Saturday, February 26, 2005


Poser Filters

Amnesty International's latest report in Iraq says more about Amnesty than it does about its subject. Here's the opening line:

Women and girls in Iraq live in fear of violence as the conflict intensifies and insecurity spirals.
Not like to good old days under Saddam, girls, sorry about that.

How did yesterday's noble intent morph into the Amnesty of today? Cuz this is what almost has to happen, perhaps inevitably, to single-issue groups. Either their chosen problem can be solved, or it can't.

Either way, the day comes when the results-oriented folk, not able to get any more results, move on, leaving only the posers behind. And to some extent, a change in attitude accomplishes much the same effect on those who stay. If the org had a cachet of some kind from its early days (Amnesty certainly did), even more posers will be attracted.

For Amnesty, the process will continue: bloggers are more effective today than AI can be at the original Amnesty mission of hiliting the plight of political prisoners in order to save them, thereby casting light on repressive regimes in general.

With their effectiveness nearing zero, Amnesty has put itself on a spiral from which it will not likely escape. It will be up to bloggers - most of whom are not at all single-issue, thankfully - to honor the now-almost-forgotten original intent.

Friday, February 25, 2005


The Art Of Politics Explained

Here’s a telling lesson in art that applies to politics, too, one that explains why Bush is producing higher-quality results than his critics ever could:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A", forty pounds a “B", and so on. Those being graded on “quality", however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an “A".

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
Dems are still theorizing the perfect political act while Bush is turning out beauties.

Thursday, February 24, 2005



This blog will be - mostly - on hiatus for awhile. Other duties call. Sorry. To repeat: it's all good stuff ... but there's just so much of it!

Monday, February 21, 2005


If We Take Them At Their Word....

Here's an interesting aside on consistency in the MSM, as regards the Eason Jordan affair.

Regardless of whether Mr. Jordan jumped or was pushed, the bloggers didn't do it. They had no power, except to do what they did - call for the release of the tapes. But as to fire/quit decisions, none at all.

Which means, if we accept the notion that there was no more damaging info on tape, then Eason's departure was ... to use the word that best fits ... appeasement!


Meaningful Protest

In the West, protesting has long since become a form of amateur theater, and when each performance is over, the players meet at Starbucks for coffee. But in Lebanon, it's for real:

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters shouted insults at Syria and demanded the resignation of their pro-Syrian government in a Beirut demonstration Monday, marking a week since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
This is all the more remarkable because those Lebanese protesters are only too well aware that their own post-demo visits may be not to Starbucks, but to their own graves, as in 1982:
When I stepped forward to my spot by the trench, I saw the pile of bodies in their still tainted by running blood, which horrified me so much that I had to close my eyes and I had to contain myself to avoid falling off.

As expected, streams of bullets were fired towards us and everyone fell in their blood into the trenches, whilst the ones who were inside the other trench got shot inside the trench where they stood"
They would cut the guts of a baby while his mother held him, and then fire a stream of bullets onto her to prevent her from giving birth to another future opposition member.
Oh, and how disappointing is our current Canadian Prime Minister? Glad you asked:
Prime Minister Paul Martin yesterday mistakenly suggested Syrian troops in Lebanon are there to "keep the peace."
Canada's drift continues.


Fear & Loathing Take Their Toll

Once he was on top of the world. Now he's not:

Legendary US author Hunter S. Thompson, a sharp-witted icon of the 1960s counter-culture, died on Sunday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Not a good ending. R.I.P.


China Sets Goals High; Expectations Low

Read this article:

There is still a long way to go before the much-anticipated middle class becomes a mainstream, accountable group in China.
The precursor ranking of China as the world's largest consumer...
China has overtaken the US in the consumption of basic agricultural and industrial goods, a survey has found.
...was primarily determined by counting food consumption - no suprise there! - and commodities - also no surprise. Excepting oil, China needs a lot more of everything to build an infrastructure comparable to what the West has had for generations.

What catches one's eye, though, is the immediate management, the very next day, of expectations; i.e. set them low, then exceed them, if you wanna avoid a rebellion.


China Faces A Duo

Tension over Taiwan is heating up:

Japan is not seeking new friction with China after Beijing protested a joint Japan-US declaration expanding the scope of their alliance by declaring concern over Taiwan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says.
Now it's become more than just the US vs China on the matter. Is this primarily to leverage China to clean up their mess in N. Korea, or a standalone problem that is coming to a head? Or both?


Zoom Zoom Zoom Viruses On The Way

While I'm on the subject of computer security, here's a heads-up that it targets much more than just our traditional "computers:"

Daily computer security headaches such as viruses and spam threaten to spread to a far wider range of devices -- from phones to car engines, a survey to be published by IBM on Wednesday has found.
Honest, Officer, I wasn't speeding; musta been a virus in my engine.

Somebody try that line and let me know how it turns out.


Wearing Your Password On Your Sleeve

I've seen a lot of opportunity for this:

Computer hackers have taken to stealing data the easy way -- by eavesdropping on phone and e-mail conversations to find the keys to seemingly impregnable networks, security experts say.
The path of least resistance being chosen is no surprise, but listen up to the scale of the danger:
Security experts at Intrusic Inc. captured 4,466 passwords and 103 master passwords allowing global access to corporate databases while monitoring just one Internet service provider for a 24-hour period, Intrusic President Jonathan Bingham said. "It's like stealing candy from a baby," he said. "The malicious attacker will assume the identity of a person whose password they have stolen through this passive sniffing, and they end up entering this organization as a legitimate user."
Never use a critical password online, not even for a throwaway service (e.g. a one-time download of software). Keep your critical passwords, the ones you use for your bank accounts and such, separate from those of lesser import, y'know?


Googling The "Scholars"

Ever tried It's supposedly only in beta, but is useful already. Look at it as Google's way of filtering out the noise; something to try when you want quality, not quantity.

p.s. Those aren't meant to be scare quotes in the subject, merely thought-provokers; I rather like the current shift away from empty credentialism, and hope it runs further.


Syria & Iran Have A Reason

So, Syria and Iran have publicly announced they will stand together against the US:

Iran and Syria announced a common front against the United States yesterday as Washington ratcheted up its pressure on two of the countries highest on its list of rogue states.
Neither country elaborated on what the common front would entail...
But they are only confirming what everyone already knows, and, with no further details to add, merely confirm their de facto alliance, the public deniability of which may have been of use to them had they said nothing.

Leaving the q: why make this announcement at all? To shore up support, perhaps? Or to provide cover for joint domestic operations where each country helps to suppress the dissdents of the other? Iran has done that before: bring in foreigners to put down demonstrations and, in general, press the heel of the mullahs' boot down on the populace.

Whatever the reason, there is a reason. An announcement like this doesn't just happen w/out one.

Friday, February 18, 2005


One Voice, One Path ... One Wonders

John Negroponte's appointment as the United States' first director of national intelligence means that he will run a $40 billion dollar budget, control multiple agencies, and brief the president on a daily basis. Heady stuff.

What's lost in all this - hidden behind an inadvertent smokescreen of old, usually vague charges against him stemming from his 1981-1985 stint in the Honduras - is the argument that should be made: where is the separation of of duties, the checks and the balances?

One man's opinion is now to be the sum of US intelligence policy and presidential knowledge. Every error in judgement on Mr. Negroponte's part, in this most complex of jobs, will stand officially unopposed.

It's a textbook case of over-centralization. In the short run, if Negroponte does a good job, and if he is right more often than wrong, he can counterbalance a lot of problems and help clean house, and maybe that's all Bush really wants ("just clean things up in the next 4 years, John"), but as a long-term approach it's the wrong path, regardless of whether or not one thinks well of the man chosen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Who's Your Daddy?

The UN has spoken:

UN officials will not be allowed to testify before US Congress hearings on the oil-food programme in Iraq, the United Nations said in a letter released on Wednesday.
Thing is, I thought the employees worked for and were accountable to their respective governments, not the UN. Silly me.


The Grey Girls Of Cambodia

Khmer440 has a fascinating post on the "grey girls" of Cambodia, those who fell into neither the white (virgin, untouched) nor black (prostitution as the preferred profession) categories:

One night after work she is cycling the 5 kilometres back to her family’s wooden shack when a car forces her off the road. A [drunken] man gets out, whom she recognises as a customer from the restaurant. After striking her a few times around the head the man then proceeds to rape her.

After the ordeal, the man throws some cash at her as she lies in the roadside mud and drives off.

Pulling herself together she manages to get herself home and in sobbing hysterics she manages to explain what has happened.

Her father is incredibly angry.

As a punishment for allowing this to happen, her father beats her repeatedly until her mother finally manages to intervene, and her father storms out of the house.
There's more.


Cambodia Backsliding?

Santepheap feels that Cambodia is backsliding. From the description, it sounds accurate.


French Politics To The Resue

Psst, wanna know what real spin sounds like?

The end of an EU arms embargo on China could slow a push by Beijing to develop its own advanced weapons, which would otherwise happen in five years with or without outside help, France’s defence minister said in an interview published in Britain’s Financial Times on Wednesday.
Oh, thank you, French Politicos, for helping to "slow" the "push" by a communist dictatorship that "would otherwise happen in five years with or without outside help".

Sacre blue! Imagine how bad things could have gotten without the French to sell them weapons. Whew!


Assessing Blame

I think this woman was blameless and was killed for the sins of others. Don't you?


Analyzing The Iraq Election

Patrick Ruffini
does the best analysis yet of the Iraq election. Well worth your time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Canada's Gun Registry

This is somewhat old news in Canada, but bears repeating. Canada recently implemented a gun registry. How's that workin' out for us, you ask?

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.
Our crime stats haven't budged.

As to the investigation into the obvious corruption that it took to inflate the costs so dramatically, the official Canadian Govt response is ... uh, what was your question again?


Illegal Fires For Keeping Warm

We've covered the topic before (see here and here, for example), but just how badly does China need more energy?

China will issue an action plan for cracking down on illegal power plants within two months, brokerage house Merrill Lynch said Monday in a research report.

Local governments have been building the illegal plants to ease severe power shortages caused by the country's booming economy.
One day the Chinese Govt will accept that by encouraging such independent behavior, and working with it rather than against it, they can go much further, faster.


The Routine Tragedies Of Dictatorship

If they happened in the West, stories like these would dominate the news for days. This one, for example:

At least 203 miners were killed, 22 injured and 13 trapped in a coal mine gas explosion Monday afternoon in Fuxin, a city in northeast China's Liaoning Province.
Or this:
A fire raged through a crowded mosque in Tehran during evening prayers Monday after a female worshipper's veil caught the flames of a kerosene heater, killing at least 59 people, and injuring more than 250, Iran's official news agency reported.
Instead, they'll be perfunctorily reported and nothing more. Dictatorships play by different rules.


Lebanon Is Back

Damien Penny knows: What happens when you speak out in the Middle East?

A huge car bombing has killed at least 9 people, including former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri - who has publicly spoken out against the Syrian occupation of his country. (You know, the occupation that doesn't count 'cuz the Israelis aren't doing it.)
Robert Fisk can't believe it. Others can:
Syria's Ba'athist government destroyed the city of Hama, killing 20,000 of its own people, in 1982. So, yes, I do believe the Syrians could do something as crude and vicious as this.
Read the whole thing.


What Sort Of Immigrant?

I make this comment as a far-away observer of UK politics: the Conservatives are a mess, but Labor is only ahead cuz they have Tony Blair.

And it looks like the Conservatives are now positioning themselves better on immigration:

Britain’s main opposition party will stoke a heated debate on immigration Tuesday ahead of an expected May election by promising to test people seeking to live in the country for HIV and other diseases.
Which will serve them well as the inevitable continues:
New York City doctors have discovered a man with a previously unseen strain of HIV that is resistant to three of the four types of anti-viral drugs that combat the disease, and progresses from infection to full-blown AIDS in two or three months, the health department said.
One can already see the pendulum preparing to swing, perhaps not in the coming election, but soon after. I think a lot of Labor has no idea the blow they will sustain when Blair is gone. Incredible.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Sitting & Drinking; Drinking & Sitting

I’ve never agreed w/the def’n of “binge drinking”...

Northern cold-weather states typically had the highest percentages of binge drinkers - those who said they had had five or more drinks in one sitting during the previous month.
What if I just sit longer than they do?


The Grinches Of February

Ye who are still smitten by the cries of the French minstrels, listen up:

"We are giving a warning to those who are promoting Valentine Day. We have told the flower vendors and restaurant owners not to celebrate Valentine Day and keep a watch on couples. We have asked them to give us a call the moment they see couples out in the open and we are ready with a mobile unit to catch them," said Ram Kumar, an activist of Shiv Sena party.

Shiv Sena has said, that it had set up 16 teams of 25 activists each who would ensure that couples would not be able to celebrate the day in public.
Better than bombing the cafes, I guess, but methinks they're fighting a battle they cannot win.

May you & your beloved have a wonderful day.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Binge Posting Ahead

Solo Blogger's Disease?

Anyway, this is just fair warning that posting may continue to be sporadic, as life has a way of interfering with one's plans. And the news for me of late will keep me occupied.

It's all good news though....


Farouz Farzami

This is worth checking out.

I now join in Betsy's heartfelt appeal to bloggers in the blogosphere to rally in condemning Farzami's imprisonment as a dissident (she was subsequently released after 36 days of confinement and interrogation) and to urge officials in Iran not to go forward with her trial.
I have no way of verifying if this story is true, but I do believe that oppression is a tool of the mullahs of Iran, and that the day they are no longer able to use that tool will be a day to celebrate.

Thought: are blogs the new Amnesty International? In its original conception, I mean. If so, more power to them.

Hat Tips: Polipundit and Betsy's Page

Friday, February 11, 2005


Dear Lynne Stewart

A lot of words are being written about Lynne Stewart - the lawyer who "helped" her terrorist clients by smuggling out messages from them to the other terrorists, only to be caught & convicted, and whose supporters now call for leniency because she is a mother:

Dear Lynne Stewart:

Having kids of your own doesn't give you the right to kill ours. Practicing law doesn't put you above it.




Canada Beckons

I see that Leftie sites in the US are focusing again on moving up here to Canada. In my continuing effort to discourage this practice, I offer:

  1. The opening line from our constitution:
    Whereas Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law
  2. And if we ever hold another hockey game, sigh, here's what we'll sing:
    "Oh Canada, Our home & native land"
    True Patriot Love, In all Thy Son's Command"
    [patriotism and Christianity, all in the first two lines of our anthem].
    God keep our land
    Glorious And Free
    [Religion plus implied exceptionalism!]
  3. For those Americans worried about Bush's handling of civil rights when faced with terrorists, you might wanna first compare it to the demonstrable Canadian approach (i.e. forget rhetoric, see the historical record of what we actually did when faced with a real terrorist attack)

Y'all come join us now, y'hear!


Tonto Vs. Ward Churchill

...and the Number One Comparison Between Tonto and the "American Indian" Ward Churchill...

1. There is no evidence that an Indian named Tonto ever existed; the same for the "Indian" Ward Churchill

Read 'em all.


No Dong, No Problem

The Dear Leader is at it again:

North Korea on Thursday announced for the first time that it has nuclear weapons and rejected moves to restart disarmament talks any time soon, saying it needs the armaments as protection against an increasingly hostile United States.
Announced for the first time? They announced that years ago. That's why the US said it couldn't attack.

Kim Jong Il is predictable, and you know what they say about predictability (well, it's just me who says it actually): there's no such thing as a predictable enemy; if your opponent is predictable, then he's not an enemy at all, merely a tool to be used.

Anyway, KJI likes to start his negotiating sessions with bluster & threats. But this time, I wonder if he has another motive. I've wondered before if Bush has been pressuring China to "take care" of their problem (see here and here), and if China has been cooperating, in order to eliminate a nuclear loonie right on their border. Might KJI's threat have named the US, but been directed at China?

His days are numbered.

UPDATE: For those who are interested, here's a typical report from the past, in this case from April 2003:
North Korea's nuclear weapons program has moved back to the front pages with the unprecedented acknowledgement by North Korea during talks this week in Beijing that the North has developed nuclear weapons.
It was "unprecedented" then, but it's "for the first time" now.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Kerry Wins Race To Bottom

How low is John Kerry's credibility? Consider what he told Tim Russert on Meet The Press recently:

Kerry proudly told Russert and the world what his top secret mission was. “We delivered weapons to the Khmer Rouge on the coastline of Cambodia. We went out of Ha Tien, which is right in Vietnam. We went north up into the border. And I have some photographs of that, and that's what we did.”
So there you have it. John Kerry, senator, almost president, potential candidate in '08, member of 9 Senate Committees including 3 on foreign affairs ... has openly stated that as a soldier he was a traitor, running guns to the enemy - the same enemy famous for later slaughtering a third of its own population in "the killing fields."

And the reaction? Yawn.

No one in the Senate called for his dismissal, nor did any ranking member of either party that I know of. The networks barely covered the story, if at all. The blogs on the right laughed at him; those on the left ignored him.

Cuz no one believes him anymore. No one, not even his own supporters. He's not worth arguing about. I can't name any other candidate, left or right, who could say the same thing and get the same reaction, can you?


Major Infraction

What are the odds that the NHL will play this year? So bad that our local sports channel just converted to a music video channel.

Says it all.


Sci-Fi Future

Wretchard is in a downer mood today, and speculates that the human race may have to run to Mars to survive its own demons. Of course, this presumes those same demons (we have seen the enemy and it is us) don't follow us there.

But as long as we're sci-fi'ing it, wouldn't the real solution be in redundancy? If our minds could be copied/stored into an external device, and our bodies re-grown as needed (presuming we even need those; the force be with us), then the danger becomes manageable. This has long been a popular theme in sci-fi.

If it comes to pass - and I would never bet against science producing tomorrow that which would be a miracle today - then the entire rationale for terrorism is defeated.

Running to the stars will ultimately prove much less practical than understanding ourselves.


Open The Gates And Bring Us Engineers

Our educational system sure don't emphasize much science no more, as illustrated by Bill Gates:

Chairman Bill Gates says tough US visa regime has caused a decline in foreign computer science students and it is threatening to undermine America's position in the global software industry.
So many in the West appear to have given up on the idea that their own children can learn to be engineers. Sad.


Australia Eyes Real Tax Reform

I've long been a fan of the concept of a consumption tax - the name says it all. But in practice, the daily paperwork can drive a business, or an individual, around the bend. Not that income tax is easy to manage, but a consumption tax is just in your face more often.

Moreover, switching from an income tax to a consumption tax is also made difficult by the inertia of special interests who like things the way they are.

So I've advocated a practical consumption tax done through the income tax framework. The formula is pretty simple:

consumption = income - expenses - savings.

In common english: don't tax income that goes into savings, because that money is only gonna be reinvested into your economy anyway.

Now - woo hoo! you go, guys! - it appears Australia is looking seriously at such an approach.

Lead on.


Negroponte Puts Up

Kudos to Mr. Negroponte:

Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of MIT's Media Labs, says he is developing a laptop PC that will go on sale for less than $100 (£53).

He told the BBC World Service programme Go Digital he hoped it would become an education tool in developing countries.

He said one laptop per child could be " very important to the development of not just that child but now the whole family, village and neighbourhood".
Next up: voice-activated PC wristwatches. Dick Tracy, we hear you!


Putin's Ship Starts To Sink

When the Russian government faces even a pro-forma no-confidence vote...

Russia’s parliament, torn between loyalty to the Kremlin and a desire to distance itself from unpopular social reforms, reluctantly holds a no-confidence vote in President Vladimir Putin’s government on Wednesday
... you know that Putin is sinking lower. Ultimately, he won't survive; he was originally set up in the job to restore Russian empire & glory, and thankfully he ain't gonna get it done.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Where Are The UN Federalist Papers?

Kofi Annan is ruined and the UN needs a new leader. I've been hearing that a lot. For a while there, Glenn Reynolds was even promoting Vaclav Havel as a replacement. I like Havel, too, but that's not the point, which is:

To paraphrase Churchill, we shape our political institutions, then they shape us, so before we merely plunk a new body into the same, wrong place, let's answer a few q's first. For example:

  • Should the UN be open to all nations, or only democracies? Justify your answer.

  • What should the specific powers of the UN be, and why?

  • How will it enforce its rules; or can it?

  • What authority will the head of the UN have over member conduct, staff choices etc.

  • How will members pay for their membership? How will their dues be calculated?

  • Why is a centralized world authority better than a distributed one, since current evidence seems to favor ad-hoc coalitions as being more effective?
The parallel to the arguments of federal vs state power within the US are pretty obvious; as are most of the other fundamental aruguments that were answered, for the US, by the text of the constitution itself, as well as its subsequent amendments.

Those who call for reform of the UN also have a deeper point (or should), one that is sometimes lost in the heat of the argument: the current institution is corrupt because its structure ensures that corruption will evolve. So before we simply change the name on the secretary-general's letterhead, consider: will that really be enough? The answer is, almost certainly not, so why then would we promote what we know to be a cosmetic change when the foundation itself is rotten?

Let's not allow anger w/Kofi to distract us from the bigger picture: i.e. that the structure of the UN has been shown to guarantee failure, and what will we do about that?

Measure twice, cut once. If we truly wish to avoid repeats of Kosovo, Rwanda, Darfur etc, this is important.

The State Department denounced on Tuesday the selection of Cuba and Zimbabwe for a panel that will decide on the agenda for a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission next month.
First as tragedy, then as farce....

Hat Tip (on the update): Polipundit


Diversity The Obstacle

Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, currently keeping busy as, among other things, President of Arab Republic of Egypt National Council of Human Rights, says diversity is an obstacle to human rights:

"...There are many obstacles hindering the proper application of human rights' principles such as, poverty, wars, political interests, and cultural diversity," Ghali said. [my emph.]
Is this a misquote? His own Egypt has certainly done its part to become as monolithic as possible by eliminating the religious diversity it once had, but it still seems unusual for an experienced diplomat to make a blunder as large as this.

UPDATE: I've managed to cross-reference the quote to other news services and it appears consistent (hopefully they weren't just plagiarizing each other). Whether or not it's what he meant to say is another question. I think it was, but still it's a shocker to hear him say it so openly.


The Kennedy Crisis

Ted Kennedy, Crisis-O-Matic:


MR. RUSSERT: This is pretty revealing. "Iraq, national literacy, medical research, refugee program, mental illness, steel, nursing, higher education, youth violence, fish industry, AIDS, flu vaccine supply, hunger, teacher recruitment, unemployment, Medicare, health care, North Korea, Section 8 vouchers, gas prices, gun violence"; you said they were all crises. [my emph.]
Don't forget to add the "Kennedy mystique," Tim.


Denmark Turning Too?

Has Denmark started to turn its ship, along with Great Britain and The Netherlands, as noted previously?

Danes head to voting stations across the country on Tuesday, with opinion polls predicting Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s center-right coalition government will retain power.


The government’s popularity is largely attributed to the fact that it has kept its controversial 2001 election promise to curb immigration
There appears to be, hidden under the politically correct EU-style rhetoric, at least some change in attitude underway. We'll have to see if it's enough to effect real long-term change or not.


Vietnam Comes Full Circle

At this rate, Vietnam will be offering Chirac asylum before we know it:

WASHINGTON - Vietnam’s communist regime is tightening its control of neighboring Laos by exploiting its economy and looting natural resources, dissident Lao groups in the United States charged on Monday.

“The (Socialist Republic of Vietnam) regime has reduced Laos to a de facto and de jure colonial possession and vassal state,” said a joint statement at the end of a meeting of 15 ethnic Lao and Hmong human rights groups in Washington.
Get ready for The People's Socialist Colony Of Laos. As they say: In capitalism, man exploits man; in socialism, the reverse is true.


Training For The Dole

Germany's unemployment rate may be even worse than thought:

Unemployment is a deeply sensitive political issue for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Back in 1998 he was elected for his first term on a promise that the jobless count would be brought down to three and half million.

He failed to deliver on that and now the official unemployment figure is above five million, the first time since the great depression of the 1930s, which brought the Nazis to power. And to make matters worse, the official figures may greatly understate the real extent of the problem. Once those on government training schemes and the like are included the actual number of people looking for work could be as high as nine million.
What does this say about the value of those "government training schemes?" Are they training people to be unemployable?

Monday, February 07, 2005


Rewarding Religious Violence

What is going to happen when the other religions of the Western world start to realize that radical Islam has shown that in modern politics, religious violence is now acceptable:

While those who convert to Islam, such as Cat Stevens, Jemima Khan, and the sons of the Frank Dobson, the former Health Secretary, and Lord Birt, the former BBC Director-General, can publicly celebrate their new religion, those whose faith goes in the other direction face persecution. Mr Hussein, a 39-year-old hospital nurse in Bradford, is one of a growing number of former Muslims in Britain who face not just being shunned by family and community, but attacked, kidnapped, and in some cases killed.
Actions (or in this case, inactions) speak louder than words. Politicians, especially those looking to eradicate Christianity as their philosophical competitor, have been making such behavior a good cost/benefit equation for some time now, and radical Islam is the biggest advertisement for this policy.


One Step Over The Line?

Has a small but fundamental shift already taken place in US politics?

Bill Clinton was re-elected with 49 percent of the vote in times of apparent peace and apparent prosperity – the most favorable posture in which to run. George W. Bush was re-elected with 51 percent of the vote in times not of apparent peace and apparent prosperity. Clinton’s 49 percent in retrospect looks like a ceiling for his party. Bush’s 51 percent may be more in the nature of a floor.
The argument is plausible.

Hat Tip: Polipundit


Trolling For Allies

Condi Rice makes her first major offer as Sec. Of State:

Condoleezza Rice will offer to help Palestinian leaders end anti-Israeli militant attacks on Monday on the first visit in three years of a US secretary of state to the seat of the Palestinian Authority.
Allow me to rephrase: Mr. Abbas, we both know you have no chance of surviving even a year on your own. If you help us, we'll help you.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


The Great Ships Slowly Start To Turn

Lost in the anti-US tropes of the Euro-Left is the reality that there are also some people in Europe who are indeed waking up and smelling the hummous: in Britain for example:

Only skilled professionals will be allowed to permanently settle in Britain under measures to be announced on Monday by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government, it was reported on Sunday. Only “desirable” professionals, such as doctors and teachers, will be granted leave to remain, and even then only if they pass English tests, The Observer newspaper said. Others who come to Britain on work permits will not be able to apply to remain indefinitely, and will be forced to leave once their time in the country has run out.
And The Netherlands, too:
Would-be immigrants into the Netherlands are to face an exam testing their knowledge of everything from Dutch language and history to its laws on topless sunbathing before they can take up residence.

A new inburgerings examen, or integration exam, has been unveiled as part of the crackdown against immigration after last year's murder of the controversial film-maker Theo van Gogh, who was an outspoken critic of Islam.


Initially the test will be required of foreigners applying for an immigration visa from outside the Netherlands but Rita Verdonk, the Dutch Immigration Minister, said she plans to extend examinations to people already living in the country.
Too little too late? Only a drop in the bucket? Maybe, but also perhaps a start.

How long till these same countries, still needing immigration, look to China?



This is the political equivalent of the "thud" a boxer makes when he hits the canvas:

BAGHDAD - Iraq’s leading Sunni clerics group has demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops as the price of their participation in drawing up a new constitution, as more than 20 people were reportedly killed.


The committee, which persuaded the main Sunni religious faction, the Islamic Party, to boycott last Sunday’s election, hinted that it would press Sunni Arab insurgents to abandon their campaign of violence if its demands were met.
And for added effect, they're hinting that they'll press? Sounds definite to me!


No Moses In This Wilderness

It now looks increasingly as if the Dems, like Moses's people, will have to spend a generation in the wilderness. And they will do so for similar reasons: because it seems to be the only way to eliminate an existing dysfunctional metality, by letting one generation pass away to be replaced by another. In Moses's case, it was a slave mentality; for the Dems, it's more like narcissism. But either way, the only real solution is generational.

Consider first this article from the Washington Post, indirectly attributing to Bush the same "great commmunicator" persona formerly reserved for Reagan:

"The president walks with his shoulders erect!" lauds Tom Hopkins, a professional trainer and author of "How to Master the Art of Selling" and "Selling for Dummies." "He makes great eye contact! He is buoyant! He walks at a fast pace! You can tell he's a great listener!" These are all the marks of successful salespeople, Hopkins says.
That persona has always been meant to damn with faint praise, of course, by implying that Bush, as with Reagan before him, is only an effective salesman of an inferior ideological product.

Howard Dean's impending election as chairman of the DNC further confirms that the Dems are still in denial about the reasons for their decline. They still see it as a marketing problem, rather than the fundamental rejection of their product that it is. Their solution, yet again, is repackaging instead of soul-searching.

The repetition of the same mistakes this many times over say that this is no small mistake. It is an attitude so fundamentally ingrained that it can only be dealt with through time and evolution. If the Dems are still insisting that theirs is merely a salesmanship problem, then they will have to spend the requisite generation in the wilderness, till new attitudes can take hold.

Without a Moses to hold them together though, it seems doubtful they can last that long.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


Transparent Justice

Patterico looks, and sees more than he wanted to see:

But I do know this for certain: Judge Doris Ling-Cohan, with her high-toned rhetoric about “the rich diversity of New York,” did not vote for George W. Bush.

I should not be able to tell that from a judicial opinion. But I can.
Good point.


EU Head, Meet Iranian Wall

Posturing time may be almost over:

Iran will never scrap its nuclear program, and talks with Europeans are intended to protect the country's nuclear achievements, not negotiate an end to them, an Iranian official said Wednesday.
In other news, the EU announced its intention to continue its discussions with Iran aimed at preventing that country from developing a nuclear program.



Subtle Clues

Are the terrorists winning? You decide:

Two days after Al-Jazeera (search) aired video of what it said was Iraqi terrorists, firing a missile into that British plane that crashed on Sunday killing 10 on board. New Scientist (search) magazine, quoting defense experts now say the video is almost certainly, "bogus."

The magazine says the pointed shape of the missile and its trajectory indicated it was a surface-to-surface missile, not surface to air missile. And the magazine says it seems missile footage was just stuck in the tape in front of wreckage video with no actual connection.

This would be the second apparent terrorist hoax in as many days.
Sounds like they're gonna go out more with a whimper than a bang. Long way to go, though, so we shouldn't get overconfident.


Gorbachev Unhappy With Iraq

Mikhail Gorbachev - remember him? He was the ideological heartthrob du jour of the Left for a while there - surveys the Iraqi election results and isn't a happy camper:

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has called the Iraqi parliamentary elections a desecration, according to Moscow News, an English-language sister publication of


"And even though I am a supporter of elections and of the transfer of power to the people of Iraq, these elections were fake.

"I don't think these elections will be of any use. They may even have a negative impact on the country. Democracy cannot be imposed or strengthened with guns and tanks," Gorbachev said, according to Interfax.
Gorbachev appeared to offer no reason for his assessment, but perhaps his background is reason enough. I've never understood the Western media's affection for the man. He was merely the party apparatchik in charge at the end, the one who tried to "allow" only the teeniest bit of liberty solely to avoid allowing more.

He might still be bitter about the results of his own endeavors; his comments on Iraq seem awfully strong. Maybe he just doesn't wanna redraw the map on his forehead?


The Dog That Didn't Bark

No news is good news:

Precautions at the outset of the tsunami disaster in Indonesia's Aceh province prevented major outbreaks of infectious diseases, even though medical aid distribution was bedeviled by poor coordination, a World Health Organization official said Thursday.
In other words, even though the UN took weeks to get its act in gear (has it, yet?) the swift response of others, such as Australia and the US, averted a crisis.

You'd think the UN could at least say thanks.


The Miracle Of Relativity

A favorite trick of the propagandist is to compare apples to oranges, simply by calling the apple an orange. Case in point:

the poverty line set by the Chinese government is approximately one-thirteenth the standard set by the World Bank. China’s poverty line of 0.2 U.S. dollars per person daily should be reevaluated.
That's US 20 cents a day. If you make 21 cents a day, then according to the Chinese government, you're doing just fine.

It's something to keep in mind next time the "rates" of whatever are compared between two countries. It's also useful as a gauge of the true relative success of the Chinese "economic miracle." It is indeed a miracle to them, but that only shows us how far they had sunk under socialism to begin with.


Blue Skies, Smiling (From The East) At Me ♫

Economically, it's important to remember that China is neither a miracle nor an abyss. And its stock market is still a highly manipulated one:

A survey by Xinhua News Agency at the end of last year indicated that in the past three years nearly half of investors lost more than 50 percent of their investment, 75 percent of investors choose “never to invest in the Chinese stock market again.” Investors think that the China Securities Regulatory Commission should take full responsibility because it allows listed state-owned and privately held companies to make false reports.
Buyer beware. This is not a market yet; it's a government promise.


The Serious Mistake That Wasn't

The paucity of coverage, at least here in the West, is interesting:

during the great wave of the 1989 China democracy movement, Zhao was pro-democracy and resolutely opposed the leadership’s decision to use violence on Chinese people who took peaceful and rational measures to pursue freedom and democracy.

In fact, this “serious mistake” is actually Zhao’s contribution to history. This serious mistake involved the pursuit of fundamental political reform to push China into democracy. This serious mistake was opposition to mobilizing the army to kill civilians.
Did he help push China on a path that will lead to democracy? Time will tell. R.I.P.


Political Correctness Kills

I can't claim to have all the answers to how to run a medical system, but I can certainly help make clear the conequences of what doesn't work, and the consequences thereof:

Two Michigan surgeons are offering discounted rates to Ontario residents facing lengthy wait times for spine or brain surgeries, portraying themselves as an "alternative" to what they say is an underfunded, inefficient Canadian health care system that poorly serves some patients.

Dr. Teck Soo, a Canadian neurosurgeon now practising in suburban Detroit, and his partner, American orthopedic surgeon Dr. Peter Bono, say they will cut their normal surgical rates by 50 to 60 per cent for needy Canadians, and arrange payment plans for operations guaranteed within two weeks.
I recently saw buried a good friend who died from medical system dysfunction, as have many Canadians these days, and know others still sitting on the damned waiting lists for various procedures - or should I, at this point, say "waiting lists of the damned"? Either way, it ain't a pretty sight, and it's gonna get worse cuz our federal and provincial governments, both, are still posturing, rather than addressing the problems.

Hat Tip: Damien Penny

Friday, February 04, 2005


Zarqawi (Accidentally) Strengthened Democracy

This brings up a point I've been meaning to mention for a while now:

Citizens of Al Mudiryiah were subjected to an attack by several militants today who were trying to punish the residents of this small town for voting in the election last Sunday.
The citizens responded and managed to stop the attack, kill 5 of the attackers, wounded 8 and burned their cars. 3 citizens were injured during the fire exchange.
The Iraqis are fighting back.

It underscores a broader point. The Iraqis who voted - and others who would have if they could have - will now be more strongly committed than ever to democracy, precisily because they had to risk their lives for it, sweat for it, and - as the story above indicates - fight to defend it.

It's something that never got much mention, but which amplified the importance of the elections all the more, if that were possible. I.e. Iraqis not only have democracy now, but because of the actions of Zarqawi & his curs, they are emotionally wedded to freedom more strongly than would ever have been the case otherwise.

Some ironies are beautiful.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Bush Vs. The Mullahs

Is Bush swinging for the fences on Iran while retaining the "bomb-the-nukes" option as a fallback? It's starting to look that way.

As noted here before, a coup (including, best case, a popular rebellion for democracy) is probably the most feasible option for dealing with Iran, primarily cuz ... well, what else you gonna do? And, given the mad mullahs' push to obtain nuke weapons, time is running out.

Regime Change Iran postulates that Bush has begun focusing the world's attention on Iran's human rights record, which will lead to world pressure on Iran forcing change.

But the UN, the EU, the Chinese govt and many others really don't care about human rights, they just like to posture about it when convenient (note that I am talking about the organizations here, not the peoples of any countries). Have we already forgotten their record in Tibet, Darfur, Kosovo, Rwanda and elsewhere? They won't help Iranians fight for their freedom; they'll just crank up the propaganda machine in the other direction. Further, in China's case, not only is the govt trying to compete with the US as a superpower, they genuinely need more oil, regardless of where they have to get it.

Putting it all together, then , it seems a lot more likely that Bush's human rights message is aimed not at the rest of the world so much as it is at the Iranian people themselves.

Iranian presidential elections (mullah-rigged) are scheduled for June. It would be a huge step towards ending terrorism if those elections could be real; every bit as significant as what just happened in Iraq. Bush can either aid a democratic revolution in Iran or try to bomb the hundreds of hardened targets that comprise the mullahs' nuke program. If he favored the latter, he couldda done so long ago, or let the Israelis do it, so we already know it's not his first choice.

It all makes for an easy (well, it looks easy today!) prediction: lots more attention paid to Iranian human rights and the need for democracy - real democracy, no shams - there, with the intent of seeing the mullahs overthrown, either at the ballot box or by a peoples' coup. Bush is now betting on the Iranian people - who he knows don't like or want their mullahs as masters - the same way he bet on the Iraqis.

The bomb-the-nukes option will still be on the table, though, as plan B. That's why this bet is so important.

UPDATE: Just to underscore the realities of the "international community" and its response to human rights, see here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Bargaining Chip?

Things are not always about what they're about:

China would have a six-month deadline to revalue its currency under a bill to be introduced in the US Senate amid charges the yuan is wreaking havoc on the US economy, officials said.

At least a dozen senators from both President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s Republican Party and the Democratic Party have agreed to co-sponsor the bill, Israel Klein, spokesman for one of the senators, told AFP.
Is the US putting pressure on China, under cover of this bill, to do something about Kim Jong Il?

Just let your own loose cannons crash about a bit, threatening the very core of Chinese economic progress, then tell Hu Jintao & Friends "of course, if you could get rid of KJI & his nukes, we could make this bill go away for you in return."


Hat Tip:Political Vice Squad


Ralph Don't Get No Respect

You know the Left is dividing when a philospohical standard-bearer like Ralph Nader is now openly held in contempt by many of them at his latest speech:

"I'm really angry at Nader," said Rachel Kiel '07. "I had hoped to forgive him after his speech tonight. But I still think that he's irresponsible. He put us all in danger by running and I want him to explain himself."

At the conclusion of his speech, Carl Mayer, Nader's campaign advisor, addressed the audience and in an auction-like fashion and began asking for donations to their campaign. He started the bidding at $1,000, which went down to $500 and then $250 when no one from the crowd responded. Patti Smith donated the largest amount at $250. Following the bidding, a collection box was passed around.


"Do not exaggerate the effort it takes to make change," said Nader. "Restore the rumble of the people."
They're rumbling, alright, Ralph.


What Eason Missed

Here's a story that Eason Jordan, chief news exec at CNN, might not have made you aware of: that Iraqis (the people Saddam oppressed and Eason dutifully kept quiet about) showed courage and sacrifice in bringing democracy to their country:

Abdelamir Najem Kazem, like all Iraqi policemen, had been warned to look out for the “clenched fist” sign of a suicide bomber.

But as he checked the man in a long black coat, he spotted a hand grenade and hurled him to the floor near a Baghdad polling station, according to Kazem’s commanding officier.

Kazem and the bomber, who was believed to be Sudanese, were both killed on the spot outside a polling station in the Al-Yarmuk district of western Baghdad during Sunday’s landmark election.

The world has hailed the courage of Iraqis in turning out to vote in the midst of insurgent attacks and threats. But Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has called Kazem “the real hero of Iraq.”
Eason Jordan might not do much to highlight such a story to you, but the Khaleej Times (with a very minor assist from Such Little Things) just did.


Meanwhile, Back In Nepal...

This seems to be going well under most peoples' radar but did you know there been a reverse coup d'etat of sorts in Nepal?

Dozens of politicians have been arrested since King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency and many more have gone underground, an opposition figure said Wednesday.

“We don’t even know how many of our people have been arrested,” said Shovakar Parajuly, an official with the Nepali Congress party, Nepal’s leading opposition political party. He estimated that at least 50 of the group’s top leaders had been put under arrest.

The arrests, which began Tuesday around the time the state of emergency was declared, were continuing on Wednesday, said Parajuli, who had himself gone underground to avoid arrest.

His announcement came shortly after the king announced a 10-member cabinet, one day after he dismissed the government, declared a state of emergency and sharply curtailed civil rights.
I.e. The King has taken over full control.


Yesterday's Buffoon Cartoon

Damien Penny has a wickedly long memory, bless him.

Here's what Guardian (of course) cartoonist Martin Rowson thought of the Iraqi elections back in December.
It's good to remind ourselves of both the impotence and ignorance of such hateful propagandists, if only to help us ignore them in the future. Thanks, Damien.


A Glimpse, And No More

As much as some in the West fear that the Chinese are on the rise and will inevitably "take over," I think the feeling is mutual

"She must have a command of our mother tongue. Only then can you understand your values, roots and identity, although English is the common working language here," says Lee, who works for a charity organization.
The bamboo is always greener on the other side.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Tell Me Who Your Friends Are....

Vaclav Havel opines from within on EU attitudes:

Where will it end? The release of Milosevic? Denying a visa to Russian human-rights activist Sergey Kovalyov? An apology to Saddam Hussein? The opening of peace talks with al Qaeda?

It is suicidal for the EU to draw on Europe's worst political traditions, the common denominator of which is the idea that evil must be appeased and that the best way to achieve peace is through indifference to the freedom of others.
Yes, there certainly is an intellectual tradition of appeasing dictators and justifying as much. One could even call it an industry.

Hat Tip: Babalu ("Tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are.")


Soros Late To The Party

Trendspotter George Soros offers his latest insight:

``Kerry did not, actually, offer a credible and coherent alternative,'' Soros, 74, said yesterday in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``That had a lot to do with Bush being re-elected.''
For a man who once made a billion dollars front-running, Soros sure is behind the curve these days.


Double Or Nothing

Are the Sunni states of the ME worried about a Shiite-dominated Iraq? Sure they are. So it's no surprise, really, that they'd also be worried about a nuclear Iran:

John R. Bolton, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, has claimed that the "Gulf states share US perception on Iran's clandestine nuclear programme in a broader sense."

"The countries of the region do not want to see Iran equipped with nuclear weapons," Bolton said while speaking at a Press conference here yesterday. The programme has "threatened the interests of the US and its allies in the region," he added.
A very high-stakes game of leverage is now underway. Iran has long been the key to enabling long-term democracy throughout the entire region, even moreso than Iraq; Iraq was just the logical beachhead.

Best guess: the US will get specific cooperation from the neighbors on matters pertaining to Iran's nuke program, even as most of those same neighbors try to figure out how to subvert this damn democracy thing before it blows their whole racket.


Russian Roulette

One wonders how may times Putin will be able to deflect his supporters' anger elsewhere before it all comes back to him.

Case in point:Russian officials linked to Beslan tragedy:

The head of the Russian parliamentary commission investigating the September terrorist attack in the North Ossetian town of Beslan told journalists on Thursday that senior Russian officers and federal officials had helped organize the hostage-taking raid in which more than 330 people, half of them children, were killed.

Commission head Alexander Torshin, who is also a deputy speaker of parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, said two of the terrorists’ accomplices have been arrested, three have been placed on the wanted list, and evidence implicating two others has been passed on to the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Torshin said the accomplices were Russian officers holding ranks higher than lieutenant-colonel. Another member of the commission, Vladimir Kulakov, said the accomplices were not only republican officials from North Ossetia, but were also federal officials, who still occupy their posts.
There's no hard and fast rule on what the limit is, but there is a limit.


Dear (Almost Departed) Leader

Following up on previous postings on this site, it now appears that Chairman Kim's days are numbered:

According to exiles, North Korean agents in Beijing and Ulan Bator are frantically selling assets to raise cash — an important sign, says one activist, because “the secret police can always smell the crisis coming before anybody else”.
He was never intended to be more than a Chinese puppet anyway, and since he's now causing them grief ... well, if he hadn't already figured what was gonna happen, you knew he wouldn't be able to last. Good riddance when he's gone.

Also of note is who is quietly making friends amongst the NK refuguees:
“They know there is a Christian network to put them in contact with the underground, to break into embassies in Beijing or to get into Vietnam. They know, but you have to pay a lot of money to middlemen who have the Christian contacts.”

Her knowledge was remarkable. North Korean newspapers are stifled by state control. Televisions receive only one channel which is devoted to the Dear Leader’s deeds. Radios are fixed to a single frequency. For most citizens the internet is just a word.

Yet North Koreans confirmed that they knew that escapers to China should look for buildings displaying a Christian cross and should ask among Korean speakers for people who knew the word of Jesus.
It may be a sidebar to the current story, but I wouldn't discount its long-term implications either, in spite of the irony of refugees from a communist country looking for a sign of the cross in order to escape to another communist country.


Why David Was No Goliath

It's a question everyone asks when viewing Michaelangelo's greatest sculpture:

Michelangelo's David is meant to be a representation in marble of the perfect male form. So why did his creator not make him - how would one say - a little better endowed?
The answer: David was a perfectly accurate sculpture of a young man about to do battle with Goliath, and Michaelangelo, the perfectionist, made every detail accord with reality.