Jan 26

A Letter from a Terrorist–"Why I will not release your infidel daughter"

The RevWatch has obtained the following letter from the unknown parties holding Jill Carroll:

Mrs. Carroll,
Thank you for your letter of Thursday, January 16th (by your calendar). I will respond point-by-point to your misguided notions about Islam, my organization and our goals, and the eventual fate of your daughter. From your letter, I quote:

My daughter Jill Carroll was taken hostage on Saturday, January 7th, in Baghdad, where she works as a reporter. Jill’s fairness in reporting and her genuine concern for the Iraqi people made her the invited and welcome guest of her many Iraqi friends. A video just released gives us hope that she’s still alive but has also shaken us about her fate. So I, her father and her sister, are appealing directly to her captors to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the sufferings of Iraqis to the world.

Already you have shown a complete disregard for, and an offensive ignorance of, my organization’s goals. The name of my organization is of no consequence to you–we will never meet or negotiate for anything you want. Let me explain first about my own motives, and how you have already set yourself up for failure with this letter of yours.

I do not give a camel’s tick for the alleged reporting done for or against Iraqis. I am not an Iraqi, I do not have much in common with them, and frankly I find them to be contemptible. I feel no compunctions about blowing up a school bus full of Iraqi children if it will further my goals, so do not bother me with your concerns for your child! The will of Allah will always be done, and no Iraqi or American will change that fact.

Furthermore, the suffering of Iraqis is actually a boon to my organization. Iraqi people who vote in peace, who shop in safety, and who sleep without nightmares of violence are no help to me. Those are the ones who have sold themselves into slavery, and turned away from the Path of Allah. No, it is the terrified, the insecure, the angry and indignant who are the true believers, either as cause or effect. Just as you cannot squeeze blood from a stone, I cannot motivate people who are happy. But I can squeeze blood from people, and I assure you, I could motivate even a stone, such is the degree of unhappiness I can cause.

Jill has always shown the highest respect for the Iraqi people and their customs. We hope that her captors will show Jill the same respect in return. Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter, who loves Iraq and its people, will not create justice.

Still, you harp on this theme of respect and love for Iraq and its hapless, overly passive citizenry. Let us be direct here: I can tell that you do not like your President, and feel that he is a devil. This is a point of view you and I probably share, but, and this is the critical point, for completely different reasons. I hate your president (may he die), I hate you, and I hate your daughter too. I hate all you Americans and I do not care for whom you vote. VOTING IS HARAAM! It is a violation, indeed, it is the absolute cancellation of the law of Allah for you to vote. Voting is the creation of earthly laws, and the Holy Koran is quite clear about this: There Is Only God’s Law.

It is not in my power to take vengeance, and neither is it in me to create justice. If you had a moral aspect to your depraved being, you would know that these powers are reserved exclusively to Allah, and certainly are not delegated down to such an unworthy servant as myself. I try to forgive you for your failing, to the extent that I can, because you are ignorant and evil, but it only winds up changing the emotion I might feel as I behead you. I would still remove your head from your body for the Glory of God.

So your celebrations of voting Iraqis and your own elections are of no concern to me or my organization, except to cause us an unbending resolve to destroy your sinful system, and to abolish your democracy (Haraam), your culture of entertainment (Haraam), your filthy and unavoidable empire of free sex (Haraam), consequence-free living, cohabitation, consortment of the sexes, public indecency–ALL HARAAM!

Your letter continues:

To her captors, I say that Jill’s welfare depends upon you, and so we call upon you to ensure that Jill is returned safely to her family, who needs her and loves her. Jill’s father, sister and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release.

Well. Nice try. Perhaps you think you are dealing with an idiot who has never read a book or learned a tactic. Your obvious attempts to make me “identify with” you and your daughter, to “personify” her to me, and to perhaps cause the strings of my heart to change my actions are worse than useless. Do not presume to tell me the power I have.

Your daughter will be released when the exact conditions I have laid out are met, and even then it is only a possibility. If my conditions are not met, it is an impossibility. Do not attempt to placate me by calling the cowardly action of negotiation “honorable”. It would not be honorable for me. It would not be honorable for you.

We are enemies, you and I, and I have power, and you do not. Shut up. In the name of the ALmighty Allah, shut your mouth.

NOTICE from Haakon B. Dahl, RevWatch–This “letter” is an attempt to illustrate the difference between us and the terrorists we are fighting in Iraq. If you are not sure who I mean by “us”, perhaps you would be more comfortable reading something else–you will not like much of what I have to say here. Although I have written this in the voice of a fictional terrorist, I do not believe that I have written fiction. I believe that this is the point of view held by the evil men who are holding Jill Carroll, and that all the entreaties in the world from her parents and other westerners will do nothing to aid her release.
I typically eschew disclaimers, but if this post becomes popular, I want it known from the beginning exactly what I am saying. Some people do need explanations.

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Jan 19

A Letter to the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Here’s a nasty little cartoon:

I didn’t like it. In fact, I didn’t like it a lot, so I wrote the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader a letter.

The cartoon you printed on 17NOV was not a political commentary; it was vandalism, appreciated only by the same crowd who think that religious symbols covered in urine and dung somehow constitute art.
You should be ashamed for having printed such puerile filth, and poorly drawn filth at that. If you insist on sinking to this level, it could at least have some talent behind it.
Yes, I am a Republican. No, I would not find value in sick jokes which tear and strain to link Democrat policies with cannibalism and the grisly practices (live beheading) of our enemy. If you doubt that al-Zarqawi and his minions are your personal enemy, I suggest you travel there and ask him yourself. And if you go, please take that disgusting cartoonist with you. He can interpret for you. He speaks their language.
Haakon B. Dahl, LT USNR
Yokosuka, Japan

Note that I wrote that letter to the EDITOR of the paper, not to the cartoonist. What happened then? I received an answer from the cartoonist himself, who is presumably not also the Editor in such an auspicious paper as the Lexington Herald-Leader.[SEE UPDATE BELOW] I therefore consider this correspondance to have been made public. Accordingly, this is the “letter” I received from the cartoonist via e-mail:

sorry you didn’t like the cartoon….i don’t really understand your angry response…it seemed like a run-of-the-mill anti-cheney toon to me….everyone has their opinion…..thnx for your service and happy holidays!
joel pett

I didn’t write to the cartoonist, I wrote to the Editor. I expected that my letter would be printed, responded to, or summarily ignored, and I confess that the last option is the one I most expected. I did not expect my criticism of (an employee? a contractor?) to simply be forwarded to that person for disposition. I ask the reader, Does your business work like that? Why not?
I did not expect the cartoonist to be able to “really understand” my “angry response”. That’s why I didn’t write to the cartoonist. I can tell by the quality and content of the cartoon itself that the cartoonist will not understand the point I am making, or he would never have penned that foul little cartoon!
No, I wrote to the Editor of the paper in the same fashion in which one may complain to the manager of restaurant where one has been insulted by a wayward employee. Because the “author” did not attempt to write in English, I will not criticize his grammar, and while I may or may not appreciate the sentiment he attempts to express in his last “sentence”, depending on just what the sentiment is, I find it hard to accept his thnx for my service. Really, I don’t wish to seem ingracious in accepting thnx, but what is the correct response? ur wlkm? I just can’t do it.
So assuming that “thnx” means “thank you” in this case, as opposed to the sound one might make when afflicted with congestion, I find that to be the one “sentence” with which I do not take issue. Would you say that the first sounds less than true? That the second is manifestly obvious? That the third is disingenuous? That is, if the cartoon is “run-of-the-mill”, does the cartoonist expect to get paid for it? In the fourth sentence, he tries to be mealy-mouthed, but fails even in this as his grammar is not up to the task.
And that’s it. I have not re-addressed my initial complaint; that has gone ignored in the original letter. And I have posted the cartoon here without permission; I do not fear a letter from their lawyers, but rather would welcome such a thing–any response not written with a crayon would be better than what I have gotten to date. Besides, I assert that this is Fair Use.
If I had wanted to engage in this sort of note-passing, I would have written to the cartoonist. Furthermore, I would have sent him a crudely drawn picture rather than go to all the trouble of writing an actual letter. I cannot bring myself to communicate in little ellipsis-separated snippets, completely devoid of any capitalization. Perhaps we all speak like this from time to time, and it is certainly not a matter of life and death whether or not some prescriptive grammar is followed. What has me so exercised is the utter and surpassing laziness, not even thinly veiled behind a form letter. This is laziness on parade, a militant apathy. And do not forget, this is the response garnered by a letter to the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

thnx 4 nthng.

UPDATE: Thanks to LGF reader and blogger J.D. , I learned that Mr. Joel Pett is indeed “on the editorial board” of this paper. My earlier qualms about private correspondance, however, are gone. This was a letter to the Editor, obviously for publication. I intended that my letter be published; I intended any response to be published. This is the way of letters to the Editor–nothing has changed. A paper’s refusal to print criticism or its own weak-kneed response does not make the criticism or response private correspondance.

But what of Mr. Pett and the paper? Is this the best cartoon the paper could come up with? Is the Lexington Herald-Leader a little tight for cash, and has it asked an editor to fill in as a cartoonist? Editorial cartoons are the sort of thing many people would like to do, even for free. One need not suddenly add it to the job description of an obviously overworked and hurried Editor–look what happens to the quality!

So Mr. Joel Pett writes the editorials (?), prioritizes the news to be printed (?) and also pens the cartoons? Is he a man of such talent that more than three hundred people pay to read his writing, share his priorities, and chuckle at his vandalism? He must be an imposing figure. We shall try to find pictures of this man. Stay tuned.

Michelle Malkin has posteda Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post from no less than the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are not happy with a different cartoon. I will run a side-by-side of the responses when the WaPo responds.

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Jan 19

Commitments vs. Commitment

Walter Cronkite says we should have abandoned Iraq when a hurricane knocked out NOLA… He says it would have provided a perfect excuse. I beg to differ. He advocates running away from a commitment.

This would change the nature of all of our international commitments: “The United States hereby commits to come to the aid of any country signatory to this pact against aggression and other forms of tyranny–unless in case of rain, in which case we will only play home games.”

A commitment is something you must do. Capital letter-C “Commitment” is what guarantees you will do it. A commitment is something you can point to on paper, and is something which can be counted, whereas Commitment is found within the hearts of trustworthy people, and cannot be measured by number or degree. Commitment is either present or absent, true or false. Commitments can be altered, but Commitment cannot.

Thanks to our Unlce Walter, I have learned that I can sum up the difference between the American Right and the American Left in one word, indeed, one letter:

Liberals have commitments.
Conservatives have Commitment.

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Jan 16

"No Regrets" Cronkite says Abandon Iraq

Here is a snippet I have edited [see brackets below] from Breitbart.com:

Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 conclusion that the Vietnam War was unwinnable keenly influenced public opinion then, said Sunday he’d say the same thing today about Iraq. “It’s my belief that we should get out now,” Cronkite said in a meeting with reporters.
“We had an opportunity to say to the world and Iraqis…” [that America was broke after Hurricane Katrina,] “…that “our hearts are with you” and that the United States would do all it could to rebuild their country, he said.

Note that what he calls an “opportunity” is actually an excuse. Things which make yur life harder do not provide opportunities, they remove opportunities. They may, however, provide you with an excuse. The only difference between taking an opportunity with or without an excuse is your own fortitude. So Mr. Cronkite is a Socialist of the cut-and-run variety, but without the cojones to say so.
This sort of decision-making may be popular in France, but it never pans out for the states. For an example, think of our crushing defeat in the 1968 Tet offensive. That was a handy excuse to leave Viet–hey, wait a minute–Tet was a defeat for the other side!
In fact, the only thing more galling than Uncle Walter’s surrender without the balls to say “surrender” is the fact that he always seems to think that the right time to surrender is when we really start kicking ass. After the Tet offensive, the North Vietnamese were doomed unless for some reason the U.S. were to simply leave the battlefield. Similarly, now that Iraq has had three elections, we are scheduled to start reducing our presence this year and the country grows more stable everyday, Syria stands busted, Libya has seen the light, and Afghanistan has high-ranking women in government–Yup, it’s time to quit. To a man such as Walter Cronkite, this war is now unwinnable. That is because a man such as Walter Cronkite is actually on the other side. Feel free to check my math here, but it’s only arithmetic: if America is winning (and we are) but he says “we” are losing (and he does), then it is clear who he means by “we”.

“I think we could have been able to retire with honor,” he said. “In fact, I think we can retire with honor anyway.”

Speaking as if he were one of us, he whispers poisonous advice. So which is the deeper flaw? Is it the Bush Administration’s failure to cut and run when we had a handy excuse, or the failure to cut and run (er, “retire”) now without an excuse? Speaking of retirement, in other news, Cronkite assessed his own powers of decision making as deeply flawed:

“Twenty-four hours after I told CBS News that I was stepping down at my 65th birthday I was already regretting it and I’ve regretted it every day since,” he said. “It’s too good a job for me to have given it up the way that I did.”

This is the melancholy sound of regret. Walter Cronkite doesn’t even know how to retire from CBS with honor (hint: shut up), but somehow he knows how to run the world? This from the same man who says that we should cut and run from this war (like the last) whenever an excuse provides political cover. If (for some reason) the Bush administration were to take Cronkite’s advice and later have regrets, what would those regrets be? Would they be the regrets of a Clinton or an Annan for action not taken?

CNN.com – Clinton expresses regret in Rwanda – Jul 23, 2005
KIGALI, Rwanda (Reuters) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, visiting a Rwandan genocide memorial on Saturday, expressed regret for his “personal failure” to prevent the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 people. Clinton apologised on a previous visit to Rwanda in 1998 for not recognising the crime of genocide. Clinton administration officials avoided the word in public for fear it would spark an outcry for action they were loathe to take, six months after U.S. troops were killed by Somali warlords in Mogadishu.

BBC NEWS | Africa | UN chief’s Rwanda genocide regret

“The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he could and should have done more to stop the genocide in Rwanda 10 years ago.

At a memorial conference at the UN, Mr Annan said he realised he personally could have done more to rally support for international efforts to stop it.
“The international community is guilty of sins of omission,” Mr Annan said.
The genocide – in which some 800,000 people died – occurred when Mr Annan was head of UN peacekeeping forces.
The UN Security Council failed to reinforce the small UN peacekeeping force in the country.
“The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret,” Mr Annan said.
He said the painful memory had influenced many of his later decisions as secretary general.
“I believed at that time that I was doing my best,” he said.
“But I realised after the genocide that there was more that I could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support.””

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Oct 13

In Defense of the Death Penalty

Diamondback Online – A cry for mercy

Mario Khurram, a Senior at the University of Maryland, proposes, in the article linked above, not using the death penalty for convicted terrorists, or any other murderer for that matter. His post, while poorly reasoned toward an unsupported conclusion, is offered in a level tone, so I will respond in kind. I hope he appreciates my refutation offered in the spirit his article seems to be–that of intelligent debate–and I welcome comments.

He starts by positing that the death penalty may be invoked for convicted “murderers, terrorists and/or enemies of the state,” and calls that “disastrous.” He then ascribes the death penalty primarily to an eye-for-an-eye mentality, an attempt to “balance out” the scales of justice, and reminds us that criminals have families, too.

He has already misplaced the responsibility for the deed and the motivation for execution. Every person has, or at least had, a family. If we truly believe that every family has the same rights, then every family must have the same responsibilities. We do not assign responsibility for murder to the family of the murderer, but they certainly have no claim upon the family of the victim, nor upon society in general, for consideration of their fate should they be deprived of the company of their murderous offspring.

No, the murderer alone is responsible for his actions, and when the time comes for him to face the consequences of his actions, those consequences should not be mitigated by a concern for those close to the killer. The time for consideration of this type was when the killer weighed, or failed to weigh, the consequences of his actions as they affect not only him, but his victim, his victim’s family, the society in which he runs amok, and yes, his own family. So the decision to spare his family a harsh ordeal, to have mercy on their own sensibilities, and to shield them from the loss of their murderous loved one was made by the killer at the time of the deed. Neither society nor the state itself owe an appeal of this decision to the killer’s family, as the victim’s family has no appeal, and the rights and responsibilities of both families are held to be equal.

He goes on to question the authority of the state, vis the law and its moral underpinnings, to deprive any person of his life. He says it is “very paradoxical”. I say it is simple. From Mr. Khurram’s post:

It is plausible and reasonable that the state may revoke numerous individual liberties via imprisonment, but revoking the most critical personal right to life demands serious deliberation. Without life, no other rights can exist or have any meaning in any government.

In this, I agree completely. We institute governments to protect our own rights. My right to life is protected in part by the knowledge that if I am deprived of my life through the wanton act of another, every effort will be made to apprehend that person and exact a severe penalty. Serious deliberation has already been undertaken in the course of legislating the sentence of execution for the most heinous crimes. Serious deliberation will be also undertaken by a jury of the killer’s peers. Their decision is binding. This is all done to preserve the value of life, not to cheapen it.

He then delves deeper into philosophy, raising questions about the value of a life.

Is a guilty person’s life of less value than an innocent person’s life? By what process does a person’s life lose value or become unworthy and subhuman?

We could simply dispense with this argument by stating the obvious–that life is of the utmost value. Yet the question as he has phrased it is concerned with relative value, and for that we may not rely solely on our deeply held beliefs, or cherished notions. For any discussion of a shifting value, there must be a market, so let us play at philosophical economics for a moment.

Nothing has an objective value. That is more properly referred to as a price, and is completely arbitrary, but in a fair market, the price is typically set close to the value, as determined by the market. Value exists only to a decision maker, either a producer or a consumer, that is, a giver or a taker. In this exchange of metaphysical goods, the value is set by the willingness of one person to give a life, and the willingness of another to take it. Let us assume that all persons are extremely reluctant to give a life, although some will for a sufficiently lofty ideal, but none can be convinced to do so without a very good reason. In the case of simple murder, the selling point of the victim has not been determined, but presumably it is set quite high, so the only variable remaining is the willingness of the killer.

Again, in order to preserve the value of life, through our government we enact laws which tend to damp that willingness to take a life. The most effective of these methods would be to attach that which is most dear, one’s own life, to the life of a prospective victim. The killer is presumably not willing to die without a very good reason. If the family and society from which a person comes have somehow failed to instill in that person a basic respect for the sanctity of life, let the law act as a final attempt to stay his hand.

So once again, the value of a life has been set by the killer. Through the deterrent mechanism of a possible death penalty, the upper limit on the value of a killer’s life to society is determined to be the value of the victim’s life to the killer.

Mr. Khurram points out the futility of attempting to “fill a void” created in our society by a murder, through the remedy of capital punishment. In this his answer correct, but that is not the question. The void cannot be filled. That is why the greatest effort must be made to prevent the act. There can be no atonement for murder.

He also bats down the notion that execution is the harshest consequence offered. I agree. It is hardly the harshest punishment possible. But he offers this canard:

Proper and strict life imprisonment (without parole), where the criminal is stripped of everything but the bare necessities, satisfies the criteria as the harshest consequence.

Not at all. The harshest consequences are routinely meted out to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, year in and year out, for actions not even criminal in this or any other civilized society. The harshest consequences are also a simple, brutal fact of a short, hard life for millions of human beings who have done nothing wrong, offended no person or society, and who perhaps have never had so much as an impure thought, simply because they live in Hellish parts of the Earth, or have fallen to natural disasters. Starving children, drowned cities, slave labor–all “satisfy the criteria” of a consequence far more harsh than those offered by the American system of justice.

Mr. Khurram has the good fortune to live in a society which abhors violence and cruelty. This has conditioned him to think that our civilized system of making unpleasant decisions, in the wake of unconscionable acts, equates the worst which the world has to offer. In this he is mistaken.

He then engages in some rhetorical baiting of the religious through the appeal to an example set by the almighty, and further through a brief dunk in the abortion debate. I am inclined to agree with part of his argument–let us all follow the example of the almighty (as you perceive that power) and be done with this talk of murder. But in his appeal, he seems less than genuine, and it sounds more like a device than a conviction. He is casting about for support, trying to shame the anti-abortion and pro-death-penalty crowd into seeing murderers and hapless innocents as equal. Remember, however, that the murderer has already determined the value of his own life to society, whereas an unborn child has done no such thing. I reproduce his closing paragraph in full, without interrupting to point out the three grammatical errors:

I would like to encourage all those who fight abortion in the pro-life movement to consider that being pro-life also means fighting capital punishment. If we were to spend even half the energy to combat the death penalty as we do abortion, it could be permanently abolished, at least in the United States. We as individuals should learn to embrace mercy as a tremendous and liberating virtue. Of course, the government as an institution has the authority to punish crimes. But let us as individuals learn to forgive, especially when it is hardest. Why is it that God doesn’t strike the criminal dead, immediately after his heinous act? Despite our faults and shortcomings, why does he allow us to maintain the most precious gift of life that he has given to us? The answer is mercy.

Here, Mr. Khurram has mixed some gentle advice with a few non sequiturs. Embrace mercy, indeed, and do it when contemplating murder. Learn to forgive, and definitely forgive before taking the life of one who has done you, your family, and your society no such injury. Well said.

And if he wishes to question the actions of the almighty, he might wish to ask why He does not strike the criminal dead, immediately before his heinous act. I, however, would not presume to ask such a question.

Mr. Khurram demonstrates his misunderstanding of the problem by shading the death penalty as punishment, which has at its core the goal of behavior modification, as if it were something from which we expect the murderer to learn. We do not expect him to learn–we expect him to die, and his sole remaining earthly redemption, the last he may offer society, is if he may serve posthumously as a warning to others not to repeat his crime.

And his statement that “being pro-life also means fighting capital punishment” is patently mistaken. Being pro-life means assigning the highest value possible on life, and part of that is deterring, with every instrument at our disposal, the taking of life.

A man’s family, culture, and society attempt (or should attempt) to instill in him the utmost regard for the awesome gift of life. Imperfect creatures that we are, however, we institute governments and imbue them with tremendous powers to stand against the vicious impulses of some in our midst. That power must be credible to be effective. The death penalty is society’s last-ditch effort, when all else fails, to preserve the value of life.

Haakon B. Dahl (your humble correspondent) is a former Naval Officer who lives in Japan, and may be reached through comments at The RevWatch blog. I welcome all comments, but particularly comments from those in economics who may wish to poke holes in my analogy. I reserve the right to delete comments as I see fit.

NOTES FOR UPDATE: DNA technology is ostensibly good enough to prove innocence. But not really, as absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence. SO you can say that the prosecutor has not proven the case, but DNA is much better at nailing criminals than freeing the innocent. So if the “wrong man” argument dominates the anti-death-penalty crowd, this is fairly easy to counter–if DNA puts the man at the scene at the time, fry him. DEVELOP this argument and work it in.. And get Khurram out of this, to make it a regular essay, rather than a response piece–too long anyway.

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Oct 13

Blogs vs. Media Giants?

Boy, am I hungry. I could eat a cow. Good thing, too, as I don’t know any butchers in the area. Lots of ranchers, no butchers. No choice but to go hit up one of my rancher friends, walk a cow home, and eat the whole thing. But before I do, let me tell you about something I saw.

I saw an article at NewsBusters in which New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said, “Most of what you know, you know because of the mainstream media. Bloggers recycle and chew on the news. That’s not bad. But it’s not enough.”

Well, of course his comments did not please me, but the fact is that he is right. I can count actual reporting bloggers I am even familiar with on one hand, and the only one I can name is Michael Yon.

So what is this blog nonsense, anyway? Just today, I found myself explaining to yet another co-worker that he probably already reads blogs, he just doesn’t know it. He thinks they’re just web pages, and to him, that is all they are. I tried to describe the filtering hierarchy which the blogosphere evolves as its chosen architecture. I failed. Again. But in reading Mr. Keller’s comments, I realized where blogs fit in–as a “front-end”.

Let’s slide on into software terms here, but gently. This description may not be anatomically correct, but it puts most of the parts in the right places. A program you run can be considered to have many parts. The part you see is the user interface (UI). Behind that is the guts, and behind that is the back-end, which deals with program-to-machine issues, and communications with other computers. The guts section contains the actual “I’m-doing-what-you-want-me-to-do” program, such as a database which stores (and more importantly, retrieves) phone numbers and addresses. And trapped between the guts and the UI may be a front-end. The UI may in fact be a part of the front-end, but not necessarily.

If you have used Microsoft’s Access for your database needs, you have actually used an optional front-end. Access is NOT a database program–it is a front-end to the Microsoft JET database engine. If you had to deal with JET, you would swear you were using DOS. In fact, it would be SQL or something similiar (suspiciously similar…). So Microsoft came up with Access to keep those hands of yours and mine free of the dirty litle details of databases. Instead, we point and click and still wind up typing a lot. The front-end “fits onto the front” of the database engine so we only have to deal with shiny mousables and gridded tables. Of course, there are other front-ends, and this is where we come back to blogs.

The mainstream media is the News Engine. They make lots of money and have lots of people and equipment stationed across the globe and they go out and get lots of news. Then they put it on their own private networks and charge advertisers a fortune to be squeezed in between bits of this hard-won news. The network news programs have their own profit and loss responsibilities, and they try to attract more viewers, so they can charge the advertisers more, and they do this by taking all that valuable information and reducing it to something easy to feed to we invalids.

What blogs have changed is the front-end of the news. We are no longer forced to deal directly with CBS or CNN and their patronizing gruel-casts any more than we still have to deal with MS-DOS. The Internet has evolved an open source front-end for the MSM’s News Engine.

Keller is right. We need the legacy media and their awesome resources to provide the raw material of news to the blogosphere. But you don’t ask ranchers for beef; you ask butchers for beef, and if your butcher keeps trimming it his way instead of your way, you go find a different butcher.

We no longer need the MSM to study, analyse, antagonize over everything and then tell us what to think–we have developed our own front-end; it is customizable and verifiable, we fact-check it and each other, and it’s here to stay.

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Oct 07

FoxNews Poll

This FoxNews Poll shows the results for several political figures, when respondents were asked whether the subject was a “Strong and Decisive Leader”, and “Understands the Needs of Average Americans”.

I found it interesting that the subjects are ranked in descending “Decisive Leader” order, and that that closely matches the numbers for “Understands Needs” order. They descend roughly together, until “Understand” takes a jump back up with Clinton, and stays high for Kerry and the Algore.

So I did a little math. I wanted a single composite of both “scores”, so I plotted the results by hand, X=Understanding, Y=Leadership. If you look at the resulting graph, you see the subjects range from unpopular in the lower left (Gore Country) to Popular in the upper right(Giuliani Country). Also, they fall either above or below a diagonal line which indicates whether they lean more toward Leadership or more toward Understanding.

I also wanted more interpretation of the scant data, so I wrote a small python function lead(a,b) which takes a=leadership and b=understanding scores straight from the poll, and gives you back two numbers. The first number is sqrt(a^2+b^2), which on the graph is just the distance from zero that the subject earned. This is a numerical score for Popularity, and in the list below, it is the first number under a subject’s name. The function lead(a,b) also divides a/b (leadership/understanding) to give a quotient of leadership vs. understanding, and this is the second number under the subject’s name.

Using Rudy as our example, we would say that his popularity is 90.52 (minimum possible 0, maximum possible ~=~ 140), and a Leadership vs. Understanding quotient of 1.03 (over 1 = more leadership, under 1 = more understanding). The exact scores are reproduced at the bottom of this post.

If you now plot THESE scores you get some real information! Plot popularity from 60-100 going up the page. Plot Lead/Understand from 0.5 to 1.5 going left to right across the page.

Obviously, President Bush is not a candidate, but was included in the poll.

Assuming that these numbers mean anything at all, Condoleezza Rice is a more popular version of GW Bush. John Mccain is a more popular version of Hillary. Rudy Giuliani is the most popular, and centered between the four previously mentioned subjects as far as Lead/Understand. Lying at the fringe of the main group is John Kerry, more popular only than Gore. And the Algore itself lies an amazing distance to the left (very low lead/understand score), far from the group, and less popular than any other as well.

Some people call Giuliani “un-electable”. This poll seems to suggest otherwise.

Listed below are the results of my number-crunching, as copied and pasted directly from the program I used. They are listed in the same order as in the FoxNews poll; descending by “Decisive Leadership” percent answering “yes”.

Rudy Giuliani
>>> lead(65,63)

John Mccain
>>> lead(56,57)

Condoleezza Rice
>>> lead(55,49)

George W. Bush
>>> lead(51,45)

Hillary Rodman Clinton
>>> lead(51,53)

John Query
>>> lead(35,40)

The Algore
>>> lead(27,41)

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