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  • Archive for November, 2005

    Blowhard Sees The Passenger

    Posted by Ginny on 30th November 2005 (All posts by )

    Michael Blowhard’s tribute to Antonioni’s The Passenger is interesting both because of his perceptions and the era he (and it) brings back. The first films we ordered from Netflix were Antonioni’s–I’d remembered loving them much as I loved the spaces in Pinter. We see them with a sort of ache: the music draws us in as does the minimalist plot through pauses. Little action, much space, much time – the very slowness mesmerizes. The world we enter through his eyes seems severed from the realistic, the humanist, the live. And so, across the screen, a heroine seldom strides but always seems to wander, moving around rather than toward. The hero ends up, somehow, in bed without pursuing. These solipsistic lives are punctuated by intense but, well, uncommunicative sex which only accentuates isolation. No wonder we so often felt, well, alienated. Watching them again this summer, we found they still embodied a remarkable aesthetic, a coherence I hadn’t recognized all those years ago.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 1 Comment »

    The Plan Defined

    Posted by Ginny on 30th November 2005 (All posts by )

    Instapundit links to Bush’s strategy statement. (Executive Summary below; it concludes quite sparely: “Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete.”) Today’s speech at Annapolis.
    Meanwhile, Tigerhawk annotates (with respect) Steven Den Beste.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq | Comments Off

    Counterproductive Marketing Strategy

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th November 2005 (All posts by )

    Lame. Something tells me the cops aren’t going to stop many terrorists this way. OTOH it seems likely that they are going to annoy a lot of people who don’t appreciate this kind of official attention. Reminds me of the police department that was in the news a while back for stopping law-abiding motorists to congratulate them on being good drivers.

    I suspect that the new Miami police initiative will not last very long.

    Posted in Law Enforcement | 5 Comments »

    Attention Chicagoboyz Commenters

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th November 2005 (All posts by )

    Here are your instructions.

    (Via Dr. Helen, via SHRINKETTE.)

    Posted in Humor | 5 Comments »

    Free Money

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 28th November 2005 (All posts by )

    This news article discusses how some police departments are rethinking their policy of requiring off duty officers to be constantly armed. According to the author, the reason why has been some friendly fire incidents where uniformed officers mistakenly killed their brethren.

    That doesn’t seem to be a sufficient reason, though…

    “According to the FBI, 43 police officers have been killed since 1987 by friendly fire. Some were caught in crossfire, or killed by firearms mishaps. A handful, like Young, were mistaken for criminals and shot by fellow officers.”

    Every single death was a tragedy, but 43 in 18 years? This webpage states that there are about 20,000 police agencies in the US, with about 1 million employees. Of course, not all employees are sworn police officers.

    This article from the Rand Foundation states that the US has 2.3 police officers for every 1,000 people. If I’m punching the numbers into the calculator correctly, that’s about 130,000 police officers, a number which seems plausible.

    At any rate, there are an awful lot of police officers in a population of 300 million. And “a handful” of those officers have tragically lost their lives due to off-duty incidents in the past 18 years. This doesn’t seem to be a sufficient justification to disarm trained, motivated people who have dedicated their lives to serving the public. And that is what the author of the AP article admits even with all of the talk of friendly fire deaths.

    “The policy is at the center of a $20 million civil rights lawsuit being heard this month in Providence, where Sgt. Cornel Young Jr. was killed in 2000 while he was off duty and trying to break up a fight.”

    I’ve written before how departments make policy decisions that are clearly against the best interests of the public in order to avoid lawsuits. I think this is yet another example.

    Police officers are held to a higher standard than the public they serve, both in and out of uniform. (Which is a constant source of griping whenever cops talk shop.) This is considered justified because of the nature of the job, and the people we require to perform the service. It makes perfect sense to require those same people to be ready to act in an emergency 24-7.

    Unless there’s money on the line, that is.

    (Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

    Posted in Law Enforcement | 11 Comments »

    Global Warming Hysteria, Part 2,346

    Posted by Shannon Love on 27th November 2005 (All posts by )

    Recent work on antarctic ice cores has now given us a good record of atmospheric composition over the last 650,00 years. The work shows that CO2 and other “greenhouse” gasses are now at their highest levels ever over that period. All the news stories are quoting scientists saying that this new information proves that human-emitted gasses are causing global warming.

    They’re wrong. In fact, the core samples might just show the opposite.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Science | 13 Comments »

    Against Credentialism

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th November 2005 (All posts by )

    David Foster posts some thoughtful comments.

    Posted in Business | 5 Comments »

    Unintended Secondary Effects Revisited

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 26th November 2005 (All posts by )

    A little less than a week ago, the Boston Globe featured a rather naive article entitled In Praise of High Gas Prices. The author argued that ultimately higher energy costs were a good thing, since they would drive consumers to more frugal habits (a Prius rather than an Escalade, for example) and spur investment in “alternative” sources of energy. He is conflating several issues. First, there is a straightforward assertion of the law of substitute goods, which states, in effect, that an increase in the price of Coca Cola will lead to an increase in demand for Pepsi. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but he also assumes that an increase in the price of the cost of production is a good and beneficial thing, if it in fact causes the subsitution. This is a political value judgment having nothing to do with economics. He makes this assumption because the alternatives are thought to be more desirable than the original. Wind power and shale oil are mentioned (more on these later).

    Today, without reference to the earlier article, the Globe notices that at least one of the substitutes is maybe not such a good thing. In the San Joaquin Valley of California, it looks like the substitution of firewood for heating oil and natural gas will cause the region to fail its air pollution remediation plan. While unintended, this outcome is by no means unexpected. The same thing happened during the Carter administration, when parts of the Northeast were enveloped by a thick haze of smog from wood-burning stoves. The article doesn’t even touch on the worst aspect of the substitution, which is the loss of life from fires.

    On the other hand, higher fuel prices seem to have led to innovation, in some cases representing a definite improvement over some of the previous technology.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 3 Comments »

    Frivolity and Frivolous Lawsuits

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 26th November 2005 (All posts by )

    The European Court of Human Rights. The noble syllables just roll off the tongue, and visions of brave people standing against genocide and oppression spring to mind. The title alone infuses the body with gravitas and dignity.

    Dignity will be in short supply for a little while, though. It seems that a Russian lawyer is suing to his countrys TV networks over The Simpsons, an animated comedy show from the United States. He claims that the show caused moral harm to his family. He hopes that the court will force the networks to only air the program during time slots where children are less likely to see it, and he wants some money for damages. (The damage may be done, but it looks like some cash will help heal his familys morals.)

    Every court occasionally has to hear idiotic cases, and my position is not that this is an illustration of the futility of ECHR. Instead I think that this news is a very heartening sign. Some people have claimed that it is only a matter of time before Communism is reinstated in the former USSR, but this is proof that at least one Russian lawyer gets the Capitalistic concept that its okay to be seen as a fool as long as theres some money it for you.

    Posted in Law | 6 Comments »

    The Importance of Being Miserable

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 25th November 2005 (All posts by )

    Right, that’s enough thankfulness for this year. UofC College and B-school alum Bill Roule sends this story and comments:

    This younger generation certainly lacks the guts we had. When we went to Chicago, we knew we were going to be miserable. We wanted to be miserable. We were proud we were miserable. Where is the sense of accomplishment if the task is easy? Seeing how the family can raise $1M in bond, I have my doubts that anyone there can explain this to her.

    They’re wimps, all right. Notice this paragraph in the story:

    None of the fires did serious damage. But after a fire was set in Swift Hall on Monday morning, and in three adjacent buildings on the following day, a number of the 12,000 students on campus had felt unsettled, said university spokesman Larry Arbeiter.

    “Unsettled”? Unsettled?! They should have felt: 1) mildly interested in her technique; 2) amused by the prospect of retelling the story back home to horrified family and friends; 3) numb from finishing two papers and a physics problem set the previous night; or perhaps 4) nothing at all due to having seen no direct sunlight in several weeks. Not “unsettled.”
    Pussies. ;^)

    Posted in Chicagoania | 12 Comments »

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd November 2005 (All posts by )

    November 11, 1620, the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower were preparing to go ashore in Massachusetts. It was already cold. There no roofs, piers, chimneys, nothing welcoming, no shelter, nothing except a blank wall of trees down almost to the waters edge. They decided to set down the guiding principles of how they would govern themselves as they started a new and hazardous life in this primordial wilderness:

    In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.

    Half of them died over the winter, mostly the women and children.

    These were people whose views were, after almost four centuries, very alien to us. They went to great extremes and endured great hardships for their beliefs. Few of us have had to do so. I’m glad I haven’t had to. I hope I have their courage and endurance if I ever have to.

    But, distant and strange as they are in some ways, they are yet our brothers and sisters in this: They were determined to live under a government of their own choosing, which was answerable to them, making just laws binding fairly and equally on all.

    We Americans have, of course, fallen short of this standard many times in the centuries since. But they were the first community to set up that standard on this continent.

    For freedom and prosperity and the sacrifices of those who came before us who made them possible, we are thankful.

    Best wishes to this blog’s contributors, commenters, readers, fans, friends and foes (I’m feeling magnanimous) for a peaceful, pleasant and safe Thanksgiving.

    God bless America.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

    The internet and freedom

    Posted by Helen on 23rd November 2005 (All posts by )

    My earlier posting about the internet, its present arrangements and the UNs attemtpt to seize control of it generated a certain amount of discussion (and thats putting it politely). So, it may be useful to have a look at what might be motivating one of the proponents of the move to take the internet away from one country, the United States, and give it to the world, Iran.

    The mullahs and the new president, who is busy purging all opponents, reversing the few liberalizing measures and threatening Israel with extinction, have a problem on their hands. It is called the internet, more specifically the blogosphere, which is enthusiastically used by all the dissidents.

    According to Rachel Hoff, a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute,

    Iranian dissidents are increasingly penning blogs to voice criticism of the Islamic Republic and to push for freedom and democracy. With an estimated 100,000 active Iranian blogs, Persian is now tied with French as the second most common blogging language after English.

    This puts the British reluctance to take blogs seriously into a perspective and not a particularly pleasant one, at that.

    The Iranian bloggers are in constant danger. They are arrested, imprisoned, tortured, just beaten up in their homes. And yet they continue to blog, to send messages to the world about their country.

    Blogging has revolutionized dissent in Iran. By providing private citizens a public voice, blogs may be the most powerful tool in the dissidents’ arsenal. As an Iranian blogger known as Saena wrote, “Weblogs are one weapon that even the Islamic Republic cannot beat.” As the cases of Arash Sigarchi and other imprisoned bloggers show, though, the Iranian regime is trying to crush these new outlets of democratic dissent. Throughout the Middle East, the race is on between journalists opening new websites and regimes such as the Islamic Republic trying to censor cyberspace.

    Ms Hoff castigates the White House and the State Department for not speaking out in support of the bloggers, who need western help in the same way as the Soviet dissidents did before 1991 and the Chinese ones do now. She is right, of course. But what about Europe, including Britain? We not only refuse to voice any support we line up with the oppressors as they try to impose their control on the internet.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all from this side of the pond.

    Cross-posted (mostly) from EUReferendum.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 23rd November 2005 (All posts by )

    Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

    Political Religions

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd November 2005 (All posts by )

    I am struck by the degree to which modern leftist thought is like religion. In Robert Jensen’s fable, a malign United States brought sin into the world and now Americans must atone and purify themselves. Granted the early European settlers and their descendants did some very bad things, but so did other people including Indians, and anyway the perpetrators are all long dead. So why should Americans of non-Indian descent, many of whose ancestors didn’t even come here until recently, atone? Perhaps what Jensen really opposes is the idea of the United States, in which case people who celebrate the country’s existence would (in his view) have something to atone for.

    Buried in Jensen’s seemingly prideful remarks is a reasonable point about national myths. I think that point was much better made by Bernard Lewis in his great short book, “History: Remembered, Recovered, Invented“. As for religion, if you must have it I think that you can probably do a lot better, both for yourself and others, with a traditional belief system.

    (via Instapundit)

    Posted in Leftism | 13 Comments »

    Demographic collapse, rather than Islamization, is the greater danger for Europe

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 23rd November 2005 (All posts by )

    Jim Bennett asked in the comments of this post:

    One of the chief issues here is whether the birthrates of second-and third-generation immigrants from high-birth-rate countries remains high, or whether the immigrants assimilate to local values. Historically, immigrants from high-birth-rate countries have adopted birth rates of their hosts throughout the West, except for religious communities that deliberately isolate themselves from the mainstream. These have included, in the USA and Canada, groups like Old Order Amish, Hutterites, and certain strictly-observant Orthodox Jews. The question then becomes, if the radical Islamists set the tone in segregated enclaves, including enforcing Salafist codes of behavior on women, will this not continue the traditional attitudes about birth rates as well?

    This English language page at the German Interior Ministry’s website gives a first hint:

    Sex, age and birth rates
    In 2003, 3.4 million foreigners (47%) were women and 3.9 million (53%) were men. With an average age of 34, foreigners are younger than native Germans by eight years. In 2003, of the 76,200 children born to foreigners in Germany, 39,355 received foreign citizenship (6% of all births in Germany); the remaining 48% were given German citizenship on the basis of the Nationality Act, in effect since 1 January 2000 . In 1999, the fertility rate of foreign women was 1.8 births, with a downward tendency, compared to 1.4 births for German women.

    So even the somewhat more fertile immigrants don’t have a high enough birthrate to replace themselves. As indicated, their birthrates also are declining. According this German website, they quickly converge with the birthrate of the general German population, and soon will have 1.3 children per couple, the same as we have.

    Zuwanderer gleichen ihr Reproduktionsverhalten schnell an das der “Einheimschen” an. So haben die in Deutschland lebenden Italiener und Spanier inzwischen noch weniger Kinder als die Deutschen. Die Geburtenrate der Trken Deutschlands nhert sich in schnellem Sinkflug von derzeit 1,7 dem statistischen Durchschnittsniveau der Deutschen von 1,3.

    (Availability of the website seems to be sporadic).

    There are religious zealots here, but not nearly enough to have an effect on Muslim birthrates, as Jim speculated. The reason why Germans have so few children are the huge economic disincentives – having children is by far the leading cause of poverty. While extended families could help young couples to have more than two children, all their resources would be used up, and the sacrifice is too much for all but the most traditionalist Muslims.

    Ulrich Speck mentioned in the comments to the same post that Turkish men often marry wives from Turkey, rather than a Turkish woman who grew up in Germany. While this creates problems for the integration of the children, since their mothers rarely learn proper German, it has little impact on Turkish birthrates. Many Turkish woman who grow up here either remain single, or marry a German man or at least one from some other European country.

    As to religious conversions: For every German converting to Islam there are many Muslims who capitulate before our secular society. They give up teaching their children any values, to wit, Muslim girls running around half-naked in warm weather. While some children of such parents will turn to Islamists for values and guidances, hedonism and consumerism are more frequent attitudes

    Regardless of ethnicity or religion, having children has to become affordable again, or Germany will gradually become an empty country, rather than an Islamicized one. We also can’t afford to let a single child’s potential go to waste, for we haven’t any to spare. Even if we just wanted to keep our current, already undesirable age structure of the population constant, we would have to let in more than 100 million immigrants over the next decades. This would be neither possible nor even desirable, so we have to make the best of an unenviable situation. Irrational fears of a so-called ‘Eurabia’ would be a distraction and a hindrance towards that goal.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

    “These children and their families are our allies.”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd November 2005 (All posts by )

    Michael Yon shows us who and what American soldiers have been fighting and bleeding for. Whether you agree with how the war started, or are disappointed with how it has been going, you have to hope that there can be some kind of decent future for these children. I hope and pray that after all the suffering on all sides that we do not abandon these children into the hands of men like Zarqawi and those who support him. What is the chance that we can help bring about a stable, orderly, lawful Iraq? Our soldiers and Marines have done everything possible and everything that has been asked of them. Will that be enough? I really don’t know. I hope so.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Number/Theory

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 22nd November 2005 (All posts by )

    Ralf wrote a thoughtful post where he states that Anglosphere claims of a future domination in Europe by Muslims is simply not supported by any evidence. In fact he thinks that its nothing but nonsense. The numbers of non-Muslims are so great that theres no chance they will be overwhelmed, and a glance at German population statistics bears this out.

    In other words, people under 20 in this country alone outnumber the 15 million Muslims (and that’s the very high end of the estimate) in all of Europe, of all ages, by a considerable margin. Immigrants’ birthrates in the first generation are higher than the ‘native’ birthrate, but the difference narrows by the second, and disappears by the third generation.

    Ralf doesnt link to any sources which back up his claims on the total number of Muslims in Europe, or that the birth rate of Muslim immigrants decline by the 3rd generation. That doesn’t surprise me, but only because there seems to be some disagreement as to the numbers involved and sources are hard to come by.

    This page at The Islam Project states that there are “35 to 50 million Muslims” which lived in Western Europe in 2000, numbers which are significantly higher than what Ralf asserts to be the “very high end of the estimate”. The figures found at IP should be taken with a grain of salt for two reasons, though. The first is that they themselves admit that “no reliable statistics are available”. The second is that IP is devoted to promoting Islam in a positive light, so they have a strong incentive to inflate the numbers.

    Daniel Pipes wrote an article where he asserted that “5% of the E.U., or nearly 20 million persons” identified themselves as Muslim. He didn’t link to any source for his numbers either, but he did link to this article which discusses Europe’s declining population.

    An article at The Times Online places the number of European Muslims at 13 million. Where did they get that number? The author doesn’t say.

    An op-ed which originally appeared on the United Press International wire also states that Europe has no more than 13 million Muslims, but that they comprise 10% of France’s population.

    And so it goes, on and on. No hard data, the numbers cited are conflicting, and it’s extremely difficult to separate an example of biased agenda-driven reports from thoughtful analysis. The problem is made worse by the fact that professional journalism rewards those who publish alarmist fare while ignoring boring articles that claim there’s really nothing much going on. The bottom line is that the claims of an Islam dominated Europe might be hogwash, but so might the claims that theres no problem at all.

    I notice two glaring blind spots in Ralf’s post.

    The first is the assumption that Muslims are only created through childbirth. Islam aggressively recruits, and the number of European Musilms appears to be growing while the number of Christians seems to be shrinking. (This presupposes that a citizen will be one or the other instead of being neither, of course, so it isn’t wholly compelling to me.)

    The other problem with his argument is that he seems to be ignoring the fact that France has real potential crises. 10% of the population is simply too large a segment to ignore, and there’s no reason to think that the numbers won’t continue to grow.

    Most of the democratic governments in Europe are based on the parliamentary system. A party that controls about 35% of the vote can muster enough support to defeat their opponents. We already know that 10% of Frances population is Muslim. Is there a chance that it could approach 35%? If so, how long is it going to be before it reaches that number? Even if the rest of Europe manages to marginalize or assimilate their Islamic citizens, a nuclear armed France with a ruling government formed from a fundamental Islamic political party isn’t a reassuring picture to contemplate.

    But so far no major political party has emerged in France that claims to speak for the Muslims. Why this is so is beyond me, but Im sure there are reasons. Its not clear that it will never happen because it hasnt yet, though.

    Its important to define your own position when discussing a contentious subject such as this one. Ive never said that we will see a Europe with an Islamic majority, but Ive always maintained that the numbers of muttering malcontents presently there are large enough to become a very serious problem unless they are assimilated into the general population. That, I think, is a perfectly reasonable viewpoint.

    But, of course, I could be wrong.

    Posted in Europe | 7 Comments »

    Nonsense on European demographics

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 22nd November 2005 (All posts by )

    Alexandra Cohen at Brussels Journal makes some good points on multiculturalism here, but loses contact with reality towards the end. She writes this about the rioters in France:

    They are Europes future because they are its youth, and they know it. The liberal media, by unqualifyingly describing them as youths confirmed this for all to see. What we witnessed in France in the first half of November 2005 was the writing on the wall…

    (Emphasis mine).

    Let’s check that assertion: As it happens, Germany alone has 17 million people under the age of 20. In other words, people under 20 in this country alone outnumber the 15 million Muslims (and that’s the very high end of the estimate) in all of Europe, of all ages, by a considerable margin.

    Immigrants’ birthrates in the first generation are higher than the ‘native’ birthrate, but the difference narrows by the second, and disappears by the third generation. Many of the Muslims living here also are retirees, who originally had intended to work here and then to return to Turkey, but found the prospect of retirement in such a poor country too unpalatable. European immigration laws also are much more restrictive than the American ones, so immigration also won’t do much to increase the number of Muslims in Europe, even including illegal immigrants.

    All this ‘Muslims are taking over Europe’ nonsense is nothing but ‘Anglospheric’ wishful thinking. I’m really getting fed up with this bullshit. This also includes talk about an alleged European ‘demographic death spiral’. I’ll address this in a upcoming post.

    One last point, and subject of another post, is that the Muslim world is actually in much worse shape, demography-wise than Europe, given their state of economic and social development. If anything, we are going to take over the ‘Ummah’, rather than Europe becoming Muslim.

    Update James asks about the number of Islamic converts. According to this website there are 14.000 German Muslim converts, and there are 250 to 350 new ones each year. As I responded in the comments, this is demographically insignificant, even if such converts could be a security headache, since they are indistinguishable from the ‘native’ population. It also has to be taken into consideration that many more Muslims than this are Muslims in name only, while many others are members of sects persecuted in Muslim countries, and therefore anything but sympathetic to Sunni or Shia fanatics.

    I wrote above that 15 million is at the high-end for an estimate of Mulims living in the European Union, and I have no reason to change that in face of the several different numbers James posted. Muslim organization like to wildly overstate the numbers of the faithful, so estimates based on that are highly unreliable.

    Update II Please see this new post.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments »

    In Support of Personal Retirement Accounts

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st November 2005 (All posts by )

    Students for Saving Social Security is a worthwhile organization. It favors real reforms to move the Social Security program in the direction of personal accounts, including the ongoing efforts of Senators DeMint and Santorum. You can sign this online petition if you agree.

    Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

    Arrogance American Style

    Posted by Ginny on 21st November 2005 (All posts by )

    Solipson says he admires much about America; we admire much about Europe. Lex, indeed, is constantly reinforcing the history and affection that lie between us and the wide-spread Anglosphere – which includes at least one European nation. And most of us, immigrants that we are, lovers of the western tradition that we are, do not want a huge wall between us and them. (And of course, of late, many of our posters are not American and are rightly proud of their own loyalties.)

    Nonetheless, I come to our little blog & his comments having just read a Wall Street Journal piece by Pete du Pont, “Ceasefire in Tunisia; here we see how wide the breach is in in both tone & content. A readiness to impugn our motives is not, well, attractive. But the real sadness comes from the fact that we revere a value that we often see as perhaps uniquely American but whose ancestors we recognize in that European tradition from which we were spawned.

    As Lex has noted, even such an Anglophile as James noted again and again the “honesty” of his Americans, their direct method of speech. It is one we still cherish. But we have reasons other than the fresh charm we see in it (and Europeans may well not) nor does it come (at least solely) from the vulgarity and naivet Europeans find. We believe it, well, right. My idea of hell would be life lived in code; our inner as well as our society’s health require an ability to speak honestly, directly, words coming up and out with no filter, no hedging, no reinterpreting in “appropriate” words, muted feelings. With such a distraction at such a level, we become less intent on (and less good at) capturing reality. It wastes time but more importantly energy. Perhaps Europeans can not understand how much we are struck by such experiences as the writer describes in his concluding paragraphs:

    When the U.S. attends those IGF meetings, our representative will surely be reminded of the repeated advice Tony Mauro, the Supreme Court correspondent for The American Lawyer, recalls receiving from Europeans at a run-up meeting of the U.N. Internet group in Budapest three years ago. Do not invoke the First Amendment in Internet discussions, he was told, for it is viewed as a sign of U.S. arrogance.

    If the U.N. establishment believes free speech is arrogance, we can be confident that U.N. control of the Internet would be calamitous.

    Posted in Internet | 50 Comments »

    Russians helping Iran to acquire missile technology?

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 21st November 2005 (All posts by )

    Jonathan mentioned in a comment to this post that Iran currently is still lacking a delivery system for its nukes. Unfortunately this won’t be true for much longer:

    Former members of the Russian military have been secretly helping Iran to acquire technology needed to produce missiles capable of striking European capitals.
    The Russians are acting as go-betweens with North Korea as part of a multi-million pound deal they negotiated between Teheran and Pyongyang in 2003. It has enabled Teheran to receive regular clandestine shipments of top secret missile technology, believed to be channelled through Russia.

    Western intelligence officials believe that the technology will enable Iran to complete development of a missile with a range of 2,200 miles, capable of hitting much of Europe. It is designed to carry a 1.2-ton payload, sufficient for a basic nuclear device.

    A senior American official said Iran’s programme was “sophisticated and getting larger and more accurate. They have had very much in mind the payload needed to carry a nuclear weapon.
    “I think Putin knows what the Iranians are doing.”

    As I wrote in my previous post, Putin doesn’t seem to be concerned about the prospect of an Iran with nuclear weapons, and seems to think that any resulting crisis would be to his advantage, no matter the outcome. There is nothing anybody can do about it directly. The only way to head off the march into an incredibly bleak future will be to take out the Mullahs, among a number of other regimes. If only European governments would realize that.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Your Fall Television Lineup!

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st November 2005 (All posts by )

    7:00 Wealthy Ironic Teenagers

    8:00 Witches

    8:30 Vaguely Leftist Mystical Bullshit

    9:00 Young Doctors Having Sex

    9:30 CSI Berkeley

    10:00 Extreme Quarrelling Neighbors

    11:00 Lawsuit TV

    [. . .]

    Posted in Humor | 4 Comments »

    Walmart

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 20th November 2005 (All posts by )

    options trade that I have on. I’m holding a large chunk of the March 2006 $47.50 calls, and a smaller amount of March 2006 $50 calls. I picked up the $47.50 calls at an average basis of $3.20 per contract. I picked up the $50 calls for $1.90 this past Friday. Here’s my thinking:

    Walmart stock’s volatility is extremely low. Being a Dow component helps. As a result, the option price is pretty cheap compared to even large cap tech stocks. The $47.50 calls cost me $3.20. It’s in the money by $2. So what I’m really paying for is $1.20 for the right to WMT’s upside from now until March 17, 2006. To put it in other words, if WMT is at $50.70 on or before March 17, 2006, I break even. Anything on top of that, and I’m making money.

    Why do I like the $47.50’s? The $50 calls are not in the money. So I’m really paying $1.90 for the privilege to WMT’s upside from now until March. But the initial outlay is lower per contract. With the $45 calls, I would be paying 90 cents for that privilege, but the intial outlay is much higher since it’s further in the money.

    For me, it’s like buying a $3 tech stock with the upside potential of Nasdaq, backed by the steadiness of a Dow component.

    Buyer beware: options are extremely risky. Do not construe any of the above as investment advice.

    Update: It seems Warren Buffet thinks Walmart is a value here as well.

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK-A – News; NYSE:BRK-B – News), a company run by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, on Monday revealed previously undisclosed holdings of shares in Anheuser-Busch Cos. (NYSE:BUD – News) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT – News).

    According to amended U.S. regulatory documents, Berkshire Hathaway disclosed that it held 44.7 million shares of Anheuser-Busch stock valued at about $1.9 billion and 19.9 million shares of Wal-Mart stock valued at about $874 million as of September 30.

    It’s nice to have validation from the most influential value investor. Even better is that he has a legion of investors who follow his lead.

    Update 2: Wal-Mart’s Black Friday numbers are better than expected, and they forecast November same-store sales growth to be 4.3%. This number is without new stores and former Wal-Marts converted to Wal-Mart Supercenters. It’s looking like a merry Christmas indeed.

    Posted in Investment Journal | 12 Comments »

    Trackback Spam and “.info” Domains

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th November 2005 (All posts by )

    I added the domain “.info” to the comment-spam blacklist because lately it’s the common feature of most of our trackback spam and few legitimate commenters use “.info” domains. I have blocked “.info” in the past, but doing so always caused problems because the blacklist blocked any comment in which the string “info” appeared at the beginning of a sentence. However, this time I took the trouble to use the proper perl expression for the blacklist, so that now “info” gets blocked only if it is preceded by a period with no spaces between the period and the “i”. I hope this does the trick. If you still receive error messages about “info” and are unable to figure out a workaround, please contact me by email or comment. Thanks.

    Posted in Announcements | Comments Off

    Iran’s strong negotiation position, and the inevitability of a military strike

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 20th November 2005 (All posts by )

    In the negotiations to somehow prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the country has been treated with rather more deference than is warranted. This might well be one of the reasons:

    The Saudi government is particularly sensitive about Shiite autonomy because the minority is concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern province, and any unrest or effort at secession might devastate Saudi oil production. A year after the war in Iraq, the Saudi regime has reached out to Shiite leaders.

    “Things are really better than before. And Saudi Shia are ready for more and more,” said King Saud University professor A.A. Abdul Hai, a Shiite recently appointed to a new state-sponsored human-rights commission. “It is a natural thing that the majority should get their share of things, but at the same time that does not mean they deny the rights of the minority.”

    Iranian agents are busy in Southern Iraq already, doing their best to stir up trouble among the Shia there, as the British found out to their sorrow in Basra. If they now can rile up the Saudi Shiites, and sabotage the Saudi oil production significantly, Iran would effectively be the only major oil supplier left in the region. They would increase their oil revenues by a huge margin, and at the same time make oil a much more effective weapon in their arsenal. On top of that it would make the threat of using the oil weapon much more credible than before, for sharply inflated prices would make it possible for them to reduce output, or to pick and choose whom to sell oil to, and to whom not. Oil may be fungible, but in case of a real shortage that won’t help any.
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    Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »