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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sure it's photo-shopped. But it's perfect.

The stupidities in our time are starting to cross like the energy streams in 'Ghostbusters'.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kingsman, 50 Shades, and Acedia

It being Valentine’s Day this weekend, and not coincidentally the opening of the movie Fifty Shades of Greyit’s also not coincidental our pastor at church mentioned the movie in this week’s sermon.  He guessed that many in the congregation had already read the books, and many more would see the movie.  The congregation laughed because it was of course true.  Then he mentioned something called acedia.  I had never heard the term. According to one definition I found, acedia is ‘a state of languor or torpor, of unconcern or dissatisfaction with one's condition or action in the world’.  The pastor pointed out that some of the reason we get excited about things like the weird S&M in '50 Shades' is that we are, well, bored.  Spiritually, experientially, emotionally.  We want more.  And then still more.  And we want it because we’ve forgotten the basics like God, right, wrong, love; the list goes on…  When we no longer know what the basics are, when we don’t know where we’re supposed to be going or what we’re supposed to be doing, we can fall into the trap of continually searching for novelty.  Continually hotter peppers (big in the 90’s), more hops in the beer, more jolt in the espresso, more sea salt in the chocolate.  Novelty and more novelty.  And when you’ve got it floored in the fast lane on Novelty Highway, you just might miss the sign that says “Welcome to Frick’n Depraved. Population Growing.”  I quote the pastor from memory and Jack certainly didn’t say this last part in his sermon.  But that’s where my thinking went.

Because I didn’t see '50 Shades' this weekend (and doubt I ever will).  I saw a different stupid move: Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Apparently it’s based on comic books, which I think we’re supposed to call graphic novels now, but give me a break.  Campy.  Over-the-top.  Dumb but fun.  And then, ten minutes from the end of the movie, two characters who were both stand-up, ethical, rock-solid good guys make a completely gratuitous and raunchy sexual agreement.  Out of nowhere.  The plot didn’t require it.  The specific act didn’t need to be mentioned.  It was just thrown in.  Novelty.  More.

And it made me rethink the movie.  I had been mostly enjoying it.  I was perfectly okay with it being just a CGI-dominated hodgepodge of plots, gags, and gear stolen from 007 movies and The Avengers  (the old TV series)  I was okay with Samuel L. Jackson overacting in the usual way.  Hey, it’s why we go see Samuel L. Jackson.  I was okay the fawning emphasis on sharp threads ( I think it’s about time more people moved away from pants hanging down below their ass, and bespoke suits are fine with me.  I want to be able to get one, one day.).  I knew what most of the movie would be like when I bought the ticket.  But I didn’t expect the punchline from a Hustler cartoon as the payoff for the hero.  Novelty.  When you’re a Kingsman but it’s no longer fashionable to fight for God & King, how do you wrap up your movie?  With the basics gone, all you’ve got left is novelty, and apparently novelty has now become the damsel and the woodsman working out their deal the way I imagine it’s done in discount trailer-park bordellos in Nevada.

We’re bored. Give us more.  We need another shot of the juice.  Acedia.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Global Warming and the Name of the Rose

I heard a BBC report on NPR this morning about the international global warming summit being held in Peru.  As the BBC reporters discussed arguments by the representatives of various countries over which countries were allowed to “produce” certain amounts of carbon, partially based on the “historical advantage" Western countries have had in the use of fossil fuels, I was struck by how medieval it all sounded. And I was reminded of a movie I once saw.

The Name of the Rose is a murder mystery set in the 14th Century, at a remote monastery.  In the movie, various heavy-weight Church leaders and theologians all travel to this remote location for the purpose of settling an important theological question: does scripture support the belief that Christ owned his own clothes.


The global warming arguments about carbon credits are kind of like that.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Women In Combat, Sexism, and the NFL

A Facebook Friend called me “sexist” because I oppose putting women in combat.

Here’s an illustration of my reasoning.  No matter how technologically advanced a military is, or how much air and artillery support we can usually bring to bear during a fight, or what kind of electronics and optics our forces are using, it is an absolute certainty that sometimes things are going to go old school.  Some American combatant is going to find himself face to face with an enemy that is trying to kill him, up close and personal.  An American perimeter is going to be overrun, or one of the listening posts forward will be.  A Marine clearing a building is going to find himself bumping into a bad guy without enough room to shoot, or with his weapon misfiring.  Some jihadi is going to jump on a Ranger while he’s reloading.  It happens in Iraq.  It happens in Afghanistan.  It will happen wherever we send out forces.  If things go right, it will not happen often, but it will happen.

I oppose women in combat because when those things happen, when that jihadi jumps, I want that jihadi to find himself going hand-to-hand with Ray Rice. Not Ray Rice’s wife.  This does not make me a sexist.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Sackett Who Would Be King - Review of The Naulahka

Just published a very brief review at Amazon.  The book is:

The Naulahka: A Story of West and East.

Here's the link to the review at Amazon.

The novel is a collaboration between Rudyard Kipling and Wolcott Balestier. It is essentially an American western story set in India. Think of a cross between Louis L'Amour and Rudyard Kipling: The Sackett Who Would Be King. It is the 1880's. Nicholas Tarvin is a resourceful, young mover & shaker in Topaz, Colorado. Possessed of a rather flexible moral disposition, he is already becoming a successful man. All that's missing from his life is marriage to the girl he loves, and a way to ensure the Three C's railroad runs through Topaz so the value of his town real estate holdings will skyrocket and make him rich. Kate Sheriff however has vowed to dedicate her life to bringing medical aid to suffering women in India, and is leaving for the princely state of Rhatore, known for little other than dust, a capricious and dissolute maharajah, and a mythical necklace of priceless value that may not exist. And as to the railroad, Nick learns it is likely to route through a different, competing, nearby town - a fact he learns during a chance meeting with the president of the railroad and the president's young wife. The young wife happens to be a lover of fine jewelry.

Did I mention Nick is a resourceful young man? If you've ever enjoyed a paperback western, or the writing of, say, Mark Twain, you should check this book out. I have read it now for the third time. I actually have a used, hard-cover copy but am placing the review here because the Kindle edition is only 99 cents and I want others to enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

War Is Hard

There is a lot of re-litigating going on over the original decision to invade Iraq in 2003.  Personally, I still support our decision to do it.  Saddam was perceived as a major threat. He had used chemical weapons.  There is strong evidence he was taking steps to reconstitute his nuclear program.  He did his best to convince the world he still had WMD's.  He was – to his later regret I imagine – successful in this deception.  He was a sponsor of terrorism.  The sanctions regime in place to control him was falling apart and was, in the event, being bypassed by massive and systemic corruption.  Saddam was a declared enemy of the United States, and we had just begun a war in his neighborhood.  Our options were to leave him in place as a constant danger, or to take him out.  After having 3000 Americans burned alive in the middle of New York City, we were right not to leave him in place.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Boko Haram: Rudyard Kipling Called. He Wants His Poem Back.

Bridget Johnson at PJ Media writes about spontaneous US Government excitement over the kidnapping of 234 girls in Nigeria by the jihadi outfit known as Boko Haram.  The jihadis are announcing - very publicly - they intend to sell the girls into slavery.  These Boko fellows have been operating for a few years in the usual manner of barbaric jihadis - slaughtering infidels, blowing things up, stealing what isn’t nailed down, etc.  The US government in the past has condemned these acts, also in the usual manner, but now, suddenly, there are calls for actual action.  The kind of action that may involve hard men, aircraft, and generous use of the sorts of equipment we Second Amendment nuts can only dream about getting to play with.  Apparently you can get away with mass murder if you’re a jihadi, but slave selling - at least overly public slave selling - is beyond the pale.

Fair enough.  Slavery is indeed beyond the pale.  Nonetheless questions arise.  First and foremost, where precisely is the pale?  How is it possible for Boko Haram to credibly threaten to sell its kidnap victims into slavery?  Let’s stipulate they can evade government capture, and they can move their victims around Nigeria and other parts of Africa as they choose.  Still, one cannot sell what no one else buys.  If we believe Boko Haram may sell their kidnap victims into slavery, it is logically necessary we also believe there are people who can and will buy them.  We must believe there is a market for slaves that operates in or near Nigeria.  Not necessarily perhaps an actual, physical marketplace with an address, but at least some network of people and organizations through which such sales could take place.  You can’t sell a teenage Nigerian Christian slave girl on eBay.  How do you sell one, exactly?  How does she get delivered?  More to the point:  what sort of environment exists that the victim cannot simply walk out the door and go home after she has been delivered to the person who bought her? 

The obvious answer of course is that slavery still exists in Africa in some areas.  In Nigeria it may be beyond the pale to sell slaves but "the pale", evidently, is still pretty damn close by to the place.  As a current  institution, a going concern, at least tolerated and likely enforced by the surrounding society.  Appalling.  Shocking.  For some reason, though, not really surprising.  As someone has already no doubt long since tweeted: "Forget it Jake, it's Africa."

I suppose we should go get those girls.  It's the civilized, Christian thing to do.  But let's not kid ourselves:   Slavery will continue to be a problem in the world, and generally speaking we will not consider it our problem to do much about.  My guess is modern slavery is almost exclusively tied to sharia and/or sex "work" and, other than occasionally getting exercised about uppity jihadis being too public about what they are about, Western politicians and "leaders" have little stomach for controlling the growth of either.  Only on the rare occasions when they cannot decently pretend not to notice something like this incident will Western "leaders" work themselves up into doing anything.  Maybe.  And then maybe it will be an isolated rescue attempt.  At best.  Ultimately they may not even do that much.  People in Washington, and American elites, after all talk much more than they do.  There is no hope we will bother to hunt down Boko Haram and kill as many of them as we can find, hanging their corpses in public pour encourager les autres.  Chinese Gordon is long gone and we’re not likely to see more men like him.  And we surely wouldn't promote them to the rank of Major General anymore.  The sun set on the British Empire.  We're not interested in replacing it.  There will always be brutal parts of the world, where people live brutally.  Maybe prudence dictates that, for the most part, we take Peachey Carnahan's advice about them:

“They’re savages here, one and all. Leave them all to go back to slaughtering babies and playing stick’n'ball with one another’s heads, and pissing on their neighbours”.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This is charming.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Big, Fat Global Warming Argument on Facebook

I contrived to get into an argument about global warming on Facebook.  

I know.  An argument about global warming on the Internet?   Who knew something like that might happen, right?  My problem is I found myself on the opposite side of the argument from Josiah and Sean, a couple of smart fellows who can be trifled with only at great risk of ending up feeling like a fool.  Josiah is a lawyer and energy policy analyst, and Sean may be a government scientist of some sort, while I have spent years auto-didacting myself firmly into the what I think is the not-too-stupid-layman category.  Since anthropogenic global warming can be (it is not always, mind) a technical argument, it’s dangerous ground for Mrs. Zabeli’s young son to find himself on.

It was a good time. I think Sean, Josiah, and I have been arguing on-line for over 15 years, back to the days of the old Great Books of Western Civilization Café.  The Cafe isn't around anymore.  Josiah was, I think, a fairly precocious middle-school student at the time, and Sean and I both had more hair (except in the ears; I definitely remember having less hair in my ears).  I miss the old Café.  It was earlier in the Internet days.  People seemed to be more willing to have discussions with those with whom they disagreed - that's my memory of it anyway - whereas today it is so easy to find places where everybody agrees with you, and most especially agrees with you that anyone who disagrees with you must be some kind of asshole.  I miss the old place.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Space Cowboys and Global Warming

Over at PowerLine Steven Hayward links to a report by the 25 retired NASA scientists and engineers who have released a report that, shall we say, disputes some of the hysterical warnings about global warming climate change.

Worth the read for anyone who isn't already a fully baptized, true believer in the religion of AGW.

(Come to think of it, shouldn't we now be calling it AGW ACC?)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Exclusively Heterosexual Marriage and Rationality

Of all the arguments presented in favor of gay marriage, the most perplexing – in fact, bizarre – is that there is no rational reason to limit marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman.  Even more bizarre is that this argument seems to have had a great deal of success.  It should be obvious to the most casual observer that it is perfectly rational that societies confer an exclusive status on male/female pairs.

Humanity is a two-sex species.  To produce a child requires one of each sex, a male and a female, and ensuring that the child survives to adulthood and has a chance of thriving thereafter requires years of effort by its parents.  If heterosexual marriage didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent it, and the clear proof of this is that there are few societies we know about in human history (in fact, are there any?) that have failed to invent marriage.  The family unit is without exaggeration the basic building block of all civil societies and the male/female pair is the core of the family unit.  Societies must recognize (and always have recognized) a special status for the male/female pair as a unit.  It’s not the same status as business partners, employers and employees, liege lords and vassals, close friends, prostitutes and customers, or any of any number of other sorts of relationships.

I would be okay with people claiming this is not a strong argument.  I happen to think it’s dispositive but that isn’t the point.  The point is there are people who claim with a straight face it is not even a rational argument.  If you think there is “no rational reason” to provide a special designation for the marriage of a husband and wife, you fail the Inigo Montoya test.

“Rational” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Turing Tests and the Opus Factor

A recent news report makes me think we should start giving Turing Tests to government workers. 

(If you don’t know what a Turing Test is, please see the bottom of this post for a very brief introduction.)

A fire alarm sounded at a high school and, as seems reasonable, faculty rounded up all the students, got them outside and, presumably, mustered them in predetermined locations and took a head-count to ensure everyone got out of the building.  Procedurally it would be sensible the teachers thereafter keep their assigned students together for safety and accountability, and to ensure some of the more energetic and less scholastically dedicated  students don’t use the excitement as an opportunity to sneak off.  So far, so good.  In this case a fourteen year old student was swimming in the school’s indoor pool when the alarm went off.  Apparently she was not given time to go to her locker for her clothes before being hustled outside to the muster point, nor was she allowed – once she had reported to her assigned muster point - to get into a car, or to go stand inside the elementary school located across the street.  This is remarkable because the incident occurred on February 26.  In St. Paul, Minnesota.  The temperature was -5 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind chill factor took it to 25 below.  Reportedly the girl had frost bite in ten minutes.

I know what you’re thinking: This has nothing to do with Turing Tests and it quite clearly didn’t have much to do with intelligence, artificial or otherwise.  Quite the opposite, one might say.  This was simply some teachers and/or administrators in one of America’s public school systems doing what they do – displaying that special kind of stupid that only a union-protected government employee is ever allowed to get away with.  I take the point.  But still…

Are we really to believe the teachers involved in this shocking incident are simply droolingly stupid?  And such imbecility was never noticed during their own school years?  Or during the interview process they went through to get hired as teachers?  Do we really think bureaucracies can sap every last shred of basic morality and common sense from otherwise reasonable Americans so that they would stand next to a dripping wet, almost naked girl in a parking lot in Minnesota in the Winter, and refuse to let her seek the shelter that even a retarded child could see she needs to survive?  Can even abject depravity or sociopathy explain this incident?  Even assuming someone is so depraved or sociopathic as to not to give a damn whether this girl lives, dies, or loses her feet to amputation, wouldn’t simple fear of consequences cause the teachers not to want to be responsible for being the cause of an obvious, foreseeable, and preventable harm?  Something in this story just doesn’t compute.  

And that, I think, is the clue.

As far as the teachers were concerned, the situation didn’t compute.  It’s not as if any human living in Minnesota doesn’t understand – intellectually - the danger of being outside in the winter, wet and wearing nothing but a bathing suit.  The news in Minnesota every winter includes reports of people freezing to death.  The problem here was in the ‘programming’ of the teachers involved.  Or rather, the problem was that they followed their ‘programming’ –their training and protocols  -  and were unable to break out of the loop, even though it was screamingly obvious to any human the protocol they were following  did not cover the situation they were dealing with.  Their algorithms were inadequate and it overloaded their systems.  The hourglasses on their screens just kept spinning.  Humans would have noticed this immediately.  Despite any training, however strict, most humans would have - to borrow from Berke Breathed, - “departed the text” during that situation in St. Paul in February.  Most humans would have called an audible, improvised, shot from the hip.  American English is chock full of ways to refer to the critical human ability to make a new plan on the spot.  On the fly.  There is a good reason we have so many ways of referring to the ability to use our discretion.  That ability is exactly what separates human intelligence from that of other animals and, so far, from machine intelligence.

That ability – let’s call it the Opus Factor – is a key way one knows one is dealing with a human.  These teachers didn’t display that ability.  Even though one of their charges was standing outside in Minnesota in February, barefoot, wearing a bathing suit, dripping wet, and with car interiors and building lobbies within easy reach, they simply continued to follow a protocol they surely knew was gravely endangering a child.

Humans don’t act that way.  Inadequately coded AI programs act that way, and sometimes government workers act that way.  Ergo, some government workers are missing some aspect of humanness the rest of us possess.  QED.  We assumed everybody else possesses such humanness (hence the term)  but we were obviously wrong.  Some people don’t, and some of those people work for the government.  And since government workers sometimes are responsible for critical decisions concerning (other people’s) life and death, it seems clear we must give Turing Tests to government workers.  The tests must be given before we consider letting someone have a government job and my hunch is these tests need to be given periodically, just in case there is in fact something about government jobs that sucks the humanity out of people.

It’s the only way to keep the humans in charge.  Don’t let Skynet win.  Especially if it turns out Skynet is just a bunch of government workers who are that special kind of stupid.

The Turing Test:

According to Wikipedia a Turing Test is a test of the ability of a machine to exhibit behavior “indistinguishable” from that of a human.  Basically, you ask the machine questions and see if it answers the way a human would.  It used to be considered a fairly geeky, sci-fi concept.  The movie ‘Bladerunner’ used the test as a major plot driver and in the movie the test itself gets a fairly spectacular introduction.  I haven’t seen the more recent movie ‘Her’ but understand it is about a man who falls in love with the AI voice of his phone company or some such thing.  The AI machine in ‘Her’ must have passed the test as far as the main character was concerned.  (Maybe the voice of Scarlett Johansson can smooth over some of the flaws a lonely fellow might otherwise notice in his relationship with a computer program.  Probably depends on the fellow.  And what we mean by ‘lonely’.)

I wrote the Turing Test “used to be” considered sci-fi.  Anyone who has recently dealt with the helpdesk chat capability of, say, his credit card company can sometimes see that  the ‘person’ he is ‘chatting’ with seems to be kind of off.  He doesn’t seem to get any humor.  He sometimes ignores information unless it’s presented a certain way.  The slightest irregularity in your problem seems to cause your supposed customer service rep to bounce you to his supervisor.  Welcome to the real Turing Test.  You may have been chatting with a machine.  Maybe it didn’t know what to do with your comments about the traffic; it didn’t understand your use of slang; perhaps the innocuous reference you made about the weather in your city just overloaded its ability to respond to you.  Following whatever algorithm it’s programmed to follow, it then passed you on to a real human.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Earth will be fine - Stop being a weenie.

Walter Williams makes a refreshing point about how overwrought the discussion has become about all things environmental:
Despite these cataclysmic events, the earth survived. My question is: Which of these powers of nature can be matched by mankind? For example, can mankind duplicate the polluting effects of the 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption or the asteroid impact that wiped out dinosaurs? It is the height of arrogance to think that mankind can make significant parametric changes in the earth or can match nature's destructive forces.
The earth is pretty tough.  Please stop screaming about the "fragile planet" as your excuse for demanding the governmental takeover of anything and everything.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Whose Fault Were Those Barricades?

Suppose a couple agrees to set a limit on their credit card.  One day the man demands his wife sign a form to raise the limit.  His wife refuses to do it.  In order to intimidate his wife into obeying him, the man turns around and kicks the family dog.  A fellow named Chris Matthews hears about this incident and reports it on his TV show the following way:  Unreasonable Woman Causes Family Dog To Suffer!

Would we not all agree Chris Matthews is an idiot?  While it is true the dog was kicked after the woman refused to sign the form, the woman “caused” no dog-kicking.  Indeed, most rational people would agree to two things: 1) there was absolutely no need for anyone to kick the dog and, 2) it was the husband and the husband alone who chose to kick the dog.

There are some people who believe that Republicans in the House of Representatives were somehow responsible for barricades being erected to block access to various parks, walking trails, and public open spaces.  The thinking seems to be that since House Republicans refused to fund all of the government for a short period of time, this refusal started a  chain reaction that somehow automatically led to green-shirted babus moving as quickly as they could to put up barricades.  It is not so.  There was no reason for the National Park Service to barricade anything during the shutdown.  They did it purely at the will of the Administration. 

If you blame Republicans or the Tea Party for causing parks to be barricaded, you’re the type of person who approves of husbands forcing their wives to obey them by kicking the family dog.  Don't be that type of person.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

'The American' - Going the Full Dante

I watched The American on DVD last night.  I liked it.


It’s a crisp iteration of a hackneyed story: the hit-man who wants to retire but they won’t let him.  Clooney is good in the film and that is no surprise.  The main character, Jack, is laconic and broody.  Clooney could  look great in this role if he were hung over and hadn’t read the script before filming started.

The movie’s outlook was fairly religious.  (This is not to be confused with ‘family friendly’; there’s too much nudity for that.)  A priest is an important supporting character – practically a one-man Greek chorus - and the setting is an ancient Italian village, complete with winding alleyways, tight stone stairwells, and religious processions.  The mood struck me as positively medieval.  And it works.  If we’re going to go full Dante, we may as well do it in a 14th Century Italian village.

Clooney’s character tells the priest “all men are sinners” and in many movies that would be the final word.  Here, the priest doesn’t back off.  He points out some sinning is worse than other sinning.  And Jack’s sinning is definitely of the “worse” sort.  He establishes his killer bona fides in the first scene of the movie.  And just in case we the audience try to misinterpret what we see, and try to withhold our judgment, the very next scene sets us straight about our man.   Jack runs to meet with Pavel, a grizzled, middle-aged assassination broker he does business with.  In the course of that conversation, Pavel is genuinely shocked at what Jack tells him.  When you can shock the grand-poobah of the contract-murder guild, you are one seriously wicked dude.  You also of course may be shocking the wrong guy.

By coincidence, in church this morning the sermon cited Isaiah 55:7:
Let the wicked forsake their ways
  and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
  and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Maybe Father Benedetto had Isaiah in mind when he was talking to Jack.  Jack is a murderer, a liar, and who knows what else.  He has spent his life in business with murderers and liars and, while he obviously wants out, he doesn’t strike us as a chap likely (or even able) to forsake his ways and thoughts.  The audience wants to see if Jack can get away in one piece, but the overarching question – the question Father Benedetto is there to ask -  is whether Jack can repent and save his soul.  Guess which way the smart money bets?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ann Althouse allows Schadenfreude to descend into unseemly cackling.

Wrote this post months ago.  Didn't realize I never, you know, posted it.  Re-reading it now, in light of the recent Arizona religious freedom hoopla, and the vicious lies that accompanied that dispute, I figure it's still worth posting.

The true bigotry in this debate is not anti-gay:

The frequently thoughtful Ann Althouse, while denying anyone is accusing same-sex marriage opponents of bigotry, enjoys their bigoted-ass discomfort.  Which no one is accusing them of.  But it serves ‘em right:
5. Now lots of traditionalists have the raw material to whine and cry about being called bigots. I doubt if that will work out very well for them, but they've been stewing in their own juice for a long time, and they're going to find it hard to stop. Unfortunately, same-sex marriage was originally presented as a conservative idea, and traditionalists could have gotten out in front of liberals on this issue if they'd listened to the original argument and predicted the future better, and now they'll have to scramble to improve their image. If crying about being called bigots — when, again, the majority didn't even use that word — is going to help, I just have to laugh. You took the opportunity to oppress when it was there, and now that it's gone, you want to say you are oppressed. Man up, losers. You lost. And you deserved to lose. Now, stop acting like losers. If you can. (I bet you can't!) 
It's amazing otherwise sensible people can see no reason anyone would defend a unique status for the male/female pair in a two sex species.  Other than oppression.  And bigotry.  Which Ann isn't accusing anyone of.  Wow.

Homophobia and Robbing Liquor Stores

If I accuse a man of robbing liquor stores, any decent and reasonable society would expect me to present evidence.  The evidence would have to be specific: What liquor stores were robbed?  When?  What is my proof that this particular man robbed those particular stores on those particular occasions?  If I were unable to provide such specifics, people would warn me about making false or baseless charges.  Further, if when asked to provide evidence, I merely said things like “Well, can the man prove he never robbed a liquor store?” or “Can the man prove an alibi for every liquor store robbery that occurred?” reasonable people of good will would quickly account me a libeling rascal.  In a decent society I would be liable to social and even legal censures.  The man I accused wouldn’t have to say a single word in his defense unless and until I provided compelling evidence that supported my accusation.

This is as it should be.  A child can understand the concept: He who makes an accusation must present his case before the accused needs to say or do a thing.  This is why for over a thousand years of Anglo-American law the accused is “assumed innocent”.  It’s a no-brainer.  If you accuse somebody of something you have to prove the charge.

Unless I accuse a man of homophobia.  Or racism.  Or sexism.  Or any other of a growing list of “…isms” proliferating around here like tattoos at a cougar bar.  If I accuse a man of one of these things, no evidence is required.  If I call a man a homophobe (or a racist, etc., etc.) the current rules require him to assert he is not a homophobe and then provide evidence to back up his assertion.  As a practical matter this evidence is never found to be sufficient.  How could it be?  The poor fellow is attempting to prove to other people what is inside his own heart.  This is not possible.  Since it’s impossible, he cannot do it.  Since he cannot do it, he has not proved his assertion that he is no homophobe.  He is therefore judged a homophobe by all fashionably-thinking people.

This is madness and no good can come of it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Just came back from watching Zero Dark Thirty.  Good stuff, and I can see why the Left hates it.

Here's what bunches up Lefties' panties:

1.  The movie shows the CIA successfully torturing people to get the information we need to find bin Laden.  Lots of things about this irritate the Left.  First, they cannot abide the idea any information we got through aggressive questioning was actually useful.  Second, they certainly don't want enhanced interrogation presented in such a way as to look like it could possibly be justified.  Zero Dark Thirty manages to do both.  Third, and this may be the most artistically unforgivable thing the movie did, the movie showed prisoner treatment far worse than anything the CIA actually did do* and we in the theater couldn't care less.  As far as I could tell from the audience around me, if the CIA guy wanted to shove the jihadi into a four foot by two foot box for a couple days, that was just fine by us.  This must particularly enrage your average anti-American Lefty in Hollywood.  It's one thing to make a movie that makes child molesters seem like regular guys; that's just expanding the horizons of us poor, benighted Red Staters.  But show the US Government righteously  jumping ugly in the defense of America, well, that must never be done.

2.  When a Navy SEAL goes to work he doesn't fool around.  Your average frogman commando clearing a room does not leave live bad guys behind him.  No Miranda rights read to anybody.  Once you do something to cause a SEAL to "engage" you, you are engaged good and proper and permanent.  Sorry, Haji, no hard feelings.  Once again, the audience around me seemed to agree this was a no-brainer. 

3.  Obama is a fool, a liar, or both.  The only reference to the Big O was a video clip of him in the background claiming the U.S. doesn't torture anybody.  The video was playing in the mess hall where two of the "torturers" were discussing business.  The only other reference to the administration at all was when the slick, well-dressed suits from the White House were making it clear to the CIA guys they were mostly interested in making sure an attack on bin Laden didn't reflect poorly on the President.

4.  I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else yet but it may be an even bigger point than the others:  the movie continually referenced how the CIA messed up its assessment of Iraqi WMDs.  Not George Bush, not Neo-cons, not the Zionist lobby.  Sometimes the CIA just guesses wrong and it was the CIA that guessed wrong on Iraq.  The Left's urban myth about how George W. Bush "lied" us into a war in Iraq is a matter of faith among their true believers.  For this film to flatly declare that the Iraqi WMD mistake was just another intelligence screw-up, and not some evil plot concocted by the BusHitler, must be particularly galling.

5.  Just as a general matter, there isn't the slightest hint in Zero Dark Thirty of the US being the bad guy, nor does it raise any questions about who the true bad guys might be.  The people we are fighting are mass murderers.  Our "allies" among them sometimes have to be bribed just to help us out.  They burned three thousand Americans alive in the middle of New York City and the entire fight since then has been our response to that atrocity, and our attempts - often unsuccessful - to stop them from committing more atrocities.

The more I think about it, the worse this movie seems from a Lefty's point of view.  No wonder they can't stand it.

* For a retired CIA guy's take on the Zero Dark Thirty torture scenes, you may want to read this.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor's Aftermath: American Payback Gathers Steam

The Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (14-15 November 1942)

From Wikipedia:

"From this close range, Washington opened fire and quickly hit Kirishima with at least nine main battery shells and almost forty secondary ones, causing heavy damage and setting her aflame. Kirishima was hit below the waterline and suffered a jammed rudder, causing her to circle uncontrollably to port."

Friday, November 16, 2012

David Petraeus - The Last of the Roman-Sounding Generals

Flavius Aetius was the 5th Century Roman general who finally stopped Attila the Hun's invasions of Roman territory.  He has been referred to as 'The Last of the Romans'.  Like all great Romans of the day he had many great enemies, not least of whom was his master, the emperor Valentinian III, who feared Aetius' ambitions and distrusted his loyalties.  Valentinian eventually assassinated Aetius, reportedly by his own hand, in the culmination of a plot carried out while Aetius was at court delivering some sort of financial report.

Heh, life is tough near the top.  Politics ain't beanbag, and it wasn't back then either.  Aetius was a general with a great reputation but as he - and more recently, David Petraeus - found out, being a famous general with a cool-sounding name doesn't protect you when the guy at the top believes he has reason to fear you.

The former Director of the CIA is right now testifying about what the White House knew, and when it knew it, about the attack on the consulate in Benghazi on 11 September.  His testimony will be impeachable no matter what he says because his character has been effectively assassinated.  Petraeus already briefed Congress and in that earlier briefing he supported the President's claims.  He is now in the unenviable position of informing Congress he lied in that earlier briefing in order to cover up lies the President was telling at the time.  Either way Petraeus is a liar.  Oh, and an adulterer.  There are good reasons not to trust people that are either and Petraeus is now certified to be both.  David Petraeus may have made the same mistake Aetius did 1600 years ago:  He thought he was still safe, that his boss wasn't ready to do him in.  That he was still useful enough to his master that his master would not move against him.  He misjudged his man.  David Petraeus could have rock-solid proof that Barack Obama was lying about Benghazi but his word will be discounted because he is himself a lying adulterer.

But here's the postscript to the Aetius assassination of 454 AD:  Within six months, the conspirators against Aetius had fallen out so badly one of them had the emperor himself assassinated.  There were a number of soldiers present whose duty of course it would have been to protect the emperor.  But they had been Aetius' men.  None lifted a hand.

If I were Barack Obama I would wonder who I could trust.  The men and women that had enough power to help the President destroy David Petraeus' reputation have no reason to expect any loyalty from Barack Obama.  They see how he is.  What happens when some of them start to worry about when Obama is going to stick it to them in public like he did to Petraeus?  Are some of them worrying already?