Tuesday, July 31, 2007

US to Sell Arms to Saudi Arabia (?!?)

Okay, let me get this straight: of the 60 to 80 terrorists streaming into Iraq, perhaps as many as 50% are from Saudi Arabia, who continues to do, really, very little about it. And yet, we're going to sell them arms, as a foil against Iran, who probably provides most of the rest of the terrorists.

And one wonders why we can't make any traction is stamping out terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Good Anti-Ahmadinejad Site

Just wanted to provide a link to an anti-Imajihadi (or whatever his name is), in case you're into that sort of thing. Which you should be. It's:


Another in a Long List of Stories about America's Military Planning

I hate it when military preparations are broadcast on international news--by American media. It's not proposing censorship that they show a little restraint.

For example, here's a story about B-2 bombers being retrofitted to carry bunker buster bombs. They'd work great, especially on sites like Iran's nuclear facilities.

That's why the headline of the story, "Is Iran Busted?" bothers me so much. Not only are the preparations spelled out, but a direct link to Iran is drawn quite clearly by the story. Ironically, the story goes on to spell out some very specific (and surprising) reasons why attacking Iran would be justified and prudent. To quote:

Iran has so far ignored pleas that it suspend nuclear development. It has also flouted two sets of international sanctions intended to make Iran's government comply with United Nations resolutions requesting it to shut down its program.

Iran is clearly linked to terrorists in the Middle East who are killing innocent civilians and U.S. troops in Iraq.

Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini declared war on America in 1979 after Islamist students stormed the U.S. embassy and took hostages.

Tehran has threatened the existence of Israel, a nation that poses no danger to Iran, accords equal rights to its Arab citizens and, until recently, had the only freely elected government in the Middle East.

Iran supports the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which produce an unhealthy instability in the region.

Now, imagine the world with a nuclear-armed Iran.

That just about sums it up. Just hush up a bit about US military planning, would you?

Shocking News: Russian Oil Company Sold Involuntarily

This is one brave dude: Mikhail Gutseriev, owner of private oil company Russneft, has spoken out about the upcoming sale of the company to a Kremlin loyalist. Specifically, he says that the sale was not voluntary.

The last guy who spoke up like this is still in prison after eight years. I wonder what's in store for Gutseriev.*

*Note: The guy was once a Kremlin insider himself before falling out of favor. So I won't be shedding too many tears.

Daily Kos: Lieberman Does What to Bush?!?

I think I've now officially broken my "no Daily Kos" postings three times in the last week. But here's a tasteful picture posted on that wonderful site that I'm sure will appeal to the loony Left that's taken over the Democratic party.

I doubt that it will appeal to many others.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4313 Diggs, is a link to a bible with a warning sticker on it. As an Objectivist and an atheist, I think such points can be made with better taste and more philosophical meaning.

Funny, but the comments are unusually mixed on this one. I guess religion is one are where the Diggsters are genuinely heterogeneous.

Palestinian Terror: The Result of Child Abuse?

Here's a fascinating discussion, titled "The Real Roots of Palestinian Terror," on FrontPage Magazine, that discusses a study that shows widespread child abuse as at least partially responsible for the incessent violence.

Some quotes:

Apart from cynical (appeasing Saudi and other Arab oil power) and realpolitik (trying to concoct a Sunni coalition against Iran) motives, all the Western bigwigs could not invest so much time and prestige in this issue without some genuine belief that it is resolvable. If the Palestinians’ problem is not Israeli occupation (totally removed in Gaza and partially in the West Bank) or settlements (totally destroyed in Gaza), then it must be weak institutions, or not enough guns for Fatah, or not enough Arab states present at the latest convocation with Israel.

And so if it's not really the Israeli occupation (because that no longer really exists), nor the other reasons listed, then what is it? The story speculates:

The physician and researcher Daphne Burdman, writing in the Jewish Political Studies Review, says the Palestinians’ ongoing aggression toward Israel and Jews results from Koranic and Hadith teachings, the PA’s own brand of systematic indoctrination and incitement, and “psychological processes arising from Arab childrearing practices.” The first two factors are more familiar than the third, which requires much more attention from people concerned about this conflict.

The story goes on to say how because of the collectivist nature of Arab societies, the abused child, once grown, strikes out not against society at large, as in individualistic societies, but against the "enemy" about whom the child was indoctrinated against. Hence, the hatred and violence against the Jew and against Israel.

It makes a sort of horrid sense, and if true, then it makes even more pertinent Ayn Rand's position that cultures are defined by their underlying philosophies (in this case, at least in part) collectivist vs. individualist, and that issues such as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will never be resolved until the irrational side becomes rational.

Given the current state of Palestine and the West's own mixed philosophy, however, I find that a dubious proposition at best.

Strong Russia Required for Global Stability?

I agree with most of this post on Russia, except I'm not sure what he means by "A strong Russia is a necessary component of global stability, and the Russians should have the right to sit at any global table as equals, bound by international law." Most of his thesis seems to be that Russia is heading toward a dangerous sort of dictatorship, and so how a "strong Russia" could be a good thing in that context is perplexing.

I've asked for clarification, and will update this post if I receive it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Stronger Intellectual Property Protections - About Time

I'm all for stronger intellectual property protections, which I know puts me somewhat in the minority in the IT world. I also agree that attempted infringement should be a crime, just as with any other crime.

The linked story has an interesting quote:

One of the bill's controversial features is the fact that people can be charged with criminal copyright infringement even if such infringement has not actually taken place. "Any person who attempts to commit an offense under paragraph (1) shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt," says the bill.

I'm not sure why that's considered controversial. In fact, it sounds pretty much like the definition of "attempted crime." It would be like someone attempting to mug a passerby, when the police walk up behind and arrest him. No mugging, but still a crime.

Perhaps the controversy there is that the penalty is the same as if the infringement occurred. I really don't know if that's the case with most attempted crime penalties; if not, then I suppose it is a bit odd.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's (early) #1 Digg, at a brisk 6124 Diggs, is a story about Paris Hilton losing her $60 million inheritence from her grandfather. The comments are sometimes a bit brutal, and this isn't important news and thus once again demonstrates Digg's irrelevancy, but I do agree with Gramps.

Sudan: The Jews are Behind the Conflict

And, of course, there must be a theory that the Jews are behind the tragedy in Darfur. Not the Muslims who are doing the actual killings. Not the Sudanese government that's letting it happen, and helping when it can. No, of course not. It's the Jews.

That, at least, is the story being told by the Sudanese defense minister. Some quotes:

Sudan's defense minister, Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, has accused "24 Jewish organizations" of "fueling the conflict in Darfur" last week in an interview with a Saudi newspaper.

And, some elaboration:

"The Darfur issue is being fuelled by 24 Jewish organizations, who are making the largest amount of noise over the issue, and using the Holocaust in their campaigning," the Sudanese defense minister replied.

And then, of course, there's that insidious Jewish control over British and American policy:

Are these Jewish groups supporting (the rebels) financially?," the interviewer from Okaz asked Hussein.

"Yes, they provide political and material support through their control over the media and across American and British circles," Hussein said, adding that Jewish groups were using "all means to fuel these conflicts."

And in certain circles, this will be taken as fact. Amazing.

Russia Rewrites History: Stalin Was a Great Leader

More on Putin's Orwellian attempts to convert Russia to a true dictatorship. It appears that the Kremlin has been rewriting textbooks (which, of course, begin the indoctrination at the earliest stages of a person's life) to distort Russian and Sovient history.

A money quote:

The book describes Josef Stalin as “the most successful Soviet leader ever” and dismisses the prison labour camps and mass purges as a necessary part of his drive to make the country great. The manuals are intended to serve as the basis for developing new textbooks in schools next year, though Education Ministry officials insisted that they would not be compulsory.

Not compusory. I'm sure.

Without America, Europe is Defenseless - Hmmm

Here's an interesting story that makes some interesting connections between the war in Iraq and Europe's weakened defense posture. While I'm loathe to accept American blame for such a thing (and the author does make it seem like some heinous act we've conducted), the argument does make a sort of sense.

Essentially, it goes like this: Europe turned over its defense to the US, to build up its welfare economies. Now, the US is involved in a war with Iraq, and thus less able to defend Europe. That leaves the EU more vulnerable to Russian and Iranian threats. Thus, the story says, Europe should increase energy taxes to reduce consumption and thus harm both the Russian and Iranian energy economies.

Now, I think there's some logic there, as far as it goes. But to me, it raises the more interesting question of why the US has for so long been Europe's protector? Is it because we've simply not trusted them to provide for their own security? After all, one would have reason for doubt following WWII.

Or, did we do so to maintain influence over Europe? If so, then we've squandered that influence as we watch Europe devolve into future potential Islamic states.

I have no idea at this point, but it's something to ponder. If anyone has an obvious explanation that I'm missing, feel free to chime in.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Guantanamo Releases Terrorists - Left Smiling

It appears that quite a few of those released from Guantanamo have gone on to rejoin their terrorist colleagues in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Left should be proud.

Moore's Fantasy "Sicko" Will Cost Lives

Via the Copious Dissent blog, here's a short piece on the Canadian healthcare system. A quote from the post:

If you want to find the real story of Canada’s failed Universal Healthcare system, look no further than America’s boarder cities. The Buffalo News just reported a story about, Lindsay McCreith, a 66 year-old Canadian retired auto body shop owner. This story, accurately reported by Henry L. Davis, demonstrates why Michael Moore’s new propaganda film, “Sicko” is patently misleading.

McCreith experienced seizures on Jan. 2, 2006, and was diagnosed with a benign tumor based on a CT scan. A physician at a Canadian hospital declined to order an MRI to rule out a malignancy. McCreith’s family doctor agreed to request the more-definitive scan, but McCreith was told he would have to wait over four months for the appointment.According to McCreith, had he been patient and followed the Canadian system, he would have died.

Instead, McCreith went to Buffalo to receive treatment the very next day. In Buffalo, he was told he had a malignant tumor, which required a biopsy. After trying the Canadian system again, he was told they would not allow the biopsy for another three months. McCreith, having a good friend die waiting for heart surgery, decided to see if the American private system could save his life. It did just that.

Moore has has created another fantasy. The only thing is, this time it's literally about life and death.

The Objective Standard on Socialistic Healthcare

As usual, great stuff from The Objective Standard, this time on healthcare. I hesitate to comment much, because they say things so well already.

Take some time to read this if you want a different perspective on "universal healthcare."

Boing Boing: Unsubstantiated Claim That State Department Covering Up Use of Slave Labor

I hope this story on Boing Boing about allegations that slave labor was used to build the American Embassy in Baghdad (by a Kuwaiti firm) is untrue.

I also wish that Boing Boing wouldn't turn a simple US State Department statement that the allegations are untrue into a coverup. After all, to state the obvious, it's possible that the allegations are untrue. Worse, there's nothing in Boing Boing's source for this post to support such an accusation, and I find it deplorable that they would manufacture one.

But of course the Left really needs no hard evidence to support accusations of American wrong-doing. To them, it's all simply self-evident.

YouTube Refuses to Watch Out for Violent Videos

First, I think it demonstrates both cultural decline and a negative aspect of technology that brutal fights between kids as young as 11 or so are available on YouTube. Note that I'm against government censorship, and so I'm not implying that government should be doing anything about this.

Second, this quote by YouTube brings up an ineresting and related point:

The site, which is owned by Google, claims pre-screening content is a form of censorship which is not the role of a private company.

That's a fascinating statement, because for one thing, it could be taken to imply that censorship is thus the role of some other, non-private entity (i.e., government). That's a loose interpretation, I admit, but it's there.

Second, it's not "censorship" when YouTube polices its content for any kind of material, be it obscenity, hate speech, copyrighted material, or kids committing crimes and brutally assaulting someone. It's YouTubes property that's being used to show these videos, and so YouTube has every right--and some might say, moral responsibility--to control what's being posted.

I mentioned earlier that government should do nothing to stop YouTube from posting anything but copyrighted materials (because that, in and of itself, is a crime and is not protected speech), and so I'm not condoning censorship. But anyone who finds this material, and others, offensive should engage in their own freedom of expression by refusing to use the site and even, if they wish, to organize boycotts against the site's advertisers.

I find Google more and more cavalier in what they find appropriate in how to conduct business. They're motto "Do No Evil" sounds more and more hollow every day.

Iranian Execution of Dissidents to Increase

Here's a little piece on how Iran continues to executive dissidents for the "security" of the nation. A quote:

In his Wednesday remarks, Ahmadinejad said, “The nature of the work is that the government is defending with all its power the security measures to protect people in particular when dealing with hooligans, they all should defend [these measures]...” By referring to youths who were executed in recent weeks he said, “Every single one of these [young people] is like a dangerous bug, therefore, they should either be corrected or put in jail otherwise should do what has been done.”

But, the Left would have us believe that Iran's an innocent victim of America's imperialistic ambitions and Bushitler's lust for for oil.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3790 Diggs, is a link to a story about an employee who's suing her employer over a tricky contest that she won.

Deep stuff, Diggsters.

Ahmadinejad: Is it All Just a Political Power Play?

An interesting take from Strategy Page on Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is). Basically, the story says, Imajihadi is losing his grip on power in Iran over a number of idiotic statements and policy moves, and his only hope to regain power is to provoke the US into a war.

Such things have been done before. Unfortunately for him, a full-out war with the US wouldn't turn out so well, and his political future would be cut very short. The analysis does make some sense, but I think there are deeper, highly mystical, religious machinations at work.

In short, I don't think many of Imajihadi's actions are merely political maneuvering.

An Inside View at China

Here's an inside view of China and it's various methods of interacting with the outside world. It's personal opinion, of course, but it does tend to correlate with what's presented elsewhere.

A quote:

Having lived in China, watched China through my own media mesmerized eyes, and witnessed China’s government actions and reactions through Chinese business associates and friends, I have come to be distrustful of just about everything said and done by China’s government.

It is almost as if the Chinese government has been across the table from me for 30 years as we played poker. You get to know intuitively when the adversary is bluffing, lying, admitting, or avoiding.

Worth a quick read.

China Hearts Execution

More on China's love for the death penalty. If the Left wanted to really do something about government executions, they's start with China.

But, whatever. In this case, China's putting to death two gang leaders whose minions were tapping into an oil pipeline and stealing crude. Here in the ol' US, that would get someone a few years in jail. Of course, in an Islamic state, the punishment might be somewhere right in the middle, like the loss of one or both hands.

But, by multicultural standards, whatever works, right?

Russia Still Bent on Cotnrolling North Pole

Once Russia's planted its flag under the North Pole, what then? What does the West, specifically North America, do about it? Anything? Or is this simply another Putin stunt that we should simply ignore?

And, in general, Russia probably couldn't exploit the area anyways, and so it doesn't really matter.

Boing Boing: U.S. Military Shouldn't Recruit

Apparently, Boing Boing believes that U.S. Army recruiting efforts are "bad." To quote:

The US Army has developed a stand-up arcade version of its video-game "America's Army" and it will seed it in arcades around the country. This is straight out of a science fiction novel, but what would be even more skiffy is if they were to put these in arcades outside of the US. I'm surprised they're charging to play these games -- the natural thing would be to make these the only free games in the arcade, so the poorest and most desperate kids would dominate them, absorbing messages about signing up for Der Surge.

And of course, there's the obligatory German to bring a Nazi feel to the piece ("Der Surge"?).

The Left honestly does believe, I think, that the only threat in the world is the US government, and if only they had their way, there wouldn't even be a need for military recruiting. It's a bit nauseating, honestly.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Boing Boing - How to Survive a Police Encounter (Because It's Bound to be Violent and Hostile)

Boing Boing simply cannot help itself when it comes to showing anti-police material and/or how to avoid being detected while committing a crime. Why the Left has such hate for law enforcement, when it's so necessary to enforce their socialist ideals, is beyond me.

NASA Allows Drunk Astronauts Into Space

Nasa has some serious housecleaning to do. Astronauts drunk and cleared for duty?


Update: Via Instapundit, this story might not be precisely true. I'm sure there will be more to come.

Transition to Digital TV To Cause Mayhem? - No Kidding

I can't imaging how any government-sponsored (i.e., forced) program such as the conversion to all-digital TV in 2009 could cause anything but confusion, frustration, and anger. This Ars Technical article discusses the topic, but of course doesn't go into the real issue: government should have absolutely nothing to do with such things.

Only the market should determine when and if a conversion from one technology to another occurs. When government does so by force, it by definition bypasses the millions of decisions that individuals would make--including whether or not to spend their money on technology that they may or may not want. It represents not only pure coercion, but also the confiscation of wealth.

And, if flies in the face of reason: how can government possibly determine the date by which the appropriate technology will be developed? With manufacturers rushing to meet the deadline, it's almost inevitable that potentially better technologies could be developed if more time were allowed (which the market would provide).

Government has one function: to protect our individual rights. Anything beyond that, including deciding what kind of TV we should be watching, is illegitimate and the cause of every economic dislocation we've experience over the past 100 years or so.

Ahmadinejad Calls Iran One of "Nine" Nuclear States

Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) says quite a bit in this story:

He stated, "The three options are almost out of question ... Their call for suspension of our nuclear activities is not legal." Ahmadinejad said, "The West has carried out whatever measure it could and will do the same in the future but it has concluded that it cannot put Iran under pressure by imposing sanctions in an effective way as it wishes."

"The West thought sanctions would give a big shock to the Iranian nation.

"They (Western countries) issued two resolutions against the Iranian nation but as they admitted, Iranians continue their lives in peace and have no fear of sanctions."

So, okay, sanctions don't work. Check.

"Even if the number of resolutions against Iran reached 300, it cannot prevent materialization of the country's rights." He stressed, "Iran is among the world's nine nuclear states."

Okay, so, I believe that there are more than nine nations using nuclear power in general. And so, he basically just said that Iran is one of the states possessing nuclear weapons (and he apparently left out Israel, because unofficially they make the ninth already).

And finally:

"Western countries are unhappy not because of Iran's fuel production but over the issue that nuclear fuel production will make Iran have a share in management of the world."

Why would Iran's possession of nuclear fuel production intended purely for peaceful power production give Iran "a share in management of the world"? Of course, only the possession of nuclear weapons could possibly give Iran such influence.

And yet, there are people who believe that we should use diplomatic methods to contain this madman. And for those who say, "Why should America and the rest of the nuclear states have the right to nuclear weapons, but nobody else?" the answer is relatively simple. The genie can't be put back in the bottle, but that doesn't mean that every tinpot dictator who wants to blackmail his enemies should be able to control it.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 2642 Diggs, is a link to a story on a Leftist site where, frankly, it's a little hard to find the point. It's anti-Bush, and I think it's something about him not going to Iraq for a photo-opp with some American soldiers. Or something.

It's one of the few political, genuinely Leftist top Diggs, though, and so I'm starting to believe that although Digg is definitely Leftist, it's really more influenced by immature teenage geeks. The Digg Report may not last forever.

Interview with Fred Thompson

Here's an interview with Fred Thompson, the non-candidate, on Fox News. My favorite quote (and it's not a bad interview, overall):

HANNITY: A few other friends, right? Let's talk about this. Right now, there's a battle going on between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, a question that came up in the debate the other night about whether we would sit down and talk with our enemies, people like North Korea and Iran and Ahmadinejad. And Hillary said that Barack Obama was naive and irresponsible for wanting to talk to some of these enemies.

First of all, what do you think of that back and forth? Because Hillary has changed her position on that just from three months ago. And what is your position about talking to Iran and North Korea?

THOMPSON: Well, as I understand it, Senator Clinton was suggesting that the thing she disagreed with was the fact that Clinton thought that they should send an envoy first to make sure that they wouldn't use it for propaganda purposes. My response to that is that I don't trust their envoy. I mean, what if he says that they won? It wouldn't mean anything.

When you are at that high a level, when you're talking about national leaders or cabinet members or something like that, there's a symbolic factor that you have to consider.

These people are killing our people. These Iranians are doing everything they can to undermine us and have been for a while, through Hezbollah and otherwise. They perceive us to be weak right now. If we met with them at those levels now, it would look like we were coming to them. It would look like that we were weak, and they would use that for sure for propaganda purposes and recruiting purposes.

On American Energy Independence

The blog Principles in Practice has a nice article on American energy independence. A quick quote:

"It is taken for granted," said Alex Epstein, a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, "that OPEC, a despicable cartel of tyrannical regimes that coercively limits their oil production to raise prices, can manipulate our energy future on a whim. But such a state of affairs is completely unnecessary; it is a product of U.S. environmental regulations that strangle domestic energy production.

"In a free energy market, the response of competing producers to OPEC-influenced high prices would be to eagerly cultivate new oil sources in America—such as the many untapped sources of oil in Alaska and on America's coastlines—and to vigorously seek to produce truly practical alternative sources of energy, such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. Such actions would drive oil and energy prices down, and with them OPEC's ability to manipulate prices..."

Turkey's Re-Islamification

It's a bit of a deep read, but this story about Turkey's re-emerging Islamism is worth it. It's good to be reminded that Turkey was once at the heart of the Ottoman Empire, which as I remember was involved in (the wrong side of) WWI.

Some quotes:

The ruling AK (Adalet ve Kalkınma) Party’s resounding popular electoral victory July 27, 2007 over its closest “secularist” rival parties—the CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk) and MHP (Milliyetçi Hareket) receiving 20% and 15% of the vote, respectively, to the AKP’s 47%—is further evidence of Turkey’s steady re-Islamization. Indeed this trend dates literally to the first election during which Turkish voters were offered any option other than one party rule under Ataturk’s CHP—in 1950, when Menderes’ Demokrat Party (DP) pursued a successful electoral strategy by pandering to an Islamic “re-awakening.”

And Bernard Lewis had predicted just such a path in the 1950's:

…the deepest Islamic roots of Turkish life and culture are still alive, and the ultimate identity of Turk and Muslim in Turkey is still unchallenged. The resurgence of Islam after a long interval responds to a profound national need. The occasional outburst of the tarikas [Sufi “dervish” orders], far more than the limited restoration of official Islam, show how powerful are the forces stirring beneath the surface. The path that the revival will take is still not clear. If simple reaction has its way, much of the work of the last century will be undone, and Turkey will slip back into the darkness from which she painfully emerged.

There's much more there. Set aside a half hour or so, and read it. Important stuff.

China Wants to Retain Mediocre Connotation of "Made in China"

It's funny, but China's undergoing a campaign with its producers to work to secure the reputation of "Made in China." And yet, a simple market study would show them that "Made in China" is already something of a negative here in the States, their major market.

The recent spate of literally deadly Chinese products hasn't helped much, so I suppose getting back to the status quo of "Made in China" being associated with "cheap" would be a good thing. And, of course, it would also be good if the actual quality itself improved.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Putin Youth, Part 2

The Putin Youth, which I commented on earlier, are starting to sound more and more like their Soviet and Nazi counterparts. They're being taught the Western ideology is evil, and that the great Mother Russia should regain her power. So, you have the enemy identified, and the means of fighting it, mixed in with strict indoctrination and nationalism.

If Putin needs a group of willing jackbooted thugs, he's doing a good job of building it.

Putin as Soprano

This Wall Street Journal commentary makes the interesting claim that Putin's Russia is essentially run like the mob: part oligarchy and part feudal society. Some quotes:

Mr. Putin's government is unique in history. This Kremlin is part oligarchy, with a small, tightly connected gang of wealthy rulers. It is partly a feudal system, broken down into semi-autonomous fiefdoms in which payments are collected from the serfs, who have no rights. Over this there is a democratic coat of paint, just thick enough to gain entry into the G-8 and keep the oligarchy's money safe in Western banks.

If you are in a real hurry to become an expert on the Russian government, you may prefer the DVD section, where you can find Mr. Puzo's works on film. "The Godfather" trilogy is a good place to start, but do not leave out "The Last Don," "Omerta" and "The Sicilian."

It's a fascinating read, and, incredibly, makes a bit of sense.

Putin Establishes Economic Policy for his Upcoming Hiatus

Odd that essentially outgoing President Putin would put together Russian first 3-year economic plan (which, yes, sounds like the old Soviet 5-year plans). So, he's essentially establishing economic policy until his return.

How convenient.

Spielberg to Pull Out of Olympics as Darfur Protest?

Celebrity Report: Steven Spielberg is considering to threaten to pull out of the Chinese Olympics as artistic advisor if China doesn't take more action in Darfur.

It's a nice gesture, I suppose, but given China's tremendous financial investments in the region, I imagine they'll find someone else to direct.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3444 Diggs, is a link to a "brilliant" photo of a "Stop War" sign.

First, I don't find it particularly brilliant. Second, a "Stop War" sign is kind of like a "Stop Murder" sign. I don't know anyone who wouldn't love to see an end to both, but since there are evil people in the world, there's not much to be done about it.

China vs. The Pope

Here's a strange one. It seems that the Chinese government appoints (Catholic?) bishops in the "official church," which of course the Vatican has taken offense at for years. In its turn, the Vatican recognizes Taiwan, which has always had China in a tizzy. The new Pope hopes to turn things around, though.

Geopolitics and religion make strange bedfellows, I say.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Putin's Self-Esteem Needs a Tune-Up

Putin has a real self-esteem problem (that I believe extends to Russia as a nation). In this story, he says about Stalin's butchering millions of people:

President Vladimir Putin said last month that although the 1937 purge was one of the most notorious episodes of the Stalin era, no one should try to make Russia feel guilty about it because "in other countries even worse things happened."

I'm not that familiar with anyone trying to make Russia "feel guilty" about the purges, because Russia isn't supposed to be synonymous any longer with the Soviet Union and Communism. Of course, Putin is doing everything to make them synonymous again, but that's fodder for a longer discussion.

And, one would have to delve deeply into his psychology to explain the notion that guilt shouldn't be felt because "in other countries even worse things happened."

Putin's Delusions of Grandeur

It's ironic that Putin--who is doing everything he can to suppress information, in particular by stifling anti-Putin sentiment in the press and via association--should tout Russia's intentions to become an information technology leader.

The money quote:

“Free exchange of technologies and information is an important factor to strengthen democratic institutions and democracy as a whole,” (Putin) said.

Chavez and Ahmadinejad: Bound by Collectivism

It would take an Objectivist, probably, to recognize that what unites Venezuela's Chavez and Iran's Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) is collectivism. For Iran, the collectivism is Islamic totalitarianism. For Venezuela, it's secular socialism. But fundamentally, they're essentially the same ideologies: the subservience of the individual to the group.

They just happen to worship different gods, Allah and "society." Otherwise, there's absolutely nothing surprising or odd about their alliance. Oh, and as this story suggests, anti-Americanism might also play a small part.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4095 Diggs, is a link to a graph that completely distorts the fundamental difference between accidental death and death by natural causes, and death by terrorism. Or, rather, it creates a false equivalence between them, and then makes the 3,000 people killed on 9/11 merely a drop in the bucket of people who've died since then.

In other words, why do we care that a terrorist group purposefully killed 3,000 Americans in a heinous act, when so many more Americans have died from other causes?

Daily Kos Says Democrats Should Tank the Stock Market

Here's my second post on the Daily Kos, but again, it's worth it. It's a Forbes story about a Daily Kos poster suggestion that Democrats should do everything they can to cause the market to drop before the elections, so that the tax increases that the Democrats plan to enact won't be blamed for the subsequent drop (which, of course, they would cause).

Truly bizarre. But worth a read.

Russia Building Military to Counter US "Threat"

Russia's building up its military in part because it sees the US as a threat. Now, in my book, when someone sees you as a threat, there's a real possibility that they're merely projecting their own hostilities. Russia is making power plays in so many areas it's impossible to presume any longer that they're just trying to restore some "strategic balance of power."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3466 Diggs, is a link to a picture of a cardboard box mod of a Linux desktop.

The main idea: Linux users are cheap.

Alrighty. As a social aggregator of important stories and ideas, Digg continues to impress.

Cox and Forkum on Chavez and His Hospitality

The immortal (we wish) Cox and Forkum on Chavez and his promise to expel foreigners who speak unkindly about him and his dictatorship. Go check it out and get a chuckle.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Genius on Display in the Desert

One of the advantages of living in Southern California is that Frank Lloyd Wright's Teliesin West home and architectural school are only a few hours drive away. I'm still kicking myself for not taking the time to stop by during my last trip to Arizona, but I was in a bit of a rush.

The linked story puts me in a serious mood for a road trip.

Ferarri 430 Scuderia Berlinetta

My, my, my, but this is a beauty. 2.45kg per HP. God, but that has to be fast. It's even sort of fuel efficient, when you consider that it's so light that it requires a smaller engine to achieve supercar performance.

Take a peek. She's purty.

Constitutional Right to Experimental Drugs? I Don't Think So

There are two things terribly wrong with the idea of a "Constitutional right" to experimental drugs. First, such a right is impossible, because one can't have a right to something that someone else must produce. Second, we should already have the right to access experimental drugs (at our own costs), but the FDA stands in the way. All that needs to happen is that the FDA is disbanded, or at the very least its restrictions on experimental drugs need to be lifted.

Just as it's wrong for government to try to create a "right" that requires expropriating the property of one person to give it to another, it's wrong for government to prohibit individuals from accessing any product they want to buy.

There's a grievous misconception regarding the Constitution and rights in this country, and it's not getting any better.

Turkey Votes Down the MIddle

Well, it looks like the Turkish election turned out lukewarm--the Islamists won, but not enough so that they could overturn the largely secular Turkish constitution. But, that's for now, and things certainly seem to be heading in the wrong direction.

So far, Turkey's been an example of a largely Muslim population living under secular rule. We should all hope that doesn't change any time soon.

Update: Cox and Forkum have a bit of a different take.

Putin Youth

This seems a lot like the Hitler Youth and the USSR's Pioneers. Putin's putting together his own little group of "Putin Youth," who, as in the previous examples, may very well represent the "shock troops" for, at the very least, spreading the propaganda he needs to continue grabbing power.

Things in Russia keep growing more and more ominous.

Chinese Spies Caught

I know, I know, we all have spies. But it's still news when they get caught. These Chinese spies were smuggling out CDs full of information from a US defense contractor, which is of concern for two reasons.

First, it seems that the Chinese might be a little more into industrial espionage than most, since they don't have the sort of socioeconomic system that by itself can create the sorts of inventions required by a truly first-world industrial nation.

Second, this is information from a defense contractor, which given China's already significant military build-up just gives more reason for alarm.

But, at least these two were caught, and I suppose that's some good news, after all.

Daily Kos Calls American Soldiers "Serial Killers"

I don't often write about the Daily Kos, because it's the worst of the Left all neatly arranged into one irrational, evil screed after another. But this post at the blog NW Republican points out a particularly nasty Daily Kos post that I think is worth knowing about.

I didn't follow the cached links that he talks about, because I really don't want to see into the mind of anti-American evil, but you can, if you want. But, as the poster says, be forewarned.

Sudan President Declares 2007 "Year of Peace" (because everyone's dead?)

The Sudanese President, Omer Al-Bashir, has declared 2007 the "Year of Peace." Now, by all accounts, one declares a year to be "of something" beforehand, because that's what everyone is going to try to make the year into, or, I think more often, afterwards, because that's what the year was.

Calling it the "Year of Peace" in Sudan toward the end of July, however, is either just plain stupid or it's the height of naivete. Or, perhaps, it's just another cruelty being played out on the people of the region. Sort of rubbing salt in some wounds, that sort of thing.

Celebrity Report (Not Really, Though)

Celebrity Report: This isn't the typical celebrity report, it's really more a bit of trivia. See, I have these Google alerts setup for a few celebrities about whom I've heard good things (politically and philsophically) and, each day, I'm delivered with a number of stories about said celebrities.

The trivia is this: by far the most prolific number of hits belong to John Malkovich. But, they're not mostly actually about the actor himself. Rather, they're some reference to some other actor or to some weird existentialist notion involved in some way or another with the movie "Being John Malkovich."

Which for whatever reason, I just find kind of odd.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Apple iPhone Hackable

Given Apple's "holier than thou" mentality, I think it's fair to point out that the iPhone was released with some serious security flaws. Essentially, it seems to eminently hackable, and so far Apple's mum on what they're going to do about it.

Chavez Insults One of God's Main Men

Chavez just gained himself a warm place in Hell, by calling a Honduran Cardinal a "clown." I don't think God looks kindly on such namecalling. I'm also sure he was none too pleased when Chavez called Bush "the Devil," since I'm sure God has someone else in mind for that lofty title.

Chavez might as well enjoy live here on Earth, because he's going to Hell in a handback.*

*This is an Objectivist blog, and so any references to "God" are intended as humor. Just in case you were wondering.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3258 Diggs, is a link to a comic about "Education in Kansas." Uh, hee hee?

Hillary Takes Obama to School

Hillary Clinton's going to kick some Obama butt. In the latest Democratic debate, she took him to school on the issue of meeting with our greatest enemies. Now, notice that I meant she took Obama to school on the issue, not that she took someone truly rational.

That, I'm sure, wouldn't happen.

Daniel Pipes Proposes Third Way in Iraq - Just Doesn't Go Far Enough

Daniel Pipes present a compelling third choice between staying in Iraq and leaving completely. Basically, he proposes staying in the deserts, but leaving the cities to the Iraqis.

I don't think he goes far enough. I would make it even more specific: we should build significant and permanent American bases of operations (both Army and Air Force), and use them to stage military actions as needed throughout the Middle East. Our goal in Iraq should not be to solve the Iraqi's internal problems, but to ensure that no government or group can entrench in Iraq that opposes American interests. Maintaining bases would thus accomplish two objectives.

Should Iraq stabilize into a stable, secular government that recognizes individual rights, we can at that point establish formal diplomatic relations and negotiate the terms of retaining our bases. I certainly don't propose that we violate the sovereignty of any nation, but at this point, Iraq is not a sovereign nation.

Putin to Open 2014 Games and Russian President

I find it fascinating that the Russian Olympic Federation is so certain that Putin will be President in 2014 and available to open the 2014 Olympics. Maybe it's just the speculation of one man, but I doubt that he's alone in such beliefs. Hell, I know he's not, because I'm certain that a Putin puppet will play out four years until Putin can be re-elected--and will be.

Hamas Hearts Jimmy Carter

From Gateway Pundit, it appears that Hamas is plently pleased with Jimmy Carter following his blaming the ongoing crisis in Gaza on Bush's support of Fatah. I'm sure that Carter's just tickled pink to be beloved by a terrorist organization--and I mean that in all seriousness. I think the man's gone over the edge, and is happy to garner praise from whatever source.

Iran's Use of Nukes Unlikely? I Wouldn't Bet on It

Personally, I'd like to believe that this guy's correct in that the use of a nuclear weapon by a state like Iran is unlikely. Unfortunately, I don't. I think that religious fervor can easily overcome the sort of secular considerations that prevented a nuclear war between the US and the USSR.

Simply put, Islam believes in martyrdom. One could say, they believe that the more, the better. And so, if a few million Iranians were to be martyred because Iran succeeded in dealing a death blow to Israel, wouldn't that--by some relatively common Islamic principles--be a blessed event?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Web Pros Taking Intellectual Property More Serious? We'll See

This seems like a bit of good news on the intellectual property scene. I'd love to think that the professional Web, at least, is getting more more serious about recognizing and protecting copyright.

It's a good trend. I'll be watching to see if it continues.

World Bank Doesn't Think Much of Russia

Russia received another bad report from an international organization (not that I necessarily put much stock in such international organizations). This time it's from the World Bank, which ranked Russia pretty darn low on a bunch of statistics.

I won't quote them here. Go to La Russophobe (the link above) to get the details.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4224 Diggs, is a link to a wacky conspiracy site that asserts that Bush has signed a law prohibiting anti-war protests.

It's a fun read, if you're into making fun of crazy-insane conspiracies. Obviously, 4224 Diggsters (so far, it's still early) found the story of interest, although I think they actually believe it.

Ahmadinejad Spells It All Out

Read this. It provides a glimpse into the mind of Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is), which supports each and every claim that Iran's goal is nothing short of the destruction of the West. These are his own words, written in a manifesto presented to his government in 2005, thus explaining just about everything he's said and done since then.

Anyone who wants to appease this guy is a fool.

Iran and Syria Trip Over Their Own Tongues

This is one of the least coherent set of statements I've read in quite some time from a government spokesperson. The story's headline implies that it's really all about Israel making up the "secret arms deal" between Iran and Syria (yeah, right), but goes on to assert that Israel is failing and the West with it, and we better watch out now that Iran and Syria are allies.

Very curious. I swear, these guys are either just buffoons, or they're crazy, or even scarier, they're both.

Global Elders for Our Global Village (Gag!)

Here's a very particular take on the "Global Elders" (Nelson Mandela, Desmond TuTu, Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson, and Muhammad Yunus) who plan to do something. I haven't commented on it myself until now, because I don't get what it's all about and the group includes Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan, who exemplify ineffectiveness and corruption, respectively--thus warranting more study.

I do like this quote from the post, which was quoted from the group's Web site:

We are moving to a global village and yet we don’t have our global elders. The Elders can be a group who have the trust of the world, who can speak freely, be fiercely independent and respond fast and flexibly in conflict situations.

Wow. "...moving to a global village..." As if, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other rogue states are just huts next to ours, and our Global Elders will smoke the peace pipe to resolve conflicts between us.

I swear, I don't know how people get that much time on their hands. Although I do believe I understand the psychology behind the thirst for power and delusions of grandeur.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ahmadinejad to Syria: We'll Buy You Arms, if You'll Never Make Peace with Israel

Iran President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) has promised Syria's Assad military funding if Syria avoids entering into a peace agreement with Israel. Some important quotes:

The two leaders signed a comprehensive agreement on strategic cooperation between Tehran and Damascus, according to which Iran will transfer a billion dollars to Syria for the purchase of 400 advanced T-72 Russian tanks, 18 MiG-31 warplanes, eight Sukhoi fighter jets and eight Mikoyan helicopters.

In addition, Iran will help Syria set up a mid-range missile manufacturing plant and equip the Syrian army with Iranian-made armored vehicles and tanks.

The deal states that the Syrian navy will receive C-801 and C-802 missiles, which were developed by China and are currently being produced also in Iran, as well as training for its air force and navy officers in Iran. Tehran will also assist Syria in developing a nuclear research program and advance its biological weapons capabilities.

And then, there's this part:

In return for Iran’s military assistance and its promise to back Syria on the Lebanon issue, Assad pledged not to enter peace talks with Israel. According to the agreement, Ahmadinejad will exert his influence to prevent the Lebanese parliament from convening to elect a new president to replace Emile Lahoud, who will be stepping down in the coming weeks.

Ahmadinejad also committed to continue working toward toppling Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government.

Finally, a little bit more on Imajihadi's ominous references to the summer (of which there's not much left, admittedly):

Asked about the possibility of another war breaking out in the region, the Iranian president replied, 'We hope the summer will bring victories to the region's nations and failures to their enemies.' He refused to elaborate.

China's Future: Capitalism or Collapse

An interesting read on China and its economic and politica future. Nothing mind-boggling here, but still insightful. Worth a quick read.*

*And yes, I do realize my title reads a bit into the story.

North Korea Adds to Demands for Promises

I knew it wouldn't be long before North Korea started asking for more in "exchange" (in quotes, because that word actually has a meaning) for promising to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. This time it's light-water nuclear reactors.

I wonder what they'll ask for next. It's a scene out of the Sopranos, the classic protectionist racket. Except they're the ones who need protecting, not us--and we just don't seem to realize it.

An Inspirational Cover for Atlas Shrugged

Speaking of Atlas Shrugged, here's a great potential piece of cover art for a future version of Ayn Rand's seminal novel. By John Cox of Cox and Forkum.

Vin Diesel Loves Ayn Rand

Celebrity Report: Apparently, Vin Diesel's favorite book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I always liked the guy, and now he's on the most favored celebrity list.

Are Things with Russia Really Heating Up?

This story is definitely more pro-Putin than it is pro-American (maybe completely so?), but it does bring up the interesting point about the meeting between Kissinger and a host of other once important American dignitaries with Putin last week.

What's fascinating about it is that the meeting really did receive very little press. I remember hearing a bit about it, but not much.

Things keep getting more and more interesting.

With or Without Pakistan's Support, We Need to Destory al Qaeda

I'd be happy if Pakistan's Musharraf helped us in rooting out al Qaeda. But, I'd be just as happy if we told him, in the kindest terms, "Pardon us, but we're going to come in and do a little housecleaning. Hope you don't mind."

As this New York Times story contends, one of the reason 9/11 happened is because we didn't invade Afghanistan and destroy al Qaeda beforehand. I suggest that we don't make the same mistake twice.

If the Pakistanis don't like it, then I suppose it's something we'll have to live with. But certainly, Musharraf needs us just as much as, if not more than, we need him.

A Real Media Piece on Ron Paul

Here's the first major media piece on Ron Paul that I've personally run across, in the New York Times. If I didn't like the guy before, here's a quote that seals the deal for me:

During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden’s communiqués. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.”

Anyone who takes a letter from Osama bin Laden and uses it to formulate policy should hold no office, let alone President. The fact that he was once Libertarian candidate for President doesn't surprise me, and is just as nauseating.

It's a good thing the guy has no chance of winning.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3805 Diggs, is a link to some game involving a can of beans. I didn't take the time to figure out the trick.*

*I also apologize for the lack of a Digg Report yesterday. Just slipped my mind.

US Should Grant Visas to Helpful Iraqis

It seems reasonable to grant refugee status to Iraqis helping us in Iraq. I'm not sure what the problem is, and I certainly hope it's not due to Bush wanting to avoid further signs of failure.

It reminds me (vaguely, because nothing can really approach it) of our abandoning the Iraqis who rose up against Hussein following the first Gulf War, after we promised to provide them with support. Let's hope it's just a matter of like father, like son.

Turkey Votes on its Future - And Ours

Turkey has a lot to do with what happens in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. And so, this Parliamentary vote will likely be vital to determining a number of important issues.

How Turkey responds to the Kurds, whether or not Turkey becomes an Islamic state, and other important facets of Turkey's future are at stake. This deserves close watching.

Take-Two Exploits Murder in Video Game

Video games seem to become ever darker and more violent, rendering them in many cases no longer appropriate for the very market they target (or, any market, for that matter, except the twisted and psychotic). It's as if Disney started making animations with little snippets of porn in them (we'll set aside the flatulance and other items of simple poor taste that grace kid's movies lately).

This one, a "football" simulation that includes O.J. Simpson as a player and features a trailer with a knife-wielding hooded "mascot" goes as far as any. Worse, even, because although the Grand Theft Auto series feature some of the worst elements (pimps, prostitutes, theft, etc.), they're at least all fictional.

There's nothing innocent or innocuous about this. It's pure exploitation, and I hope the company that made it (Take-Two) gets ground into the dirt.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Canadian Researchers "Solve" Checkers

This is both a fascinating and slightly sad story: Canadian researchers have developed a program that can't lose in checkers, thereby "solving" the game, for all intents and purposes. It's silly, I know, because we slow humans can continue to play the game with each other, but there's something about a computer being invincible at it that takes something away from the fun.

It's like we're just amateurs the minute we pull out a board. I hope the same doesn't happen soon with chess.

Bush Passes Executive Order: No Hurting Anyone's Feelings

We publish "interrogation" rules like this, while al Qaeda publishes guides on how to out-horrify the next jihadi in torture technique.

We're civilized people. And civilizations have been know to be overrun by barbarians.

A Few Good Cox and Forkum Cartoons

A couple of typically outstanding Cox and Forkum entries for you:

On a distinct difference between Iran and the US.

On the Left's response to some very good news.

U of K Imposes Zero Tolerance for Illegal Downloads - Good for Them!

As someone who believes in intellectual property, and in protecting it, I applaud the University of Kansas for their new zero-tolerance policy regarding illegal downloads. And that's strong coming from me, because I used to despise the University for its basketball team back in my Indiana University days.

Feds Use Keylogger to Nab Criminal, IT Industry Doesn't Like It

Why is it that the IT industry seems to be so anti-law enforcement? Of course, no investigative method is foolproof, and some criminals will eventually find ways around it. And, some methods might offer the means for criminals to turn the table and use the technology for nefarious purposes (wiretapping is one example).

But as technology progresses, so too should law enforcement's use of it. Otherwise, I think it becomes obvious that committing crimes will become ever easier. Yet it seems like most (and by most, I mean, almost all) prominent tech blogs either pooh pooh the technology as useless or accuse it of some fictional invasion of privacy.

One might think that the industry would instead work closely with law enforcement to both develop new and effective methods of catching criminals and ensure that the technology is limited to law enforcement. But there doesn't seem to be much of that; instead, as in this story, they just suggest ways to avoid the technology that is developed.

Breaking News: OLPC Notebooks Access Porn

Just a quick example as to why the "One Laptop per Child (OLPC)" program is doomed to failure. Access to technology simply is no replacement for changing cultures that are primitive and oppressive at their roots.

Financial Times of India: Russia Third-Rate Country

Indian newspaper calls Russia a third-rate nation, not fit for the WTO, the G8, or to host the Olympics. Ouch.

This post has a link to the story, but it's not working at the moment. I like this site, so I'll take its word for it.

Putin Continues to Prepare for Upcoming "Elections"

A little bit about Russian "electoral" politics. Ours our nasty and brutish (but not short, so no Hobbes quotes here), but they usually don't involved trumped-up charges and incarceration. In Russia, that's not so much the case.

Seems like if you're not one of Putin's hand-picked choices, you don't really want to be putting your hat in the ring. And my prediction remains as it's always been: Putin will put a puppet in place, run him for the required number of years, and then get reelected. He'll placate the West, which is just terrified of offending an enemy or potential enemy, because everything will have been by "vote."

But Putin will remain the dictator that he is. So much for democracy, which continues to show itself to be the failure the American Founders knew it to be.

US Backs UK in Dispute with Russia - Duh!

As well we should back the UK. When I first read this headline, I was a bit dyslexic, and read it as if we'd be backing Russia in the dispute over extraditing the accused murderer Andrei Lugovoy.

So, an interesting story, but certainly not worth my first response to it.

Ahmadinejad: Just Hoping for War or Predicting It?

With all of what Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is, and I promise, the last post of the day on this guy) seems to be saying about a war this summer*, this rumor seems ominous. In a sort of "Friday the 13th" ominous, I mean.

*These are questionable sources. Very questionable. And I don't really believe them. I've read other references to Imajihadi's quote, but it sounds more like pure rhetoric to me. The Arabs would be crazy to attack Israel. And while they are crazy, they're not that crazy. I don't think.

Ahmadinejad and Assad: Joined at the Hip

More on Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) and his meeting with Syrian President Assad. The following quote sums things up pretty nicely, I think:

"The enemies of the region should abandon plans to attack the interests of this region, or they would be burned by the wrath of the region's peoples," Ahmadinejad said at a joint press conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

And, I should point out, the two people most responsible for the instability in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East were meeting together, in the same location. Personally, I call that a wasted opportunity.

Ahmadinejad Speaks Nonsense to Hezbollah Chief

Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) met with Hezbollah chief terrorist Hassan Nesrallah in Syria, and had this to say:

"Today, the inner calm in Lebanese society is something that gives hope while the Zionist regime is becoming weaker every day," Ahmadinejad was quoted as telling Nasrallah.

Huh? Even for Imajihadi, that makes no sense. "...inner calm in Lebanese society..."? Um, okay.

Ahmadinejad: Islam's Global Capital will be in Qom

Here's a fascinating look at the intermingling of politics and religion in Islam. Iran's President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) believes that when Islam rules the world, it's center will be at a place called Qom. Seems this doesn't sit well with all Muslims, Shia or Sunni. Or, at least, exactly what the world will look like once that happens is a point of controversy.

It's an interesting read, if only to get a glimpse into the impossible complexity of the whole thing. And, it provides more insight into why Islam remains a threat to the West--and it one want's to be politically correct, the most one could say is "why large sects within Islam remain a threat to the West."

Israel Speaks Truth to Power

Israel seems to be the only country with the will to say what needs to be said, when it needs saying. In this story, Israel's envoy to the US says it like it is about Iran. Here's a choice quote:

"It's 1938 all over again," said Hagee. "Iran is Germany, Ahmadinejad is Hitler and he is talking about killing the Jews. The only way to prevent a nuclear war is to make certain it never starts."

It's worth a quick read.

Pentagon Official Gives it to Clinton

I rarely link to the Daily Kos, because I get nauseous every time I visit the site, but this post warrants mentioning. It's about a Pentagon official who responded to Hillary Clinton's question about how we plan to withdraw from Iraq with a completely reasonable--and important--answer:

"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," [Undersecretary of Defense Eric] Edelman wrote.

He added that "such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks." Original text from this AP story.

The Daily Kos, of course, just considers this response outrageous! How dare a military official respond openly and honestly to a question that during wartime is at least wreckless and irresponsible. The only other possible answer to Clinton's question would be, "We plan to withdraw after we've achieved our goals." And that's a reasonable answer only if we ever plan to withdraw, since I believe we should leave behind major military installation or two.

Will Smith and Tom Cruise - Together?!?

Celebrity Report: It's been awhile since the last Report, but it appears that Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkette-Smith, will co-host a welcoming party for David Beckham with none other than Scientologists Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. That's actually quite disappointing for me--I'd not have thought that Smith and Cruise would be on such terms, since Smith seems so genuine while Cruise seems... well... so like Tom Cruise.

And so it goes.

Something Unfathomable About Intellectual Property

I hardly think that China can be cited as at all important in validating the concept of intellectual property since, as communists, the concept of private property is one that they don't really support.

I'm only linking to this post to make the above point, becuase in general I'm not really sure what its point it, other than that sometimes stealing intellectual property from one country can cause innovation in another country. Which is true, but flies in the face of the very notion of intellectual property itself.

China Not Really Making Food with Cardboard

It seems that China food vendors really weren't putting cardboard in their products. At least, the Chinese journalist who first reported the story has recanted, claiming it was all done for ratings. Big mistake--he's now being held by Chinese authorities. And lately, the Chinese government has made no bones about how seriously it takes such things.

North Korea Continues Making Promises

We've heard all of this before. We give North Korea money, food, and fuel, they promise to halt their nuclear activities, and once that load of goods runs out they start things up again (or, simply admit to having already done so). They're playing us like fiddles, which seems to be a common theme lately.

Perhaps when a North Korean-supplied nuke goes off in an American city, our "leadership" will finally understand that appeasement doesn't work. Not that there haven't already been plenty of examples, but it seems that it really is impossible to teach old dogs new tricks.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

No blogging today

Much happened today, none of which was worth blogging about. So, apparently, no blogs today. Hopefully more tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter, Stolen and Posted on the 'net

For those who don't see the Internet as a destructive force in intellectual property protection, I present this story on how the new Harry Potter book is available on P2P sites, in its entirety. As far as I can tell (because I certainly won't be downloading it), these are simple scans.

Just imagine if (when) books go digital in a big way. Then, authors will have the same concerns as musicians and movie producers. Maybe even bigger problems, because there are no conversion quality issues to contend with. There are just words.

Update: And, here we have Boing Boing excusing the theft, because "the kind of person who downloads a series of photos of the pages of a giant novel is also the kind of person who'll line up and buy a copy the night it comes out." The temerity of the anti-intellectual property crowd astounds me. This is a completely unjustifiable and unprovable assumption, and it's completely irrelevant to the issue of the theft.

The owner of the property is the only person (or people) with the right to determine if, when, and how that property will be made available, at what price and under what terms. That's what ownership of property means. To so blithely dismiss such a theft demonstrates Boing Boing's inherent disdain for the very concept of intellectual property (and, from some of their posts on how to circumvent it, for the law itself).

Bad News on Putin Continues to Roll In

More damning information on Putin, from the Wall Street Journal. I hope everyone's reading this stuff. It's going to really, really matter one day (hopefully not too) soon.

Update: Some more, from The Spectator.

A Glimpse of the Chinese Military

Some info on the Chinese military. It's big, but it's mainly a threat to Russia (who China seems to be cozying up to lately) and, primarily, Taiwan. The chances of one of those 2.3 million Chinese regulars ever setting foot on American soil is about nil.

And honestly, I was sure that they had more troops. But, I did read a recent story that showed that they have far more nukes than I'd thought. So, I suppose the two balance each other out.

China Sentences Another Government Official to Death

Say what you will about the Chinese, when middle management screws up, there's a serious penalty. In this case, the guy running the kiln accused of using slave labor is to be put to death.

It seems like the Chinese are easier with the death penalty than the US, which doesn't seem to be mentioned often when the issue comes up here in the States. Maybe the Chinese government sees it as a viable means of population control. And, I'm not too sure that I'm joking about that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at an astounding 11,261 Diggs (the most since the Report began), is a link to a... ahem... comparison between the iPhone and the Nokia E70. Now, I'm no fan of the iPhone, and I'm no prude, but there are better ways to compare products.

But that E70 does look nice...

UK and Russia Getting Heated Up

Things are getting heated between the UK and Russia over the Litvinenko affair. I can't imagine this going farther than the pending diplomatic breaks, but one never knows.

A Russian Diary, by Anna Politkovskaya, R.I.P.

Here's a short review of "A Russian Diary," by Anna Politkovskaya, one of 13 journalists who have been killed in Russian since Putin came to power. It sounds like a harrowing account of what it's like under Putin, and will be on my list of books to read.

Bush to Hold Another Worthless "Peace" Conference

This story requires so much suspension of disbelieve that it could be a Stephen King novel:

1. Bush has announced another in a long line of failed, worthless, counterproductive conferences between Israel (the only legitimate player), the Palestinian Authority (who's proven it corrupt nature), and "their Arab neighbors" (who don't want to solve the issue, because it gives them something to hold against Israel and the West).

2. He's also promised $190 million in "aid" to the Fatah government, who are essentially elected terrorists.

3. One of the goals of the conference will be to "review progress in building democratic institutions." I would expect this session to last, oh, about five minutes.

I pity Israel, I really do. After studying the history of the region, I find it a miracle (and, I'm an atheist) that the poor little country still exists. I know, I know, they receive plenty of aid from the US themselves, and I'm sure that helps. But as far as moral support: ours is a double-edged sword, in that we support their right to exist, but not their right to fully secure their existence.

What Happens After Just Now Being Considered

I'm really quite amazed at a quote in this MSNBC.com story about Iraq:

"Increasingly, the Washington debate over when U.S. forces should leave is centering on what would happen once they do."

That's really quite remarkable. If the debate is only now starting to center on what happens if we leave, then what was the debate about before?

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Quiet Hero

Here's the story of Shannen Rossmiller, a woman from Montana who's spent considerable time and energy using the Internet to dig up information on terrorists and the radical Islamic movement. She did some good (read the link, it's inspiring), and is now under permanent security after she was required to testify in court in the bust of an American serviceman who was selling military secrets.

I call her a hero.
Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 6261 Diggs, is a request for Diggsters not to reveal Harry Potter spoilers. It's a reasonable request.

Non-Air War in Iraq

Some interesting statistics about the air war in Iraq. Or, as it would seem, the lack of one. Iraq is so unlike previous American wars in how it's being conducted that it doesn't seem like the same country fighting it.

Boing Boing - Yet Another Way To Avoid Prosecution

My golly, but Boing Boing just loves to show how to avoid criminal prosecution. This time, it's how to escape from plastic handcuffs.

How. to. escape. from. plastic. handcuffs. Because there are so many instances where perfectly law-abiding citizens might need to know such a trick.

Citizen Journalism?

If "citizen journalism" is anything like Digg and YouTube, I think we're in for a very huge disappointment.

Google Wants to Listen to Your Home

Speaking of privacy, it looks like Google wants to violate it as much as government, only not for quite the same reasons. And actually, comparatively speaking, this idea of listening to my surroundings as I use my computer and using that to direct ads and such seems far more damning than anything I've seen government want to do.

So far, I haven't seen any government proposals for placing microphones and video cameras in all of our homes. But, then again, I'm sure Google will make it an opt-in service, and easy to shut off. In which case, I see no problem with it.

Tiny Yellow Dots Create Privacy Firestorm

There's a new brouhaha over the embedding of yellow dots in prints by certain color printers. It's not a new thing--having worked in the printer industry for a few years, I can say that this has been going on for some time, ever since color printing technology advanced to the point where it was possible to print passable currency. In a similar vein, some color copiers (particularly high-end units) will shut down if a user attempts to copy currency.

Personally, I don't see this as any sort of real privacy violation (which, along with the right to steal intellectual property, seems to be the only thing some people really care about). In spite of people's hatred of Bush, and the rampant conspiracy theories that surround him, I don't really believe that the checks and balances that have kept us relatively secure from oppression have entirely disappeared.

I see this as a viable method to provide evidence of wrongdoing, where technology has passed by other forms of evidence. Once, pages typed with old-style typewriters could be traced by the minute differences in how a given typewriter made each keystroke. Hasn't anyone ever watched a suspense movie where the ransom note was made from newspaper clippings? With laser and inkjet printing, that method of investigation is no longer available.

Finally, there are a thousand ways for government to trace you. While I don't trust my government completely, or in some ways at all, I don't really believe that it's out to get me.

And about the Secret Service visiting the guy who called his printer company to ask how to turn off the dots? Doesn't that sound like the Secret Service was just doing its job?

AllofMP3.com Wins Case Against Visa - ?

It's odd that the folks behind the Internet download site AllofMP3.com, which was recently shut down by the Russian government as a prerequisite for joining the WTO, has just won a judgement against Visa for the latter's refusing to do business with the illegal site. And, it means that Visa will now have to do business with the new site by the previous owners of AllofMP3.com, even though it follows the same business model (as far as I can see) and so is just as illegal.

Government Data Mining: Checks and Balances?

I'm all for our law enforcement and military agencies having all the tools they need to protect us from criminals and foreign threats. Data mining is one such tool, and ultimately I don't find it any different than any other form of investigation. It's just faster.

But, there do need to be the same checks and balances in place to make sure that any information that's mined is used for appropriate purposes. And frankly, I don't know if these checks and balances are in place. This story doesn't say.

Probably worth some investigation.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at a surprising 3947 Diggs (surprising both for a weekend and for such an insipid topic), is about a Japanese pool with a TRICK!

Yegads, but sometimes I fear for the future.

N. Korea Shuts Down Reactor - For Now

What's shut down can be easily started up again. North Korea gets what it wants, as in the past, and when that runs out... I give it six months, and we'll be right back where we started.

Ellison: Bush = Hitler

Little Green Footballs has a bit on Congressman Keith Ellison, who essentially compares Bush to Hitler. He backtracks a bit, but just a bit.

It's a bit outrageous, and I haven't said it in awhile: I hate politics.

Bush Not Considering a Withdrawal?

It looks like earlier speculation that Bush might be considering withdrawing from Iraq may have been unfounded. I certainly hope so. Until we've accomplished something--anything--meaningful, and until the Iraqi government (and it better be a pro-American government) has some control over things, I don't think we can leave.

And, I should add, I don't think we should really ever leave. I think we need to build bases in Iraq, just as we do in Europe.

Finally, I should also point out: I consider Iraq a miserable failure and the wrong target in the first place. Our handling of the war--as a "liberation" as opposed to defeating an enemy state--has been appalling and has unecessarily sacrificed American lives. But again, at this point, the victory to our enemies would be so great were we to withdraw now that doing so is impossible. My first paragraph in this post shouldn't be taken to mean that I'm a supporter of the war in Iraq.

Congress Approval Ratings Lower than Bush's

Speaking of surveys, I find it fascinating (and just a bit hilarious) that Congress has a lower approval rating than Bush. I think people simply believe our government's incompetent (and, corrupt?) pretty much across the board.

Newsflash: Mainstream Media has Left-wing Bias

I've often commented on the Leftist leanings of the mainstream media, and a recent Rasmussen Report survey seems to bear this out. The money quote:

"By a 39% to 20% margin, American adults believe that the three major broadcast networks deliver news with a bias in favor of liberals. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 25% believe that ABC, CBS, and NBC deliver the news without any bias."

Pretty damning stuff. And, it's not the first such report I remember reading about.

Iranian Rockets Aimed at American Forces

Iran continues to supply arms to Iraqi terrorists with impunity. Our continued evasion of this proxy war is likely the principle cause of our failure to secure Iraq and achieve some sort of rational objective.

As long as we continue to let Iran wage war against us without response, we're lost.

Boing Boing: How to Violate Your Agreement with Microsoft

Once again, Boing Boing publishes a means for breaking the law, i.e., for removing the DRM from music clearly sold under the agreement that the DRM woul remain in place. Boing Boing simply has no compunctions about helping people break the law.

And on a simliar note, please everybody: Fair Use does not allow the copying of CDs and DVDs. It doesn't allow for the ripping of songs from CDs, or of video from DVDs. In fact, Fair Use has absolutely nothing to do with such things. Rather, it only allows for snippets of works to be used for such purposes as scholarly research. So, where Boing Boing says "To actualize fair use rights with the new IBX...," they're misusing such a basic aspect of intellectual property right law as to make them appear completely ignorant. Which they might be.

Healthcare is Not a Right

This is a bit of a read, but it's well worth it. The concept of healthcare as a "right" is a complete subversion of the very concept of "rights," and is central to discussions about national healthcare. This essay, written in 1993 by Leonard Peikoff of the Ayn Rand Institute and recently updated by Lin Zinzer, tackles the issue head-on.

If you care about healthcare, and about maintaining the uniquely American concept of rights, then take a few minutes and read this piece.

Russia Withdraws from European Treaty

Russia has withdrawn from the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), meaning its now free to place as many tanks, troops, and other military equipment in the European theatre as it pleases. According to the Kremlin, the action was taken due to "extraordinary circumstances ... which affect the security of the Russian Federation and require immediate measures."

They've threatened this for quite some time now, always because of the European missile shield. Of course, they've also made all sorts of contradictory statements about accepting the shield, participating in it, and even providing the principal radar installations. And so, one wonders what "extraordinary circumstances...require immediate measures."

Things continue to get interesting. It's like the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." I'm afraid we do.

Farfour the Martyr Replaced by Nahoul the Bee

The religion of peace continues its indoctrination of children in "Islam, heroism, martyrdom, and the mujahadeen," a juxtaposition of messages that ties religion directly to violence. Farfour, the Mickey Mouse-like character who was martyred at the end of the season by an Israeli soldier, has been replaced by "Nahoul the Bee," who "vowed to continue in Farfour's path." There's a clip at the link.

Entire generations are being raised to hate the Jew and the West, and to prepare themselves for "martyrdom." A quote from Nahoul:

"I want to be in every episode with you on the Pioneers of Tomorrow show, just like Farfour. I want to continue in the path of Farfour – the path of Islam, of heroism, of martyrdom, and of the mujahideen. Me and my friends will follow in the footsteps of Farfour. We will take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the killer of the prophets and of the innocent children, until we liberate Al-Aqsa from their impurity. We place our trust in Allah."

In case there's any doubt, that means destroying Israel and taking revenge against the Jews. Welcome, Nahoul!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at a light 2789 Diggs, is about the "Princess Bride" stars 20 years later. Imagine--they aged!

Kucinich Lukewarm in Opposition to Iran

It seems that Kucinich is not in favor of opposing Iran, at least, not strongly. In this story, he was one of only two Congressmen who didn't vote for a resolution denouncing Iran's President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is).

I think that, alone, should disqualify him as President of the United States. Anyone who doesn't see Iran and Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) as a threat is either horribly naive or just plain ignorant. Or both.

Update: First, the other "nay" vote was none other than Ron Paul. And second, Kucinich actually tried to have written into the record "alternate translations" of Imajihadi's (or whatever his name is) actual statements. Even though there have been hundreds of such statements, not just one, and they've been shown on numerous occasions to mean exactly: Israel should be and will be wiped out. Soon. By Islam. And best if it's by Iranian nukes. Allah willing, of course.

Yaron Brook on Israel and the West's Response to Radical Islam

Here's a fascinating story on Israel and the West's approach to radical Islam, all from a decidedly Objectivist viewpoint. It's definitely worth a careful reading.

Some choice bits:

"You don't fight a tactic," (Brook) said in his talk. "Terrorism is a tactic, and I believe we have to look at the ideological source of terrorism in order to identify the true enemy."

"We don't have the guts, the courage, the self-esteem to even identify who the enemy is. We couch it in terms of terrorists who happen to be Muslims who are 'hijacking a great religion.' We're afraid to say 'Islamic anything': Islamic fascism, totalitarianism, whatever you want to call it." The fear stems, he said, from the academic trend of multiculturalism, in which all cultures are morally equal, and moral relativism, in which "anything goes" in human behavior.

Much more good stuff in there.