Friday, May 28, 2004

India Update. After the elections it appears that the Congress party is back in power and the Hindu Nationalist party BJP is out (and by out I mean that they lost a majority in the legislature and therefore also the prime minister).
Interesting thing to note is that the Congress party won on the coat tails of Sonia Gandhi, herself not a native to India. She had earlier expressed no interest in leading the government, and after she led the party to victory she turned down the position of Prime Minister when it was offered to her. She has a bad taste for this kind of thing after her late husband, himself the PM once, was assassinated in the early 80s. The party instead elected Dr. Manmohan Singh as PM.
One of the direct benefits of having this primarily secular party in power is a reverse of the path the BJP was on to discriminate any other religion other than Hinduism. Christians and Muslims alike were more than discriminated against. It was illegal to convert to Christianity in some states.
Right away many countries around the area have expressed interest in strengthening ties with India. Although this article talks about Iran and China prominently. Not the countries you want trumpeting your party's rise to power.
Jon Stewart gives a speech. The illustrious host of the News Show on the comedy channel, who I find to be a really funny guy whatever his political bent is, gave the commencement speech at William and Mary college (his alma mater) in Virginia. It's very funny, and also very good. Read it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The New York Times finally admit it made a mistake and didn't investigate something thoroughly enough. The irony is that it is regard to them believing exiled Iraqis that Saddam had WMD. That's fresh. We'll admit we made a mistake, but only if it hurts the current administration. Whatever. The bad investigating part is true anyway.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Trust in the media. As I've been reading blogs over the past few weeks the impression that the general news media is not doing it's job, or is biased and engaged in an outright campaign of deceit is hard to miss. Frankly, it's hard to miss it when you read your newspaper or watch it on TV. There are statistics coming out now that are telling. Stats are saying that people are not trusting the media at all, and that the overwhelming view is that they are liberal in their slant.

Instapundit had some links just in the past couple of days highlighting bad media quality. This one calls the media on faking quotes.
He also points to this article in Editor and Publisher that revealed a Pew Research Center poll on what newsroom workers consider themselves politically. The findings should be obvious.

Jeff Jarvis has a conniption regarding NPR bias. And he is definitely not the only one. This is only one of many complaints about National Public Radio.

The press is also doing its best to put a bad face on the war. Despite evidence to the contrary. There are far more sources for this than I have room for.

Volokh notes that the media, for ex. CNN, keep using bad surveys, but people are going to believe them anyway.

These are just a sample. The main perps in this are the Assoc. Press, the NYT, Reuters, the Washington Post, the Guardian and BBC. Unfortunately that affects us all, because most of our local papers just recycle stories by journalists working for these organizations.
My wife and I canceled the paper. I get about 90% of my news from the internet. Google and Blog style.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Country of the week.

Another of our neighbors who we don’t pay enough attention to, or sometimes the wrong kind of attention, is the lonely island nation of Cuba. This isn’t just a country full of communists and baseball players. Cuba is a beautiful country with a vibrant people, who have gotten the short end of the stick because of certain people who have decided to put it upon them selves to run the country into the ground.

Cuban modern history begins with Christopher Columbus (before that there were native cultures existing for thousands of years), and the colonization of Cuba by the Spanish occurred here as early as anywhere else in the new world. The Spanish were fascinated by tobacco, which has been grown and smoked here since long before the European discovery of the new world.
The Spanish treated the island as a colony until the 1800s bringing slaves from Africa, when the people began to fight for independence. It didn’t always work out well. There was a 10 year war from 1868 to 1878. Landowners declared independence and freed slaves. The nation didn’t achieve independence until the turn of the century, when the Cuban Revolutionary Party, led by Jose Marti, strung a series of military victories together. The US was brought in, almost by accident, when a US ship was blown up off the coast. At that point the Spanish surrendered and left.
Jose Marti is the spiritual father of Cuba, originating the ideals that ended up driving the country, and even inspired Castro and Che Guevara. He is kind of like our George Washington and Thomas Jefferson all wrapped up into one.

After independence the country of Cuba spent a few decades trying to overcome electoral fraud, corruption and the heavy dependence on American trade. In 1933 some army officers joined up with a student uprising and staged a coup. Fulgencio Batista took over the country, initiated some reforms and then was elected president. Things were smoother for a while, in the perspective of the US, but Batista was little more than an elected dictator, and when Batista realized he was going to be defeated in the 1952 election he staged another coup.
Enter a little know lawyer named Fidel Castro and an Argentinean Doctor named Ernesto Guevara. He led men in battles against the Batista government, was jailed, banished from Cuba, but came back with Guevara and led a campaign that eventually took the country over. Fidel has been dictator for the last 45 years, but Cubans revere Che just as much. First of all, whatever political or government problems exist, Che doesn’t get tagged with because he eventually left the country to stir up trouble elsewhere and died soon after. He is a symbol of courage and national pride.
Che and Fidel were idealists and when Castro led the revolution into Havana, he centralized all government functions and most industry in the name of communism. This upset the Americans, who started the trade embargo that still exists.
The USSR kept Cuba going for decades and used Cuba as a staging point to export communism all over latin america.

Cuba’s most important exports are sugar, rum (which is a byproduct of sugar cane) and tobacco. The country is just bigger than the state of Kentucky, but has plains, mountains, tropical forests, dry and dusty areas and lovely beaches. It's probably a very nice place to live if it weren’t so poor. There are just over 11 million people living there.
Castro is President of the country. He is elected by the National Assembly, and usually runs unopposed. The National Assembly is elected popularly, but the slates are approved by special “candidacy commissions.” Elections, as you can guess, are not very open there. The Presidential and Assembly terms are 5 years. The last elections were in 2003, and the next set will be in 2008.

It’s the 102nd anniversary of Cuban independence from Spain.
Some lawmakers (authored and introduced by Max Baucus (D-Montana)) propose to finally eliminate the sanctions on Cuba after 40 years.
This is in response to the Bush administration actually tightening restrictions on visiting and sending money to Cuba.
Focus on the detainees being held at Guantanamo, the US military base on the Southeastern end of the island.
Here is a good article about how things are for people trying to help the Cuban people in the face of a restrictive regime.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Catholic Democrats. I have really been enjoying the spat between Catholic Democrats who are pro-abortion and Catholic Bishops who are trying to get them excommunicated from the church unless they repent and vote pro-abortion no more. World has a link to an article stating that 48 Catholic democrats sent a letter to the Cardinal of Washington that it's actions will bring back anti-Catholic bigotry and hatred. Catholics won't be able to get elected because everyone will fear that they are getting orders from the Pope on how to vote.
Come on. What a bunch of winers. As Catholics they should be taking their cues from the Pope (and more importantly from the Bible), but there are only so many issues that this covers. Really the only areas that are affected by this would be areas of direct morality, like abortion and gay rights. As a religious person, specifically a Christian, you should be making decisions, like voting, on how you see the world through the lens of your faith. Otherwise it's not much of a faith at all is it?
The article goes on to detail the Democrat's arguments about why they shouldn't be blacklisted just because of Abortion, when they agree with the Pope and Church on many other issues, like the death penalty and the war in Iraq. They just don't understand why this issue is such a big deal to some people, it seems.
Democrats also see this as the Church trying to influence the legislative process as a violation of the establishment clause (when it's quite the opposite. The Est. Clause was created to protect the church from politicians). Really this is just the Church reacting to decades of behavior, not the Church trying to influence votes.

Monday, May 17, 2004

David Kay speaks. Before the war. Hat tip to Instapundit.
This article written by David Kay, infamous weapons inspector, is about Iraq's material breach of UN resolution 1441. This should be an eye opener, but as usual will probably not open anyone's eyes who don't already have them open. This is something I've been thinking about for a while, and I often wonder why everyone who declares that Bush lied (or whatever) and that there are no WMD in Iraq usually point to David Kay and the fact that he said there was nothing there.
That's not really what he said, and this article summarizes his feelings before the war that inspections trying to find a smoking gun were doomed to failure, as they had for the last 12 years. The evidence was there. Iraq WAS in serious breach of the UN resolution.
Interestingly, it also points out that the Bush administration made a blunder here, although you can decide for yourself if that would have changed whether or not we would have gone to war anyway, or just postponed it.
Read the whole thing.
Volokh's Geography Puzzle. Check this puzzle out. It's a question that demands you pour over a world atlas for hours on end. Here is another post where some answers come in, but there really is no answer unless the question of how big should the concavity be to count (I think Eugene tries to make that distinction).

Friday, May 14, 2004

The real X Games. Light blogging, as I have been at a GIS conference in Portland here. Been talking to people about GIS stuff and how big XML is growing to be in the world of data transfer. More on that later.
For now here is an article on the latest from the X-Prize. For those of you who are unaware, the X-Prize is a $10M prize that will be given to the first private sector launch of a re-usable space craft. The designer must put it into space (defined as 100 kilometers) and then re send it into space within two weeks.
Paul Allen has financed the space ship in this article. The implications of this are huge! Not only are we not using tax dollars to research and test new and cheap ways of launching vehicles into space, but once we do that going to the moon or Mars won't be such a difficult thing.
The 10 million dollar prize is funded by the X-Prize foundation, a private foundation (that you can help fund). The website gives overviews and current status of all the teams competing for the prize.

Monday, May 10, 2004

In Sweden today:
Note to tourists in Sweden: Don't kill a giant serpent that has the head of a dog and fins on its neck. The mythical monster, which supposedly lives in Sweden's Lake Storsjoen, is officially on the country's endangered species list. Parliamentary investigators last week discovered a 1986 local court ruling that made it a crime to kill the animal or harm its eggs. They say Parliament may set aside the ruling.

Hat tip to World Magazine.
Will Rumsfeld resign? Given this post by Volokh, probably not. History, it seems, is not an indicator that high public officials just take it upon themselves to resign because they made a mistake, or because they accept responsibility for some mistake in their ranks.
Is Abu Ghraib an isolated incident? Of course it is. If you know anyone whose been in the military, or went to high school even, you know that despite the rules and morals we were given from a young age, there will always be people who must act like animals (especially in high school).
But most, and I emphasize most, military folks are decent and polite Americans who know their place in the world and are secure with that fact. Take this discussion between two Iraqis about conditions as the prison in question (Hat Tip: Winds of War). Sounds like they are pretty sure.

Friday, May 07, 2004

UNSCAM update. The UN is stonewalling the investigations into it's corruption. Is there hope for this organization? It's starting to look like the mafia on a worldwide scale.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

UNSCAM There is actually a blog, Friends of Saddam totally devoted to tracking the UN Oil for Money scam. Why isn't this getting more press? I haven't seen an article in our local Oregonian. This should be bigger than the NBA Playoffs for sure.
According to Friends of Saddam, Bremer halted the money being paid to KPMG to investigate the scandal in Iraq. WHY? Is he insane? The money used for this is coming from Iraqi oil fields, and it's in the Iraqi (and the US's) best interest to see this investigation through. We can't sit back and wait for the UN and their own investigation of themselves.
Another Victory for the US State Department. Civil war was avoided in Georgia recently because the US State Department stuck to it's guns, convinced the Russian government to do the same and politically forced the former Soviet President of Georgia, who was voted out, out of the port city of Ajaria. The former president, Abashidze, had a small loyalist army there and had set up a small "fiefdom" in that part of Georgia. The Russians and Americans finally convinced him to defect and the Georgian government re took the port city. No civil war. The Argus has a great commentary as well as a step by step what happened with links to the stories at each point.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

We've been Sick! Light bloggin this week as I've been out of commission. Bad multi-day cold. Also we are searching for a new home, and that can take a lot out of you.

Voting Blues. This excerpt regarding voting machines:
A California advisory panel recommended banning touch-screen voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems, complaining of malfunctions during March's primary election. The members said the state should consider civil and criminal charges against the company, which still argues that its devices are safe and secure. At least 50 million Americans will vote with the computers this November.

Now, why would a software glitch require that the state of California press charges against the software developer? It's a crime not to write bug free code?
I've been wondering for some time whether this electronic voting stuff was worth the while. I've always thought that the old mechanical voting booth was the best option into the future. Voting electronically (even on line, which has been proposed) seems like asking for trouble. Really, despite my initial distaste with ballot-by-mail, which we have here in Oregon for ALL elections, it is really quite sensible. And it's very paper oriented, which means that there's no hacking. It also means I can make my educated choice, mail my ballot in, and then not have to pay attention to the electoral spam that comes in the mail and on TV.