Tuesday, November 26, 2002
VARENIUS VACATING VICINITY VIA VEHICLE
I'm heading out of town for the holiday and so will be away from the blog for a few days. While I'm gone, be sure to check out Glenn Frazier's response to a previous entry of mine (which I will discuss when I'm back). Have a great Thanksgiving Day!
AL-GARDHIYAN VS. VEGARD & VICTOR
Back from his blog vacation, Norwegian Blogger goes after another article in The Guardian (a.k.a. Al-Gardhiyan, a.k.a. Al-Jazeera on the Thames) with one of his famous MiSTings, this time one on how very difficult a military foe Iraq will supposedly prove to be. Who would have thought puncturing idiotarian bloviation could be so funny?
For a more reasonable analysis of what a military campaign in Iraq is likely to entail, check out the latest from the always insightful Victor Davis Hanson.
Monday, November 25, 2002
WHO ARMED IRAQ?
Sorry, Chomsky and friends, it wasn't the U.S., as Ranting Screeds has recently uncovered. As of 1990/1991, Iraq had the following military hardware:
MiG-29s - 70 (Soviet)
Mig-25s - 18 (Soviet)
MiG-23s - 20 (Soviet)
MiG-21s - 105 (Soviet)
F-7s - 20 (Red China)
MiG-17s - 30 (Soviet)
Su-25s - 20 (Soviet)
Su-20s - 30 (Soviet)
Su-7s - 50 (Soviet)
F-6s - 20 (Red China)
Su-24s - 10 (Soviet)
Mirage F1s - 100 (FRANCE)
MiG-23/27s - 70 (Soviet)
Il-20s - 10 (Soviet)
Tu-22s - 7 (Soviet)
Tu-16s -12 (Soviet)
T-54/55 - 1400 (Soviet)
Type 59 - 500 (Red China)
Type 69 - 1000 (Red China)
T-62 - 1600 (Soviet)
T-72 - 1000 (Soviet)
IFVs, armored recon vehicles, and APCs - 9000 total, aprox (biggest component BTR - 60s); no precise
breakdown but consist of:
Panhard M-3 (FRANCE)
Type 63 (China)
Interesting to note, at the time Iraq had 13 modern ships on order from ITALY
G-5 155mm (South Africa)
GHN-45 155mm (AUSTRIA)
Astros-II SS-30 MRL (Brazil)
Astros-II SS-40 MRL (Brazil)
M56 105mm (BRITAIN)
D-74 122mm (Soviet)
D-30 122mm (Soviet)
2S1 122mm (Soviet)
2S3 152mm (Soviet)
M1937 152mm (Soviet)
M1938 122mm (Soviet)
M1939 37mm (Soviet)
M1943 152mm (Soviet)
M-1975 122mm MRL (Soviet)
BM-21 122mm MRL (Soviet)
BM-13 132mm MRL (Soviet)
S-23 180mm (Soviet)
ZSU-23-4 23mm (Soviet)
ZU-23 23mm (Soviet)
"Majnoon" 155mm (Iraq/Gerald Bull of CANADA)
"Al Fao" 210mm (Iraq/Gerald Bull of CANADA)
82 mm Mortar (Soviet)
SA-2 SAM (Soviet)
SA-3 SAM (Soviet)
SA-6 SAM (Soviet)
SA-7 SAM (Soviet)
SA-13 SAM (Soviet)
Well, I don't see any U.S.-made hardware listed... not a single F-16, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, M1-A1 tank, or M-16 rifle in the lot! The claim it was America couldn't be just a lot of hot air, could it???
And who has been arming Saddam since 1991? Eastern Europe, with Yugoslavia as the smuggling hub.
Friday, November 22, 2002
THE GUARDIAN: AFGHAN WAR WORTH IT
Here's a must-read article on the genuine good that our war against the Taliban has brought for the people of Afghanistan, from of all places The Guardian! (No, really, it's from al-Gardhiyan, I swear!!)
I'm looking forward to reading the same thing about Iraq in a year or so...
BEWARE HE WHO QUOTES "BEWARE..."
After seeing the quote that begins "Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war..." popping up everywhere on campus and online, I decided to try to find out who actually wrote it. It's been wrongly attributed to Julius Caesar himself and, embarrassingly for professional airhead Barbra Streisand, William Shakespeare. (I can understand thinking it might be Caesar, but there's absolutely no excuse for anyone familiar with Shakespeare to think it was him since the quote is not in Elizabethan English and has a very un-Shakespearean style.) Well, the truth is nobody knows who actually wrote it! According to both Urban Legends at About.com and the Urban Legends Reference Pages, there is no evidence of the quote's existence before appearing on the Internet in late 2001. Apparently some anti-war activist penned it anonymously and started circulating it via the Internet. Yet another reason to be skeptical of endlessly forwarded e-mails!
Thursday, November 21, 2002
NAIVE NAKED NINNIES FOR PEACE
I know that by now everyone and his brother has commented on this picture, but it is just so ridiculous that I have to take my own potshot at it too: West Marin women strip for peace. (Warning: Viewing this picture has been known to cause blindness, or at least the desperate wish that it would.)
Wearing nothing but afternoon rain, 50 determined women lay down on Love Field near the Green Bridge Tuesday afternoon to literally embody PEACE and "show solidarity with the people of Iraq," said the organizers. "Women from all ages and walks of life took off their clothes, not because they are exhibitionists but because they felt it was imperative to do so," the organizers added.
Oh yeah, whenever I hear about something really bad in the world I immediately think that I simply must rip my clothes off and roll around in a meadow with a bunch of naked people. Doesn't everyone?
"They wanted to unveil the truth about the horrors of war..."
War is about spoiled and bored suburbanite white women with liberal leanings getting naked for a publicity stunt? Where's the horror in that? Wait, on second thought...
"...to commune in their nudity with the vulnerability of Iraqi innocents..."
That's not very effective. Why not try... having their faces stomped on by jackboots? Or being raped by prison guards? Or choking on deadly gases targeted at troublesome ethnic groups? There's lots of room for getting creative -- Saddam has kindly provided us with plenty of sources for inspiration.
"...and to shock a seemingly indifferent Bush Administration into paying attention."
Apparently they think the Administration is a bunch of neurotic prudes whose response will be to run around shrieking, "EEEK!!! Naked women!! Naked women!! We simply must stop these brazen hussies from exposing themselves! Quick, call back our troops before it's too late!" Sorry to disappoint you, girls, but if they give you any thought at all it will be nothing more than a yawn at your self-important juvenile pretensions. Now go off to play childish provocateur some more so the adults can take care of business.
The coordinators, who came up with the idea only a day earlier, said that the coming together of this group on short notice was a testament to the seriousness with which the women view the threat of war with Iraq.
What is it like to live in a place where coming together quickly for nude photography is considered a sign of "seriousness"?
HUBRIS, THY NAME IS SCIENTIST
Genetic scientists Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith revealed plans to synthesize a new species of bacteria. They will do so by stripping down the DNA of the simplest known organism, the M. genitalium bacterium, to the minimum genetic information needed to function and assembling it on artificial chromosomes in an empty membrane. They acknowledge there are safety concerns arising from this proposed project, probably due in part to the bacterium being a urethral parasite, but the scientists seem convinced this can be done safely. I found this statement particularly noteworthy:
Smith and Venter told the Post the lab-dish cells would be rendered incapable of infecting humans, strictly confined and designed to die if they escaped into the environment.
Yeah, that is until they mutate...
As the BBC News coverage of this notes, the proposal is bound to bring up the issue of "playing God." What always strikes me about this concept is how those who scoff at the issue seem to totally misunderstand it. Time after time I've heard statements from scientists who unreflectively assume that is only a concern for religious believers that everyone else can shrug off. While it is true that part of the reluctance to "play God" has historically been a feeling that it is impious, the idea goes far beyond this and encompasses concerns for both believers and unbelievers."Playing God" ultimately has to do with humans taking on powers that they are not wise enough to handle responsibly. That this can happen should be screamingly obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of human history, or who simply haven't spent life as a hermit. But in my experience scientists tend to become drunk on their sense of power and mastery, and thus stop seeing the implications of their work clearly, most especially the negative ones. On top of this, the tend to share the academic's naive assumption that since "I and everyone else I know would never do anything bad with our research -- we are all good people" nobody else in the world would either. This deep and pervasive foolishness is precisely why research like this quite frankly scares the crap out of me.
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
LATEST MARXIST FOLLIES
Why Europe Hates Us
Arnold Beichman lays the blame for European anti-Americanism at the feet of residual Marxist sentiment. Here are some highlights:
Even the unanimous Security Council vote demanding Saddam open Iraq to inspection hasn't diminished this tide of anti- Americanism. This tide is so powerful that had President Bush announced a year ago that he would not under any circumstances invade Iraq, you can be sure Europe, with American peaceniks joining in, would be denouncing him in protest parades for perpetuating the rule of Saddam Hussein, that bloody tyrant, in order, naturally, to protect Texas oil interests....
"Anti-Americanism early became a Marxist theme," Lewis Feuer has written, "for America offered a social alternative that threatened to reduce Marxist modes of thought and feeling into irrelevancies and absurdities."...
[European intellectual George Lukacs] declaimed that even if Marx's propositions were proven false, even if every empirical prediction of Marxism were invalidated, he would still hold Marxism to be true and he would still be a Marxist. Marxism forever, dead or alive. Lukacs irrationalism runs in the European bloodstream.
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
HONEST REPORTING ON ISRAEL
I've found a great media watchdog called Honest Reporting that is dedicated to exposing and answering anti-Israel bias in world media. They have regular critiques of media reports as well as other resources such as this multimedia summary of Arab-Israeli history. It's a great resource for counterbalancing what you hear from anti-Israel outlets like National Public Radio.
Mohammed al-Dura: Not Killed by Israelis
On a similar note, I came across a documentary analyzing the death of Palestinian "child martyr" Mohammed al-Dura (RealPlayer movie). Al-Dura was shot to death when he and his father were caught in a gun battle around an Israeli outpost in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians immediately concluded that the Israeli soldiers had intentionally murdered the little boy, and he became a martyr memorialized in songs and protest signs. A closer examination of the incident, however, shows that the case is not so simple, and that in fact the evidence suggests it was stray bullets from Palestinian AK-47s that killed the boy. Quite apart from from what it reveals about the case, the film is worth seeing for the disturbing glimpse it offers of the twisted and chaotic world that decades of conflict have created in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Friday, November 15, 2002
DINESH D'SOUZA VISITS CAMPUS
Another Firsthand Report by Varenius
Earlier this week, Dinesh D'Souza was on campus here to give a lecture based on his latest book, What's so Great about America. I went to it expecting there to be trouble from protesters, as had happened at previous presentations sponsored by the College Republicans, but it turned out to be a fairly quiet scene. That's almost too bad because the message was something that campus leftists badly need to think about, and was presented in a way less likely to evoke knee-jerk dismissals than it easily could have.
D'Souza gave an excellent speech, marked by the eloquence and insight for which he is known. The theme was an exploration of anti-Americanism in an attempt to understand America's critics and fashion a thorough yet fair response to them, which he feels has yet to be adequately done. Although the main purpose of his speech was their rebuttal, he started off with an outstanding analysis of the most common criticisms leveled against America. These he classified into three categories: the European criticisms, the Asian criticisms, and the Islamic criticisms. The European complaint is that American pop culture subverts their traditional and higher culture, the Asians criticize our weakening of social values and cohesion, and the Islamic critique is that we value freedom above virtue. This is where he most impressed me, because he was able to present these criticisms fairly and sympathetically to a degree that very, very few are able to match. He agreed that all of these criticisms do have merit, for the central ideal of America does have a genuinely subversive value. This central ideal for him is the self-directed life. This is what inspires French youth to "choose Mickey Mouse instead of Jean-Paul Sartre"  to the horror of their parents and threatens to undermine Moslem countries' attempts to create societies universally obeying the Shari'a. He repeatedly emphasized that these potential pitfalls of a society designed around the self-directed life are very real and must be acknowledged, but that its benefits far outweigh these concerns.
For D'Souza, these benefits fall into two categories: material and moral. He placed much emphasis (perhaps too much) on the material prosperity and progress of the West in general and America in particular, pointing out that no other society comes even close to matching ours in this regard. In the moral sphere, the liberty we offer is what allows true virtue to flourish. It is only when virtuous acts arise from free choice rather than coercion that they are truly virtuous. D'Souza says that this is the answer to the Moslem critiques in particular, for if their goal is truly to make a society in which all are virtuous, that virtue must be genuine and not merely a superficial acquiescence in the face of coercion.
The most controversial part of the presentation was D'Souza's response to criticism of specific actions in American history. He defended our support of some dictators during the Cold War as a morally defensible choice of the lesser evil, of supporting the "bad guy" when the only other alternative was the "really bad guy". On slavery, he pointed out that far from being a uniquely American/Western evil, it has existed in virtually every civilization for all of history, and what is uniquely Western is in fact the decision to systematically eradicate the entire institution of slavery. It was this point that generated the sole critical comment during the question-and-answer session, where an earnest liberal responded that American slavery was uniquely evil, and furthermore Lincoln couldn't have cared less about freeing the slaves. This led to an extended exchange where D'Souza explained that the apparent compromises by Lincoln leading up to and during the Civil War were simply pragmatic decisions ultimately in service to his ultimate goal of ending slavery.
I bought a copy of the book there and will probably post a review once I've read it.
 Hey, if those were my choices I'd pick Mickey Mouse too!
Thursday, November 14, 2002
NEVER FEAR, TERRIFICA IS HERE!
A real-life superheroine is now patrolling the nightclubs of New York: Terrifica, Protectress of Drunk Women Everywhere! Clad in red cape and leotard, she is ever-watchful for predatory men attempting to seduce tipsy young ladies. She even has an arch-villain rival: the sleazy sex machine Fantastico. Hey, that sounds like a Google Fight...
Terrifica ( 1 080 results) versus Fantastico ( 209 000 results)
Best of luck, Terrifica, it looks like you'll need it...
(Seriously, I think this is great, and wish there were someone similar in our pestilential beer-soaked college kid settlement here... though perhaps just a tad less, well, weird...)
Atheist to a Theist alerted me to a fun little time waster called Google Fight, where you can make two terms battle it out for search engine hit supremacy. Here are some of his matchups:
Catholic (6 140 000 results) versus Atheist ( 14 700 results)
Grace (7 030 000 results) versus Sin (21 300 000 results)
I demand a recount here, must be because of Palm Beach voters.
Also must not have taken Romans 5:20 into account.
Bible (14 100 000 results) versus Playboy ( 623 000 results)
But Jeff, you've forgotten about one of the greatest contests of all time: Saddam vs. Gamera!
Saddam (1 470 000 results) versus Gamera ( 55 200 results)
Uh oh, it looks like the giant mutant turtle was no match for Saddam's shiny new sword...
Monday, November 11, 2002
CONSTRAINED VS UNCONSTRAINED IDEOLOGIES
Glenn Frazier offers some thoughts on Thomas Sowell's latest book, A Conflict of Visions. Sowell posits that most political differences ultimately result from a basic ideological disagreement over human nature, namely whether it is "constrained" or "unconstrained". The Constrained side sees humanity as flawed and thus possessing limits that must be acknowledged, while the Unconstrained side sees humanity as naturally flawless and able to reattain this pristine state with the right sorts of institutions.
Sowell has a fairly good classification system here. I've been interested in finding ways of classifying ideologies that get down to the core, essential differences that lie deeper than the familiar Left/Right dichotomy that is becoming seriously strained from over-and mis- use, and is not especially enlightening in the first place. The Constrained/Unconstrained division works well because it gets at a very real and fundamental difference while also being broad enough to encompass a wide range of thought.
One ideology that does not seem to fit very tidily into this system, though, is Libertarianism. It would seem to fit into the Constrained category because of its emphasis on things such as Constitutional restraints, checks and balances in government, and the basic idea of needing governments to defend and protect one's rights. However, the recurring Libertarian theme of government being the problem and less government being the solution -- in other words, leave people to their own devices via a libertarian government system and everything will be Just Fine -- is strongly suggestive of an Unconstrained worldview.
For my own thoughts on the implications of the Unconstrained perspective, check out my essay on dystopias.
MORE GOOD SENSE FROM VDH
Right Wing News has a great interview with Victor Davis Hanson on the status of the War on Terror and related issues. I've become acquainted with Hanson only recently, but from the beginning I've been impressed with his clarity of thought, good sense, and genuine love for America -- a rare combination of traits in an academic, of whatever political stripe.
Sunday, November 10, 2002
AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...
Some friends and I are attempting to make 1000 origami cranes for someone with leukemia. A Japanese tradition holds that making 1000 paper cranes will bring you good fortune, and cranes are often given to the sick in hopes for a good recovery. More recently, making them has become a way to express a wish for world peace. I think this is a great way to show that you care for and are in solidarity with someone who is seriously ill. If you want to make some of your own, here are some good instructions. Have fun!
Saturday, November 09, 2002
GORE VIDAL: STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
I found a neat little site that has audio and video clips of an infamous debate between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley during coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The main reason for the debate's notoriety is that near the end Vidal labels Buckley a "crypto-Nazi" and Buckley answers back by calling him a "queer" and threatening to punch him. (If only "Capital Gang" were as entertaining!) What I find most interesting about it is how you can already see the initial germination of Vidal's overheated conspiracy-theorist ramblings that so mark him today, in comments made almost 35 years ago. Worth checking out.
In case you haven't had the, uh, pleasure of encountering Gore Vidal's rants before and want to get an idea of what they are like, Ron Rosenbaum royally fisks Vidal's latest feverish emission in the New York Observer.
THE AMAZING INVISIBLE ARCHIVES!
For some reason, Blogger zapped my archive links about a week ago and they still haven't reappeared, so I've decided to expand the number of entries that will show up here on the homepage to make up for it. Sorry for any added page loading time...
Friday, November 08, 2002
MORE TEACH-IN NONSENSE
Apparently my experience at the Iraq teach-in that I discussed below is hardly unique. Both David Gulliver at Southern Illinois University and Joseph Sabia at Cornell have similar tales to tell: presentations that were billed as being balanced and bringing both sides together turned out to be exclusively anti-war and gratuitous Bush-bashing fests to boot.
Oh well, one can at least dream of seeing this teach-in happen...