Saturday, May 29, 2004

Welcome back, La Shawn

La Shawn is back! There are two blogs that I always go to first because I like their writing and perspective: La Shawn Barber's Corner and Back of the Envelope. I'm always a bit disappointed if they don't have something new so I've missed La Shawn while she was gone. Welcome back, La Shawn.

Friday, May 28, 2004

optimal terrorist response

Cliff pointed out in a comment (to this post) that the expected deaths from terrorists each year in the US is about 300. This is roughly the same as the number of people killed by lightening. Cliff suggests (I infer from his irony) that we are spending too much time, money, and energy in combating what is statistically a minor problem. The problem is... Well, the problem is that his logic makes a weird sort of sense. Like Cliff, I'm an engineer and I detest inefficiency. Especially inefficiency for emotional, anti-rational reasons. It took me a while to come up with a good answer, but I think I have one: First, terrorism has effects all out of proportion to its actual danger. There are no good reasons for this, but that's the way it is. Terrorism terrorizes. In this way terrorism effects far more people than would a natural disaster that claimed the same number of lives.

Second, it would be foolish to assume that terrorism will remain constant. Terrorists gain prestige, recruits, boldness, and funding from success, so it's important to counter those gains with some dramatic failures. And just because there haven't been any terrorist attacks so far that claimed millions of lives, there is no reason to think that could never happen. A single nuke going off in a major city would skew those yearly statistics considerably. It's worth a lot of time, money, and energy to reduce the likelihood of this worst-case scenario.

Cliff responds:
The first part of your response is that we have to keep acting stupidly because we are acting stupidly and we can’t stop. The second part of your reply is to posit worse things and say we must prevent them. But doing irrational things in pursuit of irrational fears does not usually lead to productive actions. 9/11 resulted from three causes. There were bad guys. There were weak doors to the cockpit. The powers that be did not believe in suicide bombers after three years of suicide bombings. Problems two and three are fixed. Problem one will never be fixed.

We currently keep graduate students from South Korea out of the US to prevent terrorist attacks. This causes our economy great damage and prevents zero terrorist attacks. We caused a severe recession after 9/11 by hiding in our houses when the streets were the safest they had been in decades. If you believe that one news report that the danger level has been raised to orange has deterred one terrorist, then you might be able to make a case that our pathetic television oriented war on terror has been useful. Outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the terrorists have the support of a real army, none of the terrorists have been caught by soldiers. They have been caught by cops, here, in Europe and in the Middle East, doing their jobs.

The important efforts to stop nuclear attacks by terrorists is at the source of supply in the old Soviet Union and in Pakistan. Only by stealing a ready-made bomb could terrorists gain access to one. Dirty bombs might frighten people, but they are not a real health threat. Enriched Uranium isn’t that toxic. Ordinary (non-fissionable) nuclear waste is far more toxic. The people of this country have to realize that their chances of being killed are the lowest in human history anywhere on earth. If you or any of them are afraid, get over it.
I'll have to ask him about that South Korea thing...

Back of the Envelope has a graph of the numbers of people killed by terrorists over the last thirty years. If you ignore the 9/11 spike, this graph actually tends to confirm Cliff's analysis. Terrorism doesn't seem to be a particularly growing problem.

whore blogging

Michelle Malkin has a good article on the Wonkette/Washingtonien situation. In case you don't know, Washingtonien was a receptionist in a government office who was working as a prostitute on the side and blogging about it. List price, $400. Wonkette is another blogger who has been promoting her. The DC press is actively promoting the pair and Malkin has some choice words about it.

I've always wondered why Instapundit and other sensible bloggers link to Wonkette. Her blog is low-quality and low-class. I've never followed an Insta-link to it that was worthwhile.

Guy point: There are pictures of the two women bloggers floating around the net. Just because I'm always keeping score: Wonkette -- not worth looking at twice. Washingtonien -- pretty hot (not $400 hot, though). Michelle Malkin -- really hot.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Gore and violence

Famous right-wing photo-journalist James sends me this photograph of Al Gore's speech. He says it gives him a strange feeling of familiarity, but he can't figure out why. I get the same feeling. Anyone have any clues what seems so familiar about Gore's screaming and ranting and accusing other people of all sorts of heinous things just because he doesn't like them? And an enthusiastic crowd cheering his hatred and slander?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

semi-crushing disappointment

Donald Crankshaw at Back of the Envelope really got my hopes up with this story of a peace agreement in the Sudan, only to crush them in an update at the end. It seems that this agreement doesn't directly effect the genocide going on in the Sudan near the Chad border. It could be good news though. A lull in the civil war could lead to disarming the Arab brigands that seem to be most directly responsible for the tragedy. Or it could lead to the government taking a more active role in carrying on the genocide. Time will tell.

But at least this gives me hope that Bush is actually doing something over there.

As an aside, has anyone noticed the way the press is using the word "militia" to refer to murderous brigands? A militia is supposed to be an honorable military unit composed of citizen soldiers who are defending their homes from invaders. But the leftist press, who doesn't believe in honor, thinks it's the same thing as a band of murderous thugs engaged in wiping out their neighbors.

It reminds me of when they started using the word "fundamentalist" to describe reactionary, violent Muslim groups. As though those groups had something in common with Jerry Falwell. And, oddly enough, a lot of people today seem convinced the groups do have something in common. I can't count the number of times I've heard leftists suggest that fundamentalist Christians are dangerously violent. I can, however, count the number of times that prominent fundamentalists have promoted, encouraged, or endorsed political violence: 0.

It was similar when the press started referring to the violence-prone unreformed Communists in post-USSR Russia as "conservatives". See? The very people that the American conservative movement coalesced to fight against are themselves conservatives. These are the things you can get away with when you control the press.

Of course they used similar tactics to steal the honorable word "liberal" and make it mean leftist, but that backfired on them, causing the word to become dishonorable rather than making leftists seem more honorable.

how to polish up your conservative credentials

There must be some congressmen and senators out there who are in a closely contested race and need more conservative backing. Here's how to get it: introduce a bill, under emergency procedures, to take 5 million dollars out of the UN contribution and instead send it to pay KPMG to complete their investigation of the Oil-for-Food scandal. I can guarantee at least one campaign donation for anyone who does this and makes it a serious effort.

KPMG, for those who don't know, is the accounting firm that was hired by the Iraqis to investigate the Oil-for-Food program. Bush has refused to pay them so they have stopped work. And in the near future, the funding will be in the hands of people appointed by the UN. This is a clear and cordial invitation to a cover-up from Bush to the UN.

The bill I propose would publicize this aiding-and-abetting of graft by the Bush administration and might embarrass Bush into doing the right thing. If not, maybe the bill could get passed and the right thing would get done anyway.

Here's another one. Introduce a bill that suspends all money to the UN until the UN reforms its accounting practices to be completely transparent. Require them to send letters to all people who do business with the UN. The letter should say that all UN business is transparent and UN business partners are expected to answer questions and provide copies of documents to any legitimate investigator.

What excuse does the UN have for hiding its transactions? And what possible ethical position could let them refuse to let their major funding source investigate whether they are spending money the way they are supposed to? For that matter, what possible ethical position could allow Congress to continue funding them without this transparency?

OK, this annoys me

Katheryn Jean Lopez (aka KLJ) over at The Corner takes another cheap shot at the very large guy who was slapped by tiny Richard Simmons and then pressed charges. Enough already. Those of you who are mocking that guy are flat wrong. He did the right thing. He could have knocked Simmon's head off, but then he would be in jail and you would be mocking him for beating up on a smaller guy.

You all joke about the size of the other man compared to Simmons. And that means what? Being slapped hurts less if you're big? Being slapped by a tiny guy is less humiliating if you're a big guy? It doesn't work that way. It's just as painful and even more humiliating. Kathryn, how would you like it if you said something that some tiny little old lady didn't like and she hauled off and slapped you? In a public place where you would be embarrassed by everyone who saw it?

And no one has pointed out what a creep Simmons is for assaulting a total stranger over an ambiguous comment while relying on the man's forbearance in not retaliating. Simmons suffered no drawback for being a total jerk. He didn't even miss his plane. The man he assaulted suffered a physical attack, public humiliation, and nation-wide mockery for the crime of being big and being attacked by a smaller person.

Simmons didn't even apologize. He joined in the mockery of the man he had assaulted. This was disgraceful behavior, and those of you who essentially supported Simmons in this should be ashamed of yourselves.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

blame Jerry Falwell for anti-Semitism

In the previous post, I suggested that the reason anti-Semitism is becoming more tolerated in the US is because Jews no longer vote and contribute overwhelmingly for the Democratic party. It's worth pointing out that you can probably blame Jerry Falwell for this. He was instrumental in making strong support for Israel a major part of the Republican party platform. The Republicans had always supported Israel, but as a minor issue. Falwell made this one of the primary issues of the Moral Majority and spoke about the Christian duty to Israel all over the country for a decade. Falwell also reached out to conservative Jews to bring them into the Republican party.

The legacy of Falwell's efforts was a growing movement of Jews toward the Republicans, leading to a more evening-out of the voting patterns, the creation of the new Jewish-Republican cabal known as the neocons, and the loss of leftist-protected-class status for Jews. Once Jews became unpredictable voters, the Democrats and their lackys in the press lost interest in ferreting out and punishing all hints of anti-Semitism. And this new lack of vigilance on the part of the national press has allowed anti-Semitism to grow and re-establish itself in dark niches of the political biosphere (polysphere?).

Like a fungus, it will spread if steps are not taken to stamp it out. And those steps can only be taken by the controllers of popular culture in the news and entertainment media. As long as these media are controlled by Democrats, there will be no serious action taken, and the fungus will continue to spread.

anti-Semitism at Berkeley

Eugene Volokh points out this scary article in the The East Bay Express about anti-Semitism at Berkeley. It is revealing how the left is so tolerant of hatred on their side of the aisle and so ready to assume the worst of the right. I can't count how many references I've seen to crypto-racism on the part of Republicans, or to the "well-known" fact that conservative Christians hate Jews. As a Republican and a conservative Christian, I have to say that I must be completely oblivious because I've never seen a sign of either one.

Yet why is the left so ready to believe this? People infer the hidden characteristics of others by analogy with their own hidden characteristics. For example people with phenomenal memories tend to expect others to remember just as well, even letting this expectation overcome experience at times. If someone sees that you have new stuff all the time and asks seriously if you shop-lift, it's a good bet the person you are talking to is a shop-lifter. If a man always seems to interpret literature involving a close friendship between two men as a hidden homosexual romance, it's a good bet the guy is gay. And it's no accident that those who hate Jews also scream that Zionism is racism.

If someone sees crypto-bigotry and hidden anti-Semitism all over the place, there is good reason to suspect that the person is a crypto-bigot and hidden anti-Semite. It's only an indication, of course, not proof. Yet when you combine it with a casual acceptance of outright bigotry and anti-Semitism on the part of fellow party-members, it makes a convincing case.

The Democratic party is certainly guilty of this. They are notoriously accepting of anti-white racism, anti-Christian bigotry, and anti-Semitism in their ranks. If Republicans even hinted at welcoming such people into the Republican ranks, they would be crucified in the press. And if they were serious about it, lots of people would leave the party over it.

So why do Democrats tolerate anti-Semitism but not racism against blacks? The reason is to be found in the voting records. Blacks vote 90% Democrat. There was a time when Jews voted (and donated) overwhelmingly Democrat too, and the Democrats were just as touchy about anti-Semitism as about black racism. But voting demographics have changed. And as the Jewish loyalty to the Democratic party has waned, so has the loyalty of the Democratic party to Jews.

Contrast this with the history of the Republican party, which has been strongly pro-Israel since the seventies, a time when they got almost no Jewish votes. It was a principled position, unlike the power politics of the Democrats.

Monday, May 24, 2004

press freedoms

Glenn Reynolds points out that press freedom as we understand it is a fairly recent invention. He toys with the idea that it may be due to an increasing respect for the press in recent years as it became less partisan and came to be viewed as impartial. The corollary is that the public's growing distrust of the press may eventually reverse this trend.

I suspect the truth is more the opposite of Reynolds's speculation. The press didn't become less partisan, they became monolithically partisan. Before the last half of the twentieth century, there was no incentive for a judge or political leader to increase the power of the press because that power was as likely to be used against you as for you. But beginning in the 1950s, the press became noticeably leftists as an institution. This meant that leftist judges and political leaders viewed the press as an ally rather than a natural event, killing impartially.

With this new state of affairs, a large number of powerful people had an incentive to increase the power of the press. They weren't given their new freedoms and powers by the American people, who always held them in varying levels of low esteem during those years, but by leftist and Democrat judges and politicians.

So the press achieved it's current level of power, not because it was seen as being reliable and unbiased, but because it was seen as reliably biased. The courts gave the press more freedom. In return, the press gave the courts cover for usurping new powers. On the other side, the press gave Democratic politicians fawning coverage and slandered their Republican opponents. In return, the Democratic politicians aggrandized the press and let the press set their agenda much of the time.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Bush, UNSCAM and Mozilla

My browser (Mozilla) has taken a dislike to my website. If I delete history and cache, it will visit it once or twice but then it gets nasty and starts telling me " '/' not found" and I can't even get back to my site with the back button. So anyway, an hour or so of my blogging time today was taken up by tracking this down (all I came up with was the clear history/cache thing) and I didn't have that much time to begin with because of work.

But if I did have time to blog, I'd blog about the raid on Chalabi's house and UNSCAM and the fact that Bremmer is assigning a brand new accounting firm rather than continuing with the old one hired by the Iraq National Congress. I'd say that I wish I had a president where I could be confident that he wouldn't try to cover up a huge scandal in the UN to avoid embarrassing his political enemies. But I'd point out that he has a history that makes such a confidence impossible.

For example, there was the way the outgoing Clintonites vandalized the Whitehouse on their way out, and Bush not only didn't prosecute, he told his people not to say what happened. I'm one of those people who thinks that people working in the Whitehouse should not be given a pass on criminal or unethical activities just because they have powerful friends. In fact they should be held to a higher standard.

Then there was the fact that Bush was not the least bit interested in carrying on various bribery investigations against Clinton, either past investigations involving China or new investigations involving pardons, even though there was strong evidence of wrongdoing.

And don't forget that Bush did everything he could to honor and embrace Ted Kennedy, who's main claim to fame is that he committed manslaughter, destroyed evidence, and then used his political connections to avoid punishment, even though Kennedy never once reciprocated.

And of course, there was evidence of gross errors in the FBI and transportation department that contributed to the tragedy of 9/11, the death of thousands of Americans, and Bush never asked for a single resignation.

For that matter, the transportation department has responded to 9/11 by adding stupid and useless inconveniences for all airline passengers all in the name of political correctness and Bush still hasn't asked for a single resignation.

And it's been pretty clear that career bureaucrats at State and possibly in the CIA have actively worked at cross purposes with presidential policy, and there haven't been any requests for resignations on that either.

Bush has a history of softball politics. Not just softball, nurfball politics. He doesn't want anyone to get hurt. I think it is well within Bush business-as-usual to stand idly by while the Kofi Anan busily covers up all the dirt at the UN. I'm not sure it's beyond possibility that he would send soldiers to seize incriminating documents so that the documents could disappear into a huge Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-style government warehouse. I'd like to believe that all this is impossible, but Bush doesn't have a track record to give one confidence in this matter.

Anyway, if I had time to blog today, that's probably what I'd blog about.