Thanks for visiting! This site has moved to, where all new posts will appear! Please update your bookmarks accordigly.

The new feed URL is:

“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
— Thucydides

“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”
— Jean-François Revel

Losing Václav Havel

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This week saw the loss of two of humankind’s best, followed by the departure of one of the world’s worst villains. I’ve written a brief reflection regarding Václav Havel below, and will try to get to commenting on Christopher Hitchens’ and Kim Jong-Il’s passing when I can manage to seize a bit more time. (Joshua Treviño probably framed the odd trio of passings best: “I’d like to think God let Havel and Hitchens pick the third.”)

Václav Havel, Czech playwright and dissident who inspired millions with the courage of his convictions and went on to lead a liberated Czech Republic after the 1989 fall of Communism across Eastern Europe, succumbed to a long respiratory illness and passed away last Sunday. As one who loves and celebrates liberty, and whose mother’s parents were Czechs who emigrated to France in the 1920s, I feel a strong appreciation of Havel’s acts of steadfast courage in the face of gloomy odds. The Czech story in the 20th century was an especially sad one: Just as Czechs began to loosen the shackles of over two decades of self-inflicted communism during the Prague Spring of 1968, Soviet forces invaded and imposed a stricter communist regime that halted the liberalization. This, in a once free and democratic nation.

I will always remember a several days’ visit with my parents and sister to what was still “Czechoslovakia” in 1985, during which we managed to see Prague and a bit of Plzeň, and visit some extended family. The Prague of the time was the gloomiest place I had ever been, gray and desolate with the scaffolding and rubble of languishing construction projects, and their accompanying “5 year plan” signage, everywhere. Restaurants were nearly empty, and it seemed as if people rarely left their homes. One cousin, who worked for a television station, was afraid to be seen meeting with Americans. Years later, we heard of his disappearance; the family suspected he had been taken to a labor camp, as commonly happened to political dissidents during that time. Everywhere along the roads, propaganda billboards proclaimed the virtues of Communism, or the vices of Capitalism, in their characteristic style, yet the world around them seemed still, unmoving, almost abandoned. (I recall feeling my stomach sink years later, on seeing a familiar Czech anti-capitalist poster in the home of a left-leaning work colleague — another of the many signs I’ve seen, of the Western left’s misguided admiration for the malignant ideology of communism.) I recall the generous and unreserved hospitality of cousins who welcomed us into their homes, and one cousin’s fascination with the under-the-hood workings of what we thought of as our very simple, run-of-the-mill rental car — a Ford sedan with a modest 4-cylinder engine. It was a fascinating marvel to him, like nothing that the state auto manufacturer, Škoda, produced. And perhaps most of all, I remembered the presence of armed soldiers throughout the country, and in particular guarding the borders, where they searched the trunks of cars not only entering but leaving the country. My teenage angst was put into its proper perspective by contact with people who did not enjoy the freedoms and standard of living that I foolishly took for granted. I remember thinking, if one was ever to feel so gloomy about the world as to think life was not worth living, it would be a far better thing to risk one’s life helping people who wished to to escape a place like this. Within years, that kind of action became unnecessary. The collapse of Soviet communism gave Czechs and Slovaks another chance at freedom, and they seized it as well they should. I had the opportunity to return to Prague in 2005, for a few days after Christmas, and it gave me great joy to see the city revitalized, alive, thriving, and free. For leadership that helped make that dream a reality, and courageous persistence that kept a candle of hope lit through the many dark years before it could be realized, today’s free Czechs will forever be in Havel’s debt. The world has too few who share his deep devotion to freedom and commensurate dedication to advancing it, and he will be greatly missed.

Two noteworthy Havel quotes from my Quotes page:

On economics:

Though my heart may be left of centre, I have always known that the only economic system that works is a market economy… This is the only natural economy, the only kind that makes sense, the only one that can lead to prosperity, because it is the only one that reflects the nature of life itself.

On grappling with evil:

Evil must be confronted in its womb and, if it can’t be done otherwise, then it has to be dealt with by the use of force.

Rob Long on the Decline of Print Media

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A great 98th podcast episode featuring Insta-guest Glenn Reynolds (whose delightful and informative blog I love every bit as much as our Ricochet hosts do) ends with some particularly insightful comments by Rob Long. Starting around 59 and a half minutes:

I think what hurt these magazines [(Time and Newsweek)] is Reagan. Because when Reagan was elected and did well, all of these journalists went nuts. Now Hugh Sidey used to write a very pro-Reagan column for Time. … And the idea that you would have a thoughtful, kind of middle-of-the-road wise man journalist writing a column for any one of these magazines that was not knee-jerk partisanship is … literally inconceivable. They all decided with Reagan that they needed, now … their job was to try to reform the electorate. And you could see it. You could see it in the collapse of the big media titles when they tried to reform the electorate, to try to teach you a lesson: You voted wrong. That … the electorate just kind of turned them off and people stopped reading. They stopped reading those magazines. They stopped reading the newspaper when the newspaper became homework … for your soul … instead of: telling me what happened in my neighborhood today.

On journalism then vs. now:

These were Ivy League weeklies … Newsweek and Time are staffed entirely by Harvard and Yale students. But they didn’t have the sense of trying to tell you … why you were wrong, and why you were stupid … the advocacy journalism which came up … really, began in the 70s, but I think really hit its stride in the 80s under Reagan. This idea that you need to be corrected. And the people reading this thought, “Well, I don’t really need to be corrected.” And then you saw the magazines as they desperately tried to come up with something else — was it more show business, more lifestyle stuff, more trend pieces. They tried to do everything they could, because they couldn’t report the news, because it was too obvious what they were trying to do. You look at a paper like the L.A. Times — the L.A. Times is … the dead twin of the New York Times. The New York Times succeeds because it has fantastic feature sections, right? The New York Times succeeds because on Thursdays about style, Wednesdays about food … and Fridays about escapes. It has these great sections that people want to read, despite the front section. And they’ve done that very successfully. But everyone else … they forget the Hugh Sidey model, which is just … everything doesn’t have to be corrective of Conservatives.

The mainstream just wants to know what’s going on in the world, and doesn’t need to be told, over and over again, that Conservatives are bad, and that Liberals are good. They just … they don’t believe it, so it seems like a comic book to them.

As Glenn would rightly advise: Listen to the whole thing!

I’m reminded of an older man I once met, whose eyes beamed with pride on relating to me that his son had gone into journalism “to change the world”. I smiled and said nothing, not wanting to rob this nice fellow I barely knew of a notion that was clearly a source of great happiness to him, but in my head I had to wonder: Did his son choose the right career for that? And: what are the implications of conflating the business of reporting facts with the pursuit of advocacy journalism?

Bill Whittle's Voter's Guide to the Republican Party

Not to be missed: Bill Whittle’s latest and greatest Firewall. Everything you wanted to know about those mean, nasty, evil, really not very nice Republikkkans, but were afraid to ask:

(via Phineas at Public Secrets, care of @sistertoldjah)

V.I. Day 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In 2008, blogger “Zombie” published a thoughtful, well-reasoned post discussing the conditions for victory in Iraq, and calling for November 22nd to be observed as “Victory in Iraq Day”. Continued progress and relative stability over the three years since seems to me to have vindicated that judgment, and in line with what I wrote on the occasion that year, I think we ought to carry on the tradition. The U.S. and her allies achieved what many vehemently declared was impossible, ousting one of the world’s worst dictators, liberating the Iraqi people, and planting the seeds of freedom and representative democracy in what has been one of the most politically troubled and volatile regions of the globe. Today’s Iraq has its challenges and problems, to be sure, but it is a place far more full of genuine hope than it had been under two decades of Saddam’s brutal dictatorship, and stands as a stark and unflattering counterexample to the remaining dictatorships that surround it, have acted to undermine it, and feel their grip on power threatened by its very existence. Those are all things to be grateful for and to celebrate.

Even President Obama, who as a senator vigorously opposed what he declared to be an ill-motivated, ill-conceived, and unwinnable Iraq war, and as a candidate opportunistically vilified the war and the Bush administration, promising an immediate withdrawal of our troops if elected, no matter the consequences, has had to quietly concede that the U.S. won the very war he campaigned against. Once in office, and I suspect apprised of facts and perspective that only presidents and their military advisors have access to, he scrapped his promises of immediate and unconditional retreat and defeat to embrace the same overall policies and drawdown plan of the Bush administration that he previously demonized.

The Bush administration didn’t take it upon itself to declare victory, and it was clear that neither candidate Obama nor the press were about to do any such thing. It was up to others to do so, and I’m grateful to Zombie and the participants in 2008’s V-I Day for leading the way.

Victory in Iraq Day banner

I’m not one to focus on the negative, but there is something I hope will not be forgotten about this war, that I fear history books will not amply record: the way that victory was achieved despite the most intense vilification of American conduct and motives that I have seen in my lifetime. The opposition brought their biggest rhetorical guns to bear, some among them stopping at nothing and accusing us of the most vile, malevolent intentions. We were charged by some with going to Iraq to steal their oil, to claim the land as a permanent colony of our vast, overbearing Empire, or simply for the implicit joy of killing dark-skinned people. There are people for whom it is a foregone conclusion that such actions are clearly and exactly what the United States is all about, for whom we are the exact polar opposite of all that we claim to stand for, because in order for those people to win hearts and minds it must be made to be so. The record of our actual conduct proved otherwise, casting our soldiers’ actions in start contrast with the brutality of foreign fighters who committed themselves to the failure of the Iraqi project at all costs, deliberately inflicting the kind of mass civilian casualties that the United States takes greater pains than any combatant in history to avoid. Sadly, history’s record will not prevent the same accusations from being endlessly recycled. We will fight identical smears again in future conflicts — I feel sure of it — and we had therefore best learn from this experience and be mentally prepared to battle the same calumnies again.

As I wrote on my recently added “Welcome” page, and meant it: I feel deeply, humbly grateful and indebted beyond capacity for adequate repayment to the men and women of the United States armed forces, and equally so to our truest friends in this world, the soldiers of our stalwart allied nations, who daily risk everything they have in this brief life for the liberty and safety of others, setting aside even their own. Let there be no doubt: I want them to have the full support that their risk and sacrifice merits, and I want them to be given every chance to succeed that they ask of us — precious little to expect, I think, in return. They have my sincerest admiration, and with remarkably few exceptions that serve to prove the rule, I am deeply, deeply proud of their demonstrated ethics, courage, fairness, generosity, resourcefulness, and professional conduct as our emissaries in hostile lands. The precious, fragile free society that we so often take for granted is the very thing they are risking all to preserve and defend, and they should have our heartfelt gratitude.

Marines passing out Spirit-of-America-provided school supplies in Ramadi, Iraq

To those who risked all to make Iraq’s liberation possible, and to those who lost all making it happen, may you forever have the gratitude of the freer world you left behind. You are the best of us, in my book, and we are lucky to count you as our fellow citizens.

US and UK troops make preparations in Kuwait, 2003

US marine flying colors, Kuwait, 2003

the famous toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue

For additional perspective, see Bill Whittle’s September 2011 “What We Did Right,” which, among its survey of the decade since the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks, examines the results of our intervention in Iraq.


Monday, November 14, 2011

The three weeks since Launch Day have been incredibly fun and exhilarating. I’ve been so deeply immersed, making satisfying, design-validating progress on my first project, that you’ve scarcely heard a peep from me here. OK, my solo time hasn’t quite been the blogging Renaissance I had planned for, but it’s exactly what I need to be doing, and I don’t want to risk breaking the fantastic momentum I’ve got going. It’s been delightful, amazingly productive, and an absolute rush.

At this stage, I can only reveal that I’m designing and implementing what I believe will be some truly neat and groundbreaking software for Mac OS X. Believe me, I can’t wait to be able to announce more than that — I’ll announce it with great enthusiasm, when the time is right. Meanwhile, I thought I might mention a bit about why I’m having such fun working on this.

A big part of what makes the development process so rewarding, and makes what I’m attempting even possible for a lone developer to achieve, is the superb set of system capabilities and developer technologies that are available to leverage on the Mac platform, which fall under the broad marketing-label umbrella of the “Cocoa Frameworks”. As I mentioned in a comment on Ricochet, these technologies have quietly revolutionized the economics of software development, breaking down barriers and former notions of what a single engineer or small team could aspire to accomplish. I’ve been working with these technologies for about fifteen years now, enjoyed the privilege of working on them for the past nine and a half, and now am applying and synthesizing everything I’ve learned into some great new stuff that I believe will empower users in very exciting ways. With due acknowledgment of what a thrill it was hacking Apple ][s and PCs at the assembly-language level back in the 80s, working with this stuff is probably the most fun I have ever had programming.

The best thing of all about working with the Objective-C language and Cocoa Frameworks at their full potential, is that it isn’t just cheap rapid prototyping that leaves you with a long way to go to a robust, production-quality end result. You can achieve all the benefits of quick development without having to write a lot of temporary code that you’ll just end up discarding later — analogous, perhaps, to the temporary support scaffolding that a carpenter or stone mason might have to build to get a job done. If you stick to the right path (which isn’t too hard to do), you can begin to realize a design with quick-turnaround results, while faithfully modeling the things you’re working with in uncompromising full generality, or a subset thereof driven by immediate needs, that can be readily extended to full generality without having to discard progress and backtrack. All the while you’re making progress that counts. That in itself is an exhilarating feeling.

I don’t know whether the foregoing communicates much to those who haven’t written software before. Some may be relieved to hear that it’s as technical as I’m likely to get on this blog. I just wanted to try to convey some sense of how fun and exciting this endeavor is to me — in part because this is the “distraction” that’s going to keep me off the radar for spans of time, though I will do my best to set aside some time for blogging when I reasonably can.

I leave you with an entrepreneurial song of the day: “Prime Mover” from Rush’s 1987 Hold Your Fire. I discovered this one around the time my son was born a couple years ago, and also think of it as a hard-to-beat optimistic anthem for a new life. A definite favorite of mine. Enjoy!

Prime Mover

Basic elemental instinct to survive
Stirs the higher passions
Thrill to be alive

Alternating currents in a tidewater surge
Rational resistance to an unwise urge

Anything can happen…

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey is not to arrive

Anything can happen…

Basic temperamental filters on our eyes
Alter our perceptions
Lenses polarize

Alternating currents force a show of hands
Rational responses force a change of plans

Anything can happen…

From a point on the compass
To magnetic north
The point of the needle moving back and forth

From the point of entry
Until the candle is burned
The point of departure is not to return

Anything can happen…

I set the wheels in motion
Turn up all the machines
Activate the programs
And run behind the scene

I set the clouds in motion
Turn up light and sound
Activate the window
And watch the world go ‘round

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of a journey
Is not to arrive

Anything can happen…

Just Being Myself

Friday, October 28, 2011

A minor announcement: After six years of blogging as “an unrepentant kulak”, I’ve switched to publishing under my real name.

It’s bothered me for a while now that others have taken far greater risks to secure the freedom and the thriving free society that I enjoy, and also has felt odd to me to “hide” behind a pseudonym to advocate for what are, or ought to be, fairly non-controversial, mainstream, foundational American principles. Now that I’ve gone solo in my work, and no longer have an employer to protect, I also feel a bit freer to drop the pseudonym, and I think with age I’ve also become more comfortable with being liked or disliked (or loved or reviled!) for who I am, and I’ve seen the need to do what we can for what matters most to us, in the time we have.

Not much more to say about it beyond that. As I wrote when I started this blog, I’ve endeavored to keep the discussion reasonable and refrain from writing anything that I didn’t feel comfortable standing by. Looking back on six years of work, I think I’ve lived up to that promise, and I intend to continue striving for the same goal.

I’ve written a bit about my former nom de plume, which people have occasionally asked about, at the bottom of my new Welcome page. In the accompanying site reorg., I also moved my blogroll and other sidebar links to their own page, which I expect will make them a lot easier to keep up to date. I hope visitors will take a look there now and again; there are some truly great blogs, sites, and podcasts listed. I’ve updated my Twitter and Ricochet profiles too.

That’s it for now.

Nothing more to see here.

To my online friends of many years: Nice to meet you. Again!

(Footnote: Because of the way I set up my blog template, all previous posts have been retroactively tagged with my new byline. Just FYI.)

Launch Day

Monday, October 24, 2011

I have eagerly awaited this day for a very long time now. Today, for the first time in years, I own my own time again, and I’m officially embarking on the adventure of starting my own software development company.

I have a million and one things on my mind to do with this precious first day, let me tell you, so allow me to defer to my original announcement of this endeavor, which I think already captured the event’s significance to me pretty darn well:

I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug for a while now, and a new job for my wife that requires us to move cross-country has had the welcome effect of forcing/facilitating Decision Time. We’ve put our house on the market, and later this month will be moving to lovely Packanack Lake, New Jersey. I’ll have a couple months of working remotely for my previous employer ahead, to tie up loose ends and leave my areas of responsibility in the best shape I can, but come October 1st [OK, I ended up sticking around for a bit more loose-end tying than I originally planned on!] I’ll be striking off in pursuit of my own American Dream — which, to me, means taking a chance on myself and my ideas and aspirations, embracing risk and challenge, and developing my talents to their fullest, with the hope of producing things that other people find useful, and in the process making the work I love my living. I’m grateful to have enjoyed something close to that in my current job, but this is an opportunity to own the entire creative process from end to end, to challenge and take chances on my own design sense, and to pursue areas of application that serve other markets.

I’m tremendously excited, and am positively chomping at the bit to get started. There are plenty of logistics to take care of between here and Day One, but I feel lighter with the knowledge that I’ve committed to this new course, and that I’m giving myself permission to do the very things I yearn to. I also hope this change will enable me to do more writing here, and I mean to include among that writing the story of my startup venture as it unfolds.

As I set my sights on this Big Dream (and, when I think those words, Bill Whittle’s “Trinity” (part 2 here) is on my mind as having so brilliantly put into words what I feel about it), in the forefront of my thoughts is a deep and abiding appreciation for a culture that, in its very bones, cherishes, celebrates, and strives to exhort exactly this kind of big dreaming. What I’m setting out to achieve is exactly what a culture founded on the individual right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness designed itself for. My gratitude for this opportunity is immense, and I mean to make use of it to achieve great things, while always remembering my debt to those who took tremendous risks before me to make it all possible.

As I later wrote, “Day One sitting at my desk in my newly appointed home office, ready to create wonderful things, seems a long way off now, but I’m so charged with excitement about it that it’s getting me through the day-to-day tasks necessary to reach my goal — and that kind of focus is exactly what I need.” Well, it worked, and I made it through, and I’m here and ready and eager to go, and part of me can only just barely believe it. This first day will necessarily consist of some basic logistical stuff — such as getting my workspace cleared and transformed into a de-cluttered environment where I can think — but damn if even that isn’t an exciting and fun task taken in context. This baby is mine. I’m creating the environment I want, the technology I want, the culture and vision of the future I want. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Music has always been a huge motivator and connection to Important Stuff for me, and over the years I’ve accumulated a playlist of favorite entrepreneurial or otherwise inspiring songs that get me in the desired frame of mind to achieve. I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll make a habit of posting about one of them every once in a while.

There’s a lot of good stuff on the list, such that choosing a single Launch Day song to rule them all is no easy task, but when I think about it there’s a natural choice for me: I’m going with the Live in Paris version of Joe Satriani’s “Time Machine”, which I must apologize to my neighbors for cranking earlier today. Not particularly entrepreneurial — purely instrumental, in fact — but this one holds a deep connection for me, one that reaches back nearly two decades to some of my first serious thinking about my life, tugging at threads that have run through my life since, and striking those Mystic Chords of Memory that Bill Whittle has written so eloquently about. Turn it up and I’m back circa 1994, cruising up California’s Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Malibu to clear my head and think, with the album version (a worthy listen) driving my speakers for all they’ve got. I made Big Plans then, let me tell you, and now, today, I’m keeping promises made to myself long ago, and embarking full-throttle on fulfilling them. The feeling of elation is beyond my meager ability to describe. This is exactly where I need to be.

More to come soon!

Getting Closer

Friday, September 30, 2011

It’s getting close enough that I can see it approaching, and awareness of that has buoyed my spirits tremendously. Following three more short weeks of working for my current employer, I’ll be heading off to forge my own path as an independent software developer. As of Monday, October 24th, I’ll be free to devote my full efforts to the development and realization of my own ideas, pursuing directions whose results I can’t wait to see myself.

I couldn’t be more excited to be embarking on this new challenge and adventure. Everything about it — responsibility for success or failure — is going to be in my own hands, and up to my own abilities, judgment, awareness of my own shortcomings, and my drive to learn, adapt, surmount obstacles, and work with determined, tireless commitment toward the goals I’m setting out to achieve — the marriage of powerful capabilities with fun and elegant design.

I plan to start writing more about this new venture of mine when its long-awaited-by-me launch date arrives. I’ll keep the posts on topic for this blog, and will probably spin off a new blog for any related technical discussion I want to get into. I expect there’s a lot on the subject of entrepreneurship, risk, optimism, and the freedom to try that will be relevant and worth exploring here as the mood strikes. This will be such a central part of my life and direction from here on out, it would be hard to avoid mention of it.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned, if you will. I think it’s going to be a fun ride.

Pilot Bill Whittle on the Reno Air Race Crash

This week’s Afterburner: “Live Free or Die”, on PJTV (Warning: contains video of the crash):

What We Can Learn From the Gratitude of Immigrants

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anecdotes such as this should put our domestic self-criticism in perspective, and remind us how very much we have to be grateful for. These are the people who flock to frontiers without hesitation, and build prosperity out of little more than freedom, opportunity, determination, and irrepressible optimism. May we always welcome such appreciative new citizens:

On Constitution Day in Philadelphia, 48 new Americans were naturalized, representing 18 countries from Argentina to Vietnam. The citizenship candidates and their families filled a small auditorium, they sat through welcoming speeches, including one from retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. They understood that it was a big deal.

They were an appreciative, demonstrative audience, if not Emma Lazarus’ “wretched refuse” of a teeming shore. Many are educated, with their eyes fixed on a shiny future as Americans. They might not all succeed, but they know they are free to try, so they are not complaining.

For the small number of you who think that America is bad, or mean, or evil, come convince our new Americans. You’ll die trying.

They don’t measure America by a dreamy, utopian ideal, they judge America against realities of the world in which they had lived. Despite wars and recession, they cast their lot with us because they know that in the totality of liberty, opportunity and equality — even the freedom to fail and try again — America is matchless.

To some of you, this is flag-waving fiction. To our newest Americans, who have lived here for years while qualifying for citizenship, it is fact.

Whittle: What We Did Right

Friday, September 16, 2011

“What We Did Right” in the decade since 9/11: Another great Afterburner, thanks to Bill Whittle’s aptitude for placing events in Big Picture perspective:

at PJTV and on YouTube

American Islamic Group Supports Sharia Law Ban

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There are non-trivial legal and freedom issues involved in considering such a measure, of course, but the fact that there are Muslims in the United States advocating for a ban on the implementation of Sharia law here, as described in this article on The Blaze, gives me hope. From the “American Islamic Leadership Coalition“‘s website:

As American Muslims, we believe that the law should treat people of all faiths equally, while protecting Muslims and non-Muslims alike from extremist attempts to use the legal instrument of shari‘ah (also known as Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh) to incubate, within the West, a highly politicized and dangerous understanding of Islam that is generally known as “Islamism,” or “radical Islam.”

As American Muslims we are conscious of the fact that Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups and other Islamists and their surrogates in the U.S. are trying their best to portray any opposition to manifestations of shari‘ah law as “racism” and “discrimination against Muslims.” However, as a coalition of traditional, liberal and secular Muslim Americans, we denounce this fear-mongering and playing of the race card, which only serves to mask the Islamists’ highly politicized agenda.

“Many of us fled the Muslim world to escape Shariah law… We do not wish these laws to follow us here.”

More from groups like this, please.

Dennis Prager: Lessons from 9/11? What Lessons?

At Prager’s site (via @inhuggermugger)

After 9/11, the normal and decent question that normal and decent people — people who fully and happily recognize the existence of vast numbers of normal and decent Muslims in the world — would have posed is this: What has happened in the Arab world and parts of the Muslim world?

But as this, the most obvious question that 9/11 prompted, has not been allowed to be asked, what lessons can possibly be learned?

The answer is, of course, none.

Ten Years Later: 9/11 Links

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I’ve posted my own 9/11 reflections here.

Following are links to some of the most stirring writing I’ve seen today. I’ll continue adding to this list as I go.

Never forget. Never submit.

This YouTube video should make every decent person sick: Counter-demonstrators forced to disperse, while Islamic Supremacists holding signs that call for “Jihad” and declaring “Islam Will Dominate the World” freely spew their rage and burn our flag outside the U.S. embassy in London on 9/11/2011:

James Delingpole commented on this at Ricochet, in: “Western Civilization to barbarians: ‘Please. Come right in. The gates are wide open…’

9/11 is now “National Grandparents Day”! No, really.

Dana Loesch: “My 9/11 Awakening”

Sundries Shack: “9/11, The New Tet”

Ezra Dulis: “9/11: The Hijackers Were Soldiers, The Speech Police Are Terrorists”

@bapartofmylife: “9/11 is a Day of Mourning”

Perfection Under a Red Umbrella: “10 Years Later, Ground Zero & The Pentagon, Hallowed Ground of Flight 93”

GayPatriot: “In Memoriam - James Joe Ferguson Lost Ten Years Ago Today”

All I could remember was how happy Joe always was and how that cheer was infectious to all of his friends and colleagues. I would miss that cheerful influence on me. Joe had made the choice to live life to the fullest extent possible. He was the model of the optimistic American who knows no frontiers and no bounds. He was doing more than his fair share of contributing to a better society.

Mark Steyn: From “Let’s Roll” to “Let’s Roll Over”

And so we commemorate an act of war as a “tragic event,” and we retreat to equivocation, cultural self-loathing, and utterly fraudulent misrepresentation about the events of the day.

Larry O’Connor: “9/11 Was Declaration of War”

Ed Ross: “The Legacy of 9/11 is about much more than terrorism”

Andrew Klavan: “When Hollywood Hit Rock Bottom”

John Nolte at Big Hollywood: “September 11th: My Thanks to Joel Surnow and His Fellow Hollywood Subversives”

James Lileks: The Lake and the Sky

A Plea, Ten Years After: Please, Open Your Eyes

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In past years, I’ve written about where I was on 9/11, posted quotes, written about songs, tweeted the names of victims, and recommended blog posts, articles, and videos. But on nearly every anniversary of the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks since I started blogging, the unifying issue on my mind has been nearly the same: To assess where we are and how we are faring some years after.

Reviewing what I’ve written in years past, I find that my answer to that question has changed very little, and the farther we get from that awful day the more that fact worries me, for despite having successfully thwarted at least 19 subsequent would-be attacks, I don’t think we’re faring very well as a culture, in crucial ways that for me raise serious questions about what our long-term future will hold.

I try not to let the gloom envelop me. In so many ways, I am an optimist in my heart of hearts. I have tremendous confidence in our culture and way of life, in our resilience and adaptability, and in all that we can achieve with our ingenuity and dedication and mutual goodwill. Yet it kills me to see that same culture mired in and hobbled by an unwarranted mentality of self-recrimination and self-doubt, and simultaneously unwilling to candidly examine and confront an ideological movement that is actively, deeply, vocally, immutably, and demonstratedly hostile to its foundational principles and continued existence.

What does it mean to live in a culture that is only just barely willing to stand up and fight for itself in the wake of a horrific act of war such as the 9/11 attacks? I would not have thought our present-day frame of mind possible to sustain after such an event, but the cultural and political divisions that predated 9/11 have proven far more resilient than I would ever have expected. We didn’t wake from our slumber of infighting to pursue, united and with doggedly committed determination, the defense and preservation our nation and way of life; rather, we retrenched and resumed fighting each other, our cultural fault lines painfully underscored in the process. As Michele Catalano wrote three years ago,

In so many ways, 9/11 ended up furthering any divisions we had instead of closing them. We chose up sides and backed away from each other as if we were our own enemies —- as if the enemies we had, those who steered planes into buildings, weren’t enough.

This realization, and the seeming impossibility of bridging the chasm, has been a knife in my heart ever since. It kills me. But I don’t see any way around it.

So many aspects of our cultural condition have caused me grief over the past ten years. I feel crestfallen that it is taking us as long as it has to rebuild at the World Trade Center site. I’ve felt deeply betrayed by a Hollywood that now routinely denigrates and vilifies the country whose values and achievements it once celebrated and defended, a Hollywood that I loved in my youth but have now all but written off and given up on. I have been deeply disappointed in a supposedly mainstream American press that seems to have seen it as its sworn duty to demoralize us and convince us of inevitable defeat and dishonor in the wars we’ve prosecuted, in a way that’s been shown to be transparently contingent on the political party of the President in the White House. I’m troubled that over the past three years, we’ve largely acted in ways that can only serve to embolden our enemies, while giving our friends and allies and those we should at least be lending moral support in their fight for freedom and against totalitarianism (c.f. Iran’s democracy activists, and other participants in the recent “Arab Spring” uprisings) scant reason to hope for the backing of a country that has for so long been thought of as a beacon of hope and the moral “leader of the free world”. It makes my heart sink that too many of our own citizens seem to believe that America is the problem in some form or other.

All of these cultural factors pain me and deeply trouble me, but on this 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks I’m willing to largely put them aside in the interest of getting just one, crucial point across regarding the single most dangerous problem we face: the inability or unwillingness to name, frankly discuss, and squarely face our ideological enemy. More than anything else, it is a commitment to reckoning with this circumstance that needs to cross the perhaps otherwise impassable ideological chasm that separates the American Right and Left.

We can and will continue to differ with our countrymen regarding specific policy prescriptions, including matters of war. I could perhaps accept that, in a world where I felt we had all made a candid and fully informed assessment of the adversary we are up against. But there are still many among us who don’t seem to want to look Islamic Supremacism in the face, or even acknowledge its existence, either because the prospect is too frightening, or because the acknowledgment would violate long-practiced “PC” rules of cultural conduct that are so deeply ingrained in us, we fear we wouldn’t know how to function without blindly deferring to them. If I could make one plea to my fellow countrymen, Left, Right, and Center, it would be this: Please, please look with open eyes at what we are up against. Even if you must conclude that Islamic Supremacism is a fringe ideology with no real possibility of gaining dominance or causing substantial long-term harm to the free world (I truly wish I could believe it was so), do so with a full understanding and awareness of what the Jihadists intend for us, far-fetched or not, as detailed in their own words and actions: the return of a 7th century Caliphate that is fundamentally incompatible with and hostile to secular and pluralistic free societies, with all the attendant implications for women, homosexuals, infidels and religious and ethnic minorities. These Jihadists have told us their intentions time and time again, but we somehow refuse to believe them.

We are so conditioned to reflexively genuflect to any and every other culture as a show of goodwill, that both our critical thinking faculties, and our courage to overcome fear of social reprisals and voice our honest concerns, seem to have become disengaged or defunct. If every culture and religion in this world was as benign in its intentions toward us as most are, this willful blindness wouldn’t be a big problem. We could all live together in happy harmony and the “coexistence” that so many understandably wish for. But the fact that most others have relatively benign intentions has disarmed us to the crucial few that do not. Our cultural defenses are down — way down — and even being caught off our guard ten years ago with horrific consequences doesn’t seem to have changed that sufficiently. Informing and educating ourselves about what we’re up against is crucial, for we cannot expect to remain both ignorant and free.

Is this state of denial (or leaning strongly toward diplomatic use of language, if you prefer) causing any real problems? It certainly seems to be. How else could a man like Nidal Malik Hasan remain in active service in the United States Army, after repeatedly making statements against the United States and in sympathy with our Jihadist enemies? There are compelling and deeply troubling indications that not only our armed forces, but our broader defense and law enforcement agencies are compromised in their ability and sworn duty to protect this country and its citizens by pressure to whitewash reality, sanitize the use of language that could be perceived as hurtful or offensive, and shrink from confronting reality. We are letting organizations such as CAIR — a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, whose charter calls for a “grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ their miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions”advise our FBI on how to combat violent Islamic radicalism.

Bill Whittle’s April 7, 2010 PJTV piece “The Censorship Agenda” revealed in worrisome detail the sanitizing of our foundational national security documents that has taken place since the original, bipartisan 9/11 Commission Report. (As Bill himself suggests, contrary to the provocative subtitle “Obama Bans ‘Islam’”, the culture of self-censorship and willful blindness that produced these results may very well be indicative of a long-extant problem that predates the Obama administration.)

Think about the implications of Bill’s findings: in stark contrast with the comparatively frank and sober assessment of the 9/11 Commission Report (whose use of key terms is tabulated in the leftmost column, below), the FBI’s 2008 Counterterrorism Analytical Lexicon (next column), our 2009 National Intelligence Strategy report (next column), and the Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood report on the shooting rampage by Nidal Malik Hasan (rightmost column), use the terms “Islam”, “Muslim”, and “Jihad” a total of zero times.


The National Intelligence Strategy report doesn’t even reference “al Qaeda” or use the word “enemy” (employing, instead, the term “violent extremist”, a total of 29 times). The DoD’s Fort Hood report, amazingly, makes no reference whatsoever to “violent extremism”, “Islam”, “Muslim”, “Jihad”, or even to Hasan’s name.

Think about this. Disregard, for the moment, our popular culture and variously informed conversation among Joes like you and me. How is it possible that the very institutions we charge with our defense — whose analyses one would expect, of necessity, to be unflinchingly sober and frank — have become this willfully blind?

I can only shake my head in near-despair at the self-sabotaging ridiculousness of it. It might be funny if the consequences weren’t so dire for all of us. (Bill, however, has a more upbeat outlook than I do this year.)

Forget about applying the non-lethal (but awfully emotionally insensitive) tool of humor by mocking our enemies, which appears to be completely out of the question save for a few valiant out-of-the-mainstream efforts such as Shire Network News and Sands of Passion. In most cases, we can’t even bring ourselves to precisely and candidly refer to them. If our thinking and definitions are clear, there should be no reason not to do so, given all that is at stake.

This man has the right idea (emphasis mine):

There is nothing insulting to decent, good members of the Muslim religion when I say “Islamic extremist terrorist”, any more than it is insulting to the Italian-American community (when I was a prosecutor) to say the word “Mafia”. Or that it would be insulting to decent Germans to say the word “Nazi”.

One mistake to avoid is political correctness. You can’t fight crime, and you can’t deter terrorism, if you are hobbled by political correctness. I believe that Major [Nidal] Hasan is an example of that. There is no way that Major Hasan should have been a major in the United States Army, after several years of spewing forth hatred for the United States of America… I would consider Major Hasan’s attack on Fort Hood an Islamic extremist terrorist attack. I have a hard time understanding why the government doesn’t see it that way, since he was yelling “Allahu Akbar” when he started killing people. …

… We cannot use this as an opportunity to say, “let’s put this behind us”, because if we we do that, we will repeat the mistake that we made before September 11th, which is not evaluating correctly the scope and the danger of Islamic extremist terrorism. Notice I use those words and I use them often. I do because I have a simple belief: If you can’t face your enemy, you can’t defeat your enemy. If you can’t honestly describe your enemy, there are distortions in your policy decisions as a result of that.

Re-read that last part, and internalize the essential lesson: If we refuse the accurate use of words, we are sabotaging ourselves.

Since accusations of “Islamophobia”, etc. are now flung automatically against any who express concern about Islam’s militant political arm as exemplified by the likes of al Qaeda and Hamas, let me be as clear as it’s possible to be, knowing full well that “it is impossible to speak in such a way that one cannot be misunderstood” (or willfully misinterpreted): I really don’t want to spend my time writing and thinking about this stuff. I have no intrinsic need to gratify myself or feel superior by grinding ideological axes against either an external enemy culture or my own countrymen. I’d much rather invest my time and energy inventing, innovating, creating, raising my son, spending time with my wife, living and working and striving to do better among peers whose origins span the globe, but who share a necessary basic dedication to the essential principles of a free society. I would love nothing more than to be decisively proven wrong about all of this, and get back to my life. I think and write about this kind of stuff because, as far as I can tell, there is no avoiding it. The very culture that furnishes and protects my ability and yours to live our lives as we do and freely engage in such humanity-advancing work, is under attack by another that demands our submission to a suffocating, stifling, totalitarian ideology. If we cannot name, discuss, and confront that ideology, we might as well surrender to it.

My “endgame” — the long-term future I hope for — is not a perpetual state of war (who would wish for that?), but a true coexistence of stable peace and security that can only exist after the Islamic Supremacist threat has been acknowledged and somehow neutralized. That is to say, I seek a peace worth having. To whatever extent we can accomplish that without resorting to the use of force and violence, wonderful — you have me on your side. I want and hope for a future where I can freely live, work, and prosper alongside all others who share my commitment to upholding the essential principles of our free society, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, regardless of where on the globe they hail from, without any of us having to fear violence from totalitarian nutjobs. There is too much to do and achieve for us to waste our time, capabilities, and resources on war where we have a reasonable alternative. But to shrink from the last-resort necessity of war when it is upon us seems to me no less a betrayal of the society we rightly cherish, for if left undefended that society will crumble.

I speak “peace”, when peace is spoken.

Even when we are not in our worst moments of genuflecting self-censorship, our choice of terminology has been clumsy, muddled, and unhelpful from the start — and, make no mistake, these poor choices of terminology sink us. Case in point: A “War on Terror” is no more meaningful than a “War on Blitzkrieg”, or a “War on Kamikaze strikes. Terror is a tactic, not an identification of the ideology that motivates its perpetrators. The ideology we’re up against is is most accurately described as “Islamic Supremacism” — a militant, political branch of Islam that sees as its imperative the subjugation under strict Islamic law (Sharia) of all non-Muslims and any who wish to live in free and pluralistic societies. To attempt to broaden our response to al Qaeda’s brand of violent Islamic Supremacism into a “War on Terror” is to dilute our sense of purpose, and pretend against evidence that there are just as many terrorists motivated by various other ideologies who pose an imminent threat. This awkwardly vague and clumsy choice of words was, I think, both an attempt to avoid any reference to or indictment of any sect of “Islam”, and a well-intentioned overture of comradeship to other nations who had suffered terrorist scourges of other origins, but in the end I believe it’s been an ill-advised one. Since we’re not supposed to draw any connection between acts of terrorism and even a small, extreme, ostensibly non-representative minority fringe of Islam, we try to make do with the unhelpfully vague “War on Terror”, and it’s a wonder if we don’t forget what, in fact, we are fighting against.

I’m out of words, but I hope I’ve made my point clearly.

Please, my friends. Before you decide this is not your fight, read, research, learn. Our shared future is at stake.

Recommended Watching

I’ve watched this memorial slideshow every year. It unfailingly moves me to tears. Never forget that day, nor misremember. Never forget those we lost, the heroes who ran unbidden toward danger and lost their lives saving others, the heroes aboard Flight 93 who lost theirs preventing another attack that would likely have killed scores more of their fellow citizens…

Inside 9/11: an in-depth accounting of the 9/11 attacks and the events that led up to them

102 Minutes that Changed America: a uniquely composed account of the attack on New York, seen through raw footage from a variety of sources, combined with emergency calls and radio communications

Recommended Reading

Of all the deeply moving posts, pages, and articles I’ve seen about 9/11, this one from 2009, comprised of stirring photos and an unflinching examination of the enemy and cultural crisis we face, is unforgettable and not to be missed: 9/11: Never Forget, Never Give In

I’ll also be posting links, separately over the next few days, to the best writing about 9/11 I encounter this year. Look for posts tagged “9/11”.

My Previous Years’ Posts

2009: Tomorrow is 9/11 ~ My Experience of September 11, 2001 ~ 9/11 Quotes

2008: 9/11, Seven Years On ~ 9/11, Seven Years On, Part 2 ~ 102 Minutes that Changed America

2007: 9/11, Six Years On

2006: Soon, Time Again to Reflect ~ 9/11 Observances ~ 9/11 Observances, Part 2

2005: I Remember

2004: Remembering and Rebuilding (Yes, that’s me, in a post at my old blog. I’ll be transitioning to blogging openly under my own name here shortly. It’s about time.)

The Deal

Monday, August 22, 2011

Who else but Bill Whittle can so adeptly weave together the early history of commercial aviation, this month’s deadly Chinook crash involving members of SEAL Team Six, the end of the Space Shuttle program, the private space race, the November 2001 crash of American Airlines flight 587 in Queens, and the needless, gut-wrenching destruction of the recent London riots.

Don’t miss “The Deal”, Bill’s latest Afterburner, on PJTV:

I would add one minor adjustment, that I doubt Bill would quibble with: To me, it’s being willing to risk dying for something that’s the key. Excepting one who chooses to embrace certain death as the last and only possible way to save others (as a soldier diving on a grenade, using his body to prevent the deadly spray of shrapnel from killing his comrades-in-arms), in a culture that rightly celebrates and cherishes life, we achieve our ends by embracing risk and seeking to live through danger, not by dying. Dying is just what happens the one time the gamble doesn’t pay off, despite our best reasonable efforts to prevent it short of playing life safe and never daring to venture anything at all (which is an end far worse than dying in the pursuit of a meaningful goal).

Amazon has Ernest Gann’s “Fate is the Hunter” in paperback.

Rich Man, Poor Man

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bill Whittle’s latest Afterburner, “Rich Man, Poor Man”, is one of his finest. Watch it at Public Secrets:

In the grand scheme of things, we should indeed be celebrating this precious Civilization of ours, and its demonstrated, unrivaled ability to elevate everyone’s standard of living by liberating creative people to do what they do best — invent, innovate, and serve the wants and needs of others. It has taken a campaign of perspective-distorting envy and bitterness and cynicism sustained over decades to bring large numbers of us to believe otherwise, against all evidence.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

There’s always the last, lingering bit of unpacking to do, but we’ve arrived in Packanack Lake, New Jersey, and were settled enough in the new house yesterday for me to start full-time work again.

I have two months of working remotely for my present Silicon Valley employer ahead before I strike off on my own to pursue “The Venture”, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to tie up loose ends and help gradually transition ownership of my areas of responsibility to other engineers.

Meanwhile, I’ve mostly set up my new home office, and am really looking forward to all that lies ahead.

Here’s the lake, by the way — just a few blocks away and what I expect will be a good “take a walk to clear my head” destination when needed:

More to come as time allows.

Getting There

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In light of the big changes underway, my wife and I have been pretty fully occupied lately dealing with all of the logistics necessary to make it all reality — getting our house fixed up, inspected, “staged”, and on the market, getting rid of Stuff We Don’t Need that isn’t worth moving, etc. Our “To Do” list has seemed endless, and yet I know it’s ultimately finite, and we’ve managed to keep checking things off, day by day, so I feel certain we’re getting closer, right?

To keep myself amply motivated through it all, I turn my mind to the tremendous possibilities this necessary effort is opening up. Day One sitting at my desk in my newly appointed home office, ready to create wonderful things, seems a long way off now, but I’m so charged with excitement about it that it’s getting me through the day-to-day tasks necessary to reach my goal — and that kind of focus is exactly what I need.

I’ve added a new tag, “The Venture”, for posts related to this enterprise of mine. I hope to keep them frequent, concise, and interesting, while also resuming posting on my usual range of topics when time allows again (most likely about a month from now). Stay tuned!

Declaring My Independence

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I’m about to make some big changes in my life, and it’s hard to imagine a better occasion to announce them.

After nine challenging, rewarding, and at times arduous years working at a Silicon Valley company that was once a garage startup itself, I’m amicably parting ways with my employer to pursue my own projects as an independent software developer.

I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug for a while now, and a new job for my wife that requires us to move cross-country has had the welcome effect of forcing/facilitating Decision Time. We’ve put our house on the market, and later this month will be moving to lovely Packanack Lake, New Jersey. I’ll have a couple months of working remotely for my previous employer ahead, to tie up loose ends and leave my areas of responsibility in the best shape I can, but come October 1st I’ll be striking off in pursuit of my own American Dream — which, to me, means taking a chance on myself and my ideas and aspirations, embracing risk and challenge, and developing my talents to their fullest, with the hope of producing things that other people find useful, and in the process making the work I love my living. I’m grateful to have enjoyed something close to that in my current job, but this is an opportunity to own the entire creative process from end to end, to challenge and take chances on my own design sense, and to pursue areas of application that serve other markets.

I’m tremendously excited, and am positively chomping at the bit to get started. There are plenty of logistics to take care of between here and Day One, but I feel lighter with the knowledge that I’ve committed to this new course, and that I’m giving myself permission to do the very things I yearn to. I also hope this change will enable me to do more writing here, and I mean to include among that writing the story of my startup venture as it unfolds.

As I set my sights on this Big Dream (and, when I think those words, Bill Whittle’s “Trinity” (part 2 here) is on my mind as having so brilliantly put into words what I feel about it), in the forefront of my thoughts is a deep and abiding appreciation for a culture that, in its very bones, cherishes, celebrates, and strives to exhort exactly this kind of big dreaming. What I’m setting out to achieve is exactly what a culture founded on the individual right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness designed itself for. My gratitude for this opportunity is immense, and I mean to make use of it to achieve great things, while always remembering my debt to those who took tremendous risks before me to make it all possible.

More to come later, but I wanted to share the exciting news. I can’t wait to write more about this new adventure.

Wishing my American friends a very joyous and grateful Independence Day!

At Long Last!

Monday, May 2, 2011

New York Firefighters, Times Square, May 1st, 2011

Hats Off to the "Dudettes"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I’d probably have missed this if not for a post on Ricochet:

Hats off to the flying “Dudettes”, and Godspeed to all our troops and airmen, male and female alike, in harm’s way. I’ll just bet our guys on the ground calling in for air support are just a little extra happy to hear their voices. I love how they appreciate the positive effect that has on morale, while at the same time just doing their job the same as other airmen. My kind of feminism. Rock on.

The Free Frontier: How Private Enterprise Is Winning the Space Race

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bill Whittle, doing what he does best. Does this inspire you like it does me?

The Free Frontier

Bill Whittle: The Free Frontier

Followed up by a great discussion on Trifecta:

Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise Is Winning the Space Race

PJTV: Trifecta: Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise Is Winning the Space Race

The People Are Revolting

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beautifully put:

If the scholarship you most value and reward is that which is intended to shock the bourgeoisie, don’t be shocked when the bourgeoisie decides that they don’t feel like paying for it.

From a very worthwhile post at Instapundit.

(And for those it may amuse: my title reference.)