Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Moving On

Okay, I'm going to stop using Blogger now. I've decided that it's time to move on to my new site, and concentrate on that.

You can find my new site http://www.apathyincorporated.com.

Blogger has served me reasonably well, but it's time to move on. Turn the lights out when you leave, please.
A Thing That Bugs Me

It has become quite common for the right to criticize Europe as being many things. Lazy, economically stunted, uninvolved in world events, things like this.

Let’s set the record clear on a few of these things.

First, the lazy thing. They work shorter hours than we do. In fact, everyone works shorter hours than we do – even Japanese workers work fewer hours a year on average than American workers. In much of Europe, the 35 hour work week has replaced the 40 hour work week. And they get more weeks of vacation than we do.

Wasn’t the goal of progress to make life easier for people? So they’re basically more advanced on this issue than we are – our hours are closer to the start of the 20th century than the start of the 21st.

So, moving on to the economically stunted. Germany’s economy isn’t doing so hot. Neither is most of the world, mind you. Including us. If the bottom falls out of the housing bubble, and the retail sales numbers start to match the dropping consumer confidence index, the US is on the same downward spiral. In fact, the predictions of Germany falling into a Japanese-style depression could happen to the US, too…with interest rates already so low, and a government that’s only working one side of the Supply and Demand chart – the wrong side, currently. So there’s a good chance the US, barring a major change in national fiscal policy, is headed down the same slope. You want to blame our economic structure?

And, lastly, their lack of involvement in world events. This should be read “Lack of involvement in Iraq”, because that’s really it. French troops have been sent to both the Congo and Liberia - the former as a far too limited peace keeping force, and the latter in an effort to rescue US, UK, and other foreign nationals from the fighting there.

And yes, that does say US. As in, our countrymen. The French went in and pulled them out. But Glenn Reynolds calls the French “cowards”.

And then there were the 4 German soldiers killed recently in Afghanistan, where they were part of the multinational peacekeeping force.

So, while Europe is far from perfect, let’s stick to the factually defensible arguments, and let’s not ignore our own shortcomings, huh?
Middle East Happenings, Pt 2.

Yesterday, I looked into the situation in Iran, and gave a few opinions of what was going on there. I wrote it pretty late, so I’m not sure how coherent it is. Hopefully, this will be a little bit better.

Our topic this time? Israel and Palestine. Specifically, the Road Map, the positions that Sharon and Abbas put themselves in, and the efforts of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to stop the peace process.

We’ll start with the Road Map. Matt Yglesias has argued, quite soundly, that the Road Map is over-valued. He believes that it is too vague to be a serious plan – it offers no solutions or even ideas for solutions. All it offers are goals.

While that’s a good first step, more is needed. Issues such as borders, the settlements, and more all need to be worked out. Bush is leaving this up to Sharon and Abbas, it seems. While that’s certainly an option, I’m not sure it’s the best option. The only way these two are going to work together is if there’s heavy pressure from the major players in the region, plus the UN, US, and potentially, the EU.

Sharon, of late, had been doing a very good job of talking peace – calling the settlements the occupation that it is, for example. But the actions of Israel’s military doesn’t mesh with the statements coming out of Tel Aviv. The direct attacks they’re making at Hamas leadership is both destabilizing, and directly undermining the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to call for peace from the resistance/terror groups.

Today, there was a story in the Boston Globe about Hamas, as well as other militant groups, talking cease fire with Israel..

This is good news, but it continues to show that Israel has not learned the lessons of how to deal with terroristic resistance groups. Britain wrote the book on this in their dealing with the IRA over the last several decades, and any nation confronting terror would do good to follow their example (the US’s struggle with Al Qaeda could learn a few things, as well).

By fighting the terrorists with military force, Israel is just making the terrorists look more like soldiers. This, in turn, glorifies them in the eyes of the desperate, which means more volunteers. If you treat them like criminals, they gain no such legitimacy. Britain knew this. The US and Israel seem to have missed the lesson, unfortunately.

There’s also the fact that Sharon appears far too willing to react to Hamas’s efforts to disrupt the process. Every time they do something, he responds with ground incursions or helicopter attacks. This isn’t making Abbas any friends, and it isn’t helping the credibility of the Road Map.

The best thing that could be done about Hamas and the other militants, in my mind, is for Abbas to admit that Palestine doesn’t have the police infrastructure to find and arrest the people behind the attacks, and then to call for the joint cooperation of police and intelligence agencies from the US, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt…maybe even include the EU. This would be conditional on the apprehended individuals being tried by Palestinian courts, and not turned over to Israel or anyone else. It is paramount that Palestine takes steps towards sovereignty, and the help of international police and intelligence agencies would help build up Palestine’s law enforcement infrastructure, as well as instill some confidence in their court system (assuming that they currently have one – I’m not so sure on this point).

The US gets included because they have the most resources, and are something of a neutral party. Israel is involved because A) it shows a real commitment to Israel’s security, and B) Israel’s Mossad is probably the most informed intelligence agency in the region on these groups.. Jordan and Egypt get included because they’re Muslim nations with ties to the US and, theoretically, progressive governments, at least as far as the Mideast is concerned.

So, you have that coalition working to find and arrest the militants – under Palestinian guidance. Then you start working Sharon to start scaling back the settlements as a quid pro quo, and perhaps also reducing the Israeli military presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

That, at least, would be an actual start, and not just a talking start, as we’ve mostly seen so far.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

More Putting the Lie to Republican Claims

Earlier this week, I wrote this post about how Republicans talk a good game when it comes to free market economics, but in the end, they tend to be supply-side interventionists (a term I never managed to put into the earlier post, somehow).

Well, it turns out that they aren't really all that much for supporting our armed forces, either. At least, not if it'll cost people making 7 figures yearly an average of about 7% of their latest tax cut.

See the report here. It's good reading. And one more issue that the DNC and various Democrats should be shouting from the rooftops. I'm gonna have to write a list of "Shout from the Rooftop Issues" soon...first, I'm tackling the Israel/Palestine issue. Expect that post later tonight.

Thanks to Jesse for finding this one.
Middle East happenings, pt 1

Sorry for all the navel gazing...I guess I spent too much time working on getting MT going (and keeping the readers apprized). But, with all that done, I'll get back to the various rants, news updates, and what not.

So I promised this over the weekend, but ended up not getting around to it.


There's three big situations going on in the mideast right now. There's the Israel-Palestine situation, the Iraq reconstruction/occupation/WMD search, and the situation in Iran.

We'll start with Iran, since that's probably the lease complex.

A majority of Iran's youth, who never knew the Shah, are completely fed up with the Islamic Republic concept. They want democracy. And they're starting to stand up and be counted.

This is key. If these protests and other efforts can gain a foot hold (they already have, to a degree, in the elected portion of the government - which answers directly to the clerics). This is an effort that is practically devoid of US support. In fact, there were arguments that the war in Iraq might make life harder for the dissidents in Iran...it would give the clerics an excuse to crack down on the most vocal groups, claiming that they were being controlled or sponsored by the US.

That, so far, has not really come to pass, thankfully. What has happened is not much better...recently, at protests where students were against the privatization of the university, a gang of thugs attacked several of the protestors. This wasn't a random attack, it was a violent take on the counter-protest. According to this report, at least one person has been killed since the protests started a week ago.

Iran is the key. If the main example of an Islamic Republic fails on it's own, and becomes a democracy - Islamic or not - then that would serve as a perfect example for the rest of the region. Countries rebuilt by the US could never serve as well, because of US action.

After Afghanistan, I wanted to see the US really concentrate on making it work. If Afghanistan could become a strong, successful democracy, then that would give the people of Iran far more support in their efforts to bring about true democratic reform. It would, in my opinion, be far better than some form of direct US support. The US is, currently, not seen as particularly trustworthy by the Islamic world. Rebuilding Afghanistan successfully would be an indirect form of support, which would limit the ability of the clerics to crush the opposition for their ties to America. It would also show the Iranians what they had to gain.

Unfortunately, Iran is now surrounded by two struggling US occupations - Afghanistan to the East, and Iraq to the West. And the US Government is making accusations of support for Al Qaeda, Saddam...all sorts of groups with no religious or political ties to Iran's leadership.

US policy is, obviously, quite flawed in most of it's efforts in the mideast of late - Afghanistan is descending into chaos, Iraq is becoming more violent by the day, Iran and Syria have regularly been threatened, and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the two nations considered to provide the most support for Al Qaeda, are our allies.

Our policy towards Iraq and Afghanistan need to be changed, obviously. But our policy towards Iran must be tied in to those two. With the proper work on all three, it's quite possible that a democratized, largely pro-US belt of successful nations could be formed right in the center of the Muslim world. Joined with Turkey, and a stable Palestinian state, these could be the basis of a democratic renaissance stretching from North Africa to the islands of Oceania. Is that overly optimistic? Maybe. It's certainly a very long term solution - it could easily take decades for Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan to stabilize into successful democracies.

Tomorrow: Israel/Palestine and Iraq - and maybe Afghanistan. This post is long enough for tonight.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Done and Done

The MT site is working and up. The calendar, sadly, is going to have to go...it only links to the last post of that day, and I usually post more than once per day.

You can find the new site at www.apathyincorporated.com. Who'd have expected me moving to that domain name, huh?

Please update your bookmarks/blogrolls, etc. All of my archives here have been moved over there, and the links will even work now!

Other than this post, which will be different over there, I'll be posting everything for the next few days to both sites, so as to catch any straglers.
Yay!

I think I've got MT figured out. Going to try to do that whole export/import thing now. Hopefully, this won't break anything.
Sigh...

Something isn't right in my MT usage so far.

Nothing I do changes the main index page. Editing the CSS, editing the index.html, nothing. It always ends up looking like the default weblog, minus any posts, with just my title in there. Nothing else I do changes, ever. And I don't know why. I really would like to know, tho. I've rebuilt several times...none of those changes seem to affect the index file, or the css file. Am I missing something?

Update: Indeed, I am missing something. Or, was. I had left two directories named incorrectly in my settings, and all the updated files were getting put into a secondary folder. This problem is now fixed. Time to make it look right...

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Working Under the Hood

Okay, I got MT installed. Fiddling with the templates and what not now. Questions may be coming soon...

Also, I plan on putting together an essay type piece on the Mid-East at some point...but I'm not sure when. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow after work. We'll see. It'll probably end up being pretty long...

Update: This MT thing might take a while. I was pretty good with HTML back in 98, but that was 5 years ago. These days, I just know the basics, and CSS, Javascript and the like are all pretty much over my head. I may enlist the help of a much more script-savy friend. I was hoping to find a set of templates that looked okay somewhere on the net that i could use as a base and then modify, but no luck there. And right now, MT isn't posting my first entry..not sure why.

Ah well, back to work...

Update II: Yup, I'm lost. My complete ignorance of css is going to make this hard. Anyway, it's bed time. I'll see what I can do tomorrow, after work.
Have you seen me?

Seen on the side of my milk carton just now:


Have you seen me?
Missing since 6/9/03


We miss you Kevin! Please come home!
Putting the lie to the free market republicans

Free markets suggest that businesses would survive, or fail, on the merit of the business model and the company's procedures.

So if companies are supposed to sink or swim on their own, why is the congress passing massive loan guarantees for nuclear power plants?

The loans are worth 16 billion. If the nuclear plant owners default, we, as taxpayers, are on the hook.

The Congressional Budget Office puts the risk of default at better than 50%. Knight Ridder is reporting that the Standard and Poor's considers it to be a bad risk as well.

It is expected that, at best, the plants will cost 2 to 4 times as much to build as comperable natural gas burning plants. Insurance, regulatory, and other costs are expected to be higher as well.

The market doesn't want to support nuclear power. There isn't a serious lack of providors of coal, natural gas, renewable, and oil burning sources.

So why are we on the hook for loans to businesses with models that the market doesn't want to support, especially if there's no pressing need? How is that a free market policy?

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Descisions, descisions...

So, I was checking out veiled4allah, which is a cool blog (and, apparently, was the first site to give me a permalink, even if it is way down near the end of a miles-long blogroll). Al-Muhajabah, the host of veiled4allah, is also a regular reader of my site (hence the link), as well as a somewhat regular poster. She posted an offer on another blog she reads, where the host would, for free, move me to a Moveable Type blog on Verve Hosting, all I have to do is buy a domain and sign up with Verve, and then contact him.

Here's what I know and don't know about MT: The commenting is built in, which means it can't be down, but I have to worry about bandwith (right now, that's not an issue at all, but...well, a guy can dream, can't he?). There's something called "trackback" which I still don't quite grasp. I have no clue how the backend looks like. I've got no clue how...well, any other part of it works. But I keep hearing good things. And I already have a domain and host for the business I was trying to start last spring (which fell through due to lack of available space in this town, sadly...not sure if I would have gotten the necessary loans...but I digress)...so I'm thinking that I'll install it over there, test it some, see if I can make it work. If I can pull it off, I'll take this guy up on his offer. I'd live my archives to work, I'd like to have more workable comments, and I'd like to figure out how to mess with the look of the site some - I'm not particularly thrilled with this look, but the blogger template isn't the easiest thing to figure out.

So...are any of my readers willing to help me out if I have trouble figuring out MT?

Oh, and speaking of readers, you're definetly sticking around, and I have to say, thank you. You don't have any idea how hard it would be to pound out that big Handicapping post with the knowledge that the odds of anyone seeing it were nil.

Update: Screw it, I'm gonna do it. I'm going to keep this going for now, at least until I get the new site figured out...so I'll keep everyone updated here for now.

Update again: And, of course, commenting died again, just making me feel better about this decision. Let's see how it works.
Handicapping

So, I figured it's about time I spoke about the Democratic primary races.

There's 9 candidates running (as of right now). Alphabetically, with title and links to websites: Governor of Vermont Howard Dean, Senator from North Carolina John Edwards, Representative from Missouri Dick Gephardt, Senator from Florida Bob Graham, Senator from Massachusetts John Kerry, Representative from Ohio Dennis Kucinich, Senator from Connecticut Joseph Lieberman, Former Senator from Illinois Carol Mosley Braun, and Reverend Al Sharpton - he's from New York, in case you're wondering.

Conventional wisdom has it that there's 3 groups of 3 out of these 9. The front runners, the dark horses, and the ones that never had a chance.

Those groups:

Front Runners:
Howard Dean
John Kerry
Dick Gephardt

Dark Horses:
Joe Lieberman
Bob Graham
John Edwards

Never Had a Chance:
Dennis Kucinich
Al Sharpton
Carol Mosley Braun.

I'm not familiar with several of these candidates yet, but I think that actually gives me a better idea of how the national electorate will respond to them. My gut feelings on them, combined with what I've picked up in discussions with my moderate-republican boss who wants to vote against Bush, too.

Howard Dean: He's getting tons of support from people who've never been involved in politics before. I think that points as much to his exceptional use of the web as much as his stance. Heck, I don't like parts of his stance. He's too attack-minded in public...in group appearances by the Dems, he's been fairly combative. I don't see that playing very well. Plus, he comes across to me (when I see him on TV) as really creepy looking. You know that won't work (not that it's a particularly attractive field in the Democratic party). Plus, he's the governor of Vermont. I'm from Massachusetts, and let me tell you - Vermont is a backwater. Sure, Jimmy Carter was from Georgia, and that's pretty back woods in many people's minds, but at least it has Atlanta. And Bush is from Texas, which is a fairly insane place, but it's big, so it seems like he did something important. Maybe if he had more national-level experience, it wouldn't be an issue.

So, to sum it up...I think Dean could do very good things for the party...but I really don't think that he can win a national election. The Dean-ites, who are practically fanatical at this point, will likely skewer me for this one, but I gotta call 'em as I see 'em.

John Kerry: He's got the war record. He's got years of experience in the Senate. He's got connections. He's got all sorts of things. But he's also got a credibility problem. John Kerry is ripe for a Gore-ing. And that means he doesn't stand a chance. Is it deserved? I don't know. He seems to be fluid on a few issues, but I'm not convinced it's because he's wishy-washy...but that's how it will be portrayed in the SCLM (So-Called Liberal Media, if you're wondering). So he can't win. Lots of people don't trust him (or will learn that they shouldn't). This happened in 2000, with Kerry it could happen again in 2004. That would be disastrous, to say the least.

Dick Gephardt: I like Gephardt. The big 3 all have proposals and stated policy views I like, but Gephardt has qualities that rank him over the other frontrunners. For starters, he's not from New England. That matters. There's an image in much of the country of the elitist New England liberal...Kerry is going to catch flak on that, too. Gephardt is from the midwest, which gives him a bonus. He also has tremendous Union support, and while some think unions might be outdated or something, you still need unions to win. His plan for healthcare is brilliant and he's got a solid war chest built up from his congressional runs.

So, let's see. Union support, solid money backing him up, really smart health care plan, no obvious weaknesses. He's the guy with the best chance to win vs Bush, in my mind. And that is the most important thing. On to the dark horses.

Joe Lieberman: The Daily Show sums this one up pretty well: He's the candidate for voters that like Bush, but don't think he's Jewish enough. Lieberman is one of the most consistently republican voters the democratic party has ever seen. The guy is pro-censorship, pro-big business....he's practically a republican. Let's just move on.

John Edwards: He's got the looks....and not much else. He's been very quiet so far, after a fairly hot start. I have yet to hear anything substantial from him. I'm willing to bet that lots of potential voters don't even know who he is. You have to get your name out there if you want to win, and Edwards hasn't figured out how to do that yet.

Bob Graham: He's from Florida. He's got boatloads of money, as I understand it. But he's a first-term senator, and apparently he keeps an utterly meticulous diary/schedule, one that covers literally every single thing he does. There's rumors that this might hurt him, or maybe there's something in there that can hurt him (I have no idea if there are copies in the possession of anyone trying to discredit him). He, too, has been remarkably silent on most of the issues. He might make a decent VP candidate, since he could help gain Floridian voters.

Nothing spectacular in that group. Let's move on to the Never had a Chance crowd:

Carol Mosley Braun. Her website is as spartan as her campaign efforts seem to be. I really know nothing about her, and neither do 90something percent of the people in this country. She's certainly done lots of work in government, but she just isn't making any noise. Plus, the odds of the first female president also being the first black president are so out-there as to be hard to fathom.

Al Sharpton: Well, first off, let me link to this. How did I find that? It's a paid sponsor on www.google.com. They're actually telling Republicans to change parties and vote for Sharpton.

Al Sharpton is a brilliant man, and a great American. But he's also a bit of a laughingstock. He shouldn't be...but he is. Part of it is his perm...part of it is his ties to Jesse Jackson. The man was ordained when he was 9, for crying out loud. Bush was probably still learning to spell George at that point...

Hopefully, Al Sharpton can help shape some of the debate in the Democratic party. The interests of blacks have been absent from the party's platform for some time, and the Dems need black voters to turn out in big numbers if they want to win...and Sharpton is a guy that can re-invigorate the black voters.

Dennis Kucinich: I've left Kucinich until last for a reason. I'm a big supporter. Dean has co-opted Paul Wellstone's line about representing the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party", but Kucinich is the one who really does. He's a real progressive. He's got lots of good ideas that the party as a whole should be considering. But he's getting crushed by a lack of publicity. After Gephardt, he has the strongest union support. He and Sharpton aren't running to win (well, they might say they are...but they have to know that they can't win). They're running to change the Democratic party, make it more like the party of FDR, JFK, and RFK than the party of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.

Later on, I'll go into some of the reasons Kucinich deserves more support. Not yet, tho.

So, what brings this up? MoveOn.org is having a straw pole to find out where it's membership stands. The winner will get the financial and political backing of MoveOn, which has become a fairly large progressive PAC. If you aren't a member, you should join - and vote.
Stupid Work...

I have a couple fairly big posts I'd like to make today (one on the deteriorating situation in Palestine, another on my thoughts on the Democratic presidential candidates), but unfortunately I have to get ready for work. I'll try to get them written and posted this evening...check back after dinner time, EST, and hopefully I'll have something for ya.
Speaking of Guns...

Over at Unlearned Hand, I sorta jump started a discussion of the ACLU and the 2nd ammendment.

It started in the comments to this post, and ended up getting it's own post here.

It's an interesting debate, but that isn't exactly the point of my post now (altho I might get into it later).

No, the point of my post is this.

Logan Airport, the only airport in my beloved city of Boston (which I don't actually live in, but I live close enough...and with Matt Yglesias graduating and eventually moving to DC to take his new job, I think I'm the blogosphere's resident Bostonian), has become the first airport in the US to see security forces armed with sub machineguns. MP5-SD's, specifically. It's a hell of a weapon, as best I can tell (based mostly on extensive testing in Rainbow 6: Rogue Spear). The accuracy is good, it's quiet as all heck (the SD signifies the variant with the integral silencer. You can find more info here), and it's reportedly quite reliable. They've been equiped with the retractable stock, if you're wondering.

They've purchased 30 for use by a special anti-terror branch of the MA State Police that is charged with maintaining security at Logan. They cost $2500 a piece.

The silencers are to keep the airport from erupting in a panic if shots are, somehow, fired. According to a spokesperson I heard, no firearm has ever been discharged at Logan (I can't verify that, tho). The weapons do not have an option for full auto, which is good...full auto is not a good way to handle fire fights in crowded areas. The paper reports single and 2-round bursts, but that should be 3 round bursts, I think...I've never heard of 2 round bursts.
Big Guns Backing Me Up

Paul Krugman agrees with me on my take of the far right-wing-ification of the Republican party from the other day.

Makes me feel a little smart. And it makes me even more certain that I'm right.

My favorite quote:

There's no point in getting mad at Mr. DeLay and his clique: they are what they are. I do, however, get angry at moderates, liberals and traditional conservatives who avert their eyes, pretending that current disputes are just politics as usual. They aren't — what we're looking at here is a radical power play, which if it succeeds will transform our country. Yet it's considered uncool to point that out.


Read the whole thing, tho.
Narcisim Factor

Earlier, I mistakenly flipped to Fox News, only to catch O'Reilly use his "Talking Points Memo" segment (is he paying royalties to Josh Marshall? Someone should try to make that one happen).

His topic? A rumor based on a false report by a San Fran paper about his radio station, that had spread like wildfire on the net (reportedly...I haven't heard it anywhere). The paper claimed that the Radio Factor had been dropped, whereas O'Reilly says Westwood One had already made plans to move it, and that's why the station it was on had stopped broadcasting it.

I don't know any of the details. In fact, I don't care. But O'Reilly used probably a fifth of his TV show to rant about how his radio show isn't really doing bad (not sure if it is or isn't...and, like I said, I don't care). Then he attacked the people on the Net as being completely untrustworthy.

I haven't seen anyone reporting this, nevermind trumpeting it. Hesiod, Atrios, and Tom Tomorrow have all ignored this story, and they're some of the leftier sites on the blogosphere (Hesiod probably being the leftist of the larger blog sites). As far as correction issues, Andy Sullivan suggested that blogs allowed faster and more specific/pertinent corrections.

Then, as pointed out by Begging to Differ (via Unlearned Hand), Sullivan went and disproved himself by deleting a post he made and replacing it with an apology. It's impossible to find out what he's applogizing for, of course, since the original is somewhere at the bottom of the memory hole.

Calpundit and Atrios both dealt pretty fairly with the issue of the Guardian's misquotation of Deputy SecDef Woflowitz....especially Calpundit, who was perhaps the most reasonable voice on the issue in the blogosphere (at least, that I encountered).

Also, 3 days with 10+ visitors. Compared to weeks with 1 or 2 being good. Very nice. Now I just need to get back to posting...stupid Stargate SG1 premier sucking up my free time this evening....