Propaganda from Georgia and Russia

According to Der Spiegel, both Russia and Georgia have made extensive use of misinformation since the conflict began:

How truth lost the war (‘Wie die Wahrheit den Krieg verlor’)

The two most important points:

Russia claimed that the Georgians had killed 1,500 people in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali and turned 98 percent of the city into ruins during their initial assault. Yet, the field hospital near Alagir [in North Ossetie, Russia], where almost all wounded Russians and South Ossetians were brought to, accepted only about a dozen of them that night.

Georgia had claimed that Russian tanks were advancing towards the Georgian capital Tbilisi. But on Tuesday evening, there were still no tanks to be seen around the city, when the Russian President announced an end to the fighting

(I had to correct my initial translation in one point due to a misunderstanding, please see the update below).

Der Spiegel also refers to an article in the Moscow Times:

Russian television is flush with footage of misery left by the Georgian assault in the separatist district of South Ossetia, but few, if any, reports mention Russia’s bombing of Georgia.

William Dunbar, a correspondent in Georgia for English-language state channel Russia Today, mentioned the bombing in a report Saturday, and he has not gone on air for the station since.

“I had a series of live, video satellite links scheduled for later that day, and they were canceled by Russia Today,” he said by telephone from Tbilisi on Sunday. “The real news, the real facts of the matter, didn’t conform to what they were trying to report, and therefore, they wouldn’t let me report it.

“I felt that I had no choice but to resign,” he added.

Update: In my original translation, I had written about a field hospital near Tskhinvali, for the wording in the article had led me to believe that Alagir is located near the city. But in fact, Alagir is located in North Ossetia, Russia. This article from Reuters also would suggest that casualties are far lower than reported.

“Broccoli may undo diabetes damage”

First the good news:

Eating broccoli could reverse the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels, research suggests.

A University of Warwick team believe the key is a compound found in the vegetable, called sulforaphane.

Lead researcher Professor Paul Thornalley said: “Our study suggests that compounds such as sulforaphane from broccoli may help counter processes linked to the development of vascular disease in diabetes…”

Now the bad news: It’s broccoli.

Georgia tries to regain South-Ossetia, risks war with Russia

Earlier today, Georgia attacked South-Ossetia in order to regain this separatist province. This will probably lead to war between Russia and Georgia, and Georgia is already claiming that Russian jets have bombed Georgian targets. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has vowed to retaliate against Georgia, for some Russian soldiers have allegedly been killed, and besides, most South-Ossetians have Russian citizenship.

The independence of South-Ossetia from Georgia is not internationally recognized, and neither are the referenda in which the overwhelming majority of South-Ossetians voted for said independence. Btw, North-Ossetia is a part of Russia.

We’ll have to see how this develops, but this might become very bad, if very recent history is anything to go by. Another separatist Georgian province is Abkhasia. In 1993, the Abkhasians won their own war against Georgia with some outside help. The non-Abkhasian population fled or was ethnically cleansed. Up to 10,000 people died, and up to 300,000 were forced into exile. There also is no telling how far Putin might go; the Second Chechen War also has been very bloody.

Meanwhile, some historical background (and very convoluted background at that):

The history of Georgia

The history of South-Ossetia

Also, don’t miss the Georgian Affair from 1922, it shows just how complicated things are in the Caucasus region, and no, nobody there thinks that there should be some kind of statute of limitations on revenge, claims to independence or respectively the reconstitution of former statehood as it had been in centuries past.

Update: Russian troops have entered South-Ossetia, two Russian jets have reportedly been shot down.

Update II: Now Abkhasia (or Abkhazia) is threatening to open a second front against Georgia
Their foreign minister points out that Abkhasia was forcibly integrated into the Georgian Soviet Republic when Stalin, a Georgian, led the Soviet Union.

“The 7 dirtiest jobs in IT “


The 7 dirtiest jobs in IT – Somebody’s got to do them — and hopefully that somebody isn’t you.

I especially like this:

Dirty IT job No. 5: On-site reboot specialist

Seeking individuals for on-site support of end-users. Must be familiar with three-fingered Ctrl-Alt-Del salute and power cord reconfiguration. Ability to withstand a variety of environments and personality types; concealed-weapons permit a plus. Individuals with anger management issues need not apply.

Closely related to the help desk zombie, but even lower on the totem pole, is the on-site reboot specialist, says Scott Crawford, research director at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo. Unlike help desk or support vampires, the on-site rebootnik must venture out into the physical world and deal with actual people.

[ For more fear and loathing of end-user interaction, check out the original “Stupid user tricks: Eleven IT horror stories”]

If you think that this passage suggests a certain level of misanthrophy you haven’t had to put up with enough of the anthropoi out there yet.

“Boycott Durban II”

Pascal Bruckner writes at signandsight about the upcoming UN Conference against Racism and explains why democracies should boycott it:

…good intentions rapidly degenerated into one-upmanship among victims and bloodlust directed at Israeli organisations and anyone else suspected of being Jewish. …

…Durban became an arena where people screamed and hurled insults at each other in a re-enactment of the comedy of damned, in the face of the white exploiter. “The pain and anger are still felt. The dead, through their descendants, cry out for justice”, Kofi Annan said on August 31 of the same year – an astounding choice of words for a UN secretary general and more a call for revenge than reconciliation. …

In a nutshell: Anti-racism in the UN has become the ideology of totalitarian regimes who use it in their own interests. Dictatorships or notorious half-dictatorships (Libya, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Cuba etc.) co-opt democratic language and instrumentalise legal standards, to position themselves against democracies without ever putting turning the questions on themselves.

In the hands of [these] powerful and organised lobbies, the UN is becoming an instrument of retrogression in the world

Europe must take a firm stand against this buffoonery: boycott it, plain and simple. Just as Canada has done. Perhaps we should also think about dissolving the Human Rights Commission or only letting truly democratic countries in…

That is not likely to happen, for it would be called, well, racist, by all the usual suspects and European politicians are pretty sensitive when it comes to that kind of thing. Just for example, Robert Mugabe was invited to the the last big African-European summit despite the European Union’s travel ban, for many African politicians were threatening to boycott the summit if he were not allowed to attend. Few European governments can be expected to show more backbone over a something as, in their eyes, inconsequential as an UN conference. They’ll attend, sign the final declaration, leave and forget the whole thing.

US inflation at lowest level since 2003!

According to the Commerce Department, the US economy expanded by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of this year:

The U.S. economy expanded at a 0.6 percent annual pace in the first quarter, reflecting an increase in inventories as consumers retrenched and companies cut investment.

The gain in gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced, was more than forecast and matched the rate of the previous three months, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. …

To get the 0.6 percent growth number, nominal GDP had to be adjusted for inflation (from the same article):

The report’s price index increased at an annual rate of 2.6 percent, lower than forecast, compared with a 2.4 percent gain in the prior quarter.

The Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, which is tied to consumer spending and strips out food and energy costs, rose at a 2.2 percent pace, down from 2.5 percent.

The report´s 2.6 percent rate of inflation is especially interesting in comparison to the 2006 rate reported in January 2007:

Last year, the nation’s inflation rate declined to its lowest level since 2003. But now, economists are wondering if the 2.6 percent rate may be about as low as it’s going to get for a while.

So if the inflation rate in Q1 2008 still is 2.6 percent, it also means that, despite all the increases in the price of crude oil, gas, food and a whole range of other commodities, the rate also still is at its lowest level since 2003! Amazing!

Just for example, the price for potash, a vital fertilizer, rose 29% in Q4 207 alone and it had no impact on inflation at all. Downright eerie!

This is especially welcome news because if inflation had been any higher, GDP growth in Q1 2008 would have actually have been negative. Whew, I am so relieved!

A sing along with the Democratic candidates

For some reason, Obama’s remark about bitter small-town people clinging to their guns and their religion made me think about this song:

She said fine and in thirty seconds time she said, I want to live like common people
I want to do whatever common people do, I want to sleep with common people
I want to sleep with common people like you.

Sing along with the common people, sing along and it might just get you thru’
Laugh along with the common people
Laugh along even though they’re laughing at you and the stupid things that you do.

Oh, and I also have one for Hillary:

Didn’t take too long fore I found out
What people mean by down and out.
Spent my money, took my car,
Started tellin her friends she wants to be a star.
I dont know but I been told
A big legged woman ain’t got no soul.

Excerpts from ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’ by Ambrose Bierce

The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce was published almost a century ago, but it makes for enjoyable reading. Bierce really merits a post of his own, for now just some excerpts from the DD at Project Gutenberg:

ABDICATION, n. An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the
high temperature of the throne:

Poor Isabella’s Dead, whose abdication
Set all tongues wagging in the Spanish nation.
For that performance ’twere unfair to scold her:
She wisely left a throne too hot to hold her.
To History she’ll be no royal riddle —
Merely a plain parched pea that jumped the griddle.

ABRIDGE, v.t. To shorten.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for
people to abridge their king, a decent respect for the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.

Oliver Cromwell

ADAMANT, n. A mineral frequently found beneath a corset. Soluble in
solicitate of gold.

APOSTATE, n. A leech who, having penetrated the shell of a turtle
only to find that the creature has long been dead, deems it expedient
to form a new attachment to a fresh turtle.

Read more

P.J. O’Rourke on the Daily Show

Viacom put the entire archive of Daily Show with Jon Stewart online last October. I haven’t seen many bloggers mention this, and no conservative blogger, so at least part of our readers may not heard about this yet. The Daily Show may be a bit too liberal for the taste of most Chicago Boyz contributors and readers, but there is a lot of good stuff there.

For example, there is this clip of P.J. O’Rourke presenting his new book, On the Wealth of Nations. O’Rourke has done something many eminent economists never managed or got around to, he worked his way through Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, or ‘The Wealth of Nations’, as it is more commonly called. And O’Rourke actually managed to get such a good grasp on this difficult subject matter that he was able to write a book of his own that makes it accessible to the general public.

The book is highly recommend, an excerpt from the first chapter can be found here.

(The first link to the Daily Show leads to the index page there, but it directly leads to the clip with P.J. O’Rourke, too, at least when I click on it).

Some cool, flash based physics engines

Physics engines simulate physical processes in a more or less realistic way. Simulations that come up with results that are accurate enough for research purposes aren’t available in real-time yet, but faster computers and specialized hardware for just this purpose should make that possible in the near future.

These two flash based ones are two-dimensional and work in real-time, but results are certainly realistic enough for what they are supposed to do:

This one is especially cool, draw some shapes with your mouse and watch them fall and interact with each other. You can also errect simple structures on the ground and combine them to gte larger buildings.

This is one I had found a while ago via It offers demonstrations of bridges, rag doll physics, compound shapes as well as simple engines and mechanisms.

I simply can’t wait for the three-dimensional versions that are sure to follow.

Classy, dear Rupert, real classy

Ike Turner died last December. Besides being famous as a Rock ‘n’ roll musician, Turner also was notorious for the physical abuse of his ex-wife Tina.

So what kind of headline does the New York Post go for? The headline in the worst possible taste, of course:


The bar for tabloids is set at a subterranean level anyhow, but the New York Post dug right under it with ease.

Mark Steyn has company

As a defendant before the Canadian Human Rights Commission, that is.

Clive Davis links to an opinion piece by Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald writes that hate speech laws are ‘oppressive and dangerous’ and quotes, among other sources, an article by David Bernstein at NRO:

…University of British Columbia Prof. Sunera Thobani, a native of Tanzania, faced a hate-crimes investigation after she launched into a vicious diatribe against American foreign policy. Thobani, a Marxist feminist and multiculturalism activist, had remarked that Americans are “bloodthirsty, vengeful and calling for blood.” The Canadian hate-crimes law was created to protect minority groups from hate speech. But in this case, it was invoked to protect Americans.

Now see what you did? You just had to keep calling for blood and get the nice professor lady into trouble. Tsk, tsk.

By the way, Mark Steyn himself reports that some of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s investigators are acting as agents provocateur, at websites such as Stormfront, among some others.

‘Tis the season… …to beat up on each other

Or since Christmas is over, it ‘Twas: Two men had to be evacuated from an Antarctic research facility after a Christmas brawl.

Polar medivac flights are rare occurrences, one of the most dramatic being a midwinter flight in 1999 for a woman doctor who developed breast cancer and needed urgent treatment.

And those two geniuses needed one because they couldn’t hold their liquor. Hard to live down, and it looks just great on the resume.

Terrestrial chemistry is an anomaly in the Solar System

We take too much for granted when we are looking at terrestrial materials such as rocks and then assume that they are representative for those on other bodies within our solar system in general:

Conditions on Earth scarcely resemble those elsewhere in our own solar system. We live on a wet and tepid exception to the chemical and physical norms of the planets that contain most of the solar sysytems mass. Being made largely of water like the rest of the life on Earth, we think nothing of life’s inorganic substrate being the product of wet chemistry…
Earthly quartz and feldspars, micas and clays, all contain water and have been re-arranged by it. Likewise, compounds that are decomposed by water and elements that react vigorously with it are largely alien to the surface of the Earth. Not only have we never seen them in the state of nature, but they scarcely figure in our imagined view of the chemistry that gave rise to life…

To plug the gaps in our knowledge and to overcome our (understandable) failure of imagination, we would have to send out a fleet of robotic spacecraft to collect samples from the various rocky bodies in the solar system. A systematic analysis of those samples would offer some important insights in how materials develop and self-organize in and on rocky planets and moons that are solid like the Earth but unlike it are non-aqueous. These results would in turn provide some clues on how emergent and autocatalytic processes can lead from inorganic to organic chemistry and maybe even to life, under conditions that are radically different from those on Earth.

Whale meat isn’t good for you

Link via The Chumslick

TOKYO (Reuters) – Whalemeat served in school lunches in an area of rural Japan are contaminated with alarming levels of mercury, a local assemblyman said on Wednesday, calling for a halt in plans for the meat to be shipped to schools nationwide.
Hisato Ryono, a assemblyman in Taiji, a historic whaling town some 450 km (280 miles) west of Tokyo, said two samples of short-finned pilot whale had mercury levels 10 to 16 times more than advised by the Health Ministry.

Ryono and a fellow assemblyman conducted tests after local authorities ignored their calls to have the whalemeat inspected before it was served in school lunches in the town’s kindergartens and elementary and junior high schools.

Whalers are an important voting demographic, you wouldn’t want to alienate them just because the meat they bring in is poisonous.

Privatizing services inside the European Union

Thanks to the European Union, things like these finally become possible:

Deutsche Post is about to lose its monopoly on the postal service. And after that, customers will be able to choose from new green, red and blue postboxes on the street as well as old yellow.
As part of a European Union move to introduce greater competition in letter delivery services, Germany on Jan. 1, 2008 will abolish Deutsche Post’s exclusive right to deliver letters under 50 grams — the last monopoly left for what used to be the only game in town.

This is a far cry from the times when Deutsche Post wasn’t just delivering the mail, but also had a stranglehold on German telecommunications, and the whole affair was owned by the government and protected by the employees tremendously powerful trade unions. These kinds of entrenched interests could only be overcome on the European level, which is one of the reasons why I maintain that the EU offers net benefits that outstrip the costs as well as the (not inconsiderable) annoyance factor. This also isn’t the first instance something like this is happening, the EU previously made the member states privatize and liberalize their energy and telecommunications sectors, as well as take the first steps towards the privatization of postal services, which is why the delivery of letters below 50 grams (not quite two ounces) is the last monopoly left until now (although some countries are dragging their feet to preserve it for an additional year or so).

All of these steps had been absolutely crucial for economic growth in Europe, without them the EU economy would have been even more stagnant than it was over the last 15 years or so. Just imagine what, for instance, online services would look like if telecommunications still were run and owned by the government; we would have to apply for a dial-up modem and could count ourselves lucky to get one in less than three months – no DSL or cable modems of course, the post office would want to be paid by the minute (just as they used to when the whole affair was still run publicly), and that’s easier to do with dial-up via a telephone line than with more modern alternatives. If you extrapolate this kind of arrogance and shortsighted greed to services in general it becomes easy to see how the traditional interest groups around here could have prevented Europe from evolving beyond the traditional industrial society. It shouldn’t be underestimated just how powerful our various interest groups are, some of which have been around for centuries in one form or another. As I wrote above, you have to move beyond the national level to defeat them them, and the European Union currently is the best venue to do so successfully. Should the various interest groups learn to cooperate to thwart such efforts we’d have a serious problem, but at least for the foreseeable future it looks as if they are too shortsighted and selfish to make common cause. By the time they have learned better, globalization will hopefully have eroded their respective power bases to an extent that it won’t matter anymore.

‘The multicultural issue’

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s very vocal dissidence from Islam has served to polarize public opinion, to say the least, especially in Europe. While most people have a hard time arguing with her views when confronted with them, committed multiculturalists cannot help attacking her, or at least trying to put her credibility into doubt among audiences who might be receptive to her views.

signandsight has compiled the contributions to an especially heated debate on multiculturalism in general and Ayaan Hirsi Ali in particular. It started when French philosopher Pascal Bruckner defended Ali against attacks by Ian Burama, author of Murder in Amsterdam, as well as Timothy Garton Ash in his review of the book (only available to subscribers). Beyond addressing their specific points on Ali, he went on to attack misguided claims of moral equivalence between ‘Islamist fundamentalism and Enlightenment fundamentalism’ and he also compared multiculturalism with South African apartheid policies. While Ash, Burama and some others couldn’t leave that unanswered, and were in turn criticized by other participants.

You can find the whole debate here: The Multicultural Issue.

It should also be noted that the people at signandsight have their own biases, for their introduction to the debate begins with the sentence “Who should the West support: moderate Islamists like Tariq Ramadan, or Islamic dissidents like Ayaan Hirsi Ali?” Some people who know what they are talking about aren’t agreeing that Tariq Ramadan can indeed be called a moderate (of course, the really bad news here might be that Ramadan really *is* a moderate, as Islamists go). They also let Ash and Burama have the last word, with “Timothy Garton Ash and Ian Buruma set[ting] Pascal Bruckner straight on a few last points.”

Then again, this kind of skewed stance might be necessary for there being any debate at all, for a strictly rational and impartial consideration of the issue would quickly lead to the conclusion that there really is nothing that could possibly justify Islamism as well as multiculturalism (you could argue that this is a kind of bias in itself, but I happen to hold the axiomatic view that our values are simply superior to theirs, and better them than us, should it ever come to that).

Even heavy drinkers are still responsible for their actions

It really is no excuse:

Intoxicated people have much greater control over their behavior than generally recognized. For example, in those societies in which people don’t believe that alcohol causes disinhibition, intoxication never leads to unacceptable behavior.

Research in the US has found that when males are falsely led to believe that they have been drinking alcohol, they tend to become more aggressive.

So it isn’t simply a case of “the alcohol made me do it.”

The article goes on to note that in tests drinkers performed as well as sober people if they were offered small rewards.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that absolving criminals from responsibility for their actions for any reason whatsoever is going to increase crime, especially violent crime. Until 2003, when our most senior federal court here in Germany decided otherwise in a fundamental test case, intoxication was generally considered an extenuating circumstance; in cases of extreme intoxication defendants could literally get away with murder. Quite predictably, habitual drinkers who planned to murder someone, usually their wifes or girlfriends, made sure that they had blood alcohol levels upwards of 0.2 percent before they did the crime. Especially galling was that this very obviously required premeditated planning, but bleeding-heart judges were only too happy to let them get off with a slap on the wrist: “The poor man, losing his wife in such a tragic manner!”

Googling didn’t really tell me how the issue is handled in the US, it seems that the various states have quite different laws.

At any rate, in my personal opinion it should nver be an excuse. There may be some rare cases where somebody loses control under the influence after all, but it then is their personal responsibility to keep their hands off of alcoholic beverages.