Friday, July 23, 2004

the hysterical skies update

Zack puts things in much needed perspective, and points out the analogy to the Alligator Alley incident, where again the accused were completely inncoent, but in this case ended up losing their medical residency in Florida due to death threats against them. And wait until you read about Ansar Mahmood.

I'd also like to note that the Reverend Donald Sensing, whose reaction to the Alligator Alley incident I found particularly odius and offensive, has been a voice of reason on the "hysterical skies" incident. Kudos to you sir, and my apologies for my earlier umbrage.

NRO solves the mystery of the unknown Syrians. But true to form they are more concerned with:

But evidently no one even engaged these guys in a conversation, and no one, not the flight crew, and not the air marshals, challenged their egregious violations of protocols about congregating near restrooms or standing up in unison as the plane started its descent. Nothing was done to alleviate the terror Jacobsen, and probably a lot of the other passengers, felt.

Their outrage over such "egregious violations of protocols" apparently does not include why airline stewardesses would confide in the presence of US air marshals on the flight with a passenger. Priorities noted. I've egregiously violated the supposed bathroom protocol myself many times, as noted above, and an air marshal has yet to body-check me, but I'll keep you all posted.

Reporters from KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles actually got comments from the air marshals aboard the flight, who reveal that the entire thing was an over-reaction by Mrs. Jacobsen and that their main concern was that she would panic the other passengers, and blow their cover. Excerpts:

Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger, �overreacted,� to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS.


�The lady was overreacting,� said the source. �A flight attendant was told to tell the passenger to calm down; that there were air marshals on the plane.�


Jacobsen and her husband had a number of conversations with the flight attendants and gestured towards the men several times, the source said.

�In concert with the flight crew, the decision was made to keep [the men] under surveillance since no terrorist or criminal acts were being perpetrated aboard the aircraft; they didn�t interfere with the flight crew,� Adams said.

The air marshals did, however, check the bathrooms after the middle-eastern men had spent time inside, Adams said.

FBI agents met the plane when it landed in Los Angeles and the men were questioned, and Los Angeles field office spokeswoman Cathy Viray said it�s significant the alarm on the flight came from a passenger.

�We have to take all calls seriously, but the passenger was worried, not the flight crew or the federal air marshals,� she said. �The complaint did not stem from the flight crew.�

Several people were questioned, she said, but no one was detained.

Jacobsen�s husband Kevin told KFI NEWS he approached a man he thought was an air marshal after the flight had landed.

�You made me nervous,� Kevin said the air marshal told him.

�I was freaking out,� Kevin replied.

�We don�t freak out in situations like this,� the air marshal responded.


The source said the air marshals on the flight were partially concerned Jacobsen�s actions could have been an effort by terrorists or attackers to create a disturbance on the plane to force the agents to identify themselves.

Air marshals� only tactical advantage on a flight is their anonymity, the source said, and Jacobsen could have put the entire flight in danger.

The bottom line is that Jacobsen put the plane in more danger than the musicians - by forcing the marshals' hand. If you're a passenger, stay vigilant, but keep calm and don't freak like Jacobsen did. Just stay calm, and observant. Clearly Jacobsen thinks she's a hero, but in reality she was the real problem aboard that flight.

minor blogroll changes

I've updated my blogroll with some minor tweaks, adding a family member new to blogging, and a major change: I've dropped my longstanding link to and replaced it with a link to No aspersion to the old site or my friend intended, but I simply can't dilute my active participation in multiple online communities and still expect to make meaningful contributions. Simplify, commands Thoreau, and I heed.

RedState is a wonderful creation and I have high expectations for it - perhaps higher than reasonable. But without the tyranny of unreasonable expectations, what of value was ever achieved in this world?

Finally, in response to a spate of recent emails asking for reciprocity, here's a reminder of my blogroll policy.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

GOP desperation: Dean's Incest Vote

Josh Marshall has been pointing out many signs of desperation by the GOP leaders. Nowhere is a better example, however, than the latest smear attempt on Howard Dean, accusing him of favoring incest. I'm starting to find this hysterical :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Reformation this

Some time ago, TheBit at "Muslims under Progress" wrote a stimulating essay on "secular fundamentalists" - which triggerred a response from the uber-secularists at Gene Expression. I highly respect the GNXP crew, especially Razib, but my sympathies are of course with TheBit on this topic. TheBit has now posted an excellent response which I consider a must-read (in full, so no excerpting).

A related problem is the political alliance that Muslims have made with the Progressive Left. For example, I consider Laura of Veiled4Allah to be a role model for the assimilation of muslims into American culture with retention of Islmaic values, but her support for the Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party neccessarily means that her allies become people like the odious Amy Richards. This association is difficult to justify to the more conservative muslim mainstream, and is perhaps precisely the neutering that the secularists want to see - a Christian-inspired "buffet" approach to Islam where specific elements are embraced and others rejected, heavily influenced by local cultural mores rather than universal principles. Diversity of interpretation is good but erosion of the essence of the basic teachings is not - and the navigation of those conflicting mandates is fraught with difficulties of both the spiritual and the worldy kinds.

We need to be able to formulate an independent voice from the Progressive Left and the Secular middle - and recognize that not all amongst the conservative Right are neccessarily opposed to our values. That triangulation is essentialy to preserving our religion's practice and our integrity in the larger Ummah as a whole.

suspicious things I've done on an airplane

In response to this, this, and this, which have triggered accusations of hoax, reasonable explanations and debunkings, I thought I should write about some of the things I have done on airplanes for some perspective.

For reference, I am about 5'8", dark black hair and untrimmed beard length about three to four inches. I weigh about 160lbs and have brown skin. I am of Indian descent but am frequently mistaken for Arab. I often wear religious headdress when traveling (a white cotton cap with gold trim).

Here's some of the things I have done on an airplane, and why:

- Speaking a foreign language in hushed tones with other similar males

My language is a variant of Gujarati, with many Arabic vocabulary words. I consider it rude to talk loudly on a plane, since people are sleeping, and prefer to talkin my language with my friends or family if we are discussing personal things because in my experience, people eavesdrop in close quarters.

- getting up frequently to visit the bathroom

Due to rapid dehydration, I drink a lot on planes, mostly water and ginger ale. Also I go to the bathroom to wash in preparation for prayer, which I do in the rear of the aircraft near the stewardess area (with their permission). I prefer praying on a plane to praying in the terminal because I usually get stared at intensely and it's discomfitting; the rear of the plane affords more privacy and with zero exceptions, the plane crew has always been understanding and helpful.

- taking pictures of the plane

I love taking photos from the window seat, I've got thousands of prints taken of geography and cities. I have taken photos of the actual plane interior as well, mainly family shots (like my daughter sleeping) or just for memory's sake (I took photos of my first trip on a 777 because the interior is like an office building, beautiful, roomy, softly lit, etc). I also have taken video of the Flight Information displays which show your current location and geography.

- made strange signals and gestures to other people in my group

Usually, shouting across the aisles is not conducive to communication. In groups, many times I use gestures to save myself the trouble of extricating myself from my wedged-in seat position and navigate about the cabin obstacle course of food carts, children, guys waiting to use the bathroom etc.

- not been friendly to other passengers

Especially when traveling alone, I sometimes don't feel like socializing. The more cramped the quarters, the more others are in my personal space, and coach class always makes me less inclined to share. I'd rather be in my shell than have to interact with other people, and do my own thing.

The bottom line is that I'm an American, but I'm also ethnically Indian, and religiously Bohra, and that means that there are lots of cultural things I do that won't make always sense to someone of whiter, Christian persuasion. Like travel to do a pilgrimage in a war zone. Just the logistics of praying on time make me behave in oft-bizarre ways.

The bottom line though is that the threat of a hijacking scares me too. I travel with my family, including my toddler, and it's her safety, not mine, that I fear for (especially now that a hijacking is a fatal event for the passengers rather than just an inconvenience). But there's a legitimate threshold for suspicion, and there are legitimate authorities and professionals to handle those assessments. If the threshold gets lowered, or assessed by amateurs, then the number of false positives will overwhelem the ability of those professionals to find (let alone cope with) the true threat. Chicken Little ain't just a movie, it's a parable which is very relevant and bears remembering.

Friday, July 16, 2004

canary in the coal mine

Why are we in Iraq? No, it's not the WMD, say supporters of the war, it's to build a democratic state to act as a beacon for American values in the world. I take this argument more seriously by far than the counter argument by the detractors of the war, whose only argument is oil and Haliburton.

But I've long suspected that high-rhetoric aside, the supposed democracy-promotion of the Administration has been a front for the good old "strongman" approach - yes, the same realpolitik of "he's our son-of-a-bitch" - and the selection of Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi certainly set off alarm bells on that score.

Well, the former Friend of Saddam has let show some of his true colors:

Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi killed six suspected insurgents just days before he was handed power, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The report cites two witnesses to the killing who say Allawi fatally shot the prisoners, who were handcuffed, blindfolded and lined up against a wall in a courtyard near the maximum-security facility at al-Amariyah security centre near Baghdad. They quoted Allawi as saying the men "deserved worse than death" because each had killed some 50 Iraqis.

The newspaper added the killings were seen by about a dozen Iraqi police and four Americans from Allawi's security team. Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib, another alleged witness, is said to have congratulated Allawi.

The Herald report in its Saturday editions said both Allawi's office and Naqib denied the report.

A longer article in the Sydney Morning Herald has a lot more background on Allawi, which puts things in more context:

The rationale offered by some is that if the Prime Minister spilt blood before their eyes, then the police would know they could kill with impunity. He would become a man to be feared and all too quickly the force would impose that fear on the community.

Then there are the Baghdad whispers, invisible but frightening weapons of mass intimidation, which Saddam himself used to powerful effect.

Spreading like wildfire, tales of his conduct and that of his murderous agencies set the rules by which people might survive. They were whispered from one person to the next, drawing lines within which most people might get on with their meagre lives - with a level of immediate personal security they can only dream of these days.

Once the Allawi whispers started a few weeks ago, there were signs that the image of the new strongman was already being cultivated. Allawi may have worked out that, to succeed, he too must go down the Saddam road, which, in any event, seems to be his natural inclination.

Saddam acted tough and he kept the lights on; Allawi has been talking tough, and now he is trying to act tough so that the same troubled Iraqi minds might fall in behind him.

A casual driver retained briefly by the Herald said he had picked up a version of the alleged police station killings in the swirl of fixers, translators and drivers in the lobby of the Palestine Hotel.

He was more impressed than he was shocked.

Elsewhere, a doctor claimed the killings were being discussed "all over town". He speculated: "Maybe Allawi wants to be seen like Saddam, because when Iraqis hear a rumour like this they presume it is based on fact."

The desire of the Iraqi people for a benevolent dictator is natural - they're a traumatized society and it will likely take two generations to recover from Saddam's tyranny. A whole generation of youth must grow up without the specter of Saddam's control, without the fear of summary judgement, disappearing and secret tribunals, dark places like Abu Ghraib held over their heads as a remonder of the futility of fighting the power of the State.

But if the due process of law is never established, or only paid lip service while the same dark underbelly of state power operates, silently and without accountability, then such an awakening of the true nature of freedom - and the societal empowerment and explosion of culture and economic success that it brings - will never occur.

Witness Egypt. So much progress, but still so achingly far. Was everything we sacrificed in Iraq, as Americans, worth it to simply replace Saddam with a Mubarak clone? The supposed champions of freedom should ask themselves hard questions on this. And reflect on just how divorced from reality the rhetoric has been, for a man such as Allawi - even if he didn't execute the accused insurgents - to be allowed to rule Iraq rather than govern it.

UPDATE: The journalist who broke the story, Paul McGeogh, is interviewed and defends the accuracy and credibility of his sources. Worth reading if you're skeptical that the event happenned, and also if you aren't.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Samsung Digimax V50

I've just ordered the Samsung Digimax V50 - a while back while I was evaluating various features of digital cameras, I set a pretty high bar, and this is the only camera to come close. I am actually a devoted buyer of Korean products - extending not just to consumer electronics but even our car (a Hyundai Elantra GT). I've bought numerous Samsung products (DVD player, VCR, television) and have always been impressed with their Sony-level quality - at a much lower price. Others agree - for example, indispensable computer hardware site Sharky Extreme routinely suggests Samsung monitors for their Value PC guides.

The basic features I wanted were: 1. rotating LCD screen, 2. high-quality video capability, and 3. small form factor. I was briefly tempted by the Sony DSC-T1 but the price was too high and it lacked the LCD screen. The Digimax V50 builds on the success of the previous Digimax models (favorably reviewed at Steve's Digicams and DPReview), and beats the Sony model on features and price. Plus it supports lens attachments, so if we go on a long vacation I might invest in a wide angle lens, too.

The video capability is true VGA, 640x480 at true television framerate (30 fps). The unit supports a number of storage formats (SD, MMC, Memory Stick). It's a 5 MP camera, which is probably more than I need, but this way I'm somewhat insulated from obsolescence. The LCD rotates as required, and is a huge 2inches in size. The camera supports up to nine different power sources, from lithium packs to standard AA batteries and everything in between, which gives some extra flexibility while traveling. The zoom is respectable as well, though I'm more interested in its macro closeup (impressive 4cm). There's even voice annotation which I think will make for some interesting online photo album options - I'll have to see if voice captions are supported in any photo-gallery software tools. And of course the camera has a host of manual controls from exposure to white balance that I'll probably only barely make use of at first, but will be a good excuse to learn back some of what I've forgotten from my photography courses in high school.

Once I get my hands on my unit, I'll post some impresions and reviews, since there doesn't seem to be much info on this model out on the web yet.

Friday, July 9, 2004

People of Earth, your attention please...

this report from AICN about H2G2 filming doesn't spell it out, but it looks like Arthur and Ford's pub scene is going to be filmed in rural England next week:

Filming is continuing this week and next in Hertfordshire, England.

I went to visit my parents yesterday, in the tiny village of Hare Street, near the town of Buntingford. They have received a short note, warning them of disruption for 14 days, while Hitch Hikers uses a nearby farm and the local village pub for filming.

Filming is currently taking place in a large farm, outside the village, and moves to the pub next week. The locals have been told that the pub interior will be used, and that the main road will be blocked, as one scene involves a character spilling out of the pub into the street.

That's likely going to be Arthur, running frantically out of the pub after hearing his house demolished in the distance, screaming insults like "you half-crazed Visigoths!".

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

human bio-diversity

I define Racism as using Race to justify an unjust social stratification of a second-class citizenry. I use Race as an ethnic label, not a geographic one - a distinction I make knowing full well that ethnicity and geographic ancestry are tightly correlated. Note that racists tend not to make this distinction.

The scientific field of genetics, though a boon to scientific inquiry, has muddied the social waters with respect to Racism, by providing some racists a framework with which they couch their arguments in pseudo-scientific rationales. Ultimately, defending against that kind of insidious misuse of science requires a certain stubborness in adherence to specific moral principles, because acknowledgement of scientific principles usually leads to a gray area. Tacitus for example waded into the quagmire in a joust with Steve Sailer[1], and (IMHO) came out reasonably victorious, but not without ceding some high ground on debate.

How to navigate this contentious intersection of social policy and scientific inquiry? I start by asking myself some basic questions, which I will refer to as the "Cognition Questions":

CQ1. Do genetics influence cognition?

My answer: probably yes.

CQ2. Does race influence cognition?

My answer: 1. probably no, on an individual basis, and 2. possibly but nearly impossible to verify one way or another on a racial-group basis.

CQ3. Does IQ provide a true measure of cognition?

My answer: almost definitively not, since the IQ test is heavily biased in terms of cultural assumptions. That latter statement is a statement of psychology more than genetics.

CQ4. Is the human brain the seat of cognition?

My answer: I don't know. Physiologically, probably yes, but spiritually, almost definitely not.

My answers to Cognition Questions 1-4 inform my acceptance of the basic premises of human biodiversity (h-bd):

1. Humans, like all animals, have been subject to natural selection pressures.

2. Geographical and reproductive isolation produces intraspecies variation both because of genetic drift and because isolated groups are in different selection environments.

3. There is a long list of physiological traits of genetic origin whose incidence differs by geographical ancestry.

4. The brain is not a special organ which is off-limits to the effects of selection pressure and drift.

GC at GNXP defines people who deny premise 3 as "h-bd deniers" and provides examples of their arguments (with his own rebuttals). I find premise 3 convincing, because of my answer to CQ1 and because I make a distinction between race and geographical ancestry in CQ2.

The real moral question hinges on premise 4, however. I think that it might be a red herring, however, depending on how you answer CQ3 and CQ4. Based on my answers, I think I can accept premise 4 because I don't think that it has any fundamental bearing on the issue of race and cognition.

As a scientist myself, I am loath to deny a line of research because of a fear of its abuse. As the Tacitus discussion illustrates, there are however legitimate moral concerns that I do share, but ultimately cannot allow to bias my view on whether it shoudl proceed. The HapMap project is an example of a legitimate endeavour that has been almost derailed by moral concerns, as was the Human Genome Project itself (also see GC's spirited comments here)

Genetics WILL ultimately reveal the truth about h-bd - but the deeper question of human cognition is, I think, beyond the reach of Science. The absolute conviction of people like Sailer to the contrary is, I think, revealing.

[1]I've never read anything by Sailer or at VDare and neither do I intend to. I'm perfectly content in steering clear and ignoring their existences. Sometimes however the GNXP crowd links to Sailer as an authority, which I probably will interpret as weak evidence henceforth due to my bias in Tacitus's favor. If some scientific point is justifiable on the merits, then it should not need the imprimatur of a compromised and questionable figure like Sailer to give it legitimacy. Surely other non-controversial authorities exist?

Saturday, July 3, 2004

InnaLillahi Wa inna Ilahi Raji'un

Cpl Wassef Hassoun has been beheaded by terrorists affiliated with Abu Musab Zarqawi, as a warning to any muslims who oppose the goals of Al Qaida. I blogged earlier about Wassoun and other muslim servicemen who are fighting a jihad of their own in service of American ideals - read more reflections at Shi'a Pundit.

And note for posterity that reports that he was a deserter headed for Lebanon are blatantly false.

"multi-pole" foreign policy: muscular Wilsonianism

Josh Marshall wrote a landmark essay on what the shape of foreign policy would likely be under a Kerry Administration. That article basically delineated the difference between the Republican and Democratic approaches to foreign policy as sponsor-state-driven and independent-actor/global-forces-driven, respectively. It's not a matter easily sumarized but is rich fodder for debate after you've read it.

In the course of researching the article, Marshall interviewed Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and has posted the first half of that transcript. Here is the important part of Senator Biden's remarks:

In 1994, when I was pleading with the president to use force in the Balkans, Warren Christopher was adamantly opposed. The bulk of the administration except for the president was adamantly opposed. We talked in terms of sovereignty, of nations not being able to be violated. I made a very controversial speech in �94 saying I believe countries forfeit their sovereignty when they engage in certain activities --- genocide being one of those activities, harboring terrorist organizations with the knowledge that they are doing damage to other nations.

I was roundly criticized by the foreign policy establishment in my party for that at the time and ironically by the Republicans. When I introduced legislation here to give the president authority to use force in Kosovo the people who blocked it were the conservative Republicans. And if you go back and look at their argument it was the sovereignty of Yugoslavia --- �we had no right to intervene�.

So I think one of the things that has happened is that in the debate within my party, my team has won. There is no longer nor should there remain the standard for use of force that pertained from the Vietnam War until the time that we lost the election in 2000. And there is an emerging change in the standard. Even Kofi Annan two years later came along and by inference acknowledged that an international body cannot allow genocide to take place within a nation. We were still arguing --- Democrats and Republicans --- or the bulk of them were still on the side of the equation different than the one I was promoting, for example.

I think John Kerry --- I know John Kerry personally --- and I think the Democratic party generically in a new administration would be a party that was, a government that was, something along the lines that I've been arguing for, which is to have an enlightened nationalism --- to realize that force is a legitimate tool in the toolbox and able to be exercised under a series of circumstances short of all out invasion [on the part] of the United States �

So that I think that what you see is emerging, is that the world has changed, is that a Kerry administration would reflect a willingness to use force unilaterally if one of several conditions pertained: One, international conventions were being violated; they affected American interests; and the international community would not step up to the ball.

Case in point --- took me a while, and I think he would tell you this if you asked him, to convince Clinton to use force in Kosovo. He kept saying, �The UN will not go�� . I said �Don't go to the UN� --- and I'm an internationalist --- I said �Don't go to the UN. You're going to get �no� for an answer. But they know, we know and the world knows that there's genocide taking place on the continent of Europe. You have an obligation to lead. And if you do, the French will follow.�

That was a gigantic departure from the orthodoxy not only of the left but the center of my party. That is now the center of my party.

I find this very much in line with my own views, and this makes for a nice counterpart to Gary Hart's interview with the American Prospect earlier. If I were to give this a name, I'd call it muscular Wilsonianism. Like Tacitus commentator praktike, my views on foreign policy have shifted, but unlike praktike I don't characterize that shift as "rightwards". In fact, from the emerging paradigms embraced by two parties both prior to 9-11 (for laying the groundwork, the Brent Scowcroft-ian realism vs the Warren Christopher-ian multilateralism), and post-9-11 (articulated by Hart and Biden above on one side and Perle and Rumsfeld on the other).

It was really President Carter who first linked human rights to foreign policy. But a more muscular approach is needed. The United States has great resources to effect the state of liberty (but not neccessarily democracy per se) across the globe. Some of these resources are purely an excercise in force application (a great example being the Summer Pulse excercise in the Pacific Ocean, where an unprecedented 7 carrier groups will mobilize simultaneously. This has not gone unnoticed by the Chinese). However, other resources are more subtle, and a "multi-pole" approach is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.

For that matter, the foreign policy of an Administration is often more than the sum of its Cabinet officials, also.

Friday, July 2, 2004

the aluminum tubes

Josh Marshall provides an important example of how the Bush Administration cherry-picked intelligence to fit a-priori ideological stances rather than making a true unbiased case for war:

Remember those aluminum tubes?

Those were the tubes imported by Iraq which were so precisely and finely manufactured that they could only have been intended for use in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. That was the story at least -- the tubes that launched a thousand ships in the tragicomic Dubyiad.

There were always doubters, of course. And some rather important ones, particularly the experts at the Department of Energy -- the folks in the US government who actually have real experience in enriching uranium and making nuclear weapons, a rather potent credential.

They didn't think the aluminum tubes were for nukes.

Yet that seemingly qualified verdict was overruled by contending voices at the CIA, particularly one analyst who took up the tubes case aggressively.

As David Albright wrote in March 2003, "For over a year and a half, an analyst at the CIA has been pushing the aluminum tube story, despite consistent disagreement by a wide range of experts in the United States and abroad. His opinion, however, obtained traction in the summer of 2002 with senior members of the Bush Administration, including the President."

On the issue of these aluminum tubes, I had found the Administration's initial claims suspect given they were based on non-credible witnesses, but ultimately was convinced by the media reports on the matter that there were some "experts" who agreed that the tubes were dual-use. Later I realized I was wrong. Other liberals actually based their support of the Iraq war on precisely this kind of false evidence. This ultimately will make principled, honest people like Thomas more hesitant to endorse hawkism when/if it is needed in the future, which is good, but may also have a biasing/chilling effect on their assessment of whether military options are needed, which is bad. It's just worth mentioning yet again the level to which the deceptions spread, and the amplified power of that deception when wielded by the Executive Branch.

Common ground

I've long been a proponent of the idea that 1. people are rational actors, and 2. that exposure to filtered data leads people to make rational, but filtered decisions. The challenge then is to try to identify and remove filters on your own inputs, and to recognize the filters others use and respect their rationality even as you disagree with their premise.

This is very hard to do. Most of the far left, starting from the Nader pole and passing through the remote Moore-land, and roll-off in the near-Kucinich region, are very guilty of the assumption that people who disagree with L-Truth are just dumb. "The sheeple!" they sneer, preferring perhaps the rule of elites to letting those ghastly proles take overwhat with their fascination of truck size and what not. This hyper-condescension is itself rational (Principle #1 applies to even the radical left) when you take into account that most of their political beliefs hinge on "survival" - of the world (ie environment, clean water, renewable energy), supremacy of civil rights (to not get lynched for your skin color and so on), a healthy skepticism of the benevolence of our corporate masters (usually with respect to the former two issues), etc. These people think their politics are critical to survival of the human race and the planet Earth and that's a noble thing.

The mainstream Right suffers from a similar problem, but in their case the group whose rationality they disbelieve is the straw-man construct "liberals." The "liberals" are the root cause of all society's ills, and the conservative vertically-integrated media (from government websites that spout campaign rhetoric to fox News conglomerate to the talk-radio wasteland which even some conservatives despair of) has a large role in maintaining the perpetual state of siege mentality that they labor under. Here the primary motivating desire is security of the nation and their interpretation of culture and religion which they feel are integral to its identity. Again, noble goals.

Still, in pursuit of these noble goals, these rational actors go astray, sacrificing their own ideals and principles - essentially pursuing the ends-justify-the-means route, even though the means ultimately influence the ends.

What is needed then is articulation of common goals, of common principles, around which a new coalition of opinion can form. And that coalition needs to be protected, since the present media is simply too enamored of its' current access with the status quo - so the best alternative is to create a new media. Blogs fill that role.

I want to try and start articulating what I perceive to be those common principles. It's not exactly a trivial task, since we must separate principle from opinion on how best to achieve same.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Digital Brownshirts

Mainstream conservative "family values" group sends Michael Moore's home address to its public email list.

Republican groups jammed phone lines in New Hampshire to stall get-out-the-vote efforts by Democrats.

And Bush uses campaign ads that intersperse images of Hitler with Democrats (watch the ad for yourself, titled "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-eyed")

The common thread here is that the Republican mainstream - not the fringe - refuses to debate ideas, preferring to smear its opponents, misrepresent their arguments, and circumvent the system to win at all costs.