Thursday, October 24, 2002

Grim

This situation in Moscow is going to end badly. Russians are not known for their "flexibility" and the animals doing this know it. Nor do I think they should be "flexible". This is going to end in only one way, unfortunately. To tell the truth I was surprised this was still going on this morning.

UPDATE: Well, the Russians fail to disappoint. The use of nerve gas was effective, hundreds of people survived.

Chechen's go to the Theatre

If you would like to follow the situation in Moscow please look here, it seems to be updated pretty often. BUT, you will need to read russian. At 10:09PM an English counter-terror group was on its way. Why English? Beats me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

War For Oil


The whole premise that US is going to war over oil is so asinine I never imagined it would be discussed. But unfortunately here we are bending reality.

So lets review...
1. The West (actually the whole world) covets the oil in the Middle East, "though shall not covet thy neighbors oil". In the west, unlike in Arabia, wives have not been property for centuries. Oil is a commodity that is extracted from the ground and sold for cash. The Arabs want to sell the oil for cash, because they can not drink it, eat it, wear it, or drive it.

2. If they do not sell it, what will happen?
First, the Arabs will be poorer in the short-term. Two, the rest of the world will look else where for its oil. Believe it or not there is oil almost everywhere. People used to think that all the oil in the world was in Pennsylvania, than they found it in Ohio,Texas, Arkansas, California, Mexico, Indonesia, Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Sea, Gulf of Mexico, etc.

3. If we can get our oil in so many other places, than why don't we?
The US and Europeans oil companies, about 100 years ago, had developed oil drilling sites all over the world, including Arabia. At the time Arabia was ruled by Turks and Arab Tribes. The big geopolitical game at the time was between Turkey, Germany, France, England and US was a new comer. Iran/Persia was also in the picture but Iranians are not Arabs. The Arabs want and wanted Europeans and Americans there because they had not use for oil, they had no idea what it was for or cared. What they cared about than and today was selling oil for money. Companies came with their engineers and drilled, drilled, drilled. Occasionally finding oil. The companies have spent lots of money and energy in developing the wells in Arabia and will never leave. So the "we" in the above question is not the US government or the "Euro-state" it is a collection of dozen oil companies that have portfolios of oil around the world.

The other problem with developing oil is that through much of the world property rights are almost non-existent, with a few notable exceptions (US being one of them). For example, even in France if you happen to have a backyard, drill and find oil, that oil is not yours, it belongs to the French government. Why would anybody spend their time and effort drilling to enrich the French government when they could be at a cafe smoking, drinking and making snide remarks about tourists? The issue of property rights when dealing with a poor backwater (which Arabia was and largely still is), can be mitigated because these places are not governed by the rule of law (sorry if this comes as a surprise), they are governed by the "rule of fist/sword/gun". If you can negotiate with the local tough guy, you will be ok for a while. Until the tough guy hires management consultants that tell him he can do better by taking the claims away, aka nationalize. Than the management consultants are paid to manage the newly owned subsidiaries on behalf of the potent potentate.

Thinking about the possibility that the Middle East not sell oil is like the possibility the US farmer not growing food. Sure it can be done, but why? If the farmer does not grow food he will be poorer and lots of people will be hungry, and looking for places to grow bagels.

4. We would all be better off without oil.
Well, another statement too stupid to comprehend. Without oil there would be a lot less whales and trees. There would be a lot more coal being burned, aka London fog.

5. The only reason the US is interested in the Middle East is because of its oil.
Well I would have to agree with that. You see almost everybody, including the chaps in college yelling and chanting, care, I mean really care, about themselves and their closest family and friends. When I hear about people being shot by a "wacko" in Maryland, or blowing busses with women and children, or decapitating reporters, I get angry and sympathize with the victims. But when my close friends die of cancer, or my grandmother dies I am crushed, my emotions manifest themselves physically.

So the "interest" in the Middle East is obvious, the US is also interested in England because ... (well this one has me stumped). But the US is definitely interested in Canada, because of all that Canadian lumber and its easy to vacation there. And the US is interested in Mexico, all that cheap labor is great for making cars and picking strawberries. And the US is interested in Japan, because they make awesome video games , cars and TVs. But here is the rub. The Arabs are interested in the US because they like our cars, computers, music, movies, etc. The English are interested in the US because they like shopping at Century 21. The Japanese are interested in the US because we can play baseball better than them. This "interest" is called "trade". Is trade with the Middle East a sin? Maybe all trade is a sin?

What were we talking about?... Oh yes "war for oil"

To say that a war in Iraq is motivated by our lust for oil, is like saying our war with Germany was motivated by our lust for Riesling, expensive cars, and advanced technology. The oil is there, sure as sh*t, but that oil would be there and sold no matter what jackass was running the place. The problem is that the current jackass is not just terrorizing his subjects but is also terrorizing citizens of the US. So the citizens of the US have decided enough is enough and it might be a good idea to shake things up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Please Apply 2x4 to Head

The Saudi government has started fingerprinting Americans entering the kingdom.
"Our dealings (with other countries) will be reciprocal," he said. "We'll deal with every country in the same way as they deal with us."

While Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest sites of Islam, is not exactly a figurative mecca for American tourists, thousands travel there each year. Among them is Carolyn MacIntyre, of Geographic Expeditions, who is going to the kingdom to look into arranging tour groups. She said she's not bothered by the extra hassle.
Some are surprised and annoyed.
"What's alarming about this is that it reflects an attitude on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government that perhaps they are in some way being threatened by the people of the United States or we are no longer their friends," Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, R-Calif., said. "At a time when their people attacked us they should be bending over backwards to appeal to our friendship."
So ~3,000 dead is not driving the point home, apparently.
But some see this move as more than an inconvenience. They say it's just another sign that Riyadh may not be as friendly to U.S. interests as it once was.
Please apply 2x4 to head.

The History of Cellular Tech

For those interested in the development of cellular technology (CDMA, TDMA, GSM, etc) Steve Den Beste tells all.

Smarty Bomb

This Slate article has some interesting stats, some have been mentioned before, but interesting never the less. The progress of technology is really amazing.
During Desert Storm, a laser-guided bomb cost between $120,000 and $240,000. A JDAM kit costs $20,000. In Desert Storm, just 3 percent of the bombs dropped were smart bombs. In Kosovo, where JDAMs were first used (though to a very limited degree), the figure rose to 30 percent. In Afghanistan, it approached 70 percent. Even my old sources in the Pentagon, the ones who used to look at smart bombs with cocked eyebrows, had to admit this new model broke the mold. It actually worked the way it's supposed to work. (If the GPS signals are somehow disrupted, JDAM's inertial guidance system can still get the bomb to within 10 feet of the "aim point," close enough by any measure.)
And the turnaround time
Another breakthrough in Afghanistan was the accelerated flow of information. A special forces officer spotted a Taliban target, typed out the coordinates on a laptop, transmitted the information to an overhead drone, which relayed it to a commander back in Saudi Arabia, who sent it to a bomber pilot, who programmed a JDAM's GPS receiver and dropped the bomb. The total time lapsed: 19 minutes. In the Gulf War, assigning a particular bomb to a particular target took three days.

The article also gives a plug for the book Supreme Command. The article is short and worth a look.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

According to the French court it is still legal to make religious jokes and insults in France. A small vistory for common sense. Michel Houellebecq is now famous for saying Islam is the stupidest religion. Not just stupid (there are losts of stupid things and people), but the stupidest. Stay tuned for when Bartletts adds it to their list. Currently there are only two references to Islam, both from Percy Shelley's Revolt of Islam.
Then black despair,
The shadow of a starless night, was thrown
Over the world in which I moved alone.
With hue like that when some great painter dips
His pencil in the gloom of earthquake and eclipse.
Adding Houellebecq should spice things up.

Strikes In Venezuela

Strikes across Venezuela calling for early elections. According to the countries constitution the earliest a referendum can be is middle of next year. I remember reading earlier that some of the leadership in the opposition had conceded they should wait till next year's legal referendum. The continued calls for a referrendum may be a division among the opposition or inability to slow the momentum against Chavez. Maybe people are afraid if they stop now they will not get another chance later?

Monday, October 21, 2002

Too Cool

This is too cool. I'll take two Dec02 Sadaam contracts and Chicago on top. Via Samizdata, of course.

Hudson County for Senate

Hudson county is run by the Democratic Party. A political machine mobilized to defend its fiefdom is the few times you will see government workers so active and motivated. So I was very surprised by the news that Lautenberg has dropped in the polls in Hudson county. Lautenberg stands at 34.7% over Forrester's 24.9%. The numbers a few days back were 45.5% versus 23.3%. The only news/adds I have seen from the candidates have been Lautenberg's negative Forrester adds (something about Forrester not caring about his neighbor shooting firearms) and news about Lautenberg dancing around the issue of debating Forrester. I am not sure how well Forrester would do against Lautenberg in a debate, but Lautenberg would have a voting record that could be attacked where as Forrester does not.

Planning a Move

If you are thinking of moving, you may consider the Free State Project.
The Free State Project is a plan in which 20,000 or more liberty-oriented people will move to a single state of the U.S. to secure there a free society. We will accomplish this by first reforming state law, opting out of federal mandates, and finally negotiating directly with the federal government for appropriate political autonomy. We will be a community of freedom-loving individuals and families, and create a shining example of liberty for the rest of the nation and the world.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

The Quest for a Cure for Cancer and Government Regulation

Remember the last time you were asked to give a donation to sponsor cancer research? There are plenty of charities and charitable events dedicated to finding a cure for various types of cancer, the deadly disease that can suddenly strike you or those close to you. Its victims are doomed. First they are poisoned by radiation and chemotherapy, disfigured by surgery, and then they often die anyway. Yet, despite all the charities and donations they continue collecting, several effective medically sound treatments for cancer may already have been found, if not for cancer in general, then at least for some of its types.

However, when the government becomes involved in regulating medicine under the guise of protecting the public from charlatans, the public begins to need protection from the government itself. The problem with any government, is that it is not immune from corruption, or from special interest groups. One of such groups is the companies heavily invested in the traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, which is lengthy and expensive and therefore results in handsome profits. A cure for cancer or even a more effective and cheaper treatment, if not sabotaged, would compete against the traditional cancer treatments so effectively, that they would be used little, if at all.

So here comes the FDA, a branch of the government having the coercive power of the state and able to dictate which treatments may or may not be used. If a child has cancer, and the parents want to use a treatment that they know is medically sound and has proven more effective than chemotherapy, this coercive power of the state is further extended to force the parents to use chemotherapy, or else have their child taken away from them for "protection" and subjected to chemotherapy anyway.

The story of one such child is "Our Alexander". See also The Politics of Cancer Revisited on Amazon.com.

For a discussion of why FDA and similar government branches are unnecessary and even counterproductive see "The Assault on Integrity" article by Alan Greenspan in the book by Ayn Rand titled "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal". One of his main arguments is that the government, in its quest to protect the public, cannot improve on natural incentives that business people and physicians already have, such as protection of their reputations. To quote from the article:

To paraphrase Gresham's Law: bad 'protection' drives out the good. The attempt to protect the consumer by force undercuts the protection he gets from incentive. (p. 119).