Friday, December 17, 2004

the tolerant ones

I found this on slate and have to admit I love it, an angry left meltdown. Remember the bumper sticker "hate is not a family value" back in the early 90's? That was a shot at the right, who were being called hate filled and intolerant (republicans are still called these things) but apparently hate and intolerance are now acceptable as long as its directed at republicans. My liberal friends have not dropped me yet but I've already been the victim of an angry left tirade at a party earlier this year, can banishment be far behind?

The Elephant in the Room
Can angry Democrats get along with Bush supporters?
Dear Prudie,
George W. Bush has won re-election, and I think he's a scumbag. His decision to go into an unjustified war that resulted in over 1,300 soldier deaths (at the time of this writing) and somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 civilian deaths is unconscionable. I've already decided that I do not want to date or be friends with anyone who voted for Bush in 2004. This isn't a problem. The problem is what to do with two very close friends (a couple) that were Bush supporters. I still care about them and would have no problem helping them out if they were in a jam, but I no longer wish to spend any time with them. My question is: What is the right way to drop them? My current plan involves phasing them out. I no longer call them. When they call, I'm friendly, but I decline all invitations. I figure they will get the hint. Is this the best strategy, or should I just tell them the truth?
—Trying To Stay Away From Bush Supporters

Dear Try,
Your position may soften with time, but if it does not, Prudie suggests volunteering an explanation for the big chill only if asked. It is interesting that you say you could see your way clear to helping this couple, were they in a jam, but you no longer wish to socialize. This reminded Prudie of a long-ago conversation on The Tonight Show: A celebrity from New Delhi was explaining about the "untouchables": It wasn't that people didn't LIKE them, he said ... just that they couldn't TOUCH them. Prudie will not try to convince you to change your mind but does want you to know that she, herself, plans to continue to see her Bush-voter friends but only for 49 percent of an evening.
—Prudie, procedurally

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Harbinger of Doom

I found this article, discussing an op-ed David Baltimore wrote in the L.A. Times at the end of November.

The author writes:

Anti-intellectualism has always been a powerful force in America. Combine that with religious fundamentalism and you have a recipe for economic, scientific and political disaster. Because scientists in secular societies like Asia and Europe aren't fighting fundamentalist dogma and political hackery at every turn, they are now poised to kick our collective butts. And when this happens, most Americans will never know what hit them.

The anti-intellectual, anti-reason myopia that now infects America will come back to haunt us. As this nation turns into a religious cult with nuclear weapons, scientific innovation will migrate to places where radical clerics and corrupt politicians aren't calling the tune. Just as our manufacturing base has migrated overseas, our scientific and intellectual base will travel the same path.

L-Hack isn't going to believe this, but I disagree with this author, and his interpretation of Baltimore's message.

Political hackery isn't a force in Europe and Asia - Are you kidding? Of course they are. The "worker's party" in China is filled with hacks - that might be the only thing that's holding the country back right now.
Ask Volkswagen about the government of Lower Saxony's interference with corporate plans to increase competitiveness, and see if they're free from political hackery.

With that being said, I do agree with Dr. Baltimore's point that a scientific decline is underway, and without some corrective action, it could be the undoing of America.

First, with regards to outsourcing, don't believe the hype. The decline in manufacturing hurts our short-term capacity for internal production, but you can restart a factory in the Midwest as quickly as one gets built in Guangdong province. If we went to war, and money was to be made, manufacturing could be conducted here again.

With regards to "knowledge work" - most of the stuff outsourced to India and China is low-grade stuff. We're talking about call-centers, programming to specifications - and it's absolutely dependent on the United States. If the U.S. sinks, so do all these BPO providers. To whom are they going to sell business services? Europe? Don't make me laugh - that would be like trying to feed the world on a quarter of the current food supply. Some will live, most will die.

The danger is when the Chinese and the Indians want to start doing their own innovations and development and they've got a lot of talent sitting on the bench, ready to jump into action. Where is our bench talent? It might not be there, and we'll end up as the country doing the grunt work for these new industrial powers.

There are three fundamental problems in this country right now that must be corrected quickly if we're not going to lose our own "bench talent".

1. Anti-intellectualism.
2. Cultural attitudes about professions.
3. The public school system.

The corrective measures for these problems all involve some sort of social engineering, and we can't rely on the "market" to fix these things.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

That's Why

Should the U.S. treat the terrorist threat as a war or a law enforcement matter? I believe the case is made by Germany and their efforts to arrest and convict members of an al-Qaida cell based in Hamburg.

Germany several months ago released the only person convicted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks pending his retrial on charges of aiding the Hamburg al-Qaida cell that included three of the suicide pilots. The convicted el Motassadeq had been serving a maximum 15-year sentence in a Hamburg prison since a court convicted him in February 2003 of giving logistical help to the al-Qaida cell. El Motassadeq has acknowledged training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan and being friends with Hamburg-based hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah . An appeals court last month threw out el Motassadeq’s conviction and ordered a retrial on a lesser charge, saying he was denied a fair trial because the U.S. government refused him access to a key witness in its custody. That key witness is Ramzi Binalshibh a Yemeni who was captured in Pakistan and is now in U.S. custody, he is believed to be the Hamburg cell’s main contact with OBL and al-Qaida. el Motassadeq's attorney claims Binalshibh might be able to testify that el Motassadeq knew nothing of the plot. The same Hamburg court acquitted el Motassadeq’s friend and fellow Moroccan, Abdelghani Mzoudi, of identical charges. Motassadeq and Mzoudi have acknowledged that they visited al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and were close friends with the ringleaders of the Hamburg cell. Testimony and evidence also have shown that they gave legal and financial cover to the hijackers when they left Germany to prepare for the attacks. German officials, legal experts and lawyers involved in the cases said the massive investigation into the al Qaeda cell has been hampered by the country's lax anti-terrorism laws and unfavorable judicial rulings, making it doubtful that anyone will be convicted.

Before you blame this all on Bush, and the fact that he is not "respected abroad" Germany has also been slow to prosecute suspected terrorists wanted by other nations. Last year, Italy filed charges against two other Islamic radicals from Hamburg who were acquaintances of the 9/11 hijackers. Italian prosecutors accused two men, Abderrazak Mahdjoub and Mohamed Daki, of recruiting religious extremists from Europe to launch suicide attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. German investigators said they had the men under surveillance in Hamburg but did not have enough evidence to arrest them.

According to the Washington Post, Germany is now prepared to take a very bold move, expel accused members of the Hamburg cell and send them to countries with more aggressive records of prosecuting terrorism (outsourcing? how about Benedict Arnold prosecutors?). Officials in Hamburg filed papers to deport Motassadeq and Abdelghani Mzoudi. Motassadeq and Mzoudi both came to Hamburg from Morocco in the 1990s on student visas. Their attorneys said that if they are found not guilty of the criminal charges, there is no reason to deport them and they should be allowed to resume their "studies" but Germany seems very happy to deport them to Morocco to rid themselves of this problem.
The Moroccan government has no charges pending against either Motassadeq or Mzoudi, but the government has a close working relationship with U.S. counterterrorism officials and has cooperated on other investigations involving al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, German authorities are also trying to extradite to Spain another alleged member of the Hamburg cell, Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-born German national. He has been indicted in Spain for allegedly playing a supporting role in the 9/11 attacks. He also has been listed as a terrorism financier by U.S. Treasury Department officials, and is accused of being a longtime money man for al Qaeda and OBL. Germany has been investigating Darkazanli for years but has not charged him with any crimes. He remained free in Hamburg until he was arrested on a Spanish warrant seeking his extradition. Darkazanli holds German citizenship and is fighting his extradition to Spain. The German constitution generally prohibits the extradition of its citizens (take a guess why, think WWII) but when it comes to dealing with Islamic radicals, Germany has some of the weakest laws in Europe. Before the 9/11 attacks, it was legal in Germany to belong to a foreign terrorist organization such as al Qaeda as long as it was not active inside the country.

Appeasement of terrorists is not new for Germany, two months after the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes a Lufthansa jet was hijacked and demands were made for the release of the three Black September members accused of the murders. They were released by Germany without the Israeli government's consent.

Ironically, Afghan intelligence agents arrested two senior Taliban military commanders, including a former security chief of the hard-line regime's leader Mullah Omar. Tohr Mullah Naqvi, the Taliban rebels' military commander for Kandahar province, and his deputy Mullah Qayum, also known as Mullah Hunger, were nabbed Monday night at a home in Kandahar city, said Abdullah Laghmani, the provincial intelligence chief.