Saturday, April 13, 2002
"Every English person I know would rather have a live rat sewn into his or her belly than do this."
"This" is, of course, display public affection (in the form of a "group hug" at the start of each work day). I'd go along with that. However, I find it especially worrying that the company involved is from my home town.
"At Farrelly Facilities, in Sutton Coldfield, they insist that hugging has helped workers to make the right decisions."
I take it that filing of suits for sexual harrassment or letters of resignation is at an all-time high around there...
(via Meg McArdle).
(incidental comparison: here are my first few posts (my, they're poor). These are Instantman's opening salvos, and very good they were too. They look very familiar though: was I really reading him from day one (presumably due to Slate), or has blogspot eaten his very earliest posts?
The merchandise is good quality and very cheap. My only tip would be to order a size larger than you want, as they're not huge shirts. I think delivery's still free inside the UK. For overseas orders, mail him and make arrangements. And remember: two shirts are almost as cheap as one (£15 vs £10). Far cheaper, and more evocative, than a licensed shirt.
Thursday, April 11, 2002
His original target says:
"The crux of this bias is that Reynolds and Sullivan (who, I admit, I'm unfairly using to represent the warbloggers as a whole) do not discuss the hard issues of 9/11 and the Israeli/Arab conflict. Certain moral decisions and attitudes are foregone conclusions. They do not talk about whether the US should be involved in the Middle East, or whether they should of invaded Afghanistan, or why the attacks took place, but how the US should be involved and when. This is a critical distinction - they are not looking at the WHYs, but at the HOWs, WHATs and WHENs. This is not critical analysis, but mere rhetoric supportive of already biased views."
But this is just plain wrong. Warbloggers haven't agonised over the issue, but if he goes back and examines the early responses to, e.g., the Susan Sontag-style articles from September and October, it's pretty obvious that there's a moral case for war that's articulated by, e.g. Instantman or Welch or others. Heck, I'm pretty sure that I've made it somewhere.
It's just false to say that the well-known war-bloggers haven't made any consideration of whether the war is right or wrong. But if an argument's simple, short, and has no sensible objections outside some versions of Buddhism or Jainism, why would you carry on talking about it when there are the practical consequences of that conclusion to consider? I've got a Masters in Philosophy and I can understand that.
Just in case anyone missed any of the expositions, here's a brief list of a few of the arguments that you can fill out yourself:
1) the US has a right to act to protect itself from further attack
2) (a post hoc argument) the US has an obligation to act to allieviate the suffering of the people of Afghanistan
3) the US has an obligation to act to protect itself and others from Islamofascism (that IS a different argument to "1").
4) that if the US really did create the Taliban they have a responsibility to get rid of them
5) to prevent the descent of the Arab world into a quagmire of poverty, ignorance and despair (it's worrying there's further parts of it could go)
6) to prevent a perverse "moral hazard", whereby if atrocity went unpunished or rewarded, there would be incentive to commit atrocities
7) to capture criminals and hold them responsible for their actions (though that's been less important than preventative action)
8) to punish the guilty (though that argument is reasonably irrelevant to why the US needed to go to war, it is an argument in favour)
And ninethly) to remove the necessary condition for the triumph of evil (keep up with your reading)
Of course, some counters to obvious objections might be required:
A) there's a clear distinction between incidental, accidental, deaths of civilians and their deliberate massacre: one is an inevitable consquence of a just war, though something that must be minimised, the other is, um, a deliberate massacre
B) the opinion of others, or the existence of other injustices in the world is no reason not to start with the problem that most inconveniences you: indeed, the relief of the difficulty might make you more ready to deal with other problems
C) it's not America's fault, unless the people involved were I) made to do it by America or ii) constitutionally incapable of moral judgement or action.
D) if acting causes other fanatics to spring up, they'll be next in the firing line: when the mafia replaces a jailed Tony Soprano, that's not a reason not to have locked him up. The effect on the TV schedules is.
E) the Israelis didn't do it
F) yes, it did happen
G) no, this isn't about blindly striking out for vengeance: if it was, then the US could have just launched a few missiles at a random part of the Middle East.
At which point I'll digress. The word "vengeance" gets a lot of play at the moment to describe the motive behind US and Israeli actions. Sure, it's probably in there in the mix, more so in Israel. However, the ostensible purpose of their actions is to prevent more attacks upon themselves. If they'd waxed wroth and merely decided to lay vengeance down upon those who oppose them then Israel wouldn't have to be involved in street combat in the West Bank: they'd just bomb the hell out of the place. The US wouldn't need much of a ground presence in Afghanistan: they could have just hit everything that moved (especially after impacts) until the dust got too thick.
At least, that's the version of vengeance that comes to mind when you think of what it would be wrong to do. Sure, critics could be thinking of a version where you do your best to avoid hurting innocent individuals (Israel may not be doing their best, but they're not doing their worst) while you find perpetrators of attacks on you, seeking to punish them and to prevent they and others from engaging in other attacks. But that strikes me as prudence, not vengeance.
Those aren't the best developed arguments I've ever come out with, and they rather presume a familiarity with the ground that they cover. Some of them aren't even very good (though they're better than the arguments against). But it does show that the "why" was dealt with (pretty much by September 12th in the US). If the anti-war party wants us to bring out the arguments in full, they'd better stop complaining that "war-bloggers" never made the arguments, and start providing better opposition (a point made way back in January, for cripes sake...).
"Russia, which built a missile defense system around Moscow in the 1960s that survives to this day, relied from the start on nuclear-armed interceptors. Although U.S. defense experts regard the Russian system as anachronistic, Russian military officials worry that the United States will eventually adopt the nuclear approach, according to Pavel Podvig, editor of an authoritative book about Russian strategic nuclear forces published last year by the Center for Arms Control Studies in Moscow."
"I understand that we declared a war on terrorism rather than on Islam, Afghanistan, or the "Arab world" for a reason. It made sense at the time and obviously makes sense even now, when looked at from a certain geopolitical vantage point.
But is it true? If the IRA started getting restless and blew up some more British pubs, would we send troops to Ireland? Would we stomp on "charities" here in the United States which provided aid and comfort to Irish radicals? I don't know, maybe we would, but you can see how murky things might get. "
I could understand America not sending troops to Ireland. I prefer they didn't, unless it was a way to insert some protection along the Eire side of the border and actually stop attacks. However, YOU SHOULD BE STOMPING ON THE CHARITIES NOW. You should have been doing it FIVE, TEN, FIFTEEN or TWENTY years ago (I'll let you have up until about when I could talk). This isn't a quid pro quo for our help in the war: it's just the right thing to do (kinda like our help in the war). That there are organisations collecting for the "Real IRA" is, frankly, an obscenity, and the outrage over the selection of a former IRA member to lead a St Patrick's Day parade in New York State is only a step in the right direction.
The British government's giving up a lot of moral high ground in its abandonment of the principle of disarmament and commitment to non-violence (including a renunciation of "non-political" violence) before participation in politics. We can't ask for the terrorists given sanctuary in the states back to prosecute. However, you could prosecute those collecting for active terrorist organisations, denounce them in public, make the links to other terror groups around the world, and generally point out that kids in Britain miss their murdered parents just as much as those in America. The Real IRA is still active, it's killed people, and there's nothing murky about cutting off its supply of greenbacks.
LS are mildly sarcastic about this, presumably because they are against the ridiculously restrictive laws that prevent two people striking mutually beneficial agreements, and against the unemployment that labour-market restrictions produce. Aren't we all (or, rather, aren't an awful lot of us out here on the web, certain kids-down-mine-shafts, 90-hour-week minima excepted)?
However, there does seem to be an undercurrent of the notion that leisure itself is bad. I think this is wrong. Leisure is as productive a use of your time as any other. The value of money is that it enables you to acquire what you want, and you acquire the money by working. The things that you buy with the money you buy because you want them (because they bring you pleasure) or because you need them (because of the evil advertising industry/the way of the world). So the value that you place on the items is effectively priced in terms of the amount of your time you are willing to give up to obtain the pleasure (or other utility) they bring.
Holidays and days off are perfectly sensible ways to spend time to buy pleasure. Indeed, they're much more fun that days in the office (in general). Once you've worked long enough to get what you need, the rest of your time is yours to spend getting what you want. And if what you want is Friday afternoon down the pub, then if that's not contrary to the contracts you've entered into, why not do that rather than work the hours for an opera ticket?
The French are perhaps over-fond of leisure (or, rather, of making other people pay for theirs and take some whether they want to or not). But it's a good in and of itself, whose value is up to each individual to determine.
[Full disclosure: I haven't booked any holiday for this year yet, and run a risk of not being able to take any if my time is booked out. Possibly not until next March. My views on compulsory leisure may change.]
Wednesday, April 10, 2002
"From "Glory Fades Away - the Nineteenth Century World Series Rediscovered" by Jerry Lansche
in the Afterword chapter:
[A summary of Mr. Lansche's arguments to credit these series as much as the current WS games]
The 19th century matchups between the American Association and the National League champions were arranged unofficially by the teams during the season, but so was the 1903 Series between the AL and NL champs. The National League president even ruled in 1904 that there was no official sanction to the '03 series, which allowed the Giants to refuse to play the AL champs that year, the Boston Pilgrims (Red Sox). Only in 1905 did the leagues agree to play a series officially before the end of the year. So either the 1903 series is rejected, or the 19th century games should be accepted. The AA is accepted as a major league just as the AL is.
Quote from page 311:
"Finally, Macmillan's claim that the 1903 games were the first to be called the World Series is nothing but semantics. The New York Clipper called the 1884 Series the "United States Championship", The Sporting News called the Providence Greys the "champions of the world" and referred to the Series itself as "the world's championship"; the Boston Journal, another impartial observer, called the series the "championship of the country". The New York Clipper referred to the 1885 St. Louis Browns as the "world's champions" and Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide 1886 called the series "the United States championship". The Reach Baseball Guide called the 1886 games "The Great World's Series" the first such use of the modern phrase I was able to locate in an objective source.... By 1887, there wasn't a newspaper in the country that didn't use the phrase "world's championship", and by 1886, The Sporting News was, for the first time, referring to the games as "The World's Series".
[Bold] emphasis mine in the above block. So except for a possible mention in a non-objective source, the term was set in the winter of 1886, to refer to the 1885 series, and was in common currency in a year or so.
By the way, the book is a great one, showing both how the game is both very different and very much the same as it is today. Nasty owners, big stars, free agents, strikes are all familiar. Forming a new league so you can sell beer at a baseball game and play on Sunday is less so, but thats how the AA got started."
Thanks for the info Chris (and no doubt for a pile of hits next baseball season....). Always nice to hear from readers.
"Defenses Against Libel
Truth: The granddaddy of escape clauses is truth. If what you say is provably true, then the plaintiff supposedly has no case. But even this can get messy. Is the truth something still being debated? (That is, was your ex actually convicted of DUI, or is the matter still pending?) And, is the truth actually information that should have remained private? (For example, your friend's confessed addiction to internet porn.) Finally, there's malice. You might state the truth and nothing else, but if the context makes it clear you're doing so to hurt that person... Bzzt. Just knowing you're right may not be enough.
Fair Comment: If you state a fact, and then comment on it, some would say you're protected. For example, you can note that your cousin is a member of the National Rifle Association, and then go on to say that you therefore think he's an idiot. However, there's a good chance your criticism will stray pretty far from the fact in question... and thus you're more likely to fail the malice test.
Privilege: If you're repeating something said in open court, or on the floor of Congress, you're safe. This one's fairly rock-solid, but sadly, it's also one you probably won't ever get to grapple with.
Public Figures: If the person you're writing about is a public figure, he or she is often fair game. Politicians, celebrities, leaders, public advocates or activists... you can call them every name in the book. Of course, these people also usually know this, and aren't likely to sue anyone for libel. When it comes to journals, you're almost always dealing with private citizens — everyday folk unfairly and publicly attacked. It bears noting, though, that even public figures can win libel suits sometimes. Look up Carol Burnett some time.
And one interesting twist has developed here, when it comes to the Internet. Some legal experts argue that people who publish on the web, or even post on bulletin boards or participate in chat rooms, are "public figures." The good news is that if you attack another journaler, you just might stand a chance with a net-savvy attorney. The bad news is... well, by this standard you're a public figure too. "
Cyberlibel is apparently a guide to the on-line position, but as with any area of evolving jurisprudence it's a bit of a mess. It does, however, provide a legal perspective.
* I'm reading a lot of PJ at the moment. If you're ever heading to Islington after about 5pm on a weekday, turn left out of the Angel tube station and there's a guy with a stall selling wonderful second-hand books (kinda opposite the Angel pub). There's a less flash stall over the road and right as well, but I rarely go there. Check it out.
** I'm being a bit naughty and using the "IMG SRC" tag straight to their site. To salve my conscience, here's where you can donate money to the site owner's cause. I have no idea of its merits, however.
Tuesday, April 09, 2002
However, it's pretty plain that the death of Andersen will reduce competition (in some countries more than others: where Andersen are market leaders, the firm they join with will often be far larger than local "Big Four" competition).
It's also clear that a lot of the staff at Andersen had nothing to do with any of this, and are in a pretty bad situation. On the other hand, there's not enough "slack" (at least where I work, unless no-one does anything when people I know aren't around) to take on Andersen's clients among the other firms without hiring some of their former staff.
This is particularly true because a) first year audits take longer in terms of planning for the job, figuring out who to talk to, etc and b) are more rigorous than subsequent audits, because you don't really know how good the numbers are and c) you have to do work on the prior year figures to check the base points for changes during the year (e.g. in future years you don't always have to check the deeds for a company's buildings, because your firm's seen them and so knows the price on the books is right). So there's more work to be done than just having 15-25% more clients would suggest. And a lot of it has to be done within a short period after the year end on the (high risk) listed clients who have filing deadlines.
So: no real idea about what should be done. But Andersen dying would reduce competition. On the other hand, don't worry too much about the (non-partner) staff of Andersens: the good ones, at least, will find something (as will good partners). The only ones at real risk are people at the very bottom, who are not part qualified (and they probably will be before everything goes wrong: it takes about a year from joining) or who are admin staff. They'll hopefully be OK as long as the economy holds up. With those quasi-opinions in mind, go read it.
Monday, April 08, 2002
Iraq's oil "boycott": let's assume it's real and it sticks. 2 million barrels of oil a day at twenty-eight dollars a barrel is $56m per day is $1.68bn per month. That's gross revenue, before deductions for repayments to Kuwait and the costs of extraction. Let's say that Iraq only get's $10 a barrel to spend on its people: that's $20m a day, or $600m a month. Heck, $5 a barrel is $300m a month.
"The population of Iraq
(1997 estimate) is 22,219,289". Hence we're looking at a number somewhere between circa 50 cents and circa $4 per capita per diem.
I'm not wading through this all, but this 1993 report on sanctions on Iraq says "Reflecting a recovery in domestic food output in 1993, the country's needs for food are forecast to decline in 1993/94. Nonetheless, the Mission estimates that Iraq will need to import 5.4 million tons of basic food stuffs in 1993/94 (July/June) to feed its population, currently estimated at 19.5 million, at an estimated cost of U.S.$ 2.5 billion."
$2.5bn US Dollars is circa $210m dollars per month. I.e. even on a pessimistic set of assumptions about the revenue that Iraq receives from oil, Saddam has just cut off a flow of revenues sufficient to feed his people (at least the bare minimum of) what they require to live.
Ladies and gentlemen, the population of Iraq has just been taken hostage. I don't see that this improves the likelihood of an outcome Saddam would like in Iraq or Palestine.
Addendum: as I write, there are stories about Israel beginning a withdrawal. They may or may not be true, and they may or may not be based on the success or otherwise of their plans in the briefly reoccupied territories. However, it's concerning that the timing may give the impression that the oil weapon works and/or that Israel and the West are soft and will fold under pressure or threats. If that's what's happened, or that's what's believed to have happened, it could lead to some serious misunderstandings down the line.
Sunday, April 07, 2002
It's part of blogdex, and it shows who your site is linked to and from, and who "friends" of the site are (presumably on the basis of back and forth linking). It looks sinister, but I'm going to poke around with it a little. It's not clear how it makes its calls, but Instantman (for example) makes interesting reading. And it also "reccommends" other sites (on some (random?) basis. Ben's got a new toy...
What really got my goat, however, was this business story. What it has to say about company's statements about their pension positions wasn't crazy. However, there's an elephant in the room that doesn't get a mention: not once does the story even mention the tax changes introduced by Labour that have had an approximately £5bn a year effect on pension funding. Did the author's lap-top get trampled, or is the paper incapable of breaking the Labour Left party line?
"Usama Bin Laden! Abu Zubaydah!
Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser!
I bet that you wish you'd stayed hidden in Lahore,
'cause now you're guests of the US Marine Corp."
Hasten the day...