All posts by Rand Simberg

Clinton Family Values

Cute editorial in the Washington Times today on the latest Clinton antics, and relatively uncritical reportage of them.

What strikes one as downright weird, though, were Miss Clinton’s next thoughts: “I was worried that, with the tax cut, we wouldn’t have enough money to repair New York and D.C. and to help the families of the thousands I knew must have died.” The sky is falling, and she’s worried about tax cuts: This is a true Clinton.

Mom’s worried about the tax cut, too. Mrs. Clinton told CNN that the Bush tax cut “undermined… our ability to deal with this new threat of terrorism.” Well, which is it? The husband says it’s slavery, etc. that got us into this fix, while the wife says it’s the Bush tax cut. These people really need to get their stories, no matter how ridiculous, straight.

Further Flight 587 Thoughts

As more info comes out, I’ve switched back to “glass-half-empty” of sabotage mode. While it’s extremely unlikely for a piece of primary structure to simply fall off on an airplane, airplane crashes themselves are extremely unlikely, as evidenced by the demonstrable fact that they are rare. Such events are, almost invariably, caused by a fatal and improbable combination of circumstances and events, and I now think it likely that this will be eventually found to be the case here as well, even given the horrendous coincidences of timing and location.

While it’s possible that it was deliberate, the particular plane (full of Dominicans on the way to the Caribbean) seems improbable (though, of course, the saboteur might not necessarily know the destination or manifest), and I would think that there would have been an attempt to do multiple aircraft nearly simultaneously, as occurred on 911, rather than a single isolated case. Also, now that they’ve determined that it wasn’t a fastener problem, it’s harder to come up with a theory of just how the tail would have been deliberately weakened in a way that an inspection wouldn’t catch. Also, absent some kind of active device (e.g., radio controlled charges), I don’t think that one could really plan when or where the aircraft would hit. It seems likely to me that, even given the fact that it was Mike Moran’s and the other fire fighters’ neighborhood and timing on Veterans’ Day and all, the location of the impact was just a tragic coincidence–a few seconds more and it would have ended up in the ocean.

Airbus was the first major manufacturer to use composites for primary structure, and we are only now getting enough life in the fleet to really understand long-term fatigue issues. Given that the vertical stabilizer did not come off quite as cleanly as originally reported, I’m now willing to entertain scenarios in which a stress-fatigued stabilizer came off, perhaps under whipsaw loads from hard rudder action to control the plane in unusual wake turbulence. Once the stabilizer was lost (particularly if the pilot didn’t realize this had occurred, which seems likely, since it’s fly-by-wire with no direct force feedback), there would be no essentially no yaw control from the airplane. This could result in fairly high g-loads on the engine pylons as it went into a flat spin (they aren’t designed to take much in terms of lateral loading–they’re cantilevered below, and are designed mainly for vertical loads), and could easily snap off, taking both engines. Once the engines were gone, there was no hope at all, because those would have been the only possibility of yaw control (using differential thrust).

Although I don’t buy the official story about TWA 800, I think it unlikely that there’s any coverup here–I just don’t see a motivation for it. If people think that the government is trying to keep us calm by hiding the “real” reason–terrorists, my response is that I’d much rather think that it’s terrorists, which we are already addressing, and could come up with new maintenance security procedures to address, than that we don’t know what happened, and that there’s a possibility that the entire Airbus fleet (and perhaps even Boeing as well, since they’ve started using composites in their latest series of aircraft as well) is at risk to an unquantifiable defect. Thus, at least to me, the current government position is more likely to keep me off an airplane than a sabotage theory.

Post-Modernism and bin Laden

In a recent speech, Paul Wolfowitz termed Al Qaeda our age’s Khmer Rouge. In this week’s Weekly Standard, Waller R. Newell has an interesting piece that points up one of the many parallels–both movements have been heavily influenced by western post-modern Marxists.

Many elements in the ideology of al Qaeda–set forth most clearly in Osama bin Laden’s 1996 “Declaration of War Against America”–derive from this same [opposition to hedonism, materialism, egoism, etc. through death and moral rectitude] mix. Indeed, in Arab intellectual circles today, bin Laden is already being likened to an earlier icon of Third World revolution who renounced a life of privilege to head for the mountains and fight the American oppressor, Che Guevara. According to Cairo journalist Issandr Elamsani, Arab leftist intellectuals still see the world very much in 1960s terms. “They are all ex-Sorbonne, old Marxists,” he says, “who look at everything through a postcolonial prism.”

Just as Heidegger wanted the German people to return to a foggy, medieval, blood-and-soil collectivism purged of the corruptions of modernity, and just as Pol Pot wanted Cambodia to return to the Year Zero, so does Osama dream of returning his world to the imagined purity of seventh-century Islam. And just as Fanon argued that revolution can never accomplish its goals through negotiation or peaceful reform, so does Osama regard terror as good in itself, a therapeutic act, quite apart from any concrete aim. The willingness to kill is proof of one’s purity.

And as an interesting follow-up to my post of a couple days ago on the post-modern left’s fear of technology, and (not always so) veiled admiration for Al Qaeda, he writes:

What the terrorists have in common with our armchair nihilists is a belief in the primacy of the radical will, unrestrained by traditional moral teachings such as the requirements of prudence, fairness, and reason. The terrorists seek to put this belief into action, shattering tradition through acts of violent revolutionary resolve. That is how al Qaeda can ignore mainstream Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of noncombatants, and slaughter innocents in the name of creating a new world, the latest in a long line of grimly punitive collectivist utopias.

An interesting read, and one more dot to connect as to why the rabid left cannot get behind the war–at their core, they share many of bin Laden’s aims–and methods…

More On L’Affaire JIR

In response to my latest rant on the possibilities that the terrorists are either unimaginably moronic, or that they want us to think that they are, and that both possibilities seem incredible, an anonymous reader offers an alternative explanation, to wit:

You know, maybe they aren’t that stupid. What if they were browsing the web some day and came across it. “Hey Abdul, you need to read this, it’s so funny!”

Then it got left behind. And we thought they were serious. Just wait until the archeologists of the future start talking about the significant news outlets of our time. “Most people got their weekly news from The Onion, America’s most respected source, while other chose the New York Times or the satire and comedy paper, The Wall Street Journal.”

Well, it is a third alternative, but given all the available evidence on offer, this seems to be a particularly humorless crowd, so to the degree that it is a viable explanation, it seems as astronomically improbable as the others. I’ve still gotta go with the theory that they really are major-league, world-class, galactic-championship-grade imbeciles…

More On L’Affaire JIR

In response to my latest rant on the possibilities that the terrorists are either unimaginably moronic, or that they want us to think that they are, and that both possibilities seem incredible, an anonymous reader offers an alternative explanation, to wit:

You know, maybe they aren’t that stupid. What if they were browsing the web some day and came across it. “Hey Abdul, you need to read this, it’s so funny!”

Then it got left behind. And we thought they were serious. Just wait until the archeologists of the future start talking about the significant news outlets of our time. “Most people got their weekly news from The Onion, America’s most respected source, while other chose the New York Times or the satire and comedy paper, The Wall Street Journal.”

Well, it is a third alternative, but given all the available evidence on offer, this seems to be a particularly humorless crowd, so to the degree that it is a viable explanation, it seems as astronomically improbable as the others. I’ve still gotta go with the theory that they really are major-league, world-class, galactic-championship-grade imbeciles…

More On L’Affaire JIR

In response to my latest rant on the possibilities that the terrorists are either unimaginably moronic, or that they want us to think that they are, and that both possibilities seem incredible, an anonymous reader offers an alternative explanation, to wit:

You know, maybe they aren’t that stupid. What if they were browsing the web some day and came across it. “Hey Abdul, you need to read this, it’s so funny!”

Then it got left behind. And we thought they were serious. Just wait until the archeologists of the future start talking about the significant news outlets of our time. “Most people got their weekly news from The Onion, America’s most respected source, while other chose the New York Times or the satire and comedy paper, The Wall Street Journal.”

Well, it is a third alternative, but given all the available evidence on offer, this seems to be a particularly humorless crowd, so to the degree that it is a viable explanation, it seems as astronomically improbable as the others. I’ve still gotta go with the theory that they really are major-league, world-class, galactic-championship-grade imbeciles…

Nukes for Dummies

I’m still trying to verify this, but if the Daily Rotten is correct, the “nuclear weapon plans” found in the Al Qaeda safe house are actually a download of an ancient (gag) article from the Journal of Irreproducible Results. Given their idiocy in so many other realms, why would this not surprise me? And why would it also not surprise me that few journalists would know the difference?

Anyway, if it can be verified, perhaps we can all sleep a little better tonight.

[Update at 7 AM]

It’s twue, it’s twue! This is delicious.

Just google the words, “the de-vice basically works,” and you’ll get a plethora of links to this document (this one, from Barking Spider, is just an example–it can be found at a number of sites) titled “How To Build An Atomic Bomb.” Look carefully at the pictures of the terrorist document from the BBC at the Daily Rotten page (or go directly to the source, if you don’t trust them) and compare.

It’s worth pointing out that this article was part of a series. The previous ones were:

  • Let’s Make Test Tube Babies! May, 1979
  • Let’s Make a Solar System! June, 1979
  • Let’s Make an Economic Recession! July, 1979
  • Let’s Make an Anti-Gravity Machine! August, 1979
  • Let’s Make Contact with an Alien Race! September, 1979

The next one was a primer on how to clone your neighbor’s wife in a single weekend, using common kitchen utensils.

This may provide a hint about some of Al Qaeda’s nefarious plans for our future.

[Further Update: 5:40 PM PST]

In actually reading the satirical document in question, this paragraph jumped out at me (and remember this was over twenty years ago).

Worldwide controversy has been generated recently from several court decisions in the United States which have restricted popular magazines from printing articles which describe how to make an atomic bomb. The reason usually given by the courts is that national security would be compromised if such information were generally available. But, since it is commonly known that all of the information is publicly available in most major metropolitan libraries, obviously the court’s officially stated position is covering up a more important factor; namely, that such atomic de-vices would prove too difficult for the average citizen to construct. The United States courts cannot afford to insult the vast majorities by insinuating that they do not have the intelligence of a cabbage, and thus the “official” press releases claim national security as a blanket restriction.

This seemed particularly ironic to me under the circumstances. Of course, to not even be able to recognize the difference between an actual nuclear bomb manual, and an obvious send up of same, implies that one has a level of intelligence that would make a cabbage look like, well, Stephen Hawking–it would imply something more on the order of a lobotomized fern.

So can they really be this stupid, or is this some kind of reverse mindfuck on us to make us believe that they’re really, really stupid? That all of this apparent idiocy–the mindless threats, counting on a population that they’ve been repressing to support them once they’re out of power, expecting Muslims worldwide to come to their aid when they’re getting their asses blown up, attacking the American Media by literally sending an anthrax-laced envelope to “American Media,” asking for flying lessons that don’t involve takeoffs or landings, stealing joke plans for bombs from scientific satire magazines–is actually a fiendishly clever ploy, and once we’ve destroyed their power structure, killed most of them, chased the rest up into their caves, blown up the caves, and starved out the rest, and let our guard down, that’s when they’re going to hit us with something really big?

I have to confess, that I find both explanations so improbable that I no longer know what to think–the notion that they are really that bereft of mental capacity almost defies biology and the nature of the human genome, but the other explanation absolutely beggars logic. Anyway, I find the former more comforting…

Capitalism Will Always Out

According to this story from the Gulf News in Dubai, the bombing of Kandahar has invigorated the local economy. The scrap from US bombs is apparently of a superior quality relative to that which was available antebellum. It is so valuable, in fact, that some Kandaharians have made the investment in decoy bunker lights to attract US bombers, the results of which are then collected and sold on the local scrap metal market. They’ve even (apparently successfully) taken to tying unfortunate dogs to positions near the lights to provide an IR signature.

It brings to mind the coastal inhabitants who would put out false lights to lure wayward ships onto the rocks so that they could be plundered. I wonder if the Pentagon’s damage assessment team is compensating for these spurious targets?

[crackle…ROGER, TANGO BASE–WE HAVE A CONFIRMED KILL ON TWO FLASHLIGHTS, ONE EXTRA DRY-CELL BATTERY PACK, AND A MALAMUTE, OVER…]

“Allies” Seize Paris–Mass Atrocities Occur

(PONN—Pessimistic Objective News Network) August 26, 1944

Risking civic anarchy and destruction of the ancient fabled and beautiful city by Hitler’s rockets of vengeance, “Allied” forces recklessly entered Paris yesterday, while ravishing French women by the thousands, and slaughtering helpless Germans, often allowing the Parisians to hang or shoot them, without even the semblance of a fair trial.

Led by the Second Armored Division of the “French Army,” commanded by “Major General” Lecleric, the troops marched up the Champs Elysee, reportedly to at least scattered cheers and throwing of flowers. Of course, the Paris natives have had a rough few years, and almost anyone, even the “Allies,” might at first seem preferable to the Germans, against whom there are serious but unsubstantiated allegations of human rights abuses, including “genocide.”

Editor’s note: can we come up with a less judgmental word? One man’s genocide is another’s freedom fighting.

Though General Eisenhower’s spokesmen would never confirm it, there had been much concern over the past few weeks that the “Allied” forces might be bogged down in a northern French quagmire, as the Germans seemed well dug in, and were bringing up reinforcements from their eastern front against the brave and stalwart Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the main US ally. Thus, even if Paris cannot be ultimately held, its seizure represents at least a temporary appearance of an “Allied” “victory.”

Over the past few weeks, as they marched through the French countryside from Normandy, often accompanied by great destruction and civilian casualties, “Allied” troops, particularly Americans, have been engaging in dangerous propaganda tactics. They have been distributing pamphlets urging the helpless French people to rise up against the much better-armed Germans. Also, in an attempt to show that this war is not against the people of Vichy France, they have been handing out chocolate to children, and nylon st0ckings to the women, though they lack enough to feed or clothe the entire French populace.

The “Allies” and the US had been warned that Mr. Hitler would not allow Paris to be taken, and that he would destroy it before he let it happen. However, at the urging of “General” de Gaulle, they decided to go for the quick propaganda victory, instead of waiting for a more orderly French government to form.

Official US government organs put out stories of a people happy to be liberated.

Pvt. Howard Katzander, a correspondent for Yank, the Army’s weekly magazine, reported on the “hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who cheered them on their way.”

“There was one GI on a truck who kept pointing toward Germany, and then lifting a finger and slashing his throat,” Katzander wrote. “The crowd loved him.”

Such stories, if true, indicate that the American soldiers were allowed to inflame the passions of the Parisian populace, which no doubt led to many of the atrocities and murders against the unarmed German officials, and also against French who had collaborated with them. Many Vichy French officials were summarily hung or shot with their German counterparts, and the heads of many of the poor French women who had slept with the “enemy” were shaved.

Also, it was reported that many German troops were unfairly shot and strafed by aircraft and French resistance fighters as they escaped the city, even though they were in full retreat, and not firing back.

When American and British troops entered the city today, there was reportedly a great deal of wild and uninhibited sex between them and the French women. It was not clear whether any of it was consensual, as these are a people who have been subjugated by armed troops for years, and may have simply resignedly accepted more rape by the troops as an inevitable part of this long and needless war, to which no end is in sight.