Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Markos Meltdown

I have been watching the events surrounding a feud between The Daily Kos and The New Republic with some interests. Lee Siegal has posted some thoughts on the subject which spawned a few thoughts of my own that I thought I might jot down here.

While I would agree with Siegal to some extent, I believe he is painting with too broad a brush in his criticism of blogs and blogging. To use my particular case as an example, I am not a writer but I do have opinions and blogs provide me with a forum to express them, feeble as my attempts at it might be. Not being a wordsmith, what I build will not be as pretty nor as durable but it will convey the general idea.

Now I do agree that there is a certain herd mentality when it comes to certain blogs and bloggers. But I would also say that there are many who do read blogs that hold different views because that is how one learns. And there are those of us who would offer debate when we encounter differing opinions as it is how we plumb the ideas behind those opinions and behind our own opinions as well.

There is one thing that I will agree strongly with, though. There is a group which when encountering an opinion which differs from theirs, seems to take the difference of opinion as some kind of personal invalidation. They respond to a different opinion as if they have been personally attacked and often get defensive or worse, feel a need to launch a "counter-attack" when no attack on them was intended. I believe this is a result of one holding one's opinions too closely to their sense of self. In order to be healthy, one must be able to learn and allow their opinions to adapt and change as we evolve over the years. If we stand our personal identity on our opinions, we become rigid in our thinking and changing of opinion shakes the foundations of self identity and can cause emotional problems not the least of which is irrational behavior when confronted with alternative points of view. In that case, one must defend one's positions tooth and nail even in the face of clear information that our opinion might be wrong. We would become angry at the one who would show us our conclusions are incorrect and lash out at them. One would then either submit to the new information, accept its validity, and become lost as their former sense of self has been shattered and flail about seeking some new way to define their identity or they simply close their minds to the new information, gang together with others holding the same view, stick their collective fingers in their ears and throw rocks at anyone who dares threaten their conclusions. At this point their conclusions and opinions become religion. They are held in faith without any basis in logic.

The opinions at Kos are really religions beliefs rather than logical conclusions and the reaction you are witnessing from them is the same as that when someone's religion is attacked. I challenge you to go on any of the blogs in that circle and speak "heresy". Blasphemy will be punished swiftly with excommunication and you will be banned from the blog and your comments deleted. They are not interested in debate, they are not interested in defending or evolving or learning. They believe they have it right and anyone attacking their beliefs is attacking them personally and they respond as such. There is plenty of evidence of this behavior both on their website and on the blogs of others who would criticize them.

In fact, should one of them read this they might well feel a need to attack me and I have not even called their beliefs into question. They might want to ponder why that is. I suspect that by saying that they are operating on faith rather than logic they might believe I have somehow belittled their beliefs when all I have done is note the existance of the behavior and not passed judgment on it. I am willing to bet, though, that it caused a limbic reaction because their beliefs are a very tender spot to them, it is their very self identity and people are naturally protective of that. In other words, one would possibly get the same reaction from any other "fundamentalist" in any other belief system when their beliefs are commented on by an "outsider". I submit that the Kos Kids are "Fundamentalist Liberals" and react the same as a religious (or any other) fundamentalist does when their beliefs are argued with logic.

I am interested in seeing Markos answer one question. The question I would ask him is "What are you?". I would, if asked, say "Dad" or "an engineer". My identity doesn't reside on a foundation of political opinion so I can adapt a lot easier, accept criticism, engage in debate, leave a debate alone, modify my position, learn things. I suspect Markos' answer might be "A Liberal". And that would explain a lot of his behavior when his political views are challenged.

Friday, June 23, 2006

New York Times: ENOUGH!

I have had most of the day to ponder the latest attack on American perpetrated by the New York Times and still I am having trouble putting an exact word to my feelings on the issue. ENOUGH, was as close as I could come. I find their behavior almost juvenile and at the same time patronizing and pompous. That an editor or journalist would pretend to weigh what value an intelligence gathering operation has against the enemy's need to know about it and decide that the enemy's knowledge is more important that preserving the secrecy of the program is extremely frustrating. They make no claims of wrongdoing. They expose no instances of someone making personal gain from the program. They present no evidence of mismanagement. They simply expose the program for the sake of exposing it. They themselves would use the exposure of this program to attempt to create a story to enrich themselves at the public expense. They are the criminals in this expose. Should it become evident that someone be killed in the future because of this disclosure, The New York Times will have blood directly on their hands.

Their behavior is like that of a playground bully who would hurt someone just because they know they can get away with it, and then does it again and again. And as is the case with the playground bully, I sincerely hope they receive a very hard smackdown.

I never elected The New York Times or The Los Angeles Times to executive office. I don't remember designating them the power to decide what is and what is not in the interests of the defense of this country. I don't recall them being delegated the authority to declassify information. But what upsets me most is that their article does nothing to protect the interests of Americans. Because it lacks any evidence of abuse or wrongdoing, the only service this article provides is to our enemies.

I would warn the investors of The New York Times that they might want to consider the safety of their investment. The business is obviously in the hands of people with questionable integrity, values, and possibly mental capacity. They would take actions that would endanger their community, their neighbors, their friends, and their families for what appears to be nothing. They would make it easier for an enemy to gather the financial resources needed to attack our country. What would such an attack do to your investment? What would such an attack do to your other investments? What about investment markets in general? The people at The New York Times have the potential to do great damage to the economic system in this country though their intelligence operations on behalf of groups that would want to do us damage.

If it were in my power to do so, I would order the New York Times razed to the ground. It is much more of a liability than it is an asset to this country. Until such time as the individuals at The New York Times can grow up and behave as responsible members of their community I would caution anyone from doing business of any sort with them. If they would expose themselves as individuals of such small integrity in their duty as responsible human beings to protect their own community, I can imagine they would care even less about anyone they are engaged in business with.

I am also very angry. The thought that just came to my mind is how proud I would be to serve my community as a witness to the execution for treason of certain employees of that organization.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Trouble With Numbers

I am rather tired of hearing pundits repeating the line that the al Qaida terrorists represent only 10% of the total number of insurgents in Iraq as if that has some bearing on the violence there. It has nothing at all to do with numbers. It has to do with willingness to execute horrible acts that are in no way related to the number of people who would actually perpetrate such acts. For example, Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma. How many people and how much infrastructure does that require? Not very much. All one has to be willing to do is commit murder on a scale and with a brutality that others would have a problem doing. Same with terrorists in Iraq.

9/11 showed us that 20 people can kill thousands. The size of a group in no way corresponds to the level of violence that might emit from it. Nor does the level of violence reflect the level of support a group has. It simply means that they have the resources and the will to kill people. Building a car bomb is rather simple. It doesn't require a whole lot of people or infrastructure. And if two or three people can build one, the same two or three people can build a dozen of them. All they need is materials. It turns out that the materials are not that hard to come by. Every time someone is killed, there is a good chance a car has just become orphaned and available for use as a bomb platform. Heaven knows there is enough explosive stuff floating around there. Just go out into a field and dig, it seems. Building a hundred bombs could be done by a handful of people. You drive them out, park them, and an hour or a day or a week later you dial the number of the cell phone detonator and kaboom. Simple.

What is more important than the number of people involved in an organization is the number of acts that it is involved with. I believe (quite strongly) that al Qaida has been involved in a number of acts that is not in proportion with the number of their members. I also believe (again, quite strongly) that many of the acts were designed to precipitate additional acts by other groups and that these precipitated acts would not have happened without al Qaida being a catalyst. They might create a spectacular attack on a Shiite shrine and the next day attack some Sunnis in order to start open warfare between the groups. They light the fuse and then stand back to watch the fireworks resulting from it.

I firmly believe that the level of violence perpetrated by al Qaida in Iraq is not a linear relationship with the number of their members. So I am warning pundits, bloggers, talking heads of all stripe ... I am armed. I have a spring loaded dart gun that shoots darts with a suction cup on the end and if I EVER see anyone trying to minimize the impact of al Qaida in Iraq because of the number of people in that organization, I am going to let you have it. POW, right in the kisser or whatever I might hit that appears on my screen! Is that understood? Knock it off, it's silly.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

HFM Caught Stealing

HFM, the publisher of a new magazine called SHOCK and publisher of other magazines such as Car and Driver, Flying, Road and Track and several other titles has been caught stealing the art of blogger and photographer Michael Yon for the front cover of the inaugural issue of SHOCK.

The front cover carries a photograph of Maj. Mark Bieger carrying a wounded child in Iraq. This picture was apparently stolen electronically over the Internet and used as cover art. HFM has refused to recall the issue or compensate Mr. Yon for the artwork.

One would think that a media publisher would respect copyright law. Regardless of your stand on the events in Iraq, stealing of art for economic gain can not be tolerated. Please, click the button below to be taken to Mr. Yon's site where you will find several ways you can help.


There has been much published over the past several days concerning irregularities in some of the information from Haditha that prompted an investigation of actions of US troops there.

I have seen bloggers spending hours of their own time digging, fact checking, comparing, and publishing their findings for peer review and discussion. These are people that have jobs and other things in their lives that place demands on their time and energy but have answered what is apparently to them the call of an important mission, a call of duty.

While professional journalists should be doing the work that is being done by members of the general public in trying to get the story straight, we are already seeing results. Respected media giants such as Time are beginning to back off of some of their initial claims and distance themselves from initial sources.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am simply in awe. This spontaneous and most honest display of devotion by members of our community for our service members in seeing they get a fair shake is enough to make an old grouch misty.

Those troops are at risk every day defending us and it is wonderful to see such an outpouring of support when we have a chance to defend them in return. There are too many people out there doing whatever they can to list because I am afraid of leaving someone out and thereby diminishing their contribution, but they know who they are and honestly, it is events such as this that make me proud to be an American.

This is a real living example of the love and devotion America has for their armed forces members. If someone is going to make accusations that would bring dishonor on the institution of our military, they are going to need to run a gauntlet of ordinary Americans who are going to want to make darned sure they have done their homework first.

Unlike times not so far in the past, we now live in an America that really does support its troops, in both word and deed.

To those of you spending your own time and effort on this issue, I thank you with all my heart.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Iran: Brilliant US moves

Originally posted in my diary

This morning will dawn a little differently for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He will find the world has shifted in a way he probably didn't expect. He has before him today a united UN Security Council and a US offer of dialog. His attempt to drive a wedge between the US and Europe on the question of how to respond to Iran's unmonitored uranium enrichment has apparently failed as the US, Europe, and China have come together. They stand united in an agreement to offer Iran a path out of the corner they have painted themselves into.

One has to wonder if Ahmadinejad will feel betrayed by China and Russia for siding with the other permanent members of the Security Council. In any case, the ball is now on his side of the net and the world is watching his reaction. On a parallel track, Ahmadinejad's calls for dialog with the US in order to drive another wedge between the US President and the world opinion was also met in the affirmative, provided Iran meet its obligations to halt unmonitored enrichment. How could Bush appear unreasonable for asking only that Iran meet the obligations it had already agreed to in the past?

On one side we have a united security council and a calm Secretary of State. On the other side we have a president of Iran that has vowed several times that Iran will never stop their enrichment program. He has two balls in his court and, so far, appears to be facing an opposition that is calm, cool, collected, and not under fire in the court of public opinion. He now seems to have us right where we want him.

President Bush could not have hoped for a better outcome. The leverage at this point is clearly on our side. If Iran remains stubborn, it will appear that they, not us, are the ones being unreasonable in this situation. Already cracks are begining to form as comments trickle out from other Iranian politicians.

Internally, Iran is having economic problems and there is evidence of growing ethnic stife as the stresses of economic stagnation begin to heighten the sensativity of those lower on the economic ladder. At the same time, crackdowns by the government to force the population into an even more conservative proper "islamic" posture by imposing standards of dress even more restrictive than in the past are chafing an already irritated populace. Further irritations such as filtering outside internet access, monitoring SMS messages, and outlawing foreign travel are adding to the toll of misery faced by the people.

The one distraction that Ahmadinejad could rely on to turn people's attention away from the internal troubles has been the confrontation with the US. Attention on this issue is now focused on Iran and Ahmadinejad and not the US. We have shown restraint, we have worked with our allies, we have listened to their concerns and we have worked with them to create a unified front in the face of Iranian theatrics and the time has come for Iran to act and the world, including all of Iran, is watching.

Will he back down? Will he defy the UN? Either way it seems he is in a lose/lose situation and the fact that he even finds himself in this position to begin with must be costing him political capital at home. The Iranian people are more interested in better wages, more jobs, more import/export trade and making a better life for their children. They are not interested in testing the political will of foreign leaders for little gain and much potential loss. Will uranium enrichment clothe their kids, feed their family, give their father a job? To what extent does unmonitored uranium enrichment have the potential to improve their lives and to what extent does it have the potential to make things worse? These are the questions the Iranians themselves have been asking.

This morning might dawn on an Ahmadinejad who is realizing that he is quite possibly in serious foreign and domestic political trouble.

Very nice play, Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice!