$20 million to Destroy $11 million of ISIS Trucks and Oil?

This weekend, U.S.-led coalition aircraft destroyed an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks over the weekend in the largest single airstrike this year against the Islamic State’s black market oil trade in Syria.

“You’re going to have multiple effects from this one strike,” Air Force Lt. Gen, Jeffrey Harrigian, commander in the Middle East, said Tuesday. “We’ll have to see what this does to their ability to generate fighters.”

Waves of aircraft destroyed 83 oil tankers sitting in the open in Sunday’s attack.

The attacks were ordered after a pilot spotted some vehicles gathering in Deir ez-Zor province, a key oil-producing region in Syria controlled by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The coalition command sent a surveillance aircraft over the area. The command then quickly directed A-10 attack planes, F-16s and two coalition aircraft, which together launched more than 80 weapons, including bombing and strafing runs, at the vehicles.”

Air-to-ground missiles, A-10’s, F-16’s, drones, satellites, technicians, pilots, all cost money – a lot of money.  One first generation Hellfire missile costs about $100,000; an F-16 costs $165 million each, plus $30,000 per hour to fly; drones cost $100,000+ to build and take a large infrastructure to operate.

I am not saying that we should not use our resources to take out the enemy, just quit warning them ahead of time and hold off on the bragging.  If all we are doing is destroying trucks, it may cost us as much as it costs them.  And are these people our enemies? Do we always fire a few warning shots so the experienced operators and soldiers can escape? Is this some weird video game war? Yes, I am serious:

“In the initial Tidal Wave II strikes last year, the coalition dropped leaflets on oil tankers before launching attacks, encouraging the drivers to flee their vehicles.

New military rules don’t require leaflets to be dropped, but pilots fire warning shots, typically consisting of bombs or rockets that are not aimed directly at the convoy.

“We’ll do that … to give them a chance to run,” Harrigian said.”  Jim Michaels – USA Today

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/08/09/islamic-state-oil-trucks-destroyed-massive-strike/88459864/

Sure, we can outspend ISIS; their $2 billion annual budget is peanuts compared the money we are prepared to spend to put them out of business.  But are we really serious about defeating the enemy?

Advertisements

The DNC Chose Krizr Khan Very Carefully – A Sad Abuse of a Gold Star

As a Vietnam veteran, I honor Captain Khan’s valiant service.  I too was a Captain serving in a foreign war.  My brother spent two tours in Vietnam.  My wife’s 19-year-old brother died in Tet 1968.  I guess we were a Gold Star family too.

I am not in favor of the family or the opposing political candidates using his death as a political platform.  This is a dark use of an honorable man’s tragedy.  Using a Gold Star as a shield for partisan purposes is sad, and verges on disgrace.

I have visited the resting place of my fallen comrades in Arlington Cemetery, I have read and touched the names of people from my life engraved on the vast, black, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall; I have read and support the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights; I support the First Amendment which defends free speech, even when used for such ignoble purposes.

Background:

Both Krizr and Ghazala Khan were born and brought up in Pakistan, he received his bachelor of law degree from Punjab University Law College in Lahore, Pakistan in 1974.  Ghazala taught Persian at a Pakistani college.

Soon after getting his law degree, they moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; their two elder sons, Shaharyar and Humayun, were born there.

There is an unexplained gap in Mr. Khan’s work history; there was no indication on his law firm website of what Mr. Khan did, or where he worked the six years from 1974 to 1980.  Then the family moved to Boston, straight into Harvard Law School.

In 1982, Mr. Khan received his masters of law degree from Harvard.  The family then moved to Maryland; it is not clear where he worked the sixteen years from 1982 to 1998.

1998 to 2007, Krizr managed the Litigation Technology Services group at the international law firm of Hogan & Hartson, Washington, DC, including European and Asian offices.

From 2007 to 2010 he was Director of Law Technology & Electronic Discovery at a major global law firm based in New York.

(Note:  This history seems to conflict with the statement from his speech, “Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed.”  Q:  Why would he put that glib cliche in his speech, when it seems so unlikely to be true?)

The oldest son, Shaharyar, was a top student at the University of Virginia, where he got his PhD in Neuroscience.  He co-founded a biotechnology company, Gencia Corporation, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he serves as Chief Science Officer.  His youngest brother, Omer, currently works at Gencia as a research specialist.  Mr. Khan now works as a legal consultant in Charlottesville, Va.

The second son, Humayun Khan, took ROTC while attending the University of Virginia, and received his commission in the US Army upon graduation in 2000.  In 2004, Humayun died from a suicide car bomb explosion at the gates to the base in Baqubah, Iraq.

Q:  Who killed him?

A:  His enemiesour enemies; the enemies we do not want here in the US.

Perspectives:

  • 3.3 million Muslim immigrants equal .9% of the US population. (365 million)
  • About 6,000 Muslims have served in our military since 9/11, (.27% of the 2.2 million US Military)
  • A total of 14 Muslim US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, (.31% of the 4,424 total deaths)

The Speech:

With this background, here is Mr. Krizr Khan’s DNC speech:

“Tonight we are honoured to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims – with undivided loyalty to our country.

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy; that with hard work and goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.

We are blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.

Our son, Humayun, had dreams too, of being a military lawyer, but he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America’.

If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities; women; judges; even his own party leadership. 

He vows to build walls, and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future.

Let me ask you: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. [he pulls it out] In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’.

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America.

You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division. We are stronger together. And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our President.

In conclusion, I ask every patriot American, all Muslim immigrants, and all immigrants to not take this election lightly.

This is a historic election, and I request to honour the sacrifice of my son – and on election day, take the time to get out and vote.

And vote for the healer. vote for the strongest, most qualified candidate, Hillary Clinton, not the divider. God bless you, thank you.”

Summary:

Statistics certainly do not diminish or relieve the terrible pain of losing a son, or a brother, or any loved one.  Clearly, Humayun was a hero.  But he was a rare example of Muslim participation in our military

The DNC was brilliant in choosing one of the 14 Muslim Gold Star families to represent loyal, patriotic Muslims.  Unfortunately, the presentation implies a larger number of such families, and a larger Muslim participation in our nation’s defense.

It is clear, though, that Mr. Khan, and Mr. Trump have never met; both are assailing each other from the parapets of fixed partisan positions, based in rhetoric and hearsay.

It is sad that a Gold Star is being abused for political leverage.

Tools from Carl Sagan’s BS Detection Kit

We are in an age of hyper-information/persuasion/spin about all aspects of our lives, from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we attend, to whom we choose as leaders.  Now, as always, we can benefit from screening the inputs to our lives, and weighing our beliefs on a scale of clarity, and verity.  Carl Sagan gave us some sage tools to evaluate and detect fallacies of arguments, and false claims.  After the quote, I will try to translate, without bias, his precise language, and references, into reasonably understandable terms.

A. Evaluate Ideas to Approach the Truth:

  1. Wherever possible,there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science, there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument,every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the dataequally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
  1. Avoid Common Pitfalls of Common Sense

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

  1. ad hominem— Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
  2. argument from authority(e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
  3. argument from adverse consequences(e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
  4. appeal to ignorance— the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore, UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  5. special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble(e.g.,How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
  6. begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
  7. observational selection, also calledthe enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
  8. statistics of small numbers— a close relative of observational selection(e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
  9. misunderstanding of the nature of statistics(e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
  10. inconsistency(e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
  11. non sequitur— Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
  12. post hoc, ergo propter hoc— Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
  13. meaningless question(e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
  14. excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
  15. short-term vs. long-term— a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets.  Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
  16. slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g.,If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
  17. confusion of correlation and causation(e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore, education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
  18. straw man— caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
  19. suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or:  These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
  20. weasel words(e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.”