April 30, 2005
Police Murders are More Dangerous to Society
Michael Williams muses on a huge investigation he ran into over a LAX police officer's slaying. He's wondering if all that fuss is worth it. I believe it is.
Criminals generally understand that if they kill a police officer, their chance of making it alive to trial just dropped considerably. Their chance of getting a fair trial went way down as well. Their chance of surviving prison is not too good either. All of these things are simple reality but what is the effect on our society?
Criminals, if they were as unafraid of killing police as they are of killing anybody else, would simply target police with a terror campaign just like they target everybody else. Without police protection, chances are that wide areas of municipalities, even entire municipalities, could realistically be taken over by criminal gangs. Criminals do not do this in the main because they fear the consequences of killing police officers, and rightly so. This reduces the number of times that we have to impose martial law on municipalities because they no longer are able to provide a republican form of government.
The prohibition on police murders puts the criminal class perpetually on defense. That makes their depredations ultimately manageable by local civil authorities. No matter how good a criminal organization becomes, the continued existence of the police spells its eventual doom.
I wonder how often criminals kill police in latin american countries that often slip into martial law. I also wonder if police there impose the same sort of "don't ever kill a cop" rules on the criminal class in their country.
April 29, 2005
Apple Tiger: launchd
I'm going through Ars Technica's Tiger review. The first thing that surprised me (in a good way) shows up on page 5, launchd. This really shows the benefits of Apple arrogance and anal retentiveness as applied to longstanding Unix world problems.
Launchd does just that, it manages startup of the various system services in a unified fashion instead of the "patch on top of patch" system that Unix has lived with for decades. As somebody else described it late last year "Launchd is kinda init, mach_init, xinetd, cron, System Starter (seems very nice indeed, drop XML files into a dir saying I want to receive network connects on this port, start at this time, when load is so low etc)". Launchd is represented in the article as an open source project but I couldn't find it. It should be available as part of Darwin, though so the fact that it's not listed separately is not very important.
The absolute arrogance of thinking that you can swim against the tide and change something that basic and functional to the operation of Unix and get enough people to go along with you is breathtaking. It's also a core differentiator and competitive advantage of Apple.
April 28, 2005
Stratfor Predicts PRC Crash
Out of e-mail, Stratfor's weekly freebie notes that the PRC is signalling that it won't be able to make good on its WTO commitments to open up its banking sector starting in 2007.
The bad loan portfolio flowing from state-owned government banks to is, according to Stratfor, between 1/3 and 2/3 of the PRC's GDP of $1.5 trillion (which is the best I can figure is the PRC's current exchange rate GDP). That means that keeping the PRC elite on top of their powder keg society has put them in the hole somewhere between USD 500 to USD 1000 billion.
If they sold off their entire USD currency reserves, they might be able to cover their bad debts but even then, they wouldn't have a banking sector left. That means a hard crash, mass unemployment (those SOE behemoths are still losing money hand over fist and would die without regular loans that nobody expects to them to pay back), and a hard crash that leads to the classic fragmentation/warlord scenario.
Nobody wants the PRC to hit a hard crash because nobody really wants to bet that the resulting warlords running splinters of China are all going to be reasonable about whatever nukes fall into their hands. I think, therefore, that Stratfor's a bit on the pessimistic side. People will throw them a lifeline, extend their WTO transition, lend them money, whatever it takes to avoid the possibility of a nut with a nuke.
We're often reading stories about how this or that government is willing to tariff the PRC in order to keep out their "unfair" competition. It's useful to read about it coming from the other side too.
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April 27, 2005
Something Stinks in the UNSCAM Investigation
Why have two principal investigators resigned on principle? Why have their resignations been characterized in segments of the MSM as being resignations because their work was complete?
Something stinks. No matter where you stand on the UN generally, the UNSCAM scandal is a huge blot on the organization's reputation and with investigators resigning because they were not permitted to investigate properly, things seem to be taking a turn for the worse.
April 26, 2005
Russia Implosion Survey
It seems like the Russians themselves fear national disintegration as a major issue for them. In other words, it's not just me. While a large percentage think that there are outside forces at work, trying to promote Russia's disintegration, less than 1% of the 52% who identified a cause of disintegration said that "western influence, external influence" will be the actual cause of the disintegration that they fear is approaching. Social problems/social inequality is the top issue (9%) followed by economic strife and war/peace issues (both 7%).
It's a remarkably pessimistic sentiment. Fortunately, we're not likely looking at a renewal of external scapegoating anytime soon as >1% is just not politically useful to even the most dedicated demagogues.
Letter to the Paper ILIII
Publius Pundit is puzzled by Putin mourning the Soviet Union This isn't the first time that Putin has done it. It's also not surprising that he is doing it as Putin is failing at the most important task he has, finding a proper replacement for the USSR in the imagination of the people. Below is what I put in comments on the thread.
April 25, 2005
Waiting for Papal Heraldry
Pope Benedict's web page is up. In contrast with his predecessors his coat of arms has not been put up yet. No doubt, they're still working on it. This is a sign that it's not something he's just going to slap together just so his stuff can be differentiated from other popes' writings and objects. When Pope John Paul II picked a coat of arms whose saliant feature was a big M for Mary on it, it really meant something, that he was going to elevate Mary and push forward her style of femininity as a model for women. It's quite likely that Pope Benedict XVI is considering exactly that sort of symbology as well, we'll see. It's just another of those objective signs to look out for to see where this Pope is heading.
April 24, 2005
In a recent roundup Dr. Barnett, of Pentagon's New Map fame, reiterated his pessimism on the election of Benedict XVI
I think that Benedict is going to be a very good transitional Pope, one that is going to make the 1st "Southern" or "Gap" pope much more effective when he's finally elected. Right now, the College is disproportionately concentrated in historic dioceses that have lost their faithful but not the tradition that a red hat goes to the local bishop. That has to get fixed.
As someone who has been the doctrinal enforcer for JP II for so long, Benedict is going to be able to shift the red hats around to a far greater extent without protest than someone from the South/Gap would. Nobody's going to worry that Benedict is going to revive liberation theology by sprinkling Latin America with new cardinals. There might be more concern if it were a pope from that region doing it. Suspicion of region favoritism is not a good way to maintain peace in the College.
So here we have an objective measure, something that you don't need to be an insider to see. If Benedict is truly a "circle the wagons" pope then he's not going to increase the representation of Africa/Asia/Latin America. If he isn't, he'll do it in order to realign power in the hierarchy with people in the pews and make a transition so that the next time around, the Conclave will have an awful lot more diversity and the old European power bloc will be weakened.
There are likely other objective measures to watch for but this is a big one. If the College simply shifts out of eurocentricity under Benedict XVI and becomes more distributed, it will be a worthwhile papacy as far as Gap progress is concerned.
What Would you E-mail the Pope?
Pope Benedict XVI has email (firstname.lastname@example.org). So what would you write to the Pope? Would it be a request, a complaint, a joke? Does it matter how you can reach him? Does papal e-mail make a difference at all?
I have to confess that it does make a difference for me. It makes me much less reluctant to contact Rome. If I were to use the address, it would most likely be in the form of a cc: or bcc: in the case of something that I felt strongly about. I'd also probably send him an e-card for his birthday and when he inevitably has health problems, a get well card.
I don't delude myself that he answers all his e-mail personally. Heads of state have staff for that. I'm sure that like everybody else at that level, he gets exceptional pieces forwarded to him and summaries of ordinary correspondence that got shuffled off to the appropriate subordinate (or /dev/null for the wacky stuff).
I really hadn't thought of papal e-mail until I read that Benedict XVI has it. It very much modernizes and humanizes the man in my eyes. I wonder how many other techno-geeks are thinking the same thing?
HT: Catholic Light
April 23, 2005
Adding to NAFTA
What if, instead of waiting for Latin America to get its act together and sign a hemisphere-wide free trade treaty, the US were to offer NAFTA entry to it's next closest neighbor after Canada and Mexico? That neighbor isn't who you think, though, it's Russia.
In one fell swoop, the bloc calculations of most of the world's diplomats would be overturned. Russia would be immeasurably strengthened vis a vis the EU. The PRC would have to give up any dreams of moving north into Siberia. Best of all, the Russian psyche would be stroked in a way that is likely to be very healthy for world peace. Instead of viewing themselves as being encircled, they become part of a huge economic bloc where their huge resources would give them a large say in what goes on but the mostly economic form of the relationship means that they won't have to worry about being swallowed up politically. This is something that EU membership negotiations would run into and it would be a formidable problem.
The very idea would draw huge controversy on a scale that would be reminiscent of "Seward's Folly" the purchase of Alaska. In fact, it would probably dwarf it. The results, however, would likely be similarly beneficial in the long term. In fact, it would probably turn positive even quicker than Alaska because of the purely economic nature of this new relationship.
Our nearest non-contiguous neighbor deserves at least as much consideration as Honduras, Belize, or Paraguay as a potential free trade partner and realistically a great deal more. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be getting it. That's a real pity.
Drawing Catholic Maps
I'm a great fan of Thomas PM Barnett and I think that his idea of drawing Gap and Core maps are very useful in analyzing the political and economic world. In the case of politics and economics, the maps are very congruent. Generally political connectivity and economic connectivity go hand in hand.
Not everything follows the same map lines. Religion can draw the same sort of map, where thriving areas and challenged areas are marked out all over the globe. The maps can be very different even inside a faith. As far as roman catholics are concerned, Chicago is chock full of churches, so many that some must be weeded out. They are too dense on the ground in some spots. For Romanian Byzantine Catholics, the metropolitan map looks very different with two parishes in Aurora, a parish in E. Chicago, and only a lone mission up on Fullerton inside the city proper.
Taking this insight into the Church in general, the election of a German cardinal takes on a different cast. Where is Germany today in the map of the Catholic Church? Is it inside the Core? Is it inside the Gap? is it in a seam state between the two?
Certainly, the infrastructure is there. There are hierarchs galore but not too many actual people sitting in the pews on Sunday. There aren't all that many vocations either, as far as I can tell. A vibrant, powerful church in Germany is simply not a reality today. It would be interesting to know how much of the FRG is considered "mission territory" today.
It would be entirely proper if some of the European cardinals are simply not replaced when they pass away or retire, leaving their seats vacant. The red hats can go to areas where there are more faithful, where the Church has been more successful. This is not likely to be monitored much in the international press but it would signal a realignment of power inside the Church to better reflect reality and would also increase the chance that the next conclave picks a pope that is entirely out of Europe.
The press will notice when they tote up the red hats and find that there aren't as many europeans any more and will trumpet the news around the world. If we're a bit more observant, we can do better than that.
Doing Important Business
Ken Salazar believes that we shouldn't delay important business in the Senate by talking about judges that are controversial and will be filibustered. I think it's disingenuous but there's a legitimate point buried in there somewhere. The Senate is not normally a 24/7 shop. Simply add an hour on to Senate operating hours for every hour the Senate debates judges. That way the Senate will not overly delay other business by considering judges. If there were a shred of legitimate concern in this complaint, this measure would relieve it. I don't think, in the real world, that anybody on the left would be particularly happy if this compromise were offered.
Fareed Zakharia spots a problem with conservative defenses of sovereignty. They are generally political in nature and ignore the economic sovereignty compromises that an awful lot of international institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, et al.
Zakharia ignores two things. First, economic sovereignty is simply not on most conservatives' agendas. Free market liberalism, a tremendously powerful current in american conservatism, is ultimately an internationalist current. It's not surprising that economic internationalism is OK in most conservatives' eyes. Ultimately, economic internationalism is a system of voluntary arrangements.
The same is not true for political internationalism. Since governments are inherently institutions that make rules backed by force, political sovereignty has a distinct character that is unique. In the ideal westphalian system, each state has a monopoly on violence. When you give up sovereignty, you risk tyranny. There must be feedback loops for the control of the highest political class so that ultimately the people are in charge, not some micro-elite accountable to nobody.
The feedback loops for international political organizations are horribly inadequate. Pedophiles in the military extorting child sex for food, sexual slavery rings that feed into prostitution houses across the first world, graft, theft, extraordinary fiscal malfeasance on top of a willingness for too much of the world to sell their UN vote and you have a mess that would trigger Thomas Jefferson's right of rebellion if these world government wannabees were actually in charge.
Under stress, conservatives return to first principles. President Bush is replaying the Radical Republicans present at the founding of the Republican party. The world clearly is discomfited by this. If we were ever to come under rule by the jokers who staff the political internationalist elite, the UN crew and company, we'd go back to Jefferson and the world would tremble.
Instinctively all conservatives know this and they know that political sovereignty must be maintained so long as the replacement is inferior. There is absolutely zero prospect of a superior political system emerging out of the international system as it is currently constituted. We're going to go through at least one more major upheaval in the system, on the order of replacing the League of Nations with the United Nations, before we have a realistic chance of getting something sufficiently good to consider political sovereignty as even on the table for discussion. To be honest, I don't think just one round will be enough.
April 21, 2005
Something Good From Canadian Medicine
Essence of Marijuana approved for sale under the brand name "Sativex" under the standard of "safe and effective". I do wonder whether the 30 day rule will come into play here.
Not only should this provide a real opening for the medical folks who would like to use marijuana to properly treat pain and nausea but it should also provide a useful lever for the agricultural hemp growers who would love to be able to add a billion dollars a year to the agricultural sector of the US economy by using hemp for fiber, paper products, oil, and other legal uses.
The hemp ban is particularly stupid but there's very little that's smart about US marijuana policy.
April 20, 2005
The Advantages of Polygamy
I've long worried about the problem of marriage, that the reasons for it being what it is have long been untaught, unexamined by society. This made any defense of marriage hollow because we really hadn't worked out why the thing was useful to start with.
There was one exception I encountered pretty early on in my own life, a long ago (1993, I now know) magazine article in an issue devoted to the subject whose cover was "How Polygamy is Good for High-Status Men and Low-Status Women". For an influential conservative magazine, that was awfully provocative and it did its job. I've remembered that title line for over a decade.
I finally got around to finding the darned thing.
By special arrangement with National Review, I've gotten permission to reprint that article. Without further ado, here is "Monogamy and its discontents; challenge to western sexual values" by William Tucker.
Why sexual morality, apart from religious edict? As both the highest and lowest strata of our society demonstrate, a culture abandons monogamy only at its peril. "It is remarkable that, little as men are able to exist in isolation, they should nevertheless feel as a heavy burden the sacrifices that civilization expects of them in order to make a communal life possible." --Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion AMERICA IS in a period of cultural crisis. For as long as we have been a civilization, monogamy, heterosexuality, legitimacy, and the virtues of marital fidelity have been givens of nature. The major religions have sanctioned them, as do four thousand years of Western history. Out-of-wedlock births, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual "deviance" have always existed, but have never laid claim to the mainstream.
April 19, 2005
God Bless Benedict XVI, nee Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, our new Pope. He's moved from chief prosecutor of the Church to the top job, a career path that is quite familiar in an awful lot of free societies. May God bless him, keep him, and guide him in the maintenance and improvement of the world's oldest continuous bureaucracy, the structural skeleton called the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. May he provide an inspiration and guide the spiritual formation of the faithful to greater fidelity to the Divine Plan and greater wisdom among us all.
April 18, 2005
The Scandanavian Model is Dead
Even the NY Times finally gets it. Scandanavians are no model for an economic future. They're not even a model for Europe.
Europe itself is generally poor compared to the US and falling behind.
Longtime readers might remember that I made mention of the study last July in an article on maternity leave.
This leaves "progressives" in something of a pickle. Who will they point to as an example now? Soft-socialism hasn't installed a gulag but it has installed high poverty (by our standards) and large brain, ambition, and hard work drains. Who would ever want that?
Without an external model to point to that works, progressives have only the history of their own initiatives to fall back on and that isn't a very good record. It is domestic failure of "progressive" programs that led to the reliance on pointing to external "successes" in the first place.
The US political model relies on two poles fighting it out in an adversarial process, improving each other's work so that the country can benefit. The economic pole on the left has disintegrated to the point that the NY Times can no longer deny that the economic ideal it has pushed for decades leads to drastic increases in poverty. This implies huge changes on the horizon.
April 17, 2005
Japan Inc. Redux
Thomas Bleha must love the movie Rising Sun. There's an awful lot of Japan envy in that film, with bumbling Americans always one step behind the wily Japanese. There was a lot of that sort of thinking in the 70s and 80s. Japan was cleaning our clocks, their bureaucrats were promoting key industrial players, managing competition, and increasing efficiency. We were doomed to play second fiddle to the land of the rising sun.
It didn't work out that way.
Here's an article that fits right in with those pessimistic times. The Japanese are picking winners, subsidizing broadband, and will reap the fruits of all that fiber in the ground to gain a new broadband future with lots more economic growth. And you know what? He might be right. The managed competition method, like a stopped clock, does work every once-in-awhile. The benefits of the model are and have always been highly visible. It's the costs that are hidden and remain hidden.
The costs of subsidizing bandwidth vary by population density and the US has one of the lowest population densities of the entire 1st world. Australia beats us out but nobody really talks about their amazing broadband national coverage and it's for the same reasons.
Aside from a throwaway line ("The United States' vastness no doubt complicates the task, but it is no excuse for not undertaking the job") the problem of wiring the US remains largely unexamined. Canada has the happy circumstance that its population is largely concentrated in a band on its southern border. US population is concentrated in several noncontiguous megalopoli, the NE corridor that starts around Boston and runs along the coast to around DC, the West Coast Megalopolis that runs largely between San Francisco and Los Angeles, The Great Lakes megalopolis starts in Wisconsin and stretches all the way to western NY. There is also a South Florida one and several other wannabees like the emerging Texas "Triangle Cities" one.
With clumpy population separated by large distances, the cost of wiring a national infrastructure goes up while the relative benefit goes down. Network effects mean that the larger your network, the better your results. We're trying to cover 10 times the area to gain twice to three times the population node connectivity of Japan. That means that the cost to benefit ratio is somewhere between three to five times better for them.
The natural result of this is that we're going to lag. We're going to wait for costs to drop and use cheaper networking methods as they arrive as our . Goosing progress by dumping money into a national network infrastructure initiative is not only risky in that it will tend to give us bad habits, it is also going to cost us more for less benefit.
The geography of our nation, the distribution of our population, all mean that we're forced to play the "second mover advantage" game when it comes to broadband, at least until we figure out how to take a couple of zeroes out of lift costs per kg or some other sort of way to get data networking platforms up above us cheaply.
We can go expensive now or we can adopt a multi-platform competitive approach and try to encourage new entrants so that they quickly improve the cost to deploy and maintain bandwidth infrastructure. This, essentially is our current position with the FCC trying to spur innovation so that a national broadband rollout makes sense. Waiting patiently has never been a US strong suit but we're doing it now and actually playing the game pretty well. It would be a shame to ruin things and merely imitate solutions that do not scale to our particular density profile.
April 16, 2005
James Pinkerton is horrified at the possibility of . He thinks that Republicans are behaving badly, contrary to the interests of their party. They may very well be but reform is absolutely in the interests of the country and should go forward. The huge mortgage industry in this country will survive the end of Fanny/Freddie's government guarantee. In fact, both institutions will likely remain in business, if at a more modest scale.
What will be gone will be the systemic risk of institutions that have grown too big being able to take down the entire market by their past, present, or future bad behavior. New competitors will enter the market. They will take market share to a certain extent and by doing so increase the probability that home ownership can be sustainably expanded in future. This is important because the positive effects of homeownership are effects that are felt over the long term. It makes no sense to goose the market for 15 years and suffer a crash, creating a crisis of confidence in the entire system. The Freddie/Fannie nexus threatens to do exactly that.
There is no "right" numeric percentage of homeowners to renters. All things being equal, homeownership is better than rental. But when home prices spiral out of sight while rental prices barely budge, the cure is to cease enticing people into expensive homes with below market rates and let the market balance itself out. It is the balance that must be preserved to maintain market sustainability.
Harold Meyerson is really pushing the hypocrisy charge past all reason. He claims that Mexico City's PRD (hard left) mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is being shuffled out of contention for the presidency in 2006 by ginned up corruption charges. It's a wonder that Mr. Meyerson thinks his own credibility is worth muddying up due to his support of such a dubious figure.
If the Mayor's finance minister blows $3,000,000 on Las Vegas casino's the Bellagio is in league with Mexico's president and an international list of conspirators to take the mayor out of contention for the presidency. This is the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy writ large, with lots of hot rhetoric and no evidence whatsoever despite repeated promises.
If Mayor Obrador decides he doesn't like a judicial decision, he seems to have a regrettable tendency to just ignore it, whether it's to build a road that has an injunction in place against it or detaining Spanish workers putting up street kiosks under a legal contract Mayor Obrador doesn't like. The full Wikipedia entry has an entire section devoted to these and other controversies. Apparently, the federal prosecutor delayed prosecution until he, himself was at risk of indictment for obstruction of justice and asked for Obrador's immunity to be lifted.
So here we have some sleazy little land seizure deal, a prosecutor unaccustomed to actually prosecuting government figures on illegal expropriation of land, and Harold Meyerson makes it an international case of hypocrisy that President Bush hasn't protested the indictment of a personally popular mayor who is fond of spinning wide conspiracy theories and surrounding himself (at the very least) with corrupt figures who have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
That's just sad.
April 12, 2005
Safeguarding the Republic
Leftist sneers about chickenhawks and the "fighting 101st keyboarders" are way over the top. For the past couple of days, I've been looking at a Jonathan Fund article that shows how wrong they are. You can't have a republic without proper elections and the governorship of Washington state was decided in a way that, frankly, stunk. The number of dubious votes far outweighs the margin of victory and they are overwhelmingly concentrated in areas controlled by Democrat partisans.
It would be just another example of a bad election were it not for SoundPolitics.com who has kept the issue alive, done extensive original research, and generally served as a rallying point for people who want their elections decided by the people, not by hacks willing to break the rules. That's a real defense of the republic. It's also something that really isn't the domain of our uniformed fighting forces.
The US has been accused of slipping away from a republic and becoming an empire in all but name. As long as we have honest elections, we will never actually lose the republic. The consequences of empire are too ugly to long endure. As long as citizens have enough tools to gather together and speak out, resisting the traditional tools of transitioning republics to principalities/empires we'll keep the republic that the founding fathers gave us.
April 10, 2005
The Flattening World
Thomas Friedman has a good article on how technology has made the world, or at least the competitive playing field, flat. There's an awful lot of truth to what he's saying, including the problem of our educational system shortchanging the next generation of US workers. The problem is that he misses a significant upside. As the PRC, India, Russia, and all of the rest of the 3 billion people added to the playing field of global competition start creating their own design houses et al, they're going to need more labor than they can manage to scare up at home for manufacture, support, et al. At some point the direction flows of outsourcing will stop going one way and become multi-directional with some work being outsourced to North Dakota because Shanghai's wages are just too high to do it locally.
Friedman is right when he says ''Girls, finish your homework -- people in China and India are starving for your jobs.'' It's only that he's missing the flip side of it. We won't be left with no jobs. We'll just get the ones that they're doing right now, the low paid, hard, dirty jobs to fit our standing in the new global meritocracy. It sucks to be poorly educated.
April 07, 2005
This article complains that Scott McClellan has stock responses to an awful lot of questions regarding Iraq and that he sticks to the script instead of letting himself make news by veering from administration position. In other words, he's doing his job and doing it the way he's supposed to.
Instead of bemoaning the fact, they might consider asking new questions that nobody has written a stock, scripted answer for. Here are five to start:
1. The world's underlying foreign policy assumption of national sovereignty was set in 1648 at the signing of the Peace of Westphalia. Tony Blair has explicitly called for us to move beyond Westphalia. Does the administration agree and when are we going to start the national conversation on what chucking aside 350 years of rules means?
It took 20 minutes thought to think up five questions that are unlikely to involve rote repetition of previous talking points. It wasn't that hard and given an hour that I don't have I could probably come up with another five. If I were doing this for a living I'd probably go through the federal code and come up with one per Title and rotate through them. I'd do that because I believe in informing people, not in taking part in a stylized kabuki interrogation.
I think that the press has created Scott McClellan, or at least his job description. If he had a wide variety of questions, he wouldn't be so drilled in repeating the same answers to the same questions over and over again. The public would be better informed, the chance of actually breaking news would be higher because no human being can be briefed on everything that the executive is doing. The government's grown too big for that.
The problem with my style would be that you wouldn't have so much "pack" journalism and that would mean that it wouldn't lend itself to partisan baiting and ideological combat but rather to really informing the public on a great deal more of what's going on. Wait a minute, that's a feature, not a bug.
Republican Schiavo Idiocy
Well, it looks like the Democrats didn't plant the Schiavo "talking points" memo. As soon as the fellow confessed, he resigned. Good riddance. It's sad that Mel Martinez couldn't get competent staff straight out the gate but hopefully he'll pick himself up, dust off, and do better with Brian Darling's replacement in future. I would be very surprised to hear the name Brian Darling associated with Republican politics in the future.
Captain's Quarters is an excellent blog (and where I found the Schiavo memo story) and I recommend that anybody but Canadians look around for its excellent commentary on a wide variety of issues. Canadians should consult the Gomery Commission and their legal counsel before proceeding to view such jury pool tainting stuff.
[self-censorship note: I originally had a link to CQ's front page around the word "proceeding" but deleted it because it might be too provocative.]
April 06, 2005
A Great Start at Looking at Marriage
I've been in search of this article for years. It takes a simple, profound look at marriage as an institution and builds up a reasonable way to look at marriage, why the state should discriminate among different forms of sexual relations, and how libertarians shoot themselves in the foot when they support sexual libertinism. It's a very good read and should be part of the foundation of any serious discussion of marriage policy.
I'm going through the Democracy Corps March 2005 polling where this ugly piece reared its head and bit me
The second sentence is simply nonsense to me. "[T]he Clinton family defeats the Bush family on who should lead the country in the years ahead" is just so abominably wrongheaded and anti-republican that it's breathtaking. It's the politics of clans, of aristocracy that is behind that phrase and that leading Democrat pollster/consultants said it says something truly sad about the current state of the Democrat party. Democrat, Republican, or other we all should be concerned about the fate of the republic because there is a natural anti-republican tendency that goes along with being number one for so long. We have to stay sharp and strangle any impulse to aristocracy, to elitism, to the birth of an empire or we will, at long last, finally have lost what the founding fathers have given us. In Benjamin Franklin's famous turn of phrase, we have "a republic, if you can keep it". We need to keep it and keep it strong.
French legitimacy has been much on my mind of late and here's an article showing how it's playing out in the real world. Essentially, the problem of legitimacy came to a peak in 1939 when a hollow France unexpectedly collapsed. De Gaulle took the duct tape of meritocratic elites rising via examination and the baling wire of a large European Union (of course guided and dominated by France) and renewed French legitimacy enough to keep France alive if never really healthy.
The corruption scandals and the trials it is producing in France are unraveling the elite's legitimacy and the European Union has grown too large for France to be a dominant force in it even when their proposed constitution is written by a frenchman. Eventually, the acid drip of convictions (and no doubt bought pardons) will eat away and reduce the duct tape of the legitimacy of the elite to insignificant binding power.
The voters of France are poised to say "non" to the constitution on May 29th in a referendum and the results will be catastrophic to the continued integration of Europe if present trends hold. When that happens there goes the baling wire. At best we will enter a holding pattern where further integration will be stymied by institutions that will tend to work against progress and, more likely, europe will start to backslide.
When finally, either now or later, legitimite has completely eroded and the France of 1939 makes its full reappearance, do we have any idea what to do? Will we just ignore it until the smallest little wind blows down a completely rotten France and establishes some new European insanity? Or will we engage France, challenge her to reestablish herself on some sustainable basis?
April 05, 2005
Should Oil Wheeling be Illegal?
Imagine three people in a line, A, B, and C. A and B both have a commodity that C wants. A has three units and needs to use one, B has one unit and needs to use two and C has zero units and needs one. Let's further say that it's cheaper for B to sell C his unit and buy two from A than for C to buy from A and B to buy from A. Should B be allowed to make the more efficient deals?
Illegalizing that sort of trade seems to be what Sen Ron Wyden is after. The US can sell Alaskan oil to Japan for less money than Japan can get it from the Gulf. The US then increases imports from Venezuela to make up the difference, saving on net shipping costs. Japan saves money, the US makes a small profit on the deal, and Venezuela sells its crude closer to home instead of shipping to further off customers.
No doubt, if we were to get into some sort of national crisis, we'd keep our oil home and the Japanese would have to pay the Gulf States' "Asia premium" of up to three dollars on each barrel. So who should get the extra money? Gulf producers or should US oil companies split the money between them and worldwide consumers?
Unfortunately it takes 2-3 paragraphs to explain why such trades are a good idea and only one sentence or two for demagogues to argue that they're against the national interest, crying economic treason.
Don't Trust WEP
The FBI demonstrated how long it takes a competent team of crackers to enter into a WEP secured Wi-Fi network. It took them about 3 minutes to break in. Don't even think of trusting your data security to WEP.
There is an alternative to WEP, called WPA. Unfortunately, for key lengths under 20 characters, it too is vulnerable (in WPA's case, you can make a dictionary attack). It looks like I'm going to be investing in a RADIUS server after all.
Canada Corruption Scandal Censorship
I had a dry little note about the Canada corruption scandal and the Gomery Commission. There wasn't much original work to it, merely a link to where you could get the skinny. Since I'm in the US, Snappingturtle.net server is in the US, and I have little respect for foreign censors, it seemed to have little down side for me. Right before I hit submit, I remembered. Bruce Rolston, the fellow who set up this little corner of the web for me is Canadian. After a quick phone call, I found out that the fellow whose information is on the whois record of the domain is also canadian.
As a courtesy to my hosts (on request), I won't post the link here. As a courtesy to my readership, I will always talk about episodes of censorship and self-censorship that pop up in my writing. The Google search term "Gomery Commission" provides all necessary background information on the publication ban so those of you who legally can access Google (probably not the KSA, PRC, or possibly Canada) you can educate yourself there. I am not a lawyer and apparently you should consult one before you search the web these days on what your particular jurisdiction's legal requirements are.
God help us all.
April 04, 2005
It looks like the labor threat from the PRC is peaking. If we can just survive a few more years, rising wages will reduce the threat from the PRC and US manufacturers will no longer be swimming against impossible competitive conditions.
I've lived this story before. In the 80s it was the Japanese who were supposed to do us in with their unbeatable system of a manic workforce with industrial planning from the MITI led top. The Japanese threat receded, the PRC threat is about to. All that is left is greater creativity, greater production, lower prices, and a more varied culture commercially available all over the world.
Before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I expect to hear this story again but the PRC and India were the big ones. No other possible rising power can swamp globalization by putting so many money starved workers on the world market and caused the developed economic Core to recoil in horror, replicating the pre-WW I withdrawal from globalization's promise.
It's a very good year.
April 01, 2005
Pray for the Pope
It looks like the Pope may be in his final moments. I think that his final work may come to be seen as one of personal example, one of how to die a proper death. May he have success and may we all grow in wisdom from his witness.
Scary EuroSoc Fact of the Day
The Telegraph, writing about the EU's sad joke of a process to liberalize service employment buries this bombshell on paragraph 13
I can't even begin to imagine what a 25% unemployment rate would do to this country. This is depression level unemployment in any normal context but for Sweden, it's just another day of eurosocialism business as usual.
The really infuriating part is that you can still find people that, to this day, claim that Sweden is a model society pointing the way towards a peaceful implementation of socialism.
25% unemployment, amazing.
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