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Monday February 20, 2006

I'm off for my walk, but do see yesterday's View. There are two viewpoint essays.

This is a repeat: if you go to this page, do not say I did not warn you. I expect you will hate me.

http://chir.ag/stuff/sand/ should be banned as an attractive nuisance.


Thanks to all those who have recently subscribed or renewed subscriptions. For a while there were enough that I had trouble getting them all recorded properly, and I think I am caught up.


Outsourcing security:

We have all heard that we are turning port operations and security over to the United Arab Emirates. This may be the silliest proposal I have ever hear, tantamount to turning over security to, say, Finland during the Cold War: the Finns were good people, but they had Finlandized because they had no choice. The UAE has much the same relationship with jihad...

I have this one speculation:

From what I've been able to piece together, Secretary Rice is about to make a trip to the Middle East to convince the United Arab Emerates to toe our line regarding Iran and Hamas, and apparently this seven-billion-dollar contract to their state-owned company to operate our ports is baksheesh to their potentate. Which doesn't justify turning over our port security to the Arabs. Hell, if they need to bribe the sonovabitch for national security reasons, can't they just write a check out of the treasury and bury it in the next appropriation?


I don't know more than what we have heard on the news. I don't understand why we would even contemplate anything this silly; this may be as good a speculation as any.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2006   

  Rush Limbaugh this morning is saying there is a Free Trade case for letting UAE run our ports, also that it makes friends with our enemies, a strategy from Sun Tzu. And if they can do the best job, at the lowest price...  After all, suppose Halliburton got the contracts...

More on this another time, but I forget precisely when we discovered that maximizing economic gains was not only the most important value in the world, but the only one. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"  But we never think that way now. Economics is important, but one could ask Mark's question about a nation as well as a person.

As to whether it's good strategy, I am sure that sheep would love to try it with wolves.

I note that Rush is backpedaling hard now.



Subject: Stupid security design flaw in OS/X Safari browser, be sure to check your preferences

Be sure to check your preferences (buffy willow priority one).


- Roland Dobbins

  Readers will recall that Roland is both a Mac user and a security expert. You have been warned. For a longer analysis see Mr. Hellewell in mail.


How horrible! A New Orleans city councilman says New Orleans residents who won't work are not welcome back! Good grief! But they're needy! They have needs! Someone has to work, but who should it be, them? What will happen to the jobs of all the civil servants whose jobs depend on having Soap Opera Watchers to care for? What is this world coming to?

The Welfare Recipients League should organize a strike to withhold their services. Union power! Solidarity!  How can they build a city without welfare recipients?


For a short summary of CEV vehicles and history, http://www.astronautix.com/craftfam/cev.htm is worth looking at.


It isn't something that would normally catch my eye, but this morning at breakfast I read "Davis' Manner Impedes Message" by Jemele Hill of the Orlando Sentinal
la-sp-olyhill21feb21,1,301595.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-sports .

What I noticed was that Hill says "As of now, you don't know whether to cheer for him tonight in the men's 1500 meter speed-skating or root against him so hard the vein in your forehead bursts." I read the rest of the article to try to see why Hill says that. I never did figure it out.

Apparently Davis wasn't sufficiently enthusiastic about winning the 1000 meter event, at least not in his NBC interview. Or he was too angry. Or something. But Hill gives no examples of whatever is so egregious in Davis's manner ( Hill, or an editor, apparently haven't read Strunk and White). The most I found was that apparently Davis didn't jump up and down like a quiz show participant winner in the interview. This seems to have infuriated Hill.

Now I know what it's like to be stuck for a column idea and running with the first thought because the deadline is coming near, but this seems extreme. It's hardly important, but if anyone understands this column and cares enough to inform me, I'd like to know. I never heard of Jemele Hill before, or why the Los Angeles Times thought this column important enough to reprint in Los Angeles instead of a story about Davis, but apparently someone thinks Davis isn't enthusiastic enough. Or perhaps not deferential enough to the media?  I remain confused.


On the subject of Turin, the photo of the Russian winning couple in Ice Dancing (I have my doubts about dancing as an Olympic sport, but leave that) shows them in a highly athletic flourish. About a million years ago I had to attend classes on judging skate dancing events (participants also must be judges; I never thought of skate dancing as an Olympic event, but it sure was a good way to meet girls) and in those times such athletic moves would have been disqualified: dancing was not free style pairs (I did that, too), and the differences were pronounced. Dance moves were carefully prescribed, closer to the compulsory school figures required for figure skate competition than to free style. Pairs competitions were athletic, but dance was precision and interpretation.

Clearly they have changed the judging rules for skate dancing, just as they have changed the free style rules -- it used to be that half the points were for compulsory school figures (precision) and the other half for the free style presentation. The change has caused young skaters to try more and more daring presentations, with far more injuries, and I am not at all certain that is a change for the better. Having said that, I will say that when I was active in competition I didn't know anyone who liked school figures and who didn't want the rules changed to eliminate that part entirely...

Given the injuries, perhaps that's a case of be careful what you wish for.


The Port Issue won't go away, and now everyone is jumping in. Are there arguments in favor of this other than economic? Is it a good idea for any foreign corporation -- including the Brits who were doing it until this came to light -- to control the operation of our ports? If we'll let the Brits do it, why not a friendly sheik?


Breaking news, sort of. I don't do breaking news, because commenting on stories before you know what the hell is going on is a mug's game, and commenting before hearing what the arguments are seems a futile exercise.

Bush is apparently in favor of allowing the UAE to do this port operation. They are our allies, he says, and the company won't be in charge of security anyway. His point, that this has been done by a foreign owned company and we didn't seem to care, but now that it's owned by an allied Arab country we go mad, is probably worth thinking about.

The whole issue is worth more thought than most of us have given it.


I have a fail safe way to execute criminals. Give them a hot shot. OD on heroin is not likely to be cruel, and as a cause of death it's not all that unusual.

The other alternative is to let the punishment fit the crime. I always thought Charles Manson ought to be turned loose in the Mojave, with Colonel Tate given a day's notice of when and where.


World's largest Windows error message.


--- Roland Dobbins

Hoo Haw!


I will confess that I am a bit astonished that I have received so little comment on my short piece about Ortega y Gasset and aristocracy. Is it that you all agree? Astounding.


Subject: now we KNOW it's a bad idea


Now we KNOW it's a bad idea:

"Carter backs Bush's stand on seaport-operations deal"





Regarding the participation of physicians at an execution:


The Oath

By Hippocrates

Written 400 B.C.

Translated by Francis Adams

I SWEAR by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation- to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!


See also mail.



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Wednesday,  February 22, 2006

Washington's Birthday

First in war, first in peace, first in the heart's of his countrymen.

Wasn't Sasha Cohen wonderful last night? I no longer know all the rules for the technical scoring, but I would have given her a bit more on technical; and a lot more on what we used to call interpretation. She has always been a perfectionist, to her detriment. Last night she seemed to have it all together. Now she's four minutes away from what she's been after all her life.


The UAE certainly doesn't want to be the terror capital of the world. The real question is whether we want to outsource that kind of work to anyone. Either it's all right for the UAE to own the company, or it wasn't all right for the Brits to own it. Now it is true that UAE is probably a bit more subject to al Qaeda pressure than were the Brits, and Tony Blair for all his faults has guts; but the question, as I said, is whether we want any foreign owned company in charge of port operations.

From my view we are far too committed to World Free Trade, Open Borders, and the pursuit of economic goals to the exclusion of anything else. I would prefer to keep a lot in America, including a number of jobs that have been outsourced. But then I'm in favor of a 10% across the board tariff on all foreign imports of any kind.

If this UAE deal causes us to rethink our whole attitude on the almighty bottom line then it is probably a good thing. Bismark once said that God looks after fools, drunks, and the United States of America. Lately He may have outsourced that to sloppy fairies...

(The reference is to Henry Kuttner's "Housing Problem," a 1944 fantasy classic. I should have said "sloppy pixies".)

See mail for more discussion.


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Thursday, February 23, 2006

England no more.


--- Roland Dobbins

Do any of our British readers know more about this?

And thanks to a number of readers for pointers to this, which may be related:


Not even a good science fiction writer can make this stuff up.


Punditry and the UAE Port Decision

While I make a living by pretending to know everything, I also know it's not entirely true. In particular, while I have some confidence in my ability to view facts and reason to conclusions, I am quite aware that I often don't know all the facts. It is one reason I don't run a traditional instant pundit blog, offering comments on breaking news: it's seldom that one knows what the heck is going on when the news is filtered through the media. or through official spokespeople, or both. Greg Benford once put me on to an amusing game he plays when driving home from his office at UC Irvine to Laguna Beach: listen to NPR Radio, and no other source; now try to figure out what actually happened. You won't often be right, but it's an amusing way to occupy the mind in heavy traffic.

When the UAE Port flap began, the temptation to punditry was well nigh irresistible, and I succumbed. It looked to me as if this decision couldn't pass the "Duh?" test. That was silly of me: I have no high regard for the analytical abilities of many of the neocons surrounding the President, but Commerce and State have some able people, and anyone with any political savvy at all would see this is a potentially explosive issue -- or would see that if there were not some really obvious arguments in favor of approving the deal, so obvious and so large that they too induce a "Duh?" reaction. And, of course, there are, and I should have thought of them.

The port operations are already under the control of a foreign owned company. It's a "private" company, but it's British, and everyone knows that MI 5 and MI 6 have been known to make use of private companies when British national interests are involved. The distinction between "private" and "state owned" is often blurred -- "Western Enterprises" was ostensibly a private company. So: it's the transfer of control of a private organization from one foreign registry to another. The UAE operates ports all over the world, including the ports of origin for many of the containers and much of the cargo that come into the ports they will now operate. My point is that while I think I would have seen some red flags had it been my job to analyze and approve this sale, I can easily see how competent bureaucrats could see is as a nearly automatic decision. Sale of port operations company from one ally to another. Check.

And now, the decision having been made at non-political levels, and becoming public, it is an entirely different matter. I am not always in agreement with Krauthammer, to say the least, but last night on Brit Hume's show he said it well: probably not the right decision to have made without more study and debate, but now that it was made, it's a pretty terrible message to send to the Middle East: even if you cooperate with the United States, the US considers you a bunch of towel-headed enemies, not allies like the British, and you will never win the US approval. Come join the real Muslims who understand what those Americans really think of us. Which is why, I think, the President came down so hard on this when it was brought to his attention.

Now understand: this is a decision about competent empire seeking overseas influence and power. That's pretty well contrary to the goals I would put for the United States, which I would call "America First" if that hadn't been the name of an organization. I don't think we ought to be involve in the territorial disputes of Europe or of the Middle East, nor do I think we ought to be part of entangling alliances. My goal is to get out of the Middle East with as much national pride as we can salvage, and without humiliating our military by throwing away the blood they have spilled at our command; but that's not the national goal as decided by the President and Congress. Given that we seem to be over there to stay for the indefinite future, this is not the time to decide that we will not allow any foreign ownership of the companies that do our port operations.

And no, I don't approve of allowing foreign ownership of companies that do that work; but that's part and parcel with just what are our national goals, and whether libertarian economics and Free Trade trump all other goals we may have; and that's a debate for another time.

But the whole flap is a lesson on why instant punditry may build big readership, but it's not what I do, and I ought to have known better. There are several debates here and the threads need to be picked apart and looked at; facts must be gathered; and in the last analysis, one's views about day to day policies ought to spring from application of fundamental principles, and often those turn out to require more complex discussion than "Duh?" When you must take actions in the face of uncertainties, very often your best decision is to put some resources into reducing the uncertainties.

And, finally, there's always this: are there prudent hedges we can take against the time when the national will changes and we stop trying to be an empire and go back to being a republic whose first thought is to win over its enemies with shining examples rather with than smite them withAbrams tanks?

And no, I haven't gone pacifist. Some enemies need smiting, with tanks or with neutron bombs. Whether they then deserve another dozen years of attention from some of our finest who might be doing more for all of us at home is another matter. I'd rather close the borders, develop energy independence, and pursue a strategy of technology than keep trying to build democracy in Mesopotamia; but it wasn't given to me to choose our national goals. Congress and the President have done that.


On that subject, the always-worth-attention Peggy Noonan says, why bother with seaports, given the TSA and its procedures...


Anarcho Tyranny. What is it the terrorists will do to us if we let them take over the country -- declare ourselves, as Berkeley California tried to do, a non-defended city which will cooperate with an Iraqi Army of Occupation -- that we are not working hard at doing to ourselves? As Noonan observes, at any airport now it is rule by the clerks, a scene you saw in East Germany -- and now everywhere here. Why bother to win the Cold War if we are going to East-Germanize ourselves?

From Peggy Noonan's essay:


So we're all talking about port security this week, and the debate over the Bush administration decision to allow an United Arab Emirates company to manage six ports in the United States. That debate is turning bitter, and I wonder if the backlash against President Bush isn't partly due to the fact that everyone in America has witnessed or has been a victim of the incompetence of the airport security system. Why would people assume the government knows what it's doing when it makes decisions about the ports? It doesn't know what it's doing at the airports.

This is a flying nation. We fly. And everyone knows airport security is an increasingly sad joke, that TSA itself often appears to have forgotten its mission, if it ever knew it, and taken on a new one--the ritual abuse of passengers.

Now there's a security problem. Solve that one. <snip>[emphasis mine]






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Friday, February 24, 2006

Twice daily UAE airplanes with UAE crews, all employees of the same company that would operate the ports, take off from JFK, and two more land there from Dubai. So far none have been flown into buildings, but stand by.


A Report from Baghdad:

An inquiry and answer from a military commander. I have some experience with the reliability of the source, and more with the integrity: the respondent doesn't make things up.

Subject: Situation Inquiry

Media is in a panic over here. The whole of Iraq is in flames and mired in civil war. Methinks, it's mostly just areas of Baghdad and (all of) Basra. Are there any cooler heads prevailing there? How's the army and police working?


Subject: Situation

Sent: Friday, February 24, 2006 10:04 AM Subject: [U] RE: Situation

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Like the old saying goes….the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated! The media has the whole thing blown out of proportion. Yes, there are certain parts of Baghdad that are bad, and the mosque going up in smoke was terrible; we are addressing those incidents. But hey the locals burn down parts of L.A. too, no civil war in southern cal yet! The Iraqi government is aggressively working the issue; with the CF taking a supporting role. The ISF are stepping up to the plate and it will get resolved. It will not be an overnight short term deal, but in due course everything will fall into place. So tell all your friends and the democrats too, that I’m sorry but despite our wonderful liberal media; Rome is not burning.

We can but hope.



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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Bizarre times.


As Fred observed some time ago, free speech is a myth. We all know what we can't say and who we can't say it about.

I suppose it's inevitable. Once you decide that all communities have to be diverse, and begin enforcing that with fines and jail terms, you will find that you must then regulate who says what and about whom, lest someone be upset. Well, it's all right if they're upset, but if they then set fire to cars and riot in the streets, that has to stop. The way to stop it is not to offend the rioters. Of course that kind of Danegeld never works, but our rulers usually try it.

Democracy works in a context of the rule of law, and a certain civility, and a fair degree of homogeneity in the communities where democracy rules. It worked pretty well in the Old South so long as you weren't black: that is, the political community was relatively homogeneous. And perhaps that's what we should learn from studying history, only no one studies history any longer: often the way to make democracy work is to reduce the diversity of the elements participating in the political decisions. That can be done by excluding some people, through legal segregation, through ethnic cleansing, or through federalism and voluntary emigration. Anything that can be called ethnic cleansing is taboo now, but it was done quite successfully in Switzerland about 1875, when one canton was forcibly divided in half and the Catholics were required to move to one half and the Protestants to the other. That stopped the conflicts. Of course they took their religious confession more seriously in this days. Now we don't, I mean no one takes religion seriously. And if you believe that, look into the modern history of Beirut. Then look where many of the refugees went.

We will continue to run the experiments in diversity with democracy. Our public schools, far from generating any sense of citizenship and community, promote the self esteem of the mass man, and denigrate any traditions and history we once had as being stories about dead white males. Far better to learn that Heather Has Two Mommies, than about the militia and King's Mountain.

But that's part of the remedy, you see. In order to have our diversity we must produce the New American Man, who, unlike Soviet New Man, will not be flawed with residual loyalties and ethnicities and nationalities problems.

And the highly self esteemed mass man marches on. It's glorious. What's a little free speech compared to that. Recall the judge in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. "God, it'll be glorious."



A very obscure problem:

My new installation of the D945PVS motherboard went well but for this: Intel Audio Studios reports

Intel Audio Studio Controller
Error 453 Can't find DLL entry point sflInitSTCOM in IASDLL.DLL

searching the net for IASDLL.DLL is complicated because there is apparently a virus program that takes that name and is caught by antispyware. Which may or may not be relevant to my problem.

HAH. Never mind, I have found and fixed the problem, and it is interesting enough to go into the column as part of the story on changing motherboards for an important system computer.


I see that Wm. F. Buckley, having supported the war before the invasion, and having turned the egregious Frum loose to denounce all those who weren't avid for invading Iraq, then to make thrid grade replies to Stephen Tonsor, and generally prattle about conservatives turning their backs on those who weren't in support of the war, is now convinced that it is lost and we much acknowledge failure.  http://www.nationalreview.com/buckley/buckley200602241451.asp

Does this mean that Frum will now read Buckley out of the conservative movement?


If you submit a search of the following phrase on Google, you get over four hundred returns, and they are often very strange ones:

"I have more information in one place than anybody in the world." -- Jerry Pournelle, an absurd notion, apparently about the BIX BBS"


DId this phrase somehow get encoded into html and used somewhen, and then repeated across the net? And what was BIX?

Petronius The Archivist

I don't recall saying it, but in the BIX days it was probably true. BIX was the BYTE INFORMATION EXCHANGE, and was a bit like The View From Chaos Manor mail section except that any subscriber could post most anything. I had some volunteer moderators who enforced a certain degree of sanity on my conferences. Other conferences were pretty free form. Some were closed and invitational. Others were open. It was free form and free wheeling, and I do recall saying I doubted there was any answerable question I couldn't get an answer to on BIX within a week, a month tops..

Apparently someone took that statement and made it an aphorism, and others copied that. Interestingly enough, it was probably true, or nearly so. It would have been more precise to talk about access to information, I suppose. Recall that in those days there was neither Google nor Altadena nor any other search engine; but if I asked on BIX, several thousand of the smartest people in the world would see the question, and one or another would either know the answer, know where it might be found, or know someone who knew where it might be found.

I may have myself said that it was absurd, in the sense of entirely unpredictable; but it was probably true at the time.

Some may recall those times. JoAnne Dow was a friend and moderator, and invented a lot of ASCII "BIXIES" which some still use.







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Sunday, February 26, 2006

And a reminder:

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

by Rudyard Kipling

I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.

Thanks to Rod McFadden for reminding me. I post this every few years... See also The Old Issue

Gulags and Warriors

I remind you of the gods of the copybook heading because the next essay is going to be painful; but more importantly of The Old Issue. Go read that now.

Then read The American Gulag. I know little about its author, Thomas Wilner, other than his position as counsel to some of those held in Guantanamo. What he has written in The American Gulag is his interpretation of what he was allowed to see; but since we don't have much information about what goes on in there, we must either assume that Wilner is mad, tells lies, or what he says is true. He doesn't write like a madman, and up to now no one has accused him of being a liar. Moreover, what little else we know about conditions in Club Guantanamo, as Rush Limbaugh is fond of calling it, seems consistent with Wilner's account.

And if that is so, we have a problem.

The only justification for treating people this way is military necessity: the national security is so endangered that allowing any courtesies, communications, reading matter, or common comforts would be injurious to American interests, and threaten American citizens with far worse than what is being inflicted on these detainees. Note: detainees. Some may be enemy soldiers. Some may be irregular forces taken in arms on a field of battle and entitled to very little. But some, clearly, are not, and a few have been released after years of Hell with little more than an apology. And some are apparently being held on no evidence other than that of warlords who captured them and sold them for rewards. One is being held because he had a wristwatch of a common make favored by terrorists; if there is any other evidence against him it has not been presented, nor has he had a chance to plead his case before a court, a military tribunal, or even a military legal officer.

I put it to you that this isn't a goal worth fighting for, and if our national security depends on treating people this way, it is a terrible price; and it is not at all obvious that our nation would fall if all of these people were released now. Certainly it would do no harm to release them to more humane internment conditions. Perhaps some might be paroled, released with tracking devices, paroled to sponsors. And at the very least there ought to be a tribunal of three rational officers of the United States armed forces who have decided that there is enough evidence of their danger to the United States that on balance we ought to detain them. If current serving officers fear for their careers, bring three field grade officers out of retirement to hear these matters. Three judges. A panel of fifty citizens drawn at random. Let them look at the evidence and certify that it warrants detention.

Some talk show hosts say that these people have no more than they deserve for having levied war against the American people. That may well be, if indeed all those detained actually were taken in arms without proper uniforms. But so far as I can tell, there have been no such hearings and no such determinations.

The Costs

As to the costs, it is not the cost to the prisoners that concerns me most. Certainly common humanity dictates that we have some concern for people kept under such strict conditions, not even allowed reading matter other than a Koran; but that's simple human decency. No, my concern is the effect on the troops who enforce these conditions. These are military troopers, soldiers and Marines, combat troops reduced to prison guards: who find themselves no longer part of a military unit facing death and danger for their country, but screws in a concentration camp.

If we must run such camps, would we not be better off setting up some separate guard service than putting warriors in such conditions? Warriors can and should be proud and bold. They do not hide their units and assignments. But I doubt that many are proud of stuffing a feeding tube down a man's nose to end his hunger strike. I doubt many would appreciate medals given for such service. And I doubt many combat officers will want any troopers who are proud of such actions.

The cost of the gulag is high. It is heavy on the zeks. But it is heavier on the guards. We have accounts of Russians given those assignments. Most stayed drunk when possible. I do not have any figures on drunkenness among the Guantanamo Guards, but I would predict they are high. Indeed, I  hope they are high. I am not at all sure that an America with armed services that see nothing wrong with keeping a man from seeing the sunlight for months on end; of not informing a man that he had become a father after his arrest and had been a father for years; and so forth. I don't believe the stories of deliberate torture and beatings; but I have no choice but to believe that we are detaining people without even a short hearing to determine the level of threat they may present to us, and that the conditions are barbarous as best. And I cannot think that participation in that is a good thing for warriors to learn before coming home.

We are told, but not with much conviction, and with a total lack of detail, that Guantanamo is necessary to the security of the United States. I do not believe that case has been made. I do not believe that case can be made. I believe we can survive without doing these things -- and that doing them makes our survival worth a very great deal less.

And if conditions are not as reported by the defendants' lawyers, send in reporters. Britt Hume and Rush Limbaugh will do, if the usual press corps is not sufficiently trustworthy. But send in someone, and not for a Potemkin tour. The cost of secrecy is far too high. And my fear is that without the secrecy we would learn that the cost of Gulag Guantanamo is far too high.

(Discussion continues next week)
On a Soldier Fallen in the Philippines
William Vaughn Moody. 1869–1910
Streets of the roaring town,
Hush for him, hush, be still!
He comes, who was stricken down
Doing the word of our will.
Hush! Let him have his state,
Give him his soldier's crown.
The grists of trade can wait
Their grinding at the mill,
But he cannot wait for his honor, now the trumpet has been blown.
Wreathe pride now for his granite brow, lay love on his breast of stone.


Toll! Let the great bells toll
Till the clashing air is dim.
Did we wrong this parted soul?
We will make it up to him.
Toll! Let him never guess
What work we set him to.
Laurel, laurel, yes;
He did what we bade him do.
Praise, and never a whispered hint but the fight he fought was good;
Never a word that the blood on his sword was his country's own heart's-blood.


A flag for the soldier's bier
Who dies that his land may live;
O, banners, banners here,
That he doubt not nor misgive !
That he heed not from the tomb
The evil days draw near
When the nation, robed in gloom,
With its faithless past shall strive.
Let him never dream that his bullet's scream went wide of its island mark,
Home to the heart of his darling land where she stumbled and sinned in the dark.


Looking for that poem led me to http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2view/view81.html which is the page for the week that included December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000.  My entries for Friday December 31 may still be worth reading. It was at least interesting.







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