Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Cleland's Letter

I didn't think too much of Kerry having Max Cleland deliver some letter to President Bush. The disproportionate amount of coverage though, made me wonder if it was an effective move. Will people be able to see through this ploy to Kerry's true motive of covering up his disgraceful past? As usual, a couple thoughts came to mind:
  1. Most people who aren't political junkies don't know and don't care who Max Cleland is.
  2. I know the left lacks any sense of shame, but if Bush pulled a similar stunt I would be embarrassed. Not like 'hypocritical' embarrassed like the left should be, but embarrassed that it was the only idea my team had - to grovel to the opponent.

What do they hope to accomplish with this? I'm reminded of the occasion before the first Gulf War when Bush received some Iraqi dignitary (who is probably now dead), and the dignitary carried with him a letter from Saddam himself to give to the president. Though the letter carried Saddam's terms for peace, Bush (H.W.) made the expressed point that Saddam already had the terms and no letter would be accepted. The dignitary (no doubt fearful of Saddam's retribution) went ahead and tried to give the letter to Bush anyway, at which time it was promptly refused.

This incident was embarrassing to all parties, but particularly embarrassing for the Iraqi regime. "Please, please, please take my letter Mr. Bush!"

Nice bias NYT

Check out this picture of three unarmed men running out of the Najaf shrine:

The New York Times made a point of posting it with the following caption:
Some Iraqi men leaving the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf ducked yesterday to avoid fire from American snipers.

I don't know about you, but American snipers shooting at unarmed men sounds like a much worse offense than a couple nudie photos from a prison. I'll make a couple points on this:
  1. U.S. snipers do not shoot unarmed people.
  2. If they did, ducking wouldn't save your ass.
  3. Although it's difficult to see, all three of these guys have big grins plastered across their faces, and the guy in the back is making a point to look right in the camera. This is hardly the behavior of someone concerned about their imminent demise.

The insinuation bothers me greatly. Of course the person who wrote the caption (who probably hasn't even ever been out of the U.S., let alone been to Iraq), meant to say that U.S. snipers might accidentally hit them if the snipers are gunning from someone behind them. This too, of course, is crap; just like the NYT.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


TCS gets my goat again:

One is "Bush Administration meddling" in a benighted part of the world it does not understand. They [the French] think we'll muck it up and when the going gets tough just sulk back to our safe shores. They are not afraid to say they're tired of 9/11. Paris was a terrorist target for thirty years after the Algerian war. There are still no garbage containers in the streets for fear they harbor bombs. Three thousand dead Americans is terrible, but from a percentage standpoint, the Madrid bombings were just as bad and no Americans marched in the streets, unlike September 12, 2001 in Madrid when thousands turned out. America, they say, needs to grow up, move on, and try to prevent future attacks, none of which Bush's policies accomplish. My new friends see the Islamification of the Arab community as recent phenomenon that can be traced to what religious Arabs see as western attacks on Islam after 9/11. And France, not America, sits in the path of the storm.
Does the U.S. not care about the Spanish dead?
How thoughtless I thought we in the U.S. are. That is, until I realized that while marching in the street in Madrid in sympathy is nice, it's hardly as effective as fighting in the streets in Baghdad. So while they mourn our loss, we bleed for their freedom.

Should the U.S. just suck it up and put up with terrorism?
That's what we pretty much did before 9/11. You can't put up with too many 9/11s (or worse) before you're broke and/or dead. Although much is put on the human casualties, I don't think the losses in property can be minimized either; after all, although 'things' can be replaced, we need 'things' to survive.

Is radical Islam on the up and up because of U.S. actions?
This is probably the dumbest argument presented (and to be fair, I think the author of the piece is just relaying French sentiment). You'd have a hard time finding a period of time when the Islamic radicals didn't have it in for the west.

Will the U.S. cut and run?
A legitimate concern to be sure. Although, not supporting us in the endeavor hardly decreases the likelihood of that happening. I'd surmise that this, and the other issues, have more to do with their dislike of the U.S. than any actual real concerns though.

Monday, August 23, 2004

NPR Watch - Racism Alert!

Nothing wakes the brain up faster than listening to the bizarro conclusions run up the pole on NPR. Their latest effort is pinning abuse of the environment (their opinion, not mine) on the fault of racism. How's that? White people don't want to live around colored people, so they moved out of the city and bought up land that should have trees on it instead of people. (Although this locally produced article hasn't been posted yet, it may be put up here eventually). Pieces like this remind me of high school debate speech's where idealistic young idiots spout some line of non-sense about how great the world would be if people would just do X, Y , and Z.

Of course just how X, Y, and Z would make the world more perfect would never be elaborated upon. Would the world's problems really go away if we pitched our guns? Would starving people get all they could eat if we taxes rich people more? Evidence for their arguments was, needless to say, lacking; and NPR one-ups them by drawing three bad conclusions, and automatically assumes that the problems presented by these conclusions would go away if people did what NPR said.

Argument 1: The building of suburbs harms the environment.
Unspoken Solution: Throw the notion of private property rights out the window and disallow the building of homes distant from the city centers.

Of course, what bar is being used to measure the environment? I'll guarantee you that air and water quality are better in the city of Cleveland than they were 50 years ago; so by that measure, suburbs actually help the environment. Of course, we all know what they are talking about. We're talking about the lefty worship of the almighty tree! Of course you'll have to forget about the fact that most subdivisions go in on farm land, which are also evil for using fertilizers, pesticides and such. Of course also working into this is the fact that lefties get jealous beyond belief when they drive down the highway and see people living in nice big houses in neighborhoods with decent schools and low crime. They feel that people should be forced to live in crappy neighborhoods like they do!

Argument 2: Suburban segregation is happens because whites are nasty racist people.
Unspoken solution: Probably more section eight housing in neighborhoods where people don't want them. Any solution which forces people to live in cites is also good.

One big bugaboo in this argument is 'code' language used by realtors to designate the given racial makeup in a neighborhood. In an excellent article by John Derbyshire, he points out the futility of combating such practices:
How does this happen? Is it all the fault of the realtors, 'steering' people into segregated neighborhoods? Well, there is probably some of that. I doubt the motivation is 'racism' on the realtors' part, though. They just don't enjoy wasting their time, any more than you or I do. You're a realtor: a young white couple walks in, looking for a house to buy: you send them to a black neighborhood: they take one look around, say: "We don't want to live here", and find themselves another realtor.
The basic fact of the matter is that people want to live by other people like them. The fact that people like to be around people like themselves is a very simple! I doubt the NPRites are going to make a point to move into a conservative town in Texas just to prove how great they are. They blame 'whites' in general, but they fail to point out how even white neighborhoods often break down into Italian, Polish, Romanian, etc. Neighborhoods. This isn't due to any ethnocentrism on anyone's part; people just like being around other people with whom they share the most commonalities; and one's ethnic makeup is, despite efforts to the contrary, a commonality.

Argument 3: 'White Flight' happened because one day white people woke up and decided they didn't like being around black people.
Unspoken Solution: More of the same of solution 2. Although it would help if white people felt extra guilty, because that accomplishes something...I guess.

NPR brings up no evidence to support this notion. I guess high taxes, high crime, poor schools and forced busing didn't work into anyone's decision making process on this. It was just plain hatred of black people. The fact that middle class black people run away from the cities doesn't have anything to do with how poorly cities are run either; they are, of course, running away from a deteriorating situation caused by those nasty whities! Give me a break.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Only Solutions Please

Sooo, TCS has posted a piece critical of the Iraq war. This kind'a caught me off guard coming from a conservative leaning web site, and the pieces points were better thought out than most. However, scratching below the surface we find the same old diatribes, just in a different color. Let's see what we got here:

So is Najaf really the right spot to be fighting Moqtada al-Sadr and his Shia militia? To fight, and possibly kill-either on purpose, by accident, or as a consequence of his own self-martyrdom--this new hero of the Shia, admired by 68 percent of Iraqis, according to a poll taken last May by the US government?

Now I must admit, this 'Iraq is hopeless' bit can get me down at times, and attacks from the right don't help. Only when it sinks in do I realize there's no 'there' there. Such as the quote above. Mr. Pinkerton fails to point out that only 2 percent of those sampled wanted to see him elected as president. Not only does this, no doubt, fall within the polls margin of error, but it also signifies wide, yet shallow support. I'm sure most of those polled said something along the lines of "Who? al-Sadr? Yeah, sure. He's great I guess". I'm reminded of the impeachment polls of Clinton, where most Americans came out against impeachment; of course the press never bothered to ask "Would you give a crap if he was?".

Mr. Pinkerton also points out that U.S. troops have a 10 percent approval rating, whatever that means. I would put forward the notion that the U.S. military gets that rating because it's not killing enough of the street goons that are making the lives of Iraqis miserable. As well, there's also this:

To be sure, Saddam managed to put down the Shia when they rose up in 1991. But in doing so, he killed an estimated 300,000. Are we ready to inflict that sort of carnage? If we did, how would the world think of us, and remember us? More to the point, how would the remaining 100+ million Shia regard us? And the billion or so Sunni Muslims in addition to them?

If you're so full of questions, how about asking why there was a Shia uprising in 1991 and why 300,000 of them were killed? Since Mr. Pinkerton worked as an aide in the first Bush White House, he should be well aware that Mr. Bush sold the Shia up the river. Excluding any other factors, it's amazing we're viewed as well as we are in that region!

And how about if I channel some Ann Coulter? What if the Shia did get cheezed? Why, they might highjack some of our planes and fly them into skyscrapers! Oh, nevermind...

Mr. Pinkerton faults Paul Wolfowitz for putting us into a box, but he fails to point out that the box existed well before Mr. Wolfowitz held so much (supposed) influence. Mr. Pinkerton's arguments fall apart at the same moment as his liberal counterparts: just what, exactly, does he (or did he) propose as an alternative to the current actions? Does he want Saddam back in power? It's within our ability to do that, are you sure? No? Well then STFU; most of the time, life isn't clean and we're left with only crappy and crappier solutions. It sucks, and I'm royally sick of thoughtless members of the intelligentsia bitching about the people who have the balls to make the tough decisions.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Brilliant Economics of David Coursey

As usual, a little history. At the dawn of the Internet age, Ziff Davis (who used to publish great tech info, but now specializes in crappy, also-ran video game magazines, and tech mags with about as much non-advertiser sponsored content as an episode of GI Joe) started something called Anchordesk. The content of Anchordesk was geared mostly towards techies and was an invaluable resource for techies at the dawn of the tech boom. It was headed by the venerable Jesse Berst, who, after better than a dozen years at the helm, decided to resign (uh-huh) to pursue other interests (note: it's always worrying to see a page of a company's description and still wonder what in the hell it is they do).

Although one might think I was perturbed to see Jesse go, in my mind all he did was regurgitate press releases that were related to the tech industry; oh how wrong I was! Jesse was replaced by one David Coursey (to develop a quick opinion of David, check out who he's pluggin for prez on the bottom of his page. Hint: It's not Thomas Sowell). Suddenly Anchordesk went from publishing five articles a week (of which four worth reading) to publishing three articles a week (of which four a month were worth reading). Although the news seemed to be the same, Coursey wrote articles with no edge whatsoever. Over time, even that content degraded and David wrote about computer cozies and whatnot.

Well David's gig lasted a couple years and he pursue other opportunities...although he had no other 'opportunities' lined up. I guess out of pity, Ziff Davis let David write an occasional article for their site, which I read with about as much frequency as his Anchordesk articles (never). After a couple months, though, the unskilled, barely employed (did I mention he lives in the San Francisco area?) Coursey drops this piece of ignorant turd off in my inbox:

My bottom line: Offshoring is unpatriotic and customers should be willing to pay a bit more not to purchase offshored products and services. I also believe that some sort of tax needs to be levied on the value of work done overseas that should been done [like the grammar check in this article] onshore by American citizens.

Friggin brilliant! At least he didn't make the same argument as Ray Suarez did at a commencement address I attended where he said something to the effect that (and I quote from memory) "those darkies don't deserve to have good jobs"*; but he does make the ridiculous claim that U.S. businesses are somehow responsible for the sorry state of American education. The various arguments against offshoring fail on a variety points, that are, contrary to David's thinking, quite simple:

  1. Competition. American business 'A' dedicates itself to using U.S. labor for all it's processes. Foreign company 'Z' uses labor where it can get the most bang for it's buck. Optimistically, 'A' will be a shrunken hulk still selling stuff to Americans while 'Z' will have brought many new jobs to it's home country as it goes to dominate the market place.
  2. Fairness. This is always a sticky subject to approach (.i.e. what's 'fair'?), but would it be fair to have people in industries exposed to foreign competition subsidize those who aren't? Is it fair to have shop floor textile workers subsidize David Coursey's cushy office job?
  3. Commie Pricing. This is one analogy I use to explain to my son why communism doesn't work: Imagine going to Walmart and having to price everything, nothing has an existing price. Set the price too low and there will be a run on the product and the company that makes it will go out of business (which is what usually happens); set it too high and the product won't sell and the company, again, will go out of business.
    What David Coursey proposes is much the same: he magically knows all the 'right' prices. American business offshores a lot of work to Ireland and Canada, but you rarely hear any noise about it (Hollywood movies made in Canada come to mind - Boo Hoo!). Why do you hear noise about India and China and not Canada and Ireland? Because the David Courseys of the planet have gone into Walmart and arbitrarily decided what a 'fair' price is; when, in reality, the market determines the price (i.e. the price is what people want to pay for it).

Coursey shows his true ignorance in claiming that the issue is way complicated, but then feels quite adept himself at being able to choose the 'proper' prices for all the offshore tech services. Would David charge a tariff on my Microsoft call to Canada? How much? A different rate for SQL and NT questions? How about an off hours call to India? Firmware programming in Poland? Hard drives made in Ireland? Mexico? These are the simple questions, god forbid if David had to put together the proper tax rate for a bundled system that comes right from a foriegn country. The cost of regulating such a monster would make selling such a product pointless.

The end result of the regime David seeks to implement would be the destruction of various products in the American market; tech products are no different than anything else, no one is going to buy something if the price is more than what they want to pay.

It's the flip side of the old phrase: "he who will attempt to control that which he cannot, will destroy it".

*I overstate, to be sure, and I hate throwing the 'racist' label around (especially since it so often used as a cop-out against conservative arguments); but it is hard to escape the fact that there is often a tinge of ethnocentrism in the 'fair traders' arguments. Why else would they fail to bring up Canada and Ireland, but beat on China and India so incessantly?