February 28, 2005
Raising a Political Class
In 1989, I bent the ear of anybody I could in the romanian-american community that Romania needed political schools to raise up a democratic political class. Being under the age of 40 at the time (heck, I'm still under 40) I wasn't taken seriously. But ten years later I heard the laments that if only such a school had been created, the debacle of the 1996 opposition government would have been avoided.
There was just no critical mass of new thinkers who understood that if you build your campaign about the promise to resign if you can't get your program through in 200 days, day 201 should see mass resignations and new elections. The result was in 2000, the opposition parties who led the way in that government, including my personal favorite, PNT-cd were obliterated and only the liberals who had cannily maintained enough distance to avoid the blowback managed to survive.
I bring this up because I'm hearing an awful lot of talk about EU cynicism, about how the EU political class simply does not trust the people, does not permit them a real say in how things are run, and they specialize in back room deals that make the franchise something of a joke as real choice is leached out of the system.
The solution is as obvious today as it was in 1989. Somebody needs to plunk down the money, in country after country, to raise a political class in the EU republics dedicated to the proposition that citizens are the ultimate authority, that the political class are their servants, and that rise or fall, politics will be conducted honestly.
It's a strikingly impractical suggestion. It's as impractical as the suffragettes, the good government movements that brought down the corrupt urban machines, as impractical as the civil rights movement. Such a movement would require vision and a march through the institutions as tenacious as the fabian's was a century ago.
February 27, 2005
The Power of OSS
The ability to customize your solution and integrate everything into the rest of your IT infrastructure because you can modify the code yourself... priceless.
February 24, 2005
TV's Replacement II
Microsoft has announced that it's entering the TV market to provide IPTV a TV over IP solution for large manufacturers. The idea is to provide some sort of unified solution that provides a trifecta of Video/Data/Voice solutions and high margin value added services.
Microsoft seems to be aiming this at over the wire TV instead of over the air TV but it's unlikely that such a device would succeed without over the air capability. We'll see. Such a big undertaking isn't going to get out of the lab (for technical development)/conference room (for the business negotiations) for a few years. In any case, we're unlikely to see it fully flower until IPv6 rolls out at the end of the decade to provide a sound transport method that provides reliable Quality of Service (QoS) and standard security (IPSEC).
February 23, 2005
I just got dumped with a large amount of work. Posting will be erratic and probably low. I hope to climb out of this hole in the next three weeks.
February 22, 2005
Who is He Giving the Finger To?
First thing I noticed about the Bush tapes story was the accompanying picture (look at his left hand). He's giving somebody the finger, but who?
The first contender is that it's Bush, but if that's so, he's going about it in a very strange way. The accompanying story is probably the best press that Bush has gotten out of the NY Times in years. If this is saying screw you to the Bush clan, that's a funny way of going about it. But still, there's that semi-extended middle finger, so who's he sending a message to?
February 21, 2005
Letter to the Paper ILI
World Changing ran a recent article entitled How Green Was My Atom taking apart a prior paean to nuclear energy. Since getting the entire world to a 1st world lifestyle is not achievable using any one energy source, I found a great deal to take exception with in the article. My critique (in their comments) is below):
Evidence of Moderate Islam
I'm very glad I scrolled down to an older Donald Sensing item at One Hand Clapping. I completely agree that this moderate Islam article is both important and exciting. The $64,000 question for those who equate islamism with the whole of Islam has always been how such a dysfunctional ideology could have survived so many centuries.
The answer that this article comes back is that Islamism didn't because it isn't of ancient pedigree but a modern mutation that is less than fully rooted in the events that led to the writing of the Koran. Essentially, this article places modern Islamism within a tradition of Islamic puritan movements that crop up every once in awhile and then get beaten down by mainstream Islamic forces. Apparently there have been several episodes of this sort of thing in the past.
None of this is indicative of whether non Wahabbi/Salafist/puritanical is not also fundamentally incompatible with modernity. In fact, if it wasn't for mainstream Islam's long downhill slide, the Wahabbi/Salafist puritans would likely not be so advanced. That's largely a fight for another day, though.
The decline of mainstream Islam is going to have to be corrected internally or the religion is going to eventually disappear. Managing that decline is a delicate job, one that seems to have gone amiss lately. Hopefully in future they will do better.
February 19, 2005
Maria: Daddy, George took a hammer and tried to beat me!
Considering the ICC
This article by Thomas Barnett led me to consider the ICC a bit more. The idea of "moving the pile" and reconfiguring dialogues so that they don't just go nowhere is a powerful one but I wonder if all the variables are properly defined as variables.
The fundamental problem with the ICC is that it exists at a supranational level and is a part of the corrupt UN constellation. Judges are already the hardest part of the government process to keep honest and reigned in with accountability. By their nature, they need to be divorced from immediate political accountability in order to render retail justice without favor to the powerful. If they go rogue, independent justices pose a difficult problem in reigning just the rogues in without destroying systemic independence.
The current iteration of balancing the two classic problems of a judiciary is not to our liking, so we're sitting this institution out right now. So where are we? Are we just a late signer onto a fundamentally sound institution or are we the last hope of rescuing the world from a fatally flawed implementation of international justice.
Dr. Barnett's right that we will eventually need something that fills the organizational space that the ICC currently occupies. That doesn't mean that it's ever going to happen with the ICC as it's currently constituted. For advocates of us signing on to the ICC, accountability questions have to still be answered in light of a world where the UN system was so obviously corrupted by a 3rd rate dictator like Saddam Hussein. For those who do not think the ICC should have US participation, the question remains of what do you put in its place that would be workable. Would a pay to play system work acceptably where the proportion of contribution to the judiciary is calculated by the 5 year average of your contribution proportion to the SysAdmin force?
Both the US and the UN had early false starts (the Confederacy of the United States and the League of Nations respectively). There's nothing magic about the ICC treaty that mandates that we have to accept the first round if it's fundamentally flawed. But that doesn't excuse us from moving the pile forward and committing to a structure that would be better. If the ICC is fundamentally flawed, it'll eventually collapse. It would behoove us to be ready with version 2 when the time comes.
Letter to the Paper IL
Tech Central Station has an ultimately disappointing examination of dhimma from a muslim perspective called Reductio ad Jihadam. I wrote the author a letter expressing my dissatisfaction.
February 18, 2005
This is the top news blurb on Debka as I write:
The dog that didn't bark here is, of course, Iraq's transitional government. Liberals are spreading about the idea that the new government is in thrall to Iran. It seems like Khatami hasn't gotten the news.
February 16, 2005
Dick Meyer complains about bias complaints saying that an accusation of bias is a conversation ender. I don't agree. I've seen the same dynamic that he has, I've been accused of bias myself. What I don't accept is that bias is anything more than a start of a conversation. "Yeah, I'm biased. And your point is?" is the attitude I take.
The honest truth is that if people who have different biases can't talk to each other and work out their differences, the Republic is doomed and we might as well just start the civil war now. Just because Dick Meyer is biased doesn't mean that he's wrong, it just means that he's not necessarily giving the other side a fair shake in his own presentations. Examining his blind spots, and my own, would lead to a pretty interesting conversation if good humor and good manners don't flee the scene entirely.
The partisan press doesn't much suffer from accusations of bias. Everybody knows that The Nation is on the left and National Review is on the right. When they show bias, it's not a failing but part of their explicit business plan.
I think that for CBS, the problem is very much their own business plan which is to sell their news offerings as objectives. It's the hypocrisy of saying your objective but not delivering the goods that gets so many people's riled up. Whether objectivity is available at all is another question but CBS offers it up and sets themselves up for failure when their reportage is rated by media watchdog groups like FAIR on the left and AIM on the right.
Stop offering up hypocrisy, measure out your bias, let people know what it is, and suddenly it's a badge of honor, not contentious in the least. That's really the tragedy. CBS and the rest of the MSM could end the bias wars by just labeling their product honestly, authentically providing the viewpoint they wish to without any cover of false objectivity. Too bad they have yet to twig to that fact.
Poor Scientific Review
Vol. 81, No. 6 (June 2000) of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society contains an extremely eye opening article on poorly conducted, peer reviewed science. According to the article, meteorology has been on a 20 year slide in scientific quality with more and more papers being met by fewer and fewer comments (a drop of more than 50% in commented papers in that period). The lack of comments seems to have had some serious effect as to scientific validity.
I was led to this paper by a comment on a general item on the poor state of peer review, especially in climate science. Steve McIntyre undertook to verify a central study in the IPCC report, the MBH 98,99 "hockey stick" graph and uncovered enough error to pretty conclusively demonstrate that (irrespective of what theory is ultimately right or wrong) the entire world has embarked on a global warming crusade without checking for scientific validity.
Huge diplomatic rows between the US and so many countries in Europe may be based on bad science. Global growth may be cut needlessly and millions in the third world prolonged needlessly in their poverty in part due to papers that can't survive outsider fact checking. The two sides in that controversy have set up dueling blogs with the pro-warming side being answered by McIntyre's show your work site.
Bulky Law Review Articles
Prof. Bainbridge asks why are law review articles so long. He comes to the conclusion that people are ballooning their articles so that student editors understand the basic concepts in the field relevant to the article and thus understand why the article is worthy of being published. If the basic stuff is just there for the editors, why include it in the article at all? Why don't authors simply include an editor's briefing pack and leave the article itself slimmed down and just covering what it should?
Russ Nelson is unhappy with historical economics, or using past data to make predictions of future stock price moves. I'm 90% of the way with him but I do have a 10% caveat. Stock prices, as part of a complex system, are chaotic, in the sense of Chaos theory. In that sense, finding whether there are attractors or strange attractors should be able to increase your profit potential based on past data analysis. The patterns won't entirely hold but even small increases in predictability can lead to large increases in profit. Chaotic patterns don't hold, but they almost do, and almost may well be good enough to increase profitability over strict fundamentals investing.
Some AIDS Sanity Emerges
The gay community, after a quarter century, has finally started catching up with public health officials.
Once this new ethic takes hold, whenever it finally does, and creates a new homosexual consensus, I would expect that infection rates will finally start dropping from their depressingly persistent rate of 40k a year. Once we figure out the long-term effectiveness of these common sense measures, we can start counting the corpses of the unnecessary dead, the people who could have been saved but weren't because of liberal political correctness and homosexual militancy.
RIP to the victims, by then most of the perpetrators themselves will likely be deceased.
HT: Michael Williams
February 15, 2005
Building a Business
Starting up a medical practice has certainly widened my horizons. Currently I'm waiting for a call back from a real estate agent. I'm climbing the learning curve to build out a PBX for the first time in my life, and I was hunting for a truck with a gate lift so I can move some 500 lb exam tables later this week.
I love it.
Imagine an idea tag. Whenever you put an idea in an article, you would surround it with the tag. The tag would have all the parameters of the idea inside the tag. What are the parameters of an idea? I'm not sure of all of them yet but they would include constraints, confidence levels of overall truth, and all the other little voices of doubt and hedging that we all have, but usually don't include.
Once an idea tag is promulgated, the problem then becomes how do you parse it and properly represent the parsing. That's another post.
February 14, 2005
I listened, with sadness, about the bombing of Rafiq Hariri's convoy, killing him and many others. I was tuned in to NPR and they were providing both original reporting and broadcasting a BBC item on it. Nobody said a peep about Hariri's politics, which faction he belonged to, was he in the government or the opposition, nor was there any mention of Syria. There were so many elephants being ignored that you could have made up a circus show out of the herd.
It wasn't until I read Debka that I found out that Hariri was in the anti-Syria faction, that the bombing had enraged the entire opposition and united them across traditional sectarian lines. Debka gets many things wrong but at least they understand who is on whose side and report it. The MSM is pathetic when it can't even get the basic relevant facts out.
Progressive Conservatives, Reactionary Liberals
TCS is running a neat article called Anti-Powerfulism examining the strange reactive stance of the Left to President Bush's "almost revolutionary program". It seems to me that we're facing a very new phenomenon, the phenomenon of the reactionary left and the progressive right. Whether it's going to be sustainable is a big question. Either the progressives on the left will come up with a competing positive agenda to Bush's or they will leave the left, loving progress more than the label. That fracture would geld the left and stick them in permanent minority status. The right has fracture issues to as Patrick Buchanan has shown with his championing a reactionary paleoconservatism that is downright grumpy.
The rest of the world must be horribly confused.
February 13, 2005
"No Special Deals" Act of 2005
Disregard: Thanks, Hank, for pointing out that I was operating off old information (20 years old in fact). The CSRS system which was outside Social Security is grandfathered in, but is not the pension system of new employees. More facts here
I can imagine a very quick way to turn the Social Security debate into a route for the private account side. Simply propose a "No Special Deals" bill which would dump government workers right back into Social Security in whatever form it is starting 2015. It would strengthen the finances of Social Security as more money entered the system. Its passage would put very powerful government unions on the side of reforming the larger program. And any opposition to it would look elitist and awfully hypocritical for the "party of the little guys", the Democrats.
I can't imagine that the Republicans aren't going to continue point out the hypocrisy of government workers getting a private accounts deal while their unions and their friendly representatives fight tooth and nail to keep that deal away from the general public. After all, it was a highly effective line in President Bush's State of the Union speech. Why shouldn't that be put into legislation? At the very least, a bill will be drawn up and circulated to the government worker union leaders. They'll have a choice then. They can either keep their superior retirement plan and put pressure on Democrats to vote for partially privatized Social Security or they can see that draft bill introduced and get their retirement fates tied to the Social Security system they fought so hard to escape from.
February 12, 2005
Slow Joe Biden Strikes
Building up an armed force from scratch can take a generation. For basic soldiers it's much shorter, of course. But NCOs take longer than privates, officers still longer and ultimately, your generals can take that generation to grow and mature into their roles. Most people understand that. But even green troops that are inadequately trained can stand and fight. As a statistical matter, they're just less likely to do so. Most people understand that too. Apparently not Joe Biden. He believes that
I did a long quote to provide full context but the bolded section is the money quote. The reason that administration officials couldn't say how many Iraqi forces can operate independently is that they, quite rightly, did not want to impugn the courage or honor of those Iraqi troops that would stand and fight and could stand and fight without the training wheels of US backup. We know this because in the past, the blogosphere has celebrated instances of Iraqi units calling in for US support in the form of more ammunition and asking the US military to stand back otherwise.
Senator Biden is apparently comfortable calling the vast bulk of the Iraqi armed forces incompetent and hinting at cowardice. That sort of confidence sapping analysis is simply not acceptable for a person in a position of power and responsibility. Shame on him.
Donald Rumsfeld gets it right
Again, the bold is the money quote. Shame on Sen. Biden.
February 11, 2005
I was reflecting on the whole Ward Churchill/University of Colorado mess and one phrase stuck with me. The people who died in the WTC were "little Eichmanns". I wonder, what made the dishwasher at Windows on the World a little Eichmann? Was it the building he was working in? That would be absurd. If he worked in the Chrysler building would anything essential change about him? Of course nothing would have changed so, essentially, we're stuck looking for the essential characteristics that make even the most humble victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns" and thus not innocent.
After much thought, I've come to the conclusion that the only thing they had in common was being taxpayers, contributing to the US government and working in the private sector. That means that there are tens of millions of little Eichmanns in the US. You'd wonder what makes Ward Churchill not a little Eichmann? On that question, I've got nothing.
Two Down, Five to Go
In the great Apple/Microsoft rivalry, one of the big points in Microsoft's favor has always been its stock performance. Apple has been lapped by Microsoft 7 times at the peak of Microsoft's lead with stock splits after stock split favoring Microsoft's business tactics. But the latest split was Apple's, not Microsoft's and today, Apple announced another split at 2 for 1. For financially minded macophiles, it's a very sweet story.
February 09, 2005
Sloth: The Novel
Mark Goldblatt writes occasionally for National Review and usually very well. But this time, he wrote well enough for me to want to write a note to him so I took a look at his website and found this (read down to find the book excerpt).
I will be buying Sloth, or whatever it's titled when it goes to press. The excerpt is a real gem. Go over and read it.
Iraq Election Results Delayed 1 Day
Iraq's election results will likely come out one day late as protests and recounts force further checks to ensure the integrity of the vote. Considering our own election problems, a day behind schedule isn't too shabby. There doesn't seem to be too much shouting going on about the delay but it's useful to note it. I do wish we had a better scorecard so we even knew the parties who were sure to be seated and the parties on the edge who were fighting for representation.
February 08, 2005
The River Lethe
Arianna Huffington is a boob at the best of times but outdoes herself in her Iraqi post-election coverage.
No, let's not drink of the river Lethe. Let's not forget Bush's prewar AEI speech where he talked about Iraqi liberty either. Freeing Iraq was no plan D. Though there were plenty in the Pentagon that hoped that Chalabi could be a stand-in for George Washington, nobody wanted to give him a crown (as some americans wanted to give Washington) at any time. Chalabi is a remarkable man. Proof positive is available for anyone with eyes. When he was cut off from US support by the machinations of his enemies at CIA and State he built himself a real, independent power base, justifying his defenders' faith in him.
Arianna extends the fog of, if not forgetfulness, at least ignorance with this.
The elections are based on party lists with 4000 candidates vying for 275 spots. Individual name recognition is usually close to nil in these cases. In such cases the world over, people generally vote for party and platform, following local, neighborhood opinion leaders who they trust. The gutsy ones who put their name out early will reap the reward of early leadership, the rest will rise and fall on their merits in legislative action. Parliamentary elections can be a wild ride, first elections on that principle even more so. This does not make them illegitimate, merely strange to an american audience.
More bits of idiocy follow:
Truman was really getting crushed by Dewey 7 months prior to our own elections of 1948 but that was cold comfort for Dewey the following January as Truman took the oath of office. All polling has a shelf life and this little chestnut is long past its expiration date. The very fact that we promised elections and delivered has to have a huge impact on Iraqi perceptions of the US. It was reasonable, in June 2004, that some Iraqis would think that we were not going to deliver on elections. As the votes are counted, it is not so reasonable anymore.
The piece de resistance is worth commenting on:
While we're not forgetting things, let us also not forget that the entire country chorused that "everything changed on September 11". Our vital interests have been redefined in a way that only a Radical Republican could do it. We're on a march for freedom worthy of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Theological quibbling over the exact place to put Jesus in the assembly of monotheistic holy men aside, that's a song that can stir muslims as well as christians even if they call it jihad and we call it crusade. Arianna's test marketing a path to return to 9/10 America. Let's not forget the ultimate price for a comfortable return to old habits.
Tyler Cowen steps into the copyright debate, prompted by the Supreme Court's addressing the issue of P2P. He decides to take an economist's point of view. Or does he?
His first point (of three) is puzzling.
First, bemoaning the death of an industry because new technology destroys its business model is very rarely economic thought. You might as well bemoan the decimation of the buggy whip industry with the coming of Ford's Model T. The creation of IP has little to do with the DVD or pay-per-view trade. If content creators can find a way to make more money via new methods, the passing of intermediary mediated pay-per-view will not be a tragedy.
It's simply not true that movies prompt no further sales. Some do so today and quite shamelessly as any parent knows. If you knew that every bit of clothing, furniture, or other items that appeared in a movie were available at the movie's website for easy purchase, a significant revenue stream would be had, for instance. If the ancillary revenues from selling products placed in the movie were enough, free distribution would increase revenues to the producers of the movie. While this would shake up the distribution industry, perhaps even as much as the buggy whip manufacturers were shaken up by the introduction of the model T, it's no loss that an economist should be crying over.
Tyler Cowen's 2nd point is betterr, but not by much.
This is half right. Any economist worth their salt should know in their gut that there are at least two solutions to most problems, one major being the stick of legal enforcement, another being the carrot of superior product/service tempting people to do the right thing. In this case, Tyler lays out some "stick" related reasoning but entirely ignores the possibility of carrots. Apple's iTMS shows the way here. Price your product reasonably, make it easy to get, and you'll explode the available market. Here's a case in point. The 2003 Galactica pilot is available on DVD for about $20. I'm not paying $20 for it, the price is too high. If it were available at Hollywood Video I'd rent it for a buck or two. If it were available as a download, I'd probably pay $5 because it's worth $3-$4 to avoid the hassle of ripping. You price your wares too high, you use distribution chains that are too expensive and your market shrinks.
So which model is right, the carrot or the stick? That's an entirely other question but it's a good bet that both have their uses. The stick works an awful lot better when there are plenty of pleasant, legal carrots around to munch on and carrots increase their appeal when a stick is handy to discourage the use of illegal alternatives.
Turning to Tyler Cowen's 3rd (and final) point, he goes downhill again.
One of the major problems of the copyright extension act was that it actually stopped the flow of product from protected to public domain. That means that the creative "watering" that new public domain material provides is gone from the US scene for the next 20 years for any extended product. Extension could have been done 6 months every year for the next 40 years and achieved the same eventual length as the actual legislation but it wouldn't have dried up the well completely. Of course, such legislation wouldn't have been nearly as popular. That change in popularity would have been telling.
The truth is that the people have suffered a taking without compensation and we're in danger over the next two decades of forgetting the original intent of the system, temporary protection and eventual shifting to public domain, reasserting the fundamental right to copy, in exchange for increased creative product on average. When, 15 years from now, the next extension bill wends its way through Congress, an entire generation will be out there that will not have felt and understood the utility of public domain intellectual product. That's a danger to our constitutional system as corporate interests try to creep us back to the old English system of permanent IP protection. That system is gone because it led to stagnation. If economic analysis doesn't fit the historical data, there's something wrong with that analysis.
February 07, 2005
I just came across a great description of podcasting the phenomenon of doing radio over the net in downloadable files that you easily transfer to your iPod or other music player. It lays out the groundwork for the current state of the field as well as its potential to become a commercial force as threatening to broadcast radio as weblogs are to print media.
One thing that didn't come across in the article is the potential commute productivity enhancement that this could provide. Imagine a script taking your unread email, having your computer read it, make sound files out of each email, and loading the files onto your iPod so you can listen to your emails while you drive. You can process the information while driving without any more distraction than talk radio would generate (and yes, boys, this paragraph's prior art for patent challenges down the road).
Reading off text is old hat for Mac customers (the capability has been embedded in the OS forever) and there are plenty of good programs on the Windows side to do it too. You just have to figure out how to make .mp3 files and not your speakers be the output device.
February 06, 2005
That ratty rat race
Bombarded by demands far in excess of what was true in the past, we lose perspective, we make poor decisions, we are frazzled.
Sounds like we need better support systems that generate less noise to signal. More on this theme later. I just wanted to put the link above as a note on Decisions Support Systems (DSS)/Thought Support Ssystems (TSS) for future use.
February 05, 2005
Gay Marriage Judicial Activism
Orin Kerr reports that a NY trial judge has ruled gay marriage legal. The opinion is online (pdf). It's difficult to know where to begin but there doesn't seem to be any basis in this decision to defend marriage as an institution for only two people. If marriage is maleable enough to extend it to effective tripartite marriages (two women and a male sperm donor) it seems a short distance to pulling the rest of the guy into the arrangement beyond renting his gonads. You can also attack consanguinity regulation of marriage on equal protection grounds because we do not limit marriage between people who have as high a risk of genetic defects as uncle/neice pairings would. This is just really poor and I hope this summary judgment decision gets squashed quickly.
SOTU 2005: Education Noose Tightening
Continuing my belated SOTU analysis, here's a bit on education:
The argument on the right over NCLB was always about giving too much away to Ted Kennedy. Those on the right who supported NCLB claimed that the giveaway was worth it because the noose around incompetent teachers and dysfunctional schools would be tightened step by step over time. The other side didn't buy the idea that continual pressure was politically possible. The noose tighteners seem to have won a round.
Corner and Kill Friedman
Every once in awhile Thomas Friedman goes absolutely bonkers. His idea of a Geo-Green movement is downright pernicious:
In reality, productive reform requires more capital flowing into a society, not less. Cornering a regime and killing off an economy leads people straight into the arms of the extremists, in this case the Islamists. Under crushing, punitive sanctions in the '90s, Saddam started getting awfully religious for a secular tyrant. He changed the national flag to include a religious saying in arabic script. He famously gave enough blood to write out an entire Koran, and he also went on a mosque building spree with some really unusual architecture cropping up. If an authoritarian regime doesn't have money to stay in power anymore, fanaticism is cheap, if dangerous.
This Geo-Green strategy is one that will put these societies in a corner and when they lash out at us (perhaps in another 9/11?) we'll have to kill them off. Instead of doing that, we need to lead them out of their current dead end and give the elite an exit strategy that makes lashing out to retain power highly unattractive. I don't see how $18 a barrel oil is going to get us there.
One fortunate thing about the scheme is that we're not going to get $18 a barrel oil again until after the end of the age of oil. We need a huge amount of energy to bring India and the PRC to the 1st world and we just can't drill enough to do it. All the conservation in the world isn't going to satisfy 2.4 billion people who want to go from a yearly per capita consumption of 1 barrel a year to a first world level of 25. In a sense, it's a moot strategy because any significant downward pressure on oil is simply going to get swept up in further buying in south and east Asia. That dynamic isn't going to change until we get a disruptive advance in energy.
February 04, 2005
Sinclair and Shareholder Primacy
Professor Bainbridge wrongs the cause of shareholder primacy in his analysis of Sinclair over the showing of Stolen Honor.
Bainbridge quotes Tom Smith extensively on the matter to the effect that the Sinclair effort is a textbook case of shareholder activism gone amok. In fact, it is just the opposite.
The threat that Bill Lerach and the NYS controller issued was, essentially, to beat down Sinclair's share price via politically motivated selling and judicial action below Sinclair's normal market clearing price. This is a profit opportunity in big screaming capital letters. Yet nobody came to Sinclair's rescue to the benefit of their investors.
No similarly sized market player came and announced that they would be glad to take the money of the pensioners of the State of NY in favor of their own fund holders at bargain prices. If the pension funds of TX, OK, and GA did that, the NYS pension fund threat would evaporate and people in the pension system in NY would start complaining that their agent, the controller of NYS was not acting in their interest. In a better world of shareholder activism, significant chunks of the pension system funds would be taken from the controller's control over the affair.
The Lerach threat of lawsuit was toothless as Prof. Bainbridge himself noted except as an invitation to actual shareholders to sell stock. With a major seller appearing and preannouncing a major sale and no major buyers stepping up to the plate, Sinclair capitulated. But it is the imbalance between activist sellers and activist buyers that caused the problem, not the existence of sellers and buyers acting outside their obvious economic interests. Furthermore, the entire affair is mischaracterized as a war between agents and shareholders but it was not because the true owner of the money isn't the state of NY but rather the pension holders who have imperfect control over their own agent. It was a fight between one form of agent (corporate directors) and another (fund management directors).
Shareholder activism is imperfectly done in the US today and there is a political imbalance among activists that is of concern. That imbalance is at least partially caused by Prof. Bainbridge and others like him who, I suspect, get a much more favorable hearing on the right than on the left.
No matter how much people tut tut over the crass shareholders exercising their rights to buy and sell as they please, some are going to do it on non-economic grounds. It would improve things if we institutionalize the practice and have activists on all sides in that fight. Otherwise we are going to get repeat after repeat of this sort of browbeating from the left.
Sunni Parliament %
According to the CIA World Fact Book the ethnic and religious balance is as follows:
Since the overwhelming majority of Kurds are Sunni, that means that 12%-22% of the population is Sunni Arab, the only group of any significance that boycotted the recent elections.
Based on these percentages, between 33 and 61 seats should end up being Sunni held if the Sunnis are to be represented up to their numbers. Anything below 33 seats and they're certainly underrepresented. Anything above 61 seats and they are overrepresented.
When the final results come out, pay attention to the ethnic breakdown. If the number falls out of the grey zone of 33-61 seats for Sunni representation and you see people making excuses for underrepresentation or denigrating overrepresentation, you can safely dismiss the opinion as not having a reasonable link to reality.
Managing the Decline of Microsoft
Assuming the Bill Gates is not just being a lying weasel (never a sure bet either way) Microsoft's strategy of embrace and extend just died.
Interoperability has always been something that Microsoft always tried to poison. They would support standards until they had the upper hand and then "extend" them until only Microsoft tools would allow you to conduct your day to day operations. This has antagonized so many that they're in danger of losing their dominant position. Microsoft's going down because of it and their only hope is to make a reliable promise of interoperability so that large customers can depend that there will never be a next time of being forced into an MS solution when it's not the best solution available because of purposefully placed interoperability problems.
Apple's in the same boat (OS X is a walking testament to the strategy) and if Microsoft's joining them in that uncomfortable boat, they realize that they're only going to thrive by legitimately being the best.
Well, it isn't the first time that Microsoft's promised interoperability but here's to hope, hope that Bill Gates is not being a lying weasel again.
Under the Weather
Absolutely miseravle, confined to bed, cranky as hell, if my wife doesn't take away the laptop, I have a lot of unhappiness to share.
Altruism at Davos?
Jay Nordlinger catches something important at Davos:
The significance of the matter, unfortunately, is lost on him. It isn't a moment of geopolitical altruism but of hard headed realism that prompts the president of Poland to devote his entire time in front of the movers and shakers of the world in praise of another country. All seam states, states on the fault line between Core and Gap, between competing civilizations, have very uncomfortable lives. Not only do they want to get on the right side of the line (based on whatever system you draw these lines) but they want to no longer be on the border. Poland praises Ukraine because it's in the club today and wants to stay in. retrenchment and loss of the most recently gained territory is a fact of life of power blocks throughout the ages. Poland simply doesn't want to be on the "most recently gained" list. It not only wants in the first world, it wants to be secure in that membership. Security is pulling somebody else behind you so they, and not you, are the sacrificial lamb, if a sacrifice is called for.
February 03, 2005
Dr. Barnett Doesn't Like Verticalization
In its entirety, I thought the SOTU was about taking the broad, horizontal strokes of his Inaugural address and starting the process of verticalizing them, getting into detail and starting up Bismark's famous legislative sausage machine to actually get stuff done. Dr. Barnett finds this boring:
I'm getting the message that Dr. Barnett is a fellow who simply thrives on the horizontal and doesn't much care for the vertical. Unfortunate, that, because I'd estimate that 90% of the actual work of changing the world is in verticalization of the kinds of horizontal concepts that he does so well in PNM and elsewhere.
Retarded Suicide Bombers
When I say retarded suicide bombers, I don't mean they're rhetorically mentally deficient, I mean literally. The technique seems to be to take up (by force) the mentally impaired and put remote control bomb vests on them, point them towards their targets and simply tell them to go walk towards it.
This is sick, disgusting, and utterly beyond any legitimate military tactic in any code. Unfortunately, I've got no doubt that there are fatwas out there in support of this. I'm looking forward to the unified roar of condemnation from all mental health professionals, all muslim scholars and every decent person out there of whatever faith (or none at all).
The hard part is in figuring out what the proper punishment is when you catch somebody who does this kind of thing. Treating them the same as military POWs can't be it though.
SOTU 2005: Fiscal Restraint
More SOTU commentary:
Now there's a marker to keep an eye on. I'm really looking forward to getting that list of 150 government programs. Unfortunately, fiscal restraint in the non-entitlement sector isn't going to be enough. Fortunately, we've finally got a president who is taking the entitlement bull by the horns. More on that later but right now, as Social Security keeps building up a balance on its trust fund, keeping growth below inflation will be sufficient. If we wait to reform entitlements until those trust fund dollars start to be redeemed, actual current dollar cuts are going to be required avoid exploding the deficit or imposing ruinous tax increases.
SOTU 2005: Now, Details
Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of this Capitol and renewed the commitment of our nation to the guiding ideal of liberty for all. This evening I will set forth policies to advance that ideal at home and around the world.The problem of way too much analysis of Bush's 2nd Inaugural speech revolved around the mistaken notion that it was an independent set piece that stood on its own. Here, President Bush made clear that it wasn't, that it was just the thematic proclamation with a great deal more detail to come in this and likely further speeches. If we're very lucky, speaking about the progress of freedom in the world will become as obligatory as saying "the state of our union is confident and strong" for both this president and future presidents of both parties.
White House Press Passes
I had a lot of time on the clock yesterday in my car and decided to tune in Rush Limbaugh. As usual he was entertaining and bombastic. One of the issues he covered had deep implications for public issues bloggers. Apparently Talon News Service has been getting one of its men in to the White House Press Pool for press conferences on daily passes for over two years. I hadn't ever heard about daily press passes before (thanks! Rush) and they sound intriguing. A quick perusal of the white house web site left me with no rules but did give me a switchboard number. Hmm... *beep* *bop* *boop*, leave a message, and hopefully I can get the actual requirements reasonably soon.
I don't know whether I'd ever actually apply for one but I can certainly see circumstances when I'd want to. I can certainly see where the blogosphere would generate lots of people who want one. Ultimately, those rules are going to come out, hopefully in a managed, orderly way. If not that, there's always FOIA.
SOTU 2005: Overview
I got to see most of the State of the Union (SOTU) speech but really didn't feel up to blogging about the thing at the time but I'll be writing a series of articles today (time willing) on the subject. The speech is available both in video and text forms from the White House.
February 01, 2005
Ah, So Much Better!
I've finally found a good renicer for Mac OS X. All Unix variants come with some way to prioritize code but usually they're ugly CLI utilities that require opening up a window and typing. Process Wizard works well and has entirely eliminated a problem I've been having with Safari chewing up all my CPU cycles and freezing up on me.
Hats off to La Chose Interactive for making some nice bits of freeware.
Letter to the Paper XXXIX
I just came across a neat bit from Karl Popper (who I have to get to reading one of these days).
It really stopped me short because possibly the most conspiracy theory heavy locus on the planet is the muslim Middle East. Theorizing that obscure conspiracies are the fault of all that goes wrong in the world does seem to show a decided lack of faith in God.
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.