< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://davejustus.com/" >

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Relief

Instapundit has a great list of charities you can donate to to help out. Give if you can.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Some more thoughts on Intelligent Design

I have noticed a resurgence of posts around the blogosphere on intelligent design again. Most are accompanied with assertions that anyone who is taught intelligent design will be less versed, and less knowledgeable in science, and that therefore if the U.S. were to allow such heresy to be taught our hopes of scientific advancement would be quashed for all time. I exaggerate, but only slightly. This seems to me to be pretty foolish. First off, as best as I recall, we spent maybe a month or two total out of all my high school education (at a pretty good school) covering evolution. The rest of High School biology was mostly learning classifications and cutting up dead animals. If someone who wanted a career in biological science failed to get a good grounding from their high school education, they could probably fill in the gaps with an afternoon of reading. However, even then I don't think that studying Intelligent Design would have that effect in any event. From what I understand of ID theory, and I don't claim to be an expert so correct me if I am wrong, evolution is necessary but not sufficient to explain the complexity of life on earth. Basically, ID theory boils down to the concept that their are gaps between what can be explained by random mutation and natural selection and that those gaps are best explained by the actions of an intelligent force. ID doesn't deny that evolution happens, rather evolution itself is integral to ID theory and to understand ID, you have to fairly completely understand evolution. This is part of the reason I am not an expert on the subject. Typically, when ID is criticized by pundits, what they are actually criticizing is Creationism, which pretty much denies that evolution occurs at all (this post by Ezra Klein is a good example of that.) Now, I do have some problems with ID. I am pretty unconvinced that an Intelligent Designer is more likely than a as yet undiscovered natural process to explain any of their specific evolutionary questions. It also appears to me, as a layman, that some of their critiques of evolutionary biology are mistaken and are satisfactorily explained by current science. Lastly, for those who find the theoretical Intelligent Designer to be evidence for God, I find that to be very poor theology. Any omnipotent being who mostly used natural processes (as the Designer postulated by intelligent design obviously does) must have a reason for doing so, and for keeping direct evidence of their existence hidden. The idea that such a being was able to mostly do this, but not completely strikes me as pretty weak, and would be a pretty pathetic God. If Christian fundamentalists were brighter, they would shun ID as a far more pernicious heresy than anything Darwin ever said. However, that is beside the point as to whether we should teach ID or not. While I disagree that a designer is necessarily the most likely explanation for things we do not understand, it is not, in and of itself, an unscientific explanation. There are many areas of science where we look speculate on likelihoods and probabilities. SETI is, in my opinion, science, and the concept of extra-terrestrial intelligent life and how we look for them is something that has a place in science classes. The existence of intelligent life, like that of the intelligent designer, is not falsifiable. Understanding the holes in current evolutionary theory, understanding that all is not yet explained and that more research needs to be done, is the key to understanding science. Science is a process of continually refining our understanding. It seems to me that ID teaches that quite well, and that any High School student who had a solid grounding in Intelligent Design theory would be better, not less, prepared for a career in Science, and particularly Biological Sciences, than one who did not.

Here there is no why

The Belmont Club offers another must read post:

The belief underlying those anti-war arguments was, in short, an unyielding faith in universal rationality. ... And, stirred by that antique idea, the anti-war Socialists gazed across the Rhine and simply refused to believe ... in a political movement whose animating principles were paranoid conspiracy theories, blood-curdling hatreds, medieval superstitions, and the lure of murder. At Auschwitz the SS said, 'Here there is no why.'
Read the whole thing.

New Orleans

CNN.com :

'The city of New Orleans is in a state of devastation,' Nagin told WWL TV on Monday night. 'We probably have 80 percent of our city underwater, with some sections of our city, the water is as deep as 20 feet.'

Harder than Diamond


Physicists in Germany have created a material that is harder than diamond. Natalia Dubrovinskaia and colleagues at the University of Bayreuth made the new material by subjecting carbon-60 molecules to immense pressures. The new form of carbon, which is known as aggregated diamond nanorods, is expected to have many industrial applications (App. Phys. Lett. 87 083106). The hardness of a material is measured by its isothermal bulk modulus. Aggregated diamond nanorods have a modulus of 491 gigapascals (GPa), compared with 442 GPa for conventional diamond. Dubrovinskaia and two of her co-workers - Leonid Dubrovinky and Falko Langenhorst - have patented the process used to make the new material. Diamond derives its hardness from the fact that each carbon atom is connected to four other atoms by strong covalent bonds. The new material is different in that it is made of tiny interlocking diamond rods. Each rod is a crystal that has a diameter of between 5 and 20 nanometres and a length of about 1 micron.
Materials Science and Engineering is a pretty unglamous field. We are seeing some amazing steps in a variety of areas though, and those advances will change our world dramatically.

World Shortest Personality Quiz

You are elegant, withdrawn, and brilliant. Your mind is a weapon, able to solve any puzzle. You are also great at poking holes in arguments and common beliefs. For you, comfort and calm are very important. You tend to thrive on your own and shrug off most affection. You prefer to protect your emotions and stay strong.
This is scarily accurate. (via Katinula)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Venezuela threatens action over Robertson remark

CTV.ca :

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his government will take legal action against U.S. evangelist Pat Roberton after he called for U.S. agents to kill him. Chavez said Venezuela might even seek to extradite Robertson. He also warned he would complain to the UN if the U.S. failed to take action. ... "I announce that my government is going to take legal action in the United States... to call for the assassination of a head of state is an act of terrorism," Chavez said in a televised speech.
Venezuela will of course get nowhere with legal action. Robertson's remarks were certainly well within the bounds of first ammendment protections. As to any action in the U.N., I can't think of a better way to make sure Robertson's supporters, who are not an insignifigant political force, don't forget why they don't like the U.N. anyway. This sort of thing is why many are leery of the International Criminal Court however.


It's Monday, so The Skeptical Optimist has new posts up. this one on debt and growth has a bit in that matches my philosophy quite closely:

Growth defeats poverty; growth improves both the human condition and the environment; growth eases or eliminates the interest burden of debt; growth results not from greed, but from benevolence; growth emerges best in free societies with free markets. The optimistic viewpoint is not only more fun, it has been a much better predictor of the future than the pessimistic viewpoint. That’s why I’m an optimist, that’s why I gave up on the doomsayers, and that’s why I talk about economic growth a lot in this weblog.
Optomism in many areas, not just economics, seems to me to be a far more realistic outlook on life than pessimism is. Read the rest of his post too, as always.

Democracy as a function of GDP?

Semi-Random Ramblings has a very interesting Blog post up:

Two political scientists, Adam Preworski and Fernando Limongi, looked at statistics for every country in the world for the last 60 years. In virtually every country in which democratization has succeeded — and we’re talking about countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Japan, S Korea, Taiwan — it has happened during a period where GDP per capita was between about $1,500 and $6,000. Those under $1,500 have lasted less than 8 years on average. In between $1,500 and $3,000, democracies last an average of 18 years. If their economies grow to $6,000 per capita GDP, they usually join the ranks of rich, free, democratic nations: historically, the chances of such a democracy failing is only 1 in 500. No free democracy has ever failed to stay free and democratic once it reached $9,000 GDP per capita; thirty-two democratic regimes have lasted around 800 combined years above that level. These numbers cut across many cultures and nations, and apply regardless of previous democratic experience. GDP per capita in Iraq was $2,100 in 2004. This year, it may break $3,000 as economic growth was 50% in 2004 and may be close to that in 2005. A lot has been quietly done behind the scenes to help that growth continue, such as the creation of an independent central bank, tax cuts, lifting of restrictive tariffs, a relatively stable currency, setting up systems to protect property rights, etc. History suggests these will ultimately be decisive in the question of whether Iraqi democracy succeeds.
I wasn't aware of that particular correlation between Democracy stability and GDP, although in a general sense, it is obvious that extreme poverty can certainly sideline a democracy. I am also though pretty open to the arguement that democratic institutions and freedom themselves drive economic growth to a large degree, so there may be some question of which comes first here. Regardless, economic growth in Iraq is a very good sign. (via Dean's World)

Egyptian bloggers

Sify.com. Very interesting, go check it out. (via Vodkapundit)

The Axis of Evel Knievel

Go check out this Riding Sun post about an Iranian daredevil who died trying a stunt on Saturday.

The future of Iraq

This Op-Ed from The Daily Telegraph sums up a lot of my opinions on the prospect for Democracy succeeding in Iraq (and also castigates BBC coverage.):

The Iraqis have a long way to go before their blueprint for a democratic future becomes a reality. But they are on their way to that goal. Hatred of President Bush, and scepticism about justifications for the presence of coalition troops in Iraq, seems to be blinding too many observers in Britain to the possibility that the US-led 'occupation' may yet turn out to be Iraq's salvation. It has made democracy possible in a situation where the only other options are the nightmares of tyranny and civil war. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis are desperately eager to make democracy in their country real. We should applaud them for their zeal.
I believe that democracy in Iraq will succeed because I believe in the people of Iraq. I believe that for the most part, they are good, decent people who, like us, want to live in freedom and have a civil society that guarantees their rights. Unlike us, they have not inherited this state from their forefathers. They will have to earn it, and build to with blood, sweat and tears. They will have to learn to trust one another, which may be the most difficult challenge of all given that their recent regime built its power by systematically destroying any trust in their society, leaving a legacy of fear and betrayal. This task is made even more difficult by foreign powers, some sovereign states and others non-state actors, that are determined to thwart any democracy in the region. They are willing to fund a bloody campaign, focused primarily against the Iraqi people themselves, in an effort to make sure that fear and hatred triumph over desires for individual liberty. Despite all that, the Iraqi people seem to be strong enough to overcome this threat. I read Iraqi blogs, and I observe dramatic evently like last January's elections. I certainly can't claim to fully understant the character or the resolve of the Iraqi people, but what I have seen impresses me to no end. I wonder if I would be as brave. I look at all of this, and it is clear to me which side is just, and which side is not. It is still possible of course that our hopes for Iraq will fail. That the liberation of Iraq will be followed by a cataclysmic civil war and we will long for the days when Saddam was in power. That could happen. I don't believe it will happen though.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Carrots Are For Rabbits

Gregory Scoblete explains in this TCS article why economic carrots or sticks won't have any effect on Iran or North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Military sticks still a possible deterent however. In Iran's case, if they were convinced we would attack them if they did not abandon their nuclear intentions, they would in fact probably abandon those programs. Of course, since we are probably not in fact willing to attack them if they don't disarm, convincing them of this will be difficult. Military action against North Korea is probably even less likely, although China's power over North Korea remains strong enough that it could force NK to abandon it's weapons. Our diplomatic efforts have been focused on getting China to do this, but so far we don't seem to have enough leverage to make this happen. My bet is that the one thing that would make China get motivated, and take decisive action, is a credible threat to arm Japan and South Korea with nukes as a result of North Korean nukes. This approach though has two difficulties. First, both Japan and South Korea would be tough to convince to go along with this. Secondly, the very concept of nuclear non-proliferation goes against using this approach.

Iraq's marshes recovering


A decade after Saddam Hussein had them drained to punish their occupants, the marshlands of southern Iraq, said to be the inspiration for the biblical Garden of Eden, are recovering at a “phenomenal rate” since Saddam's fall, the United Nations said Wednesday. New satellite imagery shows a rapid increase in water and vegetation cover in just the past three years, with the marshes rebounding to about 37 percent of the area they covered in 1970, up from about 10 percent in 2002, the United Nations Environment Program said in a report describing a multimillion dollar restoration project funded by Japan.
The draining of the marshes in Iraq was one of Saddam's gravest crimes. It is nice to see that some of this evil can be partially undone.


Gib at Crosblog has been on a roll recently. I keep wanting to comment on his posts, but find he has already said everything that needs to be said, and in a hilarious way as well. So click through and enjoy!

More on Iraqi Democracy

Michael Barone writes about reasons to not worry so much about an Iraqi Theocracy emerging. He also adds this, which expands on what I was trying to get at in the previous post:

Some have argued that Iraq is a poor testing ground for democracy in the Middle East because it has multiple sects and ethnic groups—the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. But I think the multi-sect, multi-ethnic character of Iraq is actually helpful in forging an acceptable democracy. It forces constitution-makers to confront squarely the age-old dilemma of representative government, how to reconcile majority rule with minority rights. In a mono-ethnic, mono-sect state, or one in which one group is the overwhelming majority (Shiite Iran, Sunni Egypt), that issue doesn't necessarily present itself, and you risk getting the tyranny of the majority that our own Founding Fathers strove to prevent.

Shiites Offer Compromise on Constitution

Guardian Unlimited:

Shiite negotiators have proposed a compromise to the Sunnis and Kurds to break the impasse over the new constitution and called it a final offer, a member of the Shiite committee said Friday. ``We have given the latest draft and we hope they respond today,'' Abbas al-Bayati told The Associated Press. ``We cannot offer more than that'' concerning federalism and efforts to remove top members of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath Party from government and political posts. He said the Shiites had proposed that the parliament that will be elected in December should be given the right to issue a law on the mechanism of implementing federalism. He gave no further details. The constitution provides for a federal state, one in which provinces would have significant powers in contrast to Saddam's regime in which Sunnis dominated a strong central government. The charter will allow any number of provinces to combine and form a federal state with broader powers. The Sunnis have demanded a limit of three provinces, the number the Kurds have in their self-ruled region in the north. The Sunnis have publicly accepted the continued existence of the Kurdish regional administration within its current boundaries.
The Federalism debate in Iraq is reminiscent of the issues the framers of our Constitution had in dealing with apportioning political power to large and small states. That issue nearly prevented our nation from forming and was only settled with great difficulty. I have no idea if this propossal by the Shiites will be acceptable to the Sunnis and Kurds or not. I hope it is, or that they will find another solution quickly. In some ways though, the very difficulty of resolving this issue may end up being a good thing. A constitution that is achieved with difficulty, may very well be more valuable to Iraqis than one that came easily. Every people must eventually earn their own freedom if they wish to be free. Resolving difficult politcal conflicts without resorting to violence is part of that earning, and the Iraqis who are doing this hard work are heros in my opinion.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gates of Fire

Michael Yon once again shows what reporting is. Go read it now.

Evil SUVs

Instapundit has a good post up about SUVs that makes a point I hadn't previously considered. Modern requirements for child safety seats, and the inability of children to sit in the front seat because of passenger side air bags have probably made SUVs dramatically more popular for many families, especially if you have more than 2 kids. I don't believe in demonizing anyone's consumption choices regardless off whether or not there is a good reason for those expenditures. The pursuit of happiness and all of that. We all spend money (which relates pretty closely to energy, and hence oil) in tons of foolish and inefficient ways. If it makes you happy, do it. Now, a seperate issue of course is making sure that any effects of one's consumption are properly translated economically, and one can make a decent arguement that gasoline consumption is not properly accounted for. However, if that is the case, it should be an increased tax on gas, rather than any specific penalties to SUVs. Using 20 gallons in a Prius is just as bad as using 20 gallons in an Explorer.

Spokane Mayor recall to move forward

Seattle Post Intellgencer:

The Washington state Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a judge's ruling that a recall petition against Spokane Mayor James West can proceed. Just hours after lawyers for West argued that the petition by Shannon Sullivan was factually and legally insufficient, the high court issued a three-sentence order affirming a lower court ruling that the document bearing a single abuse-of-office allegation could proceed to signature gathering. Full opinions on the matter were expected later. Sullivan filed her recall petition in May, shortly after The Spokesman-Review in Spokane published a series of articles detailing how West -- a conservative Republican, former state senator and longtime gay-rights opponent -- had been meeting men online for sex. Her petition alleges that West used his elected office for personal gain -- specifically, that West wrote a recommendation letter to help someone he believed to be an 18-year-old man get a City Hall internship. The teen turned out to be a computer forensics expert hired by The Spokesman-Review.
I don't follow local politics very closely, and since I don't actually live in the Spokane City limits I won't be voting on this but this is a bit troubling to me. Basically, it seems he is being convicted of being gay. I am pretty sure that if he had done the same thing with an 18 yo girl, nothing would have happened, and I don't think that is right. Of course in addition to this specific charge, there are also rumors floating around about child molestation that occured years ago when he was a Policeman. Certainly if any evidence of such a crime was available, he should not only be forced out of office but sent to jail. As far as I know though there is no actionable evidence on that. I am pretty sure if West doesn't resign he will be recalled.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sharks with freakin laser beams attached to their heads!


A U.S. Pentagon invention could make air combat resemble a battle scene from the movie 'Star Wars' with a laser so small it can fit on a fighter jet, yet powerful enough to knock down an enemy missile in flight. The High Energy Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS), being designed by the Pentagon's central research and development agency, will weigh just 750 kg (1,650 lb) and measures the size of a large fridge. To date, such lasers have been so bulky because of the need for huge cooling systems to stop them overheating, that they had to be fitted to large aircraft such as jumbo jets, New Scientist magazine reported on Wednesday. But the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency reckons it has solved the problem by merging liquid and solid state lasers to cut the size and weight by 'an order of magnitude', according to its Web site.
Ok, they arn't quite ready to be fitted to Selachimorpha yet, however this is pretty cool anyway.

Robertson and Chavez assassination

As you probably know, Pat Roberston called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the semi-democratically elected leader of Venezuala, and he is getting pilloried by both the right and the left on this. Let me first say, that if Chavez were to accidently fall out of window, I would not be horribly broken up about it. He is a fairly bad guy, and I have no sympathy for him. There are lot of good reasons politically for our no assassination policy, not the least being that we don't want other nations trying to assassinate our leaders. Since we are probably only marginally better at assassinations than many other nations, and our significantly better than anyone else at conventional war, keeping conflicts between nations on a conventional, rather than unconventional level is in our best interests. Beyond that, from a utilitarian standpoint, it seems unlikely to me that assassinating Chavez would improve the situation for the people of Venezuela or make that nation more likely to cooperate with the U.S. in the future. Additionally, it would probably not help our relations with any other nation either. Even if the assassination of Chavez could be performed without creating any links to the U.S., killing a leader usually makes that leaders allies stronger, rather than weaker. However, I find that the some of the criticism of Robertson on this seems unwarrented. Many are calling his remarks 'un-Christian.' I don't know that that criticism is appropriate. Certainly it is not clear to me that assassination would be precluded by the Christian faith. Robertson was clearly calling for an assassination as a alternate to a war, and equally clearly he seems to believe that a war on Venezuela would be a 'just war.' If a war against Venezuala would be a 'just war' according to Christian doctrine, which is an arguable point but certainly not entirely unreasonable, then presuming assassination would accomplish what the war was designed to accomplish it seems to be that it would be quite justifiable to call for an assassination of Chavez instead of a war. I think Roberston is very wrong about the utility of assassinating Chavez, in that it would not have the desired effect and would have huge negative consequences. I could be persuaded that a war with Venezuela was just from a moral point of view, although I think it very hard to justify the cost to our nation. In other words, it may well be moral but not in our self interest. Unless both are true a war is unsustainable. Certainly there is also the question of capabilities since much of our military force is tied down in Iraq. So I think Robertson is wrong, but I don't think he is wrong for the reason many claim he is.

Back from Vacation

I am back from my vacation. Blogging will resume shortly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Summer Rides

Your Summer Ride is a Mustang Convertible
You're out to experience the very best of summer. From the best beaches to the best tan, you want it all!
Speaking of summer, I on vacation for next week or so. Blogging will be light to non-existant during this time.

Liberal and Conservative Cities

Bay Area Center for Voting Research Spokane is the 94th most conservative city in America and the 143rd most liberal city. Detroit is the most liberal and Provo, Utah is the most conservative. I don't have any personal expirience with Detroit, but I can vouch for Provo's rating.

Good News from Iraq

Arther Chrenkof has another of his good news posts up. Be sure to check out all the stories that you would otherwise miss.

Public employee unions rule--or do they?

Michael Barone talks about public employee unions:

The big increase in public employee union membership started in the 1960s. I remember reading then a critical account of that trend, I believe by the eminent (then and now) political scientist James Q. Wilson. If public employee union members, the account argued, can elect their managements, then the adversarial relationship assumed between labor and management will no longer obtain—and the union members, with an open line to the taxpayers, will make out like banditti. I wanted to believe this was not so, at the time, and tried to make all kinds of arguments against it—but never really succeeded. Now we see the consequences, for the taxpayers and ultimately for the voters.
You definately want to read the rest.

Welcome to Cyberpunk II

Wired News:

Human bones can shatter in accidents, or they can disintegrate when ravaged by disease and time. But scientists may have a new weapon in the battle against forces that damage the human skeleton. Carbon nanotubes, incredibly strong molecules just billionths of a meter wide, can function as scaffolds for bone regrowth, according to researchers led by Robert Haddon at the University of California at Riverside. They have found a way to create a stronger and safer frame than the artificial bone scaffolds currently in use. Human bones are both organic and inorganic. The organic part is made of collagen, the most abundant protein in mammals. The inorganic component is hydroxyapatite, a type of calcium crystal. The collagen forms a sort of natural scaffold over which the calcium crystals organize into bone. The idea in Haddon's research is to use the nanotubes as substitutes for the collagen to promote new bone growth when bones have been broken or worn down. Haddon and his team chemically treated carbon nanotubes to attract hydroxyapatite in work they published in the June 14 issue of Chemistry of Materials. 'This is nice work,' said James Mitchell Tour, a chemistry professor at Rice University. 'Anything you can do to take care of people's bones by augmenting the mineralization process is a big deal. It's really nice to see nanotubes being used to function like that.'
I believe in Cyberpunk they called this a bone graft. Always a good idea to get before you enhance your muscles so you don't shatter your own bones. (via Instapundit)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Iraq constitution deadline extended


Iraq's National Assembly voted unanimously Monday to extend for a week the deadline to complete talks on the country's new constitution. The committee drafting the document asked for an extension after it failed to reach a compromise by Monday's deadline after months of talks. The new deadline is August 22. Without the extension, the government would have dissolved, requiring new elections in December and starting the process again, a prospect the United States has strongly opposed.
On one hand, this is a setback as the deadline wasn't met and until Iraq has a constitution further political progress is impossible. However, extension isn't giving up, and there is every chance that the Iraqi's will find a solution to their remaining issues. It took a long time, and not a little genius, for our founding fathers to hit upon the compromises that enables 13 reletively similary colonies to form a union. Iraq's challenges are more severe and no one should have expected this process to be easy. From what I can tell, lots of progress has been although the thorniest issues remain. It is also worth remembering that they very seriousness way the Iraqi people and the delegates are treating this process is itself a good sign.

"We have broken the barrier of fear"

This Washington Post Op-Ed is a must read. (h/t Fine? Why Fine?) Every totalitarian regime exists at the mercy of it's people. These leaders know that, and they work hard to ensure that the 'barrier of fear' appears at least to be a solid unbreachable wall. It is always more fragile than it appears, which is why sudden changes can, seemingly without warning, sweep a regime from power. We can help people break this barrier of fear. First and foremost of course is the U.S. diplomatic and military power which is being focused on promoting democracy world wide. Something that I am immensely proud to see. Second though, individualy we can be involved by donating to various democracy promotion groups and also by spreading the word of democracy movements all over the world. One of my blog links is The Volodymer Campaign which is dedicated to free speech and democracy in the former Soviet Union. I also recieved an email this weekend from a group called Student's for Global Democracy which has some great information on struggles all over the world. Both are certainly worthy of a little attention. In addition, I stongly urge you to support Spirit of America if you can. Knowing that they are not forgotten, can be a tremendous moral support to the brave heroes who confront tyrannical regimes, and knowing they are being watch can be a force of restraint against those regimes. We who sit and pontificate about the world from behind our computer screens, safely protected by rights that others can only dream of, owe those brave heroes at least the dignity of not being forgotten.

Indonesian Government, Aceh Rebels Sign Peace Deal

VOA News:

The Indonesian government and rebels from the Free Aceh Movement signed a historic peace deal in the Finnish capital Helsinki Monday to officially end a nearly three-decade old conflict. Attention will turn now to how the deal is implemented. Both the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, say they are optimistic this peace agreement will hold. But during the signing ceremony, the self-styled GAM prime minister in exile and chief negotiator, Malik Mahmud, expressed some concerns. Mr. Malik says GAM cannot rely on the government to disarm militias allegedly funded by the military, because it denies their existence. 'The Free Aceh Movement expresses its deep concern over the continuing presence of TNI proxy militias in Aceh, despite the signing of the Aceh peace agreement,' he said. 'The government has since denied that any militias exist in Aceh, hence the logic follows, there is no need for their disarmament.' Earlier truces between the two warring factions ended in renewed conflict. But the December tsunami that ravaged Indonesia's Aceh province also brought the two sides back to the negotiating table.
Obviously a lot still needs to be done before we can call this a permantent peace, but it is a very good sign. I don't know enough about the history of this conflict to opine about who is more at fault historically or how just any of the demands of either side are. I also don't know how much that matters.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

Varifrank has great post up on Cindy Sheehan and her protest. This is yet another issue I haven't commented on, I am loathe to criticize the way a woman deals with greif over the loss of her son. However, I think I will criticize those who are supporting and encouraging her. They cannot take the line that they are grieving so it is ok. They cannot use grief as an excuse and we can, and should, evaluate their truthfulness and morals. Simply put, they are using a woman's grief to advance their cause. They are lying and distorting the truth in pursuit of this cause and they are dishonoring the choices of a noble soldier who heroically served his country. Cindy Sheehan is probably distraught and I do not hold her personally responsible for her actions in this matter. Those who have used her distraught grief for their own purposes though are morally repugnant. (via The Anchoress)

Able Danger

I haven't commented on the whole Able Danger thing, because I really didn't think it was a huge deal. It is patently obvious that throughout the 90's we were unprepared for a terror attack and we simple we not paying enough attention to terrorists. There were a number of policies and procedures in place that made it difficult for law enforcement to effectively deal with this issue, and probably more importantly, there simply wasn't much institutional 'glory' to be gained by this field. And, unlike many I don't blame Clinton or anyone else for this. I blame myself and pretty much every other American. In the 90s things were good, our only competitor on the world stage militarily had imploded, the economic engines of Japan and Europe had stalled out, while we were booming and life was generally sweet. We were complacent and let our vigilance lapse. Clinton may well have been a symptom of that attitude, but he was not the cause of it. However, this Investor's Business Daily peice on this issue is striking, and important:

Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the 9-11 commission, said the commission 'did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9-11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell . . . Had we learned of it, obviously it would've been a major focus of our investigation.' But they did learn of it. The New York Times reports that the 9-11 commission staff had the Able Danger data but decided not to share it with the panel members because the information sounded inconsistent with what they thought they knew about Atta.
Let's just look at that again for a moment. The 9-11 commission staff, whose primary job was to find out why our intelligence agencies had failed to idendify and counter a signifigant threat ignored information because it did not fit it's pre-concieved notion of the facts. And this isn't a minor, tiny, bit of info. This is a critical peice of information directly connected to the attacks and central to the question of what sort of policies were, in hindsight at least, a terrible mistake. But it didn't fit what they thought they knew. Probably more intelligence failures are a result of that mindset then anything else. It is an easy mistake to make, but it is also a well known danger, and the one place making this mistake seems absolutely inexcusable is as part of a commission investigating an intelligence mistake. This naturally makes me wonder what else 'didn't fit.'

Gaza settlers' greenhouses to be handed to Palestinians


A private foundation has raised $14 million to buy most of the greenhouses in Jewish settlements in Gaza, a representative of former Israeli Knesset member Yossi Beilin said Friday. The Economic Cooperation Foundation will transfer the money to the settlers and the greenhouses will be handed over to the Palestinian Authority. The money was raised by International Quartet special envoy James Wolfensohn, a former World Bank president who also contributed $500,000 of his money. Beilin is one of the heads of the foundation and was involved in the talks. The announcement of the deal comes three days before the Israeli government will officially inform 9,000 Israeli Jews in 21 settlements in Gaza and four small settlements in the West Bank that they must leave as part of the government's disengagement plan.
Wolfensohn did a very good thing here, and I applaud it. However, I am willing to bet that within a year these greenhouses will be largely inoperative. The Gaza pullout will be good for Israel, in my opinion. In the long term, it will probably be good for Palestinians as well. In the short term, I expect conditions in the newly liberated territories to be terrible.

Rafsanjani 'astonished'

Reuters.com: Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Friday he was astonished at the unanimity of a call by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog for Iran to halt enrichment activities, calling it a cruel decision. In a resolution on Thursday, the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unanimously asked Iran to resume suspension of all nuclear fuel related activities and asked the agency to verify compliance by Tehran. 'It was astonishing and really strange...that eventually what Europeans and America wanted was approved with unanimity. How is it possible?' Rafsanjani told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University. 'We didn't think that an international organization, before the eyes of the whole world, would sanction that Iran should stop everything,' he added in a sermon broadcast live on state radio. 'The decision was a cruel one.' Iran, which has denied Western accusations that its atomic programme is a front for covert bomb-making, resumed work at its uranium conversion plant in Isfahan on Monday. Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council which arbitrates on legislative disputes between parliament and a hardline watchdog body, said Iran's decision to resume uranium conversion was irreversible. 'I am telling you to know that you could not treat Iran like Iraq or Libya,' Rafsanjani told worshippers who chanted 'death to America.'See how totally unlike Iraq or Libya they are? When Iraq and Libya chanted 'death to America' they used a 4/4 beat while Iranian use a 3/4 beat. Obviously they are entirely different. And the only reason Rafsanjani could possibly be astonished by this decision is if someone welched on a bribe he had paid them. I will however be astonished if any actual substantive measures are taken by the U.N. against Iran. Substantive measures start at a complete trade embargo.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bin Laden can win in so many ways...

Random Gemini posts this Guardian piece about ubiquitous video surveilance and technological identification methods. Pretty interesting, and there is a lot that I could say about that. I am not going to though, at least not in this post. What has prompted this post is the last sentence:

Either way, Bin Laden would have won.
I am really, really tired of that particular argument. Bin Laden is not out to cause us pain or make us lose our liberty in some abstract fashion. Bin Laden won't win if we video tape each other constantly and have law enforcement watching us in the showers. He won't have won if we end up destroying the earth from Global Warming or if Abortion is outlawed, or Gay Marriage legalized or any other of a thousand other things that people don't like and that might concievably occur in the future. Bin Laden only wins if he gets what he wants, which is, in more or less this order, removal of all Western forces from Islamic lands, the re-establishment of the Caliphate, and eventual subjugation of the Earth under Islamic Law. Those are 'wins' for Bin Laden. Cops tracking us with our cell phones is not. Now, just because something is not a win for Bin Laden doesn't mean it is a good thing, and certainly it is fair to argue that making Bin Laden lose does not require a certain price or the relinquishing of a given liberty. Hopefully we can stop making these stupid Bin Laden wins arguments soon. If we don't Bin Laden wins. (If you want to comment on the actual ubiquitous Camera issue I recommend clicking through to Random Gemini's post and commenting on that there.)

You can't miss the bear

Big Cat Chronicles reviews the Weeds premier. Weeds is the best thing I have seen on TV in a long time. It was extremely smart and funny. I highly recommend it.


Lileks is in rare form here:

The Presbyterian church - not the members, but the learned elders - has announced it will use the church’s stock holdings to target Israel for being mean to the Palestinians. But they’re not anti-Semites. Heavens, nay. Don’t you dare question their philosemitism! No, they looked at the entire world, including countries that lop off your skull if you convert to Presbyterianism, and what did they chose as the object of their ire? A country the size of a potato chip hanging on the edge of a region noted for despotism and barbarity. By some peculiar coincidence, it just happens to be full of Jews.
Anti-Semitism strikes me as the best objective evidence for the existence of Satan. For no particularly discernable reason, all sorts of people seem to go out of their way to hate Jews. Other than 'the devil made me do it' it is sometimes hard to fathom why. It is not particularly hard for me to be disgusted by this behavior though.

The Unstoppable IED

The Unstoppable IED offers some very useful perspective on how war evolves. Be sure to read this one.

Baghdad Mayor Is Ousted by a Shiite Group and Replaced

New York Times:

Armed men entered Baghdad's municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city's mayor and installed a member of Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia. The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d'etat. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life. 'This is the new Iraq,' said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. 'They use force to achieve their goal.'
I saw this yesterday and refrained from posting on it until I had thought through what it means and what it's implications are likely to be. First off, while it isn't exactly a positivie development, and not the way I would like to see things done, it isn't exactly a coup either. The basis of this seems to be a pretty ineffective mayor and a provincial government that covers the same territory being at odds with each other. Basically it is like a city council kicking out a mayor. Now, it is probably not legal, but it isn't armed thugs taking over either. There was no violence and while al-Tamini claims to be in fear of his life, it is hard to evaluate how rational that fear is (to an extent, any politician in Iraq is in danger, but not, so far as I can tell, from those behind this particular event. I am confident that the Iraqi's will figure out how to handle this and that it isn't something we need to be majorly worried over.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A dying man's cry for freedom in Iran

Los Angeles Times:

Investigative journalist Akbar Ganji has been on a hunger strike since June 11 to protest his unwarranted imprisonment over the last five years for the crime of criticizing the theocratic thugs who have hijacked his country. Recently, he has been moved from prison to a hospital, where he is said to be at death's door. His condition is so perilous that even his advocate — lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi — has urged him to end his fast, but he has so far refused. Having lost a great deal of weight, he is apparently being kept alive only by intravenous fluids. Ganji deserves to become as famous as Nelson Mandela, Andrei Sakharov, Vaclav Havel, Aung San Suu Kyi and other dissidents who put their lives on the line against injustice. Yet, while Ganji's mistreatment has been protested by the U.S. and by every major international human rights organization, the only U.S. newspaper regularly covering his ordeal is the tiny New York Sun. According to LexisNexis, there have been more than 1,000 media mentions in the last month of Natalee Holloway, the teenager who disappeared in Aruba, and fewer than 400 of Ganji. One could argue that the fate of one man doesn't matter much compared with the larger issue of whether Iran will go nuclear. But the two are intertwined. The reason why the United States and even the European Union are so concerned about Iran's weapons is the nature of its regime.
It is disappointing that Ganji's story isn't being told by more media. It seems plenty dramatic enough, and Iran is certainly topical. Hopefully the media will change it's mind and give this story more air. It would be a worthy contribution.

Halt nuclear work, Russia tells Tehran

The Australian:

Russia, the main foreign ally in Iran's effort to develop nuclear energy, has called on Tehran to suspend 'without delay' its nuclear fuel conversion work, saying the halt would not undermine its civilian nuclear power program. Russia's appeal came as the UN nuclear watchdog cancelled a meeting in Vienna because diplomats remained locked in closed-door talks on an EU proposal to stop the work, which has raised concerns that Tehran is trying to pursue a nuclear weapons program. 'The wise decision would be to stop work that has begun on uranium conversion without delay,' the Russian Foreign Ministry said. 'We are convinced the situation that has arisen now has not gone beyond the point of no return. With goodwill it can be corrected.' Russia plays a crucial role in Iran's nuclear power efforts, and has led the project for construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr.
It is difficult to judge what this means at this point. Russia could just be making so noise to play nice with Europe, or this could be an extremely serious warning to Iran that it has crossed the line and will get no diplomatic cover from Russia on this. As always, Diplomacy is maze of public pronouncements and back channel messages, and we only get a small portion of the picture. However, we can be pretty sure that this anouncement from Russia doesn't hurt, and it may well be very signifigant in helping the situation. I dislike the Iranian regime greatly. They are bad people and are doing bad things. Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that absent nuclear weapons, we are best off waiting for internal change even though the cost of that decision is people being ground under the Mullah's boot. A nuclear Iran is a different situation though. I do not think we can tolerate that.

Fuel's gold


Most people would agree that the United States needs a new source of fuel: something renewable and nonpolluting with which to replace gasoline ... something that could be produced right here at home. Deep in America's heartland, a lot of people think they know the answer: ethanol, a fuel made from fermented corn. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, you can get about 21/2 gallons of it from a bushel of corn. And an increasing number of states are working to make an 85 percent ethanol fuel called E85 available at gas stations at prices significantly below that of regular gasoline ... even when you account for the fact that ethanol provides only 62 percent of the mileage of gasoline. It sounds like a perfect, win-win solution for both the nation's farm economy and its energy needs. According to the National Corn Growers Association, ethanol production could make 1.4 billion bushels of corn 'disappear' in 2004 ... enough to replace more than 2 billion gallons of gasoline and provide a much-needed market for farmers stricken with chronically low corn prices. There's just one catch: According to scientists in New York and California, it takes more energy to make ethanol than you get back in fuel savings. More precisely, says David Pimentel of Cornell University, it takes the equivalent of 1.29 gallons of gasoline to produce enough ethanol to replace one gallon of gasoline at the pump. Instead of making the nation more energy self-sufficient, ethanol production actually increases our need for oil and gas imports, Pimentel says.
The article also mentions TANSTAAFL, which if you are not familiar with will cost you some major geek points. Fascinating stuff. Basically, what it boils down to is if there was an efficient way to produce energy someone would be doing it and we wouldn't need government subsidies. I believe we will find better ways of producing energy. Technological advances in solar power show promise, and biological and nano-manufacture may dramatically change our enegry efficiencies altering the entire equation. As oil becomes scarcer, economic incentives for developing this sort of technology will dwarf anything that governments could offer. That doesn't mean we should ignore signs of increasing oil scarcity entirely. Increased education, particularly in science and engineering would be a great investment toward developing alternate energy sources. Certainly an x-prize type contest to stimulate imaginations and encourage exploration of the bounds of the possible would also not be out of place. However, pumping tax dollars into inefficient energy sources to allow them to compete economically will never help us achieve energy independence. (via Dead Parrot Society)



A Chinese artist who grafted the head of a human fetus onto the body of a bird has defended his work as art after a Swiss museum withdrew the piece from an exhibit. 'It's precisely because I respect all life that I did this,' artist Xiao Yu said Tuesday. He said the bird and fetus 'died because there was something wrong with them. ... I thought putting them together like this was a way for them to have another life.'
Warning for those with weak stomachs, the link has a small picture of this artwork and it is freakish to say the least. All I could think about seeing this article was, Jack Nicholson's line from Batman, "I don't know if it's art, but I like it." I don't like this art, and I think that the man who made it is about as sane as Nicholson's Joker.

Lend a click

Chris Muir of Day by Day is asking for some help. It won't cost you anything, so click on through for him.

Carnival of the Vanities #151

Generic Confusion is hosting the Carnival of the Vanities #151. Go check it out for some diversity in your blog reading.



A South Korean man who played computer games for 50 hours almost non-stop died of heart failure minutes after finishing his mammoth session in an Internet cafe, authorities said on Tuesday. The 28-year-old man, identified only by his family name Lee, had been playing online battle simulation games at the cybercafe in the southeastern city of Taegu, police said. Lee had planted himself in front of a computer monitor to play on-line games on August 3. He only left the spot over the next three days to go to the toilet and take brief naps on a makeshift bed, they said. 'We presume the cause of death was heart failure stemming from exhaustion,' a Taegu provincial police official said by telephone.
I have a few friends I worry about this happening to. Hopefully they will take a lesson from this tradgedy!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Zero Tolerance Makes Zero Sense

Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

In the Washington area, several civic groups, public health organizations and government agencies have teamed up for a campaign called Party Safe 2005. You may have heard the ads on local radio stations in prom season, warning parents that law enforcement would be taking a zero-tolerance approach to underage drinking. The commercials explicitly said that even supervised parties -- such as those where parents collect the keys of partygoers -- wouldn't be spared. Parents would risk jail time and a fine of $1,000 per underage drinker. Not only do such uncompromising approaches do little to make our roads safer, they often make them worse. The data don't lie. High school kids drink, particularly during prom season. We might not be comfortable with that, but it's going to happen. It always has. The question, then, is do we want them drinking in their cars, in parking lots, in vacant lots and in rented motel rooms? Or do we want them drinking at parties with adult supervision, where they're denied access to the roads once they enter?
Supervision of underage drinking is an interesting issue. It certainly straddles the line between protecting kids and actively promoting an illegal activity. If I was a parent of a teen, I certainly would prefer just about anything to drinking and driving, but I don't know that I would be happy with another parent actively serving my kid alcohol without my permission either. I know though that I dislike the methods anti-alcohol advocates use to try and sell sobriety to kids. I think that their are some good biological reasons for young people not to drink, and certainly one can give very good reasons for not drinking to excess. However, the fact is that drinking is an enjoyable activity that can make uncomfortable social situations (and that is a definition of a teens entire life) easier. Pretending that alcohol is not enjoyable or will make them have less fun is just a way to ensure that kids won't trust what you say, because it is a flat out lie.

Turtles all the way down

This op-ed is well worth reading for anyone caught up in the Evolution vs. I.D. culture wars.

Why Tolerate the Hate? - New York Times

Irshad Manji writes in the New York Times:

Neither the watery word 'tolerance' nor the slippery phrase 'mutual respect' will cut it as a guiding value. Why tolerate violent bigotry? Where's the 'mutual' in that version of mutual respect? Amin Maalouf, a French-Arab novelist, nailed this point when he wrote that 'traditions deserve respect only insofar as they are respectable - that is, exactly insofar as they themselves respect the fundamental rights of men and women.' ... Which brings me to my vote for a value that could guide Western societies: individuality. When we celebrate individuality, we let people choose who they are, be they members of a religion, free spirits, or something else entirely. I realize that for many Europeans, "individuality" might sound too much like the American ideal of individualism. It doesn't have to. Individualism - "I'm out for myself" - differs from individuality - "I'm myself, and my society benefits from my uniqueness." Of course, there may be better values than individuality for Muslims and non-Muslims to embrace. Let's have that debate - without fear of being deemed self-haters or racists by those who twist multiculturalism into an orthodoxy. We know the dangers of taking Islam literally. By now we should understand the peril of taking tolerance literally.
Personally, I am pretty happy with the American ideal of individualism, but I'll take this Individualism as a step up from Multi-Culteralism. We can argue sometimes about what is and is not a fundamental right of men and women. There are some areas of contention. However, it is clear that some traditions, the philosophy of Al-Qaida being a prime example, are not even close. We don't have to even guess if they meet our minimum standards or not. There are many nations in the world that this is true of. Robert Mugabe does not respect the fundamental rights of men and women. Neither does Kim Jung Il. The societies these men have created are not just another alternative, they are wrong. Tolerance of thugery is no virtue.

MI5 worried about insurgency in Britian?

Independent Online Edition:

Intelligence chiefs are warning Tony Blair that Britain faces a full-blown Islamist insurgency, sustained by thousands of young Muslim men with military training now resident in this country. The grim possibility that the two London attacks were not simply a sporadic terror campaign is being discussed at the highest levels in Whitehall. Fears of a third strike remain high this weekend, based on concrete evidence supplied by an intercepted text message and the interrogation of a terror suspect being held outside Britain, say US reports. As police and the security services work to prevent another cell murdering civilians, attention is focusing on the pool of migrants to this country from the Horn of Africa and central Asia. MI5 is working to an estimate that more than 10,000 young men from these regions have had at least basic training in light weapons and military explosives.
My guess is that while they are wise to look at the possibility, there isn't much chance that a full blown insurgency, like what is going on in Iraq, will appear in Britain. However, occassional bombings seem likely for the immediate future, with an impact likely to be at least as great as that of the IRA in it's prime. Does that qualify as an insurgency? I don't know. In some ways, it is hard to justify even the Iraqi insurgency as a traditional insurgency. Despite all the damage they are doing, unlike other insurgencies or guerilla wars they don't seem to have any realistic political goals. While they might force the U.S. to leave Iraq, and propel the region into a civil war, they cannot seriously expect to be able to rule Iraq. Perhaps chaos is a good enough goal for them, certainly it would facilitate the establishment of terrorist training camps there, but it seems to me that the insurgency in Iraq is struggle for it's own sake. Political theatre performed with blood. In that sense, a similar nihilistic movement within Britain does not seem impossible. via Michael Totten on Instapundit, who also links to this post by a Lebanese blogger wondering why there is no Jihad against China:
Little says more about al Qaeda being a bunch of little punks obsessed with hitting the big guy (the US and the West) than their lack of adherence to their ideology. If al Qaeda truly wanted to make the world a better place for Muslims, the US would not be the first country they would attack. Muslims live incredibly free and profitable lives in the United States. And Muslims can be seen thriving in all areas of employment and life as shopkeepers, doctors, artists, and professors. But in China, this is not the case. Muslims are horribly oppressed by the Chinese government. The Chinese government is officially atheist and has no problem toppling every pillar of Islam. Chinese cuisine is packed with pork, and alcohol is a popular commodity (okay, that's not really a kep point). The Chinese government indirectly supports the genocide of Muslims in Darfur (albeit by other Muslims).
I suspect, what it comes down to is that Al Qaida is pretty sure the Chinese would not be agonizing about conditions at Gitmo. Terrorism can be defeated by governments who are willing to be more brutal than the terrorists they are combating, that is clear. I hope there is another way, but we should remember, if it comes to it, we know how to win.

Chavez: U.S. will 'bite the dust' if it invades


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told thousands of visiting students that if U.S. forces were to invade the South American country, they would be soundly defeated. The U.S. government has strongly denied Chavez's claims that it is considering military action against Cuba's closest ally in the Americas. But Chavez said late Monday that the U.S. government, which 'won't stop caressing the idea of invading Cuba or invading Venezuela,' should be warned of the consequences. 'If someday they get the crazy idea of coming to invade us, we'll make them bite the dust defending the freedom of our land,' Chavez said to applause.
Doubtless, it would be the 'mother of all battles.' I think it pretty safe to assume that Chavez is entirely convinced that we have no plans to invade, and thus feels very safe to talk tough. The fact is, we could easily and quickly defeat Venezuala's military and depose Chavez if we wanted to. As we have seen in Iraq, controlling and occupying a nation is difficult, but taking out conventional military and leadership is easy with our technology and military.

Discovery is home


The space shuttle Discovery touched down Tuesday morning, completing NASA's first shuttle mission since Columbia broke apart during re-entry in February 2003. The shuttle landed at 5:11 a.m. PT at NASA's secondary landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California. As commander Eileen Collins brought the orbiter to a stop on runway 22, NASA spokesman James Hartsfield stated, 'Discovery is home.'
Congratulations to the crew of the Discovery.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Evolution and God

The director of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis Collins, did a show with Tucker Carlson about evolution and Intelliegent design. Transcript:

We live at a tragic time when it comes to this debate. We have scientists arguing on the basis of their study of the natural world that there is no god. And they're committing a falsifment on the other side of the gap we have fundamentalist views saying science is dangerous. Evolution can't be right because god wouldn't have done it that way. The first book of the Bible says something different and the gap gets wider and wider and it must break god's heart, because, I believe in the middle is a wonderful harmony where you can both accept the tools of science. I mean, after all, we have laws and theories and ways of understanding things and if god is real, he must be the author of them so he shouldn't be threatened by them. Right? We have the tools of science to understand nature and the tools of faith to understand god and our relationship to him. Then you're in the best of all places. You can bring together that scientific world view and the spiritual world view into a harmony and that harmony seems to have escaped an awful lot of these polarized debates. It would be my hope that we can bring those back together.
That is where I stand on this debate. Belief in evolution in no way precludes belief in God. Too many on both sides of this debate have distorted what is known, and tried to expand the realm of their personal, preferred epistomology into realms that are unapplicable to that epistomology in an effort to buttress their own philosophical beliefs. My view though, is that for all the publicity those who are trying to inject religion into science get, those who are trying to inject science into religion do more damage.

No surprise..


The former head of the U.N. oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, was accused on Monday of getting nearly $150,000 in kickbacks funneled to him by a relative of former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The U.N.-established Independent Inquiry Committee, headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, recommended U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan waive immunity for 'purposes of a criminal investigation' of Sevan. But Sevan, who has denied any wrongdoing, resigned from the United Nations on Sunday, which automatically lifts his immunity. In its third interim report, the panel also accused a U.N. purchasing officer, Alexander Yakovlev, of soliciting a bribe from a contractor that did business with the now-defunct $67 billion U.N. humanitarian program for Iraq. According to the inquiry, Sevan worked with a cousin of Boutros-Ghali, Egyptian Fakhry Abdelnour, who owned a small trading firm, called African Middle East Petroleum (AMEP). This firm transferred $580,000 to the account of Fred Nadler, the brother of Boutros-Ghali's wife Leia. Of this amount, Nadler then deposited in cash $147,184 to the New York bank accounts of Sevan and his wife.
It has seemed pretty obvious to me for a while now that Sevan was involved in the Oil-for-Food corruption. Sevan of course is also a close ally of Kofi Annan, and there are certainly indications that Annan may also be involved in this scandal as well. Whether any evidence of that will be produced by Volcker's commission remains to be seen.

Telegraph | News | Iran 'resumes nuclear work'


Iran has resumed uranium conversion in a move which EU officials have warned will probably see its nuclear case sent to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said: 'The uranium conversion facility in Isfahan has started its activities under IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) supervision.' Iran agreed to suspend all nuclear fuel work last November as part of a deal with the EU while both sides explored a long-term arrangement for Iran's nuclear programme. But Tehran has complained about the slow pace of the negotiations and on Saturday rejected an EU proposal offering it economic and political incentives to halt nuclear fuel work for good.
Sanctions, if they even are passed by the Security Council will not work. The world had greater reason and precedence to fear Saddam's WMD aspirations, and those sanctions were never popular, leaked like a sieve, and empowered, rather than weakened his regime. Oil is expensive enough, and Iran has enough of it, that it will be able to buy it's way past any sanctions. Yes, we can hurt Iran's economy, but not enough to make a difference. Bottom line is, either we live with a nuclear Iran, or we use military action.

Riding Sun has moved

Riding Sun has moved off of blogspot and now has his own domain. Update your links and go congratulate him on his new home.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Destruction from within

Joan Collins:

THE WHOLE scene evoked the image of hordes of inebriated Vikings sacking devastated towns. Even during the day, feral mobs roamed the cities with absolute disregard for anyone else's property or well-being. Traditional virtues of male chivalry and female propriety were very far from view. After all, a lack of manners and politeness in a society can only be a reflection of what the society thinks of itself.
Read the whole thing. I believe their is a strong feeling of self hatred in the West, probably as a result of guilt, that manifests itself in a variety of ways, all destructive. The real question though, is what to do about it. I don't know that I have an answer for that. (via Vodkapundit)

Lileks envision's Bolton's first day at the U.N.

Newhouse A1:

3:17 p.m. -- The afternoon sun is getting hot; Bolton discovers the shade is stuck. He calls building services. He is informed that the shade has been stuck since 1966, that the U.N. Commission on Window Treatments was convened in 1967 to address the matter, and is scheduled to meet again in 2006, once India withdraws its objections to giving the rotating chairmanship to Yemen -- as one of the founding countries, it has the right to the chair, but when the nation split in two its claim to the chair was remanded to a subcommittee, which went on a fact-finding mission to a French drape manufacturer and never reported back aside from annual expense accounts from a beach house in the south. The Plenary Commission on International Shade Accords, a separate body, has recommended that any action on drapes or curtains be postponed until the U.N. building is renovated, or that a large movable curtain be erected across the street to block the sun, but this debate has been stalled over an amendment condemning Israel's treatment of Venetian blinds in the Gaza Strip. Of course, now that Israel has begun withdrawal from ... 3:24 -- Bolton hangs up, cuts the cord, and the shade comes down.
Classic! (via Instapundit)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reporter/Blogger killed in Iraq

In the Red Zone:

Steven Vincent RIP As most of the world knows, Steven is dead in Iraq, murdered, it seems likely, by those he criticized in his New York Times piece last Sunday. It was a privilege to work with Steven, a brave journalist and a man of integrity, and I can do no better than Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online in paying tribute to him.
Vincent was a brave man and a great reporter. Go read his articles and blog. You won't be sorry. Update: Read this mudville gazette post.



Mauritania's army said on Wednesday it had seized power to end the 'totalitarian' regime of President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, who is out of the country, and planned to rule for up to two years. The 53-nation African Union said it condemned all seizure of power by force and Taya's PRDS party urged all political forces to denounce the coup, but in the capital hundreds of people took to the streets, shouting and honking car horns in celebration. Convoys of cars with people hanging out of them shouting 'Praise Be to God' and making victory signs paraded down one of Nouakchott's main sand-blanketed avenues.
I have been doing a bit of reading on Mauritania this morning, trying to figure out what this will mean. Mauritania has been an ally in the war on terror, and has diplomatic relations with Israel. Despite that though, it has been a fairly repressive dictatorship (technically it holds elections, but they cannot be described as free or fair) and Taya has used Islamic extremism as an excuse for targetting and quelling domestic opposition, similar to Uzbekistan. In many ways this coup shows the dangers of friendship with such a regime. Despite the usefulness of Mauritania as an ally, and I don't doubt it has been useful, there is now a very real risk that Mauritania will effectively become a supporter of terror and be far more dangerous than it has ever been useful. The leaders of the coup claim that they will rule for a maximum of two years, during which time they will set up genuine democratic institutions. Seldom do such promises actually come to pass, but if they are sincere in this I wish them well, and feel that we should support them. I will keep my eye on this for a bit. It is difficult at this time to gain any feeling for the nature of the coup leaders to determine what sort of people they are.

Star War: Backstroke of the West

This is hilarious! Warning, do not consume any beverages while reading. (via Vodkapundit)

Neither snow nor rain nor bioterrorism?

Instapundit has a post up about emergency preparedness and the Post Office:

In the event of a flu pandemic or a bioterrorism attack, help could arrive via the U.S. mail or from the fire station down the street, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said Tuesday. ... Reader Eric McErlain emails: On your item this morning -- the plans for the U.S. Post Office are more extensive than you might realize. About a year ago I was at a conference with an ex-NYC fire chief now working as a consultant with Giuliani's firm. Apparently, in case of any national disaster, the only organization with both national reach and enough vehicles to reach virtually every citizen is the postal service, and they are being factored into all sorts of preparedness planning.
I have certainly not been a fan of the post office. It runs deeply in the red every year and seems to provide worse service than UPS or FedEx, not to mention it's primary purpose has become delivery of junk mail as far as I can tell. However, the idea that the Post Office could be considered a critical part of disaster planning and recovery is interesting though, and might well change the equation as to whether this bureaucracy is worth it for the tax payer.

Carnival of the Vanities

Riding Sun: The 150th Carnival of the Vanities A good way to expand your blog reading.

Basics on Al Qaida

Rob of Fine? Why Fine?: Couple points to two special breifings from the Christian Science Monitor. How radical Islamists see the world Jihad: Who's joining, and why? I don't think my regular readers will find much that is new in either of these. They are a very useful compilation of some important facts to keep in mind though. Here's a couple of teasers: From How radical Islamists see the world:

What do the militants want? For Islamist militants, the long-term objective is an Islamic superstate, or caliphate. Narrower objectives include the end of the state of Israel and toppling secular Middle Eastern regimes like Egypt's. It is an article of faith that the US and all secular Western states stand in their way, and weakening those states is seen as positive for all their objectives.
and from Jihad: Who's joining, and why?:
Is the same thing happening in America? Perhaps not, or at least not as fast. Mainstream Muslim organizations in America note that US Muslims differ from their counterparts in Europe - they are generally more prosperous (often from more prosperous backgrounds in their home countries) and less confined to Muslim ghettos. Still, experts point out that the British Islamist bombers were not living in poverty. The key problem appears to be alienation that opens minds to radical thinking. And in that sense, America may have a problem. Recent cases in Virginia and California involving clerics allegedly recruiting young Muslims for jihad suggest the dissemination of extremist ideals exists in isolated cases.

Hybrid Cars

Broken Quanta is gloating about being right about hybrid cars. If you are someone who still thinks these vehicles are a good idea, click through learn.

Brain-Dead Woman in Va. Gives Birth

Washington Post:

A cancer-ravaged woman robbed of consciousness by a stroke has given birth after being kept on life support for three months to give her fetus extra time to develop. Susan Torres, whose plight has attracted support from around the world, gave birth to a daughter Tuesday by Caesarean section. The delivery went smoothly and the baby 'is doing well,' her brother-in-law, Justin Torres, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. Susan Anne Catherine Torres weighs 1 pound, 13 ounces and is 13 1/2 inches long, he said. Torres, a 26-year-old researcher at the National Institutes of Health, lost consciousness from a stroke May 7 after aggressive melanoma spread to her brain. Her husband, Jason Torres, said doctors told him his wife's brain functions had stopped. The infant is being monitored in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, about 100 miles north of Richmond. A hospital spokeswoman would not comment on whether Susan Torres' life support was still in place. Jason Torres quit his job to be by his wife's side, spending each night sleeping in a reclining chair next to her bed. Last month, the fetus passed the 24th week of development _ the earliest point at which doctors felt the baby would have a reasonable chance to survive, the brother-in-law said.
Hopefully the child will be healthy. This story presents an interesting philosophical conundrum for some of those who strongly supported the termination of Terry Schiavo and who also support abortion on demand (the two positions are often held together.) Theoretically, they should be opposed to having kept Torres alive to allow the child to be born as a fetus is a not person and Torres has certainly been brain dead. I don't think anyone wants to take that position of course, but it does serve as a reminder that these issues are not black and white. I supported Michael Schiavo's decision, in that I felt it was his decision to make and none of our business, but I did feel that some of the lusting for her death by those that strongly felt she needed to die was extremely unseemly (The demonization of Michael by many of the Christian Right was equally unseemly.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The American sheik

Salt Lake Tribune:
Sheik Horn floats around the room in white robe and headdress, exchanging pleasantries with dozens of village leaders. But he is the only sheik with blonde streaks in his mustache - and the only one who attended country music star Toby Keith's recent concert in Baghdad with fellow U.S. soldiers. Officially, he is Army Staff Sgt. Dale L. Horn, but to residents of the 37 villages and towns that he patrols he is known as the American sheik.
Read the whole article. Establishing rapport with Iraqi's can be difficult, but stories like this show that this is being accomplished, in some cases spectacularly. (via Instapundit)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bad news from Sudan

Not that a lot of good news comes from there, but this could get really bad... Reuters.com:

John Garang, who led Sudan's southern rebels for two decades before making peace and joining the government he fought, has died in a helicopter crash, sparking riots and fears for the country's hard-won stability. At least 12 people were killed in Khartoum, a policeman said, after rioters torched vehicles and looted shops. Witnesses said southerners, who have long said the northern government discriminated against them, attacked Arabs in the street. 'People have been running all over the streets. The policemen are taking people from the streets. There is fire and smoke,' a Reuters TV witness said. Garang, a key figure in a January peace deal hailed as a rare success story for Africa, became the country's first vice president on July 9. He died over the weekend after the Ugandan presidential helicopter he was traveling in went down in bad weather.
Speculation that the crash wasn't an accident abounds, although I have seen no evidence of that. Regardless of the cause, Garang's death will undoubtably make progress in stopping the Darfur Genocide more difficult and may threaten the truce in northern Sudan as well. Hopefully, people will be inspired enough by his example of working for peace to build on his accomplishments, rather than tearing them down.

Bolton to receive recess appointment


President George W. Bush will name John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations today in a recess appointment, an administration official said. The appointment bypasses the U.S. Senate where Democrats refused to allow a vote on the nomination. The Constitution allows the president to fill vacancies when the Senate is in recess. Bolton's appointment lasts until a new Congress convenes in January 2007. ``This is a critical time for the United Nations,'' spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters at the White House. ``The president believes, as do a majority of senators, that he is the right person for the job.'' McClellan said Bush would make the announcement at 10 a.m. in Washington.
I can already here the screams. I like Bolton as U.N. ambassador. I think we need someone who will shake things up there. I also think that Democrats made a pretty serious mistake in fillibustering this appointment. Unlike a judge that is appointed for life, ambassadors are a relatively short term job anyway, so there is no reason for a President not to go the recess appointment route. I hope that such tactics don't become the norm, as I think the Senate's advice and consent are important. However, the more the fillibuster is used, the more common such things will be.

New Planet Discovered

Independent Online Edition > Science & Technology : app6:

It is a tiny white dot even in the most powerful telescopes, but a dot that moves, albeit slowly, against the background of distant stars. That means it must be a planet, so now object 2003UB313, spotted two years ago by astronomers in California, has been officially identified as the 10th planet in the solar system, and tentatively christened Xena. The body is believed to be about 1,700 miles in diameter, about a quarter the size of the Earth, and about one-and-a-half times the size of Pluto, the ninth and last planet to be discovered, in 1930. But at nearly 10 billion miles out, Xena is the most distant object detected orbiting the Sun, three times as far out as Pluto and 97 times as far out as the Earth. Its full orbit takes 560 years.
This is cool, but I don't know that they had to name it after the Warrior Princess.

Saudi King Fahd dead


Saudi Arabia's King Fahd -- whose reign was marked by unprecedented prosperity, but whose close ties with the United States stirred the passions of Islamic militants -- has died, Saudi Arabia's information minister announced Monday. His exact age remains uncertain -- believed to be between 82 and 84. A source told CNN's Nic Robertson that Fahd died Sunday evening. His burial is scheduled for Tuesday at 3 p.m. (8 a.m. EDT) in Riyadh. The former Crown Prince Abdullah, Fahd's half brother, has been named the new Saudi king and Defense Minister Prince Sultan has replaced Abdullah as crown prince.
As I have mentioned before, this could get very interesting, in the Chinese Proverb sense. There is a cloak-and-dagger civil war going on in Saudi Arabia between the more or less pro-West faction led by Prince Abdullah and the more fundamentalist faction led by Prince Nayef, the interior minister. There is a chance that this struggle will emerge from the shadows. If it does, things will get very messy and if Saudi Oil supplies are disrupted, messy won't do the situation justice. I don't expect this to happen, although I wouldn't be surprised is the hidden war does heat up some. Look for more terror attacks in Saudi in the near future.