Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Review of Douglas Coupland's Microserfs

Douglas Coupland did a real good job of capturing geek culture as it was in the 90s in his 1995 novel Microserfs. The novel is about a few tech geeks who work for Microsoft and then form a start-up in Silicon Valley in the early and mid 1990s. The book is about the personal feelings of the group as they strive to come to grips with the reality that they are busy shaping, attempting to exist in a paradigm that no one, least of all them, are prepared for.

The tecky life that was all about getting in on the bottom and creating something from scratch, the tecky life that threw all the young computer geeks who played D and D and watched Star Trek as children, the tecky life that made the boys who could never get dates and made them the big shots of earth, are well portrayed in Microserfs.

The book is really about the personalities, the humanity, the real-worldliness of the people who spent years trying to find themselves, while transforming the digital world. There is a culture that transcends the zillions of lines of code that were written in CA in the 90s. There is a culture behind all the money that was poured in to start-ups. The culture is of people who needed to be understood.

It is a really good novel. It sums up the culture well, and deserved to be as well received as it was.

New Years resolutions

So it is that time of the year when we get rid of the old and go in with the new. It is high-time that I made some resolutions to get me through this next year. I have a number of things that need to be resolved. Many of them just involve doing more work and being vigilant, and some are things that I need to do to just to feel better about myself.

Here are mine:

1) I will talk about politics with others less than I used to. I know I alienate people way too quickly when I talk about things like ethics, politics, religion, and morality. I will save that for my readers, friends, my students, and people I already know.

2) I will write my dissertation. It is about time I just did it. I will.

3) I will really get in shape. I will do more than just run. I will work out. I can still afford to loose a few pounds, and there are parts of me that still need to be worked on - a lot.

4) I will be more generous. I am a bit poor at the moment, but I think I can still afford to give more to my friends and to those who are needier than I.

5) I will write papers and other publishable things.

6) I will get a hobby. I think I will either take up stamp collecting again (uberdorky, I know) or resume my electronics hobby (ubergeeky, I know). I used to do both of these before I discovered adolescence, and I always wanted to continue. (If anyone can recommend a good hobby, let me know. I am not all that satisfied with my current choices.)

7) I need to learn more mathematics. One can never know enough about numbers.

8) I will work on a foreign language. I think I will really pursue either Arabic or German more diligently. (Those of you who read my summer blogs will know why I picked those.)

9) I will keep up with friends more. This is of course a life-long endeavor, but one that needs constant vigilance.

10) I will do more for my country than I have been doing until now. I have not figured out what, but I will do more.

11) I will improve my woman situation. (It really needs improvement. Here too, I am open to suggestions.)

12) If there is time, I will create a better website.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Conference in Filly

I just got back from Philadelphia. I had a nice time. I still did not see the bell or the constitution. It is disapointing. I was actually at a professional convention for that stuff I do that occupies all my time. I did not really leave the five block radius of where I was, execpt once to eat in this Italian place with some other people. The food was really good. It was odd, I wish I remembered the name. They first gave us a tour of the place, kitchen and all. Then they served us thes portions that were soooo big, we left over a ton of it. I tried to eat as much vegetable pizza as I could, and "E" was very nice helping me remove all my tomatoes (UGH).

Friday, December 27, 2002

Review of van Fraassen's The Scientific Image

Bas Van Fraassen's The Scientific Image is a very important work in contemporary philosophy of Science. It is the definitive statement of non-realism in science. The central claim is that the central claims of science are 1) empirical adequacy and 2) that a theory must fit the observable phenomena. There are three main theses that are given that show how a workable non-realist philosophy of science can handle the important issues in the philosophy of science. The three things are 1) there is a relation between theories and the empirical world, 2) there is no absolute notion of explanation, and 3) there is an empirical account of probability. The book is quite difficult and only for the serious student of philosophy of science.

While I tend toward realism in science, it does present strong reasons to take the non-realist position seriously. It is a real serious work, and I strongly endorse it. You must keep in mind though that this is not a popular account, and is not for the faint of heart. It is a very serious work in the philosophy of science.

While a real elaboration of the book is too long to go in to here, I thought I would just give a quick outline of the part of the book which deals with scientific explanation. This is likely to be the most enduring part of the book, though I the whole thing is worth reading and preserving.

An explanation is an answer to a why-question. So a theory of explanations must be a theory of why-questions. The why-question Q expressed by an interrogative in a given context will be determined by three factors: 1) The topic, 2)the contrast class, and 3)the relevance relation.

Furthermore what we need to understand this theory is 1) the contextual factors involved in the background of why-questions. (Those will delineate the set of answers) And 2) A way to evaluate the answers we get.

To evaluate the answers we look to other theories of explanation. For example, we can look to see if the answer addresses the rise in the probabilities of events happening to explain why they happened. This of course has all the shortcomings of other theories of explanations.

The upshot is that there is no right account of explanation. Rather, it depends on what the context is. Sometimes the length of the shadow really does explain the height of the tower. Sometimes the laws of physics and trigonometry explain the length of the shadow, and sometimes the length of the shadow is explained with reference to who van Fraassen's father slept with. Presumably this all goes to counter van Fraassen's realism, in the sense that there cannot be one account of explanation because there is more than one account of reality.

Goin' to Philly

It looks like I will be in Philadelphia tomorrow. I hope I get to see some of the great American stuff there. I was there once for a few hours, but I did not get to see the bell or anything else. I hope to have a chance this trip. I will be there through Monday.

Lefties and Korea

I wonder what the liberal concensus will be on Korea. On the one hand the US (under Clinton) helped North Korea (unwittingly) develop nuclear stuff. So the US is responsible, so it will be our fault when they sell nukes to Crapistan and the Crapistaninan terrorists use it against us. On the other hand all the Green lefties should not like nukes in general, so they should not like North Korea. But of course if the US has it, it is only fair if everyone else has it too, so the Greens still have an excuse to blame the US. But the anti-globalization people should not like it because it involves it involves lots of transference of technology and involves lots of global arrangements. But it is a communist country, so it must be OK. Of course it involves throwing out the UN, so the pro-UN types should not like it, but of course if the US and Israel could ignore the UN, then Korea should also be able to do it too. So I assume the real leftists in this country would do what they always do - blame the US and excuse the communists in Korea because they hate the US and love communists, and blame any fallout on the US for pioneering nuclear science in the first place, and exonerate the people who use it, because it is the fault of capitalism that forces the communissts to use it anyway. Did I miss anything?

Suicide bombing in Grozny

Suicide bombing in Grozny. What is it with Moslems? Draw your own conclusions.


Over the years I have read lots of papers written by pundits, theologians, bioethicists, and biologists about cloning. There are few good reasons for banning it. The reasons that are given are generally one of three types.

The first is theological, ie, God did not intend it that way. That is a stupid reason. God did not intend for people to mush up tomatoes, grate cheese, and put that all on some flat piece of dough, cook it, and eat it, but there are few people who ever consider banning pizza (execpt for a few orthodox Jews who have other problems with the way pizza is distributed). God did not intend in-vitro fertilization, democracy, nuclear weapons, or haircuts. As long as God didn't tell us that he minds, why should there be any problem. (What he tells people when no one else can hear, doesn't count.) I have read many of the worlds main religious texts, and never did I see anyone's God talk about how to make babies. If it is a real God, He would have known the future. If He would have minded he would have told us.

The second main reason is stuff about human dignity. Most of the arguments are hand-waving about individuality and uniqueness. Somehow people think that if someone is a clone they will be born differently than anyone else. There is a wrong belief that they are born without out a personality, or suddenly become identical to their parent. This sort of thinking comes from people who learned about clones from cartoons, and have not given it any thought since they were about six years old. From the instant of birth people develop their own personalitiies, regardless of whose DNA they share. Twins are still allowed, even though they are in principle similar to clones.

People may have seen the movie "Boys from Brazil" and assumed that the only purpose for cloning would be to make lots of copies of Hitler. Again, this is retarded. Even a modern-day clone of Hitler would not be the Hitler that we all know and hate. Someone who learnd about cloning from Austin Powers's Dr. Evil is not any more sophisticated.

Finally there are biologists. Biologists tend to favor cloning. Those who do not tend to oppose it for technical reasons. Of course they are right. IF, and this is clearly a big IF, they cannot do it safely, they should not. But if they can, then there is no reason to ban it.

There are many reasons one might want to clone someone. Therefore we should not oppose it if it were technically possible.

Today this French woman, who is clearly loony and should be locked up, claimed that she succeeded in cloning someone. Now this kid will grow up in a psycho religious cult. This would be unfair to the kid if he was born regularly or via a cloning procedure. I wish her the best of luck, and hope she gets help for her religious issues.

Moreover, you would think that the religious right would be happy about cloning. Less people now have to have sex, annd there is now a new way to be fruitful, multiply and fill up the earth.

On the down side though, I am so not looking forward to the first psycho who annouces that she really wants to give birth to bin Laden's clone.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

LOTR and British flicks in general

Last night I saw the new Lord of the Rings movie. First off, "The Two Towers" is currently a bad name for the movie, although I have to admit that you can't really help that because the book was named that too. Second, the graphics and animation was incredible. The stuff they did was nothing short of amazing. The actors that they added and the interaction between the actors and the scenery was very well done. The movie was a tad long (some 3 hours). I really liked it. (I'll leave out the details.)

There is something I noticed about a lot of british writing that you really don't see in American writing. I have not really look in to this much, but I wonder if the literature would support this: There is a large acceptance of monarchial thinking. What I mean is that if part of the plot hinges on someone having superior blood, or divine right, or something like that, it will be readily accepted as normal by British audiences. There are all sorts of kings in LOTR. Each one is respected and followed. People have real loyalty to their king, in the way I would be loyal to the president of the US. But the difference is that the kings here do not get their legitimacy from the people, rather they inherit it. Harry Potter (also British) has a similar situation. Remember, Harry's father was a seeker. It was in his blood, as Hermione said.

Again, two examples does not a theory make, but I think that given the history of the US and the UK, those of us here in the US would find these things very un-American. I do. I tend to look at the whole world of LOTR as a throwback to more barbaric times where there is little to learn in terms of values or morals. There is little to be emulated, neither by the bad guys, or the good guys. The good guys are just less brutal and wear brighter clothes. They both have undying loyalty to an illigitimate ruler, they both think everyone else should too. There are wizzards who inherit their talents, no one can aspire to wizzardhood. Harry was just waiting in his closet until his natural born rights were allowed to flourish. He did not work for them at all.

In the American version, you have a kid who has some talents would spend his nights being abused and working hard, sitting in the library until some lucky break allowed him to show off what he had worked so hard for. (I guess this would be Hermione, or some Good Will Hunting type of story.)

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Review of Negroponte's Being Digital

Although I read Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital some seven or eight years after it came out, it is not really dated. There has been so many innovations since, and so many more of us are now digital that much of what he said when he wrote the book is now a bit passe.

However this should not diminish the accomplishments of the book. I learned quite a bit. Most importantly, I now see what it is like to have a digital imagination. Every page of the book is crammed with suggestions for the future. There is little that cannot be improved. And Negroponte has an idea for how to fix everything. He is right. He sees where millions of dollars are being invested in misguided enterprises to fix the wrong problem. He sees what the right problems are and how to go about solving them.

Negroponte knows what computers can do and he has the imagination to know what they should do. We can all learn something from this book.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Lazy day

I spent the past few days being lazy. There is a lot to be said for not shaving and sitting around for two or three days and watching movies on TV. The problem is that if you have a thousand channels then there is always something on. If there is always something on then you never stop, and you don't get anything done. I have a ton of reading and stuff on my desk and none of it is getting done. Can I get some help to get me out of my room, maybe someone want to offer me an incentive to get off my a55?

Friday, December 20, 2002

Review of Himanen's The Hacker Ethic

If you are reading this you know that computers are a rather indispensable part of the human condition for those of us in the western world. Presumably it will be the same for everyone, everywhere, eventually.

The Hacker Ethic: A Radical Approach to the Philosophy of Business by Pekka Himanen, is a statement of the values embodied by those who literally made the computer happen. The ethic is revolutionary and cannot easily be classified given the existing paradigms of social, political, and ethical philosophy.

(There is a cute introduction by Linus Torvalds, and a rather odd epilogue by Manuel Castells which is filled with lots of sociological gobbledygook that I am pretty sure would be false if it were written such that people could comprehend it.)

The book starts with an analysis of the protestant work ethic and compares it to the "passionate life", The protestant ethic is about work and making work a virtue in and of itself. In the "passionate" work ethic (ie, the Hacker work ethic) work is not an ends, it is not really a means either, it should be something enjoyable.

The Hacker ethic is contrasted next with the bizarre 9-5 lifestyle where the goal is to just be somewhere from 9 to 5. The hacker ethic is more concerned with accomplishments that occur over a long time. The whole corporate time structure is unsuitable to the achievements that hackers have made.

When it comes to money it seems that there are various hacker models of how one ought to feel. Various models are proposed in the book and there is no one that is taken as authoritative. The models vary from simple capitalist to get rich quick and become a philanthropist to the downright socialist.

Models of hacker learning are then outlined. The build-up of knowledge and the model for study is elaborated. There is also a social model that can be adapted from this. (I wish he would have talked more about this. You can see where he is going with the "open resource" suggestion, but it holds so much promise that it is worth fleshing out.)

Some of the staples of the hacker ethic, some of the hacker virtues, so to speak are addressed. Namely privacy and free speech are touted, rightfully so, as the cornerstones of what hackers need to survive, in the same way that humanity does.

The hacker ethic of personal development is addressed too.

Somewhere in the end there is a cute interlude as to what the world would have looked like if God had ben God inc, instead of the Hacker God, who just got off his but and created the world.

The book is full of references to Plato and Church theologians. There is a huge project of detailing the protestant ethic and contrasting it with hacker ethic.

It is really a wonderful statement of what the hacker lifestyle embodies. Hackers are a rather unique breed of people, but they ought not be. As a society, most of us are beyond the point where we need to work and structure our lives in a way that makes work a pure good. Many of us, especially those who work for companies can find ways of restructuring our lives so that we are happier living it. There is a strange need to think that we need to conform to the mold or our jobs will not get done. For most of us there is little need to coordinate our physical presence in the workplace all the time to achieve the fulfillment of our goals. There is little need for the types of regulation that goes on to meet the standards we have for the good life. Everyone should be a hacker. They will be happier. (Remember: a hacker need not be a computer hacker.)

The world of hacking is actually interesting in that it does seem like it is onne of the few places where the Anarchist utopias can really happen. In the Alexander Goldman and Michael Bakhunin-style anarchism there is no state control and everyone produced whatever they wanted and donated it all to the common pot from which all took freely. While this sounds ridiculous in the real world, in the world of information it makes a lot of sense and even ends up working. How? Well there is a system of rewards that people are all after, namely peer recognition. So it is not like good work and creativity go unnoticed. And, unlike real goods, when you give away information you don't have any less of it. So while you can't eat information, there is a start of a paradigm to work with here.

The hacker revolution was ideology-driven and ought to stay that way. (Gassett would approve, no doubt.)

Gibson no doubt would worry that worry that if it did not exist, and people went corporate too quickly then the upward spiral of technological improvement would stop. I suspect that we are seeing the first inklings of that now. (The tell is that Japan seems to be outstripping the US technologywise. Little creativity comes from Japan, only refinement of US technology. When the refinements are ahead of the innovations it says that creativity is in a lull.)

All in all though the book is an important statement of the hacker ethic. It deserves to be widely read and thought about, by the general public, sociologists, and corporations, and philosophers.

A few criticisms though, after all the hype about the ethics of open source there is still a whole copyright page which makes sure that the book itself is not "open sourced". Very disturbing.

(On the technical side, I wish the footnotes were on the page instead of in the back, and there is no index, which is annoying. )

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Review of Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties

William Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties is classic cyberpunk. (I assume the reference to the title is to the Velvet Underground) Without giving away too much of the plot, there is something really significant about to happen and it is up to those who can, to be in the right places at the right time. You never know who will be important. The style is classic, and Gibson's fans I am sure were not too disapointed. There was the whole post techno world and all the virtual stuff, and idorus and neat-o drugs. After reading this I remembered a Wired article article that I read about Gibson and his ebay obsession, just before this book was released. It now makes a whole lot of sense.

The book is also a platform for many of Gibson's pet theories. Many of them quite interesting. He offers various versions of why all of our computers are this stupid beige color. He talks about the bohemian life and why it is necessary and what happens when it disapears too quickly. And of course there is the reference to ancient programs that never get rewritten, only added to.

Enjoy the read, I did.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Star Trek and Drinks Afterward

I went to see the new Star Trek movie tonight with "D" and "D" and "L". It was kind of fun. It was not the best one yet, but I thought it was pretty good. (The vote was not unanimous on this.) We then went out drinking at Abby's Tavern on 3rd and 27th and then "L" and I went to "T" and "A"'s place where we drank more. I need to stop hanging out with Russians if I want my liver to make it to the next decade.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

UN condemnes Terror Attack (SIC)

In a magnanimous gesture yesterday the UN voted to condemn the terrorist attack in Mombasa a couple of weeks ago. This was of course significant, as it was the first time people who killed Israelis have been condemned. Naturally the Syrian ambasador voted against, because he understands the true mission of the UN and claims that said the resolution was "against the values and charter of the United Nations". Condeming terrorism is generally against the true values of the UN.

The ambasador actually went on to claim that the UN has ignored the palestinians and therefore they could not vote for this resolution. (the fact that about a third of the resolutions in the UN are about the palestinians, somehow escaped the ambasador.)

If you will pardon my cynicism, I wish to downplay the significance of this resolution. I do this simply because the message that was just sent out by the UN is that terrorism in Israel against Israelis is OK. It only stops being OK when peaceful Kenyans get hurt too.

This actually is a covert way of saying that terrorism against Israelis is OK - as long as it is done in Israel. The UN will not put up with anti-Israel terrorism outside Israel.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Why the US announced that it is prepared to use Nukes

The announcement two days ago that the US is prepared to use nuclear weapons has a many-fold purpose. 1) It said to the Iraqi people that they should really think twice before supporting their ruler in a war against the US. There are a host of reasons to have the Iraqis believe that. 2) It told Saadam that attacking Israel will not work. Iraq no doubt thinks that if it is attacked by the US it will attack Israel to 1) kill Israelis and 2) to gain broad Arab support. It is an old ploy that all Arab leaders know. You can oppress your people to death as long as you are perceived as fighting the Israelis. (Hence, the perpetuation of anti-Isrel as a national priority in all Arab countries.) 3) It told Israel to stay out of the war in the only way they will listen, by assuring them that there will be nuclear retaliation for an attack on Israel's soil using WMDs.

What Saadam was no doubt thinking is that if something happens he will attak Israel and will be able to keep his regime. What the US said is that if he attacks Israel, the US will attack Iraq with nuclear weapons. Remember Saadam cannot fire WMDs in his own country against US troops without shooting himself in the foot (by destroying his own army) at the same time. He does not have the capability to attack the US. We are too far away. He would not attack neighboring Arab countries for fear of loosing more Arab support among now friendly Arab countries.

So the only country left for him to attack is Israel. So that is what the US was refering to. The US wants Israel to stay out of the war, for the same reason Saadam wants them in it. Both the US State Dept and Israel have announced publically and repeatedly that Israel will likely use nuclear weapons if attacked with WMD.

So what the US is saying is that now Israel knows to stay out of the war because the US will do Israel's job for her. The US will nuke Iraq just to prevent Israel from doing it. The hope is that this treat will stop Saadam from starting in the first place.

This is however a dangerous bluff. I assume that if the US is not prepared to follow through, Israel is. So I hope this ploy works.

Why only the US should have Nukes

For all you fans of game theory out there, here is an argument for why only the US should have nuclear weapons.

Assume that very stable democracies want to stay stable democracies. Also, assume that one of our important goals is to avoid having anyone use nuclear weapons.

Weapons of mass destruction are hard to make. This is actually an empirical fact, but for an argument, if they were easy to make then we never would have evolved as far as we have as a species.

To make WMD you need a large number of people to cooperate in many and varied ways. We need universities and large amounts of funding, and people who are able and willing to work together for long periods of time under conditions of various governments and economic, social and political conditions. From all the cooperation literature we know that cooperation generally implies a peaceful socitey. A peaceful society, if it is a democracy, wants to stay that way. So it will not use WMD if it can avoid it, on pain of loosing their peaceful status.

Non cooperative countries, that is, countries that have not developed sufficient internal cooperation to build WMD have less need to stay stable, because they are not stable to begin with. Moreover, non-democracies have less insentive to avoid using WMD because they are not all that interested in not killing their citizens, because their power does not derive from the people whose lives are in danger. That is the nature of non-democracies. So getting in to nuclear conflict is not the big destabilizing factor that it would be in a stable democracy.

So the upshot is that coutries that 1) are stable democracies and 2) developed the resources and technology on their own, and did not purchase it from others should be the only ones with nuclear weapons. Of course it is preferable that that non have it. However, as long as there are other countries and this is the most effecient way to maintain the stability then it it moral. Moreover, for the same reasons, it is imperative that those countries who are morally justified in having WMD, ought to prevent those who are not morally justified from having it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

New Novel

This just in from the in-case-you-needed-another-reason-to-hate-the-French department: There is a new novel out in French that you will not see anywhere near my reading list this winter break. The novel is being published by Flammarion ( really large French publisher).

The novel is called Rever la Palestine and the Simon Weisenthal center is urging the publishers to stop the presses. They are not. Apparently they flew off the shelves in Paris just after the release. The novel is aimed at teens, and its author too, is 15.

From what I am gathering, the novel protrays some kid who grows up and dreams of becoming a suicide bomber. Eventually he does become one. I mean what the hell kind of f%#$ed-up culture produced this stuff? And who the heck in france is confusing this with Harry Potter? The book is supposed to contain the usual tirades about blood-thirsty Jews who deface mosques, rape arab women (God, like anyone would want to do that), and kill arab children BEFORE they become suicide bombers. At some point one of the main characters calls for a Jihad against the Jews and annihilation of Israelis.

This undoubtedly is a great text of sufferring and hope. One day perhaps all Palestinians can aspire to suicide bomberdom and get exonerated by pop-culture. For now, sadly, it is only the French-speaking ones.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Nut on the F train

I was on the F train tonight and there was this guy is a really gay looking hat (though you could make a similar case for my hat) who just pushes me for no apparent reason (except perhaps to be standing closer to the door when it would open at Delancy street. So I gave the guy some dirty look and continued talking to a friend who was also getting off at Delancy. I was not getting off at that stop. So then the guy says "I can't believe you have a problem with me pushing you." So I think to myself that this guy is just a real a-hole, and I say something like "a55hole" to no one in particular. Then the door opens up and the guy says "F--- you" so I say "F— you. You could be civil" and then he stands there by the door till the train leaves saying over and over "you want a piece of me?" Like, what is up with that? He looked normal, but apparently was just some sort sort of psychotic animal who had a bad day.

Monday, December 09, 2002

A parable on evil dictators

Let us say that there was a poor child in our community. We found out that this poor child and his friends were mugging people and breaking in to our homes, and vandalized our property. So once in a while we tried to punish him. But finally we realized that our punishments were cruel and we tried a different approach.

Completely out of our desire to stop the vandalism and muggings, we decided to give this child some money. We paid for an education, bought him his own laptop, clothing, and made this child a lot better off in many ways. The child goes through college and leaves college with a number of skills. One of those skills is the ability to maliciously hack in to computer systems.

One night this person goes on line to his home computer and steals money out of the bank accounts of those who have been supporting him for the past few years.

Who is to blame here for this child's behavior?

(For those who do not get the moral here, it is as follows: For all those people who blame the US for funding Saadam/bin Laden/Fidel/... and say that we deserve whatever we get because we funded these people to start with, I ask you what the difference is? All it means is that in addition to being depraved murderers, they are also ungrateful poster children for abortion.)

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Went to a Hanukaha party on Friday night in Brooklyn. "J" made some good food, and there were some nice people there. I got home at some crazy hour in the morning on account of the messed up Q train on the weekend.

Went to a few birthday celebrations last (Saturday) night. I met "J" in the Library on ave A and 1st for beer. Then "L" and I went off to Kush on Orchard Street, which was crowded, but it would have been nice. So we moved two doors down to this other place where I got completely wasted and forgot the name. Then some of us went to Sarafina on Lexington, and then off to Sugar in TriBeCa for more drinking. Sarafina and Sugar were so-so. We grabbed a limo on the street to travel around. A good time was had by all, and again I got home at an insane hour. (Yawn!)

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Parable about the UN

Imagine that the Unites States formed a Commission on Wife Beating. This commission was to be the main committee for the United States that would oversee arrests, information, education, and punishment for men who beat their wives. There was no other major organization that did this. This committee was made up of representatives from all the states, and was founded on the principle that all wives everywhere should be safe from abusive men.

That all sounds pretty noble, right?

So far, so good.

Now, this commission is working hard, and having lots of meetings, and working closely with law enforcement in the attempt to slowly curtail this national problem.

Then, a few months after the committee was formed blocks started emerge, and the political machinery starts to move. The southern states start to stick closely together. They refuse to let an investigation go on in their state because it would make them look bad as a a huge powerful voting block they can seriously impede any work in their states. So they focus all their energy and allow all the resources available to the committee to be used in making sure that all the attention goes to the northern states. No one can get any enforcement procedures going on in any other state.

But they are making some progress in some northern states.

Then a few months later there are rifts and other alliances that form. Some of the alliances are cultural, some racial, some religious, some economic, and some geographic. Before you know it New Jersey and California are the only states who are really under scrutiny. Because of this scrutiny the level of wife beating goes down. Not so much, because the commission is not all that powerful, but somewhat.

Wives are being murdered in Wyoming, and there are even special beaten-wife hospitals in Nevada. There is a sport that evolves in Texas whose main point is to see how many of your wife's fingers you can break with one hit of a baseball bat. But that gets ignored because of various racial and political wranglings.

And California is a rather large and powerful state, so nothing really happens there either. But New Jersey is tiny and no one really likes them anyway, so all of the committee's energies go in to attacking problems in New Jersey. Every husband in New Jersey, guilty or not, is under a microscope. When the committee is bored it just issues a warrant for some random husband in New Jersey.

Nothing really happened to the New Jersey husbands. But the state looks bad, and no one really wanted to marry men from New Jersey. Other states refused to do business with New Jersey based companies, and they all cited the overwhelming "evidence" the committee has to justify their discrimination against people from New Jersey.

After a while (to feminist screams of mysogeny) someone points out that there is something unfair going on. There are a lot of wives getting killed in other states who are getting ignored, while the New Jersey men are getting all the hassle. Moreover, doesn't this all point to a genuine problem? Should we not suspect that there is more going on then a desire to help wives? Doesn't this look like a way to get those loosers from New Jersey. After a while you would think that the point is not to help wives. If it was then they would be trying to help wives all over. More than that, you would start to doubt the veracity of any of their evidence. They seem to be just gunning for Jersey guys. Any incident in New Jersey is magnified so out of proportion because the committe has little to focus on and needs a constant outpouring of examples. Eventualy they even drop their pretexts and in a resolution declare that "living in Jersey makes men rapists".

Is an organization like that worth your trust? Would you, if you were interested in real justice, join such an organization?

Friday, December 06, 2002

I caught the last few minutes of an interview on CNN this morning with an important looking Saudi. I am not sure who he was, but I think he was being interviewed (I think by Wolf Blitzer). Anyway, he said something that struch me as typical of the way Saudi's see themselves, and I think offers a new definition of the word "chutzpah".

He was being asked about Saudi Arabia and terrorism, and he said that 1) bin Laden's original target was Saudi Arabia (which is true), and therefore Saudis and the Saudi Government deeply did not like him or his aims or goals (whcih cannot be true). Moreover, he claimed that there is no real evidence that Saudis had anything to do with flying planes in to the Twin Towers. But 15 of the 19 hijackers are saudi, Blitzer asked. To which this bujum responded: there were 15 saudis on the plane, but we have no evidence that they were at all responsible. Anyone on the plane could have done it. Why should we suspect that it was the Saudis?

It is the American prejudice that makes us assume this.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

The AP just announced that vandals broke into synagogue in SW France, ransacking main prayer hall, destroying holy books. What's new? It looks like the French and Germans have more in common than even they will admit.
Israel's president recently told an Italian newspaper that those behind the Mombasa bombing will have the same fate as Munich Olympic terrorists. Now operation wrath of God was pulled off really well. However it used to be Israel's style not to announce this stuff till AFTER it happened. Now we are going to have to listen to all these stupid human rights groups while about how terrorists are technically human, and as such they deserve better than extra-judicial assinations by Israel. I am still of course waiting for the pronouncements against the extra-judicial assinations of the victims. But I suspect AI has more important things on its plate then the fate of a few Jews in Kenya, who really can't be helped because they are already dead. So why advocate for them? The terrorists are still alive, and under pursuit, and thus in desperate need of shelter from all forms of punishment.
Extremists in Berlin have won approval to hold a demonstration in Berlin when Israel's president comes to visit next week. Germany is really starting to worry me these days. Germany really is trying to make up for the last 50 years of Israel making Germany feel guilty about that genocide that they committed during world war II. I fear that things will become much worse for Jews in Germany. I suspect that Germany will once again become one of the world's leading exporters of anti-semitism.
It is now snowing in New York. I really become a kid when it snows, though I was too preoccupied with thoughts about International migration (not mine, of course) this morning to play.
Though this did not get all that much press, there was mustard gas found in Iraq. It was expected, and known to be there. The inspectors were looking for signs of tampering and stuff. The lack of any big to-do suggests to me that all is in order so far. The UN really downplayed the significance, and so did the western press.

What should be completely unsurpirisng to students of Arab politics is when at the same time that all this was found there was some standard Iraqi damage-control. The spin doctors get up and do exactly what one would expect them to do when there is potential trouble. They attack The US and Israel. The attack in this case came in the form of a pronouncement that the UN is really a proxy for the US and the Zionists. The way to get the arab world to forget that you may have mustard gas that you will just as likely use on one of them is to claim that it is Israel's and the US's fault that it is there is the first place.

This is exactly what Iraq did during the gulf war. While under attack, it attacked Israel. As if to say "You see, we are just fighting Israel, why are you all worried about Kuait?". The palestinians believed him then, as did much of the arab world. This is no different.

The saddest thing is that this works.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

I am listening to the Saudi press conference about terrorism by Adel al-Jubeir. These are my notes.

I am now listening to the Saudi press conference talk about what a big victim Saudia Arabia is. Apparently that they have been the victim of at least four terrorist attacks since 1960. They also claim that they have been fighting terrorism since the beginning. They have also been unfairly maligned over the years. He is amazed that people can say with a straight face that "Saudi Arabia" is a breeding ground for terrorism".

This guy is amazing!!! He is really full of it.

He calims that all terrism by Qaida is against the US, Saudia Arabia, or a common interest. I wonder if he will still assert this if they discover a Qaida link to Kenya.

They have created sophisticated banking laws to be able to trace money.

He used the words "evil doer".

There are also new regulations requiring charities to be audited. Charities are part of their faith. And it would be very bad if the givers discover that their money is going to be spent killing Israelis.

He also just revealed that Saudis do not pay taxes. So what is their system for getting government revenue.

He used the word "Merciless" three times.

The guy is not a bad speaker though.

He blames everyone for 9/11, execpt Saudi Arabia. The soudis were "used for this". Pointing fingers and assigning blame is unproductive.

Monday, December 02, 2002

So England releases a dossier outlining a lot of brutality perpertrated by Saadam Heussain in Iraq, and instead of the applause you might expect from our good friends at Amnesty International, the first question they had: So why are you releasing this right now? They start accusing Britian of cold and calculating manipulations. There is no pleasing those barbarians who work for Amnesty. Where the hell were they all these years with information on Iraq? If they had said something (which they claim they did before the last war) then it would be common knowledge by now, and England wouldn't have to. It is too bad that they soft-petal the news that is too inconvenient for them. If they didn't then they should appreciate someone else doing it. The fact that they do not just tips their real agenda. They are just your average run-of-the-mill anti-American types. They just want control the rhetoric so that only THEY get to decide when there are human rights abuses and who is doing it.