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  • Archive for January, 2006

    Paying the Piper

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 31st January 2006 (All posts by )

    In this post I discussed how Canadian border guards are unarmed and pretty much useless because they dont have the means to impose a monopoly of force. For decades the SOP was to let dangerous and potentially violent people in to the country, and then to call the nearest police station and let them handle it. The primary function of a border guard, essentially to guard the border, was passed off to other law enforcement agencies within the interior.

    The incoming Conservative government has vowed to arm the custom agents. How many are to be armed, and what they are going to have so far as firepower is concerned, are issues that havent been resolved as of yet. But the one thing we can be sure of is that its going to cost money.

    Dont just mean the cost of a few thousand handguns. Training costs money and the people who go through it have to take refresher courses every so often. Realistic training is tough on equipment, so guns will have to be replaced and ammunition purchased in large quantities. And, of course, there will be unanticipated legal costs just as soon as a suspect sues the government because a law enforcement officer points a gun at them.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 11 Comments »

    Bush is Going for the “Soft Kill” in Iran

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st January 2006 (All posts by )

    (This concept was referred to here.)

    Bush’s SOTU had this:

    Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity.

    The same is true of Iran, a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon and that must come to an end. The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats. And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our Nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.

    Glenn Reynolds had a reader writing in with this:

    As an Iranian, I thought this was Bush’s best message to Iranians…it had a perfect balance and he did try distinguish between the Mullahs and the citizens and he did not name a reform group or anything like that.or even use a threatening language, when you threaten Iran people have not choice but to support the Regime..way better than ‘axis of evil’ message…

    That sounds about right. A weak regime provokes foreign troubles to secure itself at home. That is exactly what the Iranian regime has been doing. It is a sign of weakness. Bush seems to be betting the Iranian people are going to solve this problem for us, without a new war. Our best ally against “Iran” is the Iranians? A win-win for everyone except the Mullahs? I hope he is right.

    Substantial update here.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Lal’s Defense of Empires

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st January 2006 (All posts by )

    A while ago I read two interesting articles by Deepak Lal. Helen Szameuly, of this blog, and Albion’s Seedlings and her home base at the EU Referendum blog recommended Lal’s book In Praise of Empires: Globalization and Order, which I have not read yet. I’ll get to it.

    The two articles were Asia and Western Dominance and In Defense of Empires , which is a short version of the book. So, even though I haven’t read the book itself, I’ll go after Lal a little bit anyway. How unfair is that? If you can’t be unfair on a blog, where the Hell can you be unfair, anyway? And do, please, read these essays, if necessary rather than this blog post. Print them out and read them on the train tomorrow. Really. They are very good. That is why I bother to bring them to your attention.

    My take-away is that Lal is solid on the econ side, and on the history, pretty much. Despite being mostly good, it does seem to me that he is wrong in two important ways. First, he misunderstands how different the Pax Brittanica really was from prior, land-based empires. As a result, he generalizes about “empires” in a way that I cannot fully buy into.

    (As an aside, the best book to read about comparing how the various empires functioned and how they stack up against each other, you have to read Empire: The Russian Empire and Its Rivals by Dominic Lieven, which is brilliant.)

    The British Empired ruled with a relatively light hand and at relatively low cost. It imposed the most general types of rules. It only ran up the flag where that seemed necessary, and probably made just as much money on the informal parts of its empire in China or South America as it did anywhere else. The British Empire expanded by a process of “creep” at the margins, often over the alarmed cries emanating from a tight-fisted treasury. The British also bluffed a lot. Perhaps most importantly, the British wisely wound up the business when the costs got too high. They hauled down the flag, ran up a new one for the natives to salute, and scurried up the gangway and got out of town before the whole thing fell apart. They did not have anything like the French experience in Algeria, for good reason.

    And the sorts of costs associated with winning and keeping an empire are only getting higher. Lal’s suggestion that anyone really undertake a new empire in any strong sense of the word is a century out of date, at least.

    By failing to grasp this, Lal misunderstands the United States, which is more rational than he gives it credit for. We are a hegemon but we are not an empire in the sense of many of historical examples, and we don’t want to be. Moreover, in an age of cheap explosives and firearms and cellphones and the internet and television, there are no more backward, isolated places to conquer. The dirt-cheap but very destructive Iraqi insurgency shows how hard it would be to impose a real empire. A Pax Americana cannot and should not look like the Pax Brittanica, let alone a mission civilatrice or other, more heavy-handed examples of imperial rule. We are correct to want to let people rule their own affairs, but get them to buy into certain “rule sets”, to use a Barnettism. This is a rather minimalist vision, far short of “Empire”.

    Lal also shows that he is coming from the “econ” side by a certain boneheadedness when it comes to political reality. Like many econ-trained classical liberals he is absolutely certain about the benefits of free trade, it is an old argument to him that should not even have to be made. So, he suggests that the USA should just “get over it” and create a free trade regime. This is an utter impossibility. The Jacksonian element in American life is what gives America the military muscle to go kill people in foreign lands, and it is the only thing that makes all this empire talk possible, that keeps us from being a vast Belgium. But that same element in our national life has no interest in righting the worlds wrongs generally. Nor does it like foreigners, or trust them, and trade is perceived as a way to gain advantage over foreigners if possible and a way to lose American jobs if it is mishandled. It is adversarial. No amount of exasperated lectures by econ profs in bow ties will change this perception. It is structural.

    A good corrective to Lal, even in his short form, is Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition, by Jack Snyder. Snyder talks about how people come up with security rationales for some pretty far-fetched military and imperialist ventures. His discussion of the intellectual house of cards that preceded the Fashoda Incident is especially good. A little too cynical, but a good antidote for someone like me who tends to get worked up and want to send the Marines to faraway locales, unless I impose a cool-down period on myself. It is easier to get into these places than to get out of them again.

    Cross-posted at Albion’s Seedlings.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Western technological superiority has deep historical roots, and can only be understood if at all by an analysis that is willing to look back centuries, even millenia.

    Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches, quoted on David Cosandey’s very interesting Rise of the West site (about which more later, I hope).

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    Shock wave or, maybe, not

    Posted by Helen on 29th January 2006 (All posts by )

    As all the world knows, Hamas has done better in the Palestinian elections than expected, pulling ahead of Fatah. Understandably, this has caused a great deal of commentary.

    The BBC called it a stunning victory, going so far as to describe Hamas as Islamic, a term they tend to omit when writing about suicide/homicide bombings. With slightly more understanding, perhaps, Deutsche Welle referred to a shocking victory.

    The Guardian wrote of it as a shock victory but it would, perhaps, be more of a shock to people who have been publicly proclaiming that the so-called peace process was stalled repeatedly solely because of Israels supposed intransigeance.

    All the news services have been quoting various people, some named, some anonymous or semi-anonymous, in Arab countries, who were rejoicing in what they saw a victory to the people who had given their blood (and other peoples, of course). All of these are countries and people who are prepared to fight for the cause to the last drop of Palestinian blood and why the Palestinians allow themselves to be manipulated in this way has always been a mystery to me.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in International Affairs | 23 Comments »

    Is the Anglosphere “Really” About Protestantism?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th January 2006 (All posts by )

    When talking about this Anglosphere business, one occasionally gets asked whether discussions of Anglosphere culture and values are not ” really all about Protestantism?”

    The short answer is “no”.

    The somewhat more elaborate answer goes about as follows:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

    Military Book Suggestions

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th January 2006 (All posts by )

    One of my colleagues at work was telling me the other day that she would like to know more about military history. I said I’d send her a list of books. I sent the following (without links) as an email.

    Per our conversation, here is a “reading list” of military books. You and your husband might get a kick out of it, and even want to read some of this stuff.

    Very difficult to keep the list short. I cruised around my library at home, and came up with the following. I decided to keep it to ten, but failed and ended up with a few more than that.

    Since you like historical fiction, I decided to split the difference between that and narrative history and mostly suggest “you are there” memoirs.

    I keep my sanity in this job by always having a couple of books going, even if I can only get in a few pages a day.

    Here’s the list:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 40 Comments »

    Yet Another Sign of the Apocalypse

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 27th January 2006 (All posts by )

    If Jonathan’s sartorial taste were not enough, an unmistakable sign of the end times was recently revealed. Someone has made a movie out of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. If you have never read this book, I weep tears of joy on your behalf. Assuming, that is, that you go on to read it — otherwise, I just weep. The book was published in 1760, which is only 20 years after the first novel written in English, the abominable Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (yes, it is every bit as bad as the title indicates, plus a 10% bonus of awfulness for being written in epistolary form — only Tom Jones, which brutally satirizes it, justifies the waste of ink on this steaming lump of sirreverence). Tristram Shandy wanders off on digressions, digressions from digressions, subplots in flashbacks, flashbacks in subplots, asides to the reader, imagined dialogues with the reader, and pages printed in marble pattern to indicate the impenetrability of a discussion of noses. It affixed a “kick me” note to the diaper of the infant English novel. Think of going from Bach to Zappa in 20 years.

    I haven’t seen it. It’s safe to say, though, that it will likely depart somewhat from the text. I gather that the movie is a movie about making a movie out of the book, which seems about right, but only if the movie is never quite finished (Tristram only gets to about age seven in this fictional autobiography, despite the thickness of the book).

    To give a small taste of the book, here is it’s dedication, which is found in Chapters 8 and 9 of Book I:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 6 Comments »

    Know Your Bloggers

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz are renowned for their fashion sensibility. This candid shot captures one of our principal contributors snatching a brief moment of relaxation during a secret blogging retreat in the Bahamas.

    Posted in Humor | 13 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th January 2006 (All posts by )

    “In Poland, we know the lessons of our own history,” he said. “In the long run, you pay for weakness.”

    Radek Sikorski, Polish Defense Minister, quoted here. (Via Helen at the EU Referendum blog.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    John Yoo Speaks on War Powers

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Bruce Chang posts a transcript of a recent talk by John Yoo. It should be of interest to anyone concerned about the legalities of the current war.

    Posted in Law | Comments Off

    Run for the Border

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 25th January 2006 (All posts by )

    I was in Canada the first time someone pointed a gun at me.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crime and Punishment | 8 Comments »

    “Don’t Be Evil”

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Incognito sent me a link to this article, with the comment: “‘don’t be evil’ went out the window pretty fast eh?”

    He got that right.

    Naturally Google management rationalizes its cooperation with the Chinese police state as being for the greater good, but I don’t get this as a business decision. Imagine how much good will they could have bought with their other customers by telling the commies to take a hike. I think it might have been good for business in the long run, a force multiplier. As a first-line tech company the example they could have set might have done a lot of good for everyone by showing that it is possible to say no. (How many big companies would have to say no before the Chinese government blinked? Maybe not so many.)

    Google’s Achilles heel is its founders’ hubris. Some of the company’s products override customers’ hierarchies in an attempt to impose Google’s search algorithm as the best solution to all problems. (See here for my own complaints.) These are the guys who bought a Boeing jet for personal use and rationalized it as a business decision. It’s their money, and maybe the purchase made sense on the numbers, but they should have known how it was going to play as PR. Or maybe they knew and didn’t care. In the perfect world there would be no penalty for attitude, but in the real world Google is vulnerable to political assaults, and it might not hurt the company to have a rep for principled, pro-freedom behavior. As it is they come across as just another bunch of driven, amoral business cynics, which is, perhaps not coincidentally, how Bill Gates was widely perceived before he got into trouble with the government.

    UPDATE: Some of the reactions to Google’s behavior remind me of the Smith & Wesson boycott. The Google situation is different, because some of Google’s competitors, such as Yahoo! and Microsoft, seem to be acting at least as unscrupulously as Google is, but some of the anti-Google sentiments seem remarkably similar to those once expressed about S&W.

    UPDATE 2: That didn’t take long. Here’s a report on What Google censors in China that compares Google’s search results with those of its chief competitors.

    Posted in Business | 10 Comments »

    What is “Legitimate Press Function”?

    Posted by Ginny on 25th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Brian Anderson’s “Shut Up, They Explained: The left’s regulatory war against free speech” should interest Chicagoboyz: in general, it desribes the regulatory effect on the marketplace of ideas; in particular on blogs. While not primarily political we occasionally make (and want to be free to make) political arguments. In this Wall Street Journal piece, Anderson argues: “Campaign-finance reform now has the blogosphere in its crosshairs.” Those sections continue below, but the editorial as a whole is of interest.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging | Comments Off

    Peter Max

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 24th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Cosmic Flyer
    The premier iconographer of the 60′s is still around and still making beautiful art.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 1 Comment »

    You Don’t Say

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 24th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Democrats and Republicans Both Adept at Ignoring Facts, Study Finds

    Posted in Humor | 7 Comments »

    Interview With Kanan Makiya

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd January 2006 (All posts by )

    This wide-ranging interview is worth reading for Makiya’s many insights about geopolitics, Islam and the moral failings of the international Left.

    Exerpt:

    I would say that much of the strength of the hostility of the Jihadi movement, and of the forces that have made life so horrible in Iraq, came from the silence of Europe. Europe has a lot to answer for. It’s not even that it was half-hearted. They fell in completely with the language of the non-democratic Arab regimes. They bought their line and they seemed to stand for the same things. They undermined entirely the values of the operation. Europeans knew that the United States was not going to permanently occupy Iraq. Deep down the smarter Europeans must have known it wasn’t just about oil. It was – rightly or wrongly – a way of changing the traditional western attitude towards the Arab Muslim world. It was an end to the support for autocratic and repressive governments. It was a new view that if we are going to succeed in this war against terror then we are going to have to be viewed by the populations of this part of the world in a totally different way. Now Europe might not have thought it was the right time. Europe might have thought it should be done differently. But Europe should never have been seen to be undermining the argument itself.

    (Via neo-neocon, whose post on the Makiya interview is also worth reading.)

    Posted in Middle East | 5 Comments »

    The Groom’s Man Seeks a Visa

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd January 2006 (All posts by )

    The role of best man is an old and honored tradition. While it includes a variety of duties, the grooms choice, going back to days of capture & surrender, is important. Men want the man standing beside them to be someone who has & will share joys and sorrows. And so, our family begins preparations for its second wedding & we find this second groom has a problem less personal than political.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Politics | 5 Comments »

    Quote Of The Day

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 22nd January 2006 (All posts by )

    In sum: Iran is mountainous, full of hardened underground sites. Surgical anything is out. Conventional would be bad/really bad. Nuclear would be really really bad. Doing nothing would also be really really bad.

    Take your pick……………….

    ~Colonel Jerry USMC

    Posted in War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    SiteAdvisor

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 22nd January 2006 (All posts by )

    The Mission:

    SiteAdvisor helps protect you from all kinds of Web-based security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser-based attacks, phishing, online fraud and identity theft.

    Our automated testers continually patrol the Web to browse sites, download files, and sign-up for things with e-mail addresses. As you search, browse, download or register online, SiteAdvisor’s safety ratings help you stay safe and in control.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Internet | 1 Comment »

    Sad News

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd January 2006 (All posts by )

    David Foster’s father has died. My sympathies go out to David and his family.

    Posted in Obits | 2 Comments »

    Henry Blodget is Back

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 21st January 2006 (All posts by )

    Henry Blodget is back, and he has a pretty good blog. Blodget was the CIBC/Merrill Lynch analyst who put the $400 price target on Amazon (AMZN) back during the .com boom. Turns out he’s a pretty good writer. He makes a good bear case for Google (GOOG):

    Google’s major weakness is that it is almost entirely dependent on one, high-margin revenue stream. The company has dozens of cool products, but with the exception of AdWords, none of them generate meaningful revenue. From an intermediate-term financial perspective, therefore, they are irrelevant.

    Blodget was considered the top analyst for the Internet sector back in his day. Like him or hate him, his writing is worth checking out if for no other reason than to get a different view.

    Disclosure: I’m holding GOOG put options, which means I think GOOG’s stock price will decline. Do NOT construe any of the above as investment advice.

    Posted in Investment Journal | 4 Comments »

    A Surefire Way to Get Some Attention From the Sales Clerks at Best Buy

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st January 2006 (All posts by )

    Start taking photographs.

    Posted in Customer Service | 5 Comments »

    “Anonymous Hell”

    Posted by Shannon Love on 21st January 2006 (All posts by )

    Instapundit is very interested in Norah Vincent’s “Self-Made Man”, a “Black Like Me” examination of lives of contemporary males. He links to a New York Times review. I found one section of the review rather revealing.

    “As a woman,” she writes, “you couldn’t walk down those streets invisibly. You were an object of desire or at least semiprurient interest to the men who waited there, even if you weren’t pretty.” But in her makeshift man drag, she found that the same stoop-sitters and bodega loiterers didn’t stare at her. “On the contrary,” she says, “when they met my eyes they looked away immediately and concertedly and never looked back. It was astounding, the difference, the respect they showed me by not looking at me, by purposely not staring.”

    I find it very revealing that Norah Vincent interprets being ignored as a token of respect.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments »

    Cultural/Governmental “Mix ‘n’ Match”

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st January 2006 (All posts by )

    Jim Bennett has a great post about the perils of importing institutions:

    One could take that point further. Canada’s constitution now combines the British parliamentary system’s stong prime ministership, which with a well-disciplined majority can pretty much push through whatever legislation it wants, with an American-style supreme court with very strong powers. Rather than serving as a check upon each other, they seem to act together in creating a ratchet toward a single set of solutions for any problem — more interventions by the federal state, no matter how ineffective or obnoxious previous ones have been. Either the historical British system, or the historical American one, have been more effective in balancing government actions with freedom and an effective civil society. The Canadian hybrid seems to have imported the vices of both with the virtues of neither.

    Posted in Anglosphere | 3 Comments »