Thursday, May 01, 2003

Oceania Has Always Been At War with Eastasia

One of the odder aspect of the whole Iraq mess is the France (and general Europe) bashing that the right wing is throwing around. Yeah, France, Germany, and Russia didn't give us everything we asked for in the UN. So? Ce la vie. The Administration has played this as the Big Three being Eeeeevil; this plays well in our lapdog media, but has been disastrous everywhere outside the US. Looks to me like the most howlingly incompetent piece of diplomacy I can recall. Basically, Georgie Bush ended up losing a worldwide popularity contest to Saddam Hussein, of all people. And nobody likes Saddam.

So we have "cheese eating surrender monkeys". "Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion", and all those other cute little phrases that might have been funny the first time we heard them.

What's going on here? Georgie Bush has shown that he's capable of stopping hate campaigns. One of the few good things he's done in the post 9/11 world is to emphasize, early on, that this war is against terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular, and not against Islam or Muslims. The France-bashing is getting out of control, with vandalism against people and businesses perceived as being "French".

One oddity -- there is a chain of "French" cafeterias called "La Madeleine" that would seem to be an obvious target, but I haven't heard of any nastiness at all toward them. Couldn't possibly be that their corporate offices are in Texas ....

One result of this is that we are weakening NATO quite seriously. (Whether this is good or bad is another question. NATO was designed as defense against the Soviet Union, after all.) We need to think about this. Let's say that NATO breaks up and the Europeans form their own alliance. Without NATO, there's no reason for the US to have military bases in Europe at all. I don't know the leasing arrangements that we have -- if we have lease arangements for our bases in Europe like we do for Guantanamo, then we could be there for a long time, but the host countries could make things pretty miserable for us. (Food. Water. Power. Local Labor.)

So we have a military alliance among the "continental" powers. France. Germany. Russia. Perhaps also Italy and Spain (their governments are in a lot of trouble for "supporting" us in Iraq. ("Supporting" is in quotes because they didn't supply troops, money, or UN resolutions.) Since they can't rely on US support or weapons, they will have to build up their own military. One thing that seems to get lost in the jingoistic American discussions of military capabilities is that the European arms industry is quite advanced, and capable of a lot of quick improvement if it became a priority.

Another thing to keep in mind is that everybody in the world was watching what happened in Iraq. We put a lot of our toys on display, and they showed some serious weaknesses:

  • It takes us at least six months to get enough force in position to move against even the weakest opponent.
  • The Apache helicopter is so vulnerable to ground fire that it is useless unless protected by other aircraft.
  • A10 "Warthogs" are vulnerable to shoulder-launched missiles
  • The M1A1 tank is a lot more vulnerable than advertised. I saw reports that several were knocked out by well-placed RPGs. If this is true, and not just misinfornmation from incompetent reporters, this represents a serious weakness.
  • US troops are lousy at police work (Duh!)

So we've showed off all our toys and put Europe on notice that we don't care squat about their interests. We're pushing France, Germany, and Russia toward a military alliance that would be independent of US supplies. Then there's this whole "global economy" thing. Europe's economy is considerably bigger than ours. Nukes? France and Russia have 'em too, and they have subs.

Oh, well. We become the World's Only Superpower, and what do we do? Try to convince our old allies that they should become another superpower. What's next? Give Japan nuclear weapons?

Time for lunch. I think I'll have a croissant.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Santorum. Yawn.

The bizarre AP interview with Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum seems to have a lot of people puzzled. Just Another Republican Bigot Eruption? Signs of insanity? Nope.

Catholic doctrine.

Santorum is nothing more or less than a good, conscientious, practicing Catholic. Santorum's remarks, bizarre as they may seem, are simply a statement of the doctrine referenced above, which describes the duties of a Catholic politician. Very poorly phrased. Why do we elect people who give such bad interviews? I'd think that Getting Interviewed would be a basic skill for a politician.

Catholics in the US have a very relaxed version of what the Church really wants from them. For example, American Catholics use birth control at about the same rate as people of other religions of the same social class, despite the fact that, officially, anybody using birth control is excommunicate. There was a big stink a while back when a Nebraska bishop yanked the chain on this:

It should be obvious that Catholics who practice birth control and those who cooperate with them in their immoral actions may not receive Holy Communion without committing sacrilege.

The way the Church handles sex is exactly what you'd expect from a bunch of celibate, geriatric men in a strictly hierarchical, male-only organization:


Don't have sex. If you must, do it only with someone that a priest has approved of, formally. Limit partners as drastically as possible -- if your approved partner is alive, it's him/her or nobody. Don't play with it, it's not a toy -- use it only for what God designed it for. RTFM. Abstinence is desirable in any case (and the only option if you don't want babies), and easy -- if you can't control your sexual urges, you must be pretty weak morally. If you do anything at all sexual, or even think about anything sexual, be sure to tell the priest all about it.

Backed up, of course, with the usual dose of "We have a pipeline to God. We're smarter than you, and we've been studying things like this for a very long time. Therefore, we're right. If you disagree with us, you're wrong, and probably Evil to boot."

Oh, well, it's just another Middle Eastern fertility cult. Actually, worship of Yog-Sothoth. Don't get me started.

More on the Laws (ha!) of Probability

Somebody looked up the domain The interesting number is:

Created On:17-Mar-2003 19:57:52 UTC
<music_cue type="spooky"/>The date is five days before she was captured.

If folks had played this right, we could have had something as good as NASA's "fake" moon landing.

Unfortunately, nasty old facts tend to get in the way of some of the most lovely theories. Look here. Note the name. The date isn't on the page -- it's 15 February 2003.

(via Winds of Change. The link goes to the story, with a comment from the guy who registered the domain.)

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Difference Between Republicans and Democrats

The Republicans are (or at least pretend to be) a monolithic bloc. Remember in the 2000 Presidential campaign, how McCain, war hero extraordinare and all around Good Guy, got savaged by the Bush camp (including their talk-radio pit bulls)? The independant McCain had no real chance aginst the docile sock-puppet Bush, but the degree of hysteria was impressive. The ultimate Republican sin is stepping out of line and "compromise" is a dirty word. They have tiny majorities in both houses of Congress, and are behaving like they have a landslide mandate.

In Europe, the Democrats would be a loose coalition of splinter parties. The Democrats are a coalition; to get anything done, you have to create a consensus among a whole bunch of competing interests. Compromise is a way of life. Unfortunately, the Democrats expect the Republicans to play by the same rules. They don't. Republicans don't compromise and they feel no necessity to keep their promises.

The Democrats really need to grow a spine. Since the Republicans took over (and I use the term advisedly) in 2001, they have had one media and legislative success affer another, coupled with disasterous results of their policies (how is your pension plan doing?) Throughout this, the Democrats have been trying their usual keep-everything-calm rhetoric while trying to make deals. The Republicans just fire up the hate machine, take the concessions, and ignore the promises.

The Dems need to do three things:

  1. Speak up. Get out the message of exactly what the Republicans are doing. Hit hard on the "look at what they do, not what they say" aspect. Yes, the Press is giving Georgie Bush a free ride. That just means you have to work harder.
  2. Get to work. Filibuster the loony right-wingers that the Republicans are nominating as judges, just like the Republicans did to Clinton's nominees. Work against the phony "economic stimulous packages", "deregualtion", and "rationalizations" that are basically corporate/rich guys giveaways. Work against the erosion of personal liberties that has become the hallmark of the Bush administration.
  3. Build bridges to the few remaining Republican moderates. It wouldn't take many defections to bring the whole Republican program to a screeching halt.

Hard work? Yes. The alternative is to just drop 'em, bend over and take what you get. Don't expect lube.

And don't forget who controls our fancy new computerized voting machines.

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