April 30, 2004

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare A Clue?

The press is worthless in trying to figure out what's going in Iraq (and they are not much better in informing us about developments elsewhere for that matter). What's going on in Fallujah? I can't figure it out. I think even Wretchard is having a hard time, and he's clearly more wired in than I am (OK, I'm not wired in at all).

On the one hand, there was all this talk of a ceasefire, yet the firing didn't cease. And while Centcom kept saying that the Marines were only returning fire, snipers and ambush forces were infiltrating and initiating combat (and I'm not even going to mention AC-130s hosing down parts of town at night -- oops). Now I'm not accusing Centcom of lying, but perhaps their pronouncements were directed more at terrorists watching CNN than Americans.

So are the Marines pulling out of Fallujah? One article says yes, another later one says no.

Clearly the correct strategy is to kill or capture all the insurgents in Fallujah; all this talk of ceasefire and pullback is dishearening. So are we screwing up? Or are we trying to create tactical confusion and trying to soothe those calling for restraint like Kofi Annan? Only time will tell.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:55 PM | War On Terror

April 29, 2004

Last Chance

Today is the last day to donate to the Spirit of America Challange. You can of course donate to the Spirt of America aftwards, but it wouldn't be as much fun. And yes, I did donate under the Victory Coalition banner.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 1:00 PM | Inside Bloging

Wonderful Spam

Do they give the electric chair for spam? The Justice Department has filed a criminal complaint against for men for fraudulent spam. I can see an Alice's Restaurant moment:

"What were you arrested for, kid?"
And I said, "Spaming."
And they all moved away from me on the bench there, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said,
"And creating a nuisance."
And they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about crime

I hate spam, but I notice it less now that I use a mail program that has a decent spam filter (AKA Apple Mail). I still get 60-70 spams a day, but I only see at worst about 5 of them, usually those that have 5 unconnected words in the title. Why that's hard for the filter to spot and easy for me is left as an excercise for the reader.

I just don't get spam. Who in their right mind actually buys anything from a spammer?

If the Can-Spam Act (shouldn't they change it to Can't-Spam Act?) also covers comment spam, I'm all in favor of it. I just installed MT-Blacklist by Jay Allen to try and stop it here. I never had a problem when I was using Greymatter, but I'm being overrun by it recently.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:54 PM | Culture

Stupidity Still Kills

James Joyner points out some problems with a Reuters (who else?) article about highway deaths. He asks some good questions, but I have a few bones of my own to pick with the story.

While the article cites the fact that the number of automobile deaths has been going up in absolute terms for the last 13 years, it notes that the rate (the number that tells you what's really going on) is unchanged at 1.5 per million miles driven. Has it stayed the same the last 13 years, or just the last year?

And if it's been staying the same, does this mean that overall, airbags and anti-lock brakes haven't affected auto fatalities? They've become standard in that time. Are there competing factors at work - have the gains in vehicle safety from safer design, construction, and safety devices such as airbags been balanced by the increasing driver distraction from such things as cell phones and ever more sophisticated audio-visual equipment unboard (yes, the Murphy Van has one of those fancy DVD players with remote headphones)?

What are the factors that really contribute to fatal accidents? The article notes that more than half the people killed in auto accidents were not wearing seatbelts and 40% involved alcohol. So it would seem that rather than bash SUVs, we ought to concentrate on persuading people to buckle up and not drink and drive. Without knowing the overlap between these two, I'm still going to confidently say that most people are killed by stupidity -- since driving drunk and/or not wearing a seatbelt is just plain stupid.

The article notes that over 2/3s fo the SUV fatalities were not wearing their seat belts. So is the real problem with SUVs that people feel too secure? As vehicles become more intrinsically safe, have drivers compensated with riskier behavior to keep fairly constant accident and fatality rates? And has there been a change in accident rates - are accidents becoming safer, less safe, or about the same?

What about better training or more stringent licensing requirements for drivers? I know that Illinois increased their requirements for people to get a license for the first time -- has Illinois seen an improvement in their accident and fatality rates as a result?

Wouldn't my headline -- Stupidity Still Kills -- be more accurate than "Highway Deaths Hit 13-Year High in 2003"?

I expect that the traffic safety people are thinking along these lines, but I despair that our wonderful press does, or can report accurately without sensationalism or distortion.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:32 PM | Current Events

April 28, 2004

Get On You Feet

I admit it - I thought to myself what Elton John said aloud. My wife and I happened to catch the end of American Idol last week and we were shocked not just that Jennifer Hudson was voted off, but that La Toya London and Fantasia Barrino were in the bottom three with her. IMHO those three plus George Huff are the the best in the bunch - and they all happen to be black.

But I think a more likely explanation than racism is that the three women are similar enough they canabalize each others votes. This whitebread couple in the 'burbs has voted consistantly for La Toya and are hoping she wins; but we stopped watching the show a couple of weeks ago so we didn't vote for anyone last week (or this week).

UPDATE: The kid who impersonates Frank Sinatra was voted off last night, and neither Fantasia or La Toya were in the bottom 3. (I didn't watch - a little birdie told me after my son and I got back from his baseball game, which his team won BTW). So maybe the contest is back on track, although lets face it -- the five who are left are all very good. And John Stevens would have been the winner 50 years ago when his music was still in style.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:24 PM | Culture

April 26, 2004

Lone Voice, Meet Wilderness

John Kekes paints a sad picture of higher education in a speech delivered to the North American Philosophy of Education Society. The problem is that its also a very true one. I'd love to excerpt some of it, but it flows so well that it's hard to do, so read the whole thing.

Via the Instapundit

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:44 PM | School/Education

Between Richmond and Isleworth

Funmurphys takes the weekend off, but not Conrad! This must be kiss a dictator month for the left, but the Great Gweilo is having none of that. I haven't been to Shanghai (surprise!), but I did spend a month in pre-earthquake Kobe. It seemed pretty technologically advanced to me - right down to the instructions for the western style toilet in hotel. The eastern style toilet is a hole in the floor, and needs no instruction, just good knees.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:09 PM | Culture

April 23, 2004

The Latest Molehill

Do I care about all the ins and outs of John Kerry's military service in Vietnam? No. Is it worth digging through the records and trying to figure out whether or not he really earned 3 Purple Hearts? Absolutely not.

To the Republicans who think there is some hay to be made here -- put aside partisanship and honor one of our vets.

To the Democrats who claimed GWB was AWOL and demanded all his records -- you reap what you sow, so start reaping.

I would consider voting for the Kerry of 1968 - a decisive leader under fire, but the years have changed that youth into a man who starts his day by getting out of both sides of the bed and staying that way the rest of the day.

C'mon, important stuff is happening right now, and we're worried about what happened thirty years ago?

And while I'm at it, can somebody tell me the news value in showing us that the remains of our soldiers killed overseas are well treated, flag draped, and flown through Dover AFB? There are better photos -- like this one or this one.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:44 PM | Comments (1) | Media Criticism

April 22, 2004

How Do You Measure Progress?

How do you measure how well things are going in Iraq? The press (and others) seem to be measuring progress by the inverse of the body count -- if coalition deaths are down, the situation is improving, and if coalition deaths are up, the situation is deteriorating. But is that a good way to measure progress?

In WW2, American casualties increased every year of the war, and had we not dropped a couple of A-bombs on the Japenese, they would have been higher in 1946 than in 1945. Yet clearly the darkest time for us was 1942 and by 1945 it was pretty clear we were going to win. Using KIA as a proxy for progress would have provided an opposite view to reality. In Kosovo, not one US service person was KIA (at the cost of about 1000 civilian KIAs), yet the situation is as bad there as ever, and peacekeepers will be occupying Kosovo after the coalition leaves a rebuilt Iraq.

There seems to be a feeling that progress needs to monotonically increase all the time. The reality in war is that the other guy is trying his best too, and so you have set backs, you have fits and starts, you win some and you lose some. You have to understand that and maintain some perspective. Generally, you have a much better grasp of your own problems, shortcomings, and failures than you do of the enemies, and so a natural pessimism can develop.

There is a myth that Americans won't tolerate casualites. This is false. What Americans won't tolerate is casualties without purpose. What casualties measure is the cost, not the progress. And while the cost is very tangible in a situation like Iraq, the progess is far more nebulous, and far more difficult to determine. Yet for an citizenry to make informed decisions about whether a war is worth it, they have to have a reasonable idea of both costs and the progress. And in Iraq, the press has let us down. The consistent message from non-press in Iraq is that progress is being made.

There are several possibilities why the press doesn't report on the progress -- the bias that only news is bad news, the bias towards immediacy and short time horizons which means that the press does a wonderful job on telling us about the events of the day but can't tell us the events that take a week or a month to play out, the bias of the press itself against the war, and the perception that the job of the press is to challange the "official" story and the corresponding desire not to be a "cheerleader". I have a feeling that all of these play their own parts in shaping the reporting from Iraq.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:39 PM | Comments (3) | War On Terror

April 21, 2004

Kid's Game?

It's often said that baseball is a kid's game, or even a little kid's game, usually in response to a mental mistake on the part of a player. But baseball is better understood as a game you start playing as a kid to master as an adult.

OK, my son's baseball season has started. Each year they add more of the full rules -- last year the kids pitched for the first time, and this year the kids can steal for the first time. Baseball not only has a large set of rules (the coach was explaining the dropped third strike rule before the game, although the umps weren't calling it), it has even more techniques (each position has responsibilities that aren't spelled out in the rules and are much harder to learn).

And to top it all off, it's a difficult mental game. As the coaches stress to the kids, you have to know what you're going to do when you get the ball before the pitcher even delivers it. That would be easy except nothing happens for long stretches of time, and the mind tends to wander, especially those of children. So you trot out to your position at the start of the inning knowing where you are going to throw the ball if hit to you (infield to first, outfield to second) and you wait. And you kick the dirt. And wait. And you kick the dirt some more. And somebody hits the ball, but not to you. And you wait some more. And then somebody hits the ball to you, and where is that runner? Oops, held on to the ball to long and the coach is yelling. Do it as an adult, and the fans are yelling about baseball being a little kid's game.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:42 PM | Comments (1) | Family

April 20, 2004

Can't Get There From Here

How bad is it in Iraq? I don't know. The only God's eye view exists in, well, God's eyes. I have to struggle with the trickle that has multiple filters, mainly through people who wish America ill in Iraq. The clear aversion of the press to report anything other than casualties and battles also distorts any perception of the big picture. So does this memo really tell us how bad it is? Maybe.

Here's my problem - the memo isn't actually presented, just a collage of excerpts by someone who could well be using it to confirm his own biases. I don't have the context of how, why, and by whom the memo was written. Having said that it, it doesn't paint the prettiest of pictures. On the other hand, many of the problems raised seem to be either endemic to the culture (such as the rampant corruption) or about to be corrected (such as problems with the Governing Council). I've seen the same corruption, fatalism, and sloth first hand working in Pakistan for three months. Frankly, other than issues over security, what's left seems to be more about minor details than major substance.

But stepping back, I've wondered about the effectiveness of the CPA from a system perspective. I'm a child of the 60's, so for me "it's the system" really does mean something. So you have an organization that has no past and no future, which isn't a good thing in my opinion. Having no past means that there are no systems already in place to do what the organization wants to do and the people involved don't know each other. It also means everybody has to be recruited from somewhere else, and as the CPA has no future, who do you get to leave their homes, live in a troubled country, and who most likely won't be able to translate success in the CPA to career advancement elsewhere.

I think these factors are in part why the military has done a better job at reconstruction than the CPA - they have a past and future -- and the other part is that they don't seem to be bound by the same contracting rules as the CPA. If you've ever dealt with government contracting, you know what I'm talking about. At their best, they are slow, cumbersome, and self-defeating. Couple that with trying to deal with a significantly different culture on the far side of the world, and The CPA would seem to be doomed to being lesser than its personell; the structural defects mean that a CPA filled with first rate people would still be a second rate organization. But short of having a permanent office of occupation and reconstruction that follows their own rules, what else can you do?

For me, the bottom line is, and has been, that ultimately what Iraq turns into is the responsibility of the people of Iraq. All America can do is what we are doing - give them the chance. We cut their problems down to a managable (but clearly not non-existant) size. Whether or not they can overcome them is up to them.

And given how absolutely lousy the other states in the region are, it won't take much for Iraq to be a shining beacon in comparison.

UPDATE: Village Voice has posted the memo on the internet. My take of the memo is that conditions while conditions are improving, problems remain and a cloud of uncertainty overhangs the country. Only with a lot more detail:

"I want to emphasize: As great as the problems we face, and the criticisms back home, and mindful of the sacrifice that almost 600 Americans have made, what we have accomplished in Iraq is worth it. While Iraqis joke, “Americans go home — and take us with you,” the gratitude which they express is sincere and unsolicited, and not limited to a single political class. The political bickering back in the United States has worried Iraqis, who fear that a Kerry victory will mean an American withdrawal, short-term civil war, and long-term empowerment of the most radical elements of society throughout the Islamic world. Nevertheless, several Iraqi political movements have begun reaching out to Senate Democrats to keep their bases covered. I have conflicting impressions of where Iraq is going. It is easy to see progress in Baghdad."
"Despite the progress evident in the streets of Baghdad, much of which happens despite us rather than because of us, Baghdadis have an uneasy sense that they are heading toward civil war."
"We have made the most progress in Baghdad; the south may be calm, but it seems the calm before the storm. Iranian money is pouring in. British policy is to not rock the boat, and so they do nothing that may result in confrontation. This is a mistake. We are faced with an Iranian challenge. Whether Iranian activities are sanctioned or not by the Iranian actors with which the State Department likes to do business should be moot, since those Iranians who offer engagement lack the power to deliver on their promises. In Bosnia and Afghanistan, we were likewise challenged by the Iranians. In both cases, the Iranians promised their intentions were benign. In Bosnia, we rolled up the Qods Force anyway, and Bosnia has remained pro-Western in its orientation. In Afghanistan, we wrung our hands and did little, worried that the Iranians might respond to confrontation if we did anything to enforce our word. This projected weakness. Today, Iran holds as much influence over Western Afghanistan than at any time since after the Anglo-Persian War of 1857. That said, I do not think that a deliberate bombing such as we saw in Karbala or Khadimiya will be the trigger for a civil war. Rather, I worry about deeper conflicts that revolve around patronage and absolutism. Bremer has encouraged re- centralization in Iraq because it is easier to control a Governing Council less than a kilometer away from the Palace rather than 18 different provincial councils who would otherwise have budgetary authority. The net affect, however, has been desperation to dominate Baghdad, and an absolutism borne of regional isolation. The interim constitution moves things in the right direction, but the constitution is meaningless if we are not prepared to confront challenges."
"The interim constitution has been quite a success. I can be quite cynical about most Iraqi politicians, but I do think that it’s hard to not give Ahmed Chalabi credit for getting the deal we got. When I see the results of his maneuvering and coalition building, I wonder how much farther we could have gotten if so many in the U.S. government had not sought to undermine him at every possible opportunity. Of course we could have gotten a better deal had we come in and used our momentum, but the importance of momentum in international relations is something neither the interagency process, nor the CPA, nor the Pentagon fully grasps. If they did, we would not waste time changing “happy” to “glad” oblivious to the fact that Iraq does not operate on Washington time."

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:46 PM | War On Terror

April 19, 2004

Odds and Ends

Somebody won on "The Apprentice" last night - no surprise there, it had to happen. Somebody doesn't think Trump is the best role model because of his shady business dealings. I didn't watch the show - every time I tuned to it some poor people sat quitetly in front of Donald Trump while he blathered on with the oddest hairstyle I've ever seen. I guess if you're The Donald, you can't be like other mortals who as they go bald use the tried and true comb-over to accentuate their baldness, no, you have to use the comb-forward to accentuate not just your baldness, but your business acumen as well.

Kevin Spacey got "mugged", sort of, the other day in London. Does this mean he'll become a Tory now? At least he fell for a con that preyed upon his niceness, not his greed.

Well, the other shoe fell here the other day. The first one was when a St. Louisan won the Miss USA title. To balance out, one of our hockey players, Mike Danton (let me point out right away he isn't a native) was arrested in a bizzare murder for hire scheme. He befriended a 19 year old girl who works at the Blues practice facility at the St. Louis Mills Mall. He asked if she knew any hit men (I'm just wondering if she's got a tattoo), and she said she might. I guess I don't travel in the right circles because I can't think of anyone I know, let alone have met, that I think might be a hit man. Well, unfortunately for them but not us the man wasn't a hit man, and he recorded his conversation with Danton, and then called the FBI. Now Danton and his lady friend are both in jail.

My Cub Pack went hiking at the Shaw Arboretum, so let me pass along a timely warning about West Nile Virus. There weren't any mosquitoes around, which was good, but there weren't many leaves on the trees either, and as the temperature went over ninety, their shade was sorely missed.

The official leading indicators are up for March (I suppose if it takes this long to calculate the index, it needs to be leading so that it doesn't lag on arrival). I have my own economic indicator -- I call it the peter indicator. The peter principle states that people are promoted to their level of incompetence in an organization. I have noticed that in good economies, you run into incompents in service industries who've never been promoted; the better the economy, the more incompetents. I ordered pizza from Domino's for my son's birthday party on Sunday -- it took literally 10 minutes to order three pizzas. And yes, the gentleman let me know that he was new. I'd say the economy is getting much better.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:46 PM | Current Events

April 16, 2004

TV Nation

I don't know if our habits are normal, but we don't watch much network TV in the Murphy Family. The Fruit of the Murphy Loins tend to stick with the kid chanels - Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network being their Big Three. The Fearless Leaders watch a lot of Style, TLC, and HGTV. Over time our shows have varied - we watch a lot less Room by Room or Design on a Dime and a lot more House Hunters and Devine Design. We'd watch more Dreamhouse if it could keep to a regular schedule. The only normal show we watch on any station is Monk, and it isn't that normal -- including the shortest season ever. (I don't consider what, four shows, a real season, but what choice do I have?)

The only network shows we make it a point to see are Survivor and American Idol. Yeah, I know, how trendy of us. But other than that you have a slew of unfunny comedies (outside of King of Queens) and the dramas seem to be part of either the Law and Order franchise or the CSI franchise, and quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of doctor and lawyer shows. And neither my wife or I are all that happy with Survivor All Stars or American Idol 3.

The competition in American Idol 3 is between Fantasia and LaToya. I don't think anyone else is in the running, but it will be months of too long shows before we find out. And I'm still miffed that Scooter Girl didn't make the cut, that the blonde cheerleader didn't make the cut, and that Amy Adams got voted out so early. I'm having trouble with the cruelty as well - no not Simon - but the whole finding out you lost live on national TV - I thought it was especially bad on the wild card show when so many had to leave. Speaking of Simon, he's trying too hard with those analogies and too often they just don't make sense. I can't abide most of the celebrity judges: Quentin Tarrantino was just annonying. I don't know how much longer we'll be watching.

Survivor is an odd show, and All Stars is even odder. What I enjoy about Survivor is the study of human nature it provides. What the players don't seem to appreciate is that it is the triumph of the mediocre (and lucky). The first half, the teams vote out the weak sisters (like Sonja) or the too annoying (like hole man Peter). The second half, the stronger are voted out by the weaker, and then the winner is the one who pissed off the fewest of the jury. How else do you account for winners like Tina, Vecepia, or Sondra? The classiest winner was Ethan, and the strongest winner was Brian, whose people manipulation skills are unrivaled on the show. Compare him to Rob C or Johny Fairplay - not only was he far better at challanges, he ran the game so smoothly that people trusted him even after they were voted off -- and he still barely beat Clay, one of the more annoying Survivor players. I think he is a sociopath, but he was a great player.

That brings us to Survivor All Stars - where a lot of the players know each other already. So the prior winners were dispatched first. Players were quitting left and right. And then Lex was too smart by half and started playing the end game before the opening game was over - eliminating stronger rivals during the team play which just killed his team. When his team didn't vote out Amber when it had the chance I made my displeasure known quite forcefully (and the rest of the family let me know about their displeasure). So I wasn't too surprised when he got the ax. The thing is, even when Lex played like an idiot, I still liked the guy. But I can't stand Boston Rob. And by the looks of things, the next few weeks of Survivor will be featuring his smirk quite promenently. We may miss a few weeks.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:42 PM | TV

April 15, 2004

I Blame Me

Conrad over at The Gweilo Diaries has cut back on the cheesecake posts and focused on what's going on in the rest of the world this week to our benefit. Cheesecake is plentiful on the net; hard headed analysis is in short supply. His 9/11 Blame Game is a masterpiece all by itself, and captures my thinking (minus the swearing) perfectly.

The only thing I have to add is a look at the infamous August 6 PDB "Bin Laden determined to strike in US." A couple of things strike me - the most obvious being how old the data in the PDB -- all the threats are from the 1990s. But the very first one, at the top of the PDB, is:

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."

Did you catch that - in 1997 and 1998 Bin Laden was on our TV screens telling us that he would bring the fighting to America. So like Conrad says, if you want to see who was responsible for our lax response to al Qaida, go look in the mirror.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:38 PM | War On Terror

Biggles Asks Questions

Can I fire the press? I mean it, really.

I managed to watch the Bush press conference the other night – it slipped my mind that Band of Brothers was on over on the History channel. While President Bush clearly has some deficiencies – most notably public speaking, the press clearly has its own deficiencies, like anything to do with their job of reporting the news. The press acted like a bad Monty Python imitation: Confess your mistakes, confess your mistakes, apologize for your mistakes, confess to your inability to communicate, confess, confess, confess. Poke him again with another soft-in-the-head question. All that was missing was Cardinal Fang and the comfy chair.

The Q & A period did manage to make one thing clear at least: now we know why the Strother Martin character from NPR never gets called upon – although it did allow the President to demonstrate once again that sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand. So I guess I can’t complain that it was completely uninformative.

Sadly, the truth of the matter is that the press doesn’t work for me; it doesn’t work for you either. Oh, the press likes to talk about “serving the public interest” and “the people’s right to know” (oddly enough, that one isn’t in the constitution), but their job isn’t to inform the public, their job is to sell stuff. The newspaper people push whatever the department stores are selling, which by the looks of things is mostly bras and panties. The TV news people mainly hawk denture creams and adult diapers.

I mean if the press really was interested in giving us the news, why do they spend so much time on the titillation du jour (e.g. Kobe Bryant or Scott Peterson), and why would they pass up a chance to seriously question the President and instead try to play Gotcha!

Yeah, I know, it's their favorite game, even when they play it so poorly.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:15 PM | Media Criticism

Oliver Stone Kisses Castro

I don't get a chance to correct Mickey Kaus too often so here goes. Mickey, Oliver Stone was a fool before Ann Bardach said one word to him.

This article makes it clear that Oliver Stone is not just a fool, but moral pygmy.

The left needs to come to terms with the fact that a large swath of it loves dictatorship, and not just abroad, but in America too. It loves judges who issue fiat from the bench, and it loves government agencies who issue fiat as regulation. It can't admit that anti-communist cold warrior were right; it gives wet smoochies to leftist dictatorships around the world past, present, and future. It can't admit that communism is evil itself and not just specific implementions. It embraced Stalin, it embraced the Sandinistas, it embraces Castro, and it repudiates any attempts to topple or prevent dictators today.

I think that by and large, the right does not love dictatorship, but was willing to compromise during the cold war. And I think the right has come to terms with that. Certainly now the clarion call of freedom sounds from the right, and not the left - which is why a lot of people who once considered themselves on the left can no longer do so.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:08 PM | Current Events

Bush Confesses

Apparently President Bush has finally decided on what the worst mistakes of his presidency were. Scott Ott has the story.

About time, I say.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:52 AM | National Politics

April 13, 2004

Yes, We've Got Links

A sober look at a real intellegence problem prior to 9/11. Hat Tip Instapundit

Another Baghdad Journal installment from Steve Mumford. Hat Tip Kaedrin Weblog -- make sure you check out all the Mumford articles collected by Mark.

Bryan Preston documents the madness of Richard Clarke -- and the bureaucratic wet dream that increased meetings at the top result in noticable improvements at the bottom.

A serious look at a deliciously funny movie. Hat tip to Paul Cella. Someday I'd like to do the same for the Talented Mr. Ripley, which wasn't funny, but is the best illustration that if virtue is its own reward, vice is its own punishment on film.

Kevin Holtsberry provides another example of why he isn't a liberal. I couldn't agree with you more, and it isn't because of the first name.

Mark Byron edifies with his edifier du Jour. Warning - Christian thought.

If you're a St. Louisan, you know who Bill Haas is. If you're not, there is no easy descripton other than local color. If you've ever wanted to meet him, Archpundit let's you know how. I won't be there -- my common sense overpowers my sense of humor.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 1:24 PM | Links

No Surprises

Since St. Louis is chock full of beautiful women, it's no surprise that one of our tall blondes is now Miss USA. Nor is it a surprise that she's a republican who wants to speak out about Iraq. No sir, no surprises at all, just another beautiful day here in the Heartland.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:51 PM | Current Events

April 12, 2004

Byline By Dan Darling

A couple of interesting and under-reported items:

Islamic terrorists are much further along in planning chemical attacks in Europe than anticipated. Found on Regnum Crucis where Dan Darling also provides some great commentary to the article.

Iraqi special forces are fighting alongside the Marines in Fallujah. And their fellow Iraqi's are happy to see them. Found at Winds of Change and Dan Darling again.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:39 PM | War On Terror

Movie Madness

One of the joys of vacation for The Murphy Family is seeing movies. It is a long tradition for us, and we have improved on it in recent years by seeing two movies near simultaineously: a kids movie and a grown up movie. Our sojurn in Memphis was no different. So while the Fruit of the Murphy Loins enjoyed the latest Scoobie Doo movie, the Fearless Leaders watched Jersey Girl -- chosen mainly for scheduling reasons. The Fruit have seen very few kids movies they didn't like; I wish the Fearless Leaders could say the same about their movie choices. While Jersey Girl wasn't bad, ultimately, it wasn't good either.

Hollywood makes a lot of movies every year, yet only 4 or 5 are worth seeing. As we watched the trailers proceeding the movie, I was struck repeatedly by the thought "who in their right mind would think people would want to watch this hunk of junk?" A tidal wave of movie crap washes over us. There is a reason video games have passed up movies at mkaing money. I don't know if there ever was a true golden age of Hollywood movies, but it today it seems the industry is driven less by the desire to make a buck and more by the desire to pamper stars. How many lousy Kevin Costner pictures were made flattering his ego and confirming that he is completely out of touch? The star system in both movies and sports (another industry where stars are overpaid and overpraised) is worsening the product.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:15 PM | Movies

April 8, 2004

Logical Conclusion

While Jeff Danziger isn't my favorite political cartoonist, he did have an interesting one the other day -- it showed Radical Islam as a hydra with Al Sadr as one of the heads. I suppose it's supposed to be Rumsfeld astride the beast saying, "Don't worry, as soon as we get Al Sadr, everything will be fine." I can't recall anybody in the Bush administration or in the military saying anything like that - here for instance Rumsfeld does not single out Al Sadr.

But the conception of Islamic Terrorism as a hydra is an interesting one - if you'll recall, the hydra was a mythological beast that when you cut off one head, two would grow back in its place. So we're faced with a difficult choice in how to fight such a beast.

We can decide resistance is futile, and thus condemn ourselves to a period of terror, death and ultimately our own destruction - but at least we didn't make the bad guys any angrier. This is the course those few who didn't want us to topple the Taliban advised.

Or we can stamp out a particular group such as al Qaida, and have two groups take it's place. This is the course the many who didn't want us to topple Saddam advised. In the cartoon, simply replace Al Sadr's head with Bin Laden, and the anti-Iraq war people are now the ones saying "Don't worry, as soon as we get Bin Laden, everything will be fine." Oddly enough, Danziger was firmly opposed to going after Saddam.

Or we can try to kill the hydra - all the heads and the body too. This means kill each head and cauterize the wound in mythological terms, or in real terms it means destroy all the different islamic terrorist groups and reform the nations they sprang from.

The first choice leads to our own destruction; the second choice leads to war without end (or a different choice); the third choice leads to our enemies destruction. Realistically, I don't think we have a choice.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:56 PM | War On Terror

Are We Any Better Off Now?

I caught a few minutes of Dr. Rice's testimony this morning (you can catch the blog version at Powerline thanks to Hindrocket). I thought the best part was when the camera gave us her view - the commision members on their ridiculously raised dais (I guess they don't realize it makes them look like a whole row of Mr. Potters) and packed at the foot of the wood panneling the mob of photographers with their own ridiculously enormous camera lenses all pointed at her.

I'm disappointed with the commision so far - rather than focus on policies and processes, they've focused on personalities and people. I don't want blame assigned -- we already know the terrorists are the ones to blame -- I want ways and means on how to make us safer based upon the careful study of the 9-11 attack. The idea that we should always be able to successfully thwart attacks against us is flat wrong. Sadly, the hearings have become worse than a waste of time - they've become a diversion from the job at hand and a divisive partisan wrangle. Another illustration that a good idea can be ruined by lousy implementation.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:22 PM | War On Terror

April 7, 2004

I'm Back

There I was minding my own business last Monday, when my boss sticks his head in my cube and tells me I'm going to Huntsville for a couple of days --leaving today. So I make travel arrangements, go home, pack, and get to the airport to get on the plane. Then two days of all day meetings - from 8 AM to 8:30PM day 1, then 7:30AM to 10PM the next day, and on Thursday we put in a couple of hours before I went to Memphis to get picked up by the wife and kids and start our spring break vacation. Had a great time, but on Sunday morning I woke up with a bad cold and here it is Wednesday before I can blog again.

So in the mean time, its either the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end in Iraq. I think its the end of the beginning, but then I'm an optimist.

Don Luskin wonders something I've been wondering myself lately -- what would happen if someone filed a product liability suit (not slander) against a media outlet that got its facts wrong?

And since the blogosphere moves at internet speeds, the whole Kos Kerfuffle has gone from beginning to end before I even was aware of it.

I've been out of the loop, but I know where I can go to get up to speed.

Oh yeah, Sir Charles has resumed blogging as well as changed jobs.

Those who can, do; those who can't, link.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 1:01 PM | Comments (2) | Inside Bloging