Even a blogger needs to eat. This blog is primarily Charles' hobby. But if he is intent on continuing to woo the Hooter's waitresses
in Chatanooga he needs something that pays.... wings don't come free you know. Here's a link to his
day job where he works the education beat
and, assuming he can't annoy enough people that way, is sometimes allowed to write opinion pieces.
Need perspective? Watson offers readers all they could possibly eat. For a unique view on current events, namely how they look from
orbit, here's Chuck's Real-Time(ish) Satellite Imagery of Areas of Interest.
Whenever it strikes his fancy, and there's good telemetry, Chuck will
process and post near real-time images of locations in the news. Eminently engrossing.
Wanna get into the head of a Japanese salaryman? Why, for Chis'sakes?! Well, assumin' you do, feel welcome to check out
the on-line journal of
Campbell's English class. Everyday, a group of disaffected salarymen are required to spill out their inner-most thoughts about life, the universe
and everything in broken English. Amazingly prosaic.
Shoutin' across the Pacific
Chiizu taberu koufuku shiteiru saru ga kangei-saremasen.
Friday, February 28, 2003 Old and Jaded. I was talking to a bunch of kindergarten students today. (Don't worry it's part of my job.) I was sitting at a table that seemed tiny even to me, and they were sitting around me. One little boy peered over at my notes and said, "You write good."
Now, my penmanship isn't that great even when I'm trying, and in this case I was furiously trying to scribble down some of the things that were being said. Quite frankly, I don't think anyone else would be able to read my chicken scratches.
So my first thought was that the boy was being sarcastic. Then I saw that he actually seemed to be impressed, and I remembered that few five-year-olds have a well-developed sense of sarcasm. I thanked him for the compliment, but maybe I should have told him to practice his penmanship or else he, too, might end up as a journalist.
Wednesday, February 26, 2003 Target Audience? Jacob Sullum asks just who the government thinks it's fooling with those drugs = terrorism ads. And BTW, am I the only one who thinks Mona Charen looks a lot like 1970s porno star Sharon Mitchell?
Tuesday, February 25, 2003 The sad state of our "covert ops" community If Dan Rather can get an interview with Saddam Hussein, then you would think that we could get rid of him if we wanted to. (assuming, of course, that was the real Saddam - which it may well not be). Supposedly, Saddam is the problem, and in the words of the SECDEF our problems could be solved "with a bullet".
Which says one of two things:
1) Our covert ops folks have deteriorated so much they are incapable of taking him out;
2) We don't want to take him out.
Either way, it's a scary thought. I would like to hear the argument that in this case an assassination followed by the inevitable internal regime change and house cleaning would somehow be worse from either a moral, humanitarian, political, overall risk of unintended consequences, or practical operational standpoint than the presently planned massive military intervention.
Again, I want to get rid of Saddam. But I think massive military intervention is a can of worms that could be avoided, if the true objective is regime change.
Update Ari clears things up. Questions were asked today in the daily briefing, and Ari Fleischer said that the EO prohibiting assassination of foreign leaders is still in effect. As I noted in the comments, that is a foolish policy, especially in this context. As for the two things, I'd say 10% #1, 90%#2.
Sunday, February 23, 2003 Block That Bomb. Those "human shields" in Iraq are shocked, shocked that the Iraqi government wants to station them near military targets, not in hospitals, schools and orphanages.
Saturday, February 22, 2003 How will this end? In Fire. With Turkish forces ready to enter Northern Iraq "to prevent" massacres, some elements of the KDP are now talking about using the opportunity of the war to gain independence, Iran edging in to eastern Iraq, the stage is set. I hope this works out and none of the players decide this is too good a chance to pass up. Otherwise, US troops will be in between Turks, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, and the US Military Governor is going to face some tough choices.
Update Kosh : They are alone. They are a dying people; we should
let them pass.
Sinclair : Who, the Narn or the Centauri?
Kosh : Yes.
Friday, February 21, 2003 He's got a point. Although a bit harsh, Carl Worden writes that Law Enforcement (LE, aka police or cops) have become cowards. He's got a point: I've seen a steady decrease in the amount of personal risk that LE is willing to take, either to protect civilians or to do their job. It is starting to have a corrosive effect on the respect that people have to have for them if the system is to work.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003 Take This Life And Shove It. Johnny Paycheck has passed away.
Paycheck is probably best rememberd for a string of 1970s country hits (most produced by Billy Sherrill), such as "Don't Take Her, She's All I Got," "I'm the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised," "Slide Off Your Satin Sheets" and, of course, "Take This Job and Shove It (which was written by David Allan Coe.)
But Paycheck often claimed, and I'd agree, that he did his best work in the 1960s for several independent labels in California. The songs he did in that period are raw, powerful and, often, downright weird. His best-known tune from that era is probably "(Pardon Me) I've Got Someone to Kill," maybe the best country song ever about killing an unfaithful woman, and that covers a lot of ground. But my personal favorite is "He's In A Hurry (To Get Home To My Wife)." Some of those songs were rereleased a couple of years ago on "The Real Mr. Heartache." I highly recommend that album.
Paycheck also did two of the best drinking songs country music has ever heard (I know): "The Pint of No Return" and "I Drop More Than I Drink."
Long before rappers talked about keepin' it real, Paycheck was living the outlaw life he sang about.
He ran away from home at 15. Several scrapes with the law didn't keep him out of the Navy. Maybe it should have. He was court martialed after assaulting an officer. The pint-sized Paycheck reportedly left the man with a fractured skull. Paycheck escaped from military prison twice before finishing his sentence.
In the 1960s, Paycheck quickly found work as a backup singer and bass player for Porter Wagoner, Ray Price, Faron Young and George Jones. And he was just as quickly fired by all those men for his drinking and brawling. (BTW, when your carousing is too much for George Jones, you might want to slow down.)
Paycheck had more success as a songwriter, penning the classic "Apartment 9" for Tammy Wynette and "Touch My Heart" for Ray Price.
But his addictions to booze and drugs overcame him, and by the early 1970s, he was living on the streets in Los Angeles where Merle Haggard tracked him down and helped him sober up. Billy Sherrill took a chance on him, and it paid off.
Still, Paycheck couldn't stay out of trouble forever. In the early 1980s, he got into a barroom brawl and shot a man n the head. After he got out of prison for the final time, he seemed to have straightened his life up, or maybe it was just that he was in such poor health by then that he couldn't do much harm.
Paycheck suffered from emphysema in the last years of his life. After all that booze, speed and cocaine, the cigarettes seem to have been what killed him.
A Request. If you live in Georgia and either pay or receive child support and know anything about state Senate Bill 17 or the CostShares child support proposals and how they would affect you, please contact me. I'm looking for people to interview for a story that I'm doing on this topic, so I need people who don't mind being quoted in the paper. A link to my e-mail is on the lefthand side of the page, or just drop me a line in the comments link below.
Monday, February 17, 2003 Chaos Theory A couple of weeks ago I started to post some hopefully rational reasons why the Iraq war was a bad idea. Then family matters exploded (my mom and my father-in-law both ended up in the hospital with life-threatening problems). Anyway, here are a few thoughts on the subject for discussion. First, to be perfectly clear: I've been for getting rid of the Ba'ath party and the Saddam Hussein government since 1984. I was intensely disappointed with Bush 41 for not finishing the job when he had the chance in 1991. But now, in 2003, under the circumstances we find ourselves, is a full blown military invasion the best way to preserve US interests and get rid of Saddam? I'm not so sure. I don't oppose war with Iraq, I just don't think it's the best way to protect US interests. But now that is largely academic. The Rubicon has already been crossed. US credibility is on the line. It is now too late to call off the war, unless Saddam slips and falls on his spoon and a "new" Iraqi government takes over - a best case outcome, in my view. But there are some issues we sure better deal with now that the die has been cast (how's that for packing in cliches?).
The national boundaries in the Middle East, like Africa, were drawn by European interests for European reasons. (Not Eurobashing here, just stating the facts. I blame the surrender monkeys.) In many cases, they group together people who have long historical reasons to want to slaughter one another, or have independent national aspirations. Iraq is no different. The Kuridsh Problem will rear its head soon - and involve Turkey and Syria. One of the main reasons I think a full-fledged invasion and occupation is a bad idea is that the successor government (that we will be rightly be seen as being responsible for) is likely to have to resort to some pretty oppressive methods to maintain control. (Unless, of course, we plan on redrawing most of the boundaries of the Middle East while we are there - which isn't a bad idea.) That entanglement was one of the arguments for not "going all the way" in 1991. As these various groups struggle for control, it is likely the disruption will spill over into an already unstable region.
One of the arguments I hear for this war is that we will install a peaceful, democratic, free market government in Iraq, and that our decisive action will cause democracy to spread like wildfire throughout the Middle East. I sure wish that were true, but I think these folks are dreaming. This new regime is going to face some awfully tough going. All of its neighbors are going to be working to undermine it and ensure democracy doesn't take root. Its only friend will be Israel - and won't be able to show it for fear of undermining the new government. The internal forces that want to take control have no history of working together, and will also be working against stable government. One thing going for Iraq is that it had, at one time, a developing middle class. It will have oil revenue, and lots of US aid and firepower. But I fear the forces for chaos will end up stronger than the forces for unity. And we will get the blame for the suffering to follow. So since we are going to do this thing, we sure better be prepared to support the Iraqi people for however long it takes to create a civil society capable of democracy (even at the expense of the government we helped create).
Finally, a sensitive can of worms: is a free market, democratic government even possible in a state where the majority of the population are Muslim? I have my doubts. Remember that, at least at first, the majority of Iranians supported the Revolution there. Many if not most still do - although they are starting to argue over the details. Turkey is the only "secular" Islamic state I can think of, but if trends continue it is probably not going to stay that way for long. And while better than many in the region, I've never thought of Turkey as being a paragon of human rights. Islam, as it is practiced by most Muslims around the world, requires an Islamic state that follows Islamic Law, and freedom as we know it is virtually impossible in such a state. Until Islam becomes a religion that can be independent from the state, a "secular" Islamic democracy is going to be a tough beast to create.
One last note: as Charles posted regarding Lance Armstrong, there is a tendancy among the pro-war crowd to immediately pounce on anyone raising questions about this thing as being unpatriotic or pro-evil or worse. In a lot of cases (France, Germany, the US Democrat Party) that is almost certainly true. But the Iraq situation is very complex, and we better think this thing through. Which means raising legitimate questions and concerns, and rationally discussing potential outcomes.
Clarification When I say "get rid of Saddam since 1984", what I mean is that we should have been working on "regime change" since then. We had the chance to do so peacefully (mid-late 80's), but dropped the ball. We had the chance to do so by force in 1991, but dropped the ball again. So now we get our "third strike".
Sunday, February 16, 2003 Pro-War Idiotarians. For proof that kneejerk lunacy isn't limited to the anti-war crowd, check out this post at Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs. Johnson tells cyclist Lance Armstrong to "shut up" about the coming war in Iraq. But this is what Armstrong had to say:
As a man who knows and has supported Bush, having met him "around twenty times", Armstrong had this to say about his country's president. "Bush is a hard man, cleverer than people think, but he is sometimes pretty rough in his dialogue. Bush is no banker from New York, and no rancher from California, he is a cowboy from Texas."
Despite voting for Bush in the last election, Armstrong was definite about one thing. "I am no fan of war. Also I'm no fan of a dictator such as Saddam Hussein and equally not of terrorism. But it is wrong to go to the front without support from the UN and Europe."
Do you speak now as an American living in Europe? "Definitely. If it comes to war, you have to make it with a billion Muslims. It's not sensible for the United States to stand alone in a conflict with such an important part of the world's population. Then every American citizen will also fear for their lives."
There's no Bush bashing there. No anti-Americanism. No misguided embrace of Saddam Hussein. Armstrong is simply skeptical of the prospects for war. I personally feel that a war is either wise or it isn't, and UN approval or the lack of same will not change that. But even if you don't agree with the specifics of Armstrong's wariness, it's hard to see what in is his statements is so objectionable. Unless that is, any skepticism of war is now anti-American and must be shouted down rather than rebutted.
And Johnson is actually pretty kind to Armstrong, at least compared to the people who post in his comments section. Several readers said Armstrong lacked balls. Yeah, winning the Tour De France mulitple times requires absoluely no courage. The charge is made even more tasteless by the fact that the writers are clearly aware of Armstrong's battle with testicular cancer.
Saturday, February 15, 2003 Slow Learner. Following a firestorm of protest from his own party, Gov. Sonny Perdue seems to have backed off a proposal that would forced Georgians to pay higher property taxes. But he's still trying to ram through 400% increases in taxes on tobacco and alcohol. What's more, I've heard from several lawmakers that Perdue plans to make those increases permanent. Originally, they were to last just four years (yeah, right) to cover the state's budget shortfall, but now he's going to try to sell permanent tax increases as a way to fund tax breaks for the elderly.
The Democrats are opposing these measures, so far. Who would have thought that Democrats would be opposing the tax increases proposed by a Republican governor?
Thursday, February 13, 2003 No, not from The Onion Ron - care to comment/explain this BBC article, Japan threatens preemptive action against North Korea?
What's the world coming to?
UPDATE - Chuck, I can only offer the insight of a distinctly non-representative sample of Japanese citizens, 12 guys aged 23-37 with incomes between $30,000 - $50,000. But they seem remarkably unconcerned.
I think this is in part because they don't see the threat of North Korea as real. If a good portion of the population just to the south (a country that has suffered multiple border incursions, small attack forces delivered by submarines, numerous kidnappings and an actual shooting war within the last two generations that came close to wiping their country off the map) can't be bothered to see the threat how can rich, fat, 2nd largest national economy in the world (but shrinking) and happy Japan be made to?
Yea, 20 years ago North Korea came by and took a few nationals back to the PRK for an extended holiday and just 5 years ago they shot a missle over Japan's bow. But most Japanese see the PDRK as having as much influence on their daily lives as Sweden. When I asked my guys yesterday to explain what is Japan's policy towards North Korea their collective reaction was something along the lines, "You tell us; you're the American." And that was with no ire or irony.
The current generation just accepts that the US is there to not only provide a defense for Japan but also to have the final say on the government's foreign policy. After all, if you let another country accept the responsibility no one can hold you accountable later.
I don't know what these factions in the government are thinking. Japan has nowhere near the firepower or systems to project force (as demanded in their American-written constitution) and the US is showing no inclination to confront North Korea militarily. So, Japan, you and what army?
Several lawmakers got smited a few months back when they started voicing ideas that Japan should rethink whether it should abandon it pacifist laws and consider developing nuclear weapons. I don't think Japan's history would ever allow her people to go down that path.. at least not as long as the US is keeping a semi-permanent presence in Yokohama and and a full-blown division in Naha.
My guess is this is all for domestic consumption. It's easier to yell at someone when you can do so from behind your bodyguard. Japan has nothing to gain from a pre-emptive attack as it can neither pre-empt nor attack North Korea. But Kim is just looney enough to think this bluster means something. And when you have Japanese politicians speaking without thinking... and all the back-history this country has with the southeast Asia... you might just torque the poofy-haired nut job to the point that he'll fire off a couple more "test" missiles that'll drop into remote areas of the island or just off-shore. Just to let you the next one could have a payload.
I think of more importance, and more constructive in reminding North Korea that there is (*somewhere*) a limit to how much crap Japan will put up with was Koizumi's announcement that Japan would support America in its dealings with Iraq (add Japan to the 18 European nations... a little late to the party but you knew they'd make it).
Tuesday, February 11, 2003 Disaster Preparedness. Several newspapers today have article on what Joe Citizen should do to prepare for a terrororist attack. This USA Today article is pretty typical of the pieces.
I have most of the stuff it recommends. When I lived in California, I always kept two weeks worth of food and water on hand, but I must admit that I've gotten lax since I moved back to Georgia. I may or may not have enough food, and I certainly don't have any water stored.
But I'm confused about this suggestion:
If authorities tell you to stay in your home during a chemical or biological attack, seek shelter in an internal room or basement and turn off all ventilation, including heating and air-conditioning units. Use the plastic and tape to seal off doors and windows. This will help prevent lethal agents from seeping into your home.
Every article I've read says the same thing. But this just sounds like a sure recipe for slow suffocation.
I'm not anti-semiotic; I'm anti-grammarian Just a linguistic note to share with the... well, frankly none... of you who might care: Japanese (and by way of parentage, Chinese too) are like an over-flowing toy box for amateur semioticians. If you believe in the concept that words and images have contextual meanings beyond their explicit definitions and common usage (which you pretty much have to if you give any credence to the concept of literary criticism... but... I don't have near the credit hours in critical theory to get into that discussion) then a language made up of picture-words can provide years' worth of idle, non-productive, pointless speculation. Which is why there are damn few professional semioticians.
NOTE correction - If you can't see the asian characters try right-clicking on the screen, (assuming you're using IE) select "encoding", and then choose Unicode. Windows XP and 2000 have asian support built-in to the OS these days.
The Chinese / Japanese character å§¦ (which has multiple pronunciations) is formed by writing the character for woman å¥³ three times. Many people know this base character (å§¦) is the leading part of a number of rather unsavory adjectives in both languages. For example, in Japanese, combine 'women' with the character for 'bad' (æ‚ª) and you get wickedness (å§¦æ‚ª - kan'aku) or combine it with 'lewd' (æ·«) and you get adultery (kan'in). Women + total = trick (å§¦è¨ˆ - kan'kei); women + plan/policy = scheme (å§¦ç– - kan'saku); woman + person = villain (å§¦äºº - kan'jin)... you get the idea. (Oddly enough, one word for to tease, naburu, is formed by writing the sign for 'man' ç”· on either side of the sign for woman, å¬²ã‚‹. That one surprised me.)
English is just as guilty of course.. we've got 'bitch', the idea of 'husbanding' resources and, in culture, the concept of original sin flows from the temptational nature of women. (And yes, I'm aware of the derivation of 'husband'... I'm just making a point here.)
But trying to translate 'cheese-eating surrender monkey' into Japanese yielded a not altogether surprising but pretty telling example. The most common word I found for surrender (noun form) was koufuku é™�ä¼�. Like English, it also carries the meanings of capitulation and submission. But the characters to form it use é™� which is also used in the verb 'to fall' and another character which uses two radicals ã‚¤ & çŠ¬. The first one is not a word in itself, but it has the connotation of 'person.' The second one is a full word, 'dog.' So, literally, (I guess) é™�ä¼� means fallen man-dog. Keep this in mind the next time you're watching a Bataan documentary on the History Channel.
OK, boring arm-chair lingustics bit over. Move along. Get back to yer war-bloggin'.
UPDATE - Today Steven Den Beste goes into a lil' more detail (well, duh..) about the Japanese mindset towards POWs in WWII and how other cultures (namely European / US) can misunderstand each others' cultural cues.
- My students tell me that 'naburu' (to tease) can also be rendered with a kanji that depicts the sign for man surrounded by the sign for woman (thusly å«�ã‚‹). Exactly opposite from the way noted above. Even though it is an uncommon rendering, score one for equality.
- I'm a little confused as to what 'lingustics' are too. As soon as I know I'll get back to you... whatever it is I'm sure it's still not allowed under the Georgia constitution.
From the 'Why I Don't Leave Dept.' If you should tire of the on-going coverage of the disintegration of NATO and the formation of Cold War II: electrique boogaloo I suggest you take a quick scan of the Mainichi Daily's English page. It's almost a daily stop for the FARK linkers. Just two stories chosen pretty much at random...
UOZU, Toyama -- A man's headless body was found here Tuesday afternoon in a car at a parking lot, police said, amazingly adding that his death could have been a suicide... A rope lying outside the car may lead to revealing the details surrounding the death of the man, who appeared to have been in his 50s. Police said some sort of knife or sharp object had not been used to sever the man's head.
No suicide note has been found.
The obvious implication of course being that he 'rope burned' his head off. Sort of along the same lines as Jerry Lee Lewis losing another wife to a "self-inflicted shotgun blast to the back of the head" routine.
Postman sacked for protesting Vietnam war YOKOHAMA -- A veteran post office clerk has been dismissed on grounds of being convicted 27 years ago for clashing with police during an anti-Vietnam war demonstration, it was learned Tuesday. (Note - This in a country where first degree murder convictions, assuming you can avoid the death by hanging penalty, rarely get you over 8 to 12 years in jail... There is absolutely no, none, nada, nashi conformity in sentencing guidelines in this country. A rape can get you 12 years of hard labor (if'n you're an ex-pat American and the victim is Japanese) and the murder of a woman and her child can result in a 5 year suspended jail sentence... I'm not making these up. But this is a post for another time.)
As a result of the sudden dismissal, the 52-year-old man was stripped of his right to receive a pension although he had paid the premium ever since he joined the Fujisawa Post Office in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture (in April 1973). No severance pay was granted to Inada either.
Inada was a university student when he was arrested for clashing with police during an anti-war demonstration held in the prefectural city of Sagamihara in September 1972.
Twenty-seven years after Inada was convicted, however, the Fujisawa postmaster summoned him to the office in November 2000 and told him he was dismissed because they could not employ a person who had been handed a prison sentence under the National Public Service Law. (The sentence in question was a 4 month suspended one... he never served any jail time.)
Remember, in their heart of hearts, the Japanese are polite, reticent, fascinated in other cultures (as long as they don't have to worry about them spilling over into the homeland) and, yes, stark raving mad. The women are also pretty cute too.
My biggest complaint against the administration over the war on terror and the "Axis of Evil" is our hypocritical attitude towards the UN and various treaties. It is a very dangerous game to play to invoke international agreements when it is convenient (ie UN resolutions regarding Iraq) or complain that Iraq is violating the Geneva Conventions by using "human shields", then ignore these same UN resolutions (such as with respect to Israel) and (in my view) come very close to violating the Geneva Conventions with respect to Taliban fighters and their detention at Gitmo. (Al Qaida is a different matter, but still tricky.)
Many people around the world view the US as being supremely arrogant by insisting other governments obey their treaty committments, while we only do so when it is convenient. Regrettably, they are right.
I have no problem with taking out Iraq, if it is in the interests of the US to do so. I don't think we need to go to war to do it, but am willing to give the POTUS and SECDEF the benefit of the doubt over this. But to invoke violating UN resolutions as a reason is dangerous. It gives the UN a credibility in the political realm it doesn't deserve. And to invoke the Genva protocols, when we are arguably on very thin ice with respect to the detainees at Gitmo just adds to this perception.
Consider this: we are insisting that UN inspectors have the right to inspect the private homes of Iraqi scientists in order to assure compliance with UN resolutions, and backing that "request" with the threat of force. Now I'm sure most of you are saying "we'd never allow the Blue hats to do that here". You may be right - and that's precisely the point. Either way it's a scary situation. If we are to have credibility and moral authority in the world arena, we must be consistent and avoid these kinds of "do as I say, not as I do" situations. It should be beneath our stature as a great power to stoop to such antics.
Sheriff Without A Gun. Instapundit posts a letter from a reader about last night's hilarious episode of Saturday Night Live. And follows up with another letter about whther it's possible to be a pacifist superpower. The writer makes the comparison to a sherfiff trying to enforce the law without a gun. Instapundit writes
Well, it worked for Andy Griffith. But the world is not just a big version of Mayberry. Or even Munich
This is acommon misconception about the show. Yes, Sheriff Andy Taylor did not carry a sidearm in his daily routine. He didn't need one to lock up Otis Campbell. In fact, several episodes contrast Taylor's peaceful ways of bringing in local moonshiners and petty criminals with the trigger-happy means of the state police.
But whenever a dangerous criminal (uusally played by Allan Melvin) escaped from the state prison in Mt. Pilot and was reported to be headed for Mayberry, Andy went straight for one of the rifles in his office. It was established in several episodes that Andy is a crack shot. He even competes in skeet shooting in at least one eipisde that I recall. Not sure what any of this has to do with Iraq.
Back to War Bloggin' Parent situation is stablizing, and the breaking news re the Shuttle has calmed down. Will try to pick up on some thoughts on Iraq shortly.
Rather than clog up the blog with images, I've set up a page for images of Iraq. This page has some of the images already seen, plus some new ones of the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war near Basra. Coming soon are images from Northern Iraq, the dams, etc.
Saturday, February 08, 2003 Busy As A Bee. Sorry blogging has been light and that I haven't followed through yet on my promise to say something about the Liberty Fund conference on F.A. Hayek. But after writing nine articles this week, I really didn't have the energy for much blogging.
Among the stories I've written this week were a piece on the retirement of the Whitfield County school superintendent and a piece on a local fifth-grade class that had been pen pals of sorts with the crew of the Columbia. I'm told this story was picked up by one of the Chattanooga TV stations.
I also did this piece on ACLU President Nadine Strossen's speech at the local college. I did a preview story on her speech the day before, too. (It's a small town.) But I was a bit surprised when she began the speech by remarking on the insightful interview conducted with her by a member of the local media.
Friday, February 07, 2003 A Meteorological Turn? Today brings news that military photos show damage to the left wing of the Columbia about a minute before it started to break apart. Damage that some experts say does appear to be the type you'd expect if the root problem was missing heat tiles.
Now, comes word that NASA is looking into whether some electrical event in the upper atmosphere may have caused the accident.
Thursday, February 06, 2003 Can a scientist believe in the creationist view of human origins? This column by Maggie Gallagher discusses the fact that Texas Tech Biology professor Michael Dini is being sued (and facing a Justice Department investigation, this clearly being more important than catching murderers, terrorists, and other lesser threats to society) becasue he refuses to write letters of recommendation for anyone who fails to "truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer" to the question of the human evolution.
First of all, a letter of recommendation is a personal thing. Whatever standards he wants to set are nobody's business. That's just basic freedom.
But it does raise an interesting question, stated in my header. And the answer, in my view, is clear: NO. Sorry to shout, but there is ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER and NO CREDIBLE THEORETICAL BASIS for what is called "special creation", or the literal interpretation of Genesis, that calls for the observed universe to be created in 6 days. None. Nada. Zip. I think any mainstream scientist would welcome a well written, referenced, peer reviewed case for creation. To my knowledge it doesn't exist. I've read a lot of the creationist "work", and from a technical and scientific standpoint is just plain garbage. The fact is, if the creationist worldview is correct, our entire framework of physical science is not just incorrect, but so fundamentally flawed that I cannot imagine it. Most people do not appreciate just how interlocking the evidence for an old earth with long-standing biological evolution is. Not just biology, but physics, chemistry, thermodynamics, astronomy, geology, and the engineering and technology that these fields have spawned are just plain wrong. If evolution is wrong and the earth is ~6000 years old, your microwave shouldn't work. It's all the same physics. Unless God lies to us and set up a universe that is deceptive, something I have trouble believing given the beautiful symmetry in the Universe.
Ms. Gallagher is incorrect when she states that this doesn't matter. If a 4.0 average student in satellite remote sensing came to me and said "I believe all this radiation physics stuff, but I just don't believe the earth is round. My religion says it's flat, and that's that.". No way I'd write a letter, and I'd sure take a close look at their work. It would indicate a "fundamentally" flawed thought process.
One of Dr. Dini's students was quoted, in the column:
One of his students, Greg Lubbock, a 36-year-old pre-med student, agrees: "I believe in God and evolution. I believe that evolution was the tool that brought us about. To deny the theory of evolution is, to me, like denying the law of gravity."
I think that's about right. It is the position of the Catholic Church. As my high school biology teacher, Fr. Bertrand said, "which is more miraculous: God spit on some mud and made you, or billions of years ago He set in motion a universe whose physical laws resulted in you?" Over the last few thousands of years, our perception of God has naturally changed (dare I say "evolved"?) as we understand more of his universe. But I believe there is room for God and science. The bible (interpreted with guidance from Tradition) is a guidebook for salvation, not a science textbook. Intelligent people can argue over the existance of God and how He interacts with the universe. But there is no room left to argue with evolution - we may not know the details, but the big picture is clear.
Monday, February 03, 2003 Back in The Loop. I didn't find out about the Columbia accident until almost noon on Saturday. I was at a Liberty Fund seminar on F.A. Hayek's "The Constitution of Liberty," and I wasn't really paying attention to the news. I really can't add anything to what Chuck and Ron have already posted on this topic.
I'll try to post some of my thoughts on Hayek, the conference and on "The Constitution of Liberty" when I have more time and energy.
While I was gone, a few stories I had in the hopper made it into print. Here's a piece I did on local teachers' reactions to proposed cuts in state education spending. And a story on climbing enrollment at the local college. And a brief article on the Dalton-Gainesville leg of the upcoming Tour de Georgia.
I also did a piece on the district science teacher of the year. If you read the story, you'll see that her class had designed an experiment that was going to go up on the shuttle in May. That's obvioulsy not going to happen now. I had to do a follow up with this lady today. I'll link to that story when it's posted.
Finally, when you work in the print media, especially in a small town, you get used to seeing pieces on TV or on the radio that bear an uncanny resemblance to something you wrote days earlier. Stations from Atlanta and Chattanooga regularly re-report things we've done. I seem to get more than my share of this. I'd like to think it's because I write such interesting stuff. But it's more likely that it's simply because the stories I write so often involve cute kids that look good on TV.
My editor was at the dentist today, and while he was waiting, the radio was playing. In one of the news breaks, he heard a story that sounded familiar. Then he realized why it sounded familiar. It had appeared in yesterday's paper. According to him, the "reporter" simply read my story and never mentioned me or the paper. Needless to say, neither he nor I was very happy.
The Media Circuit Been doing more interviews and providing background again today. Exhausting, but necessary if people are to understand this thing.
One thing that came up that I have seen in the national media is the crew composition and its diversity. I shocked a reporter by pointing out this was probably the most monolithic, undiverse bunch of people imaginable.
These were people who achieved. They were well educated, self starters who loved their work and believed in it. They worked their butts off to reach the peak of their professions, and didn't whine about it. They didn't get bogged down in mindless fear of potential risks, but looked for opportunity. They didn't ask their lawyer if it was OK, or who was liable. They were explorers in the truest sense of the word.
They were Americans all, in spirit if not in fact. As my wife is telling her students today, the story here is not how they died, but how they lived. Unfortunately, it is a story the media ignores until it's too late.
Sunday, February 02, 2003 STS-107 (Columbia) As one of the flight directors said, it was a bad day. Not much else to say.
I spent most of yesterday doing interviews and providing background information and help for the local media. Rough day for everyone in the extended aerospace family, but especially for those who are "in the business".
The thing most reporters I talked to found fascinating was the tiles. I have a couple that Vickie and I use in classes and demonstrations (you can hold a blow-torch to one side while holding it). Everyone wants to know "why", but it will probably be a few weeks before that answer is clear, and like most aviation accidents it will probably not be a single cause. Everyone blames the SRB field joints for Challenger, but really that was just the last link in the chain.
The Moderate-Left Case for War (via The Volokh Conspiracy) From the The New Republic (!) comes this excellent explication of the necessity to engage Hussein and of the moral deception of the anti-war Left. The editors break down step-by-step every measure Bush was compelled to follow... each demanded by the liberal American power-base... that has brought us to this point. And then document how the bar is again being raised to resist any consequences being evoked by Saddam's non-compliance.
When President Bush first publicly contemplated going to war with Iraq, some members of his administration said he need not obtain approval from Congress before doing so. But liberals insisted, rightly, that a war would lack constitutional or popular legitimacy ... Later, some administration officials maintained that the United States could attack Iraq without giving Saddam Hussein one more chance to disarm peacefully through U.N. weapons inspections. But liberals argued, again rightly, that a final push for inspections was necessary to demonstrate that the United States desired war only as a last resort. And Bush complied again...
The day before the president's address, the world received what should have been the final word on that process in the form of a report by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. Blix's verdict is positively devastating. ... All these actions unquestionably fulfill the definition of a material breach agreed to under Resolution 1441.
So we now have reached the conditions under which, according to the standards once urged by most liberals, the United States must disarm Iraq by force. ... It is now clear that Bush's critics didn't mean what they said all along: The mask of nuanced criticism has been pulled off the moderate antiwar position, exposing it for the abject pacifism it truly is.
The article ends with a summation of the UN's less than stellar record of enforcing Security Council resolutions and this trenchant note:
Indeed, the supposition that any level of Iraqi defiance would spur the Security Council to authorize war is ahistorical. During the 1990s, our non-British allies compiled a record of consistent appeasement. ... the lack of commitment to Iraqi disarmament on the part of France, Germany, and Russia long predates the Bush administration. And yet many American liberals prefer to reside in an alternate universe where the United Nations stands poised to defang Saddam if only the United States would be just a bit more reasonable.
...The only logical end to this cycle is Saddam's successful acquisition of a nuclear weapon, at which point disarmament, forcible or otherwise, will no longer be an option. Indeed, this would be the actual result of the policy favored by antiwar liberals--whether they consciously desire it or not.
Saturday, February 01, 2003 In any enterprise there are risks. These are just a few thoughts. It's 6:00 am in the morning as I start typing; that'd be 4 in the afternoon Eastern time. I only woke up a few minutes ago to turn on the computer and see the flag at half-staff on Drudge's page. I know a lot less than you do -- I can't even focus on the keyboard yet.
Before I find out any details I just want to say a few things, as much to myself as to anyone who might stumble by here. I am sure that there will be no shortage of people who will use this event as a jumping off point for lecturing America about its arrogance, its flawed "can do" attitude, its childish belief that we can do much more than others. Get used to it.
As much as our military represents more firepower and might than almost any coalition of nations could assemble, so does our space program represent the ability to do what other countries can only afford to dream. As such, it is yet another sign of America's wealth and success and, as such, is envied and despised by those who think America has 'too much.'
But like our military, the space program is an extension of America's collective vision. And it is manifest evidence of why we have 'too much.' We do not rest on past achievements, nor do we shrink away because of past failures. We are a confident people who fully believe in our ability to get it right... eventually. In any great undertaking, the exploration and utilization of space or in the attempt to ensure a modicum of security to ourselves and our (sometimes unwilling) allies, mistakes will happen. We'll get over it.
Like any sane person I feel sick about this loss. I don't know these people -- I don't even know the people who worked with them. But they were my countrymen and countrymen of my nation's allies. They were doing a job that few others could and they were doing it because my country had the vision, skill and sense of obligation to try. How many countries have had the chance to put men and material into space solely due to the efforts of the US space program?
And there will be more losses. If it comes to armed conflict with Iraq many more men and women will die trying to ensure not only your safety but that of the democratic world. No sane man wants to start a shooting war and no sane man actively champions one... unless conditions are such that the absence of conflict result in an even worse situation. Like Chuck said, he may not agree with fighting Iraq but if Rumsfeld et al. are convinced there is no better option then he's inclined to go along.
America is child-like in its beliefs. Despite our technological advancement and our crushing military might, at its core I believe the US has a world vision that is so simplistic and naive that it blinds those determined to see the world in shades of smokey grey. We want a world where people can live and work together. That's it really. For that to happen people have to have some expectation of personal and financial security. I love that my country can ignore the nay-sayings of those who don't even aspire to greatness. I love that my country does want to do things that others feel is impossible, or desirable but impracticable. Unlike the nuanced and sardonic ranks of old Europe and (it would seem) their wannabe, Canada: We don't know that we can't travel in space; we don't know that we can't expect there to generally be a comity among nations and we don't know that we can't hope that the future will be safer, more secure and more fascinating than the present.
NASA and the US will grieve... we'll find what went wrong... we'll fix it. As Americans we're too stupid to stop dreaming of a better world. We're too stupid to know that we should stop dreaming about tomorrow. We're too stupid to surrender to a world-vision of mediocrity and insouciance. This ignorance is bliss.
Update: Glenn Reynolds quoted a line from the NASA press conference that he thought was the most telling: "We'll find it and we'll fix it."