Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Confirmation Bias and Jon Bene

Great example of confirmation bias in the news right now with the arrest in the Jon Bene Ramesey murder. The police initially became suspicious of the Father when he found the body. The initial police report is full of “telling” details, like how the Father got more and more nervous the longer it took to find her, that he seemed to be unable to stand the tension as the police were unable to turn up any sign of his daughter. That he finally struck off on his own and seemed to go directly to where the body was. And then he deliberately messes up the crime scene in bringing his daughter’s body up stairs and pretending to try and revive her.

Of course all of these details are also consistent with a Father not knowing where his daughter is. The longer it takes to find her the more worried he gets. He gets an idea of where she might be. He goes straight there because it is his house, not a particularly large house, and he knows that all the other places have been checked. He messes up the crime scene because he is inexperienced at finding his daughter murdered and doesn’t really know how to investigate a murder—something which might equally be said of the Denver police.

As is often the case the theory that gets first refusal on the facts happens to flatter the vanity of the theorizer (confirm their identity, as we are supposed to say in academia) or otherwise somehow serve his interests. The reason that the daughter was not found by the police while the Father went straight to her had nothing to do with the incompetence of the police if the Father is the murderer.

This is why it is important to have a lot of theories that one can bring to bare on a question ready and deployable before hand.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Insensitive to the feelings of Fascists

Well, once again Bush has done it, undermining attempts to “build bridges to the Islamic community.” According to Abu Shahid, by saying that we are at war with “Islamic fascists.” She demands an apology and I agree. President Bush owes an immediate and heartfelt apology to the Fascist community.

What did the Fascists ever do to be associated with these people? Sadly, the Fascists are not here to speak for themselves (a less enlightened generation of Americans, not understanding the futility of trying to solve a political problem by military means, failed to leave enough Fascists alive to keep up their end of the public dialogue), I will do my best to explain why the fascists have a right to be offended.

Unfortunately no one wants to speak for the Fascists, tarring all with the same Jew murdering brush, even though the proportion of fascists that actually killed Jews is laughably small. It is as if all the people of Islam were expected to be silent just because a small proportion of their co-religionists go about blowing up airplanes. But leave that aside, how can we justify comparing Fascists to these clowns in the Middle East?

Now part of the reason that Fascists are held in such low esteem is the way they treated civilians. In particular, the Fascists had a bad habit of murdering children. The pictures of little Jewish children baring their arms to display the tattoos the Nazi’s had given them at the death camps has been a particularly difficult image to live down. But say what you will about how the Fascists treated other people’s children, they were reluctant to hide behind their own. Can you recall any stories about Germans building gunnery emplacements near schools? Loading up the van that transports missiles with kids before heading off to the front?

And uniforms. If there is one thing that defines the present conflict in Lebanon and Iraq it is that the Islamic side refuses to wear uniforms. Now comparing the Fascists to people that don’t wear uniforms when they fight is grossly unfair—if ever there were a people that loved uniforms it was the Fascists. And they looked good in them.

Even when the Germans used children as soldiers during the final fight for Berlin they were careful to put them in uniforms.

Now this is not the whole story. The Arabs like uniforms just fine. Anyone who has seen their interminable parades of tanks and even guys dressed up for suicide would have to admit that they love uniforms and have even made contributions to the art of uniform design—who before the Islamists could have come up for a suicide bomber. In the homes of some Palestinians there are even photographs of the family toddler dressed up in a little Shaheed uniform.

But the difference is that the Arabs seem to lose all there enthusiasm for uniforms when it is time to fight. Those uniforms we see during the Hezbollah day parade are for display to adoring crowds; when it comes time to actually fight the uniform becomes and impediment.

And this is why it is so unfair to tar the Fascists with the Islamic brush. The uniform is not just a fashion statement. It is a tool to make oneself a target in order to protect the non-combatants on your own side. And herein lies the reason that the Arab/Islamist enthusiasm for uniforms dims as soon as the shooting starts. Wearing a uniform represents a double loss. It makes the ‘soldier’ more vulnerable to getting killed and makes the civilian less so. Given that generating casualties among their chief war aims actually wearing a uniform to the fighting represents a lose-lose for the Islamist. True, the Jews are not entirely blameless here: it is after all the reluctance of the Israelis to knowingly kill civilians that presents the Islamic side with the temptation in the first place. But the same bait was dangled in front of the Fascists under even more dire circumstances and taking it was never even contemplated. Advantage Fascists.

To be fair there are some points on which the Islamists have bragging rights. For instance, in being clear on ones intentions. Hitler, as one may recall, did not demand that Europe bow down and submit to Nazi rule. He negotiating position was that he just wanted Justice for the Germans of Czechoslovakia. True, a new local grievance was found as soon as the last “final demand” was met (protection from Polish aggression being my favorite), but at least Neville Chamberlain could claim that he had the problem of figuring out what the real Fascist intentions really were.

There was that whole Mein Kamph, thing where Hitler indiscreetly laid out plans for world domination and the elimination of the Jews from the face of the Earth, but, wily old Fascist he was, the Furher passed these off as youthful indiscretions in the actual negotiating sessions with Neville. Thus the British leader could legitimately say he had the problem of deciding if Hitler really meant it when he called a demand “final.”

The Islamists, by comparison, have been admirably forthright in both their intentions, both in the conflict with Israel and their larger plans for the whole Dhihimi community. President Adimejad has made no secret about his plans for world Jewry. He has relieved the rest of the world of the burden of deciding whether any ceasefire agreed to by the Islamists would be genuine. “The real solution to the problem is the destruction of Israel, but a temporary cease fire at this time could be justified for humanitarian reasons.” And this commitment to honesty and openness—the keys to any negotiation one would agree—is not just something on the fringe of Islamic society. Recall these encouraging remarks by the leader of the “moderate” wing in Iranian politics. “The nuclear weapon will be useful to us in our fight against Israel since with a couple of weapons we can destroy all of Israel but their retaliation could only destroy a small proportion of Dar al Islam.”

If only the Fascists had been so forthright. There is one thing where the Islamists and the Fascists can be fairly compared. Neither of them can be appeased.

Friday, August 11, 2006

No war movies

Richard Corless speculates on why there are no movies about 9/11. Only 2 so far. He gets it wrong and he inadvertently reveals the real reason in his suggestions for what kind of movies could be made: Holly Wood's ideology is too far out of touch with the way the rest of America feels, or at least felt, in the first four years after 9/11.

The kind of movie he thinks should be made is one that exposes the "real" reasons behind the invasion of Iraq or lays bare the ways that Bush manipulated public opinion to its own purposes after the attack. The kind of movies that people would have wanted to see were the kind that he gives backhanded praise to in his article, the ones that were being made after WWII, ones about a confrontation between good and evil.

Notice that Clooney portrays his two movies as being relevant to contemporary events--his movie about McCarthyism and his movie about a CIA plot to install a compliant dictator in a small Arab country. In other words, movies where America is the real villain. These are the only kinds of movies that Hollywood and contemporary intellectuals would regard as serious. Clooney made them about imaginary or long past situations because he thought, probably correctly, that movies with such a thesis would not be well received if about contemporary events. This is what Hollywood liberals mean when they talk about people not being ready for movies on this subject. People are not ready to hear that their sons are dying for a lie, and the "real" causes or 9/11 are America's own actions in the past.

This is why the only movies explicitly about 9/11 are so narrow in focus, concentrating only on the immediately effected participants. The heroism of ordinary Americans is something that Hollywood and the rest of America can agree on. Go any larger than that and the disagreements become too large.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The UN's efforts for peace

Oh joy, oh bliss! Working tirelessly, the great minds of the diplomatic world have finally reached a consensus on how to solve the crisis in the Middle East. The Jews should surrender.

There are some details to be worked out of course, concerning what the diplomats refer to as “modalities.” The Arabs are steadfast in their insistence that the surrender be effected in the traditional following the traditional Arab practice of the surrendering party’s army dropping their weapons and fleeing in disarray. The French, with their traditional sensitivity to dignity, propose that the Jews maintain good discipline and march out in formation with their hands in the air. The American diplomatic core, dismissing these proposals as unbefitting a great power, have proposed instead that the Israelis merely withdraw unannounced, perhaps throwing a few helicopters over the side of some aircraft carriers as a sop to world opinion.

Unfortunately, the Jews have other ideas. The seem almost willfully oblivious to the benefits to Arab self-esteem and eventual peace of unilateral withdraw. They seem to think that an attack across an international border and the indiscriminate—indeed unaimable—rocket firings seem to require some sort of response. Indeed, they go so far as to maintain that the precedent set by a powerful nation allowing an armed gang to attack their civilian population with impunity would somehow encourage more of the same. The 6 million Jews living in the state of Israel point to the stated intention of the 200 million Arabs surrounding them to wipe the Jews off the face of the Earth as some sort of justification for treating the situation as a war. They treat the statement of intentions as some sort of guide to their enemy’s intentions, instead of what all sophisticated people know it to truly be: a cry for help.

For surely, as every educated person knows, people don’t just hate for no reason. They do not hate someone simply because they are better than them. They only hate because they have been oppressed. The Israelis, instead of recognizing the persistent hatred of the people surrounding them as evidence of Israeli mistreatment of the Arabs and taking it as an occasion to search their souls and formulate proper acts of contrition, treat it as a justification to defend themselves!

Instead of seizing this golden opportunity to demonstrate their contrition and commitment to peace by allowing Hezbollah to go on amassing missiles from their patrons in Iran, the Israelis go on using the excuse of ball-bearing loaded missiles being launched at their cities as a pretext for bombing those rockets—in spite of the Israelis being perfectly well aware of the Arab custom of building pre-schools next to rocket launchers.

This callous indifference to multicultural norms can no longer be tolerated by the international community. Israeli intolerance is testing the world's tolerance.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


We have live pictures from the attack on Haifa on TV right now. Notice how different the atmosphere is compared to the Qana bombing. people rushing around, no one posing the corpses for the cameras, no one contorting on queue for the cameras.

Last gasp

I don't want to get started with the sad and somewhat desperate speculation that the increasing intensity of an insurgent group's attacks indicates that the insurgents are losing. There has been enough of that in the case of Iraq. But I do think that the increased frequency of Hezbollah rocket launches could indicate that some of their launching pads are under pressure.

If you are surrounded by the Israeli army you know that you are going to lose all of your rockets soon, so you have no choice but to use them or lose them.

But even more importantly they are beginning to launch at night. Before, they would only launch during the day because at night the flames from the end of the rocked can be more easily picked up by Israeli drones. Today two landed in Haifa at night. One has apparently caught a lot of people in a building. They were not in a bomb shelter because the rockets always landed during the day.

A reporter on the scene says that the daytime firing indicates strength on the part of Hebollah, a sort of declaration that we can launch anytime they want. That may be the case, but it seems that it is just as consistent someone deciding that the rockets must be used or sacrificed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hezbollah's blunder

Hezbollah is apparently calling for a cease fire. What a blunder. Don't they know that the ineffectual Israeli bombing campaign is just creating more recruits for there organization in the long run? Don't they read Robert Pape? The New York Times?

If only

points out that if only Gibson had substituted the word "Israelis" for "Jews" in assigning blame for all the wars in the world he would have been spared a scandal and probably been raised in stature.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quote of the Day from President of Iran (whose name I still cannot spell

Courtesey of Hugh Hewitt:

"Today, the Iranian people is the owner of nuclear technology. Those who want to talk with our people should know what people they are talking to. If some believe they can keep talking to the Iranian people in the language of threats and aggressiveness, they should know that they are making a bitter mistake. If they have not realized this by now, they soon will, but then it will be too late. Then they will realize that they are facing a vigilant, proud people."

Good thing they are not interested using that nuclear stuff for weapons.

They're involved

Quote from an Israeli pilot talking about the Qana incident from a Guardian article critical Israeli "whitewash":

"What do you do if you see hundreds of rockets and they are against your family? For me, I hit the target. Once these civilians are letting people use their houses, they are involved."

That about sums it up for me.

Mel Gibson again

The real theme that runs through Gibson's films is hatred of the British. The Jews are an afterthought. And there is the real key to his ideology. It is envy. The British and the Jews are people that have succeeded and triumphed through their own prowess. It is a particular kind of small mind that is attracted to the idea that some powerful group is responsible for all their problems. In the context of American society these things--anti semitism and antipathy for the English--have not gone together, but in the rest of the world this is probably a common coupling.

I think that it is very important for conservatives and religious people to take the lead in condemning Gibson the way we did in condemning Trent Lott. We have often pointed out that the failure of Muslims to condemn terrorism justifies suspicion that Muslims as a group are complicit in terrorism.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Pape takes some interesting facts and uses them to support a completely wrong-headed conclusion.

He shows that the suicide bombers of Hezbollah are not usually personally fundamentalists but in fact come from a broad spectrum of society, representing a range of religious and political convictions. He infers from this that they are motivated by the incursions on their territory by Israel and that trying to wipe them out militarily will only increase their ability to recruit.

It is true they believe that their land has been violated by the presence of foreigners, but the key question is what are borders of the land that they consider to be violated. The violation is not the borders of Lebanon but the borders of the Dar al Islam. It is not the borders of Isreal but its existence that constitutes the incursion. Why else would Israel's evacuation of Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank have lead to increasing its attacks instead of reducing them?

What is the point of saying the whole problem will go away if you withdraw from what your enemies consider "occupied territory?" The current conflict came after Israel withdrew from the occupied territory.Hezbollah's's response was to stock up on missiles. And doesn't the effectiveness of his advice depend crucially on how the other side defines the territory that is occupied?

If the evidence from the suicide bombers themselves about their motivation is so crucial when it concerns whether they are religiously motivated, why don't we listen to them when they tell us what the territories they consider to be occupied are? Isn't it the case that they refer to Israel itself to be occupied territory?

What is the point of saying the whole problem will go away if you withdraw from what your enemies consider "occupied territory?" The current conflict came after Israel withdrew from the occupied territory.Hezbollah's's response was to stock up on missiles. And doesn't the effectiveness of his advice depend crucially on how the other side defines the territory that is occupied?

If the evidence from the suicide bombers themselves about their motivation is so crucial when it concerns whether they are religiously motivated, why don't we listen to them when they tell us what the territories they consider to be occupied are? Isn't it the case that they refer to Israel itself to be occupied territory?

Pape makes much of the finding that the divisions between socialists and religiously motivated terrorists are brought together by hatred for Jews and Christians. He uses the ecumenicsim of the Islamic Fascist movement to support his argument that there is some secular demand, some reasonable amount of territory that could be given up to appease this movement. But the same finding could also support a clash of civilizations view of the conflict. After all, Fascism in Germany brought together a broad spectrum of German society as well. The Islamists' motivation is not some definable piece of territory that could be given back settling the whole thing. They want to regain the power and glory of Islamic civilization. The honor of that civilization was martial in nature and they will only be satisfied by being able to dominate and expand against the outsiders the way they once were able to.

The observation that the recruits for Hezbollah are from a broad range of ideological and sectarian leanings could mean that they are all motivated by some satiable territorial demand. But it is also consistent with the clash of civilizations interpretation of the conflict.

"Given Syria’s total control of its border with Lebanon, stemming the flow of weapons is a job for diplomacy, not force." What? Doesn't that mean that the force is merely being directed to the wrong place? The fact that Syria has effect control over whether Hezbollah gets weapons or not merely means that changing Syria's behavior is one wato achieveee Israel's goals. Changing Syria's behavior could be brought about by military means or diplomacy.

He says that his data shows that the only thing that ends suicide bombings is withdraw by the occupier. But suicide attacks from Lebanon were not the problem for the Israelis, were they? Just because he did a study of suicide bombers doesn't mean that every problem is suicide bombers.

And there is this lazy assumption that because a movement is "popular" it is invincible. Destroying Nassar's army apparently increased support for him and hatred of Israel. We now hear reports that Hezbollah is getting more popular as "the only force that can defend the country," leaving out that the only reason anyone as any interest in attacking the country is Hezbollah. We can't fight the enemy because that will make the enemy more popular.

But we have wasted 50 years basing our policy on the notion that there is some deal to be made if only we are nice enough to the other side. Lets try winning. Winning decisively. Winning so clearly that even the Arafantasistts can convince themselves otherwise.

It is odd that realism, which supposedly offers us a universal theory of international relations seems to shirk from applying its nostrums to the other side. Why doesn't a realist say to the Arabs that they are being irrational? That every state would have to respond is you attack its soldiers across an international border and start lobbing missiles at their population centers. That such actions will only increase the hatred on the other side. That the Israelis only ever attack in response to violations of their territory? As always in the case of Isreal, we have an ideology offering universal rules that are only enforced against one side--the Jews.

Mel Gibson

I am done with this guy. He is no longer acceptable to me as a public figure. I feel especially bad because I remember defending him after his movie came out. Now, everyone that argued he should be given a benefit of a doubt now look like complete fools. And so we should. Sometimes there really is coded racism.

What does it mean?

The fact that the people that used to run Iraq, the people that were allowed by the "international community" to sit in the UN and pronounce on the morality of US policies and were treated as "legitimate," are now murdering Shiites at random is being used as an argument that these same monsters should have been left in charge of the country. If Nazis had reacted to the defeat, occupation and democratization of their country by murdering people at random in public places (my apologies to any Nazis who may be reading this, since, after all, whatever they did to other's children never contemplated murdering their own), would we infer from that that we should have left them in charge of the country?

Either or

"We are not here to talk about Hezbollah"
I hate this dodge. When you are talking about a war there are two sides. You have to choose one or the other. When you make demands of one side that disadvantage it then you are advantaging the other side. This obligates you to address whether the other side is, on the whole, better or worse. If you demand on humanitarian grounds that the allies unilaterally stop bombing German cities and demand it stop you are obligated to address 1) whether this might lead to a German victory and 2) whether or not that result will not, in the end, be better or worse for humanitarian values.