31 July 2004

Posted by aog at 21:46 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Movie Review: I, Robot

She Who Is Perfect In All Ways and I went out to a movie this week and saw I, Robot. It wasn’t high on our list but the pickings were quite thin for movies we were willing to sit through (she wasn’t up for Spiderman 2 and I wasn’t willing to sit through King Arthur even for Keira Knightley).

The movie wasn’t bad. It was much less predictable than I thought it would be. The special effects were good as well, although not spectacular. The plot holes1 were reasonably sized for a movie of this nature — way, way smaller than the ones in The Matrix trilogy. In fact, the philosophical questions in the movie, while mediocre, were also deeper than those raised by The Matrix. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. Light weight but fun.


It occurred to me that the movies should have come out in the opposite order. While the good guys win (of course), it they had lost it would have been the perfect set up for The Matrix and explained that situation far better than the majorly lame “the machines need the energy” explanation. Suppose VIKI had triumphed. It’d be plausible that after her triumph, the human race would start to decay and fade away, which would be in violation of her programming. Unable to allow that, a simulated matrix where humans still ruled would be a perfect solution. One could even have it set up so that people who were “killed” could simply be recylced as other people (ala Dark City) so that in fact no human was ever really harmed. It would be a far tighter explanation for why the machines kept the humans alive when they were obviously completely unnecessary.

P.S. I did notice that in the credits, where normally one would read “based on …” it had instead “suggested by …”. That’s certainly accurate as the plot doesn’t follow anything I remember from the robot stories of Asimov.

1 The biggest one is why no one finds it strange that Lanning’s house is demolished the day after he died. No estate sale, no reclamation by family of heirlooms, no probate, no frigging sale of a multi-million dollar house. Even the truck accident can be explained away by claiming that auto-drive is only enabled inside the city tunnels, not on the open highway (too expensive, too new to be everywhere).

Posted by aog at 19:06 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Wouldn't you want to keep the evil people away?

Via Orrin Judd is yet another pathetic screed about the moral failings of the USA and UK for not intervening in Sudan. Judd provides an excellent list of similarities between Iraq and Sudan:

  • European indifference
  • Arab/Muslim complicity
  • Opposition from the Realist gang
  • The Anglosphere leading the lonely crusade
  • A serious response bogging down at the UN
  • Complications because of past Western inaction
  • The ultimate realization that only America and its military can reorder the situation and save lives
  • French support of the oppressive regime due to French oil interests [added]

Random Jottings stole my point which is that, contrary to the article’s assertion, it was not the invasion of Iraq that made inteverntion in Sudan infeasible, but the resistance to the invasion. Was not the motto of the Stoppers “War is never the answer”? Were they not the “anti-*war*” coalition? Isn’t Bush doing exactly what the Left said should be done in these situations? Does no blame at all attach to France for vetoing any actual punishment of the Khartoum regime?

The most astonishing part, beyond the utter incoherence and moral obtuseness of the Left these days, is the doublethink of “America is the primary source of evil in the world” and “America is at fault for not setting things right in Sudan”. If the USA is truly the greatest evil in the world, wouldn’t it be better to not have the USA intervene in Sudan? Surely it would be wrong to replace the current problems of the Darfur natives with the far greater horrors of something like Abu Ghraib…

Posted by aog at 16:10 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Attention journalists - it's not always about you

Via Ed Driscoll we have an interesting article where in the author tries to come to grips with his hatred of President Bush and his support for many Bush policies. Orrin Judd and Little Green Footballs dissect the article in interesting ways.

What I found oddest about it was the authors distaste for this episode, after Bush has given a speech to the Air Force Academy and is hanging out with a cadet:

With the cadet bent slightly forward and the commander in chief leaning slightly back, each man cocked his right arm and made a muscle. They flexed!

[…] From Kennedy to Clinton, there is not a single president who would have been capable of striking such a pose after concluding a speech about a war in which hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis are being killed.

Because none of those presidents thought of those serving in our military as their social peers? Did the (male) author live a life so sheltered from things boyish that he never did this kind of thing? Perhaps I just live in an overly testosterone soaked environment, but what Bush did is a standard issue activity for boys / men interacting as friends and equals among my set.

I think this shows the extreme disconnect between Old Media and those of us in the real world, who don’t see this as mockery but as very humanizing. The author thinks Bush is trivializing an important event by staging a photo opportunity. I think Bush was ignoring the press to provide the cadet with a special moment. I’m willing to bet a big chunk of money on which of those two the cadet would agree with.

Posted by aog at 09:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Don't press buttons you don't understand

USS Clueless weighed in on the homosexual marriage debate. He (after much writing) dismisses Andrew Sullivan’s argument. He then argues in favor of permitting homosexual marriage on a different basis. He uses good logic but I think his axioms are extremely flawed.

The first axiom is that there is no difference between consenting sex acts and marriage, with the ancillary point that it is “unimportant that government clerks issue the marriage licenses”. This simply misses the point of marriage, which is far more than just a paper handed out by a government clerk. As other have noted, if that were really the point then what would be wrong with civil unions, i.e. just a piece of paper? It’s clear that both sides view marriage as some far more than that. If it weren’t there wouldn’t be such a furor over the issue. I don’t see how Den Beste misses this point.

I’d also like to object to Den Beste’s claim that “The true measure of civil liberties is the extent to which each of us can scandalize our neighbors without landing in prison”. I understand the point that liberty measures what one can choose to do without approval of others, but the emphasis on scandalizing is, in my opinion, an emphasis that is counterproductive to advancing the cause of liberty. However, this is much more of an opinion than the previous point so I’ll let him slide on that.

The final point, though, brings us back to the “just a piece of paper” point. This is that while Den Beste is concerned with liberty per se, he seems to have no concern about the societal structures necessary to sustain it. It’s like being concerned about people having cell phones while being unconcered about spectrum allocation issues. Liberty, unfortunately, is a luxury consumable for a society. Well developed liberty requires a number of foundational properties to be present in the underlying society. Expansions of liberty that erode such foundations result (over time) in a reduction of liberty. This is one reason why I’m a minarchist because I believe that excessive government involvement (such as the welfare state) breaks down societal functions that sustain liberty.

Den Beste simply ignores this point entirely. It’s consistent with his view of marriage as just a piece of paper, but the fact remains that marriage is a basic structural unit of a self-ordered society. Tinkering with it is to modify society in a fundamental way and who is to say that the result wil be more conducive to liberty? Den Beste is looking only at first order effects without even mentioning any possibly unexpected secondary effects from changing a basic unit of social organization that has been present in every society since before recorded history. That’s a rather embarassing oversight for an alledgedly skilled engineer.

Given the sorry history of most of the social experiments of the 20th Century, I am not sanguine about this one. It is hubris of the highest order to believe that we understand the social structures that sustain our society well enough to make arbitrary changes successfully. It is also, unfortunately, an implicit assumption of many libertarians (one point on which I agree with Orrin Judd’s criticism of libertarianism). I think it would be better for everyone, especially for those who do value liberty, to be a bit more humble in this area.

29 July 2004

Posted by aog at 17:27 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Patrolling with the enemy

Orrin Judd provided me with this note

With American support, Saudi Arabia is taking the lead in trying to form a Muslim security force to help Iraq overcome its 15-month-old insurgency, U.S. and Saudi officials said Wednesday.

The difficult thing to see here is why the USA considers this a good idea. It’s well known that Saudi security has been heavily penetrated by the Caliphascists (if that’s even the right word and the directors aren’t Caliphascists themselves). If such a force is deployed in Iraq, how plausible is it that it will not be heavily infiltrated as well? I would think that such a deployment would be a windfall for the Iraqi insurgents. I suppose we have to pretend it’s a good idea to placate the Saudi Entity until it’s time to take them down, but I hope we’re not dumb enough to trust them with anything important.

28 July 2004

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It's not always about them

An interesting tidbit from the Brothers Judd:

JK ROWLING made the “chilling” discovery that villains in her books used the same twisted logic as the Nazis when she visited a Holocaust museum, the author has revealed.

This is with regard to the bad guys differentiating between “pure-blood” and “half-blood” wizards. The article then points out that the Nazis also used those terms in their ideology. This is apparently considered a telling point. But why? It’s not like the Nazi invented the concepts, or were the first to use them heavily, or even to kill on large scale because of it. It seems quite believable to me that Rowling pulled the idea from someplace other than Nazi ideology. I mean, Nazis used telephones as well. Does that mean any novel involving characters using telephones is an allegory for WWII, or that the author must have drawn that inspiration from the Nazis? It’s as if the Nazis are not only the most evil people ever but the only evil people ever.

I will admit, though, that I wouldn’t find it very chilling myself to pick some horrible attitude, assign to the villians in my book and then discover the Nazis did it too. Why Rowling is “chilled” to discover that the Nazis did the things she used to mark her fictional villians as bad people escapes me.

Posted by aog at 13:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Kerry: placator or emboldenor?

One of the memes running around, heavily promoted by Mickey Kaus, is that Senator Kerry would give us a time out from the break neck speed of the Bush administration, so he would actually be good for our efforts in WWIV. A side bar of this is the idea that terrorist attacks against the USA would proceed or not mostly independent of who is President (see the comment by Josh Heit for an archetypical example).

I think that’s highly delusional. The Madrid Bombings show that the Caliphascists are clearly aware of the electoral positions of the Western countries. When the USA refused to be cowed by terror, the Caliphascists began to strike at either weak-kneed countries (Spain) or countries less able to afford the losses (Philipines). There is also evidence that our agressive actions in Iraq are persuading some jihadis to decamp for softer targets.

The relevance here is that it is quite plausible that the election of Kerry would signal to the Caliphascists that it was time to give direct terror against the USA (and Israel) another shot. That’s certainly my view on the matter.

I think this touches on a philosophical difference. On one side is the view that Kerry would somehow appease or placate our enemies in to not attacking as much. The other is that Kerry would embolden our enemies the way Carter and Clinton’s lack of response did. I think it’s clear which view is better supported by the historical record.

27 July 2004

Posted by aog at 22:12 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Repetion works

I ended up in a political discussion with Binkie, one of my associates today. He’s a thorough going Texan and even more conservative than I am. But he’s planning on voting for Senator Kerry and can’t understand how I could bring myself to vote for President Bush. It was somewhat disconcerting.

Binkie’s primary objections to Bush were

  • He’s an idiot who can’t use his own native language
  • He’s really Dick Cheney’s puppet (I didn’t think to ask about why if this is true, the first point matters)
  • Rumsfeld, who never makes a truthful statement, still has a job.
  • That we pre-emptively invaded Iraq on a false pretext (WMD) with no allies.
  • Kerry would have to do the right thing in Iraq despite his politics

I consider all of these canards but they worked on at least one reasonably intelligent, Republican voting conservative. I pointed out that Kerry’s cabinet would likely be worse, including as it would people like Joe Wilson and Sandy Berger, that all the serious players thought Iraq was likely to have WMD and that he couldn’t point to a single specific instance of Rumsfeld lieing. But it was to no avail.

I understand the concept of Bush laying low during August, because no one is paying attention but I’m not sure how he is going to overcome the mud of lies that has been deeply tracked in to so many voter’s brains.

Posted by aog at 21:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Obama brings it on home

I caught some of Barak Obama on NPR this evening. I have to say, contrary to Orrin Judd’s claim that Obama could be beaten by anybody, I think he would be formidable even against a real opponent. While I suppose his talking points could be Clintonesque in their disigenuity, he did a good job of promoting government programs while lauding standard conservative values. For instance, he basically paraphrased Tony Blair’s a hand up, not a hand out line. On the educational theme he hit on parental responsibility more than cash for schools. While I suspect he’ll cave the instant the teacher’s union gets on his case, it’s still telling that he makes such a point at the Democratic Party Convention. I don’t think he’d have to change a word to have made it a pro-voucher point. On health care Obama walked the Opportunity Society line, speaking of putting health care decisions back in the hands of doctors and patients. Near the end, Obama slammed “those who divide us” and stated as an example that “there is no white America, no black America, no latino America, only the United States of America”. Isn’t that something Ward Connerly would say? It is of course highly ironic that Obama would say that on behalf of the tribal party. Again, however, it’s telling that he hit the melting pot and not the stew theme on this point. I think Obama’s someone to watch.

UPDATE: Text of Obama’s speech.

Posted by aog at 18:52 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Counting the cost

Paul Jaminet cites a review about a book on anti-Americanism. I, as well as the reviewer, found this quite interesting:

But at this point Willis introduces a twist: deep down, he says—and he plainly thinks this is a major insight—Americans aren’t preoccupied with success but with failure. Why, after all, do Europeans erect monuments to military victories, while Americans build memorials to their war dead and require children to memorize the Gettysburg Address? Because, Willis says, Americans “worship defeat.”

Of course Willis is wrong about worshipping defeat and I think Jaminet gets it wrong as well. It strikes me as much of more of the thou art but mortal warning given to the triumphant of Rome. It is good to be reminded that however just a war, however glorious the victory, still there is always a terrible cost.

Posted by aog at 13:41 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

Keeping an eye out for my friends

Spoons says “You know, no one delivers a good “America really sucks these days” speech like Jimmy Carter” and I have to agree.

My favorite bit was this:

In the meantime, the Middle East peace process has come to a screeching halt for the first time since Israel became a nation.

Carter for once has said something about foreign policy that is in fact accurate. However, Carter seems to view this screeching halt as a bad thing. I can see how it might crimp his invitation to soiré rate or cut in to his honorariam cash flow, but in terms of actual peace it’s a big win. On the other hand, it’s been a big loss for the Arafat so I suppose I can see why Carter is for restarting the peace process. What’s a few hundred dead in comparison to the chance to sell out American interests to brutal, dictatorial thug like Arafat?

26 July 2004

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What if things just don't work for you?

So we have yet another story about the Left / Democratic Party setting up think tanks and what not in order to compete with the Conservatives / Republican Party. Because, of course, it’s those think tanks that have shifted the citizenry to the right. It’s certainly not the failure of Leftist policies.

What’s interesting is that this putative solution embodies precisely why the Left is fading away. It’s all about process. It’s cargo cult politics. The Right is winning, the Right has think tanks, therefore the Left needs think tanks. What’s missing is that the Right’s think tanks were set up in order to promote and develop existing conservative principles. In contrast, the Left wants the think tanks to create those principles. Or just promote and develop … something. In the same way that Leftist programs have failed to deliver in the real world because the evaluation critieria is generally whether the program looks like it is doing good rather than actual performance, I expect this effort to fail.

Given that the basic Left vision of activist government simply doesn’t work, what could they do? They would have done best to adopt the Opportunity Society which has an activist government that, rather than helping people directly, helps and guides them to improve themselves. Unfortunately, that would involve accepting limits on the ability of government to create a utopia, which is the cornerstone of the Leftist worldview. Think tanks aren’t going to overcome a problem like that.

25 July 2004

Posted by aog at 17:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

But he's following the rules!

With regard to the situation in western Sudan, there are some comments here about President Bush not being involved in trying to prevent the atrocities there. However, what I find more interesting is the lack of critical comments about the lack of action in Sudan by the current administration. Normally Bush would be getting beaten up on a regular basis for this. But the problem is that Bush has been doing exactly what the Left claims it should have done with regard to Iraq — working only through the UN and other multi-national organizations. If this becomes a campaign issue, it won’t be pretty for the Democratic Party or Senator John Kerry. The French veto of even sanctions against the government of Sudan for its sponsorship of mass rape, mass murder, ethnic cleansing and slavery might upset even some of the faithful.

23 July 2004

Posted by aog at 22:14 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Quiet transformations

According to a report today,

The United States has announced that all of the US troops based in Seoul would be moved out of the South Korean capital by December 2008.

That’s just astonishing. This is a major shift in the defensive posture of the USA and it’s basically flying under the radar. Seoul is the primary target of any invasion by North Korea. The redeployment of USA forces from there means that those forces won’t necessarily be hit by an invasion, making that scenario far less troublesome for the USA. I doubt any of the yahoos protesting the base have considered that or, if they have I doubt they understand the actual threat from North Korea (whih is portrayed as an unlucky nation beset by disaster rather than a land centrally repressed to destruction).

Say what else you like about the Bush Administration, they are in fact creating major shifts in the forward deployment structure of the military USA and few people seem to be noticing. Instead we’re discussing whether the White House should be informed of the investigation of major breaches of top secret information.

Posted by aog at 10:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

John F. Kerry - Carter II?

Via Twisted Spinster I found this discussion about “security moms”, mothers who are concerned about the security of themselves, their children and the nation in the presence of enemies who will stop at nothing to violate that security.

Oliver Willis chimes in with

if security is your top priority, why would you support the man on who’s watch we had our worst terrorist attack (and did all he could to prevent any investigation - independent, congressional or otherwise into it)? Why would you back the guy who was given unprecedented, bipartisan support to globally wage war on terror and pissed it away?

Although Willis dodges and weaves on this point later, this is equivalent to discrediting FDR because of Pearl Harbor1. Willis also repeats the trope that we had “unprecedents bipartisan support to globally wage war on terror”. That claim doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Willis apparently has a far different definition of “globally” than I do. I take it to mean “all around the globe”, whereas the actual bipartisan and foreign support barely covered Afghanistan. Have all the stories of the brutal Afghan winter been dropped down the memory hole? The death of western armies in the Khyber pass? As I remember it, there was limited and grudging bipartisan support for attacking Afghanistan, much less support to globally wage war.

The other interesting comment was a reference to Senator John Kerry’s homeland security position paper. This was touted as evidence that Kerry is, in fact, serious about confront the Caliphascist threat. I, however, took it as clear evidence that he is not serious.

  • Kerry makes no mention of the Caliphascists, not even in vague terms. So he doesn’t understand who the enemy is.
  • It is a purely “hunker down and hope it blows over” strategy. There is not one mention of any forward, foreign or proactive effort against the unnamed enemy.

Basically, you could substitute any kind of recurring natural disaster (earthquakes, forest fires, hurricanes) for the terrorist threat. I.e., terrorism is simply something to be endured and mitigated. That’s the same way the EUlite seem to view it, but it’s not the American way to view it.

One might argue whether Bush is all that effective in acting against the sources of the threat, but at least Bush is trying. If Kerry’s position paper is indicative, he’s already surrendered.

This brings strongly to mind the Carter / Reagan contest. Both did, as do Bush and Kerry, acknowledge that the USA faces severs problems and threats. Reagan / Bush say “we can overcome” while Carter / Kerry say “we’d better learn how to live with it”. Any one willing to reprise the Carter presidency is simply not serious.

1 In fact, FDR did far more to encourage Pearl Harbor than President Bush did to encourage the 11 Sep attacks. However, FDR’s actions before Pearl Harbor are one of the few things I like about him. Confronting the Japanese about their military expansion was a foreign policy I would have supported at the time.

22 July 2004

Posted by aog at 23:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

No more honest mistakes

Via Spoons, Clinton W. Taylor provides additional information about Annie Jacobsen’s article on her fears of a hijacking. I agree with both Taylor and Spoons. In particular, I think that the failure of the airplane staff to enforce regulations (most particularly, during the landing when everyone was supposed to be seated).

Beyond that there is the question of what these men were actually doing. If it was, in fact, them just playing with the passengers, that’s not just something one should shrug off anymore than one should shrug off a bomb threat. In the case of the latter, there’s really little difference in consequences between claiming to put a bomb on an airplane and actually putting one on. This is for the good reason that any bomb threat has to be taken with the utmost seriousness. We need to start looking at hijackings the same way. Joking around about it or just yanking people’s chains simply can’t be tolerated in an age where such things do happen with horrific consequences.

It seems that we’re in a cultural / political position where moderate responses are out of the question. For instance, passengers are either searched completely at random or all Middle Eastern males should be searched. I suspect it’s part of the general expecation of perfection, where anyone making a judgement had better be absolutely right or there will be severe retribution. The concept of “honest mistake” seems to have been left by the wayside some time ago.

21 July 2004

Posted by aog at 20:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Cut it down to size

The acting director of the CIA said Sunday that it was unnecessary to create a new level of bureaucracy to oversee U.S. intelligence functions

For once, I agree with the CIA. It seems that the standard solution to any inept bureaucracy is a bigger one that is not only more inept but burdens the higher level executives (such as the President) making everything else less effective as well. It’s just astonishing that it never occurs to good government types that maybe there’s too much bureaucracy, not too little.

Personally, I’d get rid of every Cabinet position except for five: War, Treasury, Interior, State, Justice. That’s a nice sized team to support the President.

Posted by aog at 11:09 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Who dropped the Berger?

Instapundit speculates about who leaked the news about the investigation of Sandy Berger for stealing classified information. He and others note that one can make a more plausible case for a Democratic Party leak than a Republican one. Kevin Drum states that if he were a Republican he would have waited until late October to leak. I’m not sure I would have waited that long, but I certainly would have waited until either

  • The Joe Wilson Implosion died down so there weren’t overlapping scandals.
  • The hype about the 11 Sep Commision report was peaking so as to deflate it and leave a bad Berger taste as the lingering flavor.

On the other hand, maybe there’s so much backed up stuff that the Republicans are going to go with the swarm attack against the Democratic Party.

20 July 2004

Posted by aog at 21:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Pre-stained politician

You know, I think that Senator Kerry may be pulling a smooth move here, with various of his advisors being publically humilated or facing felony charges for mishandling classified information. Doesn’t every presidential administration have a few scandals? Kerry is simply getting them over with, now, before he’s elected. That way he can concentrate on governing and not fighting legal battles. It’s also frugal. Instead of a full shadow government, Kerry just has the shadow scandals.

“John F. Kerry — because he can’t get any worse!”

Posted by aog at 18:58 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

OK, this is worse than enjoying the prostitutes in Havana

From the depths of Yahoo! news we get this lovely story of a tour guide and his favorite travel destination - North Korea.

North Korea is not everyone’s perfect holiday destination.

Wow, now there’s an insightful lead.

Those who do venture to the Stalinist state are under close scrutiny and must be accompanied by a driver and two guides, and wandering around without them or their permission is strictly forbidden.

Even a casual stroll in one’s hotel is impossible.

That might have something to do with it.

“There’s been a misunderstanding about the North Koreans and they are seen as very strict people — but they are actually very genuine. Once they get familiar with you, you will realise they are extremely vibrant and they are no different to us,” said [tour organizer] Bonner, 42, a former landscape designer.

It’s not the people who are the problem, but the psychopathic leadership that has driven them to cannibalism. Is that in the tour book?

“It was nice to see no Starbucks there, no advertising, no branding.… They were completely shut out and were self-reliant, and I have certain respect of their determination of their ideology.”

Among the aspects of North Korean life that makes the biggest impression on travellers, Bonner says, is the nation’s continuing devotion to its late founder, Kim Il-Sung, the father of leader Kim Jong-Il.

Just keep that one in mind for a bit.

In the country of 22 million, the cult of Kim is omnipresent and respect for the “Great Leader” is expected from travellers.

Among such acts of deference is a compulsory visit to a 20-metre statue of Kim, one of the monuments dedicated to the late “Eternal President” in the capital Pyongyang.

Travellers are by law required to lay flowers at the foot of the statue and bow.

Oh yes, compulsory genuflection — that’s always a sign of great devotion. And didn’t we hear a few paragraphs back about “no branding”. What’s the Kim cult except extreme branding?

North Korea is in dire straits. There are severe shortages of food and medicine, energy and raw materials, and a shocking lack of freedoms among its peoples.

But wait — didn’t we hear a few paragraphs up that North Korea is “self-reliant”? Also, might the lack of freedoms taint, just a little bit, the idea that the people are in fact massively devoted to the Great Leader?

Sometimes I wonder at people buying in to Chomsky’s theory of “manufactured consent”. Then I read something like this and realize that there are people that literally can’t tell the difference between the views expressed by North Koreans and Americans. And if you can’t do that, Chomsky’s theories make a lot more sense.

UPDATE: Pejman catches up with this story.

19 July 2004

Posted by aog at 09:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

I hope he's smarter than that

It occurs to me that the reports of Iraqi PM Allawi personally offing some jihadis requires Allawi to be not only vicious but stupid. Why do it personally? Why not just have a couple of trusted cleaners take custody of the prisoners, drive out to the desert, shoot them and bury them on the spot? That would seem a lot less incriminating than doing the killing personally in front of thirty of so witnesses, including US personel. Does Allawi have people he trusts that much? Well, according to Paul McGeough, at least thirty of them.

Posted by aog at 09:04 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Is it funny if you're losing?

I was thinking about Governor Schwarzenegger’s “girlie men comment” and the reaction of the Democratic party stalwarts. As noted by John over at the Brothers Judd, it used to be the liberals who laughed and the conservatives who glowered. Of course, Schwarzenegger has always found Hans&Frans funny — I can still remember watching the episode where Schwarzenegger himself showed up.

The local analysis, that the Democratic Party and the Leftists aren’t going to do well playing the humorless prig against Governor Sunshine, seems spot on to me. But I think there’s something more interesting in the overall switch of humor.

I wonder if this change isn’t a change of overall confidence. One of the reasons that self-deprecating humor is popular is that it bespeaks of a strong confidence. If you’re sure of yourself, you don’t have to sweat the small stuff like jokes. Thirty years back, the liberals were triumph and the conservatives beleagured1. Now it is the Left / Liberal side that’s beleagured, that the tides of history washing away their castles in the sand. This makes them grumpy and sensitive. If your power is slipping away and you need every last bit of it, you can’t tolerate humorous slights. Moreover, the Liberals / Left have constructed a massive counter-factual ideology which is threatened with crumbling if any breech is made. If “girlie-men” isn’t homophobic and racist, maybe other things that are claimed to be aren’t, either. And without that kind of weapon to shut down dissent, how can the Liberal / Leftist world view be maintained?

It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to all of this. Note that weapons like “racist” and “homophobe” aren’t intended to get the targets to be quiet, but to get the public to ignore them. We’ll have to see who gets tuned out by the public.

1 To placate OJ, I’ll note that even if all humor is conservative it doesn’t automatically follow that conservatives are humorous.

18 July 2004

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Good to see others keeping pace

Tim Blair reports that, with regard to the rumours of Iraqi PM Allawi shooting jihadis, “US officials” now

say privately he [Allawi] may actually have planted the stories about summary executions as part of a psychological smoke-and-mirrors game.

Yeah, I was on that yesterday. I’d like to claim credit for a marvelous, ahead of the curve insight but frankly I consider it obvious and the most plausible explanation.

Posted by aog at 11:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Here's your second change - don't blow it

Pejman asks whether, based on the arguments for invading Iraq, whether we should attack Iran. He cites Kevin Drum

Let’s turn that around. In Iran we have a country that [a] has clear connections with al-Qaeda and apparently even with 9/11, [b] has a genuine and well advanced WMD program, [c] supports terrorist groups like Hezbollah far more than Iraq ever did, [d] has fought wars against its neighbors, [e] is a medieval theocracy, and [f] is determinedly hostile toward the United States.

Question: that’s a much more convincing case than we had against Iraq, so should we invade Iran and attempt to install a democratic government in Tehran? If not, why not? After all, those student protests don’t seem to be making much progress.

I vote no. How about getting everyone else on the record?

I’ll go on the record as being against an attack on Iran at this time. I think Drum’s case is flawed in several respects.

  • It completely ignores the fact that the USA was already legally at war with Iraq. This was no small part of the pro-invasion faction’s argument and to simply elide it is a bit of straw man construction.
  • It completely ignores the violations of multiple UN Security council resolutions is ignored as well. While I personally don’t care what the UNSEC has to say, it’s odd for someone like Drum to ignore that strong basis in “international law”. Even for UN skeptics like me, it was a useful lever to bringing along allies (such as the UK). Contrary to many assertions, we aren’t against international cooperation and allies, we just view them as a means and not an end.
  • It uses the highly misleading forumulation “fought wars against its neighbors”. While technically true,i t is a formulation that punishes nations for defending themselves intead of surrendering. Note that in the case of Iraq, it is “launched wars against its neighbors”. Just a bit different.
  • It competely ignores the ongoing military operations in Iraq, such as the no-fly zones and the Kurdish regions of the north.

If Drum wants to have a serious discussion, he should do the other side the courtesy of stating their positions accurately and not omit major bits of context. Every one of these points makes the case for invading Iraq stronger, so much so (in my view) that it’s far from clear that the case against Iran is, in fact, stronger. But let’s leave that aside.

Another compelling difference, which Drum does touch upon, is that there is a far more active internal resistance. Drum dismisses this with a “don’t seem to be making much progress” but it’s still very significant. One key point is that the protests have been forcing the mullahs to take a much more repressive stance and bring in foreign enforcers. As is often the case, things must get worse before they get better. If the mullahs succeed in repressing Iran as thoroughly as the Ba’ath repressed Iraq, then it will be a different situation, far more comparable and I might well have a different view.

On that thread, I think that the claimed policy for President Bush’s second term to topple the mullahocracy in Iran is an excellent start. My first thought when I read the original Pejman post was “why can’t we treat the mullahs like we treated the Ba’ath in Iraq before the invasion?”. At the very least, we should be providing support (rhetorical and otherwise) to the pro-liberty forces in Iraq rather than cozying up to the mullahs with “engagement” and “dialog”.

I would leave this as a challenge for the non-moonbat anti-invasion faction. You claim that we didn’t have to invade, that there are better, more peaceful means of increasing liberty around the globe. Let’s try them on Iran. Bring forth your energy and policy proposals rather than spending effort on wailing at the unchangeable past in Iraq. Show us that war isn’t the always the answer, that you are as anti-repression as you are anti-Bush. If instead there is simply carping that whatever Bush does is wrong, then we’ll know what’s really important to you. I await in hope, but not expectation.

P.S. And if anyone objects to an American hegemony that dominates the globe, explain to your friends in Europe that watching the genocide in Sudan as they watched / funded the one in Rwanda (and sat idliy as Yugoslavia broke up bloodily) is acquiescing to the hegomony by proving that only the USA is capable and willing to act.

17 July 2004

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

Think before, react after

we have the story that’s been heard round the blogosphere about a possible dry run for an airplane hijacking. Whether this particular story is accurate is a secondary point. I suppose that there are some moonbats who will claim that it’s not realistic but I find it completely reasonable to presume that practices are going on.

It’s interesting to ask what would you do if you had been in a similar situation, but I wonder about the bigger question of “what would the nation do in the face of an actual hijacking?”. While the Bush administration does contain Norm “No interviewing more than 2 Arabs per flight!” Mineta and so must shoulder some of the blame, I would say the larger part will exist in the intellectuals who have made Mineta’s stance politically correct instead of laughable1. I’m sure they will end up blaming President Bush, or Halliburton, but never themselves and particularly not the actual hijackers.

But what happens when the plane is hijacked? Should Bush have it shot down? Or should it be allowed to crash in to its target? It certainly looks like a lose-lose proposition for Bush and it’s a sad commentary on our political state when no possible action is politically acceptable. We can’t take effect measures before the hijackers strike, nor any action afterwards. We aren’t even having a debate on the subject. There was much complaint about how the 11 Sep attacks couldn’t be forseen. Leaving aside how plausible that is, can’t the same kind of attacks be forseen now? But we don’t seem to be preparing for them or taking effective measures to prevent them. Just for instance in this case, those Syrians should have been criminally charged for their behaviour (if nothing else, for standing up after being required to sit for landing). But we as a society seem incapable of being hard asses when it really matters.

1 Yes, I know the counter claims that non-Arabs would be recruited, but that takes time and effort, not to mention creating a much greater exposure to infiltration. I don’t understand the view that we must have one single, timeless policy that works forever regardless of any change in Caliphascists operational procedures. We have to get inside their loop. That’s what our miliary had done in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we do not seem able to do domestically. Our failure to be able to react faster than the Caliphascist can adapt is what’s going to kill us.

Posted by aog at 13:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

And he was fire director at Hama, too!

As Daimnation! notes, a few weeks back we had the rumour that Iraqi interim president Ayad Allawi had been chopping off the hands of insurgents. That rumour having failed to gain traction, we now have one in which Allawi is shooting people out of hand. Next, I suppose, we’ll hear that Allawi has WMD or worse, has contributed to the RNC.

What’s bizarre is that right on the heals of the Joe Wilson fiasco we have the Left once again accepting wild rumours at face value. The funniest bit was over in the comments at Atrios where one of the believers states that she’s tired of being right about all of this. I suppose the Left is correct about this just like they were about

  • The death of imperialist armies in Afghanistan
  • The brutal Afghan summer
  • The brutal Afghan winter
  • The fierce resistance of the Iraqi people
  • The debacle of the Stalingrad like defense of Baghdad
  • The hundreds of thousands of civilan deaths during the invasion of Iraq
  • The massive Shiite uprising in support of Al-Sadr
  • Joe Wilson

Oh yeah, I’m convinced now.

But what I wonder is whether this is agitprop by Allawi or his allies. It would work out rather well for him, wouldn’t it?

  • Since he didn’t actually do it, it can’t be proven so the downside from official displeasure is limited1.
  • The people who this would affect will believe it regardless of proof so it’s just as effective as the actual act.
  • It will keep the pro-oppression factions obsessed with a false trail, thereby providing cover. No real scandal is likely to be as juicy as a fake one like this. The completely lack of facts hasn’t stopped any of these types of rumours before. Look at how for how long the following rumours have lasted in Old Media even after they’ve been debunked.
    • The “sixteen words”
    • Joe Wilson
    • The plastic turkey

If this is a psy-op by Allawi, I say “you go, boy!”.

1 Obviously a Kerry administration wouldn’t require anything like real proof, but if Kerry gets in Allawi is on his own anyway so no marginal cost there.

Posted by aog at 09:52 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Best to leave it buried

Fauxpolitik has an interesting theory about the fading of the NY Times. Beyond the stunning loss of credibility, the fact that the NY Times hides articles more than a week old behind a registration wall decreases the number of websites that link to the NY Times online. In turn, because Google and search engines to a lesser extent rate search results based on links, when people search for information they do not find the NY Times. Information that’s not on the Internet is increasingly irrelevant and information not found via a search engine is largely irrelevant as well. The overall result is the NY Times fading in to trivia.

The author of this interesting theory wonders why the NY Times doesn’t open up its archive and charge for new stuff. I wonder if the NY Times simply doesn’t want people trolling through its archives and providing endless examples of the paper contradicting itself. I suspect that the Lexis-Nexus money is a big factor in the decision but I still wonder how much the fear of accountability weighs in.

16 July 2004

Posted by aog at 21:51 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Shut up or pay your own way

Speaking of delusional people, this recent statement is in the same league —

The rift that the war on Iraq caused between European Union countries and between parts of the EU and the United States should never be allowed to happen again, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a BBC interview.

“We must not allow such a situation to develop where Europe is no longer united on such issues and where Europe is no longer in unity with the US on such issues,” Schroeder told BBC radio on Friday.

“It would be better for all of us to avoid such a situation.”

Oh, yeah, I suppose it would - for Germany and France. On the other hand, quite a lot of the EU countries did end up siding with the USA. That would seem to make it not an EU problem. Perhaps Schroeder might look elsewhere for the precise source of the problem.

But that’s not the really delusional part. Schroeder makes no suggestion of any change in policy, goals, interests or outlooks for any nation that might prevent such a rift in the future. All the nations involved should just “not do it”. Now, I’m fine with Germany and France just shutting up and doing as their told by the USA and its allies, but I somehow doubt that was the plan Shroeder had in mind. Shroeder is right about one thing, though, when he says “the cohesion of the western world does not allow a repetition”. It’s just too bad that Germany isn’t part of the western world anymore.

Posted by aog at 21:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Is there no limit to the delusions of the Arab street?

Via Jihad Watch we have the story of the Arab street celebrating the situation in Fallujah:

The three-week siege is inspiring “a literature of resistance and war,” said Egyptian novelist Gamal el-Ghitani. “Fallujah is a symbol, in one of the worst eras we have witnessed, that it is not impossible to stand up to America.”

He said it also sends a message to Arab dictators about the lesson people may draw about resisting oppression.

“I used to laugh, despite the ghastly daily news, about how a bunch of poor, helpless Iraqis with primitive weapons are forcing the greatest superpower in the world to negotiate. Honestly, the American army was ridiculed,” he said.

While many others have already done so, I just can’t help marveling at the level of delusion going on here. How can these people, who live in repressive dictatorships, think that any of them would hold back as the Coalition did in Fallujah (see ‘Hama’)? It’s as if the massive bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq never happened. The idea of the Fallujah irregulars holding Marines at least is physically possible, however unlikely, but holding back bombers at 15,000 ft? Not even physically possible.

On the other hand, it may be that winning by holding hostages (even one’s own people) is considered a standard military practice, but again that would mean nothing to those “Arab dictators”. I wonder what will happen when the new Iraqi government gets its pieces in place to roll over Fallujah. The inhabitants will probably wish the Marines had finished the job.

15 July 2004

Posted by aog at 17:53 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Yet another problem with the ICJ ruling on the wall

Backspin points out that the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice on the Israeli Security Wall denies the right of self defense to the state of Israel because ‘”in the case of an armed attack by one state against another state”:http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/07/14/EDGVN7KDLB1.DTL’. I.e., the Palestinian terror attacks don’t count because they aren’t a state. Yet the claim of jurisdiction by the ICJ is based on a Palestinian state, since the ICJ can only provide rulings on issues between states. Much of the early part of the document is concerned with this, yet when it’s inconvenient it’s just discarded. And people defend this as some sort of “law” rather than political opinion.

Posted by aog at 11:37 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Beyond embarassment

Instapundit is claiming that the Kerry campaign’s close association with the now completely discredited Joe Wilson will be an embarassment. I just don’t see that. Big Media is doing a very weak job of reporting it, so it’s far from clear that the general citizenry will find out. Of course political weblog readers know this, but they’re

  • A small part of the electorate
  • Almost all already committed to a candidate

Wilson’s strategy of disappearing from the public view is the best thing to keep the entire issue off the radar screen of the nation’s politics.

But even if this turnaround did go public, who would be embarassed? People who openly embrace Michael Moore and his propaganda as truth teller and fact? Or the NAACP’s race baiting advertisements? I think anyone counting on any political embarassment this election cycle is tettering on the edge of being too naive to be making political comments.

14 July 2004

Posted by aog at 07:51 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The real silencing of dissent

[Via Instapundit] Corante argues that political commercials (particularly those publically funded) should not have copyrights, or at least very minimal ones (such as a Creative Commons or Copyleft).

I can certainly see the merit in this suggestion, but I wonder how fast it would run afoul of campaign finance reform laws. In my view, those are a far bigger impediment to citizen participation than this copyright issue. It’s always been morbidly funny that the political factions who want to “take politics away from the monied interests” have worked hard on a system that makes individual participation — except for money — very difficult. Of course, you can join a PAC or a political party, but on your own, as just a citizen? No way! That might be an unauthorized coordinated contribution to a candidate! And of course, the prohibition on naming candidates in advertisements during the black out period is just wrong, so it would be illegal for a citizen to put out such an advertisement, regardless of what source material to which he has access.

I think the blogosphere should keep an eye out for the first private citizen prosecuted for political speech under McCain-Feingold and publicize the heck out of it. I think the sight of a citizen being fined and jailed for making his own political advertisements might not go over so well with the citizenry.

12 July 2004

Posted by aog at 22:21 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

Selective enforcement

Over at Tightly Wound I got involved in a discussion of the joke that is the International Court of Justice. Because of the recent ruling the discussion naturally evolved toward the justice of Israel’s security wall. In that discussion, Andrew Riddles asked me

I agree with what you say about selective enforcement. That is my point. That the US supports the invasion of Iran by Iraq, but not of Kuwait doesn’t make either right. The lack of opposition to China’s invasion of Tibet doesn’t make it correct either.

As to your second question. Jordan stated on 31st July 1988 (I was in the ocuupied territotiries that day) when it relinquished claim to the West Bank and Jerusalem that that it was doing so in order to recognise the PLO’s right to form an independent Palestine. Now I am not saying Jordan, after 19 years of occupying the land itself, losing it in a war and then doing nothing to help the Palestinians get it back had any right to the land, to any opinion what happened to it or to try to enforce moral right, as a what was basically an abslute monarchy.

But the Palestinians have a right to self-determination. So the land should go to them. Most Palestinians and Israelis have come to terms with the notion of splitting the land a la the UN 1947 plan (but with the 1949 ceasefire lines).

What do you think should happen?

Presumably if the Palestinians have no right to a free independent state then none of us do.

Of course, the USA didn’t support the invasion of Iran by Iraq. Later, after the war was already well underway, the USA provided some minor help to Iraq in the hope that both odious regimes would exhaust themselves and not be quite so dangerous to the rest of the world afterwards. Most of the funding for the war on the Iraqi side was from the rest of Arabia (doesn’t anyone remember that one of the primary reasons for the later invasion of Kuwait was to cancel Iraq’s $14B debt to Kuwait for the Iran/Iraq war?) and military equipment from Russia, France and China. Unlike the EU, some nations have reasons that don’t revolve around the USA.

As for Jordan giving up claims to the West Bank, why didn’t they do that in 1964 when the PLO was formed, instead of only after the territory was lost? Color me cynical on that one (and I’m sure that Jordan would be just as happy to have Palestinian state on its border as Turkey would be to have a Kurdish one — see Black September for why). We also have to look at the fact that the concept of a “Palestinian” people (in who’s name Riddles is claiming self-determination) is an invention designed for two purposes:

  • To attack Israel politically
  • To give Arabia an excuse to not absorb Arab refugees from the 1948 war the way Israel absorbed Jewish refugees from the same war

The Palestinian nation didn’t exist until Israel had won a couple of wars - until then they were just Egyptians and Jordanians (if even that and not just Arabs). I don’t see it as unreasonable to revert them to that state. Sadly, the fiction has probably gone on too long to do that.

To answer Riddles’ question about what I think should happen, I believe that Israel should continue to build its wall. If the never-existed Palestinian state loses territory, so be it — that’s what happens when a state starts a war and loses. It’s a good discentive to start wars and given the propensity for violence from the Palestinians and their leadership every discentive helps.

What I’d like Riddles to answer is, if there were an independent Palestinian state on the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza and it attacked Israel, what should Israel do in response? Fight up to the 1949 borders, stop and wait for the next invasion? If not, how would that be any different than the situation today?

Posted by aog at 20:29 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The things we do for spite

Somewhere along the way, the European Union became a project to spite the American Hegemon, rather than a goal in its own right.

For instance, Orrin Judd reports on a story by Bat Ye’or about the EU-Arabia axis. It’s clear from the description what the rules of Arabia get - political legitimacy, immigration to Europe, trade, loans and possibly the long term conquest of Europe. What did the EU get? As far as I can tell, additional economic and political weight with which to oppose the USA. It seems a great cost for such a benefit.

In another vein we have an “article in the Washington Monthly“http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0404.kulish.html about how wonderful it is that the EU Trade Commissioner can extract concessions from the USA on trade issues. Whether these concessions are in any way beneficial to the EU or its citizens is left undiscussed. The key point is that power was exerted to thwart the USA. In fact, one decision (to prevent the import of beef from hormone treated cows) is stated as costing the EU $100M per year in penalties. But hey! — the USA was thwarted. That’s what counts.

Then we have the EU Constitution. I was originally put on to the preceeding article by a letter in the Washington Monthly by a British citizen who was persuaded by that article to vote in favor of the EU Constitution. I can’t resist quoting:

What better way to stand up to the Bush administration. Also, it seems an excellent way to make America more rational and less militaristic in other international situations.

I will direct as many people as I can to this article — most Brits are fairly rational creatures and it will surely convince them to vote in Europe’s favor.

In other words, it’s rational to vote for Europe instead of the UK for UK citizens and make a permanent change in the political order of Europe just to stand up to a particular US administration that will be gone in at most 5 years. And here I thought it was Americans who were always in a rush. Not only that, but the writer feels this is so self evident that merely pointing out the trade article will convince Brits to vote “for Europe”. It is beyond parody. It is also the definition of anti-Americanism, willing to pay any price to act against the USA. Do these people have so little to live for that spiting the USA is all that’s left to enjoy? What a sad, dreary place Europe must be.

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

We convict people on circumstantial evidence

Just One Minute objects to the claim that a recent objective study of media bias doesn’t prove that the media is, in fact, biased. This is correct. I think that it’s indicative, however. In effect it is circumstantial evidence. By itself, it doesn’t prove anything with regard to bias. As part of a larger structure of other studies and anecdotal evidence a pattern emerges which points strongly in a single direction. Even if every particular measurement has its flaws, if they all go a single direction one can have some confidence in the sum.

Posted by aog at 18:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Risk is always relative

Orrin Judd has a post about the infiltration of Iran by emissaries of the Iraqi Shi’ites.

It made me think about the domino theory, which is regularly mocked by the Left. The basic idea was that if Iraq turned in to a moderately successful self-ordered state, then there would be massive pressure on the repressive states of Arabia and Iran to reform as well. While this concept is mocked among the Western intellectuals, clearly the mullahs of Iran take it very seriously indeed. It is precisely this kind of information flow from Iraq to Iran that the domino theory predicted and frightens the mullahs.

Iran can’t directly interfere with travel of Iranians to Iraq without completely destroying what remains of the regime’s legitimacy. However, Iran is taking other actions. During the last war, Iraq got some minor support from the USA. This time we have 130,000 troops and a far more powerful military ready for action next door. Yet despite this, Iran has been funding and directly supporting terrorism in Iraq. That’s a bit desperate. Iran is also working on breaking down the UK, and quite successfully. Nevertheless, it’s still quite a risky strategy. I read that kind of adventurism as the moves of a regime with a serious problem, which is willing to take significant risks because the alternatives are worse. While many think we should take on the Saudi Entity first, I am still in favor of putting whatever pressure we can on Iran first. If it cracks it’s all down hill for the Caliphascists from then on.

Posted by aog at 15:37 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Missing the forest for the tree

Todays Wall Street Journal has a front page article on David Okrent, the “public editor” at the New York Times who is trying to put his finger in the dike of the NY Times draining credibility. However, unless the WSJ reporter got the story completely wrong, the effort is doomed to failure.

The central point that the NY Times senior editors seem to worry about is the Jayson Blair affair, whereby Blair fabricated many stories and published them. Focusing on this means missing most of the reasons the NY Times is considered by many to be only slightly more reliable than the World Weekly News.

There is no indication that any of the hiring and promotion practices that kept Blair moving up the chain have been changed or even examined. Instead, Okrent was put in to try to clean up the mess after the fact for some future reporter. Most likely Okrent will simply end up publicisizing future problems.

The biggest problem, though, is how Blair got away with stories that misquoted so many people without complaints. It appears that people noticed but saw no point in telling the NY Times about it.

Finally, if one cruise the blogosphere for tirades about the NY Times, one finds that Blair constitutes but a tiny fraction of the issues people have. Certainly the SmarterTimes website had plenty of material without Blair. For an alledged investigative organization, the NY Times seems quite lost without a clue when looking in to itself.

11 July 2004

Posted by aog at 14:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Syria says nice

Syria has agreed to try and seal the border between Syria and Iraq to the jihadis crossing over. It’s difficult to believe that Syria will make a real effort. Evenif you ignore the strategic benefit to the Ba’ath in Syria of a destabilized Iraq, sealing the border means keeping armed psychotics in Syria instead of sending them over to Iraq to get killed. The real question is, what’s more trouble - the jihadis or the displeasure of the USA and Iraq?

10 July 2004

Posted by aog at 16:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Defaults away!

Little Green Footballs is complaining about Jeffrey Sachs recommending that African nations default on their debt if the lenders don’t cancel the debts. I have to agree with Sachs - I think it would be a wonderful idea.

LGF doesn’t specify why the default would be a bad idea, so I can’t directly argue the claim. Among the commentors, the objection seems to be that the African nations would starve, not get more loans, or both. The flaw in this view is the implicit presumption that previous loans have been beneficial to the debtors. This is quite debatable and my view is that overall most (if not all) African nations have been strongly harmed by their ability to get loans. The money either ends up in the kleptocracy’s pockets, destroys the environment / local industry, imposes additional tax burdens on the populace or some combination of all three. Africa would probably be much better off today if it had never gotten any loans.

The forces against the default are primarily the looting class in Africa and various NGOs (such as the World Bank) which are staffed with people who’d be out of a job if Africa didn’t get new loans. I can’t say, frankly, that my heart bleeds for any of those people.

Finally, the idea that defaulting African nations wouldn’t get loans in the future is simply laughable. I would put it at no more than five years, if that, before lending was starting up again. What might do some good is for the USA to endorse the repudiation of debt incurred by a non-democratic regime by a successor democratic regime. If this meant that banks wouldn’t lend to dictators to line their pockets in exchange for immiserating their populace it would be a definite improvement.

09 July 2004

Posted by aog at 22:49 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

International Court of We Make the Rules

A number of webloggers have commented on the Interational Court of Justice ruling on the Israeli security wall. In the reading I’ve done, I haven’t seen any actual cites of international law, just references to the plight of the Palestinians. I think we can reasonably dispense with the notion that the ICJ is applying any sort of well recognized “law” to the case. This is probably because, as far as I can tell, all of the historical precedents are in the favor of Israel to do whatever it wants with its conquered territory, especially since the prior claimant (Jordan) renounced those claims decades ago. There is basically no land held by a government today that isn’t claimed by conquest within recorded history. Why the Israeli claims on the West Bank are ahistorically invalid that ICJ apparently doesn’t bother to explain.

But it could be that the ICJ doesn’t even pretend to make decisions based on law, but instead on “justice”, which is a far more flexible standard. However, one does wonder a bit about why the ICJ doesn’t get involved with situation in Sudan, which is ramping up to genocide. Or act against Mugabe in Zimbabwe whose looting policies are bringing starvation to millions. I guess those people just dont’ deserve justice.

One might also wonder, if the ICJ is so concerned about the plight of the Palestinians, the ICJ doesn’t indict Yassir Arafat for siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid for those Palestinians. Or indict Fatah, Hamas and the PA for committing the war crime of using ambulances to transport combatants. The result of the latter is to cause Israel to stop ambulances at checkpoints thereby impeding the delivery of medical care to non-combatants (who do occasionally get rides in PA ambulances when the troops are resting).

Alternatively, the ICJ is ignoring the wall that Spain is building (since 1998!) in Africa to keep out immigrants. Perhaps Israel should claim that it’s not a security wall but an anti-immigration wall — then it would be OK, right?

I did run in to one person who took the ICJ seriously instead of either despising it or treating it as a collection of useful idiots. She was of the opinion that the ICJ didn’t claim jurisdation over nations, but would only step in with a country didn’t respond properly to a breech of international law. Of course, the ICJ gets to define “respond properly”, “breech” and (as we can see above) “international law”. The rule of “you can do what you like as long as I approve” is de facto a claim of jurisdiction regardless of how it’s packaged. This person thought well of the ICJ because she was from a country in which true war crimes occurred. However, she may sadly discover that the ICJ stands against that kind of thing the same way the Dutch stood against mass murder in Sebrenica.

Posted by aog at 18:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (1)Ping URL

Humourless conservatism

I normally like Best of the Web but the last couple of days has had the very weak trope of mocking Senator John Kerry for saying that (among other things) he and John Edwards deserved to be elected because they have better hair. I can’t stand Kerry but even I thought it was funny. It’s the kind of self-deprecating humour Reagan was so good at and it would probably do everyone some good to encourage Kerry in this instead of dumping on him. Given how excrutiating this campaign season is likely to be, every little bit helps.

Posted by aog at 09:49 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Hopless on the Left

Over at Harry’s Place there is a post about the evils of outsourcing, as stated by Senator John Kerry. While one wonders how his position is really different from that of the Luddites (whose jobs were outsourced to machines), it left me with the feeling that the defining characteristic of the Left is the lack of hope in human material progress despite the emphasis on material goods and their distribution.

While the historical record is clear that autarky and “job protection” trades off more future jobs for fewer present jobs (and frequently not even that), these are still the preferred solutions on the Left to any economic disruptions. There seems to be a strong preference for a good process that produces bad results than a bad process that produces good results. If you have no hope of future progress, then it might make sense to try and redistribute more equally what already exists. Still, it’s a bit odd that so called “progressives” don’t seem to have much faith in actual progress.

Of course, one of the key properties of the “good” process supported by the Left is that it delivers control over other people’s lives in to the hands of those running the process. The cynical among us might well wonder if that’s not the real goal and concern about “the people” is simply a cover story.

Posted by aog at 09:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Electronic social butterfly

I am so out of it. Tim Oren writes about Orkut, which is some kind of “social networking software” sponsored / owned by Google. It went from hype to the Next Thing to a wasteland of spam. I hadn’t even heard of it, that’s out far out on the fringes I am (very depressing for someone who used to hang out on ARPAnet). At least my RPC designs are ahead of the curve — I moved away from pure object oriented RPCs to hybrid object / message drivens ones a couple of years ago. So there!

Posted by aog at 08:53 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

He's bad, so I'll vote for the worse guy

Jacob Levy is supporting Senator John Kerry for president. He notes that this has put him in disagreement with former fellow travelers and aligned with people he’d rather not align with. One might normally use that fact as a basis for introspection, but Levy seems find it just odd but not informative1.

What I find odd, though, is that Levy’s primary beef with President Bush is Bush’s “incompetence” in the areas of “policymaking and execution, and of trusteeship of long-term interests like alliances and trade negotiations and moral credibility”. Let’s grant that for the sake of argument. What Levy doesn’t state is any belief that Kerry would be less incompetent in those areas. The best I can tell is that “competence” consists of buckling under to anti-American nations like France and anti-American institutions like the UN. Or perhaps leaving festering threats and brutal regimes like Afghanistan and Iraq in place. One can fault the handling of post-invasion Iraq, but my interpretation of Kerry’s alternative is that he would have let the UN and the USA State Department have far more control. Based on history, that seems even less likely to have worked out well. I guess I’m still waiting for how Kerry would have done better than Bush other than very vague handwaving about placating our enemies.

1 This isn’t to say that one should always do whatever one’s ideological soulmates do, but it’s certainly reasonable to ponder the issue again if that’s the case.

Posted by aog at 07:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

My question for Kerry

The USA gets frequently slammed for its past support of oppressive regimes and that the country should be restrained by a system (the UN Security Council) that basically consists of getting France’s permission. When it’s pointed out that the USA is doing a lot less supporting of oppressive regimes, and in fact is taking them out, past behaviour is used as an indelible stain.

Yet here we have France, which openly supports genocidal (Rwanda, Sudan) and brutally oppressive (Ba’ath ruled Iraq), being set as the moral arbiter of the foreign policy of the USA. Some reporter should ask Senator John Kerry “why do you want to have a closer relationship with a French government that openly oppposes action against genocide?”. One could spice it up with some quotes from Kerry himself about how USA support for odious regimes damaged our relations with our allies and world opinion. It would be fun to watch.

08 July 2004

Posted by aog at 18:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Guarding the home front from spam

I was reading a report on problems that small businesses are having with unsolicited e-mail. Most such e-mail is apparently generated from infected computers and many of those are owned by small businesses. The owners are now upset when the anti-spam mail routers turn off their e-mail access because of the spam. The article lays a lot of the blame on anti-spam efforts, claiming that the ISPs “wrongly” shut down the infected systems e-mail access. But if the system is actually sending spam, what is wrong about stopping the flow? I feel sorry for a business that loses e-mail access, but if the system is sending spam then it’s not the ISPs problem, who have a responsibility to their other customers and the rest of the users on the Internet.

07 July 2004

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The American anti-Empire

The June issue of Washington Monthly has an article about Niall Ferguson. Ferguson is apparently a booster of an “American Empire” who thinks that the problems in post-invasion Iraq are due to not acting like a true empire.

However, I think this analysis is fundamentally flawed. When one looks at previous empires, they existed because it was economically beneficial to the conquerors. Conquest or economic activity in foreign lands (the latter the basis of the British Empire) was a way for the not well off to become wealthy. The homeland was relatively static in its economic and class structure, but the hinterlands were the place of opportunity and self advancement. It was where the action was.

The American hegemony is exactly the opposite. The hinterlands are economically draining for the most part. The home country is where the action is, where fortunes are made. Rather than the doers going forth from the USA to avoid the class / economic barriers of the motherland, the doers of the hinterlands come here to get around the barriers in their homelands. Previous empires were sustained by an outflow of talent from the ruling country, creating wealth and power in the hinterlands that couldn’t be done at home. The American hegemony is sustained by an inflow of talent to the ruling country to create wealth and power in the USA.

This difference makes an American empire unsustainable. The talent (imperial and native) required to run the imperial domains will leak away back to the homeland. The only hope of a place like Iraq to be competive with the USA is to become a self-ordered society. But in that case it’s not an imperial possession anymore, but a sovereign nation. Those who support an American empire have not come to grips with the End of History, which spells the end of Empire as well.

Posted by aog at 08:52 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Straining for irrelevance

As I expected, Israel has announced that it will ignore the International Court of Justice’s ruling against Israel’s security fence. Apparently the ICJ has the League of Nations as its role model. On the other hand, if one’s goal is a cushy job with good perqs and no responsibilities, then this seems like just the thing.

Posted by aog at 08:43 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Rails of the future

The Belmont Club reports (a bit breathlessly) about a potentially radical change in our naval armaments — rail guns. Such a gun would allow a destroyer class ship to drop kinetic energy darts on targets hundreds of miles inland on a few minutes notice at a sustained rate greater than an entire wing of naval attack aircraft. While the Army has struggled with rail gun technology, the Navy would find it much easier because, among other reasons, a destroyer is a far larger vehicle than anything the Army has and modern destroyers already consume power in the same range as the rail gun would require.

This doesn’t mean that the Navy can just slap some rail guns on destroyers - there are still some nasty technical details to be worked out (such as, how does one switch power from propulsion to the rail gun, what are the side effects of hypersonic projectile firings next to the ship, how long does the gun barrel last, etc.). However, there don’t seem to be any large technological hurdles and rail guns would be a qualitative improvement on the standoff weapons capability of the USA military. It would fit in well with our new style of warfare, where small, highly trained teams wander the countryside, engaging with light weapons when possible and calling in remote big guns when necessary. A pack of rail gun destroyers could be parked hundres of kilometers away yet still be able to deliver devastating fire on demand. The destroyers would be effectively invulnerable to any of our current opponents.

A rail gun destroyer would also further distance us from our allies, as making these ships effective will almost certainly require laying down brand new ships designed for the weapon. In an era when even the Royal Navy is cutting ships, what other nation has the will to build brand new ships with brand new weapons? The American Century is just getting started.

06 July 2004

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Software patents - bad idea or legal obstruction?

A group of lawyers is forming a gang to take down some software patents. I applaud this action as there are some remarkably silly software patents out there1, such as the patent on double mouse clicks by Microsoft. There doesn’t seem to be any checking for obviousness or prior art in the Patent Office, nor much review of patents after issuance. Personally, if the same functionality is re-invented numerous times independently, that would seem to make a strong case for “obviousness”.

While it might seem that big businesses like Microsoft would fight against this, in fact most large corporations acquire software patents as a form of “mutal assured destruction”. I.e., Microsoft has a large patent portfolio not to enforce it but in order to counter threaten any company that sues Microsoft for patent infringement. It also serves as a guild system, whereby large corporation cross license each other’s patents in bulk, a system that strongly disadvantages any company too small to have a large patent portfolio.

It’s important to remember that patents aren’t a basic right, but merely a mechanism to encourage “Science and the useful Arts”. If the Patent Office cannot keep up with the state of the art in software such that it can reasonably detect those patents which are obvious or have prior art, then it would seem best to not have software patents at all.

1 Frankly, I think the very concept of a software patent is a terrible one, but we’re unlikely to get rid of it anytime soon.

Posted by aog at 09:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

He who will not risk cannot win

Lt. Smash reports on an anti-invasion protest that Protest Warrior turned in to a “support the troops” event. This is just emblematic of the problem when one defines a movement in the negative, i.e. “anti-invasion”. Because of the inherently conservative nature of humans, that kind of reactionary positioning can be very strong and difficult to defeat. The problem is that it is brittle - if the other side does manage to break through, the position becomes completely untenable. This makes a negative position a powerful trap for the ideologically exhausted, such as the modern left. It creates a (temporarily) strong position without the pain of principles or effort of alternative plans. But once breached it all falls apart. I think we’re seeing that now. If President Bush is re-elected it will be a hammer blow to the Democratic Party and the Left in this country from which they will likely be decades in recovering, if ever. For this reason expect to see an all out push from both sides in the run up to November.

05 July 2004

Posted by aog at 12:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Be careful with the sauce when cooking someone else's goose

I frequently discuss the anti-conservative / anti-President Bush bias of Big Media. However, sometimes it seems that it’s more nihilism than anything else and Bush is getting it now because he and his ideology are the rising powers in the American political ecosystem.

A case in point is the photo at the bottom of this post. This isn’t an altered photo, but one that ran on the Reuters wire (original image link, Google cache of article header). The guy with the gun on the left is not pointing it at Senator John Kerry, but aiming for skeet off to the right. The framing might be an accident - the rule for professional photographers is to take pictures without restraint and cull the bad shots later because you can always throw out a bad picture but you can’t retake a missed one. But it hardly explains the editorial decision to use the photo. I don’t want to sound the frump here, but in these times some things, like this photo, just aren’t funny or appropriate.

If this were a picture of President Bush, much of the blogosphere would be up arms about the implied message and quite rightly, I think. Therefore I see no reason not to wonder what was going on in the mind of the staffer at Reuters who picked this particular photo to put on the wire. Is it blowback where rhetorical death threats have become so common Reuters staffers find them funny? Or the moral collateral damage from supporting the Caliphascists? Flat out nihilism? Or that curse against which the gods themselves contend in vain, stupidity?

Reuters wire photo

04 July 2004

Posted by aog at 17:21 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Happy Independence Day!

It occurs to me, as I think of liberty, democracy and self-ordered societies, that those who see only evil in the invasion of Iraq are doing an amazing job of ignoring a fact that contradicts their point of view. That fact is Kurdistan in northern Iraq. The results of ten years of de facto control by the USA is a vibrant society that is far freer and democratic than the rest of Iraq. Yet for some unexplained reason (because I’ve never seen an anti-invasion that even mentions the Kurds) this won’t happen in the rest of Iraq. Those who claim that there is a cultural barrier at least aren’t prima facie silly because there are, in fact, significant cultural differences between the Kurds and the rest of Iraq. However the anti-invasion types who base their argument on the evil nature of the USA would find Kurdistan hard to explain, so it’s just ignored.

So as we celebrate Independence Day, I think it’s distinctive characteristic of our great country that we can share that which we celebrate with others and that such sharing makes us richer, not poorer, for the sharing.

03 July 2004

Posted by aog at 21:39 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

War on truth

Kevin Drum is going on about the conservatives “war on the truth”. Apparently he’s upset because a conservative organization is “[“spending money on trying to discredit the ‘liberal news media’”]”:http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/9049444.htm.

Actually, I think that’s silly too - Big Media is doing a fine job of discrediting itself. I’ve long since stopped trusting any major newspaper due to the frequently selective or outright wrong reporting that inevitably (purely by accident, of course) disfavors the current administration.

For one recent example, consider the flap over the 11 Sep Commission report, where in pack fashion Big Media reported the story so wrongly that the chairman and vice-chairman of the committee felt compelled to complain. It wasn’t a matter of opinion - the story had the basic fact wrong.

Or the recent report that Paul Bremer left Iraq without even giving a speech. It turns out, of course, that he did in fact make a speech.

Who, exactly, is really waging a war on truth?

But what I found most interesting were the comments on the post. Apparently the reason that conservatives are bad people is because they

  • Don’t believe in evolution
  • Believe the world is 6,000 years old

These were cited multiple times by various commentors. I found the latter just bizarre. I live in a very conservative area with many conservative, religious in-laws and I have yet to hear the 6,000 year claim even once. Heck, even the Brothers Judd don’t toe that line.

As for evolution, I can see why some might consider that a proxy for valuing reason over faith. However, given the results of rationalist governments in the last century it’s not clear how much of a positive it is. What’s far more important to me, however, is the persistent leftist / liberal belief in managed economies despite the massive and atrocious failures of central planning. That’s the kind of belief that will have a far more negative effect on political action than (non)belief in evolution. In my view, not treating Communism as just as bad as (if not worse) than Naziism is a far better litmus test for someone who discards facts that don’t fit their agenda.

02 July 2004

Posted by aog at 11:44 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Keeping those nasty facts at bay

Random Jottings is complaining about the penny-wise and pound foolish attitude of our governmental bureaucracy with regard to spending money in Iraq. He sums it up with

It means we are spending billions to provide extra military force in order to save millions in possible “waste and overcharging.”

I certainly agree with this point, but it’s not just an effect of the invasion of Iraq. It’s a trend that’s been evident for decades in the leftist approach to government.

One need only consider the effects of welfare programs on the poor to see this in action locally. Those programs have never been about results with regard to the poor. Supporters have been, in general, actively resistant to any measures of performance other than money spent and people involved. Note also the proliferation of forms, requirements, rules, regulations, obtensibly to “help” the poor. Dealing with the welfare bureauocracy is only somewhat more pleasant than the INS or DMV. It doesn’t seem like something people who actually cared about the poor would do to them.

Or consider campaign finance “reform”, which sacrifices transparency and citizen participation in favor of massive regulations and endless paperwork. Again, not something people who cared about a vibrant political environment would support.

It’s a symptom of what I call logo-realism, which is the belief that words are a more fundamental reality than actions. With a bit of solipsism, you get the related syndrome moral narcissism which causes the suffer to value only his own moral posture. I.e, what one says is the most important criterion on which to judge moral status. As PJ notes greed for power is another contributing factor because it’s a lot easier to justify one’s actions if posture is all that matters.

Ultimately, the push for proper form in Iraq is very similar to the support for unionization in the Department of Homeland Security. Because the basis for supporting the proper form is ultimately linguistic and not pragmatic, any situation in which facts trump words calls in to question the entire construction. If we don’t need all the rigamorole in Iraq, maybe we don’t need so much of it here, either. At that point the argument switches to a fact based one (“is there a net win from the regulations?”) from a linguistic one (“evil contractors! Halliburton!”) and that’s not a battlefield on whcih the left wants to fight.

Posted by aog at 11:13 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Legalistic journalism

It occurred to me that most of the behaviour that I find so objectionable in modern day journalism is journalists acting like lawyers. Consider the recent case where the NY Times demanded an apology from President Bush for something while the paper had in its posession vetted evidence in favor of Bush’s position. Like a trial lawyer, the NY Times felt no need to base its statements on the totality of facts, but only on those supporting its point of view. When Tom Brokaw interviewed Iraqi PM Allawi, didn’t he sound just like a trial attorney with the comment “Prime minister, I’m surprised that you would make the connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq”, especially since Allawi had made no such connection? The Ryan / Kerry sealed divorce papers issue is the same way, with the Chicago Tribune conducting very selective actions.

It’s a matter of deciding what the story is and then framing the evidence and testimony to support that story, hiding or obsfucating contrary facts. The key difference is that we all know that lawyers do this because it’s their job - the client has the story and the lawyer tries to get it accepted by a court. It’s time the citizenry learned that modern western media does exactly the same thing, it just pretends not to.

01 July 2004

Posted by aog at 13:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Time for a real world test

Via Little Green Footballs, the Washington Times reports that

Terrorists in the Abu Musab Zarqawi network in Iraq are specifically trying to kidnap an American female service member to further horrify the U.S. public

I can’t decide what the motivation for this is. There are two candidates:

Immanetize the Eschaton

A global religious war of the Dar al Harb vs the Dar al Islam is the explicit goal. Presumably the Ummah would unite to fight against the infidels and select the current Caliphascists as leadership. Failing that, given the difference in military might, Allah would have to intervene in order to prevent the disappearance of Islam from the planet.

In this view, the Caliphascists are continually searching for some greater outrage that will finally goad the USA in to massive, unrestrained violence, sparking the global conflict that will bring about the end times and the final triumph of Islam over the world.

Just one more push

Western society is weak and decadent and will accept dhimmitude once their pathetic wills are broken. Most of Europe is already on the way to this state, but the USA is a bit more resistant. With the right terror, however, even the USA will fold like the failed society they are, allowing the global Islamic state to form. It is outside the realm of possibility that the USA is a resilent culture / nation that will rise to the challenge and beat the Caliphascists.

In both cases, the net effect is for the Caliphascists to continually “up the ante” in terms of terror attacks until the USA either lets loose the dogs of war or surrenders so to some extent it doesn’t matter which one is accurate.

It’s clear to me that the Caliphascists are counting on the Ummah siding with them regardless of what they do, so that the conflict will divide on sectarian lines. So far this seems to be a valid presumption. I will have a hard time gettting the sympathy meter off zero if the “moderate” Muslims continue to hold to that. In this regard, Iraq will be an excellent test of whether some outcome other than global war is possible.

Posted by aog at 11:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

No hit backs means more hit firsts

After the Illinois Senatorial candidate Jack Ryan divorce papers debacle, the natural question to ask is “why not Senator John Kerry’s records?”. After all, Kerry has sealed divorce papers from his first marriage and it’s hard to claim that Kerry is a less relevant political figure than Ryan in this election cycle. My expectation is that the Chicago Tribune, which sued to get the Ryan papers unsealed, won’t do the same to Kerry but will publish outraged editorials when some other newspaper does.

As for those who say that it’s an ugly turn in politics and should stop now, isn’t that just promoting first strikes? If you say that no one can hit back, then everyone will start hitting first, which doesn’t seem like an improvement.

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

Enabling the slackers, appeasers, collaborators and cleansers

Bonassus has a post about the situation in Darfur, Sudan. He mentions the lack of signficant media attention. Bonassus mentions the standard theory that non-Americans killing non-Americans never rates attention. However, he then cites NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on some alternative theories, which Bonassus and I find less than persuasive.

it’s really, really, really hard to get to Darfur to report on the situation
Think of the lesson this is teaching the thugs of the world - just make it hard to report and you can get away with anything (unless you’re the Americans). Mugabe in Zimbabwe has certainly used that to great effect. Kind of deflates the “intrepid reporter” image cultivated by Big Media, though.
The death toll is mainly indirect, from famine and disease rather then murder
True, but of course much of the famine and disease stalking Darfur is the direct result of actions by the Janjaweed supported by the regime in Khartoum. Certainly during the sanctions against Iraq there was plenty of reporting on the (greatly exaggerated) indirect costs of that.

While I overall agree with Bonassus’ assessment (particularly with regard to the weak excuses for lack of coverage), I do think he misses on a couple of key points.

First, he falls in to the same trap as those he complains about, which is viewing the USA as the only moral agent in the situation. How one can write about Darfur and Sudan without once mentioned Sudan’s place on the UN Human Rights Commission is beyond me. Not only does this make a mockery of the concept of the UN doing anything about the situation (or leading other nations to do something), it also points out other African nations are not only overlooking the situation but maintaining political support for the Khartoum regime while it is going on. Why is Sudan on the UNHRC? Because of the solid support from other governments in Africa. Yet somehow it is still the USA’s responsbility, not any other nation or supra-national organization, to set this right. Apparently expecting the EU to act or even other nations in Africa to stop actively supporting the Khartoum regime is too much.

Secondly, he calls for charitable donations to help the refugees in Darfur, claiming that ” the marginal utility of your charity dollar in Darfur is off the charts in comparison to donations to most other causes” and that “it sure can’t hurt”. I’m not so sure of either. The question of moral hazard here is not a trivial one. Suppose enough donations were gathered to take care of all the refugees. Would that not be of great benefit to the ethnic cleansers? Would it not create the example that if one is sufficient ruthless, someone else will clean up the mess leaving the cleanser with the spoils? One notes that the problems in southern Sudan started abating not when aid donations rolled in but when the southerns became well enough armed that the operation became costly to the Khartoum regime. When the NGOs start running guns in addition to food, water and medicine to the refugees, let me know. I’d probably chip in for that.