Thursday, March 31, 2005
Some Links And Thoughts
Courtesy of Eric S. Raymond of Armed and Dangerous, a fascinating article that somehow escaped my attention before now:
And so I have become disillusioned, at least with the Leftists I met in Read the rest of "How The Left Betrayed My Country" here.
Another intriguing post has to do with attempts by America's Left to understand America's Right. It's a long read, and very much a worthwhile one. For example, he doesn't simply say "you're so full of beans that you don't even know you're full of beans"; he lists topics, explicitly, that many thinkers on the Left don't understand but think they do. And he claims that such misunderstandings are getting in the way of constructive dialogue, with which I sadly agree.
Finally, ESR quotes an intriguing question: What do you believe that you cannot prove?
I believe that ethical behavior is a survival characteristic among human beings. I believe that deeds count more than words, and character counts more than deeds. I believe in the nearly infinite adaptability of my fellow human beings... which, unfortunately, includes the ability to adapt to depths of ethical depravity as well. (The Nazis were not lacking in sympathetic poets and philosophers; nor were the Stalinists.)
I believe in a Power greater than myself, the nature of Whom I do not know, and which I may not be capable of understanding. I also believe in the importance of believing in such a Higher Power, as a means of making us better people. (The vast majority of us can be decent followers but terrible leaders; we do better when we follow an example we cannot reach.) If you're familiar with the Niels Bohr anecdote about the horseshoe, just think of me as believing in it both ways.
I believe in trusting my fellow man, as the saying used to say... and also in keeping my powder dry.
Have a good day!
Daniel in Brookline
Monday, March 21, 2005
Yes, I'm Still Here
...in spite of dark rumors about me, which both of my loyal readers have been trying not to spread. (You have been trying, haven't you? Both of you?... Damn, I guess I'm down to one Loyal Reader then.)
I haven't been writing for two basic reasons. One, I've been quite busy with work, family, music, and other considerations. And two, I'd rather not write, as the man said, unless I have something significant to say.
(Well, something I think is significant, anyway. Your mileage may vary. Please observe all posted speed-limit signs.)
I've been hearing all about the Terri Schiavo case, and (like some others) I don't have a strong opinion on it. I am greatly concerned about the situation in Israel, but I need more facts.
So, if you're still reading at this point, stay tuned. And if you're not still reading, well, I guess I can stop addressing you in the second person...
Thursday, March 10, 2005
I Wish I'd Written That...
Varifrank says it much better than I could.
Man, when I said this was going to be a wild ride of a year, I had no idea it was going to get this exciting this fast.
Read the whole thing, as the saying goes. Don't neglect his links, either!
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Prof. Volokh Tells It Like It Is
So, yeah, we're Jews. Yeah, we're overrepresented on university faculties, in law and medicine, in the Senate, on the Supreme Court. Speaking of Nazis, we were overrepresented on the Manhattan Project, too.Thanks, Professor. (He links to the neo-Nazi online discussion group that prompted this. They sound pretty nasty; I had to keep reminding myself that, yes, this is America, and free speech applies to them too. But free speech doesn't include inciting to riot, or implicitly calling for criminal actions against semi-public figures.)
The most powerful country in the world, America, is one of the ones that has been most open to Jews. Look at the most anti-Semitic countries in recent history: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Arab world. Right up there at the forefront of civilization and power, aren't they? Is it all the workings of The Conspiracy? Or is it just that the sorts of idiots who hate Jews do other idiotic things, too?
Standing up to these poisonous jerks can be unsettling in the extreme. (Don't speak to a Jew about the fear of the mob or "ghetto mentality"; we invented ghetto mentality, and for damn good reason.) Prof. Volokh is to be congratulated for standing his ground. As he says:
I regret that this has gotten my colleagues involved in all this, but this is America and I'm not going to be nice to Nazis to try to get them to go away.Amen.
(hat tip: Instapundit. Sometimes it just seems that the entire blogosphere is composed of law professors.)
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Dick Tracy, Call Your Office
I just saw this at Britain's The Register:
Israel last week revealed that ground troops now sport wrist-borne LCD screens which enable real-time identification and elimination of targets. The Tadiran system - code-named "V-Rambo" - beams images of the enemy from unmanned drone aircraft direct to the men in the field, shortening the time it takes to identify and strike a target from around 10-12 minutes to a matter of seconds, AP reports.
Previous systems involved transmitting pictures to a central command point which then disseminated the information to the appropriate forces. The new Tadiran set-up is similar to that used for about a year in Israeli attack helicopters to kill Palestinian militants. Such "targetted killings" were stoped as part of the cease-fire declared last month by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but following another Palestinian suicide bombing attack last week - which killed five - Israel may once again resume the practice.
Itzhak Beni, chief executive of the Elisra Group's Tadiran Electronic Systems and Tadiran Spectralink companies, said: "We are fulfilling the science fiction movies that we see," adding that the system allows troops "to see everything that is behind the hill and around the corner." Beni also noted that the "improved information can help troops minimize civilian casualties in the crowded refugee camps and city streets where Israeli troops and Palestinian militants often clash".
Palestinian human rights advocate Hanan Ashrawi countered: "Nobody doubts Israelis can develop these weapons. But is this the kind of sophistication they need against defenseless people? It seems like a case of overkill."
Perhaps I should dismiss Ms. Ashrawi's claims first. I agree, this sort of technological wizardry should be totally unnecessary in dealing with defenseless people. But what has that to do with the Palestinians?
Palestinian terror groups (of which there are many) are anything but defenseless. They feel free to use many weapons and techniques that the IDF deliberately refrains from using -- such as suicide bombers and human booby-traps, human shields, and so on. The Palestinians have repeatedly shown that they are quite willing to murder their own innocent non-combatants, if they can take some Israelis with them; we've seen this, for example, when the Palestinians booby-trapped entire buildings to collapse on top of Israeli soldiers, without bothering to clear out the innocents inside first.
The IDF, by contrast, has repeatedly shown that it will take extraordinary care to pinpoint combatants only. (This can be extremely difficult; please remember that the Palestinian combatants wear no uniform, deliberately blending in with the local population as much as possible, which is part of why they're called "terrorists". Often, IDF troops can identify the enemy combatants only when those combatants start shooting at them.) The IDF has taken heavy casualties among its own soldiers, so as to avoid innocent loss of life on the other side... not once, but many, many times.
So if IDF troops on the ground can now "see" the birds-eye view of a combat zone, enabling them to identify the ringleaders at a distance and pinpoint them, I'm all for it. This will save innocent Palestinian lives, and it will probably save quite a few Israeli lives as well.
Of course, even more Palestinian lives would be saved if they'd simply stop attacking Israel altogether. But that's a different topic for a different day.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
The End of the Middle East As We Know It
Well, perhaps not the end per se. As Churchill once said, "It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning."
Democracy is on the march in the Middle East. Iraq has held popular elections; the Syrian puppet-government in Lebanon has fallen; the Saudis, of all people, might be allowing women to vote for a change; and even Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak ("President" since 1981!) says he'll permit an opposing candidate next time.
All this is described much better than I could by Mark Steyn:
Why is all this happening? Answer: January 30. Don't take my word for it, listen to Walid Jumblatt, big-time Lebanese Druze leader and a man of impeccable anti-American credentials: "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Berlin Wall has fallen."True. And what does this say about the Bush administration, which made it all happen? Even if you believe (as many do) that they did not plan to spread democracy to the Middle East, it's still an extremely impressive achievement, even if achieved inadvertently. And if you believe (as I do) that this was the plan all along... well, now.
Just so. Left to their own devices, the House of Saud - which demanded all US female air-traffic controllers be stood down for Crown Prince Abdullah's flight to the Bush ranch in Crawford - would stick to their traditional line that Wahhabi women have no place in a voting booth; instead, they have to dress like a voting booth - a big black impenetrable curtain with a little slot to drop your ballot through. Likewise, Hosni Mubarak has no desire to take part in campaign debates with Hosno Name-Recognition. Boy Assad has no desire to hand over his co-Baathists to the Great Satan's puppets in Baghdad.
But none of them has much of a choice. In the space of a month, the Iraq election has become the prism through which all other events in the region are seen.
Granted, the transition to democracy is an extremely difficult one. (Democracy is inefficient and messy. Dictatorships are cheap.) As Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out, democracy isn't an event, it's a process. And democratic progress can be lost if you're not vigilant.
Nonetheless, hopeful though I was, I certainly didn't expect the dominoes to start to fall this quickly!
Where will this take us? Who knows. We certainly won't see flourishing democracies across the Middle East tomorrow, or even the next day. But I'm optimistic that we're walking in the right direction.
For me, the acid test for Arab democracies will be acceptance of Israel. And no, I don't think that's a knee-jerk reaction from a proud Zionist. Think about it -- Israel has, with fewer resources than nearly any Arab country, managed to outstrip them all, by far, in nearly every category that matters: economic growth, technological advance, education, innovation, contributions to world art and literature, even Nobel Prize winners. (What did Israel have that her neighbors didn't? The key missing ingredient wasn't manpower, or money, or resources; and it sure wasn't oil. But Israelis had freedom, to a degree utterly unknown in Arab countries.)
And Israel has proven itself more than ready to share the fruits of her labor with any that negotiate in good faith. So when Arab countries perceive that they have much to gain, and only their hatred to lose, by learning to work with Israel -- and when Arabs insist that their governments do so, and make it stick -- then we'll truly have something.