The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


Last night I sat in a dimly lit upscale restaurant, eating a delicious meal with my wife. In between courses, I played with a new device I had purchased, registered, and fully enabled just over two hours earlier. My wife gave me an indulgent smile as I pointed out the elegant ergonomics and beautiful implementation—her husband the geek.

The waiter noticed it first and stared.

“You got one?” he said with a smile. “How? It went on sales, what, just two hours ago.” He bent over the table for a look.

I smiled and nodded, showing him some of the iPhone’s many features. He then hurried off.

Within three minutes the hostess and two other waiters came to the table—big smiles on their faces. “Can we see it?” they asked with no preamble.

Again, a brief demo to comments that had words like “awesome” “way cool” and “off the hook” in them.

In the software engineering biz, we often discuss product requirements. Some are specified by the customer and define what the market needs. Some are implicit and identify what the market expects, but a few are unique—their intent is to surprise and delight.

And that’s what the iPhone does—it surprises and delights with its elegance, its design, its degree of integration, its functionality.

Every person who I’ve shown it to has smiled. Every one has oohed and aahed. Every one!

The iPhone is a breakthrough product, but not because it provides more functions and features than blackberry class machines. Its competitors can do much of what the iPhone can do, but still, the iPhone surprises and delights. Why? Because it does what it does with sheer elegance, with an unbelievably well designed interface, with seamless interoperability with Macs and PCs, with a natural workflow that will fundamentally change the nature of personal communication devices and quite possibly personal computers as well.

For those of us who have already experienced one, we have seen the future, and I guess that’s about as exciting as it gets.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pan Out

Michael Totten, one of the few honest reporters of events throughout the Middle Easy, has written a wonderful essay entitled, The Nut Job Media Circus, where he examines utter hypocracy and misleading sensationalism of the vast majority of media sources who report from the ME (and by extension everywhere else in the world). In discussing how media cameras and pictures do, in fact, lie, he quotes Lisa Goldman:
On Friday afternoon in Manar Square [in Gaza], for example, I ran into Ohad Hemo, an acquaintance who covers Palestinian affairs for Israel’s Channel 1 news. By then there was finally some media-worthy action. A few dozen Fatah-aligned fighters had shown up in the square, most traveling on the back of pick up trucks. They wore combat-style uniforms, although some wore street shoes instead of army boots. Their faces were covered in ski masks and they brandished weapons in what the Times called a “a show of force by Fatah.” That sounds very dramatic, of course, but the reality was not very impressive: again, I felt as though I were watching a parody of machismo that seemed a bit silly, if not comic.

Other than stare into the camera and pose, the fighters didn’t do anything at all. It was all pure theatre: I listened and watched as the various foreign television reporters positioned themselves in front of the masked gunmen and spoke seriously to the cameras about the rising tension in Ramallah, trying their best to make it sound as if they were in the middle of a war zone. But if their cameramen had panned out for a wider shot they would have shown crowds of mostly young men hanging around, eating snacks, buying cold drinks from vendors, and taking photos with their mobile phones. There was no sense of fear or menace at all. I even saw one photojournalist, who works for an American newspaper, giggling a bit as she aimed her camera at a masked fighter who was posing as if he were having his portrait painted, his eyes stonily focused on the horizon.

Totten continues:
I can think of no better evidence of journalism malpractice than the fact that the popularity, strength, and sheer malevolence of the region’s bad actors are both exaggerated and downplayed by the same media organizations.

There is no shortage of lunatics in the Middle East who blow up civilians with car bombs, kidnap journalists, hurl political opponents off skyscrapers, shoot rockets at foreign cities, and do everything in their power to exterminate racial and religious minorities. These people are very often portrayed as less extreme and dangerous than they really are.

When we get information from the media, we look at the world through a small portal that the media controls. The MSM tends to pan in, limiting what we see in an effort to force the facts to fit their preconceived bias. All of us have seen an intrepid reporter standing in from on a bombed building in Lebanon or Gaza. The building fills the entire background. The feeling, created intentionally, is one of utter devastation perpetrated by the Israeli oppressors against the innocents who live there. But pan out and we see a neighborhood in a war zone, with intact houses and apartments, people going about their daily business, eating, drinking, doing what people everywhere do.

Pan out and the "utter devastation" is no more. Pan out and the truth become apparent. Pan out and the story changes.

Each of us must pan out everytime we listen to the MSM report on any subject domestic or foreign. Panning out is an important element of critical thinking, and it's our only defense against a media that is increasingly violating the public trust and warping the truth to meet their own parochial interests and biases.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Peaceful Way

In some ways, it’s difficult to criticize the motivations of the anti-war movement in the West. After all, most of us want a peaceful existence, and war is a horrific way to resolve differences.

And yet, the anti-War movement offers smug “solutions” that reek of an overriding moral superiority but at the same time offer no rational approach for dealing with death cult ideologies that want to destroy Western democratic thought. In fact, their "solution" is to claim that Islamofascist ideologies don’t want to destroy us (even though Islamist leaders state it explicitly, over and over again) and that negotiation, incentives and appeasement will somehow alter their barbaric, anti-Western behavior (even though there is no evidence that this is even remotely possible).

The anti-war movement demands an immediate withdrawal from Iraq without discussing the consequences of such a withdrawal (for Iraqis, the broader ME, and the World at large). They use 20-20 hindsight to demonize those who initiated the war, allying themselves with a left-leaning MSM to convince the larger populace that we are already defeated.

Joshua Muravchik contends that “Iran [and its surrogates] is making a mistake that may lead the Middle East into a broader conflict." He suggests that a broader more deadly war is coming and that our mistake is that we haven’t confronted tyranny, allowing it to believe that it's stronger than it really is:
A large portion of modern wars erupted because aggressive tyrannies believed that their democratic opponents were soft and weak. Often democracies have fed such beliefs by their own flaccid behavior. Hitler's contempt for America, stoked by the policy of appeasement, is a familiar story. But there are many others. North Korea invaded South Korea after Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that Korea lay beyond our "defense perimeter." Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait after our ambassador assured him that America does not intervene in quarrels among Arabs. Imperial Germany launched World War I, encouraged by Great Britain's open reluctance to get involved. Nasser brought on the 1967 Six Day War, thinking that he could extort some concessions from Israel by rattling his sword.

Democracies, it is now well established, do not go to war with each other. But they often get into wars with non-democracies. Overwhelmingly the non-democracy starts the war; nonetheless, in the vast majority of cases, it is the democratic side that wins. In other words, dictators consistently underestimate the strength of democracies, and democracies provoke war through their love of peace, which the dictators mistake for weakness.

Those of us who are against appeasement and negotiation with genocidal fascists are deemed Neanderthals by the anti-War left. Yet, when should we act? How long should we wait? How many will die because we delayed any effort to crush the fascists while there is still time?

Muravchik continues:
Today, this same dynamic is creating a moment of great danger. The radicals are becoming reckless, asserting themselves for little reason beyond the conviction that they can. They are very likely to overreach. It is not hard to imagine scenarios in which a single match--say a terrible terror attack from Gaza--could ignite a chain reaction. Israel could handle Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria, albeit with painful losses all around, but if Iran intervened rather than see its regional assets eliminated, could the U.S. stay out?

With the Bush administration's policies having failed to pacify Iraq, it is natural that the public has lost patience and that the opposition party is hurling brickbats. But the demands of congressional Democrats that we throw in the towel in Iraq, their attempts to constrain the president's freedom to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program, the proposal of the Baker-Hamilton commission that we appeal to Iran to help extricate us from Iraq--all of these may be read by the radicals as signs of our imminent collapse. In the name of peace, they are hastening the advent of the next war.

Those readers who lean-Left are convinced to an absolute certainty that Muravchik is wrong. That the peaceful way is the only way. That morality and peaceful intent will be perceived by Islamists as strength, not weakness.

That’s exactly what Neville Chamberlain believed in the late 1930s.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


A 26 year-old Palestinian man, Amjad Jouri, was accosted recently by the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the West bank town of Nablus. He was suspected of escorting IDF troops during past raids on bomb-making factories in Nablus. The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades is closely affiliated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. Mr Jouri was not arrested or tried—rather he was shot in both legs.

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, continues the story:
While doctors were X-raying Jouri's leg at the Rafidia hospital, gunmen burst into the room and killed him, witnesses said. Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades officials confirmed that the organization had killed Jouri.

It’s worth noting that Fatah is considered by many to be a “moderate” Palestinian faction. The Bush Administration, the EU, the UN and others are rushing to provide them with arms and funding after Hamas’ coup in Gaza. Not a word of criticism, commentary, or reporting concerning the murder of Amjad Jouri appeared in the MSM(some Right-leaning blogs did mention it). After all, if we connect the dots, it might jeopardize the fiction we’ve created concerning the Fatah “moderates.” But no worries. It’s just one murder by a group of serial murderers—no real news there.

There is, however, some really troubling news about Islamic moderates. Tony Blankley reports:
I have just finished reading a deeply disheartening book by my friend Professor Akbar Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed is the former Pakistani high commissioner to Britain and member of the faculties of Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge, current chair of Islamic Studies at American University -- and is in the front ranks of what we Westerners call the moderate Muslims, who we are counting on to win the hearts and minds of the others.

Blankley notes that Dr. Ahmed is an optimist and a bit of an idealist who has taken the position that Islam can be modernized and can co-exist with other religions and cultures. After extensive world wide research, his book is much less optimistic. Ahmed notes:
"The progressive and active Aligarth model [true moderate Islam] had become enfeebled and in danger of being overtaken by the Deoband model [Islamist ideology]... I felt like a warrior in the midst of the fray who knew the odds were against him but never quite realized that his side had already lost the war."

Blankley continues:
He [Professor Ahmed} likewise reported from Indonesia -- invariably characterized as practicing a more moderate form of Islam. There, too, his report was crushingly negative. Meeting with people from presidents to cab drivers, from elite professors to students from modest schools (Dr. Ahmed holds a respected place in the Muslim firmament around the globe), reports that 50 percent want Shariah law, support the Bali terrorist bombing, oppose women in politics, support stoning adulterers to death. Indonesia's secular legal system and tolerant pluralist society is being "infiltrated by Deoband thinking ... Dwindling moderates and growing extremists are a dangerous challenging development."

Although I dissent from several of Dr. Ahmed's characterizations of the Bush Administration, Washington policymakers and journalists should read this book because it delivers a terrible message of warning both to those who say things aren't as bad as Bush says, and we can rely on the moderate voices of Islam -- with a little assist from the West -- winning; and for those who argue for aggressive American action to show our strength to the Muslims (because, in Bin Laden's words, they follow the strong horse).

To the first group he says that the "moderate" voice is in near hopeless retreat across the Muslim world. Don't count on them. To the second group he says, whatever Bush's intentions, our aggression only strengthens our enemies.

Of course, Professor Akbar Ahmed’s research may be flawed and his interpretation may be inaccurate, but if he is correct, our reliance on the moderates within Islam to correct the slide toward Jihadism may be a pipe dream.

Too often in recent years, we’ve created convenient fictions—small lies that help us face uncertain events or a frightening future. Our reliance on the rise of Islamic “moderates” is one such fiction, and if we continue to believe it, a very ugly truth may ultimately invade our destiny.

Friday, June 15, 2007


It hasn’t taken long for the left-leaning MSM to decide that the “civil war” in Gaza is the fault of the Israelis. But before I get to that, let’s examine the phrase “civil war” as it applies in this instance.

When you think of a civil war, you generally assume that the victor, regardless of its ideology, will build a viable country once bloodshed stops. You assume that the victor wants to lead, wants to take responsibility for the day-to-day operational details that make a country work.

There is absolutely no historical evidence that either Hamas or Fatah wants to do this. What these death-cults really want is the raw power that victory would bring—power that would allow them to continue their myth of “victimization”—a convenient excuse for their inability to build a viable society, economy, and culture.

What we're seeing is not a civil war in the conventional sense, but a murderous conflict between Hamas and Fatah—two corrupt, tribal elements who are incapable of governing their own people, building even the most rudimentary economy, educating their children (except in pure hatred of America and Israel) or doing anything else except claiming oppression and victimization.

But don’t tell that to The Boston Globe, whose editorial comment, entitled “Senseless in Gaza” reflects the feelings of many on the Left in the USA and Europe:
The people of Gaza are the true victims of the civil war most of all because the fighting is destroying their future. With the military wing of Hamas poised to seize complete control of Gaza in what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rightly called a "coup attempt," Gaza's residents stand to lose whatever hope remained of achieving independence and a decent life in a viable Palestinian state.

The Hamas campaign to eradicate Fatah from Gaza is certainly not the sole cause of Gazans' misery. They long suffered from Israel's suffocating occupation, and then from Ariel Sharon's foolishly unilateral withdrawal in 2005, a move that allowed Hamas to bid for power with the misleading claim that its rockets and suicide bombings had driven Israeli soldiers and settlers out of Gaza.

So, the Globe believes that the current conflict between opposing death cults was caused by the Israeli “occupation” of Gaza (I always wonder why the media doesn’t refer to “occupied Texas” when discussing US-Mexican affairs, but that’s another matter, I suppose).

But wait, The Boston Globe also believes that another cause of the violence is the Israelis’ unilateral decision to end the “occupation” in Gaza and give the Palestinians a chance to build a viable society, economy, and culture that would lead to statehood. Occupy—Israel's fault. Don't occupy—Israel's fault.

And the Globe wrings it hands about the “true victims of the civil war”—the people of Gaza. Might be useful to remember that they voted in Hamas—a terrorist, Islamofascist death cult. No one except maybe the incompetent, corrupt Fatah is to blame for that. But never mind, it’s always the fault of the Americans and the Israelis.

The Globe's editorial should have read—“Senseless on Boston.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


My father was a WWII veteran. He was fortunate, landing in Europe only after the D-Day invasion, an event that happened 63 years ago today. The stories he told about his experiences in Europe during that awful time made a mockery of those on the Left who today suggest that “evil” is a debatable or somehow relative characteristic, perceived through a cultural filter that makes the word moot.

D-Day was a day of supreme sacrifice. Thousands of American soldiers, the same age as those who fight today in Iraq—volunteers and draftees—died in the days of and immediately following D-Day. Not 1 or 10 or 100, but thousands! Not in a period of a month or a year or four years, But in less than one week. One can only wonder what the current “anti-War” movement (or for that matter, the current group of Democratic Presidential candidates) would have said about our losses in Europe in the time immediately after D-day. I wonder if they would have recommended “withdrawal,” blamed FDR for lying about the Nazi threat, condemned the US for “atrocities” that occurred as we battled a vicious fascist enemy. But there’s no way to overlay historical periods, so we’ll never know.

A commenter at The Belmont Club named “Dan Patterson” writes:
Men do not come into the world as good and decent beings--charitable, kind to strangers, selfless and pure. Instead we emerge screaming as hungry animals with a demanding instinct to survive at any cost, and it is only because our mothers have an instinct to provide are we able to live. As generations have passed a sense of honor, duty, decency, and justice was cultivated that has allowed men to civilize and live together with mutual benefit and agreement. An unfortunate fact is that along with that civilizing influence other cancerous ones grew as well, and World War Two was the inevitable and possibly cyclical collision that results. It is axiomatic that the big one's eat the little one's, the strong take from the weak, and to the victor go the spoils. The men at D-Day put a stop to that.

To view the efforts of the men of the Normandy Invasion as a tactical example of military maneuvers misses the larger point of their heroic sacrifice: To protect liberty at the risk of their own lives. And to protect their comrades from the enemy, and be willing to pay the ultimate price for it. Those men did not drop from the skies, wade and then run, bleed and die on the sand in order to conquer a foreign land for its raw materials. There was no desire to expand the borders of a host nation and enslave a people. They saw a very real and dangerous threat to liberty and chose not to run from it but to battle against it against nauseating odds.

Because of men like those men like me have the luxury of editorializing and learning from history. In other times I would have grown up as a slave to the conqueror, or crushed under the wheels of a re-education campaign. But because of the debt paid for me by men like those of Easy Company, and countless others, I live in the lap of luxury damned by my inability to thank them for their sacrifice.

A special prayer today for the men who answered the call.

Are there any parallels between then and now? Many believe there are not. And that is the most frightening thing about the times in which we live.

Update (6/7/07):

Victor Davis Hanson comments further:

What can we learn, then, on this anniversary of the Normandy campaign?

By any historical measure, our forefathers committed as many strategic and tactical blunders [VDH recounts these earlier in his article] as we have in Afghanistan and Iraq - but lost tens of thousands more Americans as a result of such errors. We worry about emboldening Iran by going into Iraq; the Normandy generation fretted about empowering a colossal Soviet Union.

Of course, World War II was an all-out fight for our very existence in a way many believe the war against terror that began on 9/11 is not. Even more would doubt that al-Qaida jihadists in Iraq pose the same threat to civilization as the Wehrmacht did in Europe.

Nevertheless, the Normandy campaign reminds us that war is by nature horrific, fraught with foolish error - and only won by the side that commits the least number of mistakes. Our grandfathers knew that. So they pressed on as best they could, convinced that they needn't be perfect, only good enough, to win.

The American lesson of D-Day and its aftermath was how to overcome occasional abject stupidity while never giving up in the face of an utterly savage enemy. We need to remember that now more than ever.