Target Centermass

8/31/2006

Public Perceptions and Reality

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:51 pm

These days, the American public is pelted by story after story from “our” media about lack of progress, quagmire, pending doom and outright tragedy. Unsurprisingly, polls show that American attitudes have been negatively affected in several areas, but do these effects match reality or merely the impression that the media is spoonfeeding?

Here are four postings I’d invite the reader to examine:

All are good reads that present evidence that the predominant feelings of the American public are not grounded in reality or, in the global warming case, not based on solid scientific procedures.

How can I explain any discrepancy between perception and reality? Well, that’s quite simple: the mainstream media, our information gatekeepers, are generally failing to bring us all the news thats fit to print, opting instead for all the news that fits their agenda or their mindset.

Without alternative means to get information, I have to wonder how many times in the past that the will and attitude of the American people were shaped by shoddy reporting, misinformation, selective coverage and outright bias. Tet, of course, springs to mind — a huge victory that was painted as defeat and eventually was the trigger of our ultimate demise in Viet Nam.

Trekkies, Intriguing News for Ya

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:08 pm

The Original Series is coming back … sort of.

Star Trek purists, take a deep breath! On Sept. 16, the iconic ‘60s series will return to syndication for the first time since 1990, but with a startling difference: All 79 episodes are being digitally remastered with computer-generated effects not possible when Gene Roddenberry created the show 40 years ago. The news could cause Roddenberry loyalists to have a collective cow, but the longtime Trek staffers in charge of the makeover say they’re honoring the late maestro’s vision, not changing it.

“We’re taking great pains to respect the integrity and style of the original,” says Michael Okuda, who spent 18 years as a scenic-art supervisor on Star Trek films and spin-offs. “Our goal is to always ask ourselves: What would Roddenberry have done with today’s technology?”

[…]

The upgraded episodes — to be shown out of order and one per week — will kick off with “Balance of Terror,” a big fan favorite “that gives us a chance to really show off the ‘new’ Enterprise,” says Okuda. “The exterior of the ship now has depth and detail, and it will fly more dynamically.” Painted backdrops will also be brought to life: Once-empty star bases will have CGI people milling about, while static alien landscapes have been given slow-moving clouds and shimmering water.

Okay, I’m in, as long as it doesn’t conflict with BSG.

Hat tip to Cranky over at the Buffet, who adds the following after noting that the intro theme will also be redone:

No word yet whether the da-ta-da-da-da-da-DA-dot-tot-DA-da hand to hand combat music will be affected.

I believe that he is referring to this:

College Football Is Back

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:44 pm

Sweeeeet.

The 2006 season officially launched today, and I’ve already grabbed a bit of couch-tater time this evening watching South Carolina down Mississippi State 15-love.

Full-scale madness starts Saturday, although I’m not hoping for much of a game for my Aggies in their opener against Citadel.

Ah, but I do love this time of year.

Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look

Filed under: — Gunner @ 12:34 am

Well, at least it’s safe to say that putting the latest musings from Ralph Peters into practice would certainly make the recent Texas congressional redistricting brouhaha look like a fun-filled day at the state fair, complete with funnel cakes and corndogs for all.

International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa’s borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally [my note: great freakin’ line].

While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone — from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism — the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region’s comprehensive failure isn’t Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats.

As I’ve repeatedly stated, I have long found the efforts of Mr. Peters to be worth highlighting, either for their thoughtful nature, actual value or intriguing look at possible futures. With the above intro, Mr. Peters launches into a bold area — a one-man redrawing of the national borders currently found in the cauldron that is the Middle East. Indeed, he even creates some new countries, though not with the arbitrary capriciousness that led to many of the current borders. Here are his before and after maps, though I do highly recommend reading the article for a wealth of reasoning and history.

Is the plan realistically feasible? Quite possibly yes, with the hopes of a very positive global effect. Is the actual implementation of the plan realistically feasible? Probably not without a vast degree of bloodshed — and maybe even radiation — in the region, which would probably require an entirely new drawing of the map based on surviving populations.

Hat tip to CDR Salamander, who rightly calls out Mr. Peters for cheesing out on the following tidbit:

But the issue of the territories surrounding Jerusalem, a city stained with thousands of years of blood, may prove intractable beyond our lifetimes. Where all parties have turned their god into a real-estate tycoon, literal turf battles have a tenacity unrivaled by mere greed for oil wealth or ethnic squabbles. So let us set aside this single overstudied issue and turn to those that are studiously ignored.

I’m going to have to side with Salamander here, as it is quite the cop-out when included in such a broad vision. After all, the West Bank and the Palestinians have historically been a wee bit of an issue, somewhat of a speedbump on the roadmap to peace. Tom Clancy had an idea: let the supposedly-neutral Swiss Guards handle the multi-religion holy ground juncture that is Jerusalem. I have another idea: let’s go really neutral. The Swiss Guards can monitor the transit points into and out of Jerusalem, a truly neutral party — like say a committee of Bhuddist monks — can administer the city, and the Brothers Earp and Doc Holliday can keep the Jerusalem clean of weapons.

Hey, I’m just brainstorming.

8/30/2006

Katrinalash

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:08 pm

These last few days have brought us an onslaught of Hurricane Katrina coverage to mark the one-year anniversary of the storm. I’ve taken shelter on ESPN.

Still, there’s that old saying, something about a picture’s value and whole mess of words. Hat tip to Lex for pointing me toward this WSJ editorial, but all that’s really needed is the graphic.

That, folks, is a federal response to a disaster that has been overwhelmingly exploited for political purposes.

Because Everybody Needs Their Own Motivation

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:31 pm

Here’s a fun little tool to help you create your own motivational poster. My effort is below (click to embiggen):

Motivating your ass off since 2004

Special note: yes, those are Apaches flying over the Texas A&M University campus.

8/29/2006

Nothing Tonight

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:22 pm

I’ve been fairly tied up with chores around the house and I’m really not in the mood for this hobby. Perhaps this would be another good time to plug the many fine sites on my blogroll.

See y’all tomorrow.

8/28/2006

Hamas Figure Slams Gaza ‘Anarchy’

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:47 pm

Is there finally a voice of reason rising among the decades-old din of Palestinian victimization?

The Gaza Strip is in the grip of anarchy and Palestinians must stop blaming Israel for all their problems, a senior Hamas figure has said.

Ghazi Hamad, chief spokesman for the Hamas government, said the hope that followed Israel’s pull-out last year had been replaced with “a nightmare”.

Gaza is at the mercy of thugs, he said, and pleaded for an end to deadly clan rivalries. “Let Gaza breathe,” he said.

Such frank self-criticism is rare among Palestinian leaders, analysts say.

Mr Hamad’s comments came in an article, which was published in Palestinian newspapers on Monday.

He said they were his own views and did not represent the position of his government.

“I am not interested in discussing the ugliness and brutality of the occupation because it is not a secret. Instead, I prefer self-criticism and self evaluation,” Mr Hamad wrote.

He said life in Gaza City now involved “unimaginable chaos, careless policemen, young men carrying guns and strutting with pride, and families receiving condolences for their dead in the middle of the street.”

And he was also critical of militants who fire crudely-made rockets into Israel, saying ordinary Palestinians paid a high price when Israel responded militarily to such attacks.

Mr Hamad said Gazans should stop laying the blame for their mistakes at the door of the Israeli occupation.

“Our extreme joy at their departure made us forget the most important question: What is our next step?” he went on.

Will the publications of such statements by Mr. Hamad signal the end of his career, the end of his life or the end of a pathetic culture that has placed all problems at the feet of the Jews while achieving nothing but blood? Well, I’ll wait for a casket or several more voices joining the chorus before I believe other than Mr. Hamad, short a retraction, is simply politically through in the terrorist Hamas movement. He’s right, of course — the Hamas organization long undermined local stability among the Palestinians and Israelis while claiming it was ready to govern. Once elected, Hamas now expresses both support for and dismay at that same instability that it fostered, while seemingly surprised that the global community still remembers their historical nature and goals regarding Israel.

Could This War Produce a Sunni-Israeli Alliance?

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:10 pm

My quick one-word answer to that headline’s question: no. Now, please allow me to elaborate on that answer: hell no.

It’s not often — if ever — that I post an article that has so many points with which I disagree unless I’m dissecting it. Still, this interview with Martin Indyk raised enough interesting thoughts that I’d still recommend reading it. Please note that a political slant is made obvious early, as displayed in the following (emphasis added):

Indyk currently heads the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. He is waiting, though he will not admit this publicly, for another opportunity to try to make peace – an option that could be realized if a Democrat wins the U.S. presidential elections in 2008.

Despite this wonderfully biased intro that a Democrat U.S. president is the course to possible peace, there are still some tasty tidbits in the interview, and I would like to highlight a couple of them.

First, when asked who won the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in southern Lebanon, Indyk gave the following response:

“I think the verdict is still out. Militarily Hezbollah put on an impressive performance and was able to stand up to Israeli forces. Even if in the end it turns out that they lost every encounter, in the Middle East perception is reality, and the perception is that they gave as good as they got, and the perception is that they achieved more than Israel achieved. When the Israeli Chief of Staff says that ‘Israel won on points,’ that’s not a very reassuring verdict.

“On the other hand, to paraphrase von Clausewitz, the question is who manages to turn the results on the battlefield into political gains, and there I’m a bit more optimistic. The campaign in Lebanon highlighted the dangers facing the Sunni Arab world from the Iranian-led Shia axis, from Iran to Iraq – which has a Shi’ite-dominated government – to the minority Alawite regime in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. That actually provides a common interest to the Sunni Arab world and Israel.

“And you can see that in interesting ways, including the fact that Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have now had a spat with Syria over their intent to relaunch Saudi King Abdullah’s peace initiative, which provided conditions for ending the conflict, recognition of Israel and normalization of relations.

“And there is the fact that the Sunni Lebanese prime minister, while taking the world press on a tour of the rubble of southern Beirut and accusing Israel of war crimes – is nonetheless holding out an olive branch to Israel.[“]

Secondly, when discussing his earlier contentions that Israel should focus on making peace with Syria, Indyk reversed his long-held stance as follows:

“Look, I was personally involved in trying to achieve a peace treaty between Israel and Syria during eight years of the Clinton Administration. I personally argued throughout that period that the U.S. needed to give priority to a Syrian-Israeli deal, because it had obvious strategic benefits: breaking off Syria from Iran as well as the ability to disarm Hezbollah with the 15,000 troops that Syria had in Lebanon at the time, and to increase the pressure on the Palestinians to move forward and to break the logjam. There were lots of advantages then to doing a deal with ‘Syria first.’

“But I don’t feel the same way now. There’s nothing wrong with talking about talking with Syria. Israel should always be interested in negotiating peace – but as a matter of strategy I think it’s a mistake.

[…]

“Syria is allied with Iran, for good reasons of strategy, from their point of view. And the notion that you can somehow split them is, I think, fanciful. And to talk to Assad now would have the effect of inviting him back into Lebanon, because surely the purpose of talking to him is to get him to control Hezbollah, and I think that’s a mistake.

“Israel should at least try to work with the Lebanese government, which is an anti-Syrian government. Because that government is signaling that it wants to deal with Israel, that it wants to return to the provisions of the 1949 Armistice Agreement between the two countries, and the Lebanese prime minister had made it even more explicit in recent days.[“]

While I find much to disagree with in the interview, including especially the fundamental point that this war sets up a grand opportunity with the Sunnis for Israel, there is also much that is intriguing and still a good bit more to chew on and digest.

Quote of the Week, 28 AUG 06

Filed under: — Gunner @ 8:05 pm

The principle of neutrality … has increasingly become an obsolete conception, and, except under very special circumstances, it is an immoral and shortsighted conception.

—John Foster Dulles

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