Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Can You Do Simple Algebra?


      Contrary to James K. Glassman, we don't have reason to believe the number and intensity of hurricanes is decreasing.

At Length:

      Are we having more hurricanes?  Uhm, more than what, kemosabe?

      Over at Tech Central, James K. Glassman claims:
      Giant hurricanes are rare, but they are not new.  And they are not increasing.  To the contrary.  Just go to the website of the National Hurricane Center and check out a table that lists hurricanes by category and decade.  The peak for major hurricanes (categories 3,4,5) came in the decades of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, when such storms averaged 9 per decade.  In the 1960s, there were 6 such storms; in the 1970s, 4; in the 1980s, 5; in the 1990s, 5; and for 2001-04, there were 3.  Category 4 and 5 storms were also more prevalent in the past than they are now.  As for Category 5 storms, there have been only three since the 1850s: in the decades of the 1930s, 1960s and 1990s.

      But that doesn't stop an enviro-predator like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from writing on the Huffingtonpost website: "Now we are all learning what it's like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged.  Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and - now -- Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children."

      Or consider Jurgen Tritten, Germany's environmental minister, in an op-ed in the Frankfurter Rundschau.  He wrote (according to a translation prepared for me): "By neglecting environmental protection, America's president shuts his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes like Katrina inflect on his country and the world's economy."

      The bright side of Katrina, concludes Tritten, is that it will force President Bush to face facts.  "When reason finally pays a visit to climate-polluter headquarters, the international community has to be prepared to hand America a worked-out proposal for the future of international climate protection."

      He goes on, "There is only one possible route of action.  Greenhouse gases have to be radically reduced, and it has to happen worldwide."  In other words, thanks to Katrina, we'll finally get Kyoto enforced.  (He might start at home, by the way.  Europe is not anywhere close to reducing CO2 to Kyoto standards.  In fact, the U.S. is doing much better than many Kyoto ratifiers.)

      Ross Gelbspan, in a particularly egregious, almost giddy piece in the Boston Globe that was reprinted in the International Herald Tribune, wrote that the hurricane was "nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service Katrina, [but] its real name was global warming."  He also finds global warming responsible for droughts in the Midwest, strong winds in Scandinavia and heavy rain in Dubai.  The reason for all this devastation, of course, is that the Bush Administration is controlled by coal and oil interests.

      OK, here's the table he mentioned, along with some additional rows added by me, the column headers duplicated at the bottom, and really weird spacing added by Blogger.  Keep scrolling down, you will find the table eventually.

Number of hurricanes by Saffir-Simpson Category to strike the mainland U.S. each decade.

DecadeSaffir-Simpson CategoryAll
Average Per Decade7.
Average Per Decade, 1851-1950 ONLY7.
Average Per Decade, "Worst" ONLY7.665.71.40.1420.97.9
Projected 2001-2010 by moi10552.5022.57.5
DecadeSaffir-Simpson CategoryAll

      Note: "Worst" is defined as the seven decades 1851-1860, 1871-1900, 1911-1920, and 1931-1950.

      Where did the rows I added come from?  Well, we have data for four out of ten years in the current decade.  Ten divided by four equals 2.5, so multiply the numbers in the 2001 through 2004 row by 2.5, and you get my 2001-2010 projection.  The 1851-1950 and "worst" period averages were created by tedious addition and division, using the data in the table.

      Looking at my projection, and comparing it to the averages for the entire period, it shows more category 1,2,3, and 4 hurricanes expected than the one hundred fifty four year average, and more hurricanes than most years in each category.  Now, these projections are soft, and the data is limited and shaky (For example, Andrew was recently reclassified as a category 5, rather than a 4).  It's quite possible that we're seeing a statistical fluctuation based on only four years data, and the trend will regress to the mean.  Still, based on the data we have, the projection is for more hurricanes than almost any decade in history.  The numbers aren't really much different than the "worst" periods, but they are as bad, and distinctly more scary than the last half of the twentieth century, or the average for 1851-1950.

      Why the sudden uptick in hurricanes (assuming it's for real), compared to 1951-2000?  Beats me.  Global warming is semi-plausible, when you remember that the temperature data showed a cooling trend from the fifties to the mid-seventies.  But global warming doesn't explain the last half of the 19th century.  In any case, the Kyoto treaty is not the answer for global warming (it will prevent prosperity, though; gotta keep the peasants in their place, which is poverty).  As Glassman notes in the article, there's a good scientific argument that the last few years are just a normal cycle.

      Still, from 1951-2000, the hurricane trends were distinctly down, in totals and intensity.  Now, they seem to have reversed (emphasis on "seem").  Whatever the reason for the apparent increase in hurricane numbers and intensity, there is a legitimate concern.  Glassman's argument is, basically, 'Regard the last half of the twentieth century as the expected norm, and ignore the recent data.'  We don't know if that's valid.  And Glassman, by looking at only some of the data, is guilty of the same kinds of distortions he rightly indicts others for.


Hurricane Katrina and Aid For the Victims


      Give what you can.

At Length:

      I didn't mention this before, because I'm sick of what Daniel Drezner calls hurricane porn.  But this is as bad as it can be.  So it's time to call for help, specifically, charitable donations.

      I'll be sending my money to:
The Salvation Army
1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

but if you'd like a list of other possible charities, see Glenn's flood bleg post.  But if you can afford to, please give.  Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes and possessions.

Technorati Tags: flood aid, Hurricane Katrina


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Possibly Good News

      88% of Iraqis say they will vote on the new constitution in October.  So there's a chance for a legitimate government there that can ask us to go home.

      This constitution has a lot of people upset, because it's not something they would like to live under.  The role of Islam is especially upsetting to these types.  But note that:
      As to the question of Islam being a main source of legislation. 42% support having Islam being the main source of legislation. 24% support having Islam be the only source of legislation. 13% support not having any law which conflicts with Islam. 14% support having Islam being only one of many sources of legislation, not the only one.

      That's a solid 79% who want Islam to have a special relation to the law, and 85% of those who expressed an opinion.  You can't have anything resembling a democratic government that's also secular when 79% of the population opposes the idea.

      It's also worth noting that the language in Iraq's draft constitution is close to that of Afghanistan, which hasn't been taken over by religious fanatics.  Also, 84% of Iraqis polled support full legal equality for women.  That also tends to show a lack of fanaticism.

      I'm tentatively hopeful.


The Differences Between the Services

      Rules for Gunfighting, from various services:

US Air Force Rules For Gunfighting

1. Have a cocktail.
2. Adjust temperature on air-conditioner.
3. See what's on HBO.
4. Ask "what is a gunfight?"
5. Request more funding from Congress with a "killer" PowerPoint presentation.
6. Wine & dine key Congressmen, invite DOD & defense industry executives.
7. Receive funding, set up new command and assemble assets.
8. Declare the assets "strategic" and never deploy them operationally.
9. Hurry to make 1345 tee-time.

US Navy Rules For Gunfighting

1. Go to sea.
2. Drink coffee.
3. Watch porn.
4. Land the Marines.

Navy SEAL Rules for Gunfighting

1. Look very cool in sunglasses.
2. Kill every living thing within view.
3. Adjust Speedo.
4. Check hair in mirror.

US Army Rules For Gunfighting

1. Select a new beret to wear.
2. Sew combat patch on right shoulder.
3. Change the color of beret you decide to wear.
4. Walk in 50 miles wearing 75 pound rucksack while starving.
5. Locate individuals requiring killing.
6. Request permission via radio from "Higher" to perform killing.
7. Curse bitterly when mission is aborted.
8. Walk out 50 miles wearing a 75 pound rucksack while starving.

US Marine Corp Rules for Gunfighting

1. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
2. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
3. Have a plan.
4. Have a back-up plan, because the first one probably won't work.
5. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
6. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a "4."
7. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.
8. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral & diagonal preferred.)
9. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
10. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
12. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
13. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating your intention to shoot.

      The Marine rules are worth remembering.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Still Confused at the New York Times, but Less So


      The New York Times regularly ignores its rules for reporting accurately and objectively.  Very few of its editors seem to care.

At Length:

      I refer to Byron Calame, in his column of August 14th , reprinted in full here.

      So, what does Mr. Calame have to say?  There's a lot of stuff about stringers, and why the Times uses them, which mostly acts as padding.  There's also stuff only of interest to people at the Times (the employees would like the money spent on them, instead of cheaper stringers).

      Eventually, substance:
      The committee created to review the paper's ethics and other policies in the wake of the Jayson Blair ordeal expressed concern about the freelance process.  "The hiring of stringers has been haphazard, ranging from a thorough evaluation process to the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend method," the committee reported in July 2003.  It said freelancers "should sign a statement that they have read and fully understand our ethics policy."  So language was added to the standard contract for freelancers that commits them to comply with all the policies in the paper's 54-page Ethical Journalism handbook, which is also online.

      So, they sign the statement, then they take test online, and if they flunk, they're out forever, right?  Wrong.  They sign the statement, but no effort is made to check whether they actually read the standards, much less understand them.  The Times has no idea whether its stringers are honest and competent, and doesn't care.  There's a real problem, but the Times doesn't seem to be aware of it.
     The risks of a freelance operation that depends too much on harried editors are easily apparent.  Random checks with eight new and existing freelancers in recent days found none of them had bothered to look at the ethical guidelines to which they had pledged compliance.  Also, none reported that the editor who had recruited them called their attention to the guidelines.  (I decided not to name the freelancers in this column.)

      "I can't say anybody told me anything," one new contributor told me.  When another new freelancer received his contract, he recalled, the editor "just told me to hurry up and fax it back."

      As near as I can interpret the "harried editors" line, it means the Times doesn't hire enough editors to do their job competently, or perhaps that despite much of what they say, the Times is more interested in getting something printed now, rather than getting the story straight.  Either explanation is contrary to what the Times says its standards are.  The hypocrisy thus revealed is another problem the "newspaper of record" seems unaware of.  Calame, to his credit, writes about this, but he ought to explicitly condemn it.  That he doesn't shows him shirking his job.

      One of the freelancers with several Times articles to his credit recently used a pejorative quotation from an anonymous source that ran afoul of one of The Times's guidelines -- as was duly noted in a subsequent editors' note in the paper.  "The Times's policy does not permit the granting of anonymity to confidential news sources 'as cover for a personal or partisan attack,"' the note said.

      The freelancer acknowledged to me, "I should have known the rules.  Technically, I should have gone to the Web and read the rules."

      All true, but the fact that the freelancer thinks of the rules as technicalities is a symptom of a much deeper and more important problem.  So is the fact that the story's editor let a perjorative comment through in the first place, much less one with an anonymous source.

      One of the new freelancers who just turned in his first article -- about a drug-resistant strain of staphylococcus infection -- recounted his recruitment for me. When he pitched the idea to the health editor for the Science Times section, the editor carefully asked if he had "any advocacy ties."  He had explained he was on the staff of Housing Works, a New York-based organization that operates thrift shops to help it assist homeless people with H.I.V. or AIDS.  After checking with the paper's standards editor, the assignment editor told him he had been cleared to do the article.

      When I did a couple of basic Web searches, I quickly discovered that the freelancer had been publicly involved in advocacy efforts on AIDS issues at Housing Works.  I brought this to the attention of the assigning editor and Allan M. Siegal, the standards editor, on Tuesday.  The next day, Mr. Siegal decided the article would not be published.  Doing a personal post-mortem in an e-mail message to me, the assigning editor suggested she should have learned more about Housing Works so she could have provided the standards editor with "enough information for him to make a careful decision."

      I think this means that the standards editor can't be bothered to do any research before clearing an article, which I think is a big problem.  And just what is the problem here?  There's no necessary conflict between advocacy for homeless sick people, and reporting on a drug resistant infection.  I'm rather more worried about the reporter who has strong opinions that slant a story, but never reveals them.

      Still, this is Calame's best column so far.  If nothing else, it reveals just how far from its ideal of objectivity and accuracy the Times is.


Feeling Low? A Failure? Worthless?

      Just remind yourself You may not be much, but at least you never lost a fire truck.


What Did Casey Sheehan Die For?

This is Scott Ott's answer:

Dear Mrs. Sheehan,

      You have asked me to identify the noble cause for which your son died.  I have not answered you personally out of respect for the nobility of your son's sacrifice.

      Being president forces me into the spotlight, but I would rather stand in the shadows of men like Casey Sheehan.

      Directing national attention on my response to your protest creates a distraction from what matters.  The focus of our attention, and our admiration, should rest on people like Casey Sheehan, who stand in the breach when evil threatens to break out and consume a helpless people.

      The running story on the news networks should be the valiant efforts of our troops -- the merchants of mercy who export freedom and import honor.  They trade their own lives for the sake of others.

      As a result, we live in a nation where a woman can camp outside of the president's house and verbally attack the president for weeks on end without fear of prison, torture or death.  And the number of nations where such protest is possible has multiplied thanks to the work of our military.

      You ask for what noble cause your son died?

      In a sense he died so that people like you, who passionately oppose government policies, can freely express that opposition.  As you camp in Crawford, you should take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground.  This land was bought with the blood of men like your son.

      Now, 25 million Iraqis cry out to enjoy the life you take for granted.  Most of them will never use their freedom to denigrate the sacrifice of those who paid for it.  But once liberty is enshrined in law, they will be free to do so.  And when the Iraqis finally escape their incarceration, hope will spread throughout that enslaved region of the world, eventually making us all safer and more free.

      The key is in the lock of the prison door.  Bold men risk everything to turn it.

      Mrs. Sheehan, everyone dies.  But few experience the bittersweet glory of death with a purpose -- death that sets people free and produces ripples of liberty hundreds of years into the future.

      Casey Sheehan died that freedom might triumph over bondage, hope over despair, prosperity over misery.  He died restoring justice and mercy.  He lived and died to help to destroy the last stubborn vestiges of the Dark Ages.

      To paraphrase President Lincoln, the world will little note nor long remember what you and I say here.  But it can never forget what Casey Sheehan did during his brief turn on earth.  If we are wise, we will take increased devotion to that cause for which he gave the last full measure of devotion.

      Our brave warriors have blazed a trail.  They have entrusted the completion of the task to those of us they left behind.  Let's, you and I, resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

      Let's finish the work that they have thus far so nobly advanced.

George W. Bush


How to be the Next Dan Rather

      Study journalism in college!


John Leo on Some Fellow Political Pundits

      From USNews and World Report:

By John Leo
Getting No Satisfaction

      Mr. Answer Man, I see in the newspapers that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones complained that "George Bush doesn't listen to us." What does he mean by that?

      I think he means that despite their tremendous body of work, singing all those songs of youthful rebellion for more than four decades (a gas, gas, gas, in my opinion), the Stones are still not consulted on political and military policy.  Nobody in Washington even wants to know their opinion of CAFTA.  It must be galling.

      I bet it is.  I'm sure that if President Bush had just come out of his ranch house in Crawford, Texas, and said a few words of comfort to the Stones, this new "Sweet Neo Con" song of theirs wouldn't have ballooned into the giant controversy it is.  What's a sweet neocon, by the way?

      Nobody really knows.  Everybody thinks the Stones are trashing Bush, but the president isn't really a neocon, and the word sweet is a real stumper.  One theory is that Jagger has a crush on Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, or Condi Rice.  Probably Cheney, since the name Halliburton pops up in the lyrics.  A demeaning song probably isn't the best way to declare one's affection, but then, romance among musicians of the '60s often takes a strange path.

      So far, the complete lyric hasn't been legally released.  The new record A Bigger Bang, containing the song, goes on sale September 6.  But Jagger said on the TV show Extra that "it's not really aimed at anyone in particular.  It's not aimed personally at President Bush.  It wouldn't be called 'Sweet Neo Con' if it was."  But if it isn't aimed at anyone in particular, why should this unidentified generic neocon be considered sweet?  Do you think the Stones just needed a one-syllable adjective to put in front of neocon?  Maybe they just couldn't bring themselves to say "bold" or "bad."

      That's probably it.  All the great negative adjectives have several syllables.  Maybe the Stones pulled an all-nighter,debated "sweet" versus "sour" and finally settled on sweet.

      What about the word the song uses to rhyme with hypocrite?

      Wasn't that clever? The lyric goes this way: "You call yourself a Christian / I call you a hypocrite / You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of s - - -."  I imagine Mick considered rhyming hypocrite with inarticulate or maybe little twit, and then a burst of inspiration hit him and he said, "Keith, what's that short word for human waste that rhymes with hypocrite?"  Richards was able to remember, and voila! --an innovative rhyme.  As far as we know, no other lyricist has managed to make a charge of moral duplicity rhyme with a bodily elimination product.  Before long, hundreds of songwriters will be doing it, but remember, somebody had to make the breakthrough.

      Speaking of breakthroughs, this seems to be the first clearly partisan song by the Stones.  Don't you think it was a long time coming? Bob Dylan got his antiadministration songs out early.  But here are the Stones, in their fifth decade on tour, deep into W's second administration, in the third year of the Iraq war, finally discovering they are political and don't like what they see.  Aren't they a bit slow?

      You can't always get what you want.  Let's just say the Stones don't rush into political controversy.  You should consider that a blessing.  But despite the Stones' 43 years of political restraint, some critics just aren't happy.  John Gibson over at Fox News said, "Since when is the world's biggest troublemaker getting all dewy-eyed and singing peace ballads?"  But it apparently isn't a peace ballad.  It's a heartfelt, somewhat cloudy political song by someone who doesn't like Halliburton or conservatives.  Besides, the Stones' career is based on nostalgia.  Maybe they think the antiwar bandwagon of the '60s is rolling again and it would be a mistake to be left behind.  They're on tour again, you know, and a bit of controversy doesn't hurt.

      Now that the Stones have crossed the political divide, do you think they will offer further political guidance, like what to do about Iran and North Korea, the apparent failure of the European Union, or the future of the Commerce Clause?

      Not likely.  You know, it's hard to warble about complex matters, and most people aren't deeply interested in the political stances of their entertainers.  What was the title of Laura Ingraham's memorable book on the subject?

      Shut Up & Sing.  Always a good idea.  Over to you, Mick.


And Now For Something Completely Different . . .

      Day by Day is one of my favorite comics.  Here's a couple of recent stripss:

day by day 08-14-2005

Day by Day, 08-24-2005

Iran and 9/11

      Captain's Quarters reports that the CIA was warned, in July of 2001, that there would be a big attack on the U.S. on September 11th.  The informant was an Iranian intelligence agent, who said the Iranian intelligence agency new about the attack and the attackers, who would be pilots.  Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission had nothing on this.

      The Captain also notes another possible Iraq/al-Qaida connection: an editorial in an Iranian newspaper after the bombing of the USS Cole, in which bin Laden is praised, and mention is made of plans to bomb the White House, the Pentagon, and perhaps New York City.

      Perhaps this is all hooey, but increasingly it looks like the Commission started with the conclusions it wanted to reach, and then selected the evidence to support it.  As Captain Ed says:
      Like the Atta visit to Prague, for which the Czech government provided intelligence which they insist to this day is accurate, the Commission chose to minimize or ignore evidence and intelligence that would lead Americans to believe that any state had a role in facilitating al-Qaeda in its attack on 9/11.  They went out of their way to reach a conclusion that would encourage the US to discount the role of state sponsorship of terrorism, rather than point out that more than one state had some operational ties to the 9/11 conspiracy.



      Laptop still isn't working, even though HP supposedly fixed it.  So I'm stuck using this abysmally slow old computer.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I's Back!

      I had a nice time on the North Shore, and will resume blathering as soon as I have a chance to use my own computer (this is the libraries).

      So faithful readers, by the end of the day, more opinions, snark, and links.


Thursday, August 18, 2005


      Go read this.


A Really Big Story, post II


      Why is Judicial Watch doing the MSM's job?

At Length:

      In my previous post, I linked to a New York Times story about the State Department Documents that Judicial Watch just pried loose.

      Some quotes from the story:
      The declassified documents, obtained by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act request and provided to The New York Times, shed light on a murky and controversial chapter in Mr. bin Laden's history: his relocation from Sudan to Afghanistan as the Clinton administration was striving to understand the threat he posed and explore ways of confronting him.

      Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said the declassified material released to his group "says to me that the Clinton administration knew the broad outlines in 1996 of bin Laden's capabilities and his intent, and unfortunately, almost nothing was done about it."

      Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, was highly critical of President Clinton during his two terms in office.  The group has also been critical of some Bush administration actions after the Sept. 11 attacks, releasing documents in March that detailed government efforts to facilitate flights out of the United States for dozens of well-connected Saudis just days after the attacks.[all emphasis added by me - St. O.]

      Now why on earth is it Judicial Watch that's probing this?  Why hasn't the Times, the Washington Post, and every other MSM outlet put in a request for all classified materials relating to the history of terrorism since the Carter Administration?  Could it be that they prefer not to know the truth?  Or, that they don't want you to know?

      And why this constant emphasis on Judicial Watch being "conservative?"  One would almost get the impression that the news pages' official working rule for good, professional, unbiased journalism is 'Democratic administrations are not to be criticized if we can avoid it; if we can't avoid reporting on someone else's criticism of Democratic administrations, we'll moderate the criticism as much as possible, and try to put the critics in the worst possible light.'  If you think I'm being too cynical, then ask yourself: why does it matter who filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit?  The story, supposedly, is what internal, previously classified State Dept. documents over nine years old show.  Who cares who got them declassified?


A Really Big Story, post I


      The Clinton State Department warned the White House in 1996 not to let Osama bin Laden set up shop in Afghanistan.  The Clinton administration chose to do nothing.

      Someone sat on that information till recently.

At Length:

      The connection of intelligence, terrorism, and politics is addressed in this New York Times story.

      On July 18, 1996, when Osama bin Laden was getting ready to move from Sudan to Afghanistan, intelligence analysts at the State Department warned the Clinton Administration that b.L. intended to "expand radical Islam 'well beyond the Middle East,'", and that b.L. would be in much better shape to do so working from Afghanistan, but the White House chose to do nothing.

      Unsurprisingly, this memo was classified at the time.  But on December 11th, 2001, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents relating to al-Qaida, and this one was just declassified.

      As Tigerhawk says, isn't it interesting that someone sat on this till after the Presidential election?

      Judicial Watch has a press release on the documents, as well as the originals in the vile and disgusting pdf format.

      This post is also worth reading (hat tip: the Blogfather).


Wednesday, August 17, 2005


      Here, from the Washington Times, and here from Austin Bay, and especially here, from neo-neocon.

      It more and more looks like the basic story is correct: the ABLE DANGER unit spotted Atta as a terrorist, and the Pentagon sat on the story.


Jay Rosen Notes an Improvement in Journalism

      Hardly any journalism students believe in making a difference anymore.


Still Not Getting It

      The Democrats, sick of losing elections, decided it might help if they "reached out" to "socially conservative voters."  Since abortion is one of the key hot button issues for social conservatives, Democrats are "looking for a new voice," that will "broaden the party's message on the issue."  Or so says my local excuse for a newpaper, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

      And what will the new message be?  Any woman can get an abortion at any time for any reason, and we will fight to the death to prevent any restrictions on abortion at any time.

      Would anyone care to try finding a difference between the new Democratic abortion message, and the old one?

      For those not wishing to register with the Strib, or who come upon this after the story leaves the site, you can find it here.

      Meanwhile, will someone who speaks Democrat please tell the Donkey Party that if they want the support of anti-abortion voters, they need to say "We propose that abortion not be legal under the following circumstances . . . "?  Because their efforts to "compromise" without changing their position are really annoying.


More on the ABLE DANGER story

      From the New York Times, but since registration is required, I'll put it all here.

Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I.


Published: August 16, 2005

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 - A military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly. The officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said military lawyers later blocked the team from sharing any of its information with the F.B.I.

Colonel Shaffer said in an interview that the small, highly classified intelligence program known as Able Danger had identified by name the terrorist ringleader, Mohammed Atta, as well three of the other future hijackers by mid-2000, and had tried to arrange a meeting that summer with agents of the F.B.I.'s Washington field office to share the information.

But he said military lawyers forced members of the intelligence program to cancel three scheduled meetings with the F.B.I. at the last minute, which left the bureau without information that Colonel Shaffer said might have led to Mr. Atta and the other terrorists while the Sept. 11 plot was still being planned.

"I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued," Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001.

He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Defense Department's Special Operations Command had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States. "It was because of the chain of command saying we're not going to pass on information - if something goes wrong, we'll get blamed," he said.

The Defense Department did not dispute the account from Colonel Shaffer, a 42-year-old native of Kansas City, Mo., who is the first military officer associated with the so-called data-mining program to come forward and acknowledge his role.

At the same time, the department said in a statement that it was "working to gain more clarity on this issue" and that "it's too early to comment on findings related to the program identified as Able Danger." The F.B.I. referred calls about Colonel Shaffer to the Pentagon.

The account from Colonel Shaffer, a reservist who is also working part-time for the Pentagon, corroborates much of the information that the Sept. 11 commission has acknowledged that it received about Able Danger last July from a Navy captain who was also involved with the program but whose name has not been made public.

In a statement issued last week, the leaders of the Sept. 11 commission said the panel had concluded that the intelligence program "did not turn out to be historically significant." The statement said that while the commission did learn about Able Danger in 2003 and immediately requested Pentagon files about the program, none of the documents turned over by the Defense Department referred to Mr. Atta or any of the other hijackers.

Colonel Shaffer said that his role in Able Danger was as the program's liaison with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, and that he was not an intelligence analyst. The interview with Colonel Shaffer on Monday night was arranged for The New York Times and Fox News by Representative Curt Weldon, the Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a champion of data-mining programs like Able Danger.

Colonel Shaffer's lawyer, Mark Zaid, said in an interview that he was concerned that Colonel Shaffer was facing retaliation from the Defense Department - first for having talked to the Sept. 11 commission staff in October 2003 and now for talking with news organizations.

Mr. Zaid said that Colonel Shaffer's security clearance had been suspended last year because of what the lawyer said were a series of "petty allegations" involving $67 in personal charges on a military cellphone. He noted that despite the disciplinary action, Colonel Shaffer had been promoted this year from the rank of major.

Colonel Shaffer said he had decided to allow his name to be used in news accounts in part because of his frustration with the statement issued last week by the commission leaders, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton.

The commission said in its final report last year that American intelligence agencies had not identified Mr. Atta as a terrorist before Sept. 11, 2001, when he flew an American Airlines jet into one of towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

A commission spokesman did not return repeated phone calls for comment. A Democratic member of the commission, Richard Ben Veniste, the former Watergate prosecutor, said in an interview today that while he could not judge the credibility of the information from Colonel Shaffer and others, the Pentagon needed to "provide a clear and comprehensive explanation regarding what information it had in its possession regarding Mr. Atta."

"And if these assertions are credible," he continued, "the Pentagon would need to explain why it was that the 9/11 commissioners were not provided this information despite request for all information regarding to Able Danger."

Colonel Shaffer said that he had provided information about Able Danger and its identification of Mr. Atta in a private meeting in October 2003 with members of the Sept. 11 commission staff when they visited Afghanistan, where he was then serving. Commission members have disputed that, saying they do not recall hearing Mr. Atta's name during the briefing and that the terrorist's name did not appear in documents about Able Danger that were later turned over by the Pentagon.

"I would implore the 9/11 commission to support a follow-on investigation to ascertain what the real truth is," Colonel Shaffer said in the interview this week. "I do believe the 9/11 commission should have done that job: figuring out what went wrong with Able Danger."

"This was a good news story because, before 9/11, you had an element of the military - our unit - which was actually out looking for Al Qaeda," he continued. "I can't believe the 9/11 commission would somehow believe that the historical value was not relevant."

Colonel Shaffer said that because he was not an intelligence analyst, he was not involved in the details of the procedures used in Able Danger to glean information from terrorist databases. Nor was he aware, he said, which databases had supplied the information that might have led to the name of Mr. Atta or other terrorists so long before the Sept. 11 attacks.

But he said he did know that Able Danger had made use of publicly available information from government immigration agencies, from internet sites and from paid search engines such as Lexis Nexis.

"We didn't that Atta's name was significant" at the time, he said, adding that "we just knew there were these linkages between him and these other individuals who were in this loose configuration" of people who appeared to be tied to an American-based cell of Al Qaeda.

Colonel Shaffer said he assumed that by speaking out publicly this week about Able Danger, he might effectively be ending his military career and limiting his ability to participate in intelligence work in the government. "I'm proud of my operational record and I love what I do," he said. "But there comes a time - and I believe the time for me is now -- to stand for something, to stand for what is right."


Saturday, August 13, 2005


      I'm up late, so I turned on the TV, and Fox had a story about the ABLE DANGER unit. According to Fox, an anonymous informant tells them that ABLE DANGER identified five key centers of al-Qaida activity by about 2000.  These five were: Yemen, where the USS Cole was attacked; Kenya and Tanzania, where our embassies were bombed; Germany, where the planning and logistical support for the 9/11 attacks was centered; and Brooklyn, where Atta was heading the cell that pulled off the actual attacks.

      Very interesting.  We need to investigate this thoroughly, and determine what the ABLE DANGER unit thought it had discovered, and when.  And we need to know how accurate that information was.

      Meanwhile, Captain Ed notes that in late February, early March 2001, Germany arrested two Iraqi intelligence agents.  It was shortly after this that Mohammed Atta allegedly traveled to Prague, and met with an Iraqi intelligence agent.  And we know that Germany was the main support center for the 9/11 attacks.

      All this suggests a hypothesis to the Captain: the Iraqis were helping al-Qaida on the 9/11 mission, the arrests disrupted and endangered Atta's support, and he then traveled to Prague to check out the situation, and determine whether he needed to scrub the operation, or could still get the support he needed (at the time, most of the hijackers weren't in the U.S. yet).  In short, we may have evidence connecting Iraq to the 9/11 attacks.

      Big story, no matter how it ultimately turned out.


And Now For Something Completely Different

      I just knew it was a mistake to choose a German as Pope.

German Pope 1


Why the ABLE DANGER Story is so Important

      Betsy Newmark explains.


More on the ABLE DANGER Revelations

      At NRO.  Jim Geraghty reports on what is known, what isn't known, and what is interesting speculation.  It's short, go read it all.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Then Again, Maybe You Will Want to See Them

      In re to my previous post, Johnathan V. Last says here that the descriptions given in the Townhall column I linked to are inaccurate.

      Well, he kinda sorta says it, about some of them.  But Jason Apuzzo replies to Last at Powerline and his own film site, Libertas.  The Libertas reply has a lot of links to coverage in various media of the movies Last defended.

      We'll see, but so far, it don't look good.


Movies You Probably Won't Want to See

      They're listed here.


Another Democratic Coverup Comes Undone

      In the summer of 2000, a top secret Army Intelligence operation called ABLE DANGER decided that four Arab men were in the U.S., had been there since late 1999 or early 2000, that the four were members of al-Qaida, and also members of a Qaida cell operating in Brooklyn.  The ABLE DANGER team told the Pentagon's Special Operations Command, to which they reported, that the information on and names of these men should be passed on to the FBI anti-terrorism unit, because the four's presence put the U.S. at risk for a terrorist act.

      The military declined.  The then current policy was that terrorism was a 'criminal' problem, and that information from 'intelligence' units must not be shared with those investigating and attempting to thwart 'criminals.'  And the four Arab men were in the country legally, so the law enforcement officials had no business investigating them till information from a non-intelligence unit raised suspicions of a crime.  Any other procedure would be a threat to our civil liberties.

      On 9/11/2001, four planes were hijacked by a group of Islamofascist terrorists, who smashed them into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and were thwarted from crashing flight 93 into the White House only by the actions of passengers on the flight.  The head of the terrorist group was Mohammed Atta.  Atta was one of the four men identified by the ABLE DANGER group, and the other three were also among the plane hijackers.

      In late 2002, the 9/11 commission was created.  It was told, twice, about the ABLE DANGER information, but no mention of ABLE DANGER's claims were made in the report.  Why not?

      Well, the first time the 9/11 Commission heard from ABLE DANGER was in October, 2003, and they don't even remember being told about Atta and the terrorists, much less what their reaction was, or what they did or didn't do with the information.

      But the second time they were told was in July, 2004.  The Commission does remember that meeting.  They decided to reject the information, because even though ABLE DANGER had correctly identified four terrorists, by name, in 2000, and even though the four had carried out a terrorist operation, just as ABLE DANGER had feared, ABLE DANGER's information couldn't be trusted. The Commission had records from Immigration and Naturalization that said that Atta didn't enter the U.S. until June of 2000.  Reasoning that it was utterly impossible for Atta to have been here illegally, utterly impossible for Atta to have sneaked in under another name, and utter impossible for the INS records to be in error, ABLE DANGER just had to be wrong about Atta being in the U.S. in early 2000.  And since ABLE DANGER was wrong about that, the fact that it had identified four of the 9/11 hijackers over a year before their mass murder wasn't important.  Neither was the fact that, if the information had been given to the anti-terrorism unit, the hijackings, property destruction and mass murder might not have taken place.  And of course this decision had nothing to do with the fact that Ms. Jamie Gorelick, a former Clinton Administration official was both on the 9/11 Commission, and the creator of the policy that intelligence information should not be shared with the criminal investigation units.  Move along, nothing to see here.

      And if you believe any of the Commission's reasons for ignoring ABLE DANGER's information, you'll be happy to know that I can find out the winning numbers for any lottery in the country before they are drawn.  Just deliver $100,000 dollars to me in used, unmarked bills, and I'll make you rich.


The Unbiased MSM

      You can observe its scrupulous neutrality here


Editing-as-Lying Strikes Again

      And James "The Superb" Lileks calls them on it.  Go Read It All.


The Times Buckles

      After ignoring the Air America/Gloria Wise scandal for over two weeks, the New York Times has finally given some coverage to the story.

      What coverage they give is inaccurate and partial at best, deliberately dishonest at worst.  But what else were you expecting?

      Unfortunately for the Times, Radio Equalizer is still on the case.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I'm Astonished

      Every once and a while, I a blogger I like gets the idea that he needs to change the appearance of his blog.  Sometimes, I write them afterwards, and add a couple of screen-shots to the e-mail, to show them that I now can't read their posts (examples here, posted separately for those with slow connections), either because sidebars cover the text, or because the only way to uncover the text is to make the font size too small for my tired old eyes.

      The usual response to this, of course, is — nothing.  Sometimes, a suggestion that I change my browser to accommodate them.

      Well, recently Hugh Hewitt revamped his blog, and I e-mailed him saying it was now unreadable, and HE CHANGED HIS SITE AGAIN!  It has the same new look, but the post text is all visible.  Wow, someone who doesn't expect me to go out of my way to read his posts.  Instead, he just corrects the problem.

      Hugh Hewitt: a gentleman and a communicator.  Read him with pleasure, frequently.


Not Quite on Target

      Medienkritik reads the German press so you won't have to.

      Commenting on a recent article in Der Spiegel, Ray D. suggests that Europeans resent the U.S. because they're dependent on the U.S. military, not having one of their own of any size.

      There's something to this, but remember, France and Germany were once world powers, and the European Union's GDP and population outweigh ours.  If they really wanted a superpower military, they could have it.  So why don't they have one?

      Because they don't dare.  European civilization is based on ethnicity.  They can talk about being Europeans, but in their hearts, someone is either a member of their tribe, by blood, or a "stranger/enemy."  (I'll never forget the shock I got, reading Len Deighton's novel Spy Hook; a young woman complains that at school, she was taunted for being a Hungarian; she replied to them that she was born in England; they laughed: "If you were born in an orange crate, would that make you an orange?") Give a nation like that a powerful military, and it immediately begins considering which neighbor to invade.  Europe is afraid to have a powerful military, just as an alcoholic might be afraid to have liquor in the house.

      All of this is part of a larger problem of living in the past, emotionally, while simultaneously rejecting it -- but that's another post.


Historical Ignorance


      If people read a little real history, they wouldn't be so surprised at the expected.

At Length:

      The computer still isn't working right (need to take it in for repair), but I'll do a few posts first.

      Over at Instapundit, Michael Totten notes a posting by leftist Marc Cooper.  Cooper is upset over the way the leftists demonize each other.  (Cooper's especially upset over an offhand remark that he shares an opinion with Sen. Leiberman.)

      But if he'd ever bothered to read history, he'd know that this is a staple of leftist politics since at least the French Revolution.  Leftists tend to burn with fury at anyone who disagrees with them, especially other leftists.

      But now that I think of it, perhaps Cooper does know that history.  It may be that he just hasn't, and can't, face the implications of what the habit of demonizing your opponents says about people with his political convictions: that they are motivated by an unfocused hatred of the world around them.  The stuff about pitying the oppressed, and so on, is mostly cover for the real interest: destroying whatever already exists.

      But I can't blame them for flinching from this.  I wouldn't like it either, having to admit that all I really want out of life is to inflict suffering on people.

      Orwell and Rand have more on this.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Computer Trouble

      I'm having it, and will be posting lightly, if at all, for the next few days to a week.  Sorry about that.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lesson For Life

      Before you allow yourself to be photographed, contemplate how it might be used to embarass you, forty years down the road.

Example 1:

Not Fonda Jane 3

Example 2:

Not Fonda Jane 2

Example 3:

Not Fonda Jane 1

      Some things you never live down.


Another Stratfor Report, On Unions

      I can't find anywhere where they're up on the Web, so once again, I post it in full.

The Labor Split: Defining the Battlefield
By Bart Mongoven

      Two of the United States' largest unions -- the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) -- announced July 25 that they are pulling out of the AFL-CIO.  Three other major unions said the previous day that they would boycott the 50th annual meeting of the AFL-CIO.  These five unions, united under a reform agenda called Change to Win (CTW), claim that the AFL-CIO has failed to react to the changing dynamics surrounding public policy development, and as a result, has become rudderless and ineffective.

      The CTW unions, led by SEIU head Andy Stern, claim that they have a new and unique strategic approach to strengthening unions and improving wages, benefits, security and health of workers.  They claim their approach reflects the changing times and represents organized labor's best chance to regain relevance in policymaking.

      At the center of its strategy is CTW's contention that Washington - allegedly as a result of the election of President George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress -- no longer can act as the center of the policymaking universe for successful liberal causes.  Implicitly, the CTW strategy also assumes that globalization (read, trade liberalization and its consequences) is occurring and for political reasons cannot be reversed; therefore, a successful labor strategy must deal directly with globalization rather than try to reverse or stem it.  Further, despite union leaders' talk about consolidation and oligopoly in the U.S. economy, the CTW approach assumes that self-contained successes at a single company are insufficient, and that labor will achieve its objectives only if workers are united across entire industries.

      As the rebelling unions lay out their plans, the CTW message comes across primarily as a critique of AFL-CIO, with a tone and style that suggest the AFL-CIO is not doing any of the things that CTW calls for.  This is untrue: The AFL-CIO is indeed trying to increase union membership, broaden its appeal and globalize its activities.  CTW's real contention is not that the AFL-CIO lacks the proper goals, but rather that it has the wrong understanding of the battlefield upon which it plays.  The critique is akin to that of conventional forces attempting to fight a guerilla insurgency.  Though some of its leading loyal members (e.g., the Steelworkers) have recognized the new playing field and are working in it, the AFL-CIO does not yet appear to have grasped what it means to fight in a world with a different trade structure, and with limited power in Washington.  CTW thinks it has.

      CTW supporters and leaders argue that labor is going to have to stop acting simply as a special interest lobby and become an activist movement.  The group's leader, Stern, suggests that labor must cease to think of public policy as something that emanates from Washington and is forced by government upon corporations.  Rather -- as consumer, human rights and environmental activists increasingly are coming to understand -- the best chance for liberal constituencies to bring about the changes they want is to work toward their objectives outside the government realm, he says.

      CTW argues that labor will have to work with business, not government, and gain commitments from entire industries at a time, rather than looking for victories within single companies.  This is the heart of the strategic divergence between CTW and the AFL-CIO.

      CTW appears to view victories over individual corporations as means to an end: achieving across-the-board victories throughout an industry.  AFL-CIO, meanwhile, has allowed itself to view company-specific agreements as victories.  This is implicit in, and to an extent driven by, the AFL-CIO's organization.  Workers in a single industry are often represented by a number of unions, varying according to the employer.  A victory by a union against one employer, therefore, will reflect the strategic objectives of the workers only for that one company, rather than for workers throughout the industry.  CTW argues that the labor movement needs a central, unified leadership that will approach a single employer with the demands of all workers in an industry in mind and then use the agreement with one company as a lever against all companies in the industry.  This is not a new strategy, but it is quite difficult to do given the number of competing AFL-CIO unions and the structure of the organization.

      Paradoxically, if CTW follows through with this plan, the strategy will require that labor begin by focusing on one company at a time in an industry (but with objectives that stretch across an entire industry or even across the labor movement).  This is most clearly visible in the emerging campaign against Wal-Mart, an issue on which Stern has staked considerable amounts of his credibility.

      In Stern's vocabulary, Wal-Mart is both a noun and a verb.  He decries the threat of the "Wal-Martization" of the entire U.S. economy, by which he means that to compete with Wal-Mart, companies will have to participate in a "race to the bottom" -- that is, hire people at the lowest wages possible and with minimal benefits so as to provide customers with lower prices.  Stern also argues that Wal-Mart pushes demands for lower prices onto its suppliers, who respond by cutting benefits, reducing starting wages and, in some cases, moving manufacturing to less-expensive countries.

      Finally, Stern says that Wal-Mart's approach is rippling across the global economy.  It is putting wage pressure on the Chinese suppliers who replaced the U.S.  suppliers ten years ago.  It is placing demands on Asian clothing manufacturers that threaten to undercut the possible gains globalization can bring to workers in developing countries.  Changing Wal-Mart, according to Stern, is central to CTW's success, and CTW has advocated labor spend $25 million to finance "large, multi-union movement-wide campaigns directed at reversing the Wal-Marting of our jobs and our communities by large low-road employers."

      As it stands, SEIU has invested considerable time and money in a Wal-Mart-focused campaign, represented at the Walmartwatch.org website.  The approach Stern has taken shows his understanding of the shifts in the policymaking process and provides a glimpse of the way much policymaking likely will be done for the next decade.  SEIU is working with environmental organizations, human rights groups, consumer organizations, women's groups and civil rights groups to develop a broad-based strategy to take on the retailer.  The coalition acts as a force-multiplier: Wal-Mart has specific vulnerabilities on myriad issues and can be attacked from multiple directions at once.  Under this strategy, the workers that the SEIU wants to unionize ideally would hear about the class action suit filed on behalf of female employees (one of the largest class action suits in history), about various environmental allegations, and the human rights complaints and then begin to seriously consider whether they are better off organized.  At the same time, SEIU will demand the company change its practices to make union organizing easier.

      Meanwhile, environmental organizations will press for the company to change the environmental behavior of their suppliers, and human rights advocates will demand Wal-Mart report on the chain-of-custody of its products to ensure the company does not encourage child labor or sweatshop labor.  The environmental and human rights critiques will threaten to spoil Wal-Mart's image in the minds of the jury pool that will be hearing the class action lawsuit.  The SEIU contends that under this kind of pressure, Wal-Mart can be forced to make concessions on all fronts.

      Ultimately, from SEIU's perspective, the Wal-Mart campaign is designed to place pressure on the company to accept organized labor, but also to turn it into a force for change across the economy.  Any concessions Wal-Mart makes will place pressure on its competitors to make similar concessions -- and to make sure the playing field is level, one can imagine Wal-Mart would want to be at the forefront of a movement to make sure that Target, K-Mart, Costco and other competitors abide by the same rules.  At the same time, SEIU will structure any agreement with Wal-Mart to advance labor's goals with Wal-Mart's suppliers, and it will make concessions regarding labor issues at the corporation in return for Wal-Mart pressing pro-union policies upon its suppliers.

      The lesson that Stern is teaching is that the economy has changed.  Trade barriers are coming down, and the United States' comparative advantage does not generally lie in those areas where unions are strongest.  Unions can grow by improving their organizing in those industries where jobs cannot be sent overseas, and by globalizing unions on an industry-by-industry basis.  CTW is not going to abandon lobbying and federal policymaking entirely -- it will play defense and work with the AFL-CIO to defend those advances they have made in the past.  However, CTW does not view traditional government policymaking as offering the solution to labor's woes.  In acknowledging this, the coalition by necessity increasingly will behave like familiar activist groups.

      If they are successful, whether against Wal-Mart or elsewhere, the CTW unions may bring to the public's recognition the degree to which old notions of regulatory public policy development must be jettisoned.  The policies passed into law by elected representatives are important, but that is not where the majority of regulatory public policy is being developed.  Instead, policy development is being decentralized: It is being determined by private agreements between companies and between companies and stakeholders.

      The CTW unions appear to have grasped this.


Interesting Analysis of Recent Terrorist Attacks

      A spate of attacks have occurred recently that we attribute to al Qaeda.  In addition to the two rounds of attacks in London this month and the bombings at Sharm el Sheikh, we have seen ongoing suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Iraq that targeted government officials, the bombing of a Sufi shrine in Islamabad, the abduction and murder of an Iranian security official and other killings in the Muslim world.  In addition, we have seen an intensification of attacks in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda-linked faction.  We are not great believers in coincidence and therefore regard these incidents as being coordinated.  The degree of coordination and the method whereby coordination is achieved is murky, and not really material.  But that we are experiencing an offensive by al Qaeda is clear.

      At issue is the nature of the offensive.  To put the matter simply, do these attacks indicate the ongoing, undiminished strength of al Qaeda, or do they represent a final, desperate counterattack -- both within Iraq and globally -- to attempt to reverse al Qaeda's fortunes?  In our view, the latter is the case.  Al Qaeda, having been hammered over the past four years, and al-Zarqawi, facing the defection of large segments of his Sunni base of support, are engaged in a desperate attempt to reverse the course of the war.  It is not clear that they will fail; such counter-offensives have succeeded in recent years.  The question is whether this is a Tet offensive or a Battle of the Bulge.

      To begin to answer that, we need to consider these two offensives.

      In warfare, as one side is being pressed to the point of no return, the classic maneuver is to marshal all available strength for an offensive designed to turn the tide.  The offensive has a high probability of military failure and, therefore, would not be attempted until military defeat or an unacceptable political outcome appeared inevitable.  The goal is to inflict a blow so striking that it throws the other side off balance.  More important, it should create a crisis of confidence in the enemy's command structure and its political base.  It should be a surprise attack, causing commanders to question their intelligence organizations' appreciation of the other side's condition.  It should have a significant military impact.  Above all, it should redefine the enemy public's perception of the course of the war.  Ideally, it should set the stage for a military victory -- but more probably, it would set the stage for a political settlement.

      In December 1944, the Germans understood they were going to be defeated by the spring of 1945, when Soviet and Anglo-American forces would simultaneously smash into Germany.  They gathered what force they had to attempt a surprise counterattack.  Anglo-American intelligence organizations had concluded that the Germans were finished.  The Germans took advantage of this by striking through the Ardennes forest.  Their goal was the port of Antwerp.

      The fall of Antwerp -- or at least, the ability to interfere with access to the port -- would not have defeated the Allies.  However, it would have constrained Allied offensive operations and forced postponement of the spring offensive.  It also would have shaken the confidence in the Allied high command and both Roosevelt and Churchill.  The unexpected nature of the offensive would have created a political crisis and opened the door to either a redefinition of Allied war aims or, possibly, a separate peace in the West.

      From a military standpoint, the attack was a long shot, but not a preposterous one.  Had the Germans crossed the Meuse River, they could have approached Antwerp at least.  In the event, if we consider the panic that gripped the Allied high command even without the Germans reaching the Meuse, their crossing of it would have had massive repercussions.  Whether it would have had political consequences is unclear.  As it was, the offensive failed in the first days.  It was liquidated in a matter of weeks, and the war concluded catastrophically for Germany.

      A more successful example of a terminal offensive was the North Vietnamese offensive in February 1968.  The Johnson administration had been arguing, with some logic, that the North Vietnamese forces were being worn down effectively by the United States, and that they were on the defensive and declining.  The Tet offensive was intended to reverse the waning fortunes of the North Vietnamese.  There were a number of goals.  First and foremost, the offensive was designed to demonstrate to all parties that the North Vietnamese retained a massive offensive capability.  It was intended to drive a wedge between U.S. commanders in Saigon and the political leaders in Washington by demonstrating that the Saigon command was providing misleading analysis.  Finally, it was intended to drive a wedge between the Johnson administration and the American public.

      From a strictly military standpoint, Tet was a complete disaster.  It squandered scarce resources on an offensive that neither reduced U.S. strength nor gained and held strategic objectives.  After the offensive was over, the North Vietnamese army was back where it had started, with far fewer troops or supplies.

      From the political point of view, however, it was wildly successful.  A chasm opened between the civilian leadership in Washington and Gen. William Westmoreland in Saigon.  Westmoreland's rejection of intelligence analyses pointing to an offensive undermined confidence in him.  Far more important, Johnson's speeches about lights at the end of the tunnel lost all credibility, in spite of the fact that he wasn't altogether wrong.  The apparent success of the Tet offensive forced a re-evaluation of American strategy in Vietnam, Johnson's decision not to stand for re-election and a general sense that the U.S. government had vastly underestimated the strength and tenacity of the North Vietnamese.

      Declining military fortunes force combatants to consider political solutions.  At that point, military action becomes focused on three things:

1. Demonstrating to all concerned that you retain effective offensive capabilities.
2. Convincing the enemy that a military solution is impossible.
3. Creating a political atmosphere in which negotiations and/or military victory are possible.

      In their Ardennes offensive in 1944, the Germans failed in the first goal and therefore could not achieve the others.  In the case of the Tet offensive, Americans became convinced that the North Vietnamese could still mount offensives, could not be defeated and therefore had to be negotiated with.  The negotiations and truce bought the North Vietnamese time to regroup, reinforce and bring the war to a satisfactory solution (from their standpoint).

      Vietnam's guerrilla warfare bears little resemblance to the massed, combined arms conflict in World War II.  Neither even slightly reflects the global covert offensive mounted by al Qaeda, nor the asymmetric response of the United States.  Nevertheless, all wars share common characteristics:

1. A political object -- for example, domination of Europe, unification of Vietnam, creation of radical Islamist states in the Muslim world.
2. All use the military means at hand to achieve these goals.
3. In all wars, one side or the other reaches a point beyond which there is only defeat.  That point calls for the final offensive to be launched.
4. The offensive is not hopeless, but its ends are primarily political rather than military.  Its goal is to redefine the enemy's psychology as well as bolster the spirits of one's own forces.

      The key to success, at that point, is two-fold.  First, the offensive must appear to be an ongoing operation.  It cannot appear to be a hastily contrived, desperation move.  The Germans didn't succeed in this at the Battle of the Bulge.  The North Vietnamese did at Tet.  Second, the offensive must have the desired psychological effect: It must reverse the enemy's expectation of victory.  The claims by civil and military leaders on the other side that the war is under control must be discredited.

      It has been our view for months that the United States is winning -- not has won -- the U.S.-jihadist war.  Events in the recent past have reinforced our view.  In Iraq, for example, the decision by a large segment of the Sunni leadership to join in the political process has posed a mortal challenge to the jihadists.  They depend on the Sunni community to provide sanctuary, recruits and supplies.  If any large segment of the Sunni community abandons them, their ability to wage war -- on the scale it is currently being waged -- is undermined.  They will, however, be able to sustain a much smaller and less politically significant scale of operations.

      In the broader, global fight, al Qaeda continues to face this reality.  There has not been a single revolution overthrowing a Muslim government in favor of a radical/militant Islamist regime.  In fact, the bulk of the Muslim states are actively cooperating with the United States.  The primary intent of the radical and militant Islamists, which is to create a caliphate based on at least one significant Muslim state, has been completely thwarted.  This point has not been missed in the Islamic world.

      At this point, al Qaeda needs to launch a counteroffensive on a global scale that is designed to demonstrate its viability as a paramilitary force.  People tend to denigrate the complexity of terrorist operations.  The complexity is not in the willingness to blow oneself up, however -- the complexity is in acquiring explosives, transmitting messages internationally and generally going undetected.  The 9-11 attacks were a superbly executed operation.  Al Qaeda has set a standard of credibility for itself, and to create the reversal of fortunes it requires, it must carry out an operation on that order.

      Yet since the Sept. 11 attacks, the scale of al Qaeda's operations outside the Islamic world has declined.  Al Qaeda badly needs to re-establish its credibility and recapture its earlier momentum by mounting an attack on the scale of 9-11 or beyond.  There is not only no need to delay, but every incentive to move as quickly as possible.  They need this for political reasons, but also because the pressure from national intelligence agencies is such that to wait is to risk losing the operational team (if one is ready to strike).  If they have a nuclear weapon, for example, the longer they wait to use it, the more likely it is to be captured in transit to its target.  The pressure is on for al Qaeda to act as quickly and as effectively as it can.

      The London attacks were a failure.  It's not only that the Tube attacks lacked the ferocity of 9-11.  However tragic the loss of life, the first attack was a work of mediocre effectiveness, while the 7/21 attempt was a joke.  The attacks elsewhere, particularly at Sharm el Sheikh, were more effective, but still didn't rise to the levels required to establish credibility.

      What al Qaeda has demonstrated is that its available assets, particularly outside the Islamic world, lack the skill and sophistication to even come close to the level of the Madrid attacks, let alone those in New York.  Their attempt to increase the tempo of operations has led them to use untrained and unsuitable personnel.  They have not achieved the psychological ends they wish.

      Al Qaeda has one hope.  If the ability to mount modest terrorist operations with increased frequency convinces its enemies that it is more viable than was thought, at that point they will begin to be successful.  That perception will transfer to the Muslim world and with that, al Qaeda could recover the credibility it needs to continue to wage war.  At the moment, however, that doesn't seem to be happening.  The major political result of London, for example, has been a tendency among Muslim leaders to condemn the attacks in numbers and vehemence rarely seen before.  Al Qaeda's glory days seem to be behind it.

      Which means that al Qaeda must up the ante if they can.  We do not believe they will be able to do so.  More precisely, if they had the ability, there have been so many other moments to have acted, it seems odd that they didn't.  We also doubt that they have recently acquired the means to attack.  They are under heavy pressure, and it is harder for them to grow than it was before.  There are al Qaeda sympathizers, but al Qaeda has maintained its internal security by not growing.  They are relying on untrained sympathizers to carry out missions.  It is hard to believe that they have much left in their kit.

      Still, the outcome of any last-ditch offensive is uncertain.  The very fact that it is happening can panic enemy forces or drive a wedge between the government and military, and between government and the public.  Bush's popularity is slipping, and the perception that al Qaeda is waging a successful and unstoppable offensive could suddenly undermine his position.  He is vulnerable at the moment.  But thus far, the attempt at a global Tet offensive has failed to rise to the level of credibility required.  Al Qaeda must do something of substantial significance before the summer ends, or see its position in Iraq and in other places deteriorate rapidly.

      As with the Germans and Vietnamese, al Qaeda's time of mortal crisis is their time of maximum available effort.  We doubt that they can pull this off, but we will wait until September to see.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Secularism Effect

      For some time, James Taranto has been talking about the "Roe Effect": the tendency of women who support and receive abortions to have smaller families than average, thereby undercutting their long-term political effect.

      Today we have a contribution from "Spengler," a columnist at Asia Times Online that I check on periodically.  "Spengler" did a little research, and comes up with the following graph:

      Which leads him to an observation:
      Underlying the demographic crisis of the industrial world, I believe, is a spiritual crisis.  If the above analysis has any merit, the issue is not wealth, but rather the desire of men to continue to inhabit this planet.  Secular ideologies - socialism, positivism, and so forth - promised a world free of bigotry and hatred, and an unending vista of peace and prosperity.  Humankind, however, has vomited up these ideologies.  Secular Europe and radical Islam in that sense represent two sides of the same coin: both have rejected the secular order, the latter through open battle, and the former through fatal resignation.

      Demographic analysis can help strip secularism of its progressive mask and reveal the death's-head underneath.

      And if you haven't encountered "Spengler" before, you might want to add him to your weekly blog check list.  He's always gloomy, but usually insightful.


Good Shot!

      From Best of the Web Today:
Our Friends the Saudis
      "King Fahd was laid to rest in an unmarked desert grave Tuesday," the Associated Press reports from Riyadh.  But although Vice President Cheney went to "pay condolences and honor Crown Prince Abdullah's ascension to the throne," Cheney wasn't allowed to attend the funeral, because he's an infidel: "Non-Muslims were not allowed at the ceremonies."  Nor were all Muslims: "Women were not allowed at the funeral or burial."

      King Fahd has a proud legacy.  He helped lead his country into the seventh century.

      Right.  And remember out motto:


"How Long, Oh Lord"

      Al Franken is moving back to Minnesota, so that he can run for the Senate here.

      I don't know what's worst-the prospects of a clown representing us in the Senate, the prospect of such an unfunny clown as Franken doing it, or just the prospect of being here while he campaigns, and the liberal local media fawns on him.


This One Even Boggled Me

      From Lyflines, via Polipundit, British town goes insane:
      POLICE have been told they must show respect by taking their SHOES OFF before raiding the homes of Muslim terror suspects.

      It was one of 18 rules laid down in new guidelines for officers in Luton — a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism.


It Used to be Funny . . .

      but now it's just sad, and rather annoying.

      The evolution "debate" comes up again, with the usual suspects proclaiming their open-mindendness, rationality, and devotion evidence means that only their side should be heard.

At Length:

      Bush was asked about the question in an interview with The Washington Post.  He said:
THE PRESIDENT: I think -- as I said, harking back to my days as my governor -- both you and Herman are doing a fine job of dragging me back to the past. (Laughter.) Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.

Q Both sides should be properly taught?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, people -- so people can understand what the debate is about.

Q So the answer accepts the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I'm not suggesting -- you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

      The reactions are interesting.  Glenn Reynolds calls Bush a "fair weather federalist", implying that he, Reynolds, is not.  Does that mean that Glenn's in favor of local school boards being able to choose their curriculum.  Would he take the issue out of the federal courts?  Somehow, this doesn't get addressed.  Instead, he decides on no evidence what kind of curriculum Bush would be in favor of.  By the way, according to a CBS poll, about 2/3 of the country want both Evolution and Creation taught in public schools.  As a staunch federalist, shouldn't Reynolds be supporting their right to choose their childrens' education?  Somehow, I've never seen any posts by him endorsing that position.

      John Cole has a load of ad hominem, and a lot of assertions without evidence.  Cole, by the way, approvingly quotes a commentator who says:
      The most critical and distinguishing feature of scientific theories is that they are vulnerable to evidence. The theory of evolution is a dramatic case in point. It makes stringent postdictions that rule out an enormous variety of otherwise possible observations. Just for instance, as Haldane points out, the discovery of a single fossil rabbit from the Precambrian era would constitute very strong evidence against evolution. Indeed, evolution is a viable scientific theory because no such clearly falsifying evidence has been discovered.

      Well, if you ever bothered to read any of the opponents of evolution, you'd find out that:

  • they usually distinguish between 'evolution' and 'Darwinism,' which is a specific theory about how evolution supposedly occurred (random variation and natural selection);

  • they make many arguments against Darwinism on evidentiary grounds;

  • the defenders of Darwinism take the view "Who're you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

      If Darwinism was true, there must have been many intermediate forms, as various species gradually changed into radically different species.  The invariable answer is that the intermediates existed, but somehow never get fossilised.    When Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge put forth the idea of punctuated equilibrium, the main reason, says Gould, was so they could have a theory of evolution that didn't conflict with the fossil record.  This is the science that is "vulnerable to evidence?"

      In 1966 or '67, a conference was held in Philadelphia, in which various mathematicians argued against Darwinism, and various Darwinists insisted that they KNEW the theory was true, so they didn't need to listen to arguments against it.  You can find the conference proceedings recorded in the book Mathematical challenges to the neo-Darwinian interpretation of evolution, edited by Paul S. Moorhead, and Martin M. Kaplan.  It was interesting that the only mention of religious faith was by the Darwinists, who insisted that an argument against Darwin had to be an argument FOR Creation.

      Oh, as for Haldane's point (and do you really want to use a Communist who was probably a Soviet intelligence agent as your model of intellectual integrity?), let me introduce you to the idea of "logical content."  I ran across this in Antony Flew's God and Philosophy.  Suppose someone says that they have a scientific theory that God exists.  You ask what evidence would disprove that theory.  They answer that 'if the sun doesn't rise tomorrow, that proves that God doesn't exist.'  The "logical content" of the theory is that the sun will rise tomorrow.  That 'evidence' has nothing to do with theism, unless you can show an inescapable logical connection from 'the sun rose' to 'God exists.'  The logical content of Haldane's observation is that there were no rabbits alive in the pre-Cambrian, and more broadly, that there has been a succession of life forms throughout the history of the earth.  Evolution is the theory that the ones that came later (like vertebrates) were descended from the radically different ones that existed before.  Darwinism is the theory that random, unguided variations occurred, natural selection led to progressive changes in certain direction, and eventually new life forms arose.  Haldane's observation is not evidence for evolution or Darwinism until you can establish that there is no other possible theory of why different species existed at different times.  Hereditary acquired characteristics, "hopeful monsters," independent birth, and multiple creations are among the alternative theories that have been proposed, so Haldane's argument fails.

      People like Reynolds and Cole always accuse opponents of evolution of really being theists who want to impose their religion on everyone.  Yet when anyone tries to raise non-religious objections to current Darwinian theory, it's the proponents of 'theories that can be disproved by evidence' who don't want any dissent.

      To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, if people don't wish to discuss an issue, the least they could do is shut up about it.