July 30, 2004
Making the World Love Us
After a night's sleep and a bit of reading, I think I know what the price will be for a Kerry success in making our traditional allies love us again. As I've noted in the past one of the major player factions on the global stage is a group of people who thrive on monopoly/monopsony profits, providing the spider thin controlled connectivity that most Gap states have to the Core in order to supply the elite's whims for expensive cars, jet setting travel, and PS2s.
The US has played along with this game in the past but the major unforgivable sin of this Bush administration in old Europe has been threatening all these sweet, cosy deals by wanting to open connectivity wide and bring in all the world's major players into these countries, bringing prosperity and freedom to the Gap while costing the established players their ultra-fat profits.
This is the heart of France and Germany's beef with us, the reason why they are so implacable in their enmity. Major contracts are threatened, established relationships would largely be rendered worthless, and a high amount of unpredictability would ensue with US firms winning an awful lot of those new opportunities. The problem is that Bush wants to bring too much competition, too much free market, too much rule of law into the Gap. Pace, Dr. Barnett this is not a neo-marxist critique but rather a very capitalist one.
Kerry has an opportunity to reestablish peaceful relations with Germany and France, Russia and the PRC by letting them maintain and expand their network of spider-thin connectivity webs, by running the GWOT as a war without Gap shrinking. Satisfy these established powers, don't force rule set resets in the Gap, and all will be right with the world. We will have glowing press releases. The UN will bless our military endeavors. All we have to give up is any hope of ending the war by appeasing the implicit villains.
We would end up in an Orwellian nightmare, 1984 writ more complex with a kaleidoscope of ever shifting enemies in the Gap, reaching out and striking us in unpredictable, bloody ways but with us unable to do much more than we did in the Clinton administration. The major difference is that the tents will not be empty, individual terrorists will be killed. The only problem is that we will be accelerating their creation with every strike.
If the opposition we're encountering in old Europe is truly centered around the hidden villains, Kerry's boxed himself into authorizing a perpetual war. It'll be containment v. rollback all over again with GWB being the early rollback guy and Kerry accepting aggressive containment as the best we can do without losing France and Germany again.
Do we really need another four decades of continuous cool war before another heir to Reagan comes along and rolls back the Gap? I certainly hope not.
July 29, 2004
Kerry Speech Blogging
(all times CST)
And then he has the gall to talk about taking the high road!
Iron Blog Subjects: Assault Rifle Ban
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
There are generally four types of long guns. There are shotguns, which generally fire cartridges (mostly shot filled, but sometimes solid slugs). There are bolt action, or otherwise single shot weapons, there are fully automatic weapons which fire multiple bullets with one trigger pull, and there are semi-automatic weapons which fire one bullet per trigger pull like the single shot guns but which use part of the energy from firing to power a mechanism that reloads automatically.
Assault rifles were traditionally military weapons that were able to fire automatically. Such weapons have long been heavily regulated for civilian use under the law regulating machine guns. Examples are the Soviet AK-47 and the US M-16. More recently, semi-automatic rifles that cosmetically look military have been inaccurately labeled assault weapons. These rifles, mechanically identical to a wide variety of common civilian use guns, were banned for 10 years starting August 1994. Come September of this year the ban will expire. After 10 years of data, what the anti-ban forces predicted has come true, the data ended up supporting their contention that the ban did little good and was just the thin edge of the wedge to try to get larger bans passed.
Good riddance assault weapons ban. Your demagoguery and dishonesty won't be missed.
The Coming Death of the Democrat Party
The NY Times has an astounding article that lays out, step by step, how the money bags currently behind the Democrat party are preparing to kick its rotting moldering carcass to the curb. Essentially, they're spinning off the money arm into unregulated 527 committees and waiting to fight for the soul of the party the next time that the Dems are out of power. If they lose that fight, look to see 1 or two cycles where they pull the money plug and push a new party to the fore, something without the huge history and baggage that the donkey has accumulated these past decades.
I've long wondered which of our two tottering parties was going to bite the bullet first, Democrat or Republican. Clearly, the Democrat party is further down the road to destruction.
Iron Blog Subjects: Arab-Israeli Conflict
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
I have an occasional series entitled Palestine Now! that talks about possible solutions to maximize palestinian rights without inflicting injustice and tyranny on Israelis. The idea is what would I advise if I were hired by the palestinians to give my best and honest advice in improving their plight.
In short, my attitude is that the palestinian people need to grow up, figure out how to run a government, and create a system where not only muslims but christians and jews can live in peacefully and I explore a couple of different variants. The truth is that Israel is not a perfect society. It has some nasty societal habits when it comes to liberty and even-handed justice.
The US should not be comfortable supporting the state of Israel. It, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and many other allies, are not countries that the US should ever be completely comfortable with on the basis of our own principles. All of these alliances have been made during the past decades because they were the best unhappy alternative from a very sorry list of choices. When President Bush talked about changing US foreign policy to increase our support of freedom, Israel should be included on the list of countries whose alliance is in doubt because of that.
This is a tremendous opportunity for Arabs. If they can become freer than Israel, more just than Israel, they will have preferential relations with the US vis a vis any arab grievances against Israel. That's the import of the current Bush policy and it is a very good one. At the same time, Israel probably has little to worry about because free and just arab states are likely not going to be so obsessed with Israel in the first place and certainly not looking to launch aggressive military operations to "push the Jews into the sea".
In a freedom and justice bidding war, the arabs, including the Palestinians are way behind Israel but Israel may have a ceiling placed on the amount of freedom it can provide internally because of its need to continue a jewish majority in Israel. This bidding war is a war that Arabs can win and they would win wealth, dignity, pride, and a place in the first rank of nations in the world.
Now they only have to understand this winning formula and it's off to the races.
Return of the General Warrant
One of the original grievances that the american colonies had against George III's government was its penchant for issuing general search warrants (called Writs of Assistance). A judge would issue a warrant for a general area and crown officers could search any place in that area looking for illegalities without any prior cause or suspicion. An awful lot of innocent people were inconvenienced, their possessions disturbed, broken, or turned up missing after such searches.
The general warrant seemed to be making a small comeback in Oshkosh, WI (no permalink) for a time. According to this story people were rousted from their homes without suspicion and their residences searched, with guns being taken under suspicious circumstances.
Fortunately, the Oshkosh police seem to have had a chat with a competent lawyer and apologies are being tendered for undocumented and illegitimate seizure of guns and there the matter is likely to rest.
HT: Clayton Cramer
July 28, 2004
Iron Blog Subjects: Animal Rights
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
Before I get to the topic at hand, A small personal job history note. I was an employee for Putting People First in the early 90s. I was their first network administrator. I also designed and maintained their database, oversaw a lot of their early direct mail operations, and did various work in other areas. Putting People First was an organization devoted to fighting against animal rights, a topic I hadn't thought about much prior to working for them but soon learned a great deal about while working for the group in a technical capacity.
The death threats in the mail were always entertaining as was the "what to do if they bomb us" disaster planning.
Animal rights is a travesty of an ideology. The idea that animals can claim anything as a right implies the ability to enter into some sort of social contract with the rest of us. But animals cannot do that. They are incapable of understanding such an agreement and keeping up with any obligations that would ensue from such a contract. Animal rights would be a precedent that you can have rights without responsibilities as a general case for an entire class.
Animal rights claims to raise the level of care and humanity we show towards animals to a level equal with what we show our own pre-rational children and the mentally retarded. In this, there is some truth but it is a bitter sort of truth. Since animals are not infants or retarded or senile, to equalize these categories is to justify the reduction of consideration of these vulnerable human groups to the level of animals. Peter Singer, probably the most famous of animal rights philosophers notoriously believes that infanticide should be legalized as should euthanasia.
The animal rights movement has spawned a loosely connected terrorist group, the Animal Liberation Front which, prior to 9/11 was considered one of the premier domestic terrorism threats in the US. Just because 9/11 has thrust islamist terrorism to the fore does not mean that ALF has ceased activity. It has not.
Animal rights claims to raise up animals and by doing so elevate human kind as well. In reality, it reduces us to beasts.
Iron Blog Subjects: Animal Research
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
Either a new product is safe or it is not safe. Anybody who wants to introduce something like a medical device, a new operation, a drug, is faced with the dilemma that they think it's safe but nobody knows until it is tried many times. So who goes first?
You can do all the computer modeling you want. While the models may be very good at predictions, they are not complete models of all processes and interactions that happen in real life. Inventors regularly get surprised by results in real people that weren't caught in computer modeling. This isn't to say that computer modeling is useless. It's a cheap, efficient, and very fast way of going through an awful lot of possibilities and throws out a lot of bad ideas cheaply.
But if you don't have animal based research, you end up having to validate your computer model testing directly against human beings. Let's be honest and admit that doing this will result in a lot of injuries and deaths that would otherwise be avoided by animal testing.
But excess human injuries only matter if human beings are intrinsically worth more than animals. You have to buy into the concept that even the most vile human being is worth more than your average dog, cat, or even higher primate. To do otherwise is to concede that Mengele's human experimentation methods are salvageable, all that is needed is a revised list of unworthy humans who do not deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Iron Blog Subjects: Alternative Energy
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
There was a day when petroleum seeps were an alternative energy source. Then the supply curves radically changed, the price at which you could get petroleum in large quantities became affordable and the age of oil began. Today, there are lots of other ways to get energy. Like petroleum, before modern drilling and extraction techniques revolutionized things, these alternative energy sources are generally expensive, in short supply, and only feasible in limited application or with government subsidy.
Nobody can really predict when we're going to have our next eureka! moment but the incremental progress that is being made shows that it will quite likely be within our lifetimes. The question of alternative energy really is what role should government play in encouraging things, moving technologies ahead with subsidy and with R&D funding? The day you can run some new motor running on another fuel cheaper than petroleum burning internal combustion engines at every conceivable practical price of oil is the day that a massive switchover will start to occur naturally. The free market will switch over the world without a great deal of state intervention because switching over will be cheaper than buying new ICE equipment.
Most government support is likely to be counterproductive because the money too often goes to the best proposal writers instead of the best avenue of inquiry and those government money fortified R&D boys develop an instant dislike to all their potential competitors for the brass ring of replacing ICE burning petroleum and they tend to express that dislike in efforts to bury their competitors. We only do energy source changes very infrequently. We need to ensure that the best alternative will win out for the next energy age. Throwing in government subsidies is not going to help us get to that point.
Iron Blog Subjects: AIDS Funding
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
How much do you fund efforts to cure a disease? Do you increase funding to placate the crazy protestors outside your door or do you fund strictly on the basis of how many people are dying and could they have done anything to not get the disease? In the case of AIDS funding, clearly we're over funding based on heavy mau-mauing of legislators all over the 1st world.
AIDS is avoidable in a way that breast cancer isn't yet AIDS funding trumps breast cancer funding by quite a bit as it trumps most other diseases in federal dollar funding even though it affects fewer people, kills fewer people than several other diseases.
In the end, this is a despicable decision by politicians who want to live their lives undisturbed by protests more than they want to save lives by prioritizing research into the cures for the biggest killers. We all deserve better.
Where do State Courts Get Their Power?
Eugene Volokh chimes in on the constitutionality of jurisdiction stripping and finds that it's probably constitutional but might be a bad idea because state supreme courts might come to conclusions that are aberrant and there is no trumping them in the federal system at that point. According to Prof. Volokh pro-traditional marriage majorities are then out of luck.
But I'm reasonably sure that this is not so, at least not in all cases. First of all, some state supreme courts can be recalled or are subject to election. California's Supreme Court comes to mind. Another remedy is jurisdiction stripping in the state courts. Here is a simple legislative device that should take care of much of what concerns Prof. Volokh on behalf of traditionalists.
This language should take care of both the problem of state courts interpreting the US Constitution in aberrant ways without federal appeal remedy and enforcing out of state judgments that do not conform to local law on the subject. In essence, it acts as an firewall against jurisdiction shopping in order to leverage social change on states that do not want it.
The Right is Winning on Education
Here's the Brookings Institute's commentary on John Kerry's education proposals for K-12:
One of the most important things that can happen to a partisan initiative championed by a president is to be confirmed by the next president of the opposing party. It's something like the way a boa constrictor tackles a meal, you squeeze down and then hold firm. The problem in education has always been long and ineffective feedback loops
That's real news.
July 27, 2004
Iron Blog Subjects: Abstinence Sex Ed
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
Abstinence only sex-ed, like a lot of educational issues is a very broad topic. From what I understand it generally means shrinking down to zero the birth control section and expanding the consequences of screwing up when it comes to sex, strongly advising people to keep their private bits pristine for their wedding night.
The essence of the controversy is do you teach to an ideal (virginity before marriage) and encourage fidelity and maintaining the ideal or do you go straight to plan 'B' and inform kids that you don't expect them to be able to make it, that they're not capable of keeping things in their pants and always remember to keep a prophylactic handy. I don't find the latter alternative very good pedagogy.
The equivalent in team sports would be to casually mention the desirability of honesty and fair play at the beginning of a "cheaters clinic" which showed the best ways to get around the rules without being caught. There's not much of a constituency for that kind of education. Sex-ed that goes straight for the birth control should be just as frowned upon.
Iron Blog Subjects: Abortion
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
Border conditions are among the most difficult (and interesting) to analyze. Sure, everybody agrees that they should have a right to life but going further out from the self, respect and reverence for human life starts to lose adherents. The mentally ill, the aged, the very young have all been subject to death in various societies and the further away from the average member of the polity's health and independence, the fewer still defend their right to life.
The absolutist position is the hardest to establish, but also is hardest to dislodge. People have a right to life is a powerful statement. Once you start making exceptions, you weaken it to the point where more and more exceptions can be carved out and down we slide along the slippery slope.
Abortion is not justified unless we believe in some very ugly concepts. If a life is created abusively, via rape or incest, to abort an unborn child conceived from that ugly situation is to say that the rapist, the family abuser, has worked a corruption of blood, that the child is guilty of the sin of the parent and deserves the death penalty. We don't even allow corruption of blood for traitors anymore. That sort of primitive vengeance went out with the Middle Ages but in our horror at the crime of the (usually) father, we want to wipe the innocent issue away, so perhaps the shame shall recede. Instead we create a greater shame.
The idea of genetic deformity as a cause for abortion creates a slippery slope because there is no accepted definition of what conditions should be repaired and what require abortion. At the very extreme, the "inconvenience" of a daughter has led to huge sex selection abortion totals in the PRC and India. This too is genetic selection as much as aborting hare lips and other correctible conditions. Even conditions that are not correctible, such as Down's syndrome, are no excuse for abortion. Many Down's syndrome sufferers can walk, talk, hold simple jobs, even get married and have their own families. Yet some people routinely recommend abortion in such cases.
Even for hopeless cases, one of the most overlooked contributions that they provide is, during disease shortened lives, they provide lessons to those around them in human spirit, dignity, and love. When you foreshorten those unpredictable, deeply moving lessons, you may relieve strong emotion and suffering but what is left is a shallower existence.
Iron Blogger Topic List
The Iron Blog site is an exercise in competitive blogging. They have an interesting method for picking topics. Since lately I've been running a bit low on my own topics, I figure why not steal a march and sketch out my opinions on their topic list.
If anything, it'll keep me away from the Democrat party national convention.
July 26, 2004
Tail Wags the Dog in Bean Town
I was off to go rent a few movies tonight and had NPR on for convention coverage. I caught a speech (somebody from Wisconsin, didn't catch the name) talking about healthcare. It was a solid Democrat speech, nothing astounding, nothing off-key. One of the promises on healthcare caught my attention, that John Kerry would insure that domestic partners were given full healthcare benefits under his new plan.
In the real world, that would benefit an awful lot of heterosexual unmarried couples and would be a lot of money. The NPR analysis was what convinced me to write about this standard buy votes with programs promise. They completely missed the heterosexual angle and simply viewed it as a code talk for reaching out to homosexuals.
Homosexuals are somewhere between 1%-3% of the population and only half that can even theoretically take advantage of a domestic partnership healthcare law. Unmarried cohabiting heterosexual couples are far more than that and will be the big gorilla in getting this past the Congress. The sexual fidelity effects will predominate negative as well as heterosexuals have one reason less to marry even as it might make the numerically smaller number of homosexual couples bed hop a bit less.
But homosexuals punch far above their weight in Democrat party politics so the tail wags the dog and the majority effects aren't even considered.
Blech, the Democrats haven't changed a bit.
I'm glad I rented a few films.
Telling the Difference on Feasability
Steven Den Beste's current article lays into a major problem, the unreasonable expectations people have of engineers and other practical problem solvers.
He justly pounds into the ground the starry eyed optimists who just wave their hands and airly declare "just make it happen". He alludes to, but does not address, a paired problem (that falls to me). He says "Engineers are magicians, and we're supposed to make magic happen. We've pulled off so many miracles before, so why not this one?" It's a very good question and deserving a serious answer.
The problem is twofold. Sometimes Pointy Haired Bosses (PHBs) ask the infeasible of engineers and are unsatisfied with the engineer's realistic response that it's not going to happen. But other times, the PHBs ask for something that is feasible but either beyond the imagination or beyond the work ethic of the particular engineer. The response by the engineer in this latter case is verbally indistinguishable from the former case. The PHB can't tell the difference. This leads to guessing on the part of the PHB as to when the engineers are lying and two bad outcomes, infeasible projects going forward and feasible projects getting stopped.
One example of a feasible project getting stopped with large worldwide consequences is the Nazi A-bomb. It turns out that some errors led the engineers to convince their masters that an A-bomb was simply infeasible. Thankfully, nobody corrected their error but from an engineer v. PHB view, the engineers were clearly in the wrong as the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki learned a short time later. The major controversy left in the area is whether the mistake was really a mistake or subtle scientific sabotage.
So the socially useful question is what is the appropriate tool set for PHBs and other non-engineers to tell when the engineers are lying, mistaken, or correct. The problem becomes even worse because there two major types of engineer liars, the lazy that I describe above and the greedy who see endless R&D budgets for infeasible projects. That particular wrinkle, I'll save for another article but this state of greed would explain a lot of SDB's skepticism to alternative energy claims.
At the heart of "just make the magic happen" pablum is, I think, a social engineering test. The PHB who says such things may be a technoignorant boob but not necessarily so. He might just be looking for secondary markers of dishonesty. He also might be pushing for a more thorough analysis of the possibilities before abandoning this course. In short, he's annoying his engineers to a purpose, a purpose that he cannot directly satisfy because he, himself, does not have the technical skills necessary to directly find out why he's hearing no.
It's pretty obvious that SDB (along with an army of engineers who don't have the audience SDB has) keeps hitting this problem in various contexts. He's likely to keep right on running into it until some sort of reliable "truth telling engineer/lying engineer" methodology is worked out. Unfortunately, in this context, my contribution is limited to problem identification.
Political Ad Scripts I
After a particularly brutal war that raged all across Europe, everybody gathered in a place called Westphalia to settle things and make sure that there would never be a repeat. The solution they came up with, national sovereignty, saved the world from countless horrible, nasty wars ever since...
It's been over 350 years since royalty, military and spiritual leaders all gathered together to hammer out the Peace of Wetphalia. Since then, a few unimportant colonies in the wilderness of the New World became the greatest power on Earth. The International Law that depended on Westphalia's national sovereignty principle stretched and grew and became a huge, complex structure on which rested many treaties, many organizations.
But today the great threats to our security come from people who simply do not accept the limits of national sovereignty. They make war in an older, more brutal fashion because they can't get what they want any other way. They organize across borders and can't be eradicated by declaring war on a nation, or even a group of nations.
For the first time in America's history, the underlying foundation of the world system is up for grabs. A big chunk of the world is too frightened to even try to address the big question. Others see the issues but are just too small to do the work without us.
President Bush broke 350 years of precedent and declared war on a non-state group, he implicitly challenged the world to move beyond Westphalia. The world, to a great degree, has ignored his call because they hope that the next President of the United States will let us all get back to the business of letting us be killed by terrorists at a "sustainable" rate. They are too frightened to do anything else...
current running time 1:00
July 24, 2004
Where do Federal District Courts Get Their Power?
Josh Chafetz asserts that H.R. 3313 IS NOT CONSTITUTIONAL (his capitalization). His reasoning is all well and good but it does seem to omit any sort of explanation of how US federal courts that are not the Supreme Court get any judicial power whatsoever. If a court is created by statute, the Congress is the body granting jurisdiction, no? And Whatsoever Congress grants, Congress can take away. A court created by Congress, could even be closed up and done away with entirely so what makes this lesser reduction of authority somehow illegitimate?
You could have some sort of argument about the (male) ambassador of the UK getting married to another man and applying for some sort of spousal benefit in Virginia and suing for original jurisdiction remedy in the USSC but that's not what people are worried about here.
The reality is that the judicial power of a subsidiary court to take up a question is either based in the Congressional authorizing statute which lays out their jurisdiction (and thus amendable by act of Congress, like HR 3313) or it flows from the Supreme Court itself, which can only grant to its subordinate bodies what powers it already has. If it can't do something, what Constitutional power does a lesser court have that is denied to the highest judicial body in the US?
If you were to take this argument seriously, what stops the 9th Circuit from hearing appeals outside its territory? The only thing that stops it is the Congressional authorizing statute that says you don't have jurisdiction. But if Congress' assertions of limits on jurisdiction are not legitimate in the case of gay marriage cases, why are they legitimate in the case of territory or other subject matter, like special courts for terrorism, maritime law, etc?
The idea that Congress cannot amend jurisdiction is both ahistorical and simply unworkable. Amendments of jurisdiction according to territory are no different than amendments of jurisdiction according to subject matter and both have been done in the past without major controversy. The major difference is that this measure strips jurisdiction without providing another federal body to take it up. It thus remains in the hands of the states, something that the anti-federalists who demanded the 9th and 10th amendments would no doubt find very satisfying.
One in the Ground
The first modern US ABM interceptor has now been deployed. We're not quite there yet but we're likely to soon reach the point where poor state nuclear blackmail will lose its threat. It's not the entire solution to the problem by any means but it is a necessary step to getting a sufficient solution.
HT: The Corner
Andrew Sullivan's Religious Education Lapse Watch I
I've just about had it with Andrew Sullivan's misstatements of Christianity. He claims to have been a Catholic, though recently he seems to have put himself in the lapsed category. Whatever his current status, he shouldn't me making mistakes like this.
The entire idea of women being subordinate to men is half of a bargain. To mention just one half of a bargain, the cost, and not mention or even consider the benefits is to unbalance the thing and make any analysis a foolish exercise. Try doing it with a house mortgage and you'll see what I mean in short order.
Both sides of the bargain is laid out in the Bible in a couple of places but Ephesians 5:21-33 works quite well. The obligation of the husband is to take the subordination of the wife and do what is necessary so that she will spiritually become "holy and without blemish". Your job as husband is to do whatever it takes so that happens in imitation of Jesus' actions to create a Holy Church. In Jesus' case, he found that what was necessary was for him to be indescribably tortured, crucified, and die for the sake of the founding of the Church.
Yeah, husbands have a really sweet deal in that bargain. Boy, it's the easy life for us if we take on that role.
The key to the entire structure is in the first line "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ." That really gives the game away in that it is a replay of leadership as servitude that happens so frequently in christian theology. The woman subordinates her wishes to the man and the man must sacrifice all for the project of sanctifying and preparing the woman for Heaven as Christ sacrificed all at Calvary.
Whoever Andrew Sullivan had for religious instruction was either entirely without talent in the area or AS never much paid attention. By pretending that only the female half of the bargain exists, AS is leading his readership astray about christianity. That's a real shame.
Wanted: Department of Anarchy Methods I
Russ Nelson provides a useful device to determine whether a subsidy creates value or destroys it:
Who would do such a good deed, offering users the cash equivalent of the subsidy to a service in order to see how many would take the cash? Nobody would really do it for free. You'd have to make it into a job. And what Department would you put that job into? You couldn't realistically put it in the department offering the subsidy. There would be a strong incentive to sabotage the one subsidy checker to protect the jobs of all the subsidy administrators (and therefore protect the department head's power).
This sort of thing is a perfect fit for a Department of Anarchy. Simply go to the various departments offering subsidies, calculate what the costs are, and on an irregular schedule see if the subsidy is actually worth it. If more than x% take the cash rather than the subsidized service, the subsidy destroys value and should be eliminated.
July 23, 2004
Is Al Queda Waiting Out the Oil Age?
In this article on SoxBlog a bit of Dr. Barnett commentary on competing future timelines just stopped me in my tracks.
The idea of Al Queda thinking that the end of the oil age will be the end of the current regimes is highly tempting. Ultimately, I think it's just not going to work.
If part of Al Queda's strategy is to gather strength for the end of the oil age regime collapse then part of our intricate dance to thwart them is to ensure that the end of the oil age does not end the demand for hydrocarbons. And we've already accomplished that if the oil age is eclipsed by the hydrogen age. Hydrogen is plentiful in hydrocarbons and currently the most common way to generate hydrogen on a large scale is to use hydrocarbons as a feedstock.
Hydrocarbons become much less geopolitically critical in a hydrogen age but they don't lose any value as an economic commodity. They just gain a whole host of competitors and OPEC loses its ability to impose crippling price spikes in world energy markets by temporarily slowing or halting exports.
Current regimes may not survive the demise of their power to roil world energy markets but energy income will likely remain very high for a long time to come, certainly well beyond the age of oil.
Adding to My Reading List
I'm putting ZenPundit and SoxBlog on my daily read list after being grouped with them in this highly flattering "Sons of PNM" post on Dr. Barnett's blog. So far, they're very good reads. You should take a gander too.
Article 3 Section 2 Comes Alive
Via Outside the Beltway comes notice that the US Congress has been reduced to the use of blunt force instruments to restrain the judiciary. Clause 2 of Article 3, Section 2 of the US Constitution reads as follows:
In short, the Congress has always had the power but has never had the courage to limit the judiciary. The judiciary has usually had the good sense to reign in their wilder impulses before Congress gets around to passing an Article 3 limitation law. It looks like the gay marriage issue is going to cross the line.
In a way it's pretty sad. the Exceptions and Regulations clause was always viewed as an "in case of emergency, break glass" type of Congressional power. I'd have hoped never to have to see the day it was used. If it passes, look for more and more political factions to try to replicate it.
The Olympics' First 10
Just heard a story on NPR hawking a book on the Olympics. Among other things, a cheating story surrounding the 1976 women's gymnastics competition caught my attention. It appears that in order t screw the Romania team out of the team victory, the Soviet & other satellite judges were inflating USSR women's scores, giving them 9.9 and 9.95 scores. When Nadia Comenichi came and gave a clearly superior performance, they had no choice but to score her higher but there was no higher score but 10.
It just goes to show, even when you're the little guy, even when you've got everything stacked against you, sheer talent and drive can get you to the top.
July 22, 2004
Are Enough Recruits Entering the Armed Forces?
IraqNow has an article on troop recruitment where Jason Van Steenwyk ends up with "My baloney detectors are singing these days." Mine are too but I'm not quite sure who's dishing out the baloney or is everybody doing it.
The Washington Post article on the Army's Delayed Entry program notes that we're at a 3 year low with 23%. The 2001 number was 22% and the 2000 number was 19%. The Army's goal is 35%. Would it have killed the Post to put in a graph showing the historical numbers since the system was started (most likely with the volunteer Army in the 70s)? How common is it to have a 23% number or lower? We don't know from the story and I have no idea where to find such information.
This is the kind of grunt work that makes professional reporting a real job that will survive blogging. It's worth paying for that information because with the data, you can judge how bad things are. If we were hitting 35% for most of the 80s and the first half of the 90s, that says one thing. If we've hit 35% once or twice in the entire history of the program with low-to-mid 20% levels being the norm, I'm a whole lot less excited about our impending manpower crisis.
Calm the Westerners: A Middle Easterner's Primer
Now that it looks like the Syrian Terror Band mystery is revealed as a false alarm, it might be a useful educational effort to think about what the Syrians could have done to calm their fellow civilian travelers. Really, was there anything that could have headed off the herd panic instinct that has spread around the country? What was it and how can we ensure that such measures aren't usable by actual terrorists. There will be a next time, and one of these times it's going to get very ugly with innocents getting caught in a bad situation.
So hit the permalink and comment fellows, consider this an open thread.
July 21, 2004
I Wonder About Berger
Now that Sandy Berger has dropped from the Kerry campaign, there isn't much to say about the sad affair until actual evidence comes out and there's a decision on prosecution. The only question left is what did Kerry know and when did he know it? Was there a time when the sentiment was uttered that it's ok to be a foreign policy advisor for the campaign and be under criminal investigation for illegally removing classified material at the same time as long as the media doesn't get ahold of it?
There are two ways of answering that question. The first is from inside the campaign. They do have a self-interest to shade the truth if they knew earlier so any statements of denial have to be weighed against their general commitment to truth-telling on other issues (frankly, I'm not impressed). The other way of telling would be for the investigative bodies to let us know if, as part of the investigation, the Kerry campaign had been contacted about this matter and when such contact occurred. This could still turn into a two day story with some continued deft PR on the part of the Kerry campaign. I hope that the AP report on Berger was the first they knew of the story for their sakes. But then, what does that say about Sandy Berger?
Barnett's Implicit Villains
In The Pentagon's New Map something always bothered me about the disconnection of the Gap states. They are so weak that unanimous efforts by Core states could never be resisted. The Gap leadership that thrives on disconnection could never maintain that state alone. They had to have something helping them out. The Iraq sanctions regime and subsequent Coalition of the Willing invasion brings the dark secret out into the open. The disconnecters in the Gap have allies in the Core, allies that command power and respect in the highest diplomatic and economic councils.
No Gap country is entirely disconnected. After all, the Great Leader must have access to first class health care, toys and gee gaws that his own society cannot produce, and above all weapons to maintain his security against his own people and his neighbors. That requires trade and with it, connectivity.
But the connectivity threads must be kept spider web thin and must not be a path that just anyone can walk down. No, trade is done in barter, with huge bribes and outlandish commissions, or in unsavory items such as addictive drugs, banned weapons, and human flesh. The people who provide the connectivity must, as much as possible, be unsavory types that will show the worst of the outside world to those who they come in contact with, providing a justification for their country's isolation.
The power brokers who do the major deals and pocket so much money from these spider web connections also know that they are on an impressive gravy train that will continue as long as general connectivity does not come to that society. They must maintain their position in the Core and never actually admit that they are in favor of maintaining disconnectedness but they do and they are.
In Eastern Europe, when the wall came down, whoever had invested in the east bloc countries as the only western presence in their field were largely swept aside. The popular western cigarettes, the popular drinks, all of that market share swiftly disappeared in an avalanche of new competition offering better quality, lower prices, or even just variety.
The same dynamic will happen in every country that is pulled into the Core from the Gap. A certain class of politicians and traders will have their economic interests in the place devastated and they will be tempted to lobby against intervention, against reform, because they only see their short term interests and don't really care about the pathologies that spill out of the Gap.
Update: Iraq Now points out how business interests that were highly invested in the old system are still causing mischief where they can.
Kristoff Misses the Point
Since Kristoff seems to be fighting the dark side (in mocking christianity) I was reluctant to comment on his recent slam on the Left Behind series of books. But let's face it, he's losing to the dark side currently so every little effort to fix things might help.
No doubt, the Final Judgment is a harsh topic, and has been throughout the history of monotheism. The muslim version is equally harsh and is preached and written about throughout the muslim world. The idea that God comes and judges unbelievers harshly is not a matter of division between christian and muslim and really not one of controversy. The controversy is much more of what does one have to do not to end up on the left hand of God as he returns to sit in final judgment. The harshness that we condemn in muslims is their futile and counterproductive methods in attempting to spread a flawed version of God's commandments.
It is the harshness that muslims commit prior to the final judgment, their flawed telling of who shall be on the right and left hand of God that is the problem. The Left Behind series gets it wrong too, but theirs is an error that can be corrected by persuasion, by speech, by evangelization.
If a Catholic talks to a christian fundamentalist, seeking to convince him of the rightness of Catholic belief, no knives will be drawn, the worst that will happen is some harsh words. The process of working out differences with the Islamists is much more perilous. It is not only more dangerous for christians and jews to talk things out, but even other muslims. Salman Rushdie is, after all, a muslim and was so throughout the period of time he guarded himself against Ayatollah Khomeni's death fatwa.
The central secret of america's religious peace is that you are free to think that God will strike down every other faith. You only have the obligation to allow God to do the smiting and if he chooses to hold his hand for the time being, you must not rush him with your own violent actions. Ultimately, the only way to stop evangelicals from issuing such books as the Left Behind series other than peaceful persuasion is violence. In the liberal PC book, it will be a violence of fines, discriminatory taxation (by pulling tax exempt status), and eventually closing down their places of worship via police action (and that will get violent if the evangelicals don't fall in line).
No, we have a mote in our eye, but it isn't the one that Kristoff is speaking out against. It is that the most popular christian writers who actually apply themselves to writing about their faith are members of such a small, minority faith and the great, mainstream faiths are producing so little in terms of theologically superior books to drive them off the #1 best seller lists.
July 20, 2004
If you wish to place a comment, it turns out you can, even though the lying "comment" link doesn't work. Hit the permalink (the timestamp to the left of comments) and you'll see the individual post with the proper comment entry form.
HT: David Mercer
Burying the Lead to Protect Kerry
Via Glenn Reynolds I see that Sandy Berger is under criminal investigation for unauthorized removal of classified documents. Who is Sandy Berger? There's the rub. The AP calls him a former Clinton administration advisor. But it would be just as accurate and an awful lot more topical to note that he is an official Kerry campaign foreign policy advisor, Kerry campaign official spokesperson, and on the short list for a high role in any prospective Kerry government.
Is anybody asking embarrassing questions of the Kerry campaign on this matter? Since this criminal investigation has been going on for months while Kerry continued to embrace Berger, does anybody doubt that somebody should be asking such questions? With the uproar starting to boil in the blogosphere, it seems like it's only a matter of time before such questions start to be asked but the first impulse is clear, bury the lead.
There is no Silver Lining
Donald Sensing is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear in an article claiming that there is a silver lining to the Philippines and Spain pulling out. In fact, there is none. The reasons are our democratic system and human nature.
The steadfastness of our government depends on the people elected to office. Our democratic system changes our government every two years, with large changes possible every four with a new president. And human nature insists on regular party changes as power continues its insidious corruption on any party in power too long.
The question will arise, legitimately, every time we make a large change in government control. Will this new government stand firm? Every time we exercise our rights to self-government, the terrorists will conduct a new bloody experiment to see, is this government going to stand firm or will it cave.
The experiments will end when there is no likelihood that any weak faction exists in either major party and any possible US government is going to extract more pain than the experiment is worth. Are we there yet? I don't think we are.
Government policy reversals, both as a consequence of government changeover (Spain) and simply due to unacceptable pressure (Philippines) both reinforce the message that it pays to continue probing, that democratic governance responds unpredictably to such experiments, and that the strategy is worth continuing.
No, there is no silver lining, just a wet, dripping one... scarlet red.
July 19, 2004
Abortion for Financial Convenience
The NYT has run an article that is creating a storm in the blogosphere. Amy Richards tells her pregnancy reduction story. To make a gruesome story short, a Manhattan woman makes the case that her life would be complicated and financially impacted by her triplets so she had two killed.
Some relevant facts were left out of the story. The Archdiocese of New York would have helped her survive any financial hardship she was undergoing so she could have her babies. There would have been lots of people glad to take any unwanted babies off her hands if she wanted to stay in Manhattan and away from Costco (one of her fears was having to buy large mayonnaise jars at Costco). And finally, the extraordinarily degrading, humiliating and weak position the father was placed in that did not even let him beg at full throat for his children's lives. He wanted the kids, all of them. She cut him off and let him know that he was just a wallet and if he wanted to stick around to be a factor in any survivng children's lives he should shut up, now.
So two unborn children died when there was no true financial need, there was no extra suffering avoided on the part of the mother, and they could have gone to loving parents who were infertile. People sometimes wonder what pro-lifers mean by the "culture of death". Here's exhibit A.
What is Journalism?
The LA Times should really recategorize itself as a comedy daily. It provides so much unintentional humor, this story on blogging and journalism being a case in point. The thrust of the piece is that stories that don't show both sides, don't provide calm, cool objective analysis are simply not journalism.
If that were the case, journalism in the US during the 18th century simply didn't exist. This is such a historically challenged piece that it wouldn't get a passing grade in a freshman history of journalism course. That it made it onto the pages of one of the major metropolitan newspapers of the United States is simply an embarrassment. That the writer is a director of a Center on press, politics, and public policy at Harvard University simply makes you feel sorry for those poor saps who pay so much money to attend such a center for pointless bloviating.
For those who are similarly historically challenged, something very close to the blogging style was the rule, not the exception in the 18th century as well as a great part of the 19th. It is only in the 20th century that the US press caught the "objectivity" bug. If you wanted both sides of a story, you bought papers on both sides and did your own synthesis, not taking either side as gospel truth. The same process goes on with blogs today. I run through a large variety of blogs, left, right, libertarian, and even the occasional communist and nazi gets on my reading list. With me doing my own synthesis, I'm sure that I'm being exposed to the best arguments on every side and I can judge for myself who's blowing smoke and who has a real point to make on the subject.
From a conventional "objective" newspaperman's point of view, this is profoundly disturbing as a great deal of their "value added" is in providing that synthesis for the reader. This provides an awful lot of power for the 4th estate and the reappearance of a lively, growing format that gives the job of synthesis back to the reader has got to be threatening to both their business model and their social standing.
Look for lots more mud to fly before there's a resolution.
It looks like comments are going to be out for the count for awhile, until BruceR gets back from maneuvers. Oh well, somebody's got to stave off the collapse of the Canadian military until Canada realizes how bad off they are in this area. On the bright side, I've been categorizing my posts since the very beginning and have just got around to putting in code so you can see them too. Category archives are active so you have another method of taking a look at my posts.
Coming to a Sensible Solution
Steven Den Beste's doing on his side (pro-gay marriage) what I was doing yesterday on my side (pro-traditional marriage) cleaning up weak arguments. This is something of a necessity, especially when you have allies who are fouling up your own side and weakening your own arguments unintentionally. Of course, SDB's version is much longer and wide ranging.
I'm somewhat encouraged because I think that the worst part about how this whole issue is unfolding is the speed and stealth which it's coming to be. What's been sorely lacking have been pro-gay marriage forces who seriously want to examine marriage, what it does, and try, in good faith, to predict, measure, and react to the data as it becomes available. SDB's the sort of empiricist who should have little problem dropping gay marriage if, objectively, it has the negative effects that the traditionalists say it does. I wish him luck in cleaning up his side as I'm sure he would wish me in cleaning up my own.
The point of the exercise is, in the end, both sides present their best arguments, answer them, and hopefully the best side wins and becomes public policy. That's the sort of level politics is supposed to be at. Let's hope we someday get to that point.
July 18, 2004
Gay Marriage Recovery
I just finished reading a piece in City Journal on the hazards of gay marriage. I agree with most of it yet find myself unconvinced by the sole backhanded compliment the author gives to the gay marriage movement, conceding that movement towards gay marriage is irrevocable. Nothing is irrevocable, least of all social policy mistakes such as gay marriage. Under that standard, welfare reform would have been impossible instead of merely being extremely hard to do and highly costly in broken lives and social malignancy.
I don't think that the ratchet effect is nearly all it's cracked up to be. Gay marriage, if it every becomes more than a Massachusetts aberration, will eventually be rolled back after the cost ceases to become hypothetical and the victims of the new dispensation become the majority of the voting public. This is what's going on right now with easy divorce. The Gen X victims are simply and increasingly hostile to those self-absorbed parents deluding themselves that dissolving inconvenient marriages is somehow excusable.
Gays may well reflect on this. If they end up pushing such a useful social institution such as marriage into the trash heap, those who have to retrieve and repair it might just have a diminished sense of tolerance and acceptance to those who caused the problem in the first place.
I love a nice little webcomic called Greystone Inn. Saturday's strip takes a swerve into comparative social policy that disgruntles me a bit. The major pregnant character, Sam, is writing in her journal and noting that her company has a six week maternity leave program and that various EU states run 16 weeks and more, with a year off for Sweden.
It was the mention of Sweden that got me thinking. There was a recent report from Timbro, a free market swedish think tank ranking the US and the EU states and breaking out the US into its 50 component states. The EU fell into the poorest group of states and the growth prospects look pretty bad for them. If Sweden petitioned to enter into the US, they would instantly inherit a 40% poverty rate as they started being judged by US yardsticks of how much money you need to have not to be poor.
With serious discussion starting to break out regarding lengthening the work week in EU states, it's becoming clear that even they realize they've chosen a path that is simply not sustainable. It's really too bad that Sammy and all too many US leftists don't realize that and buy into a cruel system that provides cushy benefits today and pays for it by robbing the next generation of their opportunities.
July 17, 2004
Open Carry Logic
Josh Chafetz doesn't quite 'get' why open carry is legal without permit in places like Virginia while concealed carry requires a permit. The logic is pretty straightforward. The problem with concealed carry isn't the gun itself, but rather the false expectation that the person is unarmed when he is not. It's something of an anti-false advertising law.
If you go into a bar looking for a fight, chances are you won't start with the guy who has a gun on his hip unless you're truly suicidal. If you're just looking for a little light lawbreaking and a night in the drunk tank, you'll get it under the Virginia system, but the concealed carry permit system reduces the number of times you'll get pallbearers instead.
It's a reasonable 2nd amendment restriction that people who carry guns have to advertise that fact unless they're tested and demonstrate a superior level of skill at handling arms and keeping their cool. Now that doesn't mean that people who can conceal carry have to conceal their weapons. It just gives them an option. So when the police overstep their bounds and arrest legal gun toters, a small political demonstration is in order and the hip holsters come out of storage.
It'll probably die down in a few months after everybody gets a refresher course in the law. The problem really is one of not bothering people legally going about their business without violating the law. What the heck are police officials doing urging private security to eject people who are lawfully going about their business?
Please Stand By For Comments
Some parts of this site I can control but others... are opaque to me. Somehow, someone has monkeyed with comments and the commenting system is out. I've sent up a flare. Please stand by.
July 16, 2004
Al Queda Nukes II
The reality is that GB should be deeply skeptical. From all accounts, these things had to get taken apart and rebuilt every couple of years in order to continue functioning. Their high maintenance costs were what led the USSR/Russia to abandon them. It was only after they were well past their "explode by" date that the Russians sold them if, in fact, they ever did sell them. So the question really is whether bin Laden did or did not get taken by a russian military con game and got stung for millions for a lot of worthless junk, not whether we are actually at risk. It's still an interesting question but not something that I'll stay awake at night worrying over.
Campaign Desk Acquires Comments
Campaign Desk is the Columbia Journalism Review's blog-like attempt to cover the campaign. Up until now they haven't had comments. This has now changed. It's really amazing how few people are participating in their forums. After a free registration (must provide valid email), they do allow you to create new topics.
Have at it people, I am.
July 15, 2004
Invention Musings I
Usually, I get bright ideas for technology when I'm away from a writing implement but this article inspired me especially the following section:
Well, imagine a pipe fixer, it's powered by waterwheel. As water circulates in the pipe, the machine gets juice. It creeps along the pipe system checking for leaks. Where it finds a leak, it either reports in or fixes the leak itself. since these pipes last an awfully long time, our robot repairer doesn't have to move very fast.
July 14, 2004
Hydrogen Fuel Pumps at Retail
It looks like the US is going to get its first retail hydrogen fueling station later this year (other articles put the time frame at September/October this year). Retail filling stations are important because they are the basis for the necessary infrastructure shift to end the age of oil. With a filling station available, not only will vehicular fuel cell applications get a boost but people in the immediate area who want to use fuel cells for other applications can potentially fill up with the hydrogen version of a gas can, relieving them of the need to get their own hydrogen source and reducing the infrastructure spending needed on other fuel cell applications.
I'm looking forward to seeing hydrogen pumps pop up locally as the technology rolls out. GM is partnering with the USPS to deliver hydrogen fuel cell powered mail delivery vans. Since the USPS does not maintain fueling stations for their fleet, retail hydrogen pumps will quickly be followed by hydrogen mail vans, providing the pumps with guaranteed revenue.
As pumps get deployed, we're likely to start getting into that heady area where the small inventor, the tinkerer gets involved in a real way. Once they can get easy access to relatively cheap hydrogen, who knows what ideas will bubble up from our collective creative impulse?
Ending the Oil Age, Pessimistically
Orson Scott Card's ticked off the Angry Economist with his essay on oil replacement. And the Angry Economist has good reason this time. Card misses both strategic and economic arguments in his article. The Angry Economist concentrates on the economic ones, I'll review both.
First, the strategic consequence of cutting a growing economic power from its energy supplies is on full display with our oil embargo of Japan just prior to WW II. It is quite likely that if we had not engaged in economic warfare, Japan would not have struck on December 7, 1941. No oil for Japan was a death sentence for the regime and they knew it. Card says that moving to alternate energy is a death sentence for our enemies and he's right. But it's the kind of death sentence we should never impose on them.
The chosen strategy of the US in this war is serialization, the idea being to take on our enemies in turn, focusing our enormous power on a limited number of fronts and creating holding actions on any others until we can get to them. Serialization requires us to lull some problems to sleep, leaving them sufficient hope so that they decide not to make trouble and giving them a way out, a peaceful method of reform, giving most of them the illusion that they can maintain their autocracy for a long, long time.
Our enemy's strategy of parallelization is to stir up trouble on enough fronts that we can't concentrate our forces and they start winning in a few of them. Then they leverage their newfound power to create more victories. Provoking too many splits in our forces permits them to defeat them in detail.
A fast, government pushed shift off of oil would threaten so many countries with financial ruin that it would be the Imperial Japan scenario writ large. What we would get would be parallelization in spades. We have no need, and should have no desire, to follow our enemy's strategy.
So much for the strategic objection. The economic objection has both a philosophical and practical component. The Angry Economist is right that it's philosophically unpleasant to abandon the free market system. Government economic development is always less efficient and often leads to huge boondoggles that, retrospectively, almost always seem to be bad bets. While it's true that free market atom bomb development probably wouldn't have been a bright idea, energy systems are not weapons systems. They are much larger, more complicated, and have a greater scope for the negative externalities of government action to express themselves in self-defeating ways. One day we may end up in a situation where temporary government intervention in energy cannot be avoided. Today is simply not that day.
The practical component is that we've got an alternative energy scheme that is likely to improve things in the near-medium term that is already practical for some limited scenarios (as evidenced by shipping products) and is visibly improving without the massive, distorting government subsidies that Card announces are necessary.
Our solution in waiting is hydrogen fuel cells, an energy middleware component that will allow the huge amounts of potential energy that we waste every day to be captured in an efficient, unified energy market. Instead of a market for heating oil, diesel oil, natural gas, electricity, and various markets for the minor alternative players, they all get unified in one clean market, the hydrogen fuel cell market.
When alternatives don't have to build up a new infrastructure for wide adoption, their effective costs go way down and thus they will be adopted more widely. Hydrogen's around in just about everything and the more trash that we can convert to hydrogen feedstock, the better.
Without a government rush job on this, this emerging fuel cell innovation will put a python squeeze on the oil powers that will not be seen as a hostile act, that will not provoke a parallelization of the conflict that will be against US interests. It will be a neutral economic reality that will speed up reform efforts and allow the guys on the fence to hop off on our side, not the other side.
July 13, 2004
The Secret Appeal of Red
If there is one thing that I've secretly envied the communists, it was their savvy in staking out and truly owning certain symbols as their own that were attractive on their own. The rose as a symbol of socialist parties is one example but I always thought the color red was their best shot. Red is emotion, flame, warmth, energy, and wherever you turned politically, it was on the left.
Now that the USSR is collapsed and the TV networks decided to swap colors and show the Republican states in red, it's started to be safe to indulge in red imagery without worry of association with the pathological 'reds'. Now, Tacitus has completely broken the association with his new site Red State. It's really a delightful bit of cultural subversion. Watch out you cool, soulless blue state types the red state is coming for YOU!
Giving Aid and Comfort to Our Enemies I
I'm very sad to say that we're likely to see more in this vein. Protesters are going to purposefully try to set off false terrorism alarms at the Republican National Convention. The net effect is to desensitize us to any real sort of alarm, making any actual terrorist attempts easier and with greater effect.
This, literally, would be providing aid and comfort to our enemies in time of war. It's treason. VVAW activist John Kerry admirably helped stop an assassination plot. He needs to step up to the plate again.
Why Vote When You Will Lose
Glenn Reynolds asks why vote on an amendment that will fail and asks if he's missing something. He is. In general, there are a lot of people flying false flags on moral issues. John Kerry verbally says he believes that life begins at conception (which is Catholic doctrine) but does absolutely nothing to temper his pro-abortion voting record. So putting people on the record by voting on this is going to expose a lot of frauds and people will take notice. They will put the results of the vote in their voting guides and some people will change their vote for Senator on the issue. Prof. Reynolds seems to imply that these people are already Republican base but I don't think so. I think that an awful lot of them are Democrat Catholics who are usually content to believe their politician's blather about family values at the annual church dinner.
July 12, 2004
The Electoral College
AEI has a very good book out called After We Vote on the Electoral College and what exactly happens after we vote in November until the new President and Vice President are sworn in in January. For the political junkie in all of us:
Letter to the Paper XXVI
Michael Powell has decided to blog. He's looking for feedback on the FCC and its policies. Here's my contribution:
July 11, 2004
How to Tell the Russians Are Our Friends
One way to tell that the Cold War is really over is to look at the Russian military industrial complex. During the Cold War years, they intentionally made their stuff to not be compatible with NATO. Now they sell NATO standard systems. You want to keep your stuff the same as your friends, you might want to share in a pinch, but always incompatible with your enemies, to hold down the utility of captured stock.
July 10, 2004
Corporations and the Alternative
A recent Tech Central Station column focuses on an upcoming attack on the institution of the corporation. Michael Moore figures heavily in a new movie called "The Corporation" and it doesn't take a genius to figure out he's against them. The one thing that leftists don't have the courage to spell out nowadays is to explicitly spell out what the alternative would be to the institutions they are critiquing. In the case of the corporation, the general alternative is to do such things via government action. But the problem with that is that governments are even less accountable than corporations.
Not only does government not provide the economic progress, the rising standard of living that capitalism provides, it also, in the real world, is just as fallible and prone to killing off people as corporations are. In fact, government economic enterprises are worse because sovereign immunity means that one of the major feedback loops that we use to fix corporations (the lawsuit) is largely unavailable when a government is the institution that does us wrong.
If a corporation becomes a negative force, you can bring a lawsuit, indict and jail executives, or just buy out the thing and kill it. These are all remedies that are either weaker against government or absent altogether.
The problem with Dominic Basulto's article isn't that he's got anything wrong on the indictment of the movie he's attacking. It's that he somehow assumes that this is a political question. It no longer is. The general inferiority of government solutions is a text that has been written in the blood of the tens of millions who died under government heavy solutions of the last century. Everybody should be taught how they died, why they died, why these societies failed in such a bloody way.
The economic educational system in the west is a huge scandal. Its something that needs to be fixed, and soon. Otherwise, snake oil salesmen will continue to do good box office numbers peddling poison.
July 09, 2004
A prior item about technology in the sys admin force drew a snap on the wrist in email from Tom Barnett (who is remarkably accessible for a guy who's quietly going on about the business of changing the world). It seems that, in the end, a badly composed/misunderstood sentence was the cause of the tempest in a teapot. For the record, here it is "Why? Because you cannot technologize your way out of that problem set: it simply requires significant numbers of well-trained troops." That problem set being stitching an occupied country together and attaching it to the Functioning Core. The start of that process is generally going to be military heavy and it's not what we're training or equipping our troops for.
Dr. Barnett is very much on board with technology on the Sys Admin force. And I'm very glad he didn't let my misunderstanding live on.
Missing the Obvious
Even at this point, NPR can get pretty clueless about the importance of conventional family formation. This morning they just did a straight report on an Indiana investigation on why 38% of foster care kids are black. The relevant stats are 10% of Indiana's population is black, 18% of proven abuse is in black families, and 38% of the kids in foster care are black. The fact that the number of intact mother and father households in the black community is so low doesn't merit a mention even though it's pretty obvious how it can affect both pathologies, the elevated abuse stats (more boyfriends cycling through single moms' houses and beating on the kids) and fewer relatives (with absent fathers' relatives being less willing to take in kids that aren't truly in the family).
It's errors of omission like this that make up a large portion of liberal bias. Usually I let this kind of thing float by but today I felt like venting.
July 08, 2004
Soft Power In Iraq
Robert Alt's current article in NRO shows how US actions in Iraq are quietly burnishing our reputation in ways that don't get reported much but will build and grow in effectiveness over the course of the next few decades. A bull session in an Internet cafe reveals that people in the PRC are very interested in how Iraqis are rapidly transitioning to a free society at a pace that far exceeds what the Chinese Communist Party wants to permit back home. No doubt this is the sort of thing that independent reporters from a large number of slowly reforming states are doing, operating well under the radar screen, planting the seeds of "why can they do it but we aren't allowed to?" in the minds of their fellow countrymen. Along with those seeds will be planted the idea that a major cause why the Iraqis can is that the US military paid an up close and personal visit to get things rolling.
No doubt similar journalists are visiting Georgia to analyze the Rose Revolution that is moving things along quite quickly without the US military taking such a direct role. But there too, you see a great deal of gratitude for US support in building up the forces that eventually overthrew their local tyranny. This kind of national advertising is the best kind, based on testimonials and facts on the ground.
Keep looking out for small stories like this. It's the great missed story of 2004 as far as the mainstream media is concerned.
Wanted: A Department of Anarchy VI
Professor Bainbridge laments that government only grows and thus, Kaus' "try something and dump the failures" is an irresponsible way to vote because nobody governs that way.
As I've said several times before one of the key problems of government reform is to institutionalize reform so that there is a permanent presence in the bureaucratic battlefield that permanently agitates for smaller, more efficient government. The day that we have a proven formula for a successful Department of Anarchy (freedom is always being called anarchy by statists) then Kaus' position is no longer foolish but rather an intriguing strategy for responsible voting. Because I can't figure out how to permalink Kaus, I'll quote him
I don't think that we can ever get government to be as efficient as the market in dumping failed ideas (which is one of the reasons why I'm a minarchist and not a socialist) but I think that we can do much better than we currently are doing it and Kaus demonstrates that there's a real demand for some sort of system that does it. A Department of Anarchy would fit the bill nicely. We just have to figure out how to create such a beastie without being neutered by the rest of the government.
The Damage to US Prestige
A comment on Daniel Drezner's site led me to think a bit on the US' stance in the world. The original article is about Dan Drezner's electoral fence sitting and he invites his commentators to convince him to vote for a candidate. Vish Subramanian writes:
I don't agree that American power has suffered net damaged by the Iraq war. I think instead that we had been suffering a long and debilitating illness, a rot in our hard power that dates back to the "peace dividend" days and a similar rot in our soft power that dates back decades further to when we first started getting into the habit of living with ourselves as we betrayed our principles and made devil's bargain after devil's bargain in the Cold War, sustaining autocrat after autocrat because they were "our bastards".
Taking down Iraq exposed both sorts of weaknesses. The damage had happened long before. As we ramp up our military from peace to war footing, we are benefiting from an awful lot of lessons learned in Iraq in both transformation doctrine, logistics, leadership, and a host of other areas. The next war might not have to be fought at all because of our demonstration that our hard power is the best on the planet and getting better faster than anybody else.
But the soft power side of the equation is even more important. Soft power is not an instantaneous phenomenon. It swells and ebbs over years, decades. The instant analysis and fast polls are simply too focused on the here and now to be meaningful. The fundamental fact, the thing that is going to be remembered when everything settles down is that we came, we kicked out a dictator, and we left, leaving a free government behind. That is the big picture and it is a highly positive base from which to build.
The status of both hard and soft power at the start of the GWB administration is of a patient with gangrene. Gangrene, human rot, doesn't seem so bad in the beginning and all too many patients put off amputation because of the false hope that it will stay that way. Well, we've had our necessary amputation but if we need to curse anything, it was the disease, not the excision procedure that deserves our criticism.
More Moore: Patriotic Lileks
Looking back at yesterday's Moore piece, I did regret one thing. I was giving Moore a very healthy benefit of the doubt but I didn't make one thing clear. If you strive for patriotism without accepting the shared humanity and patriotism of your fellow citizens who disagree with you politically, you'll fail at patriotism and quickly end up at fascistic jingoism. Push that line far enough and we're back at Congressmen beating each other to death on the floor of the legislature and preparations for civil war.
Lileks, on the other hand, doesn't give Moore a break at all. Maybe he's right, but I hope not. The problem is that Michael Moore is undeniably popular and the Michael Moore that Lileks describes is a figure that could only be followed by a population that is seriously gone astray to the point of societal suicide.
It isn't Moore himself that is so important but the significant following that he has captured, a following that doesn't seem to care much about the truth, doesn't care to concede the shared humanity and patriotism that should unite this polity, and will eventually, inevitably, turn to violence when their electoral ambitions are denied. That's the devil's brew that we're faced with.
God help us.
July 07, 2004
Libertarian Nomination II
I think I liked him better vague. That status is much better than what he's come up with after more careful thought.
He claims that the Middle East "do not hate us for our freedom. They do not hate us for our lifestyle. They hate us because we have spent many years attempting to force them to emulate our lifestyle." This is simply, demonstrably false. Like most regions, there are several political currents in the Middle East. One, the Islamist current, absolutely hates us for our lifestyle and say so loudly and proudly. You only have to read what they write and listen to what they say.
The Islamist current is the animating force behind Al Queda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, and most of the rest of the Who's Who of Middle East terror groups. Even adopting relatively conservative social customs will not placate these people. They, by holy writ, are obligated to humiliate christians and jews, treating us as second class citizens with circumscribed rights and differential taxation. It is a religious commandment to make "people of the Book" dhimmis. For atheists and other religions humiliation is not enough. Only death will do for the Shinto faithful, the Buddhist, and the atheist.
It is true that the US has made a hash of things by supporting authoritarians over the past several decades. President Bush has admitted it and has turned over a new leaf in US foreign policy, trying to undo the damage we have done, a task that has been very much advanced by the invasion of Iraq. Whether active attempts to undo prior damage is a better strategy than withdrawing and letting the locals sort themselves out is debatable but we have multiple stories, multiple threats, and with Islamists on the rise it is impossible for us to responsibly leave the area entirely.
Badnarik has a long way to go before he achieves a responsible libertarian Middle East policy.
Making My Dad Happy
My dad is a tough customer to please and he's not truly sold on all this fancy shmancy Internet stuff. About two and a half years ago, he gave me a problem to solve to let me 'show off' e-commerce. He wanted me to find and get him a very special movie, The Leopard, with Burt Lancaster.
He doesn't make things easy. It's a 1963 classic but wasn't available anywhere for any price. I've always felt guilty about not finding the thing for him and periodically type the title in as a search string. I really started getting intrigued when it Rick Brookheiser pronounced The Leopard as "one of the two most conservative movies of all time". But always, no luck. At most I could come up with a non-region 1 coded disk with a German translation which would simply not do.
It's on its way dad.
Technologizing the Sys Admin Force
Thomas Barnett's blog is back but comments are not enabled (their reworking the thing on the fly). I have a great deal of respect for his work on rule sets and the Core/Gap but sometimes I just flat out disagree with him. A recent article on military reform is a case in point.
He's right that big changes are coming in the military in order to enhance the ability of the US military to do occupations. It's pretty clear that nobody is happy with our current abilities. Where he goes wrong is in saying that "you cannot technologize your way out of that problem set: it simply requires significant numbers of well-trained troops." It is not an either/or situation. In fact, the problem of occupation is, to a great extent, a problem of information. Who are the bad guys, who are the good guys, who are the waverers, the persuadable who have to be both courted and monitored? These are all questions that need answers in any occupation. They are also questions that can be answered better/quicker/cheaper with better technology.
More boots on the ground also don't necessarily mean american boots. Cheap technology also enhances the ability to interoperate by enabling foreign soldiers to be on the same systems, whether they buy them before they come to the operation or they are loaned them and learn them on the fly. The PRC has made an art form of substituting men for machines. But men and machines are better still and Moore's law keeps grinding down the entry price to equip even huge amounts of soldiers with effective, efficient technology.
Technology won't do everything but it's a false dichotomy to set it in opposition to boots on the ground as if the two cannot go hand in hand.
Update: nevermind Whether he wrote it wrong or I misunderstood what he wrote, I'll leave to the grammer nazis. Consider the above message, not reflective of Dr. Barnett's ideas and follow the update link for more details.
Inspiration for a Blogging Think Tank
Though fundraising hasn't much gotten off the ground (in fact, the flight profile resembles a lead brick), Daniel Drezner provides inspiration to revive the blog tank project with his great idea of a blogger post-election cruise. With an institutional presence, such an idea would be pretty simple to set up. The hard part, of course, is to assemble that institutional presence. The main page sidebar has a donation link. Please give generously.
Michael Moore's Patriotic Challenge
I just came across a Michael Moore piece about patriotism in the LA Times. In it, he takes an important step in the rehabilitation of so much of the Left. He talks about how he stopped flying the flag, how he stopped singing the national anthem due to Vietnam. Moore says he was wrong to do those things, wrong to cede the field of battle for the heart and soul of patriotic America and though I despise Moore's positions and the horrible place that he would lead this country to, he's making an important statement.
The problem is that Moore is way out in the fever swamps of the Left who literally hate America. He's raised the flag of patriotism out there and the more who answer that call, the better but it isn't enough. He wants us to ask questions in regard to this war. That's fine as far as it goes but what good do questions do us if they are as dishonest as Fahrenheit 911? If you shape a scurrilous accusation in the form of a question, you haven't accomplished much. Asking the political equivalent of "when did you stop beating your wife?" doesn't help the troops any more than parading a sign accusing the administration of the political equivalent of wife beating.
Questions, if they are to serve this country and the people who defend us all, have to not only be pointed, they have to permit answers that will change and improve administration policy. Moore, with his fanciful accusations of pipelines that don't materialize and conspiracy theories that simply don't stand up to examination, fails in the difficult challenge of being part of the loyal opposition. He's done a good first step in healing the unpatriotic Left of its delusions but if he stops here, he's done little of practical import.
The Bush administration is not perfect. It needs vigorous challenge to improve its performance. But the challenge has to come from a recognition that there is genuine patriotism on the Right as well as the Left. Through that shared bond of patriotism criticism may be safely transmitted and accepted. Moore is not ready to accept that yet.
I hope he grows up enough to figure that out, and soon.
July 06, 2004
Kerry's Abortion Problems
James Taranto's missing a turn on Kerry's abortion somersaults. Mr. Personally Opposed is not only following a long line of Catholic Democrats, he's also giving ammunition to the hierarchy to deep six the newly filed heresy accusations on exactly this subject. Believing in the Catholic faith but not fully acting on those beliefs is something that everyone who is not a saint is guilty of at some time. In fact, fully acting on Catholic beliefs is a pretty good working definition of sainthood.
Kerry cannot take the absolutist pro-choice position without ensuring that heresy charges are going to be a real and ongoing story in this campaign. At the same time, there is no better way to cleave the Democrat party electoral coalition than to be a pro-life Democrat post-nomination and pre-convention so becoming functionally pro-life is a non-starter. So he ends up in the classic Democrat straddle personally opposed to abortion but functionally pro-choice.
At a certain point, the US bishops will no longer stand for it. The question is whether that point will come before this November.
Letter to the Paper XXV
Tim Blair has a good article on Robert Fisk's latest outrage, the 'outing' of Saddam's judge after he promised not to tell. I put in my two cents in comments:
HT: Damian Penny
July 05, 2004
Extraordinary CERT Alert
US-CERT Vulnerability Alert 713878 is a real jaw dropper. It talks about one more in a long line of vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft Internet technology extensions. These technology extensions are at the heart of Microsoft's highly successful strategy for dominating the web browser market. By providing highly useful functionality that only works with MS internet technology and not releasing it as a standard, Microsoft tempts many site developers to use their technology extensions and shut out alternative providers both in the application space (mail readers) and the OS space.
There is no practical fix for this, and several other holes at time of writing that lets you continue business as usual and it doesn't look like there's going to be a practical fix anytime soon as you're talking about stuff that's deep in the guts of MS' Internet technology suite. It's quite likely that a lot of neat and useful stuff depends on the broken services remaining broken.
Furthermore, since Microsoft made the decision to integrate these technologies into Windows itself, other code can invoke the broken technology. No longer using IE and Outlook is a reasonable solution for a medium level institution but for high security need installations such as banks, the only solution is to drop IE, Outlook, and Windows itself.
What's more astounding is that US-CERT is essentially the US government. It's a public/private partnership with the public part being the US Department of Homeland Security.
Unfortunately, some commentary doesn't quite get it and only remarks on the "get rid of IE" portion of the last abatement recommendation. That's fine, as far as it goes, but as long as the unsecure code is on your system and isn't likely to get fixed, it's irresponsible not to extricate your company from using Windows as soon as possible.
July 04, 2004
Dealing With Conspiracy Theorists
I found this story via Marginal Revolutions. The idea that not only would you refuse vaccines because you think there is an international infidel plot to transmit diseases via vaccination, but also that you don't even quickly arrange for muslim countries to supply your vaccine is simply appalling. But the western reaction in the original article shows its own blind spots.
Such condemnations will not move muslim conspiracy theorists one inch. What they care about is submitting to Allah. Yet nobody seems to be asking reputable imams to provide a fatwah regarding this case and the liability these people have in accordance with Islamic law. What liability do you have for unnecessarily condemning many children to the life of a cripple or even a cruel death because you let vaccinations cease?
The key point can't be repeated often enough. Talk in the language of your target. If you want strict muslims to be influenced by you, cloak your arguments in the language of faith. Insisting on avoiding religious talk is just a good way of upping the body count.
It's 2004 and Nicolae Ceausescu is in his second decade of Hell, courtesy of his ultra-leaded sendoff via firing squad. In Romania there's a new Constitution, they've undergone several changes in governments, they have made enormous progress detoxifying society, and things are looking up for them. But you can still fluster even a 45 year old middle class, professional romanian by simply asking whether she want's beef, chicken, or pork on the 4th of July grill.
Americans have a lot to appreciate, most of all the little things.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I'm getting a lot less time in front of the computer. Blogging will continue but it will likely stay light this week. Keep checking in.
July 01, 2004
Andrew Sullivan's amazed that somebody still pays attention to that stuffy old document, the Catholic Code of Canon Law but apparently a plucky canon lawyer from Los Angeles has decided to bring the issue of pro-choice catholicism before the private courts the Church runs according to the Canon. In the complaint (filed in John Kerry's home jurisdiction, the Archdiocese of Boston), pro-choice position is labeled the Right-to-Murder heresy.
A layman can bring forward such a complaint but a bishop is not obligated to act on it. If the local Bishop passes, the complaint can be forwarded to the Vatican where it will likely sit for years before being adjudicated. Such complaints are apparently rare (the complainant claims that he's the first to do so under the current Code, adopted in 1983). Furthermore, as it's a class action suit that most anyone can join I'd expect the plaintiff list to expand quite a bit.
I won't be joining the suit, but not because I agree with AS that this is some cheap "theoconservative" stunt to influence the election. On the contrary, I take the entire process deadly seriously as a fight for the soul of one John Kerry who, whatever differences I might have with him politically, is a child of God and in the same struggle to get to Heaven as the rest of us. There is an entire cast of characters that are playing their part in that struggle on the side of good and I think it quite likely that this lawsuit is likely to jog their elbows, retarding Kerry's spiritual progress, not enhancing it.
I have no doubt that not only the lines between the Boston archdiocese and the Vatican are burning up but I also think that several calls are being placed to LA to get local Church officials to squelch the fuse on this dynamite accusation. No doubt, fairly soon there might be a UK component to this mess as defide.org (the organization filing the complaint) is registered to Bruno Quintavalle, a name that comes up in Google as the director of the UK Pro-Life Alliance.
Now there's a twist that I bet McCain and Feingold never thought about.
Muslim Condemnation of Terrorists
I think we should all highlight when muslims condemn muslim terrorists forcefully and point out that this is what we expect from other muslims who claim moderation but offer no such forceful condemnations:
I'd say that "filthy infidels" is just about the right tone. Moderates don't have to be wimps. They do have to draw broad lines that even us "people of the Book" can use to differentiate between them and the nihilistic death cultists they claim not to support.
A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.