Monthly Archives: March 2007

Death to Iran?

Well, at least we don’t do this:

In Iran tens of thousands of football fans reportedly chanted “Death to England” while tourists burnt an effigy of Mr Blair dressed as a pirate.

If I ever were to take up prayer, I would pray for peace more than anything else, but I fear we may be on a collision course, and it is more than just the fevered dreams of the neocons. We must never start a war, but if Ahmedinejad or the mullahs force us into one, we must make it explicit to the Iranian people, from the start, what are goals are. We must not occupy Iran.

If the hammer must fall, we must make sure the American people are united. The only way the American people will be united is if there is proper justification for the war.

If the hammer must fall, the world must be united. We simply cannot risk turning this into a clash of civilizations. We can’t unite the Middle East.

I don’t think war is by any means inevitable, though, and it may require us to swallow some pride to avoid war, but in the long-run, it is not in our interests to go to war. Besides, pride doesn’t win battles.

If indeed certain elements in Iran are hoping to provoke conflict, we must look at what’s in our long-term interest before we take any bait. If these same elements fear diplomatic engagement, then we must continue to pursue diplomatic engagement.

Aggressiveness isn’t the proper response to everything, as anyone with a younger sibling can tell you.

The Awakening

The banality of everyday life is suffocating. Even events of seeming significance shrink into nothing. I’ve been have a lot of trouble caring, lately. My work, the 24-hour news cycle, all the little pictures that facebook’s news-feed serves me, they seem irrelevant. I have bigger things to worry about.

Has corruption entered the American character? I know, I know, Americans have never had pure hearts. What I mean to ask, “Is America on the decline?” Has the war on terror caused us to accept a bunker mentality? America is in the vicelike grip of fear. Our backgrounds have been turned into potential terrorist battlefields. Let me tell you something, the idea of the bureaucratic agency called the Department of Homeland security frightens me. Do we really want the tentacles of the federal government reaching into every crevice of our lives?

Face it, we can’t protect our malls from suicide bombers. And that prospect scares me. What happens to America when they hit the heartland? Will the people clamor for the government to take their civil liberties? The sad thing is that I am certain that this will be the response. I am beleaguered on both sides: The ever-present specter of tyranny is equally as destructive as a terrorist’s bomb.

Something deep within our souls changed that day, when the barbarians sacked Rome. The American Empire suddenly felt vulnerable. Our collective psyche is still wounded. Like fools, we turned to our strong leader George Bush, who turned out to be the biggest fool of them all. His Manichaean paranoia1 is dangerous. Disparate bands of Islamic terrorists and disparate totalitarian Islamist movements have been linked together into the monolith that is Islamo-fascism. We’ve raised our children under the dark cloud of terror. This is all they’ve known. This is almost all I’ve known. I was just aware enough to know that 9/11 changed everything, but I didn’t know anything about that everything that had been changed.

I have glimpses. I remember a time when you felt a slight twinge when the airplane landed and could give your loved ones a hug right before they boarded the airplane. These kids will have grown up in America under siege. As long as they can remember, you’re supposed to submit. You’re supposed to take off your shoes. Your luggage occasionally has a paper in it saying that TSA conducted a search. You’re supposed to smile and thank them for protecting our country. For us, security is a hassle. For them, it’s natural to leave the hair gel at home, or put it in a plastic baggie.

They’re growing up in a world where the phrase “The American Way” is foreign. Truth is trashed for expedience. The institutions of justice are tossed aside for the prerogative of the executive. They may read in the history books about a different America, not hated by the international community, full of dreams and full of the entrepreneurial, the frontier spirit. Alas, they hear, that time is over. We are a different America who faces a different threat, unlike any other.

Not I, you say. But maybe you’re like me, under another level of the cloud cover. Worried about the internal threat, I run the trouble of ignoring the fact that I’ve allowed them to frame the debate. The fear still envelopes me. We need to beyond the fear and quantify the threat in a realistic manner.

I also chastise the scoffers who think there’s no threat at all. I won’t take the time to address them, but I will say that the threat of terror is very real and will continue to remain real no matter what happens in Iraq. The question becomes: How do we address terror without fighting a war on terror? How do we fight without fear? How do we keep ourselves safe without security consuming our lives? How do we undo so many mistakes? How do we reframe the debate?

One answer is that we cling tenaciously to our traditions.2 I mean various things by tradition. Most especially, I’m referring to our institutions of justice and government. If we give those up, then all is for naught. We must also preserve our moral traditions. This has nothing to do with gay marriage. This has everything to do with our belief that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Of course, this isn’t enough. It’s not enough just to believe that we need traditions. In order to reaffirm tradition, we need to defeat the bunker mentality, the Manichaean mentality. We need to end the war on terror. We need to work with the international community to make terrorism unacceptable and a crime against humanity. We need to work with the international community to create an acceptable mechanism for punishing states that sponsor terror.

Americans need to be prepared for the next attack. We need to not become panicked animals who need to be herded by the government when that next attack hits. The Department of Homeland Security is just a bastion of pork-barrel spending. The real effect of terrorism is psychological. They can do nothing if we dust ourselves off. They can do nothing if every attack is met with swift emergency response. The casualties are reduced and quickly we return to our everyday lives. They can’t break us if we don’t submit.

Yet even all that’s not enough. It’s not a question of what we need to do, but implementation. Brzezinski asks, “Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, ‘Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia’? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.” This is why I’m so worried about 2008. I see no one.

This is the problem I struggle with now: How to save America from the decline. I see many things that need to be done, but no will to do them. I can’t do this alone. You can’t do this alone. Unfortunately, I don’t know what can be done as long as our current crop of candidates remains mediocre and politically un-courageous. I thought letting this all out would provide with the clarity to provide solutions, but I see nothing at this point. At least, nothing that will solve everything all at once.

For now, let me be courageous. Let yourselves be courageous. And maybe I can get some other young people to be courageous. Spread the word that the “war on terror” is counterproductive. Tout America’s traditions as the best way to protect the “homeland.” Wherever you see false security, speak up.3 Don’t let anyone get away with anything anymore. Don’t let security be determined by politics. America deserves real solutions, not this madness. Tell all the politicians, when it comes to keeping America safe: No more bullshit.

If they tar you as unpatriotic, shout even louder. They want nothing but theater. We want real security. We want the security of civil liberties. We want the security of emergency response. We want the security of international institutions and international law. We want the security of justice, not some vague forever-war. Most of all, we want the security of not being afraid.

I think that if this happens, if America awakens and demands a return to her traditions, the so-called leaders may finally do something.

This is Phase 1: The Awakening.

1Brzezinski used this phrase when he was being interviewed on the Daily Show.

2I was surprised at Brzezinski’s line at the end of his article, mentioning that we should be true to our traditions. It spoke to me very much. I find it strange that now it is the conservatives who want to throw away tradition.

3This is the difficulty with the bureaucracy. The people no longer control how the nation keeps itself safe. Bureaucrats do. These people think they’re experts, but they’re just fucking things up.

3rd Place in Poker

There was a tournament today at school, and I got 3rd place. I guess there were around 50 people playing at the beginning, but I could be way off because I am horrible at estimating numbers of people (or distances). I didn’t play particularly well, so I’m surprised I got that far. I started at the final table as the short stack, so I guess it’s good, but I did have the chip lead at one point and I just bluffed it all away. I think I just didn’t pick good spots to bluff. I was probably showing too much weakness, and I didn’t particularly sniff weakness in my opponent. The hand where I went out, I think I just decided to go all in without really thinking. In retrospect, I didn’t even know what I thought my opponent had. That’s not a good sign. One other thing is that I’m not that good at estimating how much chips are worth to people. I don’t have a particularly good example off the top of my head from this tournament, but last time I played poker, I put the short stack all in, but I was bluffing. The short stack was pretty much pot-committed, so I think it was bone-headed to put him all in. When I’m real quiet, I think I’m harder to read, but sometimes I like to talk, and then I think I might be giving away too much information, especially perhaps from the way I sit in my chair. I need to more consciously think of my body language, etc, or find a way to make myself more consistent. I think a good thing would be to take a good time to think regardless of how good my hand is, unless I’m going to fold right a way. I should also look at my cards the same way every time. I’m considering just staring down my opponent every time I make an all-in bet. I also might need to mix up my play some more; I feel like I’m really predictable. One last thing: When there are two or three people left in a game, I tend to get careless. It’s good not to be so tense and to relax, but I shouldn’t let that translate into carelessness.

In any case, I got $25 worth of free Chipotle.


From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Thompson has also been criticized for failing to back some comprehensive tort reform bills because of his background as a trial lawyer. Here he insists his stance was based on grounds of federalism. “I’m consistent. I address Federalist Society meetings,” he says, noting that more issues should be left to the states. For example, he cast the lonely “nay” in 99-1 votes against a national 0.8% blood alcohol level for drivers, a federal law banning guns in schools, and a measure limiting the tort liability of Good Samaritans. “Washington overreaches, and by doing so ends up not doing well the basics people really care about.” Think Katrina and Walter Reed.

I’m sold. Run, Fred Thompson, run.

Not an Islamofascist

Interesting reading on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Selected quotes:

“In contrast to most of al-Qa’eda’s senior leaders, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed liked to indulge in the sins of the Western civilisation that his movement is devoted to wiping out.”

“Peter Bergen, the author and leading expert on al-Qa’eda, said: ‘I think he really was in it for the fun. To use a horrible metaphor in this context, he was having a blast.'”

For some reason, this reminded me of The Dread Pirate Bin Laden. I momentarily thought of KSM as some sort of swashbuckler.

Captain’s Quarters adds this:

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not the only jihadi who indulged the sins of the flesh while on assignment as a terrorist. The 9/11 attackers also enjoyed so-called Western decadence during their short stay in the United States. As the 9/11 Commission report noted in its excellent recounting of the plot, a half-dozen of them made test flights to Las Vegas in the three months preceding the attack — and while in Sin City, they indulged in alcohol, gambling, and strip clubs. KSM apparently lived the dissolute lifestyle as a rule, though, and not an exception.”

Anyway, if this is true, KSM is no Islamofascist, no jihadist — he’s just a plain criminal. But what to make of the 9/11 foot soldiers?

On a semi-related note, here’s my quote of the day for August 28, 2006: “There are criminals and killers — we know the scum who wear the mask of the Jihad and religion… They used to kill people as criminals and now they kill them under the cover of jihad.” — Abdul Qader Mohammed Jasim, the Iraqi minister of defense

I don’t think the actors in 9/11 were mere criminals, but I do think criminals are trying to legitimize themselves with the cover of jihad. I also think that it may be helpful to take control of the narrative and not call the terrorists jihadists, but to call them common criminals. Food for thought, especially for the Manichaeans out there.

A Flashback

There’s no especially good reason for putting this flashback up, but I found it interesting…

Entry from June 8, 2006, A Good Day in Iraq:

The big news today is the death of Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. It’s a good day.

Something that piqued my interest… When Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki announced the death of Zarqawi, the press broke out in applause. Just wondering what the reaction of the American press will be if bin Laden is captured.

Another interesting thing… The Washington Times, in Democrats call Zarqawi killing a stunt, reported this: “‘This is just to cover Bush’s [rear] so he doesn’t have to answer’ for Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military and his own sagging poll numbers, said Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat. ‘Iraq is still a mess — get out.'”

That’s my Congressman, the one who represents my district. I wish I could get the full text, but if he’s dismissing this as a stunt, that’s disgusting.

Perhaps the bigger news today is the appointment of an interior minister, defense minister, and national security advisor in Iraq. This just might be a turning point in Iraq’s struggle for stability.

On one hand, the digital age has given us collective ADD where no story lasts for any appreciable amount of time. On the other hand, I have this amazing ability to publicly archive my past thoughts and reference them in a simple manner.

Genocide Marketing

Who is the dimwit who came up with this name for a facebook group: “Invite Your Friends to Make Genocide History in 2007”? I can’t help but snigger every time I see it because I think that you’re being invited to be a part of a genocide. Not that genocide is funny, but it does not really make sense to have a group in favor of genocide. Now, I know that this group is not pro-genocide, but “making genocide history” sounds like you’re trying to break the world record for genocide.

Does anyone else think this group name is ridiculous, or am I just crazy? You can call me crazy, but only if you looked at the title above, “Genocide Marketing,” and immediately thought that it must refer to “Anti-Genocide Marketing.” If the title made you pause and think “what?” for even a millisecond, then you know what my reaction to that facebook group is like.

And now I realize that it’s to make genocide gone, but that seems rather dubious given human nature and their focus only on Darfur. Sometimes, a genocide is a civil war in which one side is winning really badly. But I’d like to see how anyone plans on ending genocide when they’re not intent on military intervention.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that words matter and marketing matters. Everyone who has successfully agitated for change has understood that.

Ann Coulter – After-blogging CPAC

We stood in the long line for maybe a minute, but we knew we weren’t going to get in. Fine with me, I didn’t want to see Coulter anyway. On one hand, I wish we could’ve got in. Then, I would’ve sat there, and I could’ve booed or walked out. On the other hand, I find it far more likely that I would’ve sat there, quietly seething.

Instead, I found out the next morning that Ann Coulter had pretty much called John Edwards a faggot. I think John Hawkins, at Right Wing News nails it, calling her selfish.

I never liked her before, but now I have no respect for Ann Coulter at all.

And don’t give me that “It was a joke” excuse. That is the lamest excuse ever. There’s something called “delivery.” Ann’s delivery wasn’t funny; it was just insulting.

I used to think that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but… bah, who knows, maybe this helped her with her book sales.

What depresses me the most is how people cheered. No, depresses and disgusts. AGHH!

By the way, here’s a sneak peek at Ann Coulter’s next CPAC speech: “I would say something about Obama, but apparently you can’t call a black person a nigger anymore without going to rehab.” [I wonder how many kids would cheer that.]

If she’s coming next year, I am so protesting.

Pawlenty – After-blogging CPAC

I smirked a little bit. I had taken a glance around the room and noticed that a few people were starting to nod off. Tim Pawlenty wasn’t giving a stump speech, he was giving a lecture. While his execution was off, I still think he had a few very interesting things to say.

He stressed the importance of suburban voters, specifically, suburban women voters. He said we shouldn’t refer to them as “soccer moms,” giving a very persuasive spiel about them being in the work force, etc. He expressed a worry that suburban voters, even though they liked Republican principles, they thought of the Republicans as the party of the rich. I think he’s onto something and the Republicans have really got to fix their image. We’re seen as the party of bigots and the uber-rich.

Pawlenty, at one point, asked the audience about the person most popular among women. After a pause, I managed to answer along with him: Oprah. He said that Obama was Oprah-ish, managing to exhude that same type of demeanor.

I don’t think Pawlenty managed to tap into any of that Oprah power, but I think he’s on to something. Republicans need to appeal to suburbia, and especially suburban women.

Impressions of Horowitz and Delay – After-blogging CPAC

I was surprised at the rousing ovation that Tom Delay received. I guess he is “the Hammer,” but didn’t he leave disgraced? Well, I didn’t stand up and clap. I didn’t do much listening to either Delay or Horowitz, who were speaking on some type of panel. However, I did do enough listening to Horowitz to feel very uneasy about it. No wait, let me backtrack.

First, when the lady was introducing them, she took so much pride in the fact that they were people that liberals loved to hate. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be hated. If someone can’t stand me because of certain political positions, fine, they can do that, but I’m not going to actively try and get someone to hate me. Somewhere in her introduction, she said that Horowitz was a former Marxist.

Anyway, I leaned over to my friend and said, “This will probably get me shot, but I think Horowitz still sounds like a Marxist.” Ironically, while I was thinking those thoughts (before I mentioned them to my friends), Horowitz prefaced some statements by apologizing for sounding like a leftist (although I think it involved how he was using many numbers or something).

Strangely enough, the choice derogatory term for the Democrats from Horowitz is that they are a “religion.” They are religious in that they want to establish a heaven-on-earth. Fair game, I hate their idealism, but the way Horowitz describes the left just makes me feel creepy. I can’t say what it is, but although his targets have changed, his language sounds the same… as if he’s still denouncing the bourgeoisie. He spoke of the left as a monolith, and I didn’t like his approach.

Global Climate Disruption

First, global warming, now global climate change. Global warming sounds pleasant. Global climate change sounds like bullshit. Any change in the environment and hey, it’s proof of global climate change. We should call it “global climate disruption.” Now that sounds more scary and more apt. Scientists are never good at naming things. I mean, Big Bang. Come on. (I prefer Calvin’s suggestion of horrendous space kablooie.)