Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Krugman has taken his usual unintentionally hilarious style so far over the top that I am beginning to think he is secretly working for Karl Rove to discredit the left.

The desire to show respect for other people's beliefs all too easily turns into denial: nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.
Kind of like when unelected courts impose gay marriage on states despite referendums against the concept passing with large majorities? That contempt for democracy? Or maybe he means the tire-slashing of GOP vans on election eve in Milwaukee, or the shooting of Bush/Cheney offices in Tennesee. No wait! I've got it! He must be talking about contempt for the idea of democratizing Iraq and the greater Mideast.

Laws in Illinois and Mississippi already allow doctors and other health providers to deny virtually any procedure to any patient. Again, think of how such laws expose doctors to pressure and intimidation.
Ummm... wouldn't forcing doctors to carry out procedures they don't want to do be "pressure and intimidation?" How is telling them they don't have to do something somehow constitute more pressure or intimidation than forcing them to do something they don't want to? I guess this is the mindset under which Communism sounds like a good idea that will surely benefit everyone.

But the big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster, so that the courts can be packed with judges less committed to upholding the law than Mr. Greer.
You mean, the filibuster that no Senate minority in 200 years of American democracy had ever used to block a judicial nomination before this one did? Wait, which side has the extremists again?

America isn't yet a place where liberal politicians, and even conservatives who aren't sufficiently hard-line, fear assassination.
Whew! I was getting worried there. You know, considering that Guardian piece which said of George W Bush: "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?" (Of course, the author now claims he was just making a humorous little fatwa-joke playing on the idea that the world would be so much better off with the elected President of the United States dead -- not, you know, suggesting it as a course of action or anything.)

But unless moderates take a stand against the growing power of domestic extremists, it can happen here.
Finally, something I agree with. Moderates definitely need to take a stand against the growing power of those nutty extremists before their contempt for democracy destroys us. And we should start with Krugman.

What is the lesson from all this? Far more enduring than terrorism and death itself is freedom. That is what Bashar Assad fears will do him in.

And he is right. It will.
Victor Hanson, brilliant as always.

Finished Victor's "Why the West has Won" last week, and am starting "Ripples of Battle" this week. I've found the 4 or 5 books of his I've read so far to be excellent.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Terrible news about GayPatriot.

I thought he had a great blog. I hope he can be persuaded to return.

The disingenuous tactics used to silence him just make me angry.

(via Instapundit)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

NASA is starting to take the Space Elevator concept seriously! They're offering $400K prizes for power-beaming and high-tensile-strength tether, essential components of the technology.

A Space Elevator could be one of those epochal achievements like the pyramids, the Great Wall, or the Moon landing -- only more practical, if the economics are anything close to what its proponents claim. Hopefully it won't turn out to be another tech like nuclear fusion power whose viability seems to recede with the horizon.

(Via Instapundit, who somehow caught this before me despite my near-daily obsessive search for SE-related stories)

Thanks to decades of liberal politicians insisting the problem with education is that we’re not spending enough, we now have a vast educracy of people making $50,000 - $100,000 who cannot spell “Fourth.”

To me, D.C. is the most telling example of how wrongheaded this idea is. D.C. public schools spend ~$9,000 per pupil and have some of the lowest scoring students in the country. D.C. Catholic schools spend ~$3,000 per pupil and have some of the highest.

I have a few friends in the education sector and they all say the public sector jobs are more desirable – better pay, better benefits. This has not led, however, to the public sector doing a better job educating as we were promised (remember all those speeches in the 1990s saying “if we can just attract the best and brightest?”). Why hasn’t this worked as promised? The answer is obvious: in the private sector, success creates money; while the money may draw the best and brightest, they still have to achieve something to coax that money from the free marketplace and those who do the best job end up with the most money. In the public sector, success is not required; the money is seized from the taxpayers whether they like it or not and distributed not by market-determined merit but by legislative act and bureaucratic whim.

It's not a problem of "good" teachers or "bad" teachers. The problem is a system that rewards seniority and accreditation over achievement and merit. Even the brightest and most motivated teachers are going to fail in a system that does not encourage and reward doing a better job of educating.

Thanks to Powerline for the link.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Ever look at S Korea and wonder "What if we had stuck it out a few years more in S Vietnam?"

I bet the South Vietnamese do.

Rank Order - GDP - per capita
50 Korea, South $17,800 2003 est.
161 Vietnam $2,500 2003 est
198 Korea, North $1,300 2003 est.

Brothers make good pillows Posted by Hello

Tiny, yet eerily self-confident kittens. It's odd when two creatures that together can fit on the palm of my hand and weigh less than a thick paperback novel just assume they're in charge. Posted by Hello

Paging Ward Churchill!

Paging Mr. Ward Churchill, please report to the Dean’s office.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

As Terri's life slips away, moment by agonizing moment, I can't shake the feeling we have failed a great moral test of our time.

As someone who has watched more than one family member die a horrible lingering death, I support euthanasia. This isn't euthanasia. What we are allowing to be done to Terri Schiavo is so cruel that you could get 5 years in prison for doing it to an animal.

With 2 out of 5 doctors saying Terri is not brain-dead, with her entire family wanting her kept alive and saying she responds to stimuli, with her adulterous "husband" of 15 years ago Michael being appointed her guardian and given sole control over her fate despite living with and having two children with another woman, with Terri never having had a PET scan or MRI, with sworn affidavits from a nurse saying she heard Michael saying he wants her dead for the money, suppressed evidence she was communicating, and apparently tried to kill her more than once, with bone scans indicating Terri may have been abused by Michael prior to the incident that caused her brain damage...

Were Terri a mass murderer, it would take evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for her to be put to death, and she would get a very humane injection and feel no pain. But for an innocent brain-damaged woman to be brutally starved to death apparently requires a lesser degree of certainty.

This is a sad day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Give that man a medal.

The Iraqi middle class is rising up.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Interesting discussion on Tim Lambert's 41 post on the Lancet 100,000 death study. SoldierDad has an excellent point here as well, noting that Iraq's pre-war death rate seems incredibly low -- lower even than the EU death rate(!). That would seem to fail the laugh test. I'm guessing one reason besides the one he mentions is that when Saddam's goons dragged you off to be tortured to death for drawing a funny beard on a Saddam portrait, they probably weren't that fastidious about doing all the paperwork.
Here are what I thought were the more interesting and relevant comments:
TallDave 21/3/2005 05:01:39
Binomial, I would think, but both are reasonably approximated by a normal distribution in this case
There is no basis on which to make that statement. The data barely even produces a significant correlation for the confidence interval itself, so to pretend you can describe the distribution within it is laughable.

Yes, the 95% confidence interval by itself doesn’t tell us what the probabilities are. But this doesn’t mean that each value is equally likely. We can also construct other confidence intervals. We can be 67% confident that the number is between 50,000 and 150,000. In this sense the end points of the 95% CI are less likely and the middle is most likely.
No, you can't. Besides the fact a 67% probability is practically meaningless (that's a 1 in 3 chance the effect doesn't even exist), the 67% probability bounds speak only to the 67% probability interval. They tell you NOTHING about any other interval. Every number from 8,000 to 194,000 is 95% likely. They are all equally probable, and none of them is "more equal" than the others.

TallDave 21/3/2005 05:15:52
I'm sure this point has been made before, but just to make it again: The main reason reason the study is worthless is because all it can conclude with a 95% confidence interval is that something happened which created between 8,000 and 194,000 additional deaths. This is not useful. We already know the war probably killed more than 8,000 and less than 194,000. The study tells us nothing new or useful -- unless someone arbitrarily grabs a number with no confidence interval to bandy about as an "estimate."

Tim Lambert 21/3/2005 05:24:18
TallDave, it is absolutely false to say that each number in the 95% CI is equally likely.

Pat Curley, for deaths before the war see link

The study did not just count violent deaths but all deaths. Part of the increase was an increase in deaths from disease.

TallDave 21/3/2005 05:24:41
You know, if the authors wanted to be honest about that 100,000 number, they would have to say "We believe 100,000 people were killed, but our confidence level for the 100,000 +/- 0 range is approximately ZERO percent. Any single-number estimate is just a guess and nothing more."

Soldier's Dad 21/3/2005 05:25:19
The mortality rate for the EU is 10/1000.
The mortality rate for the World is 8.81/1000.

The mortality rate for Iraq according to Lancet is 7.9 /1000. The base line death rate(needed to calculate excess deaths) would mean Iraq had one of the lowest mortality rates in the world in 2002.

As "food rations" were determined by family size, and it is largely accepted that the rations were not nearly enough, it is an easy leap to question whether family's might have hidden deaths in order to maintain the additonal ration. The Lancet study does nothing to determine whether the 2002 mortality rate in Iraq, which would have made Iraq one of the healthiest places on the planet, was in fact accurate.

TallDave 21/3/2005 05:25:29
No Tim, it is absolutely false to claim you can say which numbers within that interval are more likely than the others. The range is a quanta.

I suppose technically I am in error to say that no conclusions can be drawn about the interval data (esp. since you could use sources outside the study itself); but it is certainly true that no meaningful (i.e. 95% confidence) connclusions about ranges within the interval can be made on the basis of the numbers in the study. The whole reason you do the 95% confidence interval in the first place is to make meaningful conclusions; when you start parsing the interior of the interval based on other intervals you are flailing at them with non-meaningful correlations. So that point stands, with this clarification.

As I pointed out above, the 100,000 number is statistically meaningless as it has confidence of essentially zero. The only meaningful statement that can be made from this study is that the number of dead is between 8,000 and 194,000.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Instapundit looks at the Lancet study claiming 100,000 deaths in Iraq, and I see someone has noted the authors made a basic mathematical mistake in claiming the data shows 98,000 is the most probable estimate.

That is a point I have made before, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who noticed: the distribution of the data inside the 95% confidence interval (8,000 to 194,000) is totally unknown; every number within it is equally probable. The equations simply don’t say anything about the interior of the confidence interval. It is a quanta, and nothing can be said about its structure because it has none as far as the confidence interval equation is concerned.

Grabbing that 98,000 number and saying it is more probable that any other number within the interval is simply wrong.

Only one statement can be made from this data (assuming you ignore/accept the methodology problems and author bias issues): there is a 95% likelihood the number killed was between 8,000 and 194,000. Any single number estimate made on the basis of this study is not an accurate representation of what the data actually says.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Victor Hanson says roughly what I said yesterday, but oh so much more eloquently. We are very fortunate to have a writer/historian of Victor's calibre available to us.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Reading this blog post today linked by Eschaton, I had a minor epiphany: the connection between leftists and art. You see, art doesn't have to make sense, which makes it the perfect vehicle for certain leftist arguments.

Like for instance, it would be ridiculous to actually logically and rationally compare the academic freedom movement (which basically just asks that leftist teachers refrain from punishing conservatives views in class by grading them down or suggesting they need psychological help) to the Maoist purges. Besides being off-the-scale nutty, it kinda insults the memory of the 50 million dissidents who, you know, died horribly under Mao, while the worst Americans academics face is the terrors of the private sector.

But just put some Maoist quotes next to some academic freedom quotes to imply some kind of similarity in method (since you can't actually say that without sounding crazy), throw in a couple photoshops, and voila! No awkward reasoning or explanation necessary.

It's beautiful.

Gotta give them credit, they are still way ahead of the Right in message delivery.

Thanks to Instapundit for sharing these stories. Makes me so proud to be an American, I literally have tears in my eyes.
5. His wife reports that at the Atlanta airport when she was seeing him off, people would clap as they walked down the concourse -- just like in the Budwiser commercial
Last Saturday morning I saw something at Midway Airport here in Chicago that I've never seen before (I'm 58, so lived through Vietnam and its aftermath). I was sitting at a SW Airlines gate near the main terminal when I heard loud, extended clapping further down the gateway. I stood up and looked in that direction. In a few seconds, a group of 50 or 60 Army men in fatigues turned the corner and passed all of us on the way to the terminal. Everyone in the gateway passage either stopped or stood and clapped as they passed. The soldiers all looked slightly nonplussed and just continued walking. It made me proud to see Americans cheering on cheer soldiers.

A friend of mine is flying to Costa Rica with her family tomorrow. I asked her to clap for any U.S. troops they see.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

From quagmire to gridlock

Iraq's parliament met for the first time today, squared their jaws against insurgent shelling, got down to work, and promptly accomplished: nothing. I guess now they really do have the same style of gov't we do. Soon voter apathy will set in, Al Jazeera will air Fatwa the Vote! specials to get Arab youths involved, the Peshmerga Veterans For Truth will claim Mohammed al-Kerriah is lying about running guns to the Shiites down the Tigris, and we'll start hearing about how the Shiite soccer moms are going to be the big swing vote this year.

All in all though, a great day for freedom and democracy: the natural rights of every human being.

Iraqis say things are looking better.
Lefties ask how they can make things worse.

(h/t Insty)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I've been saying for awhile this idea's time has come: Hotties for Democracy!!

The eternal wisdom of Google on health

Once again, I bring you the infallible oracle of modern times, this time regarding:

green tea, cinnamon, and Vitamin C.

I like Stash tea myself, and not just because it allows me to point to a baggie full of green stuff and proudly announce "that's my stash." They have an excellent selection (my daily blend is half Gunpowder Green and half Premium Green, with half a cinnamon stick tossed in) and pretty reasonable pricing. If you don't like drinking tea, extracts are available in powder and pill form. It's probably the single best thing you can do for your health.

I don't like to talk about my life too much here, because frankly writing my opinions and expecting anyone to read or care about them seems narcissistic enough. But as a public service, let me say the following in the hopes someone will find it useful: I hate being sick. It's just so damned inconvenient. Since reading about Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling's research on Vitamin C about five years ago, I've been taking 5-7 grams of Vitamin C per day. During that time, I have watched co-workers endure innumerable days of runny noses, headaches, coughs, bleary-eyed fatigue, and general crappiness, and never once myself had a cold or flu that was even noticeable enough to be sure whether I was in fact sick. I am very very thankful for this, and I feel I would be remiss in not at least trying to share the knowledge that has benefitted me.

Monday, March 14, 2005

If anyone on the Left is wondering why Americans don't trust you on national defense,
here's why.

Engelhardt's basic premise is: fighting terrorists creates terrorism. His solution? Don't fight terrorists! (What an obvious solution! How could we possibly have missed it?) Because, in his words, that takes a terrible situation and makes it worse. Do leftists find some perverse, pugnacious intellectual joy in taking the position most contrary to common sense and ardently defending it? Honestly, I can't come with any other explanation for this piece.

To draw out the most egregious example, he says overthrowing the Al Qaeda/Taliban gov't in Afghanistan and replacing it with democracy was a mistake, because Afghanistan is still poor and drug-ridden while the Taliban was a perfect example to the world of how awful their ideology was. I'm not sure whether Engelhardt would also have left Hitler in power and the concentration camps going for another 5 million Jews to be killed so that the whole world could see how awful Nazism was, but I am sure we can assume that were he subject to such repression himself, he would not for a minute accept the idea that it was right and just that such heinous conditions should be applied to him as an example to others of how awful his oppressors were, and that, I think, clearly illustrates the moral absurdity of his position.

I can just picture Tom consoling some poor Afghan woman: "Well, you are about to be beaten to a bloody pulp with sticks for leaving the house to get medicine for your dying baby without a male relative escorting you, but just think of the bad publicity it's giving the Taliban!"

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Thank you, Jimmy Carter.

It's so nice to see two regimes Carter put into power cooperating to screw us.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

ITM says Baghdad merchants and consumers have organized an informal boycott of Syrian products, as a protest against Syrian-aided terrorism against Iraqis.

Everything's relative, I guess

Glenn Reynolds says “THINKING OF BECOMING A LAW PROFESSOR?...Becoming a law professor is a long, hard road”

Ha, law is hard? Try Ethnic Studies. I bet the Instapundit’s never had to fake his ancestry, memorize a script, forge art, have his wife beat up a competitor, or plagiarize a female law professor’s work then when confronted call her in the middle of night shouting vague threats about “getting” her.

Friday, March 11, 2005

His brother Smokey, breaking another toy (he digs in his paws and pulls the toy apart; this is his third). They're Burmese, they're brothers, they're very friendly and ferocious, and they have some unique and amusing habits I'll share in picture form over the coming weeks and months. Posted by Hello

More Friday kittenblogging!! This is Pip, locked in mortal combat with a sock.  Posted by Hello

Can't they just buy him off with some firewater?

This seems excessive.

Wait a sec, who paid for what now??

Very startling column from Ryan Sager.

That is a little scary. If a group on the right was doing this sort of thing, they'd be crucified in the press -- and rightly so. The media's silence is almost as disturbing as the article; I guess they really are in the bag.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The eternal wisdom of Google on failure and bitterness

Or, if you prefer, cause and effect.

UPDATE: But can you blame him, really?

The protest vs. the "protest"

1) The first (anti-Syrian) protest was illegal; they risked being machine-gunned to death just for showing up.

2) The second (pro-Syrian) "protest" was not only condoned and heavily armed, but supported by (and comprised of) the very people who would have been machine-gunning protest #1 if not for world media attention and the fact that a few hours away there are 165,000 troops from a military superpower led by a man who just said he was going to stand with democratic reformers

Monday, March 07, 2005

Of evolution, God, aliens, and the weak anthropic principle

During a recent short session of Zen mind relaxation exercises (I recommend "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" which while interspersed with the inevitable counterfactual mysticism also has some very practical advice), it occurred to me the cosmological weak anthropic principle is also highly applicable to human evolution: just as the universe obviously must exist in a way that allows intelligent humans to arise in order for us to be here asking questions about it, so too human evolution must produce intelligence or we couldn't be here intelligently discussing that (this does NOT mean human evolution to intelligence was inevitable, just that in our observed state of being it is necessary). As in the case of the cosmological application, no necessary coincidence is too great for evolution to handle, because it had to happen for us to be here noticing the coincidences. Given our current understanding of the universe as physically infinite in extent, there are no troublesome Drake equations to overcome either, at least in terms of our own existence: if something could happen and must have in order to explain on our current reality, then it did happen.

Also, this morning I happened to hear a Mancow interview with some of the alien people. They come across as fairly reasonable people who do not wear tinfoil on their heads, esp Dr. Michio Kaku, and visiting their site I found they brought up some very interesting and thoughtworthy points, such as the idea that UFOs could be from civilization(s) a million years ahead of us. Just think how different our lives are compared to humans of 100 years ago; given our current rate of technological advance it's unknowable what life will be like for humans in another 100 years let alone a thousand or a million. Charles Stross hypothesized a posthuman causality-protecting entity called the Eschaton, essentially benign but acting ruthlessly to prevent any events that might unmake its existence through human-induced causality violations.

The common thread here of course is causality. Could an alien civilization that advanced have the computational capability and/or physical understanding to somehow overcome quantum uncertainty and predict the effects of various interventions with at least relative certainty? That might make covering things up far easier, a la Asimov's Minimum Necessary Change from "End of Eternity." That made me wonder about the unprovability of UFOs and the apparent disinterest in serious investigation of some interesting incidents involving multiple people who ought to be credible witnesses, such as the missile silo shutdown. It doesn't seem likely the gov't knows much more than it's telling; I have little faith in their ability to keep things secret. On the other hand, I have great faith in the gov't's ability to be incompetently unaware of events (I mean come on: they missed the fall of the Soviet Union and insisted finding WMD in Iraq was a "slam-dunk."). It wouldn't take much intervention to keep them ignorant.

I've run the SETI@home software for years now (circa 1400 units completed so far), although I do not think we will find any alien broadcasts out there. To me, the main question I have about the possibility of any advanced race monitoring, contacting, or influencing us is: why would they bother? It seems unlikely we would have anything they want, so what are their motivations in doing any of those things? This in turn got me to wondering how aliens perceive God, if they exist and have such beliefs. In religious terms, I consider myself to be a nondenominational Christian sympathizer -- I tend to believe (based on the empirical evidence available) that while all religions have some insight into the nature of God, Christianity is probably the most correct perception of God currently available, though almost certainly not the completely correct version. But what about these aliens? How would they perceive God? Did God send them a Savior as he did us, a deity in the flesh who showed them a better way to treat each other?

Well, that's my semi-random rambling for today. I hope you found it pleasantly disjointed, wandersome, and perhaps even accidentally insightful.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Winning hearts and minds?

Huge poll from Iraq courtesy Powerline:

Do you support the severe measures the Iraqi Government is taking against terrorist acts in Iraq?
93.56% = Yes
6.44% = No

How do you think Arabic satellite news companies are covering Iraqi news?

Neutral = 16.75%
Not Neutral = 7.25%
Negatively Biased = 76%

What is your opinion of U.N. Resolution 1546?

It achieves the ambitions of Iraqis for sovereignty = 73.12%
It satisfies ambition of certain Iraqi groups = 12.90%
It helps legitimise the American occupation = 13.98%

Wow. These polls numbers really speak for themselves. Iraqis almost unanimously support the gov't action against the terrorists, find the media strongly biased against them (as so many of us have been pointing out day after day), and feel they are a sovereign nation.

Media again assuming the worst about U.S. troops

This is not supporting our troops. Whatever you think of the mission (and there is lots of evidence that mission is succeeding not only in Iraq but also in Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere), calling our troops murderers and liars and not even printing their side of the story in most reports is just wrong.

It looks like the shooting is almost certainly the driver's fault, because the car ignored signs, shouting, hand signals, and warning shots and continued to speed toward a military checkpoint like a suicide car bomber, forcing troops to defend themselves; if anything, the driver should be up for a Darwin Award. I mean, really, how do you not stop when there is loud gunfire chipping up asphalt in front of your car? But in 20+ stories I've read on this incident, this is the only one that gives the troops' version of the incident. That is not supporting our troops; that's not even giving our troops (who are risking their lives every day to defend and promote freedom and democracy) a fair or neutral hearing. Instead, they repeat the evidence-contradicting claims and insane conspiracy theories of an America-hating (anti-American is not strong enough to describe her stance) Communist, usually with little or no qualification of her comments by the media as to her political views. Is Walter Duranty in charge of our media today? I mean, what the hell?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. soldiers tried to warn a vehicle carrying freed Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena as it sped toward a military checkpoint in western Baghdad on Friday, then shot into its engine block when the driver did not stop, the U.S. military said.
In a statement released by the Army's Third Infantry Division in Baghdad, the U.S. military said American soldiers killed one civilian and wounded two others when their vehicle "traveling at high speeds refused to stop at a checkpoint."
"About 9 p.m., a patrol in western Baghdad observed the vehicle speeding toward their checkpoint and attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car," according to the statement.
"When the driver didn't stop, the soldiers shot into the engine block, which stopped the vehicle, killing one and wounding two others," the statement added.
"A wounded male occupant was treated by Army medics on the scene but refused medical evacuation for further assistance. A wounded female occupant was stabilized by the medics and evacuated to an Army medical facility for further treatment," the statement said.

UPDATE: More evidence this was stupidity on the driver's part: Sgrena admits they were going fast enough that they nearly lost control going around some puddles.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

TV, or not TV

Glenn Reynolds shops for a flat-screen.

My advice: DLP

Bigger available screen, highest contrast and black levels, no burn-in, clarity high enough to make a strong man weep –and it upconverts low-res signals. The dynamic natural image enhancement (DNIE) on the 3rd-gen Texas Instruments DLP chip is especially noticeable on graphics or animation (sharp lines are easier to enhance, obviously), but it significantly enhances any lower-res signal.

Check out the Samsung 61" HLP-6163W, I got it a few months ago from Best Buy. About $4000. HD Tuner included. I figure with a ten-year life the TV costs me $33/month – less than I pay for cable (LCD/plasma generally burn in after 5 years from what I’ve heard; manufacturers usually claim a useful life of 25 – 50K hrs but that includes some time after burn-in becomes noticeable).

Some of the landscape shots on Discovery Channel are truly breathtaking in HD. But really, any HD broadcast from Deadwood to American Idol is incredibly vivid and clear.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Action in Darfur is long overdue

Clinton did something very important that not many pundits have noticed by intervening in Bosnia: he legitimized the use of military force to stop mass murder. Prior to that, considerations of sovereignty generally prevailed in matters internal to a nation. This has major implications for Bush’s policies, because illiberal autocracies can only stay in power in the face of mass protests by subduing (often massacring) the protesters with their military or paramilitary forces. And from Tehran to Riyadh to Damascus, they now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the U.S. military can and will remove tyrannical regimes with unsettling ease when U.S. public opinion perceives the necessity, leaving democracies in their wake. And when the oppressed peoples of the greater Mideast start deciding that if they stand up for their freedom, we’re going to stand with them -- watch out. Darfur is a great chance to do the right thing, and at the same time pragmatically uphold the Clintonian humanitarian interventionist precedent as a means of advancing democratic reform.

What happened in Lebanon may be a harbinger of things to come. While many Lebanese might have dismissed Bush’s speeches on freedom and statements the United States will “stand with” democratic reformers, at least a few of them may have interpreted his remarks to mean that the world’s military superpower, with 165,000 troops a few hours from Beirut, was ready to defend them in the name of democracy. All they needed was a catalyst, which Syria obligingly provided with the clumsy and universally denounced assassination of Hariri. As Glenn Reynolds pointed out, once a few people believe there is hope, that belief can quickly cascade to an entire nation.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Marching in place

The highlight of the last few days: the hilarious reference by Egypt's state-run TV network to Mubarak's speech as a "historical decision in the nation's 7,000-year-old march toward democracy".

Well, you know what they say: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Of course, ideally you'd like to achieve a better pace than one step every 7,000 years.