Tuesday, December 18, 2007
As someone who who has been generally favorable on Hillary Clinton, as long as social issues aren't involved, David Brooks' warning of the ability of the presidency to magnify character flaws was an interesting read.
The short of it: the Presidency makes your worst traits more pronounced and more serious. Therefore, Presidential candidates should not be chosen on the grounds of who would do best, but who is least likely to do very badly.
Certainly a warning for the Hillary supporters out there.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Perlez, J. (2007). Militant students capture masseuses to make a point." New York Times. June 24, 2007.
If there's anything that illustrates how screwy Pakistan, and for that matter the rest of the Islamic Gap, is, it's this:
“There were about 25 Chinese women, dressed only in underpants and bras,” recalled Ms. Okasha, 24, a muscular high-school badminton champion who had shed her black garb for soft mauves, her face uncovered, during an interview inside the women-only confines of the school. “They scattered, but we managed to grab five.”
Though a concluded paragraph isn't bad, either:
Ms. Hassan, her face absent of makeup but her fingernails and toenails varnished with red, said she was proud of her raiders.
“I said to the students before they went off, ‘The Chinese are masters at karate; you don’t know how to make one kick.’ But they were able to manage.”
And for completeness sake:
His college-age students asked “many times,” he said, about the legitimacy of suicide bombing. Suicide bombing was justifiable against American soldiers. “It depends on the circumstances,” he said. “In a supermarket I will say no. Suicide bombing against American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, I will say yes, yes. It’s not suicide. It’s a mission, then it’s allowed.”
Two take-aways from this article:
First, it's interesting that the New York Times describes what are obviously prostitutes as "masseuses." The reason is clear: opposition to prostitution should be an intellectual, liberal exercise, and not a goonish one. The Times is clearly embarrassed to be intellectually on the same side as madrassa-studying reactionaries, though this isn't surprising. Both the New York Times and the Islamists prefer prostitution to remain in the informal, depriving many women of a natural capitalization vehicle. Both the the Pakistani extremists and the old liberals of the New York Times share the disdain for market exchange, Hernando de Soto-style capitalization of private wealth, and liberty. Both share a sentimental opposition and a thuggish adoration of enforced virtue.
Secondly, the story highlights the transition of China from the Gap to the Core. China is in the unusual condition that while she is becoming a global leader, she has a large reservoir of very low paid citizens. This means that while the United States, Europe, and Japan find their capital flowing oversees in a process of creative destruction, China finds her people innovatively moving abroad for profits. This creates friction, and while the the typical American "downside" is lost capital, the increasingly typical Chinese "downside" is lost lives.
China and the West share a common interest, not only in energy resources, but in a better administration of the Gap.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
Wright, R. 2007. An easter sermon. New York Times. April 7, 2007. Available online: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/04/07/opinion/07wright.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26pagewantedQ3Dprint&OP=62b582bfQ2FQ26Q24XnQ26)d.00)Q26Q23Q5EQ5EQ2BQ26Q5EYQ26Q5EQ2BQ2603jHj0HQ26Q5EQ2BQ24.jNQ7B)wQ7B)Q5Dt.
Eddie of Hidden Unities (who is currently cut off from the blogosphere because of naval censorship) kindly sent me an article by Robert Wright entitled "An Easter Sermon." The article is a perfect example of the phony devotionalism that is currently in vogue on the left.
Jesus knew viral marketing.
In the Gospel of Mark, the disciple John complains that nondisciples are selling bootlegged copies of Jesus’ miraculous powers. “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
Jesus tells John to quit obsessing about the intellectual property and to focus on getting the brand out. “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” Jesus adds, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Fast-forward two millennia. Weeks after 9/11, George Bush says roughly the opposite. His famous “You’re either with us or against us” means that those who don’t follow his lead will be considered enemies. The rest is history. Today, Jesus has more than a billion devoted followers. Mr. Bush has ... well, fewer than that.
One gets the feeling that if Mr. Wright was an antisemite he would randomly open the Torah, by chance flip to Numbers, and proceed to criticize the Judaism as nothing more than a religion of accountancy.
The accusation of Bush saying "roughly the opposite" is Jesus is aggrevating because Bush said nearly the same thing as Jesus. For instance:
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. *Matthew 12:30-322
Certainly, one may criticize Bush for using rhetoric intended to condemn "blasphemy against the spirit" to instead condemn states that sponsor terrorism. But to say that Bush uses antibiblical rhetoric is bizarre -- it misses the entire point of Bush's rhetorical style and displays a too-arrogant-to-even-google view of editorial journalism.
I mentioned to Eddie upon reading this that "saying 'Robert Wright is a pharisee fraud' would be too kind. The pharisees at least knew the text of the scriptures." Certainly that's true.
More is below the fold...
Monday, July 03, 2006
"SCO's Legal Wrangles Take an Odd, Personal Turn," by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, eWeek, 10 March 2005, http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1814683,00.asp.
"Is it any surprise...," by Dan tdaxp, ZenPundit, 24 June 2006, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2006/06/new-york-times-as-al-qaidas.html#115124511267407687.
"," by Peter Kilborn, New York Times, 30 June 2006, http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/06/30/travel/escapes/30michaels.html (from Drudge Report).
A year ago, a hack writer endangered the life of a popular blogger by publishing details of her home security. Maureen O'Gara, a publishing world thug, not only
published photographs of Jones' home and published the addresses, phone numbers and e-mail contacts not only for Jones, but for her mother and her son as well.
but also the make of the lock to O'Gara apartment.
The New York Times, in a stunning display of vindictiveness for White House criticism over a possibly illegal news story, has now published identifying descriptions of the homes of administration officials, including the location of a hidden camera.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is not some middling public celebrity who we might wish to write a letter to, and do not otherwise know the address. The publishing of this information is beyond pointless -- it is hostile.
I am sickened by the New York Times' invitation to assassination. At a time when we are at war with al Qaeda, the Times is choosing the wrong side.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence," Byron Calame, New York Times, 1 January 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/01/opinion/01publiceditor.html?ei=5090&en=73506e1ec61c1adb&ex=1293771600&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=print (from Drudge Report).
The second "public editor" of the New York Times, Byron Calame, criticizes his employer for covering up the circumstances around the release of possibly damaging information
The New York Times's explanation of its decision to report, after what it said was a one-year delay, that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping domestically without court-approved warrants was woefully inadequate. And I have had unusual difficulty getting a better explanation for readers, despite the paper's repeated pledges of greater transparency.
For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making. My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States.
I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor, on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future.
Despite this stonewalling, my objectives today are to assess the flawed handling of the original explanation of the article's path into print, and to offer a few thoughts on some factors that could have affected the timing of the article. My intention is to do so with special care, because my 40-plus years of newspapering leave me keenly aware that some of the toughest calls an editor can face are involved here - those related to intelligence gathering, election-time investigative articles and protection of sources. On these matters, reasonable disagreements can abound inside the newsroom.
Unlike whistleblowing in the face of subversion, this is troublesome. Revealing methods is dangerous, even if using foreign assets for surveillance is old news.
Let's hope this is investigated, and the criminals are properly punished.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
"The Mild, Mild West," by John Tierney, New York Times, 25 June 205, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/25/opinion/25tierney.html (from South Dakota Politics).
Recently, Mark Safranski quoted Todd Zywicki as saying the New York Times has great influence in parts of the American government. If this sort of idiotic pseudo-political-philosophy counts as part of their influence, God help us all!
Between the murders on "Deadwood" and the massacres on "Into the West," the Steven Spielberg epic that seems to be playing round the clock on TNT, the popular version of the frontier looks scarier than ever. There's nothing like blood on high-def TV to illustrate Hobbes's theory that life before government was nasty, brutish and short.
It was Hobbes's prescription for "war of every man against every man," and he was echoed by newspaper predictions of a "theater of tragic events" in which "brute force will reign triumphant." But the miners peacefully worked out rules for delineating claims and resolving disputes so well that the system was adopted at later camps like Deadwood.
The Indians saw that Washington's new interest in the Black Hills would be disastrous for them (a topic for a later column). Raiding was no longer costlier than trading for the settlers because they could now let troops do the raiding for them. Hobbes had expected war in the absence of government, but the West didn't really get wild until the feds arrived.
In three paragraphs, accurate to bizarre to insane.
Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher who escaped the worst of the English Civil War. Believing that anarchy was the worst form of government -- a style where life was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" -- Hobbes believed people banded together to form a monstrous Leviathan that could pacify country and protect the people from evils. This Leviathan would be a "system administrator," taking care of rogue outlaws while allowing individuals to live more connected, rich, comfortable, soft, and long lives.
Hobbes did not "prescribe" anarchy as an ideal form of government. He saw it as the worst form of government. Likewise, Hobbes expected government to form in the absence of government, with people creating a Leviathan out of themselves to end the chaos.
So the Old Gray Lady doesn't know what she is talking about (while attacking the Wild West - an American icon!). What else is new?
Friday, June 24, 2005
"The power of unconventional thinking," by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 22 June 2005, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/001981.html.
Describing an advertisement he say in the New York Times
I can't resist one more dig at Friedman's "World is Flat" metaphor. I come across this Barclays full-page color ad in the NYT, which consists of a flat globe sitting on stand. It's the perfect image for Friedman's book, much better than that weird art of ships going off the edge of the world that was used in some hardcover versions.
And yet, the ad points out the against-the-grain metaphor that Friedman ended up with when he sought to recast a "level playing field" as a "flat world": the text of the ad starts with "Without unconventional thinking, the world would still be flat and we'd still be living in caves. Heck, we'd probably never have climbed down from the trees in the first place."
It could have continued: "At Barclays we believe in providing our clients with metaphors that don't create cognitive dissonance . . . "
... Barnett proves he doesn't understand what Tom Friedman means by "flat" ... or what Barclays means, for that matter.
When there are specialized experts, life is not flat -- it's steep. That is what Barclay's is saying. That's how the Catholic Church is steep, but a hippie drum circle is flat.
How can Dr. Barnett not know this? What, is he not even reading tdaxp or something?
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
"H&R Blockbuster," New York Times, 17 May 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/17/opinion/17tues1.html?.
A good suggestion from Nyt on increasing national savings: government-matching of IRA contributions
Another important reason is that typical tax- sheltered savings accounts - unlike the matched I.R.A. deposits in the H&R Block test - are not structured to take advantage of how people actually behave with regard to their money. It is more difficult to part with a portion of one's paycheck than it is to save part of a tax refund because a paycheck represents bread and butter, while a refund seems like a windfall. Psychologically, a match that is paid directly into one's account is more gratifying than a tax write-off. And then there's convenience. H&R Block made it easy for its clients to save. We can't say the same thing for the United States Congress, with its hodgepodge of poorly targeted and complex savings programs.
Lawmakers in Washington could establish a generous and easily understandable I.R.A. match for a fraction of what it would cost to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The evidence in favor of doing so is compelling. Then, when the ideological din abates, a future Congress can enact the reforms that are actually needed to strengthen Social Security after midcentury: modest tax increases and tempered benefit cuts, phased in over decades.
Their suggestion to tax the young more to support a unconsciounable 1930s-era SS system is less moral, but I'm glad they have joined the discussion.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
"The Thrift Imperative," New York Times, 5 May 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/05/opinion/05thu2.html?.
I realize its in the context of criticizing Bush... but wow. The New York Times agrees that saving is preferable to consumption. No more archiac Keynesianism for the Old Lady!
The stock market has been a scary place lately: new yearly lows followed by big daily gains, then more lows and so on. While no one fully understands these gyrations, we do know that markets become skittish when fundamentals are out of whack. There's arguably no more fundamental imbalance these days than the United States' low national savings - the amount Americans save minus the amount the government borrows. But don't expect to hear our nation's leaders talk about it.
Not only that, Nyt correctly identifies why money invested in personal real estate is not "savings"
Individuals also do not save enough, as reflected in the widespread inadequacy of retirement savings. Some argue that the amount of personal savings is understated because it does not take into account the increase in housing values, which has many homeowners feeling flush. But elevated home values do not add to national savings.
Such wealth is not converted into cold hard cash until houses are sold, and at that point the money flowing into the sellers' pockets is simply money that is flowing out of the buyers' pockets. No new wealth is created unless a seller saves the windfall - which is generally not the case in today's consumer economy. Instead, sellers increase their purchasing power, while the saving rate declines and the country as a whole becomes poorer. The uncomfortable reality is that saving is possible only by deferring today's consumption, not by spending freely while one's house appreciates.
Wow. More economic literacy than I ever gave the Times credit for. Wow.