Innumerable as the Starrs of Night,
Or Starrs of Morning,
Dew-drops, which the Sun
on every leaf and every flouer
NGC3132 ©
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,
— that is all
Ye know on earth, and all
ye need to know.

E = M

Energy is eternal delight.
William Blake

Impearls: 2005-07-10 Archive

Earthdate 2005-07-11

Picnic at Loch Lomond with the Trowbridges

Loch Lomond from the shoreline (photographer: Tamara Scott)

Science fiction novelist David Trowbridge (co-author of the Exordium series: e.g., The Phoenix in Flight, and blogger of Redwood Dragon); his wife, fantasy novelist Deborah J. Ross (co-author along with Marion Zimmer Bradley of Darkover books such as The Fall of Neskaya); my wife, musician, poet, and TV producer Tamara Lynn Scott, and I all had a most pleasant picnic the other day at that jewel of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Loch Lomond.  See the photograph of Deborah and Dave at the picnic below.

Loch Lomond from the air (click for web page) (Santa Cruz City Water Dept.)

Loch Lomond, a reservoir and recreation area for the city of Santa Cruz, occupies a pristine redwood-filled valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which contains the southernmost of California's coast-redwood forests.  (Click on the image at right to link to the Loch's web page.)  Loch Lomond allows boating and fishing, renting electric boats for the purpose (kayaks and rowboats may also be used) which glide along almost noiselessly, providing a superb vehicle for partaking the lake's sublime ambiance.  Entrance fees for cars, people, and boats are waived after 4:00 p.m. each day, and thus the lake is a terrific resource for county residents and visitors.  I caught five bass within half an hour one fine afternoon a while back, and during the Trowbridges' visit, while hiking along the shoreline, a foot-long trout paced us in the water.

The upper part of the long, relatively narrow lake (over two miles in length) is particularly fine for boating, as the shoreline trails don't extend that far, and early in the season (the Loch is open for visitors from March 1 to September 15 of each year), while the reservoir is at its fullest, creeks flowing into it get flooded far back up their courses.  During such times, boats can glide down moss-covered rock-walled canyons, with herons and ducks swirling round one, transforming the moment into a totally magical experience.

Also, while visiting the Santa Cruz Mountains, don't miss the Roaring Camp narrow-gauge steam railroad, also in Felton, which winds its way among some of the tallest redwoods (potentially the world's tallest trees) in Santa Cruz County.  Impearls has posted about Roaring Camp before.

Deborah Ross, and Dave Trowbridge, and Oka at Loch Lomond (photographer: Michael McNeil)

Saddam's Terrorific Threat

People anti the war in Iraq incessantly make the claim that prior to that war “Saddam Hussein was no threat” to America, nor a threat to his neighbors.  This, I'm afraid, is false, tragically false.  On the contrary, Saddam was a terrific threat to the U.S. and the West.

Saddam at last had gotten sense enough to temporarily put his weapons of mass destruction away and place the Iraqi programs to resurrect same on the back burner.  If Saddam had only taken the next step and been willing to prove to the UN and weapons inspectors (as UN Security Council Resolution 1441 explicitly demanded) that he'd discarded his WMD, the Security Council would certainly have been more than happy to drop the sanctions and release full sovereignty back to Iraq.  Freed from external interference, Saddam could and would thereupon have simply reconstituted his WMD — including nuclear — programs (as the investigations post the Iraq invasion amply demonstrated was his intention), then acquired intercontinental ballistic missiles from, say, the North Koreans, and the Western world and Middle East would really have been in deep shit.

People seem to forget — perhaps they never knew — that Saddam was within a few months of completing his atomic bomb when Gulf War I broke out (and no one at the time dreamed he was that far along).  This meant that since that war he already had the exact plans for the bomb (a synopsis of which was actually published in Aviation Week and Scientific American magazines, if I recall correctly, in the year after the first Gulf War).  Possessing that design, all Saddam needed do was to plug fissionable material (which, post-sanctions, he could either make, or steal from ex-Soviet poorly guarded post-cold war storage facilities) into the probably already built or easily manufactured external matrix for the bomb, and he'd be off and running with nuclear weapons.  Thank God Saddam invaded Kuwait before finishing up his nuclear program!

Ever read Larry Niven's science fiction stories about the “Kzinti” — tiger-like beings with something of a tiger's personality?  In Niven's stories of “Known Space” (e.g., here, here, and here) the Kzinti attacked mankind again and again, with savage viciousness; however, as Larry described them, they lacked patience and always attacked too soon, before they were really ready — and as a result, humanity was able to beat them back, though with tremendous destruction and loss of life each time.  Slowly, however, almost against their very nature, the Kzin finally began to learn to hold off — not so they could have peace (an incomprehensible concept to the aliens), but so they could finally complete their preparations before leaping on their prey.

Saddam's like that.  The great danger to the Middle East as well as to civilized world was that he might have finally learned to be a bit more patient and do what it took to throw off the UN sanctions, then complete his WMD programs and get everything ready — before ultimately leaping.  Fear of that very thing gnawed at me all through the 1990's, and evidence gleaned from thorough investigation following the Iraqi invasion (read the report! see also here) reveals that Saddam almost made that ultimately lethal move.  Overweening pride and hubris kept him from taking the final step of proving to the weapons inspectors that he had discarded his WMD (which he was fully capable of doing if he'd wanted to), and then George W. Bush and the war in Iraq overthrew Saddam's position at the pinnacle of Iraqi power and eliminated that extraordinary risk.  I salute the President for his boldness.

The Real Cause of Islamist Terrorism

People are constantly urging ferreting out the ultimate cause of the wave of terrorism that has erupted out of the Middle East and impacted the West during the last few decades, and one finds the assertion coming from many “antiwar” activists, including prominent Democrats, that it is the policies of the United States and the West in general toward the Muslim world that are largely to blame.

Nowadays, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan receive the onus for the most recent terrorist atrocities; before that it was America's attempt to stabilize Somalia and the stationing of troops in the Muslim “Holy Land” of Saudi Arabia (to protect it from Iraq) that supposedly triggered Bin Laden's attacks on America on 9-11; while yet further back the United States' intervention in Lebanon in the 1980's and other long-past incidents are presumed to have instigated assaults by terrorist groups like Abu Nidal.  This putative “tit for tat” series of retaliatory responses is what (in my view, naive) people call the “cycle of violence” — which, they imply, could be solved simply by one side (America and the West obviously, since the terrorists won't stop) “turning the other cheek,” ending the war and ceasing any “provocations” (like remaining active in the Middle East), while waiting for the furor to die down.

I believe this is completely wrong, and propose another explanation for the escalation in Islamist violence in recent years and decades.  It's quite correct from this point of view that radical Islamists feel threatened.  However, in my humble opinion, it isn't primarily U.S. or Western “policies” as such that are mostly to blame.  Rather, the origin of the Islamist hatred and terroristic response towards the West is the growing globalization and especially the “Global Village” that's been arising round the world for many years as a result primarily of technological innovation.

Islamists and Muslims everywhere are inundated with (what they consider to be decadent) Western — and especially American — culture coming in over their airwaves 24 hours a day by 7 days a week, and which is implicit in every automobile, satellite dish, computer, refrigerator, air conditioner, et al., they import.  They know their own civilization is capable of inventing and making none of these things, and see the brilliant success of Western science, technology, and the trajectory of American and Western culture even moving off the planet into space — Heaven — itself.  Opposed to this, they see their own culture's glaring failures and weakness, and respond to the unbearable humiliation (for a culture and religion that fancies itself the epitome of Creation) with the will and raging desire to destroy the WestThat, in my view, is the real root of the Islamist movements; and even a full withdrawal by America and the West from the Middle East won't solve that problem one iota.


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