31 August 2004

Posted by aog at 20:23 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Security vs. Liberty: A transaction cost view

It occurred to me that one of the aspects of the security vs. liberty debate is that security in many ways reduces the transaction costs of citizens. One thing that’s a failing of both libertarians and liberals is a neglect of how complex and daunting negotiating a thicket of almost identical options with limited information can be for most people. We may be amused by refugees from Communist nations who are overwhelmed by the choices of bread in a supermarket, but fail to note that this is a feeling that’s not so uncommon among citizens in the USA as well. It’s also frequently with regard to things far more signficant that which particular brand of bread one purchases.

As liberty expands, citizens are required to spend more and more of their time weighing options for their various choices. Even beyond just security, it is likely to be very attractive to accept a less than optimal result in exchange for not having to choose as long as the mandated choice isn’t too bad.

Libertarians mock liberals whose solution to any welfare program problem is to create additional forms for those struggling on welfare to fill out. Certainly this deserves mocking. But don’t we liberatarians have the same problem when we ramble on about privatizing social security, open employment rules, deregulation in all of its guises? I haven’t seen much consideration of the burden this places on those who don’t enjoy pouring over endless sets of rules and devising optimizing strategies (honest - not everyone likes that!).

I believe that there are solutions to this problem, even though it’s in some sense a variant of the free rider problem (i.e., the majority will simply duplicate the choices of the dedicated rules lawyers). The goal must be to find a way to allow most citizens to make easy, acceptable choices while permitting those with the appropriate mindset to explore more complex options. But we won’t get there if we ignore the fact that most people aren’t rattling the bars of their societal cages, desperately seeking more choice.

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

Airsoft guns

Mickey Kaus asks:

Trend I most need explained to me: Airsoft guns. They shoot plastic pellets, not BBs, right? Who buys them? Adults? Children? What damage can they do? Are they somehow an artifact of gun control laws?

Airsoft guns are roughly equivalent to paintball markers. They’re used roughly the same way, in simulated combat between armed groups. Airsoft evolved out of the BB-gun and motorcycle helmet efforts that went on back when I was a child. However, a BB gun would actually put a hole in you so that sport never became particularly popular. People still wanted to play combat and not just on a computer screen.

Three strains of simulated combat games emerged to handle this desire. One was Laser Tag which used light beams and receivers. However, this suffered from a three defects from the point of view of the hardcore:

  • It was too easy to cheat and cover the receiver
  • It required quite a bit of support equipment
  • There was no good way know if someone was shooting at you.

The last point was probably the most important - as has been said, there is nothing so thrilling as to be shot at and missed. On the other hand, laser tag is much easier for the casual player.

In strong contrast to laser tag, paintball and airsoft use physical projectiles, thereby bringing much more of an edge of reality to the simulation. I haven’t played airsoft myself, but a good paintball game can be very intense. Paintball is the most resistant to cheating because of the paint. On other hand, the markers are more complex and expensive to operate because of that. Airsoft guns are also much easier to make look like actual infantry weapons. In a sense, they’re BB guns with much less dangerous ammo (although one should never play paintball or airsoft without protection, particularly of the eyes and ears).

Airsoft is also used just for shooting. While not as fun as a real weapon, it’s a lot safer, cheaper and less subject to regulation. There’s no problem with setting up a shooting gallery for automatic air soft guns in your basement.

Airsoft is also very popular in Asia, with some evidence that it originated there and migrated to the USA.

The overall answer to Kaus’ question is that airsoft guns are bought by older teenagers and adults for either simulated combat or range shooting or both. Owners don’t worry about police mistaking them for real weapons because they’re used on private property set up for such things. They are not toys that mall children would own. While I’m a (former) paintball player myself I certainly under the attaction of airsoft. At least they’re not laser tag player.

30 August 2004

Posted by aog at 19:10 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Conventional Thoughts

I’m not following the Republican National Convention much. I don’t even blame Old Media for limiting the coverage. The problem is that national conventions are the victims of two different trends, both of which re-enforce each other in rendering the conventions uninteresting.

The first is the increasing level of scripting in the conventions. As states compete to have earlier and earlier primaries, the effects of any brokering at the convention disappear into irrelevance. The “gotcha” mentality of Old Media contributes to convention planners worrying far more about not making mistakes than laying out actual policies and ideas. One wonders why these things take a week - couldn’t it be like the Grammies (as long as they drag on) and just lead up to the “best candidate in our party” award? Everyone who now speaks on the off days could just make videos and attach them to the website. That’d be a real convention weblog.

On the other hand, there’s decreasing less need for whatever scraps of information are left in the conventions. Conventions used to be useful for putting out the party’s message in (mostly) the way the party wanted. With the limited bandwidth of Old Media it was important to have at least one week where the party, not the media, had the whip hand. But with the collapse of the Old Media gatekeeping, the convention isn’t necessary for that anymore. The Internet, weblogs, talk radio, cable, etc. all allow a far more (shades of Clinton!) “permanent convention” leading up to the election. The putative event shrinks down to just a big set of parties and in the flesh networking.

It might well be that conventions move to serving just that last function, getting party supporters together in person to network, consult, boost their motivation and/or be rewarded for service. I think we’re already a good part of the way there, which is why decreasing Old Media coverage doesn’t concern me. I’m not sure weblog coverage adds all that much either, but it’s at least more convenient.

29 August 2004

Posted by aog at 17:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Poisoning one's own well

Junkyard Blog is worried about Caliphascists using our legal system against us. I think this is a legitimate fear, but I wonder if it’s not yet another strategic mistake by the Caliphascists.

American history certain has no shortage of examples where the standard legal rules were modified due to war time extigencies. The use of such mechanisms for obvious obstructionism is likely to work well for a while until there is a mood change on the American Street. Once that happens it won’t be pretty.

This seems to be another case where the war plans of the enemy are completely dependent on our forbearance, as if such forbearance is a fundamental facet of reality rather than the result of a dynamic tension in American society. The modern Left in America might also want to consider this issue because if the American Street gets fed up with the kind of legal shenanigans we’ve seen so far, it won’t just be the Caliphascists who feel the effects of the changes. Just like the lawlessness at the 1968 Democratic Convention ushered in Nixon’s “law and order” campaign, legal games in the defense of the enemies of America might well usher in a far less permissive legal system. I’m not sure I’m against that, but certainly those abusing our current one are so it’s sad but not surprising that they are carrying on without any apparent concern for destroying the environment they depend on.

Posted by aog at 16:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Boring sports story

Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima had been leading the Olympic men’s marathon race before he was attacked by spectator four miles from the finish. I happened to see it live (She Who Is Perfect In All Ways likes sports). The attacker just jumped out of the crowd and ran straight in to Lima. It was very premeditated (although probably targeted at the leader rather than Lima himself). Luckily Lima noticed the attacker right before impact and was able to prepare a bit, otherwise it might well have been much worse.

A few things I noticed:

  • The crowed was very helpful in separating Lima and his attacker and getting Lima back on the road.
  • Based on some of the faces in the crowd, the attacker would seem to be lucky to still be intact. But I wouldn’t recommend visiting Brazil anytime in the next few years.
  • Based on the final result, I doubt Lima would have won even without the attack. But he still deserved the extra medal for grace under pressure.
  • Given the presence of the spectators, I don’t see what Olympic security could have done to prevent this. They did get to the attacker very quickly, which may have accounted for his lack of injury.

28 August 2004

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

Found humor

When reading my e-mail I scan through the subjects, deleting the junk e-mails. Sometimes the subjects are amusing. Today I got one with the subject “Your file sleeps around man”. It turned out to be from some porn site alledgedly about cheating wives, but it sounded like a great slogan for an anti-virus company.

27 August 2004

Posted by aog at 23:39 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Single point of failure

I have to say that the concept of having an “intelligence czar” is one of the truly bad ideas to come out of the 9/11 Commission report. It’s easy to say “hey, let’s have one guy who knows everything to get coordination” but this is the Fatal Conceit in another guise. It’s just not possible to move all that information in to a single person to have them make detailed judgements on it. Central planning hasn’t ever worked, so it’s hard to see how it’s going to work in this case.

Beyond that, we have the “single point of failure” problem. If the intelligence czar (IC) is incompentent or just blinkered, then there is no alternative path for information to flow to the President, who makes the final decisions. To some extent the IC would be come the director of foreign policy if he was able to control all intelligence efforts by skewing the results presented, either deliberately or even subconciously. That kind of power must be kept in the hands of elected officials, not appointed ones.

One also wonders what this IC would be able to do that the President’s cabinet officers and direct reports can’t do. If one can envision the IC firing people, why not an existing member of the federal executive? What’s stopping them now and why would it be different with an IC? Heck, the FBI can’t even coordinate internally and having a single director of the FBI doesn’t seem to have solved that problem.

I have yet to see any claimed benefit that couldn’t be done better at a lower level through relaxing internal barriers and improved technology. Moreover, I don’t see how anything can get accomplished without at least one of these two efforts.

In the end, it’s hard to take this suggestion seriously and it’s quite disheartening to see so many in Washington DC do so, particularly President Bush. I suspect what makes it really attractive is that it offloads the responsibility to perform proper oversight from Congress. Just put in a czar and grill him during highly publicized hearings when anything goes wrong. It’ll do good for Congress critters but not much for the country.

Posted by aog at 20:27 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It was the dawn of the Third Age

Over at the Brothers Judd is an article from The Economist about possible observations that aren’t consistent with General Relativity.

The article is a bit silly. It buys in to the myth that long standing physical theories can be overturned. In practice, if such a theory has been around for a while, it’s because it provides accurate answers. That makes the theory being flat out wrong somewhat unlikely. What actually happens is that a new theory extends or refines (or both) the old theory. Frequently the old, “debunked” theory continues to be used as it was before. The best example is Newtonian Mechanics and General Relativity. GR is basically a refinement of NM. In low speed, low mass situations it reduces to NM and the differences are effectively identical. This is required because GR must predict the results that have been observed for centuries. Any successor to GR will have to reduce to GR for observed situations as well.

On the other hand, it’s clear that GR is, in fact, incomplete. There are a number of anamolies that GR doesn’t seem to handle correctly. Moreover, Quantum Mechanics and GR don’t get along well and in what few tests can be done, QM wins. Clearly, GR needs some corrections. What those might be, we don’t have a firm idea yet.

It reminds me quite a lot of the era right before GR and QM, around the turn of the 20th Century. Current physical theories then seemed to explain just about everything, with just a few observational anamolies like the Michelson-Morely experiment. There were other hints as well (such as new knowledge of the age of the Earth, which rendered the still glowing Sun inexplicable). I suspect that we’re on the cusp of a brand new expansion of our knowledge of physical reality on the level of the introduction of Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity. It’s definitely exciting.

P.S. I also want to note something else mentioned in the original comments, which is that “General Relativity” is bad name for the theory. “General Invariance” would be a much better name because almost all of the theory is derived by assuming certain invariants, i.e. things that are always true. The most famous is the speed of light in a vacuum. Much of the “odd” effects of the theory stem directly from requiring that even non-accelerating frame of reference measure the speed of a photon going in any direction the same. In fact, the length contraction effect can be derived in a purely geometric fashion from just that assumption. GR really says that there are fundamental properties of reality that are true for everyone everywhere. It’s sad that the choice of a term in the name of the theory has lead to so many cranks playing word games with it.

26 August 2004

Posted by aog at 23:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Confessions of a mouth breathing Bush sycophant

While over all this rant of Ken Layne’s is funny, I do find one part of it rather silly:

Somehow, over these past three years, Dubya’s each and every weakness has been embraced by his mouth-breathing followers — although his poll numbers have gone from 90-odd percent to the 40s as his nonexistent charm wears off on those finally recovering from Sept. 11.

This is a common theme I see used in many places, where any defense of any policy of President Bush brings a “you’re just a Bush-bot who agrees with anything Bush does”. Heck, even Orrin Judd has castigated Bush for his support of suppressing free speech in the name of campaign finance reform. The Bush-bot meme seems to be an attempt to avoid the crushing thought that for all of his problems, Bush is still better in almost every respect than Kerry. I’ll be voting for Bush because at least Bush wants America to win.

Posted by aog at 22:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

I need more matyrs - I'm not on page one!

Over at the Brothers Judd was a discussion about the see sawing in Najaf as negotiations “proceed”. To some extent the Coalition forces are getting jerked around by the Iraqi Interim Government as it struggles with the Sadrites. In my view, this can only happen because we let it happen (for instance, we could pull back unilaterally until the IIG gets its act together). Judd is of the view that we’re permitting the whipsawing to advertise that the IIG is in charge.

Personally, I’m OK with some snafus on the ground because of countermanded orders, as long as it doesn’t interfere with keeping the kill ratios up. It’s odd to hear people say that if Sadr escapes it demonstrates that opposing the IIG and the Coalition is “cost free”. Well, maybe for Sadr but if he’s lost multiple thousand followers to death and capture, it doesn’t seem quite so cost free for them. I wonder if it will the IIG / Coalition who gets him or some distraught relative of the dupes he sent out to die. I don’t believe that Iraqi culture is as debased as Palestinian culture and that there’s a limited supply of Iraqis willing to catch bullets so Sadr can have his next fifteen minutes of attention. It might be different if Sadr actually gained something out of these lost battles, but as far as I can tell all he gets is a chance to gather up another set of spent ammo repositories. That doesn’t seem much worth fighting for.

24 August 2004

Posted by aog at 16:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Partisanship - bring it on

In thinking about the polarization of politics in the USA, two thoughts come to mind.

The first is one that’s been belabored a lot in the blogosphere, which is that vicious, partisan politics is the norm for the USA, not an aberration. It may be bad, it may be unhelpful, but it’s hardly unprecedented.

Morever, as the old joke goes — “how do you define an attack advertisement? It’s the one that has a fact in it” — it may well be healthier for the Republic to have political campaigns that are willing to take strong positions. It may be that the recent anamolously polite politics is a result of media consolidation brought on by radio and TV. What we’re seeing now is the break down of Old Media, leading to a information distribution model similar to that of earlier times in the Republic. It may then be a natural result that politics is following along and adopting an earlier model as well, one that is probably better suited to diffuse media.

The second point is that tactically, the choice of Senator Kerry by the Democratic Party is likely to cause them even worse problems in 2008. I have little doubt that the result of Kerry losing the election will be to enhance the power and fervor of the hard core Left in the Democratic Party. The charge will be from the Green/Socialist/Tranzi side that Kerry lost because he wasn’t sufficiently pure. If Hillary Clinton wades in it will be a very vicious fight between the DLC oriented centrists and the far Left. If Kerry gets blown out, I’m not sure that will be good for Clinton because the Anyone But Bush League will feel like the German people did after WWI. It’s not clear even the Clinton magic will suffice to tame that beast.

Posted by aog at 09:52 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Spectacle or sport?

Over at The Brothers Judd they’re whining about the Olympics. I certainly agree that most of events could be dropped and improve the games. I’ve always liked a three tier classification that I read somewhere decades ago. This labels sports as class 1, 2 or 3.

Class one sports are those that involve direct competition with objective rules. I.e., the actions of one competitor directly impact those of another. A good example is tennis where how one hits the ball depends very strongly on how the opponent just hit the ball1.

Class two sports are those that involve indirect competition with objective rules. There is competition but it’s independent. Many track and field events are class two. For instance, shot put. There’s nothing (legally) one can do to affect a competitors performance. However, there is some argument about whether heat races count as class one or two, since manuevering among one’s competitors in fact a key component of competition (completley unlike shot put).

Class three sports are those that depend on someone’s opinion. Synchronized swimming and most gymnastics are class three sports.

The simple solution to improving the Olympics is to simply remove all class three sports. I’m not one of the purists who think eliminating all class two sports would be good, though. Of course, as noted in the original article many of the class three sports involve well presented flesh which adds to the general popularity of the games. How many people tune in for ice skating events just to ogle the competitors? Perhaps the better solution would be to admit that the Olympics are about spectacle and not sports and remove all of the class one and two sports, moving them to some other venue. That’s style, baby.


1 Note that curling is a class one sport because placement and interaction with the competitor’s pucks is an essential part of the sport.

23 August 2004

Posted by aog at 16:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Howdy, Pilgrim!

Has anyone else wondered what will happen if the siege in Najaf drags on until the pilgrims from Iraq show up? I presume that officially the USA will be blamed for any delays or hardships because of the Iraqi government’s refusal to surrender to Al-Sadr but it’s still an open question what the actual pilgrims will think. Everything I’ve seen indicates that the inhabitants of Najaf generally blame Al-Sadr for the current troubles. Will they talk to the pilgrims and give them the same general opinion? Will that put any pressure on the Iranian mullahocracy to get Al-Sadr out of there? The problem for the mullahs is that if Al-Sadr leaves the shrine, he’s going to be dead, arrested or fled the country. None of those outcomes are good for Iran. There doesn’t seem to be any particular time for such piligrimages (as there is for the Hajj) so presumably some of this is happening already. Is Al-Sadr counting on pressure from such piligrims to force the Iraqi government to concede? That seems like a thin reed but it may be the best he has.

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

The kettle is black. The kettle, I tell you!

Via Pejman and Jay Caruso we have a large set of linkages between supposed independent 527 political organizations and the Kerry campaign. Now, I think that current campaign finance laws are unConstitutional, counter-productive and this entire brouhaha just shows that the enforcement of same is a joke, but that’s not what strikes me here.

What’s interesting to me is the scenario once again of the Kerry campaign lashing out for something they themselves are far more guilty of. Why does the campaign keep doing that? It could be just that they’re stupid. On the other hand, the Old Media bias cocoon has atrophied any sense of self examination. In this case it simply doesn’t occur to the campaign staff that anyone might seriously question them the same way they question others. Certainly Old Media has this trait, where the rules of corporate openess apply to all corporation except Old Media corporations. A final alternative is that the campaign staff has come to believe its own propaganda and just doesn’t see the similarities between their accusations and their own behaviour. It’s likely, of course, to be a mix of all of these. But one continues to wonder how alledgedly intelligent people can go up against President Bush and get whacked the same way every time.

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

Sowing the seeds of repression

One of the things that really demonstrates the hypocrisy of the modern Left is two things in conjuction:

  • The Left’s objection to replacing Saddam Hussein with another brutal thug
  • The Left’s support of the insurgents in Iraq

More than other factor, the actions of the insurgents in Iraq are setting the stage for Iraqis accepting strong man rule. Indeed, it seems clear that this is the primary purpose of the violence and disruptions created by the insurgents. The various factions in the insurgents may have different ideas about who, exactly, should be the strongman who brings order and on time trains, but all seem to have that as an end goal. Yet the Left, which claims to oppose the installation of yet another dictator in Iraq, openly supports the insurgents. But of course, it’s been a long time (if ever) that the Left understood cause and effect.

22 August 2004

Posted by aog at 23:06 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Isn't it up to the candidate to decide what's relevant?

I can sympathize with those who think rehashing the Vietnam War is a waste of time. However, there are two big problems with that view.

The first is that such a view is precisely what the Kerry campaign wanted so as to insulate Senator Kerry from criticism. All he’s presented is the Vietnam war and if we move, there’s nothing to talk about with Kerry. Since he’s running as the Not Bush staying under cloak is his primary strategy. It frankly seems to be very biased to me, that the Democratic Party can bring up Vietnam era issues over and over, both in attack and defense mode, but once it starts biting them back it’s time to “move on”. At what point is there any accountability?

The other big reason is that the country as a whole hasn’t moved on. The very bitterness which has erupted is proof of that. This actually touches on some big issues, such as “can America act militarily for good in the world?”. It might touch on “Is Communism evil?”. That may seem self evident but there are still large sections of the politically active in the USA who wouldn’t agree.

I still don’t care that much about the medals. But I think it was a well planned shot across the bow. The second SwiftVet advertisement with Kerry’s own testimony is the real attack and it is far more powerful and politically significant than the flap about Kerry’s medals. It also speaks far more directly to the issues mentioned above that are still very relevant and disputed today.

19 August 2004

Posted by aog at 16:35 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Bush's coattails

I think that if President Bush wins the election, he will have some long coattails. Given the solidarity of the Left and the Democratic Party with the moonbat contingent, anyone voting for Bush is also likely to call pox on the entire left side of the political spectrum. It’s going to be a very partisan election.

Posted by aog at 16:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The Skeleton of the Challenger

I mentioned earlier that I didn’t think President Bush would get a convention bounce in the poles and that this was bad for Kerry because the challenger needs a bounce more than the incumbent.

What occurred to me while following the various combat related stories about Senator Kerry is that this is the reason the challenger needs the bounce. The incumbent has already had most of the possible dirt thrown at him. There’s not much except his current term in office left to use to turn up the volume. On the other hand, the challenger will tend to have a lot more unexamined skeletons in his closet. We’ll see this more explicitly after the RNC convention when the Rove attack machine is put in to gear. The other side has been running with the throttle red-lined since Bush was elected so they’ve got no where to go except rehashing old news. Luckily, former President Clinton has demonstrated how to deal with that kind of thing.

While I fear the derangement of the voting public due to the bias of Old Media, I just can’t see how Kerry will be able to pull off a win if his campaign keeps taking hits like this and I don’t see how the Bush campaign can fail to score those hits in the final eight weeks.

Posted by aog at 11:44 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The last dance?

Via The Command Post” we have this report

An Iraqi Cabinet minister said Thursday that Iraqi forces could begin an offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr within hours, despite the firebrand cleric’s acceptance of a peace proposal.

To prevent an imminent attack on his forces, who are holed up in the revered Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf, al-Sadr must immediately disarm his Mahdi Army militia and hand over its weapons to the authorities, Minister of State Qassim Dawoud said.

The cleric must also sign a statement saying he will refrain from future violence and release all civilians and Iraqi security forces his militants have kidnapped. In addition, al-Sadr must hold a news conference to announce he is disbanding the Mahdi Army.

That’s hardcore. I wonder if this is really the end for Al-Sadr because the Iraqi Government will become despised if it backs down from this stance. If Al-Sadr accepts these terms, that’s effectively a complete surrender. It looks like this is finally going to get resolved, one way or another.

P.S. Astute readers may wonder why the Coalition can back down but not the Iraqi Government. This is because the Coalition conquered the entire country in a few weeks with historically unprecedented ease and low cost (in casualties) and because the Marines and 1st Cavalary have been killing Sadrites in job lot quantities. The Iraqi Government hasn’t achieved any remotely similar victory. If they get Al-Sadr then that will change, which is why this is such a test of that government.

Posted by aog at 07:56 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

American Pravda

As the Kerry campaign continues to shed wheels, one wonders what will become of Old Media which is going to enormous efforts to suppress information about Senator Kerry and his past. While some of us might like Old Media to simply disintegrate in a shower of shame, that seems an unlikely outcome. What I expect is that Old Media will move to occupy the niche that Pravda did during the heyday of the USSR. People will read it, but it will be presumed to be the official party line of a political faction rather than “news”. Even anti-Communists read Pravda because it provided insight in to what was considered important by the nomenklatura of the USSR. This was interesting to both those who supported the nomenclatura and those who opposed them. I think that the NY Times will be in the same state after this election — openly acknowledged by friend and foe as politically aligned. Protestations of “objectivity” will be considered simply theatrics, part of the schtick. It doesn’t seem like a recipe for financial success, but some things are more important than money.

18 August 2004

Posted by aog at 21:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Some times it's good to be two faced

Bjørn Stærk has a post about the problem with calls to ban Islam. The Volokh Conspiracy has a follow on about the problem with saying something like “Muslims believe X” for any X, especially in the case where X is a specific moral or political topic as opposed to a core tenet of the religion. Volokh says that we in the West would be unlikely to make the same type of ascription to Christians. I think he’s wrong or at least off base in two ways.

It is in fact a common occurence for political factions in the USA to ascribe consistent beliefs about particular issues to Christians, frequently rather over the top ones. Listen to any militant atheist. There’s also no shortage of the same type of thing with regard to Jews here or more commonly in Europe or Arabia. I agree with Volokh that sweeping statements of belief about specific topics are unsound but hardly uncommon.

The bigger problem is that, at least in the West, there’s not much public discussion among Muslims on political or social topics. One reason that it’s hard to justify sweeping statements about Christians is that there is much public argument so it’s easy to find Christians on both sides of an issue. However, in the USA the public discources involving Muslims is limited to a few organizations such as CAIR. There are, as far as I can tell, quite uniform in their political beliefs and correspond well with the stereotypes that Stærk complains of. I would suggest that this, as much as any nativism or parochialism, drives much of the Islamophobia. As a parallel, consider how much damage the capture of the public face of Black America by race baiters such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson has done. This isn’t to say that there is no discussion inside the ummah, but that if such discussion does exist it is largely invisible to the general public, unlike policy disputes among Christians. While one can argue how much of the blame lies with the Ummah and how much with Old Media, the fact remains that combating anti-Islamic views will face an uphill battle as long as there is a single public face of Islam.

Posted by aog at 10:44 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The Pharmaceutical Wall

No Illusions comments on the issue of drug re-importation, where people in the USA would be allowed to buy drugs made in the USA in other countries with price controls (primarily Canada). N.I. considers the issue of, if price controls are (de facto) used via this mechanism, what will fund drug research?

I think what’s more likely is that the price controls and re-importation will lead to severe shortages of medicines in the exporting country. Certainly the USA based pharmaceutical companies will have strong incentives to hold the line on shipment volume to such countries. I would expect that the result will be laws against exporting the drugs. I also expect such laws to be passed amid much rhetoric about how it is intolerable to let the evil Americans take advantage of local drugs.

Posted by aog at 00:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Slow leaks aren't always best

I wonder if the slow response and stone walling by the Kerry campaign on his white water adventures in Cambodia isn’t going to end up being yet one more poorly managed event for his campaign. Although the tough defense has so far kept the story out of the major papers, it’s still leaking in to secondary ones. But because of the herd mentality of our modern press, it’s still psychologically difficult for these papers to report on things that don’t get play in the majors. The result is that the stories keep leaking out, stretching out the entire issue and keeping it alive. Now, it’s possible that there is even worse still buried and the Kerry campaign would rather suffer over this than that, but that would seem to be the first sign of cleverness from the campaign so it’s unlikely.

Is the Bush campaign pushing off its own attacks because this story is starting to get traction? What I expected was the Bush campaign to run a series of one to two week themed attacks until the election to keep the Kerry campaign off balance and reeling from the succession of hits. There doesn’t seem to be any bottom to the muck in Senator Kerry’s past, but dredging up all of it would be too confusing and overwhelming. That’s why a series of relatively short but focused attacks would seem the best plan even if it means not using everything in the arsenal. For the Bush campaign, it’s about getting their guy elected instead of the Kerry campaign’s goal to hurt President Bush and, if it works out, elect Kerry.

Overall, though, I still think we’re on track for the death of a thousand cuts. I don’t think that the Cambodia story will be enough, by itself, to do in Kerry.

17 August 2004

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

A judge of character

Random Jottings notes an article in the San Francisco Examiner. It’s about the problems in the Kerry campaign and the SwiftVets and worth reading.

But what struck me was this quote:

Kerry himself bestowed immense credibility on his “Band of Brothers” when he used a picture of some of them in his campaign ad titled “Lifetime.”

Essentially, Kerry made Vietnam, and these men, the centerpiece of his campaign. Of course, that was when he thought they’d support his candidacy. No matter that he’d never bothered to ask their permission to use them to promote his political career.

Could Kerry really be that out of touch with reality? That he thought men who’ve depised him for decades would rally to him because they had once served together? I suppose it’s no wonder than that Kerry thinks Jacque Chirac is his friend.

13 August 2004

Posted by aog at 07:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Out of town

Time for a long weekend with the family. See you on Tuesday.

11 August 2004

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Keyes to the Party

Via Dean’s World is this editorial on why Alan Keyes is a bad choice for a senatorial candidate in Illinois. The basis thesis is that “Keyes would be merely carrying white folks’ water”. No justification for this, the center point of the editorial, is given. It’s simply that Keyes is black and was selected by a Republican Party. Moreover, President Bush got only 14% of the black vote in the 2000 election. Nowhere, of course, is there a single issue stated on which Keyes has changed his position in order to be the candidate. I’m sure that there is a lot of cynical using going on, it’s just not clear that it’s Keyes who’s on the short end. Keyes gets the national spot light, a small but non-zero chance at the US Senate. And what did he pay for this? Only the minimum - actually coming to Illinois and running the race. That doesn’t seem like a hardship since it’s what he does with most of his time anyway. But in the liberal view, I suppose, it’s just not possible for a black man to get the better of the VRWC.

Posted by aog at 19:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Lack of Lamb? Judd do it!

The C-SPAN program “BookNotes” has been cancelled, because the host (Brian Lamb) is worn out from reading so much. I think what they need to do is hire Orrin Judd to replace him. You should all write C-SPAN about this. Not only would it be good for us, but if they let him store his books at the studio he’d finally have room to buy more.

Note: Need to recruit Pejman.

Posted by aog at 12:24 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

T-Shirt slogan idea

Front: “It only takes one person to screw things up for everyone else”

Back: “I am that person”

Posted by aog at 12:21 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

The problems of parochialism

Orrin Judd has had a couple of articles on declinism in France. This is of course highly reminiscent of the USA in the 70’s and 80’s. Judd mentioned that dealing with this was a job for Jimmy Carter which reminded me of why France is unlikely to recover the way the USA did. We threw out Carter and got Ronald Reagan. What is France going to do, trade Chiraq for a Mitterand clone?

In one of the articles the discussion is about how the French citizenry wants to break out of its stasis but clearly understands that the American model is completely wrong. The article doesn’t discuss the fact that the opposite of the American model is stasis or decay. When the USA faced this crisis of confidence, we not only looked at “getting our energy back” but also at other cultures. Remember all of the “Japan will rule the world” books? While silly, they at least represented an effort to see if we, the USA, should change ourselves and adopt habits from other cultures. That discussion was a critical part of recovering our confidence. It’s precisely the kind of thing that is unlikely to happen in France if they start by rejecting the American model.

Posted by aog at 11:57 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Bleeding with the sharks

Although this is an easy prediction, I’m going to fearlessly claim that at some point before the election, Old Media will turn on Senator Kerry with fury. There are two events that could percipitate this:

  • The perception of bias becomes so strong that Old Media feels a need to appear “balanced”. This, of course, would never mean objective reporting but instead will mean trashing Kerry the way President Bush has been trashed.
  • It becomes obvious that Kerry is toast and Old Media will rush to not be left behind as the tide shifts.

The turn will be a tidal wave because of the herd behaviour of Old Media. Because most journalists in Old Media seem to lack any perspective or historical awareness while spicing that void with a near fanatical fervor to be fashionable, once there’s any significant attack on Kerry everyone will want in.

While it will be gratifying to see Kerry get shredded, I’d happily trade that for some reality based non-herding reporting from Old Media. But I think that they’re no longer capable of doing that.

10 August 2004

Posted by aog at 22:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

I understand the kill ratio now

I will admit, this is somewhat morbid, but here’s a video clip of the fragging of a jihadi. The jihadi is getting ready to fire an RPG when gun fire (with tracers) drops him.

There are two things that lept out at me with this:

  • The guy is standing in the middle of an empty street with his weapon in a war zone. Wouldn’t basic common sense tell you how unhealthy that is? I don’t mean to be flippant but anyone trying that in a online shooter game would be instantly labeled “noobie”. I can’t imagine doing something that dumb in a real war.
  • His buddies walk out, upright, to check him out after he’s fragged. Do they think the gunner who fragged him 10 seconds ago just went out on coffee break?

I’m beginning to wonder if getting killed is seriously the goal of these jihadis, or if this guy was committing suicide by Marine.

It’s also an illustration of what even crude simulations can do in the way of training. As noted above, these are stupid moves that anyone who’s played a first person shooter, particularly in multi-player, would be very unlikely to make. Such games rapidly teach you just how stupid that kind of thing is. And in the game, as in real life, the best response for the buddies would have been grab cover, localize the fire and return fire. Our marines have grown up playing that kind of game and even simple things make a big difference.

In the same vein, here’s another clip of a laser munition impacting a large group (20-30) of jihadis. Again, we see them exit the building in large bunch and walk down the middle of the empty street. Did they just forget that the Coalition owns the air and has precision munitions?

On the other hand, perhaps the 1200 or so who surrendered were the smart ones.

Posted by aog at 16:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

But it wasn't on the comedy channel so I didn't see it

I was talking with BBB today and one theory we discussed about the lack of bounce for Senator Kerry is the fading of Old Media as a source of political information. If only the true believers still tune in to Old Media, then the conventions and their coverage just doesn’t matter. It may be that there are still a goodly number of undecideds out there but that Old Media can’t reach them because they either don’t believe it or don’t watch it.

This would still imply no bounce for President Bush. It would also support the slow erosion theory in that diffusion through new media tends to be much less abrupt than with Old Media. If people are weighing input from multiple sources rather than taking a single one as definitive, then the conversion process will be more gradual. That’s why I still think that there will be no dramatic failure of the Kerry campaign but when the election comes people will wonder “where did all the voter support go?”.

Posted by aog at 16:53 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

As long as it's not on our watch

Apparently summer camps for children in France are on the way out. The article actually points out a few facts that are interesting together:

  • The cost is becoming too much for parents due to greatly increased regulation
  • Regulations on the camps were increased due to deaths
  • Before regulations, camps were safer than vacations with the family

The article describes the deaths of seven children over the last 6 years out of roughly 1½ million per year (or about 10 million total). That’s about 0.1 per 100,000 which is a fairly low risk.

So what’s the result? Because the camps weren’t perfectly safe, they were burdened with additional regulation. As a result, the prices increased so that the experience was taken away from children or the children participated in less safe family vacations instead. Another victory for the regulatory state.

Posted by aog at 10:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Speed kills

It seems that the Coalition didn’t keep complete records of the money spent during the occupation. While it would certainly be nice to be able to track every single dollar, this is the typical penny-wise and pound-foolish thinking that is in many ways crippling our efforts in WWIV.

It’s also the attitude of people who don’t realize that we are at war. War, among other things, is very wasteful. Not only do its participants frequently have (to them) more important things to worry about (such as a clean gun vs. clean paperwork) but modern warfare is predicated on speed. It is likely to be cheaper to relax controls to get things moving more rapidly than by watching every dollar while sacrificing initiative. I sometimes wonder how much of the current problems in Iraq are due to our fetishization of accounting, but that kind of question isn’t asked because it’s unlikely to be kind to Old Media and their ideological allies.

09 August 2004

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Shooting with only one arrow in the quiver

Via Random Jottings, here is Kathy Kinsley describing another example of how the Left uses silencing instead of argument when caught out on an indefensible point:

I don’t usually comment much on moonbats (from the right or the left). But Atrios’ latest bout of insanity (scroll down to ‘Celebrate Diversity’) is just plain weird. He seems to have decided that a t-shirt, which is endorsed by Instapundit, Frank J, and John Hawkins, with pictures of a bunch of guns on the front and the text ‘Celebrate Diversity’ is racist. I suppose because ‘diversity’ is shorthand, in his world, for ‘blacks’ or something? And Instapundit’s wearing of the t-shirt indicates he’s a racist. Right. Check the comments to Atrios’ post as well.

Of course, the real meta-comment of the T-shirt design is on the redefinition of “diversity” to mean racial diversity only, not a collection of non-identical things. The Left is reducing to sputtering “racism” when this redefinition is mocked, as the T-shirt does, because the Left holds to the double think that “diversity” doesn’t mean racial quotas even though that is the only actual result expected of any “diversity” effort.

The message of these complaints is that even at top level left-leaning weblogs there is a level of lunacy that is frightening.

Posted by aog at 15:46 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

You don't need to answer if questions aren't allowed

A recent discussion about Senator Kerry’s medals helped me realize why the DNC decided to emphasize Kerry’s service in Vietnam despite the landmines of dwelling on that. I think the DNC believed that this would be an issue on which they could get a free ride while simultaneously avoiding talking about current issues (where Kerry comes off even worse). The hysteria around the Swift Boat Veterans and the constant general complaints about questioning patriotism shows that the goal was not to argue about Kerry’s service record but to present it without any dissenting voices. Any such voices would be used as evidence of unacceptable behavior on the part of the dissenters.

One may wonder — “isn’t that a rather fragile defense”? Of course. But it’s a standard tactic, as one can see from the defense of, say, affirmative action. It’s been a long time since the Left has tried to defend its policies on the merits. Instead the effort has been to tar and discredit as unacceptable any contrary opinions. It’s worked before and I suspect that the DNC and its allies are genuinely stunned that it doesn’t seem to be working this time as well.

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

The Anthropic Principle

Via The Brothers Judd is an article about the fact that the fabric of reality seems tuned for life. This natural leads to the anthropic principle. There are two major forms of this, the weak and the strong versions.

Weak:The fabric of reality must be such that it is possible for intelligent life to evolve. Strong:The fabric of reality must be such that intelligent life will evolve.

Obviously the weak form is true for any intelligent observer, since the observer exists. The strong version is far more debatable.

One of the objections to the anthropic principle is:

the whole idea is roundly trashed by Lee Smolin, a renowned quantum-gravity theorist at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada. Smolin asserts, in a preprinted paper on Arxiv1, that the anthropic principle is not a scientific theory at all, because it lacks the basic requirement of falsifiability. It is impossible to prove the anthropic principle wrong, hence it is outside the remit of science.

I disagree strongly with this view. For the weak version, it’s a truism. One can argue about how useful it is. It is, however, not really science since science doesn’t deal with truisms. In this sense it’s more akin (as one of the commentors notes) to the “elegance” principle, which is that more elegant theories are more likely to be correct (and this is itself a form of Occam’s Razor).

The strong form, however, is capable of being proved or falsified. Some proponents of the strong form argue that there is only one consistent set of physical laws, which of course is the set we have (because inconsistent sets cannot exist). If this could be shown, or more properly if it could be shown that other sets of laws are possible that do not lead to the evolution of intelligent life, then this would constitute falsification. While the anthropic principle in either form is hardly a panacea, it’s not a worthless bit of sophistry either.

06 August 2004

Posted by aog at 22:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

It's not so bad as quoted either

There have been some comments about President Bush’s recent statement:

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

Of course, Old Media quotes this as Bush stating that his administration will “never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people”.

What I want to know is, why is this hyped up as a misquote or a Bushism? Wasn’t one of the big complaints about Bush’s early administration that they didn’t think out of the box enough to envision someone harming our country by flying airplanes in to skyscrapers? Hasn’t there been a chorus of how much better off we’d be if someone in our intelligence service had thought of that way to harm our country and our people? Isn’t think of such things a critical part of the mission of the Bioshield Project?

OK, I can see how this could be read the wrong way, but can’t we have fun and think about the real issues as well? Or is taking a cheap shot on a serious subject just too tempting?

05 August 2004

Posted by aog at 12:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

League of Conservation Voters - e-mail scammers

Allow me to take a moment to complain about The League of Conservation Voters. I’ve been getting unsolicited e-mail from them for a while, but that wasn’t anything special - I just put them on my auto-delete list and stopped worrying about it. Now, however, they are faking e-mail addresses so as to appear to come from my co-workers rather than an outside organization. Not only is faking the headers rude (and possibly illegal) but it makes you wonder what else they’re faking.

Posted by aog at 12:24 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Enough ink and anything will look like red meat

Even though Instapundit links to her, Dahlia Lithwick’s thoughts are still a confused mess that fail to get even the most basic facts right. She writes

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld an Alabama ban on the sale of sex toys. Alabamians can still use, improvise, borrow (not recommended by Slate or its legal counsel), or import from out-of-state the latex items of their choosing. But as far as the court of appeals is concerned, the sale and advertising of “any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs” can now get you up to a year of jail time and up to $10,000 in fines. [emphasis added]

[…]

The big fight comes down, very simply, to this: Does the Constitution protect, as a “fundamental right,” private, consensual sexual activity that harms no one?

No, it doesn’t come down to that. The ban has nothing to do with private, consensual sexual activity. It’s a ban on commercial activity. It may still be stupid and unconstitutional but not on any privacy basis. As Lithwick herself notes in the preceeding paragraph, the ban is about the sale of such devices. Not the possession or use. Does she not read or understand her own writing? As far as I can tell, there’s not even a ban on the purchase of such devices, so Alabamans can still legally purchase them out of state.

I don’t know what else Lithwick has to write on the issue, as I stopped reading at the end of the quoted section. Having gone off on a hysterical tangent I didn’t see the point in wasting more time reading her tripe. But I did wonder why she would cast the issue this way - simple ignorance, stupidity or hardwired liberal bias? The latter is a distinct possibility. Since the ban is on commercial activity, it would be hard to a big name in Old Media to argue against it, in contrast to the constant calls from Old Media for ever growing regulation of commerce. It simply wouldn’t resonate with the usual crowd to describe it accurately. The red meat of a liberal opinion article is a direct threat to privacy. And so the issue is recast that way by shear force of assertion against the counter evidence in the article’s lede. Apparently Lithwick thinks her readership has very short memories.

04 August 2004

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Go with the runner up

My co-worked BBB provided the best comment I’ve seen on who should replace Jack Ryan as the Republican candidate for the US Senate in Illinois - Oberweis. After all, Oberweis finished second in the Republican primary, so it seems only reasonble to go with the runner up if the winner isn’t available. Apparently Oberweis was willing to run, as he was one of the candidate considered. Personally, given that he was the runnerup in the primary with at least a reasonable (>20%) amount of the vote in a crowded field, he should get the right of first refusal. But the Illinois GOP is the Stupid State Party of the Stupid Party and that seems to be out. Instead they’re considering Alan Keyes and “former White House deputy drug czar Andrea Grubb Barthwell “.

I don’t want to say too much about Keyes, even though I’ve got an 8×10 glossy of him right here in my desk. I don’t think I’d vote for him, although personally I like him. As far as I can tell, he’s Orrin Judd in black — a very smart theocon who’s completely unafraid of giving voice to his beliefs. He’d at least be entertaining to watch in a debate, but while it’s tempting to pull a Toricelli the non-residency issue is not a trivial one.

On the other hand, I’ve never heard of Barthwell and I live in the state. But she doesn’t sound like a winner

Some party insiders were surprised at the selection of Barthwell as a potential replacement for Ryan, who stepped down amid allegations he once took his wife to sex clubs. Barthwell has been the subject of a series of embarrassing revelations.

Republicans learned she contributed to Democrats and voted in Democratic primaries until 2001 when President Bush called her to ask her to serve as a deputy director at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

And an internal probe found she “engaged in lewd and abusive behavior” by joking about an underling’s sexual orientation.

“Are you f——— kidding me?” one GOP strategist close to the negotiations asked when told that Barthwell was in the top two.

No, Mr. Strategist, probably not. The Illinois Republican Party is the one, remember, that ran a gubernatorial candiate to the left of the Democratic Party candidate (one of the few times I voted Democratic). A candidate that was endorsed by this same party leadership. A candidate that is now wondering if he’ll be able to get asylum in Cuba from his buddy Castro instead of doing time in the federal penitentiary.

But the Illinois Republicans aren’t through being funny.

Barthwell has told the Sun-Times she supports abortion rights and opposes Bush’s proposed amendment banning gay marriage.

Keyes is a staunch opponent of abortion and gay rights.

But [State GOP Chairman Judy Barr] Topinka insisted “they are not necessarily on the opposite ends of the political spectrum.”

Oh, clearly not! I wonder if they do have anything in common…

State Sen. Dave Syverson […] insisted the committee did not choose the two because both are African Americans, like Obama.

Now, I can believe that about Barthwell, who sounds like the kind of Republican the Illinois Party likes to nominate, but Keyes? The State GOP quakes in its socks at anyone who’s publically conservative, much less someone as outspoke and uncompromising as Keyes.

All of this certainly makes me appreciate the “let Obama run unopposed” camp’s point of view.

P.S. Comments by Pejman and Spoons.

02 August 2004

Posted by aog at 17:11 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Respect the office ... Respect the office ...

Dean Esmay has called for people on the right to not behave like the Democratic Party and the Left by villifying Senator Kerry if he wins in November. I was going to tweak that a bit to something I could agree with, but Entropy Manor beat me to it:

I believe in the United States of America and its Constitution. I will regard the winner (as detemined by the Electoral College) of the November 2, 2004 Election as the next President of the United States. I will do so whether the winner is George W. Bush or John F. Kerry. When I am critical of the President’s policies, I will remember I am criticizing the policy and not the man. Furthermore, I will make my criticism constructive not antagonistic.

This is what I will do as well. I will also do all that I can to make any criticisms fact based, unlike, say, the pipeline in Afghanistan issue.

Posted by aog at 16:57 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

No convention bounce for Bush, either

I’m going to fearlessly predict that President Bush will get a convention bounce on 5% or less. I know that some people think Senator Kerry’s lack of convention bounce is very significant and that claims to the contrary are just spin, but I was of that opinion before the convention. There simply aren’t that many undecideds who are going to vote and even fewer who watched the convention. I think that a lot of local opinion leaders have been following the situation all along and so are little swayed by the tightly scripted events that pass as political conventions these days.

The problem for Kerry is that polls tend to gradually shift toward the incumbent during the last couple of months, unless disaster stalks the land because voters get cold feet about switching horses in midstream if the current one isn’t foundering. Kerry needed to be up after the convention to account for that erosion and he’s not. He also can’t ratchet up the anti-Bush rhetoric because frankly, where would it go? If the only thing we have to fear is four more years of a Bush Presidency, then he’s already the scariest thing known to mankind. How do you turn that up to eleven?

Posted by aog at 16:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Aim not for perfection but for fewer mistakes

This quote

Reflecting the prevailing mood in the Berlin chancellery, Michael Muller, the deputy head of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary party, added: “Sometimes the electorate has to be protected from making the wrong decisions.”

has been going around. Instapundit remarks

Of course, a suspicion of thoughtless popular majorities is built into our own Constitution

It’s the “thoughtless” that’s the key point and what distinguishes the American system from Muller’s comment. Rather than prevent strong majorities from doing as they will, the US Constitution simply makes it difficult to prevent thoughtless, of the moment majorities from making fundamental changes. But via various processes, up to amending the Constitution, the people are not in fact protected from making the wrong decisions in the USA. This is OK because a deliberative body politic makes fewer wrong decisions than a professional political class. See the USA vs. Germany.

Posted by aog at 13:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks: View (0)Ping URL

Is the teflon cracking?

On NPR this morning was a short segment on Islam which was not completely lauditory. It concerned the efforts of a female Muslim to worship in the main hall, where normally only men are permitted. This, as one might imagine, was not received warmly by the male elements of the congregation.

Ordinarilly this would be just a story, but the fact that NPR was willing to broadcast a story about Islam that concerned a conflict between Islam and the culture in the USA. One of the major advantages of the Caliphascists against the West was the unwillingness of the West to hold Islam to the same standards as any other group or religion. Not only did this enable the Caliphascists to get much further in their agenda then they otherwise would have, but it tended to discount what moderates there were in Islam. To me, one of the most grating aspects of Islam as it is currently practiced is its three-year-old sensibility of “of course the rules are different for me”. But it’s hard to reform that internally if it ends up being largely true in practice. A firm “no” will be good not only for us but for Islam as well.

01 August 2004

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Explaining the pricing mystery

Instapundit is confused about the pricing of the Nikon CoolPix 8700 (point & shoot 8 megapixel camera) vs. the D70 (6 megapixel digital SLR camera). The D70 kit is still $1300 while the 8700 has dropped from $1000 to $800. As someone who looked at both of these and bought the D70, I thought I’d comment.

One thing Instapundit misses is that the $1300 is for the D70 kit, which includes a lens. You can get the D70 itself for $1000. What use is a camera without a lens? Well, the D70 can use almost all existing Nikon lenses so if you already own a Nikon SLR you have no need of a lens. That opens up the D70 to an entire market which has the choice of of paying $1000 for either an 8700 with its own, non-removable lens or a D70 which can use all of the customer’s existing lenses (and these people tend to have a lot of such lenses). Better yet, the kit lens is going for ~$350 on EBay (search on “18-70 lens”) so you can get the body for effectively less than the 8700 if you don’t need the kit lens.

I would think that in general, people paying over $1000 for a digital camera tend to be a little more serious and if it’s only a few hundred more to move up to a full digital SLR it’s well worth it. Longer ago you could sell point & shoot digital cameras for close to $1000 because a digital SLR was up in the $5000 range. It reminds me of color vs. black & white (either TVs or computer monitors). If color is 5 times more, people will by B&W. If color is only 50% more (or less) B&W will disappear from the market. The emergence of $1500 digital SLRs will be a strong cap on what you can charge for point&shoot cameras. Of course, some people will still buy them because the additional capabilities of the dSLR is paid for with additional costs. These include buying lenses, some of which can cost more than the camera body, and learning how to use the camera (“point&shoot” is called that for a reason). But it will hard to maintain a price point for a point&shoot very close to the dSLR price point, which is likely the reason for the drop in the 8700 price.