Archive for December, 2005

National Sovereignity

Reading over at TMH’s Bacon Bits about Condoleezza Rice on a Democratic Peace, I was struck by some thoughts. rxfastfind.com

Since its creation more than 350 years ago, the modern state system has always rested on the concept of sovereignty. It was assumed that states were the primary international actors and that every state was able and willing to address the threats emerging from its territory.

Or, as I take this, national sovereignity as a right rests upon national sovereignity as a responsibility. When a nation secures it’s borders and takes responsibility at a national level for all actions that cross those borders, then national sovereignity within those borders is a right. To give specific examples, Cambodia sheltering the Viet Cong was a failure of responsibility. Iran conducting an undeclared war against the US in Iraq is a failure of responsibilty. Mexico aiding and abeting illegal border crossings is a failure of responsibility. All of these are examples of nations explicitly giving up their rights to national sovereignity, to one degree or another. This current decoupling of sovereign rights from sovereign responsibility seems to be the very definition of the current international order.

Today, however, we have seen that these assumptions no longer hold, and as a result the greatest threats to our security are defined more by the dynamics within weak and failing states than by the borders between strong and aggressive ones.

In Dr. Rice’s article she points out that:

Attempting to draw neat, clean lines between our security interests and our democratic ideals does not reflect the reality of today’s world. Supporting the growth of democratic institutions in all nations is not some moralistic flight of fancy; it is the only realistic response to our present challenges.

I think that another, parallel conclusion can be validly drawn. In the international community, there are some states that do acknowledge and accept their sovereign responsibilities. There are also states that insist on their sovereign rights but fail to acknowledge, let alone uphold, their responsibilities. These delinquent states deserve to be stripped of those rights and given the second class status that their actions have earned.

Today’s international community, and the UN specifically, treat all nations equally. But this community has responsible citizens, delinquents, and gang-bangers. A more ‘realist’ approach to diplomacy would recognize this fact and treat individual nations accordingly.

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Animated Knots

A quick reference to knotty problems, for those of us who didn’t study.

Update: link fixed. Thanx Steve.

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Let’s share war on christmas.

Speaking in a similar vein to Dave’s prior post concerning the war on christmas, I find it interesting that so many of our holidays are coming under attack. Is it really important that the federal government really turn a blind eye to it’s constituants merry-making?
It is likely that most businesses would be closed on these holidays in any event. Most of the christians would likely not attend work, citing religious reasons. Much the same reason that sunday is largely considered a no-work day.
The athiests (if you’re willing to lay this fracas at thier feet), seem to have turned a blind eye to the non-protestant-christian religions. Many Jewish holidays are printed on modern calendars, and Pagan holidays are also given a treatment (though you wouldn’t know it; it would be difficult to find a calendar that says “Solstice Tonight! All Pagans, bring out your candles!”).
December itself is full of holidays. From the [sarcasm] Evil day of christmas [/sarcasm], and Yule, to Winter Equinox, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and (via technicality) New Years Eve. Most businesses give special dispensation over the last few weeks of December, which is usually enough to cover any of the above mentioned. You would be hard-pressed to find someone to work on that day, federal holiday aside. And if you do happen to take it off the books, just imagine how the toy and travel industries are gonna hate you.

All I ask is that there be some pragmatic reasoning behind this fracas. Why pick on only one religion? Let’s make December just like August! Let’s ban all the December days off!

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Give me Ideas not a Theme, or, How Not to Win

According to the AP, Democrats are coalescing around a message of community and purpose. In my last post I pointed out the best way for Republicans to get me to vote Democrat. Let me put out a clue for the Democrats.

Socialism is a loser. Collectivism is a loser. You’ll bring in the votes from the idle elite, the wishful, and the welfare plantation, and that’s about it. These are the people asking, as a great man once put it, what their country can do for them. No matter how you package your stale 60’s socialism, you won’t sell it. I don’t care if you call it ‘a village’, or ‘community’, or anything else. Expanding government control of people is a losing issue.

What can you win with? Admit that we won in Afganistan and are winning in Iraq. Go ahead and claim that it’s in spite of Bush’s mistakes. Americans want to be winners, they know they’re winners, and they will not tolerate people calling them losers. If you don’t believe me, think how YOU reacted to the previous paragraph.

You can win with giving people control over their own lives. Trust them. They’re not as dumb as you seem to think they are. Let them control their retirement plans, choose their schools and manage their own health care. If you don’t trust the people, they will never trust you.

You can win by being true to your stated ideals. Gore wrote a book calling the internal combustion engine the worst thing that happened to the planet, then he rode around in limousines and private jets. Every do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do issue will count against you. Stop it.

You can win by defining yourself positively instead of negatively. Kerry’s campaign was primarily, once the dross was removed, “I’m not Bush”. We knew that. We already knew who he wasn’t. What we never knew for sure, was who Kerry WAS.

If you really care about the little guy, find out what he cares about. Focus groups and polls won’t tell you. You have to listen. Otherwise, the little guy will quite reasonable conclude that you don’t really care.

Most important of all, find a new idea. The Republicans owned federalism, until they dropped it. You can use that. A lot of people are upset about restrictions on free speech or free practice of religion. You can use that. Minorities in the inner cities are turning to home schooling to break the poverty cycle, because of a failed public school system. You can use that. Illegal immigration worries many people. You can use that. But whatever you use, you have to mean it. Americans can spot a phony.

The one thing that won’t win? Simply trying to put a new wrapper, a new label, or a new spin on a 40 year old idea.

Via Power Line

Update: added link to home home schooling article that I couldn’t find earlier.

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The McCain drumbeat?

I was either ahead of the curve or way behind it a few days ago. The buzz today is that the Senator is the one true hope to maintain Republicans in DC.

IMO, this guy is far too wrong on the First Amendment, and far too casually corrupt, to get my vote. Democrats would only have to put up a reasonably intelligent pick to get my vote. Gore wouldn’t do it, but Kerry might, though I’d rather have a candidate defined by what he is rather than who he isn’t.

I don’t care which party runs DC. I do care a lot more about the ideas. And though the Republicans stand for more of my beliefs than the Democrats do, the Republicans have also betrayed those beliefs that I agreed with them on.

I’m glad there’s three more years before I really have to reach for a lever. Maybe the Republicans will come back to me. Maybe the Democrats will discover what they stand for, rather than what they stand against.

Maybe pigs will sprout wings.

via Daily Pundit, with more at Ankle Biting Pundits and Power Line.

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Thoughts on Christmas

With all the traditional celebrations, abuse and lawsuits of the season, a few thoughts have been buzzing me today. Thought I’d share them, and see if I can type my way to a conclusion.

  • Our Savior was most likely not born on any date anywhere close to December 25th. Does that mean that it’s wrong for a Christian to celebrate Christmas, or decorate a tree, or give gifts? Of course not. It’s never wrong to celebrate our Saviour in any way, and that we choose to schedule celebrations annually is not the same thing as observing and treating Holy Days.

    As an entertaining note from myth and history, a man known as Dionysius is the one who set the date for the celebratory feast. And the Greek god Dionysus was referred to as the twice born.

  • Some people, notably the ‘freedom from religion’ crowd, are attempting to unconstitutionaly establish atheism as the state religion. These people are religious zealots though they cavil at the term. The fact that they have no practices or worship of their own does not mean they are not religious. They assert their central tenet, “there is no god”, and demand that anyone who would gainsay them have irrefutable proof. And that is the proof of the religious aspect of their faith.

    They have no proof, yet demand proof from others. And in the absence of proof on either side, they demand that all other religious practice be shut away from them. This is religious intolerance on a scale matching Dark Ages europe or modern Islam. It does not deserve to be taken seriously, let alone supported, in civil society.

  • The war on Christmas is ongoing. It is a cultural conflict. Some who follow Christianity have a desire to keep the Christ’s Mass holy. Some others see a need to secularize the season, and eliminate all Christian symbology. I think both are wrong, and that the secularists have gone so far that they are violating the Constitutional prohibition against restrictions on the free practice of religion.
  • The substitution of a ’secular’ Happy Holidays is very amusing, given that the word ‘holiday’ derives from the phrase Holy Day. As a Christian, I am not bound to observe any particular day as holier than any other, and yet I receive wishes for a Happy Holy Day from secular sources.
  • Back to Christmas, some Christians take offence at ‘pagan’ symbols being included. I note that the Christmas celebration was not in the early church. Christ’s birth was of no importance to early Christians. About year 350, the Christmas celebration was started. There is good reason to believe that December 25th was deliberately chosen to co-opt and redefine pre-existing pagan celebrations. So, from a historical perspective, it would make as much sense to complain about Christian symbols in a pagan celebration.

    But the deeper answer is also simpler. Symbols are symbols because they have special meaning. No symbol is useful unless two people, the one using it and the one seeing it, agree on the meaning. For example, what is the inherent meaning of a green light? It has no meaning until you learn what is intended. In the same way, those ‘pagan’ symbols have had nearly all pagan meaning removed from them by time and lack of use, and they have been invested with the meaning of Christmas. Do any significant number of people today use the evergreen tree as a symbol of a rebirth of life from the death of winter? Or use the winter solstice feast to celebrate the renewal of the sun? Or have both of these become symbolic of the resurrection of Christ?

No conclusions today. But peace to you all this season, and may God be with you.

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What’s next?

The headline of Rat Brain Flies Jet grabs the attention. It wasn’t really a brain, but it was brain tissue grown for the purpose. Still, it looks like progress on the way to a direct (neural) man/machine interface. And when that arrives, I would love to be first in line for a digital memory implant.

via third world county

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Carnival of Liberty

More people talking about their freedom at the 23rd Carnival of Liberty over at Below the Beltway. Always lots to chew on.

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Campaign Finance Reform, or, Why We Need Guns

If you want to know why I’d vote for Hillary Clinton before John McCain, check out the excerpts from ex-FEC Chair Bradley Smith’s speech at Capital University on how John McCain’s War on Political Speech tramples the First Amendment. Read the whole thing, don’t just rely on my clips. The Arizona senator had several reasons to pass this law.

  • Sen. McCain objects to groups that “often run ads that the candidates themselves disapprove of.”
  • Sen. McCain went on: “Further, these ads are almost always negative attack ads, and do little to further beneficial debate and healthy political dialogue.”
  • “These ads are direct, blatant attacks on the candidates. We don’t think that’s right.”

And you wonder why it’s been referred to as the Incumbent Protection Act? But does it fight political corruption, or the appearance thereof? Such as:

  • BellSouth hiring the offspring of Sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.)—both members of the influential Senate Commerce Committee—as lobbyists.
  • the wife Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) working as an aviation lobbyist while her husband was majority leader.
  • Family members of high-ranking legislators paid to sit on corporate boards and to make highly lucrative speeches. The wife of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), for example, earned $328,000 in speaking fees in 2001, just after her husband shot to national prominence as Al Gore’s running mate.

How about Senator Straight Talk himself?

The Brennan Center invited Sen. McCain to speak and then approaches a large number of corporations, perhaps saying something like, “Sen. McCain—the ranking minority member of the Commerce Committee, before which your company has a great deal of business, and a possible future presidential candidate—is coming to speak. Would you care to sponsor a table?” And Enron and Coca-Cola and Philip Morris just suddenly decide that they are very interested in campaign reform and kick in some good old soft money, which the Brennan Center uses to lobby and provide free legal services for an issue of “transcendent importance” to none other than Sen. McCain. Appearance of corruption, anyone?

Wouldn’t suggesting that corporations support the Brennan Center to provide legislative support to Sen. McCain on the issue that made his national reputation carry the same potential for blackmail and favoritism as corporate donations to political campaigns?

And to summarize a description titled McCain’s Soft-Money Machine:

… a handful of top advisers to Senator John McCain run a quiet campaign. They promote his crusade against special interest money in politics. They send out news releases promoting his initiatives. And they raise money—hundreds of thousands of dollars, tapping some McCain backers for more than $50,000 each.

These advisers work for a group called the Reform Institute, founded in 2001 after Sen. McCain’s failed presidential bid. The chairman of the board of the Reform Institute is…John McCain. If you go to look at the press releases at reforminstitute.org, you will see that virtually every release mentions Sen. McCain in the first sentence. Not paragraph, sentence. … the president is Richard Davis … John McCain’s 2000 campaign manager. The counsel to the Reform Institute is Trevor Potter … legal counsel to McCain 2000! The finance director of the Reform Institute is a woman named Carla Eudy. She was finance director for McCain 2000. The communications director is Crystal Benton; she was McCain’s press secretary.

Recently the Reform Institute, which bills itself as “a thoughtful, moderate voice for reform in the campaign finance and election administration debates,” launched what it calls the Natural Resources Stewardship Project. … of course, John McCain is planning to run for president again, and his signature issue, other than campaign finance regulation, is global warming. To run the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, the institute hired John Raidt, who, you guessed it, served 15 years working on “environmental initiatives” for Sen. McCain.

And how is the Reform Institute funded? With contributions, in six figures or more, from individuals and corporations, including the cable company Cablevision. Cable companies are constantly before the Senate Commerce Committee, which Sen. McCain chaired at the time of Cablevision’s contribution. In fact, Cablevision gave $200,000 to the Reform Institute around the same time its officials were testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee. Appearance of corruption, anyone?

Straight talk, indeed. McCain also argued quite publicly that the internet, including blogs, should be regulated as well.

Because the McCain-Feingold bill did not mention Internet regulation in its list of terms, we at the FEC passed a rule exempting online speech. So Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), the main House sponsors of McCain-Feingold, filed suit, joined by Sens. McCain and Feingold in an amicus brief. They argued that the Internet exemption was improper and got a federal district court judge to agree.

So, today, theoreticly to reduce the appearance of corruption in politics, we have a situation where:

Right now in First Amendment jurisprudence there is more protection for simulated child pornography, flag burning, tobacco advertising, or burning a cross in an African-American residential neighborhood than there is for running an advertisement that merely mentions a congressman’s name within 60 days of an election.

Not my conclusion. That’s the previous FEC chairman talking. The scary part is that so many people want to do the same thing here in Oregon.

But perhaps most important, campaign finance regulation is based on the notion that government must be empowered to act on and order the lives of citizens without influence or pushback from those very same citizens.

People keep saying we don’t need the Second Amendment as long as we have the First. Hey people, do you think we need the Second yet? I do.

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Canadian Handgun ban

People who claim some tenous contact with reality keep telling me that gun registration is just registration, not a first step to confiscation. Once again, reality bites this idea. Just like Australia did confiscate registered guns, Canada is now talking about doing the same thing.

Yeah, nobody in this country is talking about banning guns, right? Wrong. Ok, they’re talking, but no one is really banning any guns, right? Wrong again.

That’s why so many people would rather own an illegal gun than a registered one. It’s just the prudent thing to do.

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Beyond Belief Media declares war on Christmas

This group of atheists has (somewhat sarcasticly) declared war on Christmas to prove that there isn’t one. What they’re doing is actually less toxic than the activities of other people who haven’t honestly declared their intentions.

The funniest part of this press release, to me, is that these “geniuses” claim to want to “provoke conversation about the dangers of religious belief”, but don’t seem to be aware that atheism IS a religious belief.

Loud and unhinged, not really looking for conversation, but I thank them for showing by contrast that the war is in so many ways real.

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Whose Internet is It Anyway?

This Pajamas Media BlogJams on the question is interesting. I kept getting my hackles raised by the UN hack, Peng Hwa Ang. He’s very diplomatic, and about as upfront and honest as the average used car salesman with a law degree.

The internet needs governance in the same way that the most critical things in our lives need governance–air, water, traffic, education, healthcare, etc.

He seems to be deliberately obscuring concepts when he conflates the voluntary standards applied to the blogjam with the typical top-down management applied by governments in the above areas. For my money he spins out half-truths, misdirection and outright lies with the majority of his contribution.

The issue that WSIS talked about are threefold:
(1) who should have ultimate say of the root zone system–the ccTLD and existence in cyberspace? Currently, it is no longer entirely in the hands of the USA
(2) whether there should be one forum to discuss all internet law and policy issues (YES, so WSIS decided) or multiple fora (the original position endorsed by the USA
(3) should there be a fund to help developing countries.

He answers these issues:

On (1), the USA has defused the tension by allowing all countries to have a say in their own respective ccTLD. The previous position was simply politically untenable: the USA actually had a say in the .IQ of Iraq even before the war.

It was never in the hands of the USA. ICANN has not had the US govt setting policy and overriding decisions. If this guy expects me to accept that the USA ‘had a say’, he’ll have to demonstrate exactly what the USA said.

(2) It makes sense to have one forum to coordinate on matters such as spam, consumer fraud, copyright, etc.

One forum only makes sense if you can find individuals to sit on that forum who are experts on email server and system architecture, international consumer protection law, finance and financial law, international copyright law, and all the other relevant issues. Otherwise you’re putting it into the hands of appointed political hacks who have no clue what they are doing. And who gave WSIS any authority to make that decision, anyway? This is pure political power-grab.

(3) It make sense to help developing countries.

Who should we trust with these issues? As I’ve noted in my write-up: for Most of the Rest of the World (MRW) it is the UN over the USA.

It makes sense to help developing countries. It makes no sense to fatten the private bank accounts of third world dictators and their cronies.

[I]n the course of the discussion of using the internet for development, it became very clear that the US Government is dominant in controlling the internet. Worse, how it exercised that control is not transparent nor democratic–at least pre-WSIS 2005. For evidence of this now, one need only look at the budget for development, the Digital Solidarity Fund.

Exactly what people want ICANN to do different regarding “using the internet for development” of 3rd world nations, he never says. He mentions transparency. Yeah, the UN is real transparent. Like the way Oil for Food and other programs are managed. Then back to Money for Bullies.

One telling point was his answer to Michael Barone’s “What assurance do we have that Third World countries will spend this money usefully?” Peng Hwa Ang’s answer:

There is no 100% watertight locked-down money-back-guarantee that some money will not be wasted.
Does it mean one does not help?

When 90% or more of the money of other programs IS wasted, then the absence of any assurance at all means that it’s better to do nothing. Let’s see, I don’t donate money, the people get no help. I do donate money, and the people get no help but the bullies and cronies get rich. It’s better to not donate.

Internet Governance is more about governance than the internet. WGIG said that the process of arriving at decisions re the internet should be–to use the language of WGIG–”democratic, multilateral, transparent and multistakeholder”. That is, they must incorporate the views of other countries, of private sector and civil society and they must be done in a manner that is accountable.

Sounds like a demand that censorship be given equal consideration to freedom of speech. Not with my consent. Peng Hwa Ang’s heard that before, too.

I’ve had some people email me that they would (a) not trust the UN to watch over $5 much less my/our internet and (b) if they want their internet go build “their own damn internet”.
I happened to meet Bob Kahn walking about the resort town of Sidi Bou Said near Tunis and he said that it is quite easy to set up a parallel internet universe aka “their own damn internet”.
My replies have been that (a) the UN is made up of governments and forced to make a choice most people trust their own governments–and therefore the UN–than the USA and (b) building “their own damn internet” is the worst possible outcome for everyone because everyone loses, with the USA being the biggest loser should that happen.

Prove how the USA loses if there are parallel name spaces (”their own damn internet”). We are the biggest market for internet goods, so anyone with something to sell will be on our name space. We will have the most product offerings, so anyone wanting to buy will be searching our name space. And if the scumbags dictators running Cuba, China, Iran, Suadi Arabia or Zimbabwe don’t like freedom of speech, let them deal with it and censor their own damn internet and leave the one open and international internet alone. Peng Hwa Ang’s final post includes:

1. The internet needs governance for its next stage of development. That is, it needs coordination, exchange of best practices, laws and policies (and other expressions that substitute for control if one does not like it) to bring it to the next level. There are mischiefs to be cured. Hence a need for a forum.
2. The process, especially at the international level, has to be open and inclusive. That is transparent. And inclusive of countries (multilateral) and inclusive of diverse groups (multistakeholder).
3. Developing countries also need help and some serious money into the Digital Solidarity Fund–managed in a transparent way–is essential

1. The IETF and ICANN do an excellent job already.
2. IETF and ICANN are open, inclusive and transparent. They include knowledgable and interested people from any nation, and deal with diverse needs already.
3. No UN money program is either transparent or managed seriously. The DSF doesn’t deserve funding. Especially by way of internet taxes.

If you want to see why the UN wants the internet, just read this guy while remembering that he is representing the dictators of some of the most abusive nations on earth.

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MoveOn Protests Cuts in Newsrooms

What kind of mindset, confronted with a business cutting back a service that they like, responds by collecting signatures? For some reason, the MoveOn people think that’s a rational response.

In my opinion, a truly reality-based response would be to subscribe. Or subscribe again. Remove the need to cut back. Put your money where your petition is.

On the other hand, the Times lost my money many years ago, simply because their product was so poor. I don’t mind seeing the doors close on an inferior product. But if a person does like the product, what good does a petition do?

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The First Real Aphrodisiac

OK, it’s not serious news. But there’s something to be said for having more control over your life.

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