26 September 2007

It's like a bad sitcom

Looks to me like Columbia University President Lee Bollinger has dug himself in to a hole by inviting Ahmadinejad to speak. If he had soft balled, he would have caught a lot of flack even from the moderates, but by roughing up Ahmadinejad, Bollinger has upset the much smaller but far more career relevant Aluminati at Columbia. A very no win situation.

24 September 2007

Silver linings

Apparently the interviewer for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked some non soft ball questions and this lead to much angst among the Kossaks. So much for justifying it all for the “dialog”. But the important question is, does this help Dan Rather? After all, such an occurence is a clear sign that CBS is completely controlled by the VRWC and gets its talking points from President Bush. The only valid conclusion is that Rather is a courageous truth teller striking back against the Haliburton cabal. I expect him to get some re-energized support from the nutroots.

23 September 2007

Death wish

I thought the “Party of Death” rhetoric was rhetorical hyperbole. But I don’t how to understand this kind of thing as other than self destructive nihilism. That’s way beyond the “useful idiot” stage, because the essence of that is being an idiot, i.e. not understanding how brutal the thugs really are. It’s nihilism when you know they’d kill you but love them anyway.

It's the unknown unknowns that get you

Little Green Footballs reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the American Street via 60 Minutes. I think if I had to put money on it, I would bet that

  1. Ahmadinejad will say something that is considered outrageous by American standards because he is unable to comprehend the American viewpoint
  2. If he does, it will be obscured and covered up as much as possible by Old Media.

There’s another theory that Ahmadinejad will, as is generally done by such leaders of hostile nations, blather on vague generalities with no information content to look harmless and make the ravers like me look over sensitive. But I think that he not only won’t be able to resist, but that he and his advisors lack the ability to speak in American generalities.

P.S. 5 to 1 that he mentions global warmening.

Our version of ostalgia

Grinding away at my code here, which is why output is down. I also had a great link but lost it, where in someone speculated on the purpose of the bizarre pro-surrender protests that are put on by the Left. Basically, she claimed that she knew some people who, several times a year, would dress up in archaic clothes, gather to engage in ritualistic activity, and temporarily live as other people. They were civil war re-enactors. She then argued that these people aren’t really protesters, but protest re-enactors. I found it a rather compelling point of view.

20 September 2007

Time to switch horses?

So there are rumors the Norman Hsu wasn’t trying to escape but to commit suicide and I thought — “gosh, he should instead claim that the Clintons tried to whack him”. That’d set the cat in the pigeons. And Hsu might find that he suddenly had a lot of support from the true right wing loonies, which is better than right now when nobody at all likes him.

17 September 2007

Completing the circle

Via Instapundit is a tale of modern parenting in which the mother of a 13 year old girl is unwilling to let her daughter sleep over at another 13 year old girl’s house because there is a father in that house.

Isn’t this how shari’a style law gets started? Once you accept the notion that males are incorrigible sexual predators, burkas, veils, gender segregation, and permanent escorts for females would seem to follow.

On the other hand, it’s a good thing the concerned parent apparently hasn’t read The Vagina Monologues or she’d be worried about the mother as well.

But hey, it’s all liberating, right?

Homgraphic discovery

Hey, I learned another homograph today — “project”. That’s the most exciting thing I have done in the last week.

11 September 2007

Breaking news: Canada not doomed

I have been meaning to write about disguised voters in Canada but Hot Air grabbed my thesis, which is that Dhimmi Watch, a normally level headed weblog, has over reacted.

What I noticed almost immediately is that there is little evidence that the Islamic community in Canada was pushing for this. As has frequently been the case in the UK, this dhimmitude is driven far more by self-guilting liberals who want to appear politically correct than anything else. It’s typical of their passive-aggresiveness. Passively letting people do what ever they want, but agressively deciding what those people want.

In addition, the decision is not as bizarre as it appears to Americans. The idea that voters should identify themselves is, in fact, a very recent change in Canada. According to the Canadian newpaper National Post

Up to and including the last federal election, it was unnecessary for voters to prove their identity when going to vote.

That puts rather a different face on the issue, doesn’t it?

I still think it’s a bad decision on the part of the Canadian elections board, because Canada has decided to start enforcing voter identity checks. What I don’t think, however, is that this is an example of anything other than the ridiculous extremes soft headed liberals will go for the sake of social standing. They clearly don’t care about the sanctity of elections nor any backlash they might generate against Muslims in Canada. Looking good to their friends at parties is far more important.

10 September 2007

Debate is still legal, last I checked

This is dumb

But when Univision–the Spanish-language network with the top-rated local newscast in 16 media markets–scheduled an historic GOP debate on Latino issues for Sept. 16 in Miami, a week after a similar forum for Democrats, only Arizona Sen. John McCain accepted.

I am adamantly opposed to pandering to ethnic groups by sacrificing the ideals and laws of our nation. However, I can’t see how participating in this debate, even though its in Spanish, does that. This is the kind of outreach the GOP should be doing, instead of accomodating law breakers. It would be an excellent venue to argue that illegal immigration isn’t good for legal Hispanic immigrants either. A candidate might even promise that once we have the border under some sort of control, he will support increasing immigration quotas (I still favor the “1%” solution). I think it’s a missed opportunity show that opposition to open borders is not the same as racism.

[via Brothers Judd]

By Jorge

Good artists borrow, great artists steal. In that vein, I have deleted a comment by Jorge and moved the text here:

I keep hearing the declaration that America is a “Christian Nation”. Factual evidence aside that statement (and its intended desire to change our country’s political landscape) raises an interesting hypothetical: If America was to officially become a Christian Nation (ie: a government that allowed Christian teachings to heavily influence/dominate its legal system) which VERSION of Christianity would be the one used for guidance?

Catholic? (and then again, Roman or Greek Orthodox?) Mormon? (aka The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) Westboro Baptist?. Also, who decides this question?

To start at the end, clearly the voters decide this. I would also argue that the reason the USA is called a “Christian Nation” is that Christian teachings have and continue to strongly influence / dominate the legal system.

What we see then is that the particular sect of Christianity doesn’t matter much. The teachings that dominate our legal system are those that are common across most or all of the sects.

As a secularist, I mostly agree with the Founders separation of Church and State, except that I don’t think they went far enough (it should have been extended to the states as well, although that’s a moot point now). However, I find ludicrous beyond words the idea that therefore citizens / voters / politicians should keep their Christianist views to themselves and not allow it to influence their politics. I think such a system, where religion is at one remove from government, is an excellent one. It means that religious dogma can’t be directly enshrined in law, but laws based on dogma that have survived the crucible of liberal democracy can be. That’s fine, because that’s the rule for every other source of morality / ideology / belief.

This brings us right back around to the source of Jorge’s question, which is why religion and Christianity in particular is some sort of “no-go” zone for politics. It’s not the Christianists who have to justify using their faith to inform their politics, but others who have to justify why Christianity in particular is out of bounds in that way.

08 September 2007

Too many fish, not enough barrel

I saw this via Brothers Judd with the money quote

I have met and negotiated successfully with many regional leaders, including Saddam Hussein.

and I thought “Did Richardson just take some leadership courses at the Jimmy Carter center?”. Is there no limit to the public embrace of brutal dictators in the Democratic Party? I know that the MAL frequently uses past GOP / conservative association with brutal dictators as an indictment, but isn’t it even worse to be doing that now and bragging about it?

Anyway, some sentient beings I know like Richardson so I figured Judd had cherry picked the quote.


That’s not even close the to most objectionable bit. It’s so bad I can’t resist fisking it.

In the most recent debate, I asked the other candidates how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for what purposes. I got no answers.

Now that seems a very acute self assessment.

The American people need answers. If we elect a president who thinks that troops should stay in Iraq for years, they will stay for years — a tragic mistake.

Why? No answer, no explanation. We wouldn’t want an endless occupation like we have in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Iraq may end up like the Philipines, permanently — oh, wait, they asked us to leave and we did. Clearly Richardson wouldn’t want that. Much better to just stab a potential ally in the back before it’s an ally.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards reflect the inside-the-Beltway thinking that a complete withdrawal of all American forces somehow would be “irresponsible.” On the contrary, the facts suggest that a rapid, complete withdrawal — not a drawn-out, Vietnam-like process — would be the most responsible and effective course of action.

Yes, because the slow pull out of Vietnam would have worked except for cutting off support after the troops had left. And we wouldn’t want to have a chance at victory. No, that would be wrong.

Those who think we need to keep troops in Iraq misunderstand the Middle East. I have met and negotiated successfully with many regional leaders, including Saddam Hussein. I am convinced that only a complete withdrawal can sufficiently shift the politics of Iraq and its neighbors to break the deadlock that has been killing so many people for so long.

There’s the money quote. And of course, negotiating with Hussein clearly leads to a deep understanding of the Middle East. As Bob Hawkins wrote “Sheesh, what would the region look like if he’d negotiated unsuccessfully?”.

Because, of course, nobody was getting killed in the Middle East, or in and around Iraq, before we invaded. I mean, it’s not like Iraq had an eight year war with millions dead or invaded a USA ally. No siree! The killing started when the USA went in and will stop as soon as we abjectly surrender leave.

Our troops have done everything they were asked to do with courage and professionalism, but they cannot win someone else’s civil war. So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.

Yes, because the Iraqis don’t see any reason to stop the slaughter of Iraqis if it means keeping American troops around. Much better to be blown up on a regular basis just to make that point. And Richardson wants to avoid an American occupation so we can “bring in other nations” to occupy Iraq? Yes, that’s worked so well in the past.

The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq’s oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country. Our departure would also enable us to focus on defeating the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, those headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border — not in Iraq.

Yes. It’s not like the Caliphascists bombed Marine barracks or attacked our cities before we had troops in Iraq based on the claim that the USA was repressing Muslims and stealing their oil.

One is also left wondering where all those “foreign jihadis” will go after they are driven out by the Iraqis. Back to New York City, perhaps? Gosh, wouldn’t that be a diplomatic triumph!

Logistically, it would be possible to withdraw in six to eight months. We moved as many as 240,000 troops into and out of Iraq through Kuwait in as little as a three-month period during major troop rotations. After the Persian Gulf War, we redeployed nearly a half-million troops in a few months. We could redeploy even faster if we negotiated with the Turks to open a route out through Turkey.

Yeah, Middle East expert. Turkey’s happy to let our troops transit.

As our withdrawal begins, we will gain diplomatic leverage.

This is my pick as the most fatuous, reality impaired statement in the entire article. We’ll gain leverage like a lame duck President does as he starts his withdrawal from the White House.

Iraqis will start seeing us as brokers, not occupiers. Iraq’s neighbors will face the reality that if they don’t help with stabilization, they will face the consequences of Iraq’s collapse — including even greater refugee flows over their borders and possible war.

Or they’ll start seeing us as losers who can be ignored.

Which reminds me, didn’t Richardson claim earlier that once we left, peace would break out? Why yes he did, back in paragraph four. Why, then, would Iraq’s neighbors fear collapse and possible war? Richardson can’t even keep his story straight for half a column.

The United States can facilitate Iraqi reconciliation and regional cooperation by holding a conference similar to that which brought peace to Bosnia.

Uh, don’t you mean destroying civilian infrastructure via a non-UN authorized bombing campaign?

We will need regional security negotiations among all of Iraq’s neighbors and discussions of donations from wealthy nations — including oil-rich Muslim countries — to help rebuild Iraq. None of this can happen until we remove the biggest obstacle to diplomacy: the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Because once those troops are gone, regimes that are deeply hostile to the USA and ruled by brutal despots will decide “hey, those Americans aren’t so bad! Let’s cooperate and not rush in to take advantage of the power vacuum!”. Richardson, Middle East Expert, might use some of that expertise to look up the history of other donation campaigns from oil-rich Muslim countries. Like, say, for the Indonesian tidal wave or Darfur.

My plan is realistic because:

Oh, I can’t wait for this

• It is less risky. Leaving forces behind leaves them vulnerable. Would we need another surge to protect them?

In the sense that instead of worrying if something bad will happen, we will know for sure that it will. Not to mention that no military volunteer should ever feel at risk.

• It gets our troops out of the quagmire and strengthens us for our real challenges.

Liking defeating President Bush.

It is foolish to think that 20,000 to 75,000 troops could bring peace to Iraq when 160,000 have not. We need to get our troops out of the crossfire in Iraq so that we can defeat the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11.

Who to a large extent are in Iraq, generating much of the crossfire on our troops. I guess Richardson’s plan is to get those jihadists out of Iraq and in the USA so our troops don’t have to fight so far from home. Just the kind of thoughtful planning I have come to expect from the leading lights of the Democratic Party.

• By hastening the peace process, the likelihood of prolonged bloodshed is reduced.

“Peace process”? That would be major loopiness anywhere else, but in this article it’s just par for the course. I mean, we’ve had a “peace process” in the Middle East for what, 20 years? 30?

President Richard Nixon withdrew U.S. forces slowly from Vietnam — with disastrous consequences. Over the seven years it took to get our troops out, 21,000 more Americans and perhaps a million Vietnamese, most of them civilians, died. All this death and destruction accomplished nothing — the communists took over as soon as we left.

Maybe, then, we should have stayed and won? But Richardson has no objection to people who wage war and kill 21,000 Americans and a million plus Vietnamese. Why, he’d be happy to successfully negotiate with them.

It just boggles even my cynical mind to see a Democratic Party politician use his own party’s betrayal of an ally and the people of South East Asia as a reason for doing the same thing again in the Middle East.

My position has been clear since I entered this race: Remove all the troops and launch energetic diplomatic efforts in Iraq and internationally to bring stability. If Congress fails to end this war, I will remove all troops without delay, and without hesitation, beginning on my first day in office.

Ah the diplomatic efforts. Just like the ones that worked so well before the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq. That kind of effort?

Let’s stop pretending that all Democratic plans are similar. The American people deserve precise answers from anyone who would be commander in chief. How many troops would you leave in Iraq? For how long? To do what, exactly? And the media should be asking these questions of the candidates, rather than allowing them to continue saying, “We are against the war . . . but please don’t read the small print.”

Because, of course, any reasonable person can lay out a complete, decades long plan for fighting any war. I would like to see Richardson’s plan about how many jihadis he expects to leave Iraq, for how long, and to do what, exactly? The media should be asking these questions of Bill Richardson.

You only label foreigners with their origin

The “Name That Party” game is the latest buzz. My view is that Old Media journalists don’t do this on purpose, but naturally. They view themselves as members of the left or the Democratic Party and, just as you don’t use titles and labels with your friends, at a subconcious level they don’t label members of the same party. Those people are friendly, familiar, members of the same tribe. It is the GOP that is The Other, the foreigner, who needs to be distinguished form regular folk.

Wrong to intervene, wrong not to

Orrin Judd is still attempting to win hearts and minds for Hamas, which is bizarre but consistent. Of course, he has to totally ignore such little things as Hamas shutting down Friday prayers for Fatah. Or killing civilians for protesting against the government, because otherwise the illusion of a peaceful people oppressed by the West disappears.

Judd is at his most disingenuous when he writes

Refusing to let them get on with normal lives is a deeply strange decision on the part of the West.

This is bogus on two levels. First, it’s not the West that’s refusing, it’s Hamas. They need only drop their demands for ethnic cleansing / genocide and the West would open its arms. Second, isn’t the problem that the West is ignoring Hamas rather than preventing them from getting on with normal lives? Israel withdrew from Gaza, it’s Hamas controlled. It’s Judd’s claim that because of that Hamas has delivered much improved security so why can’t they just “get on with normal lives”? I think we know the answer, even if Judd pretends to not.

07 September 2007

What I forget to mention yesterday …

… is that the gloating ones going on about how the Democratic Party is going to suffer when the GOP plays back their defeatism during the campaign are living in a delusional state. When has the GOP ever played rough like that? I remember waiting … and waiting … and giving on President Bush unloading Senator Kerry’s overflowing baskets of documented dirty laundry on him. It didn’t happen. I don’t see why any one would expect it to be different this time around. Is the GOP unwilling to use these wide open shots because they’re afraid of having to deal with the expectation backlash?

That is, if the GOP stands up straight and smears accurately quotes Democratic Party candidates, the American Street might start asking questions about what the GOP is going to do to achieve victory and the GOP leadership seems to be composed of people who are pathologically afraid of having such un-nuanced discussions.

I will predict, now, that the GOP will use little if any of the publically recorded defeatism of the Democratic Party against them in the 2008 elections. I predict that, like Senator Schumer, the respect for Communism during the Cold War, and the Clinton scandals, the Democratic Party will memhole it all and the GOP will let them.

06 September 2007

Pushing the button but the soda won't come out

My brain is fried from heavy coding, so it’s a perfect opportunity to write a long, rambling post.

A couple of recent posts (here and here) about the delusional state of the Democratic Party and its ideological allies, or as I call them, the Modern American Left. As has been noted, they have invested heavily in the failure of American foreign policy in Iraq. I continue to be of the opinion that’s its far more habit than thought in brains long since ossified by the chattering of an echo chamber.

This leads to some distress, as is occurring now, when they realize that something is wrong but they lack the introspection or cognitive tools to discover what. For instance, the fact that Congress’ approval rating is much lower than that of President Bush. Or that the American Street hasn’t risen up against the occupation of Iraq the way it did (sort of) against the occupation in Vietnam. You can see this in the effort to pre-emptively discredit General Petraeus.

Some think that of course, the MAL leadership couldn’t want to have another debacle like that, but I think that it wasn’t a debacle from the point of view of the MAL leadership — they, personally, did very well out of it and are still, to this day, basking in the after glow of the bonfire.

Unfortunately for them, the American Street likes a winner and defeatism doesn’t sell against optimism, especially if victory looks possible. The “Blame Only America” stance doesn’t help much either, although why that’s the case seems to elude the MAL. It doesn’t seem smart politically to blame the USA for the mass terror committed in Iraq by our enemies, but there it is. I liked this quote

As a local political endeavor the insurgency is similarly, historically speaking, a bust. Where the Americans actually feared holding elections in Vietnam, they could hold one every day in Iraq, and one result would all but be guaranteed. The insurgency, in all it’s various corporate groupings, would garner no significant support. That does not mean that there is not an counterproductive acquiescence on the part of too many Iraqi’s with the insurgency, as well as a passivity in combating it, but the fact is that the insurgencies very ruthlessness and violence achieve precisely the opposite of what almost all classical insurgencies attempt to accomplish - which is grass roots support based upon actual sympathy rather than fear or avarice.

And this is where the antiwar lefts and rights position is more than just a revealing look at political pathology […] The insurgents ruthless strategy makes absolutely no sense, militarily or politically, without 2 important enablers that have become closely intertwined. The first is regional Arab support fired by the Islamism of the likes of Al Jazeera. The combination of virulent Anti-Americanism and pathological ability to sheet home the culpability of every atrocity and the suffering of Iraq to the Western scapegoat is what prevents the bloody ruthlessness of the insurgency from being entirely counterproductive.[…] To actually make the pursuit of the monstrous a viable military strategy requires a similar political pathology to infect those countries whose resolve will actually determine whether the long string of insurgent military and domestic political failure can nevertheless produce a victory for those insurgents.

That is precisely the willingness of much of Old Media and the MAL to blame America for its opponents atrocities. It is also the game plan that the Caliphascists have been running on form the start, that a sufficient number of civilian casualties would break the Western and particularly the American will. What the Caliphascists have discovered is that it doesn’t have to be Western citizens (a fact, I am sure, they found almost incomprehensible but quite useful). I sometimes wonder if that’s why we haven’t seen terror attacks directly against the USA, more than because the Caliphasists are so heavily engaged and losing so much in Iraq. They may have decided that because it’s almost as useful to kill Iraqi civilians and far easier, that’s what they’ll do.

05 September 2007

Missing the left turn at Albequerque

The radio was on this morning and reporting about the recent arrest of suspected terrorists in Germany. Since it was NPR, they had to work in some “Blame America” language, so the local reporter asked the foreign reporter about attitudes in Germany about terrorism : “So, how do the Germans feel about terrorism?” (really, I didn’t make that up).

The answer was that they didn’t like it (what a scoop!) and blamed American policies for it. No wondering was done about why, if America is the Force of Evil in the world, the Caliphascists were attacking Europe. Maybe the EU could pitch in for better eye glasses or map reading classes.

Technophilia, foreign edition

Two hot bits of technology.

The first is via Hot Air and is a clever algorithm for adjusting the size of an image. You think, “that’s easy!”. Normally, yes, but this algorithm is able to do a decent job of judging what’s unimportant information in the image, so that if you stretch a scene with a lot of sky vertically, it just makes more sky rather than stretching the people in the image, leaving it far more natural looking without pixelation. It can also be used to almost seamlessly remove objects from pictures, such as people.

As noted, this doesn’t do anything a Photoshop wizard couldn’t do, but it does it automatically so any aesthetically inept code slinger can do what the pros can do. Definitely a video worth watching.

The other is via Transterrestrial Musings and is about ground based astronomy in which they claim to be getting pictures as clear as those from the Hubble space telescope, but for a lot less money. The trick is clever — they take a large number of pictures of the same object through a telescope with adaptive optics and generally they will get lucky and the adaptive optics will guess the turbulence just right and produce a very clear image in one of the pictures. Naturally, they keep that one and toss the rest. It’s an excellent example of how to use random chance to produce non-random results.

Baby talk

I have to put this (via Instapundit) up for discussion.

I am sure you have all read by now about the plight of Fram Lyon in the UK. Lyon is 5 months pregnant with her first child and has been told that the child will be taken away for adoption as soon as it is born because Lyon has been judged (in secret court) to be an unfit mother because she had some psychological problems several years ago. The fact that the doctors who treated her say she’s fine and the pediatrician (not psychologist) that says Lyon is a risk has never met Lyon. To cap it all off, if the baby is taken away Lyon will be legally prohibited from talking to anyone about the baby or the case.

The newpaper reporting this, the UK Telegraph, claims that this is happening much more frequently in the UK because PM Tony Blair declared, in 2000, that local councils increase adoptions by 50%. Blair meant, of course, that the councils make more effort to have the children already under their care adopted. The councils, though, seem to think that it’s easier to make the target if they grab other babies on various pretexts and have them adopted.

This would be easy to solve if it weren’t for the fact that some children need to be taken from their parents due to abuse, and it is quite possible to know that a mother isn’t fit before a child is born. The real question is, how can those situations be handled without devolving in to this kind of bureaucratic abuse? Is it the complete secrecy under which these courts operate that is the key enabler?

04 September 2007

We're OK with letting your people go

You think you’ve hit the bottom of the barrel in bad PR efforts but then something new comes along, in this case Mexican President Felipe Calderon —

“We strongly protest the unilateral measures taken by the U.S. Congress and government that have only persecuted and exacerbated the mistreatment of Mexican undocumented workers,” he said. “The insensitivity toward those who support the U.S. economy and society has only served as an impetus to reinforce the battle … for their rights.”

Imagine that, unilateral border enforcement!

If Calderon is serious about these abuses of Mexican citizens, he should do what any responsible leader of a nation would do — advise his citizens to leave and stay out of the abusive nation. You know, like the travel advisories our State Department helpfully provides.

Given how unilaterally Mexico enforces its own southern borders, I don’t think you could ask for a clearer example of how international “law” and “unilateral” are really rhetorical devices used to mean “the USA has no right to enforce its laws or act in its own interests”.

Via Hot Air

Not everyone drinks from the fire hose

Here’s another example of what an old fogey I am. This article discusses the possibility of iTunes become a subscription service, rather than a per song charging service. So you’d pay $15/month to listen to anything in the catalog at any time. The article then wonders,

So why do users still want to pay 99 cents per song and not, say, $15 for a month’s worth of infinite songs?

Because they listen to fewer than 15 new songs a month? But that thought is apparently not only bizarre, but inconceivable to the author of the article. I think I have been averaging about 40 songs / years at iTunes, so 99¢ / song is clearly the less expensive option. That is so out of the mainstream, though, that the author doesn’t realize such people exist.

This doesn’t even consider that of course you don’t get “infinite songs”, the catalog has finite size. But that’s moot as well, because there aren’t enough minutes in a month to listen to even a fraction of the catalog1.

The article does touch on the biggest obstacle, though — that if you subscribe, the owning company can cut you off and leave you with nothing. I have backup copies of all of my electronically purchases songs, and if Apple goes away, someone will release a crack for their format (presuming there aren’t already a dozen out there). On the other hand, it would seem that the target demographic doesn’t have a lot of song loyalty and would probably not blink at just switching to some other catalog, because it’s all about the new music anyway.

P.S. This is of course why I don’t do Netflix, because I can buy all the new movies I watch per year for much less than a Netflix subscription.

1 14,400 songs in a 30 day month, presuming 3 minutes average song length and listening to a new song every single second.

As always, follow the money

I have to agree with Orrin Judd’s trashing of this article

One exceptional fact accounts for the instability in financial markets during recent weeks: the Chinese and many other Asians save about half their income, while Americans save none of their income at all. Foreigners, mainly Asians, invest US$1 trillion a year in the United States, because their home economies cannot absorb so much investment, or because the political risk attached to local investments is too great.

In the present iteration of Aesop’s fable, American consumers are the grasshoppers and Chinese (and other Asian) savers are the ants. The trouble is that Asians have put their savings into the balance sheet of US consumers.

— except that it’s even worse than Judd claims, in fact it’s self refuting. If America is so bad off, so precariously perched on its economic ledge due to its poor savings habits, why are the Asians investing $1T / year in that economy? Doesn’t that tell you what people really think about the American economy, better than any rhetoric that flows in various places? If Americans are stupid because of how they save, the Asians are stupider for investing in such a stupid place, eh?

I, unusually1, got involved in a political discussion at a labor day cookout and of course the subject of China buying all that USA treasury paper came up and how it was a danger to the USA. I just laughed, pointing out not only did it give us an immense advantage in any conflict because we have the money and they just have easily revoked pieces of paper, but the fact that T-bills are what the smart money buys tells you the real story about economic power, stability, and future expectations.

Update: Stupid typos. Must … type … slower

1 No, really. This weblog is where I do almost all of my politicizing, by design.

02 September 2007

Sleight of Mind

I found the “what if the universe is a simulation?” discussion not very interesting. You’d do better to watch The Thirteenth Floor which has actual plot twists and raises a much more interesting question (far more interesting than The Matrix did).

But the reason it was uninteresting reminded me of this post about how life might have come to Earth via comets.

The common thread is both theories just, as we code slingers say, “swish the dirt around”. They don’t explain anything, they simply move the problem from here to there. Where / how did life start? Not here on Earth, somewhere else. What is the fundamental reality? It’s not here in this simulation, it’s over there. Most of the multi-verse theories have the same aesthetic flaw, which is why they’ve never been attractive to me. If we don’t assume, a priori, that we have access to reality, then there’s no point in asking any more questions on the subject.

P.S. One interesting question that could arise is the defintion of “simulation”. What if the physical structure of the universe is the computation engine that’s “simulating”us? Some of the commentors on the original article say “it would take as much mass and energy as is in the Universe to run the simulation”. Well, hey, the Universe, it turns out, contains as much mass and energy as it contains! But is that a simulation? Actually, I need to do another post on this because it interects with an old post at the Daily Duck I have been meaning to write about.

If I can't be petty, who can?

Back when I was a graduate student, I wrote a variant of the Emacs editor called “Epoch”. It was the first version of Emacs that supported a multi-window graphical environment. Previous versions of the editor were designed to use a text only display (which is so obsolete that some readers probably don’t even remember them — I, on the other hand, remember using punch cards and paper tape). It was eventually used by thousands of people on six continents (I have no evidence that anyone ever used it in Antarctica, although it’s possible). I just missed out on the world wide web, having written Epoch because web browsers didn’t exist and I needed one for my thesis project. It had the equivalent of anchors and serving text pages from a server in response to mouse clicks on anchors before Mosaic came out. Marc Andreessen was actually a maintainer of Epoch for a while after I graduated and before he went on to write Mosaic. I would like to think he was inspired by my work, but it was one of those periods of ferment where such ideas were everywhere. The real originator was Ted Nelson and his book Computer Lib / Dream Machines (I still have my first edition copy).

Anyway, I ran in to a web page written by another person who was at the center of a controversy that raged concerning Epoch, Emacs, and another version of Emacs written at a company called Lucid. Most of that happened after I left, but it was still very annoying to see this article credit NCSA with writing Epoch. That’s so wrong. In fact, I had no support from NCSA or even from the University / department, doing most of the work after hours on machines in the lab I was paid as a teaching assistant to maintain.

Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention, but Epoch is something that I did that was actually well known in the community and Zawkinski is considered a well known and authoritative person on the subject (having lead Lucid’s work on its version of Emacs). Since the work mostly predates the web and has long since passed in to obsolescence, I thought I would write this so that at least one accurate version was available on line. Thank you all for indulging my ego.

01 September 2007

No, no, we really want to dig to the bottom

Someone writes

For now, the political strategy adopted by the Democrats is clear. As they see it, the way to engineer defeat at the hands of al Qaeda is to continue to ignore the fact that we are in a war against that terrorist organization (and that we are making great progress in that war) and to instead focus solely on the lack of political progress among Iraqi politicians. Democratic Senator Richard Durbin briefly deviated from this intentionally misleading script when, in a moment of unguarded honesty, he acknowledged that the troop surge is achieving military progress against al Qaeda in Iraq. Now, however, he is reverting to form and working hard to focus attention away from al Qaeda (the real issue and the real enemy) and back on to the lack of political progress:
“What we’re hearing is a pretty consistent message of failure on the political front in Iraq,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, who visited Iraq in August.

The motivation of the Democratic Party continues to puzzle me. Even as a cynical ploy for political power, abetting America’s enemies in defeating American national interests seems both risky and counter-productive. I suspect that it’s more people trapped by ideology than cunning. One key difference between the GOP and the Democratic Party is how much of the latter are holdovers from the 60s and 70s, still repeating the actions of their youth in a changed world, because the megadeaths in South East Asia turned out all right for them.

On the other hand, one might think Congress should try to keep the Iraqi government around, because at least one place that has a more dysfunctional national assembly than we do.

You say blue, I say green

Because of the long discussion about colors on this post, I thought this article (via Tim Blair) was hilarious.

Sometimes the quality of quantity isn't enough

I’ve been meaning to comment on this post about the emerging alliance between Russia and China to oppose American world hegemony. Unlike most screeds on the subject, the writer marshals actual facts and arguments. I agree that it looks very clear that such an alliance exists and I don’t see why anyone would find that surprising. Russia wants to maintain the illusion created during the Cold War that Russia matters on the world stage, and China clearly wants to become a world class hegemonic power as well. In both cases, the primary obstacle is the USA so a concerted anti-American effort makes a lot of geo-political sense despite the simmering hostility over the Russian Far East.

The problem with the analysis is deeper and is the same one the Realists made during the Cold War, which is that if you put two failures together, you just get a bigger failure. Russia and China, as current constituted, are simply incapable of any long term world class power projection. Their internal cultures and political systems are not compatible with the kind of wealth creation and productivity necessary to compete with the USA. It is the Cold War again, except with much weaker opponents.

For instance, even during the Cold War the USSR was limited because it depended on food and technology from its enemies, which puts a damper on how aggressive one can be. Now, China is even more dependent on economic and financial access to the USA than the USSR ever was. Any shut down in the trans-Pacific trade routes would collapse the ChiComs’ regime, not to mention that the ChiComs keep a big chunk of their treasury in the USA, making it rather vulnerable should any overt conflict occur.

That’s not to say we should simply ignore threats to American hegemony such as this, but we should view them with a rather jaundiced eye and realize that to a large extent, just keeping it from getting out of hand is sufficient since the effort is, in the not so long term, doomed.

P.S. This is, of course, a reprise of Bret’s post in which he comes to basically the same conclusion. While I getting around to writing this post, I read a different one detailing some very serious internal issues for China (UPDATE: link found), and even Junkyard Blog noticed some stresses on the alliance, reenforcing the point. Caution is indicated, but so is confidence.

Don't look, it'll hurt real bad

On NPR was some guy blathering on about how the reign of AG Alberto Gonzalez had damaged the reputation of the American Hispanic community. He was hopeful, however, that maybe (just maybe) it would cause hispanics to not support politicians simply because the politicians was hispanic (although what he clearly meants was not support conservative politicians even if they’re hispanic). I thought it a rather odd comment from some one who was putatively against racism, since the objection was that Gonzalez was evil, not that supporting politicians purely for racial reasons was. Gonzalez was viewed as an unfortunate side effect of an otherwise reasonable system. Then the tag line at the end identified him as a contributor to the The Nation magazine”. Ah yes, one of those unfortunates whose world view would be destroyed by introspection.