Monday, February 28, 2005


This may wander a bit, but bear with me...

First stray thought: might it just be that 2005 will turn out to be the same sort of annus mirabilis that 1989 was?

Think of it: last year, 2004, started off auspiciously with the aftermath of the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2002. But things got ugly after that. The insurgency was hanging in there, staging kidnappings, beheadings, and other forms of slaughter. Things didn't get any better after the handover in June, either. There was the aborted assault on Fallujah in the spring, which was somewhat inconclusive.

This year is starting off much better. And not just in Iraq.

In late 2004, elections in Afghanistan. In early 2005, elections in Palestine. Then Iraq. Promises of elections of a sort in Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia (but I'll believe that when I see it). And now, pretty soon, probably some elections in ... Lebanon.

Can you see the wave? It crashed ashore in Eastern Europe in 1989, and washed away the specter of nuclear annihilation. I can smell the sea salt, and I can see the whitecaps ... it's coming ashore. This time, God willing, it will wash away the specter of burgeoning Islamofascism.

Second stray thought: much as it pains me to say this, could it be that George W. Bush was right about the key strategic question of our day? Not so right in the methods he's chosen for going about it, mind you, but on the question itself. He was labelled a fool, an idiot, for linking the spread of democracy with the war on terrorism. When The Wave crashes to shore, the Islamofascists are desperately afraid that's exactly what will happen. Al-Zarqawi has said as much in his own words.

And now we have this from VodkaPundit.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a bellow of pain.

I'd have preferred to go about it differently. A few more months to smooth feathers internationally beforehand, perhaps. Going that little extra mile. Not going out of our way to antagonize nations that have been friends and allies in the past. But these are tactical questions.

The President is essentially right about the strategic question. It's time to give him some props for that.

It's also time to start thinking through a sensible Democratic foreign policy, but I've already said that.

Third stray thought: And now we come to the title of this post. I'm convinced now that this is Islamofascism's "von Paulus at Stalingrad" moment. Islamofascism's in general, and Osama bin Laden's in particular. How bitter this must be for him! To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, you can stand on a hill in eastern Afghanistan and look west, and with just the right kind of eyes, you can see the high-water mark where Islamofascism's wave crested, and fell back. In a weird way, I'm glad we didn't put paid to him at Tora Bora. I'm glad he's survived to witness these moments. He will die, eventually, with the searing knowledge of his utter DEFEAT burned indelibly into his synapses. Yes, this, too, is justice.

But that's a chewed bone. Who's next on the batting order? Lebanon has volunteered to be the next place to be liberated, and Syria seems to have volunteered to be the receiving team.

Bashar al-Assad ain't all that bright. He ought to know by now that when America starts pulling on its butt-kicking boots, someone's about to get a shoe-leather enema. What sort of idiot volunteers for it?

And we might have some assistance from an odd quarter. Could it be -- France? It would appear that Rafik Hariri, the ex-PM that got the dynamite birthday cake, was a good friend of none other than Blaque Jacques Shellaque. Could come in handy, that. As much as I enjoy dogging the French, the L'egion Etrangere are a useful bunch of lads to have around come throw-down time. I'm pretty sure that between them and a division of Marines, the Syrians can be tossed out of Lebanon in short order. The aftermath could be messy, given that Hezbollah and that lot have had plenty of time to dig in. But the important thing will have been done. Getting a butt-kicking in Lebanon will be a career-ending injury for our erstwhile optometrist. It might even be fatal for the Baath Party in Syria. That might be too much to hope for. But, good God, it would be simply glorious to see the end of the last bastion of Arab National Socialism!

Yes, sports fans, I chose those words deliberately. Baathists have more than a little in common with our old friend of the funny moustache and the Final Solution.

There was a bleak winter's day when Field Marshal von Paulus knew that he was utterly screwed. There will soon be a bright spring day when bin Laden and his lot will realize the same thing. I will look back on these days in my old age, and remember fondly when freedom crashed ashore, a second time in my life. I was lucky to see it once. It is more than my worth to see it again.

What a time to be alive! What a time to be free!

UPDATE: Tuesday, 3/1/05, 3:30 PM CST: Assad seems to be showing signs of belated intelligence.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

This Could Be Huge

Some things hit you like a thunderbolt. You just know that what you've just heard is liable to change things forever. That the world will be radically different, maybe not today, or tomorrow, but once this new thing takes hold all the rules are changed.

This is one such development.

Read it. Take a moment to digest it.

Now, let's go over a few talking points.

The guy who wrote the postscript is right and wrong at the same time. To the radical utopian environmentalist, this is no solution at all, a waste of time, even a dangerous idea. This is something we'll simply have to agree to disagree on. It's an article of faith that any kind of combustion is PURE EVIL! PURE EVIL! must be abolished. You'd sooner argue a Catholic out of Original Sin as a doctrine. But, they're right that just switching sources of gasoline won't do much good. However ...

If we can delve into November's rant about energy policy, this actually patches a hole in my idea that had troubled me. Electrification of automobiles is all well and good, but what about aircraft? Helicopters? Rockets? These things aren't amenable to being hooked up to a charger. Even fuel cells won't help much. You still need gasoline for some purposes.

Well, here you are! We've got a method for turning trash into usable fuel, now. And at $8-$12 a barrel production costs, it's sure to catch on in the long run. And, let's not forget the key point:

It's not dependent on any particular place or nation.

Let's visit that point again:

It's not dependent on any particular place or nation.

Once this tech catches on, every developed nation will want it, and will be able to build it. It turns trash into oil fairly cheaply. Given a reasonable supply of electricity, it solves two problems at once. Running out of landfill space? Don't like buying oil from hairy primitives who'd just as soon slit your throat as look at you? Well, have we got a deal for YOU! Build a couple of these plants, dump your trash in one end, and pour oil out the other! No waste, no fuss, no muss!

Do note that energy isn't the only thing we need oil for. We make a lot of stuff out of petrochemicals. Oil can be repolymerized into plastics. It can be used to make pharmaceuticals. Lubricants. Medical supplies of all sorts. Fabrics. The list is darn near endless.

And it's all possible right here, within our own borders. None of this dangerous supertanker nonsense. We can make all we need, right here.

Ahhhh ... freedom. Sweet freedom.

It's there for the taking, if we're bold enough to reach out and grab it!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Six Honest Serving Men

Time for another bit of Kipling. This one reminds me of my daughter:

I keep six honest serving-men ...

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small-
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends'em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes-
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

The Elephant's Child

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Mixed Nuts

Quite a lot has been written about 9/11 and its aftermath, and about what we as a nation should do about it. Most of it has been serious commentary.

Some of it, on the other hand, is pure bat puckey.

Conspiracy theorists simply cannot live in a world without contrived drama. In their fevered tin-foil-hat world, there's a Man In Black lurking around every corner, just waiting for the chance to zap unsuspecting dunces with his Top-Secret Cheese Ray. Or perpetrating a Very Clever Plan to blow up their own headquarters with a missile, then blame it on some poor, unsuspecting Arabs.

Deuced clever, those Men In Black. You can't turn your back on 'em for a second. But there's just a tiny problem with their story ...

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the airplane was hijacked, and then flown at its maximum speed into the side of a building at or near ground level. Then, we'll see what falls out of that logically, and compare that to what we know happened, based on the physical evidence.

There is an important and vital difference between what happened with Flight 77 and the ordinary sort of crash on landing (or attempted landing): your ordinary sort of crash occurs at a fairly slow speed, around 120 knots or so if on final approach.

Remember two things here. One, the vehicle makes contact with the ground at a speed upwards of 600 knots. Two, its tanks are full, or very nearly so.

Metal will burn if it gets hot enough. Even in the low-speed crash pictures, you don't see much of the structure intact, because anything that's been doused with fuel and left to burn is not normally found in a recognizably intact condition. The empennage might skid to a stop and be reasonably intact, which is why some say it's safer to sit in the tail section of the airplane. It usually survives a landing mishap intact. (It's also bloody loud back there, and if you're susceptible to motion sickness the dutch roll might make you hurl ... not that I've ever cared a lot about either. I'm an exit row man, myself.)

Now: increase the velocity by a factor of four, and the kinetic energy of collision by a factor of SIXTEEN. (KE scales with the square of the velocity.)

Intact wreckage? HAH! I scoff. SCOFF, I say!

Virtually nothing will survive intact. There's just too much energy involved, and too little time and space for deceleration. The whole thing accordions up. The wings, too -- and that's where some of the fuel tanks are. The whole thing wads itself up on impact, and mixes itself up with all that unused jet fuel. Which promply ignites, of course.

Not that it does so purely outside of the building. Its velocity puts it into the building just like a high-speed APDS round slices through steel. Give a wad of metal enough good ol' kinetic energy, and you don't need any stinking warhead.

So what I'd expect to see is a mucking great explosion, leaving behind a hole roughly as wide as the airplane that made it.

And what we see in the pictures is ... a mucking great explosion, leaving behind a hole roughly as wide as the airplane that made it.

Occam's Razor, ladies and gentlemen; the simplest explanation is almost always true. Conspiracy theorists don't shave well, or often.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Da Rules

Orson Scott Card just put this bit up on his site, The Ornery American.

I may not agree with everything OSC says, but I do agree with a lot of it. We're alike in that we're both old-school Southern Democrats. I can think of worse names for myself than an Ornery American.

Anyhow... I'm gonna have to get my hands on both the books he mentions. Both Wisdom of Crowds and Guns, Germs, and Steel look to be fascinating reading.

There are two principles struggling, here. Common "wisdom" has it that mobs are stupid. It's easy to manipulate a mob. I've done it. But on the other hand ... It can be argued that under the right circumstances, we are far wiser collectively than individually.

Check it out. It'll give you something worthwhile to think about.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Left, And What's Wrong With It

The Cold War is over. But the imprints from that conflict can still be seen in today's politics. In the case of the Democratic Party, it's a legacy that needs to be cast off as soon as possible.

A stratagem used by both sides was political destabilization of hostile governments. Both the East and West tried to knock over governments of the other guy's client states with varying degrees of success. But the Soviets took that strategy one step further, and supported ideologically-aligned movements in the United States. It's a certainty that some of the anti-war radicals in the '60s were financed -- or at the very least, encouraged -- by Moscow.

Hence the widely-used statement, "There is no enemy to the Left." While the Right was divided between policital, economic, and social conservatives; the Left presented itself as a united front. This has had some very unfortunate consequences.

The one thing that brought it home to me more than anything else was a scene in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine.

There was a sequence where he basically ran a Hit Parade of all the violent, homicidal regimes of the 20th Century. You know, Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, all those fascist colonialists. Three men are conspicuous by their absence: Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot.

If those three don't own part of the top five in the all-time list of murderous bastards, I'll eat my hats. All of them. Next to that lot, Torquemada was a weak poser. His shade would burn with envy, if it weren't already burning in Hell.

Now, why do you suppose they weren't there? Because there is no enemy to the Left, that's why. Their fashionable politics absolves them of all guilt. The blood sheds from their hands as though they were made of Teflon.

That's plenty disgusting all by itself. But, with the fall of the regime they held so dear at the end of the Cold War, there's a segment of the Left that has turned to hateful nihilism. Communism is dead, but they can still hate the West and everything it stands for.

Well, that's crap. And we need to name it as such.

Part of what needs to happen to rejuvenate the Democratic Party is a repudiation of this part of our heritage. Not only was Communism a failed experiment, it was also something fundamentally inimical to human liberty. As de Toquville once observed, there's a depraved taste for "equality" that prefers equality in slavery to inequality in freedom.

I, for one, choose freedom. If the price of that is a bit of inequality, that's a price worth paying. We can exercise a little oversight, to make sure that the strong don't run roughshod over the weak. But we must also realize that freedom also means the freedom to fail. We can't legislate that away. We must also realize that there's a sickness in nihilism. Fetishizing destruction and death over creation and life is just plain nuts. And the mindless denunciation of Western Civilization comes damn close to doing just that.

Wake up, guys. Red is dead. Communism is very much an ex-parrot. Hold a wake if you must -- I won't, and frankly I'm delighted the old bastard's dead -- but for Pete's sake, move on.

It's either that, or continue gurgling down history's toilet. Your choice.

Why I Am Not A Republican (Part 2)

Last time, I went on a little about why I'm not a Republican. To summarize: the Republican majority won't last forever, and someone needs to stay behind in the opposition to agitate in favor of foreign and military policy sanity.

But that's not the only reason. What it came down to for me was one simple question: Who's on my side?

Well, no one, really. Politicians are opportunists. At least the successful ones are. Just like an overpaid prima-donna athlete, they're out to pump up their own stats. But like most sports fans, it's a character flaw I'm usually willing to overlook so long as they're lining up for my team. So, with that proviso in mind ...

Really, the whole question boiled down to one issue for me: outsourcing. And the Bush administration's response to it. The very day that I heard Bush's economic advisor speak about outsourcing, and I noticed that he wasn't getting canned for having said that it was a fine and dandy thing, was the day that I knew the Republicans weren't on my side. Now, if I were to say that the only thing they ever thought about was the bank accounts of their biggest contributors, I'd be painting with far too broad a brush. There are an awful lot of corporations that throw money both ways, just to keep the doors open. Both parties are in bed with big business, and that's not altogether a bad thing. For people like me to have jobs, somebody has to be able to write the checks, which means that somebody has to have the money to do so. For me to work, somebody's gotta be rich. To an extent, the more the merrier -- rich folks spend money, and money in motion is what makes the world go 'round.

But the blind market is very short-sighted. They're strictly out for a buck today, damn the costs ten years down the line. It doesn't matter who gets displaced. It doesn't matter how many formerly stable middle-class professionals have their careers destroyed. If it raises earnings a penny a share, ship it all to Bangalore!

Seems to me like someone should be looking out for the American worker, here. The loyal, middle-class citizen who is the backbone of our society deserves far better treatment from his employers. Someone ought to be looking out for his interests.

That someone sure as Hell ain't a Republican.

That someone may not be a Democrat, either. But they, at least, fielded a Presidential candidate who spoke to those issues.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Super Sunday

By the way: would someone please buy Donovan McNabb an offensive line that doesn't fold up like the Republican Guard? He might have done better if he weren't getting mobbed by white shirts all the bloody time.

Still and all, it was a good, close game. Blowouts aren't worth watching.

Why I Am Not A Republican

In my very first post I tried to capture the essence of my political beliefs. My brother's response can stand for most of the feedback that I got. I'll quote from it here:

"Still attempting to get drummed out of the Democratic Party I see, excellant remember we have lots of room" -- Pat McGaha, 11/15/04

Actually, you don't. It may look that way, but it won't last. Here's why.

The Republican Convention showcased a number of moderate figures within the party, to show that their "tent" was big enough to encompass a diversity of opinion. Popular politicians like Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger were given coveted spots in prime time, which irked some of the more conservative blocs in the party. The desired effect was achieved, though, and middle America does not see the Republicans as a radical party. They feel comfortable with most of their agenda. They feel comfortable that some disagreement can be tolerated on small issues, so long as there is agreement on the big ones.

That's all well and good, and that's even the way things are supposed to work in a large national party, but there's a backlash brewing. Here's a new word, for those of you who may not have been paying close attention: RINO. Senator Arlen Spector is in hot water with some conservatives for being, shall we say, of insufficient ideological purity.

The majority that the Republicans have cobbled together is already showing some strain. What will happen when it calves apart? Will there still be a place in the Republican Party for someone who does not walk in lock-step with every pronouncement of the radical Right?

I don't really care to walk in that door just right now, if I'm liable to have to turn right back around and walk out again.

Mind you, the Warriors for Truth have a few points, as regards the positions taken by the Democratic leadership lately. As I've said before, the Democrats have grown into the habit of running like scalded dogs from virtually anything in a uniform. And the Democratic Party didn't have much of a platform this last time around. All we ended up with was a weird sort of reactionary spasm. Watching the Presidential Debates was rather like watching the old Monty Python Argument Sketch. Mindlessly gainsaying everything your opponent is in favor of does not a debate make.

Here's the really big problem: the marketplace of ideas in this country is in serious danger of becoming a monopoly shop. This is most glaringly true when it comes to foreign policy. One side seems to have beome ideologically fixated on the abnegation of American power in the world, and as a direct result of that, the American public is extremely reluctant to trust that lot with the Sword of the State.

Why is that a problem? Because the Republican majority cannot last forever. These things are never permanent. They are almost always cyclical. Look at the years between 1930 and 1970: the Democrats held the White House for most of those years, except for the last half of Hoover's term, the first half of Nixon's first term, and both of Eisenhower's. Now, if you look at an equivalent length of time from 1970 on, the Republicans held the White House for all of those years except for the Carter and Clinton administrations. The time may not be ripe in 2008 for another spin of the wheel, but it could easily happen in 2012. What then?

Somehow, by hook, by crook, sanity has to be returned to the Democratic Party, before that happens. Somehow, an administration that is both able and willing to take up the Sword of the State in defense of the Republic needs to be in place, regardless of their party affiliation.

Someone has to be willing to face down the anti-military wing of the Democratic Party, and start talking sense again.

Me, I'm a centrist by nature. I could go either way. But this is a discussion that has to take place, here and now, for the long-term health of the nation.

Fortunately, I'm not completely alone. Just mostly alone. For now.