Fat Steve's Blatherings

Friday, October 29, 2004

Well, whadda ya know?

      Fox News is reporting that an Army unit removed 250 tons of material from al-Qaqaa in April, 2003:
WASHINGTON — A U.S. Army officer came forward Friday to say a team from his 3rd Infantry Division took about 250 tons of munitions and other material from the Al-Qaqaa (search) arms-storage facility soon after Saddam Hussein's regime fell in April 2003.

Explosives were part of the load taken by the team, but Major Austin Pearson was unable to say what percentage they accounted for.

      Obviously, this was all a plot by the Bushitler administration to hide crucial information from the USAmerican people, and embarass Sen. Kerry.  Mr. President, you should be ashamed!



Thursday, October 28, 2004

Congratulations Red Sox!

      But I have one question: did the Atkins Diet break the curse of the bambino, or was stomach stapling involved?

      Or was it the fact that Red Sox rooter Dave Barry played a gig in St. Louis that did it?


OOPS!  We Did It Again, or "God is an Iron."

      It must be Hell to be in the MSM nowadays.

      Monday, the New York Times did it's almost-at-the-last-minute-but-we-rushed-to-get-the-scoop anti-Bush hit piece.  By Wednesday, we found out that the Iraqis had duplicate UN seals (see last update), meaning the explosives could have been stolen anytime.

      And this morning, I am informed that

      a): The 377 tons is down to 239, since most of the RDX was moved before the war.

      b): The seals were ineffective, since they had "ventilation slats on the sides," making it potentially possible to reach in and take stuff out without breaking the seal.

      c): The Russians may have helped the Iraqis move the stuff to Syria before the war.  In fact, that's where the Weapons of Mass Destruction may have gone too.

      Refresh my memory, will you?  Why is it we're supposed to vote for John Kerry?  Oh yeah, now I remember: because he knows the importance of working with allies, and international institutions.

      As Spider Robinson said, God has a wicked sense of irony.

      ROTFLMAO doesn't begin to cover this one.

      For all stories, hat tip Instapundit)

      Update, 0823, 10/28/04: Captain Ed has a link to a story in the Financial Times on the Russian Connection.  Deputy Under-Secretary of Defence John Shaw says:
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Shaw said: “For nearly nine months my office has been aware of an elaborate scheme set up by Saddam Hussein to finance and disguise his weapons purchases through his international suppliers, principally the Russians and French. That network included. . . employing various Russian units on the eve of hostilities to orchestrate the collection of munitions and assure their transport out of Iraq via Syria.”

      The Russkis deny everything, of course.

      Captain Ed doesn't think much of the story, because he thinks the Russians wouldn't dare let their people take a chance of getting caught.  I disagree.  Spetsnaz are frequently trained to pull off such covert ops, just as our Special Forces are. His fellow blogger "Whiskey" does believe it, and she notes that the Russians pulled a bunch of "diplomats and journalists" out of Bagdhad on April 6th, sending the convoy through Iraqi-controlled territory to do it.  The Russians then went to Fallujah, where gunshot injuries were treated.

      HMM, could this be the old Russian trick of disguising spies and soldiers as diplomats and journalists?  The former Soviet Union (OOH!  I just LOVE to type "former Soviet Union") did it all the time.  They sure did seem to be eager to avoid the U.S. forces, didn't they?  Journalists from all over the world stayed in Bagdhad, but the Russians discovered an urgent need to be elsewhere.  "VERRRRRRRY INTERRESSSSTING!"


The Difference Between the Left and the Right

      It's simple: we're much nicer.

      If you doubt this, head over to Protein Wisdom.  Since "60 Minutes" can't do their hit piece on Bush next Sunday, Jeff Goldstein has no less than nine suggestions for stories they could do.  And much better stories, if you ask me.

      Now, would a Lefty try to help out Fox News if they were in trouble?  NAHHHH!  But we will return good for evil.

      Another of our advantages: we're much more humble.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Desperately Seeking Surprise, October or Can't relax for a minute II

      I take a day or so off from the web, and it happens again, namely the press has another anti-Bush hit piece.

      To review the history of all this:

      1991, Saddam invaded Kuwait; later that year, the UN Coalition (read, the U.S., 90%, plus others, 10%) invaded Kuwait and Iraq, forcing Saddam out; as a condition for peace, Saddam agreed to give up all Weapons of Mass Destruction, and prove he had done so to the UN; UN inspectors find explosives at al Qaqaa.

      1995, Hussein Kamel defects, reveals Saddam's WMD program much larger than previously thought; the U.S. wants the al Qaqaa explosives destroyed, but the UN refuses.

      In 1996, Saddam stops co-operating with inspections; 1998 the inspectors are been tossed out of the country; U.S. policy becomes 'regime change.'

      Sept. 11, 2001.

      2002, Saddam, under pressure, allows UN inspectors back into Iraq, but doesn't co-operate fully; during the inspections, the UN team frequently went to al Qaqaa.

      2003, January, UN inventories explosives (380 U.S. tons), and seals buildingsat al Qaqaa containing them; visits in March, finds seals intact; hostilities begin, March 19; U.S. troops arrive at al Qaqaa April 4, find suspicious chemicals; place is "still being searched;"

      Now that we're caught up: when the Coalition forces got set to invade, Saddam ordered munitions dispersed throughout Iraq.  The stuff was everywhere, including "mosques, schools, hospitals and countless other locations".  The Iraqis had a "standard practice of moving crucial explosives out of buildings, so they would not be tempting targets," and the UN inspectors think they moved them "just before the invasion."  They would have been moved to "nearby fields, where it would have been lightly camouflaged."  A lot of stuff seems to have been shipped to Syria.  The amounts Saddam dispersed were immense, estimated to be 600,000 tons (six hundred thousand tons).  It's been known for months that there were thousand of munitions dumps in the country, with the U.S. trying to track them down and destroy them as fast as possible.

      So, when did the explosives disappear from al Qaqaa?  That's the point where the story breaks down.  There was a sixteen day interval between the attack and the arival at al Qaqaa, including periods of extreme dust storms.

      The working assumption of the Times seems to be that the explosives were moved out doors, they sat there, the U.S. troops came by al Qaqaa, and only after that were any explosives looted.  Given that there were U.S. troops in the area until a comprehensive search on May 27th, this appears unlikely.

      But of course, if the explosives disappeared before the U.S. got there, the only thing that we can accuse Bush of doing is waiting too long to invade.  This would not help get Kerry elected, so the possibility is not even mentioned.

      And why does this story come to light now?  The head of the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency is Mohamed ElBaredi.  He's been head of the IAEA since 1997.  His second term is drawing to a close, and he wants a third term as IAEA head.  The Bush administration opposes this, both because they favor a general policy of two terms only, and because the disagree with his judgement on recent non-proliferation issues.  And early this month, ElBaredi began putting pressure on the new Iraqi govt. to account for the explosives.  Suddenly, a month before the election, ElBaredi is extremely concerned.  And after getting a letter from Iraq on Oct. 10th, saying that the explosives are missing, someone goes to "60 Minutes" and The New York Times with the story, and CBS decides they'll have the story ready to go the Sunday before the election.  Then they found out that somebody else might break the story first, so CBS reluctantly allows the Times to go first, with CBS News also airing a report.  Of course, at no time does the Times or CBS News suggest that ElBaredi might be trying to affect the election.  And CBS doesn't bother to look at its own archives, where it would find that U.S. troops were looking at the al Qaqaa complex as soon as they arrive.

      Apparently, the MSM didn't learn anything from the Rathergate debacle.

      Update, 1830, 10/27: Apparently, Fox News is reporting "heavy truck activity" at al Qaqaa in late March.  What a shock.

      Update, 2042, 10/27: When I was writing the above, it occured to me that 'Hey, the UN last saw "the explosives" was in January, when they sealed the bunkers (or did they? perhaps they saw boxes labeled "explosive?" the news reports were rather vague).  Gee, maybe Saddam smuggled them out somehow afterwards, while the seals were left intact?'  But it seemed too speculative, so I didn't put it in.

      Now along comes Powerline, to report:
A Power Line reader writes from a .mil address:

I am a reservist stationed at CENTCOM. I did a search on SIPRNET the other day and I came up with a document with the following (unclassified) subject:


Other parts of the document are classified.

The subject pretty much tells it all but I do not know the final validity of the report. Perhaps you have access to people with more information. In any case, if the UN "inspectors" only checked the seals in March, then the materials could have been moved as early as January.

      Hmmm, do you think the UN could really be that incompentent?  Yes, you do.


Don't Think About That, It's Politically Incorrect!

      Is there a genetic basis for race?


      Ok, but aside from the identifiable differences in appearance that are what we mean by "race," are there, on the average, any other genetic differences between the races?

      Probably.  Random mutation, selection pressure and genetic drift will tend to establish slightly different genepools.  After all, if there weren't average genetic differences, WE WOULDN'T HAVE THE DIFFERENCES IN APPEARANCE WE CALL RACE!.

      So, granted that there are differences in gene pools, what are they, what do the different genes do, and are there any useful correlations between "race" and other things, such as genetic disease?

      Bad Doggy, don't think about that!  The New York Times has a story today about this, and it appears the question is "an 'explosive issue.'"  We musn't ask about correlations, say some scientists.

      And why not?  Quothe Dr. Troy Duster, a sociologist at New York University:
"Once you enter this realm of saying some diseases are more common in this or that group, the popular imagination will ask what else is more common," like behavioral differences, Dr. Duster suggested.

      The unspoken part, which really shouldn't be mentioned: don't research this because we're afraid we know what the answer will be, and we wouldn't like that answer.  This is what the modern world calls science.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

USAmerica: Europeans Just Don't Get It

      Varifrank has a post in which he tells about the misconceptions about the United States held by the Europeans he works with (hat tip, Clayton Cramer).  It's long, but very good.  Read it all.

      One point sticks with me particularly: an Englishman told Varifrank that "what made his country great was how no matter how long I lived in England, I could never be English, but that he could come to the States and be an American right away."  The Englishman was slightly off, as it takes five years to be eligible for citizenship, but otherwise correct that he could become an American, but Varifrank couldn't become English.  In fact, it's even worse than that.  I still remember the shock I got reading a Len Deighton novel, where a women says she was mocked at school for being a Hungarian.  When she replied that she was born in England, the kids jeered "If you were born in an orange crate, would that make you an orange?"

      As Varifrank comments, what made and makes us great is precisely that we do accept anyone from any country as a potential USAmerican.  We're not even very fussy about citizenship -- Tracy Ullman, still a British subject, mentioned that when she comes through customs, the inspectors say 'Welcome home.'  What lost the British their empire, starting with us, was that they couldn't accept 'colonials' as their equals.  What will destroy western Europe over the next half century is their lack of ability to assimilate.  And what will make us even richer, greater, and more powerful is precisely that we will welcome foreigners, and make them part of the family.


Looking Ahead

      Beldar has interesting thoughts on what will happen if (Oh, please, God, we're begging you) W. wins re-election.  He looks to more bipartisanship, possibly led by Hillary Clinton.  But aside from reining in pork, and promoting Bush's "Ownership Society" idea, he doesn't mention which issues he thinks need adressing.

      Me, I think the two most important areas we need bipartisan co-operation on are the linked issues of immigration and election reform.

      Many of our worst social problems are directly related to immigration.  Poverty, crime, illegitimacy, they're all worse among immigrants, including especially illegal immigrants (but not limited to them).  And failure to enforce the law always breeds contempt for that law and all law.

      There's also the related issue of terrorism control.  For many reasons, we need to make a serious effort to regain control of our borders.  And we have to decide what immigration policy we're really willing to enforce.

      To my mind, the most important issue we'll face after the election, aside from national security, is vote fraud.  This has become obscenely bad.  Huge numbers of people are registered to vote in multiple states, or registered to vote in multiple precincts, or under multiple names.  The Democrats seem to be especially bad at this, but they ain't alone.

      We all know the solution to this: either national ID, indicating whether someone is a citizen, or a legal immigrant (and if an immigrant, when the visa expires, if ever), or require proof of citizenship when registering to vote.  Plus, of course, national cross-referencing of voter registration lists.

      The idea of national ID grates on a lot of people who harbor romantic dreams of going underground and assuming a new identity, but the reality is that hardly any of us would ever have reason to do that, and most of those who do are crooks, parents dodging child support, illegal aliens, etc.  It's time to grow up and dispense with fantasies of concentration camps and underground resisitance.

      But however we adress this problem, it's urgent.  There are already lawyers lined up to dispute the election results.  If we're to continue to be a Republic, we have to stop this.

      Update, 0713, 10/28/04: Ann Althouse's son Chris verified that you don't need ID to cast an absentee ballot in Wisconsin.  And guess what?  There will be a Bruce Springsteen concert/Kerry rally in Madison, and afterwards, everyone is encouraged to go vote -- by absentee ballot. (hat tip, Instapundit).

      As Stephen Green recently said, the Democrats are turning us into a banana republic by undermining the electoral process.

      FEH, FEH!


Monday, October 25, 2004

Lots of Questions, No Answers: Another Reason Not to Vote For Kerry

      Bob Woodward has a story up in the Washington Post about the Iraq War and Kerry.

      Woodward asked Bush a lot of questions while writing the book Plan of Attack.  Based on what Bush said, he wrote a series of questions he wanted to ask Kerry that would contrast and compare how Kerry would have done things with how Bush did them.

      In the story, he has the questions, but no answers.  Kerry kept Woodward dangling awhile, then refused to be interviewed.

      I can see only one reason for this: Kerry believes that if he gives straight answers to tough questions, he won't be elected.  To my mind, that's enough reason not to vote for him.


Yawn, Kerry's a Liar

      The Washington Times has a story up today saying that Kerry lied about meeting with members of the Security Council before voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq (which he did before voting against the invasion of Iraq).

      So fucking what?

      Yes, as Michelle Malkin and Redstate say, it's important that Kerry is a liar, at least in a civics class sense. But is there anyone out there whose vote will be changed by this story?  I'll believe that when I see it.  As far as I can tell, the people who have/will vote for Kerry either won't believe it, or don't care.  And the Main Stream Media won't really report it.  So this story won't have legs.

      No, as Jeff Goldstein and others have said, it's a bust.  I don't believe this story has the potential to swing the electoral votes in a single state, even in combination with anything else that has or will be said about Kerry.  And that's the definition of unimportant, electionwise.

      Thank God Almighty that this asinine election will be over take place in eight days, and the court challenges will be over a month or two later.

Update, 10/26, 0242 CST:

      Hmmm, maybe I owe Kerry an apology.  As Barry Meislin comments at The Brothers Judd, we're calling Kerry a liar based on the word of UN DIPLOMATS.  Is anyone, including Kerry, really less credible than UN employees?

      And "carter" asks why Kerry would boast about something, i.e. meeting UN diplomats, that a normal person would be reluctant to admit to?

      I'll have to think on this one. . .


Let's Hope We're Living in the End Times

      As my lovely K. pointed out the other day, if the world has another fifty years to go, true horror awaits: nursing homes full of old women named 'Heather' and 'Tiffany.'



Saturday, October 23, 2004

Why I'm voting for Bush, and can't support Kerry

      In 1944, a U.S. bomber pilot named William L. Borden was flying home from a night mission over Europe.  He was thinking satisfied thoughts about how fast his plane travelled, when suddenly, there was a flare of light from the rear.  'We're on fire!', he thought.  Then suddenly, the flare of light was in front of him, receding, and he realized what it really was: a V-2 rocket, passing his plane like it was standing still.

      The result of that night was a book titled There Will Be No Time: the Revolution in Strategy.  It's message was simple: we can never again fight a war as we've always done, delaying serious preparation till after the war starts.  If we try, we'll be annhilated by rocket-carried nuclear warheads.

      Still, a lot of people refused to see what Borden saw and described.  We almost lost S. Korea because we'd nearly disbanded the military, as usual.  But after that wake up call, we turned our back on tradition and maintained large military forces in peacetime.  There was no other rational choice.

      In the '80s and '90s we almost ignored terrorism.  The result was ever increasing terrorist attacks, culminating in the 9/11 slaughters.  Since that day, several things have become as obvious to those who will see them: that we are at war with radical Islam; that we can't wait to be attacked, but need to pre-empt.  that many of our old allies are now hostile to us, and try to prevent us from acting in order to harm us; that the United Nations has become a corrupt farce.

      George W. Bush has realized all this.  Kerry hasn't gotten it.  Kerry wants to work with the French, who are currently doing such a bang up job of keeping the peace in the Congo.  He's eager to sacrifice Israel to the Islamofacists.  Kerry didn't learn anything from the '70s, '80s, and '90s.  Kerry thinks the UN is still relevant, and that he can persuade every govt. to co-operate against terrorists, after which terrorism will be reduced to a nuicance.

      If we elect Kerry, we'll encourage the terrorists to believe we lack staying power and can be backed down by them.  N. Korea and Iran will "negotiate," while building nuclear weapons and ICBMS.  Missile defense will be gutted.  And in the end, we'll have a nuclear 9/11.

      If we weren't in a war, I might seriously consider voting for John Kerry.  As with many other conservatives, I'm disappointed in much of Bush's domestic policy.  But we are in a war, and defence of the nation trumps all other issues.  I don't agree with all Bush has done in the war we're now in, but W. will fight the war, Kerry will surrender while pretending to fight it.  Our country can't afford him.

Update, 10/25: John Leo writes in USNews and World Report:
the value system widely shared among Democrats: Most people are basically good; wars are caused not by evil motives but by misunderstandings that can be talked out; conflict can be overcome by more tolerance and examining of our own faults or by taking disputes to the United Nations. . . .

At the time of the first antiwar marches, Marc Cooper, contributing editor of the very left magazine The Nation, wrote with alarm that "the American left--or at least a broad swath of it--is more alienated from its own national institutions than its counterparts in any other developed nation. . . . What a warning signal," he wrote, "when you cannot tolerate the sight of your own flag." He warned that the perpetrators of 9/11 must not be viewed as avengers of some oppressed Third World constituency and complained that peace marches were sounding the theme that America somehow invited the 9/11 attacks.

Indeed, that blame-America attitude, once confined to the hard left, has been leaching into the soft left and the Democratic Party. A Pew survey last August reported that 51 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of liberal Democrats believe that America might have motivated the 9/11 attacks by doing something wrong or unfair in dealings with other nations. Admittedly, America's strong support for Israel may have influenced the poll. Still, it's astonishing that so many Democrats are willing to point a finger at their own country for the devastation of 9/11. In the poll, most Americans rejected this notion decisively, and Republicans rejected it overwhelmingly.

In Commentary magazine, Norman Podhoretz wrote of a "trickle-down effect" of virulent anti-Americanism. The anti-Iraq-war demonstrations were a grab bag of contradictory constituencies, many of which had nothing to do with war and peace. But they held out the promise that the hard and soft left, by refusing to criticize each other, could form a powerful alliance. So ordinary Democrats raised almost no objection to the many hate-America themes at these marches. (Few liberals and almost no reporters mentioned that the rallies were organized by unreconstructed Communist-front groups and Maoist fans of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.) Some of the dumber themes--Bush=Hitler and no blood for oil--moved into the mainstream left. Many stars in the Democratic firmament praised Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which carries some of these themes, including the belief that an evil alliance between the Saudis and the Bush family explains the war in Iraq.

Maybe Andrew Sullivan is right that electing John Kerry can bring the Democratic Party fully into the war on terror. But given the forces at work among Democrats, it's surely a gamble.

(hat tip: Instapundit).

      Exactly.  Kerry and most of his supporters are dangerously disconnected from reality (and most of them who don't believe that are on the enemy side).


Thoughts on Team America: World Police

      After K. and I saw Dumb and Dumber, she told me "I now know that there is no humor so crude, juvenile, and disgusting that you won't laugh at it."  After seeing Team America, I said the same to her.  She laughed continuously.  So did I.

      This movie almost got an NC-17 rating.  What I want to know is, what in heck did they cut that was more offensive than what was left in?  I can't wait for the DVD.

      A serious note: a host of bad reviews have come from left wingers, who can't stand the fact that this movie makes fun of them, their celebrities, and their causes. Roger Ebert is a good example:
If I were asked to extract a political position from the movie, I'd be baffled. It is neither for nor against the war on terrorism, just dedicated to ridiculing those who wage it and those who oppose it. The White House gets a free pass, since the movie seems to think Team America makes its own policies without political direction.

I wasn't offended by the movie's content so much as by its nihilism. At a time when the world is in crisis and the country faces an important election, the response of Parker, Stone and company is to sneer at both sides -- indeed, at anyone who takes the current world situation seriously. They may be right that some of us are puppets, but they're wrong that all of us are fools, and dead wrong that it doesn't matter.

      Wrong, Ebert.  The movie makes fun of everyone, but it has a clear message: strength is important, and some people and must be opposed by force rather than negotiated with.  Team America does a lot of collateral damage in trying to stop the terrorists, but in the end, they do stop them.  The terrorists do much worse, even with their partial success.  It's all in the speech about the three kinds of people: "dicks, pussies, and assholes."

      The reason so many of us righties get the point, and the reason we laugh at this movie, including the scenes when the Team bungles terribly, is because we don't expect the world to ever be perfect.  We know we'll screw up sometimes, but we still intend to act.  Many lefties do believe perfection is possible.  They get mad when someone says they're wrong.  For more, see Thomas Sowell's great book A Conflict of Visions.

      But first, see Team America: World Police and laugh your head off.


Presidential Polls: a meta-analysis

      Opinion polls are a probability and game.  If a poll says that Candidate X is favored by 52% of voters, with a margin of error of 4%, then it usually means that the polling organization figured a standard deviation of 2%, assuming the distribution of voters "normal." (See here for a definition of normal distribution, here for information on opinion polls, and here for margin of error).  When we consult a z-table, we find the probability is .5, even odds, that Candidate X has a support of 52% or better, only .69 that Candidate X has support of 51% or better, and .84 that his 50% or more.  In other words, Candidate X is very likely the winner.

      Now, basic probability says if it several results are independent of each other (such as the probability of flipping coins or rolling dice), then the probability of all of them happening is the probability of both of them multiplied together.  So the probability of a lot of opinion polls being wrong is the probability of each being wrong, all multiplied together.

      Over at Real Clear Politics, there is a daily listing of the lastest poll data.  They show results for three way tracking polls (Bush/Kerry/Nader), two way tracking polls (Bush/Kerry only), and the Iowa electronic market poll.  Also, Real Clear Politics averages the daily results of all three candidate polls, and has a chart of them.  All tell the same story: since the end of August, Bush is almost always ahead in every poll, and Tied is ahead in more polls than Kerry.

      With any given poll, it's less than even that the person in the second place is ahead.  With all the polls, the probability that the candidate in second is ahead is product of them all.  With four to sixpolls daily showing Bush ahead, the probability that Kerry is ahead is substantially less than 1 in 32, or about 3%.  So as the polls stand now, it is almost certain that Bush will take a popular majority.

      Of course, what really counts is the electoral college.  Since Sept. 21st, Bush has always been ahead in Real Clear Politics's electoral count too.  And despite myths, the undecideds usually break towards the incumbent in a presidential race.

      Put it all together and it means that unless the MSM/Kerry campaign combine manages to pull a very damaging October Surprise, Bush has a lock.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Lefties: You're Not Quite Clear On the Concept

      Via Roger Simon and Betsy Newmark, I come across this article on leftists attempting to take over the Democratic Party.  This will begin right after Kerry's victory on Nov. 3rd.

      HAH HAH HAH HAH!!!

      OK, I'll try to control myself.  The article does discuss the possibility that W. will win, after all.

      Oh, never mind for a minute: HAH HAH HAH HAH!!!  HAH HAH HAH HAH!!!  Thank you, Lord, for brightening my day.  HAH HAH HAH HAH!!!  Kerry victorious!  Pope endorses prositution!  One's as likely as the other.

      Anyway, the leftists wish to take over the Democratic Party.  The idea is to model their coup on what we Conservatives did in taking over the Republican Party:
Beginning in 1964, said Borosage, after conservative Republican Barry Goldwater's landslide loss to Democrat Lyndon Johnson, key right-wing figures decided to rebuild the conservative movement from the ground up.

They recognized the importance of thinking big, planning long-term and building enduring institutions. Thus they went on to invest in think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and grassroots organizations like the Christian Coalition.

By 1980, the right had gained sufficient influence within Republican circles for its champion, Ronald Reagan, to win first his party's presidential nomination and then the general election.

Soon, the combination of Reagan's charisma and the right's continued activism -- and especially its subsequent creation of a right-wing media infrastructure dominated by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh -- had shifted the entire nation's political center of gravity to the right, in ways that remain obvious today.

The left now hopes to copy the right wing's success.

      Notice something missing there?  That's right, it's THE VOTERS.  Apparently, the left-wing activists haven't quite realized yet that they have to persuade people that their ideas are right correct.

      That's going to be quite a trick, since activists have been trying to create a viable USAmerican socialist movement for over a century, and have always failed.

      In the spirit of good will and fellow citizenship (no, really; this isn't ironic at all), I offer the left a bit of advice: start by asking yourselves where you went wrong, intellectually and politically.

      That's what the Conservative movement did.  We ended up realizing we'd never get rid of the New Deal, and moved on to issues like crime and defense, where we had a chance.  For that matter, we began to realize that the voters might have been smarter than we were on that pesky New Deal issue.  So I suggest you ask what ideas you have that you can't sell, and then consider that you may be wrong.

      Good Luck.  You're going to need it.


Kerry Reveals Himself, and It Ain't Pretty

      Anyone who wonders what Kerry really thinks about the "War On Terror" can find out in an interview Kerry gave to the New York Times magazine.  It's windy and vague, as Kerry is, but in the end, his viewpoint comes clear.

      John Kerry wants to fight the War On Terror the way he wanted to fight the Cold War: admit we're fundamentally corrupt, and surrender.  He wouldn't put it that way, but that's what it comes down to.

      Kerry sees terrorism the way he saw the former Soviet Union (OOH! I just love to type "former Soviet Union"!) -- which, come to think of it, was a state sponsor of terrorism.  Kerry and his intellectual supporters think about terrorism the same way they thought about the USSR:
The argument going on in Washington has its roots in the dark years of the cold war. Just about everyone agrees that many factors contributed to America's triumph over world communism -- but people differ on which of those factors were most important. The neo-conservatives who shaped Reagan's anti-Soviet policy and now shape Bush's war on terror have long held that the ''twilight struggle'' with the Soviet empire was won primarily as a result of U.S. military intervention in several hemispheres and of Reagan's massive arms buildup, without which democracy and free markets could not have taken hold. Many liberals, on the other hand, have never been comfortable with that premise; while they acknowledge that American military power played a role, they contend that the long ideological struggle with communism ended chiefly because the stifling economic and social tenets of Marxism were unsustainable, and because a new leader emerged -- Mikhail Gorbachev -- who understood that. They see Islamic fanaticism, similarly, as a repressive ideology, born of complex societal conditions, that won't be defeated by any predominately military solution.

      Now, if you really know anything about Mikail Gorbachev, you know this is wrong.  Gorbachev didn't think the Soviet system was 'unsustainable', he thought it was mismanaged.  He aimed, explicitly, to rebuild that system, and make it powerful again.

      And if you know anything about the history of the Cold War, you know that the former (OOH!) Soviet Union never thought about living in a permanent state of peace with the U.S., or any capitalist country.  They always intended to spread their foul tyranny around the world, by any means available.

      Kerry and his posse refuse to let themselves know that.  They think every govt. really wants to live in peace with us, and as soon as we make kissy noises they'll be our friends:
Instead of military might, liberal thinkers believe, the moment calls for a combination of expansive diplomacy abroad and interdiction at home, an effort more akin to the war on drugs than to any conventional war of the last century.

Even Democrats who stress that combating terrorism should include a strong military option argue that the ''war on terror'' is a flawed construct. ''We're not in a war on terror, in the literal sense,'' says Richard Holbrooke, the Clinton-era diplomat who could well become Kerry's secretary of state. ''The war on terror is like saying 'the war on poverty.' It's just a metaphor. What we're really talking about is winning the ideological struggle so that people stop turning themselves into suicide bombers.''

These competing philosophies, neo-conservative and liberal, aren't mutually exclusive, of course. Neo-cons will agree that military operations are just one facet, albeit the main one, of their response to terrorism. And liberals are almost unanimous in their support for military force when the nation or its allies face an imminent and preventable threat; not only did the vast majority of liberal policy makers support the invasion of Afghanistan, but many also thought it should have been pursued more aggressively. Still, the philosophical difference between the two camps, applied to a conflict that may well last a generation, is both deep and distinct. Fundamentally, Bush sees the war on terror as a military campaign, not simply to protect American lives but also to preserve and spread American values around the world; his liberal critics see it more as an ideological campaign, one that will turn back a tide of resentment toward Americans and thus limit the peril they face at home.

      The possibility that winning the ideological war means killing people till the survivors despair isn't mentally acceptable.  The possibility that the "tide of resentment" is stirred up by people seeking power is unacceptable.  And the idea of saying to foreign countries: "The means DETERMINE the end.  If you want your country to be different, you have to do different things," well, forget it.

      The really surprising thing that comes through is that Kerry doesn't believe in democracy, and never has.  The Vietnamese peasants didn't care about the right to vote, and didn't understand the difference between being able to vote out a govt. and not being able to vote it out.  Kerry doesn't talk about his real ideas because the voters aren't smart enough to understand them.  Non-democratic rulers have to be persuaded, through diplomacy, to allow themselves to be voted out of power.

      Kerry basically sees the terrorists as gangs of criminals, like drug trafficers.  All foreign govts. are run by decent people, and all decent people automatically will be opposed to terrorists as soon as their true nature is explained properly.  It hasn't been explained properly, because Bush doesn't understand the legitimate resentment of the First World by the THird World.  Once they're appeased, they'll join with us to surpress the crooks.  Kerry is MR. SUPERDIPLOMAT, who will persuade everyone to join with us (he's also going to persuade the Palestinians to let Israel alone, by . . . uh, well there it gets a tad bit vague, but he'll do it.)  What we need to do is get rid of this military nonsense and bribe them with foreign aid, and perhaps threaten them with sanctions.
When Kerry first told me that Sept. 11 had not changed him, I was surprised. I assumed everyone in America -- and certainly in Washington -- had been changed by that day. I assumed he was being overly cautious, afraid of providing his opponents with yet another cheap opportunity to call him a flip-flopper. What I came to understand was that, in fact, the attacks really had not changed the way Kerry viewed or talked about terrorism

      The Kerry Prescription: Bend Over and Grease Up, America!.  It's all our fault, and we need to grovel harder.

      Nice to have it finally laid out. 

      My wife says the thing that makes her angriest about this presidential election is that there isn't a choice.  Kerry is so out of touch he can't be seriously considered, so you're forced to vote for Bush.  I'm not as angry as her, more disgusted (is this funny looking mediocrity really the best we can do?), but in the end I agree: W. is the only one who can possibly perform succesfully as President.  He's the only possible candidate for serious people.

      May God have mercy on us till 2009.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Pop Quiz

      What are the most signifigant aviation and space dates in the last hundred one years?

12/17/1903: Orville Wright becomes the first human
                      being to make a powered flight.

07/25/1909: Louis Blériot flies the English Channel.

05/16/1919: NC-4 takes off from Trepassey Bay,
                      Canada, on the first trans-atlantic
                      flight, crew Lt. Commander Albert
                      Read, Lt. jg. Walter Hinton, Lt.
                      Elmer F. Stone, Lt. James L.
                      Breese, Ens. Herbert C. Rodd, Chf.
                      Machinist's Mate Eugene S. Rhoads.

05/27/1919: NC-4 reaches Portugal, finishing first                        trans-atlantic flight.

05/19/1927: Charles Lindbergh flies New York
                       to Paris, nonstop.

10/04/1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik,
                       the first artificial satellite.

11/03/1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik-
                      2, carrying the dog Laika, the first
                      living creature to visit outer space.

04/12/1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first
                      human being to travel in space, and
                      the first to return safely.

07/21/1969: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin
                       land on the moon.

04/12/1981: Space Shuttle Columbia
                      makes its first orbital flight.

09/29/2004: SpaceShipOne makes
                        its first X-Prize flight.

10/04/2004: SpaceShipOne makes
                        its second X-Prize flight, winning
                        the competition.

      The aircraft flights listed above were stunts.  None accomplished anything important in itself.  But together they led to a great thing, today's long-range, cheap air travel industry.

      The space launches of the 1950s and '60s were stunts too.  Did these stunts lead anywhere useful?

      Sputnik did.  Kudos to the Soviet Union, now gone.  Sputnik made possible the entire present commercial satellite business, saving lives through weather satellites, bouncing radio and tv signals live around the globe, guiding planes and bombs with the global positioning system.  But the manned space flights led nowhere.

      The reason is not, as many say, that manned space flight is inherently useless.  The repair of the Hubble Space telescope turned a potential total fiasco into a slightly qualified success.  Arthur C. Clarke once pointed out, in a book on space travel whose title I've forgotten, that another expensive satellite once failed, totally, when it was quite possible that a man with a screw driver could have fixed it.

      The Soviet and U.S. manned space programs went nowhere because they weren't devised for high-volume activities.  As Rand Simberg recently wrote, the key to low cost is high activity:
Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, as an employee of a major government aerospace contractor, I participated in and managed several studies relating to future launch systems. . . .

As we looked at all the combinations of architectures and models, we discovered something interesting. While some vehicle design concepts were clearly better than others, they were all extremely expensive per-flight for the low-activity scenarios, and they were all much less expensive for the high-activity scenarios. . . . The cost per-flight or cost per-pound varied dramatically — in some cases by a factor of ten — depending on the level of activity for a given vehicle in each mission model.

This means that even the theoretically best vehicle concept, if flown rarely, will be unaffordable to fly. A mediocre design, flown often, will beat it in cost per flight. How frequently we used the hypothetical launch system was much more important than what kind of propellant it used, or how many stages it had, or whether it took off or landed horizontally or vertically, or any other design choice. This, to me, was the key insight from all of those studies, and it’s one that remains true to this day. For example, the costs associated with the space shuttle largely go to pay the army of personnel and associated infrastructure needed to keep the shuttle fleet operational at all, even when the shuttles don’t fly. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we should ignore vehicle design, but it does mean that we need to pay much more attention to the dynamics of the market.

The reason for this is obvious, in retrospect. Consider the following example, for which I’ll use some simplified but reasonable figures. Imagine that Boeing spent $10 billion to develop the 747 — but instead of building hundreds and flying each of them daily (as is the case), they only built five and flew each one only once per year. Let’s say that Boeing didn’t make any profit, but sold the five airplanes to American Airlines for $2 billion apiece. Assuming that American Airlines can borrow money at less than ten percent interest, it has annual costs in aircraft payments of roughly $200 million per year for each airplane. Even if they had absolutely no other expenses (fuel, pilots, flight attendants, marketing, ticket agents, etc.), and if each aircraft had 400 seats, the airline would have to charge half a million dollars per ticket just to cover the loan for the aircraft purchase. [my emphasis]

      The Space Shuttle was supposed to be a high volume space transport, flying up to fifty flights per year.  Instead, it averaged five, and peaked at nine.  One estimate of shuttle costs says:
The shuttle program inherited from Apollo huge fixed costs - the Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston, the cadres of government and contractor workers at the Kennedy Space Center, and so on. The result was that there is a fixed base cost of around $ 2.8 billion per year, just to keep all those people and facilities in place, even if you don’t conduct any flights at all (as occurred after the shuttle disaster). The marginal cost of each flight added to this base is under $ 100 million per year. Seen this way the shuttle is almost competitive expendable boosters - but doesn’t come anywhere near the reductions NASA promised when development started. But if you divide the usual number of flights per year by the total costs, you come up with a figure of $ 245 million per year, significantly more than a Titan 4 or Proton launch with the same payload.

      And that estimate assumes twenty flights per year.  The reality of five is more like $660 million per flight.

      But the White Knight carrier vehicle and SpaceShipOne are totally reusable, and able to go into space with a turn around time of five days.  Sir Richard Branson is talking about a fleet of five.  That means maybe 300 flights per year.  Once we get that kind of turn around on an orbiter, cheap space flight will be here.  Space colonization will follow.

      And leaving the planet permanently will be perhaps the most signifigant event in the history of the human race.

      Finally, we're on our way.  Now, let's start funding X-prize Two, $100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million) for the first completely re-usable eight person orbiter to fly twice in two weeks.


Deterrence or Destruction?

      Bill Whittle at Eject! Eject! Eject! has a good two part essay on the War Against Terrorists.

      Whittle's main points: this isn't the Seventy Year's War Against the former Soviet Union (OOH! I just love to type "former Soviet Union.); We face a combination of people who want to live, and therefore support terrorism secretly, and those who want to die, and carry out suicide attacks; Kerry's strategy plays into their hands; Vote Bush.

      It's worth extended commentary, but I've got to run now.  Read it all.