January 30, 2004

World Economics Conjecture

Since I haven't been getting beaten up enough here, I thought I would engage in more thinking aloud.

My conjecture is: The United States cannot expect to successfully emulate the policies of the more socialistic European countries even if it found the political will to attempt it.

This is because the socialistic European countries are free riders in certain crucial areas. They are able to be so successful because the US bears the costs in these areas. If the United States were to adopt the economic policies of these countries, there would be no one left bearing these costs. This would be detrimental to the United States and to the world as a whole.

The free riding takes place in two crucial areas that I can easily identify. There may be more that are outside my view.

The first: Military Spending.
The United States spends dramatically more on its military than any other nation in the world. In the view of many, it spends too much. But there is no doubt that the US has the ability to forcefully project its military all over the world. Other than the UK, no country in Europe has the military capability to effectively deal with problems outside its own borders.

This has been dramatically illustrated twice in the past 15 years. When Saddam invaded Kuwait and was threatening Saudi Arabia, no force in Europe could have stopped him from taking over most of the world's oil supply. Europeans were willing to add their forces to the war, but they need America to transport them, because no non-UK European country has maintained an ability to transport large numbers of troops or material. That is a rather important capability. Furthermore most NATO systems are so antiquated that they have difficulty meshing with US forces unless they use equipment provided by the US. Without the US and its military spending, Europe was looking at a lock on oil supplies which are especially crucial to Europeans.

Later there was the crisis in Europe itself--Serbia. Not only did Europe fail in its will to deal with the problems in Serbia and Kosovo, it also exposed a frank inability to deal with the problems there. Its troop transport ability was not even sufficient for its own doorstep, and in any event France and Germany simply did not have enough military power to deal with the problem.

This has happened because large countries like France and Germany has simply chosen not to spend much on the military. They know they can pretty much rely on the US to deal with serious problems, so they divert the money elsewhere. A perfectly rational decision I think.

Second: Technological Advancement.

In modern society we expect a fairly rapid pace of technological advancement. We have come to expect a large number of positive technological changes appearing fairly regularly. It is commonly known, though not commonly talked about, that an outsized portion of scientific research and advancement takes place in the United States. See here for an article on EU vs. US research spending. Note especially the unsurprising statement that there is a private spending 'shortfall' in the EU. You could also see this in the number of Nobel prize winners in the sciences since 1950. This suggests that the United States bears much of the burden for expected technological breakthroughs. I'm not complaining. It also reaps much of the economic benefit of technological breakthroughs.

This is especially obvious in areas with extreme research costs such as pharmaceuticals. A vast proportion of drug research is done in the United States. A vast proportion of the costs for research are recovered in the US market. The more socialistic countries are happy to use drugs discovered in the US, but they are not so happy about paying off the research costs. So they threaten to break the patents (because the drugs are life-saving of course, and they can ignore the fact that no lives would have been saved without the research because the research has already been done.) Companies, who can still recover research costs in the US, sell their drugs at small per-unit profits in Europe rather than have their patents broken.

To some, this probably sounds like an attack on European systems. It really isn't. Though we could probably have even greater advances in science if the power of Europe was harnessed to deliver scientific advances, the US does an amazing job anyway.

It makes perfect sense for Europe to rely on the US for scientific advancement and military safety. It lets them spend their money on other things. It is a close analog of the fact that most of us non-scientists spend our time and money on whatever we do. And most of you scientists spend your time and money on things other than producing food, or houses, or other things.

But it also suggests that if we like to have a world with a hugely advanced pace of research and the ability of a free country to effect the world militarily, the US can't adopt some European social models.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:04 AM | Comments (721) | TrackBack

January 29, 2004

Asset Forfeiture

One of the scariest tools in the drug war is asset forfeiture. It allows police to seize assets such as cars or homes which are 'used' in the drug trade. Classic ugly cases include seizing an estranged wife's car when her husband borrowed the car to get groceries for their kids while she was sick. Police departments have great incentive to overuse forfeiture because it doesn't have all the protections of the normal criminal process, and because they get to keep as department funds the proceeds from the sale of seized assets. In many states the burden of proof is on the asset owner to prove that the asset was not used in a criminal activity--even if they have never been convicted of the underlying offense.

This is not technically a new technique, but it has gained troublesome popularity because of the drug war. Worse, it seems to be spreading to other areas as well. Apparently El Cajon (a city just outside of San Diego) will now take title of your car if you are charged with the misdemeanor of 'solicitation for prostitution'. I'm no fan of prostitution. I'm no fan of street prostitution. But I really think that seizing one the two major assets that most Americans own and subjecting it to seizure is ridiculous for a misdemeanor anything.

Also note:

"El Cajon's law differs from others in the state in that the accused can request a hearing before a judge to determine whether the vehicle was confiscated legally. The owners – whether they were the person arrested for the crime, or not – have two days to request an administrative hearing, the results of which may be appealed to the Superior Court and beyond. "

This is written to be much more comforting than it really should be. 'Confiscated Legally' does not mean 'the person has been found guilty beyond the reasonable doubt of a crime'. It means 'the police had a reasonable suspicion that the asset was used in the commission of a crime'. Much lower standard of proof for the police than you would normally expect when they get to sell your car.

Not noted in the article is the fact that two trucks owned by construction companies were impounded. From the article: "The majority opinion, cited "a long and unbroken line of cases" since 1827 holding that "an owner's interest in property may be forfeited" even though the owner did not know it would be put to illegal use." This may be Constitutionally correct (though I have some skepticism for misdemeanors) but it certainly isn't wise from a government-citizen point of view. These laws have to change. I'm not entirely sure that judicial challenges will help. And our legislatures are lazy. Sigh. I have no good solution. See Fear.org for more information of forfeiture.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 08:00 AM | Comments (688) | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

Anti-Abortion Terrorism

Via Matthew Stinson I see this ABC News report on anti-abortion violence. I think it is very important for people who share policy views with individuals who want to commit political violence to condemn those individuals as strongly and loudly as possible. I am staunchly pro-life. If any of my fellow pro-lifers are considering the path of violence at all, listen up! It is completely evil to try to get your views across like that. And if you won't listen to the difference between right and wrong listen to the difference between effective and ineffective. Huge numbers of people who are somewhat sypathetic to our cause will see you wackos and decide that pro-life views are just nuts. Not to mention the fact that it is difficult to talk about the sanctity of human life when you are advocating vigilantism and terrorism.

So if you are thinking of going down this path, Don't. And if you know someone who is going down this path TURN THEM IN. There is nothing better you could do for our cause than to have the police remove from circulation evil people who want to marry pro-life rhetoric to their dark delusions. Showing the world that we will not tolerate people who want to twist our views into something vicious can only help us.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:01 AM | Comments (316) | TrackBack

January 27, 2004

Cost of Living

Calpundit has an excellent post tying together a number of trends in the health of the US economy. This quote triggered an idea but it isn't well formed so forgive me for thinking aloud:

"The typical conservative response to this is a collective shrug: things really aren't that bad, are they, in this age of Nintendos and big screen TVs for all? And there's some truth to this: living standards are still high for most people and there are no mobs with pitchforks roaming the streets in American cities. But what about tomorrow?"

This characterization of the response is a bit less caring than a real conservative response, but it isn't so far off the mark as to be ridiculous. Healthy markets tend to drive down prices. My thought is this: why is there no economic indicator which reflects how falling prices represent an increase in living standards? Is it just too hard? Kevin suggests that the average wage for the lower class has remained stagnant for about 10 years (seven of which are the Clinton years but I'm just being snarky). But if wages are stagnant, but prices for the things you want go down, haven't your living standards gone up? In his comments I use the example of a microwave oven. This is an object which had a high end luxury price, 15 years ago had a middle class price, and now can be purchased for 30-40 bucks. Televisions show a similar trend--a very nice 29" TV can be purchased today for the price of an awful 19" TV 15 years ago. A personal computer was a major investment 10 years ago, and while you can now get one 100x better for the same price, you can also get a fully functioning computer that will do everything but play high-end games for less money than many people spend on cigarettes in a month.

This function is one of the things that capitalism does really really well. Why isn't it captured in any of the economic health statistics?

BTW I have seen the objection that housing and medical care have increasing prices. This is highly simplistic. Housing prices have increased most dramatically in areas with price controls (New York, San Francisco) or rules barring most development (San Francisco Bay Area, Washington DC). These are areas where the market has been barred from general operation. Medical care prices are down for the things which you can compare over the medium term . The price for all the drugs you could possibly want may be up, but compare the price of a drug or procedure 10 years ago to what it costs now and typically the cost is down. Treating a heart attack with angioplasty for instance is much cheaper now. And doing that is cheaper than open heart surgery ever. So far more people have cheaper access to effective heart remedies than ever before. The price for generally available antibiotics is down. Sulfa drug prices over 30 years are down. The latest antibiotic is expensive, but 3, 5, and 10 years from now the price will be much lower. This isn't surprising. Research for the new drugs and techniques come out of profit from the recently new ones. Any time we want we can freeze in today's level of medical knowledge and watch the market drive down the prices of what is currently available. But we like new techniques, and that, along with our aging population, is why medical care overall prices are high. And advancing medical technology isn't something I want to stifle.

But back on topic, our analysis of medical prices doesn't reflect the fact that all sorts of once pricey treatments are now cheap. We focus on the cost of the newest techniques as if paying to investigate new things was a market failure.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 08:00 AM | Comments (566) | TrackBack

January 26, 2004

Pointing Out Problems isn't Creating Them

As usual, Steven DenBeste can spend pages on an interesting topic and have five or six embedded topics which could easily be the focus of another long essay. Here he has an throwaway about perceptions of diplomatic relations: "As to the notorious "growing transatlantic rift", it is again more a case of the rift being exposed than of it being widened, not to mention the fact that it demonstrates yet another way in which Europe is not truly united."

This is one of those areas which cause endless frustration for me when discussing international diplomacy. You often hear about how Bush 'caused' some rift or other. Or that he 'created' a crisis. On examination this is just silly. Pointing out that a problem exists is not the same as creating it. Furthermore, you can't deal with a problem that you refuse to talk about. So in many cases Bush is actually helping along the resolution of problems by being willing to identify them.

Diplomacy does not exist just for the sake of talking. It exists to resolve problems between nations. Papering over differences and letting them fester is not the way to actually resolve problems. And unless the problems are likely to vanish on their own with time, the resolution later is often much worse.

US dealings with North Korea offer a classic example. I have heard venting on numerous occasions about how Bush precipitated a crisis with North Korea. North Korea agreed to cease all nuclear programs, destroy any progams they had, and destroy any bombs they had in exchange for the US shipping oil and food to them every month. In 1998 or so it was discovered that North Korea both had continuing nuclear programs and indeed had one or two nuclear weapons. North Korea confirmed this intelligence in 2002. Bush cut off the aid we were sending as payment because North Korea was continuing its nuclear programs. That isn't creating a crisis, that is revealing a crisis. Between 1998-2000 there was a serious problem. NK was continuing its nuclear programs and we were continuing to pay them anyway. Pretending that everything was normal would have allowed the crisis to continue indefinitely. No matter how small a chance you think there is of the NK crisis being adequately resolved, you have to realize that there was zero chance of resolving the crisis so long as we pretended not to notice that the nuclear programs were ongoing.

Another classic example is Iraq. I mean Iraq 1991-2001. We don't even have to deal with the question of the actual invasion. Bush I was convinced to avoid going in to Iraq partially based on the idea that international community would work together to keep Saddam contained. This was a serious issue, because the UN revealed that Saddam was only about 6-12 months from getting access to nuclear weapons before the Gulf War, which put him about 4 years ahead of where the UN anti-proliferation groups thought he was before he invaded Kuwait. But the international will to implement UNSCOM was seriously lacking. For a short overview see here . By 1997 it was clear that Saddam was allowed to obstruct the inspectors at will with no consequence. At the same time, he was starving his own people while stealing money from the 'Food for Oil' program. This allowed him, in effect, to get paid for starving his own people while simultaneously using the starvation to leverage further international discontent with containing him. By January 2002 France, Germany and Russia were suggesting that all sanctions be lifted and all inspections be waived. This despite the fact that inspectors had not been in Iraq since 1998 and that they had not been allowed to work in Iraq since late 1996. When Bush went to the UN in 2002 he revealed a crisis that diplomacy had papered over for more than four years. We now know that Iraq did not maintain programs just before the 2003 invasion. If the international community had bothered to muster the will to have intrusive inspections in the 1990s we might have known that before now. Instead they pretended to be dealing with it diplomatically while actually just ignoring the problem. (And please no revisionist history about how we knew that before. France, the leading anti-war advocate did not respond to the UK when a minister said that every intelligence agency in Europe 'knew' that Saddam was still seeking WMD).

Another commonly cited example of Bush creating a crisis is in his formalizing the US rejection of the Kyoto Accords. This is a truly odd case, because the US Senate, which has to ratify all treaties with a 2/3 majority, made it clear in a 95-0 vote that a Kyoto-like treaty would be unacceptable. Continuing to negotiate at that point would be a farce. But farce is so much of what constitutes international diplomacy these days, that refusing to engage in farce apparently counts as a major crisis.

In Steven's post, he points out a non-US example: the current state of the EU. So much time has been spent pretending that differences don't exist, that even noting differences 'causes' a huge diplomatic crisis. Chirac's infamous 'missed a good opportunity to stay silent' outburst was in direct response to a revealed gulf of opinion. That gulf existed before the question of the Iraq war. But when countries like Poland pointed out the gulf, they were accused of causing a crisis in EU foreign policy.

In any case, we would all do best to remember that diplomacy is a tool. You do not build a telescope just put lenses in a case. You build a telescope for the purpose of looking at a distant object. Likewise diplomacy and alliances must exist to further some interest. If they cannot further an interest they must be abandoned in favor of other tools. And saying so doesn't cause a crisis. It merely reveals the non-aligning interests.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:46 AM | Comments (636) | TrackBack

January 24, 2004

Contradictory Arguments about the War

Now I'll be the first to admit that partisans sometimes take somewhat contradictory positions at different times as a tactical choice. There are however a number of positions about the war on terrorism which are fundamentally incompatible. Since advocating contradictory positions tends to be a sign of either an underlying position that isn't being addressed, or a sign of pure partisanship, or a failure to take your own thoughts seriously, it might be helpful to look at them.

Before I continue, I want to make clear that I don't think supporting the invasion of Afghanistan but failing to support the invasion of Iraq is necessarily a set of contradictory positions. You could hold both ideas simultaneously without them being contradictory. But in reality many of the stated reasons for holding those two positions don't make sense.

The contradictions cluster around the role of the military in fighting the war against terrorism. I will refer to this as the 'War' while invading Iraq and Afghanistan will be specifically mentioned any time I don't mean the War.

Position 1: The War would be best fought by treating terrorism as a police problem. The War may from time to time require military force in extreme cases (Afghanistan) but generally it doesn't.

Position 2: The invasion of Iraq has forced the military to neglect the real War. Since Iraq was not provably linked to terrorist organizations which regularly targeted the US it is a distraction from the real War.

These two positions mesh nicely in terms of identification of the enemy. Both suggest that the enemy is a fairly small group of malcontents that are tightly linked together. I think this identification is woefully inadequate, but it is not self-contradictory, and I've dealt with this subject in depth before. They are nevertheless incompatible. If indeed the main thrust of the War is found in police-style investigation and arresting the terrorists, the invasion of Iraq should not be a major problem for prosecuting the War. The policing organizations of the world were not heavily involved in the prosecution of the war in Iraq. The forces involved in Iraq were almost entirely US and British military forces. If military forces are not supposed to be particularly important to the War, their utilization ought not be a big problem.

Position 3: If military force is to be used, it ought to be used through the UN so that we can get military support from other nations. Position 3a: Nearly everyone was behind us in Afghanistan.

This one sounds good, but on inspection it does not sit well with Position 2. We did not in fact use the militaries of most other countries in the invasion of Iraq. So they should have been available for the operation that 'nearly everyone' was supportive of: Afghanistan. The US and British militaries were 'distracted' in Iraq but so what, we had nearly everyone's support for Afghanistan. Right? If getting the support of other major countries (say France, Germany and Belgium)in the War on terrorism was as crucial as is argued, they should have been willing and able to step in to Afghanistan. Unfortunately they weren't. This suggests that either their willingness to support us in Afghanistan is more suspect than commonly believed, or their ability to help us is nearly non-existant. This flows right into problems with Position 1. Most adherents of Position 1 suggest that Afghanistan is one of the only places where military might was really needed thus far in the War. If this is true Position 1 combined with 3 suggest that the military aspect of the War should have been very well covered. Which means that Iraq really wasn't a distraction that should have hurt the War.

These arguments are commolnly employed by 'anti-Iraq war' speakers. On examination they are contradictory. This suggests to me that something more is going on to their arguments. I won't speculate on that here, it is probably worth another entire post. But before my liberal friends suggest I am overreaching, please remember the furor you raised over Bush's many different positions on Iraq. Bush had 3 major justifications. Saddam wanted to acquire WMD. Containment was falling apart. Humanitarian concerns. None of these three are contradictory with each other, yet you used the multiple arguments as evidence that something more nefarious was being done. Your arguments are actually in conflict with each other. So forgive me for making a similar suggestion.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 01:47 PM | Comments (516) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

Dean as a way to talk about decision making

Via the National Review I find this article on Dean and abortion. Though I am both anti-abortion and anti-Dean, I think the articles focus is a bit too strong for the evidence that Kathryn Lopez uses. But she notes something interesting, even if I think she uses it incorrectly. She quotes this story by Dean:

Let me tell you a story. As many of you know I'm a doctor. I'm an internist, and I take care of all ages pretty much from five to 105, and one time I was sitting in my office, and it was not unusual for young kids to come and talk to me because I knew the whole family, and one time a young lady came into my office who was 12 years old and she thought she might be pregnant. And we did the tests and did the exam and she was pregnant. She didn't know what to do. And after I had talked to her for a while I came to the conclusion that the likely father of her child was her own father. You explain that to the American people who think that parental notification is a good idea. I will veto parental notification.

She then relates that at the time he told the story to the media, he knew that the father of her child was not her own father. Kathryn then exposits on this 'lie' as a sign of Dean's bad character. Now I'll admit that this kind of manipulation isn't something you want to get caught doing. But Dean kind of has a point. At the time when he was making the decision to not notify this girl's parents, the evidence he had available suggested that it would be bad for him to do so. The fact that his conclusion ended up being wrong doesn't impeach his logic at the time. Also, the fear of putting small girls in the position that he thought this girl was in is what drove him to oppose parental notification laws. The fact that this particular girl was not in fact a victim of incest does not mean that rule ought to be designed without taking the wholly predictable fact of incest into account.

Now I say that as a pro-life Republican, so you know I must have a trick up my sleeve. I just want to point out that this understanding can easily be applied to Bush and the War on Terrorism. He argued from almost 20 years of world experience with Saddam that Saddam had bad intentions, constantly sought very destructive weapons, was unstable, and could not be indefinitely deterred. Bush showed that Saddam repeatedly attempted to thwart the weapons inspectors, refused to fulfill his burden of accounting for the destruction of his previously held weapons. He argued that Saddam supported terrorists, and that such behaviour could no longer be tolerated when similar terrorists had shown their intention to kill 50,000+ civilians in New York. He also argued that Saddam was far along in his WMD programs.

It looks like Bush was wrong about the WMD. But the logic of dealing with people like Saddam is no more toppled by that fact than the logic of avoiding parental notification for abortions with respect to incest was undermined by the fact that Dean's example was not actually an incest victim. Nor does the fact that Dean took the facts he had at the time, and came to the wrong conclusion (perhaps based partially on his political outlook) necessarily impeach the logic used to make the decision at the time.

Hindsight is 20/20, but you often couldn't have known then the things that you know now.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 01:05 AM | Comments (364) | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

New Orleans Update

My volleyball team in New Orleans got 5th out of 21 in our division. We were ranked first after the first day of pool play, but we stumbled a bit on the second day.

Also I saw one of the most egregious examples of sandbagging while I was there. There are four divisions. In order from best to worst they are AA, A, BB, B. B is beginner through high school varsity level. BB is low level college. A is typical college team ball. AA is top ten college or at the very top Olympic try-out level. In each division you can play with one player from the level directly above yours. So in BB you can play with one A player.

Now there is always some dispute about the level of any given player. They are rated by judges, but the line between any two levels is a bit fuzzy. So sometimes in BB you might be up against a rated A player, and a couple of players who are right around the line between BB and A. One method of pumping up your team is gathering a bunch of players who really should have been recently rated A, but have somehow avoided it. The New Orleans team did far more than that. Their 'A' rated player actually played at the skill level of a high AA player. One of their 'BB' players was well into the 'A' level, in fact he was probably on the border of being rated 'AA'. It would kind of like putting a couple of lower-level NBA players in your neighborhood basketball league and playing at the intermediate level. I think being the home team allowed them to get so favorable ratings from a local referee. Now I think they justified it internally by playing with two girls. This is a silly justification, since both girls were well into the BB level of play.

This experience echoed my post about line-drawing here . The New Orleans team took advantage of the fuzzy lines to pretend that there were no lines at all. But to do that is to risk the whole system. At the awards ceremony, for the first time ever, the winning team was booed. And not just for a moment, they had to stop talking on the microphone for almost 3 minutes. I heard a number of people who had travelled just as far as me say that they wouldn't bother travelling here again when the ranking system was so obviously corrupt. It probably isn't to the advantage of the referees for them to kill their own tournament. There is probably a lesson here about doing corrupt favors for short-term gain (and yes if you feel compelled to bring Bush into it feel free).

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:15 AM | Comments (631) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

Muslim Circumvention of Secular Law

Via the RantingRationalist I find this interesting Arab News report on the Bam Earthquake in Iran. Apparently government orders banned house building in the area because it was well know that the fault ran right through. These orders would be overruled by clerics who would issue a fatwa overruling the ban for a price. In some respects this seems to have acted in the same way as indulgences in the Catholic Church. It seems to me that any system which allows for fatwas to overrule the government on a case by case basis is a system which begs for corruption. The fact that there is no central authority in Islam is one of the things which makes it so much more difficult to deal with.

It is vitally important that we do not allow such a system to come into being in Iraq. If we do not establish a strong and independent rule of law, there will be no hope of a lasting secular regime.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:02 AM | Comments (546) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Caucus Surprise

I've been following the Democratic nomination story and I'm surprised to see that Kerry has pretty handily won in Iowa. The other interesting thing is that Dean didn't even come in a close second. He got about 18% to Edwards 32%. I'm not shocked to see someone beat Dean, but I am surprised to see such a huge gap. If we wanted to hang on to the idea that Dean actually has lots of support (rather than the idea that he has merely loud support) I suppose we could suggest that caucuses are more party establishment oriented other primary forms. But wow, Dean getting beaten by two candidates and both by wide margins, sure makes the idea of his inevitablility look weak.

If people wanted an exciting primary season, it looks like they may get it.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 11:11 PM | Comments (721) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

New Orleans

I'm participating in a volleyball tournament in New Orleans, so I will probably not be posting again till late in the day Monday. I know I think about blogging too much when I hope that nothing noteworthy happens until then, so I won't be too late in commenting. Though I suppose if the universe had to thwart me, I would be ok with proof that Osama was captured or dead even if it came to light while I was on the plane.

Anyway, don't cry for more than an hour in response to my impending absence.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:20 AM | Comments (630) | TrackBack

Cargo Container Tracking

The ChicagoBoyz have good post on trying to make cargo containers more resistant to terrorism. They have an interesting discussion going about how such devices might cause trade nightmares if terrorists use the devices to spur lots of false alarms. It seems to me that doing that could cause almost as much trouble as an actual bomb, but with much less effort and with less chance of getting caught. But on the other hand, that could be said of many warning devices and techniques.

So how do you balance the detection ability against the ability of your enemies to use false detection to do lots of damage independent of their capability to do the thing you were trying to detect? I've never seen anyone analyze the problem from that point of view. I suspect we often ignore the possibility. (Where is denBeste when you need him?)

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:16 AM | Comments (502) | TrackBack

Norvir Pricing

Derek Lowe strikes what I think is a near-perfect balance in his explanation of the recent price swing in Norvir. He points out all the market factors which justify the price increase, while simultaneously pointing out that it would almost certainly wiser to maintain goodwill by not raising the price.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:10 AM | Comments (444) | TrackBack

Running out of Money

Now I know most of you don't read the National Review Online very often, so you might have missed this . The article talks about how money is one of the important limiting factors for the Iraqi insurgency. It suggests that they will be especially hurt by the fact that Saddam dinars will no longer be valid currency after today--a move aimed to kill off large Ba'athist supplies of cash. I'm in no position to say for sure, but I strongly suspect that could hurt the insurgency quite a bit, especially since one of their main tactics has been to pay thugs vast amounts of cash to snipe at US troops.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:06 AM | Comments (484) | TrackBack

Standards of Behaviour

I'm sure by now that everyone has heard about the pilot who flipped off the Brazilian officers who were taking Americans' fingerprints .

Now before I say anything I want to say that:

A) If Brazil wants to fingerprint American tourists it is well within its rights to do so.

B) Flipping off people who are just doing their job is really rude.

C) We expect pilots to at least try to be professional in other countries.

That said, he was taken away to the courthouse and fined $12,000.

The public reaction is along the lines of 'Rude American' which is a fine reaction in my mind. But what would the reaction have been if it had been a Brazilian pilot in the US? I strongly suspect that the story would have been more along the lines of 'budding police state overreacts and censors free expression'. Is it just that Americans can do no right? Or is something else going on?

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:00 AM | Comments (923) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

How do they do it?

Great, my site traffic just begins to get back to pre-December levels, and suddenly I'm stuck with nothing that strikes me to write about. I don't want to talk about the Democratic primary, because as a Republican anything I say will be suspected of being purposely bad advice. I do have some questions that bother me, I just don't have any useful answers (or even useful places to start looking for answers.)

Why the hell did Saddam resist the UN inspectors for so long if he didn't have any weapons?

Is there any productive steps that the West could really take to dramatically improve life in Africa without enabling more warlords?

How do other bloggers have the time to read enough news to make 5-6 major posts a day? I read about 3-4 times as quickly as your average good reader, but I still can't keep up. Is there some tool I'm not using that makes things easier?


Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:32 AM | Comments (416) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Iraq Blister Gas

I know I'm a day late (forever in the blogosphere) talking about the chemical weapons mortar shells which may or may not have been found in Iraq. I've seen the usual comments at CalPundit and elsewhere suggesting that even if this report is correct, it isn't a big deal. Or it isn't nuclear weapons. Or they were 'relics from the first Gulf War'. I'll assume for the sake of argument that the reports are correct, knowing full well that I've been burned with inaccurate reports before.

I look at it quite differently. These were buried under the sand to be retrieved later. If they are new, they show that Saddam was engaging in banned activity around the time of the invasion. If they are old, they show both that his December 2002 'full disclosure' to the UN was designed to mislead rather than disarm and that he has been strongly resisting the disarmament process for 12 years. In either case, it shows that UN disarmament was not doing its job. In either case it shows that Saddam played the UN process against itself, knowing full well that the UN would never really demand compliance with its resolutions. In either case, the find is bad for those who put their trust in the UN process.

It is much like the problem I have when discussing North Korea. In 1994 they signed the Agreed Framework. In this agreement, North Korea agreed to cease building its plutonium reactor, cease all other nuclear weapons programs, and it re-affirmed its commitment to the Nuclear Free Penisula Pact which obligated it to destroy any nuclear weapons which it had. It also agreed to live up to its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In return we agreed to give them huge amounts of oil and food and to build them a nuclear plant which couldn't contribute to a weapons program. Within four years Clinton found out that they had a nuclear weapon and that they were insisting on changes to the proposed nuclear plants which would make them more useful for weapons programs. As a result Clinton slowed down the nuclear plant work, but continued the oil and food payments.

I have gotten into huge arguments about whether the nuclear weapons which the US found out about in 1998 were from the uranium project (probably), from the plutonium project (probably not), made before the Agreed Framework (probably not) or made after the Agreed Framework (probably). But this kind of nitpicking is mostly useless for my purposes. All nuclear weapons programs were agreed to be ended. North Korea was not to make new nuclear devices, or keep old ones. No matter how you slice it, an existing nuclear device in 1998 is a violation of the whole point of the Agreement. It reminds me of another political argument maxim: don't argue about details that don't change the outcome. (Unless of course you are trying to distract from the outcome because you just don't like it.)

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 01:17 AM | Comments (536) | TrackBack

January 13, 2004

More on Textualism

Regarding the post below, I just want to make clear that I don't think textualism is perfect. No formal system is. But I do think it provides an understandable framework for talking about limiting judicial power to something other than 'what the judge thinks is fair'. My problem with liberal jurisprudence is that it is effectively unlimited. Not having a system for limiting judges, especially at the Supreme Court level is just asking for trouble in a democratic republic. Judges have a role, but that role is not to make just every injustice. If you want justice in a new way, you should appeal to the legislature. If you want justice in one of the traditional ways the court system may be for you.

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January 10, 2004

Complex Analysis and Human Decision Making

When I first started college I thought I was going to be a Mathematics/English Lit double major. Back in those days I was fascinated with the Mandelbrot Set, a complicated fractal set pictured above. I'll try not to be too technical when describing it. Basically the mandelbrot set is is formed through a simple iterative equation mapped on the complex plane. Each point represents the starting value for the iteration which is then continued indefinitely. In the black area the iterations converge to zero. In the colored areas the iterations diverge to infinity at different rates (light colored areas diverge slowly to infinity while dark colored areas diverge quickly. Visually this can be slightly confusing because on the border black mixed with colors can appear blue if viewed from a distance. If you don't care asthetically about how it looks it might be better to have the convergece be dark and the divergences get lighter as they get quicker).

Along the border of the set the iteration neither converges nor diverges. One of the most interesting thing about such fractal shapes is that they are typically created by very simple processes, yet their borders are infinitely complex. Unlike our typical experience with boundaries, these squiggle all about no matter how much you magnify the border. There are huge areas which obviously converge to zero. There are huge areas which obviously diverge to infinity. But the closer you get to a fractal border, the harder it is to determine on which side of the border a particular point may be found. In other words small variations in starting position can make a big difference. Near the border you can't 'eyeball it'. You have to do the actual calculation at that point to make the determination about whether it converges or diverges.

Some recent discussions on decision making reminded me of this complex border. Certain types of human interpretation of evidence, even when following certain rigid rules, ends up behaving like a fractal pattern. In discussing jurisprudence recently I tried to show how textualist interpretations of the Constitution appropriately limited the power of the judiciary while modern liberal/Democrat theories of interpretation offer pretty much a free for all where the only limits placed on judges were that they weren't exposed to all possible cases. The main responses were complaints about imperfections in textualist techniques. Craig exemplifies this in his blog (not so permanent blogspot permalink to his 1/7/04 post entitled Is Textualism a Scheme of Falsifiability? His main point is found here:

However, I don’t think that any falsifiable scheme can be provided outside of a particular practice; that is, there can never be an “objective” analysis of the correctness of a judge’s decision. In fact, Holsclaw provides his own undoing by suggesting that Scalia, while ostensibly a textualist judge, gets decisions wrong. If it is the case that both Holsclaw and Scalia are textualist and that they sometimes disagree, then even textualism is a matter of interpretation. If it ever is, it always is.

This is incorrect because Scalia and I might start from slightly different points while framing the question, and if this question is near the border we may end up with different analyses despite the fact that we are both using a defined system for analyzing the law. Take First Amendment issues as an example. General political speech cannot be restricted by the government. That is pretty clearly in the black area. For most cases we don't need to analyze closely because most political speech is no where near the border. Using words to commit larceny is also no where near the border. That kind of fraud isn't protected by the First Amendment. Dangerous speech, like yelling 'fire' in a crowded room is also clearly not protected. But certain types of political speech when paired with types of indimidation (say certain types of anti-abortion protests) are much closer to the border and therefore slight differences in how you frame the problem (slightly different starting positions) can lead to dramatically different results. The textualist process makes it quite easy to eye-ball many cases, but along the complex border you have to take care. This is true not because of any particular flaw in the textualist process, but rather because the border really is complicated.

Legal Textualism is an iterative process of analyzing written laws based on how they would normally be understood when they were written, combined with how they have been applied in the past. You then apply them to your presumably new facts to get an answer. On tight border issues two judges might get different results by emphasizing different facts, but that doesn't call the whole method into question. Textualism is still bound by rules, despite the border issue. Liberal jurisprudence schemes don't seem to be bound by any such rules, which places at risk even issues which would not be border issues under a textualist scheme.

The problem with liberal jurisprudence is they see the difficulty on the borders and believe (perhaps pretend to believe) that this difference in result from two close starting positions proves that really there are no fixed standards and that the whole thing is a free for all. In a state where you don't care about the rule of law this isn't a problem. But in our society change is supposed to come through the democratic branches. All of the legitimate agents for change in a Constitutional system work through some sort of democratic process. A judge's duty is to identify duly authorized law and apply it. Policy changes are supposed to come through the legislature. That is why we have them. If a concern is important enough in the future that it should gain Constitutionally protected status, it is supposed to gain that through the super-majority process of amendment.

The same type of problem appears when talking about morality or ethics. In almost every society murder is wrong, but in most self-defense is permitted. The border between the two may be difficult to track in certain cases, but that doesn't mean that there really isn't morality. that means that morality is a difficult subject in border cases. In many types of analysis, especially in human social analysis, the precise borders of an issue can be difficult to define. But that doesn't mean the borders don't exist. That doesn't mean we should feel free to act as if they don't exist. It just means that it will be difficult to hash things out, but that it is a difficulty which we should bother with.

Behind the extended entry are more pictures of the Mandelbrot set at different levels of magnification. I hope you enjoy them.

The pictures were found at Anton Feestra's home page.

Each is part of the boundary of the mandelbrot set at higher and higher levels of magnification. You might notice that there are a number of themes in the set which recur along the border at different resolutions. The pictures are popups. If you are really interested in seeing the details you should click on the pictures.

Cleft

Dragon Zone 1

Dragon Zone 2

Dragon Zone 3: Here you will notice that a smaller version and slightly squished of the mandelbrot set is attached to the main set by tendrils.

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January 09, 2004

On Dean

I think that Jonah Goldberg may be on to something here . At least the part about Dean being a good candidate for the country because he offers stark choices about the War on Terrorism. The fact of the matter is that we have had very little substantive debate about the war. In my view, the main reason for it is that Democrats have not bothered to participate. They certainly aren't being censored or squelched, so they have no one to blame but themselves for the lack of debate.

But if the War on Terrorism is going to be long, heaven forbid like the Cold War, it would be a good idea to really hash it out. We should argue about the goals and the means. A Dean nomination would allow that. It isn't a debate that I think he would win, because I believe that the Democrat position is quite weak on the issue. But it is a debate that is long overdue, and well worth having. I think the debate will center around the war on terrorism vs. treating terrorism in a crime-policing mode.

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January 08, 2004

Dark Moon

While on my trip I read Dark Moon, an excellent fantasy book by David Gemmell--an author I seem to have somehow missed. He is an absolute master of characterization by vignette. He tells paragraph-long stories about characters' histories which reveal enormous depth. When I first noticed the technique I tried to figure out what was so striking. After all the flashback is a very common literary device. Why was I so struck when this author used it? I think the answer is that most flashbacks are used to create suspense or partially describe a motivation. In this novel most flashbacks are almost complete sub-tales of their own. They are excellently crafted mini-stories. They add to the main story, of course, but they could almost be read as pieces on their own. Quick fables or tall tales.

The book has a decided anti-war cast. I'm not just projecting, it has a race of beings so pacifistic that they allow themselves to be entirely destroyed rather than fight back. This is presented as laudable in the book. The story has a deus ex machina ending which left me a bit unsatisfied because Gemmell doesn't even bother trying to explain how it worked and it claims to vindicate pacifism through a strange trick of the novel, but as a whole it was excellent. I'm one of those evil people who makes notes in my books. In a typical book I note 20-25 passages. In this one I noted more than 50.

Despite the book's anti-war agenda, I think he fairly presents characters who don't agree with it:

Ozhobar was not a religious man. He had prayed only once in his life. It had not been answered, and he had buried the ones he loved, the plague continuing to sweep through the islands causing misery and desolation to those left behind. But one did not need to be religious to understand the nature of evil. The plague had an evil effect, but was merely a perversion of nature; it was not sentient. The Daroth, on the other hand, Ozhobar believed to be evil incarnate. They knew what they were doing, the pain they caused and the despair they created. Worse, they had fostered hatred in their enemies that would last for generations. And hatred was the mother of all evil.
You will not make me hate you, thought Ozhobar. But I will kill you!

This is an excellent description of how I think we ought to treat Islamist terrorists. We should not allow them to create hate which will spill out and destroy others.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 01:24 AM | Comments (522) | TrackBack

Amin Saikal's IHT article

Via the USS Clueless I find this somewhat ridiculous article by professor of political science and director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, Amin Saikal. I disagree with a Said acolyte, will the wonders never cease.

He plays at the intellectual's favorite game--moral equivalence.

"Three minority extremist groups - the militant fundamentalist Islamists exemplified at the far edge by Al Qaeda, certain activist elements among America's reborn Christians and neoconservatives, and the most inflexible hard-line Zionists from Israel - have emerged as dangerously destabilizing actors in world politics. Working perversely to reinforce each other's ideological excesses, they have managed to drown out mainstream voices from all sides. Each has the aim of changing the world according to its own individual vision."

First, I suspect that 'inflexible hard-line Zionists from Israel' don't really have the aim of changing the world according to their own vision. I think they pretty much just want to survive in their country without being subjected to Hamas attacks night and day.

The next quote is more fun:

"On another side are groups of internationalist activists among American fundamentalist Christians and neoconservatives who have found it opportune since Sept. 11, 2001, to pursue their agendas more aggressively. They wish to reshape the Middle East and defiant political Islam according to their ideological and geopolitical preferences.

The extremists of these groups seek to "civilize" or "democratize" the Arab world in particular, and the Muslim world in general, in their own images, and they have particular influence through key appointees in the Bush administration. The fact that democracy can neither be imposed nor be expected to mushroom overnight does not appear to resonate with them."

Yeah, because all those neocons were saying "Thank God for the 9-11 attacks. Without them we we never be able to convince people to reshape the Middle East. We sure are happy that there are murderous Islamists running around because otherwise our plans of reshaping the Middle East would never be popular."

Or maybe back in the real world the reason why neocons want to reshape the Middle East is in response to the fact that the Middle East is a particularly nasty breeding ground for murderous Islamist thugs. But I suppose that would be too simplistic. The French would never approve.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:33 AM | Comments (641) | TrackBack

January 07, 2004

Out of Town

Sorry for the lack of real posts today. I've been away to Napa for work and thus have had limited access to my blog, and I have read no news.

Did you know that 5 out of the 6 coffeshops in Napa close at 6:00??!! And the sixth (a Starbucks) closes at 10:30! Pretty much the whole city closed up by 7:00.

Anyway the best I can offer you is my favorite joke from a Southwest flight attendant: "The fasten your seatbelt sign is lit for your protection and the protection of those you would fall on."

My next favorite is about the oxygen masks: "If you are travelling with an immature child please be sure to fasten your own mask before helping your husband."

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 11:55 PM | Comments (509) | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

Constitutional Textualism

Calpundit comments on an important topic, Constitutional jurisprudence. Like most Democrats he doesn't like textualism, or as he calls it original intent. (The terms aren't strict synonyms, but what he is attacking in his post is closer to the textualist style than it is original intent.)

I don't believe in the original intent theory that you have to get into the subjective minds of the framers. I think looking at the words and phrases and understanding them as they were commonly understood at the time they were enacted is good enough. That can be difficult in some cases and may allow for some disagreement around the margins. But it provides an excellent guide that keeps judges from substituting their own wishes for those that were codified by people who actually derived their power from the democratic process.

My biggest problem with liberal theories of jurisprudence (and yes I have read Tribe thank you very much) is that they don't lead to falsifiable results. In other words it is almost impossible to use a liberal theory of jurisprudence and showing that a judge got a wrong decision. By unmooring themselves from the text, liberals completely undercut the ability to talk about rightness and wrongness of judicial decisions. They transform the Constitution into whatever five Justices serving at the same time say it is.

The most typical dodge from this trap that Democrats use is a reliance on stare decisis. Of course this doesn't explain how you get any big change whatsoever, and would suggest that decisions like Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade are almost wholly illegitimate. But that just isn't talked about. This reliance also puts Democrats in the really odd position of stating that the words of the Constitution (encacted by democratic processes) mean almost anything they say it does or are too cryptic to rely upon, but that the words of judges (far removed from democratic processes) have fixed meanings that are concretely understandable. I suspect that people who believe the Constitution is more cryptic than the average Supreme Court decision haven't read many decisions lately.

I feel accusations of straw-man argumentation coming on so I'll focus on my concern and you can answer it any way you want.

My question is, on what legal basis does someone who doesn't feel particularly bound by the text decide that a Constitutional decision was wrongly decided? Or do you get to employ the textualism for me but not for thee test? Note: pointing out alleged misuses of textualism doesn't do a thing for this argument. You can't whine too much about hypocrisy when your prefered method of analysis doesn't allow for falsification. So if you accept the need for textualism, I'll entertain all sorts of complaints about Scalia. But until then, I need you to explain how your system tells you when judges are wrong.

P.S. I'm aware that Godel suggests that formal mathematical systems will still have holes--some truths and falsehoods which can't be proven. Even presuming that this applies to the law, the impossibility of perfection doesn't mean we should abandon all formal systems.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:33 AM | Comments (396) | TrackBack

Basic Economics

Via Charles Murtaugh I see this Reason article about free trade being the best hope for the improvement of developing countries. For Murtaugh's comments you may need to scroll down to December 30, 2003 under "Required Reading" (blogspot's permalinks are notoriously bad). Charles notes that the interview subject is a rare bird--Swedish free marketeer.

Norberg makes the interesting point that much of the opposition to free trade comes from protected interests in rich countries. The effect of this is to slow the rate of industrialization and development in poor countries. In Marxist terminology you might say that trade unions maintain their wealth on the backs of those outside workers whom they keep in poverty. Of course I'm not a Marxist, so I wouldn't say that. I would say that like many, trade unions are afraid of competition, because it forces them to actually work harder. And it is a common human trait to not want to work harder unless provided great incentives.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:30 AM | Comments (586) | TrackBack

Trying Saddam

I found an interesting article about an international trial of Saddam here .

Its main point is that the trial of Milosevic has turned into a farce, setting a very bad precedent for international trials of this type. In fact, Milosevic has just been elected to parliament. The two best, though slightly snarky, quotes are:

One reason why Slobo is popular again in Serbia is precisely because of the ''international'' trial. In 2000, when the strongman of the Balkans was swept from power, he was a discredited figure, a European pariah reviled as a murderous butcher. After two years of legal hair-splitting at the Hague, he's all but fully rehabilitated.

...

Up to the moment Saddam popped out of the spider-hole, the international jet set's line was that deplorable as Saddam's rule might be -- gassing Kurds, feeding folks feet-first into industrial shredders, etc. -- it was strictly an internal matter for the Iraqi people. The minute the old boy was in U.S. custody, the international jet set's revised position was that gassing Kurds, feeding folks into industrial shredders and so forth were crimes against the whole world and certainly not a matter for the Iraqi people. Instead, we need a (drumroll, please) United Nations-mandated international tribunal.

What went wrong so that we have a trial that is making Milosevic more and more popular? Why would we want to do that for Saddam? Or would this be different? If you think so, why?

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WMD Programs

Via ChicagoBoyz I found this report on Iraqi scientists.

Apparently we are paying $22 million to keep Iraqi weapons scientists employed on non-weapons projects. I presume we are doing this to keep their expertise from falling in to the hands of our enemies. This sounds like an excellent idea, but it reraises an issue which has been bugging me since we took over in Iraq.

What the hell was going on with the WMD programs there? Saddam acted like he was hiding something. He trained hundreds of weapons scientists. He spent lots of money on weapons. Were a lot of people scamming him? What did all that money, and danger, and expertise get Saddam? There is something missing in the equation. It seems important, but I really don't know what it is. I suspect that Saddam wasn't spending all that money and training all those people just so he could trick the US in to invading him.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:10 AM | Comments (407) | TrackBack

January 05, 2004

Farm Subsidies

Via AndrewSullivan (who needs my web link traffic almost as much as lileks) I find this article from the Economist. It talks about the expiration of the "agricultural subsidies immunity from the WTO’s punishments and procedures for settling disputes".

Basically the World Trade Organization has not been permitted to adjudicate cases against agricultural subsidies. But beginning this year, it can because many of the smaller countries have gathered together to fight an extension of the immunity. I don't blame them at all. Agricultural subsidies hurt small countries far more than they help the EU and the US. The agricultural costs of many smaller countries are far lower than the industrial countries in most cases. But smaller countries can't compete with farmers who are having their costs paid by the government. These subsidized priced goods also flood the small country's markets so that the local farmers can't even grow for local sale. This causes the country to be dependent on outside sources, and makes them even more vulnerable than normal to outside pressures that cause food prices to fluctuate. When there is a disruption in delivery, they can't pick up the slack with locally grown food because their local farmers have been driven out of business by our governments.

We insist on low trade barriers, but cripple some of the smaller countries in the only economic area where they could truly compete. It is no wonder that they are mad.

I hope they prevail at the WTO.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:58 AM | Comments (532) | TrackBack

January 03, 2004

A Thought on Libya

Is anyone else a little bit disturbed that apparently Libya had this relatively advanced nuclear program that no one seemed to really know about? I'm not an intelligence idiot, I know that foreign intelligence is difficult. I realize that we often can't get all the answers we want. I know that certainty is impossible in most cases. But if Libya had this complicated program, shouldn't we have known about it for years?

I'm not immersed in nuclear arcana, but whenever I heard about possible nuclear states or states pursuing nuclear weapons, the list was always something like Israel, South Africa, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. I don't think I ever remember Libya being mentioned except as maybe a throw-away like--'and possibly other Arab states like Syria, Libya and Egypt'.

Did we really just find out about Libya's program in the last year or so? (I know we intercepted a centrifuge about 3 months ago, but did we catch it while watching other countries or did we know about Libya's program.)

Have our intelligence services just not made the transition from the Cold War to other important things?

Also doesn't this say something really bad about the International Atomic Energy Agency? They apparently didn't know anything until after Libya announced it was abandoning the program.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 02:20 PM | Comments (565) | TrackBack

January 02, 2004

Poor US Reaction in the Middle East

Many conservative blogs have been linking this article about another Democrat moving away from the Democratic Party over the War Against Terrorism. Honestly that genre doesn't excite me too much at this point, but it did have a really good timeline of an important topic--the US ignoring the fact that this war began more than 20 years ago. It lists:

• 1979 - The US Embassy in Iran was overrun by Islamic extremists who captured 66 Americans and held 53 of them for 444 days.

• 1983 - The US Embassy in Beirut was targeted by a truck bomb that killed 63.

• 1983 - The US Marine barracks in Beirut was destroyed by a truck bomb that killed 242 Americans.

• 1988 - US Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins, on a UN mission in Lebanon, was abducted, tortured, and hanged.

• 1988 - A bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 went off over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 on board and 11 people on the ground.

• 1993 - Terrorists drove an explosives-laden truck into the basement of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing six.

• 1993 - Followers of Osama bin Laden killed 18 American soldiers in an ambush on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia.

• 1996 - The Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia was destroyed by a tanker-truck bomb killing 19 Americans.

• 1998 - US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were simultaneously attacked by truck bombs killing 301.

• 2000 - The USS Cole was attacked in the port city of Yemen; 17 died.

Halfhearted rescue attempts, trade embargoes, and a smattering of cruise missiles thrown at the problem by former leaders had no follow-through, no long-term commitment necessary to stave off the continued systematic attacks. Not until George Bush vowed to protect the US from those who sought to destroy it - even if he had to stand without the support of UN allies.

It is my contention that our half-hearted response to all of these attacks is precisely what gave Islamic fundamentalist extremists the impression that murdering Americans was a good method for getting America to do we they wanted. This coupled with the awful impression given by the fact that we went to war against Iraq in 1991 and then left Saddam in power. This impression may be furthered by the fact that we press Israel into negotiations after nearly every time Hamas murders Israeli civilians.

Democrats often talk about the need to win the hearts and minds of the Arab street. Ironically it is the multi-culturalists who are failing to take another culture seriously. For Islamist extremists our reaction to their attacks (pre-2001) emboldened their hearts for more vicious attacks and convinced their minds that our foreign policy could be shaped by murdering our civilians and attacking our soldiers. Until those on the left can find a way to change that impression on the hearts and minds of the Arab world, their foreign policy is based on confusion.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 12:35 AM | Comments (530) | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

Happy New Year

Happy New Year.

I know it is generally bad form to be cheered by something's passing, but I am thrilled to see 2003 gone.

May 2004 be a much better year, not that it would be difficult.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at 11:03 PM | Comments (539) | TrackBack