31 May 2007

Getting back on the triangle

I had to use some trigonometry at work today, for all you who say math isn’t important for code slingers.

30 May 2007

Friendly fire

I saw this comment a while ago and have been meaning to write about it. The key quote is

But do they [the Bush administration] ever bother defend anything they do? No. They try to do it in secret and hope nobody notices. When they caught, they act guiltier than a teenager with beer on his breath.

The lack of use of the bully pulpit by the Bush administration has been a topic of discussion for years. But why is that? One theory is that President Bush sets the tone and he doesn’t like engage in incivility, even if it it’s true. So he doesn’t call out Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when she sells out American interests for the joy of hanging out with petty dictator Assad of Syria.

Yet this post about Bush’s comments on the illegal immigrant amnesty bill reminded me that Bush is capable of some quite nasty rhetoric. That leaves me wondering why Bush is so unwilling to say that kind of thing about people who really deserve it. It seems to be only conservatives who oppose him that brings out the real beast in Bush. If I had one question I could ask him, it would be why he can’t get this worked up when he’s opposed and undermined by someone other than American conservatives.

UPDATE: More from Hot Air.

More honest than I thought?

The support among American academics for socialism and brutal totalitarian regimes is ever fascinating. A common view is that these people simply don’t understand the realities of such regimes through naivite, ignorance, or self-delusion. However, when I read things like this (via Big Arm Woman) and think of the many other similar tales of modern academia, I begin to wonder. Perhaps those academics are aware of what a totalitarian system does and actually like it. Many of them, particularly in social or angry studies, seem to arrange their own environments to be as much like a totalitarian state as possible.

Lack of sufficient strength isn't solved by adding dead weight

In this interview Brent Scowcroft serves as an excellent bad example of a common logical fallacy. He that the USA will become more accomodating to Europe because “you can’t solve your problems unilaterally”. The logical fallacy is taking that as evidence in favor of treating the EU and its consituents as allies. That doesn’t follow at all — there’s no fundamental reason that even if the USA can’t handle something by itself, that involving Europe would be useful. It’s quite possible (and in many cases, likely) that European involvement will make things worse, not better. The 1991 Gulf War comes to mind as an example. Or the break up of Yugoslavia. Or action in any former French colony in Africa. What’s really stunning is how Scowcroft can say that France saw the invasion of Iraq primarily as a pretext to drive the USA out of Europe and think that was a helpful contribution to the international order. Perhaps he, as he advices Europe to do, should look at the situation “coldly and dispassionately”.

29 May 2007

They'll just tell better lies

Right Wing News has a post about how, if the government used the same accounting standards it imposes on businesses, the actual deficit (loss) for the previous year would be $1300B instead of the reported $248B. RWN considers this a strong argument for a balanced budget amendment.

I used to support that, but I no longer do. One big reason is how the post refutes itself. Note the key premise, that the real deficit is much larger than the reported debt. Even presuming that a BBA would be effective, it would only reduce the deficit from $1300B to $1000B, which would be nice but hardly a solution to the problem. Even that weak result ignores that since the accounting is already bogus, what’s a little more bogusity to officially comply with a BBA without changing any actual spending? I don’t see how one can take seriously the gist of the post and its conclusion simultaneously.

Good fences make good neighbors

I have written all my Congressmen expressing my strong opposition to the current immigration “reform” bill, which it seems to me will “reform” immigration in the same way the McCain-Feinbold legislation “reformed” political advertising. Oddly, my opposition was cemented by a post at Brothers Judd where Judd writes very insightfully

It’s practically the ideal bill for a president to be pushing because none of the details matter and all compromises are allowable, so long as the final product includes de facto amnesty for the folks already here.

Exactly. Without serious border control, none of the details matter, something other pro-amnesty agitators either don’t understand or deliberately conceal. That’s why policy wonk discussions about the precise details in the current legislation have no effect. No one who is opposed believes any of that will actually happen, just like no one believes in offsetting taxes1. Judd, to his credit, is honest enough to state this outright.

Unfortunately for the pro-amnesty agitators, the admission that this series of amnesties coupled with lack of border security means that the USA effectively has no immigration law isn’t something that’s popular politically. Therefore they are reduced to arguing either (1) racism or (2) strawmen.

The racism / nativism argument is beneath the dignity of a response, but there is one strawman that is so common yet so silly that I will address it. This is that claim that anti-amnesty is anti-immigration2. One can see the primary thrust of it in the constant elision of the word “illegal” in discussing immigration (the entire point of using the term “undocumented” in its place). Even otherwise well-argued proponents fall in to this trap. But it seems a reasonable position to take to be in favor of moderate amounts of something, instead of it being a dichotomy of either none or unlimited amounts.

I think this happens because, at some level, even proponents realize that the real argument is about border security and that’s a losing issue. Winning requires obsfucating that as much as possible because it’s easy to favor border security and increased immigration. In contrast, the only valid position on immigration for the anti-border security view is unlimited immigration. At least Judd has the courage of his convictions in making that point directly3.

P.S. One thing that peeves me is how much effort the Bush administration is putting in to this instead, of say, validating our efforts in the Long War.

1 The same way no one believes the promise to cut tax A in exchange for raising tax B. Odd, isn’t it, how so many people who would never fall for that believe in the enforcement provisions of the current immigration bill despite the same sort of history of broken promises.

2 There are, of course, anti-amnesty agitators who are also anti-immigration. But if one wants to go there, why not tar the pro-amnesty types with their TranZi support?

3 Although perhaps that’s because he is so invested in the tarring of his opponents as racists.

20 May 2007

Living near the ocean must suck the life out of people

I don’t like to do ‘slice of life” style posts here, but the recent fascination with The Dangerous Book for Boys has forced my hand. I do feel sorry for those parents who feel they need something like this. Yesterday was the birthday party for Boy One, and the primary activity (multiple hours) involved the boys beating each other with these sticks —

We only had three incidents, the worst involving one boy ploughing full tilt in to a small tree protected (from deer) by chicken wire held up with big metal stake. Fortunately, he wasn’t bleeding anymore afterwards than he had been before, so after a bit of sitting out he was back in the fray.

I just can’t imagine the level of parental repression it would take to have boys that, upon seeing such an array, didn’t immediately grab a weapon and start swinging. I understand, though, because it can be quite difficult to let your kids do things you know may result in serious injury. But the alternative seems to be a cramped life hardly worth living. Of course, I don’t allow reckless activities but any normal activity has its risks (during the battle, two of the three incidents involved terrain, not the weapons). But in our padded, modern society, risk seems to have become one of those lower class, improper kind of things.

P.S. The small blue & greenish-white one is for Girl Three (aka Super Horsey Princess), who loves beating on brothers and fathers with it.

16 May 2007

Eventually his fist will be too sore to continue

I see articles like this about the intellectual wasteland that is modern Islam and wonder, why aren’t we engaging in psy-ops to take advantage of this? It seems to be a win in all aspects.

  • If directly successful, then it would create chaos that would make organizing against the West far more difficult for far less cost than we’re spending in Iraq.
  • If the ummah wises up and renders this kind of psy-op ineffective, that’s an even bigger win for everyone.

Yet we, the Anglosphere, seem to have lost the ability to exploit our enemy’s psychological weakness, while the Caliphascists are doing an excellent job in the opposite direction1. Instead we seem to have adopted the Russian strategy — letting the enemy advance over the nearly endless steppes of our culture in the hope that they will exhaust themselves. It seems to me a bit of counter-attacking might be tad more efficient.

1 Although one has to admit, the Caliphascists would not be doing nearly as well if they didn’t have the massive public relations advice / cooperation from the MAL. One need merely read through subsequent Osama bin Laden missives to see him take such help to heart. I suspect that the Anglosphere (or its political / intellectual leadership) can’t return the favor because the very concept of moral or psychological attack against foreign enemies is not longer part of their mental horizons.

12 May 2007

Cycles times vs. prevention

The previous post reminds me that I wanted to comment on this post by Instapundit about the ongoing and increasing failure of our own political class. While clearly not as dysfunctional as France’s, our leading politicians from both parties seem to be losing any connection with governance as a responsibility to the citizenry.

One can trace the direct roots of this to particular Congressmen who have “safe” seats from which they can enage in apparently unlimited political payoffs at taxpayer expense to friends and family, self-aggrandizment, and outright corruption. But that leaves unanswered the question of why, if these Congressmen are such scum, they have safe seats? There is also the question of why someone like Senator Ted Stevens has any power in a party that claims to be dedicated to limited, well run government as opposed to tax and spend. The Stevens problem isn’t just a local failure, but requires failures at many levels and places.

I think the ultimate point of failure was FDR, who more than anyone else made the government a commons for people to graze on. Once that was set in place, the inevitable tragedy of the commons which we now experiencing follows.

This process will continue to worsen until some crisis. What level of crisis will be required will depend very much on the strength of will of the citizenry. I think that we are starting to see the backlash, as evidenced in how little respect the Democratic Party has achieved in Congress in a single Congress. Not so eventually the situation will be bad enough that someone will be able to benefit his own political career by acting in the public interest rather than Congress’ short term interest.

It's the support, not the activists

Can things change for the better in France? It doesn’t look like it to me if this is accurate

Getting legislation enacted won’t be a problem, because Sarkozy’s center-right UMP party is likely to win a comfortable majority in parliamentary elections next month. But labor unions are already threatening strikes over some of his proposals, such as his plan to encourage people to work more than the current maximum 35-hour work week, by exempting them from taxes on overtime hours.

To defuse the labor protests, Sarkozy and his government will have to rally the country behind his program. Otherwise, the strikes could spiral into a crippling public backlash, as happened last year when mass protests forced the former center-right government to withdraw an unpopular youth employment law.

The article touches on the root problem but fails to grasp it. If, in fact, long term strikes in public services by government employees demanding ever larger chunks of taxpayer money generates support among those very same taxpayers, then there is no hope of reform. Only when the citizenry gets upset with the lazy and greedy strikers more than the government that is on the side of the citizenry will anything change.


10 May 2007

And if you don't clean your room, you get ice cream!

You know you’re disconnected from the ruling class when your governor, his massive tax hike plan in political trouble, makes threats to which you viscerally respond “yes, do it!”. In this case, the governor said “support my tax hike or I will cut state spending by $1B / year”. I plan to write my state legislators about how much I support this new plan of cutting spending. Probably the one good idea the governor has had in his two terms.

09 May 2007

Cruel world? Only in certain places

I read cruft like this

Esfandiari has brought in many scholars and analysts from Tehran to speak at the Wilson Center, one of the few places in Washington to offer a robust range of opinions on Iran. “The irony is, in Washington she faced criticism for bringing in people who were sympathetic to the Iranian government,” said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “By detaining her the Iranian government only eliminates an advocate for diplomacy and strengthens the voices of those in Washington who say the regime is cruel and should not be engaged.”

and can’t help but wonder why it never occurs to people like this that maybe, just maybe, it’s because the Iranian theocracy is, in fact, cruel? It seems to take very little to cause people to draw that conclusion about the USA.

(Via Best of the Web)

My one anti-American facet

Speaking as a parent of young children I find soccer to be a far better sport than baseball. Why?

  • Lower chance of injury. Easily distracted boys flinging around a hardball is a recipe for pain. Laying your kid’s friend out with a pitch to the privates because your kid said “hey, look!” just as you release the ball is never a fun time. Watching coaches try to help a kid at bat without getting brained is a fraught experience as well.
  • Much more team participation. Most of the team is involved in most of the game. In baseball, a kid can go for literally hours without doing anything at all. Practice is the same way — it’s easy to have every kid active during an entire soccer practice.
  • It’s much more likely that even the least coordinated child can have his moment of glory.
  • The games are much shorter which makes scheduling and parental involvement easier. I would rather have 15 games an hour long rather than five games each three hours long. And, of course, you know how long a soccer games is going to take before it starts, rather than hoping it ends before the sun sets.
  • It’s way easier to take good pictures of soccer.

Does this matter for professional sport? I have no idea. Personally, other than sporting event that involve kin or very close friends, if it doesn’t have athletic women in bun hugging shorts / tights (e.g., figure skating, volleyball) it’s just not interesting.

06 May 2007

It's always the beam in one's own eye that's overlooked

Orrin Judd’s boosterism for Senator McCain continues apace, citing articles that have the kind of facile political analysis he’d properly mock if it were in the service of, say, Al Gore.

In this case, the article claims

the man [Fred Thompson] some in the GOP are touting as a dream candidate has often sounded like the presidential hopeful many of them seem ready to dismiss: Sen. John McCain

Judd adds

One oughtn’t expect the Stupid Party to figure that out.

But of course, the article glosses over all the key points on which Stupid Party opposition to McCain is based, which turns out to be exactly those places where Thompson doesn’t sound at all like McCain. For example, open contempt for the First Amendment. Or McCain’s history of sucking up to liberal pieties whenever it gets him good press coverage.

I am not a big fan of Thompson, primarily because I haven’t examined him in much detail. But even my passing glance is enough to see some very substantial differences from McCain. I suspect Judd sees this as well, but is just posturing in order to be a snarky contrarian, rather than admit that even the Stupid Party might have some legitimate gripes.

Rant of the day

I never cease to be disgusted by the abject moral cowardice of so many putative “human rights activists”. Today’s case was some loser who was the subject of a fawning piece on NPR for trying to sue the USA government for it’s “torture” of the Camp X-Ray inmates. It was full of the “you can’t just stand by” and “we have to start somewhere” blather, during which all I could think was “why not start someplace with real black holes like, say, North Korea”.

But of course, the chatterati set of the “human rights” crew doesn’t do things like that, that are hard work and potentially dangerous, and that the lights of modern journalism don’t care about. Far better to protest fashionably about trivialities while discrediting the entire concept of human rights activism rather than to not let activism interfere with living large.

03 May 2007

A good start

As long as we1 are congratulating each other for blathering on (at 350 and 500 — congratulations!) I thought I’d mention that, counting all of my currently active weblogs, this is my 7,196th post. Still, I can’t compete with the master of blather.

1 The Post-Judd Alliance

Destroying a legacy for the children

Armed and Dangerous has a long essay about his view that much of the cultural damage we have seen in the last century or so can be traced to Antonio Gramsci and the ideological movement he clarified1. I think it’s an excellent essay worth reading, but I want to touch on a different point than he does, a point which depends on accepting the general accuracy of his essay.

One of the charges against the non-religious is that they consider only themselves, incapable of supporting or working projects that span the generations. Yet, what is the march of Gramscians except exactly that sort of multi-generational effort? Many atheists have dedicated their lives to promoting this sort of cultural damage with little hope of personal benefit. This is particularly true in the West, as many of the Communist appartchiks who worked on this did it as a job instead of a calling.

I suppose one could argue that, to the contrary, the Gramscian minions did (and do) what they did because of the direct, personal, psychological rewards. But that’s a bit too reductionist for me and makes any committment to generational projects impossible by definition. One must still explain why this particular form of psychological gratification was chosen.

But the next time someone claims that only the religious can maintain the focus and commitment to pursue an effort across the generations, be sure to bring up this project to destroy Western civilization.

1 I use “clarified” instead of “founded” or “discovered” because Gramsci, like Sayyid Qutb, described with clarity a previously existing if inchoate movement / ideology, greatly strengthening it by providing a much clearer direction and focus for implementation.

Rewarding complicity

Originally in this thread and later quoted in this post, TM Lutas writes about Iraq —

The defeatists have to change the natural progression of Iraqi government and security institution building and do it soon or they’re going to be in deep trouble in 2008.

One would like to think so, but I don’t see any Perry Mason moment when, the opportunism, defeatism, and wrong-headedness of the MAL on this issue is revealed and they are punished for it. History, even very recent history, is filled with the same sort of crew making massively wrong and completely unsupported pronouncements and paying no price at all when their fabric of lies is shredded by the shears of reality. The Duke Lacrosse case makes an excellent contemporary example, and of course the Walter Duranty story remains a classic for achieving journalist acclaim by aiding in the mass murder of tens of millions of people. One could examine the career of David Halberstam for a more contemporary example. The same message emerges — there is one ideological direction for which mistakes and blatant lies are rarely punished and frequently rewarded. Is it any wonder then that errors and lies have a strong tendency to lean that direction?

02 May 2007

My own little world, the series

I may have to give up my claim to geek-hood. Computer World has a list of the top 15 geek weblogs. Not only don’t I read any of them, I had only even heard of two of them (engadget and gizmodo). The 5 runners up were also far beyond the edges of my knowledge domain. Oh well, I will always have my rock / scissors / paper memories.

01 May 2007

Living in two worlds

Via Brothers Judd is this story about schools using Dance Dance Revolution. I think that’s fine, if it encourages active participation by students. You can give yourself a real workout that way and it’s better than having athletic games where students just stand around pretending to be in the game (like I did when I was in school).

I think is a trend in what I like to call enhanced reality. That’s the blending of virtual reality and physical reality, which DDR does in a very primitive way. Other systems like Wii are the next step in this evolution, where actions in the game are controlled by sympathetic actions on the part of the player, not just symbolic ones (such as pressing a particular key sequence).

Longer term, as sensing technology becomes cheaper and less intrusive along with better wireless connectivity, I expect this to migrate in to full enhanced reality, to be used in every day life. One might carry around a set of virtual tools created by a computation web built in to clothing. These tools would take sympathetic input and then interact with the environment or other networked devices. Virtual keys that unlock things, virtual coins that authorize payments (the equivalent of using cell phones to buy sodas in vending machines). Hailing a cab by hanging a virtual “ride wanted” sign out. One could hang virtual signs on interesting local landmarks and businesses, then give access to friends / family / visitors to help them get around. Imagine a game of Assassin with virtual weapons. It would be the ultimate in multi-tasking and isolated communities put together.