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November 17, 2004

Baltian Scramjet?

There's all sorts of hoopla about NASA's successful flight of the scramjet, going around mach 9.7 during its successful flight.  However, they claim the little 12 foot test plane was unmanned, which while technically true hides a really big secret, all under the guise of "national security".  In truth the craft was piloted by a tiny Baltian.


Anyway, sorry for the thin posting lately.  I've been working 12 hours a day.

November 17, 2004 in fluff | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

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 factCheck.org. 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

November 05, 2004


This archaeology article in the Economist was interesting.

Few tombs would be juicier than that of Lars Porsena, an Etruscan king who ruled in central Italy around 500BC. Porsena's tomb has been sought for centuries in the rubble under the Tuscan city of Chiusi, which is believed by most authorities to stand on the site of Porsena's capital, Clusium. No sign of it, however, has ever been found. And that, according to Giuseppe Centauro, of the University of Florence, is because everybody is looking in the wrong place.

It gets even better.

Chiusi was clearly once an Etruscan city, but the evidence that it was actually Clusium boils down to the fact that the two names mean the same thing (“closed”). Such nominative determinism is hardly conclusive. Dr Centauro prefers his evidence to be wrought in stone, and he thinks the most persuasive pile of masonry around is actually on a mountainside near Florence.

At the moment, he is awaiting permission from the authorities to start digging there. But the above-ground remains convince him that he has found the real site of Clusium. He believes he has identified two concentric walls 17km (about ten miles) in circumference—certainly big enough to qualify as the biggest city in Italy before the rise of Rome, which is the reputation that Clusium had.

Discovery.com has a bit more.  Makes me want to grab a trowel.  If it pans out, and luck is with them, then maybe they'll even find something that will shed some more light on the Etruscan language, which remains a mystery.

November 5, 2004 in misc | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 01, 2004

Texas Turtle Rustlers

You heard me. The AP reports that some dang Texas turtle rustlers made off with 15 tortoises. When they catch these outlaws, and the long arm of Texas law will catch up to them, I hope they hang 'em slooooow.

November 1, 2004 in fluff | Permalink | Comments (186) | TrackBack