31 July 2006

Message from Lebanon

Some time ago I mentioned a blog by a young Lebanese professional who had business contacts in Israel. Life for him lately has become almost too interesting to bear. I urge you to read his blog to get some sense of what is happening on the ground. He writes with beautiful English, but an Arab sensibility. He does not use language to establish a strong narrative nor to paint a concrete image. Rather he uses a torrent of words to lead you into the emotional center of his world. Here is the first paragraph of his last post.
The sound of death is horrifying. It’s doesn’t sound of bombs or missiles. Guns or F-16s. Those are the sounds of war and misplaced ideology. We become accustomed to those through 42 inch plasma screens showing embedded playstationesque reporting. Women and children becoming mere statistics in the fight for high ratings and even higher ad revenues.

No, death has more horrifying sounds.
What to us are pictures of nameless death and destruction, to him are pictures of his hometown, his relatives and friends, an old family friend psychologically destroyed. His sister screaming on the phone.

BIAS: Grist for the POMO Mill?

One of the reasons I got interested in writing a blog was the over-heated and crazed partisanship of virtually all political discussion on the Web. It is, sadly, merely reflective of the times we live in. By nature and nurture it disgusts me, not least because I have always felt that strong partisanship in politics, as in religion, simply short circuits your brain's ability to process information. In short, you do not believe things because you see them; you see them because you believe them. Anything else is ignored or explained away.

Now there is scientific proof! In an article in today's Washington Post;

Psychological experiments in recent years have shown that people are not evenhanded when they process information, even though they believe they are. (When people are asked whether they are biased, they say no. But when asked whether they think other people are biased, they say yes.) Partisans who watch presidential debates invariably think their guy won. When talking heads provide opinions after the debate, partisans regularly feel the people with whom they agree are making careful, reasoned arguments, whereas the people they disagree with sound like they have cloth for brains.

Unvaryingly, partisans also believe that partisans on the other side are far more ideologically extreme than they actually are, said Stanford University psychologist Mark Lepper, who has studied how people watch presidential debates.

As a conclusion of the studies:

people routinely discount information that threatens their preexisting beliefs, said Emory University psychologist Drew Westen, who has conducted brain-scan experiments that show partisans swiftly spot hypocrisy and inconsistencies -- but only in the opposing candidate.

I love it when scientific studies confirms my biases!

You should read the whole article for yourself. It explains a lot about our public discourse, and thus a lot about the world we live in.

30 July 2006

Congo: The Lost Continent

For years now there has been a terrible war, or several little wars, raging in the heart of Africa. Despite occasional efforts by the media to arouse some interest in the situation the world, and especially America, has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to it. Here is what the Washington Post had to say about it this morning:

TODAY THE United Nations' largest peacekeeping mission will oversee one of the world's boldest experiments in electoral democracy in a country devastated by a regional war that has killed millions. Why have you not heard of this? Because the country is not European or Middle Eastern but African: the Democratic Republic of Congo, once known as Zaire. Riding on the outcome of this risky but hopeful enterprise will be the stability of a resource-rich swath of territory the size of Western Europe, with a population of 60 million.

Just how many dead? Hard to say. In an item from The Week, citing the New York Times,

About 4 million people - half of them children under 5 - have died as a result of fighting between Congo's army and rebel militias since 1998. Every six months, the toll of Congolese who die of malnutrition, disease, or violence equals that of 2004's deadly Indian Ocean tsunami.

But, they have no geopolitical importance, no oil, don't fit into the Left's paradigm of resistance to the West, or the Right's war on terror. In fact, the Congo has nothing to interest the outside world. Other than its people.

29 July 2006

Some things are universal

A news item in The Week.

In India the entire nation was glued to their TV sets for two days as rescuers dug out a tunnel to save a 5 year old boy who had fallen down a 60 ft well. Cameras showed the child munching chocolate and drinking canned milk that had been lowered to him while the rescue efforts went forward. To everyone's relief he was finally rescued unharmed.

"However, politicians from all parties, eager to be seen, croweded the site, badgering rescue workers and, some complained, hampering the recovery."

Clemen's Notebook

Here are a few interesting things I learned today from The Week magaizine.

"US gas prices hit a 25-yr high last week. The average retail for a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.02.... Nationwide, the lowest price for regular was $2.77 a gallon in Charleston, S.C. The highest was $3.28 a gallon in San Diego."

Oh, yes. I read elsewhere that Exxon and other gas companies are bracing for the bad publicity when it turns out that their profits have skyrocketed. It's almost enough to make you want to get a car with decent gas milage and drive as little as possible. Do you suppose?

Some facts not mentioned on the same page deserve each other. Here are two I especially like.

"The direct medical costs of obesity have reached $93 billion a year in the U. S. - 9 percent of the country's health-care bill."

BTW, have you checked out the cost of your health insurance lately?
Now, you might think that stats like this would cause people to set aside their cars and get out and walk, even if it was just to wander around the nearest Mall.

You'd be wrong.

"Electric 'mobility scooters' may have been developed for the disabled ... but their popularity is surging among the lazy able-bodied. Shoppings malls, big-box stores, and casinos that provide the low-speed vehicles as a service to elderly and disabled customers are finding that many of the takers are people who can walk, but prefer not to."

Australian Wine
"A glut in the Australian grape harvest pushed the price of some decent bottles below $2, or less than a bottle of mineral water. "

Darwin was wrong
American Scientist reports that there seems to be a worldwide trend in intelligence scores declining after decades of slowly rising. It is not clear why this is, but isn't it nice to know you weren't imagining it?

A Sure Fire way to meet girls
A student at the University of Central Florida [aha!] was charged with setting fire to his dorm in order to meet female students as the building was being evacuated.

New Verb: Iraq, Iran, Erode

Things don't seem to be going so well in Iraq, despite our best efforts to make it sound no worse than it was, say, two years ago. For the administration though the keystone of their assertions that things were working out was the expectation that by the end of the year, perhaps in time for the November elections, American troop strength in Iraq could fall and some troops could come home. That should put the following item for Salon.com's War Room into some context. If Rummy has to do this now, then the administration itself must think things are going to Hell in a handbasket;

Donald Rumsfeld today extended for up to four months the tours of duty for approximately 3,500 soldiers who were supposed to be on their way home from Iraq. "At the same time," the Associated Press reports, "the Pentagon signaled plans to maintain or possibly increase the current level of about 130,000 troops in Iraq by announcing that roughly 21,000 Army soldiers and Marines have been told they are scheduled to go to Iraq during the current 2006-2008 rotation."

27 July 2006

PoMo, History, and the Venerable Bede

A few posts back Elliot (aka The Claw) suggested I check out some posts by James Hannam, who blogs under the name of Bede, a venerable name in Anglo-Saxon church history. The subject was a book on Biblical archaeology written by William Dever, What Did the Biblical Writers Know?.

On the whole a good review. There is one part though that I don't think is quite right, though I've heard it from others in regard to the lessons historians have learned, or should learn, from Post Modernism.

While historians have had to learn lessons from postmodernism, what is left that makes it distinctive is much less useful. I think that you can precisely identify when someone has gone to far. If they say �history contains fictive elements�, �complete objectivity is impossible� or �writers have an agenda� then you are dealing with sensible mainstream historians who have taken on board the important lessons of postmodernism. But when someone says �all history is fiction�, �objectively is completely impossible� or �texts have no meaning beyond what they are given� then you have found yourself a bona fide literary critic who should not be let loose in a history department. [my emphasis]

Now I received my BA in History in 1971, my MA in 1975, and started on the PhD in '77 ( no need to go into when I completed the PhD). That was well before postmodernism. I was taught by the even older historians who were my professors that 1) history contains fictive elements 2) complete objectivity is impossible and 3) all writers, even historians, have an agenda. These were not new fangled ideas, even back then. If you go through even a bit of Ed Gibbons' late eighteenth century Decline and Fall you will see that he operated on much the same assumptions.

So what exactly are the important lessons of postmodernism for the historian?

24 July 2006

A Good Way to Put It

While waiting for her parents to arrive at an airport in America after being caught up in the shelling and bombing of the Israeli attack, Sandy Wilda, a Christian Lebanese-American, nervously told a reporter "It was an opportunity to trust God."

Remeber that the next time you get a little worried about a loved one.

Another list from the Dept of Homeland Security!

In the same article in The Washington Post Arkin goes on with anther list the Homeland Security folks have brought us - this one listing priorities for "Intelligence/Information requirements." Here is his conclusion about it:

Ten pages of "priority" intelligence requirements, a list that suggests thoughtfulness and government action actually has the opposite effect of its purpose. No true priorities can really be divined from the endless mass. Like the National Assets Database, it is undifferentiated and useless.

This "For Official Use Only" document, in all of its seeming completeness, does convey the overall message that there is a real and present "threat" in these United States. It is more interesting for the insight it provides into the mindset of the homeland security goons.

No wonder the New York Daily News opined this morning that the Department of Homeland Security is a "blundering behemoth of a bureaucracy with less sense than a mule or a groundhog."

Now I don't know about Homeland Security or much of anything else, except what happened to the Roman Empire, but I can certainly see that "Intelligence" certainly is a desired requirement. May they acquire some soon.

postscript: At least the groundhogs had enough sense to get listed as a national asset.

Homeland Security - on the alert!

I know that some people have been a little nervous about the Homeland Security Dept ever since it watched an American city get blown away in slow motion without letting Director Chertoff know about it, but this should set your mind at rest. It's from the Washington Post article by William Arkin.

The Department of Homeland Security's "National Asset Database," described in yesterday's New York Times," is made for mocking.

The government database lists among other critical infrastructure and key resources a Pennsylvania-based Amish popcorn company, the Groundhog Zoo; a kangaroo conservation center and some beach "at the end of the street." Notable exclusions? The Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.

Now here is the troubling part:

"We don't find it embarrassing" at all, a DHS spokesman said in response to an internal report on the database.

OK ... I can understand the kangeroos and the groundhogs, but ... an Amish popcorn company???

Do we pay people for this?

23 July 2006

Victor Davis Hanson and the war

Hanson is an historian of ancient Greece who specializes in hoplite warfare. His books on the topic, such as The Other Greeks are brilliant, though many of his theories are controversial. Since 9/11 he has become an intelectual cheerleader for the right wing when their enthusiasm for the war in Iraq flags. His columns for National Review Online come out about every two weeks and are usually published in book form, like The Autumn War, every year or so. I am fascinated by the way his mind works. Very often I agree with him, especially his historical writings about the Greeks. At other times I am much less in agreement, but he is always interesting.

In today's column he makes two comments that I think show these qualities.

After a recent trip to the Middle East, I noticed that the unfortunate prejudicial stares given to a passenger with an Iranian passport were surpassed only by those accorded another on his way to Damascus.

Anecdotal evidence almost never pans out, but this is interesting. But what does it mean? Sunnis in the Middle East don't trust Shi'ites? They don't trust or like Iran? Or simply don't like Iranians? Or Indo-Europeans in general? Fascinating.

So after 9/11, the London bombings, the Madrid murders, the French riots, the Beslan atrocities, the killings in India, the Danish cartoon debacle, Theo Van Gogh, and the daily arrests of Islamic terrorists trying to blow up, behead, or shoot innocent people around the globe, the world is sick of the jihadist ilk. And for all the efforts of the BBC, Reuters, Western academics, and the horde of appeasers and apologists that usually bail these terrorist killers out when their rhetoric finally outruns their muscle, this time they can’t.

As I said, I don't always agree with him. But then, I am a Western academic. As is Hanson himself. I suppose he sees himself as being in the belly of the beast. Essentially he thinks of himself as a traditional farmer on his southern California family farm. But he is still worth reading.

20 July 2006

How to make a point in a book review!

A review of Carolingians in Central Europe in the latest issue of Speculum (no, it is not a medical journal) starts off this way:
"This book has little to recommend it; indeed, it should embarass both author and publisher. It is hard to know why this has happened."
Now that's a reviewer who knows how to call a spade a totally worthless spade!

Sometimes scholarly discourse is not pretty.


13 July 2006, South Korean businessman Tongsun Park, formerly of Koreagate fame, was convicted in the Southern District of New York of conspiracy to launder money and act as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Both charges stem for the Un Oil for Food Prgram corruption scandal.

The sound you don't hear yet is the other shoe.

18 July 2006

Clemens' Notebook - History

English has only one basic word, "history." But German, for instance, has (1) Geschichte, or the academic discipline of history-writing; (2) Historie, or less formal narrative history; and (3) Storie, which may contain many mythical and folkloric elements, but nevertheless aims at a connected account of the past.
from What Did the Biblican Writers Know and When Did They Know it?, by William G. Dever

Thus English, with the largest vocabulary of any language, does not have enough words to cover the subject.

New Competition for American auto companies

It is just a small dot on the horizon right now, but then so were the Japanese back when I bought my first car (a German Opel).

China's Nanjing Automobile Group, plans to build the MG sports car in Oklahoma. The Group has about $2 billion for the effort which should create about 500 jobs.

Remember when we laughed at funny little Toyotas and Datsuns? And then laughed at Hyundai and Kia? So let's start laughing at those crazy Chinese, thinking they can break into the largest automotive market in the world.

If that doesn't amuse you, remember how we used to laugh at Renault and Fiat?

American Troops in Paraguay?

A friend of mine with good contacts in Paraguay says that he has been told the locals in western Paraguay are concerned that 2,500 American troops have recently arrived near Mariscal Estigarribia. I don't remember hearing about that.

So what's in western Paraguay? I mean, other than the Bolivian border.

Your Government at work!

No doubt you have heard the cheerful news that the US is evacuating American citizens from Lebanon. Also no doubt, you assumed that this was a totally unexpected war situation, endangering the lives of those Americans, the government would pick up the tab.

Guess again. This is part of an offical American embassy letter:

The Department of State reminds American citizens that the U.S. government does not provide no-cost transportation but does have the authority to provide repatriation loans to those in financial need. For the portion of your trip directly handled by the U.S. Government we will ask you to sign a promissory note and we will bill you at a later date. In a subsequent message, when we have specific details about the transporation arrangments, we will inform you about the costs you will incur. We will also work with commercial aircraft to ensure that they have adequate flights to help you depart Cyprus and connect to your final destination.

Nice to know you can count on them in an emergency.
BTW, that flight from Cyprus comes out of your own pocket too.

14 July 2006

Advice to writers

I love to read how writers create, so sometimes I make note of accounts of how they do it. As I said somewhere on this blog, I once wrote a book. It was actually published. On Amazon.com and everything. Yet I have a hard time completing anything longer than a paragraph, hence my blogs. So this is really advice to myself, Clemens. It comes from an interview with Nora Roberts in Borders Bookstore's Newsletter to customers in which the author says:

Well, first: There ain't no muse. If you sit around and wait to channel the muse, you can sit around and wait a long time. It's not effortless. If only. Well, if it was, then everyone would do it, and where would we be then? So I work really hard to make it as fluid as possible, as readable and entertaining as possible.

I'll vomit out the first draft: bare-bones, get-the-story-down. I don't edit and fiddle as I go, because I don't know what's going to happen next. Once I get the discovery draft down, then I'll go back to page one, chapter one, and then I start worrying about how it sounds, where I've made mistakes, where I've gone right, what else I have to add, where's the texture, where's the emotion. I start fixing. And then, after I've done that all the way through again, I'll go back one more time, and that's when I'm really going to worry about the language. And the rhythm, and making sure that I haven't made a mistake, that I've tied up all the loose ends reasonably.

Everyone works in a different fashion, but this method, or something like it, works for me when I write my non-fiction and it is similar to the method I advise my students try.

Sometimes they listen.

13 July 2006

More Logic

Also from Salon.com, to which you need a subscription, alas. This is from Tim Grieve in 'The War Room.'

In 1998, three Texas men attacked a 49-year-old African-American named James Byrd. They cut his throat, chained him to the back of a pickup truck, then dragged him along a road for several miles. Byrd was alive for at least part of the ordeal; a forensic pathologist said that Byrd lived until he hit a culvert and his arm and head were severed. His attackers dragged what was left of his body for at least an additional mile.

Gruesome? Yes, but it's apparently no worse than what happened to Ken Lay.

The former Enron chairman died of a heart attack at his vacation home in Aspen, Colo., last week. At a memorial service in Houston Wednesday -- with former President George H.W. Bush in attendance -- a local pastor likened Lay's prosecution in Enron's collapse to the attack on Byrd. "Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, as James Byrd was," said the Rev. William Lawson, pastor emeritus of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. "But I'm angry because Ken was the victim of a lynching."

Apparently our legal system, after a long fair trial with the best defense money could buy before a jury that resulted in a guilty verdict, is, at least in the minds of some, the same as a vicious murder. How much respect do such people have for our legal system, juries of our peers, and our Constitution?

The death of Ken Lay is a genuine tragedy, but that changes nothing about his guilt nor the fairness of his trial. For some people a fair trial is only a fail trial if it exhonerates your friends.


As Wonkette notes, King, an Iowa Republican, was last observed opining that Iraq is safer than Washington. ThinkProgress has explained the problems with King's math, but we'll take our proof circumstantially. When George W. Bush visited Baghdad last month, the trip was deemed so dangerous that it was kept a secret from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki until five minutes before he was to meet with Bush there. Now al-Maliki is coming to Washington, and we know this because the White House announced his visit today -- nearly two full weeks before his expected arrival. [From Salon.com]

Do we pay these guys?

Another View of Immigrants

In proposing a wire-topped fence along the border between the United States and Mexico, US Rep. Steve King said: "We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time."

Taken from Salon.com (subscribers only, I am afraid)

10 July 2006

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

According to the most recent Tarrance Group survey, 75% of likely GOP voters support immigration reform that combines increased border and workplace enforcement with a guest-worker system for newcomers and a multiyear path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here--provided that they meet certain requirements like living crime free, learning English and paying taxes. "Support for this plan," the poll found, "is strong even among base Republican voter demographics like strong Republicans (77%), very conservative Republicans (72%), white conservative Christians (76%), and those who listen to news talk radio on a daily basis (72%)."

Source: The Wall Street Journal 10 July 2006, "Conservatives and Immigration'.

Another liberal rag pushes free immigration!

Today The Wall Street Journal [link apparently won't work] published what it bills as the 'conservative' take on immigration. Which of course brings up the difficult question of exactly what the c-term means these days. (Fortunately it is widely recognized around here that poor Clemens is not competent to answer that question, so he won't even try) Anyway, I thought it was worth bringing you the guts of what it says.

The Journal editors start off trying to show their conservative credentials.
"The most frequent criticism we hear is that a newspaper called "The Wall Street Journal" simply wants "cheap labor" for business. This is an odd charge coming from conservatives who profess to believe in the free market, since it echoes the AFL-CIO and liberals who'd just as soon have government dictate wages."

It is also an odd charge since being pro-business has been an acknowledged Republican hallmark - if you find this disturbing you should get in touch with your inner liberal immediately.

Then they warm to their task:
"Our own view is that a philosophy of "free markets and free people" includes flexible labor markets. At a fundamental level, this is a matter of freedom and human dignity. These migrants are freely contracting for their labor, which is a basic human right. Far from selling their labor "cheap," they are traveling to the U.S. to sell it more dearly and improve their lives. Like millions of Americans before them, they and certainly their children climb the economic ladder as their skills and education increase." [Maybe Joey has a point then: they'll pass up low-paying jobs in Mexico for jobs at McDonald's!]

A quick nod to their critics on the right:
"We realize that critics are not inventing the manifold problems that can arise from illegal immigration: Trespassing, violent crime, overcrowded hospital emergency rooms, document counterfeiting, human smuggling, corpses in the Arizona desert [very inconsiderate of them to clutter up our desert], and a sense that the government has lost control of the border. But all of these result, ultimately, from too many immigrants chasing too few U.S. visas."
[my inserted comment, btw]

Then, back to the attack:
"Those migrating here to make a better life for themselves and their families would much prefer to come legally. Give them more legal ways to enter the country, and we are likely to reduce illegal immigration far more effectively than any physical barrier along the Rio Grande ever could. This is not about rewarding bad behavior. It's about bringing immigration policy in line with economic and human reality. And the reality is that the U.S. has a growing demand for workers, while Mexico has both a large supply of such workers and too few jobs at home."

The Journal also points out that what worries a great many here is the cultural issue, since Hispanics comprise 1/3 or the populations of California and Texas and thus may not assimilate (I believe Michael Lind and Victor Davis Hanson, two authors I admire greatly, take this tack). This brings forth a well deserved jab towards the Left:
"This is where the political left does the cause of immigration no good in pursuing a separatist agenda. When such groups as La Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund push for multiculturalism, bilingual education, foreign language ballots, racial quotas and the like, they undermine support for immigration among even the most open-minded Americans. Most Americans don't want to replicate the Bosnia model; nor are they pining for a U.S. version of the Quebec sovereignty movement." [There are several good historical reasons why we can't replicate Bosnia and Quebec, but let that pass for the moment]

The paper then goes on to state the obvious, or what ought to be the obvious:
"But the good news is that these newcomers by and large aren't listening to the left-wingers pushing identity politics. Mexican immigrants, like their European predecessors, are assimilating. Their children learn English and by the end of high school prefer it to their parents' native tongue. They also marry people they meet here. Second-generation Latinos earn less than white Americans but more than blacks and 50% more than first-generation Latinos. According to Tamar Jacoby's "Reinventing the Melting Pot," the most common last names among new homeowners in California include Garcia, Lee, Martinez, Nguyen, Rodriguez and Wong."

Then they conclude grandly:
"House Republican leaders, who passed an immigration bill last year focusing only on enforcement, want to frame this debate as a choice between more border security or "amnesty" for the 11 or 12 million illegals already here. But that's a false choice. A guest-worker program that lets market forces rather than prevailing political winds determine how many economic migrants can enter the country actually enhances security. How? By reducing pressure on the border, just as the Bracero guest-worker program in the 1950s and early 1960s did."

Now that you mention it, some of my family now bear names like 'Martinez' and 'Nguyen'. And we used to be so Anglo-Saxon (and btw, I mean real Anglo-Saxons whose ancestors got here before the Revolution). Well, that's what happens when you let your citizenship standards slip, I suppose. My wife didn't start leaning English until she was nine, and now she corrects my grammer, my spelling, my punctuation.

But that's enough personal stuff. Just thought we should get a professional opinion from a widely respected in some quarters source in the MSM.

09 July 2006

A Gay Conservative Liberal!

A new blog is out there - and it's interesting. A little weird, but interesting (with some nice shots of J-Lo btw). Calls himself 'Conservative Liberal' - which might not be an oxymoron if we see a McCain/Lieberman independent ticket in nought eight (the Third Choice, Elliot!) and opens with "Fed up with the hateful rhetoric of the right and with the indecisiveness of the left, I've decided to post my own views on the issues of the day." Which is actually the thought that led me to blogging.

Sometimes he is a little - how shall I say? - overheated. Sometimes he's simply wrong. Sometimes, though, he comes up with observations and judgements you really weren't expecting. In this day and age when all you need to know is someone's political affiliation to know just about everything they will say on any topic, this is golden.

Here is Mr Conservative Liberal on John Kerry, whom he once admired:
I wasted a vote on Kerry and now I want to throw a shoe at him. He's like the loser chick who didn't get asked to the prom so she heads up the decorating committee just so she can tell herself she matters. John Kerry is a political mess wrapped up in all sorts of ill-fitting sequins and tafetta.

He can also, occasionally, be illogical as in this;
... we should look back to Mr. Clinton's ill-advised decision to support NAFTA. Not only did American jobs go south, but they did nothing to stop illegal immigration and instead further fueled the sweatshop ethos of yesteryear.

If jobs went south, why are job-seekers streaming north?

On the Dim Dems he has this:
So there, I've said it. Democrats make mistakes. Democrats can be self-important and grating and are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Brace yourselves: I don't think the Democrats have captivating, imaginative, aggressive leaders. In that respect, the Republican party gets a nod from this blogger for sticking to their guns.

And for Pal Joey Sobrino, our resident multicultural xenophobe, he has this!

Well, gotta go. Col. Mosby is having an old-fashioned conniption fit and I seem to be in the way.

Yet another liberal traitor criticizes the War in Iraq

The Washington Post has an article by Thomas Ricks today on the "Findings and Recommendations" of Army Lt. General Chiareli, no 2 commander in Iraq regarding the investigations into the civilian killings at Haditha. Essentailly he endorses the the army's own investigation report by Gen. Bargewell (which stands 4 ft when stacked up!), but what is most interesting to me is the following:

Chiarelli has long been concerned that the U.S. military was inadequately prepared to conduct an effective counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq. He also included thoughts about how better to prepare troops and commanders, the official added.

"You've got to prepare for the fight you're in today," said a second defense official, summarizing Chiarelli's findings on the military's inadequate training for counterinsurgency operations. "It's totally different" from fighting in Iraq two or three years ago, he said.

The Army, for example, tends in its training to emphasize using heavy firepower against the enemy, although classic counterinsurgency doctrine teaches that soldiers should use the minimal amount of force necessary to accomplish the mission.

Also, the Army early in Iraq tended to focus on killing or capturing insurgents, although counterinsurgency doctrine teaches that the best way to deal with an insurgent is to persuade him to change sides or to desert. Also, in contrast to a spate of cases of abuse of detainees, counterinsurgency theorists recommend treating captured fighters well, to encourage them to desert and to persuade others to give themselves up. Above all, people are seen as the prize in the war, not as its playing field.

So we have been fighting for three years, and even our top commanders know that we aren't learning anything from the experience. But I am sure that Chiareli is just another liberal crypto-pacifist soft-on-terrorism type. He will soon be set straight by more experienced military minds like Dick 'Don't fire until you see the white's of his eyes' Cheney, George 'Mission Accomplished' Bush and Don 'Stuff happens' Rumsfield.