Friday, August 31, 2007

More Lunacy from Ahmadinejad

Here's more ranting by Iranian President Imajihadi. I swear, the guy is literally nuts. One cannot believe the things that he's saying in this news conference without being a conspiracy wacko. And he's setting foreign policy for a country that's trying attain nuclear weapons.

And, worst, we stand back and allow it to continue.

Here are some quotes:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday launched a new verbal attack against Israel, accusing Zionists of sowing conflict, publishing offensive cartoons and “lying about being Jewish.”

“Zionists are people without any religion,” Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly predicted that Israel is doomed to disappear, told a news conference in Tehran.

“They are lying about being Jewish because religion means brotherhood, friendship and respecting other divine religions,” he said.

He also said that “Zionists” were behind a cartoon in a Swedish newspaper depicting the head of the Prophet Mohammed on a dog’s body that sparked an official protest by Tehran to Stockholm.

“They do not want the Swedish government to be a friend of other nations. I strongly believe they are behind it (the cartoon). They thrive on conflict and war.

“They are an organised minority who have infiltrated the world. They are not even a 10,000-strong organisation,” he said.

And then the money quote:

“Anywhere they are found there is war. Anywhere where there is war they are behind it,” Ahmadinejad added.

Echoing his previous predictions about Israel’s future, the president said: “If the world is calm, people, Europeans, Germans even, will uproot them.”

And as the blog post says, you'll find all this in very few mainstream media outlets. This stuff should be front-page news, if our media really wanted the public to understand what's going on in the world.

"Bioshock" Not Objectivist-Friendly

If this The Phoenix review of the upcoming game "Bioshock" is any indication, then the game is certainly not based on Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, or on Atlas Shrugged. Here are some quotes that justify that comment.


According to BioShock’s foundation myth, Ryan envisioned his sub-aquatic metropolis (inspired by Ayn Rand, and especially Atlas Shrugged) as the place where man could realize his potential, unfettered by the restrictions placed upon him by government and religion. He populated the city with the greatest minds the world had to offer: industrialists, doctors, artists. Rapture had room only for the productive; there was no place for the weak, the infirm, or even the mediocre commoners that Ryan considered a drain on society.

Objectivism does not suppose that a society could function without government--there has to be some entity that can protect individual rights, which is the fundamental principle upon with Objectivist politics is based. Second, Ayn Rand had nothing against "the mediocre commoners," insofar as the typical person was as productive as his or her abilities made possible and to the extent that any person did not live life as a parasite upon the more productive. And so, from the beginning, the game's premises are perversions of Objectivism, not examples of it.


What you learn pretty quickly is that the first fissure in Ryan’s master plan opened with the discovery of an element called ADAM, which allowed for genetic modification far beyond the bounds of medical science. Freed from any ethical constraints, the people of Rapture set about developing strange and perverse abilities for themselves.

Notice that part, "freed from any ethical constraints." It's an implication that Objectivism has no ethics that would guide individuals in such a situation. Of course, Objectivism does have such an ethics, and it would result in individuals making the most rational long-term decisions possible--meaning, an Objectivist would be the last person to undergo a genetic modification without considering the possible effects. Then again, it's interesting that "developing strange and perverse abilities" is, according to the review, primarily an ethical question.


And yet, the freedom given the player is also subverted to give the game its greatest resonance: if the free will of one diminishes that of another, are they not both slaves? Andrew Ryan dreamed of a city where the great would not be constrained by the small; Rapture failed because he didn’t understand that the great rely on the small. As one character says, Ryan brought people to Rapture to be captains of industry, but they still needed someone to clean the toilets.

Again, although Objectivism does exalt the greatness of mankind, and therefore holds particular respect for those who utilize their abilities to the fullest, it does not conversely consider those without such abilities to be inferior. All Objectivism demands, morally, is that each individual strive for the highest that he can achieve, whether he's a brain surgeon or a janitor.

Objectivism in no way assumes that "the great (are) constrained by the small," except to the extent that government links a chain between them and makes slaves of the productive for the non-productive. If this review is correct, then "Bioshock" is a horrible rendition of Objectivism that will do nothing but perpetuate the negative stereotypes held by those who understand very little about the philosophy.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4383 Diggs, is a link to a new way to advertise men's underwear. Again, a reversion to Digg's underlying prepubescence.

Russia Examined

Here's a nice piece in the Moscow Times that discusses the likelihood that Russian geopolitics will become even more strained in the last few months of Putin's Presidency. More than that, though, it discusses Russia's general approach to world affairs, and makes some interesting points.

A few choice quotes:

A curious pattern emerges when examining Russia's politics over the last quarter century. Fundamental changes come in eight-year cycles, and the transitions from the end of one cycle to the start of the next are accompanied by flare-ups in foreign relations.

An intense struggle for power took place from 1999 to 2000 at the end of President Boris Yeltsin's term. Those years saw the start of a second war in Chechnya, the rise of former KGB officer Putin, a corruption scandal involving members of Yeltsin's family and the Bank of New York affair -- all of which brought relations with the West to a critically low level. The situation began to stabilize only in the spring of 2000, when Putin took office and Western leaders started building bridges with the Kremlin.


It turned out that the West was not prepared for Moscow to assume a new, stronger position in international affairs. Up until recently, the Kremlin had been willing to compromise on most disputes with the West. But now Russia feels its own strength and is less inclined to give in to its partners' wishes.


Russia's ambitions and self-confidence, fed by its oil and gas euphoria, have become greater than its realistic abilities, given the global changes taking place in the modern world. Moscow's eagerness to make up for what it lost after the Soviet collapse as quickly as possible has proven stronger than a calmer, more rational calculation of what it can realistically achieve.

The West is quite disappointed after discovering a distressing fact: It really is difficult to resolve many important issues without Moscow's participation. But Russia is not interested in cooperating on someone else's terms. This stems not only from obstinacy, but also from a growing sense that Western formulas for managing global affairs are simply ineffective. From Moscow's point of view, the situation in Iraq and the turmoil in the Balkans are convincing evidence of this.

Read the whole thing. Incidentally, it says a bit about the West, as well.

Municipal Wi-Fi - On its Deathbed At Last

And, as I mentioned here and here and here, it seems that I was right. There's no business model for municipal Wi-Fi (meaning that, were any to be rolled out, they'd have to be funded by taxes), and newer technology can do the job better. The best thing is, they're failing before they had a chance to negate the newer technology, meaning that we can continue to look forward to privately-created technological advances that will make our lives easier and better.

As long as government just stays out of it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

CNN Creates Anti-Israeli Propaganda Piece

CNN and Christiane Amanpour have apparently created a nicely misleading and deceptive anti-Israeli piece in their three-part series, "God's Warriors." Now, anyone following the history of Israel and the Israeli/Arab conflict shouldn't surprised by this piece, nor find it particularly worse than any other anti-Israeli propaganda.

Here are some quotes:

The August 21 broadcast was the first of God's Warriors, a three-part CNN series, ostensibly examining the role of people who want "God back in their daily lives, back to the seat of power." In actuality, the deeply false premise of the programs, established in the opening scene, is the equating of Jewish (and Christian) religious fervency with that of Muslims heard endorsing "martyrdom," or suicide-killing.

Yes, again, the media insists on morally equating Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, even though it's only Islam that today not only engages in constant, on-going violence but perpetuates a culture with violence at its very roots.

AMANPOUR is similarly deceptive and manipulative in other depictions of nefarious Jewish power, respectfully interviewing both Jimmy Carter and John Mearsheimer, and giving not the slightest hint of the gross factual errors in the charges leveled by the two controversial figures whose recent, incendiary allegations against Israel have been extensively debunked.

Carter declares absurdly that no member of Congress could vote against aid to Israel "and hope to be reelected." Amanpour does not, of course, remind him, or viewers, of the numerous members who have opposed aid to Israel and been repeatedly reelected, including Senate Majority leader Robert Byrd and more than a dozen representatives.

This is common anti-semitism, like what might find on any skinhead Web site. CNN might as well have used the "ZOG" (Zionist Occupational Government) monicker used by neo-Nazis.

The money quote, in this case because it's central to every anti-Israeli's misperceptions of Israeli/Arab history:

Numerous other falsehoods and distortions mar the production. Amanpour declares bizarrely that "the 40-year tug of war over Jerusalem began when Israel bulldozed the Arab neighborhood next to the Western Wall and built a plaza where Jews now pray." Obviously, the modern battle over Jerusalem "began" 60 years ago, when the Arabs attacked in 1948 to destroy the newborn State of Israel, seizing the eastern side of Jerusalem, including the Jewish quarter of the Old City. Every Jew was expelled or killed and all synagogues were destroyed. Thereafter, for 19 years, no Jew could pray at the Western Wall and Christians had limited access to their holy sites.

One might agree or disagree with the creation of Israel, but it was a two-sided effort where the Palestinians were granted their own right to establish a state. They chose not to, instead trusting that the Arabs would push the Jews into the sea. That's the essence of the Israeli/Arab conflict, and it's not often mentioned when the poor Palestinians are being defended by individuals like Jimmy Carter.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at a light 2624 Diggs, is a link to an essay of sorts about how "everything (one) does is illegal." The piece actually has a ring of truth to it: as Ayn Rand said (to paraphrase), government regulation basically makes everyone a criminal.

So, here's a Digg with at least a little importance.

Guardian Supposes that US Should Engage Russia to Solve Problems

Here's a bit of naivete from the Guardian, on how America should push for Russia's help in stablizing the Middle East. As Russia moves ever closer to outright dictatorship (or nationalistic fascism), we're supposed to "engage" them in solving all of the problems that we've created. Really, it's all just a bunch of assertions made while wearing some serious rose-colored glasses, and it's not all that meaningful for anyone who doesn't believe that appeasement is a solution.

Here's an interesting quote, though:

The Anglo-American axis must also swallow its pride and enlist the active support of Europeans, especially France, which was not the only major country to try, rightly, to pull the US back from its folly in Iraq but is also the only continental European state with a network of useful relations in the Middle East.

First, since France rid itself of its corrupt regime (you know, the one that was taking kickbacks from Saddam Hussein under the "Oil for Food" program), the US is engaging with France. Second, I see Great Britain as a European state, and so there's been European engagement all along. The author of the story shows his biases in failing to point this out.

Russia is not our friend, and has proven that it will not act with any honesty in "helping" us solve any problem. Their arms sales to Iraq directly before the war is the kind of "support" that we can expect from them.

I swear, it's like it's 1938 all over again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chevron to Drill 5 Miles Deep in Gulf of Mexico for World's Largest Oil Reserves

Here's a great story on an effort by Chevron to exploit what some consider the largest untapped oil reserves in the world, deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico. The technology is advanced and incredibly expensive, but soon Chevron will have accomplished the deepest drilling in open water.

Obviously, this is important from a national security perspective. If the oil field, dubbed "Jack," is indeed as large as believed (between 3 and 15 billion barrels), then it will significantly reduce the US's reliance on foreign oil. For those who want the US to reduce its involvement in the Middle East, this should be welcome news.

It also points out the importance of oil company profits--without them, oil companies would be unable to make these kinds of investments. Political (and most often crudely populist) efforts to curtail their profits only limits America's energy options.

Eventually, of course, technology will be developed and/or exploited (e.g., nuclear power) that will finally render fossil fuels as unecessary. Until then, it's encouraging that these sorts of efforts are underway, and we can only hope that more such efforts will be made.

Ahmadinejad Says Iran is "Invincible"

Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) seems pretty confident that the US won't act against him. In fact, he says, Iran is "invincible," at least insofar as the US is engaged in Iran and Afghanistan. At least, one hopes that's what he means.

Of course, Iran is the farthest thing from invincible, and if we need to act against them, we'd muster up the troops and material to do so. We could just bomb their nuclear facilities back to the stone age, if we wanted. And so, once again, Imajihadi shows himself to be rather mistaken in his premises.

Putin Russian Gay Icon

This is just too funny to pass up. Apparently, after posing shirtless while on a fishing expedition, Putin has become a Russian gay icon.

There's really nothing else to say.

Chinese Parents-to-Be Break Law By Learning Sex of Fetus

I knew that China's population control and gender discrimination were issues, but I didn't realize they went this far. According to Wired Science, quoting the Observer, wealthier Chinese couples are getting ultrasounds to find out the sex of their baby, despite two laws on the books that ban doctors from revealing the gender during pregnancy.

That's a triple-whammy. First, the Chinese government has laws on finding out the birth of one's own child. And second, they have such laws because so many parents would abort females if they knew the sex. And all this is happening because of China's one child policy.

You gotta hand it to collectivism. It does create some of the most complex societal perversions.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3108 Diggs, returns the site back to its pre-pubescent roots with a link to a story containing 15 tips on how to, well, please a woman.

Cox and Forkum on Iran's New Smart Bomb

Cox and Forkum do their typical job of illustrating the silliness of things. Iran has announced the development of a new "smart bomb," and promises to go into mass production. There's some doubt, of course, as to the veracity of the claim, and the fact that Iran flies old US F4 and F5 fighters makes the threat a little, well, funny.

Check it out for a chuckle.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Time Accuses Bush Motorcade of Killing Motorcycle Officer

Via Little Green Footballs, check out the headline on this Time Magazine story: "Bush Motorcade Kills Cop." I mean, come on, you've got to be kidding me. How could they possibly have come up with such a headline by accident? It's not possible.

Of course, the officer in question crashed his motorcycle, and it's not yet known what exactly happened. But what does Time mean to imply, that the motorcade drove over the unfortunate soul? On purpose, maybe?

South Korea Capitulates, Guarantees Future Kidnappings

Some people will read the headline "Taliban: Korean hostages to be released," and react with relief and, perhaps, even some subtle gratitude toward the Taliban. In reading this story, however, one finds that the Korean government gave in to some of the terrorists' demands: to withdrawal their 200 soldiers from Afghanistan, and to cease Christian missionary work in the country.

I guess there was no payment (and the story doesn't indicate if that was a Taliban requirement), and "there was no mention of releasing Taliban prisoners," which to me doesn't mean that there won't be. I'm not sure that it really matters. By giving in as they have, South Korea has now ensured that more kidnappings will take place.

Notice this quote:

The kidnapping of government officials or foreign aid workers has been used increasingly by insurgents in a bid to destabilize the Western-backed government that took power after the defeat of the Taliban in 2001.

Gee, I wonder why...

Ahmadinejad Vows to Fill Void in Iraq

I continue to be unable to fathom how Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) can continue to send fighters and munitions into Iraq to help destabilize the country, and still get away with statements like this:

“The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly,” Ahmadinejad said at a news conference in Tehran, referring to U.S. troops in Iraq. “Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation.”

It's enough to lose my lunch, which wasn't all that great to begin with.

Turkey Elects Devout Muslim as President

A new twist in Turkey: a devout Muslim was elected as Turkey's President. As the MSNBC story says, he has a "background in political Islam," which sounds ominous to me.

But what's most fascinating to me is that I didn't know this particular aspect of Turkey's politics: the military is strongly secular, and will resist any movement of the government toward religion. In fact, the military has replaced four governments since 1960 for being too religious. They're none too happy that a religious President has been elected.

Of course, that's the opposite of the US. Our civilian government holds power over the military, and the likelihood of such a thing happening here is almost nil. And, I'm not so much bothered by the fact that the new Turkish President is a devout Muslim, any more than I'm bothered by the fact that the US President is a devout Christian. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I'm equally bothered.

It doesn't mean, however, that Turkey will necessarily move away from secularism in government, nor that the new President has any intentions to attempt such a feat. In his own words:

“Secularism — one of the main principles of our republic — is a precondition for social peace as much as it is a liberating model for different lifestyles,” Gul said. “As long as I am in office, I will embrace all our citizens without any bias. I will preserve my impartiality with the greatest of care.”

It'll be interesting to watch how this plays out.

Guy Breaks Apple's EULA, Gets 350Z in Return

I saw a reference to this, and thought it was a joke. Then I found some other references, and it turns out it's true: the guy who broke at least the Apple EULA for the iPhone in unlocking it has been rewarded with three new iPhones and--get this--a Nissan 350Z.

This blatant disregard for intellectual property, contracts, etc., that seems to have taken hold of much of the IT industry does not bode well. There will be repercussions.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 5740 Diggs, is, well, about Digg's new look. Alrighty.

Understanding Vietnam

Here's an interesting post on the Molten Thought blog about what Vietnam--and the rest of our surrenders since--have done to the perception of America in the world. He's quoting Mark Steyn, and here's the money quote:

But if you lived in Damascus and Moscow and Havana, the Vietnam war was about America: American credibility, American purpose, American will. For our enemies today, it still is. Osama bin Laden made a bet – that, notwithstanding the T-shirt slogan, "These Colors Do Run": They ran from Vietnam, and they ran from the helicopters in the desert, and from Lebanon and Somalia – and they will run from Iraq and Afghanistan, because that is the nature of a soft, plump ersatz-superpower that coils up in the fetal position if you prick its toe. Even Republicans like Sen. John Warner seem peculiarly anxious to confirm the bin Laden characterization.

It's been said, and I believe it's true: our Islamic fundamentalist enemies only understand strength. Show them weakness, and it emboldens them. Show them strength, and they'll wilt like the cowardly fanatics they really are.

France's Sarkozy Warns Russians

I knew I liked the new French President, Sarkozy. In this story, he's warning Russia to, essentially, tread lightly with how it handles its energy resources. It's a strong statement to make, but it makes sense that Sarkozy would say it: the EU is far more reliant on foreign energy sources than is the US.

The money quote:

Sarkozy, in a sweeping speech to French ambassadors outlining French foreign policy, noted that "Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by playing its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality."

Sarkozy said Russia's resurgent global activity comes "while the world, particularly Europe, is hoping for an important and positive contribution from (Russia) toward settling the problems of our age."

I'll tell you, I can't think of the last time that I changed my opinion about something (in this case, France) in such short order.

Monday, August 27, 2007

China and Polution

Here's another example of what happens when a totalitarian government runs an economy. China is creating pollution at an unprecedented scale, and it's affecting more than just themselves. The same thing was true with the Soviet Union, as well, with perhaps the most striking example being the ugliness that was East Germany vs. the relative cleanliness of West Germany.

An example:

Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.

But of course, this is collectivism in its purest form. The Chinese government has no problem sacrificing millions of Chinese citizens, as long as its ability to accomplish its goals is unimpeded. And remember, this is a command economy: nobody does anything or lives anywhere by choice.

Today's Non-Sensical Post on Iraq

Just a reminder that a vote is not enough to make a "democracy" (God, how I hate that word). The Iraqi government gets shakier and shakier as time goes on, primarily because it was based on a vote that was bound to be biased along religious and ethnic lines and thus guaranteed to create an unworkable government.

We needed to get order established first, teach these people something about individual rights, and then perhaps try to establish a Constitutional Republic like ours. Or, something similar that would work for them. Or, just give up on the whole mess, break the country into three pieces, and let each fend for itself. At the same time, as I've said many times, we should have denied Iran, Syria, and Saudi involvement, letting Iraq develop as it might on its own.

Of course, that's a gross oversimplification. There's the oil to deal with (who gets how much of it), and Turkey wouldn't take to kindly to a Kurdish nation. And so, there look to be no good solutions, other than perhaps to place an American general in charge for awhile. Or, maybe that's what should have been done in the first place.

Iran's Gasoline Crisis

Some things strike me as ironic, or, at least, surprisingly contradictory. Such is the case with the gasoline rationing currently underway in Iran. Although Iran exports oil, it has almost no refining capacity, and so much import is refined oil and gas.

Now, it just so happens that growth in capacity ended when the Shah was deposed, meaning that in this totalitarian state the religious leadership is likely most at fault. Of course, we have our own examples of this, and it's also government's fault: for example we have plenty of oil, only it can't be extracted because of the environmentalist lobby.

My point? Not much, really, except that government has once again proven its incompatibility and sheer incompetence with economic issues.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 5426 Diggs, is a link to a story about the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. As usual, when a legitimate news story reaches the #1 Digg spot, the comments are vehemently Leftist.

Russia: Inevitable Decline?

Here's a pretty pessimistic view on Russia's future, with which I tend to agree (which is easy, because it's all pretty much factual). There are some sobering quotes:

But demographics underlie every dimension of national power. Mr Putin cannot avoid the fact that Russia's population falls by about 800,000 people every year. Instead of the present level of 142 million, Russia will probably have fewer than 100 million people by 2050 and vast swathes of the country will be depopulated. Nations with a real chance of shaping events in the late 21st century do not have falling populations. National decline is virtually guaranteed by low life expectancy, alcohol abuse and the remarkable fact that Russian women experience more abortions than live births.

And on economics:

The uncomfortable fact is that Russia is not a centre of innovation. There are no world class Russian manufacturing companies, no universities churning out new inventions. Instead, the economy is largely resource-dependent and rises or falls with global energy prices. In other words, Mr Putin has virtually no control over Russia's economic destiny. The vagaries of the world energy market will decide how belligerent he can afford to be.

All of this does go against some of my earlier prognostications that Russia is a long-term threat. I suppose it depends on what one means by "long-term." I'd say, over the next few decades, Russia could cause some problems, but beyond that, it looks like they're in for some real problems.

Read the whole thing.

China and Japan in Race to Moon

This is fascinating: China and Japan are apparently in a race to the moon. I'd known about China's program, but not Japan's. I'd make light of these efforts, except the moon is likely to be of some importance as we make our way further into space. For example, there are resources on the moon that could be utilized on a manned mission to Mars.

I've fallen behind on whatever NASA's plans are in this aera.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Objective Standard on Selling Video Games to Minors

Here's a compelling argument on The Objective Standard dealing with the concept of banning the sale of "violent" video games to children. In short: it's not government's responsibility to decide what intellectual materials are available to children, it's their parents' responsibility.

The money quote:

"Parents properly want to shield their children from the gratuitous violence so common in today's video games. But we must not allow power-hungry politicians to use that desire as a pretense for usurping the rights of parents to oversee the intellectual upbringing of their children."

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4042 Diggs, is a link to an obnoxious Flash intro to a quote by Miss Teen South Dakota on why 20% of Americans can't find America on a map.

It's a serious topic, handled in typical Digg fashion.

Ex-KGB Organization Essentially Runs Russia

The Economist has posted a fascinating story on the influence of the ex-KGB, the FSB, on Russian politics. Or, perhaps, it would be better to say that it exposes how the FSB has become Russia's political structure. While the Left in the US worries over the ability for the CIA to reads its email, in Russia the CIA's equivalent is essentially the reigning power.

A quote:

Over the two terms of Mr Putin's presidency, that “group of FSB operatives” has consolidated its political power and built a new sort of corporate state in the process. Men from the FSB and its sister organisations control the Kremlin, the government, the media and large parts of the economy—as well as the military and security forces. According to research by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, a quarter of the country's senior bureaucrats are siloviki—a Russian word meaning, roughly, “power guys”, which includes members of the armed forces and other security services, not just the FSB. The proportion rises to three-quarters if people simply affiliated to the security services are included. These people represent a psychologically homogeneous group, loyal to roots that go back to the Bolsheviks' first political police, the Cheka. As Mr Putin says repeatedly, “There is no such thing as a former Chekist.”

The money quote:

The KGB provided a crucial service of surveillance and suppression; it was a state within a state. Now, however, it has become the state itself. Apart from Mr Putin, “There is nobody today who can say no to the FSB,” says Mr Kondaurov.

It all reminds me of how poorly we handled the downfall of the Soviet Union. We could have helped them build a capitalist state based on Constitutionally-protected individual rights, and could now have a powerful ally. But instead, we let them flounder, leaving them intellectually disarmed and thus unable to plot the proper path from Communism to freedom. Of all our mistakes in the last century or so, this one may perhaps be one of the costliest.

China Wants to Buy US Hard Drive Manufacturer

I would say, we shouldn't allow the sale of a US manufacturer of hard drives to China. Too much sensitive stuff in there, as the story says. That's a touch decision to come to, because while clearly government should prohibit the sale of any and all goods to certain clear enemies, it's not entirely clear whether China is an "enemy" of the US.

Some people, myself included, might consider them not a present threat, but a future one. To help prevent them from being a formidable future threat, I wouldn't sell them anything but low-tech consumer goods (which I'm not even sure they'd buy). I certainly wouldn't have allowed the sale of IBM's PC division to Lenovo, and I'm still bitter over Clintons sale of missile technology to China (there's a word I'd use to describe that action, but I won't).

Overall, I'd vote no to the sale. If I had a vote, that is. Which I would, incidentally, if we had a rational political system.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More About Unlocked iPhones and the Legality of it All

As I mentioned in an earlier post, someone's going to get sued over unlocked iPhones. And, I believe there are plenty of legal arguments for doing so, none of which have anything to do with copyright, as the linked story suggests. I'd love to read the iPhone's EULA, which I'm guessing includes verbiage directly addressing the topic of unlocking one's phone.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Todays #1 Digg, at 3120 Diggs, resurects the whole "tilt-shifting" photographic trick, which, while interesting, doesn't need to be Dugg every few months.

Austria Joins In Against Missile Defense System

You know, when you take the European missile shield in context, that is, that it is to be comprised of 10 interceptor missiles based in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic, it's hard to fathom how Russia or anyone else (certainly, Austria) could consider this a provocation against anyone but rogue states such as Iran.

I mean, really: how much protection would such a system represent against a Russian nuclear attack? I'd say, it would be pretty damn negligible. Which makes me wonder at what the real politics are behind the whole thing--mainly, that it has nothing to do with the system itself, but rather all to do with the pro-Western leanings of Poland and the Czechs.

Marine Drill Sergeant Charged with Abuse

I hope these were some really serious abuses. I can't imagine having gone through boot camp (U.S. Army) myself without having been "abused." I wouldn't have learned the things I needed to learn, which first and foremost was: when your superior tells you to move in combat, you move, without thinking about it first. Or, probably, you die.

The entire purpose of boot camp is to tear down certain aspects of a recruit's personality and build them back up to make him a good soldier. Sometimes, that requires drill sergeants to do what those in the civilian world might call "mean," or, in the case of the linked story, "abusive."

It would be a shame if the Marines were to relax the harshness of their legendary training. Because ultimately, a Marine then wouldn't be a Marine.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Clarification of My Politics

My earlier post about the Daily Show segment may give my readers a skewed perspective of my politics. And so, let me just say: as an Objectivist, I could probably count on the fingers of both hands the number of government actions that I've agreed with over the last few decades.

I consider our government's reach over the past, say, 80 years to be so beyond its Consitutional boundaries that the Constitution hardly matters any longer. Everything from our healthcare system, to our financial markets, to our transportation infrastructure, and much, much more is so perverted by government influence that unraveling it all would likely mean starting from scratch.

And so, I certainly don't agree with every action our government took (such as with Afghanistan) during the Cold War, except in this regard: I do believe that every or at least most actions were taken to avoid a shooting war that arguably could have ended human life as we know it. At least, our leaders believed so, and incidents like the Cuban missile crisis is one strong example. Even here, though, I believe that the Soviet Union would have collapsed on its own inevitably, and so perhaps all the geopolitical games really weren't necessary.

Just for some clarification...

Clinton and Bush: 1st Term Active Duty Military Deaths

Just as a quick aside, I'll never understand this statistic:

Active duty deaths during Clinton's first four years (1993 - 1996): 4302
Active duty deaths during Bush's first four years (2001 - 2004): 5187

During Bush's first term (for better or worse) we toppled oppressive regimes in two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq. In Clinton's first four years we... well, what exactly did we do?

Please note that I consider even a single American death a tragedy. I just think it's interesting to put things into perspective.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4338 Diggs, is about a crack that unlocks the iPhone from AT&T. Now, as far as I can tell, creating such a crack amounts to some sort of tort, because it directly damages AT&T's agreement with Apple. AT&T and Apple probably have some cause of action against whomever created the crack. Or, maybe AT&T should sue Apple for breach of contract, since Apple wasn't able to maintain the exclusivity for which AT&T contracted.

But of course, the Diggsters don't care about any of that, because hell, by their definition, the iPhone should be free, anyways.

Iranian Crackdown Intensifies

This story in the Economist discusses the current crackdown on the Iranian people, which goes beyond punishing dissidents and returning to the Islamic puritanism of the Revolution. I use this to support my position in this earlier post that trying to deal directly with the Iranian people would do nothing but bring down further abuse.

Daily Show Lambasts America's Involvement in the MIddle East

A friend sent me a link to this story in The Raw Story which is about a Daily Show episode titled "'America to the Rescue' in the Middle East." Now, in true Daily Show fashion, the format determines the content, which is to say, it's like a bunch of comedic soundbites wrapped into what's meant to be important political commentary.

In essence, the episode tries to draw a line from today's Iraq back through Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan--with the basic assumption being that America has been the root cause of everything that's happened in the Middle East. This timeline assumes that world events progress in a perfectly linear fashion, that all of the actors are perfectly predictable, and that each event happens in a vacuum, untouched by other events.

Of course, none of these assumptions are valid.

Our providing weapons to the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan made perfect geopolitical sense at the time, because the last thing we wanted was another Soviet puppet government in such a sensitive spot. Osama bin Laden was a nobody then, and of course we had no idea that he would one day turn his attention from Russia to the US.

At least, we couldn't have foreseen that we would place troops in Saudi Arabia, which would so anger bin Laden--which in and of itself isn't even valid, because bin Laden's thinking goes beyond Saudi Arabia. He's fighting for a return to the glory days of the Ottoman Empire, only he's thinking globally. Everything else is incidental.

Also, the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan was one of the turning points in the downfall of what was an ideologically corrupt, expansionist enemy intent on taking over as much geography as possible. Perhaps even if we had known bin Laden's true character, we would still have proceeded as we did because, at that time, keeping Afghanistan out of Soviet hands was more important.

Next, about our providing arms to Hussein: we did so only starting in 1982, when Iran was looking more and more powerful (at least, relative to Iraq). For the period 1973 to 1990, roughly $30 billion in arms were sold to Iraq. Of that, during the period 1982 to 1988 (when American arms sales to Iraq ended), the total sold by America to Hussein was $200 million. In short, American arms sales to Iraq were negligible, with Russia, France, and China representing the bulk of the sales. This directly contradicts the point made in the Daily Show episode. (Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), via Wikipedia.)

In hindsight, of course, even $200 million was too much to sell to a government that was, two years later, to invade a neighboring country. But of course we don't make decisions in hindsight. We saw Iran about to overrun Iraq, and we made a decision to make sure that didn't happen. At the time, it was probably a good decision, and I hardly think that the 0.5% of arms that we sold Iraq (during the period 1973-1990) made much of a difference in the first Gulf War.

Finally, it might very well be possible that the Iraq War has strengthened Iran's position. Again, in hindsight that may be perfectly clear. And arguments for and against going to war with Iraq are both legion and, at this point, irrelevant. I think most people can agree that the way the war was handled was incompetent, and it's only lately that we've made any measurable progress.

But, we should also remember that Iran's position is strengthened only because we allow it to be. Iran has committed acts of war against the United States by providing arms and fighters in Iraq, acts that we have so far ignored. Had we put a halt to the influx of fighters and materials from Iran and Syria years ago, Iraq could be a stable country by now. All that is meant to show that it's been political incompetence that has strengthened Iran, and not the Iraqi war per se.

The one area where I would agree with the Daily Show is in our providing arms to Saudi Arabia. We should be doing the opposite--forcing the Saudi royal family to stop its exportation of Islamic extremism. That alone would make a significant difference in the Middle East and elsewhere.

What the Left doesn't seem to want to recognize is that, for the Islamic extremists (including Iranian President Imajihadi, or whatever is name is), this is not about geopolitics as usual. This is about a group of religious fanatics who desire to impose Islam as the world religion and to establish an Islamic caliphate.

The problem with the Daily Show's timeline is that it ignores so many other elements and singles out only those "facts" (some of which are distorted) that seem to support its position. I suppose one can only blame them for trying to cover so much in so little time. Which is part of the point of this post: that things are far more complicated than the Left (and the Right) wants to recognize, and the enemy is different than the one's we've faced in the past. For one small example, the Soviets were ideologues, but they wanted to live. Our current enemy wants to die. That makes all the difference in the world in how you deal with them.

And so, in short, while the Daily Show might make for good political humor, it's not relevant when considering past American actions or trying to determine future actions. Which is not to say that I agree with anything the Bush Administration is doing, but then my alternatives would certainly not be the same as the Left's.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Boeing and EU Firms to Help Russia Revitalize Airplane Industry

As we and the Europeans help Russia reestablish its civilian aeronautical industry, we're helping it reestablish its military aeronautical industry. To me, that makes little sense. For reasons why, read just about everything else about Russia nowadays.

Russian Su-24 Bombers Grounded

It would be a bit ironic if this crashed Russian Su-24 bomber were one of those that Putin wants to send on the old Soviet strategic routes. If so, they're all grounded, so that would put a little dent in Putin's plan. Unfortunately, those bombers are old "Bears" (prop-driven, to boot) pulled out of mothballs, and that probably wouldn't make it within 500 miles of American airspace if deemed a threat.

Ahmadinejad Once Again Calls for the Death of Israel

Here's a link to the MEMRI video of Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) specifically and unequivacably calling for "Death to Israel." MEMRI is not know for mistranslations, incidentally. And, according to this madman, it's not just Iran that want Israel destroyed, it's most of the world. Or, at least, it's Venezuela and North Korea, as far as one can tell.

Go watch the video. It's sickening.

Peace with Iran Through the Iranian People? I wish

I wish this piece in The Christian Science Monitor were possible. I really do. As much as I strongly support a massive military response to threats against America--to make future threats that much less likely--it would be wonderful if we could just appeal to the Iranian people and solve all our problems with Iran.

But, the idea that we could isolate the religious leadership, Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is), and the Revolutionary Guard, and that they would stand by and let it happen, is naive on a monumental scale. I imagine that the moment we started giving economic support to the Iranian people, and they responded positively to our gestures, there would be a crackdown that would make past crackdowns look like costume parties.

A relevant quote:

The internal vulnerabilities of Iran's ruling circles make this a perfect time to extend an olive branch to the people of Iran with a diplomatic initiative that involves economic incentives and development opportunities for the poor, the middle class, and the reformers. Multilateralism is a must if we want this to happen, because Europe, Russia, Japan, and others maintain good relations with Iran's business sector, the kind necessary in order to provide socioeconomic development assistance. If the Revolutionary Guard and the president block these gestures then "it is on their heads," and we will likely see them increasingly marginalized.

One can only imagine the Revolutionary Guard's response were they to be "marginalized."

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4620 Diggs, is a link to a story about a guy who lost a job because he gave too good of an answer to a question. Personally, I think it's an urban legend, and it's a big yawner no matter which.

More on Russia's Political Mental Institutions

Here's another account of Russia's politically-motivated asylum commitments. I think the story speaks for itself:

Larisa Arap has just emerged from a 46-day imprisonment in two Russian psychiatric hospitals. Pills were forced down her throat and she received injection after injection. She doesn't know what medications they were, or whether they will cause permanent damage.

"I don't feel very well, but I have a fighting spirit," Mrs Arap said yesterday, adding that sometimes she was so drugged she could barely walk or speak[.]

She was forcibly interned, not for health reasons, but over her association with the opposition group led by former chess star Garry Kasparov, the United Civil Front. Her arrest stemmed from the publication of an article entitled "Madhouse," exposing the ghoulish practices of a Russian psychiatric hospital in the Murmansk edition of his organisation's newspaper, Dissenters' March.

As far as typical methods:

Taken to a mental ward, Mrs Arap noted that many of its occupants seemed perfectly sane. "I was surprised that among them were lots of normal people," she wrote in "Madhouse". "But how they [staff] communicated with them: They shouted, they beat them up, they put them on drips, after which people became like zombies, they raped them, carried them off in the night and returned them in the morning, tormented."

One woman was threatened with the removal of organs, Mrs Arap said. Children were told that if they didn't give massages to medics they'd receive electro-shock therapy.

Read the whole thing. It says alot about where Russia's heading.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Light Blogging Today

Another light blogging day, as I take care of some personal matters. Likely be some blogging tomorrow.

MEMRI Provides Essay by Liberal Iraq Kurd on Attack on Yazida Community

Here's a piece from MEMRI providing an essay by an Iraqi Kurd, Hussein Sinjari, on the horrendous attack on the Yazidi community and on minorities in the Middle East in general. When one considers this particular attack, no sane, rational person can consider the "insurgency" in Iraq as anything but an effort to destory any semblence of freedom in that country and replace it with Islamic totalitarianism. And, none can consider that those who support such a regime would have any reason or intention to stop at Iraq.

Some quotes:

"The squalid terrorism that targeted the Yazidis in the Sinjar region is an indication of the great weakness in the political will of the Kurdish leadership. Before the latest terror attack… there were many indications that the terror cells were markedly stepping up their activities in this region and were targeting the Yazidis in particular and the Kurds in general…

"In Kurdistan, and in… Kirkuk, Sinjar, and Khanaqin, the vile terrorists are trying to reserve front-row seats in Paradise, which is becoming more crowded day by day with scum, murderers, and conscienceless, malicious fanatics. This has reached the point where it will be perplexingly [difficult] for the management of Paradise, in this state of affairs, to provide the overwhelming numbers of female angels and boy-servants to these barbaric criminals who are so hungry and thirsty for sex…

"They want to buy a ticket to Paradise with the blood and agony of innocents. What teachings, of what belief system - what verses permit all of this killing, destruction, and hellfire, with all its agony? The obscurantist suicide bombers, who hate life, hope, beauty, love, happiness, construction, and development in this life, hate those 'others' who do not resemble them in their religion, habits, customs, ways of thinking, ways of worship, and in their robes and beards.

"By targeting the Yazidis, the terrorists are saying loud and clear - and this is the correct interpretation of their criminal activities in the Kurdish regions that the Saddam dictatorship tried to Arabize and Ba'thize and separate from Kurdistan - that they have come [to carry out] raids and conquests, drawing their poison-tipped swords…"

There's so much more to quote, but I don't want to overdo it. Read the entire piece if you want to understant what the "insurgency" in Iraq is really about. If you come away still thinking it's about America's "occuption," then you must simply want to believe it--because the evidence certainly doesn't back you up.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Congressional Approval Rating at 18%

Oh my golly, just had to post this via Instapundit. According to the latest Gallup Poll, Congress' approval ratings are at 18%, with disapproval at 76%.

That's all.

Ahmadinejad Threatens America Again (yawn)

More from Iranian Presidenti Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) on the MEMRI blog:

In a speech at a Tehran conference promoting Islamic studies and culture, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that "America is facing a dangerous future" and that "the Great Satan" (i.e. the U.S.) will lose the battle.

He called on Muslim clerics to invite all humanity to the true religion, Islam.

It's a short read. Check it out.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 5036 Diggs, is a link to a couple of pictures "with" and "without" flash. Hee hee.

Digg's going to change the world, the rate they're going.

Swedish Government Unhappy with Russian Trade Practices

Looks like the US isn't alone in having concerns about Russia joining the WTO. The Swedes also have some concerns:

Swedish Trade Minister Sten Tolgfors told Reuters he felt direct trade discussions with Russia were no longer productive and he had asked for EU help as he accused the Russians of failing to live up to promises on timber tariffs.

"This is the first time my government is really this outspoken and critical towards Russia," he said in an interview.

More specifically:

"I think simply that the highest leadership of Russia has not seen the linkage to the conditions for the WTO membership. So that's why the promises made by ministers have not been fulfilled," Tolgfors said.

"It's very hard for me to continue a dialogue when the agreements are not fulfilled. That's why it has to go back to the Commission and they have to handle this issue with urgency in the WTO negotiations," he said.

Once again, it's good to not stand alone.

Japan and Indian Partner Up Against China

Looks like Japan and India are stepping up to the plate to counter China's increasing economic and political influence in the region. Of course, it would be great it everyone was capitalist and just competed, but as long as China remains a command economy, there's probably some value to the US not having to be the only one shouldering the load.

A quote:

As Beijing’s influence in Asia and around the world has grown, their common interests have forced Tokyo and New Delhi to begin warming their historically chilly relationship and to start forging closer economic ties. “The key issue facing the whole region is how to accommodate the rise of China,” said Suman Bery, the director general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, a New Delhi research group. Indian economists estimate that Japanese investment in India will reach $5.5 billion by 2011, compared with just $515 million in the 2006 fiscal year.

It won't necessarily be a rosy path, though:

Culturally and economically, Japan and India remain far apart, a fact that government officials and economists said could complicate building a stronger relationship. Speaking Monday during a meeting in a New Delhi hotel to discuss the Japanese prime minister’s visit, Mr. Bery, the director of the New Delhi research group, said Japan’s manufacturing is “state of the art,” which has “not been our strong suit.”

I wish them the best.

Russia Warns Czechs Not to Participate in Missile Defense System

Russia has told the Czech Republic that allowing a radar installation on their property as part of the European missile defense shield would be a "big mistake." Now, one would expect rhetoric like this from Russia, if it's looking to restore the expansionist goals of the Soviet Union. One wouldn't expect rhetoric like this from a Russia who has given so many conflicting signals about participating in the missile shield and who wants to pretend it's a part of the civilized world.

Some quotes:

Russia’s military chief told the Czech Republic it would be making a “big mistake” to host a U.S. missile defense shield on its soil and urged Prague on Tuesday to delay a decision until a new U.S. president is elected.

I love the bit about waiting until a new US President is elected. That could go either way, of course, although it should give the Republican party a little bit to think about when it comes to Russian relationships, should they win the election.

The missile shield is the latest in a series of moves by Moscow’s former Warsaw Pact allies to embrace NATO, effectively moving the West’s military capabilities closer to Russia.

Baluyevsky said the Czech move was a political rather than a military decision.
“In my opinion it is a great disappointment that today’s discussion sees no change in the last four months by the Czech government. You have taken a decision to continue construction of a radar site on Czech territory,” he said.

“There are unfounded allegations that Russia is attempting to disrupt the peace and tranquility of Western Europe.”

I find "unfounded allegations" a little strong in this context. Russian's been doing plenty to "disrupt the peace and tranquility of Western Europe," and has plans for much more.

Iraqis on Trial for "Brutal Crushing" of Shiite Uprising Following First Gulf War

As much as I'm glad to see these guys in court for their crimes against the Shiite uprising following the first Gulf War, I'm reminded as well of how we promised them support and then failed to follow through. They were wiped out because we failed to provide the air and other support we promised, and for that, we should be ashamed.

These guys should hang, there's no doubt. And there are some American leaders who should be hanging their heads.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cox and Forkum on Jimmy Carter

This Cox and Forkum cartoon is going to be on CNN's investigative show "God's Warriors" on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 9pm EST. It seems it'll be part of a piece about critical reactions to Carter's book, "Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid."

Check it out. It's good, as always.

Multiculturalism and Education - A Bad Mix

Here's a nice piece on Capitalism Magazine's site on multiculturalism and its effect on education. I experience this at least once a week when speaking with my kids about what they learned.

A quote to whet the appetite:

What these textbooks reveal is a concerted effort to portray the most backward, impoverished and murderous cultures as advanced, prosperous and life-enhancing. Multiculturalism's goal is not to teach about other cultures, but to promote--by means of distortions and half-truths--the notion that non-Western cultures are as good as, if not better than, Western culture. Far from "broadening" the curriculum, what multiculturalism seeks is to diminish the value of Western culture in the minds of students. But, given all the facts, the objective superiority of Western culture is apparent, so multiculturalists must artificially elevate other cultures and depreciate the West.

If students were to learn the truth of the hardscrabble life of primitive farming in, say, India, they would recognize that subsistence living is far inferior to life on any mechanized farm in Kansas, which demands so little manpower, yet yields so much. An informed, rational student would not swallow the "politically correct" conclusions he is fed by multiculturalism. If he were given the actual facts, he could recognize that where men are politically free, as in the West, they can prosper economically; that science and technology are superior to superstition; that man's life is far longer, happier and safer in the West today than in any other culture in history.

The ideals, achievements and history of Western culture in general--and of America in particular--are therefore purposely given short-shrift by multiculturalism. That the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age were born and flourished in Western nations; that the preponderance of Nobel prizes in science have been awarded to people in the West--such facts, if they are noted, are passed over with little elaboration.

Again, I experience this weekly (most weeks, anyways), and so have my own evidence to back this up. I spend at least a few hours undoing some of this stuff. It's worse at public schools, but private schools certainly aren't perfect.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3909 Diggs, is a link to a fake photo of what Steve Jobs's grave may look like one day. I suppose it's cute in a highly morbid sort of way, but of course, not of any importance whatsoever.

Racism on the Rise in Putin's Russia

I know from my wife (a former Soviet) that Russia has always been a racist nation. It seems, though, like it's getting worse. This post on La Russophobe brings the point home. Note that racism and nationalism are both collectivist ideas, and they tend to go hand-in-hand. And so, it should be no surprise that as nationalism is on the rise in Russia, so too is racism.

A quick quote:

Russia for the Russians. It's a phrase that I hear more and more often. One of my friends - as white as the Russian snow - was punched out for speaking English in Moscow. My wife and I were physically threatened by a group of skinheads on the metro who drunkenly told us "Yankees go home." The fact that Canada is a separate state was lost on him, so we got off at the next station even though it was nowhere near from our destination.

The Moscow police, Tolessa told me, were open admirers of the "Russia for the Russians" crowd. When an African student who was attacked called for help, the police would just as often join the beating as stop it. It wasn't just Africans. Anyone from the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia was liable to be targeted as chorniyy, or "black."

Read the whole thing.

Ahmadinejad Invited to Visit Iraq - Yes. the Iraq He's Destabilizing

I now officially feel like I'm living in Alice in Wonderland. The Iraqi government has invited Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) for a visit. This makes me doubt the Iraqi government even more, and makes the war even more painful to endure. It also makes me wonder if there's direct collusion between the Shiite elements of the Iraqi government and Imajihadi.

Rather than handling Iraq like Japan and Germany, we've now turned Iraq into a potential Iranian ally. Our leader's pathetic and inexcusable misunderstanding of "democracy," thinking that a vote is the same thing as freedom, is a large part of why this is happening. The rest is pure altruism, thinking that our goal in Iraq was ever or should ever have been to build a better world for the Iraqi people.

I'm now leaning in the direction of thinking the "war" is truly hopeless, because the best we'll be able to come up with is another stable Islamic dictatorship. Even carving out the Kurds and letting them setup a secular state wouldn't work, because Turkey would be all over that.

And before anyone blames Bush and his administration alone, let's not forget that it's the entire US government that plays by the same altruistic rules. Very few polititions were prepared to fight the kind of war we needed to fight, which was to root out the Baa'thist factions immediately, and more important force Syria and Iran to stay out of it. Our rules of engagement should have been like in any other war--shoot the enemy on sight, and bomb strategic and tactical targets with full knowledge that collateral damage was possible. Far fewer Iraqis would be dead today if we'd finished this as we should have years ago.

End of rant. I think I'll go empty my stomach now.

Police Sniper Shoots Gun out of Man's Hand

I had to post this: Gizmodo has video of a police sniper shooting the gun out of a man's hand as he threatened to kill himself. Amazing stuff. If you watch any YouTube video today, this has got to be the one.

What I want to know is, why isn't this sniper in Iraq? I'm sure he'd come in handy over there, as well.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Admits to Efforts Against US

And about those Iranian Revolutionary Guards: they promise to "punch" the US. Now I'm sure that's partly from translation, and I'm sure it sounds more menacing in the native tongue. But it makes me inclined to thumb my nose and go "nah nah nah" right back at them.

Some quotes:

Local press in the Iranian capital of Tehran quoted Revolutionary Guards leader Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi saying that he could understand Washington's ire towards the group because of their recent successes against the United States.

"America will receive a heavier punch from the guards in the future," he was quoted as saying in the conservative daily Kayhan.

"We will never remain silent in the face of U.S. pressure and we will use our leverage against them," he was quoted as saying.

Now, all kidding aside, what exactly Gen. Safavi mean by "successes against the United States," unless he's basically admitting to Iran's involvement in Iraq. Personally, were I President, I'd take that as admission of acts of war and go after them. But, alas, I'm not President.

More on Iran in Iraq

More on Iran's involvement in Iraq. I ask again: why aren't we at war with Iran?

Some quotes:

American forces are tracking about 50 members of an elite Iranian force who have crossed the border into southern Iraq to train Shiite militia fighters, a top U.S. general said Sunday. The French foreign minister, meanwhile, arrived in Baghdad on a groundbreaking visit after years of icy relations with the United States over Iraq.


He singled out the Shiite extremists as being behind rising attacks using armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, which he said were largely assembled in Iraq from parts smuggled in from Iran. He also noted a marked increase in Iranian-rockets that have been increasingly effective against U.S. bases.

It's getting embarrassing that we're letting Iran get away with this.

Income Equality - The Why and How of it

Here's a nice piece at Capitalism Magazine on "income equality" and its true meaning in a free society.

The money quote:

Criticisms of income inequality are always couched in a certain type of language. For example, it is claimed that wealthier Americans "command" an "unfair share" of our "national wealth." Such language implies that American wealth is a communal pie that belongs equally to all of us.

But it is no such thing.

The vast wealth that exists in America has been created--through the productive activities and voluntary arrangements of individuals. And individuals do not necessarily create the same amount of wealth. Compare the value brought into existence by the entrepreneur whose productivity software is eagerly bought by millions--and the checkout clerk at a store that sells it. Such vast differences in productivity--which can be caused by vast differences in ability, work ethic, interests, skills, and choices--are the root of vast differences in income.

I'm sure there are those who would attack just this quote and not read the entire essay, and of course that's fine. But reading the entire essay might be of interest to some.

Boing Boing Outs CIA and FBI on Wikipedia Edits

Boing Boing reports on a Reuters story talking about the CIA and FBI making edits to Wikipedia on topics such as the Iraq war and Gitmo.

The quote:

People using CIA and FBI computers have edited entries in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia on topics including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo prison, according to a new tracing program. The changes may violate Wikipedia's conflict-of-interest guidelines, a spokeswoman for the site said on Thursday. The program, WikiScanner, was developed by Virgil Griffith of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico and posted this month on a Web site that was quickly overwhelmed with searches.

All I can say is, "duh." And I don't see why Wikipedia bars those closely involved with something to make edits. I thought the goal was truth, and I can only imagine the untrue information that might be posted by some Leftist about anything related to the CIA and/or FBI. And so, I put this in the big "yawn" category.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3501 Diggs, is a list to some Mac utilities. It's at least of some technical value, I suppose.

Putin Attacks America with Harshest Rhetoric Yet

Putin ups the anti-American rhetoric, to what end I can only guess. There's not much more to the story, so I'll just provides some of the money quotes:

In a speech in Germany, which one U.S. senator said smacked of Cold War rhetoric, Putin accused the United States of making the world a more dangerous place by pursuing policies aimed at making it "one single master".

Attacking the concept of a "unipolar" world in which the United States was the sole superpower, he said: "What is a unipolar world? No matter how we beautify this term it means one single center of power, one single center of force and one single master."

"It has nothing in common with democracy because that is the opinion of the majority taking into account the minority opinion," he told the gathering of top security and defense officials.

Harsh words.

Islam as the Enemy - A Harsh Post

Now here's a no-holds-barred account of Islam, with a few reputable quotes thrown in for good measure. There's a part of me that disagrees that Islam should be "wiped out," but then again, I have no problems with the idea that Nazism and Communism should be wiped out. So why such compunctions against Islam, which by its very nature has just as inherent a potential for violence againt non-Muslims.

A quote:

This is why sanctions are not going to prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. But inasmuch as such weapons would enable Iran not only to destroy Israel but also dominate Saudi Arabia and thereby control the oil on which the world’s economy depends, the Iranian regime and its nuclear facilities must be destroyed—and without being squeamish about civilian casualties.

Yet this will not suffice to win the war against Islamdom. Islam is animated by an envious hatred of the West. This envy indicates that Muslim leaders know that Islam is decadent. Two months before the Six-Day War of June 1967 a Syrian army magazine published an article referring to Islam as one of the “mummies in the museums of history.”

In The Dream Palace of the Arabs, the renowned Lebanese-born scholar Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University agrees with the most prominent literati of the Arab world who sorrowfully behold the “death of Arab civilization.” Daniel Pipes sees in the Muslim world “a pervasive sense of debilitation."

Read the whole thing.

Russia to Sell Arms to Syria (a.k.a., Iran)

I'd complain more about these Russian arms sales to Syria if we hadn't sold arms to Saudi Arabia. I think both we and the Russians, seperately or together, will come to regret these actions.

Of course, speculation is that Syria will turn around and give/sell at least some of the weapons to Iran, which would spell the second time Russia has sold particularly sensitive arms to a nation with which we had at least a chance to go to war (read, Iraq):

A spokesman for Russia's arms export agency Rosoboronexport, contacted by Agence France-Presse, declined to comment on the newspaper report.

The report acknowledged that the delivery of the weapons, the Pantsyr-S1E self-propelled short-range missile air defence system, was particularly sensitive in light of Israeli claims last year that Russian arms sold to Syria had ended up in the hands of militant group Hezbollah.

In May, the London-based arms specialist magazine Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Syria had agreed to send Iran at least 10 of the Pantsyr units.

It's the Cold War all over again, except this time there's a third participant that nobody wants to recognize: radical Islam.

Ahmadinejad Spews Out More Vitriol

Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is) is up to it again, saying things that one side of the political spectrum will interpret as threatening and the other as mere opinion. The quotes:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a new verbal assault on Israel, denounced it on Saturday as the "flag of Satan" and said it may be facing disintegration, official media reported.


Two months ago, he said the Lebanese and the Palestinians had pressed a "countdown button" to bring an end to the state of Israel.

On Saturday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying of Israel in a speech: "When the philosophy of the establishment and the continuation of this regime is not just, it is not unlikely that it is on the path of decline and disintegration."

Sure, that's just fine for a national leader to say about another sovereign state. He's just predicting things, right?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Faster Than Light? Not so Fast

In case you're interested in such things, the latest claim to have exceeded the speed of light has been debunked. I won't pretend to understand everything in this Ars Technica article (and if the author did, then kudos to him), and so I wouldn't know what would be relevant to quote.

So, if you want to know what's up, go read the story.

Hollywood Butchers Science

I agree that movies play havoc with science, in particular with physics. This Ars Technica story lists just a few, from a report by Praxis der Naturwissenschaften Physik (and no, I have no idea who they are).

Some examples:

Gravity takes a vacation in Speed: There's a gap in a freeway bridge with a relatively flat surface. A bus, traveling about 70 mph, crosses that gap, flying along an apparently horizontal path. Gravity was apparently taking a well-deserved break.

Spider-Man's military genius fails vector math: The Green Goblin cut the cables on the Roosevelt Island Tram but held the loose end to keep it from plunging into the East River. Although he was well positioned to handle the vertical component of the force, the horizontal portion of the pull from the tram car would have wrenched him sideways and into the river.

The Core rings hollow: On their way towards the center of the earth, the crew takes a break 700 miles beneath the surface. Oddly, gravity is normal, despite the fact that a significant fraction of the Earth's mass is now above them. Meanwhile, a dead crewman's body sinks into molten rock, despite the relatively low density of its primary component, water.

Read the story for more.

Cox and Forkum on Chinese Product Quality

Cox and Forkum's take on the Chinese product quality question. As usual, right on target.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 4549 Diggs, is a link to a page about blocking FireFox because of an add-on--endorsed by the Mozilla organization--that allows FireFox users to block ads on Web sites.

Now, first, the Diggster who posted this mischaracterized the message, which is here. Second, I happen to agree with some points made on the linked page in general principle. I'm not sure I'd go as far as they go, but they make some valid points. And third, somewhat ironically, Digg itself has ads, and so if it is a sort of theft to make use of a Web site's resources without at least giving the advertising a chance, then Diggsters who use the Firefox add-on are stealing from their own favorite site.

Russia and China - Military Partners?

And to rub salt on the wounds, it really does appear that Russia and China (and the rest of the SCO, which hardly matters unless Pakistan and India join) are moving closer and closer together. Their recent and planning military exercises are unnerving to some:

President Putin of Russia and his Chinese counterpart, President Hu, will attend an unprecedented show of joint military force Friday amid fears that the Russian leader is trying to turn an increasingly powerful central Asian alliance into a second Warsaw Pact.

Although I mentioned in a previous post that the SCO isn't likely to admit Iran, it does create a dangerous situation:

Yet the SCO has wider ambitions. Pakistan, India, and Mongolia all want to join Â-- as does Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, attended the summit as guest of honor, a title bound to rile Washington. Iranian membership of the SCO would pose an enormous headache for the American government. Like Nato, its treaty states that an attack on one member is regarded as an attack on all, raising the prospect that the American government could find itself aligned against both Russia and China if it invaded Iran.

In that previous post, I also optimistically predicted that the SCO would retain its largely economic agenda. That might indeed have been optimistic.

Russia to Continue Soviet-Era Strategic Air Space Patrols

It seems that Putin has found it necessary to resume strategic air space patrolling in remote reaches of its territory, something the was ended with the downfall of the Soviet Union. This, along with wargames conducted with China and the rest of the SCO, is interesting, to say the least.

More and more, I fear that Russia is not our friend (which is fairly obvious, I think), and--worse--has no intention of becoming so. The idea that it's "American hegemony" or somesuch that pushes Putin to these measures falls flat when one considers that we've invited Russia to participate in much of what we've planned.

And America has not acted unilaterally in anything over the last few decades (although perhaps we should have), but has built coalitions for every major action we've taken. I point this out only because, despite Leftist claims to the contrary, America has not acted as an imperialist, sole world superpower. If we had, as the Soviet Union would have done (and Russia already has with Chechnya), then the Middle East would be decimated, a wasteland, turned into rubble as an example against others who might decide to take such actions against us.

No, I believe the Putin simply lusts for the "power" of the Soviet Union (false though it was, other than its nuclear deterrent), and is trying desperately to return Russia to this level of world influence. Of course, Russia has quite a ways to go before it gets there; it wouldn't last long in a shooting war against the US. But Putin likely feels, and probably rightly so, that he has plenty of time to work on it.

MTV's Kurt Loder Rips Into "Sicko"

I was pleasantly surprised to find a very rational and thorough review of Michael Moore's "Sicko" by none other than MTV's Kurt Loder. Now, I know it's not good to generalize people, but I wouldn't have expected anyone from the MTV staff to be so rational about such a topic. My apoligies to Kurt Loder.

But, on to the story. We all know (or should) that Michael Moore is a sensationalist who will twist any statistic or anecdote to make a particular point. His movies are not documentaries, they're fictional and based only thinly on valid evidence. He's even admitted as such in the past, and I believe this to be a fair paraphrase: he's a propagandist, not a documentarian.

In the linked review, Kurt Loder does as well as anyone I've read to show just how one-sided and misleading Moore has been with "Sicko." And, contrary to most reviews, Loder even points out that getting government out of healthcare would be the only real solution. I've pointed out in the past myself that healthcare has been on a dangerous path since the 1930's, when the Blue Cross/Blue Shield entities were first established with government blessings.

I won't quote from the review, because it's fairly well-composed. That is, there's not much that doesn't flow and so if quoted would be taken out of context. So, I recommend that you go read it yourself.

It's well worth the time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Light Blogging Today

Legal issues to take care of, dontcha know. So, today's blogging will be a little light.

Oliver Stone Asks Again to Make Movie about Ahmadinejad

Celebrity Report: Two in one day, that's a first (I think). This one's about Oliver Stone making a second request to make a movie about Iranian President Imajihadi (or whatever his name is).

The money quote:

"I believe that the dialogue between the Iranian and the US people is necessary today and making this film is a contribution to meeting the need," part of the email reads.

"A wrong and inappropriate picture of Islam is drawn in the US media and this film provides an opportunity to correct the picture."

Wow. There are so many errors in those two lines that I wouldn't know where to start in identifying them. One, it's hard to imagine how a movie about Imajihadi would create a dialog between the Iranian and American people. Second, I agree that the US media paints an inaccurate picture of Islam, but only because it doesn't show the religion as oppressive, political, and inherently susceptible to violence as it really is.

That's all I'll go into for now. Stone's a wacko, I think that's fairly well know. But this takes the cake.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at a huge 8519 Diggs, is a plea for a new Digg comment system.

What a way to end the week...

Celebrity Report: Dennis Miller on "Bourne Ultimatum" - Anti-American?

Celebrity Report: Dennis Miller was on the O'Reilly Factor (gag) the other day, and they had some fun ripping into the Bourne Ultimatum for it's being anti-American. Now I like Miller, for the most part; he's one of the few celebrities who don't lean so far to the Left that they can't hear out of their left ear.

But attacking this one movie for being anti-American is like attacking the strip club up the street because it happens to feature naked women. Come on, let's face it: most movies today are anti-American, in one way or another. I could make a list of those that aren't, but it wouldn't be a long one.

Nevertheless, here's some of the interview, just for kicks:

O'REILLY: All right. It will be interesting to see if that happens.

Now, my column this week is on the "Bourne Ultimatum," which is a huge hit. But it's so — you know, the anti-American theme is so pronounced. The evil CIA guys, you know? And Matt Damon and Julia Stiles, you know? They actually make Julia Stiles cut her own hair. And that was enough for me. I turned against the CIA immediately.

MILLER: It's brutal.

O'REILLY: Now, this movie is going to be seen in Pakistan and Indonesia and all of this. While we laugh at it and we know what it is: heroes and villains, cops and robbers. Over there, I think it has an effect. Am I wrong?


MILLER: Well, "The Bourne Identity," let me say this. If they were going to do a true depiction of our CIA, they would have to do it, not about them being evil and conniving. They would have to do it about them being inept. Frank Church would have to be Blofeld, because he's the one that began taking it apart.

O'REILLY: But they almost do that. They can't catch Matt Damon. They've 50 guys gone after Matt. He's punching them. He's getting them. He's kicking them. And Julia Stiles is outsmarting them. Julia Stiles is outsmarting them, Miller.

And then, as far as the CIA goes, they're always the bad guys. If anyone can think of a single movie where the CIA was depicted as anything but evil, I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chinese Company Counterfeits Glucose Monitoring Strips

Counterfeit DVD's and CD's are one thing, China, but counterfeit glucose monitoring strips? Thanks to the diligence of American company Johnson & Johnson, however, the counterfeiter has been discovered. Of course, such things could kill people, and the Chinese company making the things had make about a million of them.

I know this isn't the same as the other Chinese quality issues, but it still puts China in a very bad light. They've tolerated counterfeiting for so long that things like this are bound to happen.

My Second California Earthquake

On a personal note, I've now experienced my second California earthquick, albeit a tiny one--3.5. The ominous thing, though, is that the quake was centered in almost the exact same place as last week's 4.2 quake, north of Chatsworth, CA (which, again, is about 7 miles or so north of me).

I haven't studied earthquakes, but that does seem of some concern.