August 04, 2008

The War of the Words

What passes for science sometimes still surprises me:

Scientists say the Phoenix spacecraft has found a substance in the Martian soil that might be detrimental to possible life. If confirmed, it could mean the soil may not be as friendly as once thought.

I think the word dreamed is better than thought here. There was no rational basis for thinking this other than the triumph of hope over experience. Guess we better get used to that though.

Posted by Charles Austin at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2006

Whatever You Do, Don't Mention the Sun's Radiation

Just in case you were under the impression that "college" infers some sort of wisdom or intelligence:

A Canadian university has limited Wi-Fi networks on campus, not out of information security concerns, but because the long-term safety of the technology is "unproven".

Meanwhile, on planet earth people continue to live ever longer, despite the omnipresent and ever growing risks the state can never do enough to protect us from.


Posted by Charles Austin at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2005

Nuking Mecca

Representative Tancredo made same offhand remarks last week that got a lot of folks in a lather about the pros and cons of nuking Mecca should a nuclear weapon be set off in a major city in the US.

Hmmm..., well, here's a few disjointed thoughts.

Does anyone really think that American's are so bloodthirsty and revenge driven that we would start killing on a massive scale without a purpose? I can't comprehend this and even our closest friends and allies would not go along with it. Would you really want the whole world to be your enemy? Despite some silly pretensions to the contrary, we didn't drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki just to kill Japanese. We did it to end the war and prevent an invasion, thus probably saving Japanese lives in the long run. It's extremely hard to see how nuking Mecca is going to save any Muslim lives or encourage those remaining to think that they would then find themselves in anything other than a no holds barred fight that must result in the extinction of either Muslims or non-Muslims.

Oh, should a nuke go off here, I can comprehend some rather significant changes in the rules of engagement across the board that will result in a lot of dead Muslims and many other dead non-Muslims throughout the world. I can envision Damascus, Tehran, Cairo, Islamabad, and a whole lot of other cities being much worse for wear in rather short order. I can imagine Europe cowing in fear and virtually begging us not to retaliate for nothing better than ..., wait for it..., environmental reasons. I can imagine China gettting a little frisky all of a sudden. I can imagine Mosques shut down or abandoned in this country with something resembling Manzanar opening up to house anyone still desirous of praying to the East three times a day. I can imagine the collapse of the worldwide financial markets, the establishment of martial law, and the true end of life as we know it. My, how we'll long for the times when Joe Wilson, Karl Rove and Howard Dean where the leading newsmakers of the day.

In fact, I don't think it is neccesary to set off a nuke in New York, Chicago, L.A., or any other American, or even European city to bring most of this about. As I have argued in this space before, much the same effect can be had by setting a nuke off in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Stanley, Port-Au-Prince, Caracas, or even the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia. Why bother trying to smuggle it in to the US when you can get virtually the same result with perhaps 1% of the risk of getting caught? Now I realize getting caught may seem like a small risk for people who are willing to die, but if you do get caught you chances of actually accomplishing your mission fall dramatically.

The real question is what purpose can the US arsenal of nuclear weapons serve after the next nuclear device goes off? Alas, I am a pessimist and as such I do believe that it is ilikely that a nuclear device is going to be exploded somewhere on the earth in the next twenty years. So, again, the question is what are we going to do next.

As I see it, the US arsenal of nuclear weapons will largely serve the same two purposes it serves today. One, they will be used if we are forced to fight wars on more than two fronts simultaneously. For better or worse, the US and her allies cannot mount Iraq-sized operations in more than two theaters today, and perhaps not even that if the theaters become big enough. Mr. Den Beste has covered this ground in the past. Second, they are athe ultimate trump card. Their use up to today as a trump card has been tied mostly to MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction. But in the future, it won't necessarily be a mutual thing. It may be more along the lines of abdicate, surrender, or turn someone or something over in 48 hours or face AD, assured destruction. As it happens, I don't see this as radically different than how these assets are used today.

As the President is a renowned poker player, he understands that you can only bluff if you are willing to see it through. It is likely that someone will eventually call our bluff force us to obliterate a city. This is unfortunate, but probably inevitable. It may not happen the first or second time we make the threat, but eventually someone is going to think we are bluffing and risk it. But even in this circumstance please note that there was a point to it somewhat better than "nuke Mecca" because a few nutjobs were quite fond of it. There may someday be a reason to nuke Mecca, but bloody-minded tit-for-tat revenge isn't it.

As anyone who reads this blog knows (all twenty of you), I am definitely not sympathetic to Islamic terrorism and I'm more than a little upset with most Muslims for their apparent wilingess to tolerate the slaughter of those they consider to be infidels. Nonetheless, at some point the killing will be over and whomever is left will have to pick up the pieces and live with their sins of omission and their sins of commission. Lowering the bar on the rules of engagement isn't the same as eliminating the bar. I just hope we can keep the bar high enough that even I could still limbo under it successfully. And by doing so preserve enough of civilization to keep it going in a form we can still recognize.

Posted by Charles Austin at 06:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2005

Oh Dear

How will we ever shut Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore up now about Tony Blair's virtual theft of the United Kingdom's Prime Minister's job given that he didn't win the popular vote?

THE CONSERVATIVES won England in the general election, in votes but not in seats. Both the Conservatives and Labour gained more than eight million English votes, but the Conservatives finished more than 50,000 ahead.

Why, that's less than one football stadium!

P.S. Yes, I know that England is not synonymous with the UK. But for the record, Labour did only get about one-third of the overall vote. How's that for a mandate.

Posted by Charles Austin at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2004

Yea, There's a Reason

I may be on thin theological ice here, but I think a lot of folks have really misunderstood the necessity of the Passion. It isn't just the fact that Christ died, but that he suffered terribly and died, all the while rejecting the opportunity to call it all off. Had he died very quickly, I'm quite sure Christianity wouldn't have developed as it did. And this goes way beyond just the loss of the cross iconography. Remember, it is called the passion of the Christ, not the death of the Christ.

Posted by Charles Austin at 12:17 AM | Comments (4)

September 04, 2003

Victim? Not Me, Brother!

I've read in several places about how our therapeutic society is trying to make all of us victims of the attacks on 9/11. Well, we -- the United States and each individual citizen -- were victimized, but that doesn't make us -- the United States and each individual citizen -- victims, unless we let it. Did we consider ourselves victims after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941? Hell no! Victimized? Sure. Victims? Sorry, no self pity to wallow in here. We've got work to do.

Adopting a psychology of victimization requires that there is some sort of an ombudsman to deliver justice if it is to "work." This ombudsman may be motivated by guilt, or a drive for justice, or something else entirely, but whatever the motivation, the ombudsman must have the power to effect some change to deliver what is perceived as justice. Otherwise, dwelling on being a victim is nothing but an exercise in futility. People on the frontier, or any society that values freedom and self-dependency, may have been victimized by natural disasters or man-made calamities, but they picked themselves up and and moved forward.

In our nanny-state today, the government typically is expected to play the role of the ombudsman to stamp out perceived injustices. But in the War on Terrorism, who is going to be ombudsman if we start acting like a victim? The United Nations? Puhleeze. NATO? Ha! Our European allies? They can't even protect themselves. The Anglosphere? Well, maybe. But if we won't stand up for ourselves, I don't think we should expect them to carry us as dead weight.

No, we will stand up and fight for ourselves and make the necessary sacrifices for what we believe in and what we hold dear, or we might as well roll over and die. We will certainly value true friends who throw their lots in with us. And we will just as certainly remember those who, through sins of ommission or sins of commission, work against us.

As the second anniversary of 9/11 comes around in a week, its time once again to remember and to rededicate ourselves to the tasks ahead. We are a good people who have every right to defend what we have. We are a noble people with an obligation to help others shed the yoke of oppression where we can. I am proud of what I know we have done in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am also thankful for the many things that have been done on our behalf, that I know nothing about, by people whose only connection to me is that they too believe that this country is worth defending and the ideals for which it stands are worth giving to others.

We are at war. The alarm went off and woke us all from our pleasant slumber on 9/11/2001. Everyone heard the alarm and responded at first, but as time goes by and folks settle back into their usual routines, it's as though a lot of people now just want to reach over and hit the snooze button until the alarm goes off again. I am disgusted that, with the general exception of Senator Lieberman, all those who have a vested interest in hurting the President politically are encouraging this behavior. Let's just hope it doesn't take the loss of Houston to a nuclear weapon or 1/3 of the population to a biological attack to get everyone to finally wake up.

Unlike some in the blogosphere, I won't be taking 9/11/2003 off to read and remember. I'm not criticizing those who are, I just have a different approach. I'm going to work. In fact, I'm going to Washington, D.C., on business, and I'll be flying home on 9/11/2003. I'm not afraid, and I'm not going to wallow or weep. I'm angry and ready to fight. I'm too old to put on a uniform but I am going to fight back in the best way I know how, by going on with my life, earning a living, paying my taxes, spreading good ideas as best I can, and helping my customers become more proficient in finding and killing those who would kill my family, my friends and my country.

Posted by Charles Austin at 09:54 PM | Comments (1)

August 08, 2003

Judgment Day

While reading Mr. Lileks' commentary (doesn't everyone?) on Reverend Gene Robinson's problem with taking his own commitments seriously, it occured to me that this represents the limits of postmodern moral relativity. Mr. Lileks does an excellent (natch!) job of expressing the problems that Rev. Robinson has in downgrading solemn vows to mere intentions and noting that those of us who are uncomfortable with this will generally be challenged with a "who are you to judge" question, as though we cannot, in fact, have any basis for determining what is good. Never mind that the question of what is good is at the heart of what it is that Rev. Robinson professes to be trying to teach others. But Rev. Robinson's moral sickness goes even deeper than that. By internalizing the postmodern moral relativity necessary to transmogrify the sacred commitments he made before God, family and friends into nothing more than his "intention" to do the right thing, Rev. Robinson has lowered the bar of anti-judgmentalism so far that not even the Mighty Sparrow in his prime could limbo through the metaphysical contortions necessary to ask, "who am I to judge myself?", in all earnestness without failing.

I almost feel sorry for him.

Posted by Charles Austin at 11:22 PM | Comments (4)