31 March 2006

Cultural immuno-deficiencies

I wasted my time getting in to another fruitless exchange about illegal immigration. Luckily, I have my own weblog on which to vent at length.

What we see today is what I consider significant problems with illegal immigration. When we have polticial marches in which the marchers proclaim allegiance to a foreign government and declare that government the true owner of part (or all) of our country, we are far out of the acceptable behavior of ethnic pride parades.

Yet ultimately, OJ is correct to the extent that the root of the problem is not that the immigrants of today are much different from those of previous eras. The immigrants of today bring along social pathologies, coming as they do from less functional or outright broken societies. Yet the immigrants of yesteryear were hardly better in that regard.

What has changed is our own nation. During previous immigration waves, we had a strong, self confident culture that brooked no question of whether immigrants should assimilate. In such an environment, adaptation was rewarded and dysfunction punished. In effect, our society had a healthy immune system, capable of rejecting the pathologies carried by the immigrants while refreshing itself with the adoption of useful cultural imports.

Today, however, our society rewards deviance, defiance and disloyalty. Play by the rules, try to assimilate and you’re on your own. Rage defiantly at the dominant culture and you will be provided with special programs, help and affirmation. Instead of rejection, such pathologies are magnified and, in a variant of the “broken windows” effect, the inchoate middle is dragged in the wrong direction.

This is fine if your goal, as it seems to be for much of the MAL, is the destruction of American culture. If, however, one thinks that we have achieved in this country the basis for a great nation, it’s not so good. When one has a weak immune system, the choices are to either strengthen the immune system or reduce exposure to infections. While the former is clearly preferable, it is not always achievable. While I am sure there are racists who don’t like immigrants per se, most of the peope I read object to massive levels of illegal immigration in to a society that (in their view) is no longer capable of proper assimilation. If one truly believes that our society cannot assimilate as it has before, due to the rise of multiculturalism and the welfare state, what alternative is there but to restrict the flow of immigration, at least temporarily? And if one is going to engage in such restrictions, it seems that illegal immigration is the best place to start.

If President Bush really wants to get his guest workers / amnest program through, then a real committment to the kind of assimiliation this nation has done in the past would likely go a long way towards placating the American Street.

Your info for free

I am so out of the mainstream. I was cruising Jay Allen’s weblog because I had been engaging with him on one of my pet obessions, weblog junk. While there I stumbled on this post about something called “Plaxo”. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone in the blogosphere (except me) knows the intimate details of it and therefore I didn’t have much luck finding out much about it, other than it’s some sort of personal contact information thing. Apparently part of its operation is to send e-mail to all of your contacts to make them fill out a form to update your contact data for them. I have to agree, that sounds quite annoying. Luckily there isn’t anyone who likes me well enough to maintain contact data for me, so I have been blissfully free of such junk.

Even though I am a fan of privacy, I find Allen’s view about control of his contact information a bit bizarre. He doesn’t like the idea of a third party, such as Plaxo, providing copies of his contact information without his permission. I understand privacy advocates who wish to preserve existing privacy from invasive information technology, but control of one’s contact information has never existed. Nothing has ever prevented a person from copying business cards and passing them on. I also find it hard to think of information you hand out to people without restrictions (as one does every time one hands out a business card) as “private” information. I think it will be difficult, and possibly impossible to prevent severe erosion of existing privacy as the planetary information net develops. The idea that new forms of privacy can be introduced strikes me as delusional.

As is said, “information wants to be free”. Allen’s desire to maintain control of his contact information is no different in any essential way from the point of view of content providers, such as the music industry, except that Allen has less precedent andjustification, as the music industry at least never hands out its information freely.

Convergence of Might and Right

I was listening to an interview with Orrin Judd and the host (Brothers Judd’s own Bruno) asked a very interesting question about Judd’s thesis, that the USA in particular and the Anglosphere in general will now judge other nations by their level of adherence to liberal democracy. This was, how is this really different from transnationalism, except for the replacement of the UN and its ancillaries with the Anglosphere?

It didn’t really get answered, but it occurred to me that this is a case where the structure of reality seems to favor the “correct” result1 by creating a situation where it is only the liberal democracies that will have the wealth and might to impose their decisions on other nations. As Lou Gots explained, only liberal democracies in the mold of the USA can compete with the USA and once a nation is there, it naturally aligns with the USA (at least in the broad sense discussed here).

In a sense, the answer to the question of “who will make the decision as to what governments are legitimate?” is “whoever can” and the reality is that only the liberal democracies can, once a certain level of technological development has been reached (a level we passed decades ago). It’s just another facet of the End of History.


1 There’s another argument for Design for you.

30 March 2006

Look at the total system

Instapundit is gushing about the iPod Nano. I received one myself for Christmas and I think it’s quite nice as well. I read elsewhere (sorry, lost the link) someone writing that the iPod is succeeding despite the fact that it has less features than its competitors. I think this misses two key points:

  1. Features that you don’t use aren’t missed. I don’t use all the features on the Nano as is, so it is effectively as featured as its competitors from my point of view. Given that, the form factor is what led me to pick the Nano. It’s small and light without being too small and light.
  2. The perceived feature set it not just what is on the hardware but the supporting software as well. A few years ago, it was important to have features on the hardware because that was the only place to put them reliably. With the rise of broadband, USB 2.0 and other technologies, a mass item like the Nano can depend far more on a host system for features. I basically don’t use any controls on the Nano except “Play” and “Stop”, doing all other activities in iTunes.

The key thing is the overall design of the system, including not only the hardware but the supporting infrastructure as well. That is one of the best aspects of Apple’s corporate culture and the iPod is dominating because of that.

29 March 2006

School ends

Joanne Jacobs has a post about a film, Boys of Barak about 20 school children in inner city Baltimore who travel to a Kenyan bording school to get a better education. It is not a message of success when kids have to travel to a third world nation like Kenya to acquire a proper education.

It is not that there can be a dysfunctional school that fails to educate even in the best education system. It is that alternatives are not locally available, which is primarily a function of the public monopoly imposed on the education system in this country.

I have thought much on this subject and I think ultimately it comes down to who is in charge of the schools, parents or politicians. One notes that most rural schools do at least OK and many of them well, while almost every big city school system is a massive failure. What is the difference? I think it is that in a rural community, most of the voters are themselves parents, therefore the school is viewed as an source of education. In a big city, however, there are far more non-child households and many parents who don’t vote, leading to the schools being viewed as a source of jobs. This is also encouraged by the larger size of urban school systems, where it is much easier to layer on management and overhead, something far more difficult in a small rural school.

Parents are hardly perfect, but overall a group of people with educations as a primary focus will run a school better than a group that sees the school as a jobs program. This is one of the many reasons that I think a voucher system would, over a decade or two, radically improve the quality of education in America, particularly for those currently stuck in the nightmare of many urban school systems, like the Boys of Baraka.

Even gamers have a better grasp of reality

Fred Kaplan’s whining about the mistakes in Iraq brings to mind two thoughts.

The first is that of course mistakes were made. In fact, preventable and forseeable ones were made. Complaints about mistakes per se, though, are indicative of people who have never undertaken a complex and time dependent task. Having done more than of those myself, I can say that generally the issue isn’t how to avoid mistakes, but about which mistakes to accept because preventing those is too expensive either in time or because it would cause even bigger errors.

Now, obviously, it can’t be beyond the pale to critique such undertakings. But to be valid, such critiques must acknowledge the trade offs inherent in such enterprises and (most important) provide specific details on how it could have been better handled, not vague “should have been aware” platitudes.

The other main thought is how, once again, playing games would have been very helpful to Kaplan in avoiding writing such a silly article. In particular, pundits shouldn’t be allowed to write on the subject if they are not at least passable players of real time strategy games. That is the kind of activity that will teach you about the tradeoffs of handling complex tasks in real time, as opposed to endless time post facto (as Kaplan does). One would learn precisely this lesson, that one must frequently simply let a bad situation go on because one is preventing some even worse event from occurring. It rapidly becomes clear that the limiting factor for victory is not resources but “wetware cycles”, i.e. the amount of attention one has to distribute among an unlimited set of tasks. In real life, one has a lot more time than one does in a 2 hour RTS game, but on the other hand the set of tasks and their complexities are much larger. The end result is the same, that there is never enough attention to go around.

We like Americans, not foreigners

It looks like illegal immigration is a hot topic once again, probably because of the large marches about it recently. What struck me was the preponderance of Mexican flags. It seems that if the goal were to actually improve the image and political prospects of illegal immigrants, then the smart thing to do would to have had phalanxes of American flags, like these, in a St. Patrick’s Day Parade1. It is hard for me to imagine a better way to melt away opposition to an amnesty or guest worker program than for these marches to show an overwhelming love and support for America. An image of that is not of law breakers but of people who want to be Americans would be enormously powerful.

I think that it is telling that despite the clear benefits to the putative goals of the marches that the marches did not, overall, display an embrace of America but instead of kind of angry foreigness. Is that because the marchers feel that so strongly that cannot even cynically present a different image? Or has the sense of entitlement become so strong that it doesn’t even occur to them that their image is not helpful to their cause? Is assimilation even their goal?


1 The comparison to a St. Patricks Day parade is unfair to the parade because it is not a political event about specific government policies, whereas the illegal immigrant marches were highly political. It is a comparison generally made by those trying to obscure reason why these two events are percieved so differently by the American Street.

Exporting spite

Someone asks

When Muslims take control of France’s nuclear weapons and begin burning the contents of the Louvre, nobody around here will care, huh?

That made me consider the possibility that as the French state collapses and the elites are up against the wall, might they not fire off some nuclear weapons purely for spite, in an “apres mois, le deluge” fit of pique? If you could concieve of any elite doing that, wouldn’t it be the Enarques‘administration?

27 March 2006

Self entrapment

Via Brothers Judd comes a story about some imtemperate remarks made by Justice Antonin Scalia. One of the commentors claims that Scalia is under close watch by Old Media and should therefore be careful.

I am not so sure. Certainly there have been reports of remarks by former Justice O’Connor and Justice Ginsberg that are not very complimentary to them, at least from a conservative point of view (although likely seen as impressive by those who populate Old Media).

Even if that is the case, I think there is a very good chance that if Old Media tries to organize a rhetorical lynch mob that it will be Old Media who ends up dangling. It would be the European accusation of President Bush being a “cowboy” all over again. Or the Plame Affair. I suspect that Old Media thinks Scalia’s remarks are so out of line that they would be immediately rejected by the American Street. I, on the other hand, think the Street is more likely to agree with Scalia than the appeaseniks of Old Media.

Hidden Classics

My favorite songs by “Weird Al” Yankovich:

King of Suede
A wonderful tale of an American success story.
Frank's 2000 Inch TV
Great composition, catchy lyrics. Hey Now!
One More Minute
Love gone wrong. We danced to this at our wedding.
This Is The Life
An “I’m so cool” song that is better than the entire rap genre in toto.
I Want A New Duck
Who doesn’t?
Addicted To Spuds
An homage to the humble tuber.
It's All About The Pentiums
A man is judged by the size of his hardware.
Spiritual immune deficiencies

So Orrin Judd finally got on my bandwagon and has started to use the term Caliphascist. I do need to update that original post because I think the term has aged well. It has become much clearer to me that Caliphascism doesn’t just resembly Europe facism, but is in fact a direct descendant of it. It’s not hard to trace specific people and their beliefs from the first half of the 20th Century in Europe to the latter half in the Middle East. A bit of editing (e.g. “Arab” for “Aryan”) and there you are. It does seem a bit odd that Arabia would adopt the losing ideology of WWII, but it’s clear how that ideology benefited the promoters of it, regardless of its effects on the masses.

It is interesting that fascism mixed so well with Islam. In Europe it mated more with nationalism (Italian Fascism) or paganism (Nazi Germany). I think this is because Islam has much more of a “will to [temporal] power” than Christianity or Judaism, and that Islam is far more of a totalizing belief system. That makes grafting on Fascist “technology” much easier. One need only apply that memetic technology to somewhat different ends.

This thesis fits in well with my view that Islam’s problem isn’t so much that Caliphascism is intrinsic but that Islamic practice is easily infected with such self-destructive memes. It simply does not have the immune system necessary to operate in our modern world with its rapid and mass communication systems.

25 March 2006

Tales of my obsession

My latest set of anti-junk defenses seems to have worked out very well. Over at Junkyard Blog, I’ve gone from hundreds of junk items a day to 5-10. I dropped the ban threshold back to 2, which seems to actually be working better than 1. The ban list is about 1800 addresses instead of 6700 or so but just as effective in slowing down the flood. It looks there is a clear distinction between scanners who hit a lot of targets once and the pounders, who hit the same targets a lot. Those guys get shut down rapidly by AutoBan and my filters take care of the scanners. The trackback modification is still under test here and at Low Earth Orbit but so far it has cut the trackback junk down to 1 every couple of days that gets filtered anyway. I have even cut back on my filter tweaking because I am not getting enough samples (a problem I am willing to live with).

The question is, will I be in trouble if my techniques become widely used and therefore worth circumventing? To some extent, but I think that it will still make it difficult for the script kiddies, which should cut down the volume. Raising the bar is always useful, even though it can never stop everybody. More likely, no one else will adopt the technology leaving me in a little oasis in the junk desert.

On the other hand, the more fringe the point of the junk, the less profit is in it and the less likely someone will bother. It just may not be worth the effort even for the clever ones to try and overcome my defenses, even if in wide use. I suspect that many of the originals have left the field and are now consulting and selling packages to the “get in right after the peak” crowd. One example of this is that the domain names are shifting from standard words to mispellings (like “parmacy”). That’s indicative of trying to harvest more marginal areas, a signal of a overfished ecosystem. Weblog parasitism is much more of a niche and much more difficult than electronic mail junk, so it’s possible it has a tipping point where it declines to a nuisance. We’ll see if I’m already there or just living in a fool’s paradise.

24 March 2006

Sheeple – heading for America, living in Europe

Little Green Footballs has a post about yet another comedian becoming popular in France by lacing his routines with Judenhass. That of itself is hardly shocking any more, but it really struck me while reading the article how flagrantly inconsistent so much of modern Judenhass is with regard to Nazi Germany. On the one hand, the National Socialist regime is used a signifier of ultimate evil, with Israelis equated with Nazis to paint them as evil. On the other hand, Nazi Germany is applauded for killing so many jews, with Hitler held up as great man for fighting the Zionist tide. Even the socialist moonbats who inhabit much of the blogosphere are more coherent than that.

It has to be a matter of cultural programming, where the audience is reacting at a purely visceral level to key phrases that are completely idiomatic and not parsed for content at all. Bizarre to think about how, when people need to know so much in order to cope with modern civilization, so much time and effort is spent on instilling this kind of rote response in the putatively well educated children of the elite.

It's a small world

Cool, I actually know someone involved in this launch, which is scheduled to happen in about 10 minutes. The son of one of my former co-workers is on site. I will admit, it’s a bit bigger than most of my rockets.

23 March 2006

Not a good sign

As part of my code slinging, I have a subscription to MSDN, the Microsoft Developer Network. It’s really a great deal if you do much work on Dark Empire operating systems, which I do1.

However, the other day I needed to get a product key from the Dark Empire’s website to install the Longhorn/Vista beta to run some tests for She Who Is Perfect In All Ways. I fired up Internet Explorer and tried to get the key. It was a comedy of errors, the primary one being that my session would “time out” every time I hit the key page. Finally, in a fit of desperation, I switched over to Firefox and voilá — no problems. Truly it is a bad day for the Dark Empire when I have to use some other web browser to access their content on their website for their product.


1 We are keeping out code base working under the Dark Empire C++ compiler and the GNU compiler and it’s hard to say which one is better. Each has it problems but with MSVC 7.1, it’s now a close contest as to which one is less annoying to work with. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the Dark Empire development environment is vastly superior. I continue to be amazed at how primitive Linux based toolsets are when I have to use them.

Reasonable foundations

One of the discussions at Brothers Judd devolved in to the standard “facts vs. reasoning” arguments about primary education. As with the nature vs. nuture argument, the problem is that these are not independent features. As I have done my own teaching and systems work (where I am the student of the system I am building) I have come to see very clearly the interdependence of facts and reasoning.

While in a perfect world it would be wonderful to teach children just logic and reasoning, in the real world what generally happens is that facts are abandoned. Logic can take you a long way from a base set of axioms, but it cannot generate those axioms. That’s what facts are for. Tthe very point of logical reasoning is to show how to start with facts and create new knowledge from those facts. Without a proper base set of facts to form axioms that correspond to reality, logic can go anywhere and generally does.

On the other hand, a pile of facts is just a pile of facts. Without some ability to reason about them, they cannot be applied to the real world. It’s like saying a carpenter just needs a good set of tools, without worrying about how the carpenter knows which tools to use in which situations. There are plenty of moonbats stuffed full of facts who are moonbat precisely because they just have facts, but no means to weigh them and match them up with the real world.


To tie this in with my code slinging, I have come to the conclusion that teaching facts, big piles of facts, is essential to teaching logic to all but the handful of mental deviants who can reason purely abstractly. Human minds are pattern matching engines and have to have piles of facts in which to find patterns. This is the key insight of one of my professors in grad school, Ralph Johnson. He advocates (and I have come to strongly agree) that the way to true understanding of complex systems is to just code up whatever comes to mind first and then, refactor by looking for patterns in the code. I was struck while reading the original post at how closely this resembled my reaction to the discussion. Yet another case where a concept in computer science isn’t new, just applied in a slightly different way.

22 March 2006

Spill from the tipping point

This article is about the presumed “tipping point” where the American Street is getting tired of putting up with the barbaric behavior of the Ummah.

The bad politics of the Dubai Ports deal is one illustration of this. Yet I do not consider that reaction completely irrational. As with my earlier post what we are seeing in that when a subject cannot be discussed with nuances, then the reaction of the citizenry is to adopt the extreme position that at least contains an appropriate response as opposed to the other extreme which doesn’t.

The central ignored fact these days is the strong correlation between Islam and modern terrorism. There are lots of arguable positions about why this is, and how intrinsic it is to Islam. I understand those who take the blanket view that Islam is basically evil. My own view is that Islam contains design flaws that render it incompatible with liberal democracy, but I am willing to look at evidence that I’m wrong (such as this). Yet even at the Brothers Judd, one of the (IMHO) most open places to discuss such issues, attempts to do so for this issue are met with bogus accusations of “racism” (even though one is talking about a belief system / culture) and other straw men1. Out in the more politically correct natural environment, it is even worse. President Bush, for instance, is not much for identifying the ideology of our opponents in WWIV. Yet if, out of concern of labeling all Muslims, one refuses to distinguish between CaliPhascism and Islam, then what is the American Street to think except that there is no distinguishing them?

I think the American Street is smart enough to be told of the (presumed) difference between Islam and CaliPhascism without tarring all Muslims. Such an approach would also provide some excellent pressure on terror enabling organizations like CAIR to declare which one of those two it was in favor of. Had Bush done this from the start, then there would have been a natural place to put the UAE vs. say, Iran. But instead, as has been done for so many other failing cultures, no ill could be spoken2 lest the trogloditic American Street didn’t run out and engage in religous pogroms. Now we’re seeing the blow back from that little bit of refusal to call things what they are.


1 Such as the perennial “but why do you think only Islam is broken in that way?”. Of course, history is littered with failed belief systems. Why Islam a priori not be one of them is never explained, simply asserted.

2 Does this not remind one of the efforts of the MAL to accept whatever dreck American Black culture throws up (such as “Gansta Rap”)? It didn’t help the MAL and it certainly didn’t help American Blacks or the culture.

21 March 2006

Carterography

I received an e-mail today about a petition to censure former President Jimmy Carter. I signed it because, what the heck, Carter is an embarassment and disgrace. I realize that it’s completely pointless. Not only will no one who doesn’t already despise Carter pay attention, but Carter himself has demonstrated his imperviousness to external reality for years — is that not a big part of why he is deserving of censure?

P.S. The real sign is that Instapundit is already on the case. I’m obviously living in the past here.

It's all wrong but we'll make it up on volume

Backspin has a post about Palestinian gunboys kidnapping various westerners in response to Israel raiding a prison in Jericho from which the PA was going to release prisoners held there by treat with Israel, the USA and the UK. Backspin notes that BBC reporters managed to avoid any such unpleasantness, presuming this to be because of how biased the BBC has been in favor of the Palestinians.

While there is little doubt about the bias of the BCC but there is plenty of evidence that the gunboys have never evidenced such discretion in the past, so why now? I suspect the BBC was just lucky.

The overarching issue here, however, is the fact that most (if not all) Old Media coverage of the area and the situation is influenced by this kind of intimidation. Old Media is therefore faced with the choice of reporting falsehoods or reporting without direct access. One notes that almost without exception, Old Media views reporting falsehoods as more important than limited but accurate reporting. That tells you all you need to know about how dedicated to objectivity and truth modern journalism is.

19 March 2006

Movable Type trackback modfication

I am busy deploying yet another Movable Type tweak. This one involves trackbacks. My original goal was to work around a bug in MT for weblogs without individual archives, but it looks that is not fixable (without a new version of MT being put in to general use).

However, I did end up changing the trackback interface so that numeric identifiers are no longer used. My hope is that this will slow down the junkers a bit, since it will no longer be very easy to guess valid values (e.g., if you just try the numeric IDs from 1 to 500, most of them will work). My modified style requires the basename of the entry or the category to ping. If I did it correctly, this will be transparent to normal people. We shall see.

Also, this change lets me set up the trackback URLs so that appending a “/ping” to an individual entry archive URL will function as the trackback URL. That will make it easier to post trackbacks, as you just paste in the target URL and add “/ping” at the end.

10 March 2006

It's all in how you define "spam"

Instapundit is going on about American companies selling “censorship technology” to China. I understand the concern here, but it’s not clear to me that this is a reasonable complaint, in the sense of being able to do something about it.

The fundamental issue is that there is no technological difference between censorship and network security. Both are defined by the concept of allowing only authorized use of a network. The only difference is the particular definition of “authorized”. If you want to allow legitimate businesses and private individuals to control access to their own computers, then you are endorsing the technology of censorship.

For another exampe, I haven’t been posting much lately because I have been slinging big code for some of my Movable Type plugins. One of those projects is anti-junk protection, to protect my weblogs against abuse. In effect, I am censoring the people who want to post to my weblogs, deciding who is legitimate and who is abusive. That’s no different than what the ChiComs are doing, they just define “spam” a bit differently than I do.

But, you say, there’s a big moral difference between shutting down massive floods of comments advertising hard core pornography and shutting down dissenters from the oppressive ChiCom regime in China. Well, yes. But it’s purely a moral difference, not a technological one. One should note, also, that a big part of the problem is the very limited private property in China, which makes the deployment of (somewhat) effective network censorship possible.

Personally, it doesn’t concern me very much. If the technology didn’t exist, then the ChiCom’s network censorship would be 100% effective — nothing is more secure than a non-existent network. The argument, therefore, is that network technology isn’t a perfect means of allowing free communications, that the ChiComs can to some extent restrict it. Yet, overall, the existence of computer networks in China does greatly loosen the ability of the ChiComs to control information and that’s good. So, those companies that Instapundit is whining about have, in the big picture, aided the forces of liberal democracy. Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

08 March 2006

Rage, rage against the dieing of our fame!

It seems like I read something like this story about selective quoting, misrepresentation and flat out making things up by the Old Media in order to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the USA1. I still can’t quite understand why, though. I have come to the conclusion that it’s not about the enemy du jour, they are simply a convenient tool to use. It’s also not about President Bush, although he is a lightning rod as a target of the effort. What is left?

Is it pure cowardess? Is it because the USA is a soft target — one that doesn’t strike back and openly admits its faults? Is it Logo-Realism and thence from fact that the USA admits that it is imperfect while other nations, far more despicable, claim to be morally superior that those countries are morally superior? Is it simply narcissitic rage at a nation that very obviously could easily get by without the chatterati who fill Old Media?

I can’t explore this much myself, because I have only one friend who is involved at all as a journalist and she suffers from only a mild case of BDS and otherwise is non-loony. I also have too few friends to alienate them over what is likely to be a futile effort (I just avoid any political discussion when we get together).

But it bugs me, because normally I can construct models for other people’s behavior, even if I don’t agree with it. I have utterly failed to construct such a model for the Old Media types who spin and distort with such effort.2


1 Other posts / stories in this vein:

2 Politicians and pundits are easy — both are using such beliefs to further their own interests in power and / or money (e.g., it’s obvious what Michael Moore gets out of his distortions).

02 March 2006

Leaving it to Harvard

After Larry Summers was ousted from Harvard, the concensus I agreed with was that Summer’s primary problem was his unwillingness to defend himself. There’s nothing the Modern American Left likes better than beating on someone who won’t fight back (which is why they howl about the fascist Bush regime but are silent about the Caliphascists).

But the telling bit in Old Media reports was this:

Harry Lewis, a computer science professor and former dean of Harvard College who left under pressure from Summers, said campus politics here had been shifting for decades, as more students from less affluent backgrounds enrolled.

Ooooh, yuck, the unwashed invading Harvard! Presumably unrelated to pricing the middle class out of the market while providing a lot of financial aid. Of course, it’s standard for elites to promote policies that squeeze out the burgeosie in favor of the very wealthy and the proles. The proles, unlike the burgeosie, can be treated as exotics, avoiding the annoying attempts to act like peers.

A more diverse group, they are also “eager to prosper and less willing to take risks by rebelling,” Lewis said. His upcoming book, “Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education,” traces what he considers to be the decline in the quality of education at Harvard. It’s left them far more likely to support the power structure, he said.

As noted over at Random Jottings, only in Western Academia is “rebelling” defined as “synchophantically agreeing with the faculty”. What Lewis doesn’t grasp is that the problem is that the students are far less likely to support the Harvard Faculty power structure.

“The Harvard student body looks more like America than the Harvard faculty,” he said. “That’s what’s happened.”

Gosh, don’t you hate it when that happens? Harvard is supposed to be elitist — but not in the bad way.

Still, it’s amusing in a situation comedy kind of way, where the protagonist gets in to a minor scrape and by his own biases and blindness digs himself ever deeper in the mess. And of course, the importance of the fictional character and Harvard are about the same.

Another effect of globalization

The boom times in India keep coming up as a weblog topic. It seems to me that we are in the beginnings of another economic rush in the British Empire, similar to the times in the 18th and 19th Centuries when massive fortunes were built from projects around the globe. The difference this time is that the natives will be reprising the roles originally played by the British.

Any port in a storm

I haven’t commented at all on the Dubai Port controversy, because I don’t have a strong opinion on it. Both sides have valid points along with the flamers (while some of the critics were being bigotted, it’s hardly the case that every critic was and blanket accusations of bigotry doesn’t install confidence in the validity of the people hurling those accusations).

Ultimately, however, I am convinced that the deal won’t make much difference in terms of security. I understand the view that even though the system is broken, we shouldn’t make it more broken, but it seems to me that if our enemies have to engage in this kind of massive and indirect effort to get access to data on how security is run in our ports, we’re so far ahead it doesn’t matter. Speaking in my role as a person who works in the network security field, I can say that very few penetrations are from any sort of elaborate plot like this, because it’s so much easier to buy a new car for some financially troubled flunky. It’s almost always a single or small group of employees being greedy or stupid.

What I do think, however, is that this is another Patriot Act, i.e. an opportunity for all sides to posture over something that isn’t going to make any real difference. While the Repubicans in Congress are not being slouches at this, it is the Democratic Party that is way out in front on this, having spent years denying our state of war and profiling, they are now engaging in both.

I also agree that the public support for restricting the sale, while somewhat irrational, is the result of the obviously pro forma efforts of the Bush Administration on domestic security. One can only go to the “trust us” well so many times before it has to be refilled with actual results.

Despite that, I expect that this will end up being like most other Bush related “scandals” where it drags on for years inside the Beltway but rapidly passes from the attention of the citizenry. Two or three months from now no one who isn’t a rapid partisan or political obsessive will remember anything about this issue.

01 March 2006

If you can't cull downstream, shutting off the flow is the only option

This post at the Brothers Judd got to me thinking about dealing with immigrants and assimilation. The Canadians are apparently considering loyalty oaths for potential immigrants. This is the standard response of the beaurocratic mind, which is that if things aren’t working, what is needed is more regulations and more putatively affirmation of the regulations. This approach is likely to be as effective as passing a law saying it’s a bad thing to disobey some other law.

But when you see pictures like this, you are forced to consider the fact that not all immigrants can or will assimilate, by which we mean accepting the fundamental values of the host nation. What is to be done about such people?

Two thoughts come to mind. The first is that if, in our politically correct culture, we are incapable of punishing immigrants who openly call for murder, mayhem and the destruction of the host society, then the rational reaction of the citizenry is to restrict immigration because that is then the only way to stop them is to stop everyone. It doesn’t require (as certain webloggers claim) bigotry or racism, or even the belief that most immigrants are like that. It requires only the belief that nothing can or will be done about those who are. In many ways it is similar to the job schlerosis in restricted economies. If employers can’t fire people, no matter what, the natural result is lack of hiring. Protect immigrants from the consequences of their actions and there will be much more support for restricting immigration.

Which leads to the second thought, which is that cracking down on the moonbats is not only good for the host country, but good for the non-moonbat immigrants by removing trouble makers from their communities and improving the overall image of the immigrants. In particular, the Islamic immigrants would benefit strongly from the deportation of the moonbats for the previous reasons and because it would set limits on how un-assimilated those immigrants could be. If there moderate voices in those communities, those would be better able to represent the community once the ravers were silenced.

In the end, though, I am left wondering why Western elites are so unwilling to confront immigrants who misbehave. As someone noted, the British government could provide 500 police officers to protect the people with the signs mentioned above, but not one officer to protect a newspaper from being attacked. The citizenry will not unreasonably view this as special privileges for immigrants. Could it be that the elites have a nativist view of immigrants and honestly don’t see a difference between these and the majority who are hard working and law abiding?

Standard languages are good

Dean Esmay has a post about India and its success. It is likely that India is doing better than the article claims, because frankly I don’t trust any economic data out of the country ahead of India in growth, China. Esmay uses this to argue against some specific claims about how nations develop. This post is about this claim (with which Esmay disagrees):

Countries can only hold together if they share a unified language and ethnic culture.

I would agree that this statement is too strong. But I think that a country can’t be successfu if it doesn’t have a standard language. In India, English serves as the standard language. It is not important for this standard to be a first language for any one. The key point is that if two random people meet and need to interact, there is a language they can use to do so. For instance, when multi-national conferences are held in Africa, English is used. That’s the difference between a standard language and a unified language.

I supported the English requirement effort, although that seems to have disappeared. My version was a bit less strong. It would have only applied to government and their agencies and would have done two things:

  • Require provision of services in English
  • Prohibited any legal responsibility to provide services in other languages.

The goal would be to say, “if you know English, you can communicate with any government agency in the country, but if you don’t learn English no one is required to accomodate you”. Any agency could, if it chose, provide services in any additional set of languages. There is no good reason to prevent that, although lots of good reason to take that decision out of the hands of the courts and leave it in the hands of elected officials. Moreover, there would be no requirements of any sort on private entities. If some citizen wanted to run a Sanskrit only business and require all his employess to speak it, that would be perfectly legal. Or if a local city wanted to print its regulations in English and Spanish, that would be no problem. But that should be a decision of the voters, not a single judge.