Thursday, June 30, 2005

Let's all congratulate Iranian President-"elect" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his promotion. He’s gone from holding 52 people hostage to holding 68 million people hostage. Quite a step up.

We should all hope these hostages are freed within 444 days like the others were.

Well, Iran's stock market crashed on Saturday with the "election" of an even nuttier religious nut as President. He's reportedly going to take Iran down a few levels in their hell on earth. I guess instead of merely hanging 14-year-old girls for the "crime" of being molested, they're going to flay them first as well.

If this doesn't push Iran into revoluton, I don't know what will.

Meanwhile, free Iraqis continue to build a democratic society...

Baha' Al-'Araji, a member of the constitution drafting committee told Al-Mada paper yesterday that there are going to be 5 spots in each Iraqi province where citizens can find designated boxes where they can put their opinions and suggestion as to the process of writing the constitution.
Only Baghdad will be an exception due to its high population so there will be 5 spots in each main quarter in the capital.

One million "suggestion forms" are planned to be distributed nationwide soon and there will be specialized teams to read, sort the received forms and prepare summaries that will eventually be submitted periodically to the main committee.
He also mentioned-according to the paper-that the committee has already purchased air time on satellite channels and columns space on papers (ten in total) to publish/broadcast materials of value to constitutional education to help people get a better understanding of the process.

The same paper also has published (exclusively as paper said) a big part of the draft of bill of rights (pdf Arabic).
These 23 clauses that were drafted by "committee of rights, freedoms and basic duties" are scheduled to be submitted to the rest of the members to be discussed and modified within a couple of days.

This should be front-page news. It's so much more important in every way than the violence by religious wacko splodeydopes and wannabe Saddamist tyrants.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Too perfect an example of poetic justice not to link: A village council is going to seize Justice Souter's home under the Kelo decision and make it a monument to the liberty that was violated by the decision.

That's right, the very decision he voted for.

And I think they're serious.

Please, please don't be a hoax!

Monday, June 27, 2005

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man.

---Thomas Jefferson

This was his last letter, written shortly before he died. In regards to spreading freedom and democracy, I think he would be very proud of America today.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Lots of blogchatter about the flag-burning vote in the House and the eminent domain decision in the SCOTUS. To me, these are both steps in a bad direction: more gov't power. It's always a lot easier to give politicians power than take it away from them.

I don't like the flag being burned. I don't like people wearing KKK hoods or swastikas either, which probably 99% of people would agree with me on. But MoveOn.org shirts annoy me, too, while a significant percentage of Americans sees them and says "Yeah, move on, you sex-obsessed Republicans!" (assuming they still remember why it was founded). Who's to decide which of those things ought to be banned? I think it's too dangerous to try, because otherwise we get things like the Fairness Doctrine, which suppressed conservative speech for decades by deeming the defining of what's "fair" and "objective" to be the job of Your Friend Big Brother. The flag-burning vote strikes me as a well-intentioned paving stone in the road to hell.

The income tax dealt limited gov't a mortal blow, and the FDR-era SCOTUS finished it off, then performed unnatural acts on its corpse by deeming strict constructionism (you know, that antiquated "rule of law" notion) passe and usurping the legislative function by creating this ridiculous "living document" idea, as though the Constitution suddenly germinated in its case one day and began sprouting roots and leaves and Article and Amendments all over the place. This eminent domain decision is just dancing a jig on limited gov't's grave, singing a merry tune of nanny-statism, drunk on expanded powers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Karl Zinsmeister argues the war is over and we've won, which some are calling bold and perhaps premature, but I wonder if he actually understates the case. We defeated the main military opponent and won the real war in April 2003; everything since has really been mop-up/police work. The war itself was so easy in comparison to occupying the country and building a democratic Iraqi government from scratch that it seems as though we're still at war even though there really is little to no militarily significant opposition.

Now, had we bolted in 2004, we could have "lost" in the sense that new wannabe tyrants had a fair chance of overthrowing the interim gov't and re-imposing a Saddam-like tyranny. But now even that seems extremely unlikely, if not impossible, given their limited support from the populace. The Iraqi forces aren't quite up to defending the whole country at this point, but they're probably strong enough that if we left today they would hang on and eventually win (though it might not be pretty).

It's too easy to forget that

1) There are no standing armies opposing us
2) Elections have been held, creating a legitimate gov't
3) Polls tend to show the vast majority of the Iraqi population is firmly on the side of the democratically elected gov't
4) Iraqis are flocking to the democratic gov't forces in far greater numbers than to the insurgency
5) Unlike the insurgency, the elected Iraqi gov't has a continuing revenue stream of billions in oil revenue to bolster its position
6) A constitution enshrining basic freedoms and rights is 80% complete, with the constitutional referendum and later parliamentary elections now expected to be held on time
7) Iraq's economy grew at 50% last year, and growth for this year is estimated at 35%. This is very important, because as Fareed Zakaria noted in his book The Future of Freedom, there is a very strong correlation between GDP per capita and successful democracy; once democracies become rich, they become immortal. Between $6,000 and $9,000 GDP per capita (iirc) 2/3 of democratic states survive indefinitely. No democracy with a GDP per capita per capita over $9,000 has ever failed. Currently, Iraq is at about $3,500 GDP per capita right now, so in a few years they will probably reach the economic tipping point, esp if oil prices stay high and modern development of Iraqi oil fields happens as scheduled.

All that said, the violence will certainly continue for a year or two, and may continue for decades. But that shouldn’t be viewed as the final judgment on the war. Israel still sees violence 60 years after its inception, but they’ve managed to build a thriving society anyway.

Great column by Glenn Reynolds on how people view the war.

I was especially impressed by this:

"If we had less of it in World War II it was because the threat to the Soviet Union turned the hard left into pro-war propagandists instead of the critics they are today. "

Not many people realize that this is a big reason why WW II is regarded as the "good war," and those who do know tend to forget it. There's a tendency to think anti-war protests were invented by America in the 1960s, when in fact they go back about as far as war itself.

I agree too with his assessment that Bush is missing an opportunity to call on the spirit of American volunteerism.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Happened upon Noam Chomsky's (apparently discontinued) blog today, and amusingly enough the final entry reads:

July 29, 2004 ...permitting democracy in Iraq, even if the rhetoric were meant seriously by Washington and Western commentators, is hardly a likely prospect.

D'oh! As it turns out, even if the rhetoric from the world's premier anti-American linguist was meant seriously, Chomsky being dead wrong is hardly an unlikely prospect. No wonder he stopped blogging shortly after the interim gov't was formed, when elections began to look possible. I can only imagine his chagrin (is there a German word for shameful anti-joy? schadendammit, perhaps? Maybe Chomsky knows) at the sight of 8 million Iraqis triumphantly sticking their purple fingers in the eyes of his prediction on January 30th.

And today we hear news that Iraq’s constitution is 80% written, and a referendum is expected to be held on schedule. That’s gotta stick in ol’ Noamy’s craw; he’ll be 0-2, with 0-3 looming in the form of later parliamentary elections. But then, we’re talking about someone who practically ignored the fall of Communism, so I expect dismissing Iraq’s historic elections will be a fairly easy exercise in sophistry, relatively speaking.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Captain Ed updates:

The reporter himself says that he retyped the memos on an old-style manual
typewriter and destroyed either the originals (AP) or working copies from which
he worked (Rawstory). In effect, he created mock-ups -- and that means the memos provided by the Times in PDF format are fakes.

And thanks to commenter RBMN for supplying the following in his comment section:

Examples of "fixed around" from UK web pages:
http://www.cfpltd.co.uk/pipecanisters.html
Fireplug canisters are fixed around the pipe and the toggle clip engaged. The canister is then slipped along the pipe to the wall or ceiling. The canister is then fixed to the wall or ceiling. The fixings used on the test were four number 50mm wood screws, screwed directly into the aerated block (Thermalite, Celcon, etc.). If fitting to concrete or brick a 65mm steel screw plugged and bedded in intumescent mastic is recommended. The opposite side of the wall/floor to the Fireplug FPC can then be back filled with sand and cement if required.
http://www.permacell-finesse.co.uk/page6a.htm
Working to a level line, firmly the starter trim to the Timber battens at 600mm centres for white (or 400mm for Coloured) cladding. Vertical battens are fixed and checked Against a plumb line at appropriate centres. The remaining Trims are fixed around the perimeter, corners, joints and openings.
http://www.merlinarcherycentre.co.uk/Assemblingyourbow.htm
Inspect both limb tips BEFORE drawing the bow to ensure that the string loops are securely fixed around the limb tips. To disassemble the bow, use the same procedure in reverse.
http://handbooks.btcv.org.uk/handbooks/content/section/3746
Ash and sycamore may split during felling, causing a slab of trunk to spring back towards the feller. A chain or strong rope should be fixed around the trunk about 1.2m (4') from the ground prior to felling.
http://www.bdmlr.org.uk/pages/sealtrap.htm
Two divers travelled to Shetland last week where they discovered one salmon cage had an anti-predator net fixed around it, made of a nine-inch mesh of single-strand green nylon line - known as 'monofilament'.

So there are 3 problems with the lefties' claim that the DSM "prove" Bush lied about the intelligence:

1) The memos supplied, even if they accurately reproduce the originals, are fakes and cannot be directly authenticated
2) The memos don't say what lefties are claiming they say (that intelligence was rigged)
3) Even if they did say intelligence was being rigged, it's just the opinion of a Brit at a meeting

In other words, please remove the tinfoil from your heads and return to reality.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Shades of RatherGate: Captain Ed reports the Downing Street Memos aren't, um, you know, real.
Smith told AP he protected the identity of the source he had obtained the documents from by typing copies of them on plain paper and destroying the originals.
So what he's saying is, the documents themselves aren't genuine, but the story is rock-solid? That the memos are "fake, but accurate?"

Every time you think the media have reached a new low in stupidity and mendacity, they find a way to go even lower. No wonder they're now the least-trusted institution.

Next we'll hear the memos are "insufficiently authenticated" but that everyone stands behind the unauthenticated story. Yup, because everyone knows Bush lied about the war, just like everyone knew Bush received preferential treatment in the National Guard, and everyone knows Kerry is smarter than Bush. The fact that there's no evidence for any of those assertions is immaterial, we know they must be true so we're going to go digging for the evidence to prove them, and by God we're going to find that evidence, even if it doesn't exist.

Sigh.

You see, this is why it matters that there are 5 times as many liberals as conservatives in journalism. Journalists are not scientists; they don't gather evidence and then draw conclusions. They draw conclusions and then go looking for evidence to prove them; that's just the nature of investigative journalism. So which conclusions they're trying to prove becomes very important, even if they are truly committed to objective, fact-based reporting. One would hope that despite going after mostly stories that serve a liberal agenda, they would at least dispassionately require a high standard of proof in all cases. But as we've seen, they often fail to meet even that lowered standard of neutrality; they not only report from a liberal bent, they do so eagerly enough that they'll often allow themselves to be duped with less-than-convincing evidence on major stories, while ignoring counter-evidence. As Orwell might have put it, in the eyes of journalists some facts are more objective than others.

(via Instapundit)

Friday, June 17, 2005

Too courageous not to link: No matter how many times I see it, I'm still amazed people have this kind of bravery.
But one woman in particular was willing to stand up and be heard. She said she was even willing to endure torture if they sent agents after her. Freedom in Iran meant that much to her. Another asked me, "don't you realize how dangerous it is, what you're doing? They could kill you."
Could you or I be that brave? I don’t know if I could.

These people deserve their freedom.

(via Instapundit)


We movd predator and prey into the bathroom to limit the potential water damage. I was still in a tiny apartment then, so the scale was most of the surface area. Looks like the whole ensemble weighs about 8 lbs. Posted by Hello


Don't tell PETA, but we got them some feeder fish for their 1st birthday. Do kittens like fish? Ohhhh yeah, they get so excited their pupils dilate. They even like them enough to get their paws wet (and then shake them off so they spray everything within 10 feet with fishwater). Posted by Hello

Well, Operation Spear is underway in Karabilah; as usual it’s a forgone conclusion that the insurgents will lose. The only question is how many will be captured, how many will die, and how many will run away. I’m curious whether this is one of the two new large operations Jaafari alluded to, or whether those are all-Iraqi missions. Either way, it seems more pressure is coming to bear on the insurgency as Iraqi forces continue to grow and improve.

Michael Totten notes Niall Ferguson made the argument yesterday that we need 1 million troops based on the 1920s British experience, but I tend to view it as suspect for several reasons, not the least being that force multipliers like LRAS, body armor, night vision, precision munitions, and close air support make 100,000 modern U.S. troops able to do more than a million WW II soldiers could dream of, let alone WW I era soldiers. Another major difference is that we're not trying conquer Iraq, just defend the elected gov't, and for that reason most of the citizenry is on our side. Also, the size force Niall contemplates would require such massive logistical support that it would further burden the strained local infrastructure, generate massive local resentment, create a lot more targets for suicide bombers, and it's hard to see what more they could really do than is being done now. It's not like we're being overrun by vast numbers of insurgents; our main problem with defeating the insurgency isn't manpower, it's finding the insurgents, because they won't come out and fight (they've learned they always lose a straight fight regardless of numbers). A nonsectarian native Iraqi force, loyal to democratically elected leaders, that can better gather intel is probably the best solution available in an imperfect situation.

A commenter named RickW just back from Iraq also chimed in with the question of what a million troops could do that isn't being done now. Another military commenter also made of the same arguments I did above, noting in more detail the specific logistical problems 1 million troops imposes.

The number of troops seems about right for the tasks they're doing, which increasingly are training-related. Austin Bay reports Iraqis are now providing half the forces in 90% of operations, and are begining to take responsibility for entire AOs.

I think there is a terrible lack of perpective among the chattering class on what it takes to win a counterinsurgency, esp. how much time, probably partly driven by how easy the war to remove the regime was by comparison. By this time next year, it seems likely pro-democracy Iraqis will have most of the country pretty well in hand and U.S. troops levels will begin to drop significantly.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Too encouraging not to link: Roger L. Simon notes polls show Operation Iraqi Freedom is surprisingly popular in Iran:
a vast majority (74%) of Iranians feel America's presence in the Middle East will increase the probability of democracy in their own country
Not that surprising, really, when you consider formerly America-hating Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt was widely quoted saying about the same thing:
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Too true not to link: Chrenkoff talks about World bank functionaries and African aid luminaries warming up to Wolfowitz, including this gem about the right/left dichotomy on aid:
In reality, both sides of politics want to reduce poverty; they differ on means of doing it (wealth transfer versus free market solutions). As far as the developing world is concerned, it's a difference between giving fish and teaching how to fish, or aid and institutional reform. Transparency, democracy, economic reform, free trade - why not give 'em a go.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Instapundit notes development of wearable video cameras with large data-storage capacity being used by the military to gather data for later analysis.

As it becomes widespread and data storage continues to be cheaper and more plentiful, this is going to create huge amounts of data, probably more than humans can sit down and watch every frame of, but too complex for the curent abilities of machine interpretation. This is another task that will drive the development of weakly superhuman AI: the need to process huge amounts of data in a human-like way, quickly and in massively parallel fashion.

Too good not to link: Michael Yon's latest from Iraq.

This is by far the best reporting from Iraq I've seen anywhere. Michael doesn't hesitate to criticize the US, the Iraqi gov't, or the insurgents, but also clearly understands where each stands. The level of detail and verisimilitude in his dispatches is incredible. We're lucky to have journalists like this.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Too ironic not to link: Charles Johnson at LGF notes the NYT is running a story about alleged U.S. abuses of terrorist detainees... right next to photography by Andres Serrano, the guy who created the "artwork" Piss Christ, a crucifix, complete with depiction of the Lord and Saviour of billions of Christians, submerged in his urine.

So let me just ask a completely rhetorical question here: If Andres Serrano had submerged a Koran in his own urine, do you think the NYT would be running photographs by him?

Instapundit links to a great post by Ernest Miller on Jay Rosen's piece on Bob Franken's claim to be a "citizen of the world" while he's reporting (did you follow all that?).

It's sad that being an American has been so devalued that some people feel being a "citizen of the world" is somehow superior. In part, I think this is a consequence of having a United Nations that treats all regimes, from the most enlighted and democratic to the most egregious and tyrannical, as moral equals. The whole concept of "sovereignty" as currently practiced is horribly flawed and anachronistic; does anyone really believe Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il or Saddam have/had a legitimate moral claim to rule their people? As our Founders declared, the just powers of a gov't are derived from the consent of the governed.

And that's why I'm damned proud to call myself a citizen of the United States of America -- no matter what I'm doing.

This statement from Mouwafak al-Rubaie, a Shiite legislator and former national security adviser, seems promising:
He said a two-week old counterinsurgency campaign in Baghdad known Operation Lightning was a success and expressed confidence that the government would have full control of the country within six months.
Probably that's optimistic, but one does gets the feeling the people of Iraq are now firmly on the government's side, and that momentum also seems to be swinging their way with the successes of Operations Lightning and Thunder, especially in the perception of Iraqi forces among Iraqis. Every day more Iraqi troops and police are trained, meaning the insurgents get weaker in a relative sense as well as by losing the hundreds that have been arrested. The fact ordinary Iraqis are sending in tips to the gov’t right and left hurts them as well; it appears to be getting harder and harder for insurgents to feel safe anywhere.

I'd say there's a good chance American troop support will fall below 100,000 in 2006, and might begin to be limited to air support sometime in 2007. There are obvious advantages, both symbolic and real, to having Iraqis doing all the ground work. Sunni participation in the upcoming Iraqi constitutional referendum will be a good measure of the insurgency's health (or, hopefully, lack thereof), not to mention another watershed moment in Mideast history. If they boycott the referendum, that’s probably a bad sign. If they turn out heavily against it to the point it is defeated, then at least they’re participating, and while the MSM with its asymmetrical skepticism will doubtless say this proves the whole Iraqi democracratic effort is doomed, I think the Iraqis will simply go back and write another, and take another vote. If the Sunnis turn out in reasonable numbers and support a new constitution, even by a slim margin, then the writing is really on the wall for the insurgency.

I wonder how ordinary Saudis and Iranians and Egyptians and Syrians will react to the spectacle of Iraqis voting on a constitution that enshrines rights to free press, free speech, political assembly, and human dignity? I have a feeling many of them will be asking "Why not us? Don't we deserve those rights too?" I think sooner or later people everwhere realize that democracy and freedom are the right of every human being, and once this realization is made they inevitably demand what's theirs.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Too heroic not to link: Even after being imprisoned and tortured by the vicious religious tyrant thugs who rule Iran, persecuted Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji refuses to toe their line.

As someone who works in IT, I think we’re fairly close now to building weakly superhuman AI, which will probably then enable us with its assistance to then later build strongly superhuman AI. We’re talking about initially building a thinking machine that not only blows away the Turing test but is modestly superior to humans in all mental capabilities (weakly superhuman AI), which would then be able to access and apply human knowledge in a humanlike fashion to accelerate Moore's Law and design AI so powerful it does more processing in a day than the entire human race since the dawn of history (strongly superhuman AI). While the engineering capabilities of both weakly and strongly superhuman AI will still be limited and slowed somewhat by the need to do real-time, hands-on physical experimentation, strongly superhuman AI will be able to do incredible things involving pure math, like not only applying complex mathematical theorems to solve numerous equations that are far too difficult for humans to solve (such as some of those involving string theory), but actually devise and prove new methods, solving problems in minutes that mathematicians currently spend decades or lifetimes on. But most importantly, it is likely strongly superhuman AI will be used to exponentiate Moore’s Law, eventually designing and creating far more powerful AI, an intellect that can do a billion times more processing in a second than the sum of all human thinking over all time to this point, as far beyond humans in intelligence as humans are beyond insects, AI so powerful it can be called weakly godlike. This could all happen in the next 10 to 50 years.

Presumably, precautions would be taken to isolate a weakly godlike intelligence such as preventing it from directly influencing the physical world, and it would surely be programmed to ensure it does not take actions detrimental to our welfare. And the limits of what weakly godlike AI could achieve in terms of benefits to mankind are vast and unknowable, limited only by the bounds of physical law. But can an intelligence that powerful really be safely contained? In short, can you keep a god, even a weak and kindly disposed one, in a box?

To some extent the answer depends on aspects of physics that are currently beyond our human understanding (as does the answer to the question of whether such higher-order intelligences can even be built at all), but weakly godlike AI may find such things less than child's play to discover and exploit in ways we can't imagine. Are we approaching, or already in, a Vingean Singularity? As Glenn points out, higher intelligence doesn't equate to lust for power, though applying Darwin one could argue those that don't possess both might fall prey to those that do. So should we fear or embrace such a state? I have a feeling we are going to find the answer in the not too distant future, for better or worse.

UPDATE: A belated welcome to Instapundit readers.

UPDATE: Added link in first sentence. Meant to do it originally, as it was part of the inspiration for the post, but forgot. Also, welcome Carnival Of Tomorrow readers!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Washington Monthly has an interesting article on the idea of Universal Healthcare Vouchers.

The idea as presented is terrible. It claims it can reduce bureaucratic cost -- by creating an even bigger bureaucracy! (Note to editors: bureaucracies don't benefit from "economies of scale" because they aren't economic entities; the bigger a bureacracy gets the less efficiently it operates). The bigger failure, though, is not recognizing the true driver of inefficiency: lack of any incentive for consumers to keep costs down.

But there is a grain of common sense buried in the idea: a UHV plan based on personal accounts could work wonders. Here's how it would work: The federal government allocates every person $X dollars per annum for healthcare costs into a gov't-maintained account. Anything you don't use rolls over into the next year until your death, at which time you can pass the remainder on to your heirs' accounts -- but the account can only be spent on healthcare.

Why is this plan better? Because it encourages people to look for cost-effective medical solutions, esp. prevention. We could reduce healthcare costs by 50 - 70% over most people's lifetimes if they practiced commonsense preventative measures; as it stands now, the perverse reverse lottery of health insurance dictates that the more you do to stay healthy, the worse return on investment you reap. Under this modified UHV system, people who stay healthy will be rewarded.

I know some people will raise objections based on the idea not all sickness is preventable. True, but so much of it is. And we're not doing anything to encourage people to prevent it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

There's been some chatter, both on the right and on the left, that terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizbollah being elected in Palestine and Lebanon indicates maybe democracy isn't the way to go in some places. Similar arguments have been raised regarding elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where it’s postulated elections might merely serve to replace stable, trustworthy dictatorships with democratically elected religious fundamentalists.

To these democracy-doubters I say: Have faith.

Democratization is a process, as Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out. The great saving grace of democracy is accountability for results, or as Lincoln put it, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.” Hamas and Hizbollah have indeed had some election success. Now they have to prove they can govern. When they're asked to actually improve people's lives instead of just killing people and handing out food, and are held accountable for results by voters, we'll see what happens. If they fail, hungry new politicians will take their place (and with popular support leaving the terrorist groups for a democratic alternative, they may be so enervated that they wither and die). If they succeed, it will pull them toward legitimacy and sap the will of the people for condoning violence. Either way, we’ll all come out ahead. Similarly, religious zealots in other Arab countries will have to prove they can govern if elected. As long as the democratic process itself is respected (as it is not in Iran), democracy will likely solve its own problems in time.

Operations Thunder and Lightning seem to be bearing fruit, with 2 insurgent leaders, a bunker, and something like 1200 insurgents captured.

The Iraqi pro-democracy military are beginning to show they can handle the country, and the Iraqi people are showing they will stand up for freedom and democracy. The elected gov’t also says Saddam is going on trial in a couple months, which should be a watershed event in Mideast history – and a warning to other Arab dictators.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Instapundit notes someone is now marketing a "longevity pill."

I was intrigued at first, but I started laughing when I saw the ingredients. Yes, the studies on cancer and heart disease will prove out -- because they’ve already been done! The pill is mostly green tea and curcumin, two substances for which there are dozens of studies showing supplementation can create significant reductions in heart disease and many types of cancer. I’ve been taking them myself for years.

This is really just a branding effort.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Well, I've finished Stross' Hidden Family. I read it in one sitting, which is pretty unusual for me these days, and should tell you something about how good it was.

It's hard to review this book without mentioning Zelazny, so I won't try, except to say I'm confident you can thoroughly enjoy the Family Trade books without knowing anything about the Amber series. This series offers every bit as much devious family scheming, deceiving, and backstabbing as Zelazny's (and Betancourt's respectable effort at a prequel series) did, with novel twists. But there are vast differences as well: where Roger was poetic, Charles is practical. Zelazny wrote dreamingly of silver towers and a magical semi-deity Unicorn, Stross writes fervent praise of the effects of compounding productivity/economic enhancements and bringing democratic principles to a police state. It was wonderful to see the words of Adam Smith and Thomas Hobbes being discussed and applied -- and Karl Marx has a surprising part which I won't spoil. Stross takes the multiverse idea in a different and interesting direction, looking more seriously at the idea of alternate histories.

I could write more, but I've got get to sleep and I don't want to give too much away. All in all, one of the best books I've read in a while. But then, I seem to say that about all Stross' books. I feel obligated to say thanks again to Instapundit for introducing me to his work; I think that recommendation remains one of the best things I ever got from Glenn's blog.

Here's my earlier thoughts on the series, just before reading this book.

Glenn Reynolds notes support for nominating Richard Posner to the Supreme Court.

I’ve thought he was the best candidate since reading a couple articles on him last year. Someone as devoted to rational thought as Posner would be good for America.

Glad to see others agree. Hope he’s the nominee when Rehnquist steps down this year.

Realistically, I doubt Bush will nominate him – he’s awfully married to the right on issues like this. I do think he would rank quite high on a President Giuliani’s list, though…

Mohammed at ITM shares some thoughts and analysis on former Iraqi PM Allawi returning to the political fray as head of a new opposition party.

An opposition party is an important part of politics. Monolithic governments never seem to bode well for the rights of individual or the welfare of the populace. True democracy not only requires but seemingly creates opposition parties when they don't already exist, to set limits and enforce consequences for the inevitable abuses of power unchallenged one-party rules engenders. It's a process akin to Adam Smith's "invisible hand" principle of free-market competition.

Amir Taheri has a great piece on the many failures of the Iraq insurgency.
Over the past two years it has failed to prevent the formation of a Governing Council, the writing of an interim constitution, the transfer of sovereignty, the holding of local and general elections and the creation of a new government. This year it will fail to prevent the writing of a new constitution, already being drafted, the referendum to get it approved, the holding of fresh parliamentary elections and the formation of a new elected government in Baghdad.