Monthly Archives: October 2004

How safe is Bush’s america?

I’ve detailed before why I think that Bush has made America less safe by unnecessarily thrusting it into war in Iraq without suitable international partners.

The argument basically looks like this:
1. We aren’t in control in Iraq, as evidenced by rising bodycounts.
2. Our troops are stretched thin. The fact that troop assignments are being extended means that we can’t sustain the levels we have now, much less build up to the levels we should have had in the first place.
3. Other countries know this. Iran knows it, North Korea knows it. We’ll be hard pressed to use military force against them. They may even be taking advantage of it — Iran and Syria are likely supplying munitions and may be sending in men.
4. This appearnt weakness could embolden our adversaries in the mid-east to disrupt the oil supply on a large scale. The resulting uncertainty would drive prices up even higher, putting the breaks on our already lethargic economy, and even hamstringing our oil-powered military.

Lots of people seem to ignore any of this, and so I’m sure they’ll end up ignoring the fact that the army is converting one of its elite training units into a combat unit, thus decreacing its capacity for renewal. This isn’t the act of a military with capacity to take on additiona threats. This is an act of desperation, akin to eating ones own limbs to keep from starving.

The Los Angeles Times provides a long report in Sunday’s paper on the deployment of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment … The regiment has long served as as the opposing force, or “OPFOR”, for units from other installations coming to train at the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Now, with the Army stretched to practically its breaking point over the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, the Army has turned to the Blackhorse regiment for help.
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The article misses the most important point: deploying the OPFOR is like eating your seed corn. This unit is responsible for training other units and raising their level of expertise and combat readiness. The 11th ACR is being replaced by a National Guard unit. That’s like replacing the Dodgers with a high school baseball team. Sure, they can both play baseball and wear the uniform ‚ÄĒ but one is a whole lot more proficient and experienced at its job. The OPFOR has a reputation as a tough enemy, and that’s a good thing because it forces units training at the NTC to become better themselves. By replacing this unit with National Guard troops, the Army has hurt its ability to produce good units for Iraq in the future. Suffice to say, National Guard and active units that go through Fort Irwin aren’t going to get the same tough experience they would have with the Blackhorse regiment as OPFOR — and that means they’ll be less ready for combat when they get to Iraq. This is a desperation measure, and I think the Army will come to regret it.

Tucker Carlson: Dick

Man, John Stewart wasn’t kidding when he called Tucker Carlson a dick.

I just watched a recording of Crossfire from last week where John Stewart was their guest. He did a hilarious job of taking the hosts, Bob Begalia and Tucker Carlson to task for debasing the already dismal level of political discourse in this country by surrending their responsibility as journalists to serve as extensions of politician’s spin machines.

Carlson tried to put Stewart on the defensive by citing the softball questions Stewart asked Kerry when Kerry was a guest on the Daily Show. Stewart conceeded the point, but pointed out that the Daily Show was a comedy show whose lead in was a show about puppets making crank calls. Carlson kept trying to suggest that Stewart had shirked his responsibility, at which point Stewart pointed out that it was pretty bad if the co-host of a “debate” show on the preeiminent news channel was looking to a comedy show to ask the candidates hard questions.

For pretty much the rest of the show Carlson did his best to prove Stewart’s point that Crossfire was theater pretending to be journalism by resorting to various personal attacks, rather than actually addressing Stewart’s points.

Investment Analysts Covering Sinclair.

As has been noted, Sinclair Broadcasting, the largest owner of local TV stations in the US is ordering its affiliates to run an hour long “documentary” on John Kerry a few days before the elections. Given the people involved in making this “documentary” its pretty clear that its going to be an hour long attack ad with the same factual content and moral authority as the swift boat vets for truth ads.

Sinclair, is trying to get around the federal mandates around offering equal time by, on the one hand, claiming this hackjob is “news” and on the other hand inviting Kerry to legitimize this attempt at character assasination by inviting him to appear for some sort of panel discussion.

Various people are organizing boycots of Sinclair. I’d suggest that anyone going to the trouble of contacting Sinclair’s advertisers also make sure that the bank analysts covering the stock know about your position. I’d suggest sending them a summary of the advertizers you’ve contacted and why. Most are already aware that Sinclair has chosen politics over responsibility to its shareholders, but it will be good to reinforce what that action could cost.

I’ve included names and contact info on the investment analysts covering Sinclair as an extension of this post.
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so called “due diligence”

This post by Tim Oren is an interesting look into how a venture capitalist looks at politics.

Oren starts by laying out how he is firmly against Bush’s positions on a range of social issues like choice, same sex marriage and the drug war, not to mention important economic issues like energy policy.

Then he goes on to explain why he’s voting for Bush and the reason is pretty simple:

This nation is at war. Not with an abstract concept of terrorism, but with a particularly heinous brew of nihilist Islamic fascism. They want us, and our concept of freedom and civilization, dead, and they observe no bounds or morality in obtaining that end.

I won’t argue this point, because I generally agree with it.

However, there is a huge gulf between accepting that point and accepting that George Bush is the right man to win it.

In Oren’s reasoning, the right strategy is to utterly destroy our enemy and with them their ideology before their ideology infects a broader swath of Islam. This is a bold assertion, and one that I’d be inclined to question on another day, when I had more time, but for now, let us accept this argument.

Next Oren turns to convincing us why Bush is the right man for the job. I’ll be honest. It is at this point that he looses me because he conflates invading Iraq with prosecuting a war of force against Islamofascism. Addressing the current situation in Iraq he asks “Did anyone think an enemy who would kill us here for the crime of our culture, would surrender meekly when we came to his home?”

Iraq was many things, but it was anything but a haven of Islamofascism. Today it may or may not be different. Certainly al-Zarqawi, who has recently openly aligned himself with Al-Qaeda, has been trying to grab the spotlight in Iraq, but lets be clear here, he is there because Iraq is an opportunity to recruit disgruntled Iraqis and attack US troops. He isn’t there because of some previous close involvement between Saddam and islamofascists.

That islamofascits are now any sort of factor in Iraq is not a vote in Bush’s favor, it is a clear sign of failure. Indeed, even if you accept that invading Iraq was somehow the right thing to do to fight islamofascism, you must still establish Bush was the right man to do the job.

On this, the record is clear. Oren tries to downplay this by saying:

we fell short in planning for the political aftermath of Saddamís fall. But I note that those criticizing most loudly, saying they would do better, are the same who predicted the slaughter of our own troops on the road to Baghdad, and all but gloated when they seemed balked short of the goal.

I’m one of those loud critics, but I don’t fit Oren’s stereotype. I was in favor of the idea that Iraq might require military attention, though not because of some dubious link to the war on terror. I was critical of the jockying and posturing of most european leaders regarding doing anything about Iraq’s clear flaunting of UN sanctions. My reaction to the advance of American troops towards Bhagdad was not to predict their slaughter, but it did seem too easy. Something didn’t smell quite right to me and I worried that those Iraqi troops that were dissolving away from our overwhelming show of force would be back to haunt us.

What did I know? I was just some geek playing armchair quarterback. Well, its now clear that I knew more that Bush’s dream team. While they were gloating about their easy “victory,” they weren’t securing the country. They weren’t securing the munitions that are now being used against our troops, they weren’t securing the boarders that are now leaking foreign instigators like al-Zarqawi, they weren’t establishing the civil and military discipline to make sure that things like the atrocities at Abu Gharib didn’t give the islamofascists even more ideological munitions. Clearly things didnít go according to plan, but when your plan is based on moving quickly, you better be prepared to keep moving quickly. They werenít.

These are the same guys that Oren wants to give a second term.

Oren is a venture capitalist, so letís do the due diligence on this. First is the question of whether invading Iraq to fight a war against islamofascism was a good one. My own sense is that it isn’t . Bush didn’t learn the market, they didn’t learn the real world pains and deliver an optimal solution. Instead they took an old plan to invade Iraq and tried to sell it, using various rationales as a key part of the war on terror (aka the war on Islamofascism).

By my reckoning, this failure to address real world problems should be a showstopper, but I am open to the idea that I’m reading this wrong, that invading Iraq was somehow the best possible move to take to defeat islamofascism.

Of course, most any VC will tell you, a good or even great idea isn’t enough without the right team to execute on it. So, is Bush the right CEO, does he have the right team? I think you know my answer, but to put in VC terms. These guys failed to nail most of their major milestones, they are wayyyyy over budget, they are clearly slow to adapt to changing conditions on the ground, and now they are coming back asking us to reinvest.

The choice should be obvious. Bush has displayed his abilities and they are clearly wanting. We can either elect a bumbling incompetent whose main interest will be continuing to paper over his long list of mistakes while repaying his deep political debts to adherents of a homegrown brand of religious fundamentalism, or a man who has no stake in defending an unacceptable status quo, and who will only be judged on the job he does cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor.

Instead though, Oren, and so many like him, is voting for a man who will actively work to impose social values antiethical to his own based on reasoning that I donít understand, but which Hermann Goering seems to have an angle on:

“It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”

— Reischsmarschall Hermann Goering,
Nuremberg trials, 1946

The Bulge

I’ve not really been paying to much attention to this issue of whether Bush was wearing some sort of communications device durring the first debate.

By my reckoning, it is a sideshow. Sure, it would be a pretty dishonorable thing for Bush and his campaign to do, and sure it would make his absolutely horrible performance durring that debate only that much more damming, but somehow, I can’t get too worked up about it.

As Anthony notes:

Is it really hard for us to believe that political campaigns — particularly the Bush campaign — would stop to wiring the president for sound? It’s not even slightly hard for me to believe.

More to the point, its not that hard for me to believe that the President would be wired for sound at all times simply as part of his job. Some people have such a need to be connected that they carry two cell phones at all times, wouldn’t the President of the US need to go beyond that?

Or would he. I mean, he doesn’t go anywhere without a entourage of security and support people. Why would he need to carry so much as a cell phone? The only reason would be to feel and appear to be a sort of archetypal American everyman. Of course, I don’t know two many men, American or otherwise, who go around with big rectangular bulges in the middle of their backs.

Which I guess brings us full circle to the question I’ve been avoiding asking, which is “what the hell did Bush have on his back that night.”

Further impressions on google desktop search

I’ve been spending a bit of time with Google desktop search, despite the fact that it doesn’t index most of the content I care about (my non-MS e-mail and browsing history).

There is much to like about it, which makes it that much more disappointing that I can’t immediately make use of its full feature set.

  • The download is tiny, well under a 1 MB

  • Indexing seems relatively unobtrusive. It only runs when the machine is idle, but most importantly, it seems to use a minimum of both memory and disk access. The result is that the system doesn’t spend a bunch of time shuffling whatever application you are using back in from disk when you start using your computer again.

    This is my impression, at least. Dave Winer anecdotally seems to be having performance problems related to indexing. I wonder if he is using it on a laptop. My experience is that most laptops have excedingly bad hard disk performance

  • Lookup performance is excellent and memory footprint while idle is small. I get a screen of results back in a second. This seems faster than any of the desktop search products I’ve used lately which work from an index.

  • It actually indexed my D: drive, in addition to my C: drive. People have been complaining that it’ll only index the primary drive, but I’ve been getting results from files on D. Sadly, it didn’t suprise me by indexing my firefox mail or my mozilla cache. So far as I can tell, it didn’t even index the underlying files, ignorant of their proper context, even though they are right there on C.

There are definitely some weird bits. For example, any HTML page is classified as part of my web history, even if they html documentation files.

I can’t quite articulate my frustration with Google’s omission of Firefox and Thunderbird support. I think I probably overstated the case earlier when I said that Google was neglecting the sorts of people most likely to give a cool new product a boost. I think that Firefox and Thunderbird are great, but i’m sure there are a huge number of people who don’t use them who are still less than staid in their technology choices.

I think my frustration stems from two things. First, I’m simply disappointed that I am left out. But its not as simple as that, there is something subtle about google snubbing an up-and-coming underdog that reminds me that they’ve entered a new phase in their development.

That said, there are two things I’d love to see.

  1. Indexing of Thunderbird mail and Firefox browser history

  2. Indexing of my blog, secured by requiring an apporpriate entry in robots.txt so that I don’t get hit by bandwidth bills from other people indexing my blog (assuming such people exist).
In the long run, allowing 3rd party’s to create plugins would be great.