February 25, 2005

Attack of the Invisibles

I recently spent a year backpacking alone through South and Central America, returning to the US in April 2004. One year ago I was here. Before that I lived ten years in Argentina and ventured forth perhaps twenty times with pack and tent to explore the more remote regions of the Latin American world. Jungles, mountains, plains, grasslands, deserts, tundra: I explored them all, in about every country. All told 14 years of my life was spent south of the Rio Grande doing such things.

And of course most of the area tread by my boots was disease ridden, and I have caught my share of them. Some have laid me low indeed. And of the five killers of man---viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and rikettsiae---my body has been host to four of them. Some have been debilitating, all were unpleasant and most were unavoidable. If you venture out into the netherlands of rural Latin America---or even if you drink the water in most cities---you will become ill. Depend upon it, sir. Nobody who does what I have done escapes.

After some years though whatever microscopic evils there were seemed to lessen their assaults. They and I became accustomed to each other. My last knock down drag out bout with serious disease occurred in Peru a few years ago. The culprit that time was an old friend of mine, amoebic dysentery. This amoeba is common all over Latin America, and my struggle with it in Peru was not my first. (But it most certainly was the worst. The tale of this infection and the havoc it wreaked upon my flesh is one well worth telling. But some other time, Ok?) My final three years or so in Latin America were almost disease free. I had caught most of the bugs and my body had become expert at fighting them off. I could wander thither and yon and stay healthy.

Until now. Living out of the US for half of my adult life has meant that my body has lost much of its immunity to the common and ordinary invisibles that constantly swarm about here. This fact was hammered home once I began to teach in Oklahoma City. I had scarcely begun when some passing virus invaded my stomach. Recovering, another virus went for the chest. And so on. As I write these words I am about half way through a sinus infection, the third since September. Constantly being around 260 middle schoolers has made all of this much worse of course. Whatever is ailing part of the student body will certainly go for me. Mind you, I am not complaining but merely describing. I know that sooner or later my aging body will become expert at fighting off any wandering invisible that sees me as prey. I look forward to that day.

All of the above musings lead my thoughts to my likely Peru adventure this Summer. Whatever immunities I built up over the decade and a half I spent in Latin America will still be functioning. As long as I get out of the US once every two years or so I can plan on my immunities to Latin American invisibles to continue.

And these musings lead to further musings, thoughts about the first whites to step into the Western Hemisphere. It was in 1492. Besides the Bible, horses and Toledo steel Columbus and his merry men brought invisible killers. Pasteur was hundreds of years in the future, and the presence of microscopic monsters among the Spaniards was unknown. That first contact was to bring death to millions in the New World. Some peoples---Caribs, Arawaks---simply became extinct. The childhood diseases common to Europe---mumps, whooping cough, measles---to which the Spaniards were immune spread as Angels of Death among the New World indigenous. Even that ancient killer of man smallpox either killed off the Europeans right after birth or granted them life-long immunity. You see, such diseases were all around the Europeans, in the air, the water, the soil. No men escaped the depredations of disease. The survivors of such childhood illnesses became Nietzsches, having been made stronger by that which did not kill them. The Arawaks, Caribs, Aztecs, Inca had no such exposure to those plagues endemic to Europe. The simplest case of mumps could and did kill thousands.

The Europeans themselves had suffered through explosions of invisible killers, the most famous being the Black Death (1347-1351). Here it was Asia infecting Europe, and the first case I know of where a people used biological warfare against an enemy. The Genoese had a trading post in the Crimea that was under siege by the Kipchaks, a people related to the Turks. The Kipchaks catapulted into the Genoese town the corpses of men killed by the plague. When the Genoese returned to Italy, they had the plague bacillus inside them. The disease spread rapidly and killed off perhaps half of Europe, which only reached its pre-plague population levels 200 years later. The plague, once epidemic, became more or less settled down in Europe, especially that region regularly in contact with Asia where the plague was endemic. Those Asians who survived it developed immunity to it, but its first entry into Europe killed millions. None escaped.

Sceptre and crown

Must tumble down

And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

The effects upon Europe were both calamitous and momentous. One can argue that out of the ravages of the plague emerged modern Europe. A good thing, modernism, but what a cost! And it went similarly in the Western Hemisphere. Out of the vast holocaust of the years of disease emerged Latin America, at the cost of millions of Indigenous dead. With them died the old order, the ancient nobility, the polytheistic religions. An Aztec witness lamented

First they became ill with a cough. They suffered from nosebleeds and illnesses of the bladder. It was truly terrible, the number of dead...little by little bleary shadows and black night enveloped our fathers and grandfathers, and us also. O my lord!

By such methods was our world built.

All of which brings me back to the here and now. It is odd to think that so much of history has been written not by man but by billions of invisible things. It is also odd to think that this very history is replicated in my bloodstream and presents itself every time I go back and forth between America north and America south. Odd again that I might be healthier in Peru than here in North America. But perhaps not so odd. So were the Inca.


February 21, 2005

In the Days of the Romans

Think what you wish about those ancient Romans, but they knew a thing or two about warfare and conquest. One reason how they went from a small city-state of scarcely 300 square miles to a world empire is that for 1000 years they produced men like the Horatii. These were three brothers, triplets in fact, who rose to manhood during the reign of an early Roman king Tullus Hostilius (673-641 BC). Hostilius---whose name gives us our word 'hostile'---was bent on expanding Roman power at the expense of other Latin towns in Italy. One of these was Alba Longa, which was about 12 miles from Rome. We cannot today know why these city-states went to war. Perhaps the reason was control of trade routes or because Rome's expanding population needed some living space---lebensraum, as a future Austrian corporal would say. Or perhaps Hostilius was just being, well, hostile.

At any rate, Rome and Alba Longa decided to settle matters in a rather civilized way, at least as that word was defined 2700 years ago. As it happens Alba Longa also boasted a set of male triplets of the same age as the Horatii, the Curiatii. The two rival states agreed that their dispute would be settled by combat between the Horatii and the Curiatii. Things looked bad for Rome when two Horatii were killed, leaving three Curiatii against one of the Horatii. This last Roman brother took to his heels seemingly in fear, causing derision among the inhabitants of Alba Longa and scandal among the Romans. (You see, like American marines Romans were not known for running away from a fight.)

But this last remaining Horatii was a clever sort. He knew that the quickest of the Curiatii would catch him before his brothers would, and so the fight would be one-on-one. It turned out just this way. All the Curiatii were slain one at a time, and Rome emerged the victor.

If only the tale had ended there! Alas, when the surviving Horati returned home he found one of his sisters crying, but not over her dead brothers. She had carried on a secret love affair with one of the Curiatii, and now her lover was dead. Furious at what he saw as treason against the family and the state---these were almost one and the same in those early Roman days---he slew his own sister. Oh well.

Anyway, this charming tale inspired Jacques Louis-David (1748-1825) to paint his Oath of the Horatii (1784).

Like today the father sends his sons to war while the women mourn.

But what became of Tullus Hostilius and Alba Longa? Typically the Romans would force subject peoples into their army. This was better for both victor and vanquished, and a far cry from the wholesale slaughter and enslavement of the defeated that later times would see. But when the king of Alba Longa refused to come to Rome's aid in one of her many wars, Hostilius proved his hostility and had him tied to chariots and torn apart. This was too much even for the bellicose Roman gods, and they killed him with a bolt of lightning.

Perhaps all of this is simply a tale well told---our only source is Livy---but it fits so well with the nature of the ancient Romans that it damn well should be true.


February 18, 2005

Decisions, Decisions

I got into teaching through a rather odd back door. I was 36, possessed of a couple of college degrees and tired of living in the US. Not for the first time I sold all of my property---not much all told---except for my books and music albums, took the money and ran all the way to Central America. While photographing the opening of some Mayan tombs in the Guatemalan jungles a telegram arrived at my apartment in the hip colonial town of Antigua, 300 miles south. The missive was from a woman who owned a school in Costa Rica. Through a mutual acquaintance she had heard that there was this unemployed fellow who was wandering somewhere in Central America. She asked if I would be interested in teaching school in San Jose. I had never done such a thing and the idea of standing in front of a bunch of high school kids was intimidating. But I was broke---flat broke, busted, skint, bereft of hard currency. Rather than return to the States I took the job. The intervening 15 years have been memorable. I have never once looked back, and can clearly see the Carpenter's busy handiwork in all of this.

Which brings me to today, where my thoughts amble toward the upcoming 9-week Summer vacation. Time off is a marvelous benefit of teaching, and I could not thrive without it. I have always used this freedom to load up my backpack and head either for jungles or mountains. This vacation will be no different. But---and there is always a but---my destination has yet to be settled upon. There are two choices: either roam the US in my Jeep or head for Peru. Both options have their own consequences and benefits.

Pros of the Jeep Trip: A trip around the US in my Jeep would be very cool. I would hit the trails in Utah, Montana, Colorado and Oregon and so feed the solo  backpacking demon inside me that right now is starving. I would visit some great people and travel around on Jeep trails. After all, that is why Jeeps were made.

Cons of the Jeep Trip: For one thing I would be sitting in the Jeep for at least 15 days---not good news for my aging body, but I could do it. And putting another 7000 miles on the Jeep would have its effect on motor and transmission most certainly. But seeing the US would not feel---it cannot be---exotic: different languages, odd food, odder people, and of course 'wild weird climes, out of space, out of time.' It would be too easy and not really be much of an adventure. It would be merely to travel. The differences between travel and adventure I wrote about here.

Which brings me to the other choice...

Pros of the Peru Trip: Why belabor the obvious? Peru is the backpacking capital of the world. As I wrote two years ago about why I have visited Peru many times over the years:

The music: There is a style of guitar here called criolla. It is amazingly complex, and matched with the female voice is a stunning and moving thing to listen to. There is also much African and Andean influence as well. The guitar is king here, and rightfully so.

The land: There are four distinct regions, all of which were made for backpacking : coastal, altiplano, the ceja de la selva---literally, 'the eyebrow of the jungle,' that region between 3500 and 500 meters where the land begins its drop to the Amazon Basin---and the lowland jungle of the extreme north- and southeast. Each has its magnificent charms, yet it is the ceja de la selva that is my main goal. Here are the many ruins of the Chachapoyan culture, most of which have not been excavated. This part of  Peru has seen the greatest discovery of 'lost cities' in the world. I will write more on the Chachapoyans when I return from the ceja de la selva.

The food: Argentina has the best beef in the world---there is really no competition---but that is all it has. Peru has a culinary tradition 500 years old, a mix of Spanish, Indigenous and Creole dishes that compares well with those of Mexico. Try aji de gallina when in Peru. If you do not like it, then go home.

The people: Peru is a mix of Indigenous, white and African. All of these contribute to Peruvian culture in ways more dramatic and impressive than in any other Latin American nation.

The history: Peru's pre-history begins 4000 years ago. All have heard of the Inca (and I have mentioned the Chachapoyan), but there is more, so much more: Chimu, Moche, Huari, Tiawanaku.

Catholicism: I do not need to  explain this, do I?

To state the matter simply: Peru is the capital of (Spanish) South America. You can never understand this continent unless you understand Peru.

If I head for Peru it would be to backpack around the Cordillera Blanca, one of the few places in South America I have never been. (Here are maps of the region.) But this would just be a warm-up to the Cordillera Huayhuash, a place I have been to but failed to conquer. (Here are descriptions of both areas.) It was in 1997. I began the route around the Huayhuash but had to stop after three days. No solo backpacker enjoys failure, and the thought of one day returning and getting it right has haunted me since. (I feel the same about a certain ridge in the Argentine Andes, but that is another story. Someday, somehow....)

Cons of the Peru Trip: These are not what one would think. Is it dangerous? Well, yes but so what? Why attempt something if there is no risk involved? One might as well head for Disneyland. Truth be known, the risk is part of the equation. It is to be desired, to be sought after, to be embraced, to be loved. The greater the risk the greater the pleasure. (There is in that last sentence a superb philosophical essay about what I call 'solo extreme backpacking,' but I will write it some other time.)

To be brief, I see no cons of the Peru trip. All the usual suspects---disease, accidents, being alone, weird animals and weirder people---I have dealt with a thousand times during my 18 years of solo backpacking. Just to write these words stirs the demon inside. Already he licks his chops at the thought of being 15,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes. Already he plans: the right tent, the right pack, the right boots; clean the stove, waterproof the gear, get the maps, plan the route, get some books to pack along.

Done. I head for Peru June the 3rd. A great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. And soon there will another load upon them, but by then I will be somewhere in the Cordillera Blanca.


February 13, 2005

Twisting the Knife

As if things could not get worse for the mainstream media now comes this book, Rather Dumb. The author works for The National Enquirer, a tabloid  known for its---how does one say it?---colorful approach to reporting the news.

Using Rather as a touchstone, Mike Walker rips into the arrogance and presumption of the news media—the elitist, agenda-driven mentality that allows its journalists and editors to ignore basic rules of journalism. Walker uses this short, blisteringly humorous book to personally kick Rather in the shins and also, more importantly, explain how real news is properly gathered and vetted, how it’s properly written and reported, and why some journalists and editors think they’re above such things. For years the mainstream media has stared down its collective nose at publications like the National Enquirer, but as Walker shows in scorching detail and irreverent humor, it is the gatekeepers and news elitists who need a trip to the woodshed, starting with Dan Rather.

Here is a typical Enquirer:

And here is the cover of Walker's book:

Rather will not even be able to enjoy his senescence in peace. Not that I pity him. After all, we make the beds upon which we sleep. Sweet dreams, Dan. As you have sown, thus shall you reap.


February 12, 2005

What Me Stupid

The Poynter Institute is "a school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalists." Here is its site. It received an e-mail two days ago from a business editor. It was titled "Our readers and viewers aren't stupid." This editor at least understands the problems. He is concerned about

1. the level of professional navel-gazing going on here (why are our circulation numbers dropping, why don't people trust us anymore) and 2. the lack of any significant mention of the firestorm raging around CNN and Eason Jordan, either in the news items posted or in the letters.

The two are, I believe, inextricably linked. Too many journalists (N.B., I did NOT say "reporters") these days are like the vast majority of academics: stuck in our cubicles (the newsroom version of the Ivory Tower) talking to folks just like us on the beats we cover rather than combing the streets talking to everyday folks.

When one of our gets into trouble, we circle the collective wagons and say hardly a word until forced to, kicking and screaming, which brings  me to the Jordan/CNN controversy. On the Romenesko site, do a search
and you'll find just two mentions of the matter: one a siderail link and the other a main news link to Howard Kurtz's apologia that ran in The Post. Nothing else ... no links to any of the blogs, any of the other media that have written about the matter, nothing. It's as if the Dan Rather/Memogate game plan is being run all over again.

Has anything moved on the AP wire about the controversy? If so, I haven't seen it. Guys, if Eason Jordan were the head of any other outfit as large and as important as CNN and had made comments such as he's made, we'd be in full-attack mode. Why are we holding back?

Which brings me back to the question of navel-gazing. Our readers, our  viewers -- more than half of whom believe we're biased and base our  reporting decisions on our personal politics -- aren't stupid. They know what's going on ... and they're tuning out. Or at least not tuning into us.

Yes, readers are not stupid. They know bias and arrogance and mendacity and condescension when they see it. And they will continue to tune out the MSM. I bring the bad news that you MSM guys---all you editors and journalists and reporters and news reading anchors---are in a declining industry. Recall when candles supplied all the light in homes. What happened to all those candle makers when the electric bulb appeared?

The same thing will happen to you unless you become as the Ancient Mariner:

He went like one that hath been stunn'd 

And is of sense forlorn:

 A sadder and a wiser man

 He rose the morrow morn.



Blogging 104

Yet another mainstream media (MSN) poobah has been laid low by the bloggers. The chief news executive of CNN, Eason Jordan, is now unemployed. The reason he resigned---rich liberal media types apparently are never fired---is due to comments he made concerning the US military. Jordan claimed two weeks ago---and not for the first time---that journalists were being tortured and killed by the Americans in Iraq. Arrogant, deceitful and condescending to the last, Eason says

he was quitting to avoid CNN being "unfairly tarnished" by the controversy.

"I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise," Jordan said in a memo to fellow staff members at CNN.

And many of us thought that CNN could not become anymore slimy than it was. How stupid of us!

The point here is that we have yet another biased and bigoted liberal media big shot---in the same mode as Dan Rather and Howell Raines---exposed by the bloggers. Like Rather and Raines Jordan denied, backtracked, obfuscated and hid but all was for naught. He was ferreted out, run to ground and devoured by hundreds of bloggers who pursued him like hunting dogs would a weasel. In days of yore such creatures as Jordan could just smugly wallow in mendacity as his house organ CNN and the other MSM outlets circled the wagons and ignored the story. It would then just disappear down Orwell's memory hole. Such torpor is now impossible. It is the bloggers that have made this so.

One thing stands out with fine clarity from this latest MSN scandal---the creeps still do not understand what a revolution blogging has brought to the dissemination of news. They have lost control of 'all the news that is fit to print' and all that we see and hear. And yet they are too lazy and arrogant to recognize how vast a tectonic shift has occurred right under their raised snouts.

One thing for sure: We can expect more surprises and revelations from our addled MSN as they stumble into irrelevancy while being pecked to death by the bloggers.

And that, dear reader, brings to a close my scribbling about blogging. (Here are parts one, two and three.) Far more eloquent writing about blogs can be gained from a read of Hugh Hewitt's Blog. After reading it start your own blog.

Update: I was going to attempt some humor at the expense of the MSM's lack of understanding of blogs, but I could never improve upon this:

I think that to the degree they think they know what a blog is, in their minds, it probably means "people who post stuff on that Internet thingie that somehow, unaccountably, keeps making us look bad.

Update 2: Michelle Malkin sums up the Eason Jordan scandal.

For those of us in the information business, this is truly an earth-shaking time. Who would have imagined that the downfall of one of the world's most powerful news executives would be precipitated by an ordinary citizen blogging his eyewitness report at Davos in the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 27? It's simply stunning.

Earth shaking and stunning it is. We live in interesting times.





February 9, 2005

All Out for Armageddon!

Clarity is rare in politics and diplomacy. The default modes are obfuscation, muddle, mendacity and appeasement. None of this for Condi.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that Iran must live up to its international obligations to halt its nuclear program or "the next steps are in the offing."

"And I think everybody understands what the 'next steps' mean," Rice told reporters after a meeting with NATO foreign ministers and European Union officials.

Clear enough for you? But you can check with Condi's boss if you are still confused.

The Iranians just need to know that the free world is working together to send a very clear message: Don't develop a nuclear weapon," Bush said.

"And the reason we're sending that message is because Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a very destabilizing force in the world," he said during a meeting with Poland's president.

We are now near the end game in the nuclear dance between the Iranian barbarians and America. Expect surprises. And I say as I have said for years: Iran will never develop a nuclear bomb. What the leaders of that terror regime think of the matter is of no account. They have brought themselves and their nation to this point, and their actions will be studied for years in Political Science departments as a case study in political suicide.


The Iran issue---how to prevent that state from obtaining nuclear weapons---is coming to a head. One way or another it will be solved this year. Either Iran will get the bomb and force the world to live with the consequences, or some nation or group of nations will prevent it from doing so.

I thought it useful to spend some time looking at this problem as any solution to it promises to be momentous indeed: for Israel, for the Middle East, for Western Civilization.

The article below, Bombs Away, was written this morning and took into account recent statements by Iranian and American leaders. The next article, Iran delenda Est, was written one year ago. It has not been edited. The original can be seen here.

Bombs Away

Please stop complaining about what seem to be endless wars and rumors of wars in the Middle East. The invasion and conquest of Iraq and the overthrow of the killer who ruled there were only the first strategic steps in bringing peace and prosperity to a region that has seldom known them since the days of the Ottomans. The next stages are the overthrow of the Baathist regime in Syria and the destruction of the Iranian mullahcracy. Both must happen. Both will happen.

The weakest link in the terror network is Syria. This state finances terror throughout the Middle East and occupies Lebanon---whose capital Beirut was once called "the Paris of the Levant." Syria is weak militarily and economically. It fears a democratic Iraq as an example to its own tyrannized citizenry. A stable and free Iraq spells the end of the Syrian dictatorship. Its 16,000,000 people will soon be part of the democratic revolution in the region brought on by the Iraq war.

Iran is the key, and it is here where the world-wide and American led War on Terror will be won or lost. Bush and Rice and Rumsfeld and Cheney understand this strategic fact just fine. Iran has been the center of the largest web of terrorism the world has ever seen. Its operatives have been active on five continents, demonstrating the remarkable strategic reach of the Iranian state. No US administration has done much other than talk and dither to end this regime's killing. What has placed Iran under the American guns has been the Hell-bent desire of its ruling mullahs to acquire the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. And if they succeed?

If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.

So has said Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, president of Iran from 1989-1997. Obviously Israel will do everything it her power to prevent the mullahs from getting the bomb. Her very existence depends on this. Expect surprises.

There are those who think that Iran can be persuaded to abandon its nuclear program, that the proper approach is not threats of war but diplomacy. Think again.

Iran's top diplomat said Saturday the country won't accept any new internationally imposed obligations regarding its nuclear program and that the world must recognize Iran as a nuclear-capable nation.

"We won't accept any new obligations," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters, suggesting a toughening of Iran's position two days before the 35-nation board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, meets to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

"Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club," Kharrazi said at a press conference. "This is an irreversible path."

Questions: Do you wish to see a hostile and nuclear Iran at the center of much of the world's oil? Do you wish to see such a state become a magnet and protector for every terror group in the world? Would the world be safer and more prosperous with a nuclear Iran?

Imagine living in a neighborhood where an entire block was controlled by a criminal organization, a group of determined killers who had the means to prevent any police force from stopping its activities. Imagine this group sending its killers out into the community to murder and rape and rob at will. What would your life and the lives of your children and neighbors be like?

Stopping the war on terror at Iraq would be like stopping Word War II in Europe after the conquest of France in 1944, and in the Pacific after Guadalcanal. To have left the Nazi and Japanese regimes in existence would have meant continuous warfare down through the years. Western civilization might not have survived. And if Hitler had developed a nuclear bomb before the Americans did, what kind of world would we be living in now?

We are faced now with exactly that sort of strategic problem. It will be dealt with in the same way as we dealt with Tojo and the Nazis.

Terror master Rafsanjani makes the big time. (Click on picture for full story.)



Iran Delenda Est

(written January 5, 2004)

Now let me get this straight: Embassies bombed, the twin towers demolished, suicide killers roaming the Palestinian territories and Israel, Westerners afraid to travel on their own airliners, huge swaths of US territory declared off-limits to aircraft, Americans and Jews regularly murdered, airliners blasted out of the sky, terrorist action in the Philippines, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and many other such charming places, a looming nuclear threat in the Middle East, war in Afghanistan and Iraq---and all of this arranged by a bearded fanatic hiding in a cave and his accomplice whose most recent address was a spider hole.

Not likely. All of these have the hallmarks of a well-financed, competent and powerful intelligence organization with long-standing world wide contacts. In a word, there is a government behind it, a government that has made no secret of its desire to use nuclear weapons on both Israel and the US, a government that is as I write engaging US forces around the world, a government that is for all intents and purposes at war with the US, a government that is despised and hated and loathed by its own people. That government is Iran.

Michael Ledeen, author of the Terror Masters, writes

The Bam earthquake showed the Western world at its best (rescuers, doctors, money, medicine, and food poured into Iran) and the mullahcracy at its worst (no national leader dared set foot in the disaster zone  for four days, and then only when the army and assorted thugs could protect the mullahs against the rage of the locals). When some Americans prepared to leave, they were begged to remain.  The Iranians feel safer with us than with their own tyrants.

The thugs who rule Iran are afraid of their own people---but no surprise there. Ledeen continues: 

Look again at the scenes in Bam. The destruction of that once fabulously beautiful city is a symbol of what the regime has done to Iran, once a wealthy and prosperous and creative country. Look at the many reports on the awful degradation of Iranian society, now leading the region in suicide and teenage prostitution, its standard of living a pitiful shadow of what it was before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, its infrastructure in tatters, its armed forces distrusted by the country's leaders, its students under virtual house arrest, its newspapers and magazines silenced, its talented moviemakers and writers  and scientists and artists fleeing to the West whenever they see a crack in the nation's walls.

This year or early in the next one will see Bush ask the US Congress for a declaration of war with t he government of Iran. Why not now? As Lincoln advised during the US Civil War, "One war at a time." Besides, with the current US force structure and a looming nuclear stand-off in North Korea, we cannot fight a war in Iraq and Iran at the same time. The reason is simple: we have not the manpower. Recall that Clinton reduced the strength of the military by 800,000 troops---and boy could we use these guys now!


The mullahs in Iran are hate-addled fanatics; they are not stupid. They believe that they can defeat the US given the right circumstances. What might these circumstances---what political scientists call "the corelation of forces"---be? In no particular order of importance: 

1. Finance the killing in Iraq and Afghanistan of American servicemen.  Revel in the fact that the American media will report every death.  Keep the US busy and distracted in both places.


2. Move Hell and earth to get the basics of a nuclear weapon. Use contacts in North Korea and Pakistan to acquire enriched uranium.


3. Manipulate the world community. Convince it that Iran`s nuclear research is only for peaceful purposes.


4. Keep the Palestinians well-financed and Israel busy with suicide bombers.


5. Maintain close contacts with other terror states, such as Syria and Saudi Arabia. Strengthen ties with known terror organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbullah.


6. Silence all internal opposition to the regime. Control all media, murder likely trouble makers, and imprison others at random  so as to increase the level of domestic terror and fear.


7. Use the UN and France as a lever against the US in the Middle East. Paint a picture of America as a meddler and as the cause of yet another war in the region. Create the facade of Iran as a regional stabilizer and peace-desiring nation.


8. Work with the shadowy Pakistani Intelligence networks (especially the ISI---Inter-Services Intelligence, which has kept its ties with al-Qaeda and what is left of the Taliban) to assassinate Musharraf and turn over all nuclear material to Iran.

Iran is doing all of these---and has been for years.  Can the US defeat the mullahs? Of course. The only question is: At what cost to the American and  Iranian peoples? Most certainly the US cannot defeat Iran using the tactics she used in Iraq. That is: maintain low civilian and military casualties while avoiding the destruction of Iranian infrastructure. This means that if war were to come tomorrow---and if Iran gets a nuclear device it will come quickly---the US would have little option other than to use tactical nuclear weapons. That, or suffer a defeat of scarcely imaginable strategic implications. A defeat by Iran would dwarf anything the US endured from Vietnam. No US president Republican or Democrat would allow---could allow---this to happen.


So the US needs time: time to get Iraq stabilized, time to increase her manpower, time to rest her military for the upcoming struggle. But time is something that Iran most certainly does not have. She must succeed before the US is ready for war. The race is on.


That struggle is coming, I assure you.


(Here was my assessment of the Iranian strategic problem last year.)


One ironic thing is---this in a region of the world that is full of ironies---that no matter what the mullahs do, they are all dead men. Their hatred has so consumed them that the only question remaining is whether they will bring Iran down to the inferno as well. They have launched their nation on a self-destructive course of war with America, a course from which they cannot retreat without falling from power. They know that if they fall they will be torn to pieces by the Iranian people themselves.


And this is the ace in the hole for the US, and perhaps the deciding factor of the war: the hatred the Iranian people feel toward the regime of the mullahs. Iranians are pro-American. We can use this. Leeden asks 

why a people so demonstrably on our side, and so demonstrably worthy of freedom, does not deserve our full support.

They do. They will get it.


One huge `X` factor: If there is another terror strike against America, then all bets are off. Bad news for Iranians. Bad news for Syrians. Bad news for Saudis. Bad news for Palestinians. Bad news for Americans. Bad news for the world.



February 8, 2005

Blogging 103

I began to build my first web site way back in March of 2003. Then the plan was to write a diary of my upcoming 'year of living dangerously'---my crazy year of backpacking alone through South and Central America. The plan played out fabulously well. What I wrote during that year reads today as if written by some odd stranger. I can recognize myself but only through a glass darkly. Months before I loaded up the backpack and headed into the wilderness I started to write things on my site concerning issues of the day. It seemed than (as it seems now) that words pounded inside my skull and begged to be released into print---a common writer's lament since the development of cuneiform. Whether the words were actually read by someone seemed then (as it seems now) beside the point. The writing was the thing. What I wrote 1000 years ago after walking out of the Andes from the Inca ruins of Choquequirao could be written this day:

Why do I write all this stuff? It is to keep my mind sharp while on the road. Call it intellectual exercise. What if no one reads it? Impossible: I read it. God reads it. Call it a diary of where I am---mentally, spiritually---while traveling. A mind needs constant work to remain vital. Does an athlete only work out in public? By no means! At home alone he is doing push-ups and sit-ups and stretching and running and pumping iron---away from all eyes except those of God. That is audience enough.

I imagine that every blogger thinks likewise. The writing is the thing.


Naturally every blogger would like others to read his Great Thoughts. And just as naturally, this lucky event depends upon three things, the quality of writing, frequent updates and simple luck. Most blogs are temporary and last only as long as the writer maintains his commitment. They are read by family and friends but few others. Other writers are dedicated and persistent creatures and slowly gather an audience over time. A readership of 1000 a day---called hits---seems to be the breaking point to stardom. The word gets out, new readers show up at the blog---these are called unique hits---and the blogger is off and running. To keep his new status he must apply himself rigorously. Whatever else he may have going in his life---wife, job, kids, drinking habit---he still must spend at least an hour or more each day at the keyboard. The writer's stress increases as the pressure to perform mounts. Understandably this type of blogger suffers burnout. Updates become less frequent, the writing becomes tired, the audience departs, the blog dies its natural death.


Always keep in mind that blogging does not pay. The rewards (if they come at all) are of a different type---fame, respect, status. And let us not forget the vanity that comes from seeing your words on screen. No one is free from this, not even your humble servant upon whose words you now gaze.


And what of luck? You can be the finest writer in the world and maintain hourly updates on your site, but fame will not come unless someone, somehow, from somewhere, stumbles upon your blog. This happened to me. A well-known blogger (no, I will not tell you more) read some of my scribbling and wrote to me. The heading of the e-mail was 'I like your site' and the e-mail simply said that my writing was

Very thought provoking.  I look forward to linking to you when I have a chance to catch up on my own blogging.  Good stuff, very provocative.  Be well.

Very cool. And never mind that the writing on that blog was as superior to mine as Clapton's guitar playing is to my own hapless fret pounding. (I have no idea how the blogger came upon my site, but there exists software that measures daily hits and unique hits, and gives the blogger their location. Again, very cool.)


It helps immensely if a blogger has a unique voice, something only he or a relative few can offer. There are not many such voices out there of course, as there is nothing new under the sun---at least according to Ecclesiastes, but then he did not know much of solo extreme backpacking. To see my point, go to google or yahoo search and type in 'backpacking to Choquequirao.' There I be.


But wait, there is more. Stay tuned for the final installment which will be imaginatively termed Blogging 104.



February 5, 2005

Repent Sinner!

Actually, I made this sign. No kidding, just go here. You can generate your own church sign. Sometimes the Internet can be made to serve God instead of the other guy. (And that site proves that God has a sense of humor. But I already knew this since He created Democrats.)

Altered States

He was as clear as he could be. Only the deaf and fools could not understand his words:

To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region...and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.

Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium re-processing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.

Love him or hate him, Bush does what he says he will do. There have been rumors of wars to the west of Baghdad in Syria and to the east in Iran. Both these murderous dictatorships have been engaged in terror for decades---using it against their own people and exporting it wherever they could. Both states have murdered Americans wherever they could be found. Both states have sent killers into Iraq to defeat the Americans, kill Iraqis and to disrupt the elections there. They went. They fought. They died. Now the American guns are turning toward the states that sent them.

Their long night of tyranny and brutality will soon end. And may it please God to make it this year---before the Iranians get nuclear weapons.

The Romans taught that he who wishes peace should prepare for war. Pope John  Paul II teaches that he who wishes peace should struggle for justice. I assure you that war and justice is exactly what is coming to Syria and Iran---as they came to Tojo, Hitler and Saddam.

As Michael Ledeen says, 'Faster please.'



February 3, 2005

Blogging 102: Update

 The American Thinker (yes, of course it is a blog, silly!) has more to say on the continuing Rathergate scandal at CBS.

Future historians of the birth of internet as a political force will remark on CBS News’s ineptness in attempting to put Rathergate behind them (and us). We are about to receive another burst of interest in the case, as the questions just keep accumulating, and the story tells us more and more about the inner workings of a once proud pillar of Main Stream Media.

CBS is trying to cover up its criminal malfeasance, but the bloggosphere will ferret out the truth. And read this description of a 'blog swarm.'

The bloggers will assimilate the added data...and then the unique distributed information processing capability of the internet will take over. Thousands of people or more will examine the information and add it to what they already know. Two and two will get put-together, and further questions asked. They will look up more information on the web, and assess the implications. They will post their findings with hyperlinks to their sources embedded within. Others will read them, follow the hyperlinks, add their own two cents worth of data gathering or reasoning, and post it, where others will see it and continue processing information,

A vast collective of investigators will be collaborating. They will leave few stones unturned.

I am a conservative. I make no bones about this, and no apologies will be forthcoming. Anyone who has spoken to me for more than ten seconds discovers this. If you do not like this, fine. If you do like this, again fine. I write not for you and 'not for fortune or fame but because God is watching.' As a conservative I have long been repulsed by the bias of the MSM in general and by Dan Rather and CBS in particular. I have had to watch and fume for years as he and his network presented lie as truth while all the while claiming to be non partisan and without bias. Now they are sinking under the weight of their years of mendacity and arrogance and conceit. Good riddance. Finally justice is being done.

And I have two words for Rather, for CBS, for the entire MSM. Yes, those two words.


February 2, 2005

Blogging 102

The mainstream media (MSN) began their collapse into mendacity and bias during the Vietnam War. They started this war doing the job they were paid to do---reporting the facts of the conflict----and ended it being objectively pro-Vietcong. The MSM's heroes were not the American soldiers or the politicians who labored to end the war in victory or at least some kind of acceptable standoff. No, their heroes were the Jane Fondas, the John Kerrys and the campus protestors. The media became giddy and drunk with power and arrogance when they realized they could not only bring America to a defeat on a foreign battlefield but also bring down the most powerful politician in the world.

The nature of American journalism changed as a result. No longer willing to simply report ("Just the facts, ma'am.") journalists began to see themselves as the arbiters of world change. Being reflexively liberal, anti-American, anti-military, anti-religion and pro-big government themselves, these journalists found their natural allies in the Democrat Party. The disease that infected the media had also corrupted the Democrats, who as a result lapsed into immorality, treason and incoherence. The Democrats and the MSM really held the same view of the world and had the same enemies: Republicans, conservatives, religious, gun owners and the US military.

None of this happened in secret of course. The majority of Americans who actually wanted truth from their newspapers and evening newscasts became frustrated as they watched for decades how the things they valued were insulted and ridiculed by the MSM. Secure in their Manhattan and Washington enclaves the media held a monopoly on what was told to the American people, the same people that they held in disdain.

What began the great 'liberal crack-up' was Rush Limbaugh. His radio program started in 1988 and has become the most popular talk show in history. The reason for this is simple: Rush spoke for the tens of millions Americans disgusted with the lies and arrogance of the MSM. Then in the 1990s the technological revolution brought computers to every desktop and the Internet into every home. Now anyone could simply ignore the MSM and use the web as a news source.

Enter the blog. Everyman could now be a journalist and publisher. And of course the vast majority of political blogs---like radio talk shows--- are conservative. The reasons why are simple: liberals already have the entire MSM, which renders a huge liberal push into new media superfluous. (This is the reason Al Franken's talk show failed. He only aped what was already reported on the MSM. Who needed Franken?)

The existence of tens of thousands of political blogs means that no longer can the MSN get away with their bias. Whatever they report is immediately vetted by the bloggosphere. All lies, distortions and inventions are put on public display on millions of computer screens. A typical blogger will read some item in the New York Times, comment on it in his blog and instantly these comments can be read by thousands and perhaps millions around the world. Any 'loose facts' in the Times article will thus be exposed to the world. This is another beauty of the bloggosphere, it is a brilliant fact checker, far quicker and more precise and efficient than anything in the MSM.

Witness the recent CBS attempt to influence the election of 2004 with a forged document claiming to be from the 1970s. Minutes after Dan Rather reported this 'breaking news' a blogger, Charles Johnson at LGF showed how such a document could not have been written using the technology of the day---font superscripts (such as the 'th' in 8th) for one thing. Johnson also wrote a virtual copy of Rather's document using Microsoft Word. Thousands upon thousands of other bloggers joined in the discussion creating what Hugh Hewitt calls a 'blog swarm.' Every word of Rather's was picked apart in detail and in public. The old fool had neither chance and nor place to hide. CBS' hoax was discovered the same day it was reported as news---and a new term entered our political lexicon, 'Rathergate.'

Before the arrival of bloggers CBS would simply have gotten away with such lies and distortions that masquerade as 'news.' Any questions about a story would have been dismissed out of hand. Today such arrogant and smug posturing is impossible. We are freed from the information stranglehold inflicted upon us for the last 40 years by the MSM. Their era is done. Thus their declining subscriptions, add revenues and viewers. We are witness to a true revolution in how Americans get and interpret information.

Thomas Jefferson said about the newspapers of his day that those who read them were misinformed and those who did not were uninformed. This remained true until the arrival of the blog.

(The final part of this missive will appear in Blogging 103. Don't miss it! Or better yet, start your own blog.)



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