Saturday, January 04, 2003
For the multiculturalist/diversity crowd, culture, ideas, customs, arts and skills are a matter of racial membership where one has no more control over his culture than his race. That's a racist idea, but it's politically correct racism. It says that one's convictions, character and values are not determined by personal judgment and choices but genetically determined. In other words, as yesteryear's racists held: Race determines identity.
Friday, January 03, 2003
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror, like his passengers."
--Rodger Schultz (Curmudgeonly & Skeptical)
"The man has a personality that can freeze the fringes of hell."
--Lawrence Henry from North Andover, Massachusetts writing in the American Prowler
1. Anti-atoms at CERN
2. Cosmic microwaves reveal polarization
3. New results confirm neutrino oscillation
4. Defying the second law
5. Advances in Superconductivity
6. Ultra-cold atoms research continues to make advances
7. Magnets in nanoscale logic devices
8. Neutrons used to measure quantum gravitational effects
9. First evidence for 'tetra-neutrons'
10. Bright times in optics
11. Low points of the year
12. Hope for the future
A businesswoman who accused three men of gang rape has been arrested in the Arab emirate of Dubai and faces trial on charges of adultery.
Touria Tiouli, 39, from Limoges, France, has had her passport confiscated and cannot leave Dubai after being charged under the emirate's Shariah law, according to her statement released by her friends back home. The Shariah law declares any sexual relationship outside marriage to be illegal. Mrs. Tiouli was on a business trip last October when, she says, she was raped by three men who offered her a lift home from a nightclub. She reported the attack immediately to the Dubai police, who after investigating her claim arrested her rather than those she accused.
The reason to go to war with Iraq obviously is so that it does not become a nuclear power like Pyongyang. The very reason North Korea has become a nuclear power is a decade of appeasement by previous administrations. And the reason not to go to war with North Korea is only that it has the ability, which Saddam Hussein still lacks, to turn a conventional military action into a regional nuclear war. We hawks, believe it or not, understand the difference between using military force to preclude a future nuclear conflict and initiating military action that might spark one. Those of us who, in the early 1990s, advocated a military strike on North Korea as the only way to halt its nuclear ambitions, are reluctant to advocate that course today.
It has only been a little more than a year since September 11 and already therapeutic voices are back, suggesting that we are somehow culpable for our own calamity because we did not give away enough money to the Middle East. Not long ago the well-meaning and sincere Senator Murray of Washington contrasted the purported civic philanthropy of Osama bin Laden with the supposed failure of the United States to help those impoverished in the Middle East. She was apparently perplexed over why so many Islamic countries hate us — and perhaps thinks that instead of warring with Iraq we should spend the projected billions in war costs on more foreign aid to convince the Arab masses to like us rather than him.
Would that the senator's trust in human nature be true! Then, armed with her logic of the Enlightenment and Christian notions of peace and goodwill, we might abandon deterrence, write big checks, and so make the world anew on more utopian and moral principles.
But unfortunately Senator Murray's musings are not merely infantile, but quite dangerous and for a variety of reasons — besides her very wrong inference that a few million dollars of bin Laden's cynical largess can be compared to the multibillions of past United States aid and private American philanthropy.
First of all, all dictators and thugs — compare Hitler's autobahns, Mussolini's trains, or Mao's anti-opium campaigns — invest in public works as useful social capital to be weighed against their more-nefarious acts. In the graveyard of post-Taliban Afghanistan, skeletons of Soviet dams, highways, tunnels, and schools loom everywhere — the legacy of manipulative Communists who sought to extend the carrot of material improvement even as they brandished the stick of tyrannical killing.
Like all cynical mass murderers, bin Laden did not run his public works by a Senate oversight committee. Instead he calculated his rent for terrorist camps and outlaw sanctuary with the vouchers of a few roads and madrassas.
Senator Murray also assumes that a hostile people's anger is either logical or justified. But just as frequently as genuine grievances over poverty, wars break out over perceived hurts. In the mindset of a Patty Murray, Hitler's Germans or Tojo's Japanese might have gone to war because Britain and the United States were stingy with their aid or praise, not because we appeared both affluent and weak, without will or power to stop initial aggression. The specter of the humiliation and defeat of supposed "decadent" democracies — if done on the cheap — is a powerful narcotic that offers thugs the conceit of status and a sense of national accomplishment.
True, the so-called masses of the Middle East have grounds for redress — who wouldn't without elections, free speech, sexual equality, religious tolerance, or the rule of law? But their want arises largely from self-created failures and runs the gamut of tribalism, corruption, fanaticism, and frequent apartheid of women and non-Muslims — not a lack of dollars and euros. The depressing ruins that are now a large part of Kabul, Beirut, and Cairo or the moral black holes of Teheran, Riyadh, Damascus, and Baghdad were the dividends of indigenous Middle Eastern genius, not of outside Western machinations. Promoting democracy, not handing out food, practicing appeasement, or tolerating suicide bombing, will do far more for the disenfranchised on the West Bank.
Thursday, January 02, 2003
Didymus Mutasa, ZANU-PF's administrative secretary and senior bureaucrat, recently admitted that whittling down Zimbabwe's population from its current twelve million is his government's explicit plan. "We would be better off," he said, "with only six million people ... who support the liberation struggle. ... We don't want all these extra people."
That is just truly sick. I wonder how all those "extra" people will feel when they are dispatched. And it really is amazing how different this murderous bureaucrat's view of the world is compared to that of a Julian Simon who believes that our ultimate resource is, in fact, people. Is it just me or does it seem like the process of de-colonization has been a failure for the average African? I'm not saying I think they should have remained protectorates of the Europeans, as I think everyone has the right to self-determination, but maybe they should not have left before they had established non-corrupt and working democracies.
There is probably no easier way to beckon a smirk to the lips of a liberal intellectual than to mention President Bush's invocation of the notion of "evil." Such simple-mindedness! What better proof of a "cowboy" presidency than this crass resort to the language of good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats? Doesn't everybody know that there are shades and nuances and subtleties to be considered, in which moral absolutism is of no help?
"Belgium: We won't participate in a war against Iraq"
What would we ever do without phlegmish participation?
A Virginia woman who died while snowmobiling lost control of the sled while carrying a microwave oven on the steering column, authorities said.
Sandra Thompson, 53, of Blacksburg, Va., died Sunday after she ran into a tree limb in this northern New York town, police said.
Thompson and her husband, Ronald, had just gotten the microwave and it may have shifted and hit the snowmobile's throttle, Herkimer County Coroner Dan Rivet Jr. said.
1. We will go to war with Iraq before the end of February.
2. The war in Iraq will end with a Iraqi military coup which will install "enlightened" military despots who promise to eventually hold elections. The US agrees to this as they don't want to deal with urban warfare.
3. Hezbollah, taking advantage of the US-Iraq war, launches massive attacks on Israel from across the Lebanese border. Israel retaliates by crossing the blue line into Lebanon and bombs Syria. Turkish troops on the Syrian border keeps the conflict from escalating.
4. Arafat will either be assasinated by Hamas (which will be blamed on the Israelis) or he will be expelled.
5. The stock market will be flat to down over the first 6 months of the year.
6. Tech orders and capital spending will continue to languish as no "killer apps" emerge until 2004.
7. The economy will continue to be stagnant as consumer spending and the real estate market start to recede.
8. Chavez will leave office in Venezuela and new elections will be held.
9. Hillary Clinton will emerge as the front runner for the 2004 Democratic nomination.
10. There will be no major al-Qaeda attacks in the United States.
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
In one of the more ambitious of the ideas circulating, a group of wealthy Democratic supporters is toying with the idea of starting a liberal cable network. That endeavor would cost in the hundreds of millions and require the backing of a media company with enough leverage to force it onto the major cable systems.
This is obviously where their paranoia is getting the best of their logic. If you have a "liberal" media network, it will be extremely easy to show that the programming of this network isn't that different than the CNN's and MSNBC's of the world, hence helping prove media bias. I really don't know how they would differentiate this programming from the other "mainstream" news networks, barring having pictures of Marx being on the screen at 30-second intervals with clips from the Internationale playing.
But in today's Zimbabwe, politics has something to do with just about everything -- especially food. With more than half the nation's 12 million citizens at risk of starvation, there is strong evidence that President Robert Mugabe's ruling party has used food as an instrument of power -- to reward allies, punish opponents and attract new supporters.
The group Physicians for Human Rights concluded in a recent report that "the political abuse of food is the most serious and widespread human rights violation in Zimbabwe at this time." Officials in Mugabe's party -- the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) -- have been spotted distributing maize at party rallies, in party offices and sometimes out of their own back doors. And while most of the problems have involved food controlled by Mugabe's government -- which holds a strict monopoly on grain imports here -- at times politics has interfered with international food aid as well.
“For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth. The literacy rate is 96 percent.”
– Barbara Walters narrating her interview with Fidel Castro on ABC’s 20/20, October 11.
Er, and Mussolini got the trains to run on time. Note that fulfilling her role as journalistic icon, Ms. Walters repeats this Cuban reported statistic without any verification. I'm sure she wouldn't repeat any statistic from the Bush administration without checking it with four other sources first. Ditto in regards to claims of Cuban healthcare quality. Aside from the irrelevance of literacy rates to freedom, it is amazing to me how main stream journalists don't seem to get that despotic dictatorships have a tendency to lie and repeat whatever they say as if it were from a reliable source.
Tuesday, December 31, 2002
It seems to be a pundit requirement to make predictions so that folks can pick them apart later and show you for the fool that you are. Despite this foreknowledge, here are some of my predictions for the next year.
- We will go to war with Iraq sometime in the first quarter.
- It will last less than 60 days.
- The US will call for (and get) a UN led imbargo against N. Korea.
- The stock market will be up over 15% in 2003.
- Tech orders and capital spending will finally pick up strongly and Nasdaq will be up over 25% for 2003.
- US GDP will be up over 4% in 2003.
- Chavez will leave office in Venezuela and new elections will be held.
- There will be a major famine in Zimbabwe thanks to Mugabe's policies. Deaths will number in the hundreds of thousands.
- The price of oil will drop below $20/barrel.
- The government of Iran will fall and a new democratic government will be put in place. Iran will become one of the US's closest allies in the Middle East.
We saw "Two Towers" yesterday and then went to our favorite restaurant in Westchester afterwards. This is a fabulous small place, about 15 tables, with the great combination of the comfort and friendliness of a small neighborhood place with some of the best food in Westchester (if anyone lives in Westchester and would like the name of the place, email me). We go all the time and have done so since it opened so we are old regulars, very friendly with the owner. So who should invade our little oasis last night? The Clinton clan was there in full: Bill, Hillary, Chelsea and unnamed boyfriend, Secret service took up another table next to us. In their favor, I must say, they did their best not to disrupt the restaurant. They came in as unobtrusively as possible, shook hands with some of the folks at the bar and took their table. But they also came about a month ago and apparently liked the place (as I said there is much to like), so I just hope this is not going to be their regular haunt.
Monday, December 30, 2002
The results will have ramifications that make those in Afghanistan pale in comparison — and perhaps change both the complexion of the present war and the Middle East itself in ways we can now scarcely imagine. Current polls reflect widespread dislike of the United States in the Middle East. But what will such surveys reveal in six months, when an odious Saddam Hussein is removed and something follows far better than both him and the other autocrats in the region? Look at the change in Kabul for the answer.
In the post-Saddam chaos, a daily staple of news reports will be tours of Saddam's Ceausescu-like palaces and exposés of material excesses that would make Imelda Marcos blush — along with horrific tales from survivors of his gulag and glimpses into his labyrinth of torture. It won't be a pretty picture. Just as Venetian sailors used to stare aghast at what floated up when they deliberately sank their galleys right outside the harbor to cleanse the ballast of vermin, so too a post-Saddam Baghdad will disgorge especially foul residents that may well make the late Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, and the Hussein progeny seem innocuous.
Most immediately, American relationships with the so-called moderate despots in the region, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, will be turned topsy-turvy — if they are not already. These regimes, lest we forget, are ruled by failed autocrats that receive either American largess or troops to protect their unpopular and unelected governments — and in thanks unleash their fanged state-controlled presses against us. Their faux ministers and bought intellectuals talk of anti-Americanism ad nauseam, failing to realize that the American people have had it with all of them.
So if a newly constituted Iraq emerges as a sane state, America will have no desire or need to protect Mr. Mubarak, King Hussein, or the Saudi royals from the wave of popular uprisings that we ourselves helped to let loose in Iraq. Their only long-term salvation, then, is right now to begin democratic reforms, open up their media, and hope for our forbearance.
Sen. Frist Unveils GOP Racial Segregation Plan
(2002-12-24) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, said today that the Republican Party really believes in racial segregation, and has a plan to implement it.
"First we're going to treat African Americans differently in college admissions," said Sen. Frist. "Then we're going to award government contracts to black-owned companies because of their race, not their abilities."
The Senator said the new plan also calls for training children of poor African Americans to depend on the government for money, food and health care.
"The more we classify them as weaker, less intelligent and incapable of competing in a capitalist society, the more effective our segregation plan will be," he said.
Sen. Frist said the GOP plan will encourage African American "pride" groups, and provide funds for teaching about "cultural" differences in the public schools. The government will help the Rev. Al Sharpton, Minister Louis Farakahn and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to "get their racially-divisive message out."
The new Senate Majority Leader acknowledged that these ideas might sound new, and untested, "but the lofty goal of racial segregation compels us to try something. If the GOP continues to pursue the present course, history will judge us as the party that allowed Blacks to think they should compete on an equal footing with everyone else...that the American dream is not about race, but about opportunity, personal character and freedom. Is that really the kind of future we want for our grandchildren?"
One of the first tasks for incoming Treasury Secretary John Snow is fixing the double taxation of dividends, once as corporate profits, and again by whoever receives them. Go right ahead. But as an investor, I avoid companies that pay dividends like the plague, and you should too. Why? Because when they pay a dividend they are admitting they have nothing better to do with their money. If they won't invest in themselves, why should I? In 1887, Theodore Vail quit as the president of AT&T when the directors of Bell Telephone declared a dividend rather than investing in his long-distance subsidiary. I'm with him. He rejoined 20 years later and built the modern phone company.
Encouraging dividends clouds analysis. Who would we rather the stock market provide investment capital to, someone working on hydrogen fuel cells or dividend paying electric utilities milking 30-year-old soot-belching power plants? Should the market encourage a company delivering video over wireless broadband networks or a monopoly phone company that is over-charging for voice calls on their 50-year-old copper wires? Should the market help fund a new wonder drug at a "proteomic" company, or reward the sparse pipeline but 4.8%-yielding Bristol-Myers Squibb for knowing how to navigate the 95-year-old FDA? And should we really be throwing capital at Ford or GM, for any reason?
We've just gone through a period of over-funding entrepreneurs. We all understand that. But let's not change policy to favor companies at the end of their lives, at the expense of those that are finding new ways of generating returns. I'd rather see dividends and capital gains have equal treatment, preferably with a 0% rate. But, dividends don't create economic growth. Failing companies just bribe investors with dividends. Encourage companies with a future to invest in their operations, seeking high returns. If all that mattered were dividends, we (and maybe John Snow) would still be investing in railroad stocks.
Sunday, December 29, 2002
Mr. Powell was asked what would prevent Iraq from falling apart and splintering into ethnic mini-states if the United States and its allies were to invade and crush President Saddam Hussein's government. Iraq could divide into states based on Shiite and Sunni Islam and the Kurdish ethnic group, he allowed.
"There is that risk," Mr. Powell said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"We are sensitive to it. We do not believe that would be in the interest of anyone.
"So we are committed to keeping Iraq intact and not allowing it to break up into three Balkan-like pieces. And any government we would support would be supported because it had such a commitment."
Why would that be such a bad thing? And if I remember correctly, the worst fighting occurred in the Balkans within ethnic republics and not between them. And also remember that Iraq was carved out of the remnants of a defeated World War I Central Power, just like Yugoslavia. In the case of Iraq that power was the Ottoman Empire. In the case of Yugoslavia, it was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And one more thing, is there anything that the victors of World War I did right? I mean really, it sounds like they were an incredible horror show.