Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Convention Report: CopperCon/Fantasm


Hi, friends and fellow-fen.  I haven't reported in for awhile because I was at, and then recovering from, CopperCon -- this year nicknamed FANtasm.  CopperCon was the original Arizona regional Science Fiction convention -- since joined by LepreCon, TusCon, and a couple of specialized gamer and costumer conventions.  It's currently suffering, like all of them since the present Depression hit, from a shrinkage of membership, but still carrying on faithfully.

CopperCon has always been a particularly imaginative and intelligent convention; where else would you find panels on Tax Planning for the Coming Zombie Apocalypse, or the science of sound, or leatherworking shortcuts for costumers (did you know that you can set snaps and grommets with a Phillips screwdriver?), as well as the standard ongoing filking, gaming, video/film rooms, and well-stocked convention-suite?  The dealers' room was small but intense, with plenty of hard-copy books,  magazines, CDs, DVDs, models, jewelry, gorgeous Steampunk and Fantasy weapons for sale.  Definitely, there are things you can find at a SciFi con that you'll find nowhere else on Earth!  And that's not even counting the ongoing autograph sessions and readings.

I confess that I didn't get to many of the panels, but then -- as the Music Guest of Honor -- I spent most of my time singing.  There were open-ended filksings on Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon, along with my hour-long concert on Saturday, right after Mark Horning's concert.  The audiences, as seemed to be the case with all the other events, were small but intense.  We never did manage to sing all night and end with opening the coffee-shop for breakfast, but the filks did last for hours and hours.  So I sang and played, and I sang and played, and wore out my old guitar strings to the point where they absolutely refused to stay tuned, and I'll have to buy new ones.  That'll mean finding a music store somewhere out here in the westernmost outpost of the Phoenix valley, or else ordering via the Internet.  *Sigh*

And of course, as usually happens at conventions, we all swapped viruses and I came home with a brief but annoying cold.  That, my fellow-fen, is why I haven't reported in since before Friday.   Nonetheless, it was a delightful convention, I hope to get there again next year, and I invite everyone in fandom to come as well.  CopperCon is a little gem of a SciFi convention.

--Leslie <;)))><  

   

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Send in the Drones

The situation is not hopeless;  the US has the means -- right now -- to smash ISIL all the way back to Syria, find and hunt down every last member of Boko Haram, destroy all the drug-gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and go after all the Jihadists in the world, regardless of how well they armor themselves in shields of  civilians or put on disguises of innocent civilians themselves.  All we lack is the will to use it, and that lack is the result of nearly 70 years of elaborate propaganda -- first by the USSR, and later by the better-educated Jihadists.

The means is a technological advance: so-called drones.  What we call drones are simply state-of-the-art, radio-controlled, model planes or model helicopters.  Most of the drones we've seen in the news have been sizable unmanned airplanes, capable of carrying a sizable load of (preferably smart) missiles.  The Jihaidists and their media-flacks have wailed about the "inhumanity" of using drones -- as if guided missiles, common aerial bombs or simple artillery were somehow more merciful -- precisely because drones are so effective, particularly against Jihadists, who have no effective means of counteracting them.

What nobody has mentioned in public -- outside of the Internet, anyway -- is the usefulness of small drones, very small drones.  Go up on the Internet and search the words "miniature aerial vehicles" -- or MAVs -- and you'll see some startling inventions.  The British military admits to having tiny solar-powered helicopters, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, which are quite capable of carrying miniature high-definition video-cameras, high-sensitivity microphones, radios capable of sending the audiovisual information back to one or more computers with audio and video pattern-recognition software, solar-charged batteries, tiny navigation computers with GPS locators, and radio-controlled motors.  There are other videos which show bird-shaped drones that fly exactly like birds, insect-sized drones that fly very much like insects, and even models of tiny drones that also look very much like insects.  Most of these are labeled openly as "spy drones".  I think we can safely claim that the US military already has these tiny robots in production, if not already in the field.

Now think about the applications.  A single small airplane could fly close to the front lines of ISIL, or over the jungles of Nigeria -- or Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador -- and drop a small fleet of MAVs, each one linked to a computer, each computer managed by a US "military adviser" watching the screen from miles away.  There are already super-thin solar-electric "panels" that have a conversion efficiency of 50%;  with the wings and skins of the MAVs clad in these, the tiny drones would have no trouble flitting about the countryside in daylight.  With some of the more efficient batteries available today, the MAVs could still hide, watch and listen and transmit, all through the night.  The tiny spies can watch and listen until the Bad Guys, within the MAVs' sight and hearing, by word or action reveal themselves.  Within a few weeks, or even days, or even hours, the MAVs could dutifully report to their handlers just who, and where, the Bad Guys are -- not to mention what they're planning and where they're going.  With that information safe in the computers, the "advisers" could send in the MAVs' bigger brothers -- armed with smart missiles set for precise targets.  This would make it quite possible to blow the head off, say, a Boko Haram goon without touching the teenaged girl held in front of him.  The advancing lines of ISIL would be even quicker and easier to identify and target.

Up until now, the major sin of war has been the ruining, wounding, and killing of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire -- or placed there deliberately.  Thanks to the drones, it's now possible to target the real enemy precisely, and spare the innocent.  This will make it hard for the Jihadists' apologists to complain effectively to World Opinion.  Spying on one's enemies, by personal means or through implements, is a time-honored and perfectly legitimate tool of war.  Killing one's enemies at a distance, by way of an implement, is as old as the thrown spear. There is no solid moral objection to the use of drones in combat.

The one objection to spy-drones that has any real weight is the possibility of a government tyrannically using them against its own people, probably on the usual excuse of "crime".  In fact, peace-demonstrators in more than one city have complained about the presence of odd insects buzzing over their marches, assuming that the strange bugs were in fact spy-or-worse drones.  Of course, as we've already seen (i.e. Ferguson, Missouri), police given any kind of combat-toys are eager to play Rambo on any civilians who give them an excuse.  How bad would they get given the use of drones?

There are two defenses against this, one political and one technological.  The political defense, which I hope the city governments of more militarized police forces adopt, is simply to cut off the money.  Army surplus machinery requires a lot of maintenance, and that costs money.  Let the city auditors do the calculations, and cut the town's police budget down to only what will cover salaries, fuel and basic maintenance for squad cars, paper and utilities for police stations, union dues, pension and insurance fees, and nothing more.  With no money to fuel and use the combat machinery, the police will be a lot less tempted to use them.  For state and federal police who get too rambunctious, there's the trick California used to rein in the NSA: passed a law requiring the state to cut off all utilities -- including electricity, sewage, garbage, and water -- to any government department caught performing unconstitutional activities.

The technological defense is to stand back and turn the hackers -- and Hams -- loose.  A drone is useless without its radio connection, and there are various ways to discover the frequency of that radio transmission -- and jam it.  Of course this can lead to ongoing duels between the drone designers setting new frequencies and the hackers determining what they are, but the very possibility of having any of their frequencies hacked -- and the hacks no doubt published on the Internet -- will give governments good reason not to use drones on their own annoyed and educated citizens. 

Why won't this deter the use of drones on drug lords and Jihadists?  Ah, this is where the factor of cultural psychology comes in.  There's good reason why there are so very few Muslim Nobel prize winners, and that is the general attitude of Arab culture toward science itself.  That culture doesn't really believe that the basic laws of nature are immutable, therefore predictable;  it assumes that the laws of nature are only the will of Allah, and Allah can be bribed -- with enough prayers and human sacrifices -- to change his mind.  This is why Jihadists will often throw themselves into suicidal battles and doomed tactics, truly believing that they can win despite the facts, because Their Strength Is As The Strength Of Ten Because Their Hearts Are Pure.  They don't really understand, or believe in, science;  they're happy to use the toys of technology that others invent, and can learn by rote to operate them, but have no talent for inventing new ones.  The best they can do in that department is, like drug lords, use their money to hire people who do have that ability.  Since history has amply proved that nerds in the employ of drug lords and Jihadists have notoriously shortened lifespans, competent scientists -- including hackers -- rarely care to work for such.  When they do, they tend to spend more of their time and labor creating escape-hatches for themselves than doing very competent work. State-of-the-art drone handlers have the advantage here, and will for the foreseeable future.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wagging the Dog



In my long and checkered career I've had occasion to work as an editor on two newspapers, by which I picked up a passing knowledge of how to recognize a faked news photo or film-clip.  For example, a picture shown on CNN purportedly showing three Palestinian schoolgirls weeping about their neighborhood being bombed by the wicked-wicked Israelis;  it showed all three girls with identically-patterned headcloths, identically draped, and their faces artfully painted with identically airbrushed make-up.  I also noted a Hamas film-clip that claimed to show artillery-fire from an Israeli battleship far out in the sea hitting a playground in Gaza City;  it didn't show any flash or trail of smoke from the ship, but only showed an explosion in the city -- and the smoke-trail pointed in the wrong direction.  I could also point out how you can tell that at least 99% of the famous Abu Ghraib photos are fakes, but that's a subject for a whole 'nother article.  The point is, the media even here in the US have been showing shamelessly faked videos -- not to mention shamelessly tailored facts -- for a very long time.   

It's been especially interesting watching the major news media of the western world, for the last couple weeks, try their best to raise sympathy for the Hamas jihadists in Gaza and do anything to make Israel -- and Jews in general -- look bad.

 This is from http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/181206/new-york-times-slams-its-own-pulitzer-prize-winning-photographer-in-gaza


"If you have ever wondered why the New York Times photo coverage from Gaza has almost exclusively consisted of dead and bleeding Palestinian children in Shifa Hospital, with nary a Hamas gunman or missile launch from a school or a mosque to fill out the narrative of events on the ground, the newspaper of record has an astonishing answer: Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tyler Hicks really sucks at his job.

"For anyone who knows anything about photojournalism, the Times’s answer raises some very serious questions about the sanity of the people who are running the newspaper, as well as the paper’s loyalty to one of the greatest photographers of his era who has put his life at risk for the newspaper time and time again in global hot spots and conflict zones.

"But according to Eileen Murphy, the Times Vice President for Corporate Communications, the paper’s photographers in Gaza, led by Hicks, are the sole reason for the radical imbalance in the Times photo coverage of the war. Or at least that’s what she told Uriel Heilman of JTA, when he asked the Times to explain why, out of the 37 images that made up the paper’s last 3 slideshows from Gaza, there wasn’t a single image of a Hamas fighter or rocket launch or anything else that might signal to readers that Israel hadn’t simply decided to maim and murder Palestinian children in the coastal enclave for sport.

"Incredibly, the first part of Murphy’s answer blamed Times photographers for apparently submitting only a handful of low-quality images:
Our photo editor went through all of our pictures recently and out of many hundreds, she found 2 very distant poor quality images that were captioned Hamas fighters by our photographer on the ground.  It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun.
"Is this really how a legendary photojournalist like Tyler Hicks operates? Two very distant low-quality images, and nary a sight of a single person carrying a gun in all of Gaza during a three-week long conflict in which over 1500 people have died? If Hicks’ assignment took him anywhere else besides Gaza, one might suspect him of holding up the hotel bar.

"The rest of Murphy’s answer provides only a tiny bit of insight into why Hicks’ performance has been so poor:
I would add that we would not withhold photos of Hamas militants.  We eagerly pursue photographs from both sides of the conflict, but we are limited by what our photographers have access to.
"The key word in the second part of Murphy’s response, of course, is “access.” Tyler Hicks is hardly lying down on the job: He’s doing incredibly hard and dangerous work in a combat zone where photographers are hardly free to take pictures of whatever they want. Which is the key point that Murphy and her bosses are determined to elide.

"What the Times and other mainstream news outlets seem determined to hide from their readers is that their photographers and reporters are hardly allowed to roam freely. In fact, they are working under terribly difficult conditions under the effective control of a terrorist organization which–as the war itself indicates–doesn’t hesitate to maim, kidnap, and kill people that it doesn’t like.

"How does being dependent on Hamas for your daily access–not to mention your life–potentially impact coverage? Well, the fact that the Times has only two distant, grainy, unusable images of Hamas gunmen from Tyler Hicks tells you all you need to know, doesn’t it.

"If your imagination needs more help, here’s Liel Liebovitz’s column in Tablet:
In recent days alone, we’ve heard the account of Gabriele Barbati, an Italian journalist who, once leaving Gaza, tweeted: “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris.” We’ve also heard from Radjaa Abou Dagga, a former correspondent for France’s Liberation whose attempts at practicing honest journalism got him summoned by Hamas thugs, accused of collaborating with Israel, and told to stop working as a reporter and leave the strip at once.
"By playing coy with readers about the reasons why coverage is so imbalanced, the Times may think that it’s defending the work of its reporters and photographers. In fact, it’s making them and the paper look foolish–while serving as the propaganda arm of a terrorist organization. Someone at the paper needs to devote some serious attention to the reasoning that has transformed difficult working conditions on the ground into a glaring editorial failure."

And obviously it isn't just the New York Times playing this game.

 Even when the TV news channels are handed clear videos showing Hamas jihadists launching rockets at Israel from the roofs of private houses, hospitals, schools, and even UN shelter buildings, they show as little of the footage (maybe 5 seconds) as possible -- and then it's back to long minutes of pix of wounded Palestinian children.  You have to go search on the Internet to find actual photos of those tunnels that the Hamas jihadists dug into Israel, and videos that identify the buildings from which Hamas keeps firing rockets.

As to why Hamas would draw fire onto UN shelters, why, it's a win-win situation for them.  Those UN missions included schools that dared to teach women and female children heresies like reading, writing, mathematics, science, real history, and critical thinking. Getting the Israelis to bomb those buildings -- by the usual tactic of climbing up on the roof and firing a few rockets toward Israel -- would get rid of that problem while making the wicked-wicked Jews look bad.

I leave to the readers' imaginations just why the western news media have tried so hard to spread anti-Israel pro-jihadist propaganda, but be it noted that this attempt is failing -- largely thanks to the Internet. When it's possible to see (and analyze) pictures, videos and witnesses' reports from humble on-the-spot citizens with no more than cell-phones and Internet accounts, it gets really hard to limit viewers' news to only what the government and its tame media-flaks want them to think  Thus it's growing harder for Hamas to convincingly howl "Foul!" when everyone with uncensored Internet access can see its sins: shelling its own people, preventing its own people from getting out of the danger zones, using women and children for human shields, breaking every cease-fire that Israel has agreed to, constantly firing rockets at Israel and then wailing when Israel hits back -- with pinpoint precision.  The evidence relentlessly exonerates Israel, and the best propaganda artists in the business can't hide it all.  

And the media flacks themselves have begun to see the tide of public opinion turning.  Note how TV news in the last few days has begun showing a bit more balanced coverage, as if worried about complaints from the audience.  The audience can no longer be lied to as completely as in Nazi Germany, or the old USSR, or even the US in the heyday of William Randolph Hearst.

This is why the Internet must remain free and uncensored.  We have to combat every attempt by every government we can reach to pass censorship laws.  We must also support the efforts of every hacker who can break any technology that threatens such censorship -- not just the Electronic Freedom Foundation and Anonymous.

And, of course, it helps to learn how to identify a media fake when you see it.     

--Leslie <;)))>< 


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review: "Theodosia and the Pirates", by Aya Katz


Here's another of Aya Katz's remarkable historical novels which use the point-of-view of offbeat characters, with their fitting contemporary quirks and biases, to illuminate odd corners of history.  In this case Katz's protagonist is Theodosia Burr Alston, the miserably neurotic daughter of Aaron Burr, who doesn't just disappear at sea after her son's death but takes up with the privateer ("I am not a pirate!") Jean Lafitte -- and from this viewpoint reveals odd and fascinating details of politics in the southern states during the War of 1812.  I'll bet your high-school history classes never mentioned that America's early navy owed more to pirates -- or privateers, depending on your viewpoint -- than to John Paul Jones. 

Equally fascinating are the political intrigues between the freewheeling settlers of the gulf coast and the woefully inept officials of the new American republic.  The story is studded with examples of actual letters from the historical characters, giving unique insights into the volatile society of early America with its shifting relationships between the sexes, the races, and the influences of the neighboring European empires.  And of course, this being a historical Romance, there's plenty of good rampant sex. 

One could make minor quibbles: there are occasional typographical errors, and the Impressionistic-painting cover would have done better within a solid frame, but none of these distract from the pace and flow of the story.  Altogether, this is a complex and fascinating novel from a unique perspective.  I, for one, can't wait for the sequel.

--Leslie <;)))><              

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Damn, I Won the Prometheus Award!

Wow!  Now all I need is somebody who's going to WorldCon in London to accept the award for me, and get it out to me here in Buckeye, afterwards.  I've had a couple of tentative offers, but I want to have a backup, just in case.

--Leslie <;)))>< 


"For IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 12, 2014
PROMETHEUS AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED: Doctorow, Naam, Bujold and Fish
Vernor Vinge to receive Lifetime Achievement Award

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced its Prometheus Award winners for 2014 – including a tie for Best Novel, our annual Hall of Fame entry for Best Classic Fiction and a rare Special Award, the first by the LFS’ to a filksinger-storyteller.

Awards for Best Novel, Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) plus a Special Award will be presented at 8 p.m. Aug. 16 during the Special Awards ceremony at Loncon 3, the 72nd annual World Science Fiction Convention, which will be held August 14-18, 2014 in London.

In a separate awards ceremony, four-time-Prometheus-winning author Vernor Vinge will receive a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented during Conjecture/ConChord Oct. 10-12, 2014 in San Diego, California.

Doctorow, Naam tie for Best Novel
There was a tie for Best Novel: The winners are Homeland (TOR Books) by Cory Doctorow and Nexus (Angry Robot Books) by Ramez Naam.

Homeland, the sequel to Doctorow’s Prometheus winner Little Brother, follows the continuing adventures of a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers who must decide whether to release an incendiary Wikileaks-style exposé of massive government abuse and corruption as part of a struggle against the invasive national-security state.

Nexus offers a gripping exploration of politics and new extremes of both freedom and tyranny in a near future where emerging technology opens up unprecedented possibilities for mind control or personal liberation and interpersonal connection.

The other Prometheus finalists for best pro-freedom novel of 2013 were Sarah Hoyt’s A Few Good Men (Baen Books); Naam’s Crux, the sequel to Nexus (Angry Robot Books); and Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance (Thomas & Mercer).

Lois McMaster Bujold wins Hall of Fame for Falling Free
The Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) winner is Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold ‘s 1988 novel that explores free will and self-ownership by considering the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

The other 2014 Hall of Fame finalists: "As Easy as A.B.C.," a 1912 short story by Rudyard Kipling; "Sam Hall," a 1953 short story by Poul Anderson; “ 'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," a 1965 short story by Harlan Ellison; and Courtship Rite, a 1982 novel by Donald M. Kingsbury.
The Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction honors novels, novellas, stories, graphic novels, anthologies, films, TV shows/series, plays, poems, music recordings and other works of fiction first published or broadcast more than five years ago.

Leslie Fish wins Special Award
Author-filksinger Leslie Fish, perhaps the most popular filk song writer of the past three decades and one who often includes pro-freedom themes in her songs, will receive a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 for the combination of her 2013 novella, “Tower of Horses” and her filk song, The Horsetamer’s Daughter.
Fish’s novella (published in the anthology Music of Darkover, edited by Elisabeth Waters) faithfully tells the same story as her Pegasus-winning filk song. The story’s characters (especially the 12-year-old title character of the song) resist control of a wizard-backed government that wants to regulate, tax, and conscript them.

This Darkover story thus sheds new light and fresh libertarian perspective on the world of Darkover by focusing on the peaceful voluntary cooperative lives of farmers and small-town traders struggling to preserve their freedom and independence – rather than the usual Darkover focus on the planet’s leaders or ruling elite, some well-intentioned but some abusing power.

About the awards
The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners.

For more than three decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org. Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.

For more information, contact LFS Publicity Chair Chris Hibbert (publicity@lfs.org). To submit 2014 novels for consideration and possible nomination by LFS members, contact Best Novel awards coordinator Michael Grossberg (BestNovel@lfs.org or 614-236-5040). To propose works published more than five years ago for the Hall of Fame, contact William H. Stoddard, Hall of Fame finalist judging committee chair (HallOfFame@lfs.org).

More information is available at http://lfs.org."

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Suspicious Underpinnings of ISIS

You have to be pretty far out in the weeds for Al Qaeda to consider you too "extremist", but the so-called Iraqi Syrian Islamic State rebels have managed to gain that dubious title.  For that matter, Hezbollah doesn't like them either.  Neither does anybody else in the middle-east -- except the Syrian rebels and a lot of assorted Jihadist hotheads, many of whom are flocking into northern Iraq to join them.  They're polarizing the middle-east as fast and thoroughly as Boko Haram did northern Africa.  

In fact, ISIS -- which is now shifting its name to The New Caliphate -- has made so many enemies so quickly that one has to wonder if this was, dare I say, planned?  ISIS was obviously backed by a lot of money, which everyone assumes came from the rich fanatic sheiks of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but where did those rich Jihadist fanatics get the idea that now was the time to start the great war to establish Moslem rule over the world?  Well, certainly the inability of the angered governments of northern Africa to stamp out Boko Haram, and the departure of the American troops from Iraq, and the Palestinian kidnappings and murders in Israel, might have encouraged them, but wouldn't caution have warned them to wait and see if those Africans and Israelis eventually came up with effective reactions?  Wouldn't any sensible military adviser have told them not to assume that, just because Allah was on their side, that all the world would fall before them?  Where did they get the idea that everybody else in the world is a collection of cowards, weaklings and fools who are ripe for the conquering?

Is it possible that somebody who's not a Jihadist carefully sowed that idea in their heads?

Not everybody in the western state departments are fools, and -- much though it might surprise China -- western governments are capable of playing a long, slow game.  It was not by accident that the USSR was encouraged to spend itself into collapse, so that it crumbled without anyone in the west firing a shot.  Nobody who has carefully followed events since then could doubt that the next big threat to western civilization was going to be the Jihadist movement;  after all, the Muslim militants have been building toward this confrontation for the last century, at least.

So, how to deal with it?  How do you fight armies who boast that they love death as westerners love life, who are happy to die if they can just die killing a few more innocent people, who are quite happy to slaughter noncombatants -- including children -- and who boast that they have a potential recruiting pool as big as the population of China?  How do you make war on a political/religious movement which is not tied down to any one location or government, and armies that wear no uniform but hide among civilians?  Genghis Khan managed, centuries ago, by having no compunctions about slaughtering whole populations, but that sort of thing is frowned on these days;  anyone who tried it would find the rest of the world allied against him for pure self-preservation.  So how do you stop them?

Well -- and here's where my hard-learned practical political paranoia kicks in -- you make them fight each other, to the death.  This isn't as hard as it might appear.  Religious fanatics have a long track-record of turning on each other for being insufficiently holy, as various Muslim sects have done many times before.  In fact, the only thing that has ever managed to unite fanatic religious sects in the past has been a common enemy -- and even that is no guarantee.  Despite their handy unifying hatred of Israel, for the past 60 years Arabs have merrily fought each other over any good excuse.  The long-standing civil war in Syria has killed more fanatical Muslims than all the western troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

Now considering how fast the Arab Spring came and went in other middle-eastern countries, why has the civil war in Syria dragged on so long?  You might consider the question of where both sides are getting the weapons to keep fighting it.  No country has visibly or officially sold or given weapons to either side in a very long time, yet both sides manage to keep getting them -- always small arms and small artillery: not serious enough to invade any neighboring countries, but enough to keep killing each other (at least 100,000 at last estimate) for year after year.  For all the UN's whaffling about "international arms smugglers", it's clear that a volume of weapons like this could only be supplied by the government of an industrialized country -- or several countries.  And how many governments in the world have good reason to want as many Jihadists as possible dead?  How many countries -- from Britain to Burma -- have had problems with demanding Muslim fanatics inside their own borders?  The not-so-subtle attempts by Jihadists to spread their power in other countries has raised a quiet but sizable backlash all over the world, and I strongly suspect that civil resistance is the least of it.

So why did the Syrian rebels, who haven't even conquered their own country after all this time, suddenly decide to run next door and conquer Iraq?  Did they -- and their Saudi/Qatar backers -- really think they could get away with it, just because the American troops were leaving?  Or were they subtly encouraged -- by people who had observed the effects of the Syrian civil war -- to make their move toward worldwide Jihad too soon?  After all, it should be obvious by now that the one sure effect of the ISIS invasion will be the slaughter of an awful lot of fanatical Muslims.

Here's my prediction about what those "300 military advisers" Obama is sending to Iraq will do.  They'll mainly concern themselves with operating fleets of drones -- some of them these days are small enough to be disguised as small birds or insects -- to spy out exactly who and where the Jihadists are, and provide pinpoint navigation for American smart missiles, and airstrikes by other countries' bombers.  The earlier campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on so long, and at such expense, because the American troops (and their civilian "reconstruction" teams) bent over backwards to be nice to the natives: being painfully careful not to harm innocent civilians, not to knock down mosques(no matter how often Jihadists fired from them), to provide supplies and medical treatment, to rebuild the infrastructure and economy and government, and generally leave the population a lot better off where they'd passed.  Of course the Jihadists sneered at this behavior as "weakness" (or "cultural warfare" once they realized how effective it was), but the 85% of the natives who aren't fanatics and just want to get on with their lives certainly noticed.  Once the pinpoint bombing begins, the natives will also see just how murderously effective the non-Jihadist troops can be.  That should encourage them, in good historical everybody-love-a-winner fashion, to fall upon the Jihadists -- and their whole New Caliphate movement -- with great enthusiasm.

If the US will also lend a few drone-operating "advisers" to the various angered/embarrassed governments in Africa, Boko Haram will soon be obliterated also -- and so will the other Jihadist organizations in the region.  If Israel chooses to bomb Gaza flat, not much stink will be raised in the UN, either.  In all the noise and flurry, not many people will notice if Burma expels its entire Muslim population.  It will be interesting to see what happens to the Jihadist groups in Indonesia, too.

In brief, the noisy excesses of ISIS actually spell the turning of the tide against the Jihadists, everywhere in the world.  Thus World War Three -- between the Jihadists and everybody else -- may yet be avoided, or at least nipped in the bud, simply by the trick of encouraging the Jihadists to show their hand too soon.  And yes, I suspect the wiser heads of the various state departments of the western governments of having given the Jihadists enough rope to hang themselves.  Well done, boys.  Well done.

--Leslie <;)))>< 



   

  

   

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Politically Correct = Political Club

I was going to continue with my article on Independence and Competence, but it's a long complicated subject and something else snagged my attention -- namely, the flap about the Washington Redskins.

Somebody has decided that the name of the Washington Redskins is "racist" and offensive to the "Native Americans", and he/she/it/they is hammering the team's owner to change its name (to what?  The "Natives"?).  This somebody has spent a lot of money on this campaign, even televising ads that feature supposedly-real Indians, piously claiming that they never called themselves Redskins -- and never mind the facts.  Go talk to the real Indians, and you'll get a very different story.

First off, my maternal great-grandmother was a Chippewa medicine-singer (probably where the family's musical talent comes from), who was also literate and left tales and letters with her descendants -- which plainly state that, in her day, Indians preferred being called "redskins" to the more vulgar term, which was "red niggers".  The Chippewa themselves had no qualms about calling Whites "white-eyes" or "fish-bellies".

Second, as Indian archeologists and anthropologists (yes, there are some) can tell you, despite the temptation to please guilty-patronizing Whites, no, the term "Native Americans" is not scientifically accurate, and "Indians" is actually a lot closer to the truth.  The first humans to visit the Americas were Neanderthals, soon followed by Java Man.  They didn't stay to settle because, in those days, most of the land was covered with glaciers and the rest was inhabited by very large and unfriendly animals: the mammoth, the mastodon, the giant sloth, the giant deer, the giant humpless camel, the giant short-faced bear, the giant dire-wolf, the rather large saber-toothed tiger, and so on.  The first people to stay and settle the Americas were the Clovis Point people, toward the end of the Ice Age -- and they, thank you, came from Europe: northwestern France, to be precise.  That's right;  the first Americans were White people.  Yes, as the Ice Age receded, another group of people from northern Asia (not actually India, but a little closer) came across the Bering Straits and mingled with the original settlers, producing the Folsom Point people who were the ancestors of the modern Indian tribes -- but they were Johnny-come-latelies as much as the later Whites.  Because the Asians came (and continued to come for centuries) in greater numbers than the original Clovis Point people, their genetics came to dominate the American population;  thus the name "Indians" (which, in Columbus' time, meant "Asian") is the more accurate term.  There's nothing "racist" about it.

Third, the Washington Redskins -- like the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves -- originally were made up of Indians.  In the late 19th century the old hunting/gathering/fishing/small-farming Indian economies were in shambles, and a lot of the tribesfolk had to come to the Whites' cities for work.  (This was when the Michigan Indian tribes, with their excellent ears and superb sense of balance, came to dominate the high-iron construction trades.)  On their days off, since there wasn't much entertainment they could afford, they organized ball teams and played among themselves.  Eventually they came to play against other amateur urban ball teams, and won respectable numbers of games.  Sports fans in those cities came to respect those "Indian", "Redskin", "Braves" ballplayers.  In time, those teams became serious professionals.  They kept the names they'd started with as a point of pride, even after most of the players were no longer Indians.  It's a classic case of Yankee Doodling.

Side note: the term "Yankee Doodle" was originally British propaganda.  When the American colonies started grumbling toward revolution and British troops were sent in to "maintain order", the British governors launched a propaganda campaign intended to discredit the grumblers. These malcontents, the British claimed, weren't real Britons -- or else they'd never do something so disgraceful as to question and defy the divinely-ordained Crown.  No, these had to be resentful leftover Dutchmen: not John Bull, but John Cheese -- stupid John Cheese.  In the contemporary Dutch language, that was: Jaan Kees dudel -- pronounced: Yan Kees doodle.  The British commanders even made a song about it.  Now, is anybody going to tell the New York Yankees that they should change their name because it's an "offensive" term for a Dutchman?

  Finally, in case the Politically Correct crowd have forgotten this too, people tend to name their sports teams after things they admire: symbols of courage, fortitude, ferocity, beauty, or great skill.  They name teams for noble animals like lions, tigers, bears, bulls, mustangs, eagles or dolphins -- or skilled trades like steel-workers, or brewers, or meat-packers, or globe-trotters -- or not-so-respected but definitely fierce trades, like pirates, or raiders -- or fierce natural phenomena like cyclones, or sun-devils, or hurricanes -- or even respected ethnic groups, like 49ers, or metropolitans, or saints, or Vikings, or...yes, Indians.

The Braves, the Indians and the Redskins earned their names honestly, and are proud of them.  Let them keep those names, thank you.

Frankly, I'm wondering about the connection between this anti-Redskins campaign and the rather famous example of, hmm, a certain ball-team owner who made a few drunken racist remarks in what he thought was private, and the resulting storm of well-orchestrated outrage that forced him to sell his team.  If you researched just who's been paying for those anti-Redskin TV ads, and then see who's funding the group behind them, would you possibly find somebody who's made offers to buy that team?  Just a thought.

--Leslie <;)))><