Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Al-Jazeera is a Zionist Agent

I have always been a bit intrigued by conspiracy theories, and not because I subscribe to them, on the contrary, frankly, it's just amusing as hell the depths of depraved logic their proponents will fall to in order to explain away any possible refutation, regardless of the validity. Look: Shut up about fixing the election, shut up about "we only went to Afghanistan to build a natural gas pipeline" *cough*Michael Moore*cough* and then to Iraq to trade blood for oil, shut up about we didn't really land on the moon, shut up about the government inventing crack and AIDS as a way to exterminate the blacks and the gays.

As much as I complain about the media and their shortcomings, it is in some ways those shortcomings that, at times, provide a valuable service - transparency amongst our public figures. There is no shortage of journalists that dream of being the next Pulitzer prize winning Woodward and Bernstein. They love a scandal - Monica Lewinsky, Abu Ghraid, WMD's, Richard Clarke's testimony. With so many with that incentive, memos should and do leak from Washington like incontinent old men. Not one allegation of even one overheard conversation? Maybe something not disimilar from this:

"Rumsfeld: I can't wait to steal all the fucking oil from Iraq and give it to Halliburton."

Cheney: "Yep good thing no one will find out, because we control all of the media and every individual journalist."

You mean to tell me we really didn't go to the moon, it was all a hoax and none of those journalists could find even a sketch or blueprint of the phony plan? No papertrail outlining the plot to steal Iraq's oil and estimations of the profit potential for "Big Oil" that would soon follow? Not one bit of proof for and an abundance of simple explanations against. No matter, because what is most amazing, er maybe amusing, is that when one brings up facts that cast doubt on a particular conspiracy theory, those facts are then used as evidence to actually further the conspiracy theory - i.e. they show that the conspiracy actually runs *even deeper* than originally thought.

You know what I think? I think that those that believe in such theories do so because it provides them some sort of comfort. They want to believe that the world is a hoax, that life is rigged against them from the outset. This way they can absolve themselves of any responsibility for their own failures/shortcomings, because, they never really had a fair chance anyway, nothing is their fault.

I guess that Iranian Mulluhs are no exception as the Tehran Times is reporting the following, best conspiracy theory of all time. (Note the Tehran Times link is now dead - another conspiracy? - Right Thinking has much of the text however.) Here it is:
The Al-Jazeera network was founded in 1997, ostensibly to create a new movement in the static media of the Arab world, which are mostly government controlled, and was initially welcomed.

Many media experts believed that the new network would create a revolution in the field of information dissemination, particularly in the Arab states on the Persian Gulf.

However, at the same time, rumors arose suggesting that the network was established by U.S. and Israeli agents in order to present a bad image of Islam to the world.

Some regional experts expressed doubts about the allegations though, because the establishment of a media outlet with the aim of promptly informing Arab nations about the latest world news seemed to be a good idea.

But the actions of the network gradually revealed the fact that Al-Jazeera officials, on the orders of Zionist agents, are trying to divide Islamic countries and tarnish the image of Islam.

After Al-Jazeera broadcasted some distorted news reports about Saudi Arabia, tension rose between that country and Qatar, and the two Arab states almost cut off diplomatic relations. ...

By broadcasting abhorrent scenes of the beheadings of foreign hostages by the criminal agents of the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terrorist group, the network succeeded in increasing anti-Muslim sentiment throughout the world, particularly in the West.

Following the advice of U.S. and Israeli experts in psychological operations (psyops), Al-Jazeera took actions which gave Westerners a negative image of Islam and Muslims.

In fact, the Al-Jazeera network was founded at exactly the same time when Iranian President Mohammad Khatami introduced his Dialogue Among Civilizations initiative as a logical strategy to bring the West and the Islamic world closer together.

Of course, the Zionists were not pleased at the idea because they believe that increased proximity between the Islamic world and the West is not in their interests. And that is why they founded the Al-Jazeera network to tarnish the image of true Islam.

Right. It's not that some thugs in the name of Islam are actually sawing off heads for the camera, but that Al-Jazeera incorrectly frames it in a violent context. So rather than confront the violent sects of Islam, and the fact that your miserable societies create and an endless stream of suicide bombing recruits, with little hope for improvements in the realms of economics, individual freedom, and living standards just blame it all on the Jews and call it a day.

Friday, December 24, 2004

For Those Who Risk It All

I'm really looking forward to Christmas, spending time with loved ones, trading gifts, eating a lot and drinking too much and not going to work. Yet, while I do all of those things, there are young men and women out there, spending Christmas in a violent foreign country away from their families, making it all possible for me and trying to bring some peace to a part of the world that really hasn't seen it... ever maybe.

Please think of our men and women overseas. Adopt a soldier through Soldiers Angels or donate some money to Spirit of America. $20 or a few minutes to write a thank you note does more than you think.

There is no possible way that I could express my gratitude, but this commenter says it much better than I ever could.

The thing I keep coming back to with our all-volunteer forces is the fact that our soldiers willingly sign up to risk being killed at 18, 19, etc... for me. For my wife. For my kids. For my standard of living. For my vacations. For someone with a future having less years remaining than his own future. For the freedom I have to sip cider while seated on the hearth in the safety of my warm, holiday-cinnamon-scented home, secure in the knowledge that I'll never face a moment of conflict with a human demon who's about to saw off my head.

Being in my early 40s, when I see a photo of some 18 y.o. kid who lost his life in Iraq because he rolled onto a grenade to save his mates, I find myself teary...

...As I contemplate all the things in life that he might not yet have experienced, and now that he'll never know - the love of a soulmate, the joy of having and raising children, sex (perhaps), being at his father's bedside, holding his hand as his dad slips away... buying a house... walking through corn rows with his faithful dog at his side... fly fishing... grilling out on the deck with his friends as they watch the Super Bowl... rebuilding a small block chevy... walking that same field with the dog in a foot of new snow... finally finding time to complete that scale model plastic F-15 that he started on in 6th grade...

Greater love hath no man...


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Democracy in Iraq

It seems that there is a less of a need to promote democracy in Iraq. The insurgency is doing it for us.

And over at the Belmont Club, the invaluable Wretchard summarizes what's really at stake:

If the issues in Iraq have been muddled beforetime by the polemic over 'weapons of mass destruction' or Saddam's connection to the September 11 attacks, the Syrian and Iranian attempts to prevent the scheduled elections have at last put things in their proper perspective. The central issue in Iraq is whether an Arab people can win their freedom in despite of the worst efforts of tyrannical and terrorist regimes to prevent it. The blasts which ripped through the Shi'ite holy places and the bullets which smashed the skulls of Iraqi election works have also blown aside the fog of propaganda with which the ancien regime sought to hide its campaign of suppression. It is not about 'blood for oil' or 'Jesusland': no; it is about the Iraqi people seeking to choose their future, backed by America on the one hand and the traditional tyrannies of the Middle East aided by their European Allies and the United Nations bureaucracy seeking to prevent it on the other. That is not to say that traditional geopolitics or human greed have nothing to do with the overall mixture; nor to argue that commercial cupidity and ambition are absent from Iraq. But it is essential to recognize the fundamental issues involved and where the cause of right lies, this day, this hour; until the elections on January 30.
I cannot recall where, but I recently read what I think is an apt description of Iraq. Think of it as a ball rolling down the street. Inside the ball are many different parts spinning in different directions, but the direction of the ball on the whole is consistent and eventually all of the parts within the ball will be spinning in sync - heading toward democracy and hope, away from tyranny and death.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Packers vs Vikings vs God

Care to see some Catholic hyperbole? I don't know why this stuff amuses me to no end but it does.

When the Rev. David Pleier of St. Bernard Catholic Church in Green Bay, Wis., announced that his church was eliminating its 4 p.m. mass on Christmas Eve because it conflicts with the 2 p.m. start of Friday's Vikings-Packers game, one congregant commented, "You mean to say you're putting football ahead of the birth of Christ?"

"If we had a 4 o'clock service, we'd have family members saying, 'You go to church, but I'm not missing the second half," Pleier said. "At a time when we hope families will be together, to pray together, this game threatens to drive them apart."

..."The NFL's expression of commercial arrogance and fundamental disregard for things that do really matter is astounding," said the Rev. Eugene Tiffany of St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis, not far from the Metrodome, where the game will be played.

"It makes no difference to the NFL if [the league] marginalizes the lives of people who place great value in faith and the prayer life of the church to which they belong. The people who run the NFL feel they're not accountable to anyone other than their sponsors and stockholders."

Exactly what is commercial arrogance? Fundamental disregard for things that do matter? Matter to whom? Rev Eugene Tiffany of course, whatever matters to him, should matter to us all. Hey Eugene, the NFL does not require anyone to stay home and watch the game, are you afraid that they will choose to? Maybe you'll find out that you aren't as important as you pretend to be? It gets worse.

"It's unconscionable that the NFL would do this -- presenting the kind of conflict that destroys families," said the Rev. Ken De Groot, of Green Bay's St. Willebrord Catholic Church, where coach Vince Lombardi attended mass each morning during the Packers' glory years of the 1960s.

Destroys families?!? I can think of lots of ways the Catholic church has destroyed families over the years, but it's hard to come with any examples of a football game being televised on a Friday afternoon doing so.

First Covenant Church, less than a block from the Metrodome, will not hold its traditional 4 p.m. Christmas Eve service, allowing the church to sell its 200 parking spots to football fans at $20 per car. Long after the Vikings crowd disperses, First Covenant will hold an 11 p.m. candlelight service, said the Rev. Tom Noble.

...Tiffany, of St. Olaf Church in Minneapolis, suggests that in the spirit of giving, the NFL offer the Vikings-Packers game free.

"Take away the commercials, and they'd be done in an hour and a half, plenty of time for fans to get to early mass," he said.

Okay but don't pass your donation basket around during Christmas Eve Mass, in the spirit of giving. Deal?

"Frankly, I can't believe how insensitive the NFL is," Demuth said. But he's aware of the lure of the almighty dollar. "There's money to be made. And for the NFL, what could be more important than that?"

Maybe selling church parking spaces for $20 each?

Merry Christmas. Go Packers.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Kyoto Dies, Economies Thrive

Ronald Bailey reports from Buenos Aires that Kyoto is dead:

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. At the conference here in Buenos Aires, Italy shocked its fellow European Union members when it called for an end to the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. These countries recognize that stringent emission limits would be huge barriers to their economic growth and future development.

So what now? Two different but complementary paths for addressing any future climate change have emerged from the Buenos Aires Climate Change Conference. The Europeans and activists have been pushing the first, which envisions steep near term reductions (next 20 years) in the emissions of GHG as a way to mitigate projected global warming. On the other hand, the United States has been advocating a technology-push approach in which emissions continue to rise and then GHG concentrations and emissions are cut steeply beginning in about 20 years. Over that time, the US sees the development of new energy efficient technologies, the creation of low cost methods for capturing and storing carbon dioxide both as emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and the invention of low carbon energy supplies. Such an approach has the advantage of fostering economic growth in the developing countries, lifting hundreds of millions from abject poverty over the next 20 years.

Other than asserting that the Green Movement would not be possible without open societies and free markets I'm not sure anything could draw their protest more than arguing that we should rely on technology to solve our potential environmental problems. However, as noted above, this is the way to best foster economic growth in developing countries, and still maintain the ability to deal with ecological problems that are natural consequence of satisfying human demands. In short, the Earth needs to be fed before it can be green. (And please spare me any global warming talk, we're looking at single digits this week in Chicago. ;-)

Enter Frank Martin, to tell us of a way that technology is already helping with environmental concerns. And it didn't even require an international summit or treaty. Do you want cars to pollute half as much as they do now? Would you like to see the United States become half as dependent on foreign oil? Do as Frank says, buy whatever car you want and drive half as much:
How do you do that? Chances are, you already are. If you are reading this, you are using the infrastructure that has the best chance of lowering America's dependency on "Foreign oil".

Allow me to explain.

Back in the 1970's, you had to GO to work. It was the workplace that had the phones, the manuals. The primary method of communication between part of the company was a stack of manila envelopes, called "interoffice mail". Memos slipped into these envelopes and routed between departments represented the information flow of major companies. In the 1970's, you had no other choice but to go "someplace" to meet with "someone". In the 1970's you had no other choice than to live where your work was. Everyone you worked with was within arms reach of your work. If you had to meet with someone "far, far away" you HAD to travel to meet with them. Get in your car, drive to the airport, get on the jet, sit in a hotel, go to another office, say hello, talk for 2 hours, show a presentation, and then reverse the process. An entire "work week" of man hours and thousands of gallons of jet fuel, just so you could put a slide show presentation on the wall of someone else's office in a far away city.

...Today, you have a cellphone with you at all times. You are always connected, so much so that in the rare case where you are in the far outback and outside of a cell, it feels like you stepped into the middle ages. You have at least one computer in your home, with more software running your home accounts than even a large company could point to in the 1970's. In most cases, your company has their internal systems set up in such a way that information can be reached from any employee from any point on the globe. Woe to the field sales representative who cannot keep his pipeline up to date for the management team to make projections. We all live with the concept of "just-in-time" inventory systems, but to the world of the 1970's, it would have seemed like an impossibility (except for the visionaries who were proposing and creating them at the time)

Where once you had to go to an office to get work done, you very often find that most of the people you work with are no longer in that office, but spread out all over the globe. It was precisely because of the work to "computerize" business since the 1970's that the ability for a company to work in several time zones and countries became a reality. We've gone from the turn of the century concept of a "Company Town" to the 1950's ,"headquarters office" on to the 1970's "corporate campus". In the world of today, its considered a detriment to have your company working at one location as that wastes 16 hours of productivity in a 24 hour period. Companies around the world have gone to a "follow-the-sun" philosophy where workers are distributed around the globe, rather than clumped into one office.

...Change happens, not in big "central command planning" ways but in simple and small ways. If you were to work remote just two days a week, you would be amazed at how much work you will accomplish in those two days, but you will also be stunned at how much money, and gas, you will save. This isn't limited by just commuting, look at how much you buy via or that you used to have to go "somewhere" to get. Look at the use of to keep you from having to drive to get a movie. It all adds up! Look at how much you can do today without leaving your house compared to the 1970's and you can see what I mean.

In deference to Bob Brinker, I would much rather "the government" get involved by encouraging the expansion of broadband internet access to more remote areas of the United States. I would much rather "the government" help companies break their dependence on office cubicles and their need to fill them. If companies can send jobs overseas, then the ought to be able to accommodate your working across town. They get a happier employee, they don't need a big office building, and you are vastly more productive. You also get to drive whatever the hell you want; you just get to do it for fun rather than because you have to.

Change doesn't come from Washington D.C., it comes from you. This change is already underway; you just need to give it a little shove. This makes a whole lot more sense to me than making a whole industry make cars no one wants.

Of course not every job can be done remotely, but it's pretty self-evident that a lot more can than are. Even one day a week would reduce consumption by roughly 20% for that person. Ask yourself, what am I going to get done at the office that I couldn't get done at home with remote access? Why not some tax incentives for employers that allow employees to work from home even a few days a week. (Think of the potential day care savings) It's hard for me to see a downside.

This is just one example of technology saving the environment and I'm sure that most greens would find the thought of relying on corporations, advancement and markets for environmental solutions as horrifying as leaving the Mullahs of the Middle East in charge of the feminist movement. But it highlights the flaw that plagues much of environmentalist movement's thoughts on resources. Strictly speaking there are no natural resources. Yes, nature provides man with lots of stuff. Dirt, rocks, minerals, trees, crude oil, coal, etc. But that stuff amounts to little more than benign pieces of matter until they are combined with human intelligence and given a purpose. You see, the ultimate resource is human creativity, it is the common denominator element present in all 'non-renewable' resources. Fortunately for us, human ingenuity is the most renewable and plentiful resource of all. Still don't trust technology? Look at its track record. My grandparents were told to save whale oil for future generations, and thank god they saved it for me or else I wouldn't be able to power what the hell did they use whale oil for anyway? The point is that technoloy and markets help us cope with issues of scarcity. If a resource begins to dwindle, it's price goes up, and suddenly there is a profit incentive to create more efficient and cheaper alternatives. Despite hysterical predictions of the 70's that we would run out of many resources (and lose hudreds of millions of people to starvation) by the 90's we haven't. In fact, can you name one non-renewable resource that we as a human race have ever exhausted?

I didn't think so. In almost every measurable way - life expectancy, infant mortality rate, healthcare, income, standard of living, etc. - life is looking positively up, and there is no reason to think the trend won't continue. While optimism may not be as emotionally satisfying as declaring the rest of the world dangerously thoughtless and in need of environmental rescue, it certainly has a stronger track record.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Thomas Sowell is Lord of us All

If you don't read Thomas Sowell regularly, you should. The quality and quantity of columns and books that he puts out is simply staggering. His ability to turn politically correct conventional wisdom on its head in just a few sentences is most impressive. This guy is my idol. Here is the latest reason why:
First they destroyed the gasoline station, so that you have to drive miles out of your way to get gas. Then they destroyed a parking lot. Now they want to destroy a dam and a reservoir that supplies more than 2 million people with water.

No, these are not al-Qaeda terrorists. These are our own home-grown fanatics — and the places mentioned are all in Yosemite National Park.

They call themselves environmentalists but a more accurate term would be green bigots. What makes someone a bigot is that he wishes to deny other people the same rights he has. That is the hallmark of the environmental zealot.

Green bigots operate internationally, just like the more famous fanatics. They are trying to stop a hydroelectric dam from being built in Uganda and they have already succeeded in getting "nature preserves" created in various parts of Africa — which is to say, vast amounts of land where Africans are forbidden to hunt for food because the green bigots prefer keeping the land "natural."

African economist James Skikwati in Kenya put the case against affluent Western environmental extremists very plainly when he said, "wealthy countries want the Earth to be green, the underdeveloped want the Earth fed." He asked: "What gives the developed nations the right to make choices for the poor?"

A hydroelectric dam in Uganda would bring electricity to millions of Africans but it would also annoy the delicate sensibilities of environmentalists in Berkeley who like waterfalls.

By and large, the green bigots use politics, nuisance lawsuits, and physical obstruction, rather than violence, but some of them do not hesitate to booby-trap trees, threatening those who cut them down with injury or death. And they use the media to spin their party line.

A recent newspaper story — headlined "Renaissance at Yosemite" — refers to new restrictions on people who visit Yosemite National Park, created at the urging of environmentalist groups. "The fight to get people out of cars and onto bikes and buses has been won after years of bitter wrangling," the story says.

If people wanted to get out of their cars and onto bikes and buses, they could have done this at any time and without any wrangling. We are talking about green bigots forcing millions of visitors to Yosemite to do what the green bigots want, rather than what the visitors themselves want.

Such ego trips by coteries of self-exalting people are treated in the media as idealism, rather than the petty tyranny it is.
Great stuff. Sowell's articles from 1998-current are archived here. Make it a regular stop. ;-)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Iraqi Bloggers Visit the States

Apologies in advance for the lack of coherency contained in this post, but it's part of an overarching theme that I've wanted to write about more definitively and just haven't been able to. What follows is some commentary mixed in with some stuff I've read, it may not fit together perfectly but it is all part of the same whole.

Sometimes I really really wonder if I am living in the twilight zone. How is it that a marine killing a wounded insurgent in the heat of battle gets more international attention than the same insurgency slicing up and disembowling a female aid worker? How does one explain the rather little attention paid to French troops shooting and killing unarmed civilians in the Ivory Coast? Does anyone have even the smallest amount of doubt that if it were American troops shooting unarmed African civilians that it wouldn't receive world wide attention? Then again, I have been continually surprised over the last two years at the lefts refusal to even acknowledge some humanitarian benefit to deposing Saddam Hussein. So I guess it should come as no surprise that, despite all the cries of supporting the Iraqi people and supporting the troops, much of the left still appears bankrupt.

Take Spirit of America for example. It is a wonderful grass roots organization, driven almost entirely by the blogosphere. Their goal is to extend the goodwill of the American people for the cause of advancing democracy and free speech in the Middle East. They've empowered Iraqi women by constructing and equipping sewing centers, they've set-up a tool donation program so Iraqi men/tradesmen can learn a skill and be productive. They repair universities, and supply libraries with books among many other projects. The latest drive of Spirit of America is the blogger challenge. The running totals are here. In looking at the list there is a noticeable lack of lefty bloggers. Why is that? Are they only good at spending other people's money for charitable purposes?

Sarah at Trying to Grok makes the relevant observation:

My old roommate writes poetry to speak out against the war. Atrios’ readers use their filthy mouths to denigrate right-leaning bloggers. But what have they done of substance? If you oppose the war, shouldn’t you support helping Iraqis put their country back together? Regardless of whether Bush looks like a chimp or not, shouldn’t the idea that someone is raising money to help the common people of Iraq be a good thing? If you believe the war was wrong, shouldn’t you believe the people of Iraq were right and thus want to help them?

It’s warmongers and chickenhawks who have raised $62865.72 so far for the people of Iraq. As far as I understand, there’s not a lefty blog among the participants. I find that very sad.

My old roommate writes anti-war poems. I donated to Spirit of America. Which one of us has done more to help the people of Iraq?

So the warmongering right raises and donates money for civic projects and the left mocks the givers and recipients.

Jeff Jarvis, a Kerry supporter, is the notable exception. Jeff has done much to encourage blogging in the Middle East, especailly Iraq and Iran. This week, Spirit of America helped bring two of the three brothers who blog at Iraq the Model to the states. (Initially they were going to make a stop in Chicago, I was in line to help host/put together their visit, but alas, they were unable to make it.) Jeff describes his amazing meeting:

While I was in Washington yesterday, I got to meet Omar and Mohamed, the blogging brothers behind, and I can't tell you what a wonderful moment it was. It was magical, even miraculous. For this could never have happened in a world without the internet and citizens' media.

How in the world, before this, could I ever have become friends with two men on the other side of the world in a war zone where our soldiers are fighting? How could I have learned about their lives in the midst of that battlefield? How could we have made mutual friends -- Zeyad, Kerry Dupont, Jim Hake? How could such a group have ended up working together, though thousands of miles apart, on a project to bring this new medium to the rest of the world? (Omar translated the Arabic blogging tool, by the way.)

I stand in awe of all that. But I also stand in awe of these two men. They have tremendous courage doing what they are doing: They grab onto free speech like men dying of thirst who finally come upon the oasis. They use their free speech with a gusto we should all admire and aspire to. They use it improve their nation and their future.

But some are unimpressed. Professor Juan Cole, a supposed Middle East expert, can only find time for scorn and insults. So Jeff Jarvis takes him apart with a good fisking:

Prof. Juan Cole libels my freedom-loving friends from Iraq.
The man is pond scum. I know no other way to say it. This guy Cole (supported by your tax dollars in Michigan) decides that if he disagrees with someone, he should imply that that someone must be backed by the CIA or other nefarious forces. Prof. Cole is too deaf, dumb, and blind to see the liberal irony in that; back in the day, when people disagreed with those on his side of the political spectrum, people on the other side implied that they must be backed by the Soviet Union, by Commies. It's an old trick, Prof. I'm ashamed of you for using it.

Ever since America engaged in Iraq, Cole has spent every day on his blog doing nothing but collecting bad news -- never good news. And people looking for bad news -- chicken liberals -- celebrate him for that. I'm a liberal but I don't celebrate Cole. I haven't bothered reading him for months, because he never had anything new to say.

But I had to read him today as he libeled my friends Omar and Mohammed from IraqTheModel. Cole says, quoting another blog:
The MR posting brings up questions about the Iraqi brothers who run the IraqTheModel site. It points out that the views of the brothers are celebrated in the right-leaning weblogging world of the US, even though opinion polling shows that their views are far out of the mainstream of Iraqi opinion. It notes that their choice of internet service provider, in Abilene, Texas, is rather suspicious, and wonders whether they are getting some extra support from certain quarters.

Look at the domain for the brothers' site: That's Blogspot, owned by Google, you fool. Yes, Google, a well-known front for the capitalist conspiracy that is America.

Read the rest.

As outspoken supporters of Democracy in Iraq they live under a constant threat of death, even if Juan Cole can't appreciate it. Fortunately the Iraqi brothers seem to be taking it all in stride, witness Omar:
Arthur Chrenkoff has another round up of good news from Afghanistan. I can't stop feeling amazed whenever I see the enormous effort Arthur puts in his blog trying to show some of the untold news about Iraq and Afghanistan, and I keep wondering, "On who's payroll is he?! Poor "anti-war" bloggers, who toil just for the sake of truth living only on wine and french bread.

Which prompts Greyhawk to observe:
First: appreciate the subtlety of Omar's wry humor, that's satire worthy of Swift from a man from a culture most likely far from yours for whom English is a second language. Your reading of such a thing from such a source would have been impossible a few short months ago when neither the technology nor the freedom were available to him.

Then ponder this: An American GI in Iraq just linked to and commented about an Iraqi citizen, who was linking and commenting on a post from an ex-pat from Poland now living in Australia and providing information to the world on the situation in Afghanistan.

Yet cynics continue to denigrate it all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Krauthammer on Afghanistan

Swamped with work and the holidays, but Charles Krauthammer makes some excellent observations on Afghanistan and the significant progress that is getting a rather insignificant amount of attention:

"Miracle begets yawn" has been the American reaction to the inauguration of Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan. Before our astonishing success in Afghanistan goes completely down the memory hole, let's recall some very recent history.

For almost a decade before Sept. 11, we did absolutely nothing about Afghanistan. A few cruise missiles hurled into empty tents, followed by expressions of satisfaction about the "message" we had sent. It was, in fact, a message of utter passivity and unseriousness.

Then comes our Pearl Harbor, and the sleeping giant awakens. Within 100 days, al Qaeda is routed and the Taliban overthrown. Then the first election in Afghanistan's history. Now the inauguration of a deeply respected democrat who, upon being sworn in as the legitimate president of his country, thanks America for its liberation.

This in Afghanistan, which only three years ago was not just hostile but untouchable. What do liberals have to say about this singular achievement by the Bush administration? That Afghanistan is growing poppies.

Good grief. This is news? "Afghanistan grows poppies" is the sun rising in the east. "Afghanistan inaugurates democratically elected president" is the sun rising in the west. Afghanistan has always grown poppies. What is President Bush supposed to do? Send 100,000 GIs to eradicate the crop and incite a popular rebellion?

...What has happened in Afghanistan is nothing short of a miracle. Who is responsible for it? The New York Times gives the major credit to "the Afghan people" with their "courage and commitment." Courage and commitment there was, but the courage and commitment were curiously imperceptible until this administration conceived a radical war plan, executed it brilliantly, liberated the country and created from scratch the structures of democracy.
Yep, nothing newsworthy there, better to focus on the random mortar attack and car bombs instead.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Carnival of the Capitalists

It has been a while since I have submitted something to the Carnival of the Capitalists, but I am proud to say that my Vaclav Havel on Communism post below is part of this week's edition. I am always amazed at the quality and diversity of the submissions. Everything from models for selecting stocks to using a blog for marketing/promotion, to classic macroeconomic questions and all things in between. This week's edition is no exception, so go read the Carnival of the Capitalists.

On a related note, I found this article from the WSJ on market research really interesting. Here's an excerpt:
People who rave online about their favorite new gadget -- or gripe about the products they hate -- are turning heads in the business world.

The growing popularity of blogs and other online forums has prompted companies to pay more attention to what is being said about them on the Internet, and has given rise to a new kind of market research aimed at finding useful information in the sea of online chatter.

For more than a year, car-maker Volkswagen AG has used a service by Techdirt, Foster City, Calif., to find out which new technologies are generating the most buzz online, with the aim of integrating some of them in new automobiles. "I think [Web sites] are very important as a source of unfiltered information, but there's too much information out there already. Frankly, we don't have time to keep track of all these things," says Daniel Rosario, a senior engineer in Volkswagen's electronics research lab in Silicon Valley.

Mike Masnick, 29 years old, founded the Techdirt market-research service in 2000, to help bring in revenue to support his blog, also called Techdirt. "We needed something to do to make money, so we started discussing how we were going to turn it into a serious business," he says. Techdirt compiles regular reports for Volkswagen and other companies based on items that appear on blogs and message boards, as well as in mainstream news outlets. The service starts at $2,500 a month, and can cost more than $10,000 a month, Mr. Masnick says.

Fascinating stuff. As information becomes cheaper and more accessible, firms are able to make use of it and put out a product that more accurately reflects consumer preferences. The result: more highly satisfied customers, more profits for the firm, more wealth is generated for all parties involved. I love markets!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

PEST Control

Yeah, I thought it was a parody at first too, but it’s not, so just enjoy it for all of its absurdity:
Twenty John Kerry supporters met for their first group therapy session in South Florida Thursday, screaming epithets at President Bush as they shared their emotions with licensed mental health counselors.

The first of several free noontime therapy sessions at the American Health Association in Boca Raton was designed to treat what mental health counselors have dubbed Post Election Selection Trauma (PEST).

“If I had a cardboard cutout of President Bush, and these people wanted to throw darts at it, I would let them do it,” Robert J. Gordon, AHA executive director, told the Boca News after the session. “It’s no joke. People with PEST were traumatized by the election. If you even mention religion, their faces turn blister-red as they shout at Bush.”

Although the meeting was closed to the press, AHA therapists obtained permission from participants to provide an anonymous transcript to the Boca Raton News. “I’m scared,” said one man. “Democracy is at stake and nobody is rising to protest this president.”

“I want to be a patriot, but it’s impossible to be a patriot in an immoral war,” said another participant, a woman. “Bush is breaking up marriages and dividing families by keeping our troops in Iraq.”

Gordon said the participants also granted reluctant permission to open up next Thursday’s meeting to the general press. Reporters will be forbidden from taking photographs or using the real names of patients.

“The media outlets, especially Rush Limbaugh and his ilk on talk radio, scare our patients to death,” said Gordon, facilitator for the meetings. “More than anything else, people with PEST tremble physically.”

Gordon said the Kerry supporters in therapy are predominantly Jewish and older than 50. Most are registered independents and all live in Palm Beach County.

“We mostly let them vent during the first session,” Gordon said. “By the third session, we’ll be doing some meditation exercises to aid some of their symptoms. We may use visualization and some techniques designed for bipolar disease and other mental disorders. That might help them adjust to reality.”

According to AHA officials, symptoms of PEST are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. They include nightmares, sleeplessness, hostility, listlessness, and emotional outbursts including threats to leave the country.

“There’s an overall sense of emotional helplessness and abandonment,” said Sheila Cooperman, a licensed AHA psychotherapist from Delray Beach. “In psychology, we call it ‘learned helplessness.’ After you zap a caged dog twice, he stops moving because he knows there is no place to go. That’s what happened with these Kerry voters. They’ve been zapped so many times that they’re on the verge of giving up on politics.”

Cooperman, also a practicing psychic, added, “One person today said he thinks the country is now run by fascists. Another felt personally threatened by the president’s love for big business. Many believe Bush is going to draft their grandchildren. The anxiety may not affect them every day, but it affects their energy level."

Leave it to the left to come up with a condition like this. Next thing you know PEST will become an official disability, requiring more funding for study to find a cure and of course PEST suffering employees can sue their employers for any PEST insensitivity or discrimination that they suffer. And so on. So, if you still haven’t gotten over the election, take comfort that you aren’t alone, and 2008 isn't too far off.

(link via LGF)

Sunday, December 05, 2004


There is no conspiracy theory more devoid of any factual support than the "we went to Iraq to steal the oil" meme. The minds at Powerline blog have some new angles on the oil conspiracy. While reading, keep in mind that Bob Woodward and others reported that there was a secret deal between the Saudis and the Bush admin to keep oil around $25 dollars a barrel in the months leading to the election. Instead those times saw prices in the $47-$53 range/barrel. What happened? Powerline explains:

There have been rumors that speculators, including George Soros, tried to drive up the price of oil in hopes of helping John Kerry. I know of no evidence to support that suspicion. But apart from Mr. Soros, what about the Arab states? Is there any doubt that the Saudi royal family would have preferred to see Kerry in the White House, and an end to President Bush's campaign to bring democracy to the Middle East? The bare minimum one can say is that the Saudis failed to follow through on their pledge to keep oil prices down.

How much of a conspiracy theorist does one have to be to wonder whether some combination of forces, inside or outside of the Arab world, tried to influence our Presidential election by allowing or forcing prices to rise during the fall? And has anyone in the mainstream media, with its alleged investigatory resources, shown any interest in finding out why oil prices seem to have risen and fallen in synchrony with the American campaign season?
They've got charts and graphs and numbers as support. In other words, unlike most conspiracy theories, this one has some plausibility, which makes it no conspiracy theory at all.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Five Examples of Capitalism Improving Society

In browsing through a recent edition of the Carnival of the Capitalists I came across a challenge to name five examples of capitalism improving society. Someone has answer, he's got them displayed in a nice chart with bullet points, and I can't recreate it here, so you should immediately go read it there. But I can't resist posting the text of the first one:

Open societies are best for protecting the environment. While this argument is sure to generate howls of protest from activist groups, the evidence is clear:

Environmentalist movements are only free to operate and lobby for public favor in open socieities. There were no "green" movements in the Soviet Union, nor was the Audubon Society a movement under the Taliban.

Open societies have the resources with which to effectively fix the ecological problems that are natural consequences of satisfying human demands. The former Eastern Bloc nations continue to suffer the worst environmental conditions in Europe precisely because their old command economies could not efficiently deliver the same goods and services as freer markets in the West while simultaneously cleaning up after themselves.

Market societies reward the innovations that allow environmental protection to take place. Under capitalist systems, no matter how derided, a market exists that rewards innovations like double-hulled oil tankers and gas flume scrubbers and reverse-osmosis filtration of drinking water. Other systems simply don't have the incentive structures in place that lead to those sorts of developments.

Go read the rest. Maybe I'll tackle some of these in detail in the near future.... if anyone has any doubts to their merits.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Vaclav Havel on Communism

Since there has been a bit of a push in the blogosphere to replace Kofi Annan with Vaclav Havel as Sec General of tfhe UN, I thought I would pass this along. It's a bit of writing from Havel that I recently came across while reading Fukuyama's "The End of History." It was written (or at least pondered upon) as he sat in prison for his activities as a dissident, before the democratic revolutions of Eastern Europe:
The manager of a fruit and vegetable shop places in his window among the onions and carrots, the slogan: "Workers of the World Unite!" Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given a moments thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?...

Obviously, the greengrocer is indifferent to the semantic content of the slogan on exhibit; he does not put the slogan in this window from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal, but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: "I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace." This message of course has an addressee: it is directed above, to the greengrocer's superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the greengrocer from potential informers. The slogans real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the greengrocer's existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?

Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan, "I am afraid and therefore unquestionably obedient," he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would still reflect the truth The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, "What's wrong with the workers of the world uniting?" Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal himself from the low of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them begind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.

What is revealing about this, is the way in which communism operates on fear, but comes up with a convenient 'out' for individuals that are afraid but want to pretend they are not. Without that escape, men living under any repressive regime would be forced to admit to the world, and perhaps more devastatingly, to themselves that they are scared needy little animals easily manipulated by their own fears. In Havel's example above, the grocer is able to avoid this internal debate by hiding behind a sanctimonious communist slogan - a device for him to more comfortably come to terms with living inside a lie. Such was the inherent humiliation of communism.

Western Civilization is often characterized as a land fueled by crass materialism and exploitation, but it was those materials, so common in the West, that were often used to force compliance in communist states. Simple things like a refrigerator, new clothes, a vacation, or a better job were dangled in front of those that promised to behave according to the states desires and 'turn in' those who did not. These material gains meant much to those living with little to nothing in terms of possessions. And that was Havel's biggest criticism of communism - that it forced the citizenry to compromise their moral worth, their dignity, in return for petty rewards, creating a nation of men with no personalities and no true concept of self. Havel recognized this tragedy for what it was, and he would certainly recognize that much of the world's population still lives under such conditions. It's a shame that he probably wouldn't take the job.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Mayor Daley's Son Enlists

Given some recent posts on Brett Favre and Michael Jordan's brother James, I would be remiss if I didn't give proper recognition to Mayor Daley's son Patrick for enlisting in the military.

Just months after receiving a graduate business degree from the University of Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley's son, Patrick, is joining the U.S. Army with the full support of his father--and despite his mother's heavy heart.

The younger Daley, a onetime West Point cadet who left after his first year, signed enlistment papers several months ago and planned to ship out in October but was dissuaded from reporting immediately, according to a family friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"I would bet [his mother, Maggie Daley] asked that he please stay until Christmas," said the friend, who reported that the mayor's wife remains upset about her son's decision to join the military at a time when violence rages in Iraq and U.S. troops also face danger daily in Afghanistan.

But the mayor said Tuesday he never tried to talk his son out of taking the course that, at age 29, he has selected for himself.

"If he wants to do it, he is going to do it," Daley said. "I am very proud of his decision, and I stand by his decision. ... Duty, honor and country. That is what he wants to do."

Daley choked up when asked about his wife's reaction, given her continuing battle against cancer and the heartbreak of losing another son, Kevin, who was 33 months old when he died of complications of spina bifida in 1981.

"It's a challenging time," the mayor replied, his eyes welling up with tears.

....Reached by telephone Tuesday, Patrick Daley declined to comment on his career move.

"I'm not going to say anything," he said, referring questions to mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard.

Heard said no family members other than the mayor would have any comment because Maggie Daley is distraught.

Earlier this year, Patrick Daley received an MBA from the U. of C. That achievement made all the more unusual his decision to enter the Army as a private. Patrick Daley, who would have been commissioned as an Army officer had he stayed at West Point, has chosen the life of an enlisted man.

"That is my son, Patrick," the mayor said. "He wants to start where he believes it is important. He has gone to graduate school, the University of Chicago, with honors, and he would rather do that than anything else. From there, he can make his decision in the military, what he wants to do."

While some will speculate, rather cynically, as to Patrick's motives I am confident they are sincere. Quite simply, there are things in this world bigger than ourselves and the here and the now. It seems that few people are aware of that and even less actually do something about it.


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