Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Last Night I Had A (China Daily) Peanut

On the China Daily site, here, when the page first loads it plays a tune, with lyrics in Chinese. It's set to the tune of the rotten peanut song ("Last night I had a peanut, had a peanut, la-a-a-st night").

I don't speak Chinese myself; can anyone else tell me - since I'm dying of curiousity on this one - what they're singing?


What He Said....

I don't see how one could improve upon Mr. Bevan's comments, comparing the world's response to the tidal wave of destruction in the Indian Ocean vs Osama Bin Laden's latest call to kill, kill, kill:

Obviously, the contrast couldn't be greater. On one hand you see an army of compassion; governments and citizens banding together to help one another in the aftermath of a devastating tragedy. On the other hand you see an army of tyranny and death; a group of thugs and murderers who spend every waking moment trying to prevent people from living in freedom ... between the display of a massive global outpouring of heartfelt compassion and the sinister threats of a group of heartless terrorists. A contrast, in other words, between good and evil.
He's right.


Las Esperantas?

Given their stated goals, I suspect the PA is simply using the women in this story as temporary window dressing. But then again, a lot of history started out as a diversionary tactic.

Dozens of women defied traditional Islamic limits and pressures, running for office and winning in last week’s West Bank local elections
Time will tell if the participation of women in these elections was a one-time Trojan Horse, or something more.

Even those orchestrating events might be surprised by the outcomes they create. Let's hope.


Earthquake: It Just Gets Worse & Worse

Every time I look I wish I hadn't; the death toll seems to be thousands higher by the day, if not the hour:

Thousands of bodies lay rotting and unidentified on lawns and streets of battered Sumatra island Wednesday and authorities called out bulldozers to dig mass graves, as the number killed in a mammoth earthquake and tsunami rose above 60,000 with tens of thousands still missing. The U.N. health agency warned that disease could double the toll yet again
For those interested in perspective, the worst earthquakes in history, drawn from a variety of sources, and in a list that is not even close to exhaustive, were/are:
Dec 2003IranA powerful earthquake struck southeastern Iran on December 26, 2003, killing over 43,000 people, injured 20,000, left 60,000 homeless and destroyed much of the city of Bam.
Jan 2001IndiaMore than 20,000 people killed and more than 160,000 injured in the western state of Gujarat, where the town of Bhuj was completely destroyed.
August 17 1999Izmit, TurkeyA magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Turkey on August 17 under the city of Izmit. The earthquake wreaked havoc on the city and the surrounding area, leaving tens of thousands dead, and hundreds of thousands injured or homeless.
May 1998Northern Afghanistan hit by a major earthquake, killing 4,000 people.
May 1997Eastern IranUp to 2,400 people were killed and thousands injured when an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale rocked rural areas of eastern Iran. The quake levelled 11 villages and inflicted heavy damage on the towns of Qaen and Birjand near its epicentre, about 150 km (90 miles) from the border with Afghanistan.
Jan 1995Kobe, JapanAt least 6,055 people were killed after a strong earthquake ripped through central Japan. Measuring 7.2on the Richter scale, the earthquake, centred around the port of Kobe, was the biggest quake to hit Japan in half a century.
Dec 1992IndonesiaA string of islands in the province of East Nusa Tenggara was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale. At least 2,200 people were killed. 1,490 died in Maumere, on the island of Flores, which took the brunt of the quake. Another 700 were confirmed dead in Babi island.
Jun 1990Iran50,000 dead, 100,000 injured. The worst recorded disaster in Iran. Registering 7.7 on Richter scale, devastated Caspian regions of Gilan and Zanjan. Some 500,000 were made homeless.
Dec 1988Soviet UnionMore than 25,000 killed, 18,000 injured. 6.9 Richter, 10 on Soviet 12-point scale. NW Armenia. The town of Spitak almost totally destroyed and Leninakan, half-destroyed.
August 17 1999Izmit, TurkeyA magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Turkey on August 17 under the city of Izmit. The earthquake wreaked havoc on the city and the surrounding area, leaving tens of thousands dead, and hundreds of thousands injured or homeless.
Sep 1985MexicoBetween 6,000 and 12,000 killed. 40,000 people injured. 8.1 on the Richter scale. The earthquake hit Mexico city and adjoining region.
Dec 1982Yemen3,000 people killed and 2,000 people injured. 6 on the Richter scale. The earthquake devastated Dhamar province 60 miles SE of Sanaa.
Nov 1980Italy2,735 people killed. Over 7,500 injured. 7.2 on Richter scale. The epicentre was at Eboli, but damage was reported over a huge area to Naples. Over 1,500 people were reported missing.
Oct 1980AlgeriaProvisional figures issued by the United Nations reported 2,590 killed. It registered up to 7.3 on the Richter scale. The earthquake centred on the town of El Asnamand. Left 330,000 people homeless.
Sep 1978Iran25,000 people killed by the earthquake which measured between 7.5 and 7.9 on the Richter scale. It levelled the town of Tabas and many other villages.
Nov 1976TurkeyIn Van Province 5,291 confirmed dead with over 5,000 injured. 50,000 people left homeless, with the destruction of the town of Muradiye and hundreds of villages.
Aug 1976PhillipinesAn earthquake followed by an 18 foot tidalwave struck and swamped the islands of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi Tawi. 8,000 people were killed and 150,000 people were left homeless.
July 1976ChinaThe city of Tangshan was devastated by an earthquake which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. The China Morning Post, on 5/1/77, quoted a report saying 655,237 had died with about 779,000 injured. However the New China News Agency released figures, following the inaugural Congress of the Chinese Seismological Society in November 1979, which claimed 242,000 dead and 164,000 injured. This is the 20th century's worst earthquake.
Feb 1976GuatemelaA rash of quakes and resulting mudslides caused much destruction just north of Guatemala City. 23,000 people were killed in the quake which measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. 80,000 people were injured and 1.5 million people were made homeless.
Sept 1975TurkeyAn earthquake devastated the town of Lice and surrounding villages, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale. At least 2,350 people were killed and 3,000 injured.
Dec 1974PakistanA quake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale destroyed villages over 100 square miles in the Karakom mountains. Leaving 5,200 dead and over 16,000 injured.
Dec 1972NicaraguaA massive earthquake struck Managua, measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale. Between 5,000 and 7,000 people were killed.
Apr 1972IranAn earthquake over 250 mile radius struck southern Iran around Ghir Karzin. 5,374 people were killed.
May 1970PeruAn earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck the towns of Yungay, Huaraz and Chimbote, destroying all three as well as surrounding villages. This resulted in over 70,000 dead and 600,000 left homeless.
Aug 1968IranOver 12,000 people were killed in the northeastern province of Khurasan.
1964Alaska9.2 magnitude. This bad boy shredded the earth under entire Anchorage neighborhoods, dropping houses -- and humans -- into fissures. Although nearly every high-rise apartment in the city was subsequently condemned, only 131 people died in the quake.
Sep 1962Iran1 Sep 1962 - IRAN - An earthquake struck northwest Iran near Ghazvin, resulting in the deaths of 12,000 people, and the destruction of over 300 surrounding villages.
Nov 1976TurkeyIn Van Province 5,291 confirmed dead with over 5,000 injured. 50,000 people left homeless, with the destruction of the town of Muradiye and hundreds of villages.
May 1960ChileAn earthquake struck Santiago and Concepcion. The after effect of which was tidal waves and volcanic eruptions. The Chilean death toll was over 10,000 dead and missing.
Apr 1960IranAn earthquake measuring 5.75 (on the Strasbourg scale) struck the southern town of Lar reducing it to rubble. Over 3,500 people were killed.
Jan 1939ChileBetween 25,000 and 30,000 people were killed, when an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale, virtually destroyed the town of Concepcion. The town of Chillan was struck by the same earthquake, causing 10,000 of the casualties.
Nov 1976TurkeyIn Van Province 5,291 confirmed dead with over 5,000 injured. 50,000 people left homeless, with the destruction of the town of Muradiye and hundreds of villages.
May 1935India13 May 1935 - INDIA - 30,000 people were killed in an earthquake which struck the hill station of Quetta, in British-ruled Baluchistan.
Sep 1923Kanto, JapanAn earthquake estimated at 7.9 on the Richter Scale struck Tokyo and Yokahama, making 2.5 million people homeless. Floods followed as the rivers Fukuro, Chiyo, and Takimi burst their banks. At least 142,000 people were killed, although unofficial estimates say as many as 300,000 may have died.
Dec 1920ChinaAn earthquake, measuring an estimated 8.6 on the Richter scale, struck Jiangsu province, killing 180,000 people.
Jan 1915ItalyThe town of Avezzano, in central Italy, was struck by an earthquake killing 30,000 people.
Dec 1908ItalyOver 82,000 people were killed in an earthquake which reduced Messina, Sicily's second largest town, to rubble. A tidal wave followed, causing more devastation, also to the town of Reggio, across the straits.
1906San Francisco7.7 magnitude. The quake was devastating enough, reaching magnitude 9.0 in parts of the city built on filled wetland, but the fires were brutal. Compounded by broken waterlines, the quake and fire damaged 20 percent of city buildings. Some evidence suggests the final death toll was 20 times the official estimate (500), but was reported as lower to avoid scaring tourists. One report said San Francisco is hit by a series of violent shocks which last up to a minute. Between 700 and 3,000 people die either from collapsing buildings or in the subsequent fire.
Apr 1905India4 Apr 1905 - INDIA - 19,000 people were killed in an earthquake which struck the province of Lahore. The earthquake, which measured 8.6 on the Richter scale, demolished the towns of Kangra and Dharmsala.
Nov 1755Portugal60,000 people were killed when an earthquake struck Lisbon. It resulted in 75 per cent of the city being reduced to rubble.
Feb 1556ChinaThe world's worst earthquake occurred in the Shensi, Shansi, and Honan provinces, when an estimated 830,000 people were killed.
Feb 1531PortugalBetween 20,000 and 30,000 died in an earthquake in Portugal.

If that seemed like a long list ... it wasn't. It is woefully incomplete, which only adds to its emphasis.

Some comments, then:
  1. I hadn't realized how devastating earthquakes were, not really, till I put this list together.

  2. China and Iran seem to be especially vulnerable.

  3. Any place where building standards are lower seems to be at higher risk. For the most part my list included only those quakes that caused at least several thousand deaths, but for contrast I did include a pair of American quakes: San Fran and Alaska. Note the relatively low death tolls in each of the latter examples. Think hard about the importance of good engineers.

  4. When in doubt, build on rock (not soft soil, sand or fill), and try to use wood or steel.

  5. I live in a major fault zone myself. It is overdue (aren't they all?) for a major quake.

  6. For those of you near the coast (again, myself included), there is not much you can individually do to guard against tidal waves, save to stay out of the area. Early warning systems might help but those will take govt and/or commercial coordination to be effective.

BTW, The Command Post has a wonderful list of agencies where you can donate to relief efforts.

Hat Tips to: Earth Changes TV and The Malay Mail, the primary sources for the above list.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004



OK, this is just pure speculation at this point, but hey - if Dick Morris can do it, so can I:

"Condoleezza Rice takes the black base and she takes the female base that's absolutely essential for Hillary's victory."

Said Morris: "Rice is the only person who can stop Hillary Clinton from being president."
Problem is, Rice has never run for office before, and as Kerry made clear, you better not run a poor campaigner. While I think Rice would probably be OK on the stump, it's still pretty iffy to base your party's hopes on a campaign rookie.

My own bet, then (though I wouldn't bet much!) is ... Cheney-Rice.

But Cheney has a bad heart, you say, and so he can't run! Well, yes, that's true right now, but in an age of medical miracle and wonder, why would that still be true in '08? All he needs is a small change to his treatment regimen that is then pronounced "amazing" and he can run. Watch me do it right here: "Mr. Cheney has shown amazing improvement under his new treatment regimen. We see no reason he would not be able to handle the duties of the office." See, it's easy.

Cheney is a proven campaigner. Whatever negatives his opponents have ever tarred him with usually vanish in the first 5 minutes as he speaks. Gravitas and reassurance? He oozes the stuff. A histrionic Dem party would last about one week on the trail against him.

Cheney brings in the conservatives and Rice the aforementioned demographics that Morris has already laid out.

Just speculatin', of course, but it'd be interesting to pose a poll question along the lines of: "Presuming new heart treatments made him healthy enough to run, would you be willing to vote for a ticket of Dick Cheney & Condoleeza Rice?"

Hat Tip: Ace Of Spades


Dem Guys Is Gonna Split

As SLT has predicted - it was a common prediction, though - the Dems, according to an article in the Washington Times, are starting to fracture. This is actually a very healthy thing:

A centrist-leaning cadre of Democratic intellectual foot soldiers has declared all-out war on its liberal base, saying it needs to be transformed, if not pulled out by the roots, before the party can win again.
This is all pretty much as predicted, when SLT said:

There's no way the Old Guard would ever leave first; their policies have extremely limited appeal and they simply can't afford to give up the vote-by-rote traditional Dem support.

Which means a helluva brouhaha is taking shape, or as New Republic editor Peter Beinart calls it, "a civil war."

The rest of the article details the nature of the struggle, who's lining up on which side, and the general seriousness of the fight. Of particular note are the comments of blogger Kevin Drum, representing the liberal wing of his party:
Kevin Drum, writing in the Political Animal blog on,said "Islamic totalitarianism seems like pretty thin beer to many. It's not fundamentally expansionist, and its power to kill people isn't even remotely in the same league."
Mr. Drum's comments deserve a brief fisking:
  1. not fundamentally expansionist? The "reconquista" of all of Spain doesn't count, Kevin? Not to mention their oft-stated goal of an Islamic Caliphate that spans the entire globe?

  2. its power to kill people isn't even remotely in the same league. Kevin, are you serious? Consider:
    The 1971 army repression in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) resulted in influx of 10 million refugees into India. Most world renowned relief and news agencies put the number of dead at 3 million. However the fact that is glossed over in these statistics is that the entire Hindu population of East Pakistan was the primary target of Pakistani Army during the nine months of repression in 1971. Population statistics from Bangladesh and US government publications proved that 80 per cent of the refugees from Bangladesh were Hindus and that 80 per cent of the 3 million killed were Hindus. Thus, it was a Hindu refugee problem and it was a Hindu genocide that took place in East Pakistan in 1971.
Well, the genocide in question was only a few million; perhaps Kevin hasn't heard of it yet.

Hat Tip: Political Vice Squad


Can The Dutch Left Deny The Mole?

The Dutch have a major problem as they learn more about the death of Theo Van Gogh:

Perhaps the most alarming revelation was that an Islamist mole was working as a translator in the AIVD, the national investigative service, and tipping off local radicals to impending operations.
The problem? Not just the mole or the terrorists, cuz those can be dealt with.

It's what the mole's sheer existence signifies that will shake the foundation: i.e. that the terrorists are not just a group of misunderstood immigrants from a different culture who were driven to desperation by the recent misguided acts of the West, because moles are not planted by such people - only by those with a deliberate long-term agenda of attack.

The problem, then, is in the acknowledgement. To reform, the Left must now be able to say oops on a variety of difficult and embarrassing mistakes, on such fundamentals as immigration and assimilation. And I don't think they're willing to do this yet, if ever.


Another Reason To Like Commodities

Dunno how long commodities can stay hot, but, I suspect, a good while yet, given the developing world's demand (esp Inda & China) for them:

China will impose an export tax of 5 per cent on its aluminium exports beginning January 1, to rein in the exports of the energy-intensive products.

And a 2-per-cent rate will be collected on nickel, according to the Ministry of Finance.

The government will impose a tax of 10 per cent on exports of blister copper and scrap copper and 5 per cent on refined copper exports.

The move is designed to curb exports of the energy-intensive metals next year, as China is short of such energy and short of enough power to produce such goods.
Supply and demand speaks.

Monday, December 27, 2004


Welcome To BC

Many readers may not appreciate the la-la land reputation of British Columbia, well known though it is in Canada. For example, did you know that our first premier (roughly the provincial equivalent of a US Governor, or a parliamentary Prime Minister) renamed himself Amor De Cosmos (Lover Of The Universe)? It's gone downhill since then.

Here's our most recently elected leader. Looks pretty normal, right?

Our Beloved Leader

Now click here to learn the rest of the story.


Home Of The Hard Sun

I rag on the MSM a lot cuz they deserve it a lot; but not always, as this story on a Cambodian refugee's visit "home" will attest:

For 12 to 16 hours a day, in a Spean Krong labor camp, they harvested rice, dug irrigation canals, and built dikes. They ate rice gruel during communal meals; some days there was no food. At mandatory night meetings, they were told it was Year Zero and to forget their past.

Read it all. It's from the Philly Inquirer.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Rotate Slowly, Please

Oh, this could be s-o-o much fun, needling the BBC for needing instructional videos on, of all things, how to open a door:

The Sun, Britain's biggest selling daily newspaper, reported that workers at the global broadcaster's offices in Birmingham, central England, had been issued with a memo advising them on how to get through a revolving door.
Alas, it has more to do with the Rule Of Lawyers than anything else. Gnash, gnash go the teeth. Oh well....

Saturday, December 25, 2004


A Secular Greeting

Now that Christmas has become Xmas has become a Season, it appears to at last be wholly secular.

Happy Wholly Days.


Associated Terrorist Press

Anyone who reads the blogospehre can't help but note the growing disgust with the Associated Press, as it now appears that they are openly working with the terrorists, each to their own Machiavellian benefit. Power Line makes the point(s):

The AP is using photographers who have relationships with the terrorists; this is for the purpose of helping to tell the terrorists' "stories." The photographers don't have to swear allegiance to the terrorists--gosh, that's reassuring--but they have "family and tribal relations" with them. And they aren't embedded--I'm not sure I believe that--but they don't need to be either, since the terrorists tip them off when they are about to commit an act that they want filmed.
If the AP is openly hiring freelancers and paying them for pictures of murder and terror, why wouldn't the terrorist groups merely designate a few of their own members as the "official" group photographers? That way, they can be assured of getting exactly the pictorial treatment they want. The AP, and other useful fools like them, are merely a convenient distribution network to ensure that the pics will be seen worldwide. Bonus for the terrorists: the AP pays(!) them to be their boy.

Imagine what the relatives of the murdered innocents think of all this.

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon sums it up as well as anyone.

Friday, December 24, 2004


Merry Christmas To All

May you have the best and brightest Christmas possible. This especially applies to those away from home; you know who you are, eh?

Dunno when, exactly, I'll be back, or how often I'll be posting for a while. Depends on the schedule, which will involve lots of currently unpredictable activities and visiting. See you when we see you (now, re-read the first sentence).


Old Hockey

It looks now like we're gonna lose an entire season of NHL Hockey. In anticipation and desperation, our local channels have begun showing old games, usually famous & exciting playoff contests of years gone by.

Their most striking feature? The goalies. Limited by the equipment of old - for the goalies of yore were indeed as talented and possessed of the same lightning reflexes as those of today - the goalies simply could not control the rebounds as they do now. I had utterly forgotten how many they gave up. Nice fat ones, too, right out where the forwards could bang away at them.

Wanna make the NHL exciting again? Cut down the goalie pads. It's that simple.

UPDATE: For those who aren't aware - i.e. all you casual fans out there who have a life - goalie pads today are significantly larger than in days gone by. In fact, there've been a number of rule changes in the goalies' favor over the years, but the pad size is the major issue.


China Raises Minimum Wage

Mainland China (as opposed to Taiwan) has raised its minimum wage:

more affluent districts must pay a minimum wage of 684 yuan (US$82) per month, less well-off districts 574 yuan (US$69).

Most districts will have to pay the higher rate.

Guangzhou's former minimum wage of 510 yuan (US$61) a month became law just a year ago, on January 1.
IIRC, the average wage for manufacturing is around 500-1000 yuan per month.

Read the whole thing. It also notes how the poor are paying increasing attention (read, with envy) to the rich in China lately.

And did you ever wonder which US state has the lowest gap between rich & poor, by the way? Well, it's Utah, silly, where those Crazy Christians(tm) vote Republican in record numbers. Bonus marks: explain it away.


Not The Best Negotiating Tactic

Japan and Russia continue to disagree - as they have since WWII - over the Kurin Islands:

Japan on Friday held firm to its demand that Russia return all four disputed Pacific islands seized in 1945 after President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was only prepared to return two of them.

“Japan is perplexed as to why (Russia) does not return the four islands,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters.
Dear Mr. Koizumi, I have reviewed the historical records of the world. There is no indication of any instance where being "perplexed" actually won back physical territory, as in "Did I perplex you, my negotiating partner? My humblest apologies. Please, take back your land!"


No, Marty, No!

This is wrong on so many levels:

State Rep. Marty Seifert, a conservative with a knack for inflammatory proposals, wants to mandate testing to determine whether welfare clients smoke cigarettes. He'd reduce their benefits if they do.

"If you're going to take the taxpayer's money, we're going to expect good behavior," the Marshall Republican said Friday.
Marty, Marty, Marty, it rhymes with "flippery flope," son.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Russia No Longer Free

Via some Insta-something site, we learn that Freedom House has determined that Russia is no longer even partially free:

Political rights and civil liberties have become so restricted in Russia that the country has been downgraded to "Not Free," Freedom House announced in a major survey of global freedom released today.
They're right, of course. Ironic, that Russia is currently a so-so ally against terror, at least when they're not selling arms to the terrorists, that is. It looks like Bush's attempt to reach out to Putin has gone nowhere, though for all the rhetoric that attempt had always been wisely done at arm's-length, just in case.


A De Facto Consumption Tax?

This AP story on Bush's proposed tax reforms contains an intriguing poker tell:

The proposal also would significantly expand opportunities for people to set up savings accounts where their investment earnings would be tax-free, something the administration has been pushing for two years.
Is Bush taking the path of least resistance to a consumption tax? Consider:

Income - Expenses - Savings = Consumption.

The Income and Expenses part has always been there. Adding the Savings to the mix changes the nature of the tax system itself, and left uncapped would effectively create a consumption tax.

Note that the proposal as described only applies to investment earnings, not to the initial investment itself, so there's still a ways to go. But add the initial investment itself to the mix, and you get a de facto consumption tax. I am no fan of the taxman, but as an advocate of limited govt, I recognize that limited taxation is then required to fund the thing. A simple consumption tax would be my first choice. This approach (not unlike a Canadian RSP, actually, based on its description) would make a good start.

Bush's proposal - presuming the report to be true - is a step in the right direction. It is perhaps also one more step in a deliberate series. I had previously thought that series might end in a "traditional" consumption or sales tax, but now I wonder if it might instead find its expression through the existing system, based on the formula above.

If that's the intent, expect to hear subsequent noise about lowering the rate on Savings per se. Cuz if we hear that, then we'll know it's a consumption tax mindset for sure.


Controlling Elections

SLT recently commented on George Soros's attempt to "buy" the Democratic Party, the results of which are still unknown. Then I ran across this story, from just before the last election:

Financier George Soros told the National Press Club that he supports campaign finance reform, even though he has contributed millions of dollars to independent groups that support John Kerry. "I think one of the greatest campaign finance reforms would be to ban political advertisements, because they really distort the process," Soros said. "I think we'll have to revisit the issue and see what can be done after the elections."
Expect increasing pressure to make elections "fair" by suppressing ads. Further expect that to extend to blogs, especially those that solicit contributions. We wouldn't want the "distortions" to get out of control, would we?


Canada's Gun Registry Scandal

Gun Control fans - bearing in mind that "control" is such a relative term - take note:

Many Canadians are versed with the fact that taxpayers were promised that total costs for the registry would be no more than $85 million -- when in fact the numbers are fast approaching $1.4 billion. Put another way, if the average Canadian taxpayer sends Ottawa $8,000 per year, it's taken 1.75 million taxpayers to fund a program that has little support among rank-and-file police officers.
To the best of my konowledge, not one crime has been prevented or solved as a result of the registry, and you just know the govt would tout such an example if they had one.

At this point, it's beyond parody. One has to presume a scam, and I can only hope the Auditor-General follows the money and reports back to the public, per the mandate of the office.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Zakaria Sees Improvement

Fareed Zakaria steps back at year end, takes a look at the bigger picture, and decides that things are looking up in the Islamic world.. A sample:

SINCE September 11, 2001, I’ve written a column once a year pointing out the good news, which is that Islamic extremism is losing. The movement, in all of its variations, has been unable to garner mass support in any Muslim country.
In those places in the Muslim world where political life is open, the evidence is overwhelming. The 2004 elections in Malaysia and Indonesia saw secular parties trounce Islamic ones. Malaysia’s case is particularly instructive. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ran on a platform of reform and good government, reckoning that voters cared more about ending corruption than enacting Islamic law. The result was a devastating defeat for the Islamist party, its worst showing in 30 years.
He's right.


Merry Christmas Say The Communists & The Muslims

As various politically correct factions in the US work to ban so much as the suggestion of Christmas, for example...

Mayor Joe Curtatone issued a written release this week in which he apologized for his office referring to the city's upcoming holiday celebration as a "Christmas Party."
... it's instructive to note that even Christianity's greatest historical enemies don't seem to have a problem acknowledging its existence:

From the China News:
We are dreaming of a White Christmas!
From the Gulf News Of the United Arab Emirates:
Al Noor students’ Christmas Collection is lively and festive. The Traditional Al Noor Collection focuses on paintings by artists living in the UAE and students from the Latifa School for Girls. These include landscapes and symbols of Arabic culture such as the coffee pot.
I blame the Rule Of Lawyers for the current mess.


Iranian Plans

Debka has an interesting analysis of potential Iranian-sponsored attacks on Israeli embassies worldwide. Whether you agree with their assessment or not, I think it raises certain issues that are worth your time. Herewith, a brief - and partial, so read the entire Debka article, please - fisking:

Of particular concern are the close ties evolving between Iranian intelligence and al Qaeda cells based inside the Islamic republic. US intelligence sources have learned that Khamenei in person has created a new clandestine umbrella organization for bringing together as an arm of his bureau all the al Qaeda-linked groups and likeminded movements.

As noted previously on this blog (e.g. here and here), terrorist cells are being cut off from their all-important central base, without which they are helpless. That makes them a "lost" resource just waiting for the first opportunistic power-broker to take advantage of the situation. I had wondered how long it would take someone to move in and try to take control of the now largely leaderless cells; now I know.

US intelligence experts are certain that data gathered for Tehran by the captured Iranian surveillance team may well have reached al Qaeda, some of it passed deliberately. Osama bin Laden’s organization is believed to be plotting a major attack in the United States. The Islamic Republic is in the habit of using proxies for its terror campaigns, like the Lebanese Hizballah against Israeli targets. That Al Qaeda operatives are harbored in Iran and run cells in many countries make it a natural partner-in-terror.

Al Qaeda hates Shiites, describing them as worse than Jews; strong words in the Middle East, and sincerely believed by the AQ crowd. Iran is majority Shiite. That the Iranian mullahs want to work with these guys, and vice-versa, is indicative of the desperate nature of their current respective situations.
The US interrogation of the Iranian surveillance team and sightings of other watchers have led Israeli intelligence and security chiefs to conclude that Tehran was plotting simultaneous terrorist strikes across America and other parts of the world, blowing up Israeli missions and Jewish centers and taking hostages in several places at once. The captured team may even have been feeding deeply buried terrorist cells set up to carry out this string of assaults and still at large.

This is a very bold plan for a regime that is hated by its own people, staring down the most effective army ever, now on its borders. Would they dare launch such an attack unless they felt they had the nukes to back it up?
My overall impression is that the mullahs, their backs to the wall, are making an alliance of desperation with AQ, and betting everything on a nuke threat. I sincerely hope that's wrong.

Monday, December 20, 2004


Even Though It's Punishable By Death....

Meanwhile, in the Muslim world, immigration into Europe and elsewhere is quietly getting more difficult and they're noticing:

JERUSALEM — The queries he receives from Iranian Muslims about converting to Judaism say less about the lure of the Jewish faith, Menashe Amir believes, than about the abysmal situation in the land of the ayatollahs.

"The main reason they ask about conversion is that they want to get out of Iran, and it has become more difficult to obtain visas to Europe and elsewhere," said Mr. Amir, longtime director of the Iran desk of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

"They believe that if they convert to Judaism, they can receive refuge in Israel."
It says a lot about how Iranians feel towards their mullahs.


A Forgotten Hero

Name the great figures of the 20th century. Was Stanislav Petrov on your list? He should be, he saved your life:

Petrov was in charge of the secret bunker where a team of 120 technicians and military officers monitored the Soviet Union's early-warning system. It was just after midnight when a new satellite array known as Oko, or The Eye, spotted five U.S. missiles heading toward Moscow. The Eye discerned that they were Minuteman II nuclear missiles.

Petrov's computer was demanding that he follow the prescribed protocol and confirm an incoming attack to his superiors.
Read it all, it's certainly worth your time.

Hat Tip:Tim Blair


Perfect Control

There's no such thing as perfect control, not in the world of public communication, at least. As any phone company knows, you cannot control what people say on the line, you can only cut off service for troublemakers after the fact.

Ditto for a blog. I allow comments on this site. They're normally unmoderated but if, for example, a death threat were to be made, I would remove it, as would pretty much any online endeavor, large or small, be it my little blog all the way up to the biggies like Yahoo & eBay.

But apparently some people think that's not enough:

NEW DELHI - Parent company e-Bay and Indian industry officials have expressed anger and concern over the jailing of the CEO of eBay’s Indian subsidiary in connection with the online sale of a sex video. The US State Department also has made inquiries about the case.

The US company said it was “outraged” by the police action, saying the sale took place without the knowledge of company officials. The seller violated the company’s policies and took appropriate action in removing the item from its site as soon as it became aware of it, the company said.
“The video clip itself was not shown on the site; the seller offered to e-mail the clip to the buyer directly,” an eBay statement said. “The listing violated’s policies and user agreement and was removed from the site once it was discovered,” it said.

Bajaj was arrested after he voluntarily traveled to New Delhi to cooperate with the police investigating the case, eBay said, calling his arrest “unexpected and completely unwarranted.”
This will probably be resolved with common sense, but it's scary that it could get even this far in the first place. Somebody tell me - what specifically did eBay do wrong here?


Psychopaths Among Us

Ace Of Spades posts on one of the more interesting articles you'll read - I've had it in my bookmarks since it first came out - on psychopaths:

"Psychopath! psychopath!"

I'm alone in my living room and I'm yelling at my TV. "Forget rehabilitation -- that guy is a psychopath."

Ever since I visited Dr. Robert Hare in Vancouver, I can see them, the psychopaths. It's pretty easy, once you know how to look. I'm watching a documentary about an American prison trying to rehabilitate teen murderers. They're using an emotionally intense kind of group therapy, and I can see, as plain as day, that one of the inmates is a psychopath. He tries, but he can't muster a convincing breakdown, can't fake any feeling for his dead victims. He's learned the words, as Bob Hare would put it, but not the music.

The incredible thing, the reason I'm yelling, is that no one in this documentary -- the therapists, the warden, the omniscient narrator -- seems to know the word "psychopath." It is never uttered, yet it changes everything.
It's not just about the Hannibal Lecters of the world either. This is much more practical.

Hat Tip: Ace Of Spades, of course.


English Where You Least Expect It

English has well and truly become everything Esperanto ever hoped to be - the rest of the world's second language:

China's capital Beijing plans to require attendants at its public toilets to speak basic English in a bid to improve the services provided to foreign visitors, state media said.
The worldwide linguistic consolidation continues. English will not be the sole language, but one of a select few, that our great-grandchildren will speak. You can probably guess the others.


Kyoto Mercy Killing

The Kyoto treaty is dead and now appears to be no more than a historical footnote:

The conventional wisdom that it's the United States against the rest of the world in climate change diplomacy has been turned on its head. Instead it turns out that it is the Europeans who are isolated. China, India, and most of the rest of the developing countries have joined forces with the United States to completely reject the idea of future binding GHG emission limits.
It was so flawed, and so based on posturing over fact, that this was inevitable. At least they killed it before it did serious damage.


China's Juries

I'm not sure what to make of this:

BEIJING, Dec. 20 -- China will introduce jurors to its courts next year in the effort to improve the country's legal system.

The jurors, who are expected to have powers equal to those of a judge, will begin to sit in on cases starting May 1 and will serve five-year terms.

Candidates will be chosen through elections in January and February, China Youth Daily reported yesterday, citing the Supreme People's Court.

To qualify for the post, a candidate must have at least two years of college education, according to the court.

From March through April, the chosen candidates will undergo professional training and, after further inspection, will be authorized by county-level legislatures.
Is this a sincere effort, or - and here perhaps I betray a wariness borne of watching so many insiders "game" the system in the West - something else? Anyone know?


A Whole New Attitude

We're not scared of being called names anymore:

But last week, in a twin blow for fairness, the Tasmanian timber company Gunns Ltd filed suit against 20 activists, alleging they have told lies and sabotaged the company; and Italian clothing giant Benetton refused to cave in to PETA threats and boycott Australian wool. Not only that, but the Australian Wool Innovation group last month launched legal action in the Federal Court to stop PETA threatening clothing retailers.
It's about time.

And is it just a coincidence that the changes begin as the Boomers fade and the Echoes & X'ers start taking over?

Hat Tip: Tim Blair

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Ruffini Issues A Challenge

Patrick Ruffini issues a challenge> of sorts:

I'd really like for some Democrat out there to find one county Bush won where more people voted than were on the voter rolls; after 20 years of observing politics, I've routinely seen this phenomena in Democratic counties, but never once in a GOP county
Anyone know if there's a site where voter roll data is published? If not, there should be.


Don't Try This At Home

The moral of this story?

For Ms Lucciso has appeared on the cover of Panorama, a news weekly in Silvio Berlusconi's Mondadori stable, with a horribly swollen upper lip, over the garish headline "The new monsters", offering herself as a terrible warning against dabbling with your looks.
"Unfortunately, the swelling was brought about by me. And I feel remorseful about it. For some days I was in a state of anguish; it was awful. I injected my lips to give them more volume ... I injected them with some chemical substance. It was a folly I will not repeat. I should have had it done by a doctor. I'll remember that in future."
Sometimes it pays to hire an expert.


The Not So Ideal UN

Those who support the UN should consider stories such as this:

In the corner of the tent where she says a soldier forced himself on her, Helen, a frail fifth-grader, remembers seeing a blue helmet.
When the UN is attacked, it is not necessarily an attack on the ideals on which it was founded, but rather on the betrayal of those ideals. Surely we can all agree on that?


Columbian Paramilitaries Disarming

I haven't seen a whole lot of coverage about this, but then again, it seems to be the sort of news that often gets ignored; maybe they need to add a car chase or something:

    Colombian paramiltaries listen to their commander before surrendering their weapons in the western province of del Valle, on December 18. Some 550 far-right Colombian paramilitary fighters turned in their arms on Saturday, the fifth disbandment in less than a month under the Andean country's peace initiative. More than 3,000 paramilitary combatants have laid down their arms since the middle of last year when the government's paramilitary pacification program began. The paramilitaries have killed thousands of people in an illegal campaign against Colombia's Marxist rebels.

By the way, both this post and the previous one, as with many others, owe a hat tip to the Khaleej Times of Dubai, UAE. It's worth a click of your time.


Condo Feature Creep

This is definitely overkill, right?

   The brand new Suite Vollard building stands in the Ecoville neighborhood of the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba on the day the apartments went on sale for $300,000 each, December 16. The 11-story apartment block is touted by its creators as the world's only building in which each 300-square-meter apartment can revolve independently, spinning 360 degress to the left or to the right and activated by voice commands.


Bhutto Decries Sexism

In an editorial unrelated, as far as I know, to the previous story, Benazir Bhutto accuses Musharraf of being sexist. The crux of her charge: that he deliberately discriminates against female judges.


Musharraf Hangs On

Musharraf has apparently decided he feels safest when the Pakistan Army is run by himself.

Islamists vowed on Sunday to resist plans by Pakistan's President to stay on as head of the army, breaking his pledge to quit the post by the end of the year.
Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, also promised to tell Pakistanis within days why he had changed his mind.
Is there another twist yet to come?

Friday, December 17, 2004


Not A Healthy Marriage Right Now

Over at Polipundit they're discussing a schism in the Dems, between the Old Guard faction who favor the Michael Moore approach to politics, and a New Guard who want to take over and change course a bit. As USA Today reports:

"This generation is looking for ways to participate because we're tired of losing," says Jamal Simmons, 33, a consultant who has worked for presidential hopeful Wesley Clark and several other Southern candidates.

Simmons and his fellow "Young Turks" worry about the Democratic Party's dependence on interest groups, their relations with minority groups, the stereotypes that they are weak on defense and values, the Republican appropriation of the "reformer" label and the swaths of America that Democrats seem to have written off.

Young Democrats believe that the party is dominated by people who came of age politically in the 1960s, and it's time for them to make room for new ideas and new voices. Theirs.
The New Guard won't win, though, and they'll have to form a new party eventually, because:
  • There's no way the Old Guard would ever leave first; their policies have extremely limited appeal and they simply can't afford to give up the vote-by-rote traditional Dem support.

  • The New Guard who want to moderate their party's positions will get beaten up in the MSM just as badly as the Republicans, making it extremely tough for them to take over; the MSM is Old Guard itself.
This conflict will continue until the New Guard throws up its hands in frustration and starts a new party, probably in partnership with a few prominent center-left Republicans.

The danger at that point will be that the Old Guard (which, shorn of its moderates will be harder and lefter than ever) can sneak up the middle in a 3-way vote split. As Perot & Nader have each demonstrated, it doesn't take much to tip the balance.


A Step Ahead

India appears to be a step ahead of Indonesia in its legal system. Twenty years from now, looking back, we will realize just what an important step it was. Jemma Purdey explains:

Events of mass violence and rioting between and against different communities within these two countries in recent years have similarly left behind victims seeking justice for the crimes against them. The responses and capabilities of the respective judicial and political systems in India and Indonesia are however, producing different outcomes.

The Indonesian case referred to is the riots in Jakarta and other major cities, which took place in mid-May 1998. Over one thousand people died and over one hundred women were raped and gang-raped. Not a single person has been prosecuted for crimes carried out during the violence and despite an official report calling for further investigation of elite military and political figures, no one has been held accountable. More than six years later, there has been no resolution for the victims of this violence.  In India the recent situation is vastly different. Almost exactly one year on from the Mumbai blasts the trial of six accused in the case is set to commence with the police boasting that they have ‘a watertight case’.The fact that the accused in this case are all Muslim may be seen by some from this minority community to account for the speed of bringing this case to trial. However as a counterpoint, simultaneously in a nearby court in Mumbai a trial will be underway of 19 Hindus accused of killing 14 people (mostly Muslims and their Hindu employees) trapped inside the Best Bakery in Vadodara, Gujarat on 1 March 2002.
Place your bets.


Can Abstinence Prevent STV?

British Columbia, the Canadian province where I live, is proposing we change the way we vote. We will have a referendum in May '05 on whether or not to move to a PR-SVT system, which stands for "Proportional Representation-Single Transferable Vote". You can learn more about this proposal here.

I'd be interested in comments from readers with experience with such a system. How do you find it in practice?


The French Build A Bridge

The French like to build bridges. In this case, for real:

The viaduct is not only the tallest in the world -- outstripping the 282-metre towers of the Akashi Kaikyo bridge in Japan -- it is also the longest cable-stayed bridge. The Tatara Ohashi bridge in Japan is 1.48 kilometres long.

The highest bridge in the world -- measured by distance from deck to ground level -- remains the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, US which is 320 metres (1,053 feet) above the river Arkansas.
Well, it's pretty. For a half-billion dollars, it oughtta be....


Karachi Tales

This can't be good for Musharraf:

IN KARACHI, hardly a day goes by without some friend or relative recounting a personal story to do with crime. In fact, I know nobody who has not had some direct experience of a robbery, a hold-up, a kidnapping or a shooting.
It goes on to note how much crime simply goes unreported.


Voter Values

Powerline has the results of an interesting survey done in Iraq recently, vis a vis the upcoming elections:

What will you base your vote on?

Political agenda----------------------------65%
Factional origin----------------------------14%
Party Affiliation--------------------------- 4%
National Background-------------------------12%
Other reasons--------------------------------5%
The Iraqis, they're gonna do alright.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Local Grinches

Ask 100 people if they favor more centralization of power, or less, but you can probably guess the answer: People want the power "democratized" these days.

But that means we all have to start paying at least as much attention to our local govt as we do to national elections, cuz otherwise we end up with small-minded and petty local officials like these:

Now a school district has banned the colors red and green from a "Winter Break Party," requiring parents to bring only white plates and napkins.
Other policies cited in the suit, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, include a ban on candy cane distribution when a religious card is attached, a ban on parents giving religious-oriented items to one another on school property and a ban on criticizing school board members or administrators on campus.
One item included in the suit is the case of a girl student who was forbidden to invite her friends to an Easter event at her church, according to the law firm.
How much longer before the Red Cross changes its name? Surely that must make someone, somewhere feel uncomfortable?


Equal Footing

That this bill is even being proposed in India is a very good sign:

NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 15: In a major blow to patriarchy among Hindus, the Union Cabinet today cleared a legislative proposal to introduce equality between men and women in their rights over joint family property.

Amending the Hindu Succession Act 1956, the proposed Bill gives the daughter entry for the first time into the “coparcenary” of her family—which means she will be counted among those members who are entitled to seek partition and get equal shares in the ancestral property. The Bill states that in a joint Hindu family, the daughter of a coparcener shall “by birth become a coparcener” and have “the same rights in the coparcenary property as she would have had if she had been a son.”

As a corollary, the daughter will be bound by the common liabilities and can even become the “karta” (or loosely the head) of the joint family.
Past marriages will not be affected. It looks like they're being grandfathered in under the old rules, presumably because that's what it takes to change the future.


Treasury's Ratchet II - Much Better Now

In this post from a week ago, entitled Treasury's Ratchet, I decried the OFAC (part of the US Treasury Dept) for preventing publishers from printing the works of dissidents in countries like Cuba and Iran. They did so on the grounds that helping with publication constituted a service to an enemy country. The post asked:

does proofreading or translating the work of a dissident - Solzhenitsyn, from the past, comes to mind - constitute trading with the enemy?
Now that he's been asked to stay on as Treasury Secretary, perhaps John Snow can explain why Treasury is helping to suppress dissidents in "enemy" countries.
Well, I'm happy to report that the situation has been rectified:
The United States has quietly eased sanctions against three of its old nemeses -- Cuba, Iran and Sudan -- to facilitate literary, cultural and scientific exchanges that could help foster dissent there.

A new rule, unveiled by the Treasury Department Wednesday, enables Americans to freely engage in most ordinary publishing activities with Cuban, Iranian and Sudanese individuals and groups.
The changes seem sensible.


Hey Man, Know Any Chicks?

Better late than never, but we all knew the day of reckoning would come eventually:

BEIJING, Dec. 16 (Xinhuanet) --
The city government will also prohibit fetal gender identification for non-medical purposes and termination of gestation for gender selection starting Jan. 1, 2005. Violators will have to pay 20,000 to 30,000 yuan (2,409 to 3,614 US dollars) in fines.
The fines are equivalent to several months' pay for most Chinese.


Return To Normalcy

This just in about an hour ago (Western news services don't seem to have picked up on the story yet, it being the middle of the night in most of North America):

"A total of 3,998 children, all boys, and the majority being aged 14-17 years old have been demobilized in 15 provinces in north, northeast, east and central Afghanistan since the program began in February," Edward Carwardine told reporters here.

UNICEF estimated that there were about 8,000 former child soldiers in Afghanistan with majority of whom were forcibly conscripted by fighting groups and local commanders over the last years of war.

All the demobilized soldiers, the spokesman added would be enrolled in schools or provided with vocational training to enablethem to earn a livelihood and support their families.

"UNICEF now hopes to complete the demobilization program in the provinces of south, west and southeast of the country not covered in 2004," the spokesman noted.
Those who had no future have one now. It's a start.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Under God, The Beat Goes On

Does freedom of religion mean freedom from religion? Of course not, in spite of wilful misinterpretations to the contrary, which are plentiful these days.

But if the above argument holds water (and obviously I think it does), this is so because it uses genuine freedom of religion as its underpinning. Which is why I agree with Mr. David Habecker of Colorado:

Politician Who Won't Say Pledge Of Allegiance May Be Recalled

DENVER -- A recall election is now set for an Estes Park, Colo., trustee who refuses to stand up and recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the Town Board meetings.

David Habecker sits while others stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

"I have not been standing for the Pledge of Allegiance due to a conflict I have with the wording of the pledge, specifically the words 'under God,'" Councilman David Habecker said.
Habecker, who's served on the Town Board for 12 years, said he doesn't oppose the meaning of the pledge, and considers himself a patriot.
I would suggest the pledge be recitable by an individual with or without the reference, but that in group recitations a space be allowed in which those who wish to do so can repeat the words "under God" and those who wish to abstain can simply skip a beat.


Whistleblowing In The Dark

Jayson Javitz at sees a double standard:

The “whistleblower” who exposed various forms of ghastly corruption, malfeasance, neglect, and mismanagement – at the United Nations – has had their employment contract not renewed.


Sounds like classic “retaliation” to me.

John Edwards is available to take that case, no?
Time Magazine named 3 whistleblowers as their Persons Of The Year as recently as 2002, complete with a dramatic cover photo and everything. They'll be all over this story now, right?


MacArthur's Way

On this day in history, a politically incorrect decision was made, with successful consequences:

December 15th, 1945 MacArthur orders end of Shinto as Japanese state religion

On this day, General Douglas MacArthur, in his capacity as Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in the Pacific, brings an end to Shintoism as Japan's established religion. The Shinto system included the belief that the emperor, in this case Hirohito, was divine.
Allied powers believed that serious democratic reforms, and a constitutional form of government, could not be put into place as long as the Japanese people looked to an emperor as their ultimate authority. Hirohito was forced to renounce his divine status, and his powers were severely limited--he was reduced to little more than a figurehead. And not merely religion, but even compulsory courses on ethics--the power to influence the Japanese population's traditional religious and moral duties--were wrenched from state control as part of a larger decentralization of all power.
No further comment required.


Top Bureaucratic Speed

Moving at top bureaucratic speed, now:

The top European Union negotiator said support was building for a proposal to hold a pair of international seminars next year to discuss additional measures to reduce climate change after 2012, when the landmark agreement ends.
Let's put it in point form:
  • support is building ... the level of which is as yet indeterminate

  • when they get enough support they'll ... hold some more seminars!

  • when those seminars take place ... they'll talk some more

  • the things they talk about (if the support bone actually connects to the seminar bone) will tell them what to recommend ... in 8 years time.
This is what people do when they're posturing and don't truly believe in their own cause. Wine & cheese, anyone?


Mike Says Thanks

Mike Stutzke says "THANK YOU."


Iraq Names Names

Iraq's Defence Minister speaks bluntly and well:

BAGHDAD - Iraq’s Defence Minister Hazem Shaalan accused Iran on Wednesday of orchestrating terrorist attacks in Iraq, saying its neighbour country was the “most dangerous enemy of Iraq”.

“Iran is the most dangerous enemy of Iraq and all Arabs,” Shaalan said. “The source of terrorism in Iraq is Iran.”

The two countries fought a brutal eight-year war from 1980 under then leader Saddam Hussein, and lingering tensions remain, with many Iraqis still convinced that Iran is trying to undermine their country.

“Terrorism is Iraq is orchestrated by Iranian intelligence, Syrian intelligence and Saddam loyalists. The financing and training of the terrorists comes from Syria and Iran,” he said.
I wonder how much play this will get in the West. (Well, no, I don't, actually).


Roy Bennett

Never heard of Roy Bennet? Some people want to keep it that way:

Sentenced to one year’s hard labour, Bennett’s already badly blistered from sunburn and covered in lice. The MP’s crime? Officially, it’s that he angrily pushed then apologized to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who had most flagrantly insulted his family. Chinamasa had called Bennett’s father and grandfather "thieves and murderers" and told him he’d never be allowed to return to his farm, taken by Robert Mugabe’s treacherous ZANU-PF government.
The 20th wedding anniversary of Roy and Heather Bennett passed as the courageous MP remained crammed with 17 other prisoners in a cell meant to hold four.

The heartbroken and anxious Heather is allowed to see her husband for only 10 minutes every two weeks.

When I recently discovered and read that Bennett subsists on half a cup of gruel and cabbage stew twice a day, memories came flooding back about my August 16, 2002 meeting with him, memories that brought me to tears.
Read it all. After the Islamic world has democracy, Africa must surely be next.


What's In A Name? Money!

Guess what, they're creating new domain extensions again:

Sponsored by leading mobile phone and technology companies, including Nokia (news - web sites) Corp., Microsoft Corp. and T-Mobile, the ".mobi" domain would set apart Web sites and other services that are specially designed to work around the limitations of cell phones, including their smaller screen size and data capacity.

"," for instance, might carry smaller photos or fewer graphics than the main site at

The ".jobs" suffix, meanwhile, would go to members of the human resources community.
None of which are needed, since the technology to do all of the above exists without the new names. Looks like a cash grab.


Social Security's Line In The Sand

The US is facing, and facing up to, a social security crisis challenge that should be of interest to many, since it's a harbinger of the same for Japan, France, Germany, Britain....

But what's strange to me is the reaction of columnists, like Mickey Kaus, who calls for privatizing the plan while retaining a guaranteed security from the government; i.e. a ratchet to keep the plan from dripping too low for those who invest their private portion in lottery tickets:

Democrats haven't been averse to creating private accounts for today's young workers as long as it's done on top of a solvent regular pay-as-you-go Social Security system that provides a basic floor of guaranteed benefits.
This is eerily close to what created the S&L scandal: With the government guaranteeing they couldn't lose, the public then put their money into the riskiest/high-return instruments available. Consequences followed.

Mickey doesn't quite go this far (though he doesn't actually say just how far he would go, either). But, if an SS floor is set even just a little bit higher than is absolutely necessary, say hello to S&L all over again. Of course, that was small change compared to what Social Security could do.

When does a want become a need?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Burmese Spring?

Are the winds of change blowing in Myanmar (aka Burma)? Mohammed A.R. Galadari thinks maybe so

Judging by the way the junta is finding itself isolated both within the country and abroad, it is clear that the Nobel-winning leader [Aung San Suu Kyi] cannot remain incarcerated for long.
A long way between here & there, but the winds are good....

UPDATE: Do those winds of change blow in Libya too?
[son of Mohammar Khadaffy} Seif el-Islam said:

"Democracy is the future. We have to be ahead of the world in our region, the Middle East, and not to be lagging behind, because the whole world is heading toward democracy."
Is he serious or stalling? Well, one can hope for the best. (With a hat tip to Roger L. Simon).


NK "Protection" Racket

One wonders how much longer the Chinese will put up with this, since so much of the blowback will inevitably come their way:

North Korea warned on Wednesday that it would regard any sanctions imposed on it by Japan as a declaration of war and would hit back with an “effective physical” response.
Not much longer, I suspect; the alternative is a nuclear Japan. Kim Jong Il, please turn off the lights on your way out.


Desert Thaw

Per my previous post on a related topic,

Because with that liberalization, you also get a managerial class, people who are used to gathering reliable information, making decisions, following or bucking trends as needed. In other words, a class of people who are used to thinking for themselves and who can spread that habit to others.

I think they're the fertile soil in which democracy can take root. The per-capita income is merely a reflection of their presence.
this item would seem to be especially good news for Egypt:
Egypt and Israel will sign a joint free-trade agreement with the United States in Cairo today, a sign that a recent thaw in the relations between the Middle East neighbors is helping spur broader economic cooperation.
Here's hoping it's the start of a trend....

Hat Tip: Political Vice Squad


Linux Killing Bugs Dead

Slashdot reports that Linux is orders of magnitude more reliable than the average bugbear:

The report, set to be released on Tuesday, states that the 2.6 Linux production kernel, shipped with software from Red Hat, Novell and other major Linux software vendors, contains 985 bugs in 5.7 million lines of code, well below the industry average for commercial enterprise software.

Windows XP, by comparison, contains about 40 million lines of code, with new bugs found on a frequent basis. Commercial software typically has 20 to 30 bugs for every 1,000 lines of code, according to Carnegie Mellon University's CyLab Sustainable Computing Consortium. This would be equivalent to 114,000 to 171,000 bugs in 5.7 million lines of code."
Over 100 times more reliable than average? That seems to validate the Open Source concept quite well.

Now about that GUI....


Important Blogging Case

This sounds like something bloggers should be concerned about:

California - ... Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that Rosenthal is liable because posting the comments makes her a "developer" of the information in question, and she therefore becomes the legal equivalent of its creator for the purposes of the lawsuit.

If the court finds in favor of the plaintiffs, the implications for free speech online are far-reaching. Bloggers could be held liable when they quote other people's writing, and website owners could be held liable for what people say in message boards on their sites. [my emphasis]
Anyone know if this is as serious a case as it sounds?


Coming Up: Asian Kofi?

Abdullah Al Madani thinks Asia has already begun an early campaign for Annan's post.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Palestinian Election - The Sum Of Its Parts?

Two items taken together, one of which was posted here earlier, make me go hmm (regular readers will recognize this as a chronic condition):

Hamas wants to confiscate guns:

Security sources in Gaza have said that the Palestinian Authority has put together a security plan that will attempt to put an end to the illegal carrying of weapons on the Palestinian street.
Israel to leave Palestinian cities during election
Israel plans to pull troops out of Palestinian cities for a Jan. 9 presidential election to pick a successor to Yasser Arafat, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Monday.
So we know that in anticipation of the elections Hamas wants to disarm its own people and keep the Israelis out of the picture.

Not a good sign.


Clinton's Secrets

Bill Clinton did some strange things as president (and no, I'm not talking about that stuff, either). For example, giving nuke technology to the North Korea's Stalinist dictator. Why? It seems too obvious a mistake to be written off as an error in judgment; well, for an an ideologue like Jimmy Carter, perhaps, but not for a pragmatist like Bill Clinton.

And now, this:

Billionaire Marc Rich has emerged as a central figure in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal and is under investigation for brokering deals in which scores of international politicians and businessmen cashed in on sweetheart oil deals with Saddam Hussein, The Post has learned.

Rich, the fugitive Swiss-based commodities trader who received a controversial pardon from President Bill Clinton in January 2001, is a primary target of criminal probes under way in the U.S. attorney's office in New York and by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, sources said.

"We think he was a major player in this — a central figure," a senior law-enforcement official told The Post.
Remind me again: Why did Clinton pardon this guy, specifically?

The one thought - admittedly unprovable but nonetheless persistent - that keeps coming up again and again is "blackmail." If Clinton was willing to commit perjury under oath - as he did - what else was he willing to do to keep his myriad secrets? Cuz I do know that there would be no end of blackmailers ready and willing to take advantage of a weakness like that.

Given his history, I gotta wonder. I guess I always will.


Saving Face

Another sign of China's ongoing modernization and (partial) Westernization is the growing popularity of cosmetic surgery:

The government said the country's fast-growing cosmetic surgery industry rakes in US$2.4 billion (euro1.8 billion) a year as patients rush to go under the knife to widen eyes, narrow faces and fill out lips and breasts, emerging as "renzao meinu" manmade beauties.
I guess it was inevitable.


India Following Reagan's Playbook?

Pakistan is concerned about India's arms buildup:

"These statements are disturbing," Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan told a news conference. "India's weapons acquisition and weaponisation programme is very ambitious. They have been buying weapons and sophisticated technology from all over the world."

Khan described Pakistan's programme as modest compared to that of New Delhi, which it said spends billions of dollars on weapons.

"We do not want to match India gun-for-gun, missile-for-missile, aircraft-for-aircraft," he said.
India's economy is ten times bigger than Pakistan's, including a per-capita GDP that's 40% higher. So are they using that advantage to end their cold war with Pakistan the same way Reagan ended his with the Soviet Union?

One wonders....


Best Blogging Whiskey

My favorite is Gibson's, a rye whiskey, as befits most Canadians. I wonder if other bloggers (and the commenters on their sites) have their own favorite "honey, get me the bottle, I'm fixin' to blog" drinks, and if so, what are they?

UPDATE: I'll tabulate all feedback & post the results, of course!


Rabidly Brilliant

Congrats to the doctors at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin for doing what had normally been considered impossible: they saved a rabies victim who had passed the point of no return; i.e. past the point where a vaccination would help.

How did they do it?

The disease had progressed to a point where immunisation was not an option, so a team of eight specialists decided to try something new: coma-inducing drugs to protect the teenager's brain and a cocktail of drugs to protect her nervous system and boost her immune system.

The goal was to protect her brain while the virus ran its course through her body, said Rodney Willoughby, the paediatric infectious disease physician who headed the care team.


Japan Approves Preemptive Strategy

Japan has adopted a new preemptive policy, similar to the Bush Doctrine, of striking wherever and whenever it feels it must in order to protect itself from terrorism.

Interestingly - and this sounds like a warning shot across the PROC's bow - they specifically name China, in addition to the usual suspects. I don't think we've heard the last of this:

Japan's new defense outline tears down geographic constraints on missions of the Self-Defense Forces and allows troops to land in any country to fight a potential terrorist threat.

The new National Defense Program Outline, approved by the Cabinet on Friday, also specifies North Korea and China as major potential threats to Japan's security.

It is the first time China has been named a possible threat in a defense program outline.
Defense Agency officials said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States had a significant influence when the new program outline was drawn up.
It also states that ``there is a need to pay attention to future trends'' of China in light of the modernization of its military and the expansion of its maritime activity range.
The program outline calls for closer cooperation with the United States through strategic dialogue that would involve discussions on sharing strategic objectives and dividing roles.

In particular, the outline states the immediate need to establish a missile defense system in cooperation with the United States.
I wonder if this will be noticed by an American media more concerned with illegal nannies at the moment? Do read it all.

UPDATE: Mark Helprin also notes China's quiet march for dominance.


Is Vonnegut's Player Piano coming next?

Time Magazine reports on a new car that has everything you could want, except a driver. And no, this time you don't supply your own.


To Sleep, Perchance To Slim

I guess I gotta stop blogging late at night:

The less you sleep the more your waist will expand, say scientists who have linked the insomniac lifestyle of western society to the epidemic of obesity.

Lack of sleep boosts levels of a hormone that triggers appetite and lowers levels of a hormone that tells your body it is full, according to the team. The scientists will now study whether obese people should sleep more to lose weight.
It will be interesting - and certainly have societal repercussions - when sleep, the best medicine, begins to be prescribed by physicians.

Hat Tip: Mirabilis


Selling Your Blogging Self

Following the lead of Jeremy Wright, Canadian blogger Darren Barefoot sells his blogging soul on eBay, Apparently, it's worth "US $2,025.00"

Winning bid: 	US $2,025.00

Ended: Dec-06-04 21:54:30 PST
Start time: Nov-26-04 21:54:30 PST
History: 9 bids (US $500.00 starting bid)
I wonder if this will start a trend?

Sunday, December 12, 2004


Best Tourist Faux Pas Ever?

No matter how many mistakes I make when travelling, from now on I will always be comforted knowing I can't do any worse than this guy:

feeling peckish I tucked into the chicken amok as I bellowed for another beer. Its then halfway through my dinner that I realize THAT I WAS IN HIS HOUSE AND IT WAS NOT A RESTAURANT! This dawned on me as I was slurping HIS beer and eating HIS food.
Read the whole thing (how can you resist, now?)

Hat Tip: Santepheap


An Evolutionary Dead-End?

Melanie Phillips directs us to a cogent essay.

Europe and America now have radically different views of the world, of human nature and of moral agency. From this writer’s masterly analysis it is clear that Europe is finished – not least because one of the reasons it now refuses to defend itself militarily is that it is unwilling to sustain any losses, since its populations have fallen below replacement level and it is relying instead on immigration to keep going – a process that will ultimately lead to its Islamicisation.
They won't f*** and they won't fight; extinction is inevitable.

Hat Tip:Roger L. Simon


German Dissidents Jailed

What did the dissidents do that was so bad that jail was warranted?

Seven homeschooling fathers in Germany spent several days in jail for refusing to pay fines that were imposed on them for failing to send their children to government schools.
Homeschooling! Can't get much worse than that, I guess.

As noted in the same article:
some German families have escaped the nation to prevent the state from taking custody of their children.
We are not the property of the State no matter how much the State itself may insist otherwise.

Is this incident a matter of an arrogant State asserting ownership of peoples' children, a campaign against Christians, or are the German authorities afraid to set a precedent that would allow Muslims to homeschool their own children, potentially closing a door to assimilation? All of the above?


Bush Stands 10 Feet Tall

Well, closer to nine feet tall, actually, but from down here it's hard for us mere mortals to tell.

The nearly 6-foot (3-meter) Bush weighed 194 pounds at his last physical in August 2003. His weight at the time was technically on the border of being overweight but doctors attributed it to extra muscle mass put on by weightlifting.
3 meters! That's, er, one big Bush.

UPDATE: Reuters has since issued a correction, though both versions are circulating on the Net.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Where Democracy Grows Best

Does democracy require a high income?

Macroeconomic analysis suggests only states with an average GDP per capita of more than 6,000 US dollars survive as consolidated democracies, while states with less than 1,000 dollars per capita in general often slip back to authoritarian government.
The above is a fairly typical statement on the matter.

But I wonder - is it the income per se, or is that merely coincidental to the fact that, to get such an income, you need a liberalized economy in the first place?

Because with that liberalization, you also get a managerial class, people who are used to gathering reliable information, making decisions, following or bucking trends as needed. In other words, a class of people who are used to thinking for themselves and who can spread that habit to others.

I think they're the fertile soil in which democracy can take root. The per-capita income is merely a reflection of their presence.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Chocolate As An Olympic Sport

Take that, beach volleyball!

SERBIA want chocolate wrestling to be made an Olympic sport.

Officials have written to the International Olympic Committee asking how the sport can become an Olympic discipline.

It regularly attracts massive viewing figures when the sport is broadcast on Serbian TV.

Contestants fight in a ring filled with gallons of thick, liquid chocolate.

Former Yugoslav wrestling champion Bojan Vasiljevic, coach of the Serbian team, has 30 female athletes who he says are ready to take on the world.
Will there be points awarded for artistic impression?


Not Like The Last Flight Out

It's been awhile:

HO CHI MINH CITY - Vietnam prepared to welcome on Friday the arrival of a United Airlines jumbo jet making the first passenger flight by an American carrier to the communist nation since the fall of Saigon in 1975.
The United States has subsequently become Vietnam’s most important trading partner and in recent years the two former foes have stepped up cooperation on a broad swathe of issues such as health and counter-terrorism.


Soros Goes Long

The man who made his billions going short on the British pound has decided to go long in politics:

Liberal powerhouse MoveOn has a message for the "professional election losers" who run the Democratic Party: "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back."
And if MoveOn owns the Dems, Soros owns MoveOn. McCain-Feingold sure kept the money outta politics, didn't it?


Easy To Be Brave....


But cast stand up to Christian hardliners

By Louise Hosie

STUDENTS staging a play about a gay Jesus are taking security measures against Christian hardliners.

The fundamentalist Christian Voice group have threatened to picket the play [my emphasis], Corpus Christi, by St Andrews University theatre company Zuloo.

Christian Voice director Stephen Green branded the show 'a blasphemous, hate-filled mockery'.

But the play's director, student ZsuZsi Lindsay, said the cast would stand up for free speech.
It must be terrifying to know you're going to be picketed, no less. Can't wait to see their similar production about the life of Mohammed.


Chinese Sour On Oil

Oil prices were sky high but are falling (now they're only kinda high). But it also varies with the grade:

Oman Crude (January)    $34.17
Dubai Crude (January)     $33.33
Merban Crude (January)     $37.95
Arabian Light Crude (January)     $33.80
Arabian Heavy Crude (January)     $28.50
North Sea Brent (January)     $38.93
West Texas Intermed.(December)     $41.41

Not all oils are the same, and most of it is cheaper than what's being quoted in the press. Two-thirds of China's oil imports, for example, are for a grade of oil so sour US refineries can't even handle it.

There's competition for oil, but it's not always as across-the-board as it's made out to be. Depends what you want.