Saturday, May 20, 2006

Madmen Compared


Once upon a time, there was this crazy man, liked to say all sorts of outrageous things. Didn’t like Jews much, either. Problem is, this guy was the head of his country, and so his rants could be said to represent the national policy, and there was also the problem of a pretty big army he was getting together, although he assured everyone that he was a peace-loving guy, not a threat to anyone. Oh yes, there’s a lot of similarity between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler, though there are many people quick to say we shouldn’t make that connection. But as I am sometimes slow to take my cue from the elite, I continue in my comparison:

Both men came to power on a theory of returning their nation to power through a fascist policy regarding force and law. Both men found it convenient to blame everything on Western powers and on the Jewish minority in their country/region. Both had a real jones for getting a nuclear weapon. Both saw their own country in increasingly unrealistic terms, moving from a desire for regional respect, to a thirst for hegemony, to the notion that they counld influence the world, if not control a large chunk of it. And both men found the world in general amazingly compliant with their demands, as if timidity would bring something better than disaster.

There are also differences between the men and their countries, of course. For one thing, Hitler came to power at a time when the last great war told a warning against war without caution. And there was no one like Hitler in a long time, whose malice had been so clear as to warn against even talking to him; it must have seemed to England and France that there was no downside to simply talking with the man, and ample reason to believe in the strength of the Maginot Line and the victory from World War One. These days, we should have learned enough from the Nazis to watch out for their brood, and to judge a leader by his actions, and not just his assurances.

Further, Hitler realized too late the potential of the atom bomb, while Ahmadinejad has always considered nuclear weapons his trump card to regional hegemony. But again there is a similarity; when Hitler finally decided to pursue nuclear weapons, he had no specific idea as to how they would win the war for him; like Ahmadinejad now, he simply believed that having them would make all the difference.

Now, I have addressed the tactics of Mr. Ahmadinejad before, with a suggestion or two about what I might do if I were sitting in the Oval Office. I have also written about the character of national ambitions in the Middle East; Iran has long thought of itself as the rightful leader of the whole Middle East, whether one means Ahmadinejad today, the Ayatollah Khomeini a couple decades ago, or the Shah Rezi Pahlavi before him. So when we talk about Ahmadinejad, it’s important to understand that some of this is the usual Iranian bluster which has proceeded forth from ‘Persia’ ever since it began to regain the illusion of past glories (past, as in pre-Alexander the Great). When one considers the actual readiness of Iran’s military to fight a significant conflict against a first-world opponent, the math proves the comparison a clear mis-match, clear enough that no Iranian general would advocate such a war. The significance is that this means that Ahmadinejad is speaking from a religious and political stance. Such a position hardly makes the threat impotent, but it does mean that options in response would reasonably include interfering with choke points in Iran’s R&D development, quiet meetings with selected military officials to remind them of American capability and probable responses, and naturally the encouragement of insurrection by disenchanted Iranian youth; the same use of the “street” which helped to drive out the Shah, can be pursued to drive out the Jihad Junta in Teheran; it is not commonly understood in the West, that for a number of reasons, partly cultural but largely economic, Iran’s population is strongly pro-American, to such a degree that if a competent and charismatic leader could be found among the youth in Iran, the government would find itself ousted in short order, whether or not they agreed to a vote on the matter. More than a few people who have been to Iran during the period following the fall of Baghdad, report people in the street asking why the U.S. stopped with Iraq; the sentiment among Iranian citizens is eerily like the sentiment of many Iraqis in 1991, and so there is a unique opportunity there, though direct military conflict initiated by America represents an unreasonable risk. In 1938, it seemed a lot of Europeans were simply watching to see what Britain would do, and when Chamberlain chose appeasement, the rest of Europe lost hope. Now we see again, where the Middle East and the world wait to see, not what the U.N. or some regional country does, but what America does, and heavy stakes ride on the decision.

In conclusion, Iran is not much like Germany. Iran does not own the same military tradition as Germany, nor the same quality academies and theoreticians, nor the same quality armament developers and strategists, nor the same popualtion devoted to national pride. Make no mistake, Iranians love their country, but they are not naive about the character of their government, and there is no professional corps on which to build a first-rate Army. Iran has a navy, to the same degree that I could claims to be a personal friend of President Bush - it’s possible, but it would take a great stretch of definitions to make it true in any substantive sense. And all you need to know about Iran’s Air Force, is to understand that Iranian pilots average less than fifty hours in the air every year, and none have what we could call salient experience in ACM. This means that the most likely deployment of any WMD by Iran would be via a terorist cell, which explains the continued cultivation of contact between Iran and a number of international terrorist organizations. While the ramifications of such a possibility are chilling (as one example, all NW protocols include stringent permissive release requirements, which would have to be abrogated for a terrorist group to use them), it also suggests that the threshold conditions for a decision to give NW to a terrorist group must be high, and it is unlikely in the extreme that a single person would be allowed such authority by themselves. This means that if Intelligence can confirm the existence not only of enriched materials, but an actual weapon, then the West will have a minimum amount of time to decide on a functional response before that weapon is likely to be used. There is also the clear signal sent more than once by all ‘relevant parties’, that the use of a Nuclear Weapon on certain targets, be it Tel Aviv, Washington, London, or some other target which implies a Teheran connection, that the result would cost Iran far more than it gains. Given the locations of suspected nuclear sites, they would be difficult to attack, but ironically their position in relation to mountains, and being far from towns, would create a comparatively low risk of collateral casualties if a Western nation were to deliver a nuclear reprisal, and Iran has certainly been made aware of that fact.

The Speech, Part 3 – Alien Entry Protocols


Doesn’t that sound technical? Almost as if I were discussing a process for manufacturing a product, instead of the fate of millions of people, huh. And that’s the core problem in this crisis. Both sides, those angry mobs on either end demanding they get everything they want or else the nation will be ripped apart by their tantrum, need to stop, cool down, grow up, and consider the other end.

This is not to say, of course, that everything one’s opponent says or wants is reasonable, or that the just agreement must lie somewhere in the middle between the extremes. For instance, the recent protests by illegals and their advocates were in large part sponsored by Socialist and Communist organizations which have a clear interest in destabilizing the U.S. Government; we owe no consideration, at all, to such people.

However, I agree with the President’s contention that in the main, these illegals simply want what we all want – the chance for a better life and to provide hope for their families. That does not make it right to break the law of course, but it does mean we have to be aware of the distinction between someone choosing the wrong way to pursue a reasonable dream, and someone pursuing an unacceptable goal. The sine qua non of this situation is that the borders must be made much more secure, against those who would potentially smuggle in WMD or terrorists, gangs and drugs. The obvious priority from enforcement’s stand, is to improve the triage of attention, to reduce illicit border crossings by giving better options to people who want to add to the welfare of our nation, instead of harming it.

A lot of complaint has been aimed at President Bush, for things done and said, and for things undone and not said. Almost all of these charges are unwarranted, as the responsibility for these issues lies principally with Congress as the Legislative body of American government, and with certain foreign governments, most notably Mexico, in failing to honor agreements in principle on which these initiatives depend. The Senate has failed completely to address its responsibilities in this matter, and the House, while recently passing a forceful bill which takes at least some steps, is guilty of dragging its feet for a long time. The steps proposed by President Bush go back to his 2000 Presidential Campaign, and are consistent in theme and direction. Secure borders, serious enforcement, and a practical plan to address those who are already here. Those Conservatives who want to trash the President now, might do well to explain why they have been silent for so long, when the President has been honest and detailed about his intentions and programs.

Anyway, to the task. President Bush correctly pegged two essential qualities of our border entry system; difficult-to-forge documents and a tiered system of entry, more simple but also more effective. Basically, if you have normal border conditions, you should be able to process the following types of people coming in;

1. Citizens
2. Legal Residents
3. Work-Authorized Visitors
4. Education-Authorized Visitors
5. Temporary Visitors

What all these people have in common is a trail of documents which can prove they are valid. And by documents I don’t just mean a Passport or Driver’s License, but a document which can be matched online to a databank with corroborating details, such as a photo or fingerprint. Unlike previous Presidents, Bush has pressed for more interactive cooperation between forces addressing border crossings, and to create programs which offer desirable opportunities for aliens but only in exchange for compliance and verifiable identification. Also, as President Bush has emphasized, the condition requiring a willing employer means that the location and activity of an alien entering the United States can be known before they ever set foot inside our border.

No plan demanding perfection is viable, and the United States will remain a place of mythic opportunity in the eyes of many millions of people. The best plan of action, therefore, is to reduce illicit entry traffic through the plan which best offers opportunity and specific identification.

Next - Part 4, It Costs HOW Much?

Topic Discussion


"Waddayawanna do?"

"I dunno, waddayouwanna do?"

Thanks again to everyone for coming by. It occurs to me that one service I should offer at this time, is to pay attention to your interests. If you've read my stuff before, you know I like to fisk editorials, dissect polls, and review historical models. But what's on your mind?

Call it an open thread, with an ear listening for topics you'd like to read more about.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Prayer Request


The Anchoress’ brother-in-law is fighting cancer. It’s aggressive, and right now it looks like he’s losing. If you’ve ever had a family member fighting cancer, or if you’ve ever had to look Death full in the face, you can imagine what the Anchoress is going through. I know, not only because my father passed away just a few weeks ago, but also because my mother had to fight Breast Cancer some years back.

Please keep the Anchoress and her family in your prayers. Believe me, it means a lot. Thanks.

Thought For The Evening


"When God closes a door ..."

someone will be bound to walk into it.

General Hayden


From his comments to the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, a few points on why we need this man, right now.

On why the CIA still holds a unique role in the Intelligence Community:
“CIA's role as the community leader in human intelligence and as an enabler for technical access, in all-source analysis, and in elements of research and development, not to mention its worldwide infrastructure, underscore the interdependency between CIA and the rest of the Community.”

On what the President and Congress may expect from the Director, CIA:
“when it comes to "speaking truth to power," I will lead CIA analysts by example. I will -- as I expect every analyst will -- always give our nation's leaders the best analytic judgment.”

On the politics of Intelligence:
“Respectfully, senators, I believe that the intelligence business has too much become the football in American political discourse. Over the past few years, the intelligence community and CIA have taken an inordinate number of hits, some of them fair, many of them not. Yes, there have been failures, but there have also been many great successes. We will do our lessons learned studies, and I will keep the committee fully informed on that. But I also believe that it is time to move past what seems to be an endless picking apart of the "archaeology" of every past intelligence "failure" and "success." CIA officers, dedicated as they are to serving their country honorably and well, deserve recognition of their efforts. And they also deserve not to have every action analyzed, second-guessed, and criticized on the front pages of the newspapers. Accountability is one thing -- and we will have it -- but true accountability is not served by inaccurate, harmful, and illegal public disclosures. I will draw a clear line between what we owe the American public by way of openness and what must remain secret in order for us to continue doing our jobs as charged. CIA needs to get out of the news -- as source or subject -- and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets and providing high-quality all-source analysis.”

The Picasso Code


Well, it’s finally here. And in just a few days, if you listen closely, you will hear the grinding of teeth from movie exhibitors and distribution companies everywhere, as this film fails to meet its expectations. This is not really surprising, when you think about it. Dan Brown wrote a hit book, and for some reason popular novels do not generally do well on the movie screen. But of course there’s more. Novels by their nature have a sense of the unreal; the reader gets caught up in the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ and enters a world created by the author, accepting the stated conditions. But movies present the story as if it really happens, and so the viewer must convince not only his sense of the narrative, but his eyes and ears must also concur to its validity. When something doesn’t jibe, it burrs against the rest of the story and distracts to the point that the viewer dislikes the story.

I am of course writing about 'The DaVinci Code', and no my column title is not a typo. The story by Dan Brown is hardly new, though I will grant that Brown was able to package the lie in an attractive way. You don’t sell millions of copies of a book unless the story is told well, and frankly if Brown, or Ron Howard for that matter, were honest enough to emphasis that this is a work of fiction there would be no issue to mention here. But Brown began with a popular lie, and an old one. Basically, as Christianity began to spread and grow, there was some confusion about the person and nature of Christ Jesus. Not that many people could read, and in those years before printing presses, authentic copies of the Gospel were hard to find. So teachers and preachers sometimes presented their own thoughts on the matters, and sometimes this led to some truly bizarre notions. But the fact remains that the basic tenets of the Church were established within a very short time after the years Christ walked among us, a fact which Brown discarded in order to sell his story.

Brown chose Da Vinci for his rebellious secret-holder, because of Da Vinci’s indisputable brilliance, habits of secrecy and hidden writings (such as his habit of writing backwards, right-to-left, which required a mirror or some ocular dexterity to read), and several noted arguments with the Church. Unfortunately, it was necessary to sell the story by misportraying DaVinci, having him say things he never said and be part of groups he never knew. I called this article the Picasso Code, because when you see a DaVinci painting, you see what the artist saw; in the case of a Picasso, you see things in an artificial construct, knowing it is not real. You accept what you know to be false, and this is the mind-set required to accept Dan Brown’s pretense.

Others have done better than I could at taking apart the claims made by Brown, but I am writing here about the film in specific, and the reasons why it, well, blows. First would be the effective way the Church has addressed the story’s claims. Rather than angrily denounce the story, the Church has made many efforts to discuss the claims and compare them with historical facts, which rather quickly proves Brown to be a poor historian and a bad liar. His claims regarding the Council of Nicea, the status of Arius, the dates of the canonical and heretical Gospel accounts and the character of the same, all quickly prove to be basest falsehoods. As to the claim of Jesus not dying on the cross, and so marrying Mary Magdelene and raising a family, Brown produces not a single piece of evidence to support that myth, except to attempt altering the extant Gospels. And Brown never does explain why anyone would care about a man who had claimed divinity and proved to be just a man; either Jesus was Whom He said He Was, or He was not. Brown makes the fundamental mistake of trying to play it both ways.

Such errors can be overlooked in a book, if one is willing to play along, but in the movie they fail to impress, and all the fevered posturing of Tom Hanks cannot change that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lessons From the Bogeyman


Well, it turns out I’m famous - sort of. Over at my old digs, my goodbye post got a lot of responses, including a lot of stories. Turns out I’m the Bogeyman. Huh, and I did not even like hiding in closets, what do you know about that!

What I mean is, I am getting all sorts of things pinned on me. Seems I was a hothead, held crazy ideas, and even days after losing my posting powers, I am still somehow blocking selected victims from being able to post comments on Polipundit. Maybe my next gig should be Freddy Kreuger?

But seriously, all this talk tells me I should probably lay out a few things, just for clarity. Believe them or not as you wish, but no one will be able to say I did not answer the questions. So here goes.

First, there were three significant issues which created some controversy at Polipundit; the nomination of Harriet Miers, the control of boorish behavior on comment threads, and of course the Illegals crisis.

When President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to be a Supreme Court Justice, the resulting explosion from the Hard Right was regrettable. Some folks at Polipundit have claimed that I was a champion of Miers, and that I referred to anyone who opposed her as a “bastard”. Neither claim is accurate. What I wanted for Harriet Miers, is simply what Republicans and alleged Conservatives had said for years that they considered the base for Congressional behavior - a chance to be heard, and a right to a vote, up or down. But when Miers was nominated, the demands by extremists for her to be removed prior to even her first day before the Senate Judiciary Committee smacked of an intolerant special-interest group; when Liberal groups made the same attacks on prior nominees by Republican Presidents, Conservatives rightly castigated their litmus-test attitude, as well as the notion that a Presidential nominee was not entitled to a fair chance to have his or her qualifications considered. When the bullying finally succeeded in forcing Ms. Miers to withdraw her acceptance of the nomination, the extremists crowed with delight. The people I called “bastards” were not the Conservatives who were concerned about Miers’ qualifications, but those who had just found a tool to demand ideological conditions for appointments, and who had just demonstrated an ability to blackmail the Executive Branch. Such conduct is reprehensible, no matter what politics are involved. The process, the American people’s right to see nominees in public hearings, was badly abused, and so when I wrote “the bastards won”, I meant (and specifically said so) those persons who found thuggery acceptable when it serves their purpose. The fact that such tactics have only increased in number and venom, proves I was right, that the worst elements in politics are in the ascendancy, and far too few people find Reason before they look for Rage.

The second episode is not so clear-cut. It is the cornerstone to an effective debate, that contrary opinions should be allowed, even encouraged. However, there are limits to what should be tolerated, when the practice of one person’s free speech tramples another. Polipundit is a strong advocate of free speech, to such a degree that he allowed profanity, vulgarity, and all manner of rhetorical bullying. Frankly, I strongly disapproved of this, because it shut down the more civil posters, and all too often solid conversations devolved into shouting matches. To control this, I used three general types of response; I would remove part or all of an offensive post (including ones which were simply being disruptive), if a poster kept it up I would mock them in their own style - this was not well received by the bullies, as such people are never interested in receiving their own style, and in extreme cases I would ban the IP from that thread. I should mention here a unique aspect of Polipundit; writers did not have the power to permanently ban any IP or individual; that was never even a possibility. So while there are, even now, still a few people at Polipundit claiming I locked them out of the site, this is a ridiculous and completely false claim. Of course, it tracks with the sort of behavior I saw when I was an official - while you did not have the power or place to mock a player or coach, you did have the ability to address the various fouls and violations. And like the blogs, the guilty parties always made themselves out to be the victims, blaming the officials for their own misdeeds. I mention this, because while I fully believe in Free Speech, on a blog it’s a privilege, not a right, and I will not allow anyone to derail the discussion with excessive vulgarity or deliberate provocations. Treat the other side with respect, and avoid name-calling, and we should be fine. But if I find it necessary to take action, I will do so, and I will neither apologize nor explain unless I find it necessary.

Finally, there is the issue of illegal aliens coming into our country. This is, as I noted a couple days ago, actually several issues happening together to make a crisis. The complaint I had is actually pretty simple, common sense to my mind. You don’t change someone’s mind by yelling at them, so calling the President of the United States a ‘liar’ or similar tactics is not only rude and a false charge, it is a poor plan of debate. Same thing for yelling at the people who have another opinion; listening to them and offering evidence for your side is smart, but calling them names and writing insults in ‘ALL CAPS’ is immature and foolish.

And that brings you up to speed. I’m sure I will be accused of something else in coming days; legends of monsters and evil hosts tend to grow in size and number. What I ask from you here, is to read my work, respond as you see fit, and judge me by the results. And as always, thanks for your visit and comments.

The Dragon In The Room


OK, I was going to save this until I had a bit more information to work with, but now seems a good time, and I always like a good teaser.

We're hearing a lot right now about illegals, and for most people the image that conjures up is a young, uneducated Hispanic. Right?

OK, just to poke the grey matter a little bit, do you know, do you have any idea at all, how many Asians are illegally here in the United States right now? What about just Chinese?

A fence from Texas to California is not nearly going to solve this, folks. And some of the people making the most noise, well, I don't see them doing all that much thinking.

And Now What Course?


I see, looking back at the horizon whence lay the once-great vista of, that the debris from Monday night’s blow-up has yet to completely descend. Bits and pieces of arguments, opinion, and emotion still charge the air, and visitors would be well-advised to find protection from the still-hostile atmosphere.

I would have thought that, however unfortunate, we had at least reached a resolution. It actually seemed pretty straight-forward; the site owner had decided his privacy took precedence to the opinions of the other bloggers, and we were summarily booted from his domain. I could speak to the manner and character of the events again, but the tone is well known already and there is no point to revisiting that drama.

Yet, that same site owner who in an instant of poor temper demoted the other writers from members of a 'group blog', to 'guest bloggers', to 'former writers no longer welcome', yesterday posted the following peculiar statement:

I’m going to refrain from commenting on the whole guest-blogger situation until we’ve worked out a resolution.”

Say what?

Actually, some of his readers voiced similar thoughts. From the ‘comments’ section of that post:

BlackCon: “What resolution is there? If they don’t agree with you on immigration, then they don’t get to play. What’s left to resolve?”
Bender: “Resolution?? It seems to me that once you’ve put the gun in your mouth and pulled the trigger, you’ve got as much as a “resolution” as you are ever going to get.”

Others were less kind, either promising to leave, or praising him for the evictions and basically telling the rest where they can go.

So, where to now? One thing to notice is the traffic. Despite predictions that the purge would cost him readership, the Sitemeter for shows that his 20,000 a day readership jumped to 45,000 on Tuesday, but dropped back to its normal 20,000 on Wednesday. Lorie (formerly Byrd Droppings), used to track between 500 and 1,000 hits a day, but logged more than 7,500 on Tuesday and more than 6,000 on Wednesday. As of this writing, her site has already logged 1,188 (which would be a pace for about 3,000?), so Lorie’s traffic can be said to have permanently jumped by a geometric factor. As for me, my pace used to be a very modest 50 to 100 hits a day; Tuesday and Wednesday each pulled 800, not nearly in Lorie’s league or anything like Polipundit, but literally ten to twelve TIMES what I was getting before, so let me stop right here and say thanks for your visits (today has shown 180 hits so far, on a pace for a clean 400 maybe). Alexander and Jayson do not have personal blogs, so I cannot say what effect this is having on their name recognition, although I will say that Jayson reports he is focusing mainly on his law work, including some teaching; we may have to ask him for guest appearances in a very real sense. Alexander is still keen on political analysis, but is debating whether he wants to be part of a group blog or start up his own site. Given his intelligence and style, I do not doubt he will be a hit.

Alexander’s decision between single-and-group blogs is sort of the issue for all of us. It looks right now as if we have three general routes to choose from:

[] Single-person blogs
[] Join an existing group blog
[] Start up our own group blog

Now me, I’m a big advocate of the third option, not least because I liked the synergy between us in our group, and because if we co-start a blog, there won’t be any danger of that ‘I own the site and you will do as I say’ nonsense. If we had to choose one of us to be the ‘captain’ of the team, I would nominate Lorie, for two reasons:

1. Lorie has always been the best-tempered of us all; and
2. Lorie’s personal traffic shows that she is the best-known and most-respected of us all.

I don’t want to get too caught up in ifs and possibilities here, but I did want to say where I see the best option. To be crudely mercenary, I also see a group blog, if it’s set up well, as a tremendous possibility; people like big newspapers which can supply their thirst for news, opinion, culture, entertainment, and background. A good group blog should do the same but frankly, no one yet has done all of that. This suggests to me that a blog which is informative, thought-provoking, funny, entertaining, and which listens to its readers would be a gland slam, a first-stop-of-the-day which would lead to huge readership and significant revenue. Quite literally a win-win.

The obstacles, of course, are huge. First, no one can guarantee success – I recall the anecdote of the first development of the downloadable music player, back around 1989-90. It was ahead of its time, and so fifteen years before the iPod, this great idea got no traction. Also, we’d need to recruit advertisers, design a sharp-looking site with spiffy graphics and logos and such, and of course we’d have to bring aboard the right balance of writers, enough to cover all the bases but not so much that it became a crowd. Talk about ‘opportunity cost’!

And then there is the question of fairness. Most group blogs have to figure out how to pay out the money. The first part is simple – you have to make more than you’re spending on the site, but after that, who gets what? The most common answer I hear is that the writers split the money evenly, but I don’t know about that. The reason I say this, is because of what I noted earlier; if Lorie and I pooled our talents on a 2-person blog [I am not saying this as an option, but only for this example], we would get my 400-800 a day plus Lorie’s 3,000-8,000 a day, less anyone who was visiting both of our individual sites. Lorie would reasonably be said to be responsible for 90% of our traffic, and by rights should enjoy a similar portion of profits. The problem is this sort of thing is not a science. If, again as an example, Alexander came on board, we’d have no idea what his fan base measures, and so could not empirically determine a reasonable portion of the revenue. I know from history, that this is the sort of thing which should be worked out before the place gets going. The question for Lorie then, is to decide what works to her own best advantage. Obviously, I benefit from having a connection to someone of her talent and reputation, but unless she believes she receives a similar benefit, Lorie might find it more to her advantage to join forces with someone better able to advance her professional position.

So anyway, you have a sense of what’s going on, in my mind as least. The site owner of Polipundit, though I wish him well, pretty much slammed the door when he sent an ultimatum to us and locked us out. I want to thank everyone for their gracious offers of temporary or permanent blog homes, but as you can see there’s a lot to consider. I promise, if I’m going to continue to see this amount of traffic here at Stolen Thunder, to work on a more attractive background.

UPDATE: I see that Alexander has tentatively accepted a position joining the fine team at I am happy for Alexander and wish him all the best, and hope you will all visit Redstate, if you are not doing so already.

Mom, Nerf-heads, and Help From Dr. Lewis


I spoke with Mom again last night, as I have been doing daily ever since the day my father passed away. She’s doing better than before, both emotionally and physically, though of course it’s a long road ahead, and I don’t doubt some days will be problems for her. I figure to keep in close touch by phone, and to visit as often as I can; she really likes to see Jagan, who has lately been on her very best behavior, so that helps her feel better as well.

My Mom got some books from people to help deal with the loss. One thing which jumps out at me is how poor the available books on Grief are. I understand that it’s a complex issue, especially since it seems that everyone has to deal with grief in their own way, but the books out there today are, well, pretty much all dreck. This seems to be especially the case with books written by people who hold PhD’s. They understand the intellectual concept well enough, but they don’t seem to have a clue about talking to real people about their real pain and trauma. As an example, my mom is pretty religious. So she was less than impressed when one author holding a PhD, in a book intended to be read by the bereaved for guidance and comfort, suggested that it was a sign of weakness to “use religion as a crutch” when a loved one dies. While I can understand that someone who is not religious may not like the idea of embracing one’s faith in a time of trouble, it seems to me the height of arrogance to insult someone’s deepest-held beliefs at a time when they have already suffered a severe loss. Other books were not much better, treating the death of a loved one with much the same regard as they would a problem with the garbage disposal – oh, your husband died? Gee, that’s too bad, but he was getting old anyway, and now you have freedom to do whatever you really wanted to do – blah, blah, blah. Browsing through the books myself, I cannot say I found a single thing worth mentioning here – with the notable exception of C.S. Lewis.

As those familiar with Dr. Lewis know, he lost his wife Joy to cancer, after a long fight which the couple at one time thought they had won. I especially enjoyed the scene from the movie “Shadowlands”, where Anthony Hopkins caught perfectly the pain and frustration Lewis felt when person after person, all with the best of intentions, trotted out some banal exhortion. You know, ‘This was somehow for the best’, ‘It was meant to be’, and such useless words which do nothing for the moment or the need. As he was still coming to grips with his pain, and understanding that people needed something to address the pain they felt when suffering such a loss, and as therapy for his own loss, C.S. Lewis wrote “A Grief Observed”, far and away the best book I have ever read on the subject. It’s not an easy read, by any means, but it’s direct and honest, and it helps like no other book I have read on the subject.

It’s not surprising, really. Grief strikes all of us, but when it does, there’s few indeed who feel inclined to write about it, to wrestle with it, while the white-hot pain tears away at your own spirit and composure; even the best writers would be reluctant to invite that monster further into their own soul. It adds to my respect for Dr. Lewis that he was that rare courageous person, who understood that his own pain could serve to heal others.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hypocrisy – The Conservative Hydra?


Vox Day writes for a rag called the World Net Daily. I call it a rag, because even the New York Times has higher standards, and so WND cannot reasonably called a news source. Hate, however, they have and to spare.

Mr. Day wrote a hit piece on President Bush, which I will not honor with a link. Nothing new there, a lot of people seem to find it amusing to trash Dubs for doing his job, as bratty children sometimes resent the adult interrupting their sport, even when that sport is malicious and wrong. In what may be his kindred spirit, Mr. Day accused President Bush of lying by claiming that the Nazis provided an effective answer he should consider in terms of removing illegal aliens from the country. Mr. Day actually praised the Nazi system, which stole property from millions of native Jews, forcibly evicted millions more, and out & out tortured and murdered still millions more. In addition of course, we should recall that the Nazis’ Eugenics and Racial Purity programs also took action against such undesirables as Gypsies and Homosexuals, murdering many of them as well. What a swell plan, eh? And Mr. Day not only thought it was a winner, but that Bush should be attacked for not embracing it.

The blog “Called As Seen” bravely took up the gauntlet, and properly took “Vox” to the woodshed for his vulgar suggestion. Harold C. Hutchison, who writes the blog, also took nationally prominent columnist Michelle Malkin to task, since she herself has columns on WND, knows Mr. Day by his work, and has seen fit to trash responsible Republicans for far more reasonable positions. Mr. Hutchison found it strange, as I do, that Ms. Malkin saw no reason to rebuke Mr. Day, even for suggesting that the Nazis’ methods should be defended, much less adopted. I responded to this myself in the comments:

“So Vox is saying that we can solve our illegals problem by getting millions of people to leave the way the Nazis did.

The Nazis, and yes I looked this up, did not “deport” people in the way that the INS does. No air-conditioned buses or airplanes. In fact, the preferred method of deportation, before they decided it would be cool to enslave them, murder a few by gas and kill the rest through slave labor, was to take away their property, beat them bloody, and basically terrorize them into fleeing the country, making sure to take anything they could from the poor wretches.

Millions of people fled the country because they knew it was death to stay. So, Vox is basically saying we don’t actually have to kill millions of people, just convince them that we will murder them if they stay … sorry, I will pass on that plan.

And by the way, the President never said it was “impossible”, he said it was not feasible, not realistic. As in no one has figured out the cost of apprehending and deporting over ten million people and their possessions, to say nothing of the resources which would have to be pulled away from other vital jobs.

It’s a paranoid pipe dream, this idea of treating people like trash to be collected and disposed of.

We all want secure borders, but the Nazi analogy just proves that some people don’t care so much about keeping their souls intact.”

The problem is not the nerve of one malicious writer, who continues to see Nazis under his bed, in his closet, and consequently in his writing. It is the arrogance of high-profile Conservatives, who cannot bring themselves to respect the twice-elected President of the United States, by his work or his office, and who cannot treat with civility those who question the method of yell first, then stamp feet. After all, we have long mocked, with cause and logic, those on the Left whose every answer for a Republican initiative was to scream and moan. The only acceptable standard is to propose rational suggestions, to test them with reason and evidence, and to seek alternatives which also are measured and calm. Emotion certainly has its place, but it cannot be the focus of an issue.

Celebrities like Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, and Michael Savage are not advancing the discussion or even seeking realistic solutions. Instead, they are trying to drive up their audience by demagoguing a crisis, and trashing reasonable people whose opinion should be considered on its merits. They are using the very same tactics we saw employed on the Left, historically and in recent days. It is an unfortunate fact that such tactics do work to drive up viewers and readers. It is a worse fact that such tactics damage the debate, the party, our ideals, and the nation.

The Myth of Border Security – “The Speech, pt 2”


Some years back, there was a nation with a real thing for secure borders. They didn’t just want to control who came in, but also who left the country. Walls, fences, barbed wire, land mines, attack dogs, armed guards, you get the idea. After the fall of the Soviet Union, this nation continued the same policy of border control. Despite this, the nation has been dragged into a bitter and bloody conflict over one of its provinces, from which terrorists have killed hundreds of innocents by coming across borders guarded by armed forces. Russia stands as a clear warning, against the fairy tale that a long border can be completely secure. The best option is to functionally control the border against a specific threat. When we discuss the matter of the border between the United States and Mexico, we have to step back from the angry shouting, and sort out what we need to do most, determine what options can best address that, and provide for the cost in money and resources which must be provided.

The border between the United States and Mexico is two thousand miles long, and includes many places which are very difficult to patrol and monitor. This, by the way, is why President Bush made such an emphasis on the “virtual” fence – those angry ranters who will accept nothing but a brick wall along the lines of the one we disliked in Berlin, don’t have a very good idea of the conditions in some places, the habit of some people to tunnel under the border, or the fact that any wall/fence can be and has been climbed over, cut through or dug under – to control a border you need an effective way to see more than one dimension, and to direct patrols for quick interceptions. Bush has spent more resources on physical fences and supported more work on interception resources than any President in history, but he knows – he’s lived down here, you know – that we need to use more effective methods, especially tools which the most dangerous border crossers, like the gangs and the smugglers, do not have and cannot easily evade. A predator with IR scanning is a better answer to this problem than even a mile of brick wall.

The best way to treat this problem is a layered approach. First, we need to see people before they get to the border, which reinforces the value of airborne surveillance. That same layer would track people from detection to either deterrence or interception, and the process for that stage is already in development. The second layer would be to watch for new arrivals in border towns; people just across will want food and rest, and there are processes in development to see who arrives where they are not expected. And third, we need to pursue intruders who wish to move inland. This is probably the weakest link in the present system; it puts everything in the front sections, so that someone who can get through the first couple days often finds it easier as they move farther in. Unfortunately, this is exactly the way that sleeper cells for a terrorist group would also move in, to reach target locations using the convenient and largely unsecured highway network. A national system of freeway monitors is being developed however, using extant systems like TRANSTAR in combination with high-speed element profile programs at places like the NRO, to find vehicles which are out of place; things like unusual weight, out-of-state/country plates, or unusual levels of occupancy will trigger closer inspection, possibly a stop by a police officer. This is already how border states catch trucks with human cargo, and how we hope to intercept more dangerous traffic. People tend to drive in the manner where they learned, and so non-American drivers tend to stand out in their actions, compared to natives.

In conclusion for this article, the issue of Border Control is probably the most worrisome in the whole matter. However, the actions of the DHS in the past 4+ years have been largely productive, but also largely invisible. If Congress is willing to work with the White House, control of the borders can continue to be improved, especially by creating a consistent policy with adequate resources.

Next - Pt 3, Alien Entry Protocols

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Speech – Analysis Part 1


Oh yes, I am serious about this being a multi-parter, because this speech by President Bush was not just good, it was historic. As in people will be quoting parts from this speech when they want to describe what kind of President was George Walker Bush.

This speech was a lot meatier than folks realize, and part of what I want to do here is educate the willing as to why this was a multi-dimensional presentation. First, for all the noise, a lot of people still do not realize that this issue is actually three issues in one package:

• Border Security
• Alien Entry Protocols
• Immigration Reform

Also, the debate to address these problems depends on three legs of decision:

• Strategic Course
• Functional Implementation
• Cost

And, as if that were not enough, the plans must be weighed before action on the three measures of effect:

• Immediate
• Short Term (<10 years)
• Long Term (10+ years)

This should begin to show the complexity of the issue; even if each point I referenced had only two possible values (the classic Yes/No result), we would be looking at 54 possible conditions from it. And since the number of possible outcomes for each point is a fluid variable, the actual number of conditions approaches a high end, certainly well beyond any sense of a controlled environment. To put it bluntly, this lack of controlled outcome is one major reason so few people have been brave enough to even tackle the issue.

To be continued. Next episode – the Myth of Border Security .

Simple Math

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I don’t hold much with polls these days, but this number seems worth mentioning:

79% of those who watched the speech by President Bush last night approved of it. Also, approval of his policies climbed 25 points in a single night.

Amazing what happens when the man is allowed to speak for himself.

After The Big Bang


Back in 2004, I was commenting on this great blog called “Polipundit”, and I got an e-mail from the site owner. Seems he wanted to go on vacation, and wondered if I and a few other commenters might be interested in writing a few articles while he was out? I did, and the results were pleasing for everyone. Thus a temporary gig became a team of five talented writers addressing the interests and issues of Conservative thought. We didn’t always agree, but we respected each other, and shot onto the radar screen of the Blogosphere in a major way; during the Presidential Debates of 2004, we sometimes had more than a hundred thousand people visit in a single day.

But the topic of Immigration, specifically the crisis of millions of people crossing the southern border illegally into the United States, became too hot to handle, it seems. It did not help that the Rabies Wing of the Republican Party started it’s own vendetta against the President, after he chose a nominee for the Supreme Court who was not on their pre-Approved List, and it got worse when the President suggested that a deal allowing a company based in the United Arab Emirates, whose record as an American ally in the past quarter-century is arguably the best of any Arab nation, was not a threat to U.S. Security, and would actually be a good choice compared to the alternative, which essentially would be selling the lease to an Asian company with strong ties to Communist China; the knee-jerk reaction was to demand ‘No Deal!’, thus damaging relations with a key ally, souring the credibility of American integrity in business contracts, and allowing the People’s Republic of China a coup all in the name of ego. So, when the emotionally-volatile issues of Border Control, Illegal Entry into the U.S., and Immigration Reform came up all in the same package, the chances for cool and civil discussion were all but nil. And some who were already angry at the President went over the cliff to complete madness, taking up the weapons of the Left which until so recently they themselves had mocked. I noted Friday that it said something, something less than noble, when people were already attacking the President for a speech which had not yet been written, much less delivered. But as important as these issues are, for this column they must be set aside except that they served as forces in the environment which led, however undesired, to a show-down of sorts.

I saw what was coming, from the tone and verbiage Poli used in his attacks, to say nothing of his myopic topic selection. In short order I was attacked by readers who wanted to disrupt my threads, rather than let readers discuss the issue; I elected to remove certain useless and derogatory posts, and so “bootlicker” was joined by “fascist” in the names I was called. Yet I made a point of remaining at Polipundit, because silencing one side of an issue, especially when it has its own validity, does nothing to resolve the matter or advance the discussion. I don’t think Poli and his mob ever quite grasped that I too support the priority of building the wall first, of enacting substantive penalties for hiring illegals, and of establish reciprocity in our terms with Mexico – I simply do not think we can expect the White House to take us seriously, when we accuse our President of deliberate deception or outright treason; in fact I maintain that it works strongly against us. Poli’s response was hardly honorable; he quoted some of my posts, but out of context, and openly mocked my position, without offering a functional alternative, or acknowledging the cost of his proposals. This led to some sharp reaction from the other writers, as recent posts showed.

Ironically, if I had been allowed my posting at, I should have taken some issue with Alexander’s last post; while the speech was good it ducked certain points and was flat wrong on others. But I never got that chance. Midway through the evening, I tried to pull up to see what Poli’s take on the speech was, and found I could not reach the site. I later learned through e-mails that Poli had taken down the site himself, apparently angry with Alexander’s post. I also read through those e-mails, that Polipundit had decided to try his hand at Autocracy.

He requested that we not discuss the content of our e-mail discussions while we sorted out our differences, and out of respect for the man, I will not cite any specifics from those exchanges. However, when I read the site this morning, I not only saw Poli’s and Alexander’s threads about last night’s speech, but also Lorie’s “Goodbye” post and Poli’s reaction to it. That last post by Poli was, at best, unfortunate. What bothered me the most, was a false inference or two left by Poli about the character of the debate and disagreement; he was sadly disingenuous on the matter, which further damages any chance for repair. And I do not know a single person whose mind and mood are improved by an ultimatum, especially one which amounts to “Surrender Or Else”. Of course, Poli made the matter moot by locking out everyone early this morning. And that was that.

Moving on, the first steps are obvious. I will continue to blog here at ‘Stolen Thunder’, and more regularly for politics. Lorie will continue to blog at ‘Byrd Droppings’, which is always worth your attention, I promise. As for Alexander and Jayson, I would hope we can lure them into a group blog, for all kinds of reasons. Somehow, it has not yet occurred to many bloggers that a group blog can work in much the same way as a magazine, with different writers for separate issues and perspectives, but that’s fine with me – I believe that our new blog would skyrocket to success, or at least be successful to my standards. Also, I love the community aspect to the multi-writer blog, especially with the reader comments.

Well, I see I have topped a thousand words, so even I think I have said enough for now.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Good Speech, A Good Man, A Real President


I don't have the time to do it up right just now, so for the moment I would just say that President Bush's speech on Immigration Reform was pretty darn good.

Of course, the muttering mob from the Left and Right determined to lynch him paid no attention, even if they claim they watched the speech. And for my opinion, if you did not bother to actually watch the speech yourself, you blew an important responsibility.

He didn't duck the challenge, the problems, the scale, or the opportunity. I wonder if anyone will give him the chance to lead, because where he wants to go would be really good for the nation and the party.

It Does Not Matter What The President Says Tonight ...


... the goons in both parties trying to tear him down have long ago condemned him for it anyway.

For those who have already castigated the President for a policy he never embraced or even proposed, words he never used and actions he never directed, nothing will be good enough.

If George W. Bush were to make a public appearance led by a vanguard of angels sent from God Himself, this crowd would declare that evidence that Dubya was already replacing his advisors with undocumented aliens.

The ‘West Wing’ Fantasy Finally Dies


Well, the guys in Hollywood finally took the hint and killed off President Bartlett’s Mythic Adventures. Naturally, they had to polish up the lie as much as possible, to such a degree that it would be difficult to explain in one column just how far from reality that show really was.

Maybe one good example is the scenario they finished up with, two-term President Bartlet being succeeded by newly-elected President Sanchez. When, think about this, was the last time a two-term Democrat was succeeded by way of election, by another Democrat? Let’s roll back and see:

President Clinton followed the first President Bush, and was followed by Dubya, so GOP-Donk-GOP, no match;

President Carter was a one-term President, but anyway he also was preceded and followed by Republicans, so no match there;

President Johnson followed JFK, but by way of Kennedy’s death, and in any case Kennedy was only elected once;

President Truman followed multi-term FDR, but again by way of the former President’s death, so again no match;

President Franklin Roosevelt got elected four times, but he followed a Republican;

President Wilson was elected twice, but he followed a Republican, and his successor was a Republican;

President Cleveland was elected twice, though not sequentially, and in any case he followed a Republican, and was also succeeded by a Republican;

President Buchanan was elected once, and he followed another Democrat, but both men served one term each. He was succeeded by a Republican;

President Pierce was followed by another Democrat, but he only served one term. He followed a Whig in office;

President Polk served only one term, and he both followed and was succeeded by a Whig;

President Van Buren succeeded President Jackson in 1836. Jackson served two terms. So ‘West Wing’ was true to life, except that they were 170 years off. Of course, it should be noted that the two-term Republican followed by another Republican has happened two times before; when Hayes followed Grant, and when GHW Bush followed Reagan. A bit closer to modern times, and it may be observed that the 2008 election, if people are sane at that time, may be another such situation.

Politics 101


In 1775, most of the world's nations were ruled either by an absolute monarch, an elitist class, or through the practical application of brute force.

Then a bunch of middle-class colonists kicked the British off their land, and set up an experiment, which is still ongoing.

From the first days of the Washington Administration, competition and rivalry between factions and parties has been the standard fare of American politics. Lying, near-seditious gossip, and significant financial backing of preferred programs (Pork) has been the way of things. Reform has been attempted from time to time, but the devil always fights back.

When it seems like things are worse than ever, in actual fact they are just getting back to normal.

God Save The United States of America!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Telephone Tyranny


Like a kid with a new toy, the MainPain Media has gone gonzo over discovery that the National Security Agency has gained access to phone number lists. You can hear the cries of the (permanently) outraged Blue-State Liberal demanding investigations into possible 4th-Amendment violations, and naturally the immediate halt to the NSA doing its job. It actually is a serious issue, but not for the reasons the Liberals and Democrats think.

We are at war. This is a pretty obvious fact for a lot of people, yet Democrats and the Media just seem to keep forgetting that, when they attack the Bush Administration for acting like we should be concerned about the intentions of terrorists and their supporting regimes (paging Mr. Ahmadinejad, Mr. "boom boom' Ahmadinejad ...). When the facts of the NSA's actions are revealed, it turns out that the hysteria is just that, unsupported bilge being pushed by people who know better, but are playing for political points at the cost of national security. Let's not forget that 'Able Danger' used the same sort of data mining as the NSA is doing now, and if it had been supported instead of suppressed during the Clinton years, there might never have been a 9/11 attack.

But to the facts. Does the NSA listen in on Americans making phone calls? Actually, no, these are just records from phone companies. Aha, well then they have transcripts of the calls, right? Again, no, since this is not surveillance the NSA does not know what's being said. OK, well at least they have the names and addresses of the people talking, right? Ummm, no. All the NSA has is a list of phone numbers, dates and times. As in 222-222-2222 called 333-333-3333 at 12:45 PM last Thursday.

Let's put that in perspective. Your bank already sells your private information to outside companies, like telemarketers. Things like your legal name, address, annual income, things like that.

Then there's your ISP, who may be directing ads and junk email to you based on your "preferences", and they too have some details on you from your account information. You get the idea.

And then there's your employer, who in many cases not only did a background check on you when you applied, but also mnoitors your calls and mail to and from work.

And let's not forget the IRS, who take a very active interest in all sorts of details.

All of those guys are legal, and every one of them is already pulling information on you, and selling it or giving it to someone else without your knowledge or consent. It's all legal, and every one of them is doing more to intrude on your privacy than the NSA is in checking to see if you're in contact with terrorists.

It's simple, when you really think about it. The police have the right to follow you around when you drive, to see if you aer following the law, and the NSA has the right to make sure that terrorists are not operating inside the United States, and if they are, to find out who they talk to and what they are doing. Those telephone companies which cooperate with the NSA, therefore, are not violating anyone's rights, but are helping protect against terrorism. Which means if you are using Qwest, you are paying money to a company which tracks your information and sees nothing wrong with selling it to a foreign company for unknown purposes, but who will not cooperate to protect against terrorism.

Just something to think about, the next time you're choosing a phone company.