteria and blue-green algae, but complex living things like mice and trees and dragonflies will not have many places to live (the article linked above details all of the myriad conditions necessary for advanced life to develop; I heartily recommend reading it). Intelligent beings like humans will be even rarer.

There is, however, something I think Ward and Brownlee are leaving out. Earths - single planets with big moons just the right distance from a stable yellow star - are indeed going to be rare. But perhaps that is not the only configuration that can lead to planets with advanced life; perhaps we are being a bit "terracentric". For instance, a stable, habitable world might form as a moon of a gas giant (the gas giant itself in a warm, stable orbit around its parent star). Such an arrangement would be drastically different from what we have here in our solar system, but it still meets all of the criteria for producing a habitable planet; it achieves the necessary environment by different means. There are other arrangements of stars and planets I can think of that are similarly different from what we know in our solar system but could still lead to habitability: Two large terrestrial planets (like those just recently discovered, in fact) orbiting a common center of gravity while they also orbit close to a small, long-lived red dwarf. The point is that Earth's exact situation is probably not the only one that can lead to the development of advanced life.

Each particular arrangement of objects, circumstances, and events that leads to a stable, thriving biosphere is probably very rare. But there are probably many of them - some we can't even begin to imagine - each as rare as the one before it and different from all the rest. Intelligent beings that evolved on any one of them would tend to think "How fortunate for my species that all of these coincidences happened to create my nice, stable world. How rare it must be!" They'll be right - it is rare. But a couple hundred light years away is another world, with another - different - set of unlikely coincidences that has produced another warm water world teeming with life.

Now I'm not saying we live in a crowded, Star Trek-like galaxy. Life-bearing planets probably orbit less than one star in ten thousand, and the conditions necessary for complex life to develop will only be found on a small percentage of those (less than .01%, probably). But I'm still more optimistic than Ward and Brownlee; I think habitable planets with diverse, thriving biospheres are separated by mere hundreds of light years ... civilizations by perhaps a few thousand. For now no one knows for sure, but with all the recent discoveries I'm hopeful that we'll have our first glimmering, tantalizing hints of other habitable planets within my lifetime.

Time and technology will tell.


S

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