July 30, 2004

Desperado Act II

Apparently the new prospective owner of Alladin, where Princess Ronstadt was ejected for dedicating a song to Michael Moore and sparking a near-riot, intends to invite both Ronstadt and Moore to appear at his venue. From Billboard, July 21, 2004....

...After a day of negotiations, the prospective new owner of the venue, Robert Earl, Chairman and CEO of Planet Hollywood International, Inc., issued the following statement:

"We hope to be approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission to become the new owners of the Aladdin Resort in Las Vegas as early as September 1, 2004. Upon the assumption of ownership, and with a new management team in place, we would like to offer the use of the Theatre of Performing Arts to Linda Ronstadt for a second concert and further to take Michael Moore up on his offer to join her on stage to introduce her and sing a song."

"We respect artists' creativity and support their rights to express themselves," said Earl. "We were very sorry to hear about the unfortunate circumstances of this past Saturday night and want to make it clear that Planet Hollywood has never, in our 13 year history, restricted any artists' right to free speech and we will continue with that policy once we take ownership."

As demoralizing as this might seem, there's a silver lining.

If I were advising the Bush Campaign I'd tell them that the more visible Michael Moore is in the news, especially connected to the Kerry Campaign, the better. I'd also tell him to let no opportunity to bring attention to the distortions that Moore promotes go unexploited, including an appearance at the Alladin. I have no problem with the free expression of dumb ideas, as long as they can be debated openly and countered effectively. But I'll bet Moore won't show up, any more than he showed up in Crawford. The guy knows that bread shouldn't be buttered on both sides, because you get the ooze all over your fingers. Here's the kind of thing that will play in Peoria, or Las Vegas:

Right now I have a browser window open to Fark, and a T-shirt ad shows Bush’s face with the logo “American Psycho.” What else do you need to know? As Teddy Kennedy said in his convention speech: “The only thing we have to fear is four more years of George Bush.” It’s really quite simple, isn’t it? We live in a manufactured climate of fear ginned up by war-crazed neocon overlords. There is no threat. The only thing we have to fear is Bush, who sits as we speak in the Oval Office sucking the marrow from Whoopi’s shin-bones.

If so, I wonder why anyone agreed to the stringent security policies that characterize this year’s conventions. Why the bomb-sniffing dogs? Why the snipers? Why the metal detectors, the invasive inspection of bags? Is it all an elaborate defense against Bush crashing the party and setting off a bomb belt, shouting God is Great, y’all!

No, they’re fearful of something else.

Damned if I know what, though. Damned if I know. -- Lileks

You see, the issue isn't about free speech because in any reasonable contest it's fairly obvious where the common sense lies (as the O'Reilly interview demonstrates). The issue that the Moore supporters hope to exploit is some attempt to silence them. If they can make that stick then they get a twofer: 1. They get to claim victimhood, which will make the opposition seem illegitimate no matter what the real facts or argument; and 2. They don't have to actually defend their views against an eloquent and well-informed opposition (which is about the last thing they want).

So if I were Michael Moore I'd be hoping that the new Casino owner doesn't get his license, and if he does I'd make some excuse not to accept the invitation. Gee, if this works out maybe I can go on the SciFi Channel foretelling the future.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:06 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

Some Thoughts on Kerry

Armed Liberal has posted a challenge adapted from that of Dean Esmay. The test is, essentially, whether or not we will be willing to bury the hatchet if Kerry wins. Well, to bury it I'd probably first have to extract it from where Michael Moore has stored it, deep in the skull of the Republic. But assuming that's possible, and that something about the connection between Moore's Chomskyesque distortion of America and Kerry's own similar rhetoric during the Vietnam era hasn't permanently tainted the soul of the Democratic ticket, I could probably bridge the gap.

I think I've already passed the test once, in fact. In the last election I was a Nader voter who sided with the Gore campaign in the Florida recount controversy. My first instinct, even after 9-11, was to assume that Bush was incompetent or had ulterior motives. Nontheless, whatever the motives or level of competence, I was eventually able to intuit that in order to reduce the long term threat from mass terrorism we need to leaven the culture of the Arab Middle East somehow. And we also need to take on and challenge autocracy and tyranny wherever and whenever we can... even to the point of war, if necessary.

If Kerry/Edwards buy into this strategy I'd have no problem supporting them. If they don't I'd have no problem opposing them. And I'm not likely to change my mind, either.

But having said that I think it'd be tough for Kerry/Edwards to "buy into the strategy," because they have certain commitments, and because Kerry has a history that tells me his "deep convictions" might have an element of opportunism. Roger L. Simon points out that Kerry was deeply anti-war before he enlisted. And we all know what position he adopted when he returned. It isn't really so much that he flip-flops, but that he makes commitments that are deep, and also rather narrow. I guess the chief quality of the "flipper" analogy is that his commitments are shallow. I see little evidence of that, however. He put his life on the line a number of times in Vietnam, yet his one big "play" on the political stage was to oppose precisely the sort of democracy-building strategy that I think we need to pursue in the War on Terror. What "big picture" does he see now, if any? Does he see big pictures, at all?

Nonetheless, I am intrigued by this capacity to become deeply commited over narrow intervals, and it seems precisely the sort of aptitude that's required of an expert rock climber, an analogy that I think decribes what we need to do to win this extended and difficult conflict with the "New Totalitarianism." Unlike Roger, I don't think Kerry is exactly insincere. Instead, he appears to have more faith in himself than in his ideals. But in the context of US political culture is that insincerity? Is it a bad quality? That depends. And I don't say that lightly.

Critically, before I could support Kerry I'd need to see some evidence not only that he has what I can construe as an appropriate aptitude for the critical task. I need to also see that once commited to the climb he won't stop until he reaches the top of the precipice, and that he's skilled enough to reduce the odds of outright failure. I simply have no idea, at this point, whether he fits the bill. None whatsoever. And I think his life has been precisely the sort of enigma that's designed to hide or conceal that quality, or lack of it.

Update: If this is true it's not going to play very well with the undecideds. He'd better have a damn good story for why he conducted those reenactments. "Clintonesque" is the term that leaps to mind, and not in a good way.

Posted by Demosophist at 04:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

Russians in Iraq?

More dividends from UNSCAM and Hussein-era document windfall?

Russian support for US occupation forces would make scorched earth of Senator John Kerry's attack on the Bush administration's foreign policy, namely its failure to form effective alliances.

Instapundit is skeptical. Me, not so much.

Posted by Demosophist at 04:01 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

Bill O'Reilly Interviews Michael Moore

It's on Drudge, if you don't have cable or satellite, or you can watch the streaming video here. (Click on the "Video" tab, and then the "O'Reilly vs. Moore" java link.) I especially loved this exchange:

M: Bill, if I made a mistake and I said something or did something as a result of my mistake but it resulted in the death of your child, how would you feel towards me?

O: It depends on whether the mistake was unintentional

M: No, not intentional, it was a mistake

O: Then if it was an unintentional mistake I cannot hold you morally responsible for that

"But Beeilll," he's thinking, "it was George Bush!"

God, what a bloviating idiot. And this is the guy who wanted us to treat Saddam Hussein with reasonable doubt. Just incredible.

And here's another gem:

O: Alright, you would not have removed the Taliban. You would not have removed that government?

M: No, unless it is a threat to us.

O: Any government? Hitler, in Germany, not a threat to us the beginning but over there executing people all day long—you would have let him go?

M: That’s not true. Hitler with Japan, attacked the United States.

O: Before—from 33-until 41 he wasn’t an imminent threat to the United States.

M: There’s a lot of things we should have done.

O: You wouldn’t have removed him.

M: I wouldn’t have even allowed him to come to power.

O: That was a preemption from Michael Moore—you would have invaded.

Just priceless! Michael Moore would have had the forsight to pre-empt Hitler and Tojo, but he wouldn't touch the Taliban or Saddam Hussein!

By the way, I just love having the Fox News Channel, which was really a side effect of getting satellite so I could watch bicycle racing. The FOX Special Report was identified by a joint study conducted by Stanford and UCLA, along with the Drudge Report, as being the least biased major news source in the US. You want information about UNSCAM or Sandy Berger, both stories that are almost completely ignored by network news, you have to go to FNC. If you want a news channel that doesn't let partisans get away with repeating memes like those promoted by Moore, go to FNC. If you want news about which Olsen twin has an eating disorder, go to network news. Sheesh. And they wonder why all those other sources are losing viewership to Fox.

Posted by Demosophist at 10:51 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Horrible Schizophrenia of the Democrats

God I just hate this Democratic Convention coverage. What in the world did I do that I deserve to sit through a half hour of Ron Reagan's cheesy son lobbing softballs so that Michael Moore can blast them out of the park? "Do you feel sorry for the Republicans, Michael?" Ugh.

Now that the Tour de France is over all I can think of is the distraction presented by the upcoming Olympics, because I just can't stand the party of Jackson any longer. Sayyid Qutb must have had them in mind when he talked about the "horrible schizophrenia of modern life." What else can you call the impossibility of binding together those that call "Minutemen" a bunch of barbarian thugs lopping off the heads of decent people and posting the horrific images on porn sites, with those who claim to have some clever non-intrusive "multi-lateral" (co-dependent) way to fight terrorism? Like this is the first time it ever occured to Europeans to spit contemptuously at Americans. It's a real novelty for them, and all Bush's fault of course.

How could anyone take these jokers seriously? The terrorists don't have to destroy us. We're deconstructing ourselves, turning our core into oppositional nonsense. It's like half the country have become permanent adolescents who think there's no such thing as a difficult choice, or a lesser evil.

For a break I tuned to CSPAN and listened to Ike and Adlai's 1956 convention acceptance speeches, and comparing the two I wondered how I ever became a Democrat? Adlai's "talk" was full of platitudes, and references to world peace, but somehow he still managed to claim that it was he, and not Ike, who was talking about the "hard choices." Who knows what he would have bartered away, just for the sake of maintaing that wishful think? Ike, in contrast, talked about a long, hard, contest with an implacable enemy... the end of which one could hardly imagine. And it was a good 35 years before that end finally began to materialize. Ike saw it. Adlai hadn't a clue. Not even a glimmer.

I got pretty angry at the thought of German and French cycling fans landing big goobers on Lance Armstrong's face as he trudged victoriously up L'Alpe D'Huez. But the fact that he whollaped his closest rival by over a minute on that day was more than a little consolation for those impotent indignities emerging from the dishonored faces of "Old Yurpeans." There's little wonder, frankly, that Lance wins so much. He's got soul!

But this story really makes my heart ache. Moore is apparently helping the terrorists demoralize American troops in Iraq, yet somehow Andrew Sullivan remains enraptured with a Convention that looked pretty run-of-the-mill to me. (Perhaps it's that new party allegience smell.) There was one issue in 1956 that the Democrats had in moral ascendancy over the Republicans, and Adlai Stevenson managed to touch on it several times in his otherwise lackluster acceptance speech.

But try as I might I just do not see gay marriage as rising to the level of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, nor would it ever be worth tacitly side-shuffling over to Michael Moore's side of the great divide, as he dishonors himself and those who touch his garment with the spittle he projects at the face of the Great Republic.

Update: A great mind thinks along the same lines with characteristic eloquence.

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July 23, 2004


Andrew thinks he's found a coherent position:

If you believe, as Stanley Kurtz does, that it is critical to maintain the cultural link between marriage and parenting, we do have an obvious option: give all couples civil unions and let them be converted to marriage licenses if and when the couple has or adopts children. That would honor both the marriage-parenting link, and remove the indefensible heterosexual privilege that the law now upholds. But it won't happen - because straight couples without children would be appalled at how it denigrates their relationships and makes them second-class citizens. Well, at least they would then know how it feels like to be gay.

The primary problem with such a proposal is that although child rearing is the primary/critical reason for marriage, it isn't the only reason. The issue is whether gay marriage would undermine that critical function indirectly. Direct effects of gay marriage are rather irrelevant, since only 0.5% of children are in homes with gay parent figures. And, of course, the main reason such a proposal would not be acceptable to Andrew is that it would benefit a diminishly small proportion of the gay population. I just have a hunch he wouldn't find this attractive.

But the notion of a two-tiered system of marriage has merit, whether you call it "marriage lite" versus "marriage heavy" or you do as Sullivan's reader suggests. In fact, I'd tweak it a bit further and simply make a stipulation that all couples who produce children must be married (enforcing shotgun marriage, essentially) and that no couple with children younger than three are eligible for divorce. In fact, if we could establish a system with those modifications I'd probably drop my objection to gay marriage. And not only would such a system preserve the essential function of marriage, but it would also almost certainly hold down population growth.

My brother, my sisters, and I were the product of a shotgun marriage. Eventually our parents divorced, but not until most of us were grown. This arrangement was enormously beneficial for us, and I can't imagine that we'd have had anything like the sort of rearing that has blessed us throughout our lives had any of us been raised by a single parent, especially during our first three years. This is the sort of story that has all-but disappeared from American life... and we need to find a way to re-establish it. Whether or not it's appropriate to bring it back through the authority of the state would probably be extremely difficult to establish, but the fact that it would require state intervention may provide some measure of just how much the culture has lost (and how much there is still to lose).

Addendum: You know it occured to me, after re-thinking the parthenogenesis theme, that it might make some sense to simply constrained the initiation of the marriage contract to those who can produce eggs. A non-producer could only become married by "invitation." This would, of course, exclude all male homosexuals from marriage, but would not exclude lesbians.

Posted by Demosophist at 01:52 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

What's Up With LeMond?

Armed Liberal has promised to offer his thoughts on the controversy over accusations that Lance Armstrong has been using performance enhancing drugs. Impatient fellow that I am, I've decided to offer my own thoughts on the matter... even though I don't actually know a damn thing. In case the reader isn't aware of the flap, American cycling icon Greg LeMond has come out staunchly in support of those who have been claiming that Lance is a fraud.

I saw part of the ESPN report, which includes an interview with LeMond. According to the report there are several former associates of Armstrong, including a physician who's a former member of his medical support team, saying some rather incriminating things. But none of these detractors seem to have any direct knowledge of EPO doping. The physician says that he was approached by several cycists from the US Postal team (though not Lance himself) with what he called "veiled requests" for drugs, and shortly after he had refused to provide the "stuff" he was "unhired." That sounds sorta incriminating, but it's hardly a slam dunk. I doubt that his testimony would be worth much in court, since it largely amounts to hearsay.

Likewise a former pro cyclist said that he was at a meeting of cyclists in the early '90s where they discussed coming to a kind of collective agreement to use performance enhancers, and Armstrong was on the "pro" side of the argument. But this fellow doesn't seem to have any more direct knowledge than the physician, and someone else at the aforementioned meeting would probably have to come forward to corroborate what this guy says before I'd take it seriously.

LeMond is an order of magnitude more influencial than any of the other detractors, but I've only seen excerpts of his statements, and they seem to rest on his claim that he has been threatened, by Lance and others, with financial repercussions for speaking out. But what, exactly, does he know? What can he prove and what evidence does he have? I can't see that he's offering anything more than inference from what appear to possibly be guilty actions on the part of Lance.

I can't think of any particular reason why Greg would have it in for Lance, but haven't been paying that much attention. I suppose he could resent all the ad contracts, and the fact that Lance is sort of overshadowing his record as the premier American cyclist. In fact, Bernard Hinault, one of the five cyclists who have won the Tour five times, says that LeMond is motivated by jealousy. He'd be a lot more likely to know about that than the rest of us. The other folks could, likewise, be motivated by jealousy (in the case of the pro cyclist) or revenge (in the case of the fired sports consultant). But I don't know any of those reasons as facts, nor have I ever seen any evidence for them. What would the evidence be?

I guess the most damning thing I heard in the ESPN report was a statement by two women who were reportedly in a hospital room shortly after the cancer diagnosis, when Lance was asked by his doctor whether he had ever used performance-enhancing drugs. When asked what Lance's response was to the doctor the two women said that it was up to Lance to answer such questions. I suspect that if Lance had said "No, I've never ever used drugs," there'd have been little reason for them to defer to Lance. But he could have said something a good deal less embarassing than "Yeah, I've been using drugs nonstop for years," too. And even if he had used drugs, this would have been during the period prior to his cancer.

It's interesting to speculate whether or not Ullrich would be declared a four-time winner retroactively, if Lance is convicted of doping, since Jan was second to Lance thee times, and to Pantani once, and won the Tour in 1997. Pantani is known to have used drugs, though there's no proof he used them the year he won the Tour. (Ullrich was also second to Riis once, but I don't think anyone believes Riis was a doper.) Ullrich was once banned for six months himself, after testing positive for amphetamines.

Anyway, I'm not sure being declared the retroactive winner in those three (or four) races would be worth much, since I imagine if Lance turns out to be a fraud pro cycling will be pretty much in the toilet. But we're still a long way from that. For the time being I'm going to presume innocence, since extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and I just don't see much proof here, extraordinary or otherwise.

Back in yellow, after his second stage win today.

Posted by Demosophist at 06:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 15, 2004

Friends and I Appear in Washington Post Article

A group to which I belong was recently written up on the front page of the Washington Post concerning an incident in which we were openly carrying holstered firearms in a resaurant. I raise the issue here because it involves a confrontation between what I think is an outmoded and failed doctrine of irresponsibility and a new doctrine taking partial responsibility for one's own defense. The two doctrines were sharply contrasted by the way different sets of airplane passengers handled a gang of hijackers on September 11, 2001. The only plane that was not used as a guided missile was the one in which citizens decided not to sit meekly in their seats waiting for the "authorities" to fix things. Marc Danziger (Armed Liberal) has written extensively about this issue on his own blog and on Winds of Change. I have written about it previously, here.

I'm in a group that practices firing arms at a local range, and after the session we often go out to a restaurant. It's a social outing growing from common interests and conversation. Most of us in the group, which includes a number of women, have permits to carry a concealed weapon. Virgina law, however, restricts concealed carry in any establishment with a liquor license, which includes most restaurants. The accepted and lawful response to the restriction is to simply expose the holstered weapon in order to conform to the law, a practice called "open carry." While the law restricts concealed carry in restaurants, open carry in the state of Virginia has always been legal, except in certain localities with special ordinances. A recent statute did away with these local ordinances, making open carry of a legally owned firearm legitimate almost everywhere. (The lone exception is in the Dulles corridor, so far.)

A number of us in the "Friday Night Group" were approached by a small cadre of policemen in a local Champps restaurant after a citizen (possibly the restaurant manager) called 911. The article in WaPo describes the incident in a fairly biased manner, reflecting, I think, a certain preference for that doctrine that failed us so badly on a recent September morning. Nonetheless the article is informative. The most glaring bias, apart from the use of presumptive idioms such as "packing heat," concerns the fact that the author, Tom Jackman, never mentions that open carry is the accepted law-abiding response to statute restrictions on concealed carry. He also never mentions that the weapons in question were holstered, and even sews a rather erroneous impression of Virginia statute by recounting the law as meaning that "no permit is required to simply wield a gun in the open."

It may be a small point, but openly wielding an unholstered firearm could, and almost certainly does (depending on the circumstances), constitute a violation called "brandishing," for which there are severe penalties, including fines and possible imprisonment. We're not talking about Dodge City here.

The article fairly drips with the kind of doctrinal prejudices that would prefer that passengers sit passively in their seats no matter what sort of outrage might transpire. Ed Koch, interviewed recently on Fox News, stated the postition clearly when he said that he felt the appropriate response to the threat of terrorism is to 'go about your business normally, and allow the proper authorities to deal with any problems." Apparently he's forgotten how that worked out.

And note the subtitle of the article: "'Exercising Right' Called 'Unreasonable' by Some." I won't recount the long history of the Second Amendment, or the fact that the exercise of rights almost always offends someone, but consider the words of two people who have problems with my rights and sense of obligation:

Openly carrying weapons is "not a good idea," said Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center in Washington. "This is the gun lobby's vision of how America should be. Everybody's packing heat and ready to engage in a shootout at the slightest provocation."

Ricker said the gun owners "are probably doing their cause more harm than good by raising this issue. It raises an awareness and gives people who are more rational thinkers the opportunity to go to their legislators and make their views known."

Well, given that the average legal costs associated with an incident involving the use of a firearm in self defense is around $10,000 most of the people I know aren't itching for "a shootout at the slightest provocation." They have, instead, simply decided that it's moral to be prepared "for the gravest extreme." More significantly, I think we ought to be somewhat alarmed at the idea that the exercise of a right (a requirement for those carrying concealed weapons) jeapardizes that right? Does not the doctrine that underlies this attitude have certain inevitable implications for all rights?

As 911 recedes from public memory so too does the awareness of the failed doctrine that aided the hijackers in three of the four planes. And if openly carrying a firearm in a restaurant once in awhile helps, even at the margin, to remind people of that failure it's worth the hassle.

Update: Here's a somewhat less biased article about the incident in the same paper.

Update 2: I've talked with Tom Jackman, and it's probably the case that I've leapt to an inaccurate conclusion regarding his objectivity. Either that, or his position is changing. At any rate it was an encouraging discussion and I feel certain that some misapprehensions about the Virginia carry laws will be cleared up in his next piece.

Posted by Demosophist at 06:35 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

The Coming Naked Feast

I've been discussing with some friends the dialogue between Wretchard and Den Beste about the Battle of Waterloo and its implications for our time. One friend thinks that the problem concerns "national myths," exemplified in the flawed account of Waterloo that most people learned--an account that omits the critical role of the Prussians in the final defeat of the Little Corporal. We Americans, my friend says, are similarly seduced by our own national myths. And relatedy my British friend contends that the main lesson of the Napoleonic Era must be that a coalition is required to defeat the tyrant. I understand the appeal, and I'm sure he's right that we've been seduced by our grand myths, but what tyrant is he talking about? You mean to say there's a modern equivalent of Napoleon?

As far as mythic deception goes I'm far more concerned about those that are churned out by the assembly line of our flawed "public information system." As I've said before, I don't think the problem is bias... because, as Karl Mannheim obverved, everyone is biased. If that were really a civilization-killing flaw the planet would be ruled by intelligent arachnids or something. In fact the problem is mainly inappropriate method. After all, appropriate method is how David Hamilton-Williams corrected the grand Waterloo myth.

But people seem to figure that their bias offers a reliable "fix" or "adjustment" for the shortcomings of method, thereby compounding the problem. Biased nonsense is a little worse than balanced nonsense I guess, but not enough to matter. And a preposterously distorted image of reality emerges, an image that really doesn't help anyone but the enemy.

What would have happened had the Allied Expeditionary Force in Operation Overlord not had a system whereby newly acquired information was timelined and updated and corrected in order to build a constantly evolving and accurate comprehensive digraph of the events that were taking place within the "fog of war?" Our "press establishment," which was marginally appropriate for recounting the inner city blues or the occasional "trial of the century" can't even think in terms of more than one variable, as it considers the wisdom of policies that are, almost by definition, beyond its ken. If all else fails just call in the ideological bias to put things right. And later they "post-correct" by mulling over one or two cherished-but-no-longer relevant variables, prescribing rat poison for any public figure who, in a tiresomely familiar manner consistent with human institutions throughout history, manages to get a few things horribly wrong. The expectation that we have is one of simple-minded and agreeable omniscience. It's a standard that even Napoleon couldn't achieve.

And, getting back to the second point, was "coalition-building" the main lesson of the Napoleonic Era? It's true, after all, that Britain didn't defeat Napoleon alone. But just what is one supposed to do when those who perceive the danger, and are therefore willing to do something about it, are not "the usual suspects?" What irony, what very bitter irony, that those who were most successfully bootstrapped into the modern community of nations by the United States--"Old Yurp," S. Korea, the Philippines, etc.--are now the most complacent about the threat... and the least likely to have the moral courage to meet it. Not that they have much to offer... by design. One might be forgiven for thinking that the "success" of those nation-building efforts had a touch of myth.

Still, if the media could suffer a transformation like that the Pentagon experienced over the thirty years since Vietnam, most of the other issues would self-correct, eventually. And that brings us to the other bitter irony in all of this: that the US Military was compelled to painfully and operationally understand its failings in Vietnam, while the very folks who, according to their own mythology, revealed those flaws never had a similar naked lunch, of their very own.

Posted by Demosophist at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2004

And Now, Back to the Tour de France for Some Lessons About the "War on Terror"

Sure have been a lot of crashes this time around. Even Hamilton and Armstrong fell today. Partly has to do with the lousy wet weather, and partly with the race dynamics. There's a very long period of flat stages that basically raise the level of jumpiness before the pattern of dominance really emerges in the mountains after about stage 10.

The dominant principles are subtle. One might think that since "what goes up must come down" the average speed on a mountainous course ending at the start elevation would be similar to the average speed of the course if it were flat. If a rider goes uphill he's essentially storing energy that will be returned on the downhill, after all.

But it doesn't really work that way.

First of all it's impossible to re-aquire all the energy stored in an uphill segment of the race because the energy lost to mechanics, rather than gravity, is time rather than distance dependent. In other words, the energy lost to friction is, more or less, a constant function of time. So the longer the time you spend on an uphill segment the more energy you'll lose to something other than gravity, and that enery isn't stored... it's invested in heat, which does you no good if you're interested in speed.

But there's also the matter of average speed, which works against a cyclist in hilly or mountainous terrain. Let's suppose there's a big mountain right in the middle of a stage that's 25 miles uphill and 25 miles down, ending at the same elevation as the start. You can traverse a flat 50 mile couse at 25 mph, so the course would, if it were flat, take you 2 hours. But because the engine you use on the uphill segment is so inefficient, you average only 10 mph for the first 25 miles of the race, and that isn't out of line at all as a realistic estimate. The first 25 miles therefore take you 2.5 hours, and it's obvious that there's simply no way you'll be able to achieve a 25 mph average, even if you traversed the downhill at the speed of light.

So stage races are won and lost in the mountains. These early flat stages are mainly of interest to sprinters and their fans, but unless they lead to a crash that results in a serious handicap to one of the principle riders, capable of making good time in the mountains, they simply won't matter.

There's an analogy with life and politics. Ultimately one's success in life is determined not by how you deal with the good times, but how you deal with the bad or awful times. The "ersatz peace" movement pines away for the good times, the period before the underlying nature of a war, that really began over twenty years ago, was apparent. But, as Wretchard observes there's no way to return to that idyllic version of life, no matter how much we'd like to. The election of John Kerry won't change that reality, nor will anything else.

Our success in the "war on terror" will not be determined by how closely we can adhere to our projected performance "on the flat," because that level of performance isn't possible, or even relevant. It omits the critical variable, which has to do with an opposition that isn't really amenable to participation in our vision. Like gravity, they oppose us. Our overall success will be determined, almost exclusively (although there are some downhill daredevils that can make up significant time by taking significant risks) by the period of trial and conflict. Our overall fate is therefore primarily determined by how we perform in situations like Iraq, where we're confronting the "force of gravity" more or less directly. If you're inclined to think otherwise, forget it.

We haven't "defeated terrorism," although the public could clearly be lulled into that assumption since there have been few recent attacks, and none on American soil. But the concern about complacency is valid to the extent that the Bush Administration has, rather ignorantly, defined the conflict as a "War on Terrorism" (which is actually just a strategy, not a movement) and has, at the same time, singularly failed to make even the slightest effort to convince the public to "take the blue pill" and recognize that we're in a war at all, making the appropriate personal life adjustments. This is a fact, whether the observation is made by Michael Moore or John Edwards. It's valid, and important. In a sense if the Bush people pay for this lack of perspicacity it's on their heads.

Should Kerry win, it's definitely not the end of the world. There are loads of people on the left who, with the acceptance of the principle of accountability, have adopted the position that we're in a real war with real consequences (Hitchens, Kouchner, Roger L. Simon, etc.). And most have become more than open to the promotion of Democracy as a security issue for the Western Democracies. I'd expect Kerry and Edwards to have a similar post-election 'revelation' once in office, and if they don't I submit they'd become imensely vulnerable to a counter-attack from conservatives.

There really isn't any chance that the "peace movement" will win, even if they win.

Indeed, I'm quite willing to scuttle Bush simply to make the point that he's not good enough if he doesn't begin to act appropriately pretty soon. This war will last at least a generation, and possibly two, and it's therefore necessary to recognize that there'll be reversals, and that the ultimate winner will probably be the one who makes fewer mistakes. At this point I still support George W. Bush, but I'm not at all convinced that he's really the man for the job. This is an uphill struggle. The sprints won't matter in the long run.

Posted by Demosophist at 07:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A Shift in Strategy on Gay Marriage

It's just way too easy to portray the opposition of religious conservatives to gay marriage as bigotry. That may be why, as this article points out, gays have been vastly more successful in the PR battle over gay marriage than have their opponents, including fundamentalist Christians. So maybe it's time for a change in strategy. A big change.

The fact is that gays have been enormously successful in the PR battle, and people just aren't shocked or dismayed by homosexuality much any more. Well, good for them. Except fundamentalist Christians, who clearly don't deserve the slightest consideration... compared to fundamentalist Muslims, for whom homosexuality is a capital offense, but who have somehow managed to achieve mascot status with most S.F. gays anyway. I mean, after all, most of those damned Southern Baptists are also damned Capitalists... probably. And, being Capitalist, or even worse "ideologically American" (Lockean, anti-statist, religiously sectarian, etc.) is the real sin from the perspective of the gay "movement." (Meaning, as one conservative gay observed recently on Roger L. Simon's blog: "those sad, bitter queens on the coasts.")

So here's a little:

Advice to conservatives concerned about gay marriage: OK, so just split the gay vote. Support gay marriage for homosexual women, and oppose it for homosexual men. I mean physiology being what it is Richard Simmons is a lot less likely to get pregnant than Ellen Degeneres anyway, and it'd make a lot more sense to observe that marriage is about motherhood than about indulging the noble '60s tradition of "open marriage" practiced by most "committed" gay men. (Gotta be studies on this, because it's sure common knowledge with most of the gay men I know.) That'll throw a monkey wrench into things, huh?

Old, slightly politically incorrect, joke:

Q: What does a lesbian drive to her second date?
A: A moving van.

The point being that there really are gender differences that matter. I don't really know why no one has thought of this, frankly. I'm sure it'd be fought tooth and nail through the courts over gender descrimination issues, but in doing so it'd make an enormously important point that currently isn't being made at all, by anyone: Marriage is about child raising, not indulging romantic whims. And even if the opposition to gay marriage isn't ultimately successful, that's still an important point to make..., and keep making..., and keep making... again, and again, and again... until it starts to sink in... even with gays (most of whom were raised by somebody, probably).

Winning a PR battle isn't often a straightforward matter of doctrinaire conviction, especially when that conviction is so open to a charge of intolerance. But that doesn't mean the PR battle isn't worth fighting, either.

Posted by Demosophist at 04:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July Surprise

Spencer Ackerman and John Judis recently wrote an article in The New Republic Online proposing, on the basis of some anonymous sources in the Pakistani Regime, that the Bush administration is about to make the political and foreign policy equavalent of a "called home run:" placing an order with Pakistani Intelligence for the timely capture or execution of Osama Bin Laden, or some other "high value target," in July. Well fine, but TNR has been slowly achieving a reputation for whackiness, and this accusation raises a few questions about why there isn't more skepticism about a story like this:

1. It seems, at best, rather implausible that having failed to capture or kill these targets for three years, it would be reasonable to make such a home run call now. And if it were possible, why not order up the capture some time ago and then keep the culprit "on ice" until the optimal time in the campaign?

2. What's optimal about July, for heaven sake? Few are paying much attention to the Presidential campaign during the dog days. Indeed many pols in DC are on vacation, as is much of the nation. Plus, springing a surprise in July gives the opposition over three months to nullify its impact. True, it would probably undermine the "convention bounce" expected for Kerry... but it's a bounce, not an election. What goes up inevitably comes down, in other words. The optimal time for a pre-election surprise "home run" would be mid to late october, not July. The Judis, Ackerman article exhibits no real comprehension or understanding of election dynamics, in other words.

3. The area and population from which the story's source arises is a rather notorious cauldron of conspiracy thinking and intrigue. What makes this story any more credible than, say, the far more popular theory that Bush or Mossad were behind the 9/11 attacks? It's all about the oil, you know.

4. And finally, a plausible argument could be made for pressing the Pakistanis to capture an HVT now precisely because of concerns about a terrorist "surprise" during the conventions, or the run up to the election... to acquire intelligence or disrupt communication or support for the terrorists who might be engaged in such an action. This seems a much more plausible line of reasoning for any actual ramp up in the pressure placed on the Pakistanis, than the impossibly low odds of a "called home run." And given their predispotion for intrigue and conspiracy thinking they simply might be interpreting easily comprehensible concerns as a "July Surprise."

But the real issue for me concerns just exactly why TNR is sinking to this level of conspiracy thinking right now? A political motivation for that seems a lot more plausible than a "July Surprise."

Posted by Demosophist at 08:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 08, 2004

Why Method is Important

In the next few days the 911 Commission is going to issue it's report, which will point to some rather significant failures in the intelligence community. But since the Commission isn't really equipped to deal with, or even conceptualize, complex or wicked problems, it'll simply point a few fingers, get a few people fired, and generally not make any important changes. Well, I'm just guessing from some stuff I heard Senator Levin talking about on CSPAN an hour ago.

We don't solve complex problems, because our entire system is geared toward solving simple problems... and if a problem isn't simple we just toss simple solutions at it like darts at a dartboard, because that's what we do.

So Senator Levin sees the problem as the Bush administration having failed to communicate that, for instance, the CIA "doubted" that the meeting between Atta and the Chief of Iraqi Intelligence took place in Prague. They criticize the CIA scathingly, yet they believe we can just accept the CIA's "doubts" about such a meeting at face value.

Does the CIA know, of a certainty, where Atta was at the time of the alledged meeting? If not, why not? What was their basis for doubt? More importantly, if we're more concerned with Type II errors, as we ought to be in this case, then the issue isn't the CIA's doubt, but why they still kept the possibility that such a meeting did take place open. And more importantly why that was the right and correct thing to do, for the Administration. (Levin seems to think it was the wrong thing to do, but can't express a coherent reason for such a presumption.) In other words a prudent person ought to ask: "Have you any proof that the meeting did not take place? Proof that rises to the level of the proof that's now being demanded of those who say the metting did take place?"

Because that's the only way we could have made a valid and appropriate assumption that there was no such meeting.

Let me repeat that, for emphasis: Only if we can prove that the meeting did not take place to a virtual certainty would it have been appropriate to assume that it did not. Otherwise the appropriate assumption was that the meeting did take place. (There is a body of evidence pointing to such a meeting. It's simply that the evidence isn't conclusive, or has other explanations.)

Now, of course, we can assume that it didn't take place... but only because the risks associated with a Type II error (concluding that there was no Al Qaeda/Saddam collaboration, when there was) have been reduced to almost zero. And those risks have been reduced because we acted on the assumption that there was a collaborative relationship, even though we knew there was no certaintly about that.

So why doesn't Levin understand this?

Beats me.

Posted by Demosophist at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

Crossing Over With John Edwards

Er, no... this isn't about that low life con man that talks to the "dear departed." It's about the new Veep candidate. Edwards was precisely the sort of politician I'd have supported during my activist days with Citizen Action, and I have no problem with suing insurance companies. From a policy perspective, however, it'd probably be more cost effective to give insurance execs and operatives a handsome stipend to stay home and do nothing (a suggestion once made by R.B. Fuller). But, like Roger L. Simon, I simply don't think there's any way I could possibly vote for that ticket unless there were a really convincing "strategic" reason to do so. (Like giving the anti-war movement enough rope to finally hang themselves for good, or something.)

But basically even if I were inclined to vote for a Kerry/Edwards ticket this time around I'd have to restrain myself, because of the message it would send to the terrorist and terrorist/sympathizing opposition. It would make the appeasement message of the Spanish election look like a cake walk. You see, I actually believe the data suggesting that terrorist recruitment accelerates whenever the US shows a lack of military resolve. That isn't to say that it doesn't grow in other circumstances, but the point is that it doesn't grow at an accelerating rate.

This business of not sending the wrong "message" actually transcends politics, and even ethics to a certain extent. Some have argued that Japanese aggression came about as a result of a mistaken order given by the Roosevelt admininstration to restrict Japanese access to oil. Roosevelt realized that the order was a mistake almost immediately, and it might have been prudent to withdraw it and apologize to the Japanese... but he correctly realized that even though that might have been "fair" in terms of our western ethic it would have sent a message of weakness to the Japanese, and would have actually hastened the confrontation with the Japanese that he thought inevitable.

So he let the order stand.

Simply put, the election of Kerry... no matter the motivation of Americans, will be read as an encouraging victory by the enemy, and will not only hearten that enemy, but will give him increased resources and ultimately would mean more American deaths than would otherwise have been the case.

And that would be true even if I agreed with Kerry's policy positions, which of course I don't. I think we've gone past the point of no return, and if we try to retract we'll end up paying the Devil his due. The dye is cast, and it's time for a little healthy resolve.

[Aside: So Lance is in the yellow jersey again after Stage 4, and the first five riders in the overall standing are from the US Postal team! Not only that, but American Tyler Hamilton is in 8th place, 36 seconds back (well within range), and Bobby Jullich and Levi Liepheimer are also in contention, at 1 minute and 1:08, respectively. Americans are dominating a French institution! Tomorrow the Tour goes to Chartres, for the first time it its 100+ year history.]

Posted by Demosophist at 08:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

Sorry, I've Been Away

Not physically, but emotionally. Not only is it summer, and I'm having a little trouble making rent during the dog days when there's nothing much going on, but it's the Tour de France season, and I'm just a hopeless addict. I'm not sure how I feel about it though. Today's stage over the cobblestones made me nervous. As a gap opened up between Iban Mayo's group (one of the contenders for the overall General Classification win) and just kept growing I began to see myself falling further and further behind. I know what that "gap" looks like, and I know what it feels like to see it growing from a short distance to a yawning chasm. And he lost out because he just wasn't riding with a top team. The people around him, the group he had chosen for support and succor, were second rate. Once they'd lost the wheels of the faster, fitter, riders... they just lost the will of the pursuit. Mayo ended up almost 4 minutes behind the other contenders, due to what amounted to a mere moment of inattention. A metaphor for life? It makes one shudder.

Life probably isn't quite that harsh, for most of us. But for children born to parents unable or unwilling to nurture them in their critical first three years of life "the gap" begins to open. And the more people in the left-behind group the less well the overall society copes with cultural shocks of various kinds. We confront enemies who seem cleverer. We compete less successfully. And finally we're vulnerable to defeatism and demoralization. Eventually we're no longer in contention. The "break" comes quickly, and grows quickly.

A few weeks ago Gerard posted this:

Demosthenes, On Disagreeable Patriots

The explanation is the same as at Athens, that the patriots, however much they desire it, cannot sometimes say anything agreeable, for they are obliged to consider the safety of the state; but the others by their very efforts to be agreeable are playing into Philip's hands.

The patriots demanded a war-subsidy, the others denied its necessity; the patriots bade them fight on and mistrust Philip, the others bade them keep the peace, until they fell into the snare. [64]

Not to go into particulars, it is the same tale everywhere, one party speaking to please their audience, the other giving advice that would have ensured their safety. But at the last there were many things that the people were induced to concede, not as before for their own gratification nor through ignorance, but gradually yielding because they thought that their discomfiture was inevitable and complete.

A fine return the democrats of Eretria have gained for spurning your embassy and capitulating to Clitarchus! They are slaves, doomed to the whipping-post and the scaffold. A fine clemency he showed to the Olynthians, who voted Lasthenes their master of the horse and banished Apollonides! [67] It is folly and cowardice to cherish such hopes, to follow ill counsel and refuse to perform any fraction of your duties, to lend an ear to the advocates of your enemies and imagine that your city is so great that no conceivable danger can befall it.

Ay, and a disgrace too it is to have to say, when all is over, “Why! who would have thought it? For of course we ought to have done this or that, and not so and so.” Many things could be named by the Olynthians today, which would have saved them from destruction if only they had then foreseen them. Many could be named by the Orites, many by the Phocians, many by every ruined city.

It reaches right across the centuries, doesn't it?


Posted by Demosophist at 05:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack