October 30, 2006

It’s The Valour-IT Drive!

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:59 am

Chaotic Synaptic has the gouge. Donations are graciously being accepted for Valour-IT. Here’s how it works: If’n you serve and can’t type, it sucks to try to blog. Or email the family. Et cetera. These guys buy and build laptops that can help do the job, and give them to injured servicemembers in the military hospitals.

And we’re starting behind the curve…even SMASH is blank right now! I suspect shenanigans. Bubbleheads, help me out here. I’m going to go through the swag pile to look for something useful for donors. An early poster of USS Texas, maybe? A ball cap? Anyone able to help me make an auction for something like that?

So. I’d better put the donation button here so I can donate.  See that thermometer on the right, there?  Give it a click.

Blogger, you say you are? Join the team here.

October 29, 2006

The Concept Of The Caliphate

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:45 pm

One of my colleagues, who is doing Good Work, has a wonderful article here I missed the first time around. It hits some themes I’ve heard him say before. I’ll take two pieces from this short essay as a tease:

Out of the 70 war verses quoted liberally by Al-Qaeda two things must be understood. First, Islamic militant clergy never explain the historical context of which these verses were revealed. The war verses were primarily revealed when Prophet Muhammad was in Medina attempting to defend his society against the onslaught of a much more powerful opponent in Mecca. For their part, the Meccans could not allow Muhammad to remain in Medina, as he stood between them and the Syrian caravan routes. From Muhammad’s view, the Meccan persecution of Muslims created a refugee crisis in Medina that required resources and raiding Meccan caravans offered an easy solution to the refugee crisis. This always must be viewed from the lens of the 7th century. Dr. Saeed exposes in his book that as jihadist quote the 70 war verses out of historical context, there are 124 verses in the Quran that deal with forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, and patience.

When dealing with ironclad Islamic law, the primary source that undisputed is the Quran (which has many interpretations) and the Hadith sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad. The history of how these Hadiths were compiled is the subject of much Islamic scholarly discussion. The books discusses how out of 500,000 Hadiths collected only 4,500 are undisputedly verified as uttered or done by Muhammad and the codification of the Hadiths did not take its final form until the Caliphate of Al-Mamoun (813-833 AD) under two hundred years after the death of Prophet Muhammad. This leaves a body of untested Hadiths that for the untrained that can be used with deadly results. One must also be aware of the undisputed Hadiths there are contradictions and like the Quran must be explained in its historical context.


…The conference did not materialize in 1924 but it would spark an Islamic judge and lecturer at Al-Azhar to write a book that would send shockwaves in the debate over the role of religion in politics. Shiekh Ali Abdul-Razzaq wrote Al-Islam Wa Usool Al-Hikam (Islam and the Basis of Rule) in 1925. Its central thesis was that the separation of Islam from politics is not incompatible with the Quran and Hadiths. He goes on to describe how Islam in its essence is a spiritual not temporal religion that can only be debased if it associates itself with governance or politics. In refuting the need for a caliphate, Abdul-Razzaq writes that Prophet Muhammad was essentially a theological figure who was thrust into being the governor of Medina. The concept or even requirement for a caliphate cannot be found in the Quran or Hadiths and therefore is not obligatory form of governance in the Islamic world.

This is one way to fight splodeydopes: with their own failed, apostate, idolatrous, un-Islamic perversion of a religion. As for my friend who wrote this article–is he some dusty academic? Nope.  He’s got his faith, and he’s got his sword, too. And it’s a standard issue U.S. Navy sword, same as mine, and the fact that our faiths are not the same is not an issue. We are comrades in arms.

Camus At Combat

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:34 pm

I read Camus too early in my life, and my French is too abysmal to get the nuance and meaning right while I’m struggling to remember what words mean. It may be time to put the book reviewed here on my shelf.

The reviewer, Michael McDonald, has a pretty good cut on a subtext and poor choice of introductory essayist. Long after today’s news is gone, Camus will still be interesting, I think.

When The Revolution Comes…

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:53 pm

…who’s going to be the first up against the wall?  If their revolution is French style, it might be these guys…

In other words, the well-to-do Iranian drinks and reads and watches what he wishes. He does as he pleases behind the walls of his private mansions and villas. In return for his private comforts, the affluent Iranian is happy to sacrifice freedom of speech, most of his civil rights, and his freedom of association. The upper-middle class has been bought off by this pact, which makes a virtue of hypocrisy.

I have an acquaintance in a similar country in a similar situation who is doing tiny, useless little things and thinking that those are Big Revolution.  Both my acquaintance and these guys might not do well when the revolution rolls into town…

October 28, 2006


Filed under: — Chap @ 9:14 pm

So, for years the Iranian-funded Hezbollah took peoples’ houses, built rooms with no doors and something in them, and when the Israelis came in they broke the walls down in these civilian houses and started operating missile launchers?

Read it here…and the byline is very interesting.

Steyn In DC

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:48 am

Mark Steyn was on Hewitt the other day, and has some very interesting things to say. Here’s the transcript, and it includes things like:

MS: Yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous, in a way. That is in a news report. You know, if I made that point in a column, I would expect to have to back up my opinion with some kind of evidence for the fact that the Foley thing is having a bigger impact than this New Jersey court decision. But in a news story, this guy can basically concoct this whim, or maybe it wasn’t concocted. Maybe another journalist actually said it to him. You know, a lot of the big problems with the world of journalism is that journalists just talk to other journalists.

HH: Right.

MS: You know, Alistair Cooke, who used to host Masterpiece Theatre on PBS, he died a couple of years ago. And a few weeks before he died, he found in the bottom of his closet a book he’d written in 1941, at the time of Pearl Harbor, and then basically, when he was already with the BBC’s Man In America. And it’s really just the sort of reporter’s notebook of the United States in the months after Pearl Harbor. But he’s hilariously funny about the pomposity of journalists even then, the way they hang out with other journalists, and other sort of mid-level experts, and they develop a sort of expertise bubble on these issues, that is almost impossible to break through.


And again, it was…the interesting thing to me is…which I find interesting, is clearly, Rummy’s moment has passed, in that he was the kind of darling and the pin up three or four years ago. And now, even the right are saying he’s a disaster, he’s got to go, he’s got to resign, he’s been there too long, and all the rest of it. And I think, actually, that is completely not what has happened in Iraq. I think what has happened in Iraq is that the Department of Defense, by and large, has done its job, and that it’s other agencies that have not stepped up to the plate on this. All kinds of agencies are involved in Iraq. You know, reconstructing Iraqi agriculture is nominally under the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture in the United States. And I think that’s the real question. You need something…you can’t…and army cannot do everything when it goes into these countries. But the trouble is when you send in the State Department, or the Commerce Department, or the Treasury, they’re not very good when you stick them on the ground 8,000 miles away, either. So I do think…I came away from that thinking that the Department of Homeland Security was the wrong bureaucratic monstrosity to create, and in fact, we need a sort of more projected expeditionary kind of global department, that there needs to be some kind of institutional reform, I think, in the way America does things on this front.

Link to the President’s discussion,  referenced in the above interview and in mp3 format, here.  Steyn’s question is a very good question and fits a category of questions I’d ask the man myself.

October 27, 2006

Operation Eden

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:52 pm

I linked to this guy back in the day, but got reminded of his work by Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing.

Katrina was more than New Orleans. There were a lot of folks barely hanging on beforehand. C.J. Cubitt discovered what is for now his life’s work, dropping an interesting fashion photography career, in documenting Pearlington, Mississippi’s residents–including his mom, who’s a survivor in a world that hasn’t exactly handed her a winning lottery ticket–and their situation.

There is powerful work at Operation Eden. He’s asking for help.

This Is A Big Part Of The Four Southern Food Groups

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:44 pm

Oh dear.  This looks almost Atkins-friendly.

But I swear I’ve had that somewhere in a diner on Highway 51..

October 26, 2006

Computers and the War

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:09 pm

Rodger has a link to a list of somebody’s 10 Worst Computer Company Mistakes.

If you’re a geek, it might be interesting to think about these computers and how bad those decisions are, and how smart the people making those decisions were.

Why?  Because similar things happen when people make decisions with bigger consequences, like foreign policy, or warfighting.  Often when complaining about a decision we forget the clarity of hindsight and the need to make decisions without perfect information.

I can still complain about Microsoft Bob, but in the long run that company’s not done too badly, eh?

October 25, 2006

He Did Some Nice Work In Kenya…

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:12 am

Barack Obama did indeed do some nice work on his visit to Kenya. But this fellow doesn’t mention it in his recounting of the Obama bio. I wonder if he’s being a bit sarcastic.

I seem to remember a couple of other folks with somewhat similar backgrounds in politics…

October 24, 2006

Snark Of The Day

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:57 pm

Justice Scalia:

“It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional.”

I think this should be chiseled on the building or something.

(h/t Ace)

October 23, 2006


Filed under: — Chap @ 7:30 pm

William Dalrymple writes of the Sepoy Mutiny and lessons to be drawn from same.  I think he occasionally draws the wrong lessons.  At one point Dalrymple says

…One was the rise of British power: in a few years the British had defeated not only the French, but all their other Indian rivals; and, in a manner not unlike the Americans after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the changed balance of power quickly led to undisguised imperial arrogance.

which doesn’t exactly match my memory of that time so much as it matches a stereotype of European anti-americanism.

The article is well worth reading, though; the story Dalrymple tells is one worth telling, and there are lessons to be learned which would be familiar to a Marine in the Philippines a hundred and twenty years later. Violence over time breaks all civilized taboos.  War gets uglier as the war goes on.  Stopping a jihad has been done using overwhelming brutality and inhumanity.  It remains to be seen if jihad can be stopped the way we’re trying it.  Those aren’t nice lessons to learn.

Asked, Answered

Filed under: — Chap @ 6:53 pm

I found a column on RealClearPolitics–some dilettante blathering–and as you could tell I didn’t like it much.

Neither did Hugh Hewitt.  His response is devastating.

October 22, 2006

Sun Kings Pump It

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:53 pm

(And here I thought a video called “Pump It” made by airdales that was safe for work

would involve tanking.)

Ham passes us another video.  I somehow get the feeling that the whole time they were shooting this thing, on another deck much farther below the nukes were holding training on operating procedures.

Because everybody gets his own kind of fun, you know.

(Ham also mentions they do “Hey Ya”, but the original is good, too, and so is the Peanuts version.)

The Thesis Proposal

Filed under: — Chap @ 4:30 pm

I’ve kept uncharacteristically silent during a week with events that matched issues I’ve talked about more than once: milblogs, embeds, CNN’s continued aid and comfort in the guise of objectivity, the discovery of a single Al Qaeda media strategy document, sentencing of an American performing traitorous acts by knowingly passing information, and the unconfirmed identification of one potential leaker for a New York Times story revealing classified information that had a strategic effect.

Yes, it is indeed an information war, and we’re stuck with it. (I would like to credit myself for getting Instapundit saying “it’s an information war”–I think I was the first he linked to saying that–but it’s a pretty common idea nowadays.)

A while ago I wrote a small thesis proposal which was much harder to complete than I would like to admit. (I know the reasons; I completed the task; I am not happy it took so long.) In the process of making a thesis proposal I talked to several folks who work in academia in topics related to “information warfare”. I’ve learned that the overwhelming majority of those folks work in terms of electronic and computer warfare; I have yet to find a marketing guru, for instance, hanging out with the geeks. I’ve also learned that if there’s an unclassified document in English that talks about information warfare in terms of ideas and thoughts and decisions, and is built like a doctrine manual or tactics techniques and proceures (also known as TTP’s), then nobody I’ve talked to knows about it.

So. I’ve asked one university if they’ll let me pay them lots of money to work on this problem in my free time, and if they like it perhaps I could get a doctorate out of it.

Wish me luck, and if you know of a backup school that allows one to complete a degree in this area while physically not at the university let me know…it’s not as if they accept just anyone, and I might be above the quota for “loud annoying guys”. So far every person I’ve talked to doing information warfare has been interested in the subject and is supportive–either this group of people is very very polite, or I might be on to something. If I’m rejected I don’t think it’ll be because of my choice of subject.

The “more” tag hides a longer explanation of the same thing, with citations and footnotes not added because I forget how to convert those from Word without a lot of pain, and just “saving as” in Word breaks the browser. Comment or email if you’d like a source I didn’t link. There may be a risk in mentioning this subject so that someone else can write what I wish to write more quickly, but it’s an important subject–and I think perhaps that the odd way one has to think to get deeply into this subject may act as a barrier to entry.


Talk About Burying The Lede

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:58 pm

Brian “Empty Suit” Calame has a nice little paragraph at the end of his column today. Says, sort of, that perhaps leaking classified information and publishing it on the front page of the New York Times in a manner that aids our enemies might not have been a dandy idea after all.

My July 2 column strongly supported The Times’s decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it’s a close call now, as it was then, I don’t think the article should have been published.

What kept me from seeing these matters more clearly earlier in what admittedly was a close call? I fear I allowed the vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration to trigger my instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press — two traits that I warned readers about in my first column.

Do what?

Perhaps he was blinded by something else?

I will readily agree that perhaps the NYT is not actively working for the destruction of the country and the loss of the war. I would also point out that many of their actions do not consistently support that thesis.

Hat tip JustOneMinute.

October 20, 2006

Any Other Tufte Geeks Out There?

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:59 pm

Because that’s the first guy I thought of when I saw this new book

October 19, 2006

Greyhawk on Captain Obvious

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:16 am

Mudville Gazette assails Tom Friedman, he of the world’s most painful book review.  The Friedman article is behind the TimesBankrupt firewall, but was on yesterday’s Early Bird.

At work we were griping about this line of Friedman’s:

Bob Woodward quoted President Bush as saying that he will not leave Iraq, even if the only ones still supporting him are his wife, Laura, and his dog Barney. If the jihadist Tet offensive continues gaining momentum, Mr. Bush may be left with just Barney.

It’s a cheap way to make a rhetorical point and not seemly of Friedman.  There are better ways to frame his assertion.

October 17, 2006

I Always Knew He Was No Wave

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:53 pm

Phibian, fresh from doing Halloween up early, announces his secret shame.

Looky that: a guy in the Navy officer corps who digs old school.  To misquote the Television Personalities, “I Was A Punk Before You Was A Punk.”  (And it’s truly sad when you see a LT walking around and have to hand him a copy of “No New York” just to get him to stop saying his new CD is all new stuff…)

Sounds like I need to share my Television and Glenn Branca records in exchange whenever I get around to buying CDR Salamander a beer.  One of my regrets is that I never got to see Wimp Factor Fourteen or the Jesus Lizard play CB’s…

I Can’t Wait Until I Forget What “QA-14″ Means

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:02 pm

…because I think I may have to fill out one for not only forgetting PigBoat Sailor on the right but also not rectifying my error in the roundup post below.

Must have an effective quieting program.

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