Saturday, December 15, 2001

Moira does another nice takedown on those who deify the "Peace Process." The best and most effective peace process I know of is a well executed war.
...faces come out the rain...

I’ve always been uneasy with modern physics. Not because I couldn’t get my mind around it-I read The Dancing Wu Li Masters, or at least most of it, with interest and comprehension until it devolved into a vague philosophical screed in the latter chapters. I have followed recent theories and breakthroughs with interest, and am at least conversant about such topics as quantum entanglement, tunneling, zero point, and Bose-Einstien condensates. Perhaps it was my unschooled contemplation on the subject when I was too young to be indoctrinated with the vagaries of the weird quantum world, or maybe Navy Nuclear training, in which we were taught only the theory we needed to safely run reactor fueled by weapons grade uranium. Quantum physics always seemed like a scam to me. It’s proponents were a little too pious with the whole thing about the subatomic universe being weird and inscrutable. I felt (I know, not scientific, but there is no denying much has been discovered on the basis of intuition rather than rational theory) that after the blackbody radiation thing and Michelson-Morely upended a lot of commonly held theories, it became a contest to see who could successfully wrap the strangest theories with enough math to make them seem believable. Now I find myself in good company. Hell, they even named a type of quark “strange.”

Meanwhile, many of the useful things we got from what was supposed to be sub atomic phenomena were discovered through trial and error and not as some logical outgrowth of theory. According to Bohr, the laser was an impossibility. Contrary to common conception, nuclear power research was very empirical. The term “scram,” used to describe the emergency shutdown of a reactor, usually by pushing the control rods all the way in or removing the moderator, was an acronym for Super Critical Reactor Ax Man. Legend has it, back in the days when Fermi was experimenting with his reactor in the converted squash court, the control rods were raised and lowered with a rope and pulley. When conducting criticality experiments by raising the control rods and measuring the temperature change of the reactor pile, one man stood ready with a hatchet to cut the rope (thus dropping the rods all the way down between the reacting uranium masses and, it was hoped, stopping a runaway chain reaction). Other sea stories tell of a parking lot at an old army base in Pennsylvania where the snow never sticks, presumably because the scram was too slow.

I think this scientific preoccupation with the strange and counterintuitive informed a lot of political and social thinking in the twentieth century. The remains of it is visible in the speaking and writing of many leftist intellectuals. A most glaring example is the refusal of the likes of Fisk and the rest of the Dropped Ball Awardees to concede that superior force and technology would prevail over cavemen.

Update: the Captain's take on the physics article here.


What a laugh, a Fox reporter just reported that Johnny Jihad was picked up by a C-130 which took off and landed him on the Peliliu! The reporter was on the ground in Afghanistan. One would expect him to at least have a clue about assets in the theater.

I have participated in a few bemused wardroom conversations about whether one could land a big plane like a P-3 or even a 747 on a Nimitz carrier in a pinch. It has been done with a C-130. But that was a on a real carrier, not an Amphib, in a test years ago. It is not an operational capability, though it is cool.

Friday, December 14, 2001

Rand Simberg has some good stuff on the increasingly irrelevant anti-missile defense arguments:
Most technical arguments against missile defense (by people like Dick Garwin, Kosta Tsipis, et al) are of the form:

Here is how I think a missile defense would work (i.e., set up strawman).
Here are all the problems with this scenario, and what I believe to be trivial countermeasures.
I'm really smart, and if I can't think up ways around these problems, neither can anyone else (thereby knocking the straw out of the man)

I like his conclusion re MAD:

But whether or not it will defend against a Russian onslaught is not a relevant issue to current decisions. Regardless of one's view of its morality (mine is dim), an argument can be made that MAD is stable in a bi-polar world. Such an argument falls apart in a multi-polar world, and it just becomes a matter of time until some dictator with bin-Laden ethics and intelligence (re: intelligence--that's not a compliment) flunks Game Theory 101 and decides to lob something at us. In such an event, just as with the gun-control debate in general, as an engineer, I'll trust hardware over paper every time.

emphasis mine
Unfrigginbelievable II

I heard on the local drive time talk show that Jeremy "let's roll" Glick's wife had to take a teaching job because she's three payments behind on her house. Supposedly the United Way, FEMA and other charities for the victims of 911 are denying the widow of the Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee assistance on account of the fact that Flt 93 is not included with the WTC and Pentagon disasters or some other such BS runaround. I googled this to no avail and have to work now. Maybe someone else (Dawson, Shiloh) wants to follow up. You could beat O'Rielly to the punch.
Damn, I was gonna use that title!

Hers's a good analysis of the OBL video by James Robbins at NRO.

Thursday, December 13, 2001


Libertarian dogpile on Jonah Goldberg's latest. I've enjoyed much of his writing for a while but always thought he was on thin ice with us "libertoids."
It Happens

Dawson has a very apt scatological analogy of the previous administration's antiterrorism inactivity here.
MAD no more

I can almost hear the gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes from Europe and the left as the President gave the Russians the six months notice of the US intent to withdraw from the ABM treaty. It is not the presumption that the Mutually Assured Destruction strategy and the treaty that intitutionalized it really kept the peace that explains their irrational opposition to what really is a defensive program in the truest sense of the word. It is another manifestation of a distrust and loathing of the US. Better that we keep ourselves vulnerable so the likes of China or Iraq can keep us in check. The fact that the Chinese oppose NMD is justification enough for us to pursue it. Why, other than cussed headedness would I make such a statement? Because if the Chinese oppose our missile defense program, it must mean they intend to reserve the right to intimidate us with their 20 odd nuclear tipped ICBMs. While NMD as currently envisioned, may not be able to stop a nuclear attack on the scale of which Russia is capable, it could pose some problems for the Chinese. There is a belief in the Chinese leadership that " In the end [the US] care[s] more about Los Angeles than you do about Taipei." Once we have NMD deployed, the Chinese are going to have to spend if they want to play nuclear brinksmanship with the big boys. And we all know what happened to the last totalitarian government that tried to outspend us in defense.

Anyway, as James Robbins notes, at, we already have defenses against many weapons of mass destruction (even ICBMs; but only for the "pre-boost" phase i.e. in the sub before they are launched):

And it is important to note that the United States already has anti-WMD defenses. In fact, the U.S. has a defense against every type of WMD attack except missiles. We have anti-air weapons and interceptors to use against enemy bombers. We have anti-submarine warfare systems and fast attack-submarines to neutralize nuclear-capable subs. We have a very sophisticated and robust intelligence and counter-intelligence capability to intercept attacks by so-called "suitcase bombs" carried by terrorists. Would anyone counsel doing away with these safeguards in the name of Mutual Assured Destruction? And if not, why is a defense against missile attack any different?

There is more than just NMD going on here. This strategy is leading to a US weaponization of space (space has long been militarized) and that is not a bad thing. More on why that is later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Keep the peace, leave the Jihadi

I have argued earlier that Taliboy's actions were treasonous, but have always had reservations about trying him. James Robbins' take on the issue bears consideration:
Let the Afghans have him. Walker was perfectly happy being part of a theocratic dictatorship that committed atrocities against the Afghan people. Why shouldn't those same people get to decide his fate? We did not deny the victims of Nazi rule their chance — in addition to Nuremberg there were numerous local trials of lesser war criminals. Walker will get a better deal than the people who faced the "justice system" in the regime he took up arms to defend. Furthermore, sending Walker back stateside would be hypocritical. Suppose we found a foreign-born terrorist in our midst — would the U.S. automatically ship him back home for trial? No way.

This is not a legal issue, it is a question of policy. Walker should be placed in the hands of the interim Afghan government as one of the foreign mujahedeen who helped bring terror to Afghanistan. Let's have the courtesy to allow the Afghans to apply justice to him as we would to those foreigners who commit crimes here.

A couple of good points there. First, leaving him to the tender mercies of the Afghan people has precedent and spares us the mess of an OJ-like theater of stupidity. Second, and I am glad this is being pointed out: This is not a legal issue, it is a question of policy. Shout it from the mountaintops! The last couple of decades have conditioned us to look to lawyers to solve our crisis. The first WTC bombers were tried. The whole presidency of you know who was dominated by legal wrangling. The legal ethos has even insinuated itself into pop culture such that lawyers figure prominently in most TV dramas and many movies. Hell, the only current militarily themed series is JAG, about, you guessed it, military lawyers.

And now our CINC, not a lawyer but an MBA, is prosecuting this war effectively and ethically by properly treating the Islamofascists as the enemy, not as criminal suspects. Bloody refreshing. Lawyers work OK to settle conflicts between civilized people and to protect the rights of suspected criminals. They are of little use against suicidal nut jobs.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

"Minority identity politics labels? We don' need no steenkin' minority identity politics labels..."

El Profesor points out that the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is whining about a supposed dearth of "coverage of Hispanics" in last year's news (though the whole Elian imbroglio was not counted since it was an anomaly). What a pant load! I fervently hope that so-called Hispanics will be the death of minority identity politics. What the hell is a Hispanic any way? Someone whose name ends in a vowel or a Z? Actually, that method of selection will net you a lot of Filipinos too... OK here's what Webster has to say:
Main Entry: His·pan·ic
Pronunciation: hi-'spa-nik
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin hispanicus, from Hispania Iberian Peninsula, Spain
Date: circa 1889
: of, relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent living in the U.S.; especially : one of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin

The etymology shows what a BS, 1/2 assed, made up classification Hispanic is. It does not even include actual Spaniards, oh no, because they are European (even though Europe is where the peninsula from which the term is derived, is located. Other than possible swarthiness, and the aforementioned vowel or Z ending surnames, it is hard to find much of a handle for "Hispanics." What does a SoCal landscaper of Mexican descent necessarily have in common with a Tejano rancher outside of San Antonio who doesn't (or won't) even speak Spanish? Or my father, a naturalized physician from Colombia, with the 1st generation Salvadoran that runs the taqueria down the street for me? Or New York Puerto Ricans and Cuban immigrant/refugee families in Miami? Not culture. Not history, or even language. Americans tend to think all Spanish speaking countries are like the Mexican border or tourist towns that comprise the bulk of their Latin American (another silly term when you think about it) experiences. South, Central American, and Caribbean cultures and climes are more varied than their North American counterparts, but without the unifying force of a common political heritage. Chileans hate Argies and the rest of South America hates the both of them. Ecuador and Peru have a bloody history. What about Brazil? They don't even speak Spanish (as their national language).

There is one thing all of the aforementioned "Hispanics" and indeed all American Hispanics (is that redundant?) have in common: They are all Americans. As far as this one is concerned, the NAHJ, La Raza (que raza?), and anyone else who claims to represent "Hispanics" are only representing the narrow, whiny portion of an arbitrarily created genus of Americans cynically used to further the leftist agenda. They can take their hyphens and their phony "latino" pronunciations and and go pound sand with them.

Monday, December 10, 2001

Reality Check

While my libertarian/Randian streak is pretty wide, it is tempered by a grasp on the reality of our existing system, which far from perfect, is better than the rest (bring it on, don't make me enumerate how the world's oldest viable democratic republic has not measurably improved the lot of its citizens and indeed most of those of the world.) At any rate, I visit Samizdata regularly for ideological tune ups. Nonetheless, I was gratified to see Dale Amon and I are on the same wavelength wrt how the US ought to deal with Johnny bin Walker. I thought this was right on and should be remembered by those who would be wobbly:
There are some rules you must keep to if you chose to be a member of a society. It is one thing to wish to change the society you exist within; it is quite another to work to bring about the deaths of fellow citizens while simultaneously partaking of its' liberties.
Well said sir. And it cuts both ways. I have no problem with reasoned debate over which way to steer the ship of state. Those who enter the fray must understand, however, that while you are free to speak you peace, just because no one listens or your views are debated or even ridiculed, that is not the same as censorship. The unqualified acceptance of all views as equally valid merely because people hold them ala Marin County, is likely a big reason, but no excuse, for Walker's predicament. The genius of the Constitution is that we can achieve most libertarian ideals within its framework. The danger is that the left feels the same way about its socialist goals but does not hold the spirit of the founder's document in such high esteem.

Piling On

Everyone else is taking a shot at Fisk so I may as well too. One aspect of the rabidly anti-American reporter's blather regarding his attack that I have yet to see addressed is this (via BOTWT):
[Fisk said,]"If I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find." Fisk claims that the people in the crowd were angry about America's bombing campaign in Afghanistan, though he offers no evidence and was scarcely in a position to conduct interviews.

So for Fisk, it's OK for Afghans to go after any Westerners, since Americans were bombing their country. Does that mean the converse is hunky dory in New York? Is it OK for WTC survivors and their families to go after any Arabs they see, since it was Arabs that attacked our country? The utter lack of intellectual honesty and consistency among the Anti-western left and the fact that anyone even listens to them never ceases to amaze and disappoint me. Besides, it is beginning to look like Fisk, a big hate crime proponent, was simply mugged.
More on the disposition of Sulayman nee Johnny Walker aka doodoo by Mark Levin at NRO. He cites the same references as I did here, but comes to the (IMHO) flawed conclusion that since:
A charge of treason can only be brought against natural born or naturalized citizens.

...Title 8, Section 1481 of the U. S. Code provides that citizenship is lost by voluntarily performing certain acts with the intention of relinquishing U.S. nationality, including "entering in, or serving in, the armed forces of a foreign state if ... such armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the United States .…"


...Walker has renounced his U.S. citizenship by his own actions and, accordingly, would not be subject to treason charges.

But that begs the question of how one could commit treason if one automatically forfeits one's citizenship with treasonous acts?

First, as I noted earlier, I see no evidence that loss of citizenship is (denaturalization? artificication?) is automatic upon performing those "certain acts." One of those is conviction for treason, so it is clear that it is possible to commit treasonous acts and still maintain citizenship. The relevant verbiage states that said persons are "subject to loss of citizenship" not that they "shall immediately lose citizenship." Indeed, much of the relevant law involves the presumption that the person in question did not intend to jeopardize his citizenship.

Second, presumption of citizenship ought to be like presumption of innocence. Otherwise, we could, God forbid, have some future analog of My Lai where one group US soldiers (and or citizens) turned their guns on another in time of war. It could be argued that both thought they were doing the right thing. Such issues should be argued in a court, with all participants retaining their rights as citizens until judgement is rendered. Though Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson and his gunner were never accused of treason, had they been forced to shoot some of Charlie company to stop the killing, that may not have been the case. Justice would certainly not have been served by immediately forfeiting their citizenship and treating them as enemy prisoners of war. Not that that did or would happen, because citizenship is not something that ought to be stripped from a person by some government mandarin or military officer without a trial. As wretched as Walker is, sans his formal renunciation of his citizenship, he deserves a fair trial. Likewise, his fellow citizens deserve an accounting for his actions. To do otherwise would set the dangerous precedent of allowing the government to deprive an inconvenient person of his citizenship for the case of expediency.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

I did not think this (via dropscan) was serious, but clearly some of the peanut gallery does. The guys at indymedia are just another example of those who find virtue in all dissent, no matter how ill concieved.
Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis is a content machine...
Fighting Sullivan II
Tony Adranga responds to my reaction to Andrew Sullivan's post equating US Military and the Taliban for supposedly having the similar policy re gays. Ranting, I did not develop my view as much I should have and was also factually incorrect re the the stop loss orders. I sent the following email to clarify:

FWIW, I (and most of my shippies) have always had more problem with
the lowered standards involved with the forced integration
of women in the service (sans equal standards) than gays
serving (even openly). I guess my opinion comes from the
standpoint of what has worked. I appreciate that there are
certainly problems with the UCMJ as it stands wrt sexual
preference. Frankly, and I expect you'll agree with
me here, the biggest problems arise out of fraternization
(of whatever flavor). The fact is that het relationships in
the chain of command have been getting a pass, to far more
detriment of "good order and discipline" than gays in the
service have ever really been. Barring some sort of Star
Trek-like enlightenment, which I think is as likely as a
workable warp drive in the near term, I think the real
answer is to make standards uniform for the sexes and put
some real teeth into enforcement of fraternization regs.
IMHO, (since you are right on about America's coming to
terms) we could get there by subtly removing the sodomy
parts out of the UCMJ under the cover of keeping them
consistent with most federal and state statutes rather than
making it a strictly gay issue. This would need to be
coupled with a don't ask/tell/pursue about any sexual
preference so long as one meets standards. Sexual tension
(regardless of the genders involved) has no place in a
professional military organization. Save it for liberty and
aim it outside the lifelines. I regularly read and enjoy
the thoughtful writings on your blog. Keep it

I am happy to say that Tony agrees with the above. The trick is to effect this change under the aegis of uniform standards for all service members and not create any new protected or favored classes.