Monday, March 31, 2008

And I thought handcuffs were kinky...

FoxSports:
Max Mosley, president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, F1's governing body, is facing intense pressure to resign from his post after being implicated in a Nazi role-playing orgy...

Can you imagine the uproar and psychological analysis on CNN if Spitzer had pulled this shit?

The report detailed a five-hour "Nazi-style" orgy between Mosley and five prostitutes at a house in Chelsea.

Question: One prostitute an hour or five for five hours? Either way it's expensive.

At one point during the video, the man yells "she needs more of ze punishment!" while brandishing a leather strap over a woman's bottom before striking her with it and counting in German, as other women in Nazi-style uniforms look on.

ze punishment? I am not sure what I find more weird, this or sex with picnic tables, lamposts, bikes, vacuum cleaners, or pavement.

Still, it kinda follows UD's theory about European fake memoirs.

Terrorist and Computer Security

MSNBC:
U.S. intelligence officials and other terrorism experts say that Al Qaida and related jihadist organizations have mastered cyber security in ways that many terrorism analysts find impressive, vexing and troubling.

“With these new tools, these folks are able to communicate on an almost invisible level,” said Evan Kohlmann, an NBC News terrorism analyst who tracks jihadists online. “That means not only better coordination between al-Qaida's hierarchy and its constituents, but it also means that would-be homegrown terrorist cells can network together much more efficiently, even when they are separated by thousands of miles from each other.”


Many people have difficulty with the concept that some things may be beyond the resources of even the United States Government. Encryption is one of those cases. I will try to clarify.

Assuming that the encryption algorithm is strong and correctly coded, ie something like PGP, and with a large encryption key, it would take roughly all the computers in the world working since the Big Bang until today to break it. This is a mathematical fact, not idle speculation. Barring the unlikely event that the US Government has solved the NP-Complete issues without letting anybody else know. Note: The Government not telling anybody about this is as likely as them developing a working cold fusion reactor, and not telling anybody. That probably doesn't make it any clearer to most people. So, let me put it this way -- like discovering life on another planet and keeping mum.

However, there are weaknesses of which eavesdroppers, whether they be government or not, can take advantage. These are not mathematical weaknesses per se, but rather operating system and other weaknesses. I would assume this is how the NSA, etc are actually monitoring encrypted traffic.

In conclusion, this new al-Qaeda toolkit thingy scares me.

I fear I will be disappointed..

but this has Bob "You talkin' to me?" DeNiro and Al "Wadda we got?" Pacino as cops after a serial killer.

Trailer Here

Krauthammer debunks 100 year war mischaracterization of McCain

Link Here.
Lest anyone think he was talking about prolonged war-fighting rather than maintaining a presence in postwar Iraq, he explained: “That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.”

Might want to read this one, *cough* Alan.

Hat tip: Athens & Jerusalem

Silicon Valley meetings go topless

Headline from the Guardian.

First thing I thought: Oh boy. Nobody wants to see Comic Book Store Guy topless.

Apparently, geeks out in Silicon Valley refer to when people "engage in the decidedly low-tech form of social networking known as human interaction" as Topless Meetings. The average computer geek probably does need the idea of boobs to get them away from their computer. Not sure if it works as well for female computer geeks.

The End is not nigh -- Peak Oil

Salon:
Clearly we now have only two realistic strategies: increase our vehicle fuel economy and develop affordable alternative fuel sources that are low in carbon. In 2050, the planet may well have 2 billion cars on the road or more, three times the current number. To avoid dramatic climate impacts, we must use at least 60 percent less total liquid fossil fuels -- and that assumes we have essentially eliminated carbon dioxide emissions in the electric sector. The average car on the road will need to put out under one-fifth the emissions of current cars, or the equivalent of five times the "miles per gallon" of today.

It is a progressive piece, or at least I assume so, and its logic is that to avert the climate issue we can't use oil anymore anyway. Nevertheless, another feather in the techno-optimist cap.

Who went and made the mayor God?

SkyNews:
The mayor of a village in south west France has banned residents from dying.

And Gerard Lalanne has threatened "severe" punishment for anyone who disobeys.

The mayor issued the unusual edict when it became clear that there was no room left in the overcrowded village graveyard in Sarpourenx in the Bordeaux region.

In an ordinance posted in the council offices, Mayor Lalanne told the 260 residents that "all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish".

It added: "Offenders will be severely punished."


This is where the EU control of mundane affairs leads you. To the illusion that they are God. I guess that might not be quite fair, but it ain't far off base.

Hat Tip: The Daily Dish

PoMoCon's thoughts on NATO expansion

He writes:
Placing Ukraine and Georgia on the NATO Membership Action Plan was already a bad idea. Now, choosing not to do so can reap affirmative geopolitical rewards instead of simply avoiding utter foolishness.

Europe as an independent world power is in the national interest of the United States. NATO's proper role is in helping bring that condition about, not falling prey to the same hubris that has ruined Europe every time it has pushed eastward of Poland and Romania.


As I have said before the only way to bring about Europe as an independent world power is to dissolve NATO. The crutch of US military power is too much of a temptation. Nevertheless, I like the call to stop the folly of expansion.

+1 genius points for the PoMocon. He is now at 4.

Internalizing HBO's John Adams

After watching Tom Wilkinson's performance last night in John Adams, I have been inspired to emulate Benjamin Frankin's, or as Miss Self Important calls him B. Franky, goal of moral perfection.

From his autobiography:

It was about this time I conceiv'd the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish'd to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I bad imagined. While my care was employ'd in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the following method.

In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking, while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition. I propos'd to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annex'd to each, than a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues all that at that time occurr'd to me as necessary or desirable, and annexed to each a short precept, which fully express'd the extent I gave to its meaning.

These names of virtues, with their precepts, were

1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

I will endeavour to quit drinking and smoking. I might take up smoking crack, and then quit, to up the ante.

2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

This will be difficult. Everything I say is trifling.

3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

This will be even harder.

4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

I think I might be able to handle this one.

5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

Does that mean recycling more?

6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

Shit. There goes this blog.

7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

I have been working on this for a while to little avail.

8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Oh boy. Now I am thinking if that is the correct defintion of justice. (See The Republic, Books I & II)

9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Does this mean I have to stop fantasizing about stabbing the middle school kids on the metro in their eyes with a fork when they are loud and obnoxious? That will be hard.

10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

This might be the easiest of all.

11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

I think the kids on the metro fall under this one too.

12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

I will attempt this one last. To quote St. Augustine: "Give me chastity and continence, but not quite yet."

13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

It is a tall order. Can I choose one?

Rise of Asia

Roger Cohen in the NYTimes:
It’s the end of the era of the white man.

The West’s moment, I thought, is passing. Money and might are increasingly elsewhere. America’s little dose of socialism from Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson might stave off the worst but cannot halt the trend.

Then I arrived in Hong Kong. The talk was all about how U.S. economic woes could impact Chinese growth. Might it tumble to 8 from over 11 percent? And what of India, powering along with growth of a mere 8 percent or so?

The West should have such troubles! Even revised downward, these growth rates are at levels Europe and the United States can only dream of.

Everything passes. In the 17th century, China and India accounted for more than half the world’s economic output. After a modest interlude, the pendulum is swinging back to them at a speed the West has not grasped.

It’s the end of the era of the white man; and, before it even began in earnest, of the white woman, too.

Mr. Cohen is almost certainly correct. The rise of Asia is inevitable because of population size. However, please understand that despite the rise of China and India, they will not overtake the US until 2100 at the earliest. Economic growth of 8-11% is completely unsustainable. Do not project forward linearly at 8-11%. There will be setbacks. Until they get near Western per capita GDP China and India will still be more concerned with their domestic and regional issues.

One big exception to this rule is energy. Both India and China are and will be engaged in international affairs to secure energy sources.

Sports and Fashion

As an effort to bridge the sports-fashion divide, I offer up for discussion my conclusion that Jay Wright, the Villanova basketball coach, is the most fashionable man in sports.

Keeping Up Appearances

After a lot of tut-tuting last week about female appearances, I give you this:
Guardian:
The reason the media tend to focus more on female politicians' clothes than those worn by their male counterparts is because women's clothes are more interesting. There. That's it. It is not some evil conspiracy to reduce female politicians to the dresses they sport; it is just that clothes are quite interesting personal indicators, a point we will return to in a tick, and there is more to say about dresses and skirts and the occasional pair of trousers than homogenous blue suits.

Point of order: The column in question was written by a woman. I would argue that most men find neither male nor female fashion very interesting. So, I remain convinced that all focus on Sen. Clinton's clothing is by and for women.

In any case the point was not how Clinton dresses, but why. No politician is without image consciousness these days, especially one who has been in the public eye for as long as Clinton has. So a politician's choice of clothes is always an intriguing indication about them, just as much as their choice of party political broadcasts or use of emphatic hand gestures.

Takes it a little further than I would like.

Look at McCain, striding around in his boxy blue suits, single button always done up to cover the paunch, ties always just that little bit too wide. This man could not look more establishment if he went around doing secret handshakes and butt-slapping Karl Rove.

Don't talk about McCain butt-slappin' anybody. It's disturbing.


Then we come to Obama. Watch him stride in that slim-cut suit that suggests more than an element of style consciousness that somehow, in itself, suggests, not vanity, but rather new-age sensitivity.


New-age sensitivity. Read: gay
I believe they are saying that Obama has a gay man's fashion sense -- high praise.

Obama is always happy to take off his suit jacket: an easy way to emphasise his friendly informality, which also, by convenient coincidence, lets him show off the fact that he still clearly goes to the gym every morning despite running for president, while the rest of us use the excuse of having to pick up the dry cleaning as a reason to skip that day's session.

Female swooning going on here.

That's it. No conclusion. No denouement.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Aloha Air Shutting Down

CNN:
HONOLULU (AP) -- Aloha Airlines said Sunday it will halt all passenger service after Monday, signaling the end of an airline that has served Hawaii for more than 60 years.

Aloha, which filed for bankruptcy for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 21, was a casualty of fierce competition and rising fuel prices. The airline said it will stop taking reservations for flights after Monday.


This saddens me. I dug the bird of paradise flower on the tail fin.

The poor British Upper-Middle Class

Telegraph:
Middle-class families are struggling to afford a boarding school education for their children because of big rises in school fees over the past decade, analysts claim.

Parents in only a fraction of occupations, such as company directors or chief executives of major organisations, can afford to send their children to boarding school. Ten years ago, parents in seven occupations, such as lawyers or doctors, were able to afford the fees.

My heart breaks for the underprivileged children of British doctors and lawyers.

To help, I offer these recommendations:
Exeter
St Paul's
Phillips Academy
Choate
Hotchkiss

They are probably affordable given current exchange rates.

Financial Regulation

The details will be released tomorrow, but MSNBC had this overview:
The main elements of the Bush administration's plan to overhaul financial regulation, as outlined in a 22-page executive summary obtained by The Associated Press. The proposal is set to be released Monday:

— Expand the role of the President's Working Group on Financial Markets to include the entire financial sector and not just financial markets.

Seems reasonable.

— Create a federal commission, the Mortgage Origination Commission, to develop uniform, minimum licensing standards for mortgage market participants.

I worry about the standards this will require undermining increased mortgage participation. Certainly, we need to look at the mortgage market, but if they limit lending to 10-20% down, it will mean trouble for some new home borrowers.

— Close the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates thrift institutions, and move those functions to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates banks.

Great idea.

— Merge the functions of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission into the Securities and Exchange Commission to create one agency to provide unified oversight of the futures and securities industries.

Seems reasonable. I don't know enough about commodities futures trading to have an informed opinion.

— Establish an Office of National Insurance within the Treasury Department to regulate those in the insurance industry who want to operate under an optional federal charter.

I like the optional part, but worry this would become required.

— Work to establish as a long-term goal three major regulators: the Federal Reserve as a "market stability regulator"; a "prudential financial regulator" to take over the functions of five separate banking regulators; and a "business conduct regulator" to regulate business conduct and consumer protection.

Business conduct regulator sounds a bit too newspeak for me.

Zbigniew Brzezinski on Iraq

WaPo:
Since Iraq's neighbors are vulnerable to intensified ethnic and religious conflicts spilling over from Iraq, all of them -- albeit for different reasons -- are likely to be interested. More distant Arab states such as Egypt, Morocco or Algeria might also take part, and some of them might be willing to provide peacekeeping forces to Iraq once it is free of foreign occupation. In addition, we should consider a regional rehabilitation program designed to help Iraq recover and to relieve the burdens that Jordan and Syria, in particular, have shouldered by hosting more than 2 million Iraqi refugees.

This sounds a lot like the ITAG.

Mean Boys

Telegraph:
In comments leaked to the New York Times, Mrs Clinton is said to have told aides that she would not be "bullied out" of the White House race and in a conversation with two allies compared her plight to "big boys" trying to bully a woman.

Everybody is picking on you because you are a girl. Not because your chances of winning the nomination are really, really low. Not because the type of appeal that you are making right now is going to split up the party along gender and racial lines. No, couldn't be. Those mean boys just don't want a girl to play in the sandbox.

Just do everybody a favor, including yourself, and drop out. This isn't about you being a woman. This is about you winning at all costs, including exploiting the fact that you are a woman, which will damage the party.

Do me a favor

Go to this site, and move your cursor around the screen relatively slowly.

Hat Tip: Boing Boing

Law Professor versus Senior Lecturer

Apparently, Obama claimed to be a law professor on several occasions, but is actually a lowly senior lecturer.

Althouse:
The question isn't whether it's "degrading" to teach law school without being called a "professor," but whether there's something wrong with applying the term "professor" to someone whose formal title is "lecturer." I think one ought to be careful about this. If your title was "lecturer" and you're applying for a job, you shouldn't say "I was a law professor." Even though it can be defended as not a lie, you're exaggerating and not being strictly scrupulous about the facts.

Let me clue academia, and especially legal academia, in on something. Nobody cares about the distinctions made between adjunct professor, visiting professor, assistant professor, full professor, chaired professor, university professor, etc. Most people think it is all pompous bullshit, and any debate over the intricacies of the differences reinforces this perception. If somebody teaches at a law school, most people will not object to the term law professor because people understand the term to mean somebody who teaches at a college or university's school of law.

Sen. Obama did exaggerate, but he would have sounded more pompous and, paradoxically, dumber to the general public if he had said, "I am a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Law." Nobody knows what senior lecturer is, but they have an intuitive understanding of professor.

So, the "law professor" puffery is something on its own. Not all that much, but something. Now, consider the other 9 items, and judge for yourself whether the Clinton campaign has made its point, which melds questions of Obama's honesty to the contention that he lacks experience:

1. Obama claimed credit for nuclear leak legislation that never passed.
2. Obama misspoke about his being conceived because of Selma.
3. Sen. Obama took too much credit for his community organizing efforts.
4. Obama's assertion that nobody had indications Rezko was engaging in wrongdoing 'strains credulity.' "
5. Obama was forced to revise his assertion that lobbyists 'won't work in my White House.'
6. 'Selective, embellished and out-of-context quotes from newspapers pump up Obama's health plan.'
7. Sen. Obama said 'I passed a law that put Illinois on a path to universal coverage,' but Obama health care legislation merely set up a task force.
8. 'Obama…seemed to exaggerate the legislative progress he made' on ethics reform.
9. Obama drastically overstated Kansas tornado deaths during campaign appearance.


I haven't investigated these claims, but there might be some problems. I will have to start looking into these things. But this begs the larger question of: Hillary's response to getting caught in a lie, or depending on your point of view, exaggeration, is to say, "Look. The other guy does it too!"

Sen. Clinton we all learned that two wrongs don't make a right. Also, your moral character is questioned by a large percentage of the American population. Perhaps addressing that rather than pointing out the sins of others would be a more effective strategy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Poll

I have added a poll to decide if FLG should shut down.

One vote only please. Thanks.

People pay for these studies?

Telegraph:

The flutter of eyelashes, the smile across the dancefloor and the giggle after a lame joke - every woman knows the time-honoured ways to get a man.


But research suggests that the flirty female is wasting her time. Men, it seems, are blind to the subtle seduction techniques of the opposite sex.

Short of pouncing on the object of her lust, a woman's non-verbal signals of sexual interest often prove sadly lost on the young male brain, according to a study to be published next month in Psychological Science.


Most men couldn't tell if a chick digged him unless she grabbed his crotch. Plain, simple truth of the matter. Pay me the $100k or whatever it cost for the study. I could have saved a lot of time and expense.

Yglesias is full of shit

I usually find Matt Yglesias' analysis pretty much on point, but on this he is full of shit. I know he is smart enough to recognize why he is full of shit on this point, so I conclude it is deliberate propaganda.

Post in question:
You can see the chart to the left. Dean Baker wonders what would happen if instead of Social Security benefits everybody retiring right now had just lost a bunch of money in the stock market. It's a good question. I suppose it's always also worth wondering amidst a downturn if the seemingly too-high risk premium that sticks have traditionally paid might just go away -- maybe the free ride is over.

He chose the year 1999 as the base year, which as everybody knows was closing in on the dot com bubble. Most people invest over at least a 30 year horizon, so choosing a year right before the 2000 bubble popped, and then taking a 9 year distance is irrepresentative of the historical stock market returns.

Basically, my point is that almost anybody who invested every two-weeks over the course of 30+ years would almost always be better off than social security. Diversification, and subsequent ratcheting back of risk as one grows older should mitigate the risk of a huge downturn in the stock market.

To those who say: Nevertheless, the stock market is risky, but social security is a guarantee. I say: Social security has political risk that is less predictable than a well-diversified portfolio of securities adjusted for the age and risk profile of the investor.

A note to Miss Self Important

NYTimes:
“The biological drive can be overcome,” she said. “It’s not like it reaches a peak, and you have to go out and have sex.”

“And you don’t go down the street thinking you’d like to have sex with him, him, him and him?” I asked.

“No!” she said, abruptly. “Is that what men do?”

It seemed a good time to talk with her about what else Keliher had told me. He described the act he has never experienced as something “breathtakingly powerful” that “lights all of your body on fire.” He spoke of his lust as “this untamed beast.”

Fredell was incredulous: “Leo said that?”

He told me that he struggles constantly against “physical lustful temptation” — that he can be aroused just by a woman’s touch, by even a look at a woman or at a photo or sometimes by “thoughts that just come out of the blue — basically pornography in my head.” They come to him when he’s merely walking around campus, or even when he’s alone in the library — “like a fly buzzing around.”


Seems to support my previous argument, and this is coming from a goodie-goodie abstinence proponent.

When talking of women he is attracted to:
Another appears to be Janie Fredell [the fellow abstinence proponent mentioned above]. Keliher smiled and said he was “a little bit” attracted to her — “in very superficial ways,” he added. “It’s something we laugh about — if we dated.”

But Fredell did not laugh. “No!” she erupted, and with increasing volume, “No! No! No! I can’t emphasize enough that there is nothing between me and Leo! It’s just that we’re not compatible in that regard.”


So, Keliher, ever the good boy, is still thinking about having sex with his fellow abstinence proponent, Janie Fredell. He isn't having sex with her, but he sure as hell is thinking about it. And, I might add, thinking and talking about ideas with her.

One can make arguments about how people act, but not how they think. I realize that thought v. action was not your objection to my theory, but I wanted to clarify this point. I remain convinced this thinking is universal for males.

Edit: To respond to the probable question of how do I know females don't think similarly? I would say the incredulity with which Ms. Fredell, and almost all other women, respond to this assertion is proof that the same thought process is not present. However, I have never been a woman, and therefore cannot say for sure.

Hat tip: Phoebe for pointing out the article.

Prof. Deenen on Culture and Nature

Good post over at What I Saw in America. However, I think there is a small oversight in Prof. Deneen's analysis.

It is the very diversity of local conditions that leads to a diversity of cultures, and it is that diversity (– not our faux and p.c. claims to diversity even as we praise the “globalization” that is the destroyer of diversity –) that industrial processes everywhere seek to render irrelevant or destroy – which is really, in effect, the same thing.

"we must embrace another kind of technology, the technology of culture that is based in local knowledge."

I would certainly not go so far as to call Prof. Deneen a luddite, as he has a blog. However, there is a certain paradox in arguing that we must focus on local knowledge when he is writing on a blog available to the entire world.

I guess my point is that many people focus on the negatives of the Internet, iPod, etc, when they offer great benefits for human flourishing. I listen to the news in French everyday on my iPod. I absorb the ideas from all over the world of people I have never met.

The fear that global culture is an all powerful force that overwhelms the local is not quite correct. The diversity of viewpoints, ideas, customs, thoughts, music, art, etc that are available because of the Internet, and blogs like Prof. Deneen's, are a benefit.

I will admit that the loss of local customs and knowledge is sad. However, the Internet offers the possibility of transmitting any of that knowledge, provided it can be recorded, written, or photographed, from any small hamlet to the entire world for posterity. Much of the knowledge that Deneen regrets our culture losing can be preserved and transmitted using the technology about which he is so concerned.

Often we frame our arguments as zero-sum. Local versus global and new technology versus existing culture are common zero-sum frames of reference. Yet, if one embraces the new technology in a way to accomplish your goals, it can be a very powerful tool.

Anti-Science Nutjobs

NYTimes:
[Two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii] think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.

Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.


"very unlikely" is a huge understatement. Furthermore, if we create a black hole, we will be crushed to the size of a proton in the blink of an eye. So, I say go ahead. We won't even know what hit us in the infinitesimally small chance it happens.

Male Swooning

Phoebe writes:
There's one obvious, glaring flaw at the beginning of Charlotte Allen's article about female stupidity: women swoon when seeing Obama, agreed. The implication is that men do not swoon before Hillary, and are therefore superior beings. Take a moment to analyze this: one of these two politicians is drop-dead gorgeous (for a politician, at least) while the other is... within normal limits for her age. If Miss Natalie P. or one of those Estonian 16-year-old models were Obama's opponent, I'd imagine the results would look a bit different.

Proof: Swooning over Carla Bruni.
As Carla Bruni wows the nation, Rachel Billington analyses the ability of some women to mesmerise

Very probably, the new Madame Sarkozy even meets Plato's "golden proportion", according to which the width of the face should be two thirds of its length, with a nose no longer than the distance between the eyes. But why are we all - old, young, male, female - quite so keen to behold and admire?


From another article:
We all know that everyone in the entire land has been mesmerised by the sultry Miss Bruni

I would argue it is mostly males swooning, not so much the females.

As evidence, I offer this picture from the Telegraph:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hillary it is over.

Telegraph:
Democratic leaders are moving to end the acrimonious battle for the White House nomination, reducing Hillary Clinton's chances of overcoming Barack Obama by shutting down the contest two months before the party convention.

Senior party figures such as Mr Dean, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, former vice-president Al Gore and Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader, could decide to take a public stand if they believed Mrs Clinton was continuing to fight on beyond the point where victory was possible.

"There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination," said Patrick Leahy, a Vermont senator. "She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama."

The former First Lady's options appear to be narrowing by the day. Her aides concede that she cannot overcome Mr Obama's lead among pledged delegates - which currently stands at 166 - and will struggle to erase his 700,000 advantage in the popular vote.


It is over Sen. Clinton. It has been over for a while now, basically since February. Sorry your campaign sucked, you exaggerated your experience, and you lack an ounce of charisma.

Maybe, you will be White House Chief of Staff. You would probably be the best ever. You know policy like the best wonk. You are as tough as nails. You just weren't cut out to be president. Please, please give up so we can move on to the real contest.

Europeans on NATO

Guardian:
Like pensions and insurance, defence is one of those subjects to which too many people only pay attention when things go wrong. You might think, in the light of the past decade, that this would have changed. But you would be sadly mistaken.

It is easy to mock both Nato's and the EU's defence records. Both are in different ways cold war structures that have struggled to adjust to post-cold war realities. They duplicate and they overlap, providing lots of jobs for people who lead comfortable lives attending endless planning sessions at considerable cost but to quite modest effect. But it doesn't follow that the answer is to scrap either Nato or the EU defence effort.

I'm listening...

For years also, European nations have talked about the importance of avoiding duplication in equipment and weapons. But the talk has largely remained just that. It is barmy that Europeans have four different models of tank, compared with America's one; 16 different types of armoured vehicles as against America's three; or 11 types of frigate to America's one. Once again, Europe's failure highlights the US predominance.

Please note the use of the word barmy. Second time I have seen it this week.

Eurocentrics to say that Nato is outmoded and that an enhanced military role for the EU should replace it. This is fantasy land. If there is one thing that would be even worse for Europe than fighting a war with the Americans as allies, it is fighting a war without them. While it is true that Europe spends too little on defence because it knows it can rely on the Americans, it does not follow that European nations would be keen to spend more if Nato broke down.


Not keen, and not doing are two separate issues. America does a lot of things because she has to, not because she wants to. Maybe if NATO broke down Europe would do what it has to, and not what it wants to.

I, as an American, have grown weary of the US providing European protection. Yes, it is in our interest to do so. However, the Europeans can both afford and should provide for their own defense. The American military is too much of a crutch.

Again, abolish NATO.

Britain's role in Iraq

Full disclosure: I like the Brits. I think their analysis of international affairs is usually more on point than American foreign policy discussions.

Guardian:
Britain has 4,000 troops on the edge of a battle, but no plans to get involved. Last night the Ministry of Defence made it clear that this country, unlike the US, is not about to join the offensive launched by the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, against Shia militants in Basra. A defence source said the operation against the Mahdi army had been planned, implemented and executed by the Iraqis. He said it was their operation and their responsibility to bring security to Basra and Iraq as a whole. Yet if Britain is distancing itself from a battle raging in a sector for which it had responsibility until September last year, then what are British troops still doing in Iraq?

There are three possibilities here:
1) The Brits have assessed the situation in Iraq better than Bush et al.
2) They are pursing their national interest.
3) They are cowards.

#3 I rule out because British forces are not pansies. I would rather be with a squad of British SAS, Marines, Army, etc probably more than any other force in a war zone.

#2 Possible. There is very little reason for the British have to invest in Iraq because the US is there and will take over, and its is only tangentially related to the UK.

#1 Highly probable. I just trust the British to know up from down.

Therefore, I am becoming more skeptical of the possibility of success in Iraq.

Anybody wondered what would happen...

if "Riders on the Storm" and "Rapture" were remixed together? Me neither, but we have the answer now.

I thought it was only a Brit thing...

Over in the UK people were having sex with lamposts, bikes, vacuum cleaners, and pavement.

However, this might be even more weird.

An American man has been caught on videotape having sex with a picnic table.

Police say that Art Price Jr. was seen copulating with furniture on four separate mornings, most recently on the 14th of March when a neighbour recorded it as evidence.


Now, you might be asking, as I was at this point, how can a man have sex with a picnic table? Answer:
"He was completely nude. He would use the hole from the umbrella and have sex with the table."

Next thing that came to mind: Splinters. I hope it wasn't a wooden table.

Price hadn’t been immediately jailed.

"Nude that close to a school. It should be zero tolerance!"

Let's not get crazy. Screwing furniture does not immediately imply pederasty or similar predilections. Give him the old: "Hey, knock that shit off!" warning and some counseling to determine the fascination with picnic tables. If he does it again, then freak out. Because this shit just ain't right.

North Korea

WaPo:
The missile launch and the combative warning -- which accused the Bush administration of "persistently trying to cook up fictions" -- came one day after the North expelled 11 South Korean officials from an industrial park north of the border that separates the two Koreas.

"We believe the North does not want a deterioration of relations between South and North," a government spokesman [for South Korea] said.

Keep believing that buddy.

Speculation about the inner workings of the secretive North Korean government, of course, is mostly guesswork.

I am getting tired of guessing, and I'm coming ever closer to calling for the unilateral, preemptive nuclear annihilation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. However, approximately 23 million innocent people would die. That is a huge price to pay for getting rid of one tiny, prostitute-loving, members only jacket-wearing, bad hair-having, evil bastard.

Where is Jason Bourne when we need him?

EU condemns anti-Islamic film

CNN:
The European Union said the 15-minute film, posted on a London-based Web site, only inflamed hatred.

Doesn't that come into conflict with Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights?

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

Granted, there is also this clause:
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime

Aren't the Europeans going down a dangerous path on this one? My understanding of restrictions on expression are more for when the person is advocating disorder or violence. The case of "Fire" in a crowded theater is that they are intentionally causing disorder. If a person has views about Islam, even if they are inflammatory, isn't it incumbent upon those who are upset about those views not to be violent and disorderly? I find the responsibility lies more with them than the filmmaker.

If we start censoring material because somebody might be violent, then that encourages people to be violent.

X-Files

Telegraph:
Ten years after the last film, the team behind the original series is slowly releasing information about the new film, due for US release on the 25th of July.

Is there still an audience?

An important point about the Chinese Economy

I often hear anecdotal arguments, especially from executives and know-nothing business types, that the building boom in China is evidence that it will overtake the US. This analysis appears intuitive, but it is incorrect.

One of the main features of planned economies is that they can mobilize resources more quickly than market economies. Yes, China has moved towards a more capitalist model, but the government still holds a disproportionate control of economic resources. Governments are very good at getting stuff built. They condemn old buildings. Knock them down. New construction starts.

This type of thing is great for planned economies for three reasons. First, it is relatively easy to build a building. One does not need to make any new discoveries. Second, the finished product is a tangible example of the progress of the country. People see skyscrapers go up, and think, "Wow, our country is really growing!" Third, it provides a lot of medium and low skilled work. This is important for a communist government. Better to have the population working than protesting.

In comparison, let's think about Silicon Valley, arguably the most important area for economic growth in the world. Sure, the Googleplex and Apple's campus are nice, but they are not "Wow! Look how big it is!" However, inside, in nondescript cubicles, they are creating the new ideas and products that drive the American economy.

Keep that in mind when somebody talks about the booming skylines of Beijing, or even Dubai for that matter.

The Future of NATO

Sorry for being on a NATO kick, but the IR community seems to be on the same wavelength.

Despite Withywindle's valiant attempt to avert my anti-NATO crusade, I am still on the war path, so to speak.

Chatham House:
New NATO papers focus on Afghanistan, enlargement, Russia, and cyber defense

I will take them one by one.

Afghanistan presents NATO with both its greatest opportunity and its most pressing threat. An alliance established to secure Europe from the might of the Soviet Union at a time dominated by Cold War tensions is now struggling to find its direction in a very different environment, and is under pressure to transform its way of operating at both military and political levels

"Struggling to define its direction" means nobody knows what to do with NATO, and they have no real reason to justify it. So, let's keep throwing stuff at the wall and see what sticks. On the particular of Afghanistan, isn't it clearly in the interest of most Western nations to remove any possibility of a safe haven for al-Qaeda there? Obviously, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France until recently, have been lackluster in their resolve. Other nations have been more steadfast in their support. But isn't this, as Kaplan wrote recently, really the same result that would occur in the absence of NATO?

NATO Expansion and Modern Europe
Focusing on the enlargement debate and what it means for Europe, this paper addresses two critical questions that NATO will be faced with as it prepares for the 2008 April Summit in Bucharest. The first is whether to invite Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia to join NATO, a decision that is the culmination of a 15-year effort to end the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. The second is what relationship Ukraine and Georgia should have with NATO. Would they be set on a course that could lead to eventual NATO membership, or would they be excluded?

Pretty much everybody agrees that the alliance has no strategic mission at this point. Everybody is trying to find one. Therefore, why are we expanding it? Anybody making the argument based upon bringing Eastern European nations into the sphere of the West really needs to take a hard look at whether that would be best served via a military alliance, or a political and economic union like the EU. My vote is for the EU. Although, I have grave reservations about the EU's current and future manifestations. Nonetheless, EU is never going to become a power opposed to the United States in any important way.

An Evolving NATO: Pro-Democracy or Anti-Russia?

This paper focuses on the competing narratives of NATO-pro-democracy or anti-Russia-and asks the question of which stands up to scrutiny. Has NATO genuinely transformed itself from the days of the Cold War, when it was locked into an adversarial partnership with the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Treaty Organization, into a benign and stabilizing presence in Europe and beyond? Or, conversely, does an enlarged and enlarging NATO, with ever more impressive military and communications capability and a predilection for political outreach and interventionist (or 'expeditionary') military operations beyond its original treaty area, represent a security threat to Russia?

Doesn't NATO need to be anti-Russia? Wasn't that its original purpose? I really think that the people at NATO's Brussels HQ are jumping with joy at a resurgent Russia. It gives them a purpose, and the probability of a Russian attack on any European nation is epsilon close to zero.

NATO and Global Cyber Defense

This paper discusses the initial NATO response to cyber defense while also examining other relevant issues that NATO policy planners need to consider as the alliance attempts to build sufficient capacity and expertise both to deter and to defend against future cyber attacks. As with other post-Cold War threats, cyber defense is an area where traditional lines of authority between civilian and military organizations have become blurred. Upon developing an effective cyber defense strategy, NATO planners would be wise to think far outside of traditional military culture. As recent events have shown, cyber enemies could span the spectrum from sophisticated terrorists to geeky teenagers.


First, we need a multinational military alliance to fight geeky teenagers? As a person with some expertise in computer security, I do find cybersecurity to be a major vulnerability of the West. (See my post on Cyberwarfare.) However, this still does not justify a military alliance. Why? Because, as I said in the other post, we cannot respond militarily to a cyberattack. There is too much plausible deniability. Furthermore, the biggest weaknesses from cyberattacks are our civilian infrastructure. The military will have very little in the way of control of these, beyond providing guidelines as the NSA does, or taking the Internet over. This is both infeasible politically and technologically. Hence, the military, and especially NATO, has very little to offer on this front.

Selling a currency short

I have been getting a lot of hits from the central bank of a certain South East Asian nation to my currency sterlization primer.

I have decided to short sell its currency for the time being because if they are getting their information from me, God help them. Does this count as insider trading? I don't think so. I think that only covers domestic securities.

Has anybody been to Georgetown CupCake?

If so, please let me know.

I realize this violates every one of Miss Self Important's Rules for Authentic Urban Living, but cupcakes are so delicious.

Blogs that I read

I made blogrolling additions that I have been meaning to do for a while.

Death of Newspapers

Lots of people have probably read this article about it in the New Yorker, but I just got around to it. People talk about media bias, but if there is anything that brings out media bias it is the writing about newspapers.

The pretentious, woe is me, nation needs us, end is nigh tone just drives me up a wall. I like newspapers. I like reading newspapers. However, I read them online. I find the idea that we still need physical newspapers to be ridiculous. I realize that newspapers are having trouble making money online. But I am sure that one day, one of them will figure out a profitable business model that the rest will copy.

Also, I disagree that newspapers are somehow the self-appointed guardians of Truth. Despite what I believe to be their best intentions, they publish a lot of bullshit. Furthermore, to say that any paper is objective is preposterous, again, despite their best intentions. At least the bias of blogs is readily apparent. I know I am getting a libertarian, progressive, or conservative take on things.

There is a benefit to editors and fact-checking, which is not present in the blogosphere. But to say that they are objective, and the voices on the internet are biased is simply a question of magnitude.

I don't want formal, edited, fact checked newsreporting to disappear. But if they would spend more time being creative than writing about how the world sucks, I would feel much better. In fact, I propose a ban on all articles about the decline of the newspaper written by people who write or have ever written for a newspaper. Stop feeling sorry for yourselves and figure out how to save the industry.

For the good of everybody

I have decided to stop reading Cheryl's blog. Although I find it interesting, and often funny, this decision is definitely for the best. I am sure nobody, including Cheryl, is concerned about my decision.

Recently, there was the rape case dispute.
Now, the taking women seriously dispute.

In both cases I believe she misinterpreted my arguments. There are a few possibilities for why this occurred, which I will not discuss.

Anyway...
Cheryl, I am a pig. Sorry. Permanent truce.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Question and Answer portion of our program

Question: Is Al Gore the answer?

Answer: No. He missed the 2008 bus. It left town a few months ago.

Further evidence of our robot overlords

MSNBC:
Robots tapped for colonoscopy work
Researchers developing self-propelling probes that crawl inside colon


Here is the definitive conversation regarding our robot overlords, in case you missed it.

Dude, I seem to be pretty adept at pissing off Cheryl, and I don't even know her

Link here.

Excerpt:
"If I see one more post about how something that happened on the savanna a zillion years ago excuses your inability to control yourself today"

My response:
I specifically said you can talk about how one should act, but you cannot change how people think.

Completely different. I am not making a normative statement about it. No justification. Just saying what I have understood to be true.

To expand:
This in no way justifies male promiscuity, infidelity, etc. Just that it is a fact of how men think. Much like how men are, on average, more prone to violence than women. That does not mean the consequences for violent acts by men should be held to any less of standard.

Really good point about Iraq

The Daily Dish:
Much of the current coverage of the fighting in the south assumes that Muqtada al-Sadr and the Sadr militia are the "spoilers," or bad guys, and that the government forces are the legitimate side and bringing order. This can be a dangerous oversimplification. -- Anthony Cordesman

A thought...

Since I didn't get any responses to my Dread Pirate Roberts-like succession plan and reading this blog would be much easier than writing it, I am contemplating creating an RSS feed aggregation that posts relevant information using contextual analysis and responds accordingly using stock phrases, random snarky comments, and gibberish.

Anybody capable of doing that sort of thing? I am, but probably too lazy.

purple monkey dishwasher

Kagan is making the argument that I didn't want to push too far

Obviously, I think he and others are pushing it too far.

World Politics Review:

To the extent that the strategic goal of the Surge was to create space for political reconciliation, Basra's descent into fighting is perhaps more evidence that this goal hasn't been reached. At the same time, however, Surge advocates will be able to credibly make the argument, as I heard Fred Kagan make on NPR the other night, that what's happening in Basra in fact validates the Surge strategy by showing what happens after a precipitous withdrawal of Western forces.

The Surge didn't happen in Basra, after all, it happened in the Sunni triangle. In Basra, by contrast, British forces pulled out and left things in the hands of the Iraqis. If what is happening in Basra at the moment were happening in Baghdad, that would be much more damning stuff for advocates of the Surge. Instead, this descent into civil war is happening where our British allies pursued a strategy that is the complete opposite of the Surge.


Via The Daily Dish

More on NATO

Chatham House:
Some see [NATO as a] consolidating success in delivering peace and stability in Europe. Others point to the colossal challenges it faces

NATO's relationship with Russia will also be high on the agenda at Bucharest, with Russia perceiving the possible expansion of NATO to include the Western Balkans as a threat to their own security. This is essentially a non-existent threat and NATO should take the opportunity at Bucharest to be bold and ambitious about its future.

No mention of dissolving NATO. A non-existent threat is not a reason to expand a military alliance. It is a reason to abolish it.

There is no plan for NATO's future. Everybody is scrambling around trying to find one to justify its existence, under the assumption that the mere existence of NATO is a good thing.

I challenge anybody to present an argument defending the continuation of NATO. Many of the proposed reasons for it could be accomplished by the EU or another organization. Many people refuse to accept that national interests prevent the alliance from acting as one in its proposed new role. Countries will work toward their national interests regardless of whether they are in NATO or not. I see no justification whatsoever for the continued existence of NATO.

A note to women

A recent post by Cheryl Miller about women not being taken seriously prompted this post. One of her points was comments about Megan McArdle devolve into a discussion about her looks, and that this supports the argument that women are not taken as seriously as men. I can't disagree with the crux of Cheryl's argument, but I do on this one point.

I contend that whether a woman's ideas are taken seriously and whether she is hot or not are two separate questions. A discussion about a woman's looks does not mean her ideas are not taken seriously.

An explanation of the male mind is in order. It is not as one-track as you think.

Women, anytime you meet a man, who is not a close relative or gay, they make a subconscious decision regarding whether or not they want to have sex with you. This answer is then relayed to the conscious mind. If the answer is no, then our minds move onto other things. If the answer is yes, then the conscious mind starts to decide a few questions. First, should I have sex with her? This usually involves an examination of the situation regarding the relationship status of both ourselves and the woman in question. Second, how can I accomplish it? This involves strategy formation beyond the scope of this post.

So, if our subconscious mind has decided that we want to have sex with a woman and our conscious mind decides that this would be okay given the relationship status, then we have two things to juggle, her ideas and whether and how we can sleep with her. This does not mean that her ideas are not taken seriously. It just means we are multitasking.

I am sure some women, or many for that matter, will object to the idea that all men they meet make a decision about whether they want to have sex with them, but this is like objecting to the Sun rising in the East or breathing. It just is. Nevertheless, one can make arguments about how their actions towards women ought to be, but saying men shouldn't think that way is completely futile.

A point that I think is often overlooked is that women have a far more stringent criteria for female beauty. For men it is mostly binary. Would I have sex with her or not? Certainly, there is the question of whether a man would prefer to have sex with one particular woman over another, but that is still a binary decision with a more specific criteria.

Women, on the other hand, have designed a spectrum of beauty that is almost indecipherable to men. Beauty magazines, criticism of shoes, criticism of weight, etc are far more nuanced in the female mind than the male mind. Why this is I do not know, but I will tell you that the societal pressure for perfect beauty comes from other females, not males. Men have a very simple criteria. Do I want to have sex with her or not? This question is completely separate from taking her ideas seriously.

Friends don't let friends drink and get eaten by crocs

Telegraph:
Australian police fired shots at a huge saltwater crocodile to prevent a drunken “idiot” from being eaten alive during an impromptu swim in the sea.

Kaplan on NATO

NYTimes:
Critics complain that it has become an unequal, two-tiered alliance...

It certainly isn’t fair. Yet predictions of NATO’s decline hold it to an impossible cold war standard. Then, a direct mortal threat to Central Europe in the form of Red Army divisions led to an all-for-one and one-for-all mentality. Now that the threat is more subtle and diverse, NATO’s mandate, structure and personality need to change accordingly.

Wasn't the cold war its raison d'etre? We should hold it to that standard. The weakening of the alliance is a direct result of its lack of purpose.

NATO, two-tiers or not, potentially holds as much value to the United States in the multipolar future as it did in the cold war past. Indeed, as we look at the possibility of a “Pacific Century” featuring the rise of China as a great power, combined with a resurgent Russia across Eurasia, we should see that an American-European alliance is imperative.

Let me get this straight. There will be a "Pacific Century," and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is imperative? The Russian Bear is ornery, but I don't it is going to start a war.

Let’s face it, the threat of a Taliban comeback in Afghanistan is not of the same order as the threat Germany faced from the Soviet Union, so is it any wonder that Germany’s attitude has changed?

Nope. No wonder. But it makes me wonder why NATO is still around.

Rather than bully the Germans into doing what they’re not very good at — counterinsurgency — in the violent south of Afghanistan, we should be grateful that they’re doing something they are good at — nation-building — in the relatively peaceful north.

First, are they really good at it? I will take Kagan's word on this point. Second, is NATO a mutual defense organization or a nation-building organization?

In the post-cold-war world, individual NATO members can’t be expected to automatically take part in missions outside the alliance’s traditional European sphere. Participation will be contingent on specific circumstances. And that will lead to an increasingly stratified alliance.

The entire point of an alliance is that members have clear duties and responsibilities. We can't have this piecemeal bullshit, and then say NATO is working outside its traditional sphere. NATO is becoming a unguided, unwieldy, useless organization.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO’s mandate has been a work in progress: from a sole focus on the defense of the European homeland to a three-dimensional engagement in global issues like terrorism, human rights abuses, military partnerships with fledgling democracies, energy security, nuclear proliferation and outbreaks of chaos.

What he means is that since the Warsaw Pact went away, NATO has been thrashing around trying to justify its continued existence. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

In these circumstances, countries like the United States and Britain will simply have to carry a heavier burden than others. But what of it? NATO has always operated as a multi-tiered organization.

Why can't the US and UK just use their militaries then? Why do we even need the formal alliance? There is no existential, external threat to Europe.

And especially as it expands to include smaller, weaker countries in Eastern and Central Europe, it is natural that NATO should be a multi-layered enterprise, to reflect the great differences in military capabilities and public opinion among its many members.

By smaller and weaker, he means that the new counties don't add anything to the existing NATO alliance, only siphon off the protection without really contributing. By public opinion he means that many of the powers in Europe are pussies, who don't want to fight. I understand their opinion. I don't want the US fighting either, but do we want to be in an alliance with them?

NATO membership represents a seal of good-product approval for former east bloc states seeking investment and stabilization.

EU membership should play this role, not NATO membership.

The very fact that we’re even talking about Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO shows how dynamic the alliance still is on a political level. A two-tiered NATO still keeps a retrograde Serbia in a box; this reduces Russian interference in the Balkans to the level of a significant irritant rather than a strategic threat. NATO membership sets parameters for Turkey’s democratic experiment with Islamic rule, making it more likely to succeed in ways that the West can tolerate. NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, in which second-tier members like Germany participate, gives former Soviet republics in the Caucasus and Central Asia access to NATO training programs, which helps keep them from slipping closer into the Kremlin’s orbit.

Personally, I think other organizations, especially the EU can play this role. We don't need NATO anymore.

With the United States Navy concentrating on competition from China in the Pacific, NATO could become the primary naval force to patrol the North Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Oh, you mean the Europeans would actually patrol the waterways near their shores? I see. Wouldn't that happen even if there was no NATO?

By getting bogged down in Iraq and consequently neglecting Afghanistan, the Bush administration has forced NATO members to bear a military responsibility that many in their heart of hearts do not feel is vital to their interests.

This is what is crucial to me. Vital national interests were clear during the Cold War. None of the new stuff Kagan wants NATO to do will be considered vital to national interest. Or if they do, they will do it without NATO.

But simply because NATO cannot be an alliance of equals does not mean that it won’t play a significant role in our grand strategy: to create a web of global arrangements and liberal institutions that will allow America to gradually retreat from its costly and risky position of overbearing dominance.

This argument really rests upon the idea that international organizations are good. Therefore, NATO must be good. NATO lost its relevance in 1989. There is no reason whatsoever that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should still exist. Most of this is just inertia. NATO was on the winning side in the cold war, and people want to keep it around because it seemed successful. But its usefulness has passed, and it will never be useful again. No matter how many times you tweak its mission statement or in what way you justify the actions of its member states.

Public doesn't buy Second Amendment collective right argument

Gallup:
A solid majority of the U.S. public, 73%, believes the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to own guns. Twenty percent believe the amendment only guarantees the rights of state militia members to own guns.

I am not a constitutional scholar, but it seems pretty clear to me.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

First, it says 'people.' Not states. When interpreting the word people in the 10th amendment, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people," do we interpret that as a collective people? Often it means that we as individuals have powers. Superpowers....

Second:
"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
— George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on
Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788

Even if you not an originalist, or strict constructionist, or whatever, one has to admit that the meaning of the word militia as understood by those who wrote the document is of particular importance in this case.

Third, do we have a collective, but not individual right to free speech, religion, or any other right explicitly mentioned in the Bill of Rights? Not that I can tell.

I understand the icky-ness people feel toward guns. I also understand why they would like to interpret a right they feel icky about as being 'collective,' but this just doesn't jive with the rest of the document. So, if you don't want people to have a right to guns, then you should try to repeal the 2nd Amendment. Good luck on that one.

The WaPo has questions, I have answers.

Isn't that supposed to be the other way around? The WaPo should answer the public's questions. Isn't that what the media is for? Anywho...

Q: Are certain questions out of bounds? Yes. For example, asking a candidate if they are menstruating is out of bounds. Likewise, any question regarding the size of the candidate's genitalia.

Q: Was it inappropriate for a college student to ask Chelsea Clinton on Tuesday whether her mom's credibility had suffered from her handling of the Monica Lewinsky scandal? No. It is a fair question that is on a lot of people's minds. In fact, it is the elephant in the room for the Clinton campaign.

Q: Is it true, as Chelsea suggested in her terse response, that the topic isn't "any of your business"? No.

Q: Or did her dad's conduct make it the nation's business? Yes. Any sex in the Oval Office is the nation's business. Well, I guess if the president and first lady want to go to town on the desk in there, then that might not be anybody's business. But having extramarital sex with an intern, animal, or the ghost of Abraham Lincoln in the Oval Office is public business.

Q. Does Chelsea's role as a campaign surrogate who's chosen to put herself in the public eye make her subject to questions about her mom's experience as first lady -- even the unpleasant stuff? Yes. She signed up for the job, and awkward questions are part of it. If she can't stand the heat, then go back to her day job.

Q: Or are the rules different because this is personal for her, as her audience seemed to think when they applauded her answer? No. It may be personal, but she is on the campaign trail, stumping for her mother. Also, she is a grown woman. People keep treating her as if she is a little kid. She HAD to know that this was going to come up at some point, and the answer was completely unsatisfactory.

( Q: And does America still think of Chelsea as an adolescent who needs to be protected?) YES!

Q: Does intent matter? If the student, who says he's a Hillary Clinton supporter, was truly hoping to hear Chelsea discuss "what makes Hillary so strong," was her response an overreaction? A question is a question. You either answer it or not. She chose to answer it poorly. Now, there are some people who ask really stupid questions, *cough* LaRouche supporter, and they can be ignored.

Q: Or is any query that alludes to the name "Lewinsky" gratuitously salacious? No. It is a legitimate issue. First, it speaks to the larger question of whether we want Bill back in the White House. I mean if he was getting BJs while calling donors, then what is he going to be doing when he isn't president in the White House? Furthermore, a lot of people have questions about why she stayed with him after he embarrassed her so publicly. Many assume that it is a cold, calculating, loveless political marriage. She has never addressed it. No, you might say that is none of our business. Why is she being judged for his wrong? Etc, etc... Well, when you run for President a lot of things become public questions. Also, deciding to stay with a man who took advantage of an intern is not the best judge of character. Add to this people's questions about whether they love one another, and you have a potent brew. Lewinsky is at that heart of all of this stuff, so a question about Lewinsky can be legitimate.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Possible Phd for Fear and Loathing in G'town?

War Studies Baby!

A doctorate in kickin' ass and takin' names. Who's comin' with me?

I am soooo screwed

NewScientist:
Beer bellies may double the risk of dementia

Bad news for those with bulging bellies: fat that builds up around the waist during middle age may cause dementia decades later, say researchers who examined the health records of thousands of senior citizens

First time I have used the navel gazing tag literally.

Feministing loses it

Feministing:
Douchebag of the Day

On Fox News yesterday, Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics offered a very insightful metaphor of Democrats and Republicans:

"Look, when you analyze parties, you need to think of them this way: The Democratic Party is the mommy party, and the Republican Party is the daddy party. . . The mother is loving and caring and takes us back in and provides the safety net. The father is the disciplinarian -- tough love. He makes us face up to hard realities, at least in many families. Well, the mommy party is the Democratic Party. The daddy party is the Republican Party."

No comment necessary.


First, this daddy party-mommy party thing is a clich├ęd description. I have heard it many times. I am surprised that somebody as smart as Mr. Sabato used it. I am not sure it is accurate, but it makes a useful soundbite.

Secondly, if the ladies at Feministing are worried about this, then they are barking up the wrong tree. I understand why they might object to the characterization, but this is small potatoes in the big scheme of things. Furthermore, calling Mr. Sabato a douchebag is infantile. Usually, I ignore that they are calling people Douchebags because, well, I frequently agree, but they need to be more careful in who they target.

I have been wrong in accepting their ad hominem attacks. I need to reevaluate reading the blog.

In Case You Didn't Know: France one uped Athens

As some may know, Athens legally tried animals and inanimate objects that caused harm to humans. I think Aristotle or Demosthenes wrote about this, not sure which.

France, around the time of Louis XIV, would salt the body of accused criminals who died in jail, and try the body. One body was misplaced for 7 years, and was eventually found fermented in a cask of beer. It was buried without trial, for obvious reasons I think.

This little anecdote is courtesy of Salt: A World History, which I find fascinating, but also have difficulty finding free time to read.

Boy, I really want to attend this

Chatham House:
Tuesday 1 April 2008 08:45 to 09:30
Location

Chatham House, London
Participants

David Cameron MP, Leader of the Conservative Party

Type: Members' events

David Cameron will consider the key challenges facing NATO at this important time in the organization's history. His speech comes ahead of the Bucharest Summit that will take place on 2-4 April. Many commentators and analysts have observed that if the wrong decisions are taken at Bucharest - or if no decisions are taken at all - then the Alliance will face not only deep internal disagreement, but also questions over its future role and relevance.

I fear it will consist mainly of platitudes about multinational cooperation, and the importance of expanding NATO. Any serious examination of whether NATO is still relevant in the post-Warsaw Pact world will be noticeably absent, as it has been since 1989.

South Park Online

I forgot to mention that South Park has all their episodes online now.

Link here.

For your viewing pleasure:

Maybe Clinton didn't lie after all

This just in: New video evidence.



Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

Giving Feminists a bad name

I wholeheartedly agree with the general principle of feminism, ie men and women should be treated equally. However, I find that some feminists are completely divorced from reality, and in all honesty wackjobs who have lost all perspective.

Full Disclosure: I discovered this post via a link from Ace of Spades HQ, which is not at all an objective observer of feminism. So, I decided to read it myself. Also, I have never seen the show/film, so I am going by what is presented in the article. What is presented is insanity.

Case in point here:
I have become increasingly interested in examining Joss Whedon’s work from a feminist perspective since I had a conversation with another lesbian feminist sister at the International Feminist Summit about whether Joss was a feminist. I am really quite shocked by how readily Joss is accepted as a feminist, and that his works are widely considered to be feminist. I decided to start re-watching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and also to watch Firefly and the movie Serenity.

I have to say that now that I have subjected myself to the horror that is Firefly, I really am beyond worried about how much men hate us, given that this was written by a man who calls himself a feminist


ALL men hate women? Come on.

For myself, I’m not sure that I will recover from the shock of watching the malicious way in which Joss stripped his female characters of their integrity, the pleasure he seemed to take from showing potentially powerful women bashed, the way he gleefully demonized female power and selfhood and smashed women into little bits, male fists in women’s faces, male voices drowning out our words.

Our words? Every statement uttered by any woman, even a fictional one, is now a product of some borg-like collective womanhood?

So in the very second scene of the very first episode, an episode written and directed by the great feminist Joss, a white man tells a black woman to ‘shut up’ for no apparent reason. And she does shut up. And she continues to call him sir. And takes his orders, even when they are dumb orders, for the rest of the series.

Dude, they are on a ship. People take orders and are told to shut up on a ship regardless of gender and race. What matters is the chain of command.

The next scene we meet Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic. <- Lookee, lookee, feminist empowerment. In this scene Mal and Jayne are stowing away the cargo they just stole. Kaylee is chatting to them, happily. Jayne asks Mal to get Kaylee to stop being so cheerful. Mal replies, “Sometimes you just wanna duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.” Yes, that is an exact quote, “Sometimes you just wanna DUCT TAPE HER MOUTH and DUMP HER IN THE HOLD FOR A MONTH.” Kaylee responds by grinning and giving Mal a kiss on the cheek and saying, “I love my Captain.”

What the fuck is this feminist man trying to say about women here? A black woman calling a white man ‘sir’. A white male captain who abuses and silences his female crew, with no consequences. The women are HAPPY to be abused. They enjoy it. What does this say about women, Joss? What does this say about you? Do you tell your wife to shut up? Do you threaten to duct tape her mouth? Lock her in the bedroom? Is this funny to you, Joss? Because it sure as fuck ain’t funny to me.


I don't know the context of the "duct tape and dump her in the hold for a month," but I have to agree that the author of the article probably has a point here. However, the continued objection to a black woman calling a white man 'sir' was stupid to begin with, and is wearing thin.

In Joss Whedon’s future world prostituted women are powerful and respectable. They go to an Academy, to train in the arts of being a ‘Companion’. They belong to a Guild which regulates prostitution, forces women to endure yearly health tests and comes up with rules to make prostitution sound empowering for women. For example, one Guild rule is that the ‘Companion’ chooses her rapist, not the other way around.

But there is one really big question that does not get answered. The women who ‘choose’ to be ‘Companions’ are shown as being intelligent, accomplished, educated, well-respected and presumably from good families. If a woman had all of these qualities and opportunities then why the fuck would she ‘choose’ to be a man’s fuck toy? Would being a fuck toy for hundreds of men give a woman like Inara personal fulfillment? Job satisfaction? A sense of purpose? Fulfill her dreams? Ambitions?

Money doesn’t seem to be the motivation behind Inara’s ‘choice’ to be a ‘Companion’, presumably she just ‘enjoys’ swanning around in ridiculous outfits. And being used as a fuck toy by men is seemingly a small price to pay for the pleasure.


Again, I haven't seen the show, but prima facie this looks like a legitimate complaint.

And in regards to her first rule, Mal takes every opportunity he can to break it. In the first episode Mal barges into Inara’s shuttle. The interchange goes like this:

Inara: What are you doing on my shuttle?

Mal: It's my shuttle. You rent it.

Inara: Then when I'm behind on the rent, you can enter unasked.

Scenes like this continue to occur for the rest of the series. Mal never apologises for breaking the terms of his agreement with Inara. And although Inara gets a little annoyed, she does not get really angry at the Captain for consistently undermining her power and invading her space. She tells the Captain to get out but he rarely complies. The point is that a man should never invade a woman’s personal space to begin with. Especially when he has been told expressly that he is not invited. But Mal delights in pointing out Inara’s powerlessness, it makes him feel all manly.


He is the fucking Captain. "Breaking the terms of his agreement?" Come on. Rather than manliness, perhaps he is asserting his authority as Captain. Again, I haven't seen the show, but prior comments from the author of this article has brought her judgement into question.

Zoe, of course, is meant to be our empowered, ass-kicking sidechick. Like all sidechicks she is objectified from the get go. Her husband, Wash, talking about how he likes to watch her bathe. Let me just say now that I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour. I have known a black woman whose white husband would strangle and bash her while her young children watched. My white grandfather liked black women because they were ‘exotic’, and he did not, could not treat women, especially women of colour, like human beings. I grew up watching my great aunts, my aunty and my mother all treated like shit by their white husbands, the men they loved. So you will forgive me for believing that the character, Wash, is a rapist and an abuser, particularly considering that he treats Zoe like an object and possession.

This is the big point for me. The author of this article is falling into the trap of what I call The Big Assumption. "The experiences that constitute my individual life are representative of the entire human condition." It is an assumption that all of us have to overcome because it is incorrect, and biases our search for truth.

Then I proceeded to the comments section, where this doozy came up:
Let me just say now that I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour.

Like you've personally known of a healthy relationship between a man and a woman?


Author's response:
heh, true.

Followed by:
Seriously? I mean, really, *seriously*? You've *never* known of *anyone* who's in a happy, healthy, positive, mutually respectful, mutually loving, heterosexual relationship?

I'm not yanking your chain, I really want to know.


More from the author:
There have been a few discussions recently in the rad fem blogosphere debating whether all male initiated sex is rape, given that women are politically, socially and economically subordinate to men. So, in my understanding of Joss Whedon as a rapist is hinges on my definition of rape. I would argue that most 'sex' between men and women, in the contemporary 'sex-positive', pornographic, male-supremacist culture, is rape.

This insane thinking is divorced from reality and undermines the equality of men and women. Why? Because any objective observer who views the overall situation, and who is not blinded by their personal experiences and ideology cannot come to the conclusion that all heterosexual sex is rape. Unless of course you buy into the bullshit argument that most women have been habituated to accept male dominance, and therefore they are unable to even rationally comprehend the decisions they are making.

These types of arguments both alienate men who would like to see equality between men and women, like myself, and are patronizing to the many women who believe they are living in healthy relationships with men and enjoy heterosexual sex.
 
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