free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.

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All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.

Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Wednesday, April 17, 2002

--- Islamism and Sophomorism ---

New release of old (December?) tape/transcript shows Osama bin Laden crowing about damage inflicted on US by 9/11 attacks. His understanding of the enemy is an amusing mix of knowledge and naivete, properly labeled "sophomoric" (the fundamentalist extreme would be "Sophomorism").

Osama rattles off his analysis of our economic losses ... stock market lost 16% of $4T, worst in its "30 years" (suppose he means NASDAQ) ... USians too depressed to go to work, at $20B/day ... total economic damage around $1T.

[2002-04-18 UPDATE: Foxs News offers this partial translation (other accounts may differ):
capital is $4 trillion ... multiply this number by 16 percent. ... $640 billion. ... equal to the Sudanese budget for 640 years. ... daily national income equals $20 billion. In the first week ... they were shocked and people did not go to work. So if we multiply $20 billion by 7 days, that is $140 billion. Every day, that's because of God's generosity ... add this to $640 billion, we reach almost $800 billion of losses every day
Charming ... though I've heard worse financial analysis from get-rich-quick touts and Social Security privatizers.]

Yeah, some of that happened, for a while. My wish for Osama is that his WSJ kept arriving like clockwork, and that he lived long enough to witness the recovery. At the end of the day, 9/11 was a mere economic ripple. That's gotta hurt a mastermind's ego, maybe even more than TaQ's losing streak.

However, America should hear the echo of their own whining in bin Laden's tone of triumph. Overwrought US reaction to the pinprick attacks of 9/11 sends a message loud and clear to bullies everywhere: "KICK ME".

We presented ourselves as hypersensitive to the ordinary shocks of life in the big leagues ... acted like we're the only ones who ever had a bad day ... nursed imaginary grievances against more sober friends who failed to sign on to our inflated perspectives ... insisted on universal support, even as we insisted "we don't need you, we don't need anybody".

Advertising a low threshold of pain and delicate emotional constitution, we stoked the payoff matrix for every fanatic for every cause for the foreseeable future, enhancing our already-marked stature as the most attractive target on the globe. We played Martyr, and this will cost us dearly in years ahead.

Matter-of-fact, show-em-what-you're-made-of, get-up-and-dust-the-other-guy stoicism would have reduced our future exposure to terrorist incidents. Solemn resolve is by no means foreign to the American character, but I'm afraid hyperbolic lamentation played better in Peoria ... Sophomorism, American style.

In quite another venue, C-SPAN aired Graham Fuller's talk at this week's USNA Foreign Affairs Conference. Fuller is a CIA/RAND greybeard, expert on Middle East, Central Asia, and the Muslim world. You don't want to hear what Fuller has to say.
He'll tell you the world you live in is more complicated than the one you prefer ... "obvious" direct solutions blow up in your face ... not everyone who digs you is your friend, not everyone who dumps on you is your enemy ... you can't do just one thing. The kind of things you always knew were true ... just things you never want to hear. Resist, and he'll bury you in supporting detail.
One especially provocative thesis: By default, Islamic fundamentalists are the vanguard of democracy in their respective settings. Kingdoms, military regimes, one-party democracies can stamp out political movements ... but they can't go in and crush the mosques. All the natural "juice" that flows into asking "why aren't things different from the way things are?" ends up pooling and souring in fundamentalist cellars.

Why hasn't real democracy evolved? For one thing, we never backed it when it stood to pick the wrong guy (cf. Venezuela) -- we had plenty of chances -- and given the lay of the land, it'll almost always pick the wrong guy first.

Meanwhile we sit over here in blogworld, sophomorically asking "why aren't things different from the way things are?".

Overall, Fuller is less than optimistic about where all this goes from here.