selenite0: (Been what I chose)
. . . or rather I soon will be, once the last of the insignia arrive in the mail.

On Saturday I was sworn into the Texas State Guard. I'm in the 4th Civil Affairs Regiment, exact assignment still to be determined. Our normal mission is disaster relief, such as helping out folks hit by wildfires. We specifically train for operating shelters. Helping house refugees in the wake of Katrina boosted the reputation of the TXSG. Currently they're trying to double their size to pick up more missions the National Guard is too busy to handle with it's deployments.

I'd read about the State Guard but hadn't thought they'd take me until I met a couple of members recruiting at Lockheed's "Preparedness Fair." I spend way too much time in front of a computer cranking out paperwork just to feed the bureaucracy. Now I have a chance to get out in the fresh air (or smokey air if we're dealing with wildfires again) and help people in need. It's also a form of military service, something I've been wanting to do since 9/11. Finding out that the Air Force's take on my reserve obligation is roughly "we'll call you if we get invaded by aliens" has been damn frustrating when there's a war on. Now I can serve, if not anywhere near a combat zone, at least picking up the tasks of the people who are getting deployed.

The "back" part of being back in uniform is a bit ironic, as nothing is usable from my old uniforms. After 14 years the pants don't fit any more. The AF promoted me while I was in the reserves, so the rank can't be recycled. I'm getting ACUs instead of BDUs. My specialty badge has been replaced by Buzz Lightyear's belt buckle. And I changed my name a decade back so the nametag can't be reused either. So my uniform is starting out from scratch.

I'm also going to need some new icons . . . the beard is gone.
selenite0: (Karl with beard and hat)
I've started a new journal for my political posts at [livejournal.com profile] libertarianhawk. [livejournal.com profile] selenite will continue for my posts on my personal life, technology, and gaming.

Plus the occasional silly meme, of course.
selenite0: (Hawk)
Iraq's gone through another vote. The most remarkable thing seems to be how few terrorist attacks there were on the polls, and how ineffective they were. The constitution isn't that big a deal for me, though. Any set of rules can only be as good as the people implementing them. So the elections for a new government in December will be what decides whether Iraq is headed for a rough democracy or a different tyranny.

I did stumble across a good piece of news on that front. The IRI did a survey in Iraq to predict the turn-out and support for the constitution. They also asked "Thinking about the referendum scheduled for October, who will have the most influence on your choice?" Only a third of the people listed "Religious figures" as their first or second choice. So if secular influences are already that widespread we can breathe a little easier about Iraq coming under sharia law.
selenite0: (Freedom)

Afghanistan just elected national and provincial legislatures. There's a couple of significant things here. The women are feeling freer, if marginally so (that's the hem of her burka on top of her head--I presume she'll be fully tented when she's walking home). The jewelry and bright outfit may be a better indication of how things are improving. There's also been very little violence despite extreme threats from the Taliban. So Afghanistan seems headed for the happy ending. Let's hope Iraq is doing this well in 2007.

Meanwhile, The President of Pakistan made a speech to the American Jewish Congress meeting. Since when was "Leader of Muslim country meets with Jews" a minor news story? I'd put this as one of the payoffs for Israel withdrawing from Gaza.

Hat tip to Varifrank.
selenite0: (Freedom)
What's the best thing we can do for poor people in the Third World? How about buying what they grow or make:

Bush Urges End of Trade Tariffs, Subsidies

That's also a really bold move on the domestic front. The various farm subsidies an inexcusable drain on the budget, but nobody's ever had the clout to eliminate them. It's a classic "tragedy of the commons" problem. The benefit of a subsidy goes to a few people who'll fight hard. Canceling it would benefit everyone else, but not enough for it to be worth the work to make it happen. Wiping out all of them at once, that might be doable. Especially with a global agreement hanging on it.

On the global level, not only will this let people work themselves into prosperity, but with luck free trade will support the trend toward other freedoms as well.
selenite0: (Hawk)
Warblogger Donald Sensing bid farewell to his son, Lance Cpl. Stephen Sensing, as his unit deployed to Iraq.

My son and his fellows are producers of freedom, not mere consumers of it. And those who only consumed freedom will one night lie in their beds and think themselves accursed that they didn’t serve with them.

Good luck, and good hunting, Marine.
selenite0: (Default)
I've been slow to react to the story of the rave bust in Utah, because first reports are often wrong. But they're being confirmed. For those who haven't heard, a legal music concert on private property was busted by 90 cops, with lots of reports of excessive force. Since "raves" are known for attracting drug users, the organizer had security guards confiscating drugs from attendees. So the cops busted the guards for possession.

That illustrates why I think the "War on Drugs" is the biggest threat to our freedom. None of the complaints I've heard about the PATRIOT Act come up to the level of what happens routinely in prosecuting drug offenses. At least when counter-terrorism ops get the wrong guy they're trying to stop a real danger. The drug cops are prosecuting doctors for writing legal prescriptions and store clerks for selling legal products. Once the police start going after people for doing things in private that no one else is harmed by, there is no stopping point. Any association with a "bad" chemical becomes a crime.

Not only are the drug warriors hurting innocents on purpose, they're creating access for terrorists. Drug smuggling raises money for terrorists and having lots of well established smugglers makes it easy to sneak bombs or worse into this country. Bringing all narcotics into the above-ground economy would make it much tougher for infiltrators (they'd still have the illegal immigrant channels, but that's another rant).

Pushing back on the drug "war" is the best way I can think of to protect our freedom. It's the best way to get my vote. If anyone wants it.
selenite0: (Jamie Aug 05)
I've been wanting to post about several things, all too depressing for me to work up the motivation. We had lots of fun on 4th of July weekend. I went out to game with the local Browncoats, we went to the ORAC meeting, and had friends visiting. Independence Day we celebrated with a reading of the Declaration, Patrick Henry’s "Give me Liberty or give me Death!" speech, and watching 1776. By bedtime [livejournal.com profile] celticdragonfly was wiped out so I put the kids to bed by myself. In honor of the day I gave them a patriotic goodnight song—The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

I’ve been reflecting on a line from that since:

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free

That sums up a big part of the current war. Not that I’m part of "us" for this one. The Air Force has no interest in calling up reserve 13S’s (unless things get really horrible). The positions for civilians in Iraq don’t match my skill set . . . and let’s face it, expertise in building rockets is one of the things we went into Iraq to remove. So I’m on the home front.

Jamie, on the other hand, may be part of the "us" if this is still going on in seventeen years. Which is probably will, at some level, unless it gets bad enough for me to be called up. When he’s old enough I’ll get him the info on the options, including the pros and cons from my own experience. I’ll also point out its an important and necessary job that somebody has to do. [livejournal.com profile] celticdragonfly will handle the case against signing up. No armtwisting or guilt trips—Jamie is not a vessel for dealing with my survivor guilt, he’s a free person with a mind of his own. But I want to make sure he hears the case for serving.

I’m not sure he’s going to hear it from anyone else. Bush’s speech last month was a competent rehash of the reasons for the Iraq campaign, but he shouldn’t have given it to the troops. He should’ve gone to a high school graduation and focused on "This is why it’s important, and we need YOU to help" instead of giving recruitment one sentence. From what I’m hearing the Army’s recruiters aren’t talking about duty or the mission either, just cash benefits (the Marines are apparently doing a better job). Bush needs to remember why he was given that political capital he’s spending—voters care about the war a lot more than social security. He needs to focus on maintaining popular support, not wander off to other issues.

I wonder if I’ll ever be able to vote for someone, instead of against.

The London bombings weren’t a surprise to me. War is something where the other side shoots back, and comes up with ways to trash your plans. I expect we’ll have more in the next couple of years. Rome and Copenhagen seem to be next on the list. Horrible as it was it wasn’t as bad as 9/11 and the Madrid bombings. Hopefully that means Al Qaeda and their fellow Islamofascists are continuing to weaken. It’s at least a data point that the "flypaper" strategy (sucking Al Qaeda’s money and recruits into Iraq to grind them up) may be working. Though "gambit" might be a better word for it than "strategy", at least from the viewpoint of the Iraqis and our troops.

(As an aside, here’s an article comparing AQ’s behavior to a traditional blood feud. An interesting analysis, but bad news if true. Ending the blood feud tradition among my ancestors required long-term occupation by foreigners and converting everybody to a new religion. If that’s what we’re headed for there’ll be a lot of work left for Jamie.)

The identities of the London bombers make think this is a fractal war. Britain and other nations have little islands of unassimilated Muslim immigrants, sustained by welfare payments. That’s a small-scale version of the world with the Arab nations refusing to assimilate into the global system while receiving piles of cash for oil they didn’t create. And an even smaller scale seems to be the case of the bomber whose family was assimilating and working hard while he spent his time at the mosque. If we can’t deal with it at all those levels we’re going to face the worst-case outcomes of the war. Iraq is an attempt to assimilate at the national level. America seems to be doing a better job of assimilating Muslim neighborhoods than the European nations, hopefully some of that can be transferred (but that might conflict with the existing European doctrines). The individual level is going to have to be handled by Muslims within their own families and neighborhoods. If they can’t fully assimilate into modern society, we need the Islamofascists to become like the Amish—isolated religious communities that practice their own ways without threatening their neighbors. Otherwise this will be a long war with only horrible ends possible.

And it sure would be nice if Jamie could say "No, Dad, we’re at peace, and they don’t need me. But I’ll think about it."
selenite0: (can't take2)
Various bits I've seen on the Supremes deciding town hall has dibs on my house.

Funny: "We're from the government and we're here to move you."

Slashdot: "All your house are belong to us."

On the more practical side, a suggestion to homeowners that they move endangered species onto their property to keep bulldozers away. Wonder if we could get that ditch on the next block declared a wetlands? Fortunately for us Walmart already has its site for this town. I feel sorry for any church that has natural gas under it but doesn't feel like selling.
selenite0: (Default)
No, no, read the sign.

What I'm wondering is did the signmaker take Mel Gibson as a role model--bad news for Syrian grunts--or are the protestors trying to push our buttons to attract more Western support (which would explain the foreground as well)?

Edit: Link is dead. Picture had a protest babe next to a sign saying "They can take our lives, but they can never take our freedom."
selenite0: (Hawk)
Hundreds of thousands of protestors--over a million by some reports--are marching to demand Syria leave Lebanon. They're massively outnumbering the pro-Syrian protestors Hezbollah fielded (without even getting into whether Hezbollah was importing ringers). Syria's already promising to withdraw at least partially. If things go well Lebanon could get some real political freedom, and Syria's dictatorship could collapse.

Seeing a couple of dominos wobbling is making me feel a lot more optimistic about the war.
selenite0: (Default)
I started crying yesterday as I saw the news coming in from Iraq (and scared the heck out of [livejournal.com profile] celticdragonfly until I got "Good news" through my choked throat). It's the pictures of the Iraqis who voted that got to me. These people know that Zarqawi proclaimed that anyone participating in the election was an apostate and marked for death. But they're not just voting, they're letting their pictures be taken so the whole world can see they voted, daring the enemy to come get them. I think these people aren't going to be satisfied with just voting once. My optimism about the future of the experiment feels a lot more justified now.

I'm still not as optimistic as Robert Wright's latest piece in the NYT. He's convinced me that the forces of history favor freedom, but it's not going to happen if we sit back and wait for history to bring it to us on a platter. It takes lots of hard work to create freedom, lots more than creating a slight-improved dictatorship. History supports that by giving big rewards to free people. But that doesn't make the first step any easier. It takes hard decisions, hard work, and a willingness to take great risks. As those voters did.
selenite0: (Bush)
John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
. . .
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

George W Bush's Inaugural Address:

For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat.
. . .
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
. . .
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
. . .
The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it.
. . .
When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.
selenite0: (Bush)
The New York Times explains how Bush got my vote:
Bush's vision--freedom for the world )

Hawk Humor

Aug. 11th, 2004 05:53 pm
selenite0: (Default)
Stephen Green wrote up the Game Plan for the war, stressing the need to maintain the initiative and how unpredictable the post-war world is after every war.

Jeff Medcalf elaborated on this with an emphasis on the cultural aspect of the war, including the need for missionary work not just to break the will of the enemy but also to strengthen the faith of our own people in Western culture.

This was clearly getting too serious, so I suggested:

I'm thinking of missionary work, pagan missionaries could have a big impact. If we really want to produce an "Allah, why have you forsaken us?" reaction, a skyclad Beltaine in the ruins of Mecca is probably the best option.

Jeff's reply:

Well, Karl, I think the part that would really disturb them would be when we roasted the whole pig for the celebratory feast. I hear they have a black stone that would make a great carving slab...
selenite0: (karl and maggie)
[livejournal.com profile] ginmar has a wonderful post on the definition of patriotism. The best line:

Being an American means you’ve got a lot more adjectives to choose from

That's a damn good definition of freedom--being able to choose your own identity, and how to rank the different roles we all play. America is a good place to find freedom, and a lot better than it used to be. Look at any fifty year period in our history and people average freer at the end of it than at the beginning. There's no country in the world freer than here, and few equals. That's why I get so infuriated by people who point to an American sin and say "therefore America is the worst nation in the world!" Or the ones who condemn the nation as worthless because it hasn't lived up to every point of their ideal. If the best the human race has ever done doesn't meet their standards, it's their problem, not America's. What we have is good enough that we'd better not smash it while trying to build something better. That's been tried and it's always worked out badly.

So today I'm flying the flag proudly to celebrate a good nation, to honor those who made it that way with sweat and blood, and to support those who are keeping us free and bringing freedom to others today.
selenite0: (Default)
The great experiment is going full speed ahead. Now there's an Iraqi government holding real power. Not that they can tell the US troops what to do, but that puts them in the same boat as South Korea. That's a hopeful comparison for me. South Korea is another example of a devastated country with no tradition of democracy becoming a free nation.

The Iraqis have been taking a lot more responsibility for running the infrastructure of the country as the CPA wound down. Now they've got the whole thing. Allawi can act more decisively than any American could, knowing he's not an occupier and the Iraqis will give him the benefit of the doubt instead of distrusting his motives or simply rejecting him as an "infidel." He's made it clear he's going to use that ability to crack down on the terrorists and hold elections as early as possible. I wish him luck. There's a lot of people willing to die to make Iraq either a Sunni-ruled dictatorship or a sharia-law theocracy (with some overlap between the two).

I suspect I'm going to see a lot of news stories about major screw-ups by the Iraqis presented as "See! They're incompetent! The whole effort is doomed!" I'll be pretty happy if anything goes right. There's no way for people to learn how to do a job other than actually doing it and that means mistakes. The US government has been at it a lot longer the the Iraqis and the best I hope for in any government project is for the feds to make an even number of mistakes so they might cancel out. Plus a lot of "mistakes" will probably be the results of enemy attacks. That's the problem with war. You can have a perfect plan and the enemy can trash it in a heartbeat by coming up with a new idea. You just have to keep coming up with new ideas or keep slugging it out until the other side folds.

The US was once in the position Iraq is now. Ben Franklin said we had a republic "if we can keep it." The Iraqis have a republic, and a lot of people are trying to take it from them. If they can keep it, if young Iraqis can grow up knowing they can make their own choices, then the Middle East will have a better tomorrow and we'll have averted a catastrophe worse than the world has ever seen before. That means we have to keep helping them as much as we can to make it happen. The costs in lives and cash may be more than we've lost so far but to get this far and give up--running away or leaving them to the criminals and incompetents of the United Nations--would not just dishonor those who died to get us here but guarantee a grimmer future for Iraq, for America, and the for the world as a whole.
selenite0: (Default)
I'm grateful to Reagan for winning the Cold War. We're currently terrified that our current enemy might get their hands on an arsenal less than 0.1% of what the Soviets had pointed at us in 80s. I don't think it would've ended so well if Reagan hadn't kept the pressure on them. Either the USSR would've been able to expand and grab the resources it needed to keep going, or it would've thought a war might give it those resources and launched the WWIII we we'd prepared for. Forcing them to give up without launching an all-out offensive was a great accomplishment and Reagan deserves a lot of credit for standing firm when many people thought the confrontation would go on forever.

But some of the eulogies describe this as winning "without firing a shot". Hardly. The Cold War had a lot of fighting mostly proxy fights between our allies and theirs. 95,000 Americans died fighting Soviet allies in Korea and Vietnam. Over a hundred Americans were killed by the Soviets in getting crucial reconnaissance data, and that's only counting those in uniform. More proxy wars were fought in Latin America and the Middle East. Reagan's greatest weapon against the Soviets was using the Afghan war to bleed and exhaust them. Millions died in the Cold War--let's not forget them.
selenite0: (Default)
Bush's plan for winning the war.

Okay, I like this one. I'll keep reading Kerry's speeches to see if he can top it.
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