31 December 2002

Posted by aog at 19:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Exit from the Death Spiral

The 2/9 Dec 2002 issue of The New Republic has an article by Noam Scheiber. This article concerns Eliot Spitzer, who is the attorney general for the state of New York. Spitzer, despite being aggressive against business interests, is very popular in New York. Schieber believes that it is because Spitzer goes after specific, egregious behaviour and so doesn't come off as generically anti-business. With most voters owning stock, being anti-business is generally perceived as anti-retirement fund or anti-college fund, which are not good places to be. Schieber calls this "pro-consumer" to distinguish it from "anti-business". I think that this is fairly close - if the article is accurate, Spitzer is looking for what benefits the citizenry more than what punishes business. The best example in the article was his fight against GE and PCB's in the Hudson River. A standard issue Democrat would have fought for massive punitive damages and increased regulation (even though current regulations have already put a stop to it). Spitzer, in contrast, settled for GE paying for the dredging to clean things up. This benefits the citizenry directly, does not unduly burden GE, and encourages other businesses in similar situations to negotiate in good faith because they can get a reasonable resolution. A point I tried to make earlier is that if companies are going to be put up against the wall regardless of how cooperative or reasonable they are, then it only makes sense for them to be as obstructionist as possible and fight as dirty as they can. On the other hand, if there's an escape route that's less costly and painful, businesses will go for it. Here's the concluding paragraph:
When I asked Spitzer whether he regretted not pressing Merrill Lynch for large, punitive-damage awards, he was basically unapologetic. "This is not a Robin Hood effort," he told me. Democrats who don't want the growth of the investor class to mean the end of government activism would be wise to learn that lesson.
Well, it's learn or spiral for the Democrats.
Posted by aog at 16:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Australian commentator sells out for a moment's peace

Thought Mesh has been mentioned at Tim Blair's blog. Just goes to show that with enough money and spam you can get what you want.
Posted by aog at 16:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Bring back bringing back the draft

I just heard on NPR that Charles Rangell is planning to introduce legislation to bring back the draft. This is excellent news for the Republicans . I doubt that this will be very popular with the general public or the armed forces. It will be easy to spin a making political hay at the expense of the military and the "War on Terror". This is another spin around the death spiral. However, isn't it kind of strange that supporting the draft is now a leftist policy position?
Posted by aog at 11:10 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Choosing between punishment and progress

The 16 Dec 2002 issue of The New Republic has another article by Jonathan Cohn about lead poisoning. I think it's overall a reasonable article (unlike his previous effort). The main gripe is that, while he mentions liability issues, he glosses over the legitimacy of ex-post-facto liability for the paint industry. Indeed, the paint industry is one of the few where the manufacturers moved well before the government made legal changes. Their reward - retroactive liability. What is the real goal here, to enrich the trial lawyers or to improve the health and safety of the public? If the "public interest" forces were really concerned about the public interest, they would prohibit such retro-active liablity, which does little to help, and in exchange void the resistance of the primary industrial opponents of tightening standards.

30 December 2002

Posted by aog at 21:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Ban cloning?

Instantman has a post against prohibiting cloning where he says
I keep waiting for some clear explanation of why cloning is so awful that it must be banned, but nothing I've heard really gets much past the "it gives me the willies" argument.
As far as I can see, cloning is an untested, risky, medical experiment performed on a child. In contrast to the thimerosal controversy that's been in heavy rotation, where it's not clear that there were significant medical risks from the treatment, not only is cloning untested on humans, it's not even close to fully tested in animals and what tests have been done indicate that severe health defects for the clone are likely. Knowing this, it's difficult for me to see how any moral person could not violently object to this kind of medical experimentation on children. As a lawyer, think about the implications for a "wrongful life" lawsuit.

As I mentioned earlier, it's not just about controlling one's own cells - if another person is created, it's about what happens to that person as well.

UPDATE: Pejman has a number of links that explore this from the same angle I do, but with better lyrics.

  • Ronald Bailey , an anti-prohibitionist, has the same doubts as I do. [source]
  • David Frum comments on the fact that very few cloning advocates actually want to have the clones born. [source]
  • Posted by aog at 12:08 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Current cloning technology

    Jonah Goldberg has an interesting post on cloning, in which he admits that he's using a tactic from the Left (using current technical difficulties to oppose something instead of fundamental principles). I'm fairly ambivalent about cloning - I don't think it will be a serious detriment even in the long term. However, one must keep clearly in mind that cloning involves the rights of the cloned, not just the cloner. I hate to admit it, but in the spirit of JG admitting his problem, I'll comment that this fact seems to be frequently forgotten by the anti-prohibition side. It's certainly a very strong argument for restrictions or outright banning of cloning until such time as we know what the long term implications are for the clone, who will be a human being deserving of human rights. This is legimately different from in vitro fertilization which was reasonably presumed (and has since been demonstrated to be) no riskier for the child than normal fertilization. On this point, I will note that perfect safety is not a reasonable requirement, as the standard way is hardly risk free either.

    But this argument, that we should prohibit cloning because there is good evidence that current cloning technology inflicts serious injury on the clone, is not far from a real issue. I don't believe the Raelian cloning claims, but it is a fact that deaf parents are using reproductive technology to ensure deafness in their children. Here we confront again the issue of moral agency, because we must contrast this with having a deaf child "by accident", that is without use of tecnology. Does the act of choosing characteristics of the child automatically create a greater responsiblity for the results of that choosing? I believe so, but only for that which can be choosen. With greater power must come greater responsibility.

    Posted by aog at 09:56 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    What ever happened to international law?

    I haven't seen much about international law lately. Mentions in letters to the editor from the fringe of the fringe, but I'm just not seeing it brought up by well known commentators. Perhaps various bloggers are right and the pro-Saddam crowd, while still making noises, has basically accepted that war is coming and there's nothing they can do about it. That would tend to indicate that the objection was basically tactical and not principled and now that it's obviously a failed tactic it's been abandoned.
    Posted by aog at 08:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    NPR admits that deregulation can be good

    I caught just a bit of a report on NPR this morning about trucking deregulation, which was described as beneficial. I was stunned that NPR would admit this. Of course, they went on to say that more recent deregulation efforts were a mixed bag (as if any change isn't a mixed bag). Still, NPR did say that sometimes less government regulation is a good thing.

    The promo for the next section, on telecom deregulation, managed to blame that for tele-marketers interrupting dinner. In a sense that's true, because deregulation lowered prices which in turn made tele-marketing much more feasible. I doubt that people in general would want to solve the tele-marketing problem by raising long distance rates. Interestingly, many proposed solutions to e-mail spam involve raising the price of sending e-mail, some broadly and some more selectively.

    29 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 22:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Administrivia

    I've upgraded to MovableType 2.51, which would have been painless if I hadn't decided to tweak the formatting again. Hopefully the site is more attractive and more robust in different browser selected text sizes. The text sizing is now (almost) entirely in percentages, the widths in em's and ex's, and everything except the calendar done without tables, just DIV elements and a cascading style sheet. Notice how narrow you can make your browser window before the format goes haywire (and that you can always see all of the content). I've added an email address so I can be more confident that no one actually reads this. If you have any style comments, feel free to fire away.
    Posted by aog at 16:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Murray, Lott and blogosphere triumphalism

    There's been quite a bit of talk in the blogosphere about how the blogs kept the Lott story alive and contributed to his downfall, and other disputing the claims. I think that to some extent the blogosphere was a significant factor in Lott's fall. However, what the blogosphere really did was provide a rich set of source material to non-bloggers who were persuing the story. I think that it was not only the set of things dredged up but the continuing cascade of them, promising a never-ending stream of hits. This is what the blogosphere does so well, as I've commented before. The weakness here is that while the blogosphere provides a vehicle for this kind of thing, it's not a driver. The blogosphere enables those with a cause in the mainstream media to react faster and better but it can't get a story out that has no interest to the mainstream. We see this in the case of Senator Murray, where (I predict) the blogosphere simply won't get traction. Not only does Murray not have the deep past to mine that Lott did, but also the mainstream media is not very interested in the story. Like minor political parties, the blogosphere provides ideas and data for mainstream interests, but if the mainstream just doesn't care then it's irrelevant.
    Posted by aog at 11:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Cashocopia

    The 2/9 Dec 2002 issue of The New Republic has an article by Jonathan Cohn on the health care "crisis" in Los Angeles. The basic gist of the article is that LA is hurting for funds to run its health care system due to decades of waste and fraud and therefore needs a multi-billion dollar bailout from the federal government, but President Bush won't fork out the cash.

    What I don't understand is where people like Cohn think this federal money comes from. As far as their policies seem concerned, it just spouts out of a magic cashocopia and it is only the evil of the VRWC that prevents the cash stream from being used to solve problems like having to pay for things. Any federal money must come from taxpayers who live in some state. For things that are not specific to any state (like a aircraft carrier battle group) it makes sense to send the money to the federal government. It would be ludicruous for Illinois to pay for an Aegis cruiser while Texas funded the F-18 wings. However, for things where the benefits are directly tied to a state or a region in a state, like the hospitals in LA, the question is why it's better policy to ship the money from the state to the federal government and then back to the state. This is not addressed in the article, but it's clear what the motivation is - to take money from taxpayers in other states. Of course, some one advocating that can't say so directly, so instead the "federal funding" circumlocution is used. Of course, if California hadn't spent itself into a $35 billion deficit perhaps this could have been handled as a local problem. But strangely this deficit merits not a single mention in the article.

    I don't want to single out Cohn and LA for this, because this is a very common attitude. But this article is an archetypical example of this kind of magical budget thought. In my line of work we'd call this "swishing the dirt around" because calling for federal funds for local activities is just a means to avoid addressing the real problems of budgeting.

    28 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 20:46 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    This week in The New Republic

    The week of 30 December 2002.

    We have a silly anti drug advertisement from The Anti Drug. The key quote

    So if people stopped buying drugs, there wouldn't be a drug market
    Certainly true. And if people stopped stealing, there wouldn't be a stolen goods market. But it doesn't sound like an actual plan to me.

    Beinhart makes some good points in his editorial, but relying on the NAACP to judge whether a politician has a "good" civil rights voting record doesn't seem plausible. Morever, he makes a big deal of Martin Luther King day. He's a great man, but as great as all of our presidents put together? The only man in the history of our nation great enough to warrant his own holiday? I think not. And why, exactly, is voting for this holiday relevant to civil rights?

    The group editorial has an interesting view - undermine the North Korean regime by promoting emigration. Right now it's very difficult for people to escape North Korea because China doesn't want them. I think this is a great idea. Since the South Koreans think reapproachment with the North is a good and realistic idea, the US should support that by providing free transportation from China to South Korea. We could probably get the Chinese to cooperate and surely the South Koreans would be willing to welcome these emissaries from the North.

    We have the obligatory homage to Al Gore from Martin Peretz. Others have ripped this better than I can, but I thought I'd just get one hit in. Peretz says that

    Gore - who, after all, won more votes in 2000 than any presidential candidate in U.S. history except for Ronald Reagan
    Yes, and your point is? Mr. Peretz, allow me to introduce you to something called "population growth". From 1984 (to be generous) to 2000 the US population changed from 253 million to 281 million, an 11% growth. The 2000 election had 105 million votes, so that means about an extra 6 million votes for Gore. Then you could have one of your staff explain to you the irrelevance of the popular vote totals in US presidential elections.
    Posted by aog at 17:43 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    More than one pot on the stove

    I think that while President Bush's deliberate policy on Iraq might be reasonable in isolation, it's not the case that we can pursue a resolution to the Iraq problem in isolation from the rest of the world. The longer we delay, the more other enemies are encourage and able to make trouble. The North Koreans come to mind. I think it unlikely that they would be pushing as hard as they are now were the US not heavily involved with Iraq. There is also the strong possibility that if the conquest of Iraq is sufficiently delayed, then the Iranian mullahs will be able to switch into full repression mode and crush the nascent revolutionary efforts. In Pakistan, the hard line forces are making progress as well. All of this depends on the US being being concentrating on Iraq and the symbolic victory of Saddam against Bush (because, let's be honest, every day Saddam wakes up is a victory for him). There's also some serious trouble brewing in China that's likely to arrive in the next few years, at which point we had better have Iraq sewn up or we may be faced with making unpleasant compromises in Asia. If it is best done, it is best done quickly.
    Posted by aog at 14:43 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Citizen with guns vs. the government

    It seems to be a common meme that civilian ownership of firearms couldn't possibly deter the government, that citizens would have to own military weapons (artillery, tanks, etc.). This may be believed by those who don't support the RKBA, but not by the actual governments that would face those civilians. What we see constistently in history is that governments wanting to oppress their citizens first disarm them, even of small weapons. Why, if they're so ineffective?

    The answer, of course, is that it's simply not true that small arms in civilian hands do not deter government forces. There are several reasons for this, some of which reenforce each other. First, local governments tend to not be willing to destroy the country in order to rule it, so even moderate resistance can be too much. One notes here that civilians arms are in fact more effective against the local government than a foreign invader because the foreign invader is far more likely to be willing to engage in wide spread death and destruction than the local government. A local government can't do that without the risk of more of the population becoming non-supportive or going over to the rebels. Small arms can also be used to acquire bigger ones, by raiding police or army bases, or prolonging the battle long enough for military units to switch sides.

    One of the biggest effects of civilian small arms is that it makes it very difficult for government forces to just "disappear" people. If we consider Waco and Ruby Ridge, those civilians with the arms, but the overall resistance to the government was increased, not just in the direct attitudes of citizens but the fact that internal law enforcement problems were revealed and officials directing future actions will have to keep these incidents in mind. But they would not have had these effects at all had those civilians not possessed small arms. Law enforcement personel that are regularly resisted small arms tend to not do so much enforcing (we can see this in the propensity for SWAT teams to hit soft targets rather than well armed ones, as in Columbine).

    Finally, the crime issue matters as well. Beyond the direct effect of detering criminals, citizens that take responsiblity for their own protection tend to be much less cowed by government power. It is this attitude that is the greatest bar to an overweening government and one of the main reasons that liberals (who favor ever increasing government) wish citizens to disarm and become dependent on the government for their protection. Once you have that, the contest between citizenry and government is basically over. So, yes, an armed populace makes a big difference in how intrusive a government can become without having to give citizens access to real weapons of war.

    27 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 16:20 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Democracy, freedom, consent and minarchy

    I'm not all that big a fan of democracy and "freedom". Democracy, as has been said before, is two wolves and a sheep voting on dinner. Democracy is a useful tool for constructing governments, as it tends to be less susceptible to most governmental pathologies, but it's just a means, not an end. Our Founding Fathers wisely made our nation not a democracy but a republic with democratic infrastructure. This has been so successful that most people today who refer to "democracy" really mean a democratic republic like the US, where pure democracy is constrained by limited government powers.

    As for "freedom", I put that in quotes because it is a word that has almost opposite meanings across the political spectrum, or even in the same place. One need only look at FDR's "Four Freedoms" to see this. Some (like "freedom of speech") are things that where making people leave other alone suffices while others (like "freedom from want") require enslaving some for the benefit of others but allow none to escape. All of the freedoms do, however, constrain someone's freedom to act. Conversely, one can plausibly argue that total freedom is the Hobbesian state of nature where in practice few indeed can act freely.

    What, then, do I look to as a guide? I go with consent. I view the goal of government as being to maximize the amount of consent in a society. This is very similar to what libertarians mean by freedom. This is the ability to do as much by choice as is possible. However, because more freedom for some can mean less for others (in either the Hobbesian jungle or the welfare state), we have to accept the tragic vision that a perfectly consensual society is impossible. We must settle for something less. That is why I formulate the goal as "maximizing" rather than just a "concensual society". Not only does this allow the impossibility of perfection but also implies (as I believe) that it is an ongoing process as our society grows and changes. Moreover, our imperfection means that not only can't we have a fully consensual government, we can't even know what the maximum possible is. While we can tell in broad brush more from less consensual governments (e.g. the US vs. Cuba), rational people can reasonably come to different conclusions about which of two governments has more consent (e.g. US vs. Hong Kong in 1996).

    So I don't look for a system of government that is perfect, but one that it as concensual as possible, or at least close. If we look at the amount of consent vs. the power of the government, we see that there is a peak between anarchy (where there is little consent except for a priviledged few) and totalitarianism (where there is little consent except for a priviledged few). My understanding of the world leads me to believe that the peak is much closer to anarchy than totalitarianism. For instance, I think that the US is on the "too much" side of the peak. The technical term for this is "minarchy", the belief that less government is generally better but that no government is worse.

    But won't people make bad choices and hurt themselves? Won't they make choices that harm not only themselves but others? Yes. But I haven't seen any other government or societal structure prevent that, except for the ones that make the bad choices for the people, which hardly seems an improvement. The question is wehther the effort to prevent such choices costs more than it benefits. I measure both of those in how much, in general and overall, people can truly make their own choices. Sometimes the efforts to prevent the bad choices removes too many non-bad choices so that it is a net loss. We have to accept that while we can't have complete freedom, we also can't make everyone always doing the "right" thing, that we must have policies that we know will lead some people to personal destruction. I accept that. I also believe that while people aren't perfect, that overall they tend toward good much more than evil. Otherwise it's difficult to see how any society could exist. However, like any talent it becomes much better with practice and structure, so some socieities are far more nuturing of the best in people. I think that societies under consent based governments do better at this because more totalitarian governments (particularly welfare states) cause the moral sense to atrophy through disuse. Nothing destroyed black familes in America like the beneficent hand of government that knew what was good for people.

    A consensually organized government provides the structure in which people can make their own decisions, without trying to make those decisions for people, leaving to society to provide the guidance people need to make better choices. Maximizing consent is the proper role of government, but not for society. A key difference is the society can have its outcasts, but government cannot. Let us use force only where we must, and guidance where we can.

    Posted by aog at 12:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Paranoia strikes deep

    So William Saletan takes on the Frist racial slur story, which was originally raised by Talking Points Memo. He does the analysis concerning Frist's campaign comment that
    Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans' wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry
    and decides that despite the fact that Marion Barry was black, Frist was not being racist. Saletan decides this primarily on the basis that Frist demonized other political figures such as Dan Rostenkowski. Saletan just can't resist the dig, as if Rostenkowski and Barry aren't Democrats worth demonizing. The best quote is
    Like Marshall, I get suspicious whenever a white politician denounces an unpopular black person before a white audience
    I suppose the reason the black person is unpopular is irrelevant - it's reasonable to be suspicious a priori. Before Clinton, it was Barry who best characterized the sleaze, corruption and personal degeneracy of the Democratic Party, so it's hardly surprising that a Republican from a conservative state would use him to tar his Democratic opponent, even if Barry wasn't actually mayor of DC at the time (I'd bet big money that if you'd surveyed Tennessee at the time and asked them who was mayor of DC, Barry would have been the number one answer). If this is the smokiest gun the other side can find, Frist must be one of the purest politicians around.
    Posted by aog at 10:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Avoiding responsibility

    One thing that bugs me professionally and politically are people who object to some policy on the basis that some Bad Thing will happen if that policy is persued, without any considering of whether the Bad Thing happens under the current policy. For instance, drug legalization, where the complaint is that people will ruin their lives by taking drugs, as if no one does that now. One can reasonably raise an objection to legalization on the basis that more people would do so, but to act as if prohibition prevents such things is ludicrous. Similarly, we have those who object to the attack on Iraq because thousands of civilians would be killed. The fact that not attacking means that thousands will die every year is apparently not an important fact. Or school vouchers, where the complaint is that children might get a bad education from shoddy private schools, as if tens of thousands of the poorest and most vulnerable children aren't being mentally blighted by the public school system right now.

    I often wonder if it's related to the "don't shovel your walk" theory. If nothing is done, then no responsibility attaches to not acting, but if one does act then any bad result (even if it would have been more likely to happen) becomes the responsibility of the one who acted. Could it be that increasing litigious society is the result of this mind set, where anyone who acts accepts absolute responsibility rather than responsibility for making things better or worse? It could be the moral agency issue mentioned in a previous post, but that's in many ways related to this view, although without the implied bigotry. It's more likely to be both, reenforcing each other - rare indeed is the group of humans motivated by a single cause. The motive described in this post is actually more worrisome than soft bigotry, as it represents a society that is no longer willing to take risks, a bureaucratic thinking population. That's the mark of decaying, destined to fade away society.

    Posted by aog at 09:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Claiming victory when ever I can.

    Here's my comment about Lott, which was obviously read by Karl Rove. Tip from The Brothers Judd.

    23 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 15:20 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Thought Mesh

    Over at The Brothers Judd they're talking about 'smart mobs'. These are groups of people using modern technology (text messaging, video phones, blogs) to communicate in real time, thereby forming a larger 'mob' which in some ways has a "mind of its own" independent of the people comprising it. This concept is where "Thought Mesh" comes from. "Mesh" is a standard CS term for a web of independent but communicating computing devices. As more and more people become wired and the wiring gets better, we approach a state where memes can run around on a distributed "thought mesh" getting considered, improved and filtered.

    Of course, this concept long predates Mr. Thompson's discovery. It has always been a topic of fascination for me. I've mentioned it before on other blogs with regard to the Fermi paradox. Leaving such a web of communication might well feel as bad as a lobotomy. If such a thought mesh is the invevitable result of a technological civilization, then that might well prevent any members of that civilization from venturing very far from the home world. Even if that's not the case, we are already seeing profound changes because of this emerging thought mesh and are likely to see even more. Will privacy exist in a wired world with Google? Will fathers be able to google up teen-age blogs to investigate the scum dating their daughters? It may well be much more like a small town, where you can find out everything about anyone and nothing is ever really forgotten.

    22 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 20:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

    Saddam Hussein: If I can't have Iraq, no one can

    So once again there are rumours that Saddam will unleash destruction on Iraq if the US invades. I've been hearing that since 12 Sep 2001. It is a disgusting but rational choice on his part. Whatever happens to Iraq, regardless of why or by whom, the US will be blamed. It's quite plausible that Saddam will arrange for massacres of his own civilians, knowing that the intelligentsia of the West will blame the US. There are several observations one can make from this fact.

    In a real sense, if such massacres occur, the hard core anti-Americans will have to share some blame because it is their unswerving acceptance of anything that attacks the US that creates the "objective conditions" making it a good policy for Saddam.

    It's another example of the soft bigotry of the modern Left. As far as the Left is concerned, wogs don't have moral agency. No responsibility can be attached to Saddam or the Iraqis, only to Westerners. Of course, moral agency is a defining characteristic of being human. Connect the dots.

    Another facet of the previous point is how Iraqi lives are irrelevant to the Left. Those lives only have meaning when their loss can be blamed on the US or the West. Otherwise they have no meaning. Here we have the moral equivalence between Saddam and the Left. Both are willing to sacrifice any number of Iraqi lives, health and welfare in order to damage the US and the West.

    Unfortunately, we are the Sons of Martha and must soldier on regardless.

    Posted by aog at 09:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Slow sales season?

    Instantman is reporting that sales at his local malls and those of other bloggers seem slower than normal. Perhaps. I wouldn't know, actually, because I and She Who Is Perfect In All Ways did all of our shopping electronically. We've been doing that heavily for years, but this is really the first Christmas season where we did almost all of our holiday shopping on line. I went to only a single physical store and that was to purchase a very specific item, so I didn't spend much time "shopping" there. I wonder how much of the slow down is people buying on line. While it can take longer to locate things, you can always take break, bookmark stuff for later, and never fight a crowd. We'll see when the economic figures come out in January, but I do think that overall sales will not be as robust as they've been the last few years.

    Posted by aog at 09:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Laying off the egg-blog

    Posting will be a little light for the next few weeks. I'm learning Perl and HTML along with a number of other job related crises. The Christmas season is upon us as well. Hopefully, in a Nietzchiean fashion, I will emerge stronger after my ordeal. I'll also probably have to take a trip to California. I just hope that the budget problems there don't lead them to start grabbing people at the airport and charging them $1000 a person to leave the state.

    In a further update, I've moved my hit & run posts to another blog, Low Earth Orbit. I intend to use that blog primarily for clippings from other websites, with very little commentary. If there's something interesting to say, I'll put the post here.

    The formatting on my blogs may be down for a day or two at various points as I make improvements. Hopefully both the you readers can forgive any format related interruptions of service. I'll do my testing in Geosynchronous Observations but at some point I'll have to load the alledgedly working templates on real blogs.

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

    Gender based viewing habits

    Today's Parade magazine has a question in the "Personality" section about why movies and TV have more female nudity than male nudity [only in the print version]. Parade answers with some lame exampel of a single TV show that balances out butt shots between a male and female actors, which of course doesn't answer the question. The answer of course is blindingly obvious - far more men will pay to see naked women than women will pay to see naked men. But apparently you can't say that in public. One wonders at the writer of the question, though - was the writer just trolling, looking for some gender bashing or riling at the Evil Corporate Masters who run Big Media?

    19 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 17:00 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    First use?

    As various people discuss a potential war in Korea, a big topic seems to be whether the US would use nuclear weapons to stop a North Korean advance, given the approbation that would descend on the US for another first use of nuclear weapons. I don't understand why it is assumed that the US would be the first to use them. The North Korean government is staffed primarily by insane people. They recently threatened nuclear war if South Korea elected the conservative presidential candidate. Why, exactly, wouldn't NK use a couple of nukes right off the bat to punch through the DMZ? That would take care of the land mines and since most of those troops will be killed anyway, the radiation wouldn't be much of an issue. The EMP would disrupt US/RoK communications which would be another advantage. It's not like North Korea could become more of a pariah than it already is. Another cheery thought from the mesh!

    18 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 09:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Dancing skeletons

    As mentioned earlier one possible reason for the European reluctance to deal with Iraq is what might be found there. Now we have the first real hint of that (courtesy Little Green Footballs). I have no doubts that our alledged allies in Europe have been selling WMD equipment and arms to Iraq while calling the US a rogue nation. Given the tight links between industry and government in those countries, there is no way that this trade went on without the knowledge and acquiesence of those governments. Is this what President Bush has been waiting for?

    Posted by aog at 09:37 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    More baseless speculation

    The wobbly watch is on at here among other places. I'm not going to count my tatoos before they're done, so I'll offer two speculative theories based on nothing but my fervid imagination.

    One is that President Bush has decided for some reason that it is necessary for Saddam to do something blatantly stupid to proceed. The statement by Powell about "not requiring regime change" is just a ploy to make Saddam over confident. Historically, of course, that is the way to bet. One notes that not requiring something is not at all the same think as not desiring it. The statement doesn't cut off the option of acting if circumstances permit it. Bush may believe that he needs something really flagrant on the part of Saddam to keep the domestic situation in line. I hope he's not so delusional as to think that there is anything Saddam could do that would wake up the Europeans (I honestly believe that if Saddam dropped a nerve gas filled Scud on a European city, the elites would find a way to work around it).

    Another alternate is that President Bush has come to the conclusion that many in the blogosphere have realized, that disarming Saddam will be the same as ousting him. He's too odious to survive if he isn't a leading light of success against the Great Satan. In this vein, one could read Powell's message as "we don't require that Saddam be killed, only that he commit suicide".

    16 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 22:38 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Short-fall in state programs - shocking!

    The WSJ has a story about the failure of Colorado's pre-paid tuition plan. This was the scam program parents would give the state money on behalf of a child and the state promised to pay tuition when the child was in college. Colorado's plan has collapsed on the twin wrecks of the dot com die off and rocket assisted tuition costs. Of course, these costs are at state schools, which presumably are controlled in some way by the state government. But there is a simple solution - the state has told the parents to either take their money back (no mention if they get more than the principal) or take their chances on whether the fund will cover tution without any promises by the state. And there's a further news flash - other states may have the same problem! How in the world could multiple state governments behave in a fiscally irresponsible, deceitful and self-defeating manner? Yes, you in the back? What, they're governments, what did I expect? Actually just about what happened. I didn't drop any of my cash into one of these.

    Most states are pursuing a program of rapidly raising the entrance fees. But there is worry that not as many parents will participate. Reality dysfunction. If the problem is not being able to make payments, i.e. it's a money loser, why is less participation a problem? The article isn't clear on why exactly there is worry. Could it be that, despite the claims of self-funding, some of these are really Ponzi schemes? Or could it be that they are worried that parents won't be able to afford college for their children and the fix for that is to play financial games with these funds rather than address the rapid tuition increases? Where is root cause analysis when you need it?

    Posted by aog at 22:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Self Imagery

    I get home after a long day of code slinging. I pick up the WSJ that's sitting on the table and browse through some of the articles. Suddenly I see one that makes me comment out loud. What could this mean except "time to blog!". I pull out my trusty notebook. No time for hooking up to the power cord. I slip the wireless card out of its holder and slam it home in the PC card slot. The sound is like the echoing ka-chunk of someone cocking a shotgun. I'm locked and loaded - wired and fired, ready for some heavy duty blogging. Bring it on!

    Posted by aog at 18:43 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Filtration

    I was discussing the blogosphere with a co-worker and how it might impact Big Media in the future. What occured to me is that the set of blogs, with its natural hierarchy (or food chain), serves as a extremely effective filtering mechanism. If some random, miniscule readership blog like this happens on some good, verifiable data, it will be picked up by one of the blogs a little higher on the food chain, because almost all non-bottom feeding blogs read at least some down level ones. In a recursive manner this data will flow up the food chain until it is posted on a heavy traffic blog (like Instantman or The Corner. Then it's everywhere.

    Because there is no enforced hierarchy (it's an emergent property of the blogosphere) there is little rigidty to information flows. It's in fact important for even the biggest blogs to read down scale blogs and not just cross read the blogerati because they'll go stale. So the system has a nice negative feedback cycle to prevent calcification.

    What's most fascinating to me is that I was an architect on a project that was trying to build something just like this. It was a event monitoring system. One of the dirty little secrets of managing networks is that it's hard to know what's going because you know too much. The number of events generated by devices in a network is absolutely astounding. A million a day is a reasonable planning number for a big site. Nobody can keep up with that. Our system was designed to distribute cybernetic readers through the network, each one reading data from another set of lower level readers and passing a condensed and filtered event stream to a higher level reader. The filtering is key - it's not just compressing data - some of it must be thrown away or the central processing will choke. Of course, the interesting bits were in deciding how the readers worked (I didn't do that - I'm a systems guy so I was tasked with building the framework to move data and get the readers to hook up).

    This is the future. We now live in a world where finding data about something isn't the problem, it's finding the right data. And it's the kind of thing the blogosphere does well.

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

    A true sense of timing

    This is truly some major stupidity. While Iran is in the middle of significant political ferment (which is very likely to benefit everyone except the mad mullahs), aided by American supported radio broadcasts, we pulled the plug and replaced call ins with vapid pop songs. As Jonah Goldberg says,

    How does the State Department allow things like this to happen? (Okay, so maybe that's a dumb question.)

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

    An update on the non-investigation

    An update on the non-investigation of how the Palestinian Authority uses EU funding (which I mentioned a time or two). Two extra bits of information:

    First is that Arafat is not just using the money to fund terror, but stashing it away in European accounts, thereby abusing the Palestinians twice over along with Israelis (that Arafat - never satisfied with committing only one crime at a time). Can some one who is upset about what the Israelis do to the Palestinians explain why this passes without serious comment?

    Second is that Patten is so opposed to any investigation of what the PA does with the money that he has made starting the investigation a vote of no-confidence in him. Sounds like he has a good idea of where the money goes.

    Linkage: Tips via Kesher Talk.

    Posted by aog at 07:22 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Unfair discipline

    NPR had a story about the potential NYC transit worker strike this morning. One issue for the union was "respect". Apparently there were 11,000 disciplinary meastures taken against transit workers last year (is this a lot? how does it compare with other unions, other cities? how many workers in the union? Not mentioned). The kicker was that "some of these actions were for matters as small as being late to work". How fascist, expecting people to be on time. Don't the managers have day jobs that keep them too busy to check on whether workers show up on time?

    15 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 18:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Salvation through destruction

    An interesting article via Tim Blair on the origins of anti-Americanism in the desparate effort to save Marxism from the ash heap of history. It's quite good, I would only quibble with

    No capitalist society has ever willingly liquidated itself, and it is utopian to think that any ever will
    As many have commented, it's not so clear that the EU member countries are well on the way to liquidating themselves. But the author is correct that it hasn't quite happened yet.

    Update: I just realized the real message here - "it's all about me". Better to destroy America and the West than endure the pain of rethinking your beliefs. So for the proponents of these theories it's ultimately it's not about accomplishing anything but feeling good about oneself. Doesn't the define modern liberalism?

    Posted by aog at 18:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Visiting the Plantation

    A close friend of mine who is a journalist is going to Havana to celebrate her birthday this winter. She asked if I wanted to go along. I sent her this article about a Cuban airport worker hiding out in the landing gear in order to escape to Canada, commenting "I can't imagine wanting to visit some place people are so desparate to get out of".

    But that was just a glib riff on something I feel much more deeply. I don't understand the moral difference between enjoying a vacation in Cuba and visiting a slave plantation. For what is Cuba except a plantation writ large? Everything that is good about a visit is a side effect of the repressive Castro regime that accepts no limits on its control of its inmates. My friend is a good person, someone who I've always thought of as more upright than I am. I just can't understand how she can so blithely ignore the massive suffering that under girds her pleasant vacation. It's one thing to be in the country because it's a job, another to willingly vacation there.

    She's quite the liberal, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that someone who smuggled pictures out of South Africa during the apartheid regime would be willing to overlook Castro's oppression. It's a very common pattern, but no more understandable for it. She's claimed that Castro has "done good" for the Cuban people (as if buying your wife nice dinners makes up for beating her) and that without Castro the Cuban exiles would get back in control (as if Cuba wouldn't be freer and richer if they'd never left). She seems to think that the latter is what worries the Cuban people, but it's not clear to me that as a journalist, she would ever have been able to talk to people freely. It's certainly not the view I have from my readings of Cuban refugees and political prisoners.

    There's no real point to this post, just some venting. I pride myself on being able to understand other's view points (it's something that makes me good at my job), but this person, who's been one of my closest friend for decades, I just can't grasp at all.

    Posted by aog at 17:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Bluff vs. action - another cultural gap?

    USS Clueless has a post on the propensity of Arabs in the Middle East of making extravagant claims concerning what will happen to their enemies. As he says,

    When our enemies actually have the capabilities they claim, they use them. When they bluster, it's because they're weak
    Den Beste fails to lok at the flip side. It is difficult to believe those who do this are completely unaware of this. Given their general lack of understanding of other cultures, why wouldn't they project this on the West, and assume that since we haven't nuked them or crushed them miiltary that we, for whatever reason, cannot do so? Why wouldn't they assume that if we were capable of defeating them, we'd do it instead of talking about it? Not a cheery thought.

    13 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 10:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Letters to Congress

    In the spirit of bloggers actually doing things instead of just venting on a website, I've decided to be more vigorous in my writing to Congress. So today I fired off two missives.

    One was to my Republican Senator, telling him that Lott is a weak-kneed gaffe prone incompetent leader that the Republican party and the country as a whole would be better off without.

    The other was to both my Senators strongly urging the ratification of the recent free trade agreement with Chile (tip via the Brothers Judd).

    12 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 19:24 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    European futures - sell faster

    Orin Judd has an extensive post on Europe's dismal future. He has a couple of long cites. What struck me was in the second one, there was the standard "US is doomed because it is a debtor nation, if other nations get upset then the debts will be called in". This very analysis demonstrates the closed world view that is dooming Europe. There is simply no conception that these debts / investments are made by millions of people and businesses, not by the nations they inhabit. Are Europeans such sheep that they will sacrifice their own financial futures in order to spite the US? Europeans seem to be willing to acquiese to much, but active self destruction still seems beyond them.

    Posted by aog at 18:52 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    The Lott-ery

    Ok, it's clear what's going to happen now. President Bush will have a private chat with some other Senator and convince him to challenge Lott. While no Senator has publicly called for Lott to leave, it's clear that he has no support and any decent challenger should win easily, especially if President Bush lets it be known that he favors the challenger.

    Posted by aog at 14:24 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    The Arab European League

    Another post from InstantMan, this time on the Arab European League. The original post has quotes from an interview with Abu JahJah. Except for the final quote, "It would be fantastic if empty planes would be flown into the White House" I don't see anything particularly provocative. Some of the early statements, such as Dutch society not being assimilationist, are ones that as far as I can tell are correct.

    I suspect that Abu JahJah is cynically exploiting real problems to advance the Calipharian agenda, but this suggests that a good policy of assimilation and integration would cause his support to evaporate. In many ways he's simply the Le Pen from the other side. If you get rid of him, it'll just be some one else. As long as Europe ignores its immigrant problem, it will only get worse. It also says that America needs to turn away from multi-culturalism as it is practiced and back to real assimilation. Turning "them" into "us" is one of the things that makes this nation truly great.

    Posted by aog at 12:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Edge Power

    A post by InstantMan about "edge power" which is where the power to move and shape something occurs on the edge, not in the center. The example used is internet content, where the Web, by reducing transaction costs, moves power to the edge. When any dedicated enthusiast can, for a few tens of thousands of dollars, produce audio or video content that's almost as good as major media corporations, it will be the edge that drives content. Similarily with editorial content and the blogosphere.

    But this isn't new. The Dark Empire figured this out long ago. From very early on, the Dark Empire provided excellent developer software kits at low prices and marketed them aggresively, which was in contrast to its competitors, particularly IBM (for OS/2). I experienced this myself at various tech conferences. For $1000, a developer could get everything he needed to build applications for Windows. But who did that empower? Not large application developers - because they buy bulk licenses they can get the price and response they need. It was the edge, the tiny garbage developers who benefited the most from this strategy. I remember pricing UNIX developer setups in that time period and there was just no comparison in terms of price and ease of acquisition (I was an edge guy in those days, not the mindless corporate zombie I am today). It was a strategy that paid off for the Dark Empire. Perhaps other companies in other areas might draw some lessons from this.

    11 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 22:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Just say no-EU

    So the Eastern European countries are becoming nervous about joining the tangled web that is the EU. I'm not surprised - Samizdata has been sounding on that theme for a long time. But it seems to be becoming clearer to the general public in Eastern Europe just what a decaying mess the EU is, and how much it will do to quash any glimmer of strong economic growth. All those countries really need is for the UK to pull back to just a free trade partner and then sign on for that (like Norway is currently). The only thing they'd be giving up is the potential for massive subsidies like other second tier EU members have received. That may not be much given the current budget problems plaguing Western Europe which seem highly unlikely to get better any time soon.

    10 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 14:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Hollywood gets one right

    I originally saw this quoted in comments at Little Green Footballs but there was no web link. That was provided by Andrew Sullivan. It's a bunch of "celebrities" calling on President Bush "to stop his war rhetoric toward Iraq". Absolutely right - action, not rhetoric! Invade now!

    Posted by aog at 09:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Why we fight

    An excellent article from Bernard Lewis, straight from the Brothers Judd. The article discusses how the inchoate response of the West to Bin Laden's attack is emboldening his successors.

    09 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 18:18 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Non-zero tolerance

    As I picked up Boy One from kindergarten today, several other kids were playing some sort of war game involving guns made out of legos and other similar items. It was a mixed gender group and as the girls ran by me to grab some cover behind a table, one says to the other "make sure your gun's on safety". I love America.

    Posted by aog at 18:02 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    International Law Watch 10

    Just some minor points.

    Via a tip from Instantman we have an article pondering the question, why doesn't the world go after Iraq for violating international law as it does the US? This of course is one my main themes on this issue - why can Iraq massively violate internaional law with no consequences? Of course, we know the answer.

    We get the other article from Orin Judd. It concerns a Japanese jurist and some citizens getting together to hold the US accountable for violations of international law during the war in Afgahnistan. One wonders why they're not investigating North Korea for kidnapping Japanese citizens, but no matter. The interesting bit is that a basic thesis is that any military operation that causes civilian damage is against international law. Even I won't claim that interational law is that bogus. It seems to me that these people are cynical anti-American idiots abusing something they neither understand or care about.

    Finally, on a related but not directly on topic note, we have a good post from David Frum, on how Saddam is pushing the envelope for those opposing the war with Iraq. But why not? Based on the evidence, it's not unreasonable to Saddam to believe that most of these people will support anything he does or says to avoid war.

    Posted by aog at 08:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    The Battle of Trent-on

    Because Orin Judd is on the case and Instantman is all over it with many posts (and more on the way), I have to comment on Trent Lott. I think the Trent Lott should be desposed as Senate majority leader. I think his remark was offensive, but frankly not really that big a deal. However, the remark does provide a convenient excuse because Lott's job performance stinks. As many have said, he's politically tone and completely incapable of competing with the leadership of the opposition party. Plus, the Republicans could then dump on Byrd for his remark.

    08 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 12:05 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    A free exchange of ideas and facts

    I was reading a post on Spleenville which discussed Canadian views of America. A couple of key quotes, apparently completely serious:

    Almost uniformly, they [Canadians] felt our country [USA] was falling into a dictatorial and dangerous situation, and they wondered how ordinary Americans felt about it

    Canadians think America is collapsing into an intolerant, paranoid, and insecure society where normal politics and criticism have been outlawed

    The original author fired back with this response.

    The tone of these articles and the comments seems to be that these fears of Canadians, that (for instance) movies such as Bowling for Columbine are being censored, are legitimate concerns and not flat out delusional. No actual incidents are cited. The best that the author can come up with is that the federal government is removing data from its own websites. I can't say I agree with this action, but given the billion other websites around that could easily publish this data, I find extremely little cause for concern.

    The author accuses the "right-wing" types of ignorance but he seems a little disconnected from reality himself. Let's take a look.

    My last post on how Canadians view the U.S. has attracted some rightwing scorn. But I have a question for my right-wing friends: Do governments tell the truth?
    Trick question because of an implied "always". Governments tell the truth and they lie.
    My experience is that governments and politicians readily lie to protect themselves and advance their agendas.
    Hey, are you sure that you're not a right-winger?
    Much of the rightwing view on Iraq is predicated on a total belief in the truth of the conjectures coming out of the Pentagon
    Disconnect. I read a lot of right-wing blogs and I've never seen either (1) this level of trust or (2) the citing of Pentagon positions in support of war with Iraq. Why don't you check out Daily Pundit for some one who believes little if anything out of the Pentagon and is a fervent supporter of taking out Saddam.
    This total trust is similarly behind suggestions that every social good can be more efficiently delivered by free capitalist markets
    Disconnect. Trust in government means believing in the greater efficiency of the free market? Could you cite a single example of someone who supports delivering social goods via the free market who has this kind of trust in government? Actually, many of the free market types I know support free markets because of the fact you cite just above - governments lie to protect themselves and advance their agenda (others, like me, actually support liberty, realizing that free markets are inextricably linked with liberty). This lying by government is why you (presumably) support government control of social goods? I don't quite follow that.

    You also might consider whether every social good can be delivered. You may not agree, but it would help you understand the world view of most free marketers.

    But corporations lie. Enron lied. Tyco lied. Even GE lied about some transactions. Lying about profitability has become so pervasive that few believe earnings projections anymore. Yet if capitalists lie, then perhaps not everything they promise about filling social needs will come to pass
    Yes, corporations lie. You might note that these companies have been punished or wiped out. Why don't you provide some examples of government agencies that did equivalent things where the agency was disbanded. Which is better - a system where corporations get away with lying for a few years, or a system where government gets away with lying for decades? Who killed more people and destroyed more wealth - Enron or the Ba'ath Party? Remember, if governments lie, then perhaps not everything they promise about filling social needs will come to pass.
    One of the most dangerous activities of the administration is the introduction of government thought police whose job is to make sure that no research or science that supports conclusions at odds with Bush is allowed to survive on government web sites.
    An actual legitimate point, if a weak one. The problem here is that the government is exterting control over government websites. Isn't that kind of their job? If the federal government doesn't decide whatis on federal government websites, then who would? If someone wants this research in public, then why can't they post it on their own website? Just how hard is that? I mean, why would you use a government website as the reliable source of information anyway since "governments lie to protect their interests and advance their agenda"? It doesn't sound like it's the right wingers who have an over abundance of trust in the veracity of government. It's not clear that this is even a real issue, and even if it was it would be very little cause for concern.
    Attempts to control information, including government information, represented some of the worst abuses of soviet bureaucracies. Back before the fall of the Soviet Union, there was tremendous scorn for a government that lied, that distorted information that would not print inconvenient facts.
    So now the White House having the Dept. of Education's website cleaned up is the equivalent of Soviet style information control? You might want to fact-check me on this, but I thought that the Soviet government controlled all public information distribution and even the possession of an unlicensed mimeograph was illegal, while here in the USA the government is a small current in a massive sea of public information. When the Bush regime ships you off for psychiatric adjustment for publishing that stuff on your website, I'll accept your equivalence.
    With that in mind, look at the Friday White House press transcript. Why can�t the White House admit that O�Neill and Lindsey were asked to resign?
    I don't know. I'd agree that they're being misleading jerks. On the other hand, it's not like the Bush White House is the first one to play this game ("depends on what the meaning of 'is' is"). Also, in the whole exchange Fleischer never lies. He is clearly not telling the entire story but nothing he actually does say is non-factual.
    [Long transcript of Ari Fleischer dodging questions elided] What are they afraid of? Uncontrolled information.
    If they were really afraid of uncontrolled information, where is there still a web? It's hard to think of information with less control than that. It is exactly this kind of delusional paranoia that makes it hard to resist open mockery.
    When Kennedy went to the UN during the Cuban Missile crisis, he presented incontrovertible evidence for the world to see that offensive missiles had been introduced into Cuba.

    If Bush cannot produce similar information about Iraq, why should we believe it is a threat? Because Saddam is an evil man and he attacked Bush senior?

    I would guess because the US controlled the UN at that time so the UN would believe. Now, it's pretty clear that the UN won't believe anything bad about Saddam regardless of evidence. Consider that Denmark just arrested a former Iraqi officer on the charge of committing war crimes by using poison gas (a WMD) against a civilian population. So there's enough evidence available charge this guy but not enough to indicate that Iraq has such weapons. However, the WMD issue is really of secondary importance (no, I don't understand why Bush makes that the center peice, other than it's something that there is a slight chance other nations would care about and it's a clear violation of existing treaties. On the other hand, there's no shortage of treaty violations by Iraq - it's treaty compliance that's hard to document). The real bottom line is that Iraq is a linch pin of modern terrorism and taking him out will do more than any other single action to move forward in the struggle against terrorism.
    There is a climate of intimidation and scorn towards information and facts that contradict Bush�s views of the world. I wonder if our right wing friends could agree that a free exchange of all ideas and facts, including inconvenient ones, is likely to lead to the best decisions.
    I think the VRWC would agree with that. That's why there is a vigorous debate on Iraq within the VRWC. It's the Left that's not contributing.
    The only people afraid of inconvenient facts are fundamentalists and bureaucrats�who can only see the world through a distorted lens. I say lets smash the lenses and look reality straight in the face. O�Neill was fired, no matter what Ari Fleischer says. If the U.S. has evidence that Saddam is lying, prove it!
    Fine, O'Neil was fired. Gosh, the Bush regime's information suppression worked wonders on that issue! As for Saddam, unfortunately we got conned into participating in the UN inspections farce, so it would be stupid to reveal what we know of Saddam's weapons right now (because then he'd know exactly what to hide before the inspectors show up, because the inspectors are tipping him off). It is interesting, though, that even though you claim that "governments lie to protect themselves", you don't apply that to the Iraqi government. The USA has a very free and open information society where government lies are rapidly exposed, while Iraq is a extremely repressive and closed society where people who disagree with the government disappear into torture chambers. Or you can look at this.

    Posted by aog at 08:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Petard Watch

    Over at Transterrestrial Musings there is the comment that

    Bellesiles may be the best thing to ever have happened to supporters of the right to bear arms, which is why Gary Wills, among others, is so angry at him now
    Of course, Bellesiles wouldn't have been such a win for the RKBA side if the gun control side hadn't embraced him with such uncritical fervor. If he hadn't been lauded and praised by people like Gary Wills, Bellesiles would just be a footnote now. The gun control gang did it to themselves, but I doubt that they'll ever realize it.

    Posted by aog at 07:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Post modernism vs.monster trucks

    I watched an episode of Monster Garage, a show on the Discovery Channel. The conceit is that a group of people modify an ordinary vehicle into something ... extreme. The episode that I saw involved a team upgrading a delivery truck into an extreme delivery machine. The team put a couple of air cannons on the top to fire newspapers and small packages. They also installed a ballista that fired medium sized packages out the side and a trebuchet to fling large packages. For the last one they cut a flap in the roof that could be raised by a switch on the dashboard. The show follows the efforts of the team to perform the upgrade, and if they're successful they get a big set of top quality tools.

    The whole thing reprises Samuel Johnson - "I refute it thus VROOOOOOM!". It's completely against the grain of post modernism. The team starts with an ordinary truck and various parts and must transform it into the target vehicle. There's not much deconstructing or recontextualizing - it's welding and fastening. If the package doesn't go flying out the side when the ballista fires then it doesn't work. No "redefining the operational mode". You can put a package on a doorstep from the street or you can't. The judgements of an unforgiving reality is always there. In contrast, we have the EU deciding to declare that their rapid reaction force is "operational" even if it missing key elements. You couldn't get away with that kind of fudging on Monster Garage.

    There is also the attitude of the team. One of the devices is a four-barreled newspaper air cannon (I quiver just typing that). They put it together and then do a test. The whooping joy when it actually fires the test objects across the garage really captures the joy of building, of doing. The failure to ever feel that joy, of watching something you built yourself perform, is likely a root cause of the psychological disorder that gave rise to post modernism. One often sees this kind of welding or "shop" type stuff derided as mindless grunt work, but just one episode is enough to show how wrong that is. The team demonstrates real intelligence and cleverness in constructing the various devices out of chunks of metal.

    These are of course the same themes that run through a number of recent shows, like Junkyard Wars or Robotica. It's interesting that both of these came out of the UK - perhaps there's still hope for the Brits.

    07 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 17:29 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

    Watching your money

    Here's another article on the explicit refusal by the EU to investigate exactly what the Palestinian Authority does with the 10 million euros the EU hands out every month.

    EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten dismissed the call for a probe, saying it would undermine moderates in the Palestinian Authority, and thus scupper any hopes of halting the cycle of violence in the Middle East.

    "An inquiry would make it enormously difficult to continue providing aid (to the Palestinian Authority)," Patten told a meeting of the Parliament's foreign affairs committee.

    [...]"If we sunder relations with the Palestinian Authority it will be very difficult to claim that the EU is playing any kind of role in the Middle East region," Patten added.

    Apparently it's better to sponsor a terrorist in the dark than light a single candle of inquiry.

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

    Daily Pundit clippings

    Two clippings from Daily Pundit.

    Businessmen and politicians are protesting Jesse Jacksons' alledged "leadership of the black community". The twist is that the protestors are black and members of the Democratic Party.

    Reuters is going down the tubes. Unfortunately, it's not because of their biased reporting but strategic mismangement. Of course, it may well be that the former is also caused by the latter which involves an arrogant disregard for mundane facts. Just like their reporting.

    06 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 16:43 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    You know you're in trouble when...

    I've now seen this Howard Kurtz article referenced by InstantMan and Best of the Web, so I have to say something because it's so telling. The money quote:

    [Senator] Landrieu even gave a $1,000 donation from Handgun Control to a hunting organization to clear up any "confusion" about her backing of the Second Amendment
    Returning it would be bad enough, but handing it over to a pro-RKBA group? That's harsh.

    The other interesting bit from this race is that Terrel, the Republican challenger, has hired a voice actor to impersonate Clinton claiming that Landrieu is "closer to Hillary than I am". Landrieu has of course avoided having any actual Clintons show up in Lousianna. Quite the popular ex-president these days.

    Posted by aog at 15:01 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Leftists do have a sense of humor

    Contra the Juddian view that humor is intrinsically conservative, we have this post from the Shark Blog which conclusive demonstrates a keenly honed sense of comedy from the Left. Unfortunately, they're a bit confused on the entertainment / reality line, but that's a different problem.

    I forgot where I picked this up - but it wasn't InstantMan.

    Posted by aog at 14:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Words, not actions

    This announcement from the German minister of defense,

    deep cuts in military spending would free up soldiers and equipment for tasks such as the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
    illustrates again the bizarre attitude of the European elite that saying is more important than doing. This was a theme of my posts on International Law, where I put little stock in the normative nature of such law, instead looking primarily at its effective nature. I am simply incapable of grasping that kind of paradigm despite relying heavily on hermeneutics in my doctoral thesis. It just seems to me to be a form of denial, not a well structured world view.

    Tipped by InstantMan.

    Posted by aog at 08:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    The modern day news cycle

    Apparently Paul O'Neil is resigning as Secretary of the Treasury. I was giving Boy 2 a bath this morning and the phone rings. It's Boy 2's mom who was phoning in the news of the resignation. After delivering the bulletin she says "There! Did I get that to you before your blogs?" You just take a little time so your child doesn't smell and suddenly you're so far behind the news cycle your wife has to take pity on you and call in updates.

    Actually, I'm a bit bummed. I was originally a big O'Neil basher, but I've come to view him in a somewhat favorable light over the last year or so. Nothing big, just fewer gaffes and some nice low key work on promoting economic freedom (aka "markets"). I'd rather that either Mineta or Powell have gone instead.

    05 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 21:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Evolutionary Theory

    Jonah Goldberg over at the Corner asks

    From an evolutionary standpoint, why do dogs like the snow so much?
    There are a couple of misapprehensions wrapped in this question which I will proceed to disect.

    The basic flaw is the belief is that any trait (e.g. liking snow) of a creature is advantageous or it wouldn't have evolved that way. That's just not the case. There are several reasons for this. First, traits are judged across the entire creature, so traits that may on their face look bad can in fact convey indirect advantages, or has a negative cost (where a bad trait prevents something even worse - like sickle cell anemia). Secondly, traits only have to be "good enough" which may not be absolutely good. Evolution is competition, and once past the minimal survival requirements, all that matters is being better (or not as bad) as your competition. Finally, and most significantly, traits can be what computer geeks call "artifacts". These are traits that are not designed in or expect, but arise from the interaction of other traits, a serendipitous side effect of other things. A fine example is the photic sneeze reflex, where bright light makes people sneeze. Or that for most people, slapping your thigh when you feel a sneeze building will stop it. It's hard to believe that these are traits selected for by evolution or even designed in by a creator - they're almost certainly "artifacts" of how the nervous system is put together. Evolution isn't and can't be a totalizing system - there's simply too much noise in the process.

    Dogs like to play in general because social mammals benefit from this - it promotes bonding in the pack and learning. Why snow? Probably for some reason particular to Cosmo. Why do little boys like cars? It's hard to think of some evolutionary reason for that. There was some research done recently that shows the boy chimps prefer cars while girl chimps prefer dolls. That looks like an artifact of a general propensity toward tool use and socializing.

    Posted by aog at 12:20 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    The Future of Islam

    The more I read the more I believe that Islam as it is presently constituted is doomed. It's future is either obscurity or reformation. Unlike Christianity, I don't think that there will be any long term survival for the current orthodoxy (e.g. the Catholic and Orthodox churches). Without reformation (along the lines of the Protestant reformation) Islam will be in continuous conflict with every one else on the planet, a conflict they will overall lose (Islam might conquer Europe, but at this point that looks like a bug, not a feature). InstantMan had a link to an interesting article about the state of Islam which has the basic thesis that the current erruptions are symptomatic of a crisis of faith, not a revival. This would be analogous with how repressive regimes become the most repressive just before they fall (Iran seems to be managing both of these at the same time).

    Why wouldn't a reformation leave behind an unreformed religion? I think that there are three key differences from the experience of Christianity. The first is that at the time of Martin Luther, Christianity wasn't involved in a world war against a far more powerful opponent. Today, Islam is effectively engaged in world war against a power without precedent in history (US) and all non-Muslims on their borders. Secondly (which is a point that the second article develops more fully) is that current Islam is incompatible with free, liberal societies. That may not have been as much so in the past, but those times were while Islam was winning - the world and Islam are much different now. Another perspective on this is this article (from Andrew Sullivan) by someone who lived in Bangladesh and fled because of a fatwah, which dismisses the idea that modern, mainstream Islam is significantly different from fundamentalist Islam. Thirdly, there is not in Islam the kind of self-perpetuating church hierarchy as with the Catholic and Orthodox churches. This is actually a disadvantage of the church/state unity, in that the destruction of the state is the destruction of the church. The Christian hierarchies, because they were not identified with any particular state, could survive the fall of their host governments as organizations. Because of this, the organizations could mold and preserve the original religion. If the fall of the Holy Roman Empire had destroyed the church hierarchy as well, would we have many Catholics today? Or would most of them be Protestant?

    Andrew Bostom at NRO comments, along with the opinion of Mark Steyn.

    04 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 08:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Condi Watch

    A good post relating to Condoleezza Rice by Joanne Jacobs. It's a good example of "soft bigotry" - Rice isn't a "good black" because she is well spoken. Remember the days when it was the KKK who claimed blacks were incapable of becoming educated?

    Condi Rice is a Black American Princess, a dutiful daughter raised to refute white stereotypes, writes Adrienne Crew in Salon.

    Well, maybe Rice is a "BAP," but so what? She really is an intelligent, successful, self-disciplined striver. That's the authentic Rice. Why sneer because she speaks standard English -- and Russian?

    Crew thinks Rice is trapped behind a "cheerful BAP mask of perfection," which leads to this peculiar paragraph:

    I wonder if this is one of the reasons why Rice, like so many other tough-minded BAPs I know, has such a strong religious faith. The Lord is an excellent confidant when someone feels misunderstood. I pray that her Christian compunction overcomes any conservative impulse toward moralism and helps to keep the United States out of war.
    Note that Crew pits Christian faith against "moralism."
    Posted by aog at 08:22 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    European futures - sell, sell, sell

    Here's a round up of posts on the future of Europe. General concensus - slow decaying collapse if they're lucky, riots, mayhem and civil war if they're not. Here is a set of interrelated articles from USS Clueless, Eric S.Raymond, Dilacerator, a European blogger and the Midwest Conservative Journal. These are more in depth looks at the same themes sounded by the Brothers Judd.

    UPDATE: Article via Instantman. And another from the Brothers Judd.

    03 December 2002

    Posted by aog at 13:13 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    Gender imbalances

    There are a couple of good posts (here and here) over at the Brothers Judd on some of the demographic problem of gender imbalance in India and China. There is some interesting commentary but I was away while the interesting bits were discussed so I have to weigh in from over here.

    One of the posters points out that while market forces will tend to correct the problem, there latency inherent in population issues makes this a very inelastic market - supply takes a long time to catch up with demand. I will now leave the land of facts and travel the wilds of speculation - after all, that's what you pay me for.

    One of the first things I expect to see is negotiations on dowries, particularly in India. The dowry is a big part of why daughters are not favored. But now, instead of a family having to pay a huge dowry, then can say "well, we can't really afford that kind of dowry, I guess your son will just have to find another bride. What, you've been looking for two years? How sad. I'd like to help, but we're in a bit of a budget crunch right now...". Smaller dowries will also make bride burning less profitable and the general shortage should make it far less acceptable. One would hope that general reverence for life and law would suffice, but it clearly hasn't yet.

    There may well be much more assertiveness by women. Divorce will become less stigmatic, because better a divorcee for a wife than none at all. This will give women far more leverage against husbands, because leaving him and getting married again will be a far more plausible scenario.

    But I think that over a generation or two this will correct itself. Families will become desperate enough that they will have to start letting women inherit or have real power. And once that happens, there's no going back. As in the US during WWII, women went to the factories and never really left. There was an attempt to go back to the status quo ante, but it was doomed. I believe that the same thing will happen in India and China, that once (by demographics) those societies are forced to value girls, it will not be possible to reverse that even if the demographics revert to normal (the latter being a normal consequence of valuing girls as much as boys).

    As a far out issue, there is the fact that this gender imbalance will exert a significant braking effect on population growth. Fewer women means fewer children - the number of men is to a large extent irrelevant.

    Posted by aog at 07:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

    A few voices of sanity

    A report from Instantman about US muslims beginning to realize that the Calipharians aren't their friends, either. I've certainly lowered my opinion of the US ummah because of the lack of any such voices and I'm one of the bloggers mentioned that has called on non-Calipharian muslims to get off the fence so it's quite reasonable to expect me to cite articles like this and this. Here's the best quote

    "Saudi Arabia is a corrupt, dictatorial, fascist state that is an embarrassment to Islam and Muslims," wrote Sarah Eltantawi, communications director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. Accepting foreign donations from such regimes "could set us back decades, or keep us in the 'straddling the fence' posture vis-a-vis Muslim dictators and oppressors that we seem to be shamefully stuck in today," she wrote.
    On the other hand, the article does read as a few sane voices trying to be heard - e.g.
    Supporters of the donation, by contrast, argue that the critics are unwittingly aiding what many U.S. Muslims see as a campaign by fundamentalist Christian and conservative Jewish groups to demonize the Saudis.
    Isn't it strange, though, that donations should flow into the US? Is the US ummah so destitute that it can't afford its own operations?

    Update: A relevant post at LGF.

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

    Son of SAM

    So the SAM threat for US domestic flights turned out to have been overstated, but I was more interested in the perception of risk issues. The threat doesn't seem to slowed down the traffic any which one can claim is because either it wasn't widely publicized or people are beginning to accept the reality of risk (instead of "there must be something that can be done to make us completely safe"). However, apparently there are SAMs out there because someone popped off a couple of them at an Israeli airliner on Friday. I've seen commentary that standard IR missiles would not be very effective against commercial airliners because of the different IR signatures. Military engines are built for power while commerical engines strive for effeciency. Part of this is what's called "high-bypass" engines where a large amount of air is pulled through an outer cowling instead of the actual engine ("by-passed") and then merged with the engine output to create a large mass of relatively cool and slow moving air. This maximizes fuel efficiency and as a side effect greatly reduces the IR signature of the engine. Military missiles might well not lock on because their seeking logic is optimized for (surprise!) military style engines which tend to burn very hot. Ignoring less bright sources would be a feature making the missile harder to distract with flares and other counter-measures.

    On the other hand, I've read articles that claim that this is bogus, that commerical engines are plenty hot enough to track. Oddly there haven't been many tests to see what happens in the real world. This incident is evidence for the first theory, although it could be lack of training on the part of the shooters - they may have taken the shot when the sun was near the plane and the missiles locked on to that. Or the IR systems may have not been functioning due to operator error or poor maintenance. Unfortunately, the shooters don't seem to be available for debreifing.