THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 428 september 21-27, 2006
Highlights this week:
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August 21, 2006
We are on the way home, so this page won't be updated until evening. I may have time for some mail. There is a new column and mailbag at Chaos Manor Reviews.
I am told that US prosecuting attorney Debra Kanof is now saying she was only obeying orders and doing her job when she prosecuted two Border Patrol agents for pursuing and shooting an illegal alien -- not immigrant -- in a widely celebrated case. They now face 20 years for shooting the illegal alien in the heinie (use of firearms adds mandatory time). But Ms. Kanof is now unhappy about the bad publicity she is getting.
Apparently the jury did not understand the magnitude of the supposed crime of which they convicted these agents; apparently they weren't told what the sentence could be. But the actual crimes sound like illegal procedure.
Meanwhile the illegal alien got full immunity for helping with the prosecution, even though some of his friends apparently tried to organize a retaliatory party to go hunt Border Patrol Agents.
Welcome to open borders and Free Trade.
Perhaps the agents can appeal to Caesar.
|This week:||Tuesday, August
Not my best night. This thing -- sinus, migraine, pinched nerve -- whatever the heck it is, got really bad, starting yesterday morning before we left and getting progressively worse during the day. It makes it very difficult to sleep, and it's not easy to work. Aspirin doesn't really help.
Dolphins smart? Ha!
That one I never thought about, but it sure fits the symptoms. Except that it's on the right side, not the left.
http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=082206E on populism. I doubt much will come of it. But perhaps.
August 23, 2006
Tomorrow I have to go to Anaheim for the World SF Convention. Posting here until next Monday will be sporadic, and the Monday column may or may not be delayed a day.
Tim Loeb has described some ameliorative procedures
In fact it never had a case, but the government was scalp hunting. They got Martha Stewart for denying (not under oath) that she had done something that would not have been a crime had she done it. Quattrone was smarter, and got off, but not before three years of hell; and even so the government covers its arse by making conditions for dropping the charge. The conditions? That he obey the law for a full year. Then they'll quietly dismiss the charges. This way they don't quite have to admit that they didn't have any business bringing the charges in the first place.
The first moral of the story comes from Martha Stewart's case: never, ever, cooperate with Federal authorities on anything. This is sad, because in a real republic one ought to encourage the citizens to assist in enforcement of the laws. That, however, presumes that the purpose of law enforcement agents is law enforcement, keeping the peace, and such like. The Iron Law of Bureaucracy has taken hold there as well as everywhere else; and the purpose of law enforcement agents now has little to do with law and justice, and a great deal to do with making the bureaus look good. Martha Stewart was no threat to the Republic or to public order, nor was her crime -- denying (not under oath) doing something that itself was no crime -- the kind of thing that threatens law and justice, nor did it merit prison time. We all know this. The purpose of the prosecution was to hang a large scalp on the wall and show that no one is safe. That is the lesson they wanted you to learn.
Is it a good lesson? Is the Republic better for knowing that no one is safe? And for the lesson that you simply should not talk to any Federal official, because you might be prosecuted for saying the wrong thing?
You might enjoy http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2006/08/18/2267.aspx which is based on a long telephone interview with Alan Boyle. I found him an intelligent and fair interviewer, and it came out fairly well.
As Joel Rosenberg recently said, sometimes it sucks to be right. This is one of those cases. My definition of winning a war is that you are better off at the end of it than you would have been had you not gone to war. Under that definition, Israel has lost rather badly.
What was won was the elimination of a few hundred to a thousand Hizbollah insurgents and their supporters. How many of those were expensive highly trained fighters and how many were cannon fodder is not clear; but it is clear that Hizbollah has not lost anything that can't be replaced.
What Israel has lost is far greater. First, they have lost the opportunity to make alliances within Lebanon. For the first time since the tenuous but astonishingly stable partition of power back in the Eisenhower days, when a (bare) Christian majority shared power with Druze, Sunni, and Shiite minorities, there is a consensus in Lebanon among the Christians (now a decided minority due to emigration), Druze, Sunni, and Shiites: they despise Israel, and have no incentive to make alliance with the Israelis against their internal rivals. Druze, Sunni, and Christians all have good reason to despise Shiite-dominated Iran-supported Hizbollah; but that's subordinate now. All the pride of the Cedar Revolution is gone. Lebanon hasn't even the faintest basis of order or claim to be an orderly state. They have been humiliated, their infra-structure damaged or destroyed, and far from being liberated from Hizbollah thugs they have no choice but to turn to Hizbollah and Iran for help in rebuilding.
Sure. The West is going to come into Lebanon and undue the damage Israel did. Real Soon Now, as the citizens realize just what they are being asked to do, and why they must do it. I would not, were I a Lebanese Sunni, hold my breath waiting for Western aid in rebuilding my small business or repairing the roof of my house. I would not, were I a Lebanese Christian, hold my breath while waiting for Western troops -- German? Somali? Irish? Turkish? Central African? Nigerian? Italian? French? -- to come in and restore order while Hizbollah militia patrol the street in front of my house. I might join a Christian Militia in the hopes that my militiamen would be able to replace Hizbollah on my block or in my street. On the other hand, my Christian militia weren't able to protect me from Israeli bombs and shells. Hizbollah drove Israel out of Lebanon. I may have some skepticism about this claim, but I won't say that openly, and after all, Israel did leave, Israeli shells are no longer falling in my village, I can bury my dead and try to scrape up the bits and pieces of my life, and Hizbollah is still here, still planting missiles in the middle of the village.
And Hizbollah now has new recruiting grounds. People who used to be neutral are now pro-Hizbollah. People who used to be Israeli allies are now either neutral, or gone, or very hard to find.
Paranoids generally turn out to be right: after a while everyone really is against them. Israel treated every Lebanese as an enemy. They now have no choice but to regard every man, woman, and child in Lebanon as hostile.
When Hizbollah deliberately provoked Israel by killing eight IDF soldiers and kidnapping two, the Israelis had choices:
The first three of those alternatives were supportable. The third might have been the best of the lot. Alas, they chose the fourth. I understand why, given the exigencies of Israeli politics, they started with purpose #3 and drifted into #4; but understanding is not approval.
And Lebanon will continue to deteriorate.
Incredibly, given the course of the Iraqi War, there are those in the Administration who counsel the invasion of Syria.
The Army is deteriorating. Veterans are not reenlisting. Reservists are being sent in for extra tours of duty. The National Guard is being sent in.
And the neoconservatives want us to expand our commitments.
Syria is an ally of Hizbollah on the "enemy of my enemy" principal, but Bashir Assad and Syria don't have to be our enemies at all. They have no stake in a Hizbollah victory. All we have to do is make it clear that we are not going to invade and change the regime. Syria, like Lebanon, is a mishmash of cultures and factions, held together at the moment by a non-religious dictatorship.
We have made a deal with Qaddafi in Libya. He doesn't have to like us. He doesn't have to love Israel. All he has to do is stop making trouble. Go neutral and stay that way, and all will be well. He got the message. Bashir is smarter than Qaddafi.
America has interests in the Middle East, but protecting those interests does not require that we invade and transform all regimes there. We have an interest in preventing the spread of chiliastic Islam, of fostering secular regimes like Turkey -- and Syria. Syria is not pleasantly governed, and is certainly no democracy -- and so what? Bashir does not seek to expand his rule, nor to support subversion outside his borders. Bashir actually would profit from stability in Iraq. Syria has long had what it considers a legitimate claim to Lebanon, and is not likely to give that up. Syrian agents will probably continue to operate in Lebanon.
We have accomplished diplomats. We have mutual interests with Syria. One would think that enough.
Joel Rosenberg responds in mail.
I have copied the above essays, and Rosenberg's response, into the Reports Page that records the original exchange of views on Lebanon given in the early days of the war.
August 24, 2006
I am off to the World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim. Posts here for the rest of the week will be sporadic.
Subject: Pluto no longer planet
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” ----Albert Einstein
It is too a planet. Clyde Tombaugh told me so.
At World Con:
Tribute to Jim Baen
Dinner with our agent, Eleanor Wood.
Heinlein Medal presented to Greg Bear and Jack Williamson. Alas, Jack couldn't attend and his was accepted by Eleanor Wood, his agent (and mine).
Reception in the Heinlein Society Suite.
I took my sinus headache off to be shortly after that.
August 25, 2006
World SF Convention. Sinus/pinched nerve condition continues. Dinner with Baen Books Publisher Toni Weisskopf. I invited Peter Glaskowsky to come along, because he had just given me the idea for the next Niven/Pournelle book after we finish Inferno II, and Larry liked that a lot as do I.
I expect I was awful company, being reduced to a codeine tablet provided by an English friend (they are over the counter there) to make the dinner endurable. Everyone else went from dinner to masquerade. I went to bed.
August 26, 2006
Sinus and pinched nerve? headaches continue. Fairly certain half of it is some kind of mechanical bollux in my neck since stretches and hot compresses ameliorate the condition, but alas, the effect doesn't last.
Talked to De Doc (Dr. Ernoehazy who is in charge of an emergency room in Florida) and agreed on what to tell my physicians when I camp out in their office Monday morning.
Numerous panels, one rather painful, some fun. It is unfair to ask an old professor important questions and expect a 10 second answer. Those who do expect that should go to someone other than me, or stay with questions that deserve no more than ten seconds. Alas, even that may not spare you: like many former academics I tend to answer the question that should have been asked rather than the one that was asked...
Missed the Hugo awards ceremony, in part due to late panel which was well attended. Had autograph session at 4:PM which lasted until 5:28 at which time I had to rush off to panel leaving a few still in the line. I was astonished at how many people wanted autographs. Gratified, too, of course. Thanks! Rushed off to 5:30 panel, went to dinner with Peter, showed the flag at a couple of parties, and went to bed at 10 PM or so. I am determined to camp out in the doctor's office Monday.
I did spend some time in the SFWA Suite (more than ably conducted by Sheila Finch who couldn't have been more helpful) where I had a nice conversation with John Henry, Lt. Cdr. USNR Ret., who writes under the name of Jack Campbell. I met him on an otherwise disastrous panel, where he gave me a copy of his latest book The Lost Fleet: Dauntless. A good work; you can tell it was written by a Surface Warfare officer who know something of warships and their operations. I haven't finished it (haven't had much time for reading, or inclination either given the headaches) but I intend to.
SFWA Suite is a more pleasant place now than I remember from former times when it was largely a place for writers to get drunk on free liquor. The new breed of SF writers are not the hard drinking crowd of the old days, which is good because the conversations are more focused and memorable. In the old days we thought we were profound but never could remember the deep truths we thought we had uncovered. If we wrote them down at the time they tended to be such insights as "the best part of the banana is the peel", which may be symbolically important but is alas incomprehensible as advice for action.
August 27, 2006
It's 10:00 AM, or nearly so. I'll pack up and get out of here shortly. At 1:00 I have a solo session on Inventing The Future, which is sort of the presentation I gave at Wilton Park in Sussex last year. Periodically the headache stops for a few seconds, then renews. This is not fun. Very distracting. Glad Roberta decided to stay home: I am no fun at all when this happens, and I don't wish her the task of taking care of a cranky bear with a headache.
Time to pack. I do not think I will have anything for the column Monday morning; I seldom miss deadlines but I have not been able to work given this headache, and the busy schedule of appearances in the Worldcon (I am not complaining about this; I like heavy convention schedules) made it impossible to just brute force the column. I'll get it done well before the end of the week. Apologies.
For those who recently subscribed, I haven't enrolled anyone for a week or more. My apologies. I will get to it, headache or not, but I prefer to do that from home, not on a laptop in a hotel room. I will get to them, and again, apologies for taking so long.
Next installment will be from home.
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