Archive for September, 2005

Rap on the WSJ Evening Wrap

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

But other turning points in Iraq’s recent history — including the handover of sovereignty last year, and the national election this year — have not done much to stanch the violence.

This unsubstantiated assertion is conventional wisdom and is not quantified or qualified. Metrics, people, metrics! I’d settle for a simple year-to-year or quarterly comparison in terms of all friendly casualties before and after these major milestones.

And the proposed constitution may contain the seeds of future sectarian tensions.

Two things here, well three:

  1. may contain? May contain the seeds of peace and harmony. No risk, no analysis in this non-prediction.
  2. Why not report it straight, a formerly privledged minority, the Sunniis, might choice violence over voting.
  3. Well, yes, but finish the point. The US constitution was our second effort after the Articles of Confederation proved unsustainable. And the second effort included the seeds of civil war. And war we had, followed by an infamous deal with the old elite that led to a century of injustice for one racial group. But we moved forward and stayed one nation because one region was able to enforce rules beneficial to the whole polity. Same as in Switzerland.

Some wise leadership at key points and the correct incentive structures — that’s all.

Pizza, glory, dreck.

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Some aging nerd is blathering on in unpleasant detail a mix of truth and half-baked misanthropic enviro-drivel about the hurricanes and other matters, with a silent wife and small child whose world is being contaminated and constrained over pizza. That so familiar snide, all-knowing, world-weary tone and discourse in monologue. I’ve never been to this pizzeria before. It is well out of my usual orbit, in north Scotsdale. I came here after regular work hours on a work errand. On the way, driving north, I noticed a man standing in the bed of his pickup truck. He was pointing a compact digital camera west across the traffic. At somewhere over 60 mph, it took my decaffeinating brain a few moments to process. Then I looked out my driver’s side window. This is why we live in a frying pan. The high desert sunsets. The sun was half below the horizon in the notch of two free-standing hills. Clouds floated north-south in streamers. The Sun’s rays reached out in broad fan blades of fiery orange on a blue and white background. Thanks be to God for beauty, good sustainance, and the lout’s departure before this pizza got cold!

NORTHCOM evolving?

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

As I indicated in an earlier post, Northern Command, NORTHCOM in military jargon, is going to play an increasingly public role in the natural disaster portion of securing the American homeland. This means a shift in the balance of responsibility from state (National Guard) to federal (active and reserve) leadership. Note where President Bush chose to go when he needed to show and have maximal control of the federal response to Hurricane Rita.

Given a second chance to prove the federal government can respond quickly to a natural disaster, President Bush put himself at the core of crisis control Saturday.

He witnessed military operations command from the nerve center in Colorado Springs just hours after Hurricane Rita made landfall Saturday morning.

Bush, seated at a briefing room conference table, was flanked by Adm. Timothy Keating, NorthCom commander, and Secretary Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security. […]
The briefing room had eight large monitors on two walls displaying maps, charts and weather reports. On the front wall, a giant screen showed video-conference feeds from the White House situation room, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and military commanders in Texas and Louisiana.

Commanders briefed Bush on weather and military operations and gave preliminary damage reports. Johanson also updated Bush onHurricane Katrina relief and other NorthCom operations Saturday.

“It’s really comforting to know that our federal government is well organized and well prepared to deal with Rita,” Bush said to the small group of journalists in a twominute statement.

Note FEMA was not mentioned in the briefing rotation and also note that Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff, not Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, was on site. While the NORTHCOM website is very clear about being a part of DoD and only supporting civil authorities, [speculation alert] it seems NORTHCOM may go the direction of the Coast Guard, with an eventual dual chain of command, in order to meet the expressed need for greater responsiveness and capability to respond effectively to all types of disasters [end speculation alert].

I’ve noted before, as have many others, the unique logistical capabilities of the military as a whole. What is also unique to the U.S. military is the ability to provide effective command and control under extreme conditions. That is displayed in a report from the Washington Post.

[Rear Adm. Joseph F.] Kilkenny said the military is using a grid system designed for fighting wars to carry out its domestic disaster response for the first time. Grids 15 by 15 nautical miles should make searches much more systematic than the chaotic searches after Katrina, Kilkenny said, because all the search parties — state and local, U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard and active-duty military — will work from the same grid.

In “Afghanistan and Iraq we used the grid system. In that instance they were called ‘kill boxes.’ In this instance they’re called ‘rescue boxes,’ ” Kilkenny said.

By air and sea, Kilkenny said the Coast Guard was handling rescue from the Texas-Louisiana border westward, while the U.S. Navy was operating east of the border.

In terms of ground operations, Kilkenny said, “This will be a pincer movement. We’ll have land forces and FEMA state and local coming from the north down into these areas. And we will survey and see if we need to come in from the sea to render assistance” by sending Marines ashore.

Now if experience with “kill boxes” translates into capability with “rescue boxes,” it may also follow that training and operations with “rescue boxes” will translate into sustained capability with “kill boxes.” The domestic mission need not conflict with “warfighting” readiness and may even compliment it.

Hitchens on Rushdie and vice versa

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

The Atlantic has a review by Christopher Hitchens of Salman Rushdie’s new novel Shalimar the Clown

Key graphs:

Take the room-temperature op-ed article that you have read lately, or may be reading now, or will scan in the future. Cast your eye down as far as the sentence that tells you there will be no terminus to Muslim discontent until there has been a solution to the problem of Palestine. Take any writing implement that comes to hand, strike out the word “Palestine,” and insert “Kashmir.” Then spend as much time as you can afford in elucidating the subject.
[ . . . ]
The bitterest and longest battle between Islamic jihad and its foes is a struggle not between jihad and the West, or jihad and the Jews, but between jihad and Hindu/secular India. It is a matter not of East versus West but of East versus East.
[ . . . ]
Generally pacific and staunchly nonsectarian for many generations, the Kashmiris found themselves under assault by a divide-and-rule policy that made the most of confessional differences. The Pakistanis stressed Islam for obvious reasons, while the Indian authorities sometimes exploited Muslim strains in order to isolate the secular nationalists.
[ . . . ]
Who suffers most when the forces of holiness and certainty decide to create a burned-over district? The ancient and modern answer is that women suffer most. . . one can feel the moment when vicious testosterone and plebeian resentment combine, and when the tendrils of fascism and sadism are both uncoiled and conjoined.
[ . . . ]
In these latitudes it may take a village to nurture the feelings of kinship and solidarity that transcend tribal or religious allegiances, but it takes only a few fanatics to destroy in a short while the comity that took generations to evolve. This awful lesson is not for Kashmir alone.

In the online edition, Katie Bacon interviewed Salman Rushdie about his novel and he had the following to say about Hitchens:

[interviewer question]: One more thing about Hitchens—I noticed that you dedicated your book of essays to him. Why did you choose to do that?

[Rushdie]: Well, just because he’d been an ally in a time of trouble. Step Across This Line is the book in which I put together more than I’ve put together anywhere else the material on the battle against the Khomeini fatwa, and Christopher was a great ally in that fight, as one can see that he would be because of his own concerns. But also—well, I just wanted to recognize his friendship in a time of need. In fact, I’ve always remembered that when I finally was able to get my meeting with Clinton, it was Christopher’s house that I left to go to the White House. And he and others had been very important in helping to bring that meeting about. So it was just a recognition of all that.

[interviewer question]: He’s taken a very well-publicized journey rightward since September 11, away from Clinton. Could you talk about where you’ve traveled ideologically?
[Rushdie}: Well, not there exactly. I think Christopher doesn’t do things by halves; he does them two-hundred percent or not at all. I don’t think my politics have gone there, but I do think that there was—how shall I put this—that there was a mistake made by a lot of liberal opponents to the Bush administration, which was to undervalue the Saddam Hussein problem in order to disagree with what the United States was doing. My view was then, and still is, that if the left is not about deposing tyrants, then what is it about? With Iraq, I’ve not been able to find it in my heart to feel that the removal of Saddam Hussein was a bad thing. It seems to be a good thing which was done in an absolutely execrable way.
[ . . .]
Finally on security and liberty Rushdie says:
What is the limit of tolerance? Would you allow someone to stand in a general election whose platform was that he would abolish democracy? That’s how the Nazis came to power. Hitler won the election and abolished elections. That’s what almost happened in Algeria—it’s what the FIS in Algeria was committed to do if it had been elected. That’s what Khomeini did.

So I think there is a limiting point on tolerance. You can’t tolerate those people who seek to destroy the society that’s doing the tolerating.

Seperate matter: The Atlantic also reports incidentally on a job placement web site for restaurant workers displaced by Hurricane Katrina. It was created by two members of a New Orleans restaurant, Brennan’s and followed by other culinary groups as well.

Evening shopping

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Went to Chandler Pavillion shopping after work to inquire at the Apple Store about purchasing a 4 Gig iPod Nano and to verify what size screwdriver opens the memory bay on my PowerBook. None, selling faster than they are made, and phillips #00.
Back out of the mall through Barnes and Noble . . . OK, so I eventually actually got out with only one book and three CDs.

And didn’t make it out of the parking lot when I saw the sign for My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. Good tzatiki and lamb souflaki and decent decòr with Greek language Europop music at an unobnoxious volume.