Sunday, August 31, 2008

Italy's support of Ghaddafi

Italy just signed a deal with Europe's favorite tyrant, Moamer Ghaddafi, to give Libya $5 billion as "reparations for Italy's colonial rule of the country in the early 20th century". I am not a policy expert, but I cannot see how supporting this horrible regime makes up for past colonialist "misconduct." The real motive for this pact may be Libya's pledge to "increase patrols of its coastline to prevent boatloads of African immigrants from traveling to Sicily". In any case, I do not see why this should be couched in terms of doing justice or making reparations. Two wrongs do not make a right and it is hard to imagine that Italy's occupation of Libya could have been worse than Ghaddafi's current misguided tyranny.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quick thought about Palin

Strange choice. One great thing about the pick, though. Biden, will have to sheath his sharp tongue during the debates in order not to appear disdainful.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Curve is Inverting!

It is still before the convention so I am not too worried. But I am worried. W/e, Kennedy-Nixon was tight too.

With OH swinging for McCain I am forced to rethink my dread of and antipathy towards Clinton as a running mate. She has been pretty quiet since her campaign has ended, maybe she can be trusted. Just don't let her bring any of her old campaign staff back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blog Maintenance

I deleted some blogs off the blogroll. No offense intended, if a blog has not been updated for more than 12 months I tend to take it off. If you restart blogging please tell me and I will replace the link.

I also added another political blog that I have become obsessed with in recent weeks (thanks to Shim S.B. for the heads up). 538 is a capital blog with a wealth of data about the upcoming elections (Silver, who runs the blog, is also as UofC guy featured here). When anyone asks me who is going to win in November I just start reciting from the blog and people think I am smart, or something.

Olympic Fashion

Apparently there is controversy about the American casual attire for the Olympics (though, if I am linking to Gawker, I must not be looking very hard). As I have a large preppy streak in my wardrobe my opinion might not count, but I do like the look. I think the issue of logo size is overblown as the large logo has been in for a few seasons now and its not like the Adidas or Nike logos are inconspicuous on the athletic gear. The look is classic American, so it scores 'authenticity' points and what exactly are the alternatives? You can't go with wool and polyester looks cheap (eg the poor Aussies) so cotton it is (I guess linen is also an option, but that is just more prep for you). The rep ties might be a little over the top, but it's nothing compared with the opulence of many other countries (eg India).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Where's your reaction Yehuda?

With all this news about Russia invading Georgia I would think Yehuda would have some interesting perspectives, being a native of that great state. Why no reaction?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

But it Gets Better

So I come back from shul motza'sh and see that that US Men's Sabre is in the Semifinals. Huge! The women are considered better than the men by a lot. While the women's sabrists took gold, silver and bronze in the individual matches, mens sabre did not pick up any medals and only had one fencer in the top 10. Tonight they topped Hungary 45-44 and then dispatched Russia in similar fashion. The US was up against Russia by 6 after 3 bouts, 15-9, but Russia came back and handed Rogers and Smart's butts-on-a-plate. Russia was up 35-28 after 7. When Keith Smart came up for the last bout the U.S. was down by 5. That means that Smart needed to get 10 touches while only allowing 4 opposing. It started rather badly for Smart getting to a score of 37-42. Then Smart turned something on and brought the score to 43-44 when Russia took the final touch. Except that Smart has seemed to call halt right before the touch was scored (he was on the attack at the time). I don't really understand the call, but the ref took the touch back. Smart took two more to win the bout 45-44!

America is doing really well in fencing which will hopefully translate well for the sport. Women's sabre took individual gold, silver and bronze an a team bronze. The women's foil team took silver, which is a massive accomplishment as foil and epee are generally considered "European" strengths. Men's sabre has already undertaken two large upsets. A gold medal would be a great capstone.

Congrats on the silver medal finish!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What A Billion People Can Do

Obviously a billion people can do a lot. Build really small cars, manufacture cereal box toys and party favors and give the world some really yummy inexpensive food. One thing that a billion people apparently cannot do is win in the Olympics. No, not China (which is having an old fashion Gold Rush revival in the shooting and weightlifting events), India has a lone gold medal in shooting. The US currently has 1.3*10-7 medals for every American (a bit lower if you include those in our de facto 'guest worker program') China provides 2.7*10-8 medals per denizen but poor India can only give its people 10-10 medals. What's up with that?

Fencing at its Best

I managed to get up for the final two matches of the gold medal bout of Ukraine v. China in women's sabre. China was up at one point by 10 and when I tuned in UKR had lost the previous round 5-0 and were trailing 27-35, which is like being back a full length in swimming. UKR came back with some aggressive fencing coupled with CHN overreach (attack no, counter attack). It was finally 44-44 both advanced an attacked and it looked like CHN might have edged out. The director did make a call initially and after a gut wrenching minute or so of consulting video the director admitted "Abstention!" which has got to be really tough to admit you can't call it in front of a very tense home crowd. UKR then went on the defensive and won on an attack no, counter attack. What a finish!

My complaint about the officiating is that there appears to be a proclivity to use instant replay. I think there is a 'simultaneous attack' for a reason, because it is too close to call. If it is not humanly possible to ascertain who had the attack it should not be scored. The replay should only be used at full speed and consulted if the director feels she really missed something. But what do I know.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

יש ויש

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Shufersal's new supermarket line, Yesh, is that it targets both Haredim and Arabs together. Despite different kashrut / halal needs, Arabs and Haredim apparently have similar shopping habits when it comes to food.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

To Drug or not to Drug?

I just don't agree. Performance enhancing drugs are so powerful that sports would turn into an R&D race. If we allow the use of designer pharmaceuticals why not prosthetics? From an ethical perspective I am not sure that athletes would avoid risky medications which offer an immediate payoff. In competitions where 0.05 seconds is significant doping would seriously skew the competitiveness of some athletes over others.

A retort might be that if we let all box car racers use NASCAR engines then things would be fair again. But then it is no longer box car racing. Along those lines I guess I would not be outraged if they had a doping Olympics and a non-doping Olympics. My sense, though, is that people are not nostalgic for the days of Sosa and McGuire and would regard the doping games much like Arena Football; as a gimmick rather than a sport.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Coining New Terms

"Raising McCain" - the latest negative campaign commercials from the McCain camp.

Remember, you saw it here first.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What a Moron

Hilton really thinks that the timetable for excavation of offshore oil will provide an effective bridge in order to transition to alternative energy sources? I knew she was a moron.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

DHS How I Hate Thee

These are only the latest reports that the DHS is allowed to treat US citizens like criminals as SOP (except that criminals have rights, at the border I don't, apparently). This year alone I have been accused of lying by a border guard and the car I was traveling in was twice asked (I was questioned only once) "when the last time I smoked marijuana." (As it is not illegal to have smoked, it is not entrapment.) I have traveled across the US border 5 times and I only recall one occasion without episode. Each time I present a valid US Passport and I have no criminal record. Why must DHS treat Americans as criminals and deprive us of our rights? At some point someone thought that rights make us safer. Apparently Chertoff does not agree.

If you think searches like these have merit you ought to show that 1) they are effective 2) they do not undermine "American values." So if searches are a good idea, why not do them at random traffic stops as you might catch more criminals that way? One might contend that the US has tight security control within its borders, but God only knows what is going on in Cambodia. A blanket DHS rule like this also targets me driving from the US to Canada too (and there is a lot of human traffic along this border). Is Canada particularly lax and does that warrant relieving citizens of their rights at this particular location? I think there is a difference, and it should be made explicit, but based upon my experience at the border it does not appear to me that DHS has told their agents to conduct themselves as if there is one.

A further normative concern might ask why crossing a border relinquishes one of their rights? I would contend (though I am certain there is legal precedent to which I am not aware) that once I present a US border officer with my passport I have demonstrated my citizenship and am thus entitled to my rights as an American. How does being at that particular location compromise me?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Taboo against homosexuality

Given the special status of rape in our criminal code, I wonder if at some point way back when the taboo against homosexuality emerged as a social mechanism to deter men from raping other men. If a man raped another man it would not be considered an act of dominance, but rather of femininity/weakness, e ipso branding the criminal a "homosexual" (or any one of a slew of pejoratives). Then, at least, half the society would be protected against the crime.

Since we often look for clear demarcations for our ethical codes, in a culture with rigid gender identities it would be easy to say that sex with a man is categorically different than sex with a woman and thus always taboo.

Hamas and Hospital Care

It is interesting to me that the Physicians for Human Rights (as they call themselves) says that the "Shin Bet Decides who Will Die in Gaza", apparently with reference to the fact that the Shin Bet screens patients who want to go from Gaza into Israel for medical treatment. What is interesting to me is that these supposed advocates of Human Rights do not consider that the Hamas decides who will die in Gaza. Indeed, had Hamas been investing as much of its money in hospitals and medical care in Gaza as it has in suicide belts, rockets, and bomb-ferrying tunnels, the medical situation in Gaza would be much better.
How can Hamas have any kind of accountability to its people if medical care, food provision, and schooling are all considered the responsibility of the UN and Israel?