Friday, August 26, 2005

Economics 010: I find these sorts of things to be entertaining.

At the McDonald's by my office, a 4-piece Chicken McNugget costs $1. The 6-piece costs $2.39.

That's not the first time I've seen that sort of misappropriated pricing. Once at a Burger King, the value meal cost more than buying the hamburger, fries, and Coke separately. Only about 15 cents more, but I still decided to buy the burger there and get a Coke somewhere else.

So I picked up a 20 oz. bottle of Coke from a machine, which cost me $1. It's then that I realized that I could have bought two 12 oz. cans of Coke for 50 cents each. What ever happened to bulk discount?

Anyhow, I'll be out of the office all next week. Y'all take care.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I Fart in Your General Direction: If anybody wants a legitimate reason to hate the French, forget Freedom Fries and UNSCAM, look at the way they're treating Lance Armstrong. They treat him like dirt not in spite of his being a cancer survivor, but because he is a cancer survivor. That, they claim, is reason enough to suspect him of doping in order to win the Tour de France seven times.

We stand with you, Lance. We're proud of what you've accomplished, and hopefully someday you can leave these jokers behind for good.

Duty to Die: Scientists discover a hormone that extends the lifespan of mice. The researchers hope to use this to help humans live longer.

Question: Haven't we extended the lifespan of humans enough? Barring major illness or disease, people regularly live past 100. If you want immortality, look into religion. Otherwise, don't try to hold onto life forever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's Up to Blogs: The Center for American Progress reports that NBC, CBS, and ABC affiliates in the DC area are refusing to run the center's Be a Witness ads about the genocide in Sudan. An article on the center's blog, Think Progress, explains the disappointing development with the title, Apparently you can't even pay TV networks to cover genocide.

The Coalition for Darfur also has a post about how military intervention can do some good against the genocide, even if the action is limited and only one country is involved.

Genocide and Statistics

Last week, International Studies Quarterly published a study by Matthew Krain, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the College of Wooster, examining "the effectiveness of military action on the severity of ongoing instances of genocide and polititcide."

According to the press release:

The study reveals that only overt military interventions that explicitly challenge the perpetrator appear to be effective in reducing the severity of the brutal policies. Military support for targets, or in opposition to the perpetrators, alters the almost complete vulnerability of unarmed civilian targets. And these interventions that directly target the perpetrators were not, on the whole, found to make matters worse for those being attacked ... He finds that even military intervention against the perpetrator by a single country or international organization has a measurable effect in the "typical" case.

When a single international actor challenges the aggressor, the probability that the killings will escalate drops while the probability that the killings will decrease jumps. Each additional intervention by another international actor raises the chance of saving lives.
In the introduction to the study, Krain notes:

Policy makers faced with situations like those in Rwanda or Bosnia, Kosovo or Darfur, are forced to rely on past experience with interventions in other types of internal conflicts, often with disastrous results. This study is a step toward a better understanding of the effectiveness of potential responses by the international community to genocides and politicides.
Krain goes on to examine various intervention methods of dealing with on-going genocides and politicides (the "impartial intervention model," the "witness model," the "bystander model," etc...) and notes that not one of them is capable of reducing the severity of such situations.

After conducting a statistical analysis of the various models, Krain concludes:

Policy maker concerns that intervention on the behalf of target populations will escalate the killing appear to be unfounded.

The only overt military interventions that appear to be effective in reducing the severity of genocides or politicides are those that explicitly challenge the perpetrator.
He then discusses his finding as they relate to Darfur, writing:

Intervention against the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed within the first year of the genocide would likely have had a measurable effect on the severity [2003] of state-sponsored mass murder in the following year.
Kraine does not claim that military intervention is the "only" option. In fact, he notes that "policy makers have a range of options available to them in the face of an ongoing genocide or politicide" and that his study "only examines one of those options."

Keeping that in mind, it is hard to argue with Kraine's basic conclusion:

If actors wish to slow or stop the killing in an ongoing instance of state-sponsored mass murder, they are more likely to be effective if they oppose the perpetrators of the brutal policy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Geto Boy: I'm sure everybody saw Pat Robertson's calling for the assassination of Venezuela's president. This man is an ultra-religious political wannabe who has no political sense and no grasp of religious meaning.

I'm not a Christian, but I can tell the difference between somebody who claims to be a Christian and someone who actually practices it. I honestly can't remember the last time I read or heard a sentence that began with "Pat Robertson said ..." and ended with anything good.

Eh: I got sick of the Blogspot comment system, so it's gone. I'm sticking with HaloScan, even with all its faults. I'll just have to accept that the HaloScan system will not always display the correct number of comments in the parentheses, and that the comments will completely disappear after a few days. Joy ...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Misery: There's something about extremism that breeds fear and hate and leaves the followers miserably glum. This liberal video is beyond parody. I'm sure some people find it inspiring, and that's what is so sad. I just want to ask them, What's wrong with you that you ignore the good around you and only see darkness and depression?

A word of advice. Bitterness does not garner respect. (via Southern Appeal)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Nowhere to Hide: Saudi police have reportedly killed the Al Qaeda leader in that country. 'Bout damn time Saudi Arabia has joined the crackdown on Al Qaeda. It still seems like the Saudi royalty is getting an undeserved pass from the "with us or against us" doctrine. But now that Saudi leaders are taking out the Al Qaeda hierarchy, and even calling the group a Jewish conspiracy, that helps limit my distrust for Saudi Arabia -- somewhat.

By the way, the Saudi police found the severed head of an American killed by the Al Qaeda members. The terrorists kept it in their freezer(!).

Bogged Down: Instead of deciding what to do about the mass murder and starvation in Sudan, the international community got caught up with whether to call the situation "genocide". Not that it matters -- the United States has already declared it genocide, and still nothing is being done. While the outright murder has subsided somewhat, people are still dying. Yet, we're still worrying about labels. The Coalition for Darfur explains:

Plagued by Technicalities

Last week, David Loyn of the BBC wrote about the crisis in Niger and asked "How many dying babies make a famine?"

Famine is a troublesome word with a very specific meaning to the professional aid community.

It is usually taken to define a situation in which a high proportion of the general population is vulnerable to death by hunger-related disease.

This describes a much more intense situation than the loose way that famine is generally understood -- and the pictures of starving babies in Niger certainly look like "famine" to the outside world.

In technical terms Niger's President Mamadou Tandja may be right to say that this is not a famine.
The debate over "famine" is much the same as the debate over "genocide" in Darfur:

"For those who are dying from acute malnutrition and related diseases, the debate about whether there have been enough deaths to justify the famine label, and the extent to which this exceeds the normal hungry season mortality rate is not helpful.

"Avoiding the famine label has often been convenient for those seeking to justify slow or failed responses."
Last September, the US declared that genocide was taking place in Darfur, but three months later, the report (PDF file) of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur concluded that it was not, though it also stipulated:

The conclusion that no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the Government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control, should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region. International offences such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide.
But the press responded, not with headlines reading "Massive Crimes Against Humanity in Darfur," but rather with headlines such as "U.N. report: Darfur not genocide."

But the point was essentially moot, as one thing quickly became clear: overwhelming evidence of massive crimes against humanity could not get the world to act, nor could a genocide declaration. In fact, it seems that nothing could prod the global community to act to address the situation in Darfur, be it genocide, quasi-genocide, or "merely" crimes against humanity.

As Loyn reports of Niger, warnings of an impending food crisis have been raised since November, but nobody paid attention until it was too late:

They did not respond to the requests on paper as they did to pictures of dying babies.
The reverse is now occurring regarding Darfur. It has become, in the words of Eric Reeves, a "genocide by attrition," and the world has stopped paying attention.

Last month, the UN reported that violence in Darfur had diminished over the past year, mainly because militia have run out of targets after destroying hundreds of villages.

As Reeves has written, the genocide in Darfur is now:

[M]ore a matter of engineered disease and malnutrition than violent killing. In other words, disease and malnutrition proceeding directly from the consequences of violent attacks on villages, deliberate displacement, and systematic destruction of the means of agricultural production among the targeted non-Arab or African tribal groups became the major killers.
It is entirely possible that Darfur will not begin to receive sustained coverage again until this "genocide by attrition" has taken the lives of tens of thousands more and footage of dying babies in Darfur begins to show up on the nightly news.

And then, in lieu of actually addressing that problem, we can have a debate about whether or not this new situation meets the technical definition of "famine."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stuck in the Middle: Wow, I'm having to rethink my idea that we can trust the police with a little racial profiling. As more information leaks out about the Brazilian man who was killed in Britain as a suspected terrorist, it's becoming apparent that the police really fucked up on this one.

Despite earlier accounts, the victim didn't vault over any turnstiles. He was only wearing a denim jacket, not a heavy coat. And he only ran to catch a train, as anybody who has ever ridden the subway has done before, not to evade the police.

Still, when the police caught him, they held him down and shot him seven times. They didn't try to yank him out of the train for questioning. They just opened fire.

Again, I only argued that police should spend more time questioning tan young men than pasty old ladies. There's nothing wrong with searching a few bags before someone gets on a subway or plane. But we have to trust the police that they won't become overzealous -- otherwise I may be the next one you see running from the police.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Under Construction: I've been having some issues with HaloScan, so I'm giving the Blogger comment service a try. If it works, I will eventually trash all of HaloScan, which is no big deal because they erase all comments after a few weeks anyhow. Let me know if you have an opinion. Thanks for your patience.

Too Sexy for the Web: President Bush is opposed to the creation of the .xxx domain for Internet sites. That Internet suffix would allow porn sites to be clearly recognizable and easily blocked.

But Bush doesn't want to give porn sites a safe haven or virtual red light district. Apparently separating all the porn from the rest of the Net could be harmful to "families and children".

This is ludicrous, because the porn is already there. Sex is everywhere on the Internet, and you can't get rid of it. But the .xxx domain could help regulate it. That would actually provide more protection to families and children.

There's something kooky in general about conservatives and sex. It's like they don't want to admit it exists. Most mainstream movies don't include nudity or sex like they used to. The whole mantra of "sex sells" has been disproven as most movies rated R and NC17 draw fewer people to theaters. This partly stems from social conservatives' railing against sexual images.

Yet, while Righties can't stand sex, they don't seem to mind the violent images that remain in our movies. Battles and gore are glorified, but sex is hidden.

I'm not arguing that either should be removed from the big screen. I think Americans should have the choice to see what they want, and the disclaimers and warnings are adequate in protecting those people who are easily offended. But if I had children, I would be more comfortable seeing two people loving each other than killing each other. For some reasons conservatives would rather have the opposite.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hot Topics: August sure is boring. And that's generally a good thing. Our government isn't actively screwing anything up at the moment. And it's warm enough to go swimming.

Of course, even though our government takes time off to recuperate, our news organizations do not. So we must fill time and newsprint with utter nonsense.

Enter Cindy Sheehan. The attention given to this woman is unreal. But with nothing important going on, she gets full command of the spotlight.

The truth is, she's just another nutty protester. There are 1,800-plus parents of dead soldiers and Marines. Some of them support the war, some of them do not -- eerily similar to the overall mood of the country.

While we all feel for her loss, we also know that a parent who just lost a child is not the most rational. Just like the father of a dead Marine who set fire to a Marine Corps van after hearing the news of his son's KIA, we sympathize and make excuses for odd behavior.

But this doesn't give anybody moral authority over anything. In fact, if Jenna were to be kidnapped, Bush would probably be removed from office under the XXV Amendment. (I think that was the theme of a West Wing episode.)

Ms. Sheehan has already met with the president once. That's more than many other military family members got. Now that she has the attention of the news horde, she spouts off anti-Israeli ramblings and conspiracy theories.

She has the right to speak her mind. But she doesn't have the right to make any of us listen.

Update: (via Centerfield) Newsweek has an article about how Bush has met with more than 900 family members of more than 270 troops who died in the war -- and Cindy Sheehan was already one of those members. Some of them were supportive, others showed up to give the president a piece of their mind. Just about all found Bush to be a caring and compassionate man. That may not mean much to you if you don't support the War in Iraq. But I just wanted to let you know nonetheless.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Did it Matter? The Coalition for Darfur notes that Bush's declaration of the situation in Sudan as a genocide hasn't produced any positive results. It's already been a year:

Since then, an estimated 400,000 people have died, Doctors Without Borders is warning that millions of lives "hang in the balance," and the International Committee of the Red Cross is warning of "chronic instability."
Eugene gives us a post he wrote over a year ago, arguing that not only should we call the mass murder in Darfur a genocide, we should respond to the genocide.

Say The Word

On January 11, 1994, Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, the UN Force Commander for the United Nation's Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) sent an ominous fax to UN headquarters in New York. A high level informant within the ruling party informed UNAMIR that he had been training the Interahamwe militia and had been

[O]rdered to register all Tutsi in Kigali. He suspects it is for their extermination. Example he gave was that in 20 minutes his personnel could kill up to 1000 Tutsis.
Dallaire informed New York that he intended to act on the information and seize various illegal arms caches before they could be distributed to the Interahamwe. The UN prohibited him from doing so. And as Dallaire's executive assistant Brent Beardsley explained:

We lost the initiative. We lost this fantastic opportunity, an absolutely incredible opportunity to maybe get this thing off the rails, take this train of genocide and knock it off its rails, get the initiative; maybe rally the moderates and be able to prevent what they obviously wanted to do, what [the informant] told us they wanted to do, which was exterminate Tutsis.
The 1994 slaughter of one million Rwandans was not some spontaneous outpouring of uncoordinated evil. Rather, it was an orchestrated, well-planned and systematic campaign to kill every Tutsi in the country.

It did not come out of the blue, but the various warning signs were routinely ignored and the US and the international community intentionally refused to legally recognize that genocide was taking place. As a result, during a horrific 100 days in 1994, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were slaughtered.

Ten years later, a similar crisis is again unfolding in Africa. Only today, hundreds of thousands of people are threatened with destruction, not via neighbors with machetes or screwdrivers, but rather by famine and disease.

The government of Sudan is currently engaged in a genocidal campaign against black Muslim farmers and villagers in the western section of the country. In Darfur, Arab militias backed by government bombs and troops are systematically wiping out thousands of villages and their inhabitants. Hundreds of thousands have fled into neighboring Chad, while millions more have been internally displaced.

The regime in Khartoum has vehemently resisted Western pressure to reign in the militias and grant access to humanitarian NGO's seeking to alleviate the suffering of some 2-million people who have been forced from the homes.

Just as in Rwanda, the crisis in Darfur did not come out of nowhere. Activists have been warning about the potential humanitarian catastrophe for months, but to no avail. While the looming crisis was more or less ignored as the international community focused its efforts and attention on the peace agreement between Khartoum and rebels in the South, the situation in Darfur deteriorated to the point where U.S. Agency for International Development chief Andrew Natsios warned:

We estimate right now if we get relief in, we'll lose a third of a million people, and if we don't, the death rates could be dramatically higher, approaching a million people.
In other words, if NGOs could gain immediate access to those in need, the best case scenario was that "only" 300,000 people were going to die. And that was three weeks ago -- and they didn't get access.

Though the Bush administration claims that the crisis in Darfur is a "matter of highest priority" for the United States, they have been unable to get the UN to take a strong and vocal stand on the issue. Everyone seems to be operating under the assumption that someone else ought to take the lead.

The US and everyone else points the finger at the UN and the UN points the finger right back at them.

As it stands now, hundreds of million of dollars have been allocated for relief efforts, but the supplies are not reaching those in need as the government of Sudan has failed to control the Arab militias and continues to throw up procedural roadblocks in order to prevent access.

For months, the international community has been hoping that it could pressure Khartoum into stopping its genocidal campaign and for months they have resisted. All the while, the situation grows more and more dire. The lives of hundreds of thousands are at risk and every day the rainy season grows nearer. And once the rains begin, even if the humanitarian organizations do manage to get access, tens of thousands will be beyond their reach.

It is widely accepted that Darfur is the world's worst humanitarian crisis. It didn't get that way over night.

Physicians for Human Rights has warned that "a genocidal process is unfolding in Darfur." The United States Holocaust Memorial's Committee on Conscience has issued a "genocide warning." The U.S. war-crimes ambassador, Pierre-Richard Prosper, has testified that "indicators of genocide" exist in Darfur.

How many "indicators of genocide" do there need to be before the genocide is officially recognized and the international community fulfills its legal responsibilities?

Let it not be said that, for want of the courage to utter this one word, hundreds of thousands died in vain.

Kids These Days: A new survey came out that says high-school students want harder work to do and to be challenged more by their teachers.

Apparently 9 out of 10 kids surveyed would work harder if they were expected to, and more than two-thirds don't think that their high schools set high enough standards. Oh, and they seem to like the high-stakes graduation tests.

I don't know what to make of this. I was in high school 10 years ago, and none of my friends complained that we didn't have enough to do. Maybe that's indicative of the crowd I was hanging around -- or maybe my friends just didn't want me to know.

Well, kids, good for you. Just be careful what you ask for.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sign of the Times: Sometimes irony can be a good thing. News of the Weird reports that the Virginia Employment Agency, which handles unemployment compensation, had to layoff 400 of its workers, due to the growing economy and the drop in residents who are out of work. Hopefully that means there are plenty of jobs out there for them to choose from.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Another Tragedy: As you probably heard, Sudanese vice-president John Garang died in a helicopter crash last weekend. As a former rebel leader, his task was to help bring peace in the 20-year civil war. His death adds yet another impediment to that end.

The Coalition for Darfur has highlighted some articles on this topic. One highlights the further violence that followed Garang's death. Another analyzes the effects of Garang's death in the long run. And a third one brings attention to a report on Sudan that was overshadowed by the other news. They are all worthy reads.

It's a War After All: You know, flip flops are more tolerable when you eventually flop in the right direction. But it still doesn't do much for overall confidence.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Give Me a Break: Summertime is the time for relaxation, vacations, and reruns. So I will relax while ranting about something I posted about last year. Every year we go through this. Critics get all worked up about Bush spending so much time away from the White House. I wish I didn't have to blog about this anymore, but it keeps getting brought up.

You see, the entire city of Washington, DC, gets essentially deserted for the month of August (which is very nice, by the way). The Senate is in recess. The House of Representatives is in recess. And the Supreme Court goes into suspended animation. Nobody comes back until September.

Even on The Daily Show last night, Jon Stewart made some comment to Sen. Biden about how it's important that members of Congress get a break in August so they can rest and mingle with their constituents. Then Sen. Biden later joked that he wants to run for president because of the vacation perks. It's amazing how hatred is truly blinding.

Critics famously blame Bush's vacation for the 9/11 attacks, even though Bush continues to get security and intelligence briefings every day, no matter where he is.

To Bush and his advisers, that criticism fundamentally misunderstands his Texas sojourns. Those who think he does not remain in command, aides say, do not understand the modern presidency or Bush's own work habits. At the ranch, White House officials say, Bush continues to receive daily national security briefings, sign documents, hold teleconferences with aides and military commanders, and even meet with foreign leaders. And from the president's point of view, the long Texas stints are the best way to clear his mind and reconnect with everyday America.


"Spending time outside of Washington always gives the president a fresh perspective of what's on the minds of the American people," White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Friday. "It's a time, really, for him to shed the coat and tie and meet with folks out in the heartland and hear what's on their minds."
I encourage the rest of the blogosphere to please take a vacation for awhile. I know I'm ready for one.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Re: Racial Profiling

"We should not waste time searching old white ladies," said British Transport Police Chief Constable Ian Johnston.

All right, while it's okay to take race into consideration when searching subway passengers, let's not forget common sense. You don't announce that you're going to let some people go. For one thing, that breeds resentment among the races. And most importantly, you've just told Al Qaeda who to recruit for their next attack.

Copyright © Staunch Moderate
Using Caribou Theme | Bloggerized by Themescook