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Nov 10, 2004

Among other things, Arrogance is a title of a book about media by Bernard Goldberg.

The media now is full of jeers about "stupid" people who voted for Bush. That is, of course, nothing new. But there is a bigger problem. Arrogance of the media by itself is annoying. Arrognce coupled with ignorance is maddening.

Here's an illustrative article that caught my eye. I initially thought it was simply a mistake in the headline, but I was wrong: American and Iraqi soldiers will need to adjust their strategy on the fly. The article is about the attack on Fallujah, and how the U.S. will fight in order to avoid massive civilian casualties.

Strategy is not about how you fight battles. Strategy is about where, when, and if you fight them.

How arrogand do you have to be to lecture Americans on how to vote in a time of war when you don't know the difference between strategy and tactics?

Strategy is about objectives. Tactics is about methods.

I'm sure someone will protest and say that colloquially, "strategy" and "tactics" are used interchangeably. But that IS the problem. They are used interchangeably out of IGNORANCE. The media's job is to correct misperceptions, not perpetuate them. Is that too much to ask? (That's a rhetorical question, by the way. Of course the media perpetuate misperceptions, and have for decades.)

So, I decided to do my little part to solve the problem. This blog will highlight notable episodes of media ignorance in the future.

P.S. To the troops fighting out there: Best of wishes. Best of luck. OK, no more mincing words: Kill those bastards!

Posted at 10:06 am by Sauron
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Oct 12, 2004
Well, it isn't quite the bottom

As I'm sure everyone has heard by now, this years Nobel Peace Prize has been given to Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai. FOR TREE PLANTING! And now, the winner is a scientific illiterate, as her belief that AIDS was created as a biological weapon demonstrates.

A few points:

1. In the comments on Shark Blog, Doug Sundseth pointed out that, while Maathai's Green Belt Movement planted 30 million trees since its creation in 1977, the timber industry planted 720 million trees in 1997 alone (and that's just in the U.S.). I'm all for tree planting, but it has nothing to do with peace.

2. Scientists don't usually win the Peace Prize. The past winners who were scientists are: Linus Pauling (1962), Norman Borlaug (1970) and Andrei Sakharov (1975). I don't know much about Borlaug, and Sakharov certainly deserved his prize (which he wasn't even allowed to collect). Pauling, however, was a "useful idiot" for the Soviets, and towards the end of his life promoted loony ideas about vitamin C being a cure for the common cold. But Maathai's belief is idiocy galaxies beyond Pauling's.

3. AIDS is a very bad biological weapon. It a)takes years to act, b)is difficult to transmit, and c)is preventable. Anyone designing a weapon would make sure to make it the exact reverse.

4. The title of the post? While this prize is pretty low (even worse than the 2002 award to Jimmy Carter), it isn't quite the worst in history. What is? Two words: Yasser Arafat.

Posted at 01:11 pm by Sauron
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Sep 24, 2004
Question answered

In June, when Tenet resigned, I asked a question: the new CIA director will be appointed by Bush, but will have to go through Senate confirmation. What will John Kerry do?

Well, we now have our answer. Bush appointed Representative Porter J. Goss (R-FL) to the post of the CIA director. The nomination was confirmed with 77 yeas and 17 nays. No, it doesn't add up. There were abstentions. Guess who was among them?

Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nominees, were absent and did not vote.

Color me unsurprised. No one in America knows where John Kerry stands on anything. He may think of that as a political strategy--his ambigous and changing stances on issues gives everyone something to like about him. However, it will backfire. It also gives everyone something to hate about him.
Among those voting against the nomination, all Democrats, were Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Jon Corzine and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut.

Hillary likes to pass herself off as a centrist. Bullshit! Her husband was a centrist. She isn't. The thought of her becoming President in '08 is scary.

I'm not going to deride the Democratic Party in general. There are principled people on the other side of the aisle. As the article shows, more Democrats voted for Goss than against. But as the nominations show, such people do not make the calls in the party.

Good luck with the CIA reform, Mr. Goss. For all our sakes.

Posted at 11:06 am by Sauron
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Sep 23, 2004
One year

Almost exactly a year ago, I've reviewed the (then) latest work of alternative history by Harry Turtledove. Well, Turtledove has finished the next volume of the saga: Settling Accounts: Return Engagement. The story begins where The Victorious Opposition left off: at the start of WWII in the alternate universe where the Confederacy won the Civil War.

This book (the first of three) covers the war from June 1941 to June 1942. In the first months, the Confederates catch the U.S. unprepared with its blitzkrieg, resulting in a strategic disaster: the Confederate army reaches Lake Erie, cutting the country in half. Confederate President Jake Featherston offeres a "peace" that is tantamount to surrender, which the U.S. Presdient Al Smith refuses. The war goes on.

The major difference between Turtledove's world and our own is that in his story, it is much harder to find a side to cheer for. The United States has placed the mormons in Utah and English-speaking Canadians under brutal occupation. The Confederacy has placed blacks in concentration camps and begun a policy of extermination. This is not quite the Eastern front of WWII (one Soviet dissident said that that war was fought for the right to sit in your own, rather than the enemy's, concentration camp, and to try to spread that camp over the entire world), but the U.S. is far from having the moral high ground of the sort that it had in the real WWII.

One question that I don't see an answer to right now is this: Eventually, Turtledove is likely to give the U.S. the victory. But the question is, how? The country has been cut in half in the MidWest. Occupied Canada has few routes of transportation, and Canadian terrorists bomb them. In our world, Germany lost WWII (as well as WWI) for one reason: it was fighting on two fronts, and so lost on both. In this war, the U.S. and Imperial Germany are allies (France, having lost WWI, became fascist). But Germany is fighting Britain, France, and Russia. So Germany coming to aid its U.S. ally is unlikely. I hope it will be less than a year before the next book comes out. I don't know if waiting I can wait that long.

Oh, and one more thing: to those who wish the Confederacy had won in the Civil War: read the books. If you think the scenario they describe is likely, tell me how that world is better than our own. If you think it's unlikely, tell me why.


Posted at 05:29 pm by Sauron
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Sep 22, 2004
I don't like the situation

But then, it's of my own making, so I have no one to whine about.

Anyway, I'm totally embarassed that so many of my posts amount to apologies about why I haven't been blogging, and promises to blog more...promises that don't get fullfilled.

The point is this: I am a student at UC Berkeley. I am not majoring in Ethnic studies. This means that I'm taking classes that I can't bullshit my way through. Ergo, I actually have to go to class, read the textbooks, and do the homework at a time when I'm fully awake.

I think that I have settled in from the start of the semester, and can now find some time to blog. The operative word there is think. Nothing is certain. But I hope. I will definitely have a post tomorrow, perhaps even later today.

Oh, and until then: the Emmys sucked.

Posted at 12:20 pm by Sauron
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Aug 30, 2004
I'm Back

For real, this time.

Daily blogging starts tomorrow.

Posted at 08:44 am by Sauron
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Jun 3, 2004
Well, well

This is the most important news story since Saddam Hussein's capture:

CIA Director Tenet Resigns

I am not a Tenet hater. Conservatives need to understand that no everyone appointed by Clinton had the same views as Clinton. Tenet is a political moderate--a lifelong Democrat, but definitely from the center wing of the party.

Nevertheless, there could be no doubt that someone more effective could be in what can be considered, in the age of terrorism, the second most important position in the government (after the president). Tenet was a political appointee. We need a professional national security specialist.

One interesting result will be this: since the new CIA director will be appointed by Bush, but will have to go through Senate confirmation, what will John Kerry do?

Posted at 08:50 am by Sauron
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Jun 2, 2004

    This is probably the best movie that came out since The Lord of the Rings. It's certainly the best in Science Fiction/Fantasy category (and that's where it belongs). It is certainly not in the LOTR category, but it is definitely worth seeing.
    The acting is very good, especially that of Eric Bana, who plays Hector. The scriptwriters deserve praise for not succumbing to the sin of inserting a line just so people would quote it. Even LOTR is guilty of that. "Let's hunt some orc."?! Come on.) The dialogue in Troy flows naturally.
    The costumes and effects are excellent, but these days that is the rule and not the exception. The choreography of battles is good, and the movie isn't shy of showing blood and gore.
    People who think the movie was designed to be an allegory on the Iraq war are idiots.
    If you're looking for faithfulness to the Iliad, forget it. Menalaius is killed by Hector when paris loses a duel over Helen to him, Agamemnon is killed by Briseis when he tries to rape her (If you know the mythology, you should know that Agamemnon was killed by his wife Clytemnestra when he returned home). The war takes two or three weeks, not 10 years. I like the movie, but if it is even considered for best adapted screenplay, I'll get really angry. At least there isn't much chance of it winning that Oscar, since it will compete with Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban.
    Since Troy is doing well at the box office, and since, by consensus, the best actor after Eric Bana was Sean Bean, who played Odysseus, we'll probably see a movie based on the Oddysey next year. I can't wait.

Posted at 12:15 pm by Sauron
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Jun 1, 2004
Hiatus over

Blogging will resume, and will be regular. Future hiatuses will be announced, but (hopefully) will be infrequent.

Movie review of Troy coming up tomorrow.

Posted at 09:52 am by Sauron
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Apr 26, 2004
Bullshit, part 2

Before, we had Islamic fundamentalists trying to rewrite our history. Now, we have a joint venture between Islamic and Christian fundamentalists to find Noah's ark.

Now, psychics are frauds just as much as creationists, astrologers, homeopaths, Holocaust deniers, and these, but I can't help myself here, making predictions about the results of this expedition. Here are my predictions. I believe they'll be more accurate than those of most "psychics".

1. The expedition will spend a lot of money.
2. They won't find anything.
3. They'll blame evil atheists or each other (the Christians and the Muslims) for their failure to find anything.
4. None of them will even for one second consider that the story of Noah's ark might be false.

Here's the gist of it (from the same article, the last paragraph):

Geologists say even though there is evidence of a flood in Mesopotamia in Sumerian times, it is not possible for a ship to make landfall at an altitude as high as Mount Ararat.

Exactly. Also, the flood was local, not global as the bible says, and finally, there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that Noah would be able to fit all species of animals into the ark (and don't give me 'kind' crap unless you have a clear, unambiguous definition of 'kind' to go with it.)

The fundamentalists have only two arguments for the flood, although these two can come in endless varieties.

Argument 1. "Look at all the cultures that have myths of a worldwide flood! It can't be a coincidence!"
Well, actually, it can. You see, first civilizations appeared where agriculture was easiest to develop, and yielded the largest crops. Such places are few and far between, and usually they are in the valleys of large rivers, like the Tigris, Euphrates, Ganges, Indus, Nile, and Yantzee. These places, while fertile, are prone to large annual floods. A large flood served as a good mythological explanation for a transition from a previous age where gods and mortals were in direct contact, and the current age, when they were not. If the story of Noah's ark was true, the flood myths of all cultures would be similar, since all these people would descend from Noah. But the real flood myths are very, very different from one another.

Argument 2: "The bible says there was a flood, so there was!"
This is what it usually comes down to, and the debate has nowhere to go from there.

There are a lot of better, more productive uses for the money that will be spent on that expedition. I feel sad for those who decided to finance it. If you expect a return on your investment, forget it.

Posted at 05:41 pm by Sauron
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