Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More Thoughts on X3

But - "mutant" is just a social construct!

That is all.

More of the Obvious

A reader writing to steve Sailer makes the obvious comment on the new X-Men movie.

It is generally assumed that the mutant gene suppressor (referred to by everyone as "the cure." I can't help but wonder why no one comes up with a neutral name for it). Why, he asks, doesn't anyone in the movie say "some mutations are wonderful, some are a nuisance. Why don't those with good mutations keep them anbd those with destructive ones get rid of them?

It's a good point. Beast (aka Frasier Crane) sort of makes it when he comments on how his mutation has more drawbacks than Storm's (shedding on the furniture), but there is no real attempt to distinguish between good and bad mutations.

This point bothered me a lot in the first movie, when no one at all seemed concerned with the fact that Rogue's mutation made life difficult for her. They almost went out of their way to say: "You're a selfish bitch for not accepting that you will never be able to touch anyone. Just give up any hope of a physical relationship in order to help our political cause."

Actually, the biggest point bothering me in the first movie was MAgneto's plan to turn normal humans into mutants. I thought that according to the X-Men rules, if you weren't born a mutant (although the power would usually be latent), you aren't considered a mutant. Certainly neither Spider-Man nor the Fantatic Four have have been considered mutants, which would make no sense if those Magneto transforemd were considered mutants.

Okay, I'm beginning to lose my train of thought now, so I'll sign off.

That is all.

What About Progress in Iraq?

Is there any? A must-read American Conservative article from someone who has been in Iraq trying to train Iraqis.

That is all.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Facts About Iraq

(1) Bush has never defined what victory will mean. I think that it is clear that the major criterion for achieving victory will be that we can take all of our troops out of day-to-day security operations in Iraq without the country falling apart (perhaps we will leave some behind a la South Korea, Japan, and Germany, but they won't be involved in daily security/law enforcement/battle activities). However, what Iraq is supposed to look like by that time has never been made clear (e.g. how many Iraqi forces will there be, how many troops will we leave there, how secure does the government have to be). We can't achieve victory in Iraq if we don't know what victory looks like.

(2) Bush has offered us no evidence of progress toward victory in Iraq. To have such evidence, one needs a timetable or a benchmark table. I heard someone on a news channel the other day point out that the coalition, even without a timetable, can measure its prgoress by the benchmarks it has reached.

Sorry, but "benchmarks" are useulss unless we have an idea of where the benchmarks will lead. That is, we need a clear and conciose way to measure our progress toward victory. Accomplish A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I, and then you have won. That is setting benchmarks. We have to accomplish A, B, C, and D, and then we will set up a bunch of new goals, and eventually when we have accomplished enough of them, we will have won - that's not setting benchmarks. You can drag the war on forevr just by always finding new goals to meet.

(3) The only reliable way to measure the success of our progress toward victory is troop withdrawals/redeployment. That is, that we can reduce the number of troops in Iraq without the country falling apart. Absent some sort of benchmark table of timetable, troop reduction is hteo nly evidence of progress at all.

(4) When someone says we cannot set a date to withdraw because the insurgents/terrorists will simply wait us out and then go wild, the proper response is to ask why the Iraqis cannot take care of the insurgents themselves by the withdrawal date. The obvious subtext of the "we can't set a date" argument is that the arguer has no confidence that the Iraqi security forces will be able (or willing) to hold their own against the insurgents within the foreseeable future (or within any timeline that would be acceptable to the American people).

(5) I have heard arguments that Haditha was justified or that anyone (or any adult or adult male) who is in the neighborhood when a bomb kills some of our troops is automatically guilty of supporting the insurgency (at least through inaction, i.e. not warning our troops).

What most of these arguments ultimately mask is an ugly truth; and the claims of collective guilt are essentially simply a way to assuage the conscience.

The fact of the matter is, that in binary decisions (e.g. whether to kill someone or not, whether a drug is sufficiently pure), there are two types of errors: false negatives and false positives. When all else remains constant, the most certain way to decrease one error is to increase the tolerance for the other. For example, in court decisions on guilt and innocence, the most effective way to insure that no guilty person gets let off is to find everyone guilty. Likewise, the most effective way to insure that no one is convicted wrongly is to convict no one. Between these two points, one accepts a certain number of false convictions and of guilty people going free.

What those who support the idea that anyone in the area was guilty really are thinking is that they are tired of insurgents killing our troops and/or getting away. So they think that we should be more tolerant of false positives (shooting civilians) in order to reduce the number of false negatives (insurgents getting away).

The most effective way to blunt the guerilla tactic of blending in with the civilian population is to decide not to discriminate, and to treat any civilians that insurgents hide behind as the enemy. Much of the pro-war side, desperate to salvage Iraq, has decided that those tactics are the ones that we ought to use. Claims of collective guilt are simply a way to morally justify such a policy.

That is all.

A Strategy on Iraq

It strikes me that if those wanting a timetable for our troops to leave Iraq were to rephrase their goal as a desire for a timetable for Iraqis taking over their own security, they might have more success.

That is all.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Plan? What Plan?

I have often heard people commenting that the Democrats aren't taken seriously when they criticize Bush on the war, because they do not have an alternative plan (with the exception of folks like John Murtha). But this brings up an interesting question - do Bush and the Republicans actually have a plan?

Of course, they claim to have a plan - "stay the course, set up a government, train the Iraqi to defend themselves." But really, do we have actual strategy here? Is there a plan for turning Iraq over to the Iraqis? Is there a plan for sending the Iraqi troops to defeat the insurgents? Is there a plan for how tp keep Iraq together? I mean, what exactly do we need to do to get the Iraqis able to defend themselves? When can we reduce the troop presence, to say, 100,000? When we have 300,000 trained Iraqi security forces? When we have had five elections?

You can call each election a "step toward victory," and every death of an insurgent or terrorist leader in Iraq a "victory," but unless there is some measurable, finite goal that we can point to that indicates how close we are to victory, whatever we define that as, such things are no more meaningful than eliminating a wave of aliens in the game "Space Invaders." Each bit of progress is simply a step to the next goal, stretching on ad infinitum.

Not that we are not occasionally told that we can bring back a large number of troops at some point in the future. WE have been told that a few times. But each time, we are told that this is dependent on the situaton on the ground, which never seems to improve to the point that the troop reductions can actually take place.

I guess what I am saying is that I would like to see what the Bush plan actually is, other than treading water, before I get after his critics for not having a plan.

That is all.

Asking for a Timeline

If this becomes more commonplace, there will be some serious questions asked about Iraq's supposed "sovereignty," particularlyif the administration pushes the storyline that we need to stay because the Iraqis asked us to.

That is all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Why We Are Not Winning in Iraq

Because we do not treat any civilian who is scared enough of the insurgents to mind his own business as an enemy. Apparently, if the insurgents frighten people into thinking that if they tell us the location of any IEDs the insurgents may have planted, their families will be killed, what we ought to make clear is that if they don't, we will kill their family and their neighbors.

Yes, terrifying the population into submission worked so well, with no negative unintended consequences, in Algeria.

That is all.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why Jews Are So Fascinating to Study

More Steve Sailer good stuff.

That is all.

The Dalester on the Derbster

Dennis Dale has some thoughts on John Derbyshire's recent Iraq apology.

My favorite line:

Every time a "conservative" stands to cite the brutality of Saddam as justification for either of the Persian Gulf wars he is no longer a conservative, but a liberal interventionist.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Major Problem Facing Black America

Apparently, some folks at Alas, a Blog have discovered one of the biggest problems facing black America: too many black men are not blaming white people for their problems.

I particularly enjoyed this comment (#4):

In one sense, I actually feel that “accepting personal responsibility” (as the Republicans put it) rather than acknowledging the influence of prejudice is taking the easy way out. If you acknowledge that prejudice exists, you might have to do something about it. It’s easier to just accept that you’re going to have to work harder to succeed, especially when the possibility of success IS really open to those who are particularly bright, hard working, lucky, etc, than to try to change the system to make it fair.

Yes, blaming other people, as long as they are white men, for of your problems is what shows true character.

That is all.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

What is He Saying?

Instapundit recently posted the following letter:

Our press and the anti-American left both in this country and outside of it has been reporting "Hadithas" over and over again over the last three years...

The real danger is that we who support the war will reach the point that we say "we might as well be taken as wolves then as sheep". At that point the left can celebrate that they have made our military and those who support it the people they claim we are. Once that happens however any compunction about respecting them will be gone, and remember one side is armed and one is not.

That is a fate that I don't wish on any of us.

Clark Stooksbury, Matt Barganier, and Jonathan Schwarz have all commented on it.

My thoughts:

The basic claim Reynolds' reader, one Peter Ingemi, seems to want to make is that if people keep calling the soldiers monsters, they will become monsters and massacre Iraqis just as they are purported to have done.

However, notice that he does not refer to the soldiers but to "we who support the war." And look at the last sentence:

Once that happens however any compunction about respecting them will be gone, and remember one side is armed and one is not.

Clearly is not referring to Iraqis but to the antiwar left (the Iraqis are clearly armed, so he cannot be referring to them). Actually, he may be talking about the antiwarriors in general, but I doubt that the antiwar right, consisting largely of people of a libertarianish bent, is "not armed."

Reynolds tries to get around this by saying:

Some people, judging from my email, are misjudging -- or deliberately misconstruing -- Ingemi's point. Ingemi's point, as I took it, is that crying wolf leads end the end to moral callousness, as people assume that there's no point in behaving morally when they're going to be called monsters anyway. This seems rather uncontroversially obvious to me.

Maybe if he phrased things differently (revisions in bold):

The real danger is that those running the war will reach the point that we say "we might as well be taken as wolves then as sheep" and have the military policy toward Iraqis adjkusted accordingly. At that point the left can celebrate that they have made our military and those who support it the people they claim we are. Once that happens however any compunction about respecting their concerns will be gone, and remember one side is relevant to determinig our military policy and one is not.

But the way he phrased things it was obvious that he was thinking that a pro-war side that was merciless to the Iraqis would have no compunctions about attacking the anti-warriors.

Reynolds also states:

I keep getting emails like this: "So you endorse using violence against your political enemies?" I don't see where anyone gets that from the above. I certainly didn't say that, and I don't think that Peter Ingemi meant it. And I don't really see how anyone could get that from the above.

Well, that is not precisely what Ingemi said, but he did in essence threaten the antiwar side t hat they would be targeted for violence if they did not shut up.


I didn't think that Peter Ingemi was proposing civil war (One tipoff -- where he said "This is a fate I don't wish on any of us."). He sends this followup:

If someone told Reynolds: "If people keep supporting this war, the antiwar side will eventually realize that the only way to stop it is violent revolution, which will include hanging people who wrote in support of the war, which is a fate that I don't wish on anyone," do you think he would find that last clause comforting?

In any case, even assuming that Mr. Ingemi was just saying the overplaying things like Haditha would lead to callous troops killing more Iraqis, what he would be saying would still be pretty horrible.

What he seems to be saying is that we shouldn't make up atrocities as that would reduce the incentive not to commit thme (as soldiers would be accused of them anyway). But notice that there isn't any acknowledgment that any of the acused atrocities might be real. In essence, he seems to be suggesting that we need to work to cover up or minimize any atrocities that might be committed if we don't want worse ones committed.

And, of course, there is the nagging implication that those who criticize the war are the ones responsible for any things that our soldiers do wrong in the war. Rather than, you know, the people who put the soldiers in the position of fighting a guerilla war in the first place, without actually being honest enough to admit that that is what would happen (and no, the administration was not simply mistaken. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could see that this would happen, and I am certain that the administration had an ounce of common sense. The failure to predict the guerilla war was dishonesty, not incompetence).

That is all.

Pro-Choice Only in Cases of Abortion

Looking at this post on Feministe about making HPV vaccination mandatory, isn't it interesting how liberal arguments about the government not controlling your body suddenly fall by the wayside when what the government wants to force you to do is something that they like?

That is all.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Bigger Question Is, Do I Care?

Might Zarqawi may have been beaten to death after the bombing, rather than dying of mortal wounds from it, asks CBS?

I do think that the official story that he lived just long enough to mutter a few incoherent words to coalition soldiers and then died seems to be a little too melodramatic for me to trust it. But honestly, I wouldn't waste any money investigating whether he was beaten to death. I really don't care.

That is all.

Emmanuel Goldstein is Dead

Not that Zarqawi's death is not a good thing; but I doubt that it will provide much of a change in the actual situation in Iraq. I have long thought of Zarqawi as being more or less a Goldstein-like bogeyman.

That is all.

Another Interesting Post by Mr. Kokkarinen

An interesting post about legal issues, lawyers, and antidiscrimination nonsense at Sixteen Volts.

That is all.

I'm Back!

Blogging will probably be light for awhile. I have a new job and new responsibilities. But I'll try to have a post or two every other day or so.

That is all.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Iraq Casualties Round-Up

For the month of May, currently available information indicates the following information:

67 coalition combat deaths, 10 non-combat deaths.

Essentially, this is a fairly typical death toll compared to other months for the past two years.

979 Iraqi civilian fatlaties, 148 police/military fatalities.

What does it bode for Iraq that civilian fatalities are at their second highest since Icasualties began taking the stats in March of 2005, while police/military fatalities are dropping? What does it say about the police's and military's priorities?

Wounded numbers are not in yet.

That is all.

Timetables as t Approaches Infinity

A few months ago, I wrote:

The general argument against a timetable is that if we set a date to withdraw, then the insurgents will just hunker down and wait for us to leave so that they can take over.

What no one has retorted in response to this (or at least I don't remember anyone pointing it out) is that the deadline is presumably going to be set so that when the time comes to leave, we will leave behind Iraqi security forces capable of defending Iraq. Therefore, waiting us out ought not to be a succeessful strategy for the insurgents because even if we leave, they will have to contend with the highly-trained crack Iraqi security forces. Put another way, by rejecting even a contingent deadline, the Bush administration is essentially admitting that it does not really believe that it can train sufficient Iraqi forces to protect the country within any publicly acceptable timetable.

I just read this posting by Ol' "Lyin' Eyes" Ziel, and thought I would remind people of the subtext of not withdrawing.

That is all.

In Defense of the U.S.

Buchanan on the growing irrelevance of the G.O.P.

That is all.