Saturday, April 30, 2005

Semantics and Political Discourse

Philosophy is not useless, and anyone who tells you otherwise probably just doesn't know philosophy. It's my task today to show you how a critical examination of language will uncover the deception of the MSM and certain cynical politicians.

Human language is a symbolic affair. What this means is that I must represent the objects about which I'm speaking with certain fundamentally arbitrary symbols. I glanced over and saw a pencil on the desk next to my monitor; I name that thing "pencil" but this name has no essential relation to the object itself. In German it's "Bleistift," neither worse nor better than "pencil" for representing the object, the actual pencil. Hegel points out this aspect of language when he says that we cannot literally say the book. We can say "the book," that is, we can express verbally an article and a noun that are meant to communicate the idea that a book is under discussion, but language cannot actually speak the object indicated. If anyone could literally speak the object indicated, his would not be a symbolic language but a language that would actually communicate the objects themselves with speech, and there would be no room for error in such a language. Because, for instance, I could say "I liked the book." And let us assume that what I meant was "I liked the plot, characters, theme, and style represented by the words in the book," which is a perfectly acceptable interpretation for "I liked the book." The person to whom I am speaking, however, takes "I liked the book" to mean "I liked the paper quality, size, and weight of the book." Clearly I have not been understood as I intended, and what I spoke had little relation to what was heard, except that both consisted of the precise words "I liked the book."

The fundamental ambiguity of language is a nagging problem with communication. If I cannot literally say what I mean, but must relate it by means of abritrary symbols that may well take on a different meaning in the ears of another, there is always a problem of confusion. This does not mean that communication is impossible or that, since each individual will interpret symbols in his own way, meaning is subjective. Instead, it means that special care must be taken to formulate objective definitions of clusters of symbols so that the meaning intended by the speaker is the meaning taken by the hearer.

This may seem abstract, and a frivolous intellectual exercise. Now it's time to make its political application very apparent. There are certain words and phrases floating around American political discourse with loaded meanings. I'll illustrate just two. A Democrat says "I want to help public schools." "Help public schools" here means to him "increase federal spending on public education, listen to and carry out the demands of teachers' unions, and do my best to make sure that more wealthy school districts give money to poorer districts so that no inequality in funding will exist." A Republican similarly says "I want to help public schools," by which he means "I want to reduce the dependence of public schools on federal money, I want to give more power to local authorities, and I want to examine the potential of vouchers to increase competition between public and private schools and to thereby improve public schools by market forces." Both have literally said "I want to help public schools" but they meant quite different things by that sentence. And if one agrees with the Democrat, and that Democrat says "My opponent wants to destroy public schools," one may very well agree, because that opponent intends things which are destructive of the liberal interpretation of "help public schools." But, of course, that opponent may think that the liberal policy is really the destructive policy, and that the charges against him of wanting to destroy public education are more properly leveled on his opponent.

There's another wonderfully lovely phrase I absolute hate - "separation of church and state." It occurs nowhere in the U.S. Constitution and comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, certainly not constitutional canon, right? But anything that's perceived to violate this separation is billed as a constitutional harm. Everyone must agree that the Bill of Rights provides certain restrictions and rights regarding religion: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." That's all it says. Properly speaking, religious issues that touch on the First Amendment should be evaluated as to whether they constitute an establishment of religion or whether they prohibit the free exercise of religion, not whether they tend to disrupt the separation of church and state. But, as long as that latter phrase means exactly what is stated and intended in the Constitution, it's fine. But the separation of church and state takes on its own meaning - people worry about a politician's expressing religious beliefs because it infringes the separation of church and state (which it clearly does), without realizing that unless that politician seeks to give official support for one religion over others so as to establish that religion, or restricts the free exercise of religion by others, he is not violating the First Amendment at all. In other words, violating the separation between church and state is not for that same reason a First Amendment violation.

Now, this use of the term "violation of the separation of church and state" would be fine if people understood it to mean "violation of an unofficial principle held by one of our Founding Fathers." It would then be merely an issue of political philosophy whether violating the separation of church and state is such a bad thing. But the phrase is taken to represent a constitutional harm, even though it clearly does not. So when one rightly accuses President Bush of seeking to remove the wall of separation between church and state, some people hear that to mean "Bush wants to do away with the First Amendment's guarantees of religious freedom," which is false.

Is the ambiguity of that phrase and others accidental? Not at all. The MSM delight in the fact that they can, for example, correctly use certain words of President Bush, which are aptly applied according to the objective meanings of those words, but that the sense in which those words will be heard by others will cast an ill light on him. The MSM can say "Bush wants to get rid of the separation between church and state," and in its objective sense that phrase applies to Bush - he's a religious man and he believes that religion and government ought to work together. But the MSM know, and it is no accident, that people who hear that will think "Bush wants to do away with the Bill of Rights!" and when a supporter of Bush protests, the question will become "Doesn't he disagree with the separation of church and state?" Language has caught the supporter - he must agree that Bush does not respect that principle, but as long as ignorance prevails he cannot show that separation of church and state and the First Amendment are not synonymous.

That manipulation of language like this, where a group plays on the ambiguity of a phrase to silence the honest dissenter, who knows what the phrase really does mean and cannot disagree, and to incite the passions of the ignorant, who take the phrase to mean something else, is epidemic in political discourse in this country. The MSM and politicians do it all the time. With a little critical examination, however, you can remove the veil of ignorance put upon you by those who want to deceive, and hopefully real discussion will be the result instead of continued semantic bickering.

The Glorious Twenty

John Hawkins over at Right Wing News has posted his top twenty political websites he would prefer to keep should his internet ability be thusly limited. My list is as follows:

1.) National Review Online
2.) Human Events Online
3.) Right Wing News
4.) The Drudge Report
5.) InstaPundit
6.) Power Line
7.) The American Spectator Online
8.) Project for the New American Century
9.) The Weekly Standard
10.) Little Green Footballs
11.) FoxNews
12.) NewsMax
13.) The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
14.) TNS Forums
15.) Michelle Malkin
16.) Real Clear Politics
17.) Scrappleface
18.) Tongue Tied
19.) The Drunk Report
20.) Opinion Journal

Friday, April 29, 2005

More Weapons, err..., Food in Schools

Well, this is amusing. Thanks to a local busybody and the absolutely freaked-out society in which we live, a junior high school was locked down becuase of a burrito.
It wasn’t a gun that caused police to lock down Marshall Junior High School in Clovis. It was a burrito.

Police locked the school down after a citizen saw a student walking into school with a long, skinny object wrapped in a white cloth. He thought it was a gun and called police.

Officers searched for the student while the school was on lockdown. But the student came forward first, admitting he had what they were looking for – a two-and-a-half-foot-long burrito.

The student had taken the burrito, wrapped in foil and a white cloth, to present in a culinary career class. It was loaded – with meat and beans.

Police called the incident a good exercise for all of the officers who responded to the school.

One observer joked that with the right combination of ingredients, the burrito could have been a deadly weapon.
Wonder if the Home-Ec teacher will be arrested on WMD charges.

TNS Forums

All are welcome. Join them. Seriously.

Topics cover any and all politics and philosophy you could like, and entertainment is of paramount importance as well.

Here are some of the tastier comments:

I don't know about determining when to intervene, but I know who not to listen to: foreign nations. Fuck 'em all. First, they say the U.S. shouldn't act as the world's policeman (re: Iraq). However, the second there is an atrocity somewhere, it is the U.S.'s duty to act as lone remaining superpower and remedy the situation. I think the underlying message is the U.S. is too stupid to use its power, so the kindly Europeans will tell us how to run things. Note to Europe: fuck you all.
Yes, incorporation would seem to be all-or-nothing. If you can pick and choose which provisions of the first eight amendments you're going to incorporate against the states, then you've said of those provisions "These protect rights that are more important than other provisions in the same Bill of Rights. These provisions are therefore fundamental while the others are not." So what such a person is saying is that some right ought to be incorporated against the states only if it's an important, fundamental right, whether or not it's in the Bill of Rights. Presumably the Bill of Rights may have excluded something really, really important - it is, after all, just a guide, right? If it wasn't just a listing of some really very keen and cute rights, but a listing of all the fundamental rights of citizens of the United States, then ALL OF THEM WOULD BE INCORPORATED.

It's really intellectually lazy to allow more than two interpretations of incorporation. When you boil it down, there's full incorporation and the opposite. You either incorporate all rights or you pick and choose on some other basis, not really caring whether rights are enumerated in those amendments because you "know better."

I stumbled across the test booklet for the 1997 Professor John Steiner Gold Mathematical Competition, held at Bucknell University. That was my first year at the competition, and as I recall I didn't do too well. I went on to an honorable mention 5th place the following year.

Anyway, here are 5 of the 36 problems that I think are pretty neat. See how you can do with them. Feel free to post here with actual explanations for your answers. Also, calculators were not permitted on the examination, but I don't think that they will be too helpful for the problems I selected.


3. Be rational and express 1997.199719971997... as a ratio of two integers.

6. Greg has 7 white socks and 5 gray socks. If he chooses two at random, what is the chance that they will match?

9. If 14 - 5 = 5, then what is 14 + 5?

31. How many positive integers divide 97^97 evenly?

35. Find sqrt(3 + sqrt(3 + sqrt(3 + sqrt(3 + sqrt(3 + sqrt(3 + ...
(Note: sqrt(x) = x^(1/2). This problem asks what is the square root of "3 plus the square root of... etc.)

If you all rip through these pretty quickly, and enjoy the concept, I can provide more. I do have several more tests from competitions I attended or composed.
--Blackford Oakes
There's a taste. It's a start anyway. Join, why not?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

What's One More Lie, Really?

For those of you keeping score at home, it has now been 88 days since Porta-John Kerry (who, it is rumored, is also a US Senator) promised Tim Russert and the entire country on Meet the Press that he would sign Form 180 and release all of his military records.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you sign Form 180?

SEN. KERRY: Yes, I will.
I do not see much ambiguity in there, but Senator Kerry apparently is going to milk the future tense of his statement for all it's worth. Hopefully none of you blink anymore when Kerry lies -- you should be long past that stage by now -- but it is still worth remembering that he has promised this one last thing that he still hasn't delivered. I mean, I, for one, am just dying to know the real military record of his "Christmas in Cambodia."

What a lying sack of Senator.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Berating Scalia NOT Cool?

The dean of NYU's School of Law had something to say about the tasteless harassment of Justice Scalia. And it wasn't encouragement! Hard to believe, no?

It seems that Dean Revesz sent an e-mail to everyone in the law school that was a little critical of the recent protest of Scalia's visit.

In an e-mail sent out on April 15, Revesz described law student Eric Berndt's question to Scalia during a Q-and-A session, "Do you sodomize your wife?" as being "immature and inappropriate."
Oh the horror! A dean of a law school thinks that this type of "protest" is not appropriate and might even reflect badly on the school? Obviously he needs to be re-educated, right? Here is the real money shot of the whole story:
"Those of us who protested were portrayed as immature and lacking in respect, when in fact this was a well-thought-out, political demonstration," said Prindle, a leader in organizing the demonstrations. Prindle also challenged the appropriateness of Revesz's condemnation of the protest.
Well! Leaving aside the fact we have an entire generation of punks growing up now who feel they are entitled to everything, let's just take a look at what the protestors said and how it was characterized. Justice Scalia was asked as part of what was supposed to be a legitimate Q&A session if he sodomizes his wife. The dean then said that these actions were immature. Can someone find the problem here, because I sure can't. Most of those punks in law school are immature brats who throw tantrums. They might wear ties and be given 4.0s in Anti-America 101, but they are still immature little brats throwing tantrums.

All this, of course, leaves aside the fact that these students still don't understand the purpose of the courts and the Constitution since they are still hung up on the sodomy issue, when there was never a guarantee to privacy in the first place. But that isn't the issue here.

Let's all just remember that asking someone if he sodomizes his wife is "well-thought-out."

Secure Borders Petition

Mr. President, Please Secure Our Borders Immediately

I am skeptical of internet petitions but if there is anything worth signing, it is one such as this - illegal immigration threatens to subvert our national interests from within and give terrorists opportunities to orchestrate our destruction from in country. If you have misgivings about signing this then contact your representatives and make securing our borders a priority in the legislature. If Congress is considering it, President Bush will no longer be able to duck the issue.

Thank you.

Corporate Blogosphere? Not Likely

Usually, when I disagree with someone, I don't bother qualifying it. If I think you're wrong, and I feel motivated enough to actually write about it, I probably disagree with most of what you say anyway, and there's no love lost between us. In any case, I don't say "I respectfully disagree" unless I really truly respect the person with whom I'm disagreeing and I view our difference of opinion as a minor issue and not as a fundamental disagreement on most issues.

I agree with John Hawkins most of the time.

That having been said, I respectfully disagree with him about the potential for a "corporate takeover of blogs." I think the reasoning is rather sound except for one flawed premise, to which I'll return soon, but let me outline his argument as I understand it. The MSM are paying much more attention to blogs lately and blogs are breaking a lot of stories the MSM won't touch, in some cases (Dan Rather much?) because those stories shed light on the bias and corruption of the MSM itself. Blogs are getting enough attention to be a serious nuisance to the MSM, given their independence; it's almost like, for once, journalism is about the truth, and naturally the MSM wants to quash that right quick. Instead of fighting the blogs, major media outlets could instead offer salaries to popular but independent bloggers, something appealing both to the media corporation paying the blogger (the media corpotation can provide funds to help advertise and get more people to read the blogs they want, drawing attention to the bloggers with views of which they approve), and to the blogger himself (there's almost no money in blogging now and it would give bloggers a chance to eke out a living doing what they enjoy if a corporation could fund them). In this way the major networks need not fight each other and the bloggers, but could instead recruit bloggers to fight in the blogosphere for their interests. Fox would presumably support some conservative bloggers, CNN liberals, and thus the major media corporations could spend money (of which they have no shortage) to make the blogosphere work for rather than against them.

This all sounds fine until you consider that the media corporations are...corporations. They're not going to take a financial loss to further their ideological interests, so the blog takeover will only work if it's cost-effective. Paying salaries to a few dozen bloggers is a good business move if you can sell enough advertising to make up for it...but I seriously doubt that blogs are going to make much money even if big corporations can pump enough money into them to get them started, advertise for them, and build up a stable fan base. How much could a blog make, and could it possibly compensate for the cost of paying the blogger himself to write, paying people to design the site, and so on? I doubt it. The whole idea just reminds me of the 1990's when people were convinced that advertising revenues were going to bring in so much money that, for instance, some internet service providers were actually paying you to surf provided you viewed a certain number of ads.

I'm not saying it won't happen; I just don't think a corporate takeover of blogs will last very long, if it does happen. Corporate sponsorship of blogs will just turn into a big cash sink. Cross-advertising by having blogs, radio programs, and TV programs advertise for each other within one corporate umbrella won't be cost-effective, in my opinion. Even if the corporate media sponsor a few big bloggers (it won't be the twenty that Hawkins predicts), I still think the blogging medium will remain largely independent.

Report: Person who Froze Mother's Corpse May Be Weird

Man Who Put Mom in Freezer Had Odd History

I did not alter that headline at all, in case you were wondering. Because, I know, it's anything but self-evident that this guy might be a little...odd:
Schuth had kept his mother's remains in a basement freezer for years while he went on collecting her Social Security checks.
Once, Mitchell said, he gave Schuth a ride to a grocery store where Schuth bought $150 worth of Spam. The next day, he gave him a ride to a department store, where Schuth piled three shopping carts full of toilet paper.
When I heard about how this guy lived with his mother for so long and had her remains in his freezer, I immediately thought of that episode of Cheers where everyone thinks Cliff's killed his mother. But there's a lesson in all this: if you think someone is weird, he probably is. Check his freezer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Racist Joke Gets Man Killed

This is a horrible story.
A black man shot a white former co-worker to death on Easter, claiming he did it because he overheard the victim telling a racist joke seven years ago, authorities said Monday.
Seven years seems an awfully long time to hold a grudge because of a simple joke. Really, I can hardly believe it. Perhaps the alleged joke (like alleged murder, but funnier!) was just an excuse by the suspect? After all, we don't even know what that joke was:
Douglas refused to recount for detectives the joke that angered him, according to court papers.
Now I don't get so angry over Chris Rock's "racial overtones" even though he's often clearly racist in his humor; similarly, if this guy had been mentally balanced, he wouldn't have seethed for seven years over a freaking joke. Now since I don't know what happened, I'm going to speculate.

It's all the liberals' fault.

That's right, it's their fault. What group develops a pathological obsession with racial identity, enough to find racial bias where not even a trace of it really exists, enough to make every activity of a white person racist and deserving of censure. Maybe this guy had been turning the issue over in his mind so much because the message from the Democrats was that any real or perceived (mostly perceived) racial slight deserves to be dwelt on - it would have done no good to curse Berkeyheiser under his breath, figured it was his problem, and get on with enjoying his life; no, the suspect should have let the perception of racism consume his life and twist his mind enough for him to contemplate murder.

Because, really, that's the right response to insult - weakness, obsession, and murder instead of strength of will and civilized behavior.

Monday, April 25, 2005

All Lies are NOT Created Equal

I was driving home from the bar tonight (not that that is different from most nights), and Alan Colmes happened to be on the radio. Being slightly, umm..., carefree shall we say, I didn’t bother to turn on the CD player or change the station. (As an aside, Colmes definitely has a face made for radio.)

Anyway, Colmes took a call as I was driving. The caller said something to the effect that he didn’t understand why "Bush isn’t being investigated nearly as harshly for his lies about WMD as Clinton was. It isn’t fair!"

Colmes of course agreed. He actually said:

It’s just like the bumper sticker said: When Clinton Lied, No One Died.
I don’t know about any of you, but if you need to use political bumper stickers on your radio show, especially this late after the election, maybe – just maybe – you should stick to flipping burgers. But that isn’t even my real point here.

In case any of you forgot, Clinton knowingly said something at odds with the truth while under oath to tell the, and only the, truth. Bush, on the other hand, made an argument about Iraq based in part on Britain’s, Russia’s, and our own intelligence agencies.

So, who lied and who didn’t? Let’s recap:
Clinton: While under oath to tell THE TRUTH decided to instead say other things that were demonstrably false.
Bush: Used at least two foreign intelligence agencies as well as our own, which should satisfy the internationalists and non-partisans, as one of myriad reasons in an argument in favor of stopping Iraq.

I don’t know about all of you, but for those of you with brains, you can see how this really isn’t equal at all.

Seriously, Alan Colmes, try to be at least a little reasonable when talking to all, what, three hundred listeners? (Seriously, I tried to find numbers on his program, but couldn’t find any. I will update the instant someone sends me a link with some data.)

From the Department of Double Standards

Once again the vile mouth on Howard Stern Dean is running like the wind, raking up ad hominems faster than Major League Baseball and steroid accusations (thanks to Drudge for the link):
Dean has suggested that they [Republicans] are "evil." That they are "corrupt." He called them "brain-dead" during a stop in Toronto -- and while the Terri Schiavo case was still in the news. He has tagged Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) as a "liar." Last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that he mimicked a "drug-snorting Rush Limbaugh" at an event there.
That’s special, isn’t it? I think my favorite line is:
Dean's remarks have not attracted much attention in the national media, in part because he has focused largely on local and regional news outlets since taking the party's helm in February.
I don’t really need to ask what the media would do should a Republican make comments like these, do I? Though it needs no discussion, I should like to mention that “national media” and “not much attention” would not be in the same sentence.

I only wonder if Teresa Heinz Kerry approves of Dean’s antics as part of her call for “more civil tone to politics.” I bet she does.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

EU Defies China

...for the wrong reasons.
The top trade official for the European Union, Peter Mandelson, presented new evidence on Sunday that low-priced Chinese textiles were flooding European markets, raising pressure on China to control the trade or possibly face sanctions by summer.
So, if China actually gets successful and undercuts you in the market, because you're bloated and inefficient (Europe is sooo 20th century), you get angry at them. But if they repress dissent, jail people on trumped-up charges, threaten to invade Taiwan, and persecute Buddhists, everything is all right.

Europe is sick.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Kasparov Pictures

ChessBase has pictures of the assault on Kasparov. Apparently, the board is pretty heavy, so serious injury could have been done to him. Was it a "hit?" In Russia these days, I wouldn't be surprised, but there's a good chance it was some random nut.

Like the JFK assassination. All the complex conspiracy theories have nothing on the plain fact that some random psycho wanted to kill the president. It's almost like Ockham's Razor.

Oh wait, I did that already.

Friday, April 22, 2005

FIDE Championship

FIDE is a joke. Where to begin? This ill-conceived idea for the world championship is barely an improvement on their infamous knockout tournaments, where random no-names would win the weak, poorly-designed contests by being the biggest fish in a pathetically small pond.

Take, for instance...
1. GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan (World Champion)
Who? I would love to link you to FIDE's website, but it's down! How fitting. Anyway, Kasimdzhanov is some random rated 30th in the world or so who won FIDE's latest bogus championship and received a title with virtually no meaning. It's funny to see him at the top of this list:
1. GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan (World Champion)
2. GM Michael Adams of England (runner-up of the Tripoli World Championship)
3. GM Vladimir Kramnik of Russia
4. GM Peter Leko of Hungary
5. GM Garry Kasparov of Russia
6. GM Vishy Anand of India
7. GM Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria
8. GM Alexander Morozevich of Russia
Because the names under his read as a litany of his clear superiors. What a joke. Oh, and this is nice:
The last four players are nominated on the basis of the FIDE rating list (average of July 2004 and January 2005). If any player declines the invitation he will be replaced by the next on the FIDE rating list (average rating of July 2004 & January 2005).
In other words, starting with Kasparov (!) players are invited merely based on ratings and not on any claim to a world title. Yes, that's right - in FIDE's eyes, Kasparov has no claim on the world championship. Since Kasparov retired and won't be participating anyway, this clear insult from FIDE doesn't have much meaning, but it's tasteless and pathetic.

Kasparov doesn't need FIDE's validation. FIDE needs him, but won't ever get him.

And if Kasparov needed less reason to participate:
The FIDE President has announced his proposal to organise this Tournament in Elista with a prize fund of US $500,000 plus 20% ($100,000) as a contribution to FIDE. The world chess federation expects potential bidders to offer a higher amount. No bidder can have a sponsor advertising tobacco and/or alcohol.
The world champion receives 30% of the prize fund, the second place 20%, third 14%. The rest get 10%, 8%, 7%, 6% and 5%. Prize money will be divided equally when players have the same score.
Even if a player wins he only gets 30% of the prize fund?! Well damn, sign me up! Kasparov makes more than that taking a...well, you get the idea.

The format is a joke:

The event will be a double round robin at the following time controls: 40 moves in 2 hours, followed by 20 moves in one hour, followed by 15 minutes plus 30 seconds for all moves (40/2h, 20/1h, 15m+30sec/all). There will be free days after rounds four, eight and twelve.

In case of a tie the title of the World Champion will be decided by the results of the games between the players involved in the tie. If they are still tied the total number of wins in the tournament is decisive. If there is still no clear winner the players will play two rapid chess games (25'+10") against each other. If necessary the winner will be decided in blitz games.
Round robins are no way to decide the world championship, though they may serve well at, oh, deciding whether Billy Smith is the greatest chessplayer in 2nd grade at Exeter Elementary School. I also looooove how FIDE has kept its pathological aversion to well-played endgames in force by making sure no one ever has time to play properly to close a game. Even more reason for Kramnik and Leko to agree to a draw on move 10, right?

Oh, and speaking of them - I doubt either one will actually play. Anand won't prove anything by playing in this phony tournament: he can do better. He can easily make more money doing just about anything else with his time. Kramnik and Leko are both cowards and won't play if anyone with a true fighting spirit participates, like Morozevich.

So, all these criticisms will be accepted as given. Now look what ChessBase says in its next article:
The reaction to the report we published yesterday, outlining FIDE's plan for a classical chess world championship with eight selected players brought us a large number of letters, generally poking fun at the announcement. "A snowflake's chance in hell," was the way one reader assessed the plans, a delayed April Fool's joke another.

Well today, just 36 hours after the publication of our report, the World Chess Federation has announced that a sponsor has been found and that there is a guaranteed prize fund of US $1,000,000 available for the double round robin tournament to be held in San Luis, Argentina.
Oh I see, so none of those other criticisms hold any weight because FIDE's got twice the money now. So it's still a pathetically small amount of money to be divided so that the winner barely gets any of it, most people with any chess skill won't participate, and the format is pointless. But FIDE's getting a million bucks, so everything's ok now.

By the way, I seem to recall the projected match between Kasparov and Kasimdzhanov had sponsorship too, but the sponsor pulled out at the last minute. So, yeah, way to fellate FIDE, ChessBase.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Darn Consumers Anyway...

Being a Verizon Wireless customer, I found this article to be quite enlightening.
"Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?" [Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg] asked. "The customer has come to expect so much. They want it to work in the elevator, they want it to work in the basement."
Well! So there! How dare we consumers expect things to work!? How dare we expect our high costs for services would be used to further advance technology?!

Now, now, I understand the limitations of current technology and everything. Don't get me wrong. There are some places where cell phones simply will not function. We get it. But is this seriously a necessary statement from the CEO? After all, being this high in the business world, you know he can BS with the best of them; why not simply say that Verizon is working on expanding service areas and signal strength constantly? It probably isn't even a lie; no company grows by being stagnant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

New Pope is Catholic! Sound the Alarm!

Was Reuters ever a respectable, balanced, intelligent source of news and information?

Arch-conservative German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope on Tuesday in a surprise choice that delighted traditionalist Roman Catholics but stunned moderates hoping for a more liberal papacy.
"Arch-conservative?" "Surprise choice?" And since when does "moderate" mean "pseudo-Catholic with no principles and no sense of Church doctine" or "non-Catholic meddler irked at the prospect of a religious figure with principles?" Really, to hear a liberal tell it, there can be no such thing as "left-of-center" because the center is planted firmly in the realm of Whacko-Leftist-Kook territory.
...Bernd Goehring, of the German ecumenical group Church from Below.
The name of the man and of his organization are the height of irony!
In a document in 2000, Ratzinger branded other Christian churches as deficient -- shocking Anglicans, Lutherans and other Protestants in ecumenical dialogue with Rome for years.
Look out, the Pope is a Catholic! Stunning!

I'm going now to remind you to read Sarnath's and Auskunft's earlier updates, which I only bumped out of the way because this article was too ridiulous not to pan; and to remember that this Reuters piece is not an editorial.

Well, it's not billed that way, anyway

This new Pope is already pissing off the right people, and making them surrender even the illusion of calm, considered disagreement.

I love it.

Tax Day Tomfoolery

I know this is late, but better late than never I suppose. I filed my federal and state income tax returns in mid February. I put off filing the local return, however, until about 9:45 pm on the 15th. And, as I was visiting the Ms. Lion Hearted, I was in Scranton when I mailed the return in.

Scranton, for those of you not from Pennsylvania or just unfamiliar with the city anyway, is a veritable hotbed of subversive liberal activity. It is the kind of place that makes your skin crawl. And, on the evening of 15 April, the kooks were out in full force at the Post Office.

I didn’t expect to see them. Perhaps I should have expected it, but I just didn’t. Last year, as I dropped my last minute tax filings in the outgoing mail bin in Altoona, everything was calm and quiet. Some kind folks even gave me a cup of coffee. Scranton’s Post Office, however, was not nearly so pastoral. In order to get to the building one must drive down a narrow lane and maneuver a tight, oddly-shaped parking lot; of course the Post Office in Scranton had no one outside collecting the returns, in spite of the great amount of business they expected; this all added to a sense of chaos in the parking lot. It took me nearly twenty minutes from the time I entered the parking lot until I could leave again.

And then, there were the kooks. I really wish I had brought a camera with me to share the scene with you all, but as I said I hadn’t expected them. Stupid me. I did learn a number of things from the sloppy and oft-misspelled signs they were holding and waving as they held up the traffic of people with actual jobs who pay actual taxes trying to get to the Post Office.

I learned that my taxes support and only support oil companies.

I learned that taxes are higher than ever.

I learned that my taxes support the filthy rich.

I learned that Bush kills babies.

I learned that war is bad and peace is good.

And finally, I learned that Halliburton is the only corporation in the world, and that corporations are evil and only exist to destroy the environment.

Those were all the signs that I had a chance to observe as I tried to avoid hitting them and continue snaking my way towards and through the parking lot. Over the twenty minutes I was there I did learn one other thing, however, thanks to my keen eye and sharp reasoning ability.

I learned that, no matter how evil oil companies are and how much they support the evil military/industrial complex, simply being aware of that fact is a good enough excuse to idle your car’s engine the entire time. Yes, these fools had their cars idling the entire time I was at the Post Office, and presumably much longer. I guess EvilNastyVileBigOil isn’t quite evil enough to warrant shutting your car engine off during a protest, right?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Constitutive vs. Regulative Concepts

This interview is trivial. This guy never seems to say anything substantive about math or philosophy, but there was one thing he said that I knew was just plain wrong:
Netz: That's the question really: Do things exist?! There are many people who say that we should adopt what's known as Occam's razor—namely, don't assume things that are not necessary. Very often this is taken as an argument in philosophy. If you can produce something without a particular assumption, then don't assume the existence of this particular assumption. If you can do without it, better assume it doesn't exist.

I actually don't see the validity of Occam's razor. I think that things can exist even if they don't serve any purpose. My tendency is to be pluralistic. Yeah, I think infinity is a coherent concept. I think I tend to like it. So yes, I tend to believe that infinities exist—all of them, all the way up.
This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of Ockham's Razor and a great opportunity for me to digress on a philosophical distinction - the distinction between constitutive and regulative concepts.

First, let's have Ockham's Razor stated clearly, instead of the paraphrases that often replace the original, twist its meaning, and confuse coherent thought about what the principle is supposed to mean. "Do not multiply entities beyond necessity." The idea here is that when we are giving an explanation of some phenomenon, the simplest explanation is to be preferred. If we can explain the falling of a stone to the earth as the product of one force, the force of gravity, this explanation is to be preferred over one that posits the existence of, say, hundreds of supernatural forces acting upon the stone in ways the visible manifestation of which appears as a falling stone. This is not to say that the second explanation might not be true, since it is possible to conceive a system of complex supernatural forces combining in just such a way that, every time they cause some effect, it resembles exactly what we would expect from a theory that relies on common-sense notions of physics.

This is the most misunderstood point of Ockham's Razor. The concept does not say that the simplest explanation is true or metaphysically the best, but simply that we ought to seek simplicity and not "multiply entities beyond necessity." Some people take this to mean that we ought not to multiply entities at all, and ought to adhere to monism, but this is false - if monism cannot give a coherent account of the universe, then positing more than one existence is not going beyond necessity but actually reflecting the necessity of a more complex explanation. But I've missed the point with which I started this paragraph - Ockham's Razor does not, as Dr. Netz seems to imply, preclude the existence of seemingly superfluous entities but merely advises us not to seek for more entities than are necessary. This makes Ockham's Razor regulative, whereas he mistakes it for a constitutive concept.

What's the difference? Well, a constitutive Ockham's Razor would say "The simplest explanation is true" whereas Ockham's Razor as it is says "Seek simplicity in explanations." Ockham's Razor is a regulative guide that keeps up thinking in certain ways without claiming to know that this way is better. It is just more useful to seek simplicity. Constitutive concepts say "This is how things are" whereas regulative concepts say "Use this principle as a guide in your research."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Prayers for Sarah

For those of you who weren't aware, a 13-year-old girl went missing in Florida recently. Now, authorities believe they found her.

I really can't add much to the story, but I do want to point out that police have a former sex offender in custody for some reason or other, even though he is not yet technically a suspect.

I am of the opinion that, should a former sex offender be found guilty in cases like this, said offender should be put to death in a quick fashion. I mean, we know these people are sex offenders, and still let them loose in society without supervision? OOPS! If they discover this scumbag did it, I vote for pushing him out of an airplane at 20 000 feet over the pond where he left the girl's body.

The creep must die.

UPDATE: (4/18/05) Well that creep they already had in custody admitted killing Sarah. Someone please tell me why should this creep live past the weekend? Really? He admitted killing a little girl and he is ALREADY a convicted sex offender. Hi, death!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Trouble Follows Kasparov

Garry Kasparov cannot avoid being a target. The essential details: Kasparov, always interested in Russian politics, is now getting more heavily involved because he hates Putin so much. So he meets with some young political activists. One of these guys hits him over the head with a chessboard. Garry's doing OK so I can safely call this hi-larious.

This is funny:
"I do not regard Kasparov as a major political figure, but that notwithstanding, it is wrong to assail anyone," said Limonov.
Soooo Kasparov was so irrelevant a political figure that Limonov's party thought it important to assault him? Riiiight. See, I ignore irrelevant people, but I guess the Russians have a different strategy. Oh, and:
National Bolshevik political party
Yeah, it makes me feel warm inside that a party in Russia can call itself that. How's Germany's National Socialist party doing?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Law School Course

I got some information from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Leaving aside the obvious "Whoops, I still have my foreskin" issue, I was interested to see an upper level course called "Hegel's Logic" offered this year (2004-2005). I don't think one course could tempt me, and the school may not offer it when I'm ready to attend anyway, but it's so appealing to a philosophy person to see that.

Especially a German idealist barn.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Laws Upheld?! Courts Correct!?

Wow!! Who would have guessed that the Supreme Court of Oregon would actually rule in favor of the law?

The sad thing is that we need to be amazed by the courts doing this.

The court noted that last November, Oregonians approved a constitutional amendment that limits marriages to a man and a woman. The court also said that long before that vote, state law had set the same limitations on marriages since Oregon became a state.

So, in other words, the county that issued these marriage licenses was breaking the law. I read the article twice, though, and read nothing about the people who will pay for their crimes. There was no mention of fines, jail time, impeachment, or any sort of punishment for the people who took it upon themselves to shred the laws of Oregon. If only I could break laws as old as my state and get away with it with absolutely no consequences...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Making People Fat with Your Money

Food stamps linked to obesity.

OK, so can we stop cooking up phony domestic hunger crises? People are not starving in this country because no one will feed them, but because they're too stupid to score free stuff.

Now is the part in the blog where I get to be a hypocrite, but not really. I'm just fighting rhetorical fire with fire:
Yvonne Grimes, head cashier at Save-A-Lot on Jessica Street, says most of the store's customers on Food Stamps are not buying junk food or foods with high fat content.

Most customers on Food Stamps have small children, she said, so they are buying good food for their family.
While we're on the anecdotal-evidence bandwagon, let me relate my experiences as a grocery store cashier. Those who paid with food stamps generally bought preprepared, fatty foods and lots of snacks. Not only are these things worse for your health, but they cost more per calorie, so the average dollar spent on food stamps buys less raw energy than eating pasta (or whatever) plus the money's being spent on foods low in nutritional value. Happy to know that your tax dollars are paying for people to pollute their bodies with junk and pay more doing it? Because they're buying name-brand preprepared stuff with other people's money.

Oh, but at least those with small children are feeding their kids right. I take this to be the argument of Ms. Grimes:

Most people on food stamps have small children.
Small children, with their different dietary needs, require a better quality of food to receive proper nutrition and to facilitate growth.
Implied premise: People on food stamps recognize this need of their children and shop accordingly.
Therefore, most people on food stamps are buying good, wholesome, nutritious food.

That implied premise sure is a problem. My experience with people on food stamps is that they did not buy what their kids would need, which is something I observed long before I read this article. It seemed perverse to me that people who depend for their food on money taken from other people should be wasteful of that privilege, and even neglectful of their own children by failing to raise them as good parents should. Much of the awful snack food purchased on food stamps was done by families with three or four kids running the store amok, so naturally I concluded these snack and other unsavory items were feeding the kids.

Buying snack food and junking up your body is fine with me. I do it. But when you live off the extorted product of taxation, you'd sure as hell better be spending the money well.

Or, ideally, we can stop confiscating people's money to pay for losers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Philadelphia - An Uproariously Funny Self-Parody

One Book, One Philadelphia
The Goal of One Book, One Philadelphia is to promote reading, literacy and libraries and to encourage the entire Greater Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book.
Now, that cracks me up, because it's so easy to say "...and even that's an ambitious goal for Philly!" If the program were a complete success, the mean number of books read by Philly residents (lifetime!) would probably be something like 1.03. Just a guess.

There's a sinister side, though, if you think about it. It's remarkably statist of an arm of the government to decree what you ought to read, even if it's not mandated but merely suggested. The State not only tells you what to read, but what themes you're supposed to be discussing and learning from the book, a book the State has chosen for that purpose. This sounds like a sure failure and I hope it fully accomplishes its potential to bemuse people and then die quietly, but it's just so weird.

So line up, Philly, and score a copy of your city-approved reading material!

Isolationism; Interventionism

I've noticed that Bush and the neocons (real and imagined) are often disparagingly labeled "interventionists," imperialist world-builders with their illegitimate hands in the global pie, disrupting the lives of persons thousands of miles from the United States border. Since the alternative pole is isolationism, why all the criticism of Bush for taking an interest in the world's affairs? I thought the early 20th century pretty much killed the spirit of isolationism and showed it to be an impossible-to-realize goal, and even positively evil when an apathetic country would refuse to aid other nations in their need. Europe sure could have used some interventionism in the 1920s, and the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere grew unchecked because of U.S. indifference.

Since international human rights conventions and the United Nations are predicated in part on the idea that the protection of human rights is irrespective of local sovereignty, and that intervention in domestic affairs is often morally necessary, I am forced to conclude that President Bush is a UN-loving hippie Commie and that liberal naysayers are protectionist, paleocon, egoist bastards and should be ashamed at failing to think globally.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Stunning News!

Uh, Jon? Calling Fischer's paranoid ramblings "trenchant" was probably a typo, or you were tired, because, you see, words have meanings. I wouldn't call "Bush kidnapped me; they're all out to get me!" very "effective," "clear-cut," or "distinct." Nor do the hauntings of a diseased mind qualify as very "cutting," unless you take psychos seriously.

Just FYI, there, Speelman.

Clinton Jokes Still Fresh

Thanks, Bill! Actually:
Clinton's foundation has previously brokered deals with major drug companies to make AIDS testing and treatments available at substantially reduced cost in the developing world
So, thanks corporations.

I think it's just great that Clinton is the symbol of AIDS treatment when his presidential legacy includes acts that give you AIDS in the first place.

Cooperation Between China and India

This should worry you.

I don't think it's wrong for me to want enmity between China and any other country in the world, and I'm especially concerned that a potential power like India, with its large population and slowly developing economy, not play nice with Communist tyranny's new great hope.
Relations between the nuclear powers, who fought a brief war in 1962 over the border issue, have steadily improved and their rapid emergence as economic superpowers forms a strong foundation for greater cooperation.
That's what worries me.
India's The Hindu newspaper reported Wen has brought an official Chinese map for Singh showing the tiny Himalayan region of Sikkim as part of India, instead of a separate country as it had been shown in the past.

China has never officially recognized India's 1975 annexation of the territory, once an independent princely kingdom.
So China is making insignificant concessions that cost practically nothing, and in return...yes, I'm worried. India doesn't know how to play diplomatic hardball, or is just desperate for allies.
"If India and China cooperate in the IT industry, we will be able to lead the world ... and it will signify the coming of the Asian century of the IT industry," Wen said on Sunday.
"...we will be able to lead the world..." That was rather blunt, wasn't it? I think we should all look with concern upon this potential alliance, and fast-track the "Get China to stop being an imperialist Communist power" plan I've suggested in the forums.

Oh, and if your committment to human rights and the security of the world for future generations is overmatched by your egoism, consider the effect on the price of oil of this projected economic cooperation. China is already driving oil to intolerable prices; what if India's industry were suddenly to require as much petroleum?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bush is a Hypocrite

I believe the United States ought to fight terrorism by any means necessary. Furthermore, I believe that any state that does not support the fight against terrorism, or, worse, maintains friendly relations with terrorist organizations and states, is an enemy to freedom. Bush certainly seems to have taken the view that the U.S. will not negotiate with terrorists, views and state that does so as suspect, and will take decisive military action if necessary to defeat international terrorism.

So why can't Israel do the same? Why isn't Israel allowed to maintain its own security, inside the country, while the U.S. can defend its security interests halfway across the world from Washington?

The ideal of Israeli and Palestinian cooperation has been shown to be empty fantasy. Any reasonable person could see this decades ago. Coercing Sharon into cooperating with terrorists makes Bush a total hypocrite.

Conservative Classifications

I really do think the term "neoconservative" is used by many to mean "holder of all sorts of wrong-headed right-wing ideas." Or, at least, the term is commonly affixed to one's ideological enemies, often with little regard for the aptness of the word. Let me give a little example. A former professor of mine, an idealistic, internationalist, Kofi-Annan-loving Leftist, called Pat Buchanan a neocon. Pat Buchanan.

Lesson: names often say less about the class of objects named and more about the human doing the naming.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Spammer Duly Convicted

...but the judge has reservations.
In sentencing Jaynes, Circuit Judge Thomas D. Horne said he would not begin serving his term because there are "substantial legal issues" related to the anti-spam law, enacted in 2003, that need to be explored. Horne also said he believes Jaynes does not pose a danger to society.
I thought the purpose of punishment was...punishment, and not keeping someone from endangering society. Serving time in jail has the nice added benefit of keeping someone from being a menace to the law-abiding, but punishment's primary purpose is to inflict pain in response to a crime.

So, what happened here was the following: a. a duly-elected legislature passed a law; b. a person violated this law; c. a jury found the person guilty and recommended a certain sentence for violation of this duly-passed law; d. the judge is worried about this criminal's right to get off easy while ignoring the will of the people as stated on two distinct occasions.

Maybe I just hate spam that much.

Friday, April 08, 2005

All Debts, Public and Private

Well, to start off with, screw blogger. I sure tried to post this about three dozen times last night, but to no avail. It seems to be working so far at work, but, of course, if something goes wrong you won't be reading this anyway.

So, onward to content.

PUT YOURSELF in Mike Bolesta's place. On the morning of Feb. 20, he buys a new radio-CD player for his 17-year-old son Christopher's car. He pays the $114 installation charge with 57 crisp new $2 bills, which, when last observed, were still considered legitimate currency in the United States proper. The $2 bills are Bolesta's idea of payment, and his little comic protest, too.

For this, Bolesta, Baltimore County resident, innocent citizen, owner of Capital City Student Tours, finds himself under arrest.

Finds himself, in front of a store full of customers at the Best Buy on York Road in Lutherville, locked into handcuffs and leg irons.

Finds himself transported to the Baltimore County lockup in Cockeysville, where he's handcuffed to a pole for three hours while the U.S. Secret Service is called into the case.

Have a nice day, Mike.

"Humiliating," the 57-year old Bolesta was saying now. "I am 6 feet 5 inches tall, and I felt like 8 inches high. To be handcuffed, to have all those people looking on, to be cuffed to a pole -- and to know you haven't done anything wrong. And me, with a brother, Joe, who spent 33 years on the city police force. It was humiliating."
And then...
"I'm just here to pay the bill," Bolesta says he told a cashier. "She looked at the $2 bills and told me, 'I don't have to take these if I don't want to.' I said, 'If you don't, I'm leaving. I've tried to pay my bill twice. You don't want these bills, you can sue me.' So she took the money. Like she's doing me a favor."

He remembers the cashier marking each bill with a pen. Then other store personnel began to gather, a few of them asking, "Are these real?"

"Of course they are," Bolesta said. "They're legal tender."

A Best Buy manager refused comment last week. But, according to a Baltimore County police arrest report, suspicions were roused when an employee noticed some smearing of ink. So the cops were called in. One officer noticed the bills ran in sequential order.

"I told them, 'I'm a tour operator. I've got thousands of these bills. I get them from my bank. You got a problem, call the bank,'" Bolesta says. "I'm sitting there in a chair. The store's full of people watching this. All of a sudden, he's standing me up and handcuffing me behind my back, telling me, 'We have to do this until we get it straightened out.'

"Meanwhile, everybody's looking at me. I've lived here 18 years. I'm hoping my kids don't walk in and see this. And I'm saying, 'I can't believe you're doing this. I'm paying with legal American money.'"

Bolesta was then taken to the county police lockup in Cockeysville, where he sat handcuffed to a pole and in leg irons while the Secret Service was called in.

"At this point," he says, "I'm a mass murderer."

Finally, Secret Service agent Leigh Turner arrived, examined the bills and said they were legitimate, adding, according to the police report, "Sometimes ink on money can smear."

This will be important news to all concerned.

For Baltimore County police, said spokesman Bill Toohey, "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."
Now, I really don't even think I can comment that much here. I mean, sure I could ramble on with Verney for a good long while, fueled by fine gin and cigars, and becoming ever more heated and belligerent in my commentary until the entire chain just explodes on its own from the anger and hatred dripping from my jowls (you know, actually I think this is the plan -- Verney, you buy a couple of Dunhills and I will bring the Bombay Sapphire). But as far as real comment, this story needs little. Best Buy basically decided they needed to donate several million to this gentleman, and went about finding the most efficient way to do it. Because, you know it's coming.

I think my favorite part of this is the implication that if you pay with $2 bills, you are helping the terrorists. Bin Laden WANTS you to pay with $2 bills, I guess.

In any case, I do hope this guy wins lots and lots of money from these asses at Best Buy. He needs to be set FOR LIFE. That cashier and that manager need to be terminated -- immediately -- and neither of them should be able to find gainful employment for a long, long time. I believe that the police also need to do some explaining and some heads need to do some rolling. I mean, leg irons?! THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Spring is not a conservative season. Nor summer.

Any season where it is either too damp or too warm to smoke a pipe comfortably is not conducive to the conservative elitist, who likes to stare down his nose while puffing at a heavy, room-clearing latakia. Spring and summer were designed for the liberal hedonist, whose pleasures are more bestial, unrefined, and insatiable.

Pipe smoking and cognac-sipping are best suited to autumn, though the addict will often suffer through the frozen chill of winter to smoke his bowl without offending his housemates.

I hate spring.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Show a Cousin Some Love

This is awful.
It couldn't happen in their state of Pennsylvania, though, or 23 other states that prohibit first cousins from marrying each other.

Instead, they tied the knot in Maryland last month.
If you weren't aware, I'm from Pennsylvania. On behalf of the commonwealth, PLEASE STAY THE HELL OUT OF HERE, YOU WOULD-BE INBREEDERS.


I like this too:
Robin Bennett, associate director of the medical genetics clinic at the University of Washington, said laws prohibiting cousins from marrying are ''a form of genetic discrimination.''
But then in the next paragraph:
Close cousins face a risk of birth defects that is 1.7 percent to 2.8 percent higher than for unrelated couples, according to a study, funded by the National Society of Genetic Counselors, and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
Sounds like nature is doing the "discriminating," doesn't it? Of course, discrimination, the ability to differentiate between things, is human. It is only when discrimination is illegitimate that it's a bad thing, and, call me a reactionary, but I think family reunions are not the best place to meet singles.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

American Bogeyman; Good Riddance, Bobby!

ChessBase and Iceland - your duo for bizarre, unreflective anti-Americanism. I hate to harp on issues but new developments in the Fischer story bother me just about weekly.

First, from ChessBase's article, though it's not clear whether they are using their own words or paraphrasing Mr. Oddsson:
...Mr. Fischer will not be deported to the US on charges of having played chess in a country which no longer exists...
Presumably a change in the political structure of the Balkans, which has made the location of Fischer's crime "non-existent," says nothing of whether Fischer's acts were criminal at the time he committed them (they were) and whether it is just merely to ignore crimes after the circumstances that led to the criminalization of those acts, at that place, at that time have changed (and I do not see a good justification for letting Fischer's crimes slide in this case merely because the Balkans are not the same now as they were in 1992). After all, Fischer may have committed crimes in That-Which-No-Longer-Exists (has a volcano destroyed Sveti Stefan? It seems a poor phrasing to claim the place no longer exists...), but the institutions whose rules he broke are still very much existent. Fischer violated United Nations sanctions and broke U.S. federal law; this is very much different from saying he broke the local laws of a place that has entirely changed its political structure, changed its laws, and does not have any claim on prosecuting crimes committed under the old regime.

I did say United Nations sanctions, right? Well (from an Icelandic editorial, though it's reprinted in the linked article):
Althingi did not bring Iceland to shame with this decision; instead, it saved the United States the shame of having imprisoned Robert James Fischer for the sole crime of not having behaved in harmony with American foreign policy.
American foreign policy? The sole crime Fischer committed was not following U.S foreign policy, so presumably those UN sanctions were nothing more than American foreign policy. I was not aware the UN could impose sanctions on the say-so of one member state. This point deserves analysis. The UN imposed sanctions on former Yugoslavian states because that is one of the UN's diplomatic tools to defuse conflict. The UN almost never uses military force to end conflicts, though it did so twice, in the Korean War and the first Gulf War, because the use of force is contrary to the UN's ideals of peaceful resolution of conflict. I and most U.S. chief executives disagree with this almost pathological aversion to force, because we are more realistic, so it is safe to say that the U.S. and the UN disagree in many cases on what to do with warring states, like the former Yugoslavian states. The UN would prefer peacekeeping, economic sanctions, and the like; the U.S. would not be averse to using force is this seemed best, and President Clinton did in fact send troops to the Balkans when Milosevic got out of hand. If the U.S. agreed to economic sanctions in 1992 it was as one player in a field of countries who thought that some sort of coercive measures would help bring peace to the Balkans; it is misleading to then say that this constituted "American foreign policy."

Fischer violated the UN's rather weak but well-intentioned rules to stop people from profiting with a war-torn and pathetic region. As I've said all along, I can't imagine why Iceland would want Fischer. He's an international criminal, an anti-Semite, and a nut. It is embarrassing to want to harbor this man. Iceland can pretend Fischer was a political prisoner all it wants, and that it was defying American hegemony by giving safe haven to this pathetic, washed-out lunatic, but the issue for United States law enforcement was only ever about justice and the rule of law. If the concept is so foreign to Icelandic commentators that the idea that Fischer is just another criminal deserving of prosecution never comes to their minds, it will not reflect poorly on America.

I am rather proud of my country to have had one of the greatest chess players of all time, and to have had enough respect for the rule of law to pursue him and attempt to bring him to justice. Of what can Icelanders be proud?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Young Chess Player Is Next Fischer

Hikaru Nakamura has finally graduated from having chess journalists call him "the next Fischer" to having the mainstream press say the same of him. I'm certainly glad that everyone reflexively screams "Fischer!" at every young talent who puts up GM-level results, so that by now we're disappointed in a junior if he can only manage to achieve an IM title. "That cretin - Fischer was winning the U.S. championship at that age! Kids nowadays barely know their opening theory through move twenty-five!"

Shouldn't there be some embarrassment when these kids wash out at the highest levels? Like when Ted Danson said that the world would end in 2000 because of our environmental policy. I'd like to see some reputations crumble when sensationalism is proven to have had no substance. And for starters, we can stop gushing over Malthus.

I can only hope my gross, embarrassing failures are shown as evidence of my genius in 2150.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Pope Has Died

Instead of musings on his death (I can't say anything that hasn't already been said), I'll do some metamusings.

Someone didn't find the Pope's death all that sad:
"I cannot say I will regret his passing. As a godless atheist I never cared much for the church or the papacy. I disliked the fact that the Papacy bore down so heavily on Poland," Jerzy Urban told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Do the media really have to be so "balanced" as to find a nut who could actually take the position that the Pope's death isn't a bad thing? Or maybe this is more eulogy for him - I can only hope my death will be satisfying to Commies.

Even he got things wrong.
“He was also an example for interfaith cooperation. He was a clear supporter of the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people and that is why he welcomed (late Palestinian leader) Yasser Arafat so many times to his palace.”
Ouch. Given that the Pope also helped overthrow Communism, I'm willing to forget his support for a terrorist. Maybe the source has it wrong, anyway.

You mean the Pope had moral standards?
His was not an "accommodating" Catholicism, yet his views were more complex than his pronouncements on moral issues suggested.
Of course, being "complex" is good! You don't want to be such a boring bourgeois dolt as to say that what's wrong is wrong, and what's right is right. So it's just lucky that JPII redeemed himself in the eyes of the Left or else his opposition to sticking your member into anyone (or, hell, anything - the global Left includes Holland) your lust moves you to screw would condemn him to liberal Hell.

Blah, a great and good man died and I cannot stand what the media are that they have to cover it this way, and make such a damn "statement" about it all.

Requiescat in pace.