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Saturday, February 01, 2003

I just have to like somebody who's "not a declinist"

Lexington Green has written a fascinating piece on why Britain should be considered a Great Power.
...Tony Blair is a curiosity in large part because he is not a declinist. He actually sees a dynamic role for Britain in the years ahead. He is, in this sense, the heir not of the Labor Party of Clement Atlee, that wound up the Raj in India, but of the older school of liberal imperialists like Henry Asquith who sought to use Britain’s wealth and influence to do good in the world, and in their Empire, in addition to accruing military, political and economic advantage, even at the cost of certain of those advantages. Blair is not embarrassed to hold out his country as basically good, with a past which is not entirely shameful, and as a positive example to the world. This kind of expansive liberal spirit, not crippled by self-doubt or self-loathing, has long been missing on the left, both here and in Britain, and it harks back to an earlier age. Blair is therefore at odds with his own party as well as with most of the conservatives at the same time...
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"Once upon a time I was in a war "

Dean Esmay has reposted a great letter from a friend, a veteran of the Vietnam War, with thoughts on combat and Iraq and military life, and bloggers. Good stuff.
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...In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah , Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
--- George W. Bush
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Space thoughts ... How we did it back then...

In the 1920's the United States government sought to encourage and support the development of aviation. It was clear that aviation would be crucial in future wars, and important for economic strength in a continent-wide nation.

What we did was this:
...In the '20s American aviation was quite slow. There were a few small airlines, but they often failed after only a few months of service. Americans viewed air travel as a dangerous sport, not a safe means of transportation.

All of the technology was present in the 1930's to develop modern commercial airliners; what was needed was a reason. This was provided in 1930 with an amendment (McNary-Watress Act) to the 1925 Kelly Act. The airmail carriers had been paid according to the weight of the mail they carried. The new law changed this so that carriers got paid for available cargo space and a bonus was paid to operators flying multi engine aircraft equipped with the latest instruments. This was clearly an incentive for operators to fly larger aircraft. It also provided a subsidy to the airlines for carrying passengers as well as mail.

The effect of the McNary-Watress act was not long in coming.

United Airlines contracted Boeing Aircraft to build a modern twin-engine airliner. In 1932 Boeing brought out the 247,a twin-engine, all-metal, low-wing monoplane, capable of carrying ten passengers and 400 pounds of mail, with a cruise speed of 189 mph which made it possible for the first same-day service between New York and San Francisco.

Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) soon responded by contracting Douglas Aircraft to build them an airliner better than the Boeing 247. In 1933 Douglas was testing an aircraft called the Douglas Commercial One (DC-1) Only one was built for test flights. The production aircraft was called the DC-2. It had a cruising speed of 192 mph and carried 14 passengers and several thousand pounds of mail ...
That was just the beginning! (From The Golden Age of Aviation)
What we didn't do in 1930 was create a giant government department to design and fly one airplane that would serve all needs, commercial and military, and remain unchanged for decades. The government did not try to plan how aviation would develop, other than encouraging the building of larger planes. (And it also strongly pushed the formation of larger airline companies, a move that is still controversial.) And no government "avianauts" were hired to do the flying.

Few people today would defend, in the abstract, the idea that the future can be planned and guided by experts. Or that government departments can organize "progress" more efficiently than the private sector. But when it comes to Space, most of us seem to be fixated on the present scheme, and assume that what we are doing now is the only thing possible, and will go on forever. Eventually NASA will build Space Shuttle II, and somewhere around 2050 we will organize a small thrifty expedition to Mars. A few people will plant a flag and bring back some rocks. Perhaps this small future is comforting; and the possibility of a big future, with tens of thousands of crazy dreamers lightin' out for the territories is just too scary to deal with...

* Charlene and I have memories from childhood, when airmail was different. There were special stamps with airplanes on them, and a letter to Grandma would arrive the next day, instead of in 3 or 4 days.
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Something worth keeping in mind ...

...from Joe Katzman. Among your neighbors there may be lurking sinister terrorist sleeper cells. BUT, the bad guys have the same problem! Their mild-mannered neighbors may be secretly cogitating nightmare plots to destroy the existing order and replace it with alien ideas...ideas like like religious and economic freedom. And these wild-eyed revolutionaries could be anywhere; Karachi, Cairo, Qom, or even Paris...
...In a 4th Generation War, the front is everywhere. We must prevail - together.

With what weapons, then, shall we fight in Europe? With moral condemnation when deserved. With a strong case to European publics, coupled with decisive international military action. With real economic and diplomatic consequences for nations who take "Axis of Weasel" stands. These measures are all appropriate. If executed well, they will shift internal debates and decisions in our favour - even as they defeat external threats we all confront.

Now for the flip side. If an unlimited front means that one's enemies are everywhere, this can be equally true of one's friends. France may be a founding member of the "Axis of Weasels," but she also gives us the irreplaceable Jean-Francois Revel and others. There are groups throughout the continent, substantial groups, who will support us. These people are not our enemies, nor are they evil. Together, we can punish their internal enemies in ways that support our mutual goals. Together, we can win.

Friday, January 31, 2003

strong reposte ...

Armed Liberal, now blogging at Winds of Change, has written the Response to the State of the Union that the Dems should have made.
We don’t have TV in Casa de Armed Liberal, so I didn’t get to read the State of the Union speech and the Democratic responses until this morning, when I read them on the New Laptop which is important, because I was so damn frustrated with the weak-ass Democratic response that I was tempted to chew on the screen, but restrained myself because the machine was so expensive.

Middle Guy, my 16 year old son, noted my frustration, and in the warm, supportive style we share as a family suggested "Geez, dad. If they’re so weak, why don’t you write a better one." ...
I don't agree with most of his points, (love the style) but wouldn't life be exciting if there were real debates going on? Makes me think, in my much much humbler sphere, of the times I've pointed out the logical weakness of some leftizish argument, and secretly hoped they would come back at me with some really strong points that I would be almost unable to confute.... Never happens. Oh well. Maybe they are saving up their good stuff for the right moment.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I'm not sure what to think about this one ...

Mike Plaiss sent me the link to this Guardian article: This is my last column - I hope, at the very least, that I have annoyed rather than bored you , by Ian Baruma. I found it an odd screed, but thought-provoking. Not boring, and a touch annoying.

Should the US and Israel be held to higher standards than the French? Interesting question Peculiar question. Should we perhaps then say that France is not yet mature enough for democracy? Also, I think the Pinters and Paulins get 'worked up' because they are Bourgeoisophobes and anti-semitic nut-cases...
...There is much wrong with American society and foreign policy, and there are pressing reasons for attacking Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. That I chose to defend both countries none the less is because they still come closer to my definition of freedom than most countries, even if they fall far short of their own claims. Perhaps this is one reason why the Pinters, Paulins and non-Muslim liberals get so worked up: the hypocrisy; the fact that Americans preach freedom but manipulate elections, support foreign dictators, and mangle the English language. Or the fact that Jews, having suffered such persecution themselves, should now behave badly to others.

So it is perhaps a compliment to both nations that they should be held to higher standards than any other. Never mind that the French, with their vaunted tradition of liberty and fraternity, gave tacit support to African genocides, or that far more Muslims are being persecuted and murdered in India than in the territories occupied by Israel. The French are the French, and the Indians are poor. But Americans and Israelis should know better.

Worse than stupid anti-Americanism, in my view, is the parochial assumption that the freedom of peoples, less familiar to us, and not ruled by white men, is a more relative matter...
Well, the last bit is exactly right. I wonder if he realizes he's standing shoulder to shoulder with George W Bush and Ronald Reagan? Probably not. (Mangle the English language? Another oddity. Perhaps he doesn't realize that 'English' is the cherished native tongue of hundreds of millions of people who have never seen England. It doesn't belong to just the English any more.)
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The Great Satans' wrasslin' team ...

I stumbled onto a website, Hasan Sarbakhshian Photos , by a photographer in Iranian Kurdistan. I had to enjoy this picture. Wrestling is a very big deal in Iran (Also India, Pakistan, Turkey ...) and I've heard other stories of American wrestlers being greeted with enthusiasm in Iran...

American wrestler in Iran
American wrestler Tolly Thompson, 26 from Cedarfalls-Iowa in final 130kg Free Style win against Dawood Rakhsh Khorshid, from Iran in the 19th International grand prix FS-GR wrestling tournament og FAJR (Takhti cup) in Alvand city in province Qazvin 200km west of Tehran. Iranian people after his won happy and take a snap shot memorial with Thompson.Friday Jan 21,2000
Actually, there is one other place in the world were wrestling is the big sport. That's Iowa. (Hah, you thought I was going to say Japan! Them too, of course.) By the way, if you like Neal Stephenson, he co-wrote a couple of great thrillers under the name Stephen Bury. One of them, The Cobweb, is set in Iowa, with various Huskers taking on Saddam's bio-terror secret agents. Wrestling is the background of the story. Great book, wacky and funny.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

No man is a hero to his ...

Sgt Stryker writes on working for Al Gore...
... It's not everyday an opportunity comes along to vote a bastard boss out of your life. I'd never voted for a Republican since I came of age, but Dick Nixon's corpse could've won the Republican nomination and I would've voted for it if it meant getting Gore the hell out of my maintenance facility. I wasn't alone in that sentiment. Everyone was salivating at the opportunity to get rid of the bastard. To be honest, not everyone was voting for Bush as a means to get rid of Gore. A good portion of our squadron figured that if Gore won, he'd go down the flightline to Presidential and we wouldn't have to deal with him again. The rest, perhaps thinking of future career possibilities, opted against that idea as they might someday want to volunteer for Presidential Support. They didn't want to move the prick down the road and eventually have to work for him again...
Somehow I'm not surprised. (I remember my Dad saying something similar about FDR -- I think he knew some of the 'little people' who worked on FDR's estate.) Boy, did we dodge a bullet in the year 2000! Thank you God; prayers were answered, I won't ask for anything else for a while.

When I recall how enthusiastically Gore and Leiberman worked in Florida to invalidate absentee ballots on technicalities, ballots mostly from overseas military personnel, and then prated about wanting every vote to count, I'm very proud that Charlene and I sent a little money to Bush and Cheney right then.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

P. Krugman
#75: Reality, as in 'no longer in touch with.'

In A Credibility Problem (01/28/03) Paul Krugman unwittingly demonstrates with remarkable clarity that the real problem for U.S. liberals is reality itself. They are no longer in touch with it. For some reason the Democrats have become convinced that they lost the last election for purely tactical reasons–for not being tough enough on Bush in general, and for conceding the issue of national defense in particular. Hence they are now trying to make up for lost time by pounding the president on every issue under the sun from the economy to airport security. Enter stage left, the pounder-in chief, Paul Krugman.

Superficially "A Credibility Problem" appears to be just another of those Krugman repackage jobs that we have commented on before that he grinds out when he needs a column on the cheap. They all begin in nearly the same way. First there is a pretext–this time it's the State of the Union address–which is little more than a transparent attempt to make the column appear original. This is then followed by laundry list of Krugman's all time favorite Bush bashes–deficits, tax cuts for the rich, the jobless recovery and, of course, the dreaded double-dip recession. Finally, there is a catchy ending of some sort and, presto, another column is put to bed. He's said it all before and we've commented on it all before.

However, the remarkable thing about "A Credibility Problem" is that Krugman reveals a view of George Bush's political power base, one that is no doubt shared by the liberal establishment, that is just plain delusional. Apparently they really believe that Bush's post 9/11 popularity was based on razzle-dazzle and now that his ratings have "plunged" he needs a dynamite State of the Union address to restore the facade of credibility covering his failed policies.

What this says to us is that the coastal elites in this country have a political reality that is so far off the mark that they might as well be from another planet (or from Davos, maybe). As we see it, the events following 9/11 changed the political landscape in this country in ways that Krugman and the left will probably never understand. Forty years of anti-Vietnam, flower-power politics became obsolete in less than 24 hours and a principal pillar of the Democrat's coalition became obsolete as well. This would have happened anyway, but George Bush distinguished himself in such a way that his reservoir of good-will and confidence with the U.S. electorate is enormous. And that is why the Republicans won the last election. It was a strategic win for the GOP, not a tactical loss by the Democrats. It is also why polls do not matter much right now.

So Krugman and the Democrats have done it again. They've underestimated George W. Bush. And he will screw them to the wall as usual–probably starting with tonight's State of the Union address. We can hear the squealing now.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]

Monday, January 27, 2003

From the frozen North ...

Charlene and Rob are back from North Dakota. They had a good time and were hugely impressed with the UND Aerospace School. This is definitely the place to go if you want a career in aviation. They have a fleet of 80 planes and 5 helicopters, rooms full of simulators, atmospheric chambers for learning about hypoxia and sudden decompression, and lots of support from the industry and the government. Everything they saw was first-class, and the students and faculty were very impressive. As the Dean said, nobody 'falls into' these majors.

Grand Forks is like another world to us San Franciscans. (And Rob said that everyone reacted the same way to hearing he was from SF -- they invariably said "Oh wow.") Everyone is white, and polite and helpful. There's no urban angst at all. Charlene showed Rob the phone book; there's one Catholic church, one Episcopalian, and a page-and-a-half of Lutheran churches... Charlene found it shockingly cold, but also attractive, especially the sunrise over a vast flat glittering frozen plain.

Robert's ready to start right now. But, alas, he has another year of high school to go after this one...
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Nothing leads more surely to disaster than that a military plan should be pursued with crippled steps and in a lukewarm spirit in the face of continual nagging within the executive circle. United ought not to mean that a number of gentlemen are willing to sit together on condition either that the evil day of decision is postponed, or that not more than a half-decision should be provisionally adopted. Even in politics such methods are unhealthy. In war they are a crime.
--Winston Churchill

Sunday, January 26, 2003


And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthly chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever-climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra's street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on . . .

-- Archibald Macleish

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Not a bug, but a feature ...

Andrew Sullivan posted this letter:
As a victim of affirmative action, I think I know a little bit about just what happens to a Hispanic student at a prestigious university.

I was accepted into an accelerated pre-med program at the University of California. My SATs were very good, as was my GPA. I graduated 4th in my high school class. Both of my parents were college-educated; my mother worked in a nuclear test lab, and my father was the proverbial Rocket Scientist.

The high school I attended was a joke. All of the district's money, expanded programs, etc., were funneled into a different high school. I could not transfer there because Hispanics were "under-represented" at the school near my house, which was the one I did attend. We were supposed to have a special 'gifted student' program, which I qualified for. We did indeed have one. It was co-ed PE. The good school had advanced math, languages, physics. We had volleyball.

Every single semester started exactly the same way for me. I would get my assigned classes, then spend the rest of the day transferring into the ones I needed. It got to the point that all the teachers knew I'd be in the advanced class, so they'd save me a spot while I got transferred out of the remedial classes. Why was I always placed in the remedial classes? Well, with a last name like MARTINEZ it was just impossible for me to be able to read or write...
There's more, there's more...and it gets worse...

For the Clintons and Kennedys who constantly praise 'public education,' (and send their own children to private schools) this sort of thing is NOT A BUG, IT'S A FEATURE! Bureaucrats should be controlling people's lives. Smart kids should NOT be allowed to shove their way to success. Especially smart minority kids, who might endanger the myth that they are kept down by racism. Or even worse, start thinking for themselves and vote Republican.
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more on the previous post ...

And do keep all this in mind when people argue that we shouldn't remove Saddam because the administration "can't be trusted" to pursue democracy in Iraq. (Richard Bennett recently wrote that this is"...sort of like arguing that you shouldn't smoke cigars because they're phallic symbols. But sometimes a regime change is just a regime change, and we all need one in Iraq.")

Come to think, when you see how the Left still drools over Castro, it seems likely that they hated Elliott Abrams JUST BECAUSE he, and the Reagan and Bush I administrations, were so successful in promoting democracy. And thereby so effective in fighting communism. What a dirty trick Reagan played on them! When you hear the Left saying that Bush can't be trusted to promote democracy, they are tacitly holding him to the high standards Reagan set.

And when they heap scorn on Ronald Reagan, it's because he outsmarted them repeatedly, and changed the rules of the game. And now that the Left is boxed into strange corners, desperately defending aged fascist dictators, remember, it was Ronald Reagan who put them there! And George W. Bush who is keeping them there. Retarded cowboys -- we need more of them.

Young people probably have no idea what Latin America was like until recently. It was Leftist heaven; picture ragged campesinos in Guatamala watched over by soldiers standing on street corners wearing the American-style uniforms and weapons that betrayed who was standing behind them. And it was really hard to argue that that things would be worse if the Sandinistas or The Shining Path or whoever, took over. Although of course they would be worse -- none of those ragged peasants and workers ever tried to move to Cuba. (And when it comes to that sort of voting with your feet, notice that the professors and Nobel-winning-ex-Presidents who extoll Cuba's health-care system never go to Havana when they are sick.)