Friday, April 28, 2006

It's that bad?

A poignant conclusion from one of my favorite analytical writers (for the insufferably curious, the others are Mark Steyn, David Warren, and Victor Davis Hanson - Charles Krauthammer is about one or two brilliant articles from making the list).

It's This Bad

The newspapers confirmed what I had long perceived before I left Britain: that the zeitgeist of the country is now one of sentimental moralizing combined with the utmost cynicism, where the government’s pretended concern for the public welfare coexists with the most elementary dereliction of duty. There is an absence of any kind of idealism that is a necessary precondition of probity, so that bad faith prevails almost everywhere. The government sees itself as an engineer of souls (to use the phrase so eloquently coined by Stalin with regard to writers who, of course, were expected to mold Homo Sovieticus by the power of their words). Government thus concerns itself with what people think, feel, and say—as well as with trying to change their freely chosen habits—rather than with performing its one inescapable duty: that of preserving the peace and ensuring that citizens may go about their lawful business in confidence and safety. It is more concerned that young men should not smoke cigarettes in prison or make silly jokes to policemen than that they should not attack and permanently maim their elders and betters.

One definition of decadence is the concentration on the gratifyingly imaginary to the disregard of the disconcertingly real. No one who knows Britain could doubt that it has very serious problems—economic, social, and cultural. Its public services—which already consume a vast proportion of the national wealth—are not only inefficient but completely beyond amelioration by the expenditure of yet more money. Its population is abysmally educated, to the extent that in a few more years Britain will not even have a well-educated elite. An often cynical and criminally minded population has been indoctrinated with shallow and gimcrack notions—for example, about social justice—that render it singularly unfit to compete in an increasingly competitive world. Not coincidentally, Britain has serious economic problems, even if the government has managed so far—in the eyes of the world, at least—to paper over the cracks. Unpleasant realities cannot be indefinitely disguised or conjured away, however.

Therefore I have removed myself: not that I imagine things are much better, only slightly different, in France. But one does not feel the defects of a foreign country in quite the same lacerating way as the defects of one’s native land; they are more an object of amused, detached interest than of personal despair.


And my-oh-my, what day is it? Gee - that couldn't be a transparently thin excuse for some Friday Frickin' Cat Blogging, could it? Who cares!

Thompson gazelles don't grow on trees, you know.

Or do they?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Who's Winning the French National Sport

Despite the removal of France's youth job law, the French continue to riot.



Students in France have kept up their protests against the government's youth employment reforms, but on a much smaller scale than last week.

The protests came despite the government's decision to scrap the youth jobs law, or CPE, which had unleashed a wave of anger.


And there we have it. Rioting is something they do "for fun", much like how the west like snowboarding, and taking a walk in the park.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Root causes

You see, the problem with America's approach to dealing with terrorism is that we arrogantly refuse to try to understand the reasons for terrorism. We, in our simplistic way, fail to try to understand the things that drive people to want to kill us. Instead, we impose our own false motivations on them to try to characterize these people in a way that is convenient for us - primarily people from one end of the ideological spectrum who utterly lack the nuance to understand and respond with appropriate policy.

Fortunately, in this age of new media, the voices of the misunderstood victims of this propaganda campaign whose beliefs are so misconstrued cannot be silenced. They are readily available to anyone who is simply willing to look at them. For example, there is this Frenchman who is willing — nay, eager — to explain to all who will listen what it is that drives him to his desparate crimes. This CNN video provides a nice summary, with some more details in the articles that follow.

Moussaoui resists effort to portray him as insane
Subhead: He tells prosecutors he'd kill Americans 'anytime, anywhere'

"I fight," he said. "And God will help me and free me."

[...]

Would he do it again tomorrow? Would he take flying lessons again tomorrow and pilot a hijacked plane into the White House, as he testified last month he was preparing to do.

"Today," Moussaoui said.

[...]

[Lead prosecutor Robert] Spencer pressed on. He reminded him of a previous witness, Army Lt. Col. John Thurman, who barely crawled out alive from the burning Pentagon wreckage on Sept. 11.

"I was regretful that he didn't die," Moussaoui said.

Spencer asked how he felt about Navy Lt. Cmdr. Vince Tolbert, who died inside the Pentagon. "Make my day," Moussaoui said.

So you are willing to kill Americans anywhere, even in prison? "Anytime, anywhere," Moussaoui said.

And it was your choice to accept al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's call to join the Sept. 11 plot?

"My pleasure," he answered.

[...]

Moussaoui said of [Oklahoma City bomber Timothy] McVeigh: "The greatest American."
Moussaoui jeers at tears for dead
IN A second self-destructive courtroom performance, Zacarias Moussaoui has scolded grieving relatives of victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001, for crying on the witness stand.

He told jurors: "I'm glad they are suffering pain. I just wish it would happen the 12th, the 13th, the 14th, the 15th, the 16th, the 17th," said Moussaoui, smiling repeatedly during his three-hour appearance at a sentencing hearing.

"I can go on and on. There's no remorse for justice."

"No regret, no remorse?" asked the prosecutor, Rob Spencer.

"No regret, no remorse," Moussaoui replied "… Every day, until we get you. As they say, 'No pain, no gain'."

[...]

He said the Koran mandated that Muslims rule the world and that he hated America because it had abandoned the gold standard and allowed the rise of Israel and was responsible for misery around the world. Muslims had to kill the Jews and force Christians to pay ransom or be conquered, he said.
Notebook: Moussaoui Own Worst Enemy
At last [defense attorney Gerald] Zerkin asks Moussaoui why he hates America and Americans. The defendant went into a long ramble about the history of the past 1,427 years and how the Jewish state is the "missing star in the American flag." Once he and his Islamic brothers take over this country, they will "exterminate" Jewish-Americans but Christians will be OK as long as they don't fight the Muslims.
Moussaoui takes stand, mocks victims’ families
Zacarias Moussaoui scoffed Thursday at the Sept. 11 families who broke down as they told their tragic stories in court, saying their grief was "disgusting."

[...]

"I find it disgusting that people come here to share their grief," Moussaoui said of Sept. 11 relatives who testified.

"I’m glad their families suffer pain. I wish they’d suffer more pain," he told the jury, which will likely begin deliberating his death sentence next week.
Moussaoui unrepentant during death penalty phase testimony
When the prosecutor asked if he wakes up every day trying to destroy the U-S, Moussaoui replied "to the best of my ability."
Moussaoui: 'No remorse' for 9/11
Subhead: Al Qaeda plotter tells jury of his hatred for Americans

"We have to be the superpower, we have to be above you, and you have to be subdued," Moussaoui said. "You organize the misery of the world."

[...]

"I thought about the consequences of saying I was part of 9/11. I decided to put my trust in my God," Moussaoui said.

"I understand from a non-Islamic view, it is contradictory," Moussaoui explained to Zerkin. "But we will never understand each other."


On the contrary, I believe he has made himself quite understood. It looks clear that he was not moved to kill Americans out of desparation born of "crushing poverty". He was not driven into frustrated, dire action by sublime empathy for put-upon Palestinians, or compassion for any other sort of victim. Although he did parrot standard issue Arab/muslim agitprop about U.S. support for Israel, he made it vividly clear that he's fueled by pure religious/ideological hatred and bigotry to unite with like-minded muslims in a quest for global domination. That's not quite the Marx-compatible tripe that leftists prefer to believe; fortunately, said tripe can't withstand any factual presentation of motive by the enemy themselves.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. - Sun Tzu

Take it to heart, the man knew what he was talking about. Don't assume that water cooler wisdom or bar stool testimonials will lead you to the truth of who the enemy is - make your own effort to discover what the enemy themself has to say. It's such a trivial effort to make in the information age. I believe you'll find that this enemy does not seek commiseration in desire for a path to amity; it needs obliteration because it shuns amity completely. It's a stain on the human fabric, and if we can't summon the will to remove it, it will seep and spread until the fabric is destroyed.



Sorry, you probably didn't drop by for heavy doom and gloom prophecy, huh? I hope I didn't harsh your weekend mellow. Hey! I bet I know what'll make up for it - some coltish kittens are just the thing! You need Friday Frickin' Cat Blogging!


Awwww! What cherubic little cheetahs!

The family that slays together stays together

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Recreational wiretapping 101

Yes, it's been a while again. So, where have I been this time? I have a good excuse! I've been doing my part to contribute to national security. Well, me and my tech specialist - the next door neighbor's kid, Carver.

You see, I was thinking about this whole flap over "domestic spying" wiretaps while watching "24", and BAM! Like a Reese's peanut butter cup commercial, two great things came together. I have to credit Jack Bauer with the inspiration that made me realize that while the government might get into all kinds of hot water for tapping phone calls, a private citizen might be able to do all kinds of tapping without any FISA warrants at all. My duty was clear.

It's been an arduous process. The first hitch was that I have no earthly idea how to go about tapping international calls. That's where Carver comes in. Carver assured me that he's "teh ubar h4x0r" (I think that's some kind of technical degree) with "MAD skillz" (certification?), and could probably get the project started with an Atari 2600, a rotary telephone, some duct tape and my broken microwave oven. That and a quick trip to Radio Shack later, our phase one gear was under construction. My job was to stay out of his way and keep him supplied with frozen burritos.

I wasn't going to be satisfied that my microwave was sacrificed for a good cause until I heard voices speaking something other than English, so we made this the stage one goal. Working after school and weekends, Carver hit that milestone in just two weeks. When voices thick with some sort of eastern bloc accent suddenly came blaring out of the array of piezo buzzers, a panicked-looking Carver assured me that it was most certainly not a Russian military command and control radio frequency that I was hearing. I'm not sure why he assured me of that since I never suggested that it was, but it looked to me as though he'd managed success at last.

It was time to move to phase two. It seems that we were able to more or less randomly break into international traffic, and to target something more specific we'd have to continue developing our equipment. Carver's new laundry list included everything we'd need to enhance the frequency separation response matrix. Or respond to the matrix separation frequency. Or something. Anyway, this time he needed a distributor cap, two salad spinners, an iPod Nano and an aluminum Christmas tree. With that and a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 (apparently, it's an excellent contact cleaner and electrostatic something-or-otherer), it was still going to be somewhat hit-or-miss, but he assured me we'd be able to consistently hit calls from within a 200 mile radius of any point on the globe when he was done.

My job was to identify a locale in the world to start tapping. Ideally, this would be the sort of place where ideological strife was bubbling to a point that would probably be producing terrorists. I'd be looking for a place characterized by widespread civic unrest with a concentrated Muslim citizenry. Free and democratic countries were clearly out of the running, we were after a place whose citizenry was subjected to leadership that no ballot box could touch. After just a couple hours with the CIA World Fact Book and Google News, I'd found the perfect hotbed of extremism! But that was just the start - with a target region selected, I now needed to be able to understand what the parties of the calls that we'd be monitoring said to each other. It was time for me to learn French.

Three more weeks passed while I studied, and finally Carver announced that it was time for the phase two equipment test! We huddled around what he insists on calling the "Carvomatic X", and I gave him the target location. He spun the rotary phone dial in several rapid sequences, bent a couple pieces of wire, and unfolded one of the salad spinners until we got audio. Glory! It was in French!

The array of piezo buzzers had been replaced by the front dashboard speaker from a '73 Catalina, so this time we were able to make out some acoustic details aside from the voices. I'm not exactly certain what it is or where it was from, since I'm having some trouble with the translation (I swear, French was designed for people without teeth), but it sounded like it might have been picked up on a microphone - speakerphone, maybe? There were several voices participating, most of whom seemed to be gathered together in the same room. I had the impression that the room was a 55 gallon steel drum, though Carver says that's not true. It only sounds that way because of the 2600, which we're upgrading to a Nintendo 64 next week.

I'm going to keep working on the translation until either I get it finished, or we do another call. This one just doesn't seem very terroristy, but we could luck out on the next one, so I'll just use this to improve my skills for now. BUT ANYWAY - I was so excited about our success that I just had to blog it! So here's a portion of the partial transcript (so far):

Male #1 ("Corbin"): I demand that my faucet dispense tapioca pudding! I have a right to tapioca pudding! Except when I get tired of tapioca, then I want chocolate.

Female #1 ("Amelie"): Yes! Mousse! We demand respect for our pudding faucet rights! Where is it's lawyer? We must have the contract.

Male #1 ("Corbin"): No, wait! I also want tiramisu.

Several overlapping voices: Yes! Yes!

Unidentified male #1: And hot and cold running custard!

Unidentified male #2: Soft-serve ice cream!

Unidentified youth #1: Tiramisu akbar! [4 or 5 other youths repeat]

Unidentified female #1: I have a right to eclair filling on tap!

Several overlapping voices: Yes! Yes!

Unidentified female #2: C'mon, try to be realistic. Non-dairy whipped cream maybe, but eclair filling?

Unidentified male #3: We must stop working, stop others from working, and then break and burn things until we get a fair and just dessert contract!

Female #2 ("Carine"): Yes. You should all get your just deserts, I'd like that. Just let me get a green card first.

You can see that the implications for American port security are unclear, but when the analysis is complete I'll pass along a copy as an anonymous tip to DHS. I'm so stoked! I can't wait to bust our first terrorist operation! Anyway, that'll probably not happen until after the phase three equipment refinements. For that, Carver says he needs a rectal thermometer, three cartons of Marlboro reds, a bag of peyote buttons and a one-year World of Warcraft subscription. I think he's working me, but the kid gets results.