All posts by Rand Simberg

Why Didn’t They Respect Us?

Charles Krauthammer has a piece in this week’s Time about why we’re winning the war against Islamicism. It was always pointless to ask “Why do they hate us?” They hate us for reasons that we can do nothing about, and still remain ourselves–they hate us because we are not radical Islamicists. The question we should have been asking instead is “Why don’t they respect us”? Well, now they do, and the “Arab street” has been silenced.

We can now, however, carry on with a confidence we did not have before Afghanistan. Confidence that even religious fanaticism can be defeated, that despite its bravado, it carries no mandate from heaven. The psychological effect of our stunning victory in Afghanistan is already evident. We see the beginning of self-reflection in the Arab press, asking what Arab jihadists are doing exporting their problems to places like Afghanistan and the West; wondering why the Arab world uniquely has not developed a single real democracy; and asking, most fundamentally, how a great religion like Islam could have harbored a malignant strain that would rejoice in the death of 3,000 innocents. It is the kind of questioning that Europeans engaged in after World War II (asking how Fascism and Nazism could have been bred in the bosom of European Christianity) but that was sadly lacking in the Islamic world. Until now.

Why Didn’t They Respect Us?

Charles Krauthammer has a piece in this week’s Time about why we’re winning the war against Islamicism. It was always pointless to ask “Why do they hate us?” They hate us for reasons that we can do nothing about, and still remain ourselves–they hate us because we are not radical Islamicists. The question we should have been asking instead is “Why don’t they respect us”? Well, now they do, and the “Arab street” has been silenced.

We can now, however, carry on with a confidence we did not have before Afghanistan. Confidence that even religious fanaticism can be defeated, that despite its bravado, it carries no mandate from heaven. The psychological effect of our stunning victory in Afghanistan is already evident. We see the beginning of self-reflection in the Arab press, asking what Arab jihadists are doing exporting their problems to places like Afghanistan and the West; wondering why the Arab world uniquely has not developed a single real democracy; and asking, most fundamentally, how a great religion like Islam could have harbored a malignant strain that would rejoice in the death of 3,000 innocents. It is the kind of questioning that Europeans engaged in after World War II (asking how Fascism and Nazism could have been bred in the bosom of European Christianity) but that was sadly lacking in the Islamic world. Until now.

The ABM Plot Thickens

Loon^H^H^H^Hanalyst Joel Skausen has the real scoop on why Bush is abrogating the ABM Treaty. He wants to force Putin into a decapitating first strike before it’s too late, so that the Trilateralists can then institute a World Government. You’ll never get this story from the Grey Old Lady.

Sometimes I wonder if Republican operatives pay people to publish this kind of stuff to keep Bush in the center, under fire from both sides…

What Part Of “Server Too Busy” Didn’t You Understand?

I had a weird experience this morning in browsing Nasawatch (a recommended site, by the way, for those interested in space policy and doings–Keith doesn’t always get it right, but it’s a good source for scuttlebutt that often turns out to be quite correct). I clicked on a link to a story at Spaceref, and got a long delay as it tried to access the server. Like watched pots boiling, watched browser windows never load, so I gave up and switched to a different one momentarily (I run Opera, which allows one to have multiple windows open simultaneously). When I went back to check progress, I saw a simple message–“HTTP/1.1 Server Too Busy.”

I backed up to the main page, and tried the link again. This time, without delay, I got the same message. Theorizing that I was possibly looking at a cached page, I hit the reload button. This time, it came back with the same message, but in a font at least ten points larger–“HTTP/1.1 SERVER TOO BUSY.” I could almost have sworn that it was shouting at me.

OK, OK, I’m sorry. I’ll try later.

Did someone really anticipate that someone might do a reload in such a situation, and deliberately write code that would up the font size? Or has the combination of Moore’s Law and the interconnectivity of the net finally hit critical mass in servers, and intelligence (and irritation with us lower, less-intelligent life forms) is becoming an emergent property?

Theories welcome.

What Part Of “Server Too Busy” Didn’t You Understand?

I had a weird experience this morning in browsing Nasawatch (a recommended site, by the way, for those interested in space policy and doings–Keith doesn’t always get it right, but it’s a good source for scuttlebutt that often turns out to be quite correct). I clicked on a link to a story at Spaceref, and got a long delay as it tried to access the server. Like watched pots boiling, watched browser windows never load, so I gave up and switched to a different one momentarily (I run Opera, which allows one to have multiple windows open simultaneously). When I went back to check progress, I saw a simple message–“HTTP/1.1 Server Too Busy.”

I backed up to the main page, and tried the link again. This time, without delay, I got the same message. Theorizing that I was possibly looking at a cached page, I hit the reload button. This time, it came back with the same message, but in a font at least ten points larger–“HTTP/1.1 SERVER TOO BUSY.” I could almost have sworn that it was shouting at me.

OK, OK, I’m sorry. I’ll try later.

Did someone really anticipate that someone might do a reload in such a situation, and deliberately write code that would up the font size? Or has the combination of Moore’s Law and the interconnectivity of the net finally hit critical mass in servers, and intelligence (and irritation with us lower, less-intelligent life forms) is becoming an emergent property?

Theories welcome.

What Part Of “Server Too Busy” Didn’t You Understand?

I had a weird experience this morning in browsing Nasawatch (a recommended site, by the way, for those interested in space policy and doings–Keith doesn’t always get it right, but it’s a good source for scuttlebutt that often turns out to be quite correct). I clicked on a link to a story at Spaceref, and got a long delay as it tried to access the server. Like watched pots boiling, watched browser windows never load, so I gave up and switched to a different one momentarily (I run Opera, which allows one to have multiple windows open simultaneously). When I went back to check progress, I saw a simple message–“HTTP/1.1 Server Too Busy.”

I backed up to the main page, and tried the link again. This time, without delay, I got the same message. Theorizing that I was possibly looking at a cached page, I hit the reload button. This time, it came back with the same message, but in a font at least ten points larger–“HTTP/1.1 SERVER TOO BUSY.” I could almost have sworn that it was shouting at me.

OK, OK, I’m sorry. I’ll try later.

Did someone really anticipate that someone might do a reload in such a situation, and deliberately write code that would up the font size? Or has the combination of Moore’s Law and the interconnectivity of the net finally hit critical mass in servers, and intelligence (and irritation with us lower, less-intelligent life forms) is becoming an emergent property?

Theories welcome.

Libertarian Wars

I’ve been reluctant to get into the silly food fight between Jonah Goldberg and the various flavors of libertarians, because I have little confidence that I can make a useful contribution.

But, what the hey–if I let that stop me, I’d probably never post anything.

It seems to me that everyone is arguing past one another, and that Jonah in particular is kicking the stuffing out of strawmen. Jonah seems to think that being libertarian means never having to say, “I judge.” He also thinks that all libertarians are supposed to be of like mind, and that they claim to have a simple philosophy, and then feigns shock to discover that they come in various flavors, some of which he finds less distasteful than others, but all of which put the lie to the (straw) notion–(his)–that libertarianism is a single, coherent ideology. Also, like many conservatives, who confuse libertarians with libertines, he suspects that the libertarian position is not a valid intellectual one, but rather, that all of this talk about freedom and liberty is just a thinly-veiled cover for people who like sex, drugs, and rock and/or roll.

As to the first point, few libertarians are non-judgmental. They can be, and often are, quite intolerant, perhaps even more so than Jonah Goldberg. The point that Jonah seems to miss is that libertarianism isn’t about making judgments per se, it’s about whether or not such moralizing should become encoded into actual law. I can think that lots of things are morally wrong without necessarily thinking that they should therefore be illegal. At the risk of making the mistake of attempting to speak for most libertarians, I suspect that what most people who call themselves libertarian object to is the notion that, if someone finds something objectionable, that “there oughtta be a law” (though to be consistent, they don’t think that there should actually be a law against people saying that).

With regard to the second point, it just shows how silly and useless labels are (even though Jonah seems to think that anyone who objects to labels is a “leftie”). Is conservatism really that much more coherent than libertarianism? Most people would (correctly or not) call both Pat Buchanan and William Buckley a conservative. Yet I think that one could find them farther apart on many individual issues than most libertarians. Any single issue of National Review itself will reveal a broad spectrum of thinking–on drug legalization, on foreign engagement, etc., yet it is considered a “conservative” magazine. I think that Jonah is kicking an empty pillow here.

And finally, it is just as insulting to accuse a libertarian (or conservative, for that matter) who wants to end the War on (Some) Drugs of being a drug user as it is to accuse someone who is opposed to affirmative action of being a racist. In both cases, the accuser refuses to recognize the possibility that someone might take a position on principle–he thinks that they can only be doing it out of some amoral need to indulge themselves.

‘Nuff said.

Come Fly With Me

I’m back from St. Thomas, and as I said, also back in California, as promised. For those who are jealous, the weather was lousy. This would have been readily apparent to anyone who looked at a map of the central Atlantic on weather.com, or Weather Underground at wunderground.com–there was a mass of cumulus there that just wouldn’t quit, and it brought tidings not of comfort and joy, but rather of clouds and rain for the Leeward Islands and the Greater Antilles including, particularly the Virgins.

We went diving on Saturday, and it was the darkest dive that I’ve ever done in the daytime. The visibility sucked, and if I hadn’t carried a dive light, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish a fan coral from a fin. I did, however, on the second and worst dive, see a southern sting ray, and the most beautiful spotted eagle ray that I’ve ever seen (not to imply that I’m a connoisseur). We also spent some time driving around the island (on the left side of the road with left-hand drive, of course, which is de rigeur on the less-than-safety-conscious Virgin Islands, both US and British). This was nice, because my only previous experience with St. Thomas was a brief taxi ride from the airport to the ferry at Red Hook bound for St. John.

But as I said in my previous post about our diving excursion and lobster-shopping trip to Parguera, my purpose is not (just) to invoke envy. Particularly in light of all my well-justified kvetching about flying post 911, I want to praise an airline that’s doing it right (and hope they won’t get in trouble with the annoyance enforcers for it).

We flew on a start-up airline called Seaborne, and for me it was a return to the golden days of aviation, when flying was exotic and romantic. And fun.

They use seaplanes. I didn’t catch the make or model, but it was a high-wing (as all seaplanes generally are, to keep spray out of the engines) twin turboprop that could carry about twenty people. They accordingly don’t operate out of Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, as most airlines do, but off a dock that they’ve set up in San Juan Harbor, down by the cruise terminals in Old San Juan.

We drove in and parked. No fee, and twenty-four hora (as they would say down there) security. We lugged our baggage up a few stairs and stepped into a trailer. We put our bags on a scale. The baggage situation is eminently rational–first thirty pounds is free, fifty cents a pound for everything over. We were allowed to combine our weight for a total of sixty pounds free for the two of us. We were overweight, because we were carrying dive equipment for the weekend, but that was cool–only an extra fourteen bucks.

No metal detector. No long check in. No wandings or strip searches, random or otherwise. All our baggage was checked, but we could watch them put it on the plane. We walked outside and down a small flight of stairs on to a floating dock, and got into the plane. We sat in our seats (a couple rows behind the cockpit–I like to watch instruments). Because it was an unpressurized cabin, the windows were huge (for an airplane)–like sitting in the family minivan. We pulled away from the dock, and bobbed across the choppy harbor like a drunken duck. We hoped that the vehicle would be a better plane than it was a boat.

After getting far enough upwind, the throttles were opened, we quickly hydroplaned the pontoons mostly out of the water, and picked up speed. Once the water released us, the plane jumped up quickly, and made a turn over one of the forts that in bloodier times had defended the old city. Another turn, and we were heading east along the northern Puerto Rican coast.

We followed the coast, not exceeding four hundred feet altitude, so we got a good view of the beach and reefs, and island to our left. As it fell away behind us at Fajardo, on the northeast coast, we approached the island of Culebra. The plane climbed to go over it (some of the peaks exceed four hundred feet) but we never exceeded eleven hundred. We were skimming along just below the level of the heavy and rain-filled clouds. A few minutes later, we passed over the airport in St. Thomas, and performed a rapid but smooth descent into the harbor at Charlotte Amalie, the island’s capital. Just as it seemed we were going to plunge into the water, the pilot pulled back on the yoke, the plane flared and we set down in the harbor.

Same thing on the return trip. Minimal security, just check all the baggage and pay for the overage. The flight back was similar, but nicer, as the weather was much improved, and the visibility much better. We flew back along the north coast of Puerto Rico again, passed by the airport, the hotels and casinos in Isle Verde and Condado, and along the ancient walls of the forts defending the old city, at just a few hundred feet altitude all the way. We made a graceful left turn around the old Spanish fort of El Morro, providing a bird’s-eye view of Old San Juan, and settled gently back down in San Juan Harbor.

The ticket price for the round trip was a hundred and fifteen bucks (not including extra luggage weight). A steal. People pay that much for sightseeing airplane rides. Unfortunately, it’s an introductory rate, so I don’t know how much it will go up, but the airplane was less than half full both ways, so I fear for their economic survival.

Anyway, the point of this post is that even in the environment of the post-911 security insanity, it is still possible to make flying a pleasant experience, and not just something to dread as a necessary evil to get from one place to another, at least under limited circumstances. We should encourage such efforts by giving them our custom, so that both they, and perhaps competitors who will outdo them, will succeed. (Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this company.) So if anyone who reads this happens to be in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, and wants to see another island, please check them out, and help take us back to the days of yore when flying really was fun.