31 March 2004

Posted by aog at 17:32 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Reaping what others have sown

We’ve seen the limits and problems of being a restrained nation. The USA is often called bloodthirsty and callous, indifferent to the suffering and lives of foreigners. Yet the fact that Fallujah still exists demonstrates far more restraint than any of the nations who are currently our enemies. Some terrorists ambushed two cars with four contractors, killing all of them. A crowd gathered and abused the bodies, one of them while it was still on fire.

What, really, can the Coalition do to respond? To do nothing would seem to simply encourage more of this. I would favor doing what those in Fallujah want - pull out all Coalition forces and cordon off the town until the guilty are turned over or the town begs the Coalition to return. But I doubt that the political will exists to do even that. I suspect that the incident will pass from effective public memory within a week and that the forces in league with these barbarians will find some way to blame the contractors for the whole thing (it goes without saying that of course the USA is completely to blame, not the attackers or the ghoulish villagers, abusing the bodies of people trying to improve their lives).

Perhaps the best revenge will be in a few years, as the children are seduced in to Western culture and those who perpetrated this watch their ideology slowly and painful fade like blood in the sand.

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

China and Taiwan - how volatile is it?

There’s an interesting discussion over at the Brothers Judd about China and Taiwan. The original article is by someone who originally disparaged the idea of China invading Taiwan but has changed his mind to view it as a real possibility.

I think his analysis is a bit flawed. He discusses the fact that the PRC is not “opposed to electoral democracy, so long as the outcomes do not challenge Beijing’s bottom line sovereignity”. This is exactly equivalent to the mullahocracy in Iran. To treat it as a minor restraint on local politics shows a severe level of appeasement, naivite or obtuseness. What’s happening to Hong Kong is probably a big contributor to the surging desire for official independence on the part of Taiwan.

As noted in the comments, it’s difficult to see how China would pull off a successful invasion without a nuclear attack. China’s air and sea lift capability is limited, while Taiwan has access to advanced technology from the USA. A flock of diesel submarines, F-15s and coastal anti-ship missile batteries would rip the heart out of any Chinese invasion.

Given that, it’s hard to see why the Chinese leadership would take the risk. While the article mentions the external costs, it misses the internal one that an unsuccessful invasion would very likely cost the PRC the Mandate of Heaven. It would be a perfect time for any other sessionist provinces to break off. Consider what happened to the junta in Argentina after the Falkland War.

However, there’s always the possibility of North Korea style diplomacy, where China threatens to invade even though it’s crazy and self-destructive because it would be even more damaging to the West (or at least more painful). Even a failed invasion of Taiwan would devastate the economy with massive collateral economic damage to the West. Orrin Judd thinks the PRC is too pragmatic to do that, but it doesn’t mean they won’t threaten it. It wouldn’t be that much different from previous sabre rattling efforts.

As for rational calculation, I’ll second the article’s author view that otherwise rational Chinese, even ones who live in the USA, enjoy it and have no intention of ever moving back to China, can’t understand why the USA would defend Taiwan against China. We can only hope that the PRC leadership considers trying and failing to conquer Taiwan more dangerous to their power than doing nothing. The USA could help there by being very forthright in its support for self-determination on the part of Taiwan.

Posted by aog at 10:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Shiny Rice

It seems to me that the appearance of Condoleeza Rice before the 11 Sep Committee is a big career point for her. I’m definitely with the people who think she should come out all guns blazing. If Rice is looking to moving up the political food chain, she needs more than just her NSC position. A dramatic showing at the hearing could be an excellent boost. If she comes off as defensive and/or weak, that would be a lot of karma to work off. I think she should swing for the fence - I doub swining and missing would end up being much worse than playing it safe.

UPDATE: Junkyard Blog thinks that Rice is going to lay down the smackie. His view is that this is another instance of Bush getting his opponents to crawl out on a limb, after which he sends someone to saw off the branch. JYB thinks Rice is the designated cutter this time.

30 March 2004

Posted by aog at 21:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Random musings on software quality

This post at Winds of Change about electronic voting crystallized some thoughts I’ve had about ISO-9000 Certification. I have deep concerns about electronic voting, because, as far as I can tell, the proponents and manufacturers are basically clueless about security. In my real job I work with financial companies on network security. Those guys are hard core and will spend what it takes to be secure, so I’ve seen what real computer security looks like1 and electronic voting today doesn’t. Some of the commentors called for “ISO-9000” certification, as if that would ameloriate the problem. However, all an IS0-9000 certification means is

  • The company has official procedures
  • These procedures are (mostly) followed in actual practice

That’s it. If your procedure is “the programmer writes code and when it compiles, we ship it” then there’s no reason you can’t get ISO-9000 certification. Because of this, ISO-9000 is frequently the target of much mockery, but I’ve come to realize over the last couple of years that it’s actually useful. It’s in fact very similar to financial audits. If your company is successfully financially audited, this says nothing about the financial health of your company. It simply means that your books are in order. In exactly the same way, ISO-9000 certification means that the books of procedures are in order and reasonably approximate what goes on in the company. Whether these procedures are good or bad is a different issue. It’s much easier to judge whether procedures are being followed (which is somewhat objective) vs. judging the procedures themselves. But for a certified company, you can read those procedures and have some confidence that they’re not complete fiction, which makes the procedures themselves a good basis for forming your opinion of the company.

One problem is that the ISO community really hypes this reality. The core message is something I competely agree with - you can’t improve what you’re doing if you don’t know what it is you do. There’s no hope of improving internal processes if you don’t know what actually goes on. If actually following the official procedures grinds the business to a halt, that tends to indicate that the procedures are flawed and should be fixed rather than simply being ignored. Where the ISO boosters go wrong, in my opinion, is viewing getting knowledge and control of your procedures as sufficient. It’s not stated outright but it’s certainly the impression I get from reading the materials. However, process is just a tool. You master it in order to do something else. If you don’t know what that is, then control of process won’t be much help.

1 Such as, there is no single person in the entire company who can change the network fabric. It always takes two (sometimes more). Generally the two people have to have completely different reporting chains as well. I’ve seen no evidence that individuals can’t change the code running in the voting machines, which is simply not secure. No auditable logfiles of voting activity? If we told the financial guys that our system didn’t have that feature they’d have just one word for us - “next!”.

Posted by aog at 20:21 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Waiting till the time is right

One of the questions involved with fragging Sheik Yassin was the timing. Why wait till now, since Yassin’s being at the forefront of the terror against Israel for many years? I think that it’s primarily that the tides of support for Yassin and his ilk are running out. One can see that Israel, in contrast to previous attacks, has to a large extent not paid much of a price for the attack. The USA made some nasty remarks and then vetoed the UN resolution condemning the attack. There was no change in USA support for Israel and even the EUlite doesn’t seem to have said much. I didn’t even hear anything about the vaunted “Arab Street”, which is always about to erupt but never seems to actually do so. I think the let’s try something other than murder” suggestion by some of the leading lights of the Palestinians is acknowledgement that Israel can do this without any repurcussions. The continued existence of the Palestinian leadership has always depended on forbearance by the Israelis. That forbearance was strongly influenced by world opinion and concerns about politics in the USA. Yassin’s death indicates that Israel is aware of this and is now willing to act with much less restraint. This, coupled with President Bush’s snubbing of Arafat and the wall may be finally be obvious enough that even the Palestinian leadership realizes that their sand castles are being swept away.

29 March 2004

Posted by aog at 10:58 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Peace vs. Justice

This post at Daimnation! brought up a subject I’ve been thinking about, that of what to do with the ruler of Libya (to whom I will refer as “The Colonel”), who has now become far more accomodating of the West.

This is a classic case of progress over justice. On the one hand, the Colonel is murdering thug of a dictator. On the other, if he gets away with it and is rewarded for coming clean, giving up so publically on WMD, and cooperating with the West in the war against Caliphascism, then we’re likely to have a lot less such murdering in the future. I’m in favor of progress, on the grounds that the dead will always be dead and there’s nothing we can do to the Colonel to achieve justice.

Certainly, there’s no doubt that this is a very difficult, troubling issue. The danger of looking at progress is the moral hazard of letting go of the past and sliding down a slippery slope of accepting ever greater atrocities in exchange for ever smaller bits of progress. But like much of life, it’s greater and lesser evils instead of good vs. evil.

P.S. I’ve written on this subject before and even commented on a previous post at Daimnation!, although that time it was the same situation with respect to Mugabe.

P.P.S. Via Little Green Footballs we have this tidbit about the cancellation of the Arab Summit

The Tunisian government news agency said Tunisia had insisted that the summit explicitly endorse democracy and reject what it called “extremism, fanaticism, violence and terrorism” — and that other countries had balked at this.

Not enough by itself, but a good sign, especially that it wasn’t perceived as sufficiently pro forma to allow the summit to proceed.

27 March 2004

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

Becoming a new archetype

While watching the gathering immolation of Richard Clarke, it seems like a bad situation comedy, like Homer sneaking out on Marge and not being able to resist getting on TV so that Marge catches him.

I suspect it’s probably not real stupidity but simply being behind the times and not realizing just how powerful the Internet community is. Clarke probably thought he just had to worry about the standard Republican political operatives. But those type of people are now much less dangerous than the horde of webloggers and their associates. The odds of any single weblogger coming up with something are slim, somebody’s gonna hit pay dirt if it’s there to find. Then the other feature of the blogosphere will come in to play, which is its ability to filter out the noise and promote the substance. Once some obscure weblogger finds something interesting, he’ll post, other webloggers will see it and cross post. The better the information, the faster and more widely it will cross posted until it hits one of the big boys and then it’s everywhere.

Previously (say, 5-10 years ago) the dirt would probably have stayed buried or even if found, wouldn’t have made a splash. Even now, most Big Media is still trying to ignore the credibility problems. Unfortunately, there are too many people who are in the blogosphere or talk to people who are. In the future it will simply be assumed that if you put yourself in the public eye, everything you’ve ever said or written will be researched and the interesting bits disseminated. Perhaps Clarke will be held up as the archetype of of this kind of thing. Then he would have at least accomplished something.

Posted by aog at 14:49 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Laws are for the stupid

It’s starting already. The so-called “527 groups” like Move On are de facto coordinating their advertisements with that of the Kerry campaign. The Republicans are calling them on it, but who really expects that to amount to anything before the election? This is, of course, exactly what I expected. I wouldn’t as the article does, call this “evading” the laws. It’s more of a complete disregard for the law. It’s not a surprise that the American elite that admires the EUlite is partaking of their love of the paper and despite of the meaning of laws and treaties.

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

Pulling a Torricelli

There’s a low level buzz around the blogosphere about the “buyer’s remorse” scenario at the Democratic Party convention. In this scenario, the party power structure realizes that Kerry has an almost lock on the worst electoral defeat in modern American history and decide to replace him. The problem with this scenario is a simple question - who’s the replacement? The only plausible name I’ve seen in Hillary Clinton, but I don’t think she’d go for it.

However, there is one national figure who has strong anti-Bush credentials, is charismatic, popular with the media elite and popular in the Democratic Party - John McCain. While I can’t see McCain shilling for Kerry, what if he got to be the candidate and have another run at President Bush? In terms of policy, he’s closer to the Democratic Party than the Republican and could well revive the hawkish wing of that party. You could say that he wouldn’t go over well with the hard core anti-Bush factions, but I’d just say “worse than Kerry?”. I also think that that faction will vote for just about anybody who doesn’t spell his name “Bush”. Finally, McCain is probably the one candidate who could actually give Bush a real run.

But it would probably be too much fun to come true.

26 March 2004

Posted by aog at 18:38 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The fatal conceit

Apparently the Democratic Party is trying to gin up some anger over President Bush’s recent joking about WMDs in Iraq. I think that as long as Bush doesn’t over do it, it’s a potent weapon against Senator Kerry.

Realistically, one of the worst aspects of Kerry politically (and why his campaign seems to do better when he’s on vacation) is a view of him as a humourless, self-important snob. Anything Bush can do to highlight this (within reason) is a win for Bush. Think of Jimmy Carter and his sanctimony - that hardly stood him in good stead against Reagan (in fact, there are those who argue that Carter eked out his win against Ford by, for once, not being sanctimonious).

Americans don’t like self-important people, which is quite distinct from egotistical people. We don’t have slaves to whisper “you are but a man” anymore, so Americans require their politicians to do it themselves. If Kerry can’t do that, he’s doomed.

25 March 2004

Posted by aog at 13:41 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Evil Twin Jimmy

My co-worker BBB has suggested that Senator Kerry defend himself by claiming that the “bad” votes were done by his Evil Twin Jimmy. “Yes, my Evil Twin Jimmy voted against the funding for the troops in Iraq before I managed to chase him out of the Senate and vote for the funding”.

Posted by aog at 12:21 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Looking for the killer app

It’s astonishing how the anti-Bush factions keep latching on to mirages in their efforts against President Bush. I have some severe policy differences with Bush but Big Media seems completely incapable of discussing such substantive issues instead of the latest “buzz” topic.

The current case in point is that of Richard Clarke, who has now self destructed in a spectacular way. And I do mean self-destructed. Among numerous other credibility problems, we have the now well publicized Fox News interview where Clarke does some serious cheer leading for the same Bush Administration policies he is now attacking. As a slight PR tip, it’s not helpful to defend your truthfulness today by claiming that you were a lying, partisan shill just a couple of years ago. The result for me from seeing this interview is that now not only don’t believe what Clarke is saying today, I don’t believe what he said then, either. I think the Bush Administration took terror much more seriously than the preceeding one, but not seriously enough. I’m much more concerned with the CYA attitude that seemed to prevail afterwards. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has left me with the choice of turf protecting appartachiks with a few men of action vs. turf protecting apparatchiks composed entirely of appeasers and wet noodles.

In a broader sense, it’s not surprising that the anti-Bush forces latch on to these kind of emphemeral issues. The primary world view there is magic-realism, where any problem can be fully solved by a magic policy proscription and not just ameloriated with a lot of hard work. The basic essence of the Left is that we just need the right government intervention to solve any problem, which is why government by the Left inevitably fails. This is just more of the same. Rather than doing the heavy lifting of addressing substantive issues, which is a lot of work and likely to just damage rather than destroy Bush’s political power, the better “solution” is to find some career killing issue that will completely solve the “Bush problem”. That’s what makes these kind of issues so attractive to the herd of activists and Big Media (which are generally hard to distinguish). While there are some political opponents of Bush who do address real issues, they’re drowned out by the stampede. This is not only not good for the political opposition, it’s not good for the Republic to avoid airing of key policy issues.

Posted by aog at 10:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Election choice: Big Stick or Wet Noodle?

I don’t think it can be noted too many times what one of the big results of President Bush’s foreign policy is. The non-loony opponents of that policy contend primarily that the invasion of Iraq was not helpful or actually harmful to protecting American citizens from terrorism. But that view has taken a big hit over the last week.

First off we have Hugo Chavez, the increasingly dictatorial ruler of Venezuela, offering his endorsement of Kerry for US President. Kerry’s campaign fired back, disavowing the endorsement and taking some shots at Chavez in the process. The reaction from Caracas was derision. Is that what we want to continue to happen when Kerry is president?

On the other hand, we have Hamas threatening to attack the USA, Bush simply noting that his administration “takes such threats seriously” and Hamas immediately taking back its threats.

When other terrorists make similar threats, who do you want in the White House? Someone they laugh at? Or someone even terrorists take seriously?

23 March 2004

Posted by aog at 22:00 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

First stop poking, then remove hive

I was cruising some trackbacks and I ran in to yet another example of the bee hive analogy. In this case the quote is

It is not caving in to the bees to stop poking a stick into their hive.

That’s certainly true. But let’s look closely at the implications of this statement. If your child got stung by some bees, of course you’d tell them not to poke at bees. And then you’d go get an insecticide bomb and take out the bees to avoid future problems. Or maybe you’d call a beekeeper to come out and remove the bee hive. Presumably, then, the policy implication here is that we should go with either extermination, ethnic cleansing or colonization. Is that what the quote is meant to imply? Sounds a bit too bloodthirsty for me.

Posted by aog at 21:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Having a bit too much focus

It always stuns me when somone claims to have studied a subject deeply for many years, but still seems shy of some various basic facts. Over at Right Wing News is a discussion about Sheik Yassin getting fragged. Part of the discussion evolved into sniping about the history of the Middle East over the last century or so. Now it’s one thing to vary in one’s interpretation of motives and details of these events (which have been whacked on with some strongly ground axes over the years) but another to miss out on fundmental facts. The case in point is “tano2” who claims to “have read Israeli and Arab propaganda on this issue for well nigh 30 years” and writes, concerning the migration of Jews to what is now Israel,

They did not come with the intention of living in a manner that was consitent with the democratic rights of the natives.

I just stopped there. When, in history, have the natives of that region had democratic rights that didn’t depend on the existence of Israel? The only Arabs living in a democracy and who have “democratic rights” are the ones living in Israel. The creation of the state of Israel has created more “democratic rights” for Arabs than the rest of Arab history put together.

One might argue that democracy or freedom isn’t appropriate for Arabs, or that creating Israel wasn’t right even if it did create democracy in the Middle East for the first time. But to think that democracy and it’s attendant freedoms existed there before being crushed by Israel is a severe case of Reality Dysfunction.

Posted by aog at 08:22 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Resource burning

The story now is that the high level Caliphascists in Waziristan escaped through tunnels while their followers held up the Pakistan advance. A standard tactic, but not one you can do too often.

I still count this as a very successful operation. It violated previously untouchable support areas of the Caliphascists and consumed large amounts of supporters and supplies. If you can’t take out an opponent directly, then the next best thing is to cause them to use up their resources. In this case we cost them men, material and havens. We also cost them their confidence in the acquiesence of the Pakistan military.

This is also an excellent response to the attacks in Madrid. The Caliphascists may have sidelined Spain, but we’re moving Pakistan on to the “cooperating” side of the board and Pakistan is far more important to the Caliphascists than Spain is to us. Malaysia has turned away from Islamist parties in their recent elections, from the former crazy Mahathir Mohamad.

22 March 2004

Posted by aog at 00:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Helping out your neighbors

I was just smiling to myself about Sheik Yassin getting up close and personal with some IDF ordnance when it occurred to me that it’s probably the doing of Israeli PM Sharon. Why, just the other day I wrote about how concerned the Palestinians were about a civil war after the Israelis pull out of Gaza. I’m sure that Sharon heard this and, feeling a bit guilty over it, decided to remove some of the potential causes of such strife. That’s darn neighborly, don’t you think?

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

Who's been more ruthless than the Left?

Samizdata notes that one point to keep in mind with the elections in Spain is that Socialists governments have a history of being quite ruthless when it comes to their own power and perogatives. It’s one thing to sacrifice American power, blood and prestige to buy some peace. It’s another to sacrifice one’s own. The Samizdata post discusses the history of Socialist governments efforts against ETA and in Algeria which had no excess of ruth on the part of those governments. A government that sees it own citizens as interchangeable units for the glory of the state won’t have much restraint in using non-citizens when it must.

Consider France’s current foreign policy. In exchange for a weak at best claim to be relevant, France is willing to actively support brutal dictatorships that oppress tens (if not hundreds) of millions. France had no problem arming the genocidal regime in Rwanda. What would France do to immigrants who threatened the French state itself? I doubt that the Spanish Socialists, when up against the wall, would be much more restrained.

This is one of the reasons I don’t find the Eurabia concept all that plausible. The axis between Europe and Arabia isn’t a merger but rather a “common front” setup where factions unite under a common banner despite their mutual despite in order to bring down a common enemy. In this case, it’s the Anglosphere. In the view of the EUlite, they are giving up things of no value (rule of law, Israel, alliance with the Anglosphere, etc.) in exchange for lots of cash, both governmental and personal plus putative international “relevance”. The Caliphascists believe they’re infiltrating a dieing culture (it’s not clear that either is wrong).

As with all common fronts, any of the factions would be willing to dispose of another if it looks advantageous to do so. We can only watch from the sidelines until the EUlite or the Caliphascists decide it’s time to deal with their fellow travelers. The attacks in Madrid might well be the opening sound of just such a split. My expectation is that the Caliphascists will (as usual) score tactical successes that lead to strategic failure. The attacks in Madrid were quite successful for them, so now they’re moving on to intimidate France. However, there’s a big difference - Spain was coerced in to changing it’s foreign policy, which the EUlite who run the PSOE probably care little about, whereas in France the object is a domestic policy. I believe that it’s no coincidence that we’re seeing the early signs of resistance in the news media of Europe at the same time as this pressure on France.

The Caliphascists, in their Dar-al-Harb view of the world, probably think that the EUlite value their alliance with the USA and the Anglosphere and probably underestimate how far the EUlite is willing to go to stay in power. Because Spain capitulated on its troops in Iraq (something the EUlite cares extremely little about) the Caliphascists think the EUlite has lost its will to power. I don’t think so and I think it will be a bloody lesson for everyone involved.

21 March 2004

Posted by aog at 17:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

No connections here! Move along

I wrote a few days ago wondering why there was an assumption that it was either Al Qaeda or ETA that did the terror bombing of Madrid, and not possibly both.

Today I picked up this story (via USS Clueless) about French Basque activists “raiding” Paul Bremer’s vacation house in France1. So rather than distancing themselves from the Caliphascists who are now officially blamed for the Madrid attacks, Basque activists are openly sided with their cause of removing the Coalition from Iraq. Given this ideological alliance, why would a more concrete one be implausible?

The quote from the attackers is too funny to pass by:

We wanted to carry out this operation on the holiday home of Paul Bremer because this is where he comes to forget the war in Iraq, and we want to remind him that when he comes here to rest, the bombs continue to fall on the Iraqi people.

Uh, in case they don’t have news sources over there in France, the bombing by the Coalition stopped months ago. There aren’t any bombs dropping on Iraq at all, anywhere. There are plenty of bombs exploding, but they’re not being dropped, they’re being placed by the same people these activists are supporting! Perhaps if the activists don’t like the bombs going off, they should take their complaints to the bombers instead of the guy in charge of stopping the bombers.

1 I must join Den Beste in exclaiming “A vacation house in France?!?”.

Posted by aog at 12:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Arguing with yourself

Orrin Judd has a post on the Tim Russert show, where Ted Kennedy is defending Senator Kerry’s record. One commentor describes it as

Teddy obviously thinks he’s a good speaker. Russert asks him a question, Teddy babbles a response that has nothing to do with the question, and smiles in the secure knowledge that he has just landed a killing blow against Bush.

This is a very odd Presidential campaign, where the Democratic Party has to spend most of its time responding to statements by the Democratic Party nominee and his supporters (like Keneddy and Matathir). What does Rove really need to do except put out some standard platitudes, recycle Kerry & co. quotes and bring up Kerry’s record? It might not even seem all that negative, since it’s one thing to say nasty stuff about your opponent, it’s another to just quote your opponent saying nasty stuff about himself.

Posted by aog at 10:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Be careful what you wish for

It’s funny in a morbid kind of way how things shift around. Two reports from the Israeli / Arab conflict illustrate this.

The first is about the King of Jordan asking the Israeli Prime Minister to prevent Palestinians from fleeing the West Bank if Israel leaves. Just think about that for a minute. On the surface we have the oddity of Israel being asked by an Arab nation to anti-ethnic cleanse the West Bank, to forcibly prevent people from leaving. Deeper is the fact that the governments of Israel and Jordan believe that the quality of life in the West Bank will decrease so much that it could set off a massive population flight. One wonders how horrible a Palestinian government would be to cause that when the Israeli occupation hasn’t.

In the same vein we have another report [via Sgt. Stryker] from Gaza where

Many Palestinians here are brooding about the prospect of a sudden Israeli withdrawal […] Many Palestinians say they worry that the evacuation is aimed at starting a Palestinian civil war.

Again there is the presumption of how much worse things will be for the Palestinians after the Israelis leave. One notes that it’s more explicit here that the cause of the increased misery will be Palestinians who themselves believe that they are so weak minded that they’ll have a civil war just because the Israelis want them to. Apparently the possibility of Palestinian society not doing something stupid and self destructive is inconceivable.

Some would view this as an argument against a Palestinian state but I hold more to the motto “Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first grant their wishes”.

19 March 2004

Posted by aog at 23:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

What do they do in their spare time?

I’ve been reading quite a bit of fantasy fiction lately, instead of working on my weblog. Something that I’ve wondered about on and off over the years about the standard denizens of fantasy novels was brought to my attention again by this article in Slate about a TV show that follows the “off-game” life of various video game characters.

The question is, what do all of those spirits, sprites, powers and anthropomorhpic landscape items do when the adventurers aren’t wandering about nearby? Imagine being a waterfall sprite. How long would it take for that to get old? Yet when ever the main characters go wandering about, all of these things are waiting about.

The only thing that would seem to work is for them all to have no long term memory. That way there’s usually something “new” to do because they don’t really remember the last time they did it. It would also explain how apparently unstable relationships among the persist for very long periods of time until the main characters show up and wreak havoc.

This is probably why I’m a code slinger instead of a novelist - I’d never get the book written for concerns about designing around details like this. Oh well.

18 March 2004

Posted by aog at 15:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Time to get some new voters

In the comments over at Tim Blair’s, Angie Shultz writes

And he knows this is bad and wrong and cowardly, even though it’s democracy at work…

I have heard similar comments from a number of people, and I’m mystified. So if you disagree with the results of an election, you disagree with the concept of democracy? Why is it no one ever thinks of this while they’re deploring Bush’s presidency?

My view is that they do think of that and that most of those who deplore Bush’s election do in fact disagree with the concept of democracy. One notes a strong correlation between Bush hatred and support for removing choices from the citizenry. For instance,

  • Support for government run schools.
  • Support for the welfare state.
  • Support for court decisions overriding voters.
  • Disregard for laws or election results that don’t “turn out right”. (Note that this is different for disagreement with, which is attitude many on the Right have for the Spanish election).

Most of the Bush haters (particularly in Europe) are also tranzis who view democracy as something to be managed by a wiser and more informed elite.

My opinion is that this disdain for democracy and the masses is projected on to those who disagree with the Spanish voters. Note that we’re not hearing calls to overturn the results, or that the Spanish Socialists “stole” the election. The vote is accepted as legimate even as it is derided as ill chosen.

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

You can't paper over a canyon

There’s been some counter reaction to the bashing on Spain by the blogosphere. As I’ve noted, I think it was a bad choice by Spain but hardly a fatal mistake. The most interesting comment I saw was someone who complained of accusations of cowardice against the Spanish while stating that the vote was about not being on the frontline of the war with the Caliphascists. One wonders what his definition of cowardice is.

But I digress. In juxtaposition to the anti-anti-Spanish comments, we have this from “Mickey Kaus”:

Even if Al Qaeda does not- launch Madrid-style attacks in the U.S. right before the November election, isn’t it now likely that widespread _worry about the possibility of attacks—with constant alerts and an intense police presence in the days before the election—will itself have an effect on the results? It’s hard to believe that this effect won’t be to help Bush, by putting terrorism (and not jobs or health care) in the forefront of voters’ minds

To me, this is a prime example of why there is a split between Europe and the USA. When the war was brought to the forefront of voters’ minds in Spain, they ousted the pro-war government. In the USA, the same type of attention to the war is presumed to aid the pro-war government. That’s quite a fundamental difference in overall outlook. How do those who advocate “patching up our differences” plan to reconcile those divergent world views?

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

Silence is golden

I’ve been following the “flap over Senator John Kerry’s comment”:974 about foreign leaders preferring Kerry over President Bush. While I consider this a big gaffe, it’s hardly a show stopper. If Kerry had mentioned Kim Jong Il by name, that would be a show stopper. But we can reasonably assume Kerry was referring the EUlite of Old Europe.

What’s really bizarre now is the spin of trying to claim Kerry was misquoted. Even Oliver Willis falls for that, while failing to address why Kerry didn’t just say he was misquoted. Some of the commentors over at Willis’ post claim that Kerry was afraid of having his denial denied by Big Media. One of the commentors comes very close to saying that Kerry was confused by the media reports on what he said. But that fact remains that Kerry certainly had the option of saying that he didn’t remember saying “foreign” instead of “more” but if he did, he mispoke and that wasn’t what he meant.

But hey! He’s electable! As long as he doesn’t speak.

17 March 2004

Posted by aog at 18:41 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Keeping local priorities straight

My little town is having a bit of a budget crunch. It might perhaps be related to the intense dislike for business activity depressing the taxable income, but that’s another tale. One of the effects of this is that the school system is perpetually on the edge of bankruptcy. There’s talk of laying off some teachers this next school year.

At the same time, of course, the city council has been looking at building a light rail system in downtown (which consists of what, 10 or 20 city blocks total? For which there is little parking? And few businesses?). People seem to think businesses suffer from fad chasing, but it seems to be general human trait to want to spruce up rather than fix. On the other hand, I wonder if there are more voters who’d like to have someone else pay for their commute than have children.

Posted by aog at 15:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Protection without action

One concern that’s going around is a large terror attack by the Caliphascists shortly before the US elections in November. What I wonder is, can we actually prevent this? I suppose that after the bombings in Madrid, it may be easier, but it harkens back to the fact that had the 11 Sep attacks been broken up before they occured, most people would never have believed that the conspirators were serious or capable. Even now, spokesmen for various Caliphascists gangs in the Middle East openly call for the imposition of Shari’a law across the entire world and the killing of all infidels, but are not taken seriously. It’s not a matter of whether they could actually do that, but how much damage they might inflict in their attempts.

Because of this, our government may well not be able to persue leads that would prevent the attack in the absence of the attack itself, at which point it’s too late. I’m not even talking about things like the Patriot Act. We wouldn’t have needed that to break up the 11 Sep attacks, nor would any of that helped in tracking do the DC Sniper. Instead, both investigations were hampered by the multi-cultural attitudes of the investigators. No law is going to fix that.

This is a problem for President Bush, because actually persuing leads will almost certainly lead to politically incorrect actions (just consider the headlines from the arrest of a ba’ath agent). Yet if Bush doesn’t push then we may well get an attack. It seems like a bad thing to be in a situation where powerful sections of society are effectively dedicated to preventing self defense.

It might really be best for Kerry to toe the appeasement / law enforcement line and be crushed electorally so that this line of thought is as discredited as it can be in this day and age.

Posted by aog at 15:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

How to avoid the wrong hobby

Because of a youthful indiscretion, I now recieve the Landfall Navigation catalog. The target market are non-commericial sailors, e.g. yatching enthusiasts. On a whim, I glanced through the catalog, thinking “gosh, this is some cool stuff”. Then I realized that it was all search and rescue related. What kind of hobby has page after page of catalog goodies who purpose is to save your freezing wet butt after some disaster? Once I saw the wooden cones for hammering in to your hull after some vital equipment fails catastrophically I realized - this is not my hobby. That’s why I write a weblog instead of having an actual life.

P.S. Although this is truly cool. And it floats, too!

Posted by aog at 13:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The evolving political situation

Over at Reason we have an article that actually claims that Libya’s moves to give up its WMD effort is unrelated to President Bush’s foreign policy, in particular the invasion of Iraq. The article points up but completely misses the significance of the fact that Libya had been negotiating for four years (just like Iran is negotiating with the UN currently) but suddently decided to do something instead of talk right Saddam Hussein was captured.

This debate reminds me strongly of the debate over evolution. In both cases we have

  • Unreproducible experiments
  • Inability to have “control” experiments
  • Key evidence is indirect
  • The theory can only predict general trends, not specific events
  • Much disagreement and confusion about what exactly the theory being discussed is.

This doesn’t mean that people who believe one must believe the other (and vice versa), but it does mean that one’s biases will have a lot to do with how one reads the evidence.

16 March 2004

Posted by aog at 08:00 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

World views in collision

It’s a sign of just how politically divided the USA is that many of the political battles going on aren’t about facts but the valuation of those facts. For instance, the invasion of Iraq. It wasn’t an imminent threat, the rational observers all agree on that fact. What’s disputed is whether that makes the invasion imprudent / improper / illegal.

I’m reminded of this by the latest Kerry flap which concerns his claimed support from various unnamed “foreign leaders”. OK, despite his lack of evidence I’m completely willing to believe Kerry on this. The real issue is that Kerry obviously views that as a positive indication, while we members of the VRWC view it as a negative indication. Same fact, very different views of the implications of that fact. At some point you can only preach to the choir because it’s not possible to change someone’s mind on this by arguing the facts if you already agree on that aspect.

15 March 2004

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Marriage in America

I’ve been trying to write about same sex marriage but unlike John Kerry I have enough self respect to not put my excessively nuanced views in to the public view. I was reminded of this by an article by Donald Sensing, which has as its thesis that same sex marriage is an effect of the destruction of marriage, not a (future) cause.

This makes a lot of sense to me - Sensing says that because of the weakness of the institution of marriage and its largely symbolic nature these days, there’s not much left to distinguish between homo and hetero marriage.

Yet the fact still remains that without child rearing family units a society will cease. As a maximizing and not a maximal libertarian I accept that it’s a reasonable trade off to impinge on personal liberty in order to maintain the existence of a mostly self ordered society. As they say in the Dungeons & Dragons’ world, “Good doesn’t have to be stupid”.

I was talking about this with She Who Is Perfect In All Ways and one issue that came up was the convenant marriage concept. Her suggestion was that if the goal of certain societal benefits was to promote child rearing families, perhaps the rewards and penalties of a stronger marriage form should be restricted to couples with children. It would also serve as a way to have divorces much easier for childless couples than for couples with children. Something to think about.

Posted by aog at 18:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Why not both?

When I read about the issue of whether the terror attack in Spain was done by ETA or Al Qaeda, I immediately wonder - why not both? Are we still stuck in the mode where we say “since the groups have different aims, they could never cooperate”? More and more, the violent and idiotic of the world seem to be congealing in to one interconnected mass. It wouldn’t even have to be a fully joint operation - ETA could have provided logistics and planning support while Al Qaeda didn’t explain the full extent of the attack (since ETA backed off rather fast once the bombs exploded). Or perhaps ETA figured that this would help exhaust the Spanish citizenries will to resist while not getting their own hands (publically) bloody.

As others have noted, it doesn’t really matter except as it informs our tactics of response. Those who think terrorists can be dealt with independently in this age are simply not paying attention.

Posted by aog at 08:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Everything's still in play

Over at the Brothers Judd, Raoul Ortega comments that the recent terrorist attacks in Spain will make John Kerry’s campaign more difficult, since it makes an attack in the US in late October much mroe likely.

I’m not sure that’s true. I wonder if we won’t have the same problem as we did before the 11 Sep attacks. Let’s suppose that the Caliphascists are working on an election day surprise. The cases are

  • It’s discovered and broken up
  • It’s not discovered and
    • is successful
    • fails

What is the political fallout from each of these cases?

The anti-Bush forces will simply not believe that there was an actual plot and that the plot was the fault of Bush’s foreign policy. The fringe will presume that the whole thing was faked, because we know that the Caliphascists aren’t clever enough to do that kind of complex operation. If Big Media portrays this as “desperate attempt to revive Bush’s flagging political fortunes” then it might well drag down Bush’s support. One also wonders what the trial will look like, since it will be likely that no serious crimes will yet have been committed.
Attempted but fails
This is probably the best scenario from Bush’s point of view. It will play out somewhat like the previous one but with actual bombs in place and other artifacts of the attempt it will be harder for the anti-Bush factions to portray it as overreaction or a political ploy.
Successful atrocity
This could play out either way. Bush will take a big hit for not preventing the attack, but there are two mitigating factors that could overcome that:

  • Kerry has been so unserious about the war that the voters, despite misgivings about the adequacy of Bush’s efforts, can’t imagine Kerry doing even that well.
  • The flame of the Jacksonian tradition is re-ignited.

Against this, there will be several counter-spins by the anti-Bushites

  • It’s blowback from Iraq, the attack wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t invaded Iraq.
  • It’s blowback from being unilateral, the attack wouldn’t have happend if France had approved the invasion of Iraq.
  • Bush didn’t pursue law enforcement options with sufficient vigor.
  • Bush will pursue law enforcement with such vigor that America will turn in to a fascist state.
  • Bush knew and let it happen to score political points.
  • The Bush Administration should have prevented the attack.
  • Bush will respond with more violence (invasions) thereby triggering a cycle of violence. We need to reach out with understanding and massive foreign aid to be safe from the attacks.

Overall, is this bad for Kerry? The side with the laziest vision has an intrinsic advantage and Kerry’ approach to foreign policy is certainly very low effort (send checks, do whatever France says). Bush’s problem is that the better he does at preventing attacks, the worse it is politically for him. Yet if there’s a successful attack and there’s any obvious thing not done, that will not go over well with the mainstream.

My view is that the situation is too fluid and unpredictable to say that there’s an advantage for either side. It will all be in the details, which we can’t know now.

14 March 2004

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

It's not a quagmire just because things aren't going perfectly

With regard to the terror attack in Spain and the election, Lee Harris writes

If this is the case, then the Spanish election Sunday will carry a significance that will transcend the borders of Spain, and which could make it one of the most decisive elections in the short history of modern democracy. For if the Spanish people vote against Aznar’s party, then it will appear to the terrorists that they have succeeded in manipulating the domestic policy of an independent nation through an act of catastrophic terror. They will have succeeded in making a nation change its mind about who is to lead them — and that would be a setback from which our world might never recover.

Yet another writer having an apococlasm1. “Never recover”? Of course, technically one never recovers from binge drinking episode (because you can never make up lost time), but in real life one can get over it. Is this kind of thing really different from the global warming hype you see floating around?

Yes, the terrorists will be encouraged by this. But there are two factors which make it far from being something from which civilization will “never recover”:

  • In my view the terrorists are already operating at maximum capacity. I doubt that any more people will die because of this. It will simply change the locations and timing. For this to lead to more deaths requires that the terrorists have some reserve that they haven’t used or haven’t yet committed.
  • The only “never recover” scenario is if we lose. If we win, if the terrorists and their supporting nations / cultures are broken, then this event will fade in to history. If we lose, then this may end up being considered the beginning of the end. But I don’t consider defeat very likely,hardly likely enough to justify the definitive tone used here.

I don’t want to make light of the attack, or claim it’s irrelevant. The attack and the following electoral defeat may even be disastrous (although I doubt even that), but it’s hardly the end. It’s a very definite setback, but such is war.

In some ways this reminds of me of the quagmire talk when the drive on Baghdad bogged down. An avenging army, smoothing grinding its way to victory is the stuff of fiction, not real life. Things will bog down, reverses will occur. Victory isn’t being perfect, it’s carrying on in the face of difficulties.

P.S. The incoming socialist prime minister has already stated that

My immediate priority will be to combat all kinds of terrorism. The terrorists must know that they will confront all of us together. We will win.

Probably just rhetoric, but if not then it will be a very bad sign for Caliphascists, when even changing the government doesn’t change things with regard to their goals. It might even be a blow from which they’ll never recover.

1 That internal joy one gets from writing apocolyptic statements.

Posted by aog at 20:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

Reversing the reconquista


In a stunning political upset, voters chose to give power to the opposition Socialist Party, whose leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has promised to immediately withdraw Spain’s 1,300 troops from Iraq, orient Spain’s foreign policy away from the United States and restore good relations with anti-war European allies, France and Germany.


“The terrorists have killed 200 people and defeated the government — they have achieved all their objectives,” said Gustavo de Arustegui, a PP member of parliament and foreign policy spokesman for the government. “I think the terrorist attacks were politically planned,” he said. “We have transformed terrorists into political actors with this.”

In effect, the Spanish voters have declared that last week’s massacre in the railroad system was a legitimate expression of grievance by a foreign organization over Spain’s foreign policy, even though the objecting organziation (Al Qaeda) wasn’t involved in the foreign policy action. It’s at least not hypocritical, where Spain fights back against terrorists but pressures Israel to not do so.

I disagree that this makes future violence more likely. As long as the surrenders are fast and abject enough, I doubt Al Qaeda and its ilk will attack again. It will be kind of like the Iranian system, where there is a nominally ruling government which can be overridden when desired by an unelected, unaccountable Islamic council. I suppose Spain figures that if works so well for Iran, why not a European country as well?

Posted by aog at 12:09 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The only good laws are the ones we agree with

Over at The Weekly Standard there is an article about George Soros’ spending in the current presidential campaign and campaign finance “reform” law. It seems that the FEC has issued a ruling that would seem to put paid to Soros’ effort and those like him. But I think the author is showing a typical aspect of conservativism, which presupposes a rule of law. It’s all fine and dandy for the FEC to make the ruling, but for what reason with the hard core Democratic Party partisans obey it? Suppose the law is openly flaunted — will the Republicans actually push for any prosecutions? If they do, will any of them finish before the election, at which point they become moot?

It seems to me that this is an outgrowth of the basic philosophies that are currently contending in the use. On one side is the rule of law, informed by the belief that good ends cannot be achieved by bad means. This was said best in the question

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

This view is grounded in an objective view of reality, where effect follows cause, even if we don’t understand all of the causality involved.

On the other side the utopians, who believe that striving for the good shouldn’t be impeded by laws, which are but words on paper and easily rewritten. This is grounded in a subjective view of reality, where intents and purposes matter most. It is the internal state of the actors that determines the results, not what is actually done.

What’s odd is that it is the religious side that holds man’s law in high regard, while it is the putatively secularists who value their “higher law” over any mere legislation. Who are the real fanatics?

12 March 2004

Posted by aog at 11:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's the living standards, stupid!

Stories about the trade deficit always seem to be rather shallow. Without giving in to the hype, we are shifting to an information economy where information is the highest value kind of “stuff”. The balance of trade numbers don’t include services at all. So if a company in Japan pays a US company $100 to do packaging design while selling $50 of games to the US market, that counts as a $50 trade deficit, even though the US ended up with $50 more than Japan. This is something to keep in mind when people talk about “empty ships” leaving US harbors.

If there’s a trade deficit,it only matters in the long run if it enables increasing foreign ownership of US assets. That doesn’t seem to be increasing (the alledged Japanese take over of the American economy in the 80’s and 90’s turned out to be the Japanese getting ripped off paying way too much for damaged goods). And even if it were, it would have to get very large in order to make any real difference and be much more than US ownership of foreign assets. None of the trade deficit hawks seems to notice that (for instance) US car companies have been buying up other car manufactures around the world. If Ford buys Mazda and then Mazda imports add to the trade deficit, is it really a deficit? This kind of mixing is becoming the norm, not the exception. If foreign governments subsidize imports to the US, then in effect foreign taxpayers are forking out to improve US living standards. That’s OK with me.

Ultimately none of this really matters. If the US economy is growing and becoming more productive, living standards in the US will improve. That’s what we need to keep an eye on.

09 March 2004

Posted by aog at 15:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

My fifteen minutes of reflected glory

My little town made CNN

In central Illinois, a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus toppled over a bridge railing and fell about 15 feet in what Champaign Deputy Fire Chief Tim Wild said probably was a wind-related accident.

I’m trying to think where around here there’s fifteen feet of height from which a bus could tumble. The only thing I can think of is an interstate overpass. I like the “probably wind related” bit. So if anyone had airplane problems last Friday because of O’Hare, this is why.

Posted by aog at 14:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Not invented here

One of the problems that plague corporations is the Not Invented Here Syndrome. This doesn’t mean considering and then rejecting solutions from other sources, but an a priori disregard of any one else’s solutions. The primary distinguishing characteristic of the syndrome is an obsessive concern with the provenance of an idea, rather than its utility.

I was reminded of this while thinking about the previouse post and policies promoted by the religious. The general reaction, particular among the hard core secularists, is to point out that it’s an idea promoted by the religious. Well, OK, that’s intersesting, but so what? It’s a good idea or a bad idea regardless of who’s promoting it. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to examine an idea more carefully based on its source (certainly I’d triple check anything coming out of a Communist group) but ultimately the idea stands or falls on its own. Using its origin as an argument against the idea (rather than as a argument to look at it closely) is a classic sign of Not Invented Here Syndrome. It’s not a good strategy in business and I doubt it works much better politically.

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

If you want it done right, do it yourself

In the comments to this post at Dean’s World, there was a discussion of the various ways government and religion can interact. The commentor notes, and I agree, that a major reason the USA is so religious compared to other developed nations is the separation of church and state. This leads to two other thoughts.

The first is that while I’m an atheist myself, I generally side with the religious against hard core secularists who aren’t looking for separation but expungement. Religion shouldn’t work directly on government, but there’s nothing wrong (and much right) with indirect influence through the actions of believers as citizens. Why religion and Christianity in particular is considered “out of bounds” for influencing political opinions doesn’t seem to have any basis except hatred, which is not a good basis for political philosophy.

The other thought is that it seems to me to be a mark of laziness to want the government to enforce religious doctrine, at least for Christians. Perhaps my memories are too hazy to be reliable, but I thought God had told his worshippers to go out and spread the word themselves, not to contract it out to government apparatchiks. It is the practice of religion that makes it strong, not the coercive might of it. The fact that American believers have to work on the government indirectly through spreading belief and influencing non-believers makes both religion and our government stronger and better.

08 March 2004

Posted by aog at 20:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Protecting airline passengers from vengeful toddlers

Tim Blair has a post via Joan Collins concerning the joys of taking small children through our airline security system.

A well-known woman was about to walk through the X-ray machine holding her 18-month-old infant when she was stopped by a brusque security guard. ‘Can he walk?’ he inquired of the infant.

‘He’s just learning,’ she replied.

‘If he can walk then he’s got to walk across by himself — that’s the rules,’ he stated with the authority of a Gestapo commandant. ‘Put him down.’

‘But he doesn’t like walking,’ protested the poor woman, as the baby was wrenched from her arms and stood on its feet. Bedlam ensued — the poor little chap started bawling his brave little lungs out as the frantic mother was rushed through the sensor to encourage him to follow her, which he steadfastly refused to do, unable to comprehend why he’d been so unceremoniously dumped on the floor.

Oh yeah, I’ve been there. My number two son could walk, but he has a lot of separation anxiety. Although he likes airports and planes, unknown people and new locations make him nervous. Being put on the ground while Dad walked away caused him to freak out, to which he responded by screaming, curling in to a fetal position and waiting for Mom or Dad to pick him up. As a bonus feature, number one son could not only walk, was not only a restless soul who liked to explore, but also had no fear of stranger people or places. Ah, the joys of parenting in our modern security state.

Just last week She Who Is Perfect In All Ways came back from a business trip with our 8 week old child. So she’s hauling her luggage, the baby’s luggage, daiper bag, baby carrier, etc. through security. Trying get all this through security, she asked one of the security types to hold the baby for a minute so she can get her stuff arranged. But no, because that was against the rules. The TSA people had been explicitly told not to hold children, even non-walking ones. I suppose it could be because of liability issues, but it’s probably on the theory that helping out would distract them so that someone could sneak through, like this guy.

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

Adequate and cheap beats excellence 9 times out of 10

In a post about the success of the Apex DVD Player, we have this quote:

Bargain culture, says Sharon Zukin, a sociology professor and the author of ”Point of Purchase,” a book about shopping and America, is based on ”a kind of aspirational shopping for the lowest price, rather than the highest status.”

Apex is winning market share by shaving off features in order to lower the price. One of the commentors notes that

Industry leaders, who focus on quality and features, are often surprised to learn how willing American consumers are to accept inferior products, if the price is right.

You’d think that air travel would have made this obvious. People will put up with lousy food, lousy service and inconvenient travel times in order to get the lowest possible fare. This is also one of the pillars of Walmart’s success - once you hit a certain level of quality, the mass market wants lower prices above all else. This may be shifting a bit, as indicated by the success of the pseudo-upscale Target effort, but I believe that the true mass market will continue to be market by the desire for adequate goods at minimal prices.

Of course, I’ll refer back to an earlier post about Microsoft by pointing out that this was a key strategic win for Microsoft as well. Yeah, Microsoft stuff was not as reliable or as easy to use as other choices, but it was cheap, both for the software and the hardware. Better quality is not always the road to success.

03 March 2004

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

Laying all the bombs on the table

The lastest attacks in Iraq show that the attackers are not Sunnia partisans but true Caliphascists. It should be clear, even to Sunni jingoists, that a civil war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq would end very badly for the Sunni. It would, however, serve the purposes of those interested in their own personal power and influence. The real question is whether the Sunni will realize this. The signs aren’t good, given that the reaction to attacks by Caliphascists was anger at the USA. I wonder how many Iraqis think that the attacks were actually Mossad operations.

01 March 2004

Posted by aog at 15:13 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Metaphor, metaphor - all is metaphor

In yet another post on evolution, Orrin Judd says

Darwinism represents a shift in philosophical theory—a change in the metaphor by which we comprehend ourselves—not an actual science.

The problem with this assessment is that all science is metaphor. The reason is the same problem involved in observing the physical world. No one can see infrared, or nanometer scale electronics or tranverse pressure waves in the Earth’s mantle. In every case, we’ve built tools that perform sensory metaphors for the real data. Ususally these are visual metaphors, where we show infrared radiation as visible green radiation. Occasionally other senses are used, such as force feedback tunneling electron microscopes. In every case, however, some mechanism converts from the actual reality to some metaphor that’s directly apprehensible to our existing senses.

In the same way, regardless of what the “real” model for a physical phenomenon is, in order to be apprehensible by humans it must be translated in to human understandable concepts. That is precisely what a metaphor is.Even mathematics as we use it is a metaphor for the fundamental mathematical facts1.

The bottom line is that we, as humans, have a limited set of physical senses and mental structures. Anything we want to understand (in whatever limited sense) that is not directly perceived must be mapped in to these senses and structures via metaphor. Until we start rewiring ourselves, we stuck with that.

1 One doesn’t need to resort to Platonism to agree with this, as there’s no requirement that mathematical forms exist in any physical sense.

Posted by aog at 14:58 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Binding leaders with laws

So Aristide is gone, having bugged out before the gangs got him. I’m not the least bit sorry to see him go, as he’s been an oppressive thug from the start. It’s interesting to see all the bogus complaints about Saddam Hussein being an American creation who abused his people while there were few complaints about Aristide, for whom that is a far more accurate description. The funniest thing I’ve read is a defense of Aristide being elected by citing Jimmy Carter as a reference. I have no doubt that Carter thinks as highly of Aristide as he does of Kim Jong Il, which makes it seem like it’s the anti-Aristide side who should be citing Carter.

Sadly for Haiti, it’s unlikely that those who lead the revolt against Aristide are much better. The claim will be that elections will fix the problems, but Aristide was at one time a popular politician who won elections (mostly) legitimately. For what reason would one believe that the next person elected President of Haiti won’t go the same way?

It’s a classic example of why people like me go on about “rule of law” more than democracy and elections. One of the reasons that the American polity has done so well is that we hold not only ourselves but our leaders accountable to the law. It is of course not perfect, and lots of policitians get away with flouting the law, overall it’s still generally political suicide to openly flout legality.

For a Clinton basher like me, this is the essence of why I bashed him. To me he had an excess, even for American politics, of “the rules are different for me” and a personal view of the powers of the Presidency. The big scandals in the Lewinsky affair for me was the perjury and the complaints about the invasiveness of laws supported by Clinton himself. Holding our leaders to the law is a linchpin of our polity and (in my view) matters even more than the precise shape of election laws. Brazen flouting by our highest elected leader is the kind of third world pathology we have been lucky to avoid.