Two Views

Shelby Steele, writing in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week on Western (white) guilt and Islam:

Hatred and murder are self-realization because they impart grandeur to Islamic extremists–the sense of being God’s chosen warrior in God’s great cause. Hatred delivers the extremist to a greatness that compensates for his ineffectuality in the world. Jews and infidels are irrelevant except that they offer occasion to hate and, thus, to experience grandiosity. This is why Hezbollah–Party of God–can take no territory and still claim to have won. The grandiosity is in the hating and fighting, not the victory.

And death–both homicide and suicide–is the extremist’s great obsession because its finality makes the grandiosity "real." If I am not afraid to kill and die, then I am larger than life. Certainly I am larger than the puny Westerners who are reduced to decadence by their love of life. So my hatred and my disregard of death, my knowledge that life is trivial, deliver me to a human grandeur beyond the reach of the West. After the Madrid bombings a spokesman for al Qaeda left a message: "You love life, and we love death." The horror is that greatness is tied to death rather than to achievement in life.

The West is stymied by this extremism because it is used to enemies that want to live. In Vietnam, America fought one whose communism was driven by an underlying nationalism, the desire to live free of the West. Whatever one may think of this, here was an enemy that truly wanted to live, that insisted on territory and sovereignty. But Osama bin Laden fights only to achieve a death that will enshrine him as a figure of awe. The gift he wants to leave his people is not freedom or even justice; it is consolation.

White guilt in the West–especially in Europe and on the American left–confuses all this by seeing Islamic extremism as a response to oppression. The West is so terrified of being charged with its old sins of racism, imperialism and colonialism that it makes oppression an automatic prism on the non-Western world, a politeness. But Islamic extremists don’t hate the West because they are oppressed by it. They hate it precisely because the end of oppression and colonialism–not their continuance–forced the Muslim world to compete with the West. Less oppression, not more, opened this world to the sense of defeat that turned into extremism.

Here is Karen Hughes, formerly President Bush’s image meister, being interviewed by al-Jazeera, last December….via The Corner at NRO:

"The U.S. acknowledged [after] the events of September 11 that our policies might have created feelings of frustration and hatred, [causing those individuals] to board those airplanes, [fly them into the twin towers], and kill people. We want to change these circumstances, and this is what we are doing today…. "

And, finally, again from The Corner…

From an interview with Pierre Rehov, a  French documentary maker whose newest film, Suicide Killers, is based on interviews that he conducted with the families of suicide bombers and would-be bombers

Q – What was it like to interview would-be suicide bombers, their families and survivors of suicide bombings?

A – It was a fascinating and a terrifying experience. You are dealing with seemingly normal people with very nice manners who have their own logic, which to a certain extent can make sense since they are so convinced that what they say is true. … I hear a mother saying "Thank God, my son is dead." Her son had became a shaheed, a martyr, which for her was a greater source of pride than if he had became an engineer, a doctor or a winner of the Nobel Prize.

This system of values works completely backwards since their interpretation of Islam worships death much more than life. You are facing people whose only dream, only achievement goal is to fulfill what they believe to be their destiny, namely to be a Shaheed or the family of a shaheed.

They don’t see the innocent being killed, they only see the impure that they have to destroy.

Q – Are suicide bombers principally motivated by religious conviction?

A – Yes, it is their only conviction. They don’t act to gain a territory or to find freedom or even dignity. They only follow Allah, the supreme judge, and what He tells them to do. …

The main difference between moderate Muslims and extremists is that moderate Muslims don’t think they will see the absolute victory of Islam during their lifetime, therefore they respect other beliefs. The extremists believe that the fulfillment of the Prophecy of Islam and ruling the entire world as described in the Koran, is for today. Each victory of Bin Laden convinces 20 million moderate Muslims to become extremists. …

Q – How can we put an end to the madness of suicide bombings and terrorism in general?

A – Stop being politically correct and stop believing that this culture is a victim of ours. Radical Islamism today is nothing but a new form of Naziism. ..

There it is, in plain view.  The duality of the War on Terror, in which the politically correct view is that we are somehow at fault, that the Muslims are reacting to something we have done in the past.  The other view, based on close observation, empirical data, and a deeper understanding of Muslims and Islam, is that they are responsible for their feelings toward the West, that they are attacking the West not because of what we have done, but because of what we are.

Why can’t we say that out loud?

Continue reading “Two Views”

A Planet Lost

Our solar system no longer has 9 planets.  At least 3 generations of Humans have been taught facts about our small slice of the universe that are false. Leave it others more qualified than your scribe to ruminate on the philosophical issues of this decision by Academe. But I would be remiss if I did not observe that the best thing about rigorous scientific inquiry is that facts are continually tested, hypotheses are challenged, and research into known and unknown conditions is continuous. 


Courtesy of APOD, we can begin, anew, to familiarize ourselves with the UPDATED solar system and wonder what else is out there.


Eight Planets and New Solar System Designations
International Astronomical Union

Explanation: How many planets are in the Solar System? This popular question now has a new formal answer according the International Astronomical Union (IAU): eight. Last week, the IAU voted on a new definition for planet and Pluto did not make the cut. Rather, Pluto was re-classified as a dwarf planet and is considered as a prototype for a new category of trans-Neptunian objects. The eight planets now recognized by the IAU are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Solar System objects now classified as dwarf planets are: Ceres, Pluto, and the currently unnamed 2003 UB313. Planets, by the new IAU definition, must be in orbit around the sun, be nearly spherical, and must have cleared the neighborhood around their orbits. The demotion of Pluto to dwarf planet status is a source of continuing dissent and controversy in the astronomical community

Continue reading “A Planet Lost”

Duck & Cover

Images_2 If you are of a certain age, you might remember this position.  You might also remember why your school had these drills. If you don’t remember anything like this, count your blessings and your good fortune to be born in a time when our country knew that we were relatively safe from a nuclear attack (or that we were all going to be killed regardless of any drill).  Just know that the drills were real, well-intentioned, and indicative of the times.  There was no partisan debate on the need for these exercises, and the Republican and Democrat administrations of the time were not accused of fear-mongering in an effort to drum up support from voters.

Whether or not you think such times are again upon us, or visible on the horizon, read this.  The point the author makes is:

In a post-proliferation world, we are going to be raising another generation of children (probably several generations of children) marked by nerve-wracking “retention drills.” And get ready…the fallout shelter is coming back, too. Given the Soviets’ overwhelmingly large nuclear arsenal — capable of turning the entire United States to dust in the event of a major nuclear exchange — fallout shelters came to seem like a joke. But when dealing with a possible strike from a single weapon, or at most a mere handful of weapons, the logic of the fallout shelter is compelling. We’re going to need to be able to evacuate our cities in the event of a direct attack, or to avoid radiation plumes from cities that have already been struck. Tens or hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved by such measures.

You don’t have to like the story, but you really should read it.

From The Corner.

Continue reading “Duck & Cover”

Lebanon – A Quagmire?

Many, many critics of the American presence in Iraq invoke the word quagmire in an effort to link the current situation to the Vietnam War, with its perceived failures, alleged widespread atrocities, and loss of American prestige.  Despite the multitude of reasons why the comparison is false, we have learned, in watching recent events in Lebanon, that perception is the equal of reality.  The new, post Cold War format of war, which does not allow the winner to utterly destroy the loser, allows for perceived political gains to supplant military losses as the most effective metric of armed conflict. 

As other pundits have noted, failure to decisively defeat an enemy on the field of battle permits the imposition of political solutions that address the symptoms without curing the underlying disease.  The use of UN mandated cease-fires can thus be regarded as a prescription drug, taken for a short period of time, after which the patient is free to begin again the behavior that triggered the problem initially.  Like antibiotics, the cease-fire prescription loses its effectiveness if used too widely for too long.  The disease adapts to the presence of the medicine and invents new ways to attack the patient.

It is entirely fitting, then, that the worst over-subscriber of the cease-fire prescription, France, is now being forced to take its own medicine.  Having used its position at the UN to impose a cease-fire considerably different from the plan designed by the US, and desperate to maintain the perception of French influence in the Middle East, Lebanon in particular, France finds itself in a position not to its liking.  Its troops, if and when they arrive in Lebanon, will be pinned between Israel, a former ally cast aside like a like a bastard child, and Hezballah, the favorite son of the Shi’a mullahs in Iran.  The UN, at France’s insistence, has not called for the peace-keepers to disarm Hezballah, has not issued clear rules of engagement for the moment when bullets start flying again, and has not, in general, given the peace-keepers any incentive to perform their perceived role.

Give the French credit, though, for recognizing the impossibility of the task.  Once they understood the inherent problems and the inevitably that the cease-fire will not hold, the back-pedaling began, and the size of their troop commitment was reduced to a mere 200 soldiers.  At this point, Bush and Rice, recognizing an opportunity to turn the tables on the perfidious Chirac, asked the Italians to lead the force, given the Italian pledge of 2,000 troops.  Shamed, called out, facing humiliation, the French had no choice but to honor their initial commitment.  One also suspects that Kofi Annan would prefer French leadership of the peace-keeping force instead of the Italians, who tend to be less devious and two-faced in these situations.

Having forced a political solution to a military problem, France finds itself acting to preserve its Honor instead of acting to solve the problem.  It cannot leave the scene without losing its Honor, and it cannot act solve the problem without alienating its desired "friends" in the region.  France has been forced into a no-win situation.  If faces a loss of prestige, a loss of influence, and the possible loss of valuable troops, all in the name of a political solution that is not worth the potential cost to France. 

That, my friends, is a quagmire.

For more insight, please read  this article in the Times (UK).

H/T Wretchard at The Belmont Club

Continue reading “Lebanon – A Quagmire?”

I Want To Become An Illegal Immigrant

This letter is circulating, and is purportedly real.  Whether or not it exists, it’s still makes a great point:

June 7, 2006 

The Honorable Paul S. Sarbanes 

309 Hart Senate Office Building 

Washington DC, 20510 

Dear Senator Sarbanes,

As a native Marylander and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance.  I have contacted the Immigration and Naturalization Service in an effort to determine the 
 for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you. 
 My reasons for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen to 
illegal alien stem from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill’s 
provisions is 
accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for five years, what 
I need to do to become a citizen is to pay a $2,000 fine and income 
for three of the last five years.

  I know a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone figures it out. 
put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay taxes  every 
year so I’m excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine.  Is there any way that I can apply to be illegal retroactively?  This would yield an excellent result for me  and  my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005. 

Another benefit in gaining illegal status would be that my daughter would receive preferential treatment relative to her law school applications. 
 If you would provide me with an outline of the process to become 
illegal (retroactively if possible) and copies of the necessary forms, I would be most appreciative.

Thank you for your assistance. 

Your Loyal Constituent,
Pete McGlaughlin

H/T The Corner.

Continue reading “I Want To Become An Illegal Immigrant”

Global Warming, Again

A while back, Xark wrote a post on global warming based on the premise that Mankind was the cause of warming, and asked that readers respond with potential solutions.  A lively debate ensued, although the group did not arrive at a consensual solution, and the discussion slowly petered out. 

The discussion ignited the spark of awareness, at least for your scribe, and my curiosity was aroused.  Other bloggers have discussed the same issues, had the same debates, offered many of the same solutions.  It is a subject that ought to stay in the forum of ideas until a consensus is formed, actions agreed upon, and steps taken toward resolution.

With that in mind, Q and O has been discussing the subject, a debate has ensued, and all interested readers should check in periodically for updates.

Some snippets:

My problem with the idea of making policy decisions based on what we know now about global warming is that, before you can solve a problem, the dimensions of the problem have to be defined, then a clear-eyed look at the costs and benefits of the proposed policies have to be weighed. That means there are a lot of questions to which we need to have answers, before we can even approach a political solution….

What if the mechanism is 80% natural, and 20% man-made? Can we reverse the natural component at all? If not, will addressing the human component stop global warming, or merely delay its effects? Again, if the latter, then would our money be better spent on combating global warming itself, or on policies designed to ameliorate the effects?

And while we’re talking about other nature, what natural mechanism exist that might combat global warming naturally? Will increased instability in the weather, or an increase in the rate of water evaporation as the poles melt, cause more cloud cover, increasing the earth’s albedo, and reflecting heat back into space? Will increases in CO2 spur a massive increase in plant growth, which might retard the effect of CO2 by replacing it with oxygen? What were the natural mechanisms that kicked off the various ice ages? What ended them? Can we expect any of those mechanism to come into play? If so, when and why? If not, why?

Mr. Shaughnessy’s position seems to be: Ignore any contrary data! Ignore the lack of precision of our predictive models! It means nothing! We must combat global warming now! Don’t try to foist your silly questions upon me! I have no responsibility to answer them! The path is already clear, and you’re obviously just a selfish churl who doesn’t care if people die, or, at best, a foolish Luddite who refuses to accept the wisdom of the one true path! Your pathetic new observational data means nothing to me! Your professed desire for more—and more accurate—science is merely a thinly disguised pretext for inaction!

Frankly, that is a political, not a scientific viewpoint. It indicates too much of a desire to do something, and too little of a desire to ensure that what we do is actually helpful in any meaningful way. Mr. Shaughnessy isn’t interested in difficult questions about predictive models. His mind is made up.

All in all, an interesting discussion.  Please read the whole thing…

Continue reading “Global Warming, Again”

Europe & The Ceasefire

Naak089_europe_20060823220823 The nearby graphic, courtesy of NATO, details 2005 defense spending by some European countries, as well as the US, Turkey, and Canada.  The picture tells a story that needs some explanation.

UN Resolution 1701 calls for the implementation of a cease-fire on the Israeli-Lebanon border, the disarmament of Hezballah, and the monitoring of the movement of arms into the area.  The agreement, reached after intense negotiations at the UN, was predicated on the positioning of a UN peacekeeping force, to be provided primarily by European troops, with France publicly committing to supply a significant portion of the "boots on the ground".  Today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) comments on the thus far lackluster offerings of the Europeans, who are fearful, short on available soldiers, and reluctant to bear the expense of shipping and supporting their forces in such a dangerous environment.  To quote the WSJ, in part (emphases mine):

Europe’s difficulties in raising enough troops to enforce the cease-fire in Lebanon have exposed some hard truths that are testing the Continent’s ability to serve as a global military power and Middle East peacemaker…

…so far, Paris has offered only 400 soldiers, and Europe is having trouble raising as many ground troops as the UN says it needs to create a balanced force of troops from European and Muslim countries (apparently, Muslim countries are not having the same difficulty).

…The hesitation, however justified by events on the ground, is forcing Europeans to grapple with some uncomfortable realities: They don’t have enough deployable combat troops; they are disliked as much as the US by Mideast radicals; and their determination to stop the destruction and insert peacekeepers could come at a higher price than they are willing to pay.

…EU nations cumulatively spend around $200 Billion on defense each year, but can deploy and equip relatively few troops of the kind needed to go to a conflict zone such as Lebanon.  Even for France, which along with the UK boasts by far the EU’s most capable military, keeping more than 15,000 troops deployed around the world for more than short periods is a strain.  France already has 13,200 troops in the field globally.

Perhaps a review of the defense spending on the part of our European allies (above) can help us understand their dilemma.  Defense spending by NATO and EU countries has traditionally lagged far behind the US, even during the darkest periods of the Cold War.  It is not an exaggeration to say that Europe hid behind the skirts of the US when it came to preparing to fight the former USSR.  Given the fall of the communist empire, those same countries have chosen to spend even less of their GDP to "defend" themselves, drawing down defense spending even more than the US did during the 1990s.  At the same time, European elites have promoted a vicious strain of anti-Americanism, blaming our policies and culture for much of the world’s ills. 

Disdaining military solutions to military problems, preferring the charade of diplomatic negotiations that have suppressed the symptoms of geo-political crises but not solved the underlying root causes, and deferring, as much as possible into the future, the reckoning of most problems, the Europeans have now been exposed in their shortcomings.  They cannot act militarily to protect, or prevent any act of war committed against themselves or their allies.  They are, in a word, powerless.

One has to wonder if the Iranians have noticed the same thing.  Is it too much to assume that the Iranians understand that there is no possibility of a European-organized strike against their nuclear facilities? Is it possible that the Iranians understand that negotiations without the threat of action are meaningless?  The answer to these questions must be yes, yes, and yes.

The future is now becoming clearer.  Iran, determined to assume the leading role in the Muslim quest to restore the Caliphate, will continue it’s development of nuclear weapons.  Europe will stand silent, powerless to act, while the US will continue to be villified by all parties.  Only after Iran has demonstrated its willingness to fight for its vision of the future, with some monstrous attack, will the Europeans be awakened to the folly of their decisions.  Will it be too late?

UPDATE: The European edition of the WSJ has a column by Nidra Poller with the headline: "A Lace Handkerchief Fluttered in the Face of Reality", where she writes:

The resolution tightens Hezbollah’s stranglehold by handing it a victory it could not earn on the battlefield; Iran warmed up its exterminating engines; Syria decided that Hezbollah-type action was more promising than diplomatic acrobatics; Hamas swore it would not be outdone by the brave fighting brothers. In other words, jihad. …

Far too much has been made of President Chirac’s personal gripe with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and far too little attention is paid to France’s troubling complicity with Iran and its merciless Hezbollah arm. The charming French minister of defense, Michèle Alliot-Marie, says she is not sending troops unless and until the U.N. can guarantee their safety. An anonymous source cited by Le Monde journalist Mouna Naïm claims that a French diplomat went directly to the Iranians to obtain a promise of mutual nonbelligerency. Barah Mikhail, a fellow of the French government-friendly IRIS think tank, spelled it out in an Aug. 19 radio interview: France doesn’t want to be put in a situation where its soldiers would have to side with Israel against Hezbollah. To choose between a Western democratic ally and a terrorist organization seems too morally troubling for Paris.

Also, apparently having reached the desired understanding with the Iranians, President Chirac today has announced that France will now send 2,000 soldiers to Lebanon.  Vive le Republique!

Continue reading “Europe & The Ceasefire”

Update – Medicine & Technology

Further Update:  K.Pablo has forwarded the link to a terrific article detailing the amazing technological strides the VA has made, the benefits of that kind of organization, and what it could mean for the rest of us.  Thanks, K.Pablo.  Link Here.

Thanks to the readers who commented on my earlier post on the lack of technology in our health care system located here.  It now appears that steps are being taken, hospital by hospital, to implement new technologies intended to increase efficiency while also increasing the quality of the care provided. 

Imablog notes:

Money is a big thing too. With budgets growing and funding shrinking, many hospital administrators tend to shy away from large capital outlays for new technology even when there are cost and patient safety benefits.

K.Pablo adds:

The technology you describe does exist. Rolling it out, however, is something that occurs in a piecemeal fashion in any individual hospital. The rate at which hospitals integrate, e.g., an automated pharmacy or an electronic medical record is usually corellated to how much of a hospital’s budget is set aside for capital purchases such as computer database administration/infrastructure, etc., which is in turn dependent on the profitability of the hospital.

So, for example, at Tampa General Hospital, where I am an attending physician, the first step twenty years or so ago was compiling billing and demographic information on all patients. Next, laboratory data was available at terminals scattered throughout the hospital. About 4 years ago, computerized order entry began to be integrated, and most recently (yesterday) they rolled out the electronic medical record implementation.

The James A. Haley Veterans Administration, also in Tampa, had taken many of these steps about 3 years ago. A recent Business Week article (sorry no link or further reference) details some of the technology roll-out and you would likely be surprised how closely your vision conforms to what is used daily at VA hospitals.

So, perhaps change is a-coming.  I found the Business Week reference in K.Pablo’s comments, I think, and interested readers can find it here

Continue reading “Update – Medicine & Technology”

Fossil Fuels & The Military

A while back, in the Lowcountry Blogosphere, Xark initiated a discussion on the inevitably ofglobal warming, and asked the community to propose solutions.  What followed was an intense, informed debate that welcomed all comers, tested all proposals, and then, like all discussion threads, died.  But we all learned (or at least talked about) that the technological issues are not the largest challenge, rather the engineering challenges are the greatest inhibitor to change.  The scale required to use technological solutions is so vast, and so expensive, that the engineering side does not yet offer affordable means to effect meaningul change. An example: Ethanol offers an alternative fuel source for automobiles, but it is difficult to move through pipelines.  The engineering costs necessary to develop piplelines, pumping stations, and distribution points are massive, so Ethanol remains a localized phenomonon for most of the US.

Enter the Marines.  The commanding officer of the Marine force in Anbar Province in Iraq has noted that the logistical effort and expense required to keep his bases operating is, for the most part, based on transporting fuel to run the generators that power his bases and their equipment.  If he did not require such large quantities of fuel, the number of convoys would be dramatically reduced.  This idea then flows downhill to other conclusions like fewer convoys, less exposure to IEDs (really, the only effective tactic available to inflict harm on our troops), lower operating costs for his operating budget, less reliance on contractors to provide fuel, and so on.

His proposed solution: renewable energy.  The Department of Defense has bought in, and contractors are lining up to provide solutions.  The old professional adage that "amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics" has often made the point that the US military excels at logistical solutions.  Armies are effective only as long as their logistical infrastructure provides for their operational needs.  No bullets + no gas = no fight.

This development may be the small act that begins the process of solving the engineering challenges of alternative energy sources.  How ironic that a war, whose provenance, according to the left, is all about oil, should perhaps lead our country to true energy independence in a way that saves our environment.

Read the whole thing.

Continue reading “Fossil Fuels & The Military”

Medicine & Technology

Our loyal readers know that your scribe suffered a medical emergency while on vacation in Montana, resulting in a 3 day stay in the Bozeman hospital.  In a post describing the terrible event, I praised the hospital, thankful for the very nice room, the attentive staff, and the general ambiance of the setting. Nevertheless, I was ready to leave when permission was granted by my wonderful physician.

This was my first visit to a hospital in my adult period, and it presented an opportunity to observe, from my backside, the daily operation of the hospital.  Yes, it is impossible to get a decent night’s sleep due to the multiple intrusions, as the staff checked the status of the morphine pump, heart rate, blood pressure, and urine output every few hours, as well as monitoring the IV drip. If I did manage to fall deeply asleep, but disrupted the flow of the Saline/Potassium/who knows what else? solution, by say, turning over, a noxious beep would sound until a nurse came in and straightened me out. Of course, at the period of deepest sleep, around 5:30 AM, I would be awakened by the arrival of a tech whose sole purpose was to drain my arm of whatever blood was left over from the previous letting.

Continue reading “Medicine & Technology”