Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Gulag=USSR

Interesting article in the latest National Review (only NRODT, so no link). David Frum talks about a new book by Anne Applebaum; Gulag: A History. It sounds like a good book, but the point David Frum talks about is that the book makes the case that the gulag should be understood not just as penal colonies in Siberia, but as a phenomenon that encompassed the entire Soviet Empire. That the Soviet Union was really one big gulag.

"The Gulag was the Soviet Union...They were equally likely [as to be in Siberia] to be constructing apartment blocks in Moscow or making toys or canning fish.
...
"It all made terrible sense--that is, if you accepted the crackpot economics on which the plan rested. In other words, just as Solzhenitsyn traced the responsibility for the creation of the Gulag back from Stalin to Lenin, so Applebaum follows the path all the way back to
Das Kapital. She shows us that the Gulag is not just an incident in the history of Russia. It is the culmination of the history of socialism."

I Hope He's Not Serious

In the current issue of the Falcon, guest writer Ryan Pangilinan has an article with an interesting line. Speaking of a new band, he says "While many people may dismiss DeLaughter's Spree as a hippie answer to Canadian art-rockers (and 13-member) Godspeed You Black Emperor..."

Yeah. That's the first thing I thought of.

New Link

Linked to Little Green Footballs. Check 'em out.

Look Ma! Post Titles!

I may be slow, but.... yeah. I'm slow.

Arrant nonsense

It seems the Belgians might decide to try Gen. Tommy Franks for war crimes in the recent war in Iraq. Heard it on BBC news last night on the way to work. You can read the story on their site right here. Though there are good arguments for Belgium not doing this on principled grounds, (Why do they let private citizens decide who the government is going to prosecute, anyway?) I'm inclined to think that this is also rather impractical. Does Belgium really want to make the US furious over what even NPR admits is the most humane war ever fought? I doubt it. And if they do, well, more fool they. War crimes trials on behalf of 10 Iraqi citizens based on looting (by Iraqis) that the US didn't make enough of an effort to stop (why didn't the Iraqis try harder?) and firing on a single ambulance (were there enemy troops or weapons inside it? was it a justified shooting? is it remotely possible that Gen. Franks would order US troops to fire on one, specific ambulance in all of Iraq?)? But where's the outrage and war crimes trials for Rwanda? Or for Tibet? Or for Cuba? Or (closer to home for Belgians) for Bosnia? Buncha Euro-weenies.

That's me in the corner

So UNESCO and some scholars from around the world are meeting in London to discuss the crisis of Iraq "losing its culture" according to the BBC. It seems that a bunch of people think that the important thing for them to do, while Iraq needs rebuilding of basic infrastructure and the restoration of basic services, not to mention the installation of a democratic government is to go to Baghdad and try and find some old artifacts that some Iraqis have taken to sell to help make ends meet while their city is being rebuilt. Such condescension for the plight of poor Iraqis needing food, water, medicine and housing is astonishing. But the world won't condemn them for it, rather they simply seize onto another opportunity to blame the US for something else.

And what was the BBC thinking by claiming that Iraq was "losing its culture"? Because the museums are empty, Iraqis are no longer Iraqis? The culture is there regardless of whether or not they have the ancient artifacts that used to be in the museums. Besides, a lot of those civilizations have little to nothing in common with current Iraqi culture.

Elves and Evil

Over at The One Ring there was an interesting discussion in their Reading Room on whether or not Feanor was evil. Now, unless you're a Tolkien geek, you're asking "Who?" right about now. The answer: Don't worry about it. I bring this up because a lot of the side discussions got into what being an evil person is and what "evil" means. I weighed in myself. If you can figure out which contribution(s) are/is mine, you win the satisfaction of being right.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Slogging through war

Still working on War and Peace. I'm over a thousand pages into it, and I still have more than four hundred to go. I've been working on this book off and on for a couple months now. I don't think I'll be picking up Tolstoy again any time soon. Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo is of similar length and I can finish that bad boy off in about a week. Next up: F.A. Hayek's Road to Serfdom! Updates as events warrant.

Apologetics and Spies

Had some time this weekend to goof off. Finished a couple books, Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft (a favourite philosopher of mine) and Ronald Tacelli. Not a bad read, and not too philosophically technical. They make the point, that (I'm paraphrasing) if you can't explain your Christian beliefs in words a simple fisherman would understand, than you don't really understand them yourself. They do a good job making logical arguments for the main points of the Christian faith. And I hardly disagree with them despite their both being staunch Catholics. (Ronald Tacelli kinda looks like he might be wearing his collar backward from the jacket picture, but I'm not sure.) Also finished off Roosevelt's Secret War by Joseph Persico. Good book, but I came away even less of a fan of FDR than before. It's a wonder the USSR didn't do more damage.

Told ya so

Gotta love the Heritage Foundation. Just a couple minutes on their site and I found what I needed in the previoius post. An article by Suzanne Fields talking about feminsm. The whole article is interesting, but the paragraph that is so useful in this instance is near the bottom. It reads:
It is testimony to the success of feminists that the wage gap in the United States is down to 2 percent in 1997 among women and men who make similar life choices and who compete equally for the same kind of work. Women who are earning 98 percent of what men earn are between the ages of 27 and 33 and have never had a child, according to Women's Figures: The Economic Progress of Women in America, compiled by economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth and historian Christine Stolba.
There ya have it. When you account for variables, the disparity is 2%. Not something to get your panties in a twist over, I should think. True the article is 6 years old, but I think we'd have noticed if the disparity ballooned to 12 to 15 times its 1997 size in the past 6 years.

Is it wrong of me to call this an "old wives' tale" and laugh?

I agree with Greg here that the claim being made by Mr Rither here (scroll down to the bottom to find the quote) in the Falcon is most likely spurious. I seem to recall reading somewhere that claims like this usually aren't comparing apples to apples. That is, they don't take into account the differing levels of education, field of education, type of job, years of experience, years in the same job and so forth. Once this is done, there is still a disparity, but I believe it is under 10%. I'll have to do some research on this.

I will not be taking questions

Well, the folks over at the Punch Bowl gave me a nice plug. 'Course, that was about when I took a week off from posting anything again. Eh. I apologize to anyone who's been visiting over the weekend looking for the storm that Greg advertised. In brief: wife, hospital, everything's fine now. I don't think she'd want me to broadcast anymore than that to the world at large without express written consent. Anyway, I'm back, and I'll try to blog enough to keep up with the SPU brethren over at Punch Bowl at least. Tuna out.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Pay your own way

Listening to the BBC on the way to work. The Brit lefties were whining about the fact that the first contract to repair stuff in Iraq went to an American company. Why are they so upset? Because the bidding was only available to American companies. But the money that is paying for these repairs isn't coming from the UN, or even from Iraq. John and Jane American Taxpayer is anteing up the $35million. Heck, if I'm gonna have to pay for the repairs to Iraq, I certainly don't want my tax dollars going to some company from a Euro-weenie country that wasn't willing to make any sacrifices to free the Iraqis and make the world safer. As for the Brits, well, when you start ponying up money for repairs, you can give it to British firms.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

War and Peace download

It has occurred to me that in talking about War and Peace it would be helpful for people if linked to it for them. That way, they could download the text and read things for themselves. This probably isn't quite the same translation that I am reading, but it should be close enough.

Project Gutenberg: War and Peace

Novel history

Something I find interesting about War and Peace is that the author has no problem jumping in for a chapter or two and declaiming at length in his third-person-omnipotent way on his views on history. He has jumped in to explain twice now (I'm about a thousand pages in) about how individuals have no influence on history whatsoever. He seems a little confused as to whether he thinks that history is determined by vast, impersonal forces that are caused by societies in general, or if it's all a Calvinistic, divine, immovable plan. I find it interesting because this book is a novel, one of the greatest ever by some accounts, (on that, I have no opinion; I don't read very many novels) but he switches to more a non-fiction, text-book lecturing style for 15 or 20 pages at a whack. You couldn't get away with that in a modern novel, could you? I'd be interested in knowing if anyone knows about a modern (within the last 50 years or so) novel that's fairly well known that does something like that. (And, I'd be shocked if anyone was actually still reading these posts and caring enough to send me an e-mail about them.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Bravery and Hats

Another great line from War and Peace.

"The cavalry ride into battle and meet the wounded on the way, and never for a moment do they think of what is in store for them. They ride by winking at their wounded comrades. Yet of those men twenty thousand are doomed to die, and they can still find it in them to wonder at my hat! Strange!"

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Baghdad Bob

Everyone and their dog has already linked to this it seems, but just heard about it. Hi-larious, as they say at over at Toshi Station. The former Iraqi (Mis)Information Minister even has an acronym for his name in common usage. Amazing. If you wrote this into a movie, no one would think it was realistic.

Falcon Foolishness

The Falcon really went off the rails last week with their Staff Editorial. Seemed to think that the renaming of french fries and french toast on the House of Representatives cafeteria menus was "juvenile, irresponsible and immoral." The also seemed to imply that the wearing of shirts that say "France Sucks" ought to be stopped in some fashion by the SPU administration. Anyhow, I wrote them a letter explaining why they were wrong (mostly) and hopefully it'll make it to the pages of the Falcon without too much editing. I kept it under 300 words, so they're not supposed to edit it for space restrictions. At least, that's what their website says here. "Letters in excess of 300 words may be edited to fit space restrictions."

Of course, if they don't, there's a copy in full in their forums here.

Dilatoriness

Been gone a while. Life got busy and this blog has never been a very high priority for me. But I'm back. But who knows for how long.