Hatcher's Hack

Here and there... mostly there

January 17, 2005

Blog Activities Moved

All my blogging is now being done at Crossroads Arabia, where I try to put Saudi Arabia--its history, culture, and contemporary reforms--into context.

Hope to see you there.

August 13, 2004

A Bullet Dodged

It seems as though we've dodged the bullet in Sarasota. The center of the storm--the eye, which is degrading--is now to the northeast. We're still concerned about bands of weather coming along the back side of Charley, but so far it's been not too bad.

Port Charlotte seems to have gotten really hammered, though. TV is reporting a collapsed nursing home and damage to a firestation, with injuries, just up the street. Emergency services are still hunkered down, though, and won't go out until winds drop to 45 mph, for their own safety.

An emergency shelter in Arcadia--a county east of Sarasota Co.--is reporting a buckled roof. It's not clear whether this is due to winds or rain. And the rains do continue. They're estimating 6-8 inches of rain for the general area. This is going to exacerbate the flooding that already exists, the result of rainstorms over the past couple of weeks.

I am concerned a bit for my brother and sister--and other friends--in Orlando. When they were evacuated out of Tampa, their group resettled in Orlando. Sort of resettling from the frying pan into the fire. That city is looking at major wind and rain over the next few hours.

Damage assessments won't start being done until tomorrow. It's going to be dark before the last of the storm finally passes. It'll be interesting to see how well new houses--built under post-Andrew hurricane codes--fared. It'll be a good test of basic services, too, as SW Florida hasn't had a major storm in nearly 40 years. There's been massive development and construction in the meantime, as well as a population boom. It'll also be interesting to see if buiding regulations for the barrier islands will need revision.

Unless and until something untoward happens, I think I have to call this storm over for my area. I'll pass the blogging on to people like Andrea Harris, who's blogging from Orlando


Charley is inshore now. It's currently moving NE across Charlotte Harbor, about 55 miles south of Sarasota.

The eye of the hurricane is a tightly-wound one, perhaps 20 miles across. That suggests that it's going to miss my area, at least with a direct hit. Winds are gusting here, but there's no obvious damage visible in my immediate area. Rain has been continuing at a steady, heavy pace for the past couple of hours, but it's not as heavy as some of the typical thunderstorms we get during the summer.

So far, so good, at least here. Electricity, phone and cable are still working.

I looked out onto my screened balcony a while ago and found a baby grey squirrel sitting inside, looking out. Damned if I can figure out how he got in. He was clearly more terrified of me than of the storm, so I left him along for about ten minutes. Next time I looked, he was gone.


Charley seems to be fickle. Winds are picking up and now recorded at 145 mph. That moves it into a Cat 4 status.

Along with the windspeed, momentum is also increasing: the storms going to hit perhaps two hours ahead of previous estimates.

It also seems to be veering to the east a bit. If that continues, landfall will be around the Charlotte Harbor area, south of Sarasota and far south of Tampa/St. Pete. If that turns out to be the case, then Tampa Bay will be saved from what are not projected at 15+ foot storm surges. Instead, the wind will be coming from the NE, pushing water out of the Bay.

So far here, we're seeing some gusts, but no continuous winds yet. No rain since this early morning's storm. The sky is completely grey, though, and just pregnant with possibilities.

TV and radio stations are warning that it's too late to try to evacuate now. The best bet is to hunker down, away from windows, and hope you've done your preparation adequately.

Battening the Hatches

Gov. JEB Bush is on the TV now. He's saying that if people haven't already left the area, it's too late. He warns people against using the Interstate highways in the area. People in Pinellas Co.--where Tampa lies--are to stay in the county and seek higher ground. Avoid the highways.

The Skyway Bridge, which arches over the mouth of Tampa Bay, will be open to traffic until winds hit 65 mph; then, it becomes too dangerous.

Warnings, too, that as the wind picks up over the next couple of hours police are going to be seeking shelter for their own safety. They're not going to be cruising around looking for people in trouble.

Local TV is reporting that the Sarasota Co. government is telling people to decide--no later than 1:30pm--where they're going to ride out the storm. After that, it'll be too dangerous to move around.

Right now, there's no rain near my home. Winds are starting to rise, though. A band of storms came through around 4:00am, waking me with lots of thunder and lightning, as well as a lot of horizontal rain.

It seems things are quiet for now... simply waiting for the shoe to drop.

Other hurricane links

Weatherbug is blogging out of the Tampa area. His blog is meteorologically based and a very interesting read.

Instapundit is linking to bloggers covering the storm. And, to respond to his query, "No, I'm not sticking around to blog the storm and put myself in danger." I'm actually about as safe as I can be and still be in the area. I expect to lose electricty--and thus the ability to blog--long before I lose a roof.

The National Hurricane Center is the definitive website to go for things related to hurricanes. They issue all the warnings, so obviously you'll find them readily at the site. Also great links to various plots, predictions, and imagery--visible light bands, infra-red, etc.

Local news organizations are covering it as well. Take a look at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. They have links to SNN-Local 6, a cable channel that has excellent storm information and coverage.

Hurricane Charley

Instapundit.com: asks"Is anybody blogging this down there?"

Well, yes, I am...

I'm sitting in Sarasota. All of the barrier islands like Longboat Key and Siesta Key have been evacuated. All the mobile homes, RVs and trailer parks are empty. They estimate that some 300,000 people have been moved out of harm's way along the SW Florida coast.

The Florida communities have hurricane evacuation plans, of course. They plot the terrain of the area and match it up with various intensities of hurricanes, thus designating areas that need to be evacuated in the event of a storm. Starting at Category 1, this includes all the beachfront, of course, but also areas around rivers, inlets, and bays.

Evacuation is mandatory. And while the cops are unlikely to ticket people who stay, they are telling them that the police and rescue people aren't going to be expending much effort to save their asses if they get stuck. The Fire Departments are moving all of their equipment off the islands to safety. The cops are leaving too, for their own safety.

I'm in a good place: even with a Cat 5 hurricane (think Floyd or Andrew), my apartment isn't in an evacuation zone. In fact, about a block away is a hurricane shelter. And since I'm on the second floor, I probably don't have to worry about flooding. Assuming, of course, that the roof stays on and the windows don't blow in.

Right now, projections are for the storm to start picking up locally around noon, with winds rising toward 50 mph. Around 8:00pm, though, we should be getting full hurricane force winds of over 74 mph, possibly as high as 115.

There was some dancing around yesterday trying to determine exactly where Charley would make landfall. Sarasota seemed a good bet, but the high-altitude jet stream seems to be playing a role in taking the storm on a more northernly route. While the storm will definitely pass over us, it seems headed straight toward Tampa Bay, about 40 miles north of Sarasota.

That's going to be unpleasant for those who live around the bay... the expected storm surge is 8-14 feet. Shorefront is going to be synonymous with "underwater" by midnight.

This will be my first Florida hurricane. I've been through the brunt of others, but I've always been pretty far inland. I recall Agnes, which hammered the East Coast in 72 and nearly killed my wife-to-be in a movie theater in DC, when the water load on the roof weakened the supports for a multi-ton chandelier that came crashing down into the middle of the cinema. I recall, too, Carol, in 1954--the 14th most economically damagine hurricane in the US--that wreaked havoc in New England. My youngest brother was born during that one.

Having lived along the East Coast for most of my US-based life, I'm well aware of other storms, like the "New England" hurricane of 1938 that smashed Rhode Island and parts of New York (6th most damaging). And another about then that washed away the town of Harper's Ferry, WV, resulting in that place's becoming a national park.

So, a Cat 3 seems exciting, but not life-threatening in my particular circumstances. I expect to feel other impacts, though.

I strongly suspect that electricity will be out, perhaps for as much as several days (anyone know of a hand-crank generator cum broadband modem?). Blogging will probably halt.

Water will be iffy. I'm pretty well prepared, I think, but I noticed that by 4:00 yesterday the supermarkets were out of bottled water. In Florida, bottled water takes an enormous swath of aisle space, even more than breakfast cereals. Completely empty.

Local News announced, at 0030 this morning, that a major Wal-Mart depot store had just received a new shipment of both water and generators and that they'd be open all night. So hurry on down!

Learned a few new things, too...

The water supply systems for the barrier islands are being shut down to prevent damage. And for three days after the storm passes, people will need to boil their drinking water there. While I've experienced the boiling water routine with hurricanes elsewhere, I'm interested to note that this is simply routine for here.

Something that struck me--as a newish FL resident--was the warning to pet owners: Keep your animals indoors after the storm passes. High water tends to push snakes an alligators out of their own habitat and into your own.

Not having a boat, I'm not personally concerned about how to deal with one during a hurricane, but it's interesting anyway. Seems quite a few people live on their boats around here. Some are tying and anchoring their boats and heading to shelters; others are going to try to ride it out and hope their moorings hold. Cruise liners, gambling boats and commercial vessels are leaving Tampa Bay and intended to ride the storm out in deeper waters in the Gulf.

Local airports are shutting down at noon, but the carriers--particularly US Airways--are more cautious. They've simply stopped flying to/from them.

An odd note:

I lived and worked in Thailand in the late 60s, while still a teen. My younger brothers and sister went to school there, at the International School of Bangkok. Seems that group had scheduled a multi-year reunion this weekend, at St. Petersburg Beach. I was planning on driving up tomorrow to join the group, just to see friends from a long time ago.

Not going to happen...

Some of the group flew in to find that the hotel was under evacuation orders. Others flew in to find that the hotels were already empty. The group made a decision to relocate to Orlando, well inland, and hopes to return to St. Pete Beach tomorrow. I don't think so.

My sister got to St. Pete on Thursday and was involved in the efforts to relocate to Orlando. My younger brother flew in last night and, learning that the hotel was closed, made a few calls, rented a car and drove off to Orlando to join them.

If Charley miraculously misses the area, I suppose the show can go on, and I'll drive up tomorrow. Not likely, I fear.

Speaking of the "show going on": It seems that the US Postal Service isn't delivering any mail today and all the post offices are closed. So much for "wind and dark, sleet and hail" I guess. Maybe in the past we just had dumber postmen? Or fewer litigators?

That's all for now. I'll try to keep up an hourly-0r-so posting until the electricity quits.

July 25, 2004

USS Clueless - Just do it

USS Clueless - Just do it

Steve den Beste, blogger at USS Clueless, has a very good article up. He talks about the difference between what is desirable and what is feasible. The context is discussion about CIA infiltration of Al Qaeda, but he takes it further into the realm of engineering as well.

While I don't always agree with den Beste, he's right on the mark with this one. RTWT.

July 22, 2004

Incredible site

A peculiar site, panoramas.dk has an absolutely incredible set of pictures, all, of course, in panorama format. The one linked above is to the Apollo 17 mission to the moon. Check it out.

July 20, 2004

What the hell could he have been thinking?

Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor, walks off with classified documents while preparing for congressional testimony for the 9/11 hearings. He returns most, but managed to lose some.

This happened earlier in the year, if not late last year. In the meantime, he signs on as a foreign policy advisor to John Kerry.

Berger knows a few things. He knows that you don't walk out with, or lose, classified documents.

He knows that if you've got skeletons in your closet, you want to stay as far away as possible from politicians you might want to help.

And he also knows that covering up--or appearing to cover up--is death in politics these days.

So what was the man thinking?

And what were Kerry people doing not vetting Berger? Even when you buy a house, you do a title search, no matter how much you like the house.

No accounting for taste

There's a really remarkable article over at Mainichi Daily News about flavors of ice cream in Japan. While I have a very catholic approach to food, some of these are just incredibly strange. Take a look, but maybe not while eating lunch.

July 19, 2004

Sunspot activity hits 1,000-year high

New research out of Switzerland is saying that the sun has had a sustained high in sunspot activity for the past 60 years, having started to increase over the past 100-150 years.
One of the big questions about global warming has always been the role of solar radiance on temperature change. To date, there's not been a whole lot of research on it; it's certainly never been used in any of the modeling used to re-create global warming.
It's tempting to say, "Hmmm... just about the time of the increase in global temperatures, the sun starts getting more active". And I will say it. It looks pretty interesting. But it could be coincidental. There's not enough data in to really tell. The British paper The Telegraph, I think, is jumping the gun a tad.
This is most certainly a story that needs to be followed. After all, it can't be true that an increase in industrialization--and concomitant air pollution--is causing sunspot activity on the sun!

July 16, 2004

Poor ole' Bobby Fischer...

At one time, Bobby Fischer held a large part of the world in thrall. A genius, a chess prodigy, a Grand Master at the age of 15. His international championships were--it's hard to believe--compelling TV.
But then he quite simply lost his mind.
He also got himself sideway with UN resolutions and US laws concerning economic sanctions against the former Yugoslavia, when he went there for a chess match against Boris Spassky.
He also became an unrelenting anti-Semite, applauding the 9/11 disaster as something that American Jews brought on themselves.
In any event, the US cancelled his passport. When Fischer went to use it to leave Japan, where he'd been hiding for a while, he got grabbed at the airport. Japan will likely extradite him to the US. And we're likely to be hearing some incredible rants in the near future as he faces the courts.

July 13, 2004

Don't sit there like a fat lump

because fat, apparently, isn't sitting there doing nothing!

An article in the July 11 Washington Post reviews current research on fat and finds that it's dynamic, changing the signals it sends out in response to the environmental cues it's receiving. Worth reading, even if it might complicate the review below.

Terrifically funny book

Just finished reading--in one sitting--Steve Graham's Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man. What can I say other than this is one of the funniest books I've read in a very long time!

Utterly un-PC, the book is a rebellion against the "food police". Graham, like I, seems to have missed that election where the country voted to "live longer; live more miserably". But, seeing that we're both residents of Florida, that could have happened.

Graham, who blogs Hog on Ice is just hysterically funny. I was laughing out loud throughout the book, whether it was his impromptu discourses into dialogue (like the riffing on 2001: A Space Odyssey as he confronts his automated stove, or praising Belgians for their beer and waffles, he definitely looks at life askance.

His recipes--this is a cookbook, after all--are pretty decent, too. While my kitchen's a bit small to try some of his extravaganzas at the moment, they all look reasonable, at least from the cooking angle. From the health angle? Well, let's just say that 500 calorie brownies only touch the tip of the iceberg. Can you say "bacon grease", Karl? It seems to be one of the basic ingedients to almost everything in the book. And why not?

I note that Amazon is bundling this book with Hardy & Clarke's Michael Moore is a Great Big Fat White Man. This is a pretty good combination for those who are fed up with being told what to believe, how to eat, and how not to bother thinking.

Heartily recommended for reading--and eating--purposes.

***** Five stars!

July 12, 2004

Not so fast...

This post is republished from about just a year ago. In looking it over while revitalizing this blog, I decided that it's still germane and still accurate. This blog will be doing less reporting on the Middle East: you can find my stuff on Saudi Arabia at my Crossroads Arabia site. This blog will be more domestically oriented, and a lot more opinionated.

Den Beste's Strategic Overview is a pretty amazing document. It clearly took a lot of time and work, though gauging by other "USS Clueless" blog entries, logorrhea is part of the Den Beste package.

What's most amazing about it is that it is so wrong. Here and there, there are obvious facts, recycled from other neo-con blogs, from materials found on the MEMRI website, and regurgitated factoids from a limited range of readings on the Middle East. What it lacks is any sense of the real Middle East or Islamic world. Third-hand information just doesn't hack it here, but it's all Den Beste has to offer.

From the viewpoint of the West, Arab culture is clearly in an eddy of the currents of history. From the Arab point of view, though, it's a somewhat different and more complicated story.

Den Beste wants Muslims to acclaim separation of church and state, to immediately see its inherent superiority. Funnily enough, Muslims don't quite see it that way. They cannot imagine--most of them--a world in which the church does not play a central role in life, political and social. They can't see why one would want to put a distance between man and God, particularly when God gave them clear guidelines on how to live political and social lives. While I personally think the separation of church and state, as well as disestablishment, is among the finest elements of the American Constitution, this American recognition did not spring up from nowhere. It took time for us to get there, as well as a lot of bad experiences that ranged over centuries.

That's not been the case in the Islamic world. Until recently, the Islamic state worked pretty well. People of various ethnic groups (as well as religious groups) generally got along. There were few internecine wars--and almost none of them gravitated around religion. People got on with their lives in a clearly understood world.

Now, that's not working so well. But it's not going to be changed with a dose of salts administered by the Den Bestes of the world. It is only going to come from internal change. That change will not take centuries, but it will probably take decades.

Den Beste's rant on "collective failure" is heavily qualified: he knows he doesn't have the facts, but maybe he can get by with a casual smear. Well, he can't.

Yes, parts of the Islamic world are blessed with mineral wealth, particularly petroleum. But most aren't. Yes, that was clearly a matter of luck, the same luck that saw Pennsylvania and Texas get 19th Century economic jump-starts. Most of the Arab oil states, though, used that luck to try and build modern infrastructures for their people: schools, roads, hospitals, drinking water, etc. Some, like Iraq, built armies instead. Secular Iraq, please note. Secular Iran under the Shah, please note. You don't read about vast Saudi, Qatari, Emirati and Indonesian armies for a reason; they didn't build huge armies.

As for contributions to international science and engineering, you only have to look in the right places. Many Arab and Muslim scientists have made great marks, most often when working in more developed Western laboratories. But even within the Muslim world, strides are being made. The world's first uterine transplant was first accomplished this year, in Saudi Arabia. A look at the King Faisal Award winners. (this link cites current winners, but can link back to earlier ones) might shed some light. But maybe not...

No arts and letters? I guess that depends where you look, too. Plastic arts are not prevalent in the Muslim world, particularly as they are religiously prohibited. But for every Orthodox Jewish sculptor Den Beste cares to name, I can come up with the name of a Muslim of equal renown.

No literature? Well, discounting a Nobel Prize in Literature won by the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz a few years back, Den Beste is on stronger ground. But maybe part of that is because, amazingly, Arab writers write in Arabic, which is what their readers read. There's not a whole lot of translation from Arabic going on. It took me a while to figure out that "Most famous Muslim writer" meant Salman Rushdie. Rushdie, an Indo-Pakistani, was born Muslim, but is not Muslim other than in name. He lives in the West and writes in English. He wrote a tendentious book that fed the growing flames of Islamic fundamentalism. Most Islamic countries simply banned the book. Iran decided to issue a fatwa, which has since been rescinded. But who says he's the "most famous?" According to whom? He writes for Western audiences, not Middle Eastern, Arab or Muslim audiences. If the measure of importance is its place on the NY Times best-seller list, then I guess there aren't any Arab books of importance.

It's nice to see innocent minds at work, sometimes. But Den Beste's idea that the Middle East is important only because it has oil is simply naive. He may want to take a little look at a map sometime, and then talk to a logistician involved in moving USAF planes around the world. And while he may think little of the religion of 1.8 billion people, he may want to ask them about the "diplomatic relevance" of Mecca and Medina.

Den Beste has a little too high an opinion of the U.S.: America is not the enemy of Islam. It is, however, the symbol of the enemy. The enemy is a culture that goes face-to-face with another culture that has somehow managed to exist successfully for some 1,400 years. That culture, Islamic culture, has had its ups and downs; right now, it's pretty down. But a culture trying to hold onto its values in the face of external change isn't something to simply dismiss. Cultural changes take time and, again, they have to take place from within. Changes can be encouraged from outside, they can be rewarded from outside. But they must first be identified from inside and then modified. Change is not easy for anyone. But it only happens quickly in instances of total conquest. While Den Beste hints around at this, it's pretty clear that he hasn't thought it out well. Let's see what happens in Iraq first. Let's see how long the U.S. and what partners we can get stick around to make sure the changes are permanent before we take on a third of the globe.

I have no idea where Den Beste gets his ideas about Islam. It's clear he's read a few books, but he could expand his reading list beyond the narrow one he evinces. He might try reading what some Muslims have to say about it. Or, he could even look at what some more-or-less disinterested Westerners have written. I strongly recommend Maxim Rodinson's Muhammad for a start. As a Marxist atheist, Rodison doesn't have any parochial axes to grind.

The Arab and Muslim world is every much undergoing a "clash of civilizations", but not the capitalized one that Samuel Huntington proffers Instead, it is a much more traditional clash, where new methods and philosophies successfully challenge existing modes of life and thought. We've seen it in the Arab world before, witness the Mahdi in Sudan. But we see it also in the Ghost Dance of the 19th Century American Plains or the Christian re-awakenings of early and late 20th Century America. We see it in the cargo cults of the South Pacific as well as in the religious cults of Czarist Russia.

The old ways aren't working anymore, so something must be wrong. One of the time-honored ways of countering cultural clashes is getting back to that "old time religion", i.e. "fundamentalism". It's exactly what the Hindu fundamentalists in India are doing right now. It's also what Islamic, Jewish and Christian fundamentalists are attempting.

This is not a successful strategy primarily because it harkens back to a golden age that never was. But that does not stop people from trying. No amount of external "enlightenment" will get them over the hump, either. "Enlightenment at the end of a two-by-four", I'm sure plays into Den Beste's idea of a muscular foreign policy. But only time and experience will provide a solution.

Far too much is made of the idea of cultural "jealousy". The Arab states don't have major problems with modernity. They want it and they can get it easily enough. They just don't want the cultural baggage that seems to be attached to it in the West. Things like pornography, domestic violence, rape, high murder rates, and disrespect for authority are all things they'd rather avoid. So far, they've managed to avoid them pretty well, but they're losing the battle and they know it. If they can find a way to separate the good of modernization from the bad of Westernization, they'd like to do that. They're trying to find that way and doing a mixed job of it.

I'll forgo commenting on Den Beste's little fugue into the world of security affairs. He's reading it from the neo-con text, so I won't hold him personal responsible, even if it's simplistic beyond utility. His analysis of the whys and wherefores of the war in Iraq are just the usual tripe pulled off websites. And it's a bit churlish to ignore coalition partners like Poland and the Czech Republic who were there from the start.

Where Den Beste's "analysis" of the Middle East is most uninformed by experience, though, is in his ideas about Palestinian-Israeli issues. Whether he likes it or not, this is the issue that drives anti-American sentiment in the region, as he could learn from any amount of time spent with Arabs. Trying to de-link it is nonsense. The problem is that there are two people trying to share a single piece of ground. Like it or not, the people who call themselves Palestinians were there in large numbers, sharing the lands with a very small Jewish population in the 1930s and 40s.

Arabs simply do not like the fact that their Arab cousins got shoved off their land by another group, mostly European. It was not, as Zionist propaganda of the time put it, "A land without people for a People without a Land". Arabs don't understand why they had to pay for the crimes committed against European Jews in Europe, by Europeans. And as an object lesson, they did learn in the late 1940s that terrorism can be a successful policy; it worked very well for the Stern Gang, after all.

But the Arab world, excepting a few zealots (a nice Biblical word), have faced reality: they know that Israel is here to stay. But they don't like it, nor will they like it for a long time. They truly feel victimized by the imposition of an alien state in their midst. They will begrudgingly accept Israel as a neighbor.

But for most Arabs, it is not the politics that count, per se. What does matter is what the see in their daily newspapers and satellite TV: pictures of Palestinian children torn apart physically by weapons either made in Israel or the U.S. Those pictures say more than the traditional thousand words: they speak of horror.

I know fully well that the horror extends to Israeli children and others caught up in the suicide bombings, but we do not see those pictures. I doubt that the Arab media would be much inclined to show casualties of the "enemy" but my point is that those pictures are not even available. We in the West don't want to see dead bodies (witness the editorial tizzy surrounding showing pictures of the dead Uday and Qusay). When a bomb goes off in Israel, the area is cordoned off to the media for a two-block radius. At most, we see pictures of body bags and a blood stain. But in the U.S., we don't even want that much.

Sept. 11 is a telling example. On the 11th, TV ran pictures of people falling or jumping from the WTC. By Sept. 12, those pictures were deemed "inappropriate" and were taken off the air. The only body we saw was that of Father Michal, carried by the firemen he served. No blood, no body parts, nothing too ugly. In terms of imagery, Sept. 11 was antiseptic.

But Muslims seem to have a different attitude toward death: once a person dies, what is left is pure matter; there is no spiritual essence left. Thus, a body can be shown to make a political point. And they are shown, often and widely. Arab media, as well as the Internet, and e-mailed Power Point presentations, have no qualms about showing pictures that could never be shown in the West. Children with large parts of their heads missing; little girls with their brains and guts spread across the street; babies with bullet holes in their backs. In the face of these pictures, there is just no place for political discourse. There is room only for anger, rage and frustration.

The Arab media have done a bad job in achieving either objectivity or the education of their readership and viewers. They go instead for the emotive and they hit that target consistently. Is this wrong? Only in the sense that it does not tell the full story. What story it tells, though, is real and honest. This is at least one, true part of the story of what goes on in Palestinian areas. I'm sure we'd all rather that the story be balanced by the terror, horror and tragedy of both sides. That will happen one day, but not today.

Media in the Arab world are not the state-controlled entities they were even ten years ago. The Internet and satellite TV have seen to that. It is no longer possible to control information; information is free of political restraint in almost every sense. Arab journalists still have to contend with petty bureaucracies, there's no doubt. But more than state pressure, there is popular pressure on what and how they report. People on the whole don't want "bad news" whether they're in the U.S. or Arabia. They don't want to be daily challenged in their assumptions and beliefs. Adventurous journalists have more to fear from disgruntled readers than they do state control.

The Arab world is in crisis, as is the Muslim world. They have let antiquated political structures run too long, unchallenged and unchanged. But there is also incredible ferment in those worlds today. Women are demanding greater say in their lives and politics. Parents are insisting on good, broad educations. There are steps being taken, even in the most traditional of Arab societies, to make government more representative, transparent and responsible. Whether these steps are enough is still in question.

There is terrific societal inertia to be overcome. People are mostly happy doing things the way they've always done them, accepting change when it was clearly in their benefit. The benefits of modernization are not always clear, though, and people react to change they believe is being imposed from above or outside. Time, education and experience will provide the answers.

What should not be in question, though, is the ability of the U.S. to simply come in and enforce change in favorable directions.