Saturday, November 30, 2002

Eric Tam wrote a great piece that rips apart the statistical foundations of a particularly clueless David Frum article about Canadian vs. American health care. It's yet more proof of the extent to which right-wing types will go to make their point, and the sadistic torturing of innocent statistics which they use to prove it.
Scoobie Davis is a great read and a useful resource in documenting exactly how and why the right wing's media power creates such huge problems with the American national discourse.

Want proof? Go check out his "very brief conversation with Limbaugh... a case in point of how the American right has a huge home field advantage when it comes to information transmission (as well as disinformation transmission)":

LIMBAUGH: Here’s Scoobie in Los Angeles. Hi, Scoobie. Welcome to the EIB Network.

SCOOBIE: Hello, Rush. How are you doing?


SCOOBIE: Anti-dittos.

LIMBAUGH: Thank you.

SCOOBIE: I agree with Al Gore in the sense that the right-wing media is an uneven playing field that disinforms people.

LIMBAUGH: You know, I have to laugh. I am loving this. You actually—you agree with Al Gore that that there is a right-wing media conspiracy?

SCOOBIE: Absolutely. And you’re really on the forefront of that—along with the Moonie Times, what you call the Washington Times—which is nothing but a Moonie newspaper.

LIMBAUGH: Now, Scoobie. No need to be bitter here--just because it prints news that you don’t see anywhere else.

SCOOBIE: No, disinformation. Let me give you an example—[from this point on, I was muted. I was beginning to explain the Moonie Times smear of Bill Clinton’s 11/01 Georgetown speech (see below)—a smear that Limbaugh broadcast to his listeners as fact. I discovered that Limbaugh was talking but that I couldn’t interject anything into the conversation. When I played the show tape back, it confirmed that I was muted.]

LIMBAUGH [talking to himself because I’m muted. Rush did that the last time I spoke with him]: No, it’s not. Scoobie, it isn’t disinformation. The Washington Times reports factual things. It reports things that you won’t see in other newspapers and sometimes it does. I mean, some of the news is common, but it also—it reports things that happen, say, at a Daschle press conference that the New York Times will ignore. It reports things at an Al Gore press conference or a Clinton press conference that the Washington Post and New York Times will ignore. They just have a different filter with—through which they look at the news—same as I do...

REALITY: Being a talk radio host is a good gig. If you can’t stand the heat, mute the caller.
Aside from showing that Rush is a cowardly shadow of a man, it's a good example of scoobie's willingness to get up-front-and-personal with these people.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Here's an interesting correlation. First, we've got Timothy Noah examining a Wall Street Journal article:

[The] class that the Journal frets is not paying its fair share in taxes isn't the rich. It's the poor. When the poor don't pay sufficient taxes, the difference must be made up by the rich. As of 1999, according to the Journal, Americans whose income put them in the top 1 percent paid 28 percent of all income-tax revenue. By contrast, in 1986, the top 1 percent had paid only 26 percent. That the income tax is 2 percent more progressive than it was 16 years ago would not be deemed news on any other editorial page. To the Journal, it's a crisis.

The editorial's indignation is richly comic. By the sixth paragraph, Gigot and Co. are fulminating that a person earning $12,000 pays a mere 4 percent of his income in federal income tax. (It's doubtful there's a single full-time employee on the Wall Street Journal's payroll whose salary is this low.) Why does the Journal want to whittle down this group's disposable income? Not out of sadism, it turns out, but rather because it wants these people to vote Republican. (Who says the GOP doesn't reach out to low-income communities?) The Journal wants poor folks to hate their government, and that can only happen if they're overtaxed. No pain, no electoral gain.
Now, this is funny. Extremely funny. Gut bustingly funny. But it's also enlightening.

Why? Well, for that we'll go over to the Observer, where Josh Benson looks at Al Gore talking about the media:

"The media is kind of weird these days on politics, and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party," said Mr. Gore in an interview with The Observer. "Fox News Network, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh—there’s a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media …. Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks—that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what’s objective as stated by the news media as a whole."
The Republican satellites here were quick (and utterly predictable) in claiming that there is absolutely no truth to these allegations. Yet if Noah's characterization of the WSJ editorial is right (and it probably is), we've got one of the most important elite newspapers in the country proving Gore's point!

It's sad, really. I've never really bought the media spin on Al Gore, and have always been of the opinion that the portrayal of Gore has more to do with a general anger at Gore being somewhat intimidatingly smart, intellectual, and wonkish... especially compared to the easier and funnier story of the admittedly more approachable Bush's mangling of the english language. This hostility towards Gore (and kid gloves for Bush) have continued to this day even without the "fifth column" as Gore put it (or "vast right wing conspiracy" as Hillary Clinton referred to it, for they are different manifestations of the same thing). It's up to the point where even the media that isn't a weapon of the GOP is spending more time attacking Gore with old and moronic charges than they ever spend actually, y'know, responding to what he's saying. Is it any wonder that he has such a low personal approval rating? How could he not, considering that the media has crafted a persona for him that the public can't help but pay attention to?

It's too bad, though, because Gore is absolutely right on this, and has demonstrated no small amount of courage in laying it on the line. If it were anybody else, it would be the charge that would get all the play, not the man (at least outside of the GOP sock puppets). Instead, we get idiotic pieces about "Gore changing himself again". As if that meant anything, except as yet more proof of the depths to which the mainstream media has sunk.

Edit: slight edit for clarity.
Ok, I've got a question... what are the names of the organizations that are the possible loopholes in the McCain-Feingold ban on soft money? I know Tapped had something on it a little while back, and I know it was a 403(c) or 501(b) or something, but I honestly can't remember.

Ring any bells?

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Great. I leave for a little while, and all of a sudden something like this flares up.

As Hesiod appears to be doing yeoman's work in dealing with SDB's baffling attempt to spin Jim Cappazola's control over his own blogroll into "censorship", I'll simply ask those who are interested to head over there.

(At some point, I will probably return to rebutting SDB's long and often sadly ill-informed essays. But not today.)

Edit: Actually, just in case SDB decides to link to me on this (as he's done in the past to my quick reactions), I will quickly stake out my position on this. Just as Jim has a right not to link to LGF, he also has the right not to link to anyone who links to LGF. Indeed, if he feels so strongly about it, to not engage in such a policy would be somewhat hypocritical, because an extra degree of seperation is almost meaningless when it comes to linking. It is consistency, nothing more.

SDB is also wrong about its relation to Mill's defense of freedom of speech. To do this is in no way a violation of Mill's ideals and arguments, as it is not in any way a violation of Mill's defense of the individual's voice against societal norms. It does not either socially or legally harm LGF's ability to disseminate information, nor is it or could it be an attempt to do so. SDB's assertion that Jim actually believes that he will influence society as a whole is absolutely and utterly ludicrous; a stretch even for the man who baselessly called me a cowardly megalomaniac based on my choice of reading material and pseudonym. Jim has taken a stand on an issue and a site that he finds disturbing and odious, and I respect him for that. That stand is as much an embodiment of freedom of speech as is the existence of LGF itself. In the current political environment in the Blogosphere, that stand is a violation of societal norms. It embodies more individual courage than anything Charles Johnson or his foolish, hateful little followers have ever written, and I respect Jim all the more for it.
There's an interesting story here, one that might well be overlooked:

President Vladimir Putin backed a proposal yesterday to reinstate the Communist-era red star on the Russian army flag, the latest in a series of measures to restore symbols linked to the Soviet Union.

"As far as symbols are concerned, I naturally support that proposal," Putin was shown on television telling officers. He said he hoped parliament's leaders would persuade lawmakers to back Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov's initiative.

Once the most recognized icon of the Soviet Union after the hammer and sickle, the five-point star never vanished but was phased out after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Putin's plan — if backed by parliament, as expected — would return the star officially to the military's enormous parade banners. Military caps and belt buckles would likely be next.
The question of what's going to happen with Russia over the next few years or even the next decade is in some respects an extraordinarily important one, but one that's rarely asked. Usually discussions of Russia revolve around its role on the U.N. or in regards to its position on Iraq, but I don't think that that's the whole story. Most of the stories I've seen in the media have either argued or implied that there's a very strong affinity to the past in Russia, especially to the days of the Empire or to the Union. Russian (and Chechan) nationalism is key to explaining the Chechnian conflict without resorting to anti-Islamic reductionism, and the desire for a strong leadership was a big reason why Putin was able to acquire and retain the level of power he enjoys.

While the Russian Military's adoption of elements of the old flag doesn't mean that Russians are going to embrace communism again, it does reinforce this idea that they aren't quite willing to give up the legacy of the Union. Not surprising, considering the lot that they've had to endure after the Union was unceremoniously thrown out the window by Boris Yeltsin. Considering the trend towards economic and political integration at work in the world today, however, it does raise the question about whether the Union, or something along that line, could return in the future. I wonder whether or not we might see a "Union of Sovereign Republics" in the future, sans the "Socialist" and "Soviet" names. It'd be one hell of a historical reversal: a vindication of Gorbachev's vision of a new Union, and a repudiation of Yeltsin's entrenchment of Russian independence.

In any case, it shows that there are stories out there that stretch beyond the confines of the Middle East and the question of Islam.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Found on BuzzMachine about that blog conference a little while ago:

Glenn says that weblogs solve the "problem" posed by, the book: that the Internet creates conversation only among people who agree with each other.
Weblogs point joyously to those with whom they disagree.
You have got to be kidding, Glenn. They aren't the refutation or the solution of the problem posed by

they're the embodiment of it.

He suggests a need for a study to see whether webloggers link more often to those with whom they agree or disagree.
I'd actually agree with this, provided that the nature of the link is taken into account, and if this were on a larger scale than simply a few large weblogs. After all, the point is the community as a whole, not a few big or convenient sites.

On the other hand, I do agree with this:
Reynolds says that games are going to have more impact on political life than weblogs. Games like Civilization make assumptions (e.g., appeasement doesn't work) that become rules of life for their players.
I do agree with this, although one of the ways that a good gamer is differentiated from a bad one is recognition of these rules and how to exploit them, and especially how to recognize when the rules have changed from one situation to another. A Tekken player who tries to use his abilities in Virtua Fighter is going to get savagely beaten, because he'll be trying to apply the wrong rules to the wrong situation. Indeed, a situation might arise where a player will think that the rules that apply to one game (a Tekken match) are universally applicable, and will therefore get beaten badly when playing any other fighting game. So it is with, say, trying to say that appeasement's failure during WWII is necessarily applicable to all other situations. There was an empirical study done a little while ago that suggests that appeasement is actually quite effective and that WWII was a historically-specific aberration. (Can't give out a citation; I'll see if I can hunt it down.)

Edit: The problems surrounding diplomacy in "Civilization" is actually one of the big critiques that has been levelled against the game. It is the increasing complexity of the modelling of interconnection- both economic and political- between civilizations that constitutes the biggest improvement in the game from Civ to Civ 2 to Civ 3 and presumably beyond.)

Mayhaps Glenn needs to play some different games.

Another Edit: After rereading and editing this entry, I am damned tempted to explore the political significance of various games. Maybe I'll ask Brad DeLong if I can borrow that precocious kid of his.
So, at what point do the libertarians figure out that tax cuts aren't worth this?

[A] farm worker here who was shot five times after a brief encounter with police... While the farm worker lay gravely wounded, a police supervisor pressed him to talk, to explain his version of the events. He survived, paralyzed and blinded, and sued the police for, among other things, coercive interrogation.

But Oxnard police assert that the Miranda ruling does not include a "constitutional right to be free of coercive interrogation," but only a right not to have forced confessions used at trial.

Bush administration lawyers have sided with the police in the case. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Dec. 4.
Police can hold people in custody and force them to talk, so long as their incriminating statements are not used to prosecute them, U.S. Solicitor Gen. Theodore B. Olson and Michael Chertoff, the chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, say in their brief to the court.
If I could, I'd show the picture of the guy. Instead, I'll invite readers to click on the link and look for themselves. Regardless, it looks more and more likely that the self-serving mouthing of the language of rights by conservatives (like Ted Olson) is about to get tossed out the window.

I can't wait to see the gyrations of the echo chamber as it tries to spin this one. Unless, of course, they just clam up about it and pretend it didn't happen.

(Courtesy of Atrios)

Friday, November 22, 2002


Is written by this guy...

and (I hadn't realized this) illustrated by this guy.

Brunching Shuttlecocks and Bob the Angry Flower. Two great tastes that taste great together. Now I'm tempted to set up an amazon link thing just so I can hype the book on this site.

Well, more so.

(Edit: Link Fixed.)
While I'm on Instapundit's (and others') favorite canards, the term "anti-idiotarian" is still the dumbest thing I've heard in a long while. (Ironically enough.) The blend of American nationalism, mild xenophobia and middling conservatism/libertarianism that defines most warbloggers does not a coherent political ideology make, and that name only makes it even more meaningless. Nice propaganda tool in the Mo Rocca's Magic Saddam Heads vein, but I would have thought that a college prof would know better. I mean, Lileks is one thing, but...

(I'm starting to think that Steven Cobert's "Dragon Slayers" idea wasn't as absurd as I had thought. Why not? Dragons eat people. Dragons actually eat fair maidens, which means children! You aren't in favour of dragons eating children, are you? Of course not. So you'll publicly support us, then.)

(Slight edit.)
Hesiod on the Burk matter:

It doesn't MATTER whether Burk's article was satirical or earnest! It's been a deliberate, ad hominem distraction from the beginning. An effort to discredit her, without having to address the merits of the Augusta National issue.

This is a common propganda technique of the right: When they can't win an argument on the merits, they create a controversy about some irrelevant side issue in order to distract everyone from the original problem.

Refuse to play the game on their terms.
To be honest, I disagree. As Doug Turnbull pointed out on this very site, Augusta is in many respects simply a sideshow. The real issue here is the very same tactic that Hesiod is referring to: the attempts to lie, prevaricate, obfuscate, or distract that characterize the right's attempts to win arguments.

Case in point:

There are other writings by academic feminists calling for the elimination of men and similar absurdities in dead earnest, though at nearly midnight I'm not going to run them down. But as a guy who once edited Catharine MacKinnon, I know a bit about this stuff.
That was Instapundit, and if you get up close to the post and take a sniff, you can probably identify the region from whence he pulled out this bald-faced assertion. The "Perfessor" has been arguing for months now that a double standard exists where the left can say things that the right can't, and has provided precious little reason to believe him outside of a few choice anecdotes ("the plural of anecdote is not data") blown wildly out of proportion and endless applications of the Big Lie technique. After all, if you repeat assertions like this:

a conscious or unconscious effort to dodge the real issue, a double standard about speech that everyone knows exists, but that the left dare not admit -- because its whole existence depends on both the double standard, and not admitting it.
..over and over and over again, assertions that most of your audience really, really wants to believe anyway, it can work wonders for redefining reality in their minds. After that, cognitive dissonance sets in, and trying to dissuade them from a notion that they've invested so much of themselves in is an exercise in futility. (Witness Dittoheads.)

Maybe that's the problem with the left in the U.S. nowadays. They just examine post-modernism. The right actually applies it.
Cripes, Finally.

In the wake of historic Republican victories on Election Day that many Democrats blame on their party’s lack of a clear message, Democratic lawmakers and consultants are calling for stronger liberal think tanks.

They say the party must find a counterweight to what they call the vast and well-funded infrastructure of conservative ideology.
No arguments here, although I've gotta wonder where the halls of academe are on this. The whole reason that conservative think tanks got off the ground is that they were getting all piss-and-moanish about how academia is too leftist, so why aren't the Dems taking advantage of what's there? They can't get that tight integration between think tanks and party that the Republicans get and will therefore still need to build up "movement conscious" think tanks, but they do have an advantage there.

Then again, maybe this is the big question:

Party allies even entertained the possibility of a liberal television network to offset Fox News, which they view as an adjunct of the Republican Party.
CNN certainly doesn't fit the bill, so maybe its time to mirror Faux. Sad in some respects, but perhaps inevitable.
This posting is actually one good reason why I'm quite happy to have my name beside The Rittenhouse Review. I'll simply reproduce it:

I can no longer in good conscience include on the Rittenhouse Review’s blogroll any weblog that has provided a permanent blogroll link of its own to the site known as “Little Green Footballs” or “LGF.”

It is with great regret and considerable lament that I have adopted this position -- or been forced to adopt this position -- as I am normally a passionate advocate of an author’s right to choose his associates and to establish and maintain her own chosen associations.

However, it has become painfully clear, to the extent it wasn’t already, that the hosts of LGF, while preciously coy about their own political persuasions, all too willingly and not without satisfaction have allowed their site to become a vile cesspool of racism, bigotry, prejudice, ignorance, and hate.

Little Green Footballs, its readers, and what can in fairness only be described as its many contributors, have long since moved beyond the realm of civilized discourse. And so I am determined to distance myself in every possible way from their endeavor and those who support it.

I fully expect to be raked over the coals for this decision, to be called all sorts of names, and to be disparaged with merciless unfairness and obloquy.

Too bad. There are times when enough is enough, and this is one such time.
I don't link to LGF, have never (perma)linked to LGF, and have nothing but scorn for that site. Thing is, I'm not even sure it's the worst, judging by some of the other winners that have graced my monitor recently. (Not naming any names or linking any links, of course.) I'm somewhat glad that a real left blogosphere has arisen to deal with these guys, but the extremity of the views is only growing. Considering how bad it is already, where it could be going is very scary, indeed.

I'm a little behind on this, but it's still worth noting that Letter from Gotham has ended. While I didn't agree with Diane on rather a lot of issues, it was well-written, and the page on which the "ending post" resides is quite interesting. Especially in light of this posting about warbloggers, which was both interesting and unexpected.

(One question, though: what on earth is wrong with "having [her] name near The Rittenhouse Review"? Agree with him or not, Cappozola is hardly extremist.)
Now THIS is refutation. Ampersand has gone to the time and effort of completely destroying another argument; not by the immature and ultimately pathetic process of namecalling and obfuscation that is "fisking", but the proper way... research, organization, refutation and with an objective and evenhanded approach to the subject. Hell, it includes a bibliography, which means there's no question about sources, either.

Is it blog material? I'm not sure; blogs are usually a quicker format, and are heavily influenced by the freeform rhetorical style of Usenet. Since blogs are web pages, however, it might be a good idea to remember that occasionally there needs to be more to a critical blog entry than linking to friendly sources and heavy extrapolation from barely relevant fields and experiences.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Ok, I definitely like this Spencer guy. For Example:

But, hey, welcome to the blogosphere, where the righties "fisk" things they don't agree with. This "fisking" process is a fascinating thing in which the righties miss the forest for the trees -- they spend their time harping on minute details and supposed flaws in logic while usually ignoring the larger (and often quite plausible) argument advanced by the writer. And, a lot of the time, they actually have the gall to call that "analysis." Amazingly enough, their supposedly "objective analysis" always supports their pre-conceived political notions. Imagine that. I'm sure that's just a coincidence, right?
Word up, dawg. And the rest of this piece is good as well... and apparently from October, so I have had no excuse not to be reading this blog. A problem to be rectified shortly.
I'm not sure if it's because the site popped up when I was on my little hiatus or whether I had just missed it, but Prof. Thomas Spencer's History News Network is an interesting read. Check out this piece on neo-McCarthyism (linked above):

I just taught about McCarthyism last week in my survey course and it was amazing -- and a bit disquieting -- the amount of plausible connections I could draw to the present. In 1952, Republicans used McCarthyist scare tactics to sweep to power despite the fact that there were no major economic problems at the time....

...Like their counterparts in the 1950s, Republicans today have also shown that, despite what they say about protecting America and securing freedom, they are not very serious about this at all. As in the 1950s, the policies they pursue actually threaten the freedom that you and I currently have instead of protecting it.

Republicans apparently haven't learned the most important historical lesson of the 1950s. While McCarthyism allowed Republicans to achieve certain political ends, the central historical lesson of the era is that the U.S. government actually curtailed freedom in the name of protecting it. The Bush administration's policies threaten to repeat that major mistake.

If the administration's policies continue to go down the path of curtailing the basic freedoms of Americans, W and the boys should be prepared for the rather harsh verdict of history that is surely to come.

And that's one thing I am certain about -- historians won't let this one get by them at all.
While Prof. Spencer does acknowledge that there isn't a 1-1 comparison between McCarthy and the current Republicans (like there ever is), the basic point is sound. Franklin's dictum about freedom and security weighs heavily here, and I don't know whether it's more tragic that these sorts of things are happening or that they're happening under the watch of the party that was at one point (theoretically) all about individual civil rights.

Come to think of it, if the Democrats jumped on this issue and if it became a serious one, I wonder if we could see another realignment? Tie together economic rights and civil rights and you've got a somewhat classically left-liberal rights based party in the Democrats, whereas the emphasis on security (and inevitable reemergence of the religious right) would suit a Republican party that returns to a somewhat more traditional conservatism.

The key, I suppose, is where small "l" libertarians will come down on this if this becomes a hallmark of the Republican party. While I'm sure they like those Republican tax cuts, the prospect of an agency whose members are politically appointed, socially conservative and damned near omniscient has got to be somewhat alarming.

Then again, the Dems might not want to touch this issue, and might have good reasons. Still, they need new ideas, and the first step towards rehabilitating the term "liberal" (besides a real, unapologetically liberal media outlet to match Faux or the radio ranters) is to connect the rights that Americans take for granted with the liberal tradition that gave them to them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Brad DeLong wrote about the best summary of that whole stupid Lopez/Burk business out there, noting that "The result, of course is that Lopez, Reynolds, and Porphyrogenitus are so busy slinging mud that none of them need to bother addressing the merits of Burk's case"... which was the entirely laudable goal of allowing women into Augusta National.

What killed me about all of this was Glenn Reynold's entirely unsubstantiated assertion that if a conservative tried to write parody or satire like this they'd get... well, he never really says, but it'd be something bad. I realize one of the raisons d'etre of Instapundit is to take cheap shots at the left by either taking things out of context, deliberately misinterpreting them or simply pulling the "I didn't say it, but somebody else might" gambit, but that doesn't mean it's not worth pointing out on occasion.

(Whatever happened to Instapunditwatch? There's been one entry in the past three months. Was the job of trying to fact-check IP simply too much work to handle?)

Edit: apparently, he's basing his assertion of general media trends on what he considers to be an overreaction to, um, a frat prank. I think that's even sadder than if he had just made the assertion and let it stand. Good discussion of this issue over in Brad's comments section, BTW.

Another Edit: Brad just said he was merely quoting Kevin Drum. Okay then, kudos to Kevin. Commentary thread over on Brad's site is still good regardless.
While we're discussing disasters...
The bill also provides greater legal protections for Internet providers, such as AOL or Microsoft Network, to turn over information about their subscribers to government officials during computer emergencies. If companies believe "in good faith" that there is risk of death or injury to any person, they can turn over details about customers — even their e-mails — without a warrant.
The problem here is the same as the problem with any sort of legislation like this... mission creep and the slippery slope. Right now it's just being applied to terrorism, but it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to imagine that the "injury" aspect could be defined any which way. Indeed, depending on the definition of terrorism here- and the one being used right now is pretty expansive- this could include not just real terrorist groups but NGOs, protest groups, and even (in the nightmare scenario) enemies and critics of whichever regime happens to be running the show right now, whether left or right.

Another part of the Homeland Security bill gives U.S. authorities new power to trace e-mails and other Internet traffic during cyber-attacks without first obtaining even perfunctory court approval. That could only happen during "an immediate threat to national security," or during an attack against a "protected computer." Prosecutors would need to obtain a judge's approval within 48 hours.
Experts have noted that U.S. law considers as "protected" nearly any computer logged onto the Internet
Again, the problem is definition of what is a "protected computer" or "a threat to national security". That latter category has been used as a blanket to cover up all sorts of awfulness all around the world, including in the U.S... who's to say that an unscrupulous prosecutor and a pliant judge couldn't get at all the email they wish?

PGP is starting to look real good right about now.
Uh oh.

A damaged tanker carrying about 75 million litres of oil broke in two off the northwestern coast of Spain and began to sink Tuesday, threatening an environmental disaster.
If the Bahamas-flagged Prestige loses its entire cargo as it goes down in stormy weather about 150 nautical miles off the coast, the spill would be nearly twice the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska.
Even though it's probably not possible, my "can't we do something about this?" knee is jerking pretty hard right now. Wonder if they can clone up a couple zillion of those oil-eating bacteria?

Monday, November 18, 2002

That being said, this still qualifies as somewhat of a positive bit of news:

Thousands of Iranian students demanding political reform have clashed with hardline militia groups in the capital, Tehran.
Witnesses said about 5,000 students gathered at the Sharif Technical University campus to protest against the death sentence passed down to pro-reform academic Hashem Aghajari earlier this month.
Ok, but check this out:

Hashem Aghajari belongs to a left-wing reformist political group, the Islamic Revolutionary Mujahidin Organisation.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not about to make the whole "these guys are obviously all the same" argument based on the name of his movement. Far from it... it seems to be an indication that relying too much on labels and generalizations is quite dangerous. It's also a worthy reminder that despite the claims of some, Islam (like any other religion) has reformists to go with its fundamentalists, even ones with names that don't resonate well in western ears.

More importantly, the protests show that young Muslims aren't necessarily the murderous thugs that they're often portrayed as. Important thing to remember nowadays. After all, it was Al Qaeda, not the Muslim world as a whole, that attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and is perhaps planning for more. Al Qaeda does not represent Islam, as much as they'd no doubt like to. Perhaps these kinds of protests are proof that the Muslim world doesn't think Al Qaeda represents them, either.
Damn.It looks like Osama made it out of Tora Bora after all.

American intelligence analysts said today that they had concluded that the voice on an audiotape that emerged last week was indeed Osama bin Laden's, and that the tape was made quite recently.

The authentication of the tape, while not unexpected, is quite significant in that it represents an official determination after almost a year of doubt that the terrorist leader is still alive.
Like most, I was under the impression that if Osama hadn't popped up by this point, he was probably a smear of organic matter somewhere in a cave in Afghanistan. Hell, when and if they actually catch the guy, I'd be rather grateful if they kept him alive long enough to ask him how the hell he got out in the first place... best guess I have is that he was gone before the Americans even moved in, but maybe he sneaked past.

Odds are he's somewhere in Pakistan, but if he were as much the supervillian as claimed, wouldn't he know that we were expecting him to be there and hang out, oh, at the French riviera recovering from his extensive cosmetic surgery? Disturbing thoughts.

More disturbing, actually, because it means that since the tape is genuine, and since it claims that there will be repercussions not just in the U.S. but around a good part of the western world as well, and since the credibility of his threats are pretty much hanging by a thread at this point, all signs would seem to point to some sort of coordinated attack on economic centers in about six different countries. Which would be hell to organize, but most of the countries in question don't have security as tight as the U.S. does at this point. I also wonder about those other two incidents in Moscow and Bali, although trying to boil down the Chechan conflict to radical Islam is a simplification that I don't support (nationalism has never exactly gone away, 9/11 notwithstanding) and it's dangerous to try to boil down every incident to one organization.

Looks like the United States military's famous ability to fight two simultaneous wars might well be tested after all.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Ok, I think I'll get back into the swing of things with a topic that I've been dealing with a lot recently: Iraq and weapons inspectors.

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 13 — Iraq said very reluctantly today that it would "deal with" a Security Council resolution obliging it to disarm and allow United Nations weapons inspectors to begin work, but it also denied that it possessed any prohibited weapons.

Most Security Council nations welcomed Baghdad's statement, which came two days before a deadline set in the resolution that the council unanimously approved last week. Iraq's response came in a nine-page letter that its United Nations ambassador, Muhammad al-Douri, delivered today to the office of Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Not overly surprising; Iraq knows that if they don't agree, they'll be giving carte blanche to the Americans to come in with guns blazing. I had thought that perhaps the parliament rejecting the resolution would mean something, but apparently not. Not surprising, if the NY Times is correct in calling it "vintage Hussein stagecraft".

The only trick here is, of course, their denial that they have any weapons. I think that if there is going to be a dealbreaker (or, more cynically, an opening for the U.S. to get their war), it's going to be this. The Iraqis probably aren't going to say that they have weapons, because it'd go against their line for the past few years and possibly have negative reprecussions within Iraq itself. They'll allow the inspectors in, and they probably won't block them from doing their work, but I doubt that they'll give an itemized list of what weapons they might have, either.

Oh, and one cute comment in the latter story:

In Washington, President Bush dismissed the Parliament's action, saying the only opinion that counts in Iraq is Mr. Hussein's. "The Iraqi Parliament is nothing but a rubber stamp for Saddam Hussein," Mr. Bush said. "This guy's a dictator, so we'll have to wait and see what he says."
Considering the cohesion of the Republican party and their newfound control of Congress (and their obligation to Bush for leveraging his popularity in getting it for them), that "rubber stamp" remark pretty accurately describes what the U.S. is in for, too.

Unless, of course, the Bush administration is dumb enough to set one Republican faction against another. Therein lies the question, doesn't it?

Well, I'm back. I finally got the computer fixed. Had a new motherboard and CPU put in, and it's now up and running. I'm not quite sure if I'm happy with the particular motherboard and CPU combination in question, but it was inexpensive and will serve my purposes for now. (For the record, it was an ECS K7SEM with what the startup identifies as an Athlon XP 1200 but which I have been led to understand is actually a Duron of some sort.)

So, in other words, I'm back. I'm still busy so updating might still be infrequent compared to, say, August... but at least I have access at this point.

Monday, November 11, 2002

I've got one word to describe everything that's gone on recently....


Personal yeep: it wasn't just the power supply. Actually, what the other problem was was in doubt for a while... originally it was supposedly a problem with the head on the hard drive, and then the installation of a new hard drive and replication of the same problem on the new drive showed that it was actually a problem with the motherboard, specifically the drive controller. Best guess is that the power supply decided to take the motherboard with it. Thanks to the age of the motherboard, it's almost impossible to find, which means that I'm kind of upgrading against my will. Ah well, mobos and CPUs aren't actually that expensive nowadays compared to how it was, say, five years ago. Not as much drive to upgrade nowadays, either, but when you need to replace it anyway...

As for the election: Yeep. No, I wasn't expecting that... I don't think anyone was, not really. I personally lean towards the "the Bush campaigning drive pushed them over the top" and "the DLC tactics were dismal failures" schools of thought on this one, as well as the theory that the Democratic base stayed home because the Dems hadn't adequately distinguished themselves. In some respects, though, I think this will be a good thing for the party in the long run, because (just like the Republicans when Gingrich took the reigns) they'll have to take a long, hard look at themselves, their party, how they're seen by the public and the media, and what distinguishes them from the Republicans. Does this mean that they have to move hard left? Not necessarily... what they might need to do is redefine exactly what "left" is, and find a common issue to coalesce around, just like the right did with the tax issue.

Also, I'm expecting the divisions in the Republican party to start showing more than they had before. The Republicans were united around two ideas: to gain power, and to lower taxes. Outside of those two issues, though, there are divisions in the party same as always, and there's definitely going to be conflict over exactly whose agenda is going to be prioritized and how conflicts between agendas will be resolved. The social conservatives are going to look at this as their opportunity to push through their agenda, and the fiscal conservatives/quasi-libertarians may go along with that for a while, but will eventually balk when the religious conservatives start hemming in their cherished freedoms. The neo-conservatives will likely have a reckoning to deal with as well, because their single-minded focus on fighting the left and gaining power isn't going to mean anything when the left is out in the wilderness and the power is theirs. Especially if things start going wrong and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

And, yes, I expect that to be the case.

So, I should be up and running on tuesday. I'll start updating more then. Oh, and before I forget, in case I didn't mention it before: I've noticed by my tracking page that Tapped has linked to me and that a fair number of people are following that link. So I'll just thank Tapped for looking past their loathing of the template and seeing fit to linking to my site, and assure these new readers that this is not the normal update schedule. (Plus, I've been getting weird errors with Blogger, but I won't worry about those right now.)

Saturday, November 02, 2002

Well, I'm back... for another quick post, at least. The computer problems that have been plaguing me should be solved pretty soon, and that'll be quite welcome... although it looks like it'll be after the election, which means that any plans I might have had for commenting on the election on this site are scuttled. Ah well.

Well, except maybe for commenting on the whole Wellstone funereal fiasco. Personally, I wasn't overly surprised by it, nor was I especially shocked or appalled by it either, although I can see why some people might (and don't really blame the fiercely independent Ventura for not being happy about it, either). Thing is, it's pretty damned obvious that all the manufactured outrage over this issue had precious little to do with the actual event and everything to do with which party the progeny in question were stumping for, so it can be reasonably put aside, I think. My personal take on that race is that Mondale will take it, BTW... the media reports I've read about it seem to imply that the Democrats are doing a good job of managing the switchover, and although I do question whether the debate on Monday will really be that useful for the Mondale campaign it's honestly running too late in the election to make a big difference.

Personally, the race I'm watching is McBride/Bush, with an eye on how the Haitian refugee issue is going to affect Haitian expatriate turnout. That could be a big boost for McBride, and the timing for that boost is huge. If McBride gets this seat, it'll be a big black mark on the Bush administration itself, and open up a lot of possibilities for the Democrats in Florida, which will likely be as important in 2004 as it was in 2000.

Anyway, thanks again to all of those who have sent their support. When I get things back to normal, rest assured the posting volume will go up to match. I might even take a crack at SDB's "mistakes don't matter" bit from around a month back, considering that I (to my very great surprise) found my personal correspondence ending up on his site. Yeah, it's an older piece, but it's an important point, one I want to address.

So until then, get out and vote on Tuesday, dammit.