Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Huckabee

Is it apparent to anyone else that the reason Mike Huckabee is suddenly rising in the polls is that Fred Thompson has been such a flop. It has been well publicized that conservative evangelicals are been waiting for a candidate that they can support with some sort of enthusiasm and that neither Guiliani nor Romney fit the bill. Then there was the stirring of excitement that Fred Thompson, an plain-spoken good ol' boy from Tennessee was entering the race. Another Ronald Reagan, people whispered. Unfortunately, Thompson's campaign has struggled to reach lack luster and Fred has turned out to be something less than a fire-breathin', Bible-thumpin', pew-jumpin' True Believer.

Enter Huckabee. Sure, the ConEvangels all knew that Huckabee was an ordained Baptist minister but they really wanted something more sexy, something straight out of Hollywood casting. They didn't get it. With no other alternative in sight, the man-on-street conservative Christian is gravitating toward the former Arkansas governor. Whether he keeps them or not remains to be seen but the progression seems perfectly natural to this novice political observer.

Doing Their Work For Them

The revelation in the latest National Intelligence Estimate that Iran abandoned it's nuclear weapons program in 2003 leads me to several questions, the principle one being; Why 2003?

The answer that leaps to my mind is that Iran was rushing toward a nuclear weapon because Bush had declared that our invasion of Iraq was to prevent just such a development by Saddam Hussein. When Iran heard this, it would not be able to help noticing that no one was invading North Korea which was believed to already possess such weapons. The obvious conclusion of everyone in the world except George Bush was that countries opposed to the US were in danger of invasion unless they figured out how to build the Bomb, and quick!

Come Fall 2003 and the invasion of Iraq is in full swing. Bushies might claim that we had frightened Iran into abandoning their WMD program by the shear awe of our military operations. That of course would be assuming that our military operations, however brilliant, were successfully controlling the country and overcoming the Baathist Plan B - guerrilla warfare. By that time, it was becoming clear that the US occupation was inept and the US military incapable of threatening any other country for a good long time.

If you are not convinced that the US struggles in Iraq were discernible in 2003, then you must admit they were glaringly obvious by 2004/2005. If Iran had been frightened into abandoning nuclear ambitions by Shock and Awe in 2003, then they would have been able to start back up in 2005 with no fear of invasion by the US. On the other hand, if, based on the evidence on its doorstep, Iran calculated that the US was not a military threat to the regime then the urgency to gain nuclear weapons disappears and other means for regional influence and protection become more attractive priorities.

What this NIE shows most of all is that the Crazy Man theory of international diplomacy is bankrupt. If it can be applied to Kim Jong-Il, that is its limit. As for the rest of the world, even the meanest despot is working from a position of self-interest that may be potentially understood and influenced. We will not always win or get everything we want in the world but basing policy on the proposition that our adversaries are "crazy" is a recipe for unmitigated disaster, failure and decline.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Virtue

"What on earth gives Christians [the] right to assume that love and self-sacrifice have to be called Christian virtues? They are virtues, full stop."

Philip Pullman, quoted in Christianity Today

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Clone By Any Other Name

It looks like promising news, human skin cells have been coaxed into growing human neurons.

Of course, social conservatives are gloating. They knew all along that we didn't need to Play God in order access the potential cures hinted at by stem cell research. We liberals need to just shut up and take their word as gospel in the future.

We don't know whether embryonic or the newer model of stem cells will revolutionize medicine - it's just too early. Leaving the vagaries of scientific research aside, there is another issue that most of these culture warriors haven't hit upon yet. What happens when you create a perfect stem cell without destroying an existing embryo? Mission accomplished, right? I don't think so.

It seems to me that the perfect stem cell would be so close to the hallowed, one-cell fetus that the technology to create an new embryo from it would be well within grasp. It seems inevitable that some lab, somewhere in the world will make the attempt, no?

If life starts at conception, is a lab-produced, pluripotent cell a human life as well. This is a really big question that the conception-equals-baby crowd needs to start thinking about.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Great Quote

“When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.”

Rev. Gene Carlson
former Pastor of Westlink Christian Church, Wichita, Kansas

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Where Does It Say That?

Via Dan Froomkin, Washington Post:
Michael B. Mukasey, President Bush's nominee for attorney general, was asked whether the president is required to obey federal statutes. Judge Mukasey replied, 'That would have to depend on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country.'

Back up the Unitary Executive Bus! Where in the United States Constitution does it say that the President has the authority to "defend the country." The Constitution provides the following role for the President vis-a-vis National Defense:
Article II, Section 2 The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;...
That's it - Nothing more.

The Congress, on the otherhand, is given responsibility to "provide for the common Defence... declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;... To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces ... " (Article I, Section 8).

Seems pretty clear that the Founders intended Congress to have an active, if not dominant role in defending the country. The President's role as Commander-in-Chief is a command role. Period. He is the top, albeit civilian, General Officer with all the boundaries on authority that any commander faces. There is absolutely nothing in the President's warrant that provides him the arch responsibility for "defending the country." In fact, the text can be "strictly constructed" to provide no strategic or decision making role whatsoever.

This power grab by the current President not only poses a clear and present danger to our democracy but paves the way for further erosions of our birthright by future residents of the White House. Our predecessors had the unique wisdom to construct a government based on the mistrust of accumulated power. Let us not trade this gem for the illusion of security.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

This is Cool!!

The story goes that the other great apes, gorillas, chimps and orangutans, possess 24 pairs of chromosomes. Humans possess only 23. This situation suggests that, if we share a common ancestor, humans probably lost one pair instead of the other guys all gaining one. When the human and chimp genomes were sequenced, scientists were able to poke around and see if the genes on the extra ape chromosomes appeared somewhere in the human DNA.

Well, it turns out that they do indeed exist. It is quite clear that two pairs of chromosomes merged sometime after humans and chimps diverged from their common ancestor. You see, not only did they find the gene sequences from the missing chromosome but they found the original telemeres (bits of DNA that form a sort of "cap" on the ends of chromosomes) right in the middle of the human chromosome 2. Plus, they found the extra centromere (a bit of DNA at the center of the chromosome), deactivated, sitting exactly where it was leftover from the extra chimp chromosome.

This way cool. If God did it, he was very messy, leaving extra bits in their like some sort of appendix - but that's another story.

Check out this video explanation

Thursday, September 27, 2007

No Business Being There

I listened to a follow up report by a journalist returning to a village in Diyala province Iraq. Us troops had moved in to quell insurgent activity and secure a bridge across a canal. When she returned, the town was nearly deserted. The only two-story building in town faced the bridge and The soldiers had commandeered the as their headquarters. Although there had been attacks and a building had been rigged as an IED against the military force, insurgent activity had ebbed somewhat.

Unfortunately, because the road leading from the bridge crossed in front the headquarters, in the name of force protection the US officer would not let anyone cross the bridge. Business dried up and most of the town was leaving.

The journalist recorded a conversation that he commanding officer had with an Iraqi man who was packing his belongings to move away. This man made some statements about how the Americans had moved in and were thus responsible for security and how they were not living up to their responsibilities. Through an interpreter, the American starts to complain to the Iraqi man that the US can not do it for the Iraqis and that they need to take some responsibility for their own security. His frustration was extremely obvious. It seems every time I her the actual voice of a soldier on the ground, this edge is glaring.

I do not blame these officers. They have been put to a task that America has not built it's military to perform. It may even be an impossible task. I do not blame the Iraqis. I imagine their history has been such that individuals are not encouraged to take initiative on security issues - it is the job of the tribe, warlord or strongman.

The simple fact is that our men and women are not trained nor psychologically suited to a colonial or imperial enterprise. Americans do not have the patience or tolerance to operate in such an different culture. Yet another reason that our mission is likely doomed to failure. Pull 'em out. They can do no further good.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Drums of War - Jerusalem Edition

In some quarters Debka is considered a super-secret destination for real intelligence news. Their confidential sources in the much vaunted Israeli intelligence and defense establishment is hinted at as the source of their credibility.

Now, compare this
DEBKAfile Reports: Two US carrier-strike groups are bound for Persian Gulf region, bringing number back to three

September 18, 2007, 4:18 PM (GMT+02:00)
USS Truman Strike Group heading for Gulf

USS Truman Strike Group heading for Gulf

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that from the third week of July, the only American strike force- carrier in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea region was the USS Enterprise. By the end of September, it will be joined by the USS Nimitz and the USS Truman Strike Groups. Our sources note that with their arrival, three American naval, air and marine forces will again confront Iranian shores at a time of crisis in the military and civilian leadership of Iran - signaled by the abrupt change of Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders, rising Israel-Syrian tensions and a troubled situation in Lebanon.

The Nimitz left the region to take part in large-scale Malabar 2007 II exercise with five Asian nations, termed by Indian military observers “the first step towards establishing Asian NATO. Since the maneuver ended Friday, Sept. 7, the Nimitz has been on its way back to the Persian Gulf. The Truman group, made up of 12 warships and submarines, including a nuclear sub, with 7,600 sailors, air crew and marines aboard, has just completed a long series of training exercises and is preparing to set out for its new posting. It carries eight squadrons of fighters, bombers and spy planes.

The Truman force’s battle cry is: “Give ‘em hell”.

The combined naval strike groups include the Monterey-CG 61 guided missile cruiser, the USS Barry DDG 52 and USS Mason-DDG 87 guided missile destroyers, the USS Albuquerque-SSN 706 fast nuclear strike submarine and the combat logistical USNS Arctic T-AOE 8.

In the last week of August, the USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group took up position opposite the Lebanese coast amid trepidation over the September presidential election. Our military sources reported that aboard the group’s vessels are members of the 22nds Marine special operations-capable Expeditionary Unit, who are ready to execute landings on Lebanese beaches.

with this


Nimitz to return home Sunday
6:44 p.m. September 25, 2007

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego-based aircraft carrier Nimitz has left Hawaii for the final stage of a six-month deployment that will bring the ship, its air wing and its strike group home Sunday, Navy officials said.

The carrier left the island Monday. It is carrying more than 4,000 sailors, plus 1,295 of their friends and family members who climbed aboard at Pearl Harbor and will stay until the journey's end.

These guests will get to watch demonstrations of air and sea operations, take tours of the ship and join in a shipboard talent show.

The Nimitz left San Diego on April 2 along with Carrier Air Wing 11, the cruiser Princeton and the destroyers John Paul Jones, Higgins and Chafee.

This contingent traveled to the Persian Gulf and operated alongside the John C. Stennis carrier strike group. Their joint presence, double the usual number of carrier groups in the region, reflected the United States' heightened tension with Iran at the time.
It's going to be hard to fool those sailors' families into believing that their fathers and daughters are finally home safe in California when they are really in the Persian Gulf.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is Glory Cheap?

We have shed our blood in the glorious cause in which we are engaged; we are ready to shed the last drop in its defense. Nothing is above our courage, except only (with shame I speak it) the courage to TAX ourselves.

--James Madison, 1782



How much more satisfying to sacrifice one's life (or the lives of others) on the field of battle than to sacrifice one's comfort and excess at home. No draft. No war bonds. Just keep on shopping.

Friday, September 14, 2007

You're No Eisenhower

Well, well, well. It comes out now that our unbiased military opinion is really the positioning of a presidential hopeful: Gen Petreus harbors in his heart the dream of occupying the Oval Office some day, an Eisenhower for the 21st century, as it were. This explains his inappropriate op-ed six weeks before the 2004 election, claiming that Iraq was going swimmingly and helping to cement George W Bush's second, if ill-fated, term.

Well buddy, we knew the General Eisenhower and you are no General Eisenhower.

Try to imagine David Petreus uttering these words:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. [...] This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."

Crazy Like a Fox

From Paul Krugman, excerpted here:
Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

I have always had the sense that the NeoCons were re-fighting Vietnam. Now they are preparing to complete the cycle. Pray that these men will live out their days and a new generation will not rise up to replace them, bitter and self-righteous, in 40 years.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chicken Shit

I have come to respect the work Gareth Porter but it took a few minutes to digest the reality of this exchange:
[Chief of the Central Command , Admiral] Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit"

Read the whole thing. Adm Fallon is the man who turned the planned third Persian Gulf aircraft carrier deployment into a brief cruise in the Pacific to blunt the administration's saber rattling toward Iran. he has been quoted as saying, re war with Iran, "Not on my watch."

One interesting angle is the light it shone upon the differences between Army and Navy culture, the former recently reported to breed Yes Men and the later apparently much more cut throat and confrontational. The swashbuckling spirit lives on!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Be afraid?

Nurses in California marched on the capitol Monday, and prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to call a special session of the Legislature in order to pass legislation that would expand health care coverage in the state.

From here.


Exactly as I have been saying all these years: "Don't mess with nurses." Even the Terminator is scared of 'em.

War, Psychology and Time

By George Friedman, Strategic Forecasting, Inc

There are moments in history when everything comes together. Today is the sixth anniversary of the al Qaeda attack against the United States. This is the week Gen. David Petraeus is reporting to Congress on the status of the war in Iraq. It also is the week Osama bin Laden made one of his rare video appearances. The world will not change this week, but the convergence of these strands makes it necessary to pause and take stock.

To do this, we must begin at the beginning. We do not mean Sept. 11, 2001, but the moment when bin Laden decided to stage the attack -- and the reasoning behind it. By understanding his motives, we can begin to measure his success. His motive was not, we believe, simply to kill Americans. That was a means to an end. Rather, as we and others have said before, it was to seize what he saw as a rare opportunity to begin the process of recreating a vast Islamic empire.

The rare opportunity was the fall of the Soviet Union. Until then, the Islamic world had been divided between Soviet and American spheres of influence. Indeed, the border of the Soviet Union ran through the Islamic world. The Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union created a tense paralysis in that world, with movement and change being measured in decades and inches. Suddenly, everything that was once certain became uncertain. One half of the power equation was gone, and the other half, the United States, was at a loss as to what it meant. Bin Laden looked at the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and saw a historical opening.

His problem was that contrary to what has been discussed about terrorist organizations, they cannot create an empire. What they can do is seize a nation-state and utilize its power to begin shaping an empire. Bin Laden had Afghanistan, but he understood that its location and intrinsic power were insufficient for his needs. He could not hope to recreate the Islamic empire from Kabul or Kandahar. For bin Laden's strategy to work, he had to topple an important Muslim state and replace it with a true Islamist regime. There were several that would have done, but we suspect his eye was on Egypt. When Egypt moves, the Islamic world trembles. But that is a guess. A number of other regimes would have served the purpose.

In bin Laden's analysis, the strength of these regimes also was their weakness. They were all dependent on the United States for their survival. This fit in with bin Laden's broader analysis. The reason for Muslim weakness was that the Christian world -- the Crusaders, as he referred to them -- had imposed a series of regimes on Muslims and thereby divided and controlled them. Until these puppet regimes were overthrown, Muslims would be helpless in the face of Christians, in particular the current leading Christian power, the United States.

The root problem, as bin Laden saw it, was psychological. Muslims suffered from a psychology of defeat. They expected to be weaker than Christians and so they were. In spite of the defeat of the atheist Soviets in Afghanistan and the collapse of their regime, Muslims still did not understand two things -- that the Christians were inherently weak and corrupt, and that the United States was simply another Crusader nation and their enemy.

The 9/11 attack, as well as earlier attacks, was designed to do two things. First, by striking targets that were well-known among the Muslim masses, the attack was meant to demonstrate that the United States could be attacked and badly hurt. Second, it was designed to get a U.S. reaction -- and this is what bin Laden saw as the beauty of his plan: If Washington reacted by doing nothing effective, then he could argue that the United States was profoundly weak and indecisive. This would increase contempt for the United States. If, on the other hand, the United States staged a series of campaigns in the Islamic world, he would be able to say that this demonstrated that the United States was the true Crusader state and the enemy of Muslims everywhere. Bin Laden was looking for an intemperate move -- either the continued impotent responses to al Qaeda attacks in the 1990s or a drastic assault against Islam. Either one would have done.

For the American side, 9/11 did exactly what it was intended to do: generate terror. In our view, this was a wholly rational feeling. Anyone who was not frightened of what was coming next was out of touch with reality. Indeed, we are always amused when encountering friends who feel the United States vastly exaggerated the implications of four simultaneous plane hijacks that resulted in the world's worst terrorist attack and cost thousands of lives and billions in damage. Yet, six years on, the overwhelming and reasonable fear on the night of Sept. 11 has been erased and replaced by a strange sense that it was all an overreaction.

Al Qaeda was a global -- but sparse -- network. That meant that it could be anywhere and everywhere, and that searching for it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. But there was something else that disoriented the United States even more. Whether due to disruption by U.S. efforts or a lack of follow-on plans, al Qaeda never attacked the United States again after 9/11. Had it periodically attacked the United States, the ongoing sense of crisis would not have dissipated. But no attack has occurred, and over the years, actions and policies that appeared reasonable and proportionate in 2001 began to appear paranoid and excessive. A sense began to develop that the United States had overreacted to 9/11, or even that the Bush administration used 9/11 as an excuse for oppressive behavior.

Regardless of whether he was a one-trick pony or he did intend, but failed, to stage follow-on attacks, the lack of strikes since 9/11 has turned out to be less damaging to bin Laden than to the Bush administration.

Years of vigilance without an indisputable attack have led to a slow but systematic meltdown in the American consensus that was forged white hot on Sept. 11. On that day, it was generally conceded that defeating al Qaeda took precedence over all other considerations. It was agreed that this would be an extended covert war in which the use of any number of aggressive and unpleasant means would be necessary. It was believed that the next attack could come at any moment, and that preventing it was paramount.

Time reshapes our memory and displaces our fears from ourselves to others. For many, the fevered response to 9/11 is no longer "our" response, but "their" response, the response of the administration -- or more precisely, the overreaction of the administration that used 9/11 as an excuse to wage an unnecessary global war. The fears of that day are viewed as irrational and the responsibility of others. Regardless of whether it was intentional, the failure of al Qaeda to mount another successful attack against the United States in six years has made it appear that the reaction to 9/11 was overblown.

The Bush administration, however, felt it could not decline combat. It surged into the Islamic world, adopting one of the strategies bin Laden hoped it would. There were many reasons for this, but part of it was psychological. Bin Laden wanted to show that the United States was weak. Bush wanted to demonstrate that the United States was strong. The secretary of defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, used the term "shock and awe." That was precisely the sense the United States wanted to deliver to the Islamic world. It wanted to call bin Laden's bet -- and raise it.

That was more than four years ago. The sense of shock and awe, if it was ever there, is long gone. Rather than showing the Islamic world the overwhelming power of the United States, the United States is now engaged in a debate over whether there is some hope for its strategy. No one is arguing that the war has been a slam dunk. Whatever the complex reasons for invading Iraq, and we have addressed those in detail, time has completely undermined the psychological dimension of the strategy. Four years into the war, no one is shocked and no one is awed. The same, it should be added, is true about Afghanistan.

Time has hammered the Bush administration in two ways. In the first instance -- and this might actually be the result of the administration's success in stopping al Qaeda -- there has been no further attack against the United States. The justification for the administration's measures to combat al Qaeda, therefore, is wearing thin. For many, a state of emergency without any action simply does not work after six years. It is not because al Qaeda and others aren't out there. It is because time wears down the imagination, until the threat becomes a phantom.

Time also has worn down the Bush administration's war in Iraq. The Islamic world is not impressed. The American public doesn't see the point or the end. What was supposed to be a stunning demonstration of American power has been a demonstration of the limits of that power.

The paradox is this: There has been no follow-on attack against the United States. The United States did dislodge Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, and while the war goes badly, the casualties are a small fraction of those lost in Vietnam. Most important, bin Laden's dream is gone. No Muslim state has been overthrown and replaced with a regime that bin Laden would find worthy. He has been marginalized by both the United States and by his rival Shiite radicals, who have picked up the mantle that he dropped. His own jihadist movement is no longer under his effective control.

Bin Laden has been as badly battered by time as Bush. Unable to achieve any of his political goals, unable to mount another attack, he reminds us of Che Guevara after his death in Bolivia. He is a symbol of rebellion for a generation that does not intend to rebel and that carefully ignores his massive failures.

Yet, in the end, Guevara and bin Laden could have become important only if their revolutions had succeeded. There is much talk and much enthusiasm. There is no revolution. Therefore, what time has done to bin Laden's hopes is interesting, but in the end, as a geopolitical force, he has not counted beyond his image since Sept. 11, 2001.

The effect on the United States is much more profound. The war, both in Iraq and against al Qaeda, has worn the United States down over time. The psychology of fear has been replaced by a psychology of cynicism. The psychology of confidence in war has been replaced by a psychology of helplessness. Exhaustion pervades all.

That is the single most important outcome of the war. What happens to bin Laden is, in the end, about as important as what happened to Guevara. Legends will be made of it -- not history. But when the world's leading power falls into the psychological abyss brought about by time and war, the entire world is changed by it. Every country rethinks its position and its actions. Everything changes.

That is what is important about the Petraeus report. He will ask for more time. Congress will give it to him. The president will take it. Time, however, has its price not only in war but also psychologically. And if the request for time leads to more failure and the American psychology is further battered, then that is simply more time that other powers, great and small, will have to take advantage of the situation. The United States has psychologically begun tearing itself apart over both the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. Whatever your view of that, it is a fact -- a serious geopolitical fact.

The Petraeus report will not address that. It is out of the general's area of responsibility. But the pressing issue is this: If the United States continues the war and if it maintains its vigilance against attacks, how does the evolution of the American psyche play out?

This report may be distributed or republished with attribution to Strategic Forecasting, Inc. at www.stratfor.com. For media requests, partnership opportunities, or commercial distribution or republication, please contact pr@stratfor.com.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lucky or Skillful?

Fred Thompson's much anticipated launch of his official campaign could not be better timed.

Let us set the scene - The press is focused relentlessly on the Larry Craig gay-sex-solicitation scandal. Viewers, especially Cultural Conservatives, are being turned off from politicians in droves. In comes the lanky southern Thompson, exuding plainspoken, downhome goodness. More importantly, Thompson is seen as an outsider.

Of course Fred Thompson's outsiderness is pure illusion but that doesn't matter. He has slipped in the polls as the press tired of waiting for him to do something - anything. Now he has an angle, a narrative that the media can pick up on. This timing is assuredly coincidental but the campaign should be judged on their ability to exploit MensRoomGate. If they can't catch an obvious bone like this when it is thrown to them, Clinton will have them chained to a tree in the backward before you can say "Y'all come back now, ya hear."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another one

Well, apparently the Republican party is quite serious about winning California. First they decide to sponsor a proposition that would split California's electoral votes by congressional district rather than the overall vote winner selecting all electoral college delegates. Fair enough. It beats the Texas mid-term gerrymandering plan. Now we can be certain that Phase 2 of the plan is to win more votes in that uber-liberal state by having a series of Republican congressman pretend to be gay! That Karl Rove really is a boy genius!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Let's Compare Vietnam to Iraq...

George Bush's advisers will always win points for audacity. Making the taboo comparison between Vietnam and Iraq turns convention on its head and beats the Democrats on over the noggin with it.

Alright, Mr President, we should stay the course in Iraq just like we should have in Vietnam. Of course, to do this we will need an Army a lot like that which was used in Vietnam. Did I mention that it was an Army of conscripts? Maintaining a force of this size will require a long term commitment to a much larger military and a draft is the only way that is possible in a time of war.

Let's roll.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Iraq, Viet Nam and Fighting Terrorists

In an August 22 speech, the Historian-in-Chief claimed, among other things, that America’s enemies view American withdrawal at the end of the Viet Nam War as a sign of our inherent weakness. Throw in Beirut or Somalia and Bush is 100% correct. Kudos to his speech writers. Someday a young terrorist may point out to his followers that the US did not have the stamina to complete our mission in Afghanistan before moving on to Iraq.

The conceptual error, or rather the psychological crutch, comes in concluding that Viet Nam was lost because we pulled out. By definition I suppose the war is not lost until you leave the battlefield or are dead. In practice, there comes a moment when one side can no longer achieve victory and the war is, for all intents and purposes, over. This is the point when those living in the Reality-Based community start searching for a way to prevent their retreat from turning into a rout.

The lesson on Viet Nam is that the number of situations in which military might is sufficient is fleetingly small. So Osama Bin Laden thinks that the US is weak because it pulled out of Viet Nam and Mogadishu? Let him! This is a man who believes that he is going to establish a new Caliphate. So let’s allow him the fantasy that America is a pushover. We may be na├»ve and anti-intellectual but we are also basically resilient and just plain big. Now is the time to prove we are not stupid.

While Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri sit in godforsaken Waziristan, boasting about how they have tricked the West into doing their bidding, we should come to our senses and treat these thugs in a quiet and deliberate way. No B52s. No bounties. There may still be a role for “special” units but the thrust will be - *gasp* - diplomatic and judicial. We have dealt with spies, internal terrorists and organized crime in the past. Many were brought to justice. It’s not sexy and it would be hard work but it can be done (as if fighting a land war in central Asia is a cake walk.) America has never been especially good at human intelligence and we will have a lot to learn. In the end, however, while Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri dream their dreams of the overthrow of apostate Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we will be steadily tightening the noose and dragging them, finally, disgraced and robbed of their mystique, to be judged before the world.

Update 24-Aug-2007: Punched up the ending

Monday, July 30, 2007

Death Penalty For Women Who Get Abortions?

A man does a documentary at a Libertyville, Ill Pro-Life rally in July 2005. He asks the demonstrators whether women who have illegal abortions should go to jail. The people are dumbfounded, as if they had never thought about that before!

This video is hard to find. I found it here by searching for "Libertyville Abortion Demonstration".

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Children's Book?

I have read that the Harry Potter books should only be judged according to the standards of its young audience. Aside from the obvious corollary to this - that adults should be prohibited from reading the books - there are further flaws in the argument.

First, assuming that a twelve year old does not care about poor plotting, absent character development and self-contradictory settings is patronizing and, I believe, a complete dodge. Megan McArdle expresses it better than I do:

"But the best children's fantasy does something else: it gives one the illusion that
the magical world is as consistent and real as one's own world - that it exists,
just barely out of reach."

More important is the question of what our children should be reading. There comes a point where you have to get over the stunning fact that your child is actually reading a book and think about what he or she is actually reading. Twelve year olds love professional wrestling and Bart Siimpson, too, but if you are thrilled that Billy is at least watching TV, you should have your parenting license revoked (yes - I use the v-chip and don't have cable) . A good book exposes a child to systematic thinking, consequences, clear expression of ideas and rhetorical skills. A poor one discourages critical thinking or the awareness of the motivations of others. J K Rowling does not fail utterly in these regard but to say that young adult literature is best judged by young adults is short-sighted in a way that highlights many of the problems in parenting of the last few decades.

*** Harry Potter Spoiled ***

She did it. J K Rowling flubbed the ending. I think part of the problem stems from the fact that after writing a book filled with thrilling adventures and near escapes, it is nearly impossible for the ending to be anything but an anti-climax.

In the case of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she pulls a couple of fast ones. She inserts two - count 'em, two! - scenes to try and cleanup difficult situations. One addresses the Harry-Voldemort connection by bringing the narrator... I mean Dumbledore... in a dream-sequence/near-death-experience complete with white fluffy clouds. Then she throws in a suffering, injured baby whom we are instructed to ignore. Maybe I am just dense and don't "get" the universal symbolism here.

The second plot device involves Harry's viewing of the late Severus Snape's memories. Ah, Snape! Would you believe the character pivotal to the cliffhanger at the end of the previous book hardly appears in the finale at all? Yes. Instead the reader is force fed some twaddle about how Snape had been protecting Harry all these years because of his life-long love for Harry's mother and the piece of her that lives on in Harry. What?! Where was the ambiguity of Snape's view of Harry in the previous several thousand pages? Snape's distaste for Harry and the traits that Snape believed Harry shared with his father were completely untainted in the rest of the books by Harry's supposedly sharing of "Lily's eyes." There may have been a tidbit thrown in somewhere that I don't remember but the gross arc of Snape's character development made this sudden twist seem arbitrary. It is like introducing an evil twin in the final scene. If you are writing a book driven by discovery of clues, the reader must reach the last page saying, "Of Course! Why didn't I see it all along."

Rowling's failure (along with that of Philip Pullman) has pretty much soured me on writing anything myself. The danger of becoming that which I despise is just too great.

P.S.: Among the many failed Harry Potter predictions posted on the internet these past weeks was mine, predicting that I would not read the damn book. I bought it the first day at 9 am and stayed up 'til 1:30 am last night to finish it. At least the curse is now lifted!

Killing the Messenger?

"Most Americans see President Bush as intransigent on Iraq and prefer that the Democratic-controlled Congress make decisions about a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."

By Jon Cohen and Dan Balz
Washington Post
Tuesday, July 24, 2007; Page A01 (link)


Does this mean that Americans would accept similar decisions about Iraq if they had been suggested by Russ Feingold? I think they have demonstrated that they can accept some level of casualties higher than what they experienced in Mogadishu. What if Reid and Pelosi announced that they were authorizing funding for a permanent base Iraqi Kurdistan and enough troops to secure the borders and train the Iraqi army for two years. Would they buy it? Wouldthey at least retain I higher confidence level on the matter than Bush is currently managing?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Inevitable Harry Potter Post

*** Warning - Multiple Possible Spoilers ***

I planned not to read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. After a few months, I relented and checked out one of the six copies on the library shelf. Not a great book. Just like the others nothing much happens until the last 20 pages. Liked the girl friend bits. Was really annoyed about Snape!!!

Will I read the Deathly Hallows? I don't plan to (see above). If I find out the ending, which seems inevitable, will I even bother to read this one? I have been avoiding most of the hype because I am working on a writing project of my own and don't want to "contaminate" it. That said, Rowling has a lot to pull off here. She has to explain Snape's actions plus Dumbledore's confidence in him. Snape is the most interesting character in the whole book and she could easily screw that up. Let's face it, she is no literary goddess. I draw your attention to the Goblet of Fire. I know she apologized but she is under extreme pressure here, too.

Why am I dwelling on the potential for this to end with a thud? Three words: The Golden Compass. This series started out quite good. I cried when God died (I was mourning my own father's death but still ...) The spectres scared the bejesus out of me - much eerier than the dementers, which weren't too bad themselves. Then in the last book, we learn what the temptation is - teen sex! What? That is it? And then the spectres turn out to be created whenever the s0-called subtle knife is used to cut an opening between dimensions. Give me a freakin' break. It was so lame I simply could not believe it.

So, since Rowling's first six efforts have produced many ups and downs (maybe she should take out the bad stuff and just write shorter books - heehee) I approach the seventh, pivotal work with much trepidation.

Just so you know

Comedy is hard

Now that Army War Games have determined that a likely outcome of America's withdrawal from Iraq will be Iran being sucked into the Iraqi quagmire, I have to draw attention to my previous attempt at humor. Damn it! How can you be witty and funny when reality comes along and steals your idea? Sincerest form of flattery my a**!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where Dwells Evil?

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Light Shines a Little Brighter

Was listening to my 8 year old daughter read the story of Noah's Ark with my in one of those "Bible Stories for Children" books. When she got to the part where it becomes clear that God is going to drown hundreds of thousands of people and billions of animals, she wrinkles her nose up in an "Eew!" expression.

What a delightful age!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Easy to Forget

From a Eugene Robinson Washington Post piece:
One revelation that comes with spending time with politicians is that they actually have core beliefs. To cite one example, John Edwards may be a multimillionaire, but I can't doubt his sincerity when he talks about poverty. I've seen him volunteer in a soup kitchen without first summoning the television cameras. He grew up poor, and the experience has never left him.
I know, "Isn't that just precious!" He cites Democratic candidates in soup kitchens but I am sure there are hearts lurking in the chests of some Republicans as well. That's not to say that there are not sociopathic manipulators drawn to politics. What's more, core beliefs are matched with the temperament that will act on those beliefs. Just because George Bush sincerely believes that America can only be made safe through obsessive attempts at appearing "strong" doesn't mean it is best for our country to get involved in a land war in Asia. Draw your own conclusions about Hillary.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Psychic Bullsh*t

Check out the "amazing" performance of Rosemary Altea.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Enemies, Foreign and Domestic.

From Vice President Cheney's statement concerning the I Lewis Libby sentencing.:
I have always considered him to be ... a man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens.

Notice there is no mention of upholding and protecting the laws or Constitution of the United States.

See also Cheney's weird paraphrase of the Oath taken by military officers:
On your first day of Army life, each one of you raised your right hand and took an oath. And you will swear again today to defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That is your vow, that is the business you're in. [emphasis added]
No, Dick, they pledge to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic". I am beginning to think that you might be one of the later.

Finally, The Truth About Creation!

Three engineering students were arguing about who designed the human body. One insisted that the human body must have been designed by an Electrical Engineer because of the perfection of the nerves and synapses. Another disagreed, and exclaimed that it had to have been a Mechanical Engineer: “The system of levers and pulleys is ingenious.” “No,” the third student said, “you’re both wrong. The human body was designed by a Civil Engineer. Who else but a Civil Engineer would have put a toxic waste line through a recreation area?”

Thanks to Michael Shermer who claims to have picked it up from A Prairie Home Companion

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I had no idea

Surprising, considering the rhetoric:

Of the 1.6 million abortions performed in the U.S. each year, 91 percent are performed during the first trimester (12 or fewer weeks’ gestation); 9 percent are performed in the second trimester (24 or fewer weeks’ gestation); and only about 100 are performed in the third trimester (more than 24 weeks’ gestation), approximately .01 percent of all abortions performed. (source) [emphasis added]
Update: After discussing this with my wife, it occurred to me that this probably about the number one would expect of medically necessary abortions in a country of 250 million or so.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Have your Godwin Card Ready

Recent reports are that Vice President Cheney is planning a behind-the-scenes coup to undermine President Bush's decision to employ diplomacy in dealing with Iran. Considered along side this review of Vietnam revisionism, suggests to me a slender thread connecting post-WWI Germany and modern day neoconservatives like Mr Cheney.

Play your Godwin's Law card here!

It's as if the need to avenge the loss of the previous war forces emerging leaders to view every situation as an opportunity to find redemption. One is left to wonder if a later successful application of total war purges these men and women of the need to prove themselves so that the can mellow in their old age.

In any case, I am becoming convinced that National Humiliation is too often left out of consideration when examining the consequences and reactions to foreign policy.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another Loony Bush Appointee

Heard an interview with the head of NASA, Michael Griffin, this morning. When asked about NASA's role in studying Global Warming, his speech suddenly became very slow, carefully choosing every syllable. I knew we were in trouble. Finally he launched into a discussion of the arrogance of claiming that the current climate is superior to any future climate brought about by, admittedly human caused, warming.

Of course he is right. Until you consider the human toll these rapid changes will exact, especially in less developed countries where year-to-year survival is uncertain. One wonders if he would be as unconcerned if an asteroid threatened to wipe out the the human species. After all, it is arrogant to claim that the survival of the human race is a superior outcome to any future distribution of species on the planet.

I am left to wonder if Dr. Griffin doesn't have some sort of Christ-will-return-before-we-destroy-the-planet belief that he has successfully hidden thus far.

Update: Looks like I wasn't the only one listening to NPR this morning. The media seems to have picked up this story: i.e. here.

The Good Soldier

A McClatchy report on soldiers chosen to have lunch with Senator Joseph Lieberman in Baghdad:

... Spc. Will Hedin, 21, of Chester, Conn., thought about what he was going to say.

"We're not making any progress," Hedin said, as he recalled a comrade who was shot by a sniper last week. "It just seems like we drive around and wait to get shot at."

But as he waited two chairs down from where Lieberman would sit, Hedin said he'd never voice his true feelings to the senator.

"I think I'd be a private if I did," he joked. "It's just more troops, more targets."

Looks like the boots-on-the-ground are getting the clear message that candor is not appreciated when discussing the military situation with civilian leaders. Fortunately, President Bush assures that he is getting accurate assessments of the Surge's "progress".

Update: Interesting that these soldiers will give the media unvarnished views. Whom can we conclude the military views as the problem? The "Liberal Media"? You get two guesses.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What's the Point?

Went to fetch a book to read to the kids before turning out the light. I grabbed the "Children's Book of Bible Stories" or whatever because the kids stay focused on it and this is part of the Devil's bargain I seem to have made that we raise the children "within the church." I am not sure when the day will come when I am authorized to introduce some skepticism but I winced when, at the end of the partially-sanitized Jonah story, the book claims that "God was happy the he did not have to destroy the people of Nineveh." Imagine me saying, "I'm glad that my wife stopped running up the credit cards. Now I don't have to kill her!"

Any way, as I read the Garden of Eden bit I found myself considering sitting down and tracing the different source threads in Genesis. Then I asked myself why... ? I realized that if I am looking for something to throw up to a Believer as a justification for rejecting Christianity (my opportunities to enter that debate are limited - I'm not that confrontational face-to-face) then I am wasting my time. The actual contents of the book on which Christians claim to base their belief is irrelevant. Sure, some theologians and Bible-thumpers might care, but 99.9% of Christians have no idea what the details of the Bible are and are familiar with only a handful of stories. Confronting them with contradictions would require that they had ever even heard of the thing being contradicted. Understanding and dealing with Christians then, when even possible, must be a matter of generic questions of Evil, Free Will, morality and maybe only a sprinkling of abhorrent God acts.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ego

Well, Wolfowitz is out at the World Bank. He got his little letter of recommendation.

Just how fragile does your ego have to be that you threaten to hold your breath unless your Mommy and Daddy tell you how wonderful you are? These Neocons are amazing! Responsibility is so alien to them that the slightest criticism sends them into a tantrum. These people should be kept as far away from positions of leadership as is humanly possible.

Consequences

This morning NPR interviewed David Satterfield, a senior advisor at the State Department concerning the accomplishments (or lack thereof) of Nouri Al-Maliki's Iraqi government. In this interview, Satterfield claimed that Al-Maliki must understand the consequences of failure to move ahead on security, Oil, Sunni re-integration, etc. Unfortunately, Satterfield did not actually tell us what the supposed consequences would be!

It occurred to me that , for all the talk of consequences, no one is sharing what they would be. Here in the US, some of us might assume that the consequences will be withdrawal but I have never heard anyone official say that. If Americans are not being told in clear terms what will happen if the Iraqis fail politically, what are the Iraqis being told. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sometimes threatens the Iraqis that Congressional Democrats will pull funding but Al-Maliki is likely to look at Bush's veto and decide that that is an internal political issue that he will ultimately be insulating from. On top of that, any idiot can see that Bush's intention to do something means very little in the long run. So does Nouri Al-Maliki have any chance of understanding the "consequences" if we won't tell him what they are or, more worrying, we never really intended to exact any in the end after all.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

War

From LTC Bateman. no comment necessary.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Stalag 17

Those old enough to remember the slew of WWII prisoner camp movies will recall that one aim of escaping from a prisoner-of-war camp was to occupy as many enemy troops as possible in recapturing you and therefore deny resources for the front.

Well, it seems that the Iraqi insurgents have been watching "Hogan's Heroes" in addition to "Black Hawk Down". News accounts claim that thousands of troops are searching south of Baghdad for three missing US soldiers. I would look for this to become a common strategy of our enemy.

I'm not saying we shouldn't look for these missing men. We have to. I'm just saying that our enemy knows that we must find them and will likely exploit this to the fullest extant possible.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bumper Stickers

Two Bumper Stickers in my parking lot at work. Next week I change offices and won't get to see them anymore...

"WWBD" (picture of hounds-tooth hat in background)

What-Would-Bear-Do? Paul "Bear" Bryant has finally ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty!


"God Did It" (airbrushed sunrise in background)

I can't help supplying the rest of the sentence: "... and He Has to Clean it Up!"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gun Control

Here is my take on gun control.

I don't think gun laws would have changed the fact of the VT shootings. The nature of the massacre might have been different. The Shooter might have had to get his guns somewhere else. he might have had to use 4 guns to prevent frequent reloading. Maybe fewer than 32 people would have died but there would have been a shooting. 32? 10? It matters to the victims and their families but does it matter from a policy perspective?

The impact of fewer guns in America, I believe, would be on the domestic front. How many shootings run like this. Dean gets into an argument with Jerry. It gets heated. Dean has a gun in his house. Dean thinks, I am going to shoot that SOB. Dean goes to his home, retrieves his pistol, returns to the location where he confronted Jerry and kills him. Now we can't outlaw anger or confrontation but reducing the likelihood that a firearm is available would reduce at least one kind of common homicide.

I know Dean could return with a baseball bat or a knife but Jerry has a fighting chance against an attacker at close range and his injuries are less likely to be life-threatening.

NRA

Here is a great take on the NRA from someone who knows whereof he speaks. I am a growing fan of LTC Bateman. Every time I read him, I gain insight. I hope he doesn't mind me posting this here.

But what really puts me over the top is one particular brand of NRA stupidity. That is the myth of the Wild West. In other words, if I hear one more stupid gun-loving sonuvabitch talk about how, "Well, if they just had allowed all those students to have guns, this lunatic at Virginia Tech wouldn'ta got far," I am going to slap his dumb ass on the first plane smokin' for Iraq, where I would like to personally drop him off, with as many guns as he would like, in Dora (that's a particularly nasty South Baghdad neighborhood with which I am familiar).

Yes, Dora would be perfect. In my mind's eye I am imagining plopping said gun nut off outside the blue-painted major police sub-station, just about six or seven blocks from another walled-in compound which is now a police barracks (or, at least it was, last year.). As a microcosm, Dora should be the NRA's dream town, as it perfectly matches the NRA "Wild West" theory of what is needed in a society: honor is important to the individual; the family is the most important part of society; all of the inhabitants are very religious (except for when they are not); and absolutely everyone has at least one gun.

In fact, I would very much like to personally place the CEO of the NRA, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, there right now. What'ya say, Wayne? Want to experience a world where everyone has a gun? C'mon, buddy, I'll even let you hump the pig.

(That means, "Carry the M-240 7.62 mm machine gun," people. Get your minds out of the gutter.)

LTC Bob Bateman

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On to Riyadh!

They know that the only way to stop them is to stay on the offense, to fight the extremists and radicals where they live, so we don't have to face them where we live. . . .

President George W Bush, April 17, 2007
[emphasis added]


Apparently we are going to use those three aircraft carriers to attack Saudi Arabia. Or is it the UAE? Egypt?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Global Markets?

Been thinking about misunderstandings concerning Capitalism, particularly among conservatives. You can say that liberals have many misunderstandings as well, but they are not the ones touting Free Markets as the savior of all.

Today's topic is globalization and labor. Globalization has been sold as a natural next step in the eventual victory of Capitalism. On the surface, it does appear that the one unified, American-style world market we are building fits the theory comfortably.

My question is: Can an open market operate without an open labor market? In the US, generally held up as a model, those who lose their jobs when an appliance factory closes in Ohio can apply for jobs at an auto parts factory expanding in Pennsylvania. This free-flow of workers between states improves efficiency in the economy and helps make free markets possible. The Founding Fathers foresaw this when they deep-sixed the Articles of Confederation (Article IV Section 2, Article II Section 8).

Now compare the situation in a country with freedom of movement with the global marketplace. If my employer moves all its operations to India (as it has some operations already) I can not just pack up my family and follow my job. There will be no Okies driving from Muskogee to Bangalore. National barriers (as well as financial ones) prevent that. The migrant worker issue in the United States illustrates just how an imbalance in labor markets creates a vacuum whose tendency to correct itself is unstoppable.

Globalisation looks good on paper but factors that cause a truly free market to operate smoothly are missing or hobbled. Restrictions to the free movement of labor raises in significance when one understands that the laborers - i.e., those to whom the benefits of globalization have been promised, are precisely those who will see their participation constrained.

Post-Capitalism?

"When we see politics permeate every sector of life, we call it totalitarianism. When religion rules all, we call it theocracy. But when commerce dominates everything, we call it liberty."

Benjamin R. Barber


Interesting Op-Ed examining what happens after capitalism succeeds in fulfilling our basic needs.

Don Imus, already!

I suppose I shouldn't be shocked that so many people stood up for Don Imus. What has me perplexed is why the local call-in shows are still talking doing it! Can we stop lionizing this man. What he said about a group of young women who actually forged a community and accomplished something was indefensible. Freedom of speech and all that but (and this is especially to all you so-called Conservatives) the man must take responsibility for his actions. That means something actually happens, he pays a price, he doesn't just mumble sorry and everyone decides that he is a good person after all.

Another thing. Enough with the Rapper comparisons. Notice that Snoop Dog does not have a nationally syndicated radio show, does not receive commercial support from Proctor and Gamble and sells records to a relatively small market when compared to the nation as a whole. If ho-slinging rap bothers you, organize a boycott. That's how a free society works - we vote with our dollars, our feet and our voices.

Said one two many stupid, ignorant or inflammatory things? Sorry, Don. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Next!

(Thank you - I fell better)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Headline Game

MSNBC.com headline:

"Cheney's plane hits bird; craft lands safely"

missing subhead:

"Democratic congress issues subpoenas"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kipling Lives!

From a BBC report:

"There are groups that are receiving training in Iran with the most modern weapons and munitions that are available and then being smuggled into Iraq and being utilised by these groups against the Iraqi security force and coalition forces," [Gen Caldwell] said.

"That required some very skilled training to be able to use them and employ them like they were being used."

This sounds an awful lot like our military/political analysts are viewing our enemies as not-very-bright children. Just like when Shock and Awe from the Great White Americans was supposed to make those semi-human Iraqis soil themselves and surrender, this attitude would be merely condescending if applied to a peaceful population. Given that the unenlightened savages in question are trying to kill our sisters and fathers, it is downright dangerous. We will continue to wallow in a quagmire as long as we fail to see the Iraqi insurgents (and terrorists in general) as capable men and women with the same innate human intelligence as our own best commanders.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Pillars

Just noticed that the citation from Luke 8:49-55 in my previous post lists the disciples whom
Jesus trusted to enter Jairus' house to witness a dead-raising and that they are none other than Peter, John and James - later identified by Paul in Galatians as "those reputed to be pillars." Nice tie in, Luke!

One could argue that Luke was working from Paul's letter, that he had personal knowledge, that the names of the pillars were generally known, or that these names were part of the legends surrounding the Jerusalem church that later circulated at the end of the first century. Not too hard to guess who will make which claim, right?

In any case, this is an interesting connection that I never hit upon before.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

On Resurection

Just listened to a sermon including the claim that the idea of a person raising from the dead was so alien to the Jesus' followers that they would ignore the Jesus' repeated claims that he do just that - raise from the dead. The problem with this argument is that there are well-known cases in both the Jewish scriptures and Jesus' ministry of people coming back to life. In fact, in at least one case, the chief Apostles accompany Jesus when the miracle occurs. A quick search on BibleGateway.com reveals five cases of the dead raising prior to Easter.

1 Kings 17:19-23 Elijah raises the son of a widow at Zarephath
19 "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!"

22 The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!"
2 Kings 4:32-35 Elisha raises the son of the Shunammite woman
When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
2 Kings 13:21 A corpse comes to life upon touching Elisha's bones
21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.
Luke 7:12-15 Jesus raises a widows only son
12As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."

14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Luke 8:49-55 Jesus raises Jairus' daughter
51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."

53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.
John 11:38-44 Jesus raises Lazarus.
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39"Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Even if none of Jesus' disciples were familiar with the Jewish scriptures (as if!) they would have witnessed Jesus raising at least three individuals from the dead. If you take these stories at face value, then the possibility of resurrection, especially when Jesus was involved, would have been very immediate and real.

There was further claim in this sermon that the Marys' and Apostles' assumption that Jesus' body would be found in the tomb was good evidence that the Resurrection was historical. A better interpretation is that it is actually evidence for the later addition to the story once Jesus return in Glory to overthrow the Roman occupation failed to occur. You see, the disciples more likely were very much expecting Jesus to be Resurrected and return to bring about a Messianic reign. When it did not occur, that was when they became disappointed. Some sort of appearances later (I'm betting on a series of visions, like Paul's) rekindled the ministry with a new purpose and direction and the empty tomb and Resurrection stories were added to the Passion narrative. Can't prove this but it demonstrates this bit of purported evidence can be explained with an equally (if not more) plausible series of events.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

We are soooo screwed in Iraq

In an interview with Diane Rehm, Robert McNeil discusses an upcoming series of independent films about Iraq that will be aired on PBS. Richard Perle gets the last word, so all you Right-Bloggers can calm down a little.

Anyway, in the interview, Mr McNeil describes one film where a group of Iraqi Army soldiers are standing around talking in Arabic about the weapons and car bomb that they and their American "friends" have just intercepted. When their conversation is translated weeks later, it turned out that they were saying that the weapons were just kids stuff and that the real weapons cache was being hidden by one of the soldiers mullah. They then realize that they are on camera and that their words are being recorded.

Not only are we a bunch of ignorant dupes but the Iraqis are quite sophisticated enough to know when they are in danger of exposing their true plans.

The Trap

One of the annoying things about attending church when you are an ex-Christian is that all your old habits of action and thought come back all too readily.

When I first decided to join the choir at my wife’s United Methodist church, I had to decide whether I would “pretend” to be a believer or not. When the first opportunity to participate in the Eucharist (notice the effortless use of Episcopal terminology) came, I decided NOT to take communion and had to stand there in the choir loft and let all the other singers squeeze past me. That was going to look odd if it happened every month. I was attending this church to not only provide my children a united parental front (my wife and I had already settled on the fact that the kids would be raised with church, with me or otherwise) but also to do some soft networking in preparation for the coming Generational Crisis. Anyway, it was then that I decided that I was in for the proverbial pound rather than pretending I could limit the cost to a penny. I started tithing, taking communion, and reciting the Apostle’s Creed and Lord’s Prayer. I had been a devout Episcopalian (oxymoron?) from the ages of about 14 to 20, so I knew and was comfortable with all the “moves” required during a liturgical worship service.

Perhaps activating those long quiet mental pathways have caused other disused parts of my brain to re-awaken. It all started this past Palm Sunday. The choir has been all psyched for Holy Week, with big plans for a Maundy Thursday service, three pieces on Easter itself, brass instrumentation, etc… I arrived at the church for the early service assuming that such an important Sunday (again, that Episcopalian outlook) would call for everyone to sing during both services instead of the usual one. Instead, I found that no one else got this message. Then I thought, “Hey! That is a dinky little anthem we’re doing today!” A little let down, I took my place in the choir loft, did the Creed and Confession and waited through the “announcements.”

Now, normally I find the idea that the service comes to a screeching halt so they can announce a bake sale before proceeding to the Prayer’s a little weird. But on Palm Sunday they have something special in mind… They have the instructor for the new Aerobics Class come to the lectern and speak! It goes Hymn, Apostle’s Creed, Confession of Sins, Hand Bells, Aerobics, and Lord’s Prayer. As they used to sing on Sesame Street, “One of these is not like the others. One of these things just isn’t the same.”

After church my wife and I bemoan the fact that it is almost impossible to maintain an worshipful atmosphere when the minister tells Bama jokes and encourages people to leave the sanctuary during the final hymn if they have anything important to do before Sunday School starts!

“Wait a minute,” you say, “aren’t you an Atheist?” What the hell am I doing complaining about the worship service when I view its basis as a pack of delusions? Now you see my dilemma. By choosing to become a crypto-skeptic I am being sucked back into thinking like a Christian. I find this a little annoying, but I also realize it is something I will have to learn to live with. This is why I have come to think of myself as an ex-Christian rather than a simple Atheist – can’t escape my upbringing. Still trying to squelch the urge to leap to my feet during sermons to scream, “That just isn’t true!!”


P.S.: For those of you who are thinking, “Perhaps it is really God trying to get through to you but you are just too stubborn to acknowledge His Call”. Yeah, right. As I like to say, God knows where I live if He wants me. And He presumably knows what it will take to reach me. Hell, He put out for Thomas. I think I deserve no less.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Never Mind

I admit that I was suffering a mild infection by the whole two-aircraft-carriers-mean-war-with-Iran meme. Now, I am virus free.

The cure? Although there are two Carrier Strike Groups the the Gulf, the two Expeditionary Strike Groups assigned to the Fifth Fleet have their ships scattered. These ESGs are led by aircraft-carrier-like LPD's that can land, along with their accompanying vessels, thousands of marines supported by helicopter gunships. Unfortunately, one amphibious assault ship in the USS Boxer ESG is currently in the South China Sea. Elements from the USS Bataan ESG are currently participating in exercises with the Kenyan military.

Now, if I were going to launch a strike against a heavily defended country from within the confines of a narrow body of water, I would not allow critical assets to be sent as far away as the Pacific Ocean. I would be gathering them up like a clenched fist.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Think Mike Shula Is Available

A White House spokesman had asserted that the President retains full confidence in the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.

If Gonzales were a College Football Coach, he'd be cleaning out his office by next Thursday.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sweet Charity

The Rev. Franklin Graham, as quoted by Katy Pownall, AP:

"I want to help people physically, I want to help them with their hurt, with their pain, but I want to do that so I can tell them about God's son, Jesus Christ. The conversion we do is through persuasion, through reasoning. ... They will receive material help from us regardless.''
Forget everything you have been told about Christian Love. There are Christians out there doing wonderful works out of a pure desire to help their fellow man, but the credit goes to Human Nature not the the influence of Religion. This quote exposes the twisted logic of evangelism which, starting with Paul, has lied, deceived, tricked and eventually tortured people into Believing. Another notch on the crucifix!

I remember an office mate (stop me if I have told this story before) who was involved with church affiliated youth home. She really cared for those children and worked tirelessly. One day, after enlisting some assistance (or was it a donation?) from another co-worker, she thanked him for his support. His reply floored me. He said, "Anything to stop another abortion." He didn't give a rat's ass about those abandoned and abused kids. There was no Love there. All he was interested in was scoring points with Jesus.

70-80% of the US population considers itself "Christian." Almost half of these are what George Barna calls Notional Christians - they like the idea of God and being Christian but it has no real impact on the way they live their lives. Fair enough. Intuitively, that feels right. He divides the rest into Born Agains and Evangelicals by what they claim to believe (Biblical accuracy, belief in Satan, etc) - as good a method as any, I suppose. The elite group is the Evangelicals at a mere 7% of those surveyed and adhering to the strictest set of beliefs. I am pretty sure that my Mr. Holier-Than-Thou, above, made the cut. My point here is that if Mr H-T-T represents the most "serious" group of believers , than it is time for sensible people to re-examine the special status we routinely grant Faith in our public discourse and start calling a spade a spade.

Alternatively, Mr Barna may be ideologically blinded and his precious little Evangelicals (along with the "Reverend" Franklin and "Saint" Paul) represent the group farthest away from what their Creator intended. If this is the case, all those Notional Christians were right all along in demonstrating that love and compassion do not require absolute adherence to the Nicene Creed. Of course, if that is the case, what exactly do we need Religion for?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Defensive Posture

I found this in the StratFor.com free newsletter. The topic itself was Ballistic Missile Defense but this brief retrospective view provides some interesting perspective.

The second idea dovetails with long-standing U.S. strategic doctrine -- a philosophy that long predates the Cold War. That doctrine has always aimed to push threats away from the continental United States -- initially by securing U.S. sovereignty over the North American land mass, achieving strategic depth and controlling sea approaches. Ultimately, the doctrine calls for the United States to project power into Eurasia itself, establishing as much stand-off distance as possible. In the early 20th century, naval power allowed the United States to do this just fine. But in the early 21st century, with the proliferation of intercontinental ballistic missile technology, naval power is only one leg of such a strategy.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Pakistan Americans Don't Know

Sitting in our living rooms watching Fox News, we Americans assume that Dick Cheney can fly to Islamabad and demand that President Musharraf to do whatever we need him to do. Kill Osama Bin Laden? Yes, Sir! Disband the Taliban? Will be finished on Thursday!

Well here is a piece in the Asia Times illustrating just how different US and Pakistani interests are. Basically, it claims that Pakistan is setting up a Talibani Mullah to take over Afghanistan and move Kabul's orientation away from India and to Pakistan.

[Update: fixed subject agreement issue]

Monday, February 26, 2007

I may be slow but ...

I have not bought into the whole "Oil War" theory of the Iraq War. I have been willing to grant that oil is a factor in our Middle East policies but the idea that oil would explicitly drive us to attack another country just smelled too much like conspiracy theory.

Then I saw this quote from the 2007 State of the Union speech in a Michael Klare piece.
.. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario...
The invocation of "a nightmare scenario" caused by instability of some desert kingdoms, many thousands of miles away, can only be about oil. The President is explicitly stating here that our decisions about whether or not to start a war with Iran will be based on mainly our access to oil.

Now whether the Iraq war was intended by Dick Cheney to prevent China from winning access to the region's energy supply is highly speculative (and smells of conspiracy theory.) Whether an attack on Iran has already been ordered is also only one interpretation of events among many. All those ideas, wild or merely feral, will be left for another day. Sure, its nice to support Israel, with the holocaust and all, but would we grant Tel Aviv carte blanche if we weren't desperate for allies in that part of the world. It is at last clear (belatedly to me), that the only serious consideration about war and peace with Iran is the oil. Period.

I am reminded of the "hidden" cost of gasoline - the billions sunk into maintaining access to the Middle East. If only Bush took seriously our "addiction to foreign oil" he would see that the cost of changing our gas-guzzling ways would pale next to the benefits in money and American lives saved.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The J-C Bomb

Christians and Jews
Judeo-Christian
Christian and Jewish

How many times have we heard these phrases used as if the two were perfectly compatible and complimentary, especially when contrasting Us against the Muslim Them. Or the Mormon. In light of Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign, this article by Richard John Neuhaus is making the rounds in the blogosphere. In it Rev Neuhaus uses some formulation of these stock phrases but, more specifically, writes the following:

Some have suggested that the LDS is a Christian derivative much as Christianity is a Jewish derivative, but that is surely wrong. The claim of Christianity is that its gospel of Jesus Christ is in thorough continuity with the Old Testament and historic Israel, that the Church is the New Israel, which means that it is the fulfillment of the promise that Israel would be "a light to the nations." The Church condemned Marcion’s rejection of the Old Testament, and she never presumed to rewrite or correct the Hebrew Scriptures on the basis of a new revelation. On the contrary, she insisted that the entirety of the old covenant bears witness to the new.

On what planet does Christianity not replace/supersede/obsolete Judaism? Only with eyes squinting nearly shut can you claim that Jesus (threw out the Jewish divorce laws) or Paul (threw out any reasonable interpretation of the Law completely) were only fulfilling the Torah. Ask a Jew if Christianity fulfills the Torah and see what answer you get.

Now, there are plenty of liberal “Christians” out there who view Judaism as an equally valid way of experiencing God. Unfortunately, the Rev Neuhaus’ Catholic Church and your average Evangelical are sending these Episcopalians to the same Hell they have reserved for the Jews. It is disingenuous in the extreme to adopt beliefs that invalidate 80% of what it means to be Jewish and denies them salvation and at the same time complain that Mormonism is too radically different from Christianity to remain a part of it.

The Judeo-Christian alliance works only so long as the Jewish participants don’t get too uppity and point out that their partner is only using them as a loincloth to cover their “anti-Semitism”. Or, were there ever any Jews in the alliance to begin with? Are people who like to drop the J-C bomb desperately trying to cling to the idea that their religion is based on anything more than a failed Galilean insurgent rabbi and a frustrated Cilician hanger-on.

Technological Evangelism

Since no one actually reads this blog, I can take a moment to vent...

I have been informed that the software project on which I work will be modified to use something called the Spring Framework. Naturally I googled it to get a taste of what it involves before diving in. As near as I can tell, the "core" framework involves building XML files that contain all the definitions and dependencies of your classes and then using Spring to instantiate them , blah blah blah. Whatever. The lulu is that the proponents of Spring are claiming that this "removes the class dependencies from my code." Huh? Do these guys not realize that my new XML file IS my code. To boot, the XML is far harder to read than Java! Guess what? Since the XML is essentially my Java program rewritten in XML, I better have a way to test it. I have gained something questionable at the cost of more complex and error-prone code.

This reminds me of the Code-To-Test movement where you write a bazillion unit-tests and then use them as your "specification" - once you pass all the tests, you're done. Um, guys... your unit-tests ARE your code. They have to be tested, too. You gonna write unit-tests for your unit-tests?

A number of critiques of Spring make the disclaimer that they are not impugning Spring originator Rod Johnson's intellect. I am not sure I can extend the same charity to every one of his disciples. Aside from the marketing copy quality of some of the tutorials (isn't "versatile and flexible" redundant?), the concept of what constitutes "code" is a pretty basic to computer science. Is this too abstract for the average open source user?

It has sometimes been claimed that the problem with software development is that it is not enough like engineering. Having at least graduated as an engineer, I can see some truth to that claim. The alarming thing is that we are moving rapidly in the opposite direction. People are adopting all sorts of crap because it's hyped and it's free (I was personally burned by Log4J) .

Perhaps a great new software paradigm will emerge from this wild west free-for-all. Perhaps we can all get back to writing applications instead of tools. Or maybe I will just continue in my curmudgeonry, decrying the poor state of our university education system.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Risk

I listened to an NPR report about the "surge" plan to station US soldiers in small outposts throughout Baghdad rather than in large, isolated bases. While discussing the exposure to violence that such soldiers would experience, the sentiments of an American General were relayed to the effect that they all knew there would be "risk" in this new arrangement.

Risk.

Don't they mean Death? Don't they mean brothers, sons, mothers and fathers who would not be going home to see their families? Ever? If they want a war and they want to rhapsodize about sacrifice then let them (along with the media) call it what it is: War means Death, not Risk. The sooner they get it through their crack-addled brains, the sooner we can avoid more senseless messianism and adventurism.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Afghanistan Redux

Retired Gen. Victor Yermakov who commanded the Soviet Army's efforts around Tora Bora, Afghanistan in the 1980s is quoted in this McClatchy item:

"I was very impressed by the Americans," he said. "Gaining control of Tora Bora is a great accomplishment. I should know. I did it three times."

He shook his head ruefully, then added: "Unfortunately, the second I turned my back on the place, I needed to conquer it again. It is the same now. It will never change."

Still, he said, "every nation believes it is more clever than those who came before."


Nothing to add.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I Don't Think That Means What You Think It Means

In the recent "briefing" on Iran-Supplied-US-Soldier-Killing weapons, the anonymous military personnel involved were forced to admit that their claims of official Iranian government involvement was based on "inference". Since that time I have heard numerous talking-heads and unsourced comments to the effect that "it is inconceivable that these weapons could be smuggled out of Iran without approval from the highest levels of the Iranian government." More recently General Pace and President Bush have backed off this claim but it highlights a real problem with many of our military and civilian leaders: a lack of Imagination.

During one of the Gulf Wars (I forget which), I remember hearing a comment from a US General that Saddam must have WMD because the Scud missiles he was using were too inaccurate to be effective without chemical or biological warheads. Huh? If only the General had been alive during the Iran-Iraq War and could recall that Iraq launched numerous Scuds toward Tehran without a single chemical or biological warhead on board. How did this guy get to be a General?

I'm afraid that this sort of thinking pervades the highest levels of our government and military: if I can't think of an alternative explanation than mine must be true! This would not be quite so worrying if the individuals involved could think beyond the tiny world views that they have constructed for themselves. Their conclusions are reached before their analyzes have even begun so the number of outcomes is limited.

It is tempting to blame the conservative mindset. After all isn't the very definition of conservative the distrust of anything different? That kind of thinking does nothing to expand your mental horizons. The circles that Cheney and Rumsfeld built would certainly qualify as conservative and the military has become arguably more conservative in the past decade.

Perhaps in the Franken Administration things will be different. (that's a joke!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sunny Niger

From Walter Pincus in July 2005
the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife

What I don't understand is how anyone would think that a trip to Niger is a "boondoggle"? Like Wilson was just sitting around just dying to sit hours on a plane for the opportunity to spend a few days talking to bureaucrats. What's more, the insinuation is that Wilson is such a wuss that he has to rely on his wife to get him work. If he had been a real man like Cheney, he would get his own boondoggles! Could this be more sexist?

More likely, the CIA needed someone low profile who knew how to work around government officials and was available in a hurry. Plame thought her husband could do the job discretely and suggested him. Not so mysterious after all. That Wilson decided discretion was no longer appropriate after the President lied us into a quagmire is more admirable than duplicitous (triple word score and the D on a double letter score nets me 54 points!).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Finally Some Useful Employment for Politicians

From a McClatchy Washington Bureau report:

At a briefing Sunday in Baghdad, U.S. military officials said the al-Quds Force, an elite Iranian paramilitary organization, is sending arms into Iraq that include bombs that shoot molten metal jets through the armor of American tanks and Humvees.

They said these "explosively formed projectiles," or EFPs, have killed 170 U.S. troops and wounded more than 600 others and are "coming from the highest level of the Iranian government."

[italics added]

It's nice to know that President Ahmadinejad has a hobby.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Exit Al Zarqawi, Enter Dick Sargent

Now that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is safely dead, the White House is in desperate need of a Bad Guy on whom they can pin their problems in Iraq. Bin Laden is too remote and ineffectual. Sadaam has been hanged. Wait a minute… What about Iran?

On NPR this morning, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns claimed that the US has spent two years tracking Iranian activities in support of killing American soldiers. Two years! And it is pure coincidence that they are just now getting around to doing something about it?

The absurdity of this new line of administration deceit is that Shi’ite Iran is unlikely to be providing sophisticated explosives to the Sunni insurgents who kill the vast majority of American GIs as well as thousands of Shi’ite citizens. Then we reflect on the fact that Iran’s “agents” are being arrested in places like the home of a prominent Shi’ite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

No, if Bush wants to target the sources of aid for the organizations targeting American forces, he needs start by looking to our “ally” in the region, Sunni Saudi Arabia. Saudi King Abdullah has warned the administration that if it abandons the Sunni Iraqis in favor of the Shi’ite majority, the Kingdom will be forced to throw its full support behind the Sunni insurgents. Back in 2003, WordNetDaily reported that the CIA had confirmed that wealthy Saudi individuals were supplying funds for Sunni military activities in Iraq (think back to the New York-IRA connection).

Now tell me who is killing Americans. Tell me that the NeoCons aren’t itching to pull the trigger on Iran.

[Update: Added link to WorldNetNews article]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wondered Through a Bookstore

Some random thoughts on walking through a Books-a-Million store this afternoon (Southeastern chain bookstore).

- the Christian Fiction Section - giggle giggle

- "Christianity for Dummies" - double giggle giggle

- Christian Living/Inspiration/Bibles - the religion books take up two whole aisles. If I were a Christian I would not necessarily be encouraged. Do they really want to get into bed with the marketing dept? Old Question, I guess.

- the Social Science section - Why are there two sections, one for Women's and Gay studies and 20 feet away another on "traditional" topics.

- more Social Science section - Why is it that half the titles in the "traditional" SS section belong in the Politics section.

Monday, January 29, 2007

On Timelines

President Bush is fond of saying that issuing any sort of timeline in Iraq would only encourage the insurgents. It must seem obvious to him that if you say, "US troops will pull out in six months," then the insurgents will just lie low for six months and attack when the US is gone. Let us ignore the assumption that US troops are not a primary target here. The real problem with this argument is that in order to be true to its main principle you are left with only one course of action, namely staying in Iraq indefinitely.

Now, If you believe that Cheney intends to turn Iraq in to another Okinawa, we will refrain from calling you a conspiracy nut - it just isn't quite crazy enough to qualify you. Discounting this disastrous idea, however, every jihadi in Iraq can comfortably assume that the US will pull out the majority of its troops someday. He may not be able to mark his calendar but he knows that patience will one day pay off. That's the problem with Bush/Cheney's ominous timeline warnings. If a timeline is a capitulation to the insurgents then so is a military deployment that is so obviously non-permanent.

Maybe your average American cannot imagine holding on to a plan for more than six months without abandoning it and going to the mall. Given a society where grudges are a matter of family and personal honor, it is dangerous foolishness to believe that the Iraqi insurgents and aggrieved Shi'a are going to just chill out. Or that by August they will have forgotten all that stuff about decades of persecution, religious fervor, tribal humiliation, fear of reprisal, oil money and desire to return to power and prestige. No, those employing violence to forward their goals will hunker down and wait for the day in six months, a year, five years when they operate free from American interference. It isn't the date-setting that emboldens the terrorists, its the certain knowledge that their day will eventually come.

Counter Argument 1 - It is America's lack of resolve to "win" that emboldens the insurgents. If this is the case then you have to convince the public that we will indeed be in Iraq for 10-15 more years. Good luck!

Counter Argument 2 - The Iraqi army will be able to handle the insurgency after an additional {random period of time} of being propped up. Well, The only competent military force in Iraq is busy ethnically cleansing Kirkuk in preparation for a vote on Kurdish independence. The Iraqi military has none of the helicopters or high-tech gear the US seems dependent upon to fight the insurgents. When we eventually leave, the bad guys will have exactly the same armaments as the good guys. By the way, who are the good guys? Is it the guys not infiltrated by death squads. The only military solution to Iraq will come in the form of a civil war. Preventing this will require a 100% Iraqi political solution. We can neither win this for them nor choose outcomes.