27 November 2002

Posted by aog at 17:09 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Holiday

As mentioned, I'm off on a family vacation. I'll be back on Tuesday.

Posted by aog at 17:06 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Pondering the Saudi question

Could President Bush be so clever as to want to take out the Saudi Entity but not have his fingerprints on it? Are the current revelations about Saudi fundin for terrorists a mechanism to have Congress force Bush to lay down some smackie on the Saudis? Or maybe their luck has finally run out.

But an interesting speculation is, why would the Saudis have done this funding in such a simple way (not even a cutout between the Princess and the Al-Quaeda supporter? I could come up with a better plan than that)? I am beginning to think that the Saudis have an inflated idea of the power of the US. I suspect that they funded the Calipharians to pay them off, assuming that that bunch of rag-tag loonies would never actually really accomplish anything significant. Then, suddenly, they did and it was too late to clean things up. Otherwise it's hard to believe the combination of hubris and stupidity involved.

26 November 2002

Posted by aog at 22:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

What others are saying

A few good articles.

The first is on the roots of judenhass in Arab / Muslim culture. Although they picked up some decorations from Europe, the infrastructure was already there.

The second one is about what the problems in Nigeria mean for the co-existence of the West and Islam. Andrew Sullivan also weighs in.

Posted by aog at 22:10 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Percieved Risk

We'll be traveling over Thanksgiving to visit some friends of the better half. Of course, I can't help thinking of this post by the Daily Pundit concerning SAMs being used to bring down commercial airliners on the day before Thanksgiving.

The interesting question is should this affect my travel plans? Suppose I knew for a fact that an airliner was going to crash the day I'm flying. Should I not fly that day? But whenever we drive somewhere on a holiday, we know for a fact than many cars on the road will in fact crash and some of the people in those cars will die, others will be maimed for life. Yet we drive anyway. Should flying be different? Is it that I can significantly shift the odds when I drive by, for instance, not drinking, driving during the day, not speeding, etc., but I can't have any effect on the odds of a plane crash? I've certainly done riskier things in my life than a one in 10 or 20 thousand of dieing.

What else comes to mind is what would be the reaction if the Calipharians actually did bring down some flights. I would think that that would bring some enormous pressure on the Bush administration to do something, anything. What would happen to the Saudi Entity if this occured while the story of Saudi support for Al Quaeda was already in the news? There is probably some limit to the forbearance of the American populace, at which point the real dogs of war would be unleashed.

Just some cheery thoughts before the holiday weekend.

Posted by aog at 20:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Must stop reading headlines

Here's another one from the International Herald Tribune (has the NYT already siezed editorial control?). Headline: "Democracy has won out in Austria". The actual content is by Anne Applebaum, who is normally a good writer, and concerns Jorg Haider's big drop in the recent national elections in Austria. I thought "why does Haider's loss make it a victory for democracy? Isn't it the fact of every one accepting the results of the election the actual victory? How could Applebaum write that?". Of course, she didn't. That conclusion or statement is nowhere made in the actual article. But we mustn't let that interfere with making editorial comments in the headlines.

Posted by aog at 20:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

No media bias here!

Consider this article from ABC news with its headline

Two Palestinians killed after Israeli missile hits house in Jenin
and first sentence
An Israeli air-to-ground missile has hit a house in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank killing two Palestinian militants
The fact that even the Palestinians have confirmed that the two were commanders in organizations that have committed multiple mass murder by suicide bomb attacks seems to have escaped the attention of the headline writer. As for the Israelis, all I have to say is "Nice shooting, guys. Can we buy you another round?"

25 November 2002

Posted by aog at 15:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Reading Andrew Sullivan

I have to comment on some items in the Daily Dish (closest perma link).

First, Sullivan says

the fusion of the multi-culti left and the medieval religious right - a fusion that threatens the very future of a free and democratic Europe
I have to go with Orin Judd on this one, and say you can't threaten something that's already dieing. Like AIDS, this is just an opportunistic disease of underlying failure of the immune system. Sullivan then points out the bizarre relationship between western liberals and the Calipharians:
What would they [Calipharians] do to women who live sexual lives of their own choosing or gay men who do not live in fear or shame is obvious: we would be exterminated. Got that? That's why it's simply incredible to me that socially liberal Americans do not find this war to be of paramount concern
Sullivan then quotes a long tract from the alledged "letter from Osama" about how America is a nation of sexual deviance, using Clinton as the prime example. Sullivan says
If a domestic member of the Christian right had said this, the Left would be all over them. But when Islamists say it, we look the other way
I think that Sullivan's right that Falwell and Swaggart have said roughly the same thing as this particular quote and been pounded for it by the same people who wave this off.

I don't know if this letter is really from Osama bin Laden, but I don't think it matters. If his followers believe it, as they appear to, it might as well be true from our point of view - the actual provenance is irrelevant (at points I wonder if it isn't a too clever by half parody). As for the western liberals who don't see a problem, I wonder if this is because the danger is not real to them, secure in their belief that it can't happen here. It's like the "artists" who "transgress" - what they enjoy is the same safe thrill. For isn't supporting the Calipharians roughly the same thing (and same level of intelligence) as most transgressive "art" - opposition for the sake of opposition, an attack "middle America"? Or is it that as the Left collapses, its dreams of a perfect society leaving death and decay across the planet, there is a a feeling of "let it burn" - apres moi, le deluge?

Posted by aog at 10:13 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Cargo Cult Politics

The better half was listening to a local radio station while driving and heard some locl lefty talking about education. The startling bit was that the left claimed that diversity efforts in education had failed because they were still all taught the pedagogy. I thought, "gosh, that's a right-leaning thing to say". Which lead to thinking, when did that change? Wasn't one of the key goals of Left thought in the 50's and 60's breaking out of the putative group think that gripped the nation? How is it that conservative thought is more supportive of real diversity? Perhaps it was inevitable - the Left has really been about easy solutions to hard problems since its founding and handling diverisity by counting skin tones while suppressing incorrect thoughts is definitely the easy solution to racial / cultural disharmony.

Which brings me to cargo cults. It seems that the Left saw the power and glory of ordered liberty without grasping the real underpinnings that make it possible. Like the cargo cults, they worship the form but appear to have no conception that this form is sustained by much more complex social and governmental forms. And like the cargo cults, the absense of success (the endless series of failing states and societies) brings not re-assessment but redoubled effort. It easier to work harder at the same thing that admit error and change. But error will always be with us, so systems that don't recover from it are doomed to fail in the long run.

Posted by aog at 08:31 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

International Law Watch 9

This is an interesting editorial in the New York Times. It takes my point of view that laws that are normative (rather than proscriptive) aren't real laws. In this particular case, he argues that

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Charter provisions governing use of force are simply no longer regarded as binding international law
Why?
lawyers would have pointed out that, since 1945, dozens of member states have engaged in well over 100 interstate conflicts that have killed millions of people.

This record of violation is legally significant. The international legal system is voluntary and states are bound only by rules to which they consent. A treaty can lose its binding effect if a sufficient number of parties engage in conduct that is at odds with the constraints of the treaty

This gets the heart of what I"ve contended from the start - it's not enough to have laws on the books - if the law is not enforced, it's not really law.

UPDATE: InstantMan is on the case. He provides a hard copy cite: Prof. Michael Glennon, The Fog of Law: Self-Defense, Inherence, and Incoherence in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, 25 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 539 (2002). Here's the money quote, what I would have if I had the skill:

The international system has come to subsist in a parallel universe of two systems, one de jure, the other de facto. The de jure system consists of illusory rules that would govern the use of force among states in a platonic world of forms, a world that does not exist. The de facto system consists of actual state practice in the real world, a world in which states weigh costs against benefits in regular disregard of the rules solemnly proclaimed in the all-but- ignored de jure system. The decaying de jure catechism is overly schematized and scholastic, disconnected from state behavior, and unrealistic in its aspirations for state conduct.

23 November 2002

Posted by aog at 23:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Defaults vs. Dogma

One of the difficulties I have at work that seems to have relevance here is that of defaults vs. dogma. I frequently tell people "you should do X", assuming that they'll take that as a default and do X unless they have some specific reason to otherwise. But unfortunately it often gets taken as dogma, meaning "always do X, regardless of the situation" which is generally a recipe for failure. Thinking about the last post on the FFF I realized that it was the same problem. The way the author expected the US to deal with Iraq was an excellent default, but it fails when applied as dogma. And the difference is context, whether the specific situation calls for a different approach. Yes, the default case should be that the US doesn't override sovereignity of other nations, etc. But in some cases it's what we have to do.

Of course, with some co-workers I have the opposite problem where my advice is disregarded not for any reason specific to the issue at hand, but because the co-worker just couldn't be bothered. This is just the opposite polarity of the dogma case and just as successful. I expect them to use my recommended default in the absence of countervailing facts, so it's more than just a recommendation. In the same way, the burden must always be on those who argue to not respect the rights of other nations, the US should always behave as a good and friendly neighbor unless there is a specific and powerful reason related to that nation. In the case of Iraq, there are plenty, the most compelling of which is the consistent and willful violation of agreements with other nations and the UN in general and the US in specific.

I realize that it's a little harder to have a default and not a dogma, because one must make value judgements. And it's harder than doing whatever feels good at the time because one has to have some restraint. But it's the only way to succeed.

Posted by aog at 23:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Policing one's own community

Time for my first Fisking, and to demonstrate I will do a newletter from a hard-core libertarian organization, Future of Freedom Foundation, to which I regularly donate money. For a while after 9/11, they belabored the false trade off of security vs. freedom, asking important questions about whether the new government power would actually provide additional security. However, lately they've gone a bit loopy.

The most recent newsletter contains an article on the no-fly zones in Iraq.

The Embarrassment and Illegality of the No-Fly Zones by Jacob G. Hornberger

President Bush's "zero tolerance" for Iraqi violations of UN resolutions has apparently dropped to "two percent tolerance." According to administration officials, Iraqi forces have once again fired on U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zones in Iraq, which U.S. officials had previously claimed would constitute an immediate justification for invading Iraq, not only under the principle of "self-defense" but also for violation of the recently passed UN resolution.

Perhaps Bush isn't a complete warmonger and has some goal other than naked imperialism. Maybe the Iraqis shouldn't shoot at US planes? But as we shall see, the idea that Iraq's actions or decision have any significance is consistently disregarded. Decisions about the actions of the US always take place in some kind of theoretical vacuum.
The Bush administration, however, is backing off and so far is not using the shootings as a "self-defense" excuse to invade Iraq, and so far isn't even taking the matter to the UN Security Council.
Because the UNSC is committed to viewing things in favor of Iraq and has already declared that it doesn't matter. Why waste time like that? If it weren't for the vacuum you would have heard that.
There's a very good reason for the government's decision: Despite their mild protestations to the contrary, U.S. officials know that the no-fly zones have been illegal from the get-go. And their decision not to use either "self-defense" or violation of the UN resolution as a justification for invading Iraq is an implicit acknowledgment of that illegality.
Uh, no. As for an implicit acknowlegement, see above. It's bizarre that someone who not so long ago saw the UN as the mouthpiece of the transational progressives suddently sees them as an objective body of judgement. And what makes the no-fly zones illegal? We won the '91 war, offered terms to Iraq which they proceeded to violate "from the get-go". Oh, but wait - that's outside the vacuum - can't use it to influence decisions.
The no-fly zones were unilaterally established by the U.S. government after the Persian Gulf War, supposedly to enforce UN resolutions on Iraq. There was one big problem, however: The United Nations never authorized the no-fly zones to be established.
The UN never OK'd General Schwartzkopf's battle plan either, is that illegal as well? Is the claim that if the UN (or even the UNSC) doesn't sign off on every detail, then it doesn't count as enforcing a UN resolution? Many of us who are not enamored of the UN consider that US to have been at war with Iraq and therefore it is a decision of the US how to end hostilities. Not to mention that the no-fly zones were established to prevent mass slaughter. The zones wouldn't have been necessary if the US hadn't reneged on its implied promises to those who rose up against Saddam Hussein in the north and south of Iraq. Keeping contracts is something a libertarian should understand. But again, that would be taking notice of the actions of nations other than the US. Perhaps the US shouldn't have made such promises, but that's not what you're arguing here.
U.S. officials have always claimed that the U.S. government, as a member of the United Nations, has the right to unilaterally enforce any resolution of the United Nations. Such a position, however, is patently fallacious. Enforcement of an organization's rules and regulations belongs to the organization itself, not to each and every individual member of the organization.
Fine. The U.S. government also claims the right to unilaterally enforce any resolution of the U.S. government via its treaties with other nations, including the cease-fire agreements with Iraq. Of course, the basic argument is patently fallaious since the UN has no capability of enforcing its resolutions except by individual members of the organization.
Several years ago, the U.S. government knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately imposed an illegal embargo against Nicaragua. The case reached the World Court, which ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States. As part of its judgment, the World Court awarded reparations to Nicaragua
Now it's the World Court, which again I don't remember you being a big fan of previously. I fail to see how a libertarian thinks that the World Court even has standing in this regard. If the US prevents its citizens from trading with Nicaragua, that may be illegal but only within the US - no external body has jurisdiction over that. And isn't refusing to traded with someone a classic libertarian response to moral transgressions rather than legal ones? I.e. if I think someone is scum, I shouldn't attack them I should simply not interact (e.g. trade) with them. It's also sad to see a libertarian siding with a corrupt, oppressive immoral communist government. As if the Nicaraguan government of the time had the slightest respect for the rule of law! Those who lives as barbarians deserve to be treated as such. Oh, woops, I've broken the vacuum again - that's taking the actions of others into account.
That official court judgment is still outstanding and remains unsatisfied. The U.S. government has continually refused to comply with the judgment and has even blocked attempts of the UN Security Council to enforce it.
Bummer. I have zero respect for the World Court, its legality and the validity of its decisions so I can't say this bothers me one bit. Moreover, isn't the US blocking action via the UNSC legal according to the rules of the UN? Weren't you making a big point of following the rules of the UN? But now when those are to the advantage of the US, it's different.
Suppose Nicaragua unilaterally decided to enforce the World Court's judgment by establishing a no-fly zone in the southern part of the United States, backed up with Nicaraguan planes. Suppose also that whenever U.S. radar sites locked onto the Nicaraguan planes, the pilots would fire missiles at the sites, which would occasionally kill American radar operators and nearby civilians.
Bogus analogy. Last I checked, Nicaragua hadn't just concluded a war with the US and the US wasn't in violation of agreements signed by the US with Nicaragua. Oh, nuts - I'm letting context in again. Sorry.
What would be the response of the U.S. government? How would the American people react, both to Nicaragua's "U.S. no-fly zone" and to the killings of U.S. citizens? Everyone knows the answer.
Yes. That's why it's stupid to mess with the US. Perhaps there is a lesson here for Iraq?
What does the illegality of the Iraqi no-fly zones say about the hundreds of Iraqi people who have been killed by the missiles that have been fired and the bombs that have been dropped as part of the U.S. government's long-time enforcement of the zones, including 13-year-old Omran Harbi Jawair, whose head was torn off by a no-fly-zone missile while he was tending his sheep in May 2000? How does one morally justify the killings of people that arise out of an illegal act?
Here is truly hard vacuum. What exactly do you think would have been done to those people without the no-fly zone? Do you think Saddam would have flown down, blessed the people and told them that all is forgiven? Probably not, since you're clearly ignorant on why the zones were established in the first place. If you want some real horror stories of people in Iraq, read Republic of Fear. How you justify leaving these people to the terror of Saddam? Don't peddle your "concern" for the Iraqi people if you're willling to do that to them.
The Bush administration is correct in backing off from its "zero tolerance" policy for invading Iraq because it would be wrong to use Iraq's response to an illegal act to justify such an invasion. The Bush administration will have to look elsewhere for its excuse to invade Iraq.
Allright! You got one good paragraph. Luckily, President Bush won't have to look far. Of course, he won't have to look at all since he's got a declaration of war signed and sealed in his desk.

Posted by aog at 21:59 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Can Islam exist in a free society?

Over at the Brothers Judd there was a post concerning the Miss World contest fleeing Nigeria because of the recent violence, brought on by Muslims upset over a perceived slight of Mohammed. One of the regulars, who I”ve found to be a strong contributor on that blog, made the comment

We don’t worship Mohammed (he was just a man after all), but we tend to be very, very, touchy when someone is perceived to have insulted him.

I was a bit stunned. My response was

Doesn’t that to a large extent make Islam incompatible with freedom of speech and religion, where things like Holy Virgin Mary1 are considered to be art and university newspapers can have a comic series featuring “Vanilla Christ”2? Or even He’Brew, the Chosen Beer.

Of course, the poster might have been being sarcastic and I, the dolt that I am, missed it. Or the poster was simply claiming the right to be upset and offended (which is quite reasonable), rather than implying that the Nigerian style violence should not have been unexpected.

Unfortunately, the original post has probably dropped down the blog far enough that it won’t get noticed (I have a bad habit of doing that). But it’s not something that is encouraging to me.

1 The Christian Madonna rendered partially in elephant dung. Interestingly enough, the artist is from Nigeria.

2 “Vanilla Christ” is from a comic strip called “Bob ‘n Dave” that ran in the U of Illinois student paper about 20 years ago, not the loser you find if you google on that phrase, although he actually illustrates my point better.

Posted by aog at 21:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Defending America's Enemies

After my last post, I was thinking about the Left and its anti-Americanism. Back when non-lunatics could believe in Communism, the Left could disguise its anti-American flavor by promoting Communism (or its weak-tea formula, Socialism) by claiming that, while things may have gone wrong, that was just a temporary phenomenon and in the long run The People would be better off. But when we look at Iraq, that's not an option. It's like defending Nazi Germany. Claiming that Saddam is good for the Iraqi people or that the current horrors of the regime are just temporary isn't even plausible enough to laugh at. I think that this is why we are seeing fissures in the formerly monolithic Left, with pieces falling off, because many have been forced to confront the fact that regardless of what the Left believes, the actions of its leaders and trendsetters have been expressions of hate, particuarly for America. The situation with the Calipharians has finally left no way to conceal this fact.

Posted by aog at 18:24 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The Communist Manifestation - the problem of the 20th century?

One of the issues that I got involved in a month or two ago was the quesiton of why the National Socialists are held in such universal contempt while Communists (who killed far more people) are still considered favorably in many places. I argued earlier that the Nazis had been "re-written" to be of the Right rather than their actual place on the Left, but that's an effect, not a cause (i.e. that was changed because Nazis were condemned). This difference is something that as always puzzled me.

This comes up again because of a book review in the The New Republic in the 4 Nov 2002 issue. It is a review of Koba the Dread by Martin Amis (review by Tony Judt). From reading the reivew, the book itself comes off as a self-indulgent mish-mash from someone who, having not understood the full horror of Communism.

Or it can mean that Marin Amis and his circle of friends at Oxford and London were willfully ignorant of Soviet history until recently, and he at least wants to make amends for this.

...

His sensibility in these matters is that of a four-year-old child; until something happens to him it has not happened ...

It is Judt who makes some interesting observations. Of this matter itself, he says
As time moves on, this conundrum and its implications will become, I believe, the most important question to ask about the twentieth century and our relationship to it
The most interesting comment to me was
Communist categories were fungible, because they were fake; anyone could be condemned as a "kulak", but if you survived the camps you might as readily cease to be a "kulak" ... In Nazi Germany, by contrast, "Jew" was a real category ... this distinction matters
I think Judt is right. But why would this be a benefit for Communism? It means that any supporter could be a victim, where as with the Nazis most people would not be and would know that. Judt quotes Robert Conquest on this, who states simply that "it feels worse" but Judt says that this is acceptable from Conquest but "doesn't suffice for those who haven't spent a lifetime documenting Soviet crimes".

Perhaps it's a matter of identification - those who are still fellow travelers can imagine themselves as Communists but not as Nazis. Judt quotes Amis on this:

The distinction may be Bolshevism was exportable [...] Nazism could not be duplicated

Judt has harsh words for the intellectual who were fellow travelers, particularly the British ones.

In the technical details of this vast crime - the bloody methods, the human costs, the feelings and the opinions of those on the receiving end, the destruction and incarceration of whole nations - they [the intellectuals] were largely uninterested, and in English circles such matters were rarely disussed. In the 1960s, a "progressive" intellectual in Paris, confronted with evidence of Soviet crimes, would typically invoke comparisons with American racism or South Africa, or else would resort to a sophisticated riff on the theme of means and ends. The same topic in London or Oxford or Cambridge elicited silence or an edgy joke, of the sort that is designed to defuse a remark made in poor taste.

But ultimately Judt sees the essence in the following conundrum:

What is often overlooked, however, is that Western intellectual enthusiam for Communism peaked not in the time of "goulash communism" or "socialism with a human face", but rather at the moments of the regime's worst cruelties [...] Likewise, the cult of Mao in the West reached its zenith at the height of the Cultural Revolution [...] So this is the real problem Amis ought to be considering [...] It was the palpably malign quality of the Great Socialist Experiment, the absurdly large gap separating rhetoric from reality, that made it so irresistible to men and women of goodwill in search of a Cause [...] If we are going to make any sense of the twentieth centurty, this is the lacnua that we really must address. It is a subject for which we post-religious souls are woefully under-equipped.

Posted by aog at 14:20 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn writes a great column, that expresses what I wanted to say much better.

Update: OJ tells me to get off the wobbly platform. Ok, but if Saddam still around for the 2004 elections I'm voting for someone else.

Posted by aog at 07:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Aid to Israel?

There's an article at Kesher Talk about a request for aid from Israel. I'm against it. My plan would be for the US to

  • Reduce aid to Israel
  • Eliminate aid to governments hostile to the US (e.g., Egypt)
  • Allow Israel to join NAFTA
  • Support Israel's efforts to defend itself, not restrain them (e.g. pressuring Israel to drop the siege in Ramallah).
  • Posted by aog at 07:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Calipharian Priorities

    The Junkyard Blog has an interesting comment on the "Islamic street" and its reactions to various incidents. The key insight:

    Miss World has caused more anger on an "Islamic street" than our driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Message: knock off our governments if you want, threaten to invade us if you must, but for Allah's sake don't send us a plane full of gorgeous women. That's asking for real trouble.
    I think it's important to keep in mind just how little anger we see expressed by the Ummah as we kill or capture high ranking Calipharians (although there's plenty on the "Academic Street"). Is this another example of how the Calipharians focus on tactics and not strategy? Or is the anger that drives them simply inchoate, to be touched off by seemingly random events? I think that it has both characteristics, where there is a population that is simply angry at their lot in life with a small cadre of Calipharians attempting to steer the masses in the "right" direction. This implies that knocking off the Calipharians or discrediting them is the best option for us to pursue. Which means taking out Saddam, among others (which is why North Korea is of much less importance in this war).

    22 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 19:17 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Waiting for the Hammer

    I'm starting to agree with some other bloggers that we don't seem to be moving forward on dealing with Iraq. Colin Powell scares me as well. It will be a defeat worse than Vietnam if we back down now on Iraq, because are enemies are not the dieing Soviet Empire but a newly vibrant Caliphate. The New Caliphate is destined to collapse of its own failures eventually, but that, like the Communists, could be a long time and might well wreck civilization in the process. On the other hand, I think that taking out Saddam and conquering Iraq will punch a big enough hole in the Caliphate that it will turn the tide for us.

    I'll just have to hope - Bush has trolled in these kind of waters before and pulled it out. I can only hope that he still understands that he's well past the Rubicon by now.

    Posted by aog at 18:57 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Immigration

    As a libertarian, I favor open borders. However, I also believe that objective facts trump theory as a deeper principle for libertarian thought. A number of posts over at the Brothers Judd's place have put me in a different mood. The issue comes down to whether the US represents a natural evolution of policitcs or a once in history lucky accident. These posts have tilted me towards the "lucky accident" view. There seem to be a lot of precursors that are required for a society like the US to be created and succeed and it doesn't look like those precursors are likely to come together anywhere else. In Europe, as I've commented, the elites seem to be on a campaign to erase them and the public doesn't seem to have the will to stop them. While our country has absorbed a lot of immigration in the past (to its long term benefit) I'm not so confident in our ability to absorb them now. The legacy of FDR and the Clinton years hangs heavy on our ability to maintain that which makes the US (so far) the pinacle of human history. I don't think that the immigrants are much worse today than in the past (although some of the INS policies seem to be striving for that), but I think our ability as a culture to do what we need to do to make Americans of them is much worse (e.g. bilingual education, identity politics, multi-culturalism). If we as a nation held that our culture was superior, that our political system was better, then I wouldn't worry about immigration. But I see too much hatred of America for what is good about it in America to be completely sanguine.

    My personal plan would be to get the government share of GDP down to ~10% and then open the gates.

    Posted by aog at 18:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Politics vs. Murder in Lebanon

    An American missionary worker was shot dead in Lebanon, apparently for the crime of proselytizing for Christianity (imagine, a missionary worker doing that!). I was struck by the widower's words:

    Asked if his wife would have forgiven the killers, he said: "Absolutely, absolutely. We don't care about the politics. We just wanted to put our arms around people and say 'Hey, you know what? There is hope."'
    And there's a difference between politics and murder. I'll forgive others for their misbegotten politics but not for murder. Have we gotten to the point where most people don't distinguish the two?

    This is an interesting bit as well:

    "We told her she might be vulnerable to insults or even being hit and she answered that she would consider it an honor," said Bishop George Kwaiter, the archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese, speaking at a gathering of Christian and Muslim religious leaders who condemned the shooting.

    "We don't accept this kind of preaching," he said of the proselytizing. "We reject it totally."

    So now Catholic arch-bishops are against prosletyzing their own religion if it upsets people? After all,
    The organization's members had been threatened in recent months after a group of religious leaders learned that they were handing out literature and talking to groups of young Muslims about Jesus. Some Muslim clerics had denounced them from the pulpit.
    Note the evasive wording "religous leaders". I wonder of what religion they might be leaders.

    21 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 11:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Interesting if depressing article

    I've seen multiple references to this article about the immigrant slums of France by Theodore Dalrymple with various bits excerpted. It's a very interesting if depressing article about willful self-destruction. Enjoy.

    Posted by aog at 10:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    The Baghdad Three

    Today I saw my first negative mention of the Baghdad Three - Bonior, McDermott and Thompson - from the Democratic side. The 25 Nov 2002 issue of The New Republic carries a slam on them in its feature article on Pelosi. Even if one oppose fighting the war with Iraq, it's difficult to see the actions of the Baghdad Three in a positive light. The comment is limited to

    the week the Baghdad three started, the race [for control of Congress] went south
    Not exactly a ringing condemnation, but at least it's a start.

    20 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 19:02 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Turkey vs. the EU

    Here's another article excoriating the EU for rejecting Turkey for membership. That's fine, I agree with the sentiment. But the author says nothing about a potential relationship between Turkey and the US. It annoys me no end when EUnicks whine at us to do things they'd never dirty their hands with. It's no better when the Americans do it to Europe, as this article does implicitly. If having free trade with Turkey is good for the EU, why wouldn't it be good for the US as well? It would be, so lets do it - tell Turkey to dump the EU and come over to the NAFTA party.

    Posted by aog at 07:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Short Take

    What is with Castro supporters? Instantman asks the right question about a story on Castro living in luxury while Cubans suffer:

    Why is it that when businesspeople live in luxury while the masses live in poverty it's a huge injustice, but when people who control governments do the same nobody comments?
    The answer is, of course, that words matter more than deeds and Castro says the right things, as I've mentioned before.

    19 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 18:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Barbarians at the gates

    Apparently Brink Lindsey has noticed that the Calipharians are barbarians whose main purpose isn't to loot or conquer but to destroy. Where have I heard that before? Of course, the Calipharians don't want to destroy everything, just everything that's bigger or better than things in the Caliphate.

    Posted by aog at 18:00 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Why don't they ever learn?

    From Instantman we have the story that a commission is recommending a resurgent US space program. That sounds great, there just a couple little problems:

    The response, the commission said, should be to develop new military programmes, overhaul commercial barriers such as antiquated export control rules, and create a White House policy council to ensure these receive high priority
    and
    first step is government-backed research into new propulsion technologies that could allow spacecraft to travel through the solar system in weeks or months rather than years.
    As I've posted before close "public/private" research and development doesn't work. As many others have said, if the government wants to see space travel develop, provide the demand, not the supply. The government could relax the current tight restrictions and buy space in orbit, first come first bought. The European plan to "guide" devel0pment is a bug, not a feature.

    Posted by aog at 17:37 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Taking a dive

    There is an editorial in the WSJ today about how Bush can win in California in 2004. It outlines the terrible state government finances - $24 billion short this year, $21 billion next and I wonder - did Bush deliberately give up on Simon? It may be that he figured overall it was better to leave that mess to the Democratic Party care of one of its least attractive "leaders". Now, one might argue that if resources were no object, then Bush would have been stupid to not pull for California. But resources are always a problem - there is never enough time or money to do everything. If Bush had to cut (and he must have), then California is now looking like a good place to have done it.

    17 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 20:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Cheap shot of the day

    By Tom Friedman via Instantman

    In fact, I imagine after this round of expansion that when you call NATO headquarters in Brussels, a recording will answer that will go something like this: "Hello. You have reached NATO. Dial 1 if you want help consolidating your democracy. Dial 2 if you need minesweeping. Dial 3 if you need anti-chemical warfare trucks. If you need to fight a real war, please stay on the line and an English-speaking operator will assist you."

    15 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 08:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Cheap Shot of the Day

    This one is from the David Frum:

    There’s no comparing the characters of these two men, but on Greenspan’s evidence, Osama bin Laden managed to do less harm to the U.S. economy than President Jimmy Carter

    Posted by aog at 08:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Pelosi - in the Center of the Democratic Party?

    There is an interesting article in Slate about Nancy Pelosi. The main thesis is that Pelosi isn't a lefty compared to the Democratic Party Representatives and that she will be (was) voted in because the House Democrats don't see her election as a lurch to the left. I can't tell if the author thinks that the Republicans are over-reacting or the Democrats are already too lefty for the citizenry. The money quote is

    While it's true that Pelosi's views, particularly on war and foreign policy, are out of step with much of the American public's, they're right in the mainstream of what House Democrats believe
    It appears that the recommendation is that the Democrats stay / veer left but hide it from the citizenry (like the VRWC does):
    Perhaps the Democrats would be best advised to once again take a page from the Republicans: The GOP has an effective leader and party strategist who fires up the party base. His name is Tom DeLay, and he's not the No. 1 House Republican. Pelosi needs a puppet
    First off, does anyone really believe that the Republicans are successfully hiding their basic platform through this clever ploy? And what does it say of the Democrats, that this kind of dishonesty is recommended as a good and necessary idea?

    14 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 20:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Troubles in Iran

    There's lots of news floating around the Blogosphere about student unrest in Iran. So if any Iranians are reading this, let me say that the people of America are with the people of Iran - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should be for everyone. We know that the mullahs are no more friends of yours than they are friends of ours. We stand ready to welcome a free and democratic Iran into the West.

    Posted by aog at 10:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Grab bag

    Two good political analysys items that need no additional commentary.

    A cautionary tale from The Onion.

    American elite views on Europe (link via The Edge of England's Sword).

    13 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 19:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    European Respect for International Law

    Let's consider two laws. One is the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which all members of the European Union are members. We can see article 19,

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
    That would seem to require free speech on the internet. I also didn't notice any content based restrictions (that was the entire text of Article 19). In the other corner we have the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime from the Council of Europe,
    Protocol requires States to criminalise the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material through computer systems, as well as racist and xenophobic-motivated threat and insult including the denial, gross minimisation, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity, particularly those that occurred during the period 1940-45.
    Looks like someone is blowing off treaty obligations when convenient. We'll see if anyone except bloggers holds the Council of Europe to account for this.

    For a direct take down of the protocol itself, read this post. Link via The Edge of England's Sword.

    Posted by aog at 15:41 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    International Law Hypocrisy

    This isn't quite an "International Law Watch", but it's close. This article reports that Israelis are now becoming concerned about being arrested if they travel outside of Israel for "war crimes". The article mentions that Amnesty International is in support of this effort which includes war crimes committed in Jenin. No mention is made of arresting Palestinians for their numerous and well documented war crimes (e.g. use of ambulances to transport troops). It's another example of how "international law" is used as a political weapon against those out of favor with the transational progressives, not as an actual objective standard that applies to everyone.

    Link chain: Neolibertarian News via Daily Pundit

    12 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 21:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Renewable Energy Fantasies

    A Daily Pundit post comments on a study that claims that, per unit weight, computer chips do more environmental damage than a care. This shouldn't be surprising to anyone who knows how computer chips are made. What's interesting here is that this fact has been ignored by the environmental for decades, because any serious consideration of it renders the idea of solar power as environmentally friendly ludicrous. Any planet based solar power system would require volumes of chips far beyond anything we've produced so far. It would probably be much worse than what we're doing to generate the power through other means. But discussing that would disturb the fantasy.

    Posted by aog at 21:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Making the right sacrifice

    Stanley Kurtz has an article that causually mentions something that leapt out at me: why, with all the other recriminations in the Democratic Party over the 2002 elections, are McDermot and Bonior not flayed alive? Certainly their little party with Hussein in Baghdad was a key event in hanging the "We Hate America" and "We Love Brutal Dictators" labels on the Democratic Party. Yet I see little (if any) condemnation of them. If the Democratic Party doesn't see anything wrong with their actions, they're due for a long spell in the wilderness.

    OTOH, it may be that it is viewed as a problem but complaining would just even more attention. If that's true, I think it's a mistake - better to excise than to let it fester.

    Posted by aog at 07:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Cheap Shot of the Day

    Daily Pundit strikes deep at the Democratic Party:

    Can you imagine how depressing it must be to belong to a party whose real motto for the past ten years has been "Let's move on from that?"

    11 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 23:00 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

    Don't tell me cause it hurts

    The European Union has lived up to its standards in accountablity once again. Chris Patten, the Foreign Affairs Commissioner, when confronted with the claim that the Palestinian Authority was divering EU aid into terror activities didn't even bother to deny it - instead he said that he didn't want it to be investigated. I suppose that's consistent - the EU believes that if you say something it becomes true so it would follow that if you don't say it it's not true. As long as the EU doesn't find out what Arafat is really doing with their money, it's not a problem.

    Posted by aog at 22:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    A Favorite Idiom

    I was thinking this evening of President Bush's tendency to give ground against his enemies until he had his forces in place and then dropping the hammer on them. The phrase "a whole can of whup-ass" of course came to mind. I realized that that is a quintessentially Jacksonian phrase. It's a can. What do you do with a can? You open it up and use the whole thing, or you leave it on the shelf. And so with Jacksonians - either it's not worth bothering with or you go in with both barrels. I've always been of that view for use of military force. We own our troops the knowledge that if we do send them in, it's not going to be for symbolism or porportionality, but for victory - complete, utter and total.

    Posted by aog at 16:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Friends and Acquaintances

    According to Best of the Web, an article in today's New York Times about pro-American sentiment in Bulgaria and Romania has this quote

    Romania and Poland will bring a "pro-American critical mass" to NATO, said Mircea Geoana, Romania's foreign minister in an interview.
    Uh, isn't NATO an alliance? Aren't members supposed to support each other? Shouldn't the alliance members all be "pro-American"? If not, why are they in the alliance? It's depressing that NATO is so dysfunctional that Romania finds it necessary to make "cheer up the US" noises. To any Romanians out there - thanks.

    Posted by aog at 15:52 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Domestic Agenda 2

    Orin Judd has commented on my previous post about a domestic agenda for the Bush administration. His primary question concerns medical savings accounts. These would allow individuals to accumulate (tax free) money to pay for medical expenses, in a manner similar to 401K accounts. Overall I support this idea, but I have some serious concerns as well. The issues Mr. Judd comments on, of how much money per year, roll-over, etc., are minor issues that can be resolved. What really concerns me are the details of tax law regarding withdrawals from the accounts.

    The basic issue is, what counts as a "medical expense"? For a 401K, retirement is a pretty clear, once in a lifetime event. And if you don't retire, then there are age requirements which again are singular and unambiguous. But medical expenses are different in that they are harder to define and recurring. So the system must handle regular expenditures. How are these validated? Is it acceptablefor people to spend their MSA on vacations to Hawaii for "sunlight therapy"? Or what about alternative medicine? Non-AMA certified midwives? Chiropracters? To make MSA's work all of this would have to be spelled out in the legislation or (far more likely) created via IRS regulation and court cases. Or we could just abandon any control whatsoever (of course the 24" LCD is a medical expense, to stop my degenerating eye-sight!).

    One might ask, don't health insurance companies have these problems too? Yes, to some extent. And to that extent that we do we see regulation and court cases. But there is a fundamental difference in that if a insurer covers fringe things, then the customers have to pay for it (one way or another) so there is negative feedback in the process. For a MSA this doesn't apply - there's no real feedback loop between what people spend their MSA money on and the regulations that control it.

    This argument is similar in many ways to certain voucher opponents, who say "where federal money flows, so also does control". I am more worried about federal control of health care spending than preventing people from doing stupid things, but as the MSA would represent an overall reduction of government I favor them. Is it possible to build an MSA program that doesn't suffer from this kind of problem? Maybe. But I think we need to consider this carefully rather than just assume it to be straight forward.

    Posted by aog at 09:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

    What has the President been doing all this time?

    Over at the Brother's Judd place, a poster named Harry comments

    You commend Rice. So what was she doing the last few months? What was the point?
    What Bush has been doing these last few months is pursuing direct political means to supplement his military means. The evidence is clear - Bush is a big believer in converging forces. Over the last 6 months Bush has broken the Democrats on this issue, solidified the US political position of himself and his allies and put a ring in the nose of the UNSC. He's not going to make his father's mistake and it looks like he plans to avoid it by systematically eliminating the sources of failure before he drops the hammer.

    As for coalitions, I think another part of what Bush has done is make it clear that being part of our coalition is a favor from the US, not to the US. Nations that don't play nice don't get to show up.

    10 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 19:02 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Playing to win

    Mark Steyn figures out what I did back when Bush got the declaration of war passed through Congress - Bush plays to win. For example, to quote Steyn,

    When his [Bush's] judicial nominees were bottled up by Democrat obstructionist ideologues, I wanted him to do to Vermont Senator Pat Leahy what Clinton did to Newt Gingrich: destroy the guy. Instead, Bush looked at a handful of vulnerable Democrat Senate seats in Missouri, Minnesota and elsewhere, and slyly moved them into play.

    The result is that the judiciary committee is now back in Republican hands, and Senator Leahy's got a one-way ticket on the oblivion express. Mr Bush has destroyed the guy without ever having to say a word about him. Meanwhile, all the states the Dems specifically targeted - from Florida to New Hampshire - are more Republican than ever. I was wrong. The Bush way is more effective.

    Delayed gratification. Something the Leftists will never understand.

    Posted by aog at 18:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Irresponsible Speculation

    One theory floating around is that France doesn't want Iraq conquered by the US because of what we'll find in the files concerning France's not completely appropriate interactions with the current regime in Iraq. Perhaps what France should do is offer Hussein sanctuary in France in exchange for torching the files. Another motivation would be to upset the US but quite frankly I wouldn't care. Once we convert Iraq to our side, Hussein becomes irrelevant. Having him end up a smear in some bombed out bunker would be nice, but it's hardly critical to our success in this struggle.

    Posted by aog at 15:27 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    International Law Watch 8

    A post by Steven Den Beste provides another example of the perniciousness of how most promoters of international law interpret it. Amnesty International is now claiming that our killing the Al-Quaeda members in Yemen was a violation of "international human rights law" (although Yemen doesn't seem to see it as a problem). During Afghanistan it was claimed that killing civilians at all (even during a war) was a "war crime" and against international law. Now apparently killing enemy combatants with whom we are at war is against international law. How can anyone doubt that Castaneda honestly expressed the real goal?

    Posted by aog at 13:29 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Domestic Agendas

    It seems to be the general concensus that foreign policy, while the most important thing for the Bush administation for the next two years, cannot be the only important thing. Some argue that Bush's view is that an administration can only get a few big things done and that Bush has done all that he can domestically until 2004. On the other hand we have, for example, Instantman calling for the Republicans to take on Big Media to protect consumers and artists.

    What I think is that health care might be an excellent domestic agenda item. It's clearly a big thing for the Democratic Party and a place where the Republicans can be vulnerable. It's also a place where Republicans could improve things for the average person and hit the Left where it hurts. How? Decouple health insurance from employment. It is simply non-sensical that these two things are so conflated. The only reason for it is government intervention, so removing that would shift things back to a more beneficial state. While not a panacea, I think that such a move would ameloriate many of the things that so irritate the citizenry. For instance, portability. If there's not job / health care link, then there is no portability issue. Poof, gone. Health care providers would be far more motivated to please customers, rather than the corporate accountants. This would also be a big step away from socialized medicine. Looks like a winner to me.

    Posted by aog at 10:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Spin cycle

    To understand the death spiral, it is important to keep in mind that we all have some level of tolerance for reality dysfunction in the political leaders we support. As with most things in life, moderation is generally the best policy. An extremely low tolerance gives you the Libertarian Party and a very high tolerance gives you Barbara Streisand. People vary widely in this tolerance so when a political party does some Idiotarian (and they all do) it's not a step function where at some point everyone abandons the party. It's a continuum.

    Here's an example of how the death spiral spins off people from the truly hard core. Gore Vidal is hard core and is dealing with reality by retreating into his own fantasy world. Meanwhile, those who have been sympathetic to such views (the writer) reach their threshold of tolerance and break away. If this kind of this causes even more reality dysfunction, then you have a spiral. So far the signs aren't looking good for the Democratic Party. (Will Kaus' current favorite theory mean that we will see this unfold in years instead of decades? Could be interesting times...)

    09 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 17:13 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Campaign Finance Deform

    According to 28 Oct 2002 issue of National Review, the FEC has ruled that it's legal for late night comics to make jokes about political candidates during the weeks before the election. To quote NR,

    That the question even came up is a testament to the perversityof the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law
    This is the essence of the Left's beliefs on free speech - a government commission deciding who can say what when with special priviledges for rich media stars and conglomerates. Signing this will be a long lasting stain on President Bush.
    Posted by aog at 09:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Talking Turkey

    So France finally tells the truth about Turkey and the EU. Maybe this should have been said twenty years ago but better late than never. The relationship between Turkey and the EU is like a friend who is desperately trying to date a stuck up cheerleader who's starting to go seedy with no future. The urge is to shout "give it up! She doesn't like you, never has, never will, and she's no good for you anyway! You're better off alone". Or with us, a point Orin Judd makes.

    Tip from Daily Pundit.

    Posted by aog at 09:21 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Garrison Keiler - well below average

    Orin Judd lays down the smackie on my number one reason for opposing NPR.

    Posted by aog at 09:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Further Spiraling

    Now Instantman has commented on to the death spiral. Such rhetoric is just another sign of a retreat to the base, those who can justify anything in the name of their ideology. The cost will again be those who are not so committed, which in any large political party is most of the members. And we have word that Pelosi has won (tip from Junkyard Blog).

    08 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 14:00 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    International Law Watch 7

    Here is my view of international law, expressed by one of its proponents.

    Mexico's Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda said Wednesday that smaller countries on the Security Council should literally tie up the United States, until it views the Iraq situation the way other Security Council members view it. [...] Recalling the novel "Gulliver's Travels" Castaneda said, "I like very much the metaphor of Gulliver ensnarling the giant. Tying it up, with nails, with thread - with 20,000 nets that bog it down: these nets being norms, principles, resolutions, agreements, and bilateral, regional and international covenants," he said in an interview with the newspaper
    So the goal is not to have any kind of rule of law, or to have norms of behavior for nations, but to force the USA to not only act but think as other nations want it to by ensnaring it in traps. Why in the world should the USA support or even respect this kind of thing?

    Posted by aog at 10:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Stupid or Trapped?

    David Frum argues that one of the big reasons that the Democrats lost the 2002 elections was the debate over homeland security vs. the unions. Frum thinks that this was stupid. I don't - I think that it was the inevitable result of the internal structure of the Democratic Party. I think that it's clear that if Bush prevails on the non-unionization of homeland security, then it is very likely to spread to other federal agencies. Given that federal union employees are a critical constituency of the Democratic Party, how could they let Bush put in a wedge that might well destroy that?

    Of course, it's not a coincidence that the Democratic Party is having this kind of problem. Just like socialism every where, the contradictions between how things should and how they actually work eventually become unsupportable. We may finally be seeing that for the Democratic Party.

    Posted by aog at 09:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Death Spiral Interrupted?

    Previously I kidded Oliver Willis about backing Harold Ford instead of the current losers at the top of the Democratic Party. Now, over at the Corner, there is word that Ford is going up against Forst and Pelosi for the House Minority Leader position. I have very mixed feelings about this. I don't know much about Ford but he seems like a non-Idiotarian Democrat. Is it better for the Democrats to pull out of the spiral or to have them flame out into irrelevancy? This ties into Orin Judd's theme on how the Democrats have been ignoring new blood (particularly if they're black).

    Posted by aog at 08:37 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Blogging Tools

    I have upgraded to w.bloggar 3.0. I used the 2.3 version for about half of my posts. The big problem was that I had to go to MT directly to set the title and category. For 3.0, the API used has been updated to support additional features, in particular the title and category. It seems like a nice tool, although I have yet to figure out what the difference between "Post" and "Post & Publish" is. It's definitely better than the MT edit window. One alternative that I need to explore is to put one of those DHTML editors in there (like what the Blogging Network has).

    07 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 13:06 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    French w(h)ines

    This is from the Economist, 5 Oct 2002 edition, page 47.

    Faced with the unpalatable prospect of destroying 10m liters of unsold Beaujolais wine - the equivalent of around 13m bottles - Maurice Large, president of the Beaujolais winegrowers' association, has accused modern wine-buyers of being "philistines". On a recent trip to Australia he explained that "many new wine-drinkers are attracted to Australian or Argentine labels because they know no better than to treat wine like Coca-Cola".

    ...

    There were violent demonstrations in southern France earlier this year as winemakers took to the streets to protest against falling wine prices. Burgundy's winegrowers also staged furious protests at their annual meeting in July. Pierre-Henry Gagey of the Burgundy winemakers' association, striking a more realistic note, told local growers to improve their wines' quality. New World producers, he said, "make very good wine at very good prices". He was heckled and booed for his candour.

    ...

    But France's winegrowers have a clever solution too. Earlier this year their association sued the government over its campaign against drunk driving.

    Posted by aog at 11:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Notes from Africa

    My associate who is in Africa says in response to an article on potential genocide in Zimbabwe,
    Yeah, a lot of the Ndebele think Mugabe's Shona majority is coming for them next. The place is a disaster. I just talked yesterday to a couple of farmworkers from there, all of whom consistently described their country as "dead."
    Posted by aog at 08:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Gore in 2004!

    Oliver Willis, who is normally rather reasonable as a left leaning guy, has gone rather bizarre. He talks about the need for the Democratic Party to not vear left, but then supports Al "more skins than a Japanese girl's cellphone" Gore, who has gone hard left. Why not plan for the future and just back Harold Ford? (Of course, Condi will kick his little butt, but at least he'd have a chance)

    But I'm all for another Gore run. Oh yes indeed. Oh, and Pelosi for House Minority Leader while you're at it. That works for me, it would be just the right amount of spin.

    06 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 12:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Death Spiral

    Are the Democrats in a death spiral to irrelevance or will they moderate? I posted a comment on the Brothers Judd about this and mentinoned in earlier here as well.

    The death spiral scenario is that of a positive feedback loop. Consider the Democratic Party base. There exists a subset of them that are the most conservative voters that support the party. I think it's reasonable to assume that that subset moved over to the Republicans based on the poor performance of the Democrats over the last couple of years (both on policy and integrity). What is the Democratic Party response to this? If it is to move further left, that could well split the next subset of conservatives off. If that in turns inspires another shift left, one could have another loss of the conservative fringe. The end result of this process is a small, hard core leftist party that's electorally irrelevant. This is the default result - it is the hard core, after all, who really drive the party in terms of energy and money.

    That the death spiral is the default doesn't make it the inevitable result. One can see that the Republicans have recovered from a similar issue, but it took deliberate effort. But what I remember after the Republican's drubbing was immediate calls for a "big tent" and other outreach. What I'm hearing from the blogging Democrats are calls for renewed emphasis on the leftist issues. The top party types seem more circumspect, mainly blaming Bush's popularity (which they attribute to the 9/11 attacks). A key sign will be whether Pelosi becomes Minority Leader in the House. That would be the first circle around the death spiral.

    On the other hand, the Democrats could shift right, drop some of the hard core leftish stances that have proven so unpopular and unsuccessful (e.g., socialism). That could retain some of the essence of the party without setting it on a course to the fringe.

    Another option (which I saw somewhere else that I can't remember) is for a split, where the Democratic Party accepts minority status for a while and dumps the fringe off on the Greens and Socialists Party, giving them a temporary boost and leaving the Democratic Party as the DLC membership. My history is weak on this, but isn't this similar to where the Republican Party came from out of the Whigs?

    Orin makes some posts that lean toward a death spiral scenario here and here and here and ... oh, just go read the blog. It's all good (especially my comments, right?)

    UPDATE: The New Republic is worried about this as well.

    Posted by aog at 09:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Question 1 in Taxxachusetts

    It looks like the anti-income tax initiative in Massachusetts did much better than expected. It was Question 1 on the ballot yesterday. The proponents (Carla Howell and the Massachusetts Libertarian Party) claimed before hand that reaching 40% would be a break through, showing that the issue was real and the public not very favorable to tax increases. It looks like it ended up at 47%, which to me is astonishing in Taxxachusetts. Here is a short article on the results. I think that this is wonderful news.

    Tip via HobbsOnline.

    Posted by aog at 09:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    The Idiotarian Left Regroups

    I'm just floored by some of the Idiotarian sentiments coming out from the election results. I've heard of Hesiod before, but never took the time to read him. Today I did, and I found this:

    LOOKS LIKE VICTORY FOR THE BIN LADEN/HUSSEIN TICKET.
    I can understand some of the anti-war arguments. But last I checked the complaint on this score from the anti-Bush / anti-war crowd was that the primary problem was that Bush was trying to kill bin Laden and Hussein, rather than understanding, talking or taking legal action. It's just spinning too fast for me.

    OK, it was really a tip via Tacitus via Instantman.

    Posted by aog at 07:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    It's not too late: Impeach Davis

    It looks like Davis won in California. Given how he's depleted his stash during the campaign, I think that egray.com will be having a fire sale to replenish the reserves.

    But maybe there's hope. California should impeach Davis now, before he can shake the state down for campaign funds to fight. That way Simon and Davis are gone.

    05 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 23:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Pre-emptive strike

    On the subject of about party switching, what if after the Republicans win control of the Senate 50-50 they get Zell Miller to switch pre-emptively? It doesn't look cheap and sleazy if his switch doesn't change the control of the Senate. But by moving the bar it makes it that much harder from the Democrats to switch it back and the Democrats would look extra cheap and sleazy even if they managed it. It would be much better than a double switch (Chafee switches and then Miller does in response). Given the Republican tide in GA, it's not completely implausible.
    Posted by aog at 23:07 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Republican win bad for Republicans?

    Over at Vodka Pundit he mentions that if the Republicans win the Senate, they may wish they hadn't. Ramesh Ponnuru comments in this vein as well. This comment confused me at first, but I think that the logic is that if the Republicans get a 50-50 Senate (which is technically a win because of Cheney), then

    1) The Democrats can still filibuster (they only need 40 for that) yet drop all the blame on the Republicans because it's a Republican Senate.

    2) Bush won't get anything real through because it only takes one RINO Senator to stymie anything that's not pablum.

    3) It will cause a bidding war that will result in at least one RINO Senator coming out of the closet and admitting that he's really a Democrat.

    4) VP e-mails that the Republican's won't have two years of a Daschle Senate leading up to the 2004 elections.

    I can see the first two, but I think that (3) is actually (long-term) good for Republicans. It cancels (1) and provides another large helping of anti-democratic Democratic scheming. Bush should be able to really play up the "we won the Senate in the elections and the Democrats stole it back. Show them that they can't do that in 2004". As for (4), if the Republicans can overcome (1) and (2) then they're probably better off for it. I don't buy the argument put forth over at The New Republic (Orin Judd has already put a fork in it better than I can).

    Posted by aog at 13:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Moving against the crowd

    Apparently there will be elections for the Israeli Knesset soon. Sharon's efforts to form a new government didn't work out. What puzzles me is why Benjamin Ben-Eliezer withdrew from the government. The surface reason is that he was facing challenges by others in the Labor party who were challenging him from the Left. But how can they do that? Isn't the Israeli electorate shifting strongly to the Right? This reminds me of how the US Democratic Party is shifting left even as the population as a whole is moving in the other direction. As the "center" drifts rightward, the Democratic Party seems to be becoming ever more in thrall to the hard core leftist factions. Is it because these left leaning parties are trapped by their history, so that they can't shift and therefore those party members closest to the center shift parties instead, leaving only the hard core? Is this potentially a positive feedback cycle where each shift left forces the next closest to the center to leave, creating another shift left? This process would be similar to "organic segregation" in housing where each person of a race the moves out decreases the density of that race enough to get someone else to move which in turn, etc. (see also "schelling segregation model").
    Posted by aog at 08:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Depressing Story of the Day

    The FBI slows down translation efforts in the war against the Calipharians as part of a funding battle and when the translator complains, she's fired. Any bets on whether those responsible will be fired, or even not given bonuses? A tip from the Junkyard Blog.
    Posted by aog at 06:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Petard Watch

    This is a good article that asks the question I want to ask, but better written. Tip from Instantman.
    Those same pundits who were so quick to point the finger at right wing culture when the Oklahoma federal building was bombed do not dare to similarly connect the dots and point out the contributing role that might have been played by the multitude of Islamofascist and/or anti-American statements and sentiments that have been so insistently expressed since last year’s September 11 attacks.

    04 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 15:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Cheap Shot of the Week

    Ok, this is cheap but the target is worth it. A tip from the Midwest Conservative Journal.
    Posted by aog at 13:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Secular Saints

    Tim Blair writes about the American Left's reaction to the death of Senator Wellstone:
    In any case, Steyn is rightly spooked by the sainthood bestowed upon Wellstone following his death. It's creepy and just a little desperate.
    But not unexpected. The same thing happened in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, where dying of the disease apparently conferred saint-hood (or perhaps I misremember and only saints were struck down by the disease). It was another face of the "weakness -> goodness" paradigm that's now haunting us in so many ways. Personally, I think that the actions one takes in life determines moral stature, not the mechanism of death. Those who die of AIDS may be good or bad or (more likely) a mix but you can't know that from just the fact of dieing of AIDS. This rant isn't really apropos to anything, I've just wanted to say that for the last decade and Blair's post reminded me of it.
    Posted by aog at 13:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    My Issue with Jim Ryan

    There was a bit of a discussion over at the Brothers Judd which lead to issues involving Jim Ryan, the current Republican candidate for governor of Illinois. I expressed some reservations about him, in particular with overlooking prosecutorial excesses. This ties in with an early post of mine where I discuss the current Illinois governor's (George Ryan) death row clemency hearings. The real issue, which I didn't develop well there, is that death penalty proponents have a positive obligation to be extra vigilant against such prosecutorial abuse because the existence of the death penalty raises the stakes. I don't advocate capital punishment out of revenge or bloody mindedness, but out of long consideration of the issues. My concern with good procedure and intolerance for over zealous prosecutors is a direct result of that consideration. In this case, Jim Ryan seems to have stepped out of bounds. One might argue that he couldn't have overseen everything, but this was a very high profile case. The idea that he wasn't paying attention is ludicrous. But the larger point is, what is Jim Ryan's excuse now? Why not condemn this kind of excess? Birkett, the current DuPage County State's Attorney and Republican candidate for IL AG had this to say about Cruz's quest for a pardon:
    Birkett has not said how, or if, his state's attorney's office will respond when the Illinois Prisoner Review Board reviews the case for Gov. Ryan. He has questioned Cruz's motives - financial compensation from the state - in seeking the pardon
    So Birkett's view is that wanting to get pardoned for a capital crime one didn't commit is so insufficient that we need to consider other motivations? Are we also supposed to believe that Birkett is not such a close political associate of Jim Ryan that some of this spills over on Ryan? I understand the victim's family's pain, but I don't see how continuing to punish the wrong guy helps anybody, including them.

    UPDATE: Spoons says that I'm wrong about Ryan, Birkett and Cruz. Well, he doesn't say that I'm wrong because he's unaware of my blog, but he argues with another commentator on this exact subject. The Spoons view is that Cruz is guilty, that the evidence that came out later just shows that there were multiple perpetrators, and that the fact that none of the 7 people charged with misconduct were convicted shows the weakness of Cruz's claim that he was railroaded. I followed the case, but certainly not in depth. I'm not sure I buy Spoons' view, but he does make a good case.

    Posted by aog at 09:48 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Remembering doesn't require obsession

    I agree with "never forget", but isn't this a bit over the top? Doesn't this count as "wallowing" instead of remembering?

    03 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 19:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Public funding for education

    A post about the US potentially withdrawing from the UN population accord on the Brothers Judd blog lead to some comments that reminded me of a position I've changed stance on. This is the public funding of primary education for children. Originally as libertarian I opposed this, a key argument being that it represented a transfer of wealth from childless adults to parents. Over the years, however, I've come to realize that there are externalities that breaks this argument. This is the fact of retirement. No matter how much a person saves for retirement, that wealth is useless without a new, productive generation. All of Bill Gates stock is so much paper if Microsoft can't hire another generation of employees. There are other arguments, such as that (overall) the best value is obtain if the people purchasing the goods are using their own money, so that a private funding would be the most efficient. But that may not be enough - overall it is probably better to give every child the opportunity to learn and become productive, even if by doing so the spending is non optimal. We can say, however, the provision by a government monoply is likely to be close to pessimal. So what I support is vouchers at a state level. That would get us more value for the money and solve those vexing (if artificial) "funding level" crises (why is it that those who complain the most about such things never turn to vouchers? could they have another agenda?).
    Posted by aog at 12:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Powell get its right on Sudan

    If this is true, I have to give Colin Powell some real credit. The situation in the Sudan is atrocious, and I mean that literally. If we're finally doing something, anything and Powell was behind it, then he deserves public credit, as I never hestitate to give him public blame. According to Hentoff,

    Powell, behind the scenes, was an important factor in getting the Bush administration to finally move on abolishing slavery in Sudan

    02 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 19:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    It's only a choice if you choose the right way

    Good catch by the Brothers Judd. The Democratic Party wants the third party gubernatorial candidate for NY to drop out so that their guy doesn't finish third. As OJ points out, choice is good in NJ but not in NY.

    Original article

    Posted by aog at 14:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    International Law Watch 6

    This is not on online, but is a letter to the editor in the 4 Nov 2002 issue of The New Republic. It is from Mike Moore, who is a Senior Editor at The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The essential quote is

    Unless evidence of imminent attack from such a [sovereign] state is overwhelmingly compelling, a first strike - a preventive war - is a clear violation of international law.
    I think this counts under section (2) of my original post.
    Posted by aog at 14:33 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

    France Bashing

    An excellent France bashing article over at The New Republic. The money quote

    truth, France's fantasies of grandeur--fantasies that are decades, if not centuries, out of date--would be laughable, except that they are taken seriously in Turtle Bay
    This really captures what I dislike most about France.
    Posted by aog at 11:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    A Heart Warming Spam

    I received some spam this morning from the League of Conservation Voters. This e-mail claimed that the Mondale campaign was desperately short of cash and couldn't use any of the money donated to Wellstone. That's the kind of news that makes it worth waking up in the morning. Thank you, LCV.

    01 November 2002

    Posted by aog at 20:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Bring it on

    The next report was about fundamentalism in the Saudi Entity. The money quote was from some "well armed" fundie (he had two pistols - that's not well armed, that's a starter set) who was willing to go and fight for Iraq if the US invaded, along with many of his friends. I thought, "Oh yeah, bring it on and all your friends. Our boys deserve a target rich environment after all of their hard training".

    Posted by aog at 20:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    It's different when I do it

    I caught part of a BBC report on NPR about the Microsoft settlement. Two things struck me.

    First, the problem of "bundling" was discussed. This was considered a very bad thing, because consumers couldn't pick and choose among Microsoft products. But it seems to work for newspapers and magazines. I can't pick and choose the feature I get with them (or they wouldn't have sports or arts sections). Why bundling in software was bad but not in media companies wasn't discussed.

    The second was the question "who tipped off the authorities to the bundling?". Excuse me, who tipped them off? How about anybody who ever installed the product? Is the concept here that Microsoft bundled Encarta with Office but hid it from users so well that only well funded competing companies could discover it? Somehow I'm not grasping the concept here...

    Posted by aog at 20:00 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Guns vs. Crime

    Damian Penny wants to know if there is anyone who will tell him that the number of guns in private hands in America doesn't contribute to the higher murder rate. I can't, but I know others who could.

    Mr. Penny could start with John Lott's book, More Guns, Less Crime which describes how in many cases increasing the number of guns in private hands reduces crime. There's an interesting interview here with Lott which hits the highlights of the book.

    Or Mr. Penny could check on this article in Reason which describes how increasingly strict guns laws in Britian corresponded with a strong increase in crime.

    But I could tell that Mr. Penny's source was off base early in the article. He commits severe major errors.

    First, he discusses how the Democrats are running away from the gun control issue. He blames this on the "gun lobby", without considering that maybe the gun lobby is powerful because most people agree with it. It wasn't the gun lobby that "helped defeat Al Gore in such key states as West Virginia, Arkansas and even Tennessee", it was the voters. Stop watching so much X-Files, dude. It's also interesting that he compares the US with Japan, a particularly non-violent society. If I recall correctly, there are more murders with knives in the US every year than all murders combined in Japan. So even if we totally banned guns, confiscated every single one of them, and not one person who would have killed with a gun used a different weapon, we'd still have significantly more murders than Japan. It's telling that he didn't compare us with Britian, which is discussed above. It also turns out that John Muhammad could not legally own a gun. Yet somehow passing more laws will fix that. And as others have pointed out, the Arizona shootings may have been stopped if the U of A wasn't a gun free zone. See this and this article, and note that the latter was written in 1998. Will anyone in the Great White North have the courage to say "enough" to gun control?

    Posted by aog at 18:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Dietritus on the Beach of Time

    The Junkyard Blog has an interesting post on the desperation of the American Left and their rage with the Republicans. What occurred to me as I read it is that the Calipharians are in a similar situation, which might explain their unity of the hard core Left in America. Both groups of people look back at a halcyon time (some more recent than others :-)) when they were the highest power on the planet, the tide of history that was sweeping all before it. Now, their belief systems have been found wanting in the court of reality and they can't cope with that, so the lash out with rage against those who hold different beliefs, particuarly those that hold more successful beliefs. That's why the Left can support the Calipharians, because as bad as the Left's ideas are for society, the Calipharians are much worse (I'd rather have lived in East Germany under the Communists than in the Saudi Entity today). This explains why the Calipharians don't reciprocate (except to treat the Left as "useful idiots"). Maybe, if we just hold on for another decade or two, both of these will pass and we can move on to improving what survives.