November 12, 2004

Fisking a Whimper of "Reality"

A while ago the UK Independent ran Jonathan Raban's angst filled diatribe, long on wind but bereft of reality, especially for what pretends to be a report from the "reality based" world. Unfortunately, to Fisk a long winded literary type requires a flood of ink, so this one ran a bit long, to say the least. I was writing it for the Rott but it just got to long for that site, so wade in at your peril.

America's reality check

Bush is adept at spinning watertight fictions to justify his policies to a public that believes in faith, conscience, vision, and consistency more than it believes in untidy realism

Is he referring to the untidy "realism" of Kerry in Cambodia, at the Gulf War cease fire talks, or meeting with the entire UN Security Council prior to the war? Further, how can they on the one hand deride Bush as a mere talking chimp, completely disconnect from reality, and call him adept at spinning "watertight fictions" on the other? Wouldn't he accidentally leave some clues scattered about, or his he actually a super genius?


Seattle! *bonks forehead* That about says it all, doesn't it?

Most people I know are sick with anxiety about the outcome of Tuesday's presidential election.

That's because most people he knows probably live in Seattle where they must be putting something more than beans in the latte. But in retrospect their anxiety is nothing compared to their post election confusion, recrimination, conspiracy theories, and urgent calls to suicide hotlines.

They have the look of patients awaiting the result of hospital "tests", steeling themselves for the worst, hardly daring to hope for the best.

If might think I'm relishing the thought of that, darn tootin', you're right.

On the dot of 5pm Eastern Time, they race to The Washington Post website to check the daily tracking poll.

And by 6pm Eastern they're hammered again. They've already limited themselves to sites that sugarcoat everything they see and hear, and still they have to take their news in gut wrenching daily dollops.

If Kerry's down a point (he was on Friday) the certainty hardens: we're for it. It's not as if the prospect of a Kerry presidency betokened the dawn of a new age of sweetness and light:

But wait, weren't people going to get up out of their wheelchairs? Weren't rabid anti-American European conspiracy theorists going to lay down with us in the tall grass as we sipped nectar, watched the dancing unicorns, and shat butterflies?

the best that can be said of Kerry's stated positions on the war on Iraq and the "war on terror" is that at least he treats them as two different wars.

And if that's the best you can say about someone's position then you've about said it all. Aside from essentially saying that operations in North Africa, Sicily, Burma, and Belgium were separate wars, too, it ignores the fact that Iraq was a necessary component, since having the bulk of our forces spent bottling up a recalcitrant terrorist supporter after 17 UN resolutions and egregious cease fire violations didn't paint America as a force to be concerned about, much less reckoned with.

It is that the prospect of a second Bush administration inspires, among urban liberals, something close to the fear of death itself - the death of America as a civilised and civilising presence in the world. It is that heartfelt. More than any other election in recent history, this one has become a referendum on what it means to be American, and half of the country detests the idea of living in the other half's America.

Why, why, why did we support throwing Jack Kevorkian in jail? Our liberal brethren are in such pain, and now we can offer only, erm, howling laugher. Perhaps we should go back to being civilized by supported human decapitations, airline borne immolations, and heed the 7th century jihadist calls for an end to Western Civilization, Christianity, Judaism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and all around enlightenment in any form whatsoever. Where on the liberal agenda of old did we find siding with those virulently opposed to girls' education, replacing women's suffrage with universal women's' suffering, and instead of merely banning gay marriage, appeasing the Islamic fundamentalists by moving the debate onward to whether gays should die by collapsing a stone wall upon them or whether throwing them off a cliff will do, Allah be praised.

In Bush vs Kerry, two powerful national traditions are in conflict: idealism and realism, with zealous Platonists in the White House and messy, long-winded Aristotelians in the Kerry camp.

Kerry is certainly long winded, but the only thing messy about him is his sloppy and slapdash thinking, not his immaculately groomed and coiffed appearance. Regardless, why couldn't the "realists" predict their impending defeat, and more importantly, why couldn't they predict it as soon as they decide to run a confessed war criminal for president on the anti-war ticket? Did they think Edward's promises to make the crippled walk and all nations to love us reflected "reality?" The fist sign you're losing grip with reality is by overusing the term like a crutch, as in "I'm living in reality. My cat is real. The people outside my window are real. That television is real. Kerry's electability is real."

For the past two weeks, the realists have been choking on a remark made by a Bush aide to Ron Suskind, the author of a revelatory piece about the administration that was published in The New York Times Magazine on 17 October.

The aide said that guys like me [Suskind] were "in what we call the reality-based community", which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works any more," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out..."

Liberals have disconnected from the world, writing irrelevant impenetrable articles published in obscure academic journals that nobody reads, thinking that their dry empty speech is as useful as action, since their French intellectual heroes have told them that speech is equivalent to action. Thus they write a page five article on the minimum wage in the English department newsletter instead of bothering to raise their janitor's pay. One could argue that they misunderstood the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, linking observation and effect, and now think bitching and fixing are somehow intertwined at the quantum level.

The unnamed aide would have made Plato proud. The "created reality", painted in primary colours and broad-brush strokes by the Bush administration, looks like a nice place to be: freedom and democracy are on the march in Iraq; terrorists are being fought abroad so they cannot harm us at home; everyone's happy with their tax cuts; global warming is a left-wing myth; each month sees a flood of new jobs; the US is in the safe hands of a strong and resolute leader.

And the way we create reality is to go out into the world, and through force of arms, moral persuasion, money, and large infrastructure seek to change it to what we prefer. It's really no different than fixing up a bathroom. You see what you want it to be, and then you apply hard work and make it that way, ripping out old tiles and putting in new ones, moving sinks and busting down walls that were thought impenetrable. The intelligentsia has become so impotent that they can't conceive of doing more than engaging in a discourse about the bathroom, perhaps painting a picture of it in all its moods, and seeking to understand the patterns of mold on the walls. They might perhaps spend all morning coming up with a proper and fitting literary analogy for the way soap gets gooey sitting in the soap dish. But tear it out and rebuild it? Unthinkable hubris.

To quibblesome Aristotelians, every statement is an audacious lie. The occupation of Iraq is a catastrophe that grows worse by the day, and has turned the country into a breeding ground for Islamist terrorism.

And here's where their fancy words prove their mental undoing. "Grows worse by the day" is an easy concept to fathom, requiring almost no thought at all. But a model that includes it would also include the sum of the daily results, just as a savings account with interest growing larger by the day should always be bigger when you check it, and not just absolutely bigger, but with bigger jumps, too. They've been saying Iraq grows worse by the day since the war began, yet the words dripping like coffee from their tongues don't match up to any charts of incidents, casualty numbers, or any other numerical sampling of reality.

For example, suppose I take it to imply that day n+1 has one more fatality than day n, making it "worse". Using that measure, and running things since mid March, predicts we'd have 182,875 fatalities instead of 1134, pessimistically oversimplifying the case and overstating the fatalities 161 fold. If we stay with the constantly growing pessimism and adjust it so that each day is just a tiny, little, microscopic amount worse, to match up with actual final fatality numbers, we find each day would have to be 1.0029 times worse than the day before, adding 0.0029 to the previous days fatality instead of a one. I don't know how you can kill 0.29% of a man, but if you could then their pessimism might have some rough measure to it.

However, the casualty numbers don't show any such constantly increasing trend. Indeed arranging the months by fatality doesn't produce any trend at all, just a random shuffle: Apr-2004, Nov-2003, Sep-2004, May-2004, Apr-2003, Aug-2004, Oct-2004, Mar-2003, Jul-2004, Mar-2004, Jan-2004, Jul-2003, Oct-2003, May-2003, Aug-2003, Sep-2003, Jun-2003, Feb-2004 Reality doesn't remotely match their simplistic description of it, the description they easily and emotionally express and pass on, a bad fit to reality that moves through the population as gossip and urban legend, because it wouldn't make any sense at all on a pie chart.

The security of the homeland has been dangerously neglected, except insofar as it has provided opportunities to infringe on civil liberties and turn America into a surveillance society.

Yet if we have no homeland security why aren't we getting hit by the very people who daily threaten to strike us, and threaten quite publicly? And where are the infringed civil liberties? Where are the swaths of the population in internment camps? The Hollywood airheads blacklisted clean off Larry King? Yes, I'm asking to see the actual victims, not people screaming about rampant victimization of nobody at all.

The tax cuts in effect make the poor subsidise the lives of the extremely rich.

And how can the poor subsidize the lives of the rich when we don't even bother to tax them at all? Is there some new Donald Trump/Martha Stewart that the poor have suddenly begun funneling all their money to? Further, if a gang of car thieves swept through a city, stealing not a few but fully half the cars, skipping the poor who have rusted junkers or bicycles, but taking the Mercedes, Lincolns, and Rolls from the rich man and the Saturns, Nissans, and Daewo's from those just muddling buy, would it be fair? It would certainly be "progressive taxation". But suppose the police broke up the stolen car ring and used the VIN numbers to return everyone's cars. Would the left be enraged that they only got their Nissan back while their neighbor got his Mercedes? "Not fair!" They cry. "He got a luxury car and I, poor and oppressed, merely got a rice burning econo-box!" When property is returned should it go to the rightful owner, or should it be broken up and parceled out as if it were the spoils of Troy? And remember, it was the poor who didn't even get robbed in the first place, yet demand a share of the returning loot. They wish to steal their neighbors Mercedes but make the thief (high tax rate) and the cop (tax cut) the middle man in the enterprise. If they all truly want Mercedes perhaps it would be best to go to dental school instead.

Environmental policy is being written by the CEOs of the energy corporations.

Actually environmental policy is being written by the EPA, as it always was. The energy corporation CEOs were advising on energy policy, but "reality based" liberals never let little things like "reality" intrude on a good soundbite. But regarding energy, the major affect of energy policy will be on energy corporations, and considering that half the expertise in the $cost per benefits would come from these CEOs perhaps it's wise to consult them. Would anyone think it odd to ignore the advice of the major car companies on safety rules, lest some wacko suggest making the car bodies out of half-inch titanium plate?

Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to end an administration with fewer net jobs than existed when he came to office.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Household data, Oct 2004 Employment 139,778,000 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Household data, Jan 2000 Employment 135,221,000 That's an addition of 4 million 557 thousand jobs (4,557,000) since Bush took office. The number is large and positive, not large and negative. The liberal number line is a mysterious construct, also debunked at Bush's slump wasn't even as bad as Reagan's, and Bush climbed out of it in stellar fashion, coming out with vastly more jobs than he started with, or even lost. During 1932-33 one third of the workforce was unemployed, and to accomplish that today would require 49 million people unemployed, not 8 million. So they Hoover reference is yet another urban legend being spread as gossiped amongst a group that purports itself a "reality based" community. Maybe if the reality includes sasquatch and Elvis, but certainly not if that reality includes logic, numbers, and history.

The "strong leader" is merely the amiable front man for a gang of hard-right ideologues, both secular and religious.

There's a secular non-Marxist ideologue in the Bush administration? They must be one of those "Declaration of Independence, Constitution, John Locke nuts. But we're obviously back to the "Bush=Sock Puppet" idea, which is usually found in close association with "Bush=Evil Genius" idea, even though the two are mutually contradictory. But that doesn't matter in liberal minds, where uncomfortably conflicting fact are simply never allowed to rub together.

There's no negotiation between the two positions. Each cancels the other. You cannot live in both worlds.

And this bothers the liberal how? They have the aforementioned mutually exclusive views of Bush, on top of the view that Republicans are all ultra-rich elites who mysteriously live in trailer parks. Yet they never bat an eye at these glaring inconsistencies in their world view.

Yet realists labour under the benign illusion that facts will out, that if you expose a created reality to the corrosive drip of hard news it will eventually rust away.

And there's a key failure in the liberal model of how reality works. An airplane is a created reality. We couldn't fly, and then we could. We just thought it up and made it work. No amount of staring at CNN is every going to make that bit of "manufactured reality" go away. Similarly, no matter how enlightened and progressive your local TV pundit, they always give way to the guy who does the financial news. The drip drip of the pundit, plopping stale Kerry talking points like year old turds, conflicts squarely with the dry, daily commentary coming from the person that they trust with their money. All the dripping in the world is just going to leave a rust spot in the sink, or a stain on the liberal soul, when it conflicts with people's own trusted information about the world and their place in it.

So for the past year and more - since the fiery rationalist Howard Dean took his campaign on the road - Democrats have relied on events to prove their case for them and to destroy the blithe fiction of the God's-in-his-heaven-all's-right-with-the-world rhetoric of the administration.

And now Howard Dean is held up as a paragon of rationalism, despite the fact he had the audacity to run for President from a state that doesn't have enough black people to fill a church, and a total population less than the Bronx. The man who depended on college kids in orange toboggans to be his ground troops, and who lost primary after primary till he was left having a fit on national TV. Yes, that Howard Dean now represents "the reality based community". Victory in 2006 is surely hours as Democrats decide to make everyone wear donkey ears and bottomless pants while running on not just a gay marriage agenda, but a polygamist gay marriage agenda where one of the members has to be a disabled member of a white minority group, and the children have to be raised simultaneously both Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim.

There's been no shortage of events - the spread of the hydra-headed Iraqi resistance, the bloody kidnap-murders, the obscenity of Abu Ghraib, the mounting death toll of American soldiers, the sham of "sovereignty".

I'll admit they don't wash their hair, and what's the point when you just use it as a handle as you saw people's heads off. But as for Abu Ghraib we have an "atrocity" based on a woman putting her underwear on a terrorist's head. That doesn't quite rank with Pol Pot, Goebbels, and Stalin. I've already addressed the "mounting" death toll (mounting at no more than 0.29% daily, or 0.00% averaged over the conflict), which also begs the question as to how any death toll in history failed "to mount". Unless we develop a way to unkill someone the total number of dead can only increase over time, not decrease. And this is aside from the fact that over 7,800 troops died under Clinton without anyone bothering to put pen to paper, much less fire off an angry e-mail.

This last week alone has seen the scandal of unguarded explosives at al-Qaqa'a,

Which turned out to be absolutely nothing, considering the number now looks like 30 tons, the only witnesses report thefts of hexamine (camping fuel), taken with the fact that we already destroyed over 400,000 tons of explosives. It was yet another story with no investigation or fact checking that blew up in the faces of the liberals, in front of an electorate that we becoming fed-up with sloppy, fraudulent, and biased reporting clearly aimed at putting Kerry in the White House.

the FBI investigation into Halliburton's shady dealings with the Pentagon

And considering that Halliburton often gets no-bid contracts as the only company that can do what it does, and even got such contracts did under Clinton, this shouldn't be surprising. It will get investigated, but the key is this

The FBI declined to comment Thursday, but a law enforcement official said the investigation does not involve anyone in the White House — including Cheney’s office.

And so it goes, since Dick Cheney doesn't work for Halliburton, and the conspiracy theorists would have us believe that everyone runs around knocking over banks so they can toss money to their former employers. Yeah, right, whatever.

Ramadi's descent into chaos

The American public is also smart enough to know that the key aim of the insurgents is to get Kerry elected, then themselves either elected or otherwise in power. The Ramadi situation will be dealt with along with the hornets' nest of Fallujah, and operations are ongoing.

the re-emergence on video of Osama bin Laden looking like the cat that ate the cream

And Osama gave a report like the CEO of a company facing bankruptcy, with no uniform, no gun, no calls for jihad, and no fiery rhetoric. His movement is sliding into the dustbin of history, and there's nothing he can do to save it. He knows it, and now everyone who watched the video knows it. The liberals may have hoped that the pre-election release of the video would convince those "dumb hicks" that Bush failed, but if there's one thing "dumb hicks" know about, it's watching a video.

and the report suggesting that 100,000 Iraqi civilians - and not 13,000, as previously estimated - have died as a result of the invasion and occupation.

And that report turned out to be the most trivially refutable piece of sociology to run through the Lancet in several years, with the estimate actually that somewhere between 8,000 civilians to fully twice their guess had died, and in any event you can't use self-reporting to generate statistics on genocide. For example, a phone poll of post-war Europe would reveal that almost no Jews died during the war, because only a statistically insignificant number would've answered their phones and reported any dead family members. Yet that's almost exactly what the Lancet did, involving a regime that killed off whole families and villages.

Yet the polls have hardly budged - and, if anything, they've budged in Bush's favour.

And I've been listing the reasons why. Patently bogus press stories really get under people's skin. The liberals in the press may think those "red state voters" are a bunch of morons who just fell off the back of a turnip truck and won't notice. We do though. We really do. Irritate us at your peril.

Democrats despair. Believing as they do in the power of empirical evidence to change electoral opinion, they feel they should be looking not at a likely tie, to be fought through the courts for weeks and maybe months after Tuesday's election, but at a landslide triggered by the - to them - self-evident and catastrophic failure of the Bush presidency.

And there's one of the large flaws in his reasoning. He says "empirical evidence" when he keeps using debunked third-hand anecdotes. To him it must be "fact" because a tie-dyed girl at the coffee shop told him so, or the tie-and-suited perky morning girl on CBS bleated it out in between commercials. There's no fact checking in their world, just coffee shop conspiracy mills.

Some of this discrepancy has to be blamed on the candidate: John Kerry's style of sonorous gravity, his lofty patrician airs, his fluency in French, his otiose qualifications and dependent clauses grate badly on an electorate accustomed to the easy demotic manners of Reagan, Clinton, and George W Bush. He bores even his supporters. He certainly bores me.

Oh, but if you look past his waffling, his lack of plans, his horribly run campaigns, his irresolute stands, and his shameless pandering, and get back to his activities in the 1960's and 1970's, and even into the 1990's regarding ties to communist regimes, John Kerry becomes one of the most fascinating men alive today. Of course that's a problem that's actually far worse than just being stupefyingly boring, but it is a departure from the liberal's shallow glance at who they actually voted for.

But the poll numbers testify far more to Bush's strength than to Kerry's weakness. Bush, as he tirelessly reminds his listeners, has something more to offer than mere facts: he has "faith", "conscience", "vision", "consistency"; he has "convictions" that are "steady and true". "You know what I believe," he likes to say. "A President cannot blow in the wind. A President has to make tough decisions and stand by them." (These quotes are from a speech he gave on Thursday in Saginaw, Michigan.)

In short, Bush just described what you want in a leader, as opposed to a panderweasel, European diplomat, suave widow wooer, or greeting card writer. These are essential truths, and nothing alienates the body politic more than someone who continually betrays last weeks promises as he makes new ones, one hundred and eighty degrees from the previous. Under such a leader governance becomes a game of reading tea leaves, gaming the system, and watching smart people trip each other up in an attempt to come out the winner in the game of music chairs, with each round stopping when the President's pen finally caresses a bill.

Such key words and phrases play well with the Republican base of Christian fundamentalists, but they have an even more important secular application. A "created reality", like a novel, depends above all on its internal consistency, and as Plato recommended to his philosopher-kings in The Republic, the ideal state is necessarily dependent on a framework of "noble fictions" or "useful lies".

More interestingly is the mental processing going on in this writer's liberal brain. He takes signs of consistency to be signs of illusion, yet as any scientist will tell you, reality at the bulk level is a highly consistent and stubborn beast. You can hurl test after test at it, and the results will come up the same, or with fascinating but repeatable and explainable variations. Yet this fancified liberal author is taking that chief indicator of reality, consistency (all the witnesses gave the same story, as did the security cameras, the forensics, the victim, and the cops) and taken it as a sign of a vast manufactured lie. In truth, if every piece of evidence reports a different age, a different weight, and a different sequined costume then you're chasing an imaginary Elvis, a manufactured fantasy. Thus the manifestly conflicting views of President Bush, spanning the range from drooling retard to super genius to space alien, are a sign not of reality but of an equally imaginary phantom, a windmill turned into a dragon for the democrats to give voice and lance to their delusional world.

No one is likely to mistake Bush for a philosopher-king, but he's adept at spinning watertight noble fictions to explain and justify the policies of his administration to a public that believes in faith, conscience, vision, and consistency more than it believes in untidy and time-consuming realism.

As I've learned through long experience with various psychos, a patent lie requires constant maintenance to patch over ever more obvious holes that keep sprouting up, whereas sticking to the truth itself generates a water tight story all on its own, a handy side effect of letting words simply be based on a measured look at reality, and as I've said, reality has its own strict consistency, much like a mountain or the score at the Superbowl. Everyone is free to observe the score, and anyone trying to peddle a line that's completely contrary to simple observations comes off like a barking moonbat. "We're beating the Redskins badly but they have way more points than us" just doesn't pass muster in a country of sports fanatics, and sports fanatics do check the numbers. A simple look at our casualty numbers, which will equal the Vietnam War's only in another 80 years at present rates, makes it obvious that Vietnam comparisons are staggeringly off the mark and that only the most disconnected boob would even attempt to maintain such a line.

Let me digress a moment. Regurgitated liberal talking points may slip past people in those high-density urban blue areas, where most perceptions are formed during the day's dizzying number of gossip sessions (human interactions), but it's got no game with people who sit on the farm or at home and cross check numbers, history, and reports as a hobby. Such blithe disregard for obvious facts in favor of silly sound bites quickly implodes on the web, where smacking down idiocy with the real numbers; linked, tabulated, and explained, ranks as the highest form of entertainment. This election taught that hard lesson to the press. Long used to a three day spin cycle, they found their stories were blowing up in their faces inside of a day.

The acolytes of Col John Boyd might say that although the press largely retains the initiative in unearthing and initially investigating stories, the blogosphere is working inside the press' OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act), a thousand eyes and minds all clawing and digging. We don't have to wait for some mysterious call from a reporter to begin checking a fact, because some expert will be posting on the point in just a few hours. He too will get fact checked, and the better we are at understanding, arguing, and digging the more useful the web will be, because the first poster might be wrong. There are lots of stupid people on the web, but not everyone on the web is stupid. On a particular subject the experts will rise to the top.

So, flinging forged documents before the public? The typewriter and font experts are on the doorstep by morning, and by afternoon the smoking 60 minutes story is turning radioactive. That's the new reality which the "reality based" community can't deal with, preferring instead to insulate themselves in a cocoon on a handful of huge blogs, where by shear numbers, repetition, and constant commenting they can maintain the disconnect between observation and explanation, be it the most workable excuse, conspiracy theory, counter charge, or just a big damn pep rally. This lets them avoid the discomfort of reexamining a previously held perception, facing contrary evidence or outright refutation, or getting depressed by reality. Everyone on Howard Dean's blog thought he was utterly unbeatable, handily avoiding what even committed liberals would consider as "reality". Those trained in the latest fads in French philosophy, group think, and post-modernism may recoil and be at the edge of their seat at this point, ready to chant "I'm rubber you're glue", but that's what's been happening.

For example, in the run-up to the war and during it, all of a year and a half ago, the liberals were all screaming about the terrible hazards of depleted uranium, and that our attack would unleash a wave of cancers. The mainstream press was running the stories as fact, and it was taken as a given in liberal circles that such was the truth. Enter those niggling details, and now you can't find word one about it in the press. In their digging to build up a human interest story I'm sure they found that uranium is barely radioactive at all, having a staggeringly long half-life, and what makes it important isn't it's inherent and dangerously high radioactivity (it ranks up there with dirt, and we get it from dirt) but its ability to sustain a nuclear chain reaction. But to people who only have the most ephemeral knowledge of reality the scare words "uranium" and "radioactive" are all they need to know, and combined with "fallout" and "meltdown" (which involve the wildly radioactive short half-life byproducts of fission) the storyline was complete. It was a bogeyman, no more than a primitive's story about a forest full of demonic tree gods, yet when passed from person to person counted as "fact" among liberals. Anecdotal or gossiped "facts" about matters of science may survive on conspiracy theory websites (see the Democratic Underground) but they're not going to live to long amongst people who fact check. Exeunt press stories about depleted uranium.

In fact, exit most stories that the mainstream press tried to pawn off on the public this election, and the resulting impression on the public has been a plummet in respect for the press. The "mental model" that passes for reality in the "fact based community" has proven as effective as a PlaySkool hammer to a carpenter, and this trend will continue unless the left returns to both its roots and its senses and quits letting nattering college nobodies set the agenda and the strategy. If you don't believe me just look at some liberal activist chat boards for some of the most staggeringly suicidal post-election ideas ever spawned.

But getting back to the author's perceptions, making decisions and giving explanations based on the advice of people with boots on the ground and vast experience in the field is going to generate a very consistent picture and narrative. That's not the sign of a "water tight" set of lies because lies, over time and over a broad range of subjects, generate vast inconsistencies with observed reality (otherwise we'd call them alternate or exceptional observations instead of "lies"). The fact that Bush has a clear vision, consistently expressed, fact checkable as all hell, traceable to just about every intelligence agency in the world (all consistent, mind you) quite clearly indicates that he's sticking as close to the truth as any man can.

In contrast, if you take Kerry's Vietnam War record and examine even his own writings on an incident you have such vastly varying explanations that figuring out which incident he's talking about can be difficult. For example, in his stories about his famous rescue of Jim Rassmann he's said that Rassmann was on his boat or a boat behind him; that Rassmann's boat (behind him) hit the mine, or that another boat beside Rassmann's boat (both behind him) hit the mine. He's said that another boat hit the mine and it blew Rassmann off Kerry's boat, that Kerry's boat hit the mine and blew Rassmann off Kerry's boat, and he's even gone before the Senate and said Rassmann was on his boat and fell off after Kerry's pilot jerked the wheel, long after some other boat had earlier hit a mine. On top of this we have multiple versions of Kerry's wound (Rassmann says it was accidentally self-inflicted earlier that day) whereas Kerry told the Navy he was injured when the mine went off near his boat, and that it was one of several that went off. No one else there remembers multiple mines, in fact most everyone there has a staggeringly different recollection of events, though the key parts of Kerry's story confirm that the versions of others are actually true, such as his observing Rassmann in the water from many hundreds of yards away. This after Rassmann had been on Kerry's boat (according to Rassmann). Would a Seattle liberal take this to indicate that Kerry was telling the truth? If so, which version is the truth?

The author takes Bush's consistency as an indicator of "lies", and I suppose would take Kerry's absolute lack of consistency as evidence of "truth", though how he'd pick a "flavor" or a "favorite" version of the truth amongst wildly conflicting accounts would itself be interesting. However, it could be that reality so conflicts with his liberal worldview that experience taught him consistency is common to things the liberal catechism rejects. Does "Lies, all capitalist lies!" sound familiar? This basic belief in the inconsistency of reality shades into conspiracy theory, where lack of evidence is simply taken as proof of how effective the conspiracy is. In short, this whole article is a fascinating look into the mind of an intelligent person with a paranoid worldview, where his inability to reconcile observation and liberal theory has led him to become suspicious of observation, not the elaborate and inconsistent tapestry that liberals have constructed to explain the world.

And policies like the Wolfowitz plan for the forced democratisation of the Middle East owe a lot more to Plato (by way of his disciple Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago) than they do to Jesus.

Jesus never had to contend with Muslim jihadists, but it's interesting he brings up Strauss, a common conspiracy line from those who serf neo-Nazi websites. There's some cross pollination between those sites and some Muslim sites that favor "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and more interestingly, given that the author is likely a Seattle anti-war activist, Seattle Indy-Media found that David Duke and Stormfront had been making disguised inroads into the Seattle anti-war community by concealing their true identities and using "No War For Israel" as a front. My guess is that some wildly paranoid Muslim/Neo-Nazi conspiracy links got passed along.

What Bush articulates on the stump is a vision of a created reality so nearly seamless and so internally coherent that it effectively displaces and supplants the unpleasant nether world inhabited by his Democratic opponent. All Kerry can do in response is produce a litany of what Bush trivialises as his "complaints" - and Americans tend to take a dim view of complainers.

He's so close to understanding it. Bush didn't create the vision, millions of Americans created it, many giving their lives in doing so. Bush articulated it. It doesn’t include a future where people saw off heads, but recognizes that such is the present, and that if we want the future to be different we have to actually go out and change the world's course again. Trolls may argue that the decapitations are a result of Bush's policy, but we were having Americans in the Philippines decapitated during Clinton's watch, too. John Kerry, on the other hand, voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it. He was for alliances and UN approval, surprisingly except during the Gulf War when we had both and he voted against it. He was for spending more money on the war, indeed whatever it took, unless he thought he could get a better sound bite by decrying the spending. In short, childish complaining was his only technique, and he complained about absolutely anything, indeed complaining about a thing from both sides at once with his ever present boast "I can do it better". The voters soundly rejected him, his non-policies, his vacant positions, and his party.

"Human kind," wrote T S Eliot in "Burnt Norton", "cannot bear too much reality," and around 50 per cent of voters would understandably prefer to live inside Bush's noble Platonic fiction than in Kerry's work of low mimetic realism.

Bush's noble fiction? Would that be the fiction where we face a long, hard slog, use every tool of finance, diplomacy, and military force to reign in terrorists and a few of the genocidal dictators, trying to bring freedom and prosperity to a part of the world that's woefully short of it? This as opposed to Kerry's "low mimetic realism" where our boys come home from Iraq, replaced by soldiers from countries rushing to fight what Kerry calls "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time", and this even after these countries stated unequivocally that they will not send any troops to Iraq, even if Kerry is elected.

Sorry, but what Kerry presented wasn't mimetic realism like Dicken's or Jane Austin, it was pulp fantasy with a muscle bound John Kerry being worshipped as a savior by a bunch of scantily clad Eurobabes. If you take his positions as "realist" then what reality do they represent? The reality where Saddam was a dangerous dictator that we had to take out, or the reality where Saddam wasn't a threat and the war was a mistake? John Kerry held both positions. We'll all be better off when liberals learn that confusion and nuance are not the same thing.

We've been here before. Mark Twain liked to blame the Southern confederacy on its peculiar addiction to the romances of Sir Walter Scott: the South was lost in a storybook dream of its own aristocracy, regarding the industrial North as a base, money-grubbing, profane society, bereft of the high ideals that sustained the Southern slave owners. The Mason-Dixon line is drawn differently now - it pits the unbelieving cities against the godfearing countryside and outer suburbs - but the essence of the division remains. Who's for romance? Who's for realism? Who goes with God and Plato, who with crabbed and sceptical Aristotle?

How soon a liberal tosses away the ideals of Lincoln, Tubman, Stowe and a thousand others. Which side stands opposed to the mistreatment of women in the Middle East, and which side wants to engage imams in another 1400 years of "dialogue"? Who is standing opposed to fundamentalist theocracy in the Middle East, and who wants to appease it in the name of multicultralism? Who wants to see the Middle East flourish in a new awakening of free thought, and who wants to blame America for imperialism and hubris for hinking that a dozen flavors of despotism needn't be the regions future? Who sees the need to reform the region, and who looks at those reformers, bleats "neo-con" before falling back to medieval anti-Semitic conspiracy theories? Has liberalism come to mean nothing more than unshakeable self-righteousness, self-doubt about country but not party, the willingness to support vile regimes as long as it gives them a cheap talking point? Apparently it has, and in their last gasps before being tossed into the rubber room of history are going to go out in a straight-jacket, bleating that they're the only ones who can see whats really out there.

We may, if we're lucky and avoid the bogs and sloughs of long-drawn-out electoral litigation, get an answer late on Tuesday (breakfast time on Wednesday for you). In the meanwhile, it's 2pm Pacific, 5pm Eastern, just time enough to check the latest tracking poll before my deadline... and it's as I feared - Bush up a point at 50, Kerry down one at 47. As we go into the weekend, the creators of reality have the edge on the reporters of reality - the hapless messengers who get shot for bearing bad news. One can only pray that on Monday morning sobriety will return, and, with it, a regard for the grim facts of the case - and that the chastened mood will last through Tuesday. Fingers crossed.

Oh, there was certainly a return to sobriety on Monday and Tuesday, replaced by a wave of bizarre conspiracy theories and redneck bashing on Wednesday, and we've been entertained by it all ever since. I'm dying to see this guy's next column, because I'm sure he'll ratchet up the literary insanity to a primal scream. I just love those.

November 12, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 24, 2004

Shell Game In the Guardian

A wacko environmentalist tried to pull a trick with a shiny spoon in the UK Guardian in response to Bjorn Lomborg's numbers on environmental problems.

This is neither scepticism nor science - just nonsense

Why is Bjorn Lomborg's work on climate change taken seriously?

To answer his question, it's because environmentalists screamed and gnashed their teeth but utterly failed at refuting him. For those who think we should spend a few million to provide safe drinking water in Africa the environmentalists have said "screw it, build a windmill instead. That'll stop global warming and save the world." It's just like protecting the populace from DDT by killing off 80 million of them, making Hitler and Stalin look like amateurs.

The self-proclaimed sceptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg has been visible on London's seminar circuit this week promoting his argument that spending money on climate change is wasteful and that the world would be much better off spending it on halting Aids and providing water and sanitation instead.

He's not just a self-proclaimed skeptical environmentalist, he actually is one. What he objects to is innumerate fear-mongering that so badly misallocates the money allotted to address environmental problems. The environmental money pie isn't infinitely large, so when you have idiots peddling junk science and utter pap to get that entire amount spent to fight a non-existent threat then the entire amount is totally wasted, meaning real problems remain unaddressed.

For example, we're going to spend a billion dollars per year of life saved by trying to reduce arsenic levels in the US from epsilon (50 parts per billion - almost immeasurably close to zero), to some terrifically smaller amount close to zero (10 parts per billion, or 0.010 mg/L), which even the Washington Post said will save only a couple dozen lives a year. And even this ignores the fact that the chemicals used to remove the arsenic will actually kill more people than we're saving, all to eliminate what may be an essential trace element and useful medicine which is already abundant in our food, especially in fish, which are considered safe even if they have a thousand times the amount of arsenic (2 to 80 mg/L) that has everyone going nuts.

I suppose that it's cool, politically correct, and way more fun than actually keeping poor people from dying horrible twitching deaths, but it is certainly a staggering waste of time, money, and the public's finite attention span.

Despite his consistent attacks on environmentalists for exaggerating the planet's problems, Lomborg is actually no more a sceptic than he is an environmentalist. The latter claim rests solely on his having contributed to Greenpeace in his youth. The former claim is belied by his deep faith in a wholly benign future for the planet.

It wasn't his consistent attacks but his actual data and statistics which got Lomborg named "Global Leader for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum and one of the world's most 100 influential people. That's why this writer in the Guardian is reduced to hurling ad hominems instead of addressing the fact that environmentalists have unquestionably been exaggerating problems, using shameful fear mongering to try and scare up funding.

This gives him the same kind of sunny and often appealing optimism that we see in President Bush.

Keep you eye on that hidden ball, because this wacko just tried to pull a sleight of hand and distract you with "Lomborg=Bush=Hitler".

By one of those amazing coincidences that can suddenly snap things into focus, Lomborg was putting his case this week in the building next door to the one in which an unprecedented coalition of environment and development bodies was spelling out, in some detail, exactly how climate change is already intensifying poverty.

And how exactly would something like a century's ten inch rise in sea level, the best estimate of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, actually do that, pray tell? The same panel also predicts a catastrophic rise in average global temperature of about 1-3.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. Taking the middle of that range and looking at a climate map means Washington DC will be as hot as Richmond Virginia, and central Kentucky will suffer the unbearable heat currently found in central Tennessee, which surely can't support human life as we know it. They want to get everyone panicked about the earth getting too hot to support life, but my reasoned plan for coping with this oncoming disaster is to twiddle my thumbs for 99 years, eleven months and then throw my stuff in the car and drive two hours north, grabbing a hamburger on the way.

He is in London in advance of the publication of a new book on the conclusions of the Copenhagen Consensus. Sponsored by the Economist, Lomborg invited eight Nobel Prize winning economists to meet in Copenhagen. Their task was to decide how best to spend a (notional) additional $50bn dollars in order to advance global welfare, particularly in developing countries.

Keep you eye on that ball, ladies and gentlemen, because he's about to go all bonkers.

No one can fault Lomborg's ambition. Getting two economists to agree about something is difficult enough. Getting eight to agree about everything must have been daunting.

To help them on their way the laureates were offered a top 10 list of global challenges, such as disease, hunger, water, migration and climate change, and invited to use cost-benefit analysis to rank them in terms of value for money. To no one's surprise, they came to the same conclusion as Lomborg on the value of climate change.

The concluded it's a really idiotic way to blow billions of dollars, much less trillions. The problem with blowing money like that is that human aid budgets aren't infinite, and money that could've gone to malaria prevention will instead be spent on wildly expensive new coal scrubbers in Europe, on the theory that it's somehow helping save African lives.

The reality is that applying cost-benefit analysis to questions such as these is junk economics. Junk economics done by Nobel laureates is simply distinguished junk economics. Applying the logic of the Copenhagen Consensus to the Iraq war illustrates this nicely.

Now you see an argument, now you don't! It's just junk economics, well, just because! "Oh look, a shiny spoon!" just before he devolves into "Iraq War, quagmire, quagmire, Bush=Hitler". He drones on and on for some length, but never addresses Lomborg's findings or position other than offering up such idiotic distractions as this

How did that compare to the cost of an Iraqi soldier? Were Iraqi civilian casualties to be counted as a cost or a benefit? What is the avoided cost, therefore a benefit, of preventing the launch of one nuclear weapon by Saddam? Should you discount the benefit of preventing subsequent launches to allow for the diminished value of whatever target had first been attacked?

We often maintain that many environmentalists are either badly deluded or downright stupid, and they oblige by proving it at each and every opportunity. Go read the rest of the article if you don't believe me, where he dodges, distracts, smears, and relys on every faulty bit of reasoning he can muster. What he and his ilk would never suggest is that you actually read Lomborg's book.

October 24, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

August 28, 2004

Lisa Meyer's Interview with Zaladonis

Sorry for my light to non-existent posting lately. I've been buried at work, and what little time I do have is sometimes taken up posting over on The Rott. Anyway, in following the various John Kerry gaffes I've been watching Beldar's Blog, which is a very good site to keep up with the latest on this ongoing train-wreck. This thread concerned an interview with Admiral Schachte, and included a link to another interview with Bill Zaladonis, one of Kerry's crewmen from PCF-44.

Here's an interesting Lisa Meyers interview with Bill Zaldonis, who claims he was with Kerry during the incident concerning first Purple Heart.

Lisa Myers: What were your dates of service in Vietnam?

William Zaladonis: August 26, 1968 to August 26, 1969.

Myers: And your rank?

Zaladonis: I was an engineman third class…

Schacte and others have pointed out that Schacte was on all these missions, and Schacte said the enlisted man always operated the engine.

Myers: In what period did your service overlap with John Kerry’s?

Zaladonis: I believe, I can't swear, that-- but it was December-- November-December time frame. I want to say about two months total, over November to January…

Not exactly "seared" into his memory, is it?

Myers: As you know, we’re specifically interested in the incident with John Kerry’s first Purple Heart. …available military documents record the date of that incident as December 2. Were you serving with John Kerry that day?

Zaladonis: I'm sure that I was, yes. I don't know the dates. I had no reason to pay attention to dates – the only one I was worried about was Aug. 26, 1969.
[Editor'sNote: the scheduled end date of Zaladonis’ term of service]

Hey, she just told his it was December 2nd. He should wise up.

Myers: Do you recall a skimmer mission, with Kerry about that time period? [“skimmer” is a type of small water craft used by U.S. forces in Vietnam]

Zaladonis: Yes, I do.

Myers: Can you tell me what happened, just starting from the time that you go out on a swift boat?
[“swift boat” was the common name for Patrol Craft Fast vessels (PCFs) used by the U.S. Navy in Vietnam]

Zaladonis: We towed the skimmer behind the boat and we went to this area. Not sure exactly where it was, I think it was somewhere north of Cam Ranh Bay, and they let us off into the skimmer.

He doesn't even remotely recall where he was? He seems to be short in the when and where department, doesn't he?

We had some intelligence that said that the VC [Vietcong enemy fighters] were using an area to cross and to transfer their contraband and stuff like that, and so we wanted to go check it out.

What area was it again, and what's this "contraband and stuff like that"? Were they VC or cigarette smugglers?

And we went in there and we, um-- there was a lot of fisherman in this area. It was a free-fire zone – they weren't supposed to be there.

He knows it was a free-fire no-fishing zone, but has no idea where he was, or when, despite having access to all sorts of records posted all over the place.

So we spent the night taking these people, ferrying them back and forth to the swift boat. And I assume they were interrogating them – turning them loose or whatever.

Or whatever??? How could he be carrying out his part of the mission when he has no idea what the crew of the swift boat was even doing with them? And if his little boat is ferrying them to the swift boat, did he notice perhaps whether his little boat was hauling them back to their own boats, or were there an unusually large number of women swimming past?

But then, later that night, we ran into– there was about five or six sampans, small junks crossing at the same time, and we challenged them – John saw them through the starlight scope – and we challenged them and we popped a flare and they refused to stop. They hit the beach and took off. So we opened up on them and, uh, after a few seconds of that-- and our cover was blown so we got out of there…

Yet other accounts mention ONE suspicious boat, not a mini-armada of them. Kerry says there was one suspicious sampan. Schachte agrees. So on this point Zaladonis recollection deviates from other accounts, and if he can't remember how many enemy boats they were potentially engaging then his recall of lesser details is likely to be even more unreliable.

Myers: What happens when…you all start firing?

Zaladonis: Right, we started firing. I had an M-16 machine gun. I was on the bow of the boat and I opened up on them, and John didn't like the area I was shooting at and he directed me to fire more to the right. And I had muzzle flashes in front of my eyes so it was hard for me to see, because it was like having flashbulbs going off in front of your face – you know, hundreds of them at the same time. And I just couldn't see. So he kind of directed my fire. And from what I remember, he was firing an M-16 and it either jammed or he ran out of ammo. And he bent over to pick up another one and then he got hurt, as he was bent over. As far as I can remember.

So Zaldonis is on the M-16 machine gun *cough* in the bow of the boat, where you always have your engineman stationed, and he opens up on the mini-armada without actually having any idea where he's shooting because of course he was blind. Make you wonder why they even bothered putting guns on the boat at night, doesn't it? Yet muzzle flash is a serious problem in night engagements, so I won't question his account on this point.

I also wonder why the bottom of the boat had other guns laying around. I would think the other gun would be another type of gun, such as a grenade launcher.

Myers: How did he get hurt?

Zaladonis: I'm not sure. I'm not sure at all.

Myers: How did you know he was hurt?

Zaladonis: Because I found out later that when he bent over to pick up that rifle was when he got hurt. I guess we discussed that on the way back to the swift boat.

He guesses they discussed it? Hey, as long as he was wounded before he did what ever he did with that "rifle" he picked up, I guess it proves he couldn't have been wounded by whatever it is that "rifle" fired. If I was Kerry I'd discuss that too…

Myers: Do you recall was there enemy fire that night?

Zaladonis: I'm not sure. I don't really remember. But it was so hard for me to tell. I can't say there was or there wasn't. I believe Mr. Kerry thought that there was, but I was busy with that M-60 and I was trying to empty all my ammo out as quick as possible, and get the heck out of there. It was a pretty scary situation…
I can't say we weren't fired on, but I can't really tell if we were. I didn't see any tracers, but that doesn't mean anything ‘cause if they were using small arms there wouldn't have been any tracers.

So how could Kerry have been wounded on the top of his forearm by shrapnel if nothing blew up in front? And how could a gunner fail to notice a high-explosive detonation to his front, or even hear one no matter where it went off? The "not sure" about enemy fire can't be remotely squared with a piece of flying shrapnel, unless they enemy had special shrapnel-dart guns with silencers.

Myers: But if you weren’t sure how you were fired on, how can you know how [John] Kerry was hurt?

Zaladonis: I didn't [know how he was hurt]. I just know that he was hurt. I don't remember the particulars. It was 35 years ago. And, you know, up until recently, I hadn't thought about it a whole lot…

Myers: Was this the only skimmer mission you were on?

Zaladonis: Yes, ma'am. It was the only one I was on. And I'm fairly sure it was the only one that John Kerry was on – and the only one that Pat Runyon was on also.
[Pat Runyon was an enlisted man serving with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam during the same period. He agrees with Kerry’s and Zaladonis’ accounts that he, Kerry and Zaladonis were the only three on the skimmer the night of the incident.]

Myers: So there was not a second officer with you on the mission?

Zaladonis: No. Not at all.

So does anyone really believe that the US Navy would send a green lieutenant out with a pair of green enlisted men on a highly specialized type of operation developed by Schachte, and then only have them try it once?

Myers: Do you recall a person by the name of Bill Schachte?

Zaladonis: I've only heard his name recently because I've heard that he claimed he was on the skimmer with us.

This is interesting. Everyone else confirms that Schachte went out on ALL these missions, having developed the technique. How could Zaldonis have been doing these missions and not heard of Schachte, EVER?

Myers: Mr. Schachte claims he was on the skimmer with John Kerry that night.

Zaladonis: Right. Well, he claims that but he's wrong. The night that I'm talking about it was just myself, John Kerry and Pat Runyon. And I don't know how else I can say that. That's all there was on the boat. He may have been on the swift boat.

This is from a man who can't even remember the month or rough location of the mission, nor if any enemy fire was present, despite the obvious fact that something had to blow up to produce some shrapnel. And if Schachte had been on the swift boat, which hauled Mr. Zaladonis to the location that Zaladonis doesn't remember, to intercept sampans and do something or other with the passengers, which Mr. Zaladonis also doesn't remember, would Mr. Zaladonis remember Lt Schachte? Yet he leaves open the possibility that Schachte may have been on the swift boat. The boat he spent some hours on to get to the location of this mysterious incident, and the boat he worked with all night. And keep in mind that Schacte has always said there was an enlisted man to run the engine, and Zaladonis says he was an engineman. Why would the engineman be in the bow of the boat, unless he had an inordinate fear of Evinrudes, and why does Runyon remember operating an outboard motor that he had to steer by grabbing it with his arms? Makes you wonder where the throttle was, doesn't it?

Myers: It was 35 years ago; how certain are you that Bill Schachte was not there that night?

Zaladonis: I'm absolutely positive. Absolutely positive. I don't remember every incident or everything that happened that night. But I do remember who was on the boat and remember it very plainly. Very plainly… Like I said, it was one of the scariest nights I've had in my life.

He spent a year in Vietnam and the scariest night of his life is one where he's not even sure anyone even shot at him? Maybe someone had a Vincent Price tape playing in the stern or something.

And Pat and I have shared this story a few times since we've been out of the Navy. We've been very good friends ever since we've been—when we were in the Navy and out – and this is something that we talked about every now and then.

So they've been talking about this story for years? Why? "Yo Pat. It's me again. You wanna talk about that night that nothing happened again?" "Sure." I point back to this response where he said he hadn't been thinking about it over the past 35 years.

Myers: But if you weren’t sure how you were fired on, how can you know how [John] Kerry was hurt?

Zaladonis: I didn't [know how he was hurt]. I just know that he was hurt. I don't remember the particulars. It was 35 years ago. And, you know, up until recently, I hadn't thought about it a whole lot…

Ahem. I just love witnesses like this.

Myers: Is there any way in your view that John Kerry's wounds could have been accidentally self-inflicted?

Zaladonis: I don't see how. I don't see how he possibly could have been accidentally [hurt] – if he’d have stepped in the line of fire of my M-60 he wouldn't be here to talk about it. I only remember popping a flare and the flare worked so it didn't explode or anything on the skimmer – it did its job. So, I don't understand how he could have possibly had a self-inflicted wound.

Gee, a few paragraphs back he started out saying

Zaladonis: Right, we started firing. I had an M-16 machine gun.

Either he upgraded in a hurry or the "journalists" who transcribe this stuff just know that an M-16 and an M-60 both contain "sixtē".

Myers: Do you think John Kerry deserved a Purple Heart for that work?

Zaladonis: Well, I’ll tell you, if I'd have been hurt that night, I’d have probably thought I'd deserved one too. I'm sure he deserved it. I'm sure he deserved it…

Myers: How badly [was] John Kerry injured that night?

Zaladonis: I don't know how badly he was injured. I knew it wasn't life- threatening. And I know that when we got back to the swift boat he went to the pilothouse and I went to the fantail. Myself and Runyon went back to the fantail and we both smoked back then so we went back there and smoked. And we were talking to the swift boat crew. And it was dark, so we really couldn't see. We weren't turning on any lights. So, I'm not sure exactly how bad it was – I knew it was not life-threatening, though, and I knew he wasn't going to lose his arm or anything like that.

So they weren't turning on any lights but they were smoking on the fantail. Doesn't that kind of defeat the point?

Myers: How do you feel when you hear that someone – that Admiral Schachte is saying that he was on that boat?

Zaladonis: I just feel that he's mistaken. He said that he did a bunch of those missions and I think he’s just got them mixed up. I only did one. And he said he did a bunch of them, like 10 of them or something like that. So he's got us confused with somebody else. I only did one. And it was me and Pat and John Kerry. And that's it. And I can't say it any other way.

And there's another problem. Kerry's commanding officer has said that there's no way a completely green lieutenant would be put in charge of a crew on his first mission. Now Zaladonis admits he and Runyon only did this type of mission once, and obviously he doesn't even know what the mission was, since he has no idea what they did on the swift boat with any intercepted Vietnamese. So would the Navy be stupid enough to stick a lieutenant who's never seen any combat on a special type of mission with a gunner (or engineman, take your pick) who's never been on one of them either?

Myers: Are you familiar with a commander named Grant Hibbard in Vietnam? [on the date of the incident, then-Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard was commanding officer of Coastal Division 14, to which both Kerry and Zaladonis were assigned as of the date of the incident]

Zaladonis: I knew of him. I didn't know him personally.

Myers: Did you ever discuss what happened on the skimmer with Commander Hibbard?

Zaladonis: No. Mr. Hibbard wouldn't have had any reason to speak to me unless I was being court martialed or something. [LAUGHS]

Then why does everyone else relate the crew of this particular mission saying "we weren't under any fire" and citing that as yet one more reason to refuse the medal, which was refused at the time, forcing Kerry to get it three months later from someone in Saigon?

Myers: Were you aware that initially there was some resistance to giving John Kerry a Purple Heart for this?

Zaladonis: No, I wasn't aware of that at all… Most of the time when you get any type of award in Vietnam you get it because they give it to you – you don't get it because you want it. You don't go asking for stuff like this. You either – you know, you win it or you don't…

Myers: You don’t remember anything about ‘Batman’ and ‘Robin’ code words?

Zaladonis: No, no…

So if Kerry had been injured and Zaldonis had to get him back to the swift boat, would he have hollered out "Joker!"?

Myers: Why do you think that you and Mr. Schachte have dramatically different accounts of that incident?

Zaladonis: Well, it's like I said. He was on a bunch of those skimmer missions. I was on one. I think he's just got one or two mixed up. But like I said, I was just on one, so it’s very vivid in my memory.

His memory is so vivid that he can't recall the place, the month, if anyone fired back, who was on the swift boat, what the swift boat crew was doing with any intercepted Vietnamese, or just what wounded John Kerry. He claims he doesn't even remember Schachte or even the name "Schachte", yet now relates how many missions Schachte went on. This wouldn't be surprising coming from someone else who'd at least bothered to lately note what date everyone says this all happened.

I think he said he was involved with about 10 of them. So to me it's just like separate patrols on a swift boat. I can't remember them all. I went on so many. And I've been on so many boats I can't even remember half of the boats officers I rode with.

Boy, there's a witness for you, eh? I'll bet his service records become a really hot item, don't you? Zaladonis seems awfully short on details, so just don't ask him names, dates, units, or boats, that are unrelated to John Kerry. Interestingly, on other points of his service on PCF-44 he seems to be crystal clear about what happened, despite his claims that he doesn't remember half the boats he was on or people he met. Yet what makes me most suspicious is that Schachte led all these missions himself, with an enlisted man on the engine, and Zaladonis recalls an engagement against a multitude of suspicious boats. Isn't it a bit more likely that it's Zaladonis who's remembering a seperate encounter, especially after discussing it over the years with Runyon.

Anyway, I'm done with this witness. Now compare it to her interview with Admiral Schachte.

August 28, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 22, 2004

Kerry, Part LXVII

I'm going to make yet another *yawn* look at Kerry's record, since the media has seized on some official Navy accounts as proving that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are lying. I've been posting these over on The Rott, but having so many consecutive Kerry posts gets old, so I'll post this one here.

At issue are the records concerning the Rassmann incident on March 13, 1969, in which PCF-3 struck a mine, Rassmann fell in the water, and Kerry pulled him out of the water. The media is especially enamored of the fact that Thurlow, who's making some of the main charges, got a Bronze Star which sites him for courage under fire. They're also using Freedom of Information Act requests to get a hold of as much of the documentation as they can, though Kerry's records are by and large not going to be released, along with his journal and that of one of his crewmen. It seems the information conduit will be a bit one way on this affair.

Well, to do my part I thought I'd examine whether the official Navy records mention of heavy automatic weapons fire and a second mine really establishes that Kerry's version is correct and the Swift Boat Vets are in fact lying. This is going to be another insanely long Kerry piece, and at this point I'm definitely getting sick of doing these. If there is a less relevant topic in this election that some obscure 35 year-old event on a river that people couldn't find on a map, I'd like to know what it is. But it does bear directly on whether Kerry has the capacity to be Commander in Chief, I think in large part not because of what happened then but the way he's responding now. The strained denials, the avoidance of answering the charges instead of threatening to destroy people, the focus on who might be a donor instead of whether the charges are supportable, all these things strike me as rather telling behavior. But to address those issues requires looking into the facts of the charges, which requires another trip up the Dong Cung Canal. If I keep dragging myself through all this stuff I'm going to want a Vietnam Service Ribbon, and if you click on the fold and wade through all this mess yet again, you'll probably want one too.

The clearest analysis I've seen on what probably happened during this incident is here. The author's conclusions match what I've been thinking, even down to the fact that Kerry's swift boat ran into something submerged instead of getting hit by another mine. I wrote that up in a comment on Donald Sensing's post on the Rassmann episode, but kept having to delete part of my thoughts due to his blog's 1000 character comment limit.

That author thinks a single mine detonated, badly damaging PCF-3 and throwing two crewmen in the water. The boats immediately laid down suppressing fire on the banks in anticipation of an ambush. He doesn't say so, but frankly there may have been a couple VC taking shots at them at first, the same ones who would've detonated the mine, but they should've been quickly silenced. It seems Kerry had his driver speed away, with Rassmann still on board. Kerry's boat then hit something in the river, a log, or maybe rock, knocking Rassmann overboard and injuring Kerry's arm.

Rassmann spent significant time in the water, staying submerged while probably mistaking the sound of .50 caliber outgoing fire for incoming fire, since they're deafeningly loud and things sound strange underwater. Some time later Kerry turned his boat around and returned to pick up Rassmann, but another boat was already on the way to fish him out. The boats were likely never under any fire, and certainly not fire that continued for several minutes, up until the point that people were being pulled from the water, or one of the boats would've taken bullet damage.

Rassmann, in charge of writing awards for his Green Beret unit and thinking he had been under fire, wrote Kerry up for the Silver Star for pulling him out of the water. The commanders of three boats have said they weren't under fire, although the official report says they were. The question would be who reported that they were, since all the damage cited is from a mine or something else, in the case of Kerry's boat.

This is fairly similar to the Washington Post's WaPo examination of the incident. I'd link it as a regular examination of the incident, but after all, it's from the WaPo.

One of the outstanding questions remaining is who wrote the report that ended up being the official Navy version. The Swift Boat Vets think it was probably Kerry, as Thurlow (PCF-51), Chenowith (PCF-23), and Peez (PCF-3), three of the other four commanders present, know it wasn't them. The fourth, Droz (PCF-43), was killed a few months later. I'm pretty sure it was Kerry, and I'll lay out why. For part of this you need to take a great guided tour of a swift boat.

Let's start with Kerry's Bronze Star recommendation here on his campaign website, which reads

On 13 March 1969, LTJG KERRY was serving as Officer-in-Charge of PCF-94 conducting a five boat Sea Lords operation in the Bay Hap river and Dong Cung canal together with ground forces. After sweeping the area for five hours, the boats extracted the ground troops and began exiting the river. Shortly after starting their exit, a mine detonated under one of the boats (PCF-3), lifting it two feet above the water and wounding everyone aboard. Almost simultaneously, another mine detonated close aboard PC-94, knocking 1st LT RASSMAN into the water and wounding LTJG KERRY in the right arm. PCF-51 immediately went to the aid of PCF-3 while PCF-94 provided cover fire. Shortly after LTJG KERRY was informed that he had a man overboard, he immediately turned his boat around to assist the man in the water, who by this time was receiving sniper fire from the river banks. LTJG KERRY, from his exposed position on the bow of the boat, managed to pull LT RASSMAN aboard despite the painful wound in his right arm. Meanwhile, PCF-94 gunners provided accurate suppressing fire. LTJG KERRY then directed PCF-94 to the stricken PCF-3, where his crew attached a line and towed the boat clear of danger. Throughout the entire action, LTJG KERRY proved himself to be calm, professional, and highly courageous in the face of enemy fire.

The explosion of the second mine is a bit dubious, since even members of Kerry's own crew have said they don't think it was a mine, but maybe a close hit with a rocket or something else, but admit they're not sure. Some versions of the story have said Rassmann was blown overboard in the explosion of the mine under PCF-3, some have said he was blown off of PCF-3, and even John Kerry claims that Rassmann wasn't on Kerry's boat, but on some boat behind Kerry's, a notion which was given a good treatment here. That Rassmann fell off another boat is unlikely, since the only boat behind Kerry was PCF-43, which didn't seem to go anywhere during the incident, and if Rassmann fell off one of the boats that didn't go anywhere then he wouldn’t need Kerry to come back to pick him up, as he'd have been right with the other boats the whole time. Even Kerry's account says he had to turn around and head toward the other boats to pick up Rassmann, so it seems certain that Rassmann was indeed on Kerry's boat, despite what Kerry claims.

John Kerry's campaign posted some of the official military records concerning the incident.

One part of that I'd like to cite is the damage report on his boat, filed on March 14, 1969, the day following the Rassmann incident.

Alpha: PCF-94 hull registry number 50NS6678 battle damage Bravo: 1. C-4 2. PCF Not capable of executing Market Time Patrol 3. PCF/OT 1,2/NA Charlie: ETR 18 1200Z Mar 69 Delta: Two Starboard and one port main cabin windows blown out. VRC-46 radio and all remote units pilot house inop. AC wiring shorted out. Onan generator inop. Steerage control after helm inop. Starboard bilge pump broken. Screws curled and chipped. Radar gear box frozen. Main engines experienced RPM drop. Echo: Battle Damage Golf: A. (1) No (2) Yes (3) No (4) No (5) No Hotel: An Thoi, RVN

The Washington Post article I linked mentions this.

In some ways, it was a day like any other. The previous day, Kerry had taken part in a Swift boat expedition that had come under fire, and several windows of Kerry's boat were blown out.

The windows on a Swift Boat look just like the cheap windows you'd see on an RV or camping trailer, as you can see in that guided tour, and having them blown out wasn't that unusual. It had happened to Kerry's boat before, along with others. Yet this was pre-existing damage. The VRC-46 radio mentioned was mounted in the cabin, on the forward starboard side, and right next a window. If the windows were blown out a day earlier, the radio was probably damaged at the same time, automatically making the remote units inoperable.

His boat also had electrical problems with shorted AC wiring. That may be related to why the generator was inoperable, but the breakers or fuses on it should've tripped, so the wiring and the generator might be separate issues. However, shrapnel damage would generally cut wires, leaving the circuit open instead of shorted, but then a cut wire could always short to the hull. But no mention is made of any such type of shrapnel damage, so maybe the wiring problem was just part of a boat's normal electrical headaches.

Certainly the frozen radar gearbox wasn't related to battle, and it's doubtful an inoperable Onan generator was battle damage. I used to own a military 28-volt Onan generator, similar to the AC generator on the swift boat, and they're pretty tough units. At one point 85% of all military generators were Onans, which are also commonly found on RV's these days. My military generator had breakers, but if the one on a swift boat had fuses then you could get in electrical trouble by replacing a fuse with a slug of copper or brass in a field expedient solution to not having any AC power to heat up the morning coffee.

The damage to the after helm steering gear is interesting. A swift boat could be controlled from the deck, aft of the cabin on the left, or from the normal pilot house, with a clutch to engage the aft steering station. That's on the opposite side from the radio that was damaged, and since the windows were blown out earlier they probably represent two different or unrelated incidents.

The starboard bilge pump might've been damaged from overpressure from a mine, but then the port bilge pump was apparently fine, because the report doesn’t mention it. Maybe the pump shorted and took out the electrical wiring and generator, but this is doubtful, unless of course the generator actually used fuses instead of breakers and someone had used a slug of copper or brass to replace a blown fuse. In short, a few of the boat's problems are hard to pin down as actual battle damage, and sound more like maintenance issues.

That leaves "Screws curled and chipped." and "Main engines experienced RPM drop", and I'll reintroduce the problem with the after helm steering control.

Getting back to the WaPo article, we have Pees, Thurlow, and Chenowith moving in line on the left side of the canal, with Kerry and Droz on the right side, with Kerry leading.

"My God, I've never seen anything like it," Chenoweth wrote in what he says is a diary recorded soon after the events. "There was a fantastic flash, a boom, then the 3 boat disappeared in a fountain of water and debris. I was only 30 yards behind." Assuming that they had run into a Vietcong ambush, Chenoweth wrote, "we unleashed everything into the banks."

A later intelligence report established that the mine was probably detonated by a Vietcong sympathizer in a foxhole who hit a plunger as the Swift boats passed through the fishing weir.

Obviously such a mine is a huge explosion, not at all likely to be mistaken for anything else, with a fountain of water and debris plus a boat flying up in the air. Still working from the WaPo analysis we find

"When the mine went off, we were still going full speed," recalled Michael Medeiros, one of Kerry's crew members. Kerry's boat raced off down the river, away from the ambush zone.

If they were indeed going full speed they'd have been doing about 32 kts, or 37 mph. If they were at a swift boat's cruising speed they'd have only been doing 20 kts, or 23 mph.

When the first explosion occurred, Rassmann was seated next to the pilothouse on the starboard, or right, side of Kerry's boat, munching a chocolate chip cookie that he recalls having "ripped off from someone's Care package." He saw the 3 boat lift out of the water. Almost simultaneously, Kerry's forward gunner, Tommy Belodeau, began screaming for a replacement for his machine gun, which had jammed. Rassmann grabbed an M-16 and worked his way sideways along the deck, which was only seven inches wide in places.

So that was what, five to fifteen seconds? At 20 kts and five seconds that would be 168 feet of travel. At 32 kts and 15 seconds that would be 814 feet. And I think we throw away Kerry's claims that Rassmann was on another boat, because part of his story was moving to help Kerry's forward gunner, Tom Belodeau, the same gunner who'd clipped the fleeing VC in the earlier Silver Star incident, when his gun also jammed. Whatever Belodeau's other fine traits, I think he could've maybe spent more time on his machine gun maintenance skills, because his gun seems to jam with alarming frequency.

At this point, Kerry crew members say their boat was hit by a second explosion. Although Kerry's injury report speaks of a mine that "detonated close aboard PCF-94," helmsman Del Sandusky believes it was more likely a rocket or rocket-propelled grenade, as a mine would have inflicted more damage. Whatever it was, the explosion rammed Kerry into the wall of his pilothouse, injuring his right forearm.

The second explosion "blew me right off the boat," Rassmann recalled.

Now that's quite interesting. Even the helmsman thinks it wasn't a mine. John Kerry injured his right arm. If we knew for certain he was facing forwards we'd even know that the boat must've kicked left (Newton's laws and all that), and that the explosion must've been on the right side of the boat. Yet the damaged steering gear is on the left side, and Rassman was working his way along the narrow starboard deck up toward the bow, and would've really, really been aware of a huge explosion beside him.

This gets us back to the damage to PCF-94 recorded the next day. "Screws curled and chipped." and "main engines experienced RPM drop", and the steering damage. I'm sure any of you boaters can guess what can tear up a propeller without ripping through the hull, and a mine isn't it. Propellers on submarines take depth charging just fine. Ships that get torpedoed sometimes have their steering knocked out, yet continue under power. Propellers are very tough because they have to withstand enormous forces on a small area. I really doubt you could easily create an explosion that would tear up a propeller like that and not also severely damage the thin aluminum hull of a swift boat. If the rudder was chipped in an explosion then the boat should've leaked like a sieve.

One thing that does "curl and chip" a propeller is hitting something. Hitting something also can pound the heck out of the ships rudder, with the forces transmitted straight to the steering gear. If you go back to the guided tour of a swift boat, at the very bottom you can see a nice model of one, with the twin propellers and rudders shown extending underneath, far below the hull. You also have the propeller shafts extending down there, equally exposed. So if a swift boat, traveling at full speed, as Michael Medeiros says it was, were to hit a submerged log, shelf, or some other object, the boat would take a severe pounding, jerk violently and very loudly (it is a wreck after all), throwing the crew members across the cabin, or in Rassmann's case into the water. As a result the propeller shafts and bearings would likely be damaged, resulting in some RPM problems, the propellers themselves would be chipped and bent, and the steering gear would be damaged.

The second mine story is dubious, and not all accounts include a second mine, with some claiming the first explosion under PCF-3 threw Rassmann overboard. Not all the crew on Kerry's boat thought it was a mine. But Kerry definitely says it was a second mine that hit close aboard, a phrase he's used repeatedly. None of the other officer's accounts seem to mention a second mine, and with PCF-3 having been hit, and they immediately laying down fire and moving to assist why would they even be looking toward Kerry's boat to notice?

Going back to Kerry's Bronze Star recommendation

Almost simultaneously, another mine detonated close aboard PC-94, knocking 1st LT RASSMAN into the water and wounding LTJG KERRY in the right arm.

Looking at the injury listed with the combat action

LTJG John F. Kerry, USN 713525/1100 Injury, Hostile Fire 13 Mar 69, 1530H, Song Bay Hap, WQ 010780. While serving as officer in charge aboard PCF-94 engaged in operations in the above river. LTJG Kerry suffered shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks and contusions on his right forearm when a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94.

Treated by medical officer aboard USCGC Spencer (WHEC-36) and returned to duty with Coastal Divison Eleven.

Obviously the shrapnel wound didn't occur when "the mine" went off, and Rassmann has detailed how that injury occurred earlier in the day when Rassmann and Kerry blew up a large rice cache, with Kerry catching some rice in his butt.

Looking at the official Navy reports Kerry's campaign posted

RF/PF: Moved east about 1500 meters. Troops flushed about 30 men half armed. Distance 1000 meters. Position approximately WQ 000840. No contact made. RF/HF Extracted 1130H and moved by PCF to support MSF but were not landed again. All units proceeded to Cai Nuoc district town. Unable to get air support.

PCF 23 joined at Cai Nuoc. PCFs with MSF embarked departed Cai Nuoc at 1445H proceeding down Bay Hap. At VQ 995770 mine detonated under PCF 3 lifting boat about 2-3 ft out of water. Very heavy black smoke observed at same time boats rcvd heavy A/W and S/A from both banks. Fire continued for about 5000 meters. Two other mine explosions observed. All boats and MSF returned fire and attempted assist PCF 3. PCF 94 picked up MSF advisor who went overboard. 94 towed PCF 3 as bucket brigade controlled flooding. PCF 43 took all WIA to USCGC Spencer for treatment. PCF 94 and 51 assisted PCF 3. LCVP with damage control party was immediately dispatched from Washtenaw County. Boat damage separate message. Spotter aircraft in area spotted and RF/PF Cau Nuoc fired 4.2" Mortar after boats cleared. One secondary explosion vicinity WQ 010782

What's curious is that the official report again mentions the dubious story of a mine, which no one else supports, even Kerry's own helmsman. If Kerry's boat really did hit a submerged object, which would be consistent with the damage to his boat, then nobody else would've reported a second mine because no such explosion would've been visible. Again, about the only person to claim a second mine is Kerry, and the other officers probably wouldn't have been in a position to notice one anyway, nor care to report a mine that completely missed. It's surprising that PCF-94 got almost as many mentions in the official report (three) as PCF-3 (four), when it was the only boat to leave the scene. Four people had to be fished out of the water, but only PCF-94 got mentioned as having done this. The surviving commanders during this incident all say they didn't write up what became the official report, and that Kerry did. Given that the official reports seems focused on the actions of Kerry's boat, and includes the other mines that only Kerry mentions, I'd say they're right. Kerry's casualty report also prominently mentions a mine, and goes so far as to say that the mine's shrapnel was found in his buttocks.

So if Kerry wrote the official report, and the charge is that Kerry was claiming they were under fire when no fire existed, the fact that the report supports Kerry doesn't actually build his case, since it would be an echo of Kerry's version, which is the account in question. Kerry's Bronze Star was written up by Rassmann, who would've been told "it was a mine!" by Kerry, and who thought he was being shot at anyway. And to turn his earlier accident with the rice into a "combat injury" worthy of a Purple Heart, Kerry needs a second mine close aboard PCF-94.

At first, nobody noticed what had happened to Rassmann. But then Medeiros, who was standing at the stern, saw him bobbing up and down in the water and shouted, "Man overboard." Around this time, crew members said, Kerry decided to go back to help the crippled 3 boat. It is unclear how far down the river Kerry's boat was when he turned around. It could have been anywhere from a few hundred yards to a mile.

In Kerry's own account he said he was a few hundred yards away when he saw the splashes around Rassmann, and rushed to rescue him from the sniper fire. If the propeller damage knocked 5 knots off his swift boat's top speed, it would take the boat 20 seconds to cover 300 hundred yards. Toss in the time to turn around, plus slowing, reaccelerating, and slowing to pick up Rassmann and you've got a minimum of a minute. Rassmann says it was several minutes in which he was hiding near the bottom. Four swift boats can lay down over 6000 rounds of .50 caliber machine gun fire in one minute, not to mention what their M-60's and the infantry they were carrying would add. If there really was somebody near the bank using aimed "sniper fire", I don't think they'd have lasted very long.

O'Neill claims that Kerry "fled the scene" despite the absence of hostile fire. Kerry, in a purported journal entry cited in Brinkley's "Tour of Duty," maintains that he wanted to get his troops ashore "on the outskirts of the ambush."

Kerry may have been thinking that, but what happened to his innovative combat tactics from three weeks prior, when he decided that charging the enemy directly was far superior to the older tactic of moving out of the ambush zone and dropping off troops? Yet even if he had decided to go back to the very tactics he'd been deriding a short time earlier, he'd have to maintain a story about enemy fire or else his jaunt down the river is inexplicable. In one of Kerry's own accounts he glosses over the whole thing by talking about the mine, the trickle of blood he saw one on of the dazed gunners from PCF-3, and then wham-o, he's several hundred yards away rushing back to pick up Rassmann.

No wonder his fellow commanders are saying you can't count on John Kerry. He shot off on his own little plan, while leaving a man in the water, and not doing anything to help a badly damaged boat with an injured crew. Yet if there was an ambush to counter-attack from elsewhere then he could maintain it as a plausible maneuver.

And the most important point is that even if there was enemy fire, pulling a man out of the water doesn't make you any bigger a target than when you were standing bolt upright on deck, or sitting in an unarmored boat. If Kerry's act of walking up to the bow and leaning over was "heroic", what can you say about the gunners whose job in combat was to stand bolt upright on deck in front of G-d and everybody? Would you have a machine that feeds feeds them a Bronze Star everytime they pull the trigger? And swift boats are thin aluminum and completely unarmored, which is why their standard ambush response was to get the heck out of the area as fast as they could go. By pulling Rassmann out of the water Kerry did nothing to increase his personal risk of getting shot, since there's nowhere on the boat except in between the engines that offered significantly more protection. You might argue that obviously he was more visible on the bow, but note that if there was anyone delivering any aimed fire at that particular spot Rassmann would've already been dead.

And finally, the boats were involved in this action for quite a long time, both the initial events, moving the injured crew of PCF-3 to PCF-43, then hooking up a tow and arranging bailing parties to keep PCF-3 afloat. Did all this enemy fire just stop? If so, when? Thurlow had long been aboard giving aid to PCF-3's crew (lots of back and head injuries) for quite some time before Kerry picked up Rassmann, since even Kerry recounts that Thurlow hopped aboard PCF-3 before he discusses turning his boat around to go back. Thurlow even fell in the water when PCF-3 bumped into a sandbar and had to have a boat come over and fish him out, too. Yet if Rassmann hadn't been picked up, and was still taking fire, wouldn't Thurlow have been under fire the whole time? Yet he claims he wasn't.

And the whole story requires you to buy into the notion that the VC on the banks would be shooting at poor Rassmann, who was completely invisible underwater for most of the time, somewhat apart from the other boats which were laying down heavy suppressive fire, fire which could amount well over 12,000 rounds in two minutes if they had that much ammunition linked up and ready to go. Yet the VC are ignoring the five boats, the people like Thurlow walking around on PCF-3 giving aid, all those rear gunners standing bolt upright, and the infantry on board who were sitting ducks. For some reason they're supposedly shooting at Rassmann, and then of course sitting their waiting for John Kerry to make his appearance on the bow. Strange VC indeed, you might think, but no worries, because obviously they can't hit the side of a barn. Not one bullet hole in Kerry's boat, or any other, aside from three in Thurlow's boat which he said happened the previous day. How can five boats sit still in a narrow canal with heavy automatic weapons and small arms fire coming from both banks and none of them get hit with anything?

Perhaps initially there were some shots, but by the time Kerry's jaunt down the river was over I'd think any enemy must've been silenced, because nobody can sit and shoot at a bunch of sitting fifty foot boats from close range and not hit anything after trying for a couple of minutes. Blind men would accomplish that much by random chance. And Kerry and the official Navy report said it went on for 5,000 meters, or about 3 miles. And this was with PCF-94, damaged prop and all, towing PCF-3, so you know those three miles went very slowly. Yet Kerry, who writes in oozing detail about every bit of angst he can suck from a broken fingernail, doesn't say a thing about the hazards of running the three-mile gauntlet.

They say that the burden of proof is on the accuser, but I'd say the burden of proof is on the one with the wildly improbable account. And the shame of this whole thing is that if Kerry hadn't been out trumpeting his heroism nobody would've said a thing. About this or any other incident he could've easily said "I have no idea why they gave me the Bronze Star, never did. They were handing them out like lollipops over there, and I think that's wrong. I never felt I deserved the Silver Star, but apparently the Navy did, and so I guess I have to accept that." He'd still have his medals, the full credit that such medals normally come with, and people would've thought even more of him for minimizing his heroism, showing what a true hero he must've been off in those jungles. But no… That's not the John Kerry we're stuck with.

*** UPDATE ***

I've seen a few vague references that the propeller damage may have also been earlier, which leaves, well, nothing at all as to damage to the boat, except that they were zipping through the fishing weirs and may have snagged and yanked something. High velocity fragment damage extends beyond the blast damage of a typical weapon, which would leave a mystery as to what type of "explosion" could've hit the boat.

However, I have a few further thoughts on some of the statements by various veterans.

Some have mentioned they saw bullets skipping across the water. Well the Dong Cung Canal is only about 75 yards wide, and the boats were near the banks, where the fire was supposedly coming from. Picture a swift boat in your head at about 20 or 30, or even 60 yards distance. You're shooting at the crew manning the guns. Can you imagine missing the whole boat and hitting the water? If bullets were skipping across the water what were the VC shooting at, fish?

Some have mentioned seeing muzzle flashes from the banks, but to my knowledge none has mentioned seeing any actual enemy. It's my understanding that in Nam our forces used red tracers, linked 1 in every 5, as the boat tour above relates. All sources say the boats immediately opened up on both banks with everything they had. Now after a horrific explosion, when men are extremely on edge in the first moments afterward, their heart racing scanning the banks for threats, could some of the flashes from impacting red tracers be mistaken for muzzle flashes? Could a person looking off angle, from a boat other than the one firing, be catching glimpses of a tracer path through a tiny gap in the foliage, making it seem like a repeating pattern of bright red flashes? Maybe some people with combat experience in the jungle can comment on whether such a visual effect exists, and whether someone green and on edge could get momentarily fooled by it. It's been my impression that when everyone opens up everyone is equally sure they were shooting at targets, especially since outgoing .50 rounds are flinging off chunks of trees and clipping off branches, so there's plenty of motion down range. Normally someone has to start screaming "Cease Fire!"

It's just a thought, but it might explain why some would swear they saw flashes while others are equally convinced there was nothing out there, depending on angle and experience, and not a single bullet hole would be found in the boats despite all this "heavy" incoming fire.

**** UPDATE ****

The AK-47 is generally considered capable of shooting 2 MOA (minutes of angle). A competition rifleman with iron sites can aim a bit better than this, and in combat most VC wouldn't approach it, but it does bring up another question. If you were aiming at the side of a swift boat sitting in the water, how far away would you have to be to miss more than you hit?

Assume you aim toward the center cabin, which sits, oh, say 10 feet above the waterline. The boat is far longer, 50 feet, than tall, so just draw a twenty foot diameter circle and fill the bottom half with boat. 2 MOA (minutes of angle) is 0.03333 degrees. If you took an AK and sandbagged it in a nice benchrest, you'd have to be ( tan (0.0333) = 20 feet / range, range = 20 feet / tan (0.03333) ) 34,377 feet away, or 6.5 miles, to expect to miss the boat half the time. Obviously an AK-47 can't shoot that far, so through away that number, which indicates that it's physically impossible to be in range of the boat yet miss the boat from a bench rest.

To miss the boat half the time from 600 yards would mean shooting with only 38 MOA accuracy. Of course they said the fire was coming from the banks. So assuming they were way, way back from the bank, to make it a nice 100 yards, they'd have to shoot so badly that their groups were not 1/2 MOA, not 1 MOA, not 2 MOA, but 228 MOA to miss the boat half the time. But that still means they'd hit it once with just two shots. Keep in mind that the 6 PPC in my e-mail address is the name of a rifle cartridge that shoots 1/4 MOA with a rifle right out of the box.

Given that one VC is going to fire 30 shots, and based on the "target area" of 157 square feet of boat in my previous circle, we need the area of the error circle to be 30 times larger, or 4712 square feet, meaning 77 foot diameter circle. That basically means that the VC would have to shoot so badly that it would take a 77 foot wide 7 story building to be an effective backstop if they were shooting at 100 yards, which is hardly more than half a city block. Blind people shoot more accurately than that just based on sound. And if there's two VC each firing a full magazine the implied accuracy has to decrease even further.

In sum, it's so infinitely improbably that the boats could be fired on to any significant degree and not get hit that it's a near certainy that no significant fire (more than a shot or two) was directed at them. If you asked any American rifleman if he could hit a sitting boat at 100 yards, from an ambush position, he'd instead ask if you want the boat's commander shot in the left eye or the right eye, or at worst the head or the heart.

August 22, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

August 15, 2004

No More Water, No More Food?

When you don't get enough meat in your diet you tend to write articles like this.

World water supplies will not be enough for our descendants to enjoy the sort of diet the West eats now, experts say.

Where is all the water going? Why hasn't this problem shown up before, with nobody able to eat because they have too much meat on the table? Especially since meat consumption has been rising ever since the first vegan moonbats howled "meat is murder!"

The World Water Week in Stockholm will be told the growth in demand for meat and dairy products is unsustainable.

And like everyone with Stockholm socialist syndrome, the answer to all questions is that growth is unsustainable, so we must implement shortages now.

Animals need much more water than grain to produce the same amount of food, and ending malnutrition and feeding even more mouths will take still more water.

Is that why they often graze animals on land that's too dry for good crops? One nice thing about planting hay is that you don't have to plow and weed. Do they propose to stop those wasteful animals from grazing, or are they intending to save water by keeping the rain stored in the clouds indefinitely? It makes me wonder why our grasslands aren't filled with endless rows of corn, and how America manages to eat so much meat when our average rainfall is only about 7.8 inches a year while still exporting food to the rest of the world.

Scientists say the world will have to change its consumption patterns to have any realistic hope of feeding itself.

I love that appeal to authority. "Scientists say" is the modern version of "the Bible says", being used to support all sorts of quasi-religious positions, such as that people shouldn't eat meat. As the former head of the UN World Food program noted, getting people to eat vegetables will work for the 2 or 3 percent of the world content to eat nothing but vegetables, but the rest of the world's population would rather eat more than a protein deficient subsistence diet.

Siwi says: "With about 840 million people undernourished or lacking a secure food supply today, and another two billion or more people... by 2025, feeding the world's growing population - and finding the water to grow the food - continues to be a basic and sizeable challenge."

A paper to be delivered during the conference, entitled Water: More Nutrition Per Drop, says: "For several decades, the increase in food production has outpaced population growth. Now much of the world is simply running out of water for more production... "

Sounds like the peak oil people doesn't it? With more of the world eating better than ever, and farm efficiency continuing to increase, they struggle to find some reason to repeat the panicked claim that we're all going to starve unless we quit eating well, of all things. And I would like to know where, pray tell, the water is simply running out to? Many farm analysts don't see any food problems into the indefinite future, with even simple changes sufficient to get us out to the next century with a population of 10 billion or more. And what happened to all the warnings about increased downpours as a result of global warming?

The World Health Organisation calls malnutrition "the silent emergency", and says it is a factor in at least half the 10.4 million child deaths which occur every year.

The factor in the other half of the 10.4 million child deaths is the World Health Organization's continued ban on DDT, but I won't go there right now.

Anders Berntell, Siwi's executive director, told BBC News Online: "The basic problem is that food is the main global consumer of water, with irrigation taking 70% or more of all the water we use, apart from huge volumes of rainwater.

What the heck other than food would be considered a "global consumer of water", trout fishing? The key to that phrase is "water we use". If you aren't drinking it, aren't cooking with it, and aren't bathing in it, about the only other way to use it is either irrigation or washing your SUV. Even if you run it through a dam, it's still there, just a bit lower. Otherwise it's just rain falling from the sky, which they apparently consider something "apart" from water we use. For every person in the continguous US there's 1.5 million gallons of rainwater every year. That's enough to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools, per person, per year.

"The bottom line is that we've got to do something to reduce the amount of water we devote to growing food today."

And the answer is simple. Institute food rationing and avoid all vegetables which have to be boiled or steamed. All that extra cooking water adds up, you know.

Upturn in demand

"Animals fed on grain, and also those which rely on grazing, need far more water than grain crops.

"But in the developed world, and in parts of some developing countries, consumers are demanding more meat.

Get that? Consumers, aka regular people, are demanding more meat, and this group is determined to thwart them.

"Of course people should have healthier diets and a higher intake of nutrients: we don't want to stop that.

And their solution is probably bean curd, yams, and vitamin pills.

Slow to dawn

"But it's going to be almost impossible to feed future generations the kind of diet we have now in western Europe and North America.

And this raises a little snag. How can the US, Western Europe, and Australia be eating all this meat if we aren't producing it, and what makes us sooo special? We even apply all sorts of diplomatic pressure to export all the meat we can't manage to sell here, since the market is saturated. Yet where are our vast water shortages?

"Most of us don't appreciate, either politically or personally, the challenge of finding enough water to grow enough food, though in some countries it's a problem of everyday living.

Most of us don't appreciate how badly a diet of rice and shoots is. In Vietnam they've finally decided to provide vitamins to the kids because the country doesn't produce enough tall people to field a soccer squad. That's the vegetarian future, and as everyone knows Vietnam gets drenched, with everyone standing knee deep in rice paddies. Meanwhile Texas is awash in cattle.

"I think the world's future water supply is a problem that's an entire order of magnitude greater than we've begun to realise."
If we haven't begun to realize it, how could he be saying it?
Mr Berntell said the rich would be able to buy their way out of trouble by importing "virtual water" - the water needed to grow the food they bought from abroad.

If the rich can't seem to grow their own meat and buy it from poor folks, won't the poor folks be getting rich by selling steak to the rich folks? How's that for a concept? In fact, what would be really neat is if rural people could sell meat to urban people. That idea might have legs, too. Meanwhile I'll go surf the web in search of this "virtual water" of which he speaks, because reading this is making me thirsty.

He said: "The transport of virtual water is huge. Australians were astonished to find that although their country is short of water, they're net exporters of water in the form of meat."

They were probably more astonished to find out that their $6.5 billion in "water" exports was the only thing keeping all that extra water from building up and flooding the continent. They could at first try storing this suddenly unused water in their attics, basements, and cupboards, but eventually it there's just too much of it to cope with. Left unchecked this buildup of virtual water would force them to paddle rafts to New Zealand as Australia slips under the waves. So fortunately they've figured out the amazing little trick of taking literally cubic miles of rainfall and compacting it onto a container ship full of frozen ribs, making a farm's water somehow disappear from the face of the earth. Or more to the point, Australia is probably getting about 65 cents a pound for their meat exports, meaning they're getting about $8 a gallon for the 2/3 pound of water per pound of animal that's actually being shipped overseas. I'd sell untreated rain water at $8 a gallon, how about you? If I could sell my US allotment of 1.5 million gallons of free rain water at that price I'd be making $12 million a year. Sounds like a good business model to me.

*The continguous US gets an average of 7.8 inches of rain and has a land area of about 3.12 million square miles. That's about 423 trillion gallons of water, or 1.51 million gallons per person.

August 15, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

August 02, 2004

Kerry in Ohio

Sorry about my absense. I've been posting over on The Rott, depending on how old the content there is getting. Since so many people comment there, especially me, I like to keep new topics open.

I was utterly underwhelmed by John Kerry's appearances on the Sunday morning news programs, and that's saying something, since I regard him as about as honorable, intelligent, and clear headed as a ball of lint. Many in the liberal press aren't horribly impressed either, made obvious by their lack of Goregasms over him. Of course the press has never though much of him either, and the trend continues in this New York Times article

Campaign Dogged by Terror Fight
How can he lead against terrorism when it's merely an issue that dogs his own narcissistic quest to fulfill his dreams of being JFK?
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio, Aug. 1 - John Kerry was supposed to spend Sunday traveling through small-town Ohio and Michigan, going to church and talking at rallies. But by afternoon, his campaign was also searching northern Ohio for a secure telephone line so Mr. Kerry could squeeze in a briefing on an issue that was overtaking the day: the terrorist threat announced in Washington.

Kerry has been campaigning since he was in Nam making 8mm movies of his re-enacted jungle "exploits", got in this race and took the lead as soon as the primaries started, and knew he was the nominee many months ago, yet he hasn't even bothered to establish any secure communications. How telling. Hasn't he even bothered to put anyone in charge of keeping track of such things, or does he normally call Tank or Dozer on his cell phone and ask where there nearest hard-line is? Moore makes a crockumentary making fun of Bush for not ripping his shirt off and zooming to New York to snatch airliners out of the sky, yet here Kerry is caught tooling around in a bus in the middle of Ohio, wondering if the Dairy Queen at the next exit has a secure line. How can people contemplate putting him in charge of our critical defense apparatus when he can't even be bothered to keep a phone scrambler handy, if nothing else so he doesn't get caught slack-jawed at some campaign stop?

Three days after he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Kerry, along with President Bush, received a bracing reminder about how the fear of another terrorist attack on American soil had shaped the contest and about how the most pivotal thing that could happen between now and Election Day was beyond the control of either campaign.

The only interest Kerry evinces in terrorism is when he's sitting on his bus doing his face stretching exercises while opining to his staff about the much hoped for "Spanish effect."

Campaign aides said they could not recall a contest fought against such an uncertain and unsettling backdrop since 1968, when Richard M. Nixon and Hubert H. Humphrey battled as an increasingly bloody war was being waged in Vietnam, polarizing Americans at home.

Of course the campaign aides are equally unaware that we've fought in wars besides Viet Nam, where Saddam's golden boy and favorite war correspondent, Peter Arnett, spent more time in country than Kerry did.

"In a campaign there are things you can control, and things you can't control," said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry. "You have to spend as much time as humanly possible worrying about the things you can control. We don't sit around all day talking about what color the terror alert is."

I doubt they discuss national security in any way, shape, or form, and the only discussion of the terror alert color is whether beige and pink would work.

News of the terror threat on Sunday also stirred renewed suggestions from some Democrats that the White House was manipulating terror alerts for Mr. Bush's political gain. They said the alert had been issued just as Mr. Kerry emerged from a convention that was described by Republicans and Democrats as a success.

At this point everyone is very familiar with the threat, the specificity of the threat, the origins of the threat, and the countermeasures we're taking against it. It's page-one news, and for the Democrats to still whine that the White House must somehow be manipulating these alerts is moving into the territory staked out by Michael Moore and Cynthia McKinney. The terror alerts hurt the Democrats far less than their attempts to claim the alerts are just "spin", since it just shows how absolutely inept and incompetent they are when it comes to national security. If these morons learned a truck bomb was heading toward the Super Bowl the first thing they'd do is run the raw intelligence past a focus group.

"I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism," Howard Dean, a former rival of Mr. Kerry for the Democratic nomination, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN on Sunday.

"His whole campaign is based on the notion that 'I can keep you safe, therefore at times of difficulty for America stick with me,' and then out comes Tom Ridge," Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor, added, referring to the homeland security secretary. "It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it."

Yeaarggghhhh!!!!!! I almost forgot why the barking Vermont moonbat only carried one state in a field more at home on Gilligan's Island than a national stage. Go read the rest of the article, which goes on and on about the political implications and complications of terror threats, rather than the real consequences of having Islamofascist fuckweasels set off bomb in a US city. Registration is required, more to child-proof the *cough* medicine than anything else. It has some other gems like these

Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in an interview that the focus on continuing threats, three years after Sept. 11, was evidence that Mr. Bush was highly vulnerable on this issue.

"I think this is one of the sleeper issues of this campaign," Mr. Schumer said. "It's one where Kerry can show strength and at the same time show that this administration hasn't really thought through the war on terror."

He added: "I think there's an underlying gut feeling that we're not doing enough on homeland security. I think people see this as a valid campaign issue."

The Democrats are so freakin' asleep on the war that they even call it a sleeper issue. The Democrat's convention delegates are just now figuring out that it's an issue, much less a supremely important one. That alone proves they're more focused on their own navel gazing and Bush bashing than anything meaningful. It's all about an underlying gut feeling. Their campaign them should be "Feewings!!! Whoa whoa whoa feewings!"

Mr. Kerry learned of the terror alert from James P. Rubin, a senior adviser and former State Department official. Mr. Rubin had received a call from Frances Townsend, the president's homeland security adviser.

Another good campaign song is "Heard it Through the Grape Vine", which is obviously how Kerry is running his communications systems.

At the time, Mr. Kerry was aboard his campaign bus, between stops to attend church and briefly shake hands with supporters in a shopping center parking lot in Springfield, Ohio. But he did not address the subject.

Instead Mr. Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, tried to stick to a script of health care, job creation and education.

All the crowd heard was the old Porky Pig routine, "Ho, ha ha, guard, turn, parry, dodge, spin, ha! Thrust!", which is about the level of these mental midgets, masters of super-8, botox, and shady courtroom shenanigans.

Later, outside a Big Lots discount store in Springfield, Mr. Kerry said nothing about terrorism, while Mr. Edwards barely mentioned it: "We're going to fight this war on terrorism, and go after these terrorists, and win the war on terror, so that all Americans are safe."

I think the Big Lots location says it all, and I'm sure the audience got a great deal on bull shit compost by the shovel full. And as for Edwards, any ten year old could get more in depth about terrorism than that. Either the New York Times' editors are asleep at the switch and let this article slip through or they're getting fed up with a campaign platform that amounts to nothing more than "We're experts at this stuff, even though we have no details, experience, competence, or interest in it."

August 2, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004

Sixteen Points

The Arab News of Saudi Arabia had this interesting article, listing sixteen basic points.

1. Our biggest enemy is not Israel or America. Our enemy is our dogmatic approach that leads us into more than temptation.

2. Our anger at the world these days is not justified since we are no more than crybabies who cannot get their visas on the same day we apply.

3. Israel is not wrong to build a wall; they are wrong in building it on other people’s land. We should know that since all our homes are walled in a way that makes the Israeli project silly in comparison.

4. It is not natural to employ suicide bombers to advance any agenda.

5. It is wrong to behead people in public to force others to do your will.

There's nine more, and if only people leaning to Kerry could grasp such basics we'd all be much better off.

July 22, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Sudan Warns US, UK

Now isn't this just special.

Sudan Warns UK, U.S. Not to Interfere in Darfur

Well then consider us warned…

PARIS (Reuters) - Sudan warned Britain and the United States not to interfere in its internal affairs Thursday after British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had not ruled out military aid to help combat the crisis in the Darfur region.

A few sniper rifles and machine guns would no doubt do wonders for the region.

"I don't understand why Britain and the United States are systematically increasing pressure against us and not operating through the United Nations," Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said on a visit to Paris.

Well maybe it's because operating through the United Nations is utterly useless and counterproductive. Maybe it's ecause we don't see the need for the UN to come up with a replacement kickback scheme for all their lost Iraqi oil money. Maybe it's because the French foreign minister wants to work with Sudan, given that Elf Fina holds concessions on the largest Sudanese oil field, and Mustafa Osman Ismail was sitting there in Paris, wheeling and dealing with the French scum who run around with Robert Mugabe.

"(This) pressure closely resembles the increased pressure that was put on Iraq (before the war)," he said.

It might closely resemble the pressure except that Iraq actually had an army.

Washington accuses Khartoum of backing Janjaweed Arab militia in a campaign some U.S. officials have described as ethnic cleansing against black African villagers in Darfur.

Such forthright accusations are quite a change from the days of Madeleine Albright when the Clinton administration dared not utter anything that might set the press to worrying about conditions in Rwanda.

The United States has drafted a U.N. resolution that would impose an immediate travel and arms ban on militia members.

And that's about all we can expect to get through the UN, and France is opposed to even that small measure. With France and China both opposed to action, and both holding rights to large oil fields there, trying to go through the UN will be utterly futile, just as it was in the case of Iraq.

"We don't need any (U.N.) resolutions. Any resolutions from the Security Council will complicate things," Ismail said.

Now wait a minute. Didn't this suck-ass Sudanese ass-munch just ask why the US and UK weren't operating through the UN? Now he doesn't want UN resolutions. I guess the complications he's talking about are the nasty little complications we might toss in that keep him from continuing with his ethnic cleansing, known as "killing all the black folks".

Blair stepped up the diplomatic pressure on Khartoum Thursday to deal effectively with what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"We have a moral responsibility to deal with this and to deal with it by any means that we can," he said, adding that he had not ruled out the possibility of military assistance to combat the growing humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Meanwhile France has come out opposed to any real action, being allergic to such things, and has instead offered the full weight of their humanitarian support, a twin engine prop-jet and $4.43 million dollars in aid, proving to the world that France can step up and be a full-partner on par with Arizon Bob's Discount Truck, RV, and Trailer, just past the bypass on the outer loop.

July 22, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

Ethnic Summer Camp

The British government is at it again, this time suggesting something akin to "ethnic togetherness camps".

Ministers were urged yesterday to fund summer camps for white teenagers to mingle with their black and Asian counterparts after a survey showed that nine in 10 white Britons had no or few ethnic minority friends.

Would those be camps where "fraternization will set you free"? Whyfore dost thou make us intermingle so, and on what ground does Parliament maintain so racial politic a state that they have the country's youth cavort as in a zoo?

Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), said he believed US-style summer camp places should be established where 16-year-olds could mix with teenagers they would otherwise not meet.

Yo, Trevor. Aside from babbling Bab's attempts at ending the Middle East peace crisis we don't actually run Racial Equality Camps over here. We just let summer camps compete for kids and see who shows up. Everyone works a different angle so we end up with a vast array of different programs. It won't change the statistics, and kids rarely stay connected with a person they barely met over the summer during a game of water polo. Even having them room together through four years of college is no guarantee of any harmony, as we found out when former West Point roommates battled it out for years during the US Civil War.

His remarks followed publication of a poll by the CRE showing 94 per cent of white people say most or all their friends are of the same race.

Let's look at a few numbers on the UK population, from ye olde CIA Factbook.

English 81.5%
Scottish 9.6%
Irish 2.4%
Welsh 1.9%
Ulster 1.8%
West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%

That comes to 97.2% white folks, meaning 97.2% of all possible friends are white. You'd think they'd have saved their money on the poll and just looked at the obvious mathematics on "Annie England's friends". Most people in the UK are obviously going to say that almost all their friends are white, except for the occassional racist crackpot who provides a unlikely ray of statistical sunshine, but only because nobody suspects that he's counting Irish as black, thinking they must've come from some homeland in Central Africa.

The CRE said this situation could leave swathes of the population open to believing the worst of different ethnic and religious groups.

More importantly, it might provide a nice source of funding and summer jobs so they can line up a bunch of strapping black males and have a black robed and tasseled professor point out their obvious similarities to everyone else on the planet, but only if the kids can keep from falling asleep. The obvious question is why any ethnic minority would show up for a zoo appearance. Just run summer camps and let any kids be kids, instead of conjuring up some scheme that will inevitably become the butt of endless jokes about a Scot, and Irishman, and a Sikh in a log rolling contest at summer camp.

More than half of white people said they did not have a single black or Asian person they considered a close friend, according to the survey conducted by YouGov.

The organisation asked 2,065 white and 808 ethnic minority people aged over 18 for details of their closest 10 or 20 friends in the internet survey. Eight out of 10 white people had no friends who were practising Muslims, and only one in 10 white people was close to a Hindu or Sikh.

Going back to the statistics, Britain is said to have 1.5 million Muslims out of a population of 60 million, or 2.5 percent. If eight out of ten white people said they don't have a friend who's a practicing Muslim then 20% of whites said they do. If they were listing their 10 closest friends then about 25% should've listed a Muslim (2.5% chance per friend), so the result is not out of line with an evenly mixed group of people. Collectively, Hindus and Sikhs number a million people, about 1.7% of the population, so you'd expect a slightly higher score. But then how do you necessarily know that your friend is a Hindu? The more troubling question is why they polled over 2,000 people and still only report the results as "eight out of ten" instead of listing an actual percentage. I guess their abacus didn't have enough beads.

Among ethnic minority communities, 47 per cent said white people formed all or most of their friends. The survey also suggested the situation might be hardening; while younger white people mixed more than older ones, the reverse was true of some ethnic minority communities.

Well at 97.2% of the population this result isn't too surprising either, and often young people in ethnic communities aren't mixing as much because they're in ethnic communities. Kids growing up in little Italy didn't meet many Cherokee, either.

The friends of 60 per cent of white people over 50 were of the same race as them, compared with 43 per cent for white people under 30.

But while 19 per cent of ethnic minority Britons over 50 had friends who were almost exclusively from ethnic minority communities, this rose to 39 per cent for those aged 30 or under.

That's a result of getting out of your little corner of London or Ethnicboroough and making more friends based on who you really like, instead of who happened to be working down the street.

YouGov said it was not possible to tell from a single survey whether this result was mainly because people made a wider circle of friends as they got older, or whether some younger, non-white people were less willing than their parents' generation to mix with white friends.

A future survey should ask how long they've been friends with the various people. If the greater diversity turns out to represent friendships established at an older age, then they'll have the answer.

Mr Phillips said he had been surprised by the extent to which the majority community still did not really know minority communities.

"When it comes to race and religion, this clearly demonstrates we are dealing with a difference of which most people in this country have no first-hand experience.

Now how did I guess that the British government would conclude that the rank-and-file British taxpayer has no first-hand experience in life, a situation which the British government intends to correct with a government program?

"Therefore, it is not surprising that they can be misled about blacks, gypsies and Muslims, and it is not surprising that for no apparent reason, they can become hostile and racist," he said.

There's no direct reason why lack of familiarity would cause racism, as made obvious by the fact that the British rarely decry Inuit, Somoans, Icelanders, Souix, or people from Pago Pago. Conversely, given the intricacies of the legal systems we've spent centuries becoming intimately familiar with lawyers, yet no great love and understanding has blossomed.

Let the UK set up their summer camps and then struggle with the fact that only 2.8% of the little troopers are ethnic. I guess each cabin of 35 insensitive and inexperienced white kids will have one token ethnic kid, carefully shared out, just to make fun of. The question is why any ethnic kids would show up at all for the second summer. Maybe Britain will have to recolonize a few select bits of the globe just to secure a supply of racial diversity for their government run camps.

July 20, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Animal Rights Extremists

Animal rights activists terrorists have forced a contractor to back out of the construction of a new medical research facility for Oxford. However, the government is insistent that the project move forward.

The science minister, Lord Sainsbury, told parliamentarians in May: "We have to be quite clear: this centre has to go ahead. There can be no question of it being stopped."

Last night, his office reinforced the message. "The government is determined that the activities of animal rights extremists will not stop the completion of this important facility at Oxford University," a statement said.

Well, the scientists are outraged, and rightly so. A bunch of radical extremists could derail years of British progress in medicine.

Scientists last night went on the attack. Nancy Rothwell, a neuroscientist at the University of Manchester said that if the contract had ended because of animal rights extremism, then it was "outrageous" that such actions could manipulate legal activities.

Tipu Aziz, a consultant neurosurgeon at Oxford, said: "Until animal rights extremists are treated as terrorists they will hold hostage the future of British public health. One thing they will hold up is the development of future treatments for Alzheimer's, and this is only in my field. Within medicine there are endless disease treatments which will not be developed without animal research."

Just ask anyone engaged in medical research and you'll find out the problem is very real and very frightening. They receive all kinds of threats, and there's no reason a person trying to cure Aids or cancer should face physical intimidation from the brain-dead segment of society.

There's more on the research center problems here.

July 20, 2004 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack