Archive for January 2008

The Kenyan Civil War

The assassination of a second opposition politician in Kenya proves that President Kibaki’s supporters are not satisfied with just stealing the election, they want to overturn the ODM’s control of Parliament. This would constitute the end of Kenya’s “democracy experiment” begun in 2002.

However the return to dictatorship will not stabilize the situation there. If anything, it’s going to lead to full-blown civil war. We are possibly already in the early stages of that war, and unless some breakthrough is made between the Odinga and Kabaki, I see nothing less than the collapse of Kenya into two or more separate states based on ethnicity similar to what happened in Yugoslavia 18 years ago.

Such an event would constitute the greatest disaster to befall East Africa since the Rwandan Genocide.

UPDATE:
Thinking Kenyan makes some interesting points about the calls for peace without justice:

What about the call for peace?. I support the call for peace.We can go to the mountain tops and shout peace peace peace,In fact i personally went to Nakumatt and donated foodstuffs for the displaced.But in reality,have we solved the issues that brought about the unrest in the first place?
So after the Kalenjin has stopped attacking his kikuyu neighbors and become peaceful,should he just forget that he had a problem as well?Will the call for peace remove all doubts in his head that the elections were rigged?Will it have solved any land issues?

Persecution of Gays in Eurabia Worsens

According to Bruce Bawer:

Never mind that Europe, far from oppressing Muslims, offers personal freedoms and welfare-state benefits far beyond those available in any Muslim country. Never mind that few if any Europeans – certainly not gay people – are doing any Muslim-bashing. Never mind that Hindu and Buddhist immigrants, or immigrants from South America or China, feel no compulsion to react violently against their “oppression.” No, assaults by Muslims always have to be construed as defensive – as expressions not of power but of weakness, not of aggression but of helplessness. To suggest that the culprits, far from being fragile, sensitive flowers who’ve been pushed over the line by something we did, are in fact bullies driven by an overweening sense of superiority and a deep-seated malice – both of which they’ve been carefully taught at home, at school, and, yes, in the mosque – is verboten.

Being gay – and European – himself, Bawer should know.

I’m not sure if the cultural elites of Europe have always been naive or it’s a recent development. However given that Pym Fortuyn’s murderer only got 18 years it’s only a matter of time before Europe, like Iran, has no homosexuals.

Response to Inside Higher Ed Article

Article is here. Here is my response:

Ken Hahn nails it when he writes:
...Institutions of higher education spend huge amounts on junk education while spending as little as possible on education that actually helps students earn a living.

As a businessman who hasn’t stepped foot in academia since I graduated a generation ago I’ve seen how ill-prepared students are when they first make it into the workforce. However I don’t blame liberal arts per se; in fact I believe that the liberal arts can be some of the best prep courses for the real world that an institution can offer.

In my field of business intelligence, looking back at my own experience the class that best prepared me for my field was a freshman year philosophy course on logic. Other courses that prepared me well were mandatory writing classes and even the odd creative writing course.

For the most part these were basic courses meant to prepare students for academic success. However their impact continues to be felt today decades after they were taken.

I believe that the root of the problem is not missing narratives as Marthers asserts but the isolation of academia from overall society. Unfortunately many of those smaller liberal arts colleges mentioned are actually some of the worst offenders. I recall visiting some of these smaller schools back in the 1980s and was struck by the lack of connection they had with the communities they were embedded in. I often found that the students and the locals rarely mixed, and when they did there was often trouble. Isolation breeds resentment on one hand, and a kind of intellectual inbreeding on the other.

Academia functions best when it is open and serves society. When the walls of the Ivory Tower tumble down and it is no longer separated, both it and society will be healthier.

Kenya – I’m Watching You

From a very cold and distant place with snow on my doorstep.
Everyday I check this site to see what the locals are saying. I also read the online stories that pop up occasionally on BBC, Yahoo! and Fox News. So far it appears that Kenyan society has stopped – waiting for leadership, a decision on whether the nation will continue on the path towards freedom and prosperity or slip backwards towards dictatorship and tribalism. Will it choose the future of India or Congo?

While the people wait, the demons that lay hidden in the darkest hearts of men and women creep out here and there, snatching a handful of victims at a time. A family of missionaries live in Nakuru, a town now gripped by violence. I’ve always found the reaction of normal people to abnormal events to be much more compelling than the reporting of professional journalist. There’s something particularly disturbing about this scene:

It started yesterday with the killing of a Kalenjin athlete. He had traveled from Nairobi and alighted at the Mololine booking office here in Nakuru. Some people grabbed machetes from a nearby vehicle and hacked him to death.

This created much confusion and the police had a hard time controlling the area. I had been in town just before this took place. I sensed tension and decided to stay on the other side of town…

The Pluses and Minuses of John McCain

The following is completely subjective on my part; however it does begin to quantify a bit why I support John McCain.
As the table below shows, he’s not perfect. However when I look at his life and his career I see a pretty strong contender for the presidency.




































































Plus

Weight (1-20)

Minus

Weight (1-20)

Military Service

20

Failure of his first marriage

5

USS Forrestal Incident

2

Keating 5 involvement

3

POW Internment

20

McCain-Feingold

10

Amicable treatment of his ex-wife

3

Immigration Reform

10

Overall Senate Record

10

Gun Control Support

5

Support of Iraq

20

 

 

2000 Treatment at hands of Bush campaign

5

 

 

Overall Trust On Security Issues

20

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

100

 

33

I guess this shows that I like the guy 3x more than I dislike him – which feels about right. He’s also an interesting contrast to this Democratic presidential candidate.

Transgender Woman Suing Catholic Hospital

I’m a strong supporter of gay rights. I have no problem with them getting married, adopting and all-in-all getting a fair deal in our society. However I’ve gone over the Constitution and haven’t found the right for a transsexual to get breasts at a Catholic hospital. Seton Medical Center in Daly City, California has refused to allow the surgery to take place in its facilities. Although the hospital itself is refusing to comment, “system spokeswoman Elizabeth Nikels said in a written statement that the organization follows hospital policy according to Catholic teaching: ‘Vincentian and Catholic values form the basis of our identity and set the parameters for our ethics and standards of behavior in health care… Seton Medical Center, a Catholic hospital and a member of the Daughters of Charity Health System, provides services to all individuals. However, the hospital does not perform surgical procedures contrary to Catholic teaching; for example, abortion, direct euthanasia, transgender surgery or any of its related components.””

“I felt simply less than equal,” (Charlene Hastings) said. “Here I am, a woman. I had the reassignment surgery, and not to allow me this right, I felt violated.”

She is suing for money, claiming she suffered “shock, embarrassment, intimidation, physical distress and injury, humiliation, fear, stress and other damages.”

The basis for Hastings’ complaint rests on the Unruh Civil Rights Act of California. The act states:

All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and
equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion,
ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition are
entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages
facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments
of every kind whatsoever. Civil Code section 51(b)

The question then becomes: Would Unruh force Catholic hospitals to perform sterilization and/or abortion procedures on women when they are against Catholic teachings? I suspect that this would not. However what muddies the issue is the fact that I would suspect the hospital does breast augmentation surgery on women.

Therefore, if the hospital performs breast augmentation jobs on women, shouldn’t Hastings be allowed to have the procedure? I suppose it depends on whether Hastings is legally considered to be a woman or a man. If the Law considers Hastings a man, then the position of the hospital would be better than if she were legally a woman. This is no doubt complicated by the fact that her gender may differ depending on state or federal jurisdiction.

Then again to force the hospital to perform a procedure that goes against Church teachings is a direct infringement on religious freedom. If you are married in a Catholic church and then divorce, you can’t sue a Catholic church to perform your second marriage.

There are other institutions willing to perform the procedure but Hastings evidently feels that she wants to be a martyr. Personally I think there are better axes that need to be ground than bullying a religion, but I doubt she agrees.

Either way I suppose this case will probably have to be decided at a higher level.

UPDATE 01/23/2008:
Here’s what a California Catholic publication says about the secular vs religious divide on this issue:

The problem, however, is that we are not academics discussing theses at a serene remove from the workaday world. Our differing faiths are not mere hobbies. The secularist, the various theistic, and more particularly, the Christian religions are not, finally, avenues of personal fulfillment, to be relegated to the sanctuary of the heart. They demand a public conformance with what they propose, for they propose what each is convinced is the truth that brings social as well as personal fulfillment. Perhaps this is why our conversations so often break down into shouting matches across the abyss, as if we were so many warriors vaunting their cause. For that is, really, what we are. Secularists and theists are not engaged in a sharing of interesting though irrelevant ideas, but a war for the minds and hearts of mankind.

An Example of Why I Don’t Like Apple

I have a simple task – at least it should be simple in 2008 compared to 1998 when I first did it. I need to burn a music CD.
My home network is in a star configuration with one of my PCs acting as a “file server”. The file server then backs up to another machine whose sole purpose is to store backups, as well as to an external HD. All my music is on the file server so that if my HD crashes – which it did a year and a half ago – I don’t lose everything, or most everything (like I did then). It’s a simple and cheap configuration for someone with lots of aging hardware and little cash to blow on a more sophisticated solution.

Since all the music is on the file server, all my iTunes songs are on there as well, although the vast majority of music I have are in .mp3 format. Because I wanted a CD that a couple of the iTunes songs, I couldn’t use Nero to burn the CD; I had to use iTunes. So I fired it up – and because it hadn’t been used recently it wanted to update itself. 10 minutes later, after it threw several prompts in my AVG firewall demanding access, up came my library. However it wasn’t showing several songs I wanted so I had to import them. Then in order to burn a CD you have to create a playlist. You can’t build the playlist by adding songs, you have to select the song and add it to the playlist. After I had all the songs for the CD I popped in a CD - but was told that the session spanned more than a single CD. For 58 minutes of music? I pull a few tracks and bring the size down to 48 minutes – and still get the error. I search for some setting that might be flipped and not recognizing the CD size.

But like most Apple stuff that I’ve messed with, if things don’t work the way they should it’s very difficult to make them work at all without reinstalling. There are very few controls that you can play with to make it work. I tried an existing playlist and got the same error – so I kicked out the CD and put in a new one. That seemed to work, and eventually the CD was finished. Total time of the process? About an hour.

I took the CD out with me to the car, and the CD player, an Alpine that is less sensitive than most players I’ve had, didn’t recognize the CD. After I came home from running errands I put the CD into my main gaming PC and the Samsung drive didn’t recognize it either. I use only Taiyo Yuden CDs because I hate burning coasters, and while the CD burner on the file server isn’t state of the art, it has worked reliably enough in the past. So ruling out the CD and the burner, that left iTunes. Instead of reinstalling the app I decided to use iTunes on the gaming PC, access the play list on the file server, and burn the CD from there.

But for some reason I couldn’t figure out how to access the playlist. After going back and forth between the file server and the gaming pc I determined that you had to share the library which isn’t set by default. So I set that… but I still couldn’t access the playlist on the File Server although I now could at least see the iTunes on the file server (they showed on the navigation bar of iTunes as a shared library. Then I decided to build the playlist on the gaming PC from scratch. I created a new list, but when I clicked on the shared iTunes library I couldn’t get the playlist to show on any of the files. I noticed that when I right-clicked on the shared files I get a way too abbreviated list of choices compared to a couple of iTunes that were installed on the gaming PC. That told me I was running up against the licensing issue.

So here I am 2 hours of frustration later and I still haven’t burned a CD properly – something that I first did in Sept. 1998 on the job. 10 years later and the frustration is simply comical. It kind of reminds me of that classic skatepunk song by Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized” in which a kid whines “all I wanted was a Pepsi.” All I want is a CD to listen to music in my car. Music that I f***ing paid for.

But I’ve decided on a plan of action:
1. I am going to somehow get the iTunes songs off the file server and onto the gaming PC.
2. I will burn the songs to CD.
3. I will reimport the songs as .mp3s.
4. I will uninstall iTunes on all the machines the Wife doesn’t use (she uses one of the laptops to connect her iPod to.)
5. I will pray that Steve Jobs gets hit by a bus.

Kenya Festers

Here are some notes from the Kenya Unlimited Blogs Aggregator:

Are Ugandan Troops in Kenya? Gerald Baraza thinks so:

I have been gathering information from the ground in Busia,Teso,Bungoma and West Pokot. There is enough evidence that Mwai Kibaki, Daniel Arap Moi and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni hatched a plot to steal the elections even before last year’s General elections were held in Kenya.Ugandan troops were siphoned into Kenya and stationed strategically to fight any Kenyan who would try to stand up against Kibaki. This is a gross violation of a people’s sovereignity and dignity.

Freedom House has downgraded Kenya’s government to not free. KA Investor notes:


Freedom House defines a “free country” as one where there is “broad scope for open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civil life and independent media”. Kenya has violated all of these in less than 20 days, moving us from a “partly free” state to a “not free” one. Kenya now rank in the same category as Somali, Zimbwabwe and Congo. SHAME!

Shirel calculates the death toll tops 1200.

Thinker’s Room has video of Kenyan police shooting and killing two protesters.

Shooting the Beretta U22 Neo

The Kid and I hit the range again yesterday and fired a box of ammo with a brand new Beretta U22 Neo. It only took half an hour, but the silhouette target we used has nice clusters around the heart and head. In fact the white background is untouched.
The Beretta Neo is an awesome handgun. It has hardly any recoil and the adjustable sight is easy to use. The trigger action is smooth – and I felt no resistance when the gun fired. As Officer Ayoob notes in his excellent piece on rolling the trigger, “...You want the exact instant of the shot to surprise you, so you don’t anticipate it and convulsively jerk the shot off target.” The Neo makes it easy to get that little bit of surprise because it’s so smooth.

It doesn’t look all that impressive – at least to my eye.
Beretta Neo

However for newbie shooters interested in developing good skills like sighting, stance, triggering and accuracy, it’s an excellent starter. You might not look cool standing next to the guy blazing away with .45 cal. ammo, but you can send your target back further and still shoot tight groups.

Note that the guy at the range said that the older Neo’s aren’t very good, so be sure to fire a new one if you get the chance.

TO Cries

As the wise man Jack Handy once said,

It takes a big man to cry.
It takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.

Words to live by.

Patriotism Is Not Zero Sum

My degree is in Political Science. To get that degree I had to be educated in game theory which includes the concept of “zero sum.” Zero Sum is defined by Wikipedia as “a situation in which a participant’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). It is so named because when the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.” Most games are zero-sum with winners and losers. So is war.

Many things are not zero-sum. Take for example, shopping. When you finally pull the trigger on that nice 50” 1080p Panasonic you’ve had your eye on to watch the big game, you feel good trucking it home and even better when you get it set up and watch your favorite team on it. So does the retailer, who made a big sale, the distributors that shipped that TV and Matsushita aka Panasonic, the firm that made it. Consequently trade is thought to be win-win and not zero-sum.

In my writing it’s clear that I consider myself patriotic. I love my country, for all its triumphs and tragedies, it’s failures and successes. I feel humbled to have been born in America at this particular time in history, and a deep sense of pride whenever I see the flag or meet the young men and women who serve our nation and bear it on their shoulders.

Yet in this online journal and at Dean’s World where I am a guest commentator and you will often find me writing about other countries that I care deeply about. I have a deep love of Israel even though I’ve never been there. I love Tanzania, a poor country filled with bright, hardworking people who are trying to make a better future for their children. I even love Japan – a country that pushed me to my cultural limits and in doing so taught me what it meant to be Japanese and for me, American. I’m worried over Kenya, and frustrated that I am powerless to halt the violence that simmers beneath the surface there. And of course there is Iraq – a nation whose bloodied past is receding ever too slowly but receding nevertheless.

But there is China, a nation whose language and culture I studied in detail which stands at the threshold of a new century that is its for the taking. I even have hope for Iran that someday its people will be free and its government an agent of stability and good in the world.

I want to see these nations succeed, yet I do not feel that their success undermines my patriotism. Why? Because I believe that patriotism is not zero sum. The Chinese have every right to take pride in their country, and doing so does not mean that I am lessened somehow. Sure there are disputes and serious disagreements which remain valid between my country and others. However patriotism does not mean that I want China, or Japan, or even Canada to become a state of the union. Patriotism means more than that.

The word has been sullied by the Left who almost spit it as an insult, and abused by the Right who wield it like a cudgel. However I deeply believe that I can love my country and at the same time want to see others succeed.

Kenyans Need to Get Real…

According to Shirel:

There has to be justice before there can ever be peace. Here is a well-known example. The chastisement for our peace was upon Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:5), i.e., He had to die on the cross before we would ever have peace. Before God’s wrath was satisfied, i.e. before justice was served on the cross, we as human beings had absolutely no hope for peace. None!

So Kenyans, do we want justice and peace, or are we cowards who just want some silence and a maintenance of the status quo?

She believes the bitter silence that has followed the violence will lead to even more violence. Read the whole piece to learn why.

Music Industry In Trouble – No One Cares

Well maybe someone does, but I sure don’t. The Economist via Samizdata reports:

IN 2006 EMI, the world’s fourth-biggest recorded-music company, invited some teenagers into its headquarters in London to talk to its top managers about their listening habits. At the end of the session the EMI bosses thanked them for their comments and told them to help themselves to a big pile of CDs sitting on a table. But none of the teens took any of the CDs, even though they were free. “That was the moment we realised the game was completely up,” says a person who was there.

However it’s not really the whole music industry. Given the fact that most artists were given bad deals, paying their own marketing and production costs and netting little from music sales, they aren’t suffering. Their agents who book tours and keep their charges working aren’t in trouble. Nope it’s the music executives who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on “fruit and flowers.”

My Silence on Ron Paul

A friend asked why I haven’t written about Ron Paul. The reason is that I think the issue has been covered ad nauseum by better writers than me.

Like Stephen Bainbridge.

Paul’s campaign has attracted “an imposing collection of Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, Holocaust Deniers, 9/11 “Truthers” and other paranoid and discredited conspiracists.”

In short, the guy’s a nutjob – or at best supported by nutjobs. Either way I hope he cleans out the idiots from the Republican Party by becoming flypaper for them – and then bolts the party.

I’m a libertarian – small “l” not a big one.

Why I Don’t Gamble or Play the Stockmarket

Because I thought about shorting the carp out of Countrywide on Monday. The next day rumors started floating around about a Bank of America buyout and the stock leaped. Had I shorted it I would have put in a stop order. Still I would have lost some money.

Of course if I was a gambling man I would now consider shorting Bank of America. Why BoA is throwing good money after bad in the early part of a recession (I’m pretty sure we’re in one right now and expect it to be nastier than the last one in ‘01-02) is beyond me. I’m no financial genius by any stretch, but the deal doesn’t make sense – other than to somehow justify the bank’s infusion of $2 billion in August.

And that justification is psychological – not based on economic fundamentals. Just something to consider if you do gamble/play the market/own BoA shares…