INCITE
Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 
Link dump
Written by: Beck

At home for Thanksgiving, skimming the web on a 26.4kbps modem... not pleasant. So rather than my "normal" posting, I present to you one nice long linkdump. Here's to hoping you enjoy being dumped on. Money quotes galore to follow.

First up: Ukraine! John O'Sullivan has an article in the Chicago Sun-Times about the various winners and losers in the ongoing Ukrainian election fiasco. Money quote:
The final losers are the U.N. and Kofi Annan. The U.N. has been invisible. As Kofi Annan has been trying to keep his head above oil, he has issued his usual appeal for restraint. But this crisis has brought forth the heroes of the Cold War from retirement -- Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and Margaret Thatcher -- to encourage the orange revolutionaries. And Annan cannot begin to compete with their moral authority or the legitimacy they can bestow.
Le Sabot wants to remind people not to lose sight of what the election is really about amidst all the West vs. East punditry.
The events in Ukraine are about a people fighting free of the grayness, corruption, abuse and fatalism of the post-Soviet era. All of you, Right or Left, need to see them as people. Yes, there are geopolitical ramifications. But they should be so incredibly secondary to the humanity of the Ukrainian people -- these are flesh and blood human beings who are fighting to be free of a vicious, grinding system.

People are proud to be Ukrainian, proud that their country is now known for something other than mafia, dead journalists, and corruption. People who a week ago were convinced of their own powerlessness are now standing fearlessly, singing together, "We are many, we are one, we can't be stopped!"
John Hawkins posts an interview with the always impressive Jed Babbin. You get one guess as to whether or not I agree with Babbin.
John Hawkins: So given that, there are a lot of conservatives who'd like to pull out of the UN. Would that be a wise move in your opinion?

Jed Babbin: My answer to that is yes, but the idea is that we can’t just walk out of the UN and slam the door behind us. That would be foolish. America is the sole superpower at least at this moment. We can’t afford to cut ourselves off from the rest of the free world and even from the rest of the bad guys in the world.

We want to be in a position where we can sit down with the democracies of the world and address problems in good faith. To do that, we have to create a political atmosphere where the democracies can follow us out of the UN without their presidents and prime ministers committing political suicide.

So what we have to do is gradually create that atmosphere so that when we leave the UN, and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later, the other nations of the world who are democracies can follow us.
Finally, at Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait, in a post on ministerial misbehavior in Britain, makes an observation on the distinction between libertarianism and libertinism which people often fail to make.
Some people, of the sort who confuse (or who like to pretend for propaganda purposes that they confuse) libertarianism with libertinism, might expect a libertarian like me to rejoice at any collapse in marital fidelity. But my libertarianism is about the right to choose what promises you make, not about the right to break them with impunity, to the point where you are not even to be criticized for such cheating.

And other more subtle-minded persons might expect a libertarian like me to rejoice that the state of modern morals (or immorals) is making politics so much harder to do with any dignity.

But cynicism about public life is one thing and the belief that the government should do a lot less than it now does - that public life ought to be smaller, so to speak - are two quite distinct matters. I wish they were not distinct matters, but sadly they are. Libertarianism is a strong and forthright attempt to see the affairs of the world governed far more in accordance with morally upright principles than it is at the moment. The sort of ideas I saw proclaimed on my television this evening are far more likely to lead people to believe that any such principles are either sentimental hot air or else an exercise in hypocritical manipulation and to dismiss them with a resigned shrug, than to believe that these principles are right.
That should be enough reading to keep you all busy for a day or so. Or at least the better part of an hour.


Written by: Brent Brophy

France has apparently reannexed some of it's old colonies. Police in one former colony seize documents from another due to the material's "seditious" "anti-french" nature. The ongoing attempt to turn Europe into a new Soviet Union has been brought up before, and the French strongarming of former colonies establishes them as the future satellite states of the Evil Empire.

Goe, thinking about writing a link-o-matic.


 
A message from the padding department
Written by: Brent Brophy

I used to work at the flower mill. We ground up flowers and over-protective gardners into an oil that was sold to perfume companies. The whole place smelled like flowers all the time, like walking through the bath basket section of a gift store or the perfume section of a department store.

It was a good job, decent pay, friendly co-workers, and bosses that mostly left us alone. There was a lot of management and we were never really sure what they all did, it's not like you really need supervision to run a petal mulching machine or clear bone fragments from the drain.

One of the floor supervisors, which was the lowest rank in management there, was Francisco Fitzpatrick, a welshman from the Ukraine. He wasn't the most senior floor supervisor, but he was up for a promotion because the senior floor supervisor was an ass who started every meeting by claiming that he could get anyone fired without anybody knowing that the person has been fired or that he had been involved.

The company sent Fitzpatrick to some sort of management training conference in Europe being run by a local consulting company. He was a nice guy and we were all happy for him. He was gone for a couple of weeks and when he got back he took over the company.

We weren't expecting a promotion that big and everybody who was on his old team starting trying to kiss his ass for raises and promotions. He didn't give any out, but put the whole company on the night shift, sending out a memo claiming that cooler air would enhance the product. He started to have long one-on-one meetings with the old managers, meetings that usually involved a lot of unintelligible screaming.

After about a month, there were only a half-dozen managers left, all of them spending the night locked in their office, but with their windows open all night so the whole building was icy. About once a night, someone would be called up to be let go. There would be a lot of yelling echoing down the stairs, and we never saw them again.

Kim Jose, a short Greenlander, was fine with the cold air, but joined some sort of religious cult. He kept claiming that Fitzpatrick was some sort of evil demon, and rigged up some mirrors so he could see everyone approaching the employee breakroom. He was getting really annoying so it wasn't a big suprise when he was called upstairs. He went to the breakroom instead, but there was some yelling there and he too was gone.

I'm no fool, so when the cops started poking around, I put two and two together. The company was laying people off left and right, couldn't afford heating, and with the cops asking questions there was probably some sort of fraud, even if they insisted it was just 'missing persons'. The company was going to go under, and I didn't plan on going with it.

I paid to have a resume professionally written and started looking for a new job. They pay for donations at the blood bank, which isn't really a donation I guess, and this last week there were some openings for security guards. All of the industrial jobs, where my experience lies, are night-shift only. They also seem to be dangerous, every application has a box for blood type.

Goe, trying to give you something more cheerful to read than current events.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

 
Bananoramaphilea
Written by: Brent Brophy

We're spending billions to see if life existed on Mars. Unless we find some ancient microbial cave painting of an ameoba hunt, the answer will be a definate 'maybe'. The conditions for life existed, even if life did not. I think we should let the researchers have Mars. It's a cold and dark planet in a very communistic shade of red. I hate commies, so Mars is not the planet for me.

I don't know what color Venus is, but I'm hoping it's not red. While people study martian rocks to see if they can spot proof of life, i.e. bacteria making fun of CBS News' lack of credibility, someone should grab some of these critters and send them packing to Venus. I know their mother will miss them, but it's time for some of them to move on to bigger and better things. There are bacteria that could live on Mars, but not only would seeding life on Mars screw up the pointless research, no bacteria is big enough to wear the hat.

Goe, appears to have misplaced his illudium q36 explosive space modulator.


 
Slow news day?
Written by: Brent Brophy

OH MY GOD! There was infidelity in the royal family! OH MY GOD! The sky is blue! OH MY GOD! Bears shit in the woods!

Goe, didn't want Beck to feel all alone here.


Friday, November 26, 2004

 
The newest organized crime family: Annan
Written by: Beck

It may not be possible to prove that Kofi knew what his son Kojo was doing, but I'd bet my life that he did. What's more, as Secretary General of the United Nations, he had a responsibility to know. The New York Sun reports the results of their latest investigation into the ever-expanding oil-for-food scandal.
One of the next big chapters in the United Nations oil-for-food scandal will involve the family of the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, whose son turns out to have been receiving payments as recently as early this year from a key contractor in the oil-for-food program.

The secretary-general's son, Kojo Annan, was previously reported to have worked for a Swiss-based company called Cotecna Inspection Services SA, which from 1998-2003 held a lucrative contract with the U.N. to monitor goods arriving in Saddam Hussein's Iraq under the oil-for-food program. But investigators are now looking into new information suggesting that the younger Annan received far more money over a much longer period, even after his compensation from Cotecna had reportedly ended.

The importance of this story involves not only undisclosed conflicts of interest, but the question of the role of the secretary-general himself, at a time when talk is starting to be heard around the U.N. that it is time for him to resign, and the staff labor union is in open rebellion against "senior management."

[...] The younger Annan stopped working for Cotecna in late 1998, but it now turns out that he continued to receive money from Cotecna not only through 1999, as recently reported, but right up until February of this year. The timing coincides with the entire duration of Cotecna's work for the U.N. oil-for-food program. It now appears the payments to the younger Annan ended three months after the U.N., in November, 2003, closed out its role in oil-for-food and handed over the remains of the program to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

This latest bombshell involving the secretary-general's son was confirmed Wednesday by Kofi Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, in response to this reporter's query, based on information obtained elsewhere. In an email, Mr. Eckhard wrote: "I was able to reach Kojo's lawyer this morning. He confirms that Kojo Annan received payments from Cotecna as recently as February 2004. The lawyer said that these payments were part of a standard non-competition agreement, under which the decision as to whether to continue the payments or not was up to Cotecna."

[...] Labeled as compensation for Kojo Annan's agreeing not to compete with Cotecna's business in West Africa, the post-employment payments were in the amount of $2,500 per month, according to another source with access to the documents. If the payments were continuous over the slightly more than five-year period involved, that would have totaled more than $150,000.

[...] At every turn, the saga of the secretary-general's family ties to Cotecna raises questions about Kofi Annan's handling of potential conflicts of interest. Even if Mr. Annan cannot be held responsible for the decisions of his son, his job does entail responsibility for the actions of the U.N. Secretariat. As the oil-for-food scandal has unfolded, it has become clear that U.N. secrecy and lack of accountability evolved, in effect, into complicity with Saddam's scams and influence-buying. By now, between congressional and other investigations, there are allegations that Saddam, on Mr. Annan's watch, under U.N. sanctions and oil-for-food supervision, scammed and smuggled some $17.3 billion in oil money meant for relief, using some of that money to fund terrorism, import weapons, and buy influence with Security Council members France, Russia, and China.

On top of that, only now is it learned that for fully more than eight years, from 1995-2004, the secretary-general's son was in one way or another on the payroll of Cotecna, which for almost five of those years held a crucial oil-for-food inspection contract with the U.N. Secretariat. All this, said the investigator for Mr. Hyde's congressional committee, is good reason why "the U.N. Secretariat should move swiftly to lift the gag order on U.N. employees and contractors and publicly release its oil-for-food program files."
Like father, like son.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)


 
United Nations Delenda Est
Written by: Beck

With the US elections over, I find myself with less and less to talk about. Much of the reason I've been doing so much foreign affairs posting comes from a need to fill the gap left by the lack of important domestic news. The more I read, however, the more one single theme keeps replaying: the United Nations is a corrupt institution whose time is past & the United States needs to withdraw from it. You can expect to hear a lot more on that theme from me in the future. Let's get started, shall we?

There is a fantastic new blog out there called The Diplomad. It's a anonymous group blog by conservatives in the State Department, and they are definitely worth a read. Their recent post on the UN is wonderful. Read it. Now.
Well, we know the secret of the UN bureaucracy machine. It exists to exist. To do that it has going one of the best scams imaginable. While most media and ordinary folks focus on the occasionally contentious UNSC resolutions and debates on Iraq or Iran, in fact, 99% of UN "work" has nothing to do with such high-visibility issues. No, it deals with scores, hundreds, in fact, of resolutions passed every year in the UN General Assembly, its main Committees, and in bodies such as the Human Rights Commission. It lives off those resolutions.

Slightly simplified, this is how it often works. A UN bureaucrat gets hold of a delegate from a sympathetic country and gets that country's delegation to propose some often innocuous sounding resolution -- let's make up a typical one right here, "The Effect of Deforestation on the Development of Sub-Saharan Africa." It will have a few bland paragraphs expressing concern about deforestation in Africa, note the impact it has on the livelihood of Africans especially the "most vulnerable sectors of the population," and then will have a little paragraph at the end calling on the Secretary General to submit a report to the next General Assembly on the impact of deforestation in Africa. Normally such a resolution gets adopted by consensus by the appropriate committee, and then goes to the UNGA where its hammered through ASAP. Under the Reagan Administration, the US delegation made a specialty of finding these little gems and trying to kill them or at least make clear that they would not pass by consensus. That is tough and frustrating work; it takes up incredible amounts of time and effort and burns up lots of political capital. Such efforts offend the MSM, powerful US NGOs and other lobby groups. The UN bureaucracy knows that at most only the US will fight these resolutions; the UN uses its allies in the MSM and the NGO "community" to savage the US and make the US look uncaring about deforestation and poverty, etc. As a result, often the US will back off as the political costs are seen as too great to be alone and on the "wrong" side of such an issue.

So the resolution passes. The UN bureaucracy gets tasked with writing a report. Usually these reports are short, based on pre-existing information that in the age of the internet would take an intern a couple of hours to put together, but, nevertheless, for some odd reason seem to require lots of travel by UN bureaucrats. The report will conclude that there is need for further study of this critical topic and might perhaps recommend the holding of a special conference or meeting on the topic. It goes to the next UNGA which agrees that further work is needed and asks the UN Secretariat to go ahead and provide another report to the next UNGA, and so on and on. The topic is now firmly embedded in the UN agenda -- almost impossible to remove -- and highly paid bureaucrats now have sinecures producing endless reports calling for more reports and conferences that will call for more reports and conferences. The US and a handful of other major donors pay for all this.
There's much more. Again, go read it now.

Another interesting development is a new group called Move America Forward. Their mission: to get the US out of the UN. Visit their website to learn more about them or sign the petition if you like. I'm ordinarily a strict petition avoider--it's just an invitation to harassment and loss of privacy. But I couldn't resist signing this one. Who knows what, if anything, will come of it.

The only problem I have with the organization is their source of motivation. Their primary reason for wanting the US out of the UN is UN opposition to the US invasion of Iraq & our handling of the War on Terror in general. There are far more (and better) reasons to want to pull out of that rotten bastion of anti-freedom. Still, I love seeing that such an organization even exists, let alone is being taken seriously. Just don't tell the Commissar.

(Hat tip: Small Dead Animals, Michelle Malkin)


 
The latest from Ukraine
Written by: Beck

First of all, via TulipGirl, Amy Hunt has created various pictures/buttons for display on websites for those who are interested in showing support for democracy in Ukraine:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


The single most important bit of news is that the Ukrainian Supreme Court has declared an injunction against the (largely corrupt) Ukraine Election Commission's announcement of a winner from several days ago.

The other real development is that protests have spread across the country, have begun occupying/blocking/picketing government buildings, and have become more aggressive in certain instances. In one instance, protestors stormed the Chirnigiv city hall & were tear gassed for their troubles.

Le Sabot--who is working with on-site news people cranking out English translations--has further updates on events in and around Kiev. And has another post on "How and Why the Election was Stolen." A sample:
Now remember we talked about the massively powerful oligarch groups? Parties are how they translate their economic power into political control. On the simplest level, each clan forms its own party. Kiev clan has the Social-Democratic Party. Donetsk clan owns the powerful Party of the Regions. And so on.

If only it stopped there. With their money, they buy out smaller parties and use the remaining shell to attract votes. The Green Party suffered this fate, with the actual environmentalists moving on to two small rump parties (thankfully the Greens are back on the Reform side now.)

Even creepier, the oligarchs finance gen-tailored spoiler parties. For example, when facing a parliamentary election against Yulia Tymoschenko, they simply financed an on-paper women's party to siphon support from her.

So through these parties they take power. The Ukrainian clan system is basically a form of economic tribalism whereby the members bring home spoils for the tribe. So, for example, the Kuchma presidency has been very good for the 200-odd members of his clan. With Yanukovych rising in power, the spoils tilt increasingly his direction.
For up to the minute news as it develops, Maidan News remains an excellent source, as is the Kyiv Post. Also, CNN has a good overview.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

 
Since you asked
Written by: Beck

There's basically a revolution going on in Ukraine. Government officials, law enforcement, military groups, industries, schools, and everyone else are all taking sides. So far there hasn't been any shooting... but the rumors of Russian special forces soldiers dressed in Ukrainian security forces uniforms don't do much to reassure.

Anyway, the best source out there for updates on events as they unfold is Maidan. They have new stories, headlines, and details coming out several times an hour. The English translations can be a bit rough around the edges, but it leaves few doubts about just how desperate the situation has become. An example from one of their articles (posted less than an hour ago):
Divisions of the Western Regional Headquarter of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will not fight against their own people,declared officer-in-chief of the Western Regional Headquarter lieutenant-general Mykhaylo Kutsyn.

"My actions are directed towards unquestioning fulfillment of the law and Constitution of Ukraine and I officially declare that divisions of the Western Regional Headquarter will not fight their own people", said M. Kutsyn during briefing in Lviv.

According to his words, the command of the Western Regional Headquarter ask political and social leaders not to pull armed forces of the Western Regional Headquarter into the social confrontation.
Update: Le Sabot Post-Moderne has an excellent post on Ukrainian style kleptocracy tailored to Western readers.
You have to understand the situation in Ukraine. The country is run by a series of oligarchic clans that actually found their beginnings in the Soviet Union, and then grew fabulously rich during the early days of "privatization".

Compare the situation to Russia, where an authoritarian Putin faced off against corrupt oligarchs. In Ukraine, authoritarianism and oligarchy are fused. Yanukovych isn't just another unscrupulous candidate, he's the main man of Akhmetov -- the duke of Donetsk and the richest man in Ukraine. The current president, Kuchma, is the head of a different clan, Dnepropetrovsk. The presidential administrator is Medvedchuk, who happens to run the Kiev-based Medvedchuk-Surkis clan. He also owns the two biggest Ukrainian TV stations, which is awfully convenient.

While there is jockeying for control among these clans, the overall effect is for them to sustain one another in power. They all depend on the same system for survival, and actively collaborate to keep it in place.

A good example of the clan system in action was the recent privatization of the Kryvorizhstal factory. Western firms offered 2.1 billion dollars. It was sold to the presidents son-in-law for 800 million. His son-in-law is Pinchuk, the head of the Pinchuk-Derkach clan.
Le Sabot is a great source for updates of the ongoing struggles in the Ukraine. The author is right there on the ground in Kiev.


 
Happy Thanksgiving
Written by: Beck

Some holiday cards for those who haven't picked any out yet. (Not necessarily safe for work--naughty words).


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

 
Holy Nuclear Weapons, Batman!
Written by: Brent Brophy

People get angry when they find out South Korea enriched small amount of uranium.

Iran says that it doesn't really need to comply with it's deal with the EU to not enrich uranium.

Brazil says that it's ready to start enriching it's own uranium, and that it has approval from the same agency that went batshit over South Korea enriching tiny amounts. Brazil's new president already went public with his nuclear ambitions.

North Korea wants to talk again, which means that they've new threats they want to make.

Goe, giving you all that warm fuzzy feeling.


 
U.N.-believable
Written by: Brent Brophy

The United Nations was caught with it's pants down in DRC. The UN tried hiding the videotapes of UN peacekeepers and civilian staff raping little kids, but that only worked for most of the year. Plan B is to send more peacekeepers, although who being protected from who is something nobody's quite sure of.

Goe, with his last breath will curse Zoidberg.


 
Only in America
Written by: Beck

Perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised about this, inasmuch as it's happening in the People's Republic of California. Still. It really blows my mind. And it takes a lot to shock me these days.
A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

[...] Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."
In 4th grade, we had to memorize the preamble to the Constitution and the first couple paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. All this time, I never realized I was being subjected to inappropriate material.

(Hat tip: Laurence Simon, writing for Protein Wisdom (where I also happen to be guest blogging)


 
Happy thoughts
Written by: Beck

Enough of the invective and rage. Here's a happy fun story. About dolphins! Yay dolphins!
A lifeguard and group of children were saved from a potential shark attack by a pod of circling dolphins which formed a protective shield, the swimmers claim.

[...] "They started to herd us up, they pushed all four of us together by doing tight circles around us," Mr Howes said.

Howes tried to drift away from the group, but two of the bigger dolphins herded him back just as he spotted a nine-foot long great white shark swimming towards the group.

"I just recoiled. It was only about two metres away from me, the water was crystal clear and it was as clear as the nose on my face," Mr Howes added.
So remember: when swimming in the ocean, beware of dolphins.


 
Parting shots
Written by: Beck

SFGate, in an editorial about Dan Rather's announced departure from CBS, bends over backwards to find nice things to say about him and to try to slant events in his favor. And they still ultimately can't help but highlight the negatives. A quick look at the opening and closing paragraphs pretty much says it all:
There will be a temptation, especially among Dan Rather's legion of critics, to attribute his departure to a forged-documents scandal [ed: ya think?]. It does seem likely that Rather's presentation and vigorous sustained defense of the discredited September story about the young George W. Bush's National Guard service -- or lack thereof -- hastened his retirement.

[...]

As much as Dan Rather prided himself on being a reporter, he sometimes missed one of the craft's cardinal principles: You are not the story. Too often, he was.
Maybe, now that he's announced his resignation, it's time to finally stop taking pot shots at the man.

Nahhh.


 
A powder keg with a short fuse on a hair trigger waiting for the other shoe to drop
Written by: Beck

Ukraine just held elections. The votes are currently being counted. The official results are expected to be announced any minute now. Get ready for civil war.

OK, here's the story. You've got two players running for president. One is the current Prime Minister, the heir apparent of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, from the pro-Russia political faction. Then you have the opposition candidate, an economist who is much more pro-West. In standard Eastern European fashion, their names are infuriatingly similar, so pay attention. The pro-Russian candidate is Mr. Yanukovych, the pro-Western candidate is Mr. Yushchenko.

Exit polls (of course exit polls are involved--can't have an election controversy without exit polls now can we?) show that Yushchenko should be winning handily. Public opinion polls confirm this. The election commission has said that Yanukovych has a "slim but unassailable" lead. American and European election observers all say that the election was fraudulent.

Now, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Kiev in protest. The riot police have been called out in force. Yushchenko has claimed victory. Russia continues to back Yanukovych while NATO, the European Commission, Germany (ordinarily a big Russia backer), the White House, and even the Vatican, are all saying all manner of dire things.

What happens next is anyone's guess, but either way it will have a major impact on the future of the entire region. The Ukraine has the potential to be an economic dynamo for the entire region, it has the potential to go on slogging through poverty and corruption, and it has the potential to melt down into a massive civil war, spilling over into neighboring countries.

Yeah, this bears paying attention to in the hours and days going forward.

Update: CNN now has a banner announcing that the Ukraine elections commission has officially declared Yanukovych the winner. Links to follow.

Bloomberg has the story.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 
Dan Rather steps down from nightly news spot
Written by: Beck

He'll remain as a correspondent for 60 Minutes & other special assignments. He was old (73) and his retirement isn't exactly a surprise, but I can't help but think that work by people like Bill of INDC Journal and the folks at Powerline Blog served to accelerate the process.
Rather, 73, has come under fire for his 60 Minutes report on President Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. The report relied on documents that cast Mr. Bush's service in a negative light. Critics charged that the documents were forgeries, and CBS News was unable to vouch for their authenticity. An independent commission is now investigating the matter.
Personally, I ain't gonna miss him. No replacement has been named.


 
Now available on DVD!
Written by: Beck

This is so wrong for so many reasons. And yes, I intend to list all of those reasons. It's what I do.
The US Congress is considering making fast forwarding through video advertisements a crime.

Lawmakers in the land of the free have decided that it is costing their chums in the movie industry far too much money and want video fast-forwarders placed in the same league as pirates.

According to NBC news the new law allows families to use new DVD technology self censor explicit scenes of sex and violence but forbids them to edit out advertisements.
Where to even begin? Congress is actually contemplating legislating that DVD makers must include technology which coerces viewers into watching ads. You heard that right folks. Especially amusing is that in the day of the VCR, anyone could fast forward through ads and FBI warnings (did anyone in history ever actually read one of those?), and the technology didn't exist to prevent it. Only now that technology has caught up with advertising executives wet dreams does the legislature step forward to coerce its inclusion in DVD players.

When you buy a DVD, you're paying a price for content. As much or as little as you want. Beyond that, how you choose to view it is entirely your prerogative. Furthermore, how you use your DVD player is your prerogative. Once the purchase is complete, no obligation exists between you, any advertiser, or the maker of the DVD. The only constraint upon your actions are copyright laws. And congress wants to legislate otherwise? What's more, it's not like you're receiving a discount in exchange for watching advertising. The ads do not subsidize the cost of the DVD. You don't have a more expensive ad-free version.

Ask yourself: what rights are violated without this law? Who is hurt? The only parties inconvenienced by the ability to fast forward a DVD are the person who sold the advertising and the person who bought it. Inasmuch as these two parties represent very small constituencies, and inasmuch as no rights of theirs are being violated, the only possible reason for our legislators to even consider such a law is that their pockets are being lined by the Hollywood lobby. While perfectly legal, this nonetheless represents corruption of the most base variety.

But forget all of that. Forget the fact that this is only going on because of what basically constitutes a form of bribery. This isn't about corrupt politicians. This is about property rights. If the government can mandate how you go about using your property; if the government can mandate how you spend your time; if the government can essentially coerce you into watching product adverts in exchange for the privilege of being able to watch a movie you own, then you are not truly free. You do not truly own your property. You only engage in a pantomime--a shared fiction in which the state allows you to feel free and to keep property at their whim. And their whim is subject to arbitrary change at any time.

(Hat tip: Ace)


Monday, November 22, 2004

 
So many dead horses, so little time
Written by: Beck

Yeah, I know. Blah blah blah UN blah blah blah oil-for-food. Stay with me here folks. The BBC has released a new study. Ordinarily, the BBC's anti-American bias is so strong that I have a hard time ever bringing myself to link to them. So when they come out with something which actually supports one of my viewpoints it's such a newsworthy event, I can't help but bring attention to it: UN knew of Saddam's oil-for-food thefts.
The United Nations knew that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was stealing from the oil-for-food program--and, by extension, starving his own people--but did little to stop it, according to a special report by the BBC at the weekend.

After a six-month investigation, the BBC said it had evidence that Saddam took billions from the oil-for-food program, and that "these abuses were widely known about at the time." The BBC said there was evidence that Saddam demanded a kickback from companies that wanted to do business with Iraq under the oil-for-food program.

[...] The BBC sent a reporter to Iraq and Jordan to track down people involved in the oil-for-food program, which has been described as the largest financial swindle in history. Virtually all said that Saddam took kickbacks from companies who sold goods to Iraq, and that the UN knew this. The businessmen--most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity--said it was standard to pay commissions, that nobody complained, and that was the price of doing business with Iraq.

A Jordanian banker said it was an open secret that contracts were inflated so Saddam could take 10 per cent. "We knew it was there," he said. "(But) actually, it's not our business, you know. Banks are (only) interested in their money, and to make money."

The allegations have left the UN fighting for its reputation. The oil-for-food program is being investigated by six US congressional committees and by the UN itself.
Emphasis mine. For the record, I don't plan to drop this subject any time soon.

(Hat tip: Ace)


 
Dead insurgents
Written by: Beck

Plenty of people have expressed opinions--most of them ill informed--on the current scandal stemming from a US Marine who shot an inert Iraqi, seemingly without provocation. I've avoided saying anything on the subject myself because, frankly, I wasn't there and haven't much of an idea what the actual facts of the case are.

Well, the reporter who filmed the whole event has written a long description of the day's events. This should be mandatory reading for anyone who wishes to express an opinion on the subject one way or another. He presents things in a very straightforward and unbiased manner.

And that, as they say, is that.

(Hat tip: Wizbang)


Sunday, November 21, 2004

 
Now is the time when we dance
Written by: Beck

You can't even begin to imagine the magnitude of the shit-eating grin that spread across my face when I first heard that forces were at work to bring a vote of no confidence against UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. While I've called for US withdrawal from the UN in the past, I'm not naive enough to believe it could actually happen anytime soon. Still, if there is to be any hope of reforming the UN to the point where it can at least remain within the bounds of tolerability, the first absolutely necessary step is the removal of Annan.

The Weekend Australian has an excellent article reporting the details surrounding the no-confidence move. Take note that it's not diplomats calling for his head; rather, it's the UN staff union which has finally grown so fed up with the bastard that they've decided it's time for him to go.
United Nations staff were preparing last night to move a historic vote of no confidence in scandal-plagued Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the UN's more than 50-year history, was set to approve a resolution withdrawing its support for Mr Annan and UN management.

Mr Annan has been under fire over a series of scandals, including controversy about a UN aid program that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.

Staff said the trigger for the no-confidence motion was an announcement this week that Mr Annan had pardoned the UN's top supervisory official, who was facing allegations of favoritism and sexual harassment. The union had requested an inquiry into the behavior of the official, Dileep Nair, after employees accused him of harassing members of his staff and violating UN rules on the hiring and promotion of workers.
Assuming this actually by some miracle results in the departure of Annan, I say good riddance to bad rubbish.

In other news, genocidal slaughter continues unabated in Sudan.


 
Talking out of both sides of your mouth, or how I learned to stop my brain from rational functioning
Written by: Beck

UN is sole authority for military intervention: Chirac
Visiting French President Jacques Chirac said Friday that although war is always the "worst solution" he would support military intervention for security or human rights reasons providing it was authorized by the United Nations.

"I support the right to intervene for reasons of security or human rights, but only within the framework of international law, which is expressed today by the United Nations," Chirac told students of the Oxford University.
Ivory Coast casts doubt over Paris's global policies
And then it was Chirac who single-handedly decided it was time for US-style unilateral military intervention a week ago. Again, it was a genuine expression of anger and no doubt fully justifiable, but it left the troops even more exposed.

"Hardly anyone here in France understands what our policies in Ivory Coast are supposed to be," Le Figaro newspaper argued last week. "Do we want to re-occupy to impose democracy? Do we just want to consolidate the ceasefire line? Or is it merely a question of 'defending French interests'? Nobody knows."

Families of the nine soldiers who died "ensuring security in a country that is our friend" are entitled to answers to these questions, though they are unlikely to get them. Because of the president's foreign policy domaine reserve', such matters are rarely debated in parliament. Instead the French have to live with Chirac's occasional gnomic utterances--and his soaring panegyrics when things go fatally wrong.
Gee, it sure is sad that President Bush has driven such a wedge between us and France--our oldest and most important ally. Oh, shit, blood just shot out of my ears. Excuse me for a moment while I clean up the mess.


 
Missing link no longer missing; Michael Jackson still unexplained
Written by: Beck

A problem which had long flustered anthropologists and encouraged creationists was the lack of fossil evidence for a species connecting human ancestors (australopithecus and company) and the other great apes. And now, it would appear, they've found him: Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, a.k.a. Rupert.
A 13 million years old ape living in what is now Spain may have been the last common father of all apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and humans.

[...] "This probably is very close to the last common ancestor of great apes and humans," said Salvador Moya-Sola of the Miguel Crusafont Institute of Paleontology in Barcelona, Spain, who led the study.

His colleague Meike Kohler said that it would have looked something like a modern chimpanzee and probably ate fruit.

"I would call it a missing link, because it really fills a gap," she added.
Not exactly politics or economics, but I find this kind of stuff fascinating, and it's my blog, so you'll just have to deal with it.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

 
What in hell happened to 101 KLOL
Written by: Beck

Thanks to a random post I once put up about Walton & Johnson's morning show on Houston radio station KLOL, INCITE has had a ton of search engine hits lately from people trying to find out what in hell happened to the Houston radio station 101.1. So here it is, real simple: KLOL's owner, Clear Channel Communication, decided they didn't need 3 vaguely rock formatted stations in Houston, so they lanced the one in the middle, and turned it into a Latino formatted radio station: Latino & Proud Mega 101FM.

Yes, KLOL was the oldest still-running radio station in Houston, yes they were a part of Houston culture, yes it sucks that they've had a radical format change, no Clear Channel will not change it back no matter what you do. Why? Because Clear Channel doesn't expect you to keep listening to 101 anyway, and because you can't boycot their radio stations if you want to listen to rock since they own all the rock stations in Houston. Clear Channel doesn't care how pissed off you are. You're just going to have to deal with it.

Or pay for satellite radio.


 
The World According to Garp Goldstein
Written by: Beck

Everything you always suspected but never quite put into words lined out for you in one tight post. Testify brotherman!
[...] To my mind, a real commitment to egalitarian concerns had been eschewed by progressives in favor of a faux egalitarian impulse that sought to foist a superficial statistical "equality" on the American public by constantly jiggering policy to achieve the proportional results it idealized. And the ends justified the means. Which is how we ended up with illiberal liberalism--a liberal progressivist political culture that justifies racial quotas and free speech zones, hate crimes legislation and increasingly anti-male public education practices.

It's worth remembering that Martin Luther King, Jr., a Christian civil rights advocate (and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from its founding in 1957 to his death in 1968), would today be pilloried by the progressivist left as a red state Uncle Tom--an inauthentic Black Bible thumping creationist who's dream that people be judged not "by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" would be dismissed as anti-Black "code"--or rather, as the right's usurpation of the language of "fairness" to keep minorities permanently oppressed by removing from the social equation historical contingency. Which critique, of course, is a big steaming load of self-serving horseshit.
Just another reason why you should read Protein Wisdom every day--when the man gets serious, the path of destruction left in his wake leaves Nagasaki looking like a broken thimble at a quilting bee.

I say can I get a witness!?


 
And the award goes to...
Written by: Beck

This week's Most Apt Blog Post Title Award goes to Q&O for the amazingly clever, "Time-Saving tip: Run NYTimes Editorials on Corrections Page."

A round of applause for Jon Henke ladies and gentlemen!


 
Gotta love competition
Written by: Beck

I had a professor in b-school who raised a question about the current wealth of free email services to be found (This would have been early 2000). He argued that free email services would eventually go away and be replaced with pay-services once people became more dependent on email.

I occasionally remembered his argument as I watched my hotmail account have one service/feature after another stripped away & shuffled over to the premium services accounts. The basic account only offered 1mb for storage and attachment size. The premium accounts, if I recall correctly, offered 50mb of storage and (not sure on this one) 5mb max attachment size.

Then along came Google's GMail offering 1gb of storage and 10mb attachments. It was starting to look like my professor's dire predictions were turning out to be unfounded. If history has taught us anything, it's that any prediction made about the internet will look unbelievably foolish in two years or less.

I couldn't help but chuckle when I found an email in my hotmail inbox today informing me that I was getting a free upgrade to 250mb of storage and up to 10mb for attachments. I've always suspected that the marginal cost of storage & bandwidth is ridiculously low to large scale operations like Hotmail host MSN--and this just goes to show it.

Of course, none of this would have happened but for that little miracle known as the free market. Gotta love competition.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 
The Barbie Plague
Written by: Brent Brophy

A swarm of locusts has swarmed over Cairo. They're pink. Egypt couldn't get hit by a manly animal infestation, like rabid camels or spiders. They got pink grasshoppers. Among the plagues of biblical proportions, that's got to be embarassing.

Goe, wishes he went bankrupt so he could spend 11.5 billion.



 
French Whining
Written by: Brent Brophy

I wound up listening to some French whining anyways.

"I am not sure, with America as it is these days, that it would be easy for someone, even the British, to be an honest broker," he declared.


Chirac knows nothing of honesty, having taken millions from Saddam Hussein to keep the Iraqi dictator in power. As soon as he leaves office he'll be prosecuted for embezzlement and theft for millions more he stole while mayor of Paris, The City of Dog Shit. Blair's "honest broker" has brought an end to Libya's WMD programs, something that gets no notice in the anti-american world media. The French still whine, of course. It is the only thing they're good at these days.

Goe, because not everyone is corrupt like Chirac.


 
Televised Drama Queens
Written by: Brent Brophy

In the flood of reality television shows, I watch very few. I mean it. The only ones that hold my interest at all are the historical reenactment ones. The general theme of them is a bunch of people try to live like people did in a particular time and place. They tend to be non-competitive, none of the office politicking that is the hallmark of most reality television. They also tend to be non-stop whinefests, with people bitching as soon as they're asked to do something besides dress up. Needlepoint? Too oppressive.

I want to know why the people making these shows don't kick out anybody who starts whining. The participants all volunteered, and if they can't handle the social etiquette or labors required of whatever they volunteered for, they should be given the boot. If I wanted to hear someone whine about how getting what they asked for is unfair, I'll go listen to the damned french.

Goe, wants more surreality television.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

 
One of these headlines
Written by: Brent Brophy

is not like the other...

Reuters says:
Bush Warns of Growing Violence in Iraq


Associated Press says:
Bush Paints Rosy Picture of Iraq Situation


Both stories are about today's radio speech.

Goe, cause one of these headlines does not belong.


Friday, November 12, 2004

 
Peace in our time!
Written by: Brent Brophy

Bush promises palestinians own state, agrees in principle to german control of sudetenland.

Goe, glad that Kerry can't give Connecticut to bin Laden as a homeland.


 
Fallujah in one sentence
Written by: Beck

"There isn't a block where there hasn't been a building that has been flattened, a tank round through it or a bomb dropped on it," Arraf reported.
From CNN.


 
Peace in Darfur
Written by: Beck

Wow, things were looking up in Darfur for, what, two days solid? I think that must be a new record for UN negotiated peace settlements. Although really, it shouldn't be called a "peace settlement" as that would suggest that two sides were warring on each other. What do you call it when one side agrees to stop slaughtering a bunch of starving civilians?

Anyway, things are looking like business as usual in Darfur. Aid workers are being obstructed. Displaced persons are being, well, displaced. And the defenseless continue to die (remind me never to be a defenseless person. Doesn't seem like there's much of a future in it).
The United Nations refugee agency said Thursday it is pulling staff out of part of Sudan's conflict-ravaged Darfur region to protest government restrictions on the aid workers.

Jean-Marie Fakhouri, Darfur chief for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the agency decided to act because Sudanese officials have barred its aid workers from leaving Nyala, in southern Darfur, since Oct. 20.

[...] Sudan's government imposed the travel ban after an Oct. 20 incident in which UNHCR staff and other aid workers from the global body tried to stop authorities from forcing refugees to leave the area around Nyala.

The government initially said the ban would be lifted Nov. 6, said UNHCR.

[...] Jan Pronk, the top U.N. envoy to Sudan, was in Nyala for a second day on Thursday trying to visit a camp that U.N. officials said was attacked by police a day earlier. [ed: Doesn't the phrase "attacked by police" seem rather discordant?]

[...] The U.N. Mission in Sudan also reported increased harassment of internally displaced people at two camps in north Darfur, Eckhard said.
Best of luck to the hapless refugees in Darfur. My advice: pick up a gun and learn how to use it. When the government is coming to kill you, you can't expect the United Nations to get in their way. At least with a gun in your hands, you can die fighting--and take a few of the sumbitches with ya.


 
The gateway drug
Written by: Beck

Proponents of drug prohibition like to talk about how marijuana is a "gateway drug" leading to use of harder drugs. While such beliefs are widely discredited, in an amusing turn, marijuana has turned into something of a gateway issue for proponents of individual liberty.

I have long held that the government should not punish "victimless crimes" -- such things as motorcycle helmet laws, and, of course, smoking pot. Regardless of where you stand on this debate, though, there is no denying that drug law liberalization continues to slowly creep forward.

Most recently, Columbia, Missouri passed two propositions by overwhelming majorities to ease restrictions on marijuana. The first proposition allows seriously ill patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The second proposition stipulates that police will assign the lowest priority to marijuana enforcement, and that possession charges will be handled in municipal court rather than state court.

What really fascinates me about this case is the magnitude of bipartisan support the propositions received.
Republicans will control the Legislature and the governor's office starting in January, "and this vote indicates to me that a bipartisan voting population, as it matures, is recognizing that marijuana use is not really something that ought to be treated like a crime," [pro-legalization lobbyist Dan] Viets said Tuesday.
The first proposition received 69% of the vote, and the second proposition received 62% of the vote. There's definitely a sea change taking place in the nations' perception of marijuana consumption.

(Hat tip: Vice Squad)


 
Idiots
Written by: Brent Brophy

Only a moron would believe lies told about them. Following a link from Instalawyer to a "press release" from the "american nazi party", I was not surprised to see a lot of stuff about how evil jews are. It's sort of what you'd expect of them. I also expected them to believe lies told about nazi's, which they are actually stupid enough to believe.

They play up the racism and antisemitism but seem oblivious that socialism is not only a goal, it's part of their damned name. Farrakhan is more racist and the DNC is more socialist than this bunch of overly inbred misfits. Leftists have spent decades claiming that nazi's are an offshoot of the right when it's really just another socialist variant (really very similar to fascism) and these morons are stupid enough to believe them.

So they're ignorant of the "socialist" part of "national socialism", they're also ignorant of the "national" part, claiming that they have the support of european "patriots". If their "national socialism" transcends borders, it's not "national socialism", but "international socialism" which traditionally meant subjugation to Moscow but would now mean subjugation to Brussels. That means they want us controlled by Brussels, "socialistic", and overtly racist. Any one of the three is enough to cripple our society.

What a bunch of fucking morons. On the plus side, they're not lawyers.

Goe, watching his cat nap.


 
So much for civic society - Oh yeah, and boycott Target
Written by: Beck

One of the elements necessary to holding together a free society is the presence of thriving civic institutions. Whether you're talking about the Rotary Club, the Special Olympics, or the American Heart Association, non-governmental service & charitable institutions make a nation strong.

What makes a nation weak is when these functions are replaced by government bureaucracies. While a government agency can conceivably provide the same services as, say, the United Way, those agencies can rarely do it as efficiently. More importantly, government agencies lack many things which non-governmental civic institutions have. For one thing, it's all voluntary. Charitable organizations employees work there because they want to, and donations come from people who want to give, not who are forced to give.

What's more, the existence of and participation in civic institutions serves to strengthen communities and bring people together, while governmental institutions serve to dehumanize people, reduce very personal issues to cold data and statistics, and also inspires a sense of entitlement, which ultimately leads to resentment.

The actual purpose of this post isn't to tear into government provision of charity; rather, it is to emphasize the importance of private charitable institutions. And because of that, it is with great disgust that I see that Target stores have decided to ban Salvation Army bell-ringers from working in front of their stores this Christmas.
Salvation Army chapters in West Michigan and elsewhere are scrambling to decide how to replace donations to Christmas bell-ringers outside Target stores after the retailer banned the ubiquitous holiday fixture.

Volunteers collected nearly $9 million at Target stores across the nation last year.

Target's new policy will be a blow to the Salvation Army of Muskegon, which also struggles to find enough volunteer bell-ringers, said Major Max Grindle, commanding officer of the local Salvation Army.

[...]

"I know the reasons for businesses to say no (to kettles), but that's part of what is odd to me. There's research that shows businesses that have a holiday bell-ringer during the season tend to do better," said Captain Dan Leisher of the Grand Haven Salvation Army, 310 N. DeSpelder.
Inasmuch as there aren't any Target stores close by, saying I plan to boycott them isn't saying much. However, I ask other blog authors out there to bring attention to this. The blogosphere is quite capable of bringing enormous pressure to bear on an issue (as Rathergate so amply demonstrated). Perhaps if enough pressure is brought to bear on Target, they'll have to reverse their policy.

(Hat tip: Mr. Minority)


Thursday, November 11, 2004

 
China probes for weakness
Written by: Brent Brophy

China has been scouting around inside Japanese territorial waters. North Korea, the Curly Joe to China's Larry, is now trying to avoid talking about it's nuclear weapons. You'd think the world would be paying more attention, as both South Korea and Japan have admitted to small-scale enrichment experiments of their own. If North Korea tests a nuclear weapon, something they've been threatening to do for years and the last step in brinksmanship, it would be unreasonable for anyone to expect the non-communist nations along China's Pacific Rim to refrain from going nuclear. Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are all capable of developing and manufacturing nuclear weapons in a short span of time. All three countries have everything to lose when China embarks on it's campaign to subjugate southern Asia.

Goe, reminding you that China is planning on a war with the US no later than 2020, probably by 2008.


 
The Politburo Cartographer hard at work
Written by: Beck

The Commissar has added a new addition to his famous (at least in the blogosphere) line of maps--this one of the Holy Roman Empire of the Blogs. Of course, he somehow managed to leave off the independent city-state of INCITE, located somewhere in the Alps. This doesn't particularly surprise me, however, as the Commissar's anti-capitalist revisionist tendencies are widely known.


 
Nice try
Written by: Beck

Imagine my surprise upon checking my email this evening and discovering the following letter in my inbox:
From: Blogger Support
To: incite@gmail.com
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 04:54:40 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Blogger Account Information

This email is a response to your request for information about your Blogger account. To regain access to your account, please click on the
following link:

[link]

Clicking on this link will take you to a web page that will let you choose a new password. Once you've submitted your new password, you'll
be able to log in to your Blogger account.
Looks like I finally managed to piss someone off enough that they would try to hack my account. Hell, I'm surprised it took this long for someone to take a stab at it.

Nice try asshole. Gonna have to do better than that.


 
Do ya have to let it linger?
Written by: Beck

The election is over, a winner has been decided, and the loser has conceded. But some people refuse to let it die. Many are of the moonbat DU fringe crowd. Others, such as David Anderson, take a more serious approach, desiring above all to make sure that the America's democratic system works as intended, that all the votes are counted, and that groups of Americans aren't being systematically disenfranchised.

Of the latter group, I'm inclined to support their efforts in principle. After all, if large-scale, wide-spread fraud is possible in an American election, then what kind of legitimacy can we have in our attempts to encourage democracy abroad. At the same time, the former group's efforts rankle to no end. Unfounded ranting and accusations that Bushitler and the Republikans "stole" the election only serve to undermine American legitimacy without shining any light on reality or serving to improve the system. Rather, they serve to alienate voters and to instill doubt in potential supporters abroad.

Now, with all that said, I'm inclined to believe that there was not, in fact, wide spread, systematic vote fraud. Indeed, while stories of Republican-benefiting irregularities have received a lot of press, stories of Democrat-benefiting irregularities have received virtually none. This is to be expected--after all, that which benefits the Democrats doesn't impact the election outcome. The victors in any contest are typically happy to savor their victory and move on to the next challenge, while the defeated wish with all their might that things might still come out differently.

I don't simply say that I'm disinclined to think there was fraud out of a hunch or a feeling or an instinct. I think that way after having read numerous articles and source material. The whole point of this post is to do a round-up of some of the highlights of what I've seen and read.

Perhaps most importantly, a joint project between Cal Tech and MIT was conducted to attempt to discover whether voting machines were used to steal the 2004 election. The PDF file is 8 pages long. Here is the conclusion:
There is no evidence that electronic voting machines were used to steal the 2004 election for George Bush. The "facts" that are being circulated on the Internet appear to be selectively chosen to make the point. Much of that analysis appears to rest on early exit poll results, which were bound to be highly volatile, given the nature of exit poll methodology.

This episode of trying to rely on the exit polls to verify the truthfulness of voting machines illustrates the weakness of this approach --- an approach that had gained currency among electronic voting opponents before the November election. Even when they work well, exit polls are too imprecise to lay against the official count, unless every voter is included in the exit poll.
Next up is a lengthy article in Salon.com which asks the question, Was the election stolen? Their response is long and thorough. In it, they highlight the largest accusations of fraud currently receiving wide circulation on the internet and elsewhere. In each case, they conclude that the irregularities being highlighted are not indicative of deliberate fraud, manipulation, or pro-Bush cheating. As they put it,
There's little question that the American election process is a mess, and needs to be cleaned up. But even if this particular election wasn't perfect, it was still most likely good enough for us to have faith in the results. Salon has examined some of the most popular Kerry-actually-won theories currently making the rounds online, and none of them hold up under rigorous scrutiny.
Next, for those interested in instances of voting irregularities, this article in the Palm Beach Post summarizes a great deal of the anecdotal instances of things going wrong, though they conclude:
None of the conspiracy theorists has provided proof of a widespread error that might have changed the election outcome. Independent groups who monitored the voting found problems scattered around the country but nothing decisive, and election officials have generally dismissed the Internet chatter.
Finally, an article in the Modesto Bee sums things up nicely:
In the days since the election, disgruntled Democrats have taken to the blogosphere and other portions of the public forum to claim the presidential election was stolen this year. They are doing themselves and the country a grave disservice. Yes, there were isolated problems, some of them quite serious. One electronic polling machine in Ohio mistakenly recorded 3,893 extra votes for President Bush. Computer glitches weren't the the only problems. Reports of registration irregularities, long lines, dirty tricks and voter intimidation abound. But none of the problems uncovered thus far have been serious enough to significantly erode President Bush's 3.5 million vote margin of victory or change the outcome in the Electoral College.

That said, the 2004 presidential election did confirm the need for continuing election reforms and improvements. In too many jurisdictions, the voting systems Americans use are antiquated and mistake-prone. The country needs to redouble its efforts to upgrade the election system. That means getting money to local governments to buy new machines and train poll workers and voters. It also means creating a registration system that is uniform and fair.
If you're interested in more on the subject, you don't have to surf too much of the blogosphere to find out as much as you could possibly hope for. As for me, I'm already sick of the story, and I can only hope this is the first, last, and only post I'll feel compelled to do on the topic.

(Hat tips: Protein Wisdom, Equal Vote, Instapundit)


 
What is he thinking?
Written by: Beck

Bush has won the presidency and solidified his support in both the House and Senate. So what does he do with this heady combination of mandate and momentum? Locks horns again with the pet project less popular with his base than any other: the illegal immigrant worker amnesty program. Chris Roach of Man-Sized Target puts it quite well:
If Bush's idea of "spending capital" is to try to push again for his misguided amnesty proposal, he is mistaken. He will eliminate in about 1 month all of his base's support for him, other than a few thousand businessmen who benefit from their cheap labor and possibly the libertarians...

The base supported him in spite of his position on amnesty/immigration, not because of it. There is no conservative constituency for this. To conservatives, it looks like a formula for perpetual war to fight terrorism abroad while condoning open borders at home.
While I'm on the subject of immigration, allow me to point you to a post on the subject by liberal blogger David of ISOU. I have to say I'm in complete agreement with him on the topic of illegal immigration and the establishment of migrant worker programs.
I do not believe that people, who violate a law of our country as literally their first act in entering the country, should be given the benefits of our great country...

As for establishing migrant worker programs that allow people to enter the country to work, I don't believe in it at all, for three reasons:

1. These people are often operating outside of labor law, not paying taxes but consuming local services including social services and education, and not paying into the system.

2. These workers are often abused and taken advantage of by growers and other employers who pay substandard wages and have people work in often dangerous environments.

3. There are Americans who would do some of the work currently done by illegals if they provided a decent wage and benefits. This will never be the case if growers can exploit cheap labor from Latin America and pay no benefits.

I admit my immigration policy is rather simplistic. But I say living in America is an honor, not a right to be given away to save a few rich growers money. I believe that anyone who goes through the arduous process to gain legal immigration status in the United States (And believe me I know, I am married to a foreigner), deserves U.S. residency or citizenship. Those who creep across our borders in the dark of night are criminals and should be treated as such.

Where David and I likely disagree (I'm not certain, as David doesn't go into detail about the nature and scope of legal immigration he would support) is on the nature and magnitude of legal immigration. This nation is a land of immigrants, and metaphors about it being a melting pot are apt and largely accurate. However, in the past few decades, America has seen an influx of immigrants not seen since the 19th century. At a consequence, the melting pot is no longer functioning as smoothly as might be hoped, and America has begun to devolve into a more European looking situation with islands of isolated communities which never assimilate or adopt the land which has adopted them. If we aren't careful, we might find ourselves in the same kind of demographic crisis currently engulfing Europe. And that's when the really bad stuff starts to happen.


 
Forgotten corruption
Written by: Brent Brophy

Kofi "Bribe Me" Annan is complaining that the world has 'forgotten' many crisis' in the world. They haven't been forgotten, it's just well known now that the United Nations is far more interested in collecting bribes and payoffs for it's senior appointed officials than doing anything to prevent or resolve any crisis. I believe that most of those crisis could be resolved if someone competent were sent to address them. The UN and EU are actively counterproductive, which leaves the US, where such appointments are driven entirely by domestic political agendas. We only send competent people when there's a pressing need here to get someone abroad to settle down, usually by pointing guns at them.

Goe, against the UN.


 
By George I think he's got it!
Written by: Beck

One good thing for the Democrats came out of losing the 2004 election: now that they no longer have to avoid like the plague saying anything negative, they can actually openly discuss the things they've been doing wrong. And I find it all amusing as hell--watching the party move from one statement of the obvious to another. That noise you hear is a chorus of Republican voters shouting, "We've been trying to tell you that this whole time!"
"Let's let Hollywood and the Cannes Film Festival fawn all over Michael Moore. We ought to make it clear he sure doesn't speak for us when it comes to standing up for our country," [Democratic strategist Will] Marshall said.

"Democrats have to make it very clear to the electorate that we believe that America is essentially a force for good in the world," he argued.

"Sometimes in our zeal to condemn Bush policy, we can go overboard in ways that really make them wonder whose side we're on," he said. "It is one thing to say the war in Iraq was a mistake; that's a legitimate position held by many thoughtful people. It's another thing to say it's an expression of some grasping new American imperialism, some kind of plot to grab Middle East oil or, even more ludicrously, all just about putting more money into Halliburton."


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

 
Finally
Written by: Beck

Yasser Arafat is officially dead.

He died peacefully, in his sleep, in a hospital bed. Which is far, far, far better than he deserved. But I guess it's too much to ask that his death come about as a result of slow blood loss after an explosion tore away his flesh and baked his skin, his last sight the mutilated corpse of his own child--a fate he inflicted on so many but in the end escaped.

And now, we await what's to come for Palestine. Their future right now is a flipped coin hovering in the air. How it comes down depends on the people and leaders in Palestine specifically and the entire Middle East generally. And history shall judge them all.


 
Breathtaking
Written by: Beck

Andrew Sullivan, in a post expressing support for a flat tax, manages to tie current tax policy in with gay marriage. The man has a gift. I don't think there's a single subject--from dog licensing to defense budget spending--which Sullivan can't find a way to link to homosexuality. The key passage:
I don't believe in affirmative action, because it means the government discriminates on the basis of race. I oppose heterosexual-exclusive civil marriage, because it means the government discriminates on the basis of emotional/sexual orientation. And I oppose punitive or "progressive" taxation, because it means the government discriminates on the basis of personal success.
I do have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised to see Sullivan supporting the notion of a flat tax. Unfortunately, I don't think that one will ever pass Congress.


 
Africa Update
Written by: Beck

Long story short: things are better in Sudan, worse in Ivory Coast.

In Sudan, the government finally bowed to international pressure, dropped their objections to a no-fly zone, and signed an agreement allowing in aid workers & other protections to the Darfur region. Will it actually work? Time will tell. I'm somewhat reminded of what happened in Kosovo--where the genocidal regime didn't really leave off with their genocide until forced out, by which point it was far, far too late.

In Ivory Coast, French soldiers opened fire on pro-government protesters in separate incidents, killing many and wounding many more.
French forces opened fire Tuesday as protesters massed between the Ivory Coast president's home and an evacuation post for foreigners. A hospital reported seven people were killed and more than 200 wounded.

Earlier, at least four days of confrontations killed at least 20 other people, wounded 700, and shut down cocoa exports from the world's largest producer.
Let's hear it for the French!

(Hat tips: OTB, MPJ)


 
I thought you'd never ask
Written by: Beck

For the Monty Python inclined, a bit of brilliance over at Q&O.
PALESTINIANS: I wish to complain about this terrorist that took all our money.

FRENCH DOCTORS: Oh yes, the, uh, the Nobel Prize winner. What's wrong with him?

PALESTINIANS: I'll tell you what's wrong with him. "He is dead". That's what's wrong with him!

FRENCH DOCTORS: No, no, "Mr. Arafat is not dead."...he's resting.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 
Maybe now he'll show up for votes
Written by: Beck

Kerry Vows to Press on with Agenda in Senate. It's been a while since I fisked anything. Just couldn't resist this one.
John Kerry returned to the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, vowed to fight on in the Senate for the changes sought by supporters of his failed U.S. presidential bid and did not rule out another White House run.
You have no idea how much I hope he runs again. One more Kerry presidential campaign and the Republican party should be able to net themselves a filibuster-proof Senate.
"Fifty-four plus million Americans voted for health care, they voted for energy independence, they voted for unity in America, they voted for stem-cell research, they voted for protecting Social Security," the four-term senator from Massachusetts told reporters as he met with two top Democratic congressional leaders.
And nearly sixty million Americans voted against all of that.
"We need to be unified," Kerry said in his first public comments since conceding defeat to President Bush in last Tuesday's election.
I know when I think of John Kerry I always think "unified." Does this mean he's going to support the Republican majority? 'Cuz that's the only way he's going to partake in any Senate unification.
"We have a very clear agenda, and I'm going to be fighting for that agenda with all of the energy that I have and all of the passion I brought to the campaign," Kerry said.
"Clear" and "passion." Two more words that I associate with John Kerry. Big time.
Kerry did not rule out another White House bid, but joked about a comment by his brother, Cameron, in The Boston Globe on Tuesday that such a run is "conceivable."

"It's inconceivable to me that anyone is even talking about that stuff right now," said Kerry...
For once I agree with the French looking liberal senator from Massachusetts, who by the way served in Vietnam. Hasn't the United States had enough campaign talk to last for a few years?
As television cameras rolled, Pelosi said, "I want to tell Senator Kerry how proud we were of him and are of him. His candidacy for president of the United States energized America .... His legacy is a great one, but it will continue, I'm sure."
Yes, it energized America, though not in the way I think she means. And what's with the blather about his legacy? Two years of not showing up for Senate votes plus a failed presidential campaign and we're talking about legacies?
Steve Grossman, a former Democratic Party chairman who worked on Kerry's 1996 Senate re-election campaign, said in a telephone interview. "Anybody who knows John Kerry knows John Kerry doesn't cut and run."
What Reuters fails to mention is how that 1996 campaign is the one Kerry nearly lost to Republican challenger William Weld. I'll spare you the obvious Vietnam/cut-and-run joke. Oops. Too late.
Asked if he expected Kerry to make another run for the White House, Grossman said, "I think it is unlikely given the rhythm of politics in this country."
Maybe that's the Democrats' problem. Trying to incorporate the rhythm method into politics. And for the closer, I leave you with the obligatory unintentionally hilarious quote from a politico who just can't help himself:
"You generally have your shot, take your shot and if you don't win, people tend to move on to a different set of characters," Grossman said. "But never is a long time. So I would never rule something out."
That's all folks!


 
When Christopher Hitchens speaks...
Written by: Beck

...people on both sides of the aisle should listen. Hitchens is literally the most erudite and intelligent liberal pundit that I am aware of. One of his great strengths is a willingness and ability to see the flaws and weaknesses in his own side's policies/beliefs/behavior and the commensurate strengths in his ideological opponents' views.

His latest column published in Slate definitely conforms to the quality I've come to expect out of Hitchens. Some choice excerpts:
...Islam, which was once a civilizing and creative force in many societies, is now undergoing a civil war. One faction in this civil war is explicitly totalitarian and wedded to a cult of death. We have seen it at work on the streets of our own cities, and most recently on the streets of Amsterdam. We know that the obscene butchery of filmmaker Theo van Gogh was only a warning of what is coming in Madrid, London, Rome, and Paris, let alone Baghdad and Basra.

So here is what I want to say on the absolutely crucial matter of secularism. Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine-disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO-described as the victims of "despair." The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as "insurgents" or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).

[...]

George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he-and the U.S. armed forces-have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The "antiwar" faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary-that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?

Secularism is not just a smug attitude. It is a possible way of democratic and pluralistic life that only became thinkable after several wars and revolutions had ruthlessly smashed the hold of the clergy on the state. We are now in the middle of another such war and revolution, and the liberals have gone AWOL.


 
Dispatch from the Just Die Already department
Written by: Beck

Aide: Arafat suffers brain hemorrhage

I'm not especially optimistic--as some people seem to be--that things will magically improve in Palestine & Israel once Arafat is out of the way. I think his death will open the door to renewed chaos, anarchy, and internal conflict. I can almost envision the whole of the West Bank pulling a number like the house from the first Poltergeist movie as members of the 14 different armed factions residing there--barely held together in the past only thanks to Arafat's iron grip--turn against each other to devour themselves like sharks in a feeding frenzy with nothing on the menu but themselves.

Sorry, got a bit carried away there with the metaphors.

There's a flip side to that coin however--progress cannot and will never be made in the Israel-Palestine conflict until Arafat is completely out of the way & out of the picture. Combine that with the minor detail that he's the father of modern terrorism, and all I can say is that I can't wait for him to finally kick the bucket.


 
Whence come terrorists
Written by: Beck

I've long heard that poverty is one of the root causes of terrorism. And it made sense to me, so I never thought to challenge the notion. After all, you take fervent fundamentalist religious beliefs and mix them with a life of financial desperation, and it's not too complicated to see how that could lead someone to the conclusion that the optimal course of action is to pick up an AK-47 and start killing Americans. Bonus points if you get killed in the process.

Looks like that might actually be a completely mistaken view of reality. A logically compelling view perhaps, but ultimately mistaken.

According to research by Associate Professor Alberto Abadie of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, economic poverty is simply not a factor.
Before analyzing the data, Abadie believed it was a reasonable assumption that terrorism has its roots in poverty, especially since studies have linked civil war to economic factors. However, once the data was corrected for the influence of other factors studied, Abadie said he found no significant relationship between a nation's wealth and the level of terrorism it experiences.

"In the past, we heard people refer to the strong link between terrorism and poverty, but in fact when you look at the data, it's not there. This is true not only for events of international terrorism, as previous studies have shown, but perhaps more surprisingly also for the overall level of terrorism, both of domestic and of foreign origin," Abadie said.
What's even more striking, however, is the link Dr. Abadie does find: terrorist activity, both foreign and domestic, has a direct correlation with political freedom. This is the sort of thing which resonates immediately with the theory and conclusions behind Libertarian political philosophy and Austrian (i.e. Mises) economic philosophy. But it's one of the conclusions of those relatively utopian philosophies that I dismissed as unrealistic as they failed to take into account the innate irrationality of much human behavior.

However, the link isn't completely cut and dry--the correlation between terrorism and freedom is not linear. Nations with high levels of political freedom experience very low levels of terrorism. Nations with very low levels of political freedom also experience very low levels of terrorism. The authoritarian restrictiveness on all aspects of human activity in such regimes seems to be sufficient to repress the activities of terrorists.

Where terrorism is most prevalent is in countries with middling levels of political freedom.
Instead, Abadie detected a peculiar relationship between the levels of political freedom a nation affords and the severity of terrorism. Though terrorism declined among nations with high levels of political freedom, it was the intermediate nations that seemed most vulnerable.

Like those with much political freedom, nations at the other extreme - with tightly controlled autocratic governments - also experienced low levels of terrorism.

[...] "When you go from an autocratic regime and make the transition to democracy, you may expect a temporary increase in terrorism," Abadie said.
This creates a conundrum for democratization and state-building efforts in repressive regions of the Middle East and elsewhere. You start with a highly repressive regime--like Iraq. Your goal is to move it to a highly free nation--like America. To get there, however, you have to cross a middle ground which is ripe for terrorism to flourish.

Yet another reason not to lose heart when you hear people talk of "quagmire" in Iraq. We always knew the road would be a hard one. And now the data seems to explain just why that is.

(Hat tip: OTB)


 
Why you should read Lileks
Written by: Beck

Because he consistently has gems like this.
Paul Harvey, of all people, noted that the hard phase of the battle would involve house-to-house combat, "just like Vietnam." Sigh. It’s now the all-purpose metaphor. There could be a war on the moon with armies on dune buggies launching crossbows at each other, and someone would pronounce it a repeat of a disastrous battle in the Mekong Delta. But he’d be 108 years old, the last boomer, a brittle old survivor--not the Greatest Generation but the Generation that Grates, determined that any conflict should be seen through the prism of his youth with "White Rabbit" playing in the background. Times have changed. It's FLIR and Kid Rock now, I think. Stay tuned, and keep them in your thoughts.

The Marines, I mean.


 
Ivory Coast update
Written by: Beck

With a minor horde of French troops in the Ivory Coast now, government loyalists have convinced themselves that the French plan to depose President Gbagbo. The French claim otherwise, and in this case, I'm inclined to think they're sincere. I doubt the French are prepared to administer the country directly, so if they depose the current president, they'll be left with nothing but a handful of warring factions in an armed & angry rebellion. Total chaos. Cat and dogs living together. The details:
"[The French] presence here is scaring people. [The locals are] crying and they think that President Gbagbo is going to be overthrown," presidential spokesman Desire Tagro told the Associated Press by telephone.

The French denied surrounding the house or intending to oust Gbagbo, saying forces only were securing a temporary base at a hotel a few hundred yards away for about 1,300 foreigners who had taken refuge at a French military base.

"Everything should go back to normal," French mission commander Gen. Henri Poncet said on state TV, alongside Ivory Coast chief of army staff Gen. Matthias Doue. "It is absolutely not a matter of ousting President Laurent Gbagbo."
Rumors that the French are only trying to find a leader whose name is more pronounceable than "Gbagbo" would appear to be completely unfounded. To which I add: Pepe le Pew?


Monday, November 08, 2004

 
National Awareness Month Awareness Month
Written by: Brent Brophy

I noted a link in the Carnival of the Capitalists to an article on National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This happens to also be National Adoption Awareness Month, National Epilepsy Awareness Month, National Alzheimer's Disease Month (they forgot the awareness in the name, but it really is an awareness month, I swear!), National Diabetes Awareness Month, National Marrow Awareness Month, National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, etc., etc., etc.

So if you see someone beating an adopted "family member", be sure to verify it's not just an epileptic seizure before you forget about it and wander into your oncologist's office asking for insulin.

BTW, Saturday is Sadie Hawkins' Day.

Goe, is aware of a great many things, knows what he knows, if you know what he means.


 
On France
Written by: Brent Brophy

France thinks we're being mean.

"There's a paradox here, since France is actually among your best friends in the fight against terrorism."


Yeah, by taking bribes from terrorist sponsoring countries to protect them from us, by encouraging arab states to start or expand terrorist activities against the west, coddling the "father of modern terrorism",and having a fearless national mascot.

I think our views of France are spot on. France's view of us is another matter entirely.

Goe, getting chicken links from Beck.


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