Friday, December 23, 2005

Obscure Scandinavian authors
An article in the New Yorker (via Arts and Letters Daily) led me to a story about Knut Hamsun, great man of Norwegian letters who got caught up in that annoying little Nazi matter:
But his admirers had watched with some alarm as his politics evolved; many found it unforgivable when, in the mid-thirties, he attacked the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the anti-Nazi journalist Carl von Ossietzky, who had been tortured and imprisoned by his fellow-Germans. Even worse, he supported Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian defense minister who founded the pro-Fascist National Union Party, in 1933. Though that could be tolerated, barely, as a nasty idiosyncrasy, everything changed after the Germans invaded on April 9, 1940, and Hamsun urged his countrymen to throw down their weapons and coöperate.

So maybe Knut isn't my hero, although Hunger sounds interesting. But the story reminded me of a Norwegian author I hadn't thought of in years: Agnar Mykle. I remember reading him in the library at prep school, then couldn't find his books any more. Now forty years later, I remember him, Google him and find a book of his I hadn't read on Ebay for $1.74! I do love the new way of knowledge!
Apple nonsense

As an avid Lileks-phile, I don't have any illusions about Apple. I just bought a new Mac mini because I could use the same old display - had to change to a USB keyboard, though. But I failed to notice that the more expensive (599) Mini, unlike the 499 model, does not come with a dial-up modem. I had thought I would use it on broadband, but changed my mind. So I ordered a USB modem. Note that the modem description says it works with the Mac mini. As I say here (OK, I got a little uncomplimentary) there is a little problem. But I hope to have it worked out soon. I like the idea of dial-up. It's cheap. And so am I.
Frostbite, Florida

24 degrees this morning at 7:45. Frost on the palm trees. Walked in to work over the tracery of hoarfrost on the grass - about half a mile - and my thumbs were half-frozen by the time I stumbled into the building. I refuse to wear gloves in Florida. In New Hampshire I wore them eight months out of the year. Never again! Don't want to risk my thumbs, but I know from New England that it takes quite a lot of cold to actually damage one's extremities. It should be over sixty this afternoon, so who knows? Shirtsleeves on Christmas? Could happen.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Nigerian catastrophe

I heard in past years about explosions in Nigerian oil pipelines caused by villagers poking into the pipes to draw off fuel. I guess it's still happening:
Yesterday’s explosion, at Ehor, in the Uhunmwode local government of Edo State, Vanguard gathered, was caused by vandalisation to the pipeline by people suspected to be illegal bunkerers. The explosion occurred at about noon. The victims were mainly youths of the community.

A tanker and equipment believed to belong to the bunkerers also got burnt.
Residents of Ehor told Vanguard that the bunkerers by-passed the security surveillance mounted by armed policemen at a checkpoint along the pipeline route and capitalised on alleged laxity of the policemen said to have mounted an illegal road block on the expressway.
The other explosions mentioned in this article, though, appear to have happened because
"...a suspected terror gang blew up a Shell pipeline at Agba Okwan Asarama in the Andoni local government area of Rivers State and another pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) caught fire in Delta State."

Why do I care about disasters in Nigeria? My sister works at the American University in Yola. Luckily, that's way out in Adamawa state, well away from any pipelines, as far as I know, and much less densely populated than Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. But someday I may get the wacky idea of visiting her. So I'm keeping tabs on what's going on in Nigeria. The "illegal road block on the expressway" has been noted and will influence any thoughts I may have had about taking a motor trip around West Africa!
Playing telephone?
Oxblog has a post about the silly NSA wiretapping "controversy" ginned up by the traitorous New York Times. The other commenters were barely beyond the Bushy Chimpy Mchitler stage:
Anybody who defends what Bush has been doing is a complete idiot or a fascist. There are no other explanations.
Ah, the level of discourse among the idiotarians! So I had an idea:

The NSA is listening to phone calls made by a suspected terrorist in Dubai. A connection is made and the conversation turns to a specific terrorist act planned for the US. Then, horrors! the listeners realize the other end of the conversation is a US phone number. Are the NSA supposed to stop, turn off the tap and run out to get a court order before continuing to listen? Get real.


Samizdata, as usual, has an interesting discussion on the growing use of public cameras in Britain:
Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

Representative comments:
Ive been called paranoid - but sooner or later we will have no liberty at all. What really concerns me, is no one cares. Ive spoken to well educated informed people who have no idea about the laws introduced by phoney tony and bully blunkett or just dont care. "It for our own good" the masses cry.

Nearly time to make a choice, emigrate or stay and fight.......

Matt - the British public are supine. They really don't care. In fact, they'll be pleased that the government is taking care of them. The people who have the will to fight are very few and far between.

It is tragic that this government, instead of confronting the Islamic problem head on chooses to victimise and subjugate its other 58m citizens. Tony Blair's got a yellow streak as wide as his back.

Posted by Verity at December 22, 2005 01:12 PM

And now she gets right to the point, advocating (gasp!) dealing with the actual problem:
Instead of cowering and whimpering in corners like puppies who've been caught weeing on the carpet, the government needs to be seen to take control.

As a start, there should be an immediate fiat against wearing burqas in public places, like public buildings, libraries, banks, train stations and airports "for security purposes". Burqa clad women trying to enter those premises should be told firmly to remove their burqa or go away. (This suggestion comes from the magnificent Fjordman, whose blog closed down for good yesterday.)

And me:
Instead of putting wrongdoers into prisons, the PC state has decided to make the entire world a prison. One has to wonder if real, violent crime will be reduced. I'm even cynical enough to suggest that the data produced by these cameras will not be used by the government, since that would take effort and analytical skill, qualities not much in evidence in government functionaries. The main result will be to terrorize innocent citizens into obedience in all things. That would be reason enough for the nanny-staters to put a camera in everyone's nose. I mean, if you have nothing to hide ...
Zarqawi in Gaza?
Debka is speculating about Zarqawi's influence in Gaza:
Since early December, a branch of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq has been running a forward base in Gaza City preparatory to in-depth attacks in Israel, according to DEBKAfile’s exclusive counter-terror sources. It joins the Al Qaeda-Palestine cell established some weeks ago in the Gaza Strip.

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people. That's what I would wish for the Palestinians if I were an Israeli - an influx of frustrated foreign homicidal thugs to compete with the home-grown homicidal thugs. You have to wonder if Netanyahu planted this story himself or had someone do it!
And Iraq and Jordan are undoubtedly thinking, "Don't let the door hit you in the butt, Zarq-man, on the way out! Have a merry Christmas!"

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nice new blog

Came upon this nice new (to me) blog (via the Big Pharaoh). Plenty of links to "Afro-Asian" blogs and news resources. Not spending so much time picking fights on Esmay's and Quick's sites is allowing me to find some good stuff out there:
"There is no way out," Tahar finally said after almost ten minutes of eating without speaking.

"No?" I was disappointed.

"No, it is everywhere. Look at Egypt and Iraq. They are all this way. I think we're going to have to accept it."

"Not necissarily," I started.

"Yes, necissarily," he snapped "What the Turks did will never work with Arabs."

I hadn't even thought of Attaturk.
(spelling as in original)
Now I want to go to Turkey even more. Got $12 in my Istanbul fund. Enough for a nice lunch - heck, maybe dinner - in a restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus.
Today's best

It's only 9AM, but this essay and comment thread may easily be the best of the day:
Today's Muslim regimes cannot win this war in the long term. Most of them are absurd governments of kings and princes or brutal generals whose idea of succession planning is primogeniture. (Kings?!? How often do we Americans, who institutionalized lèse-majesté, consider how idiotic a system monarchy really is?) These kings, princes, sheikhs and generals-for-life are clowns, and anybody who views any of them -- even the "moderate" ones -- as better than contemptible is seriously deranged. History is against them, and every thoughtful person in the world knows it. The question is, what will replace them? The jihadis are fighting to install a Caliphate and lower a dark curtain over a fifth of the world. The United States and its courageous allies are fighting to create room for modern democratic governments based on popular sovereignty.
Yeah, I hate clowns. Don't you?

I'm always a sucker for the power of ideas. Shakespeare would agree:
Caes.Let me have men about me that are fat. Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o'nights. Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.

Ant.You need not fear him, Caesar. He's not dangerous. He is a noble Roman and well given.

Caes.Would he were fatter ...

So who's right here, eh? Old Julius, as always. What a political instinct! But he also saw the likes of Cassius had to be faced down. Question is, was Antony dissembling or did he really see no danger in Cassius? If so, he must have truly felt bad at the funeral oration: "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now!"

No tears for al Qaeda.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hallelujah! Free at last!

So after three years of fighting, the Sunnis finally give in and vote and what's the first thing they complain about? The
election was rigged (via Lucianne):
Sunni Arabs alleged Tuesday that last week's parliamentary elections were fraudulent, especially in Baghdad province, and they said if the irregularities are not corrected, new balloting must be held in Iraq's largest electoral district.

Who do they think they are, Democrats? Seriously, though, this is a great sign. As long as all the Sunnis do is whine about the results and resolve to do better next time, they can be considered to have learned one of the basic lessons of democracy: Karl Rove always wins. Wait a minute. Ramzi Clark is already over there. Can David Boies be far behind?
Double "yipe!" (at least)

The good old Scotsman has a scoop about super-Stalin and his super-apes:

According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

Hey, isn't that the definition of a Marine? (Full disclosure: I grew up as an AirForce brat)
All you ever wanted to know, courtesy of the blogosphere

This thread on Protein Wisdom exhibits the widest, deepest, most passionate and thorough consideration imaginable of the FISA/wiretap issue that's currently consuming the media(via Lucianne). Makes the NY Times look sick. Read the whole article and the whole thread, if you've got a spare hour or more. Teaser:
The Dems are putting themselves in a position just now to argue that what will no doubt be seen as legal technicalities—and those points are in dispute, even!—should have prevented him from taking steps necessary to protect the homeland, steps that DID in fact protect us. And by extension, they will be arguing that as a group they would have worried more about a contentious legal battle over a now unworkable statute (getting warrants on automated phone chains—which it is not clear were even legally necessary, provided the AG gave notice—would have been impossible) than they would have about taking bold actions to protect the country, knowing that we are indeed at war.

And it just gets better, on Professor Bainbridge:
You live in LaLa land. Why do you think this came out the day of the Iraqi elections and just before the writer is to publish a book?

Always jump to conclusions based upon disgruntled ex somebody's rants.

Do you do any research before pontificating.

Somebody's doing some research:
Professor B. apparently thinks that the Constitution requires a warrant for snooping on suspected terrorists. The 4th Amendment that Madison urged us to ratify contains no such requirement. The document merely requires that all searches and seizures be "reasonable." All sorts of searches and seizures take place without a warrant, including the search of autos, the seizure of suspected felons, searches incident to a lawful arrest (whether or not the arrest was supported by a warrant), various searches of business purusant to a regulatory scheme, the seizure of someone who commits a misdemeanor in an officer's presence. Indeed, one recent article estimates that there are two dozen different categories of searches and seizures that can proceed without a warrant.

If the local sheriff can arrest someone he spots shoplifting without a warrant, and then search his person incident to that arrest, without a warrant, why does it violate our liberties for the NSA to monitor a phone call between two suspected terrorists who just happen to be in the USA?

Just wondering . . .
Justice Powell's dicta contravenes the actual language of the 4th Amendment, precendent, historical and current practice. And, Powell himself ignored it numerous times.

1) The language of the 4th Amendment simply forbids "unreasonable searches" and says that, if you want a warrant you need probable cause. It does not require a warrant or probable cause before a search or seizure. Is there new language out there I am not aware of?

2) The Supreme Court has described 2 dozen situations in which no warrant is required for a search or seizure including very large categories like arrests for felonies and searches of automobiles. So far as I know, Justice Powell supported all of these decisions. These searches and seizures are valid even if it is practical/easy for the officer to obtain a warrant.

3) In 1789, the same Congress that wrote and proposed the Bill of Rights authorized warrantless searches of ships. James Madison signed legislation in 1815 that authorized warrantless searches of vessels, beasts, and persons.
Since the beginning, police have arrested and searched suspected felons without a warrant. Today the police can arrest a suspected felon, search his effects and put him in jail for 48 hours without seeking a probable cause determination from a magistrate. This is a very large intrusion, and no warrant is required, even if the police could easily get one. Ditto for searches of your car, boat, or mobil home.

4) The state interest in detecting terrorist activities BEFORE they come to fruition is much stronger than the interest in, say, detecting illegal drugs, the latter of which Justice Powell called "compelling" in US v. Mendenhall. Plus, the intrusion of, say, a wiretap may be far less than the intrusion of an arrest and search incident to it, plus the 48 hour incarceration that the law allows. A fortiori, then, a warrantless wiretap of someone suspected of conspiring with Al Qaeda seems quite reasonable.

5) The preference for a warrant may be alive and well in Law School Classrooms. But, Akhil Amar debunked it as a historical matter long ago, as have others. Plus there is the pesky constitutional text, which militates against such a presumption. Ivory tower fulminations against warrantless this or that, even in opinions by Justice Powell, are not up to the task of determining what is reasonable and thus Constitutional when agents of foreign adversaries are in your country plotting to kill your fellow citizens.

6) If there really is a warrant requirement, I guess we'll have to get rid of metal detectors a

PB's thread is much more civil, but just as informative and hard-fought as Goldstein's. Why choose? Read both.
It's hotting up

The comment thread on this post about the appropriate ways of dealing with Islamic jihadists in Western countries is getting hot:
Sorry, but it is a muslim problem. These young muslims are raised separately from the mainstream australian community in male dominated families and get their life lessons in the mosques, run on islamic principles. They are bred on hatred, particularly against jews and the united states. As a result they are trained to view the egalitarian, open democracy that is Australia as an evil, non-islamic place inhabited by jews and anglo scum.
t would appear that nearly all of Tony Blair's much trumpeted proposals to combat terrorism in the UK have now been abandoned or watered down.

The latest to go is the requirement for foreign born imams to take a "Britishness test".

And the inimitable Verity:

I think it is time to hire a fleet of 747s and shovel these people on board. As a first step, there should be a lock-down on all mosques. The problem is Islam and this has to be acknowledged...It is not racism. It is Islam.

So I just had to pile on. Hope I contributed something:
If deporting violent criminals - no matter what passports they hold - is not Libertarian, I guess that explains why I am not a Libertarian. Anyone who joins a violent deadly conspiracy against a culture should not be able to rely on that culture's protecting him. If that conspiracy promotes the dominance of a culture foreign both geographically and ideologically to an existing nation's culture, what more appropriate punishment than deporting the conspirators to the homeland of their death cult? Lincoln said, "Democracy is not a suicide pact". Neither is rationalism.

And yet more

I just can't keep my opinions to myself:
As for me, I'm not a libertarian wingnut, I'm an objectivist wingnut. I favor immigration controls when necessary to keep a society that safeguards some aspects of freedom from degenerating into one that protects none. I don't think of Islam as immediately and fatally toxic to all who come into contact with it, but that doesn't mean those who do succumb shouldn't be put out of the way one way or the other and the British justice system, from what I know of it, cannot and will not do that job.

Maybe a new determinant of the onset of Alzheimer's disease will be whether you can tell whether a blog comment is off topic or not. I can't decide whether this:
Charles Murray agonized over this question in The Bell Curve. Using IQ as a determinant of educational placement pulled high-IQ individuals out of low-IQ groups such as minorities. High-IQ minorities, therefore, no longer met and married lower-IQ co-ethnics. The ghettoes and farms and "hollers" have been emptied of those capable of achievement. They find their way to walled suburbs and university towns. Ethnic groups are left to compete with desperate illegal aliens for the low-IQ jobs. No one has yet come up with an effective way of addressing this problem while allowing high-achievers to achieve.

is off topic as a comment to this post:
Most Americans still believe that their country offers more opportunities for economic success and advancement than any other country on earth. They are convinced that American society is a basically free and meritorious one, which judges everyone according to his individual ability and rewards him for his accomplishments...

The benefits of inequality
Unequal ability, whether innate or acquired, tends to lead to great differences in personal income and social position in every kind of economic system and social order. In a market order, men and women who render valuable services to consumers are rewarded accordingly; others with lesser ability and diligence who render mediocre services earn and receive less...

Academic analyses now show that it is increasingly difficult to rise from rags to riches. Some studies reveal, for instance, that fewer and fewer families in the bottom fifth of the population (as ranked by income and social status) can make it up the ladder. Nearly 70 percent remain either at the same level or even do worse than their forebears; similarly, many in the second-poorest fifth stay put in their class. While all such studies readily agree on growing social immobility, they may differ on the causes of such a development.

Relevant? Only perhaps in that the author appears to think that the rich are shutting the poor out completely, while I and Murray agree that the poor can still rise to the top if they have the right intelligence in their genes. And I would agree with the author that rising to the top is becoming less common, but only because the genes that correlate with intelligence are becoming less common among the poor. And, I would add, a high level of raw intelligence is becoming more and more important, not just as a status determinative, but as a necessity for real achievement on merit.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Old hat - but yipes! again

I know the Diana Hsieh discussions about The Objectivist Center versus the Ayn Rand Institute have been around for a while, but I hadn't been interested in wading through the whole thing. Now, perhaps thanks to Esmay and Quick, I felt like taking the time and am finding some rather entertaining material. For instance, Diana tells it like she thinks it is to Nathaniel and Barbara Branden:
Together, you two have done more damage to the cause of Objectivism than I ever imagined possible. I regret that it took me so long to see that. But now that I do, I will certainly not help you do any more damage. I want nothing to do with either of you.

I sometimes poke fun at the whole Kelley/Peikoff split as similar to medieval theologians debating the size of angels, and bring in the Monty Python (Holy Grail?) dialogue about the splittist Judean Liberation Front and Popular Front for the Liberation of Judea. But I know there are real issues. One can't constantly mock. Reality is real, most of the time.
Over the top

I've always enjoyed The Amazing Randi's website. I sent him an email about some things I'd like to get his opinions on:
Dear Mr. Randi:

I enjoyed your commentary as usual this week. I was struck by one statement, however:

There are no “different interpretations” involved; calling astrology a science is like saying that a barber is a surgeon, or that a chimpanzee at a typewriter is a journalist.

I've known some journalists personally. I would be hard put to it in some cases to distinguish them significantly from chimpanzees, especially when at their typewriters!
I'm sure Mencken would have agreed.

I wondered - are you ever concerned that you will meet your match in the conjuring department? That is, someone will sign up for the Randi Challenge and work an illusion to such effect that he defeats your precautions and you will be forced to hand over the million dollars, even though you just know it was a trick. This would be a catastrophe for scientific skepticism. But I guess you just love to live on the edge!

Speaking of monkeys, was it on your site that I saw the quote from Larry King to the effect that, "Hey, if evolution is real, how come there are still monkeys?" That's a favorite.

Keep up the good work. God bless!

Robert Speirs

I guess the "God Bless" was over the top, him being a Bright and all. So even though I meant it sarcastically or sardonically or whatever definition it falls under, he probably will think I'm trying to tweak his nose and am really a Xtian. At any rate, he hasn't yet replied.
At it again

OK, I can't resist. I'm harassing bloggers again, especially this Brad fellow, who, even though he has a few good ideas, thinks he's much smarter than he is:

Major retail chains Target, Wal-Mart and others announced today they will end the so-called war on white people that had resulted in most stores posting signs welcoming “shoppers” or “customers” instead of “white patrons”, even though white people represented a considerable majority of their business.
Ha flipping ha!

So I had to get in on the act:
A better example would be: On May 31, the stores decide to have a "Spring Holiday" sale, not mentioning that the relevant holiday, the reason for the long weekend, is Memorial Day, because, after all, some people are against the military, some people have relatives who have been killed by the US military and every ethnicity has a spring festival of some kind. We don't even get any time off for Easter any more.

It's Newspeak to say "Happy Holiday" without mentioning the reason for the holiday. You can say "Happy Holiday" on any holiday year-round and "Season's Greetings" in any season. The minor festival Chanukah and the non-existent Kwanzaa would not have given anyone a reason to take time off and celebrate if it hadn't been for Christmas. Ramadan of course rotates around the year. Anyone ever say, "Happy rotating Lunar Holiday" to a Muslim? Even (especially) in Muslim lands? It reminds me of the use of "BCE" instead of "B.C.". Can't mention Christ! Have to say "Before the Common Era". Which leaves unanswered the questions, "Why exactly is this computation used? Why is this Era Common?" No wonder kids are confused.
Verity again

Verity on Samizdata is on the warpath again about the Conservatives' failure of nerve on the EU issue. She welcomes another commenter to the topic:

Tomahawk - I personally love your logic, which I am sure will be appreciated by other Samizdatas when they get up in the morning and have a giggle with their cup of tea. It's some time since we've had some knock-about comedy around here.

And she does go on with this comment. Much more entertaining than DailyPundit or Dean Esmay!


Checking back on the above thread, all I can say is, "Yipe!!" Tomahawk is getting scalped. Glad I didn't toss in my two cents. But Verity did say on another thread she liked my idea about compensating suicide bomber victims by holding their families responsible:
I do like the idea of the families of suicide nitwits having to compensate the victims, and it is an idea with which they themselves should feel perfectly comfortable as the concept of blood money is mother's milk to them. My own preference, which I doubt would find favour with Tony Blair, would be putting to death the mother or father of each suicide murderer. After all, they brought him up in this vile cult.

I feel great!
I don't care

More and more, I just don't care what other people think, especially on blogs. I don't get a sense of "belonging" or reinforcement from commenting on a blog, or writing one for that matter. It's just a matter of getting closer to the truth. And very many people have no good grasp on reality at all. I just finished reading The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. It challenges many of my long-held beliefs about the superiority of individual intelligence over that of the collective. But it makes sense. And it's intelligently qualified. I hope to derive from it some better conception of why democracy works so well, when an individual's vote matters not at all to the general result. It contains support for the market view of policy but also stresses that the conditions of a collective decision have to be set by decisions a collective cannot necessarily make.

More here
Banned or not?

I appear to have been banned from commenting on Dean Esmay's blog. But it could just be his comments function is messed up. I have been arguing vehemently for consideration of the Turkish position on the Armenian massacre question. I just can't stand it when people won't even listen to facts they don't like to hear.