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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Global Warming Explained

Okay, not really. But Power Line posts some quotes from a real live scientist concerning a few things we know and/or don't know about global "warming" or "climate change" or whatever it is we are calling it this week.

I'd been wondering why I never see these sorts of step-by-step discussions of how global "warming" supposedly happens, and what still needs to be proved before we can know it really is happening. Maybe the reason we don't see many of these explanations is that they make it clear no one really knows what significant effect - if any - man truly has on the overall temperature of the planet's atmosphere.

Pakistani Emergency - Who's on First?

My humble and completely speculative comments on Musharraf and Bhutto, and the current hate and discontent in Pakistan.

Original post to which I commented is at Captain's Quarters, one of my favorite blogs, and can be found here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lovers' Lane in Hyderabad

My flat is on Hi-Tek City Road, near Gachibowli. A couple kilometers away are Hyderabad's Botanical Gardens. It costs Rs 15 (about 39 cents) to enter. I'm not really a botany kind of guy. I went in once because I hoped I could use it as a place to walk for exercise. It isn't that big. Also, it's quite the local lovers' lane. It seemed like every tree, every bush, had a couple laying underneath it, doing what couples often do when they're laying under trees and bushes. It wasn't x-rated, at least what I saw, but it was what any teenager of my generation would have labelled 'necking'. I didn't want to irritate people that wanted some privacy.

Yesterday my walk took me past the entrance of the gardens and I noticed something I hadn't before: many - maybe most? - of the couples walking in, or walking out, or riding to or from the gardens on motorcycles were Muslim couples. The women were in black burkas. (Not all Muslim women in Hyderabad wear them but many do.)

So I wonder: are the Botanical Gardens, like, the place where young Muslim couples go to, well, you know? Hey, I'm just asking the question. I had an anonymous comment on an earlier post concerning Indian dowries, and I wonder if this will elicit some response.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

History of the Peloponnesian Wars

I finished Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian Wars within the last month. I started it a couple times over the years and if it weren’t for really long flights and airport waits between Newark, NJ, and Hyderabad, India, I probably never would have got it done.

1. Am I the only guy that didn’t know the history ends at the twenty-first year of that thirty-year war? It was embarrassing. For a minute I wondered if there was a second volume I forgot to bring with me.

2. It sure is easier to take over an enemy if you can get some of the enemy’s own citizens to help. The number of cities that fell through the treachery of cabals and factions during that long-ago war (and since then, too, I’m sure) was truly eye-opening.

3. The Lacedaemonians don’t really come off that badly in the history. I’ve heard all about the capricious Helot murdering, etc., and Thucydides, an Athenian after all, occasionally remembers to mention some sort of depravity of the Spartan society but the fact is the Lacedaemonians came across as sensible men that had a cold-eyed view of how easily wars could go wrong, and how dangerous it was to go to war. They seemed to be mostly very careful in their decisions and limited in their aims.

4. That Alcibiades. What an A-hole.

Indians and the Invasion of Iraq

I heard a couple of views expressed by Indian friends last night concerning our invasion of Iraq:

1. The United States did ourselves considerable harm allowing Saddam's execution to turn into the banana republic revenge-fest it became. It never occurred to me to watch a video of Saddam's end but apparently a lot of people around the world, including my friends in India, did watch it. The complaint, if I understand the one expressed last night, is that while it may have been necessary to hang the man, civilization demands this sort of thing be conducted - at least when carried out by the U.S. - with dignity. And yes, I know that officially Saddam was hanged by the government of Iraq. But the world justifiably attaches it to the United States.

2. Indians in general opposed our invasion because they liked Saddam. From their point of view, Saddam never did anything to them, and he gave India a break on oil prices.

I am sympathetic to the first point. Heck, I'm in total agreement. On the second point, my feeling is that's just too bad for India they have to pay full market price for oil. But it never occurred to me that someone as brutal and odious as Saddam Hussein would be considered an ally by the most populous democracy on earth.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Liberty, not Democracy

Today's Opinion Journal carries an article about Natan Sharansky.

Sharansky is one very vocal proponent of "democratization" of the Middle East, an idea that currently seems much out of fashion. He makes an interesting comment (and a true one, as far as it goes) when he says ""Democracy is a rather problematic word, because democracy is about technique. I would prefer freedom. I would say people don't want to live under constant fear."

Just so. The American Founders were never particularly interested in "democracy", they wanted liberty and they feared democracy had a pretty good historical record for, among other things, immediately preceding dictatorships and tyrannies. Their ambivalence and, in some cases, outright hostility to democracy is well known and is sometimes used as one of the cudgels with which to beat their memory.

But Sharansky is right, though he does not go far enough, and the Founders were right. A gang-rape, after all, is very democratic. Democracy is not the highest political good, and, if not treated carefully, can in fact destroy higher political goods, such as liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

My Bible Reading

A couple weeks ago I finished reading The Bible. It's taken a long time. I didn't read it straight through, cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation. I had long ago read Job. I read Leviticus as part of a Sunday School class. I tried to read one Psalm per day, in addition to other readings, and mostly alternated between New Testament and Old. I'd finish an NT book, then read the next OT book, and so on. I also didn't read the Proverbs all in a row. I enjoyed reading one chapter on occasion and then reading the next at some later date. I used a 3 by 5 card as one of my bookmarks and listed which OT book and which NT book was next in my queue, along with which Psalm was next on the list and which chapter of Proverbs.

When you do it that way you end up with all the minor prophets of the OT left over and you have to read those all straight through if you want to finish completely before you re-start the New Testament. The 3 x 5 card is almost completely filled in.

So now I've started over. I finished Genesis again, am at about 15 Psalm, and have re-read the first three chapters of the Gospel of Matthew.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Taj GMs Come to the Deccan

At least once a week I meet my friend Anand at the bar at the "five star" Taj Deccan Hotel. Last night we were there with Prasad, another acquaintance. A large group came into the small and usually empty bar. The group was male except for two women. It turned out the men were general managers of different Taj hotels and the younger of the two women, who was very attractive, was a corporate trainer. Apparently they had some seminar happening at the Deccan.

The Filipino duet, Jimbo and Sheila, performed like their jobs were on the line (or maybe they were trying to land a gig at the Taj in Calcutta or some other more exciting location than Hyderabad). The bartender, an assistant manager, and several waiters were a sweating big time serving these 20 guys, and many of the GM's were definitely playing the nizzams and nabobs roles.

A couple observations:

1. Why did these hotel GM's suck up all the service at the Deccan's public bar rather than get a private banquet room? They seemed pretty insensitive to the needs of the hotel guests and other customers. Since they were GM's for this same hotel chain, this kind of surprised me. Anand and Prasad were not surprised. They're used to that sort of behavior from senior Indian managers. It a kind of 'hey, I'm important, and I even want to make sure my customers know it' attitude.

2. My daughter is 18 years old and tends bar at the local volunteer fire company in Pennsylvania. I think she could have handled this crowd with one waiter, tops, and not broken much of a sweat. Prasad and Anand had both spent lots of time in the States and we all agreed the Deccan bar staff wouldn't last an hour at any bar in Daytona during Spring Break.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stranger in a Strange Land

My buddy Subir loaned me his turban at our 4th of July party in 2007. I'm amazed it stayed together when we took it off him and put it on me (and later put it back on him).

Pretty cool, don't you think?


Dowries in Hyderabad

So I’m hanging out with my buddy Raman in the Sheraton Kakatiya in Hyderabad, drinking overpriced Kingfisher beer, and he tells me how much it's worth for an Indian male to work in America...

“If the man is working in America he gets two crores rupees ($500,000), and if he did work in America but has come back, he gets one crore rupees ($250,000)."

I asked: What’s a guy worth that’s never been to America?

“A couple lakhs ($5,000).”

I asked: So what’s a non-Indian American get for marrying an Indian girl?

“Nothing. You guys aren’t in the system.”

Interesting place, India.

Enter AIDS – the Perfect Storm

Drudge links to a Reuters article on a study that claims the AIDS virus first entered the United States in about 1969 through an infected Haitian immigrant. I read the article but didn’t try to look up the study.

Let’s assume both the article and study are accurate. This would mean that AIDS hung out in the United States, spreading slowly for about a decade until it virtually exploded onto the national consciousness in the early 1980’s. In 1969 I was 11 years old, and by 1976, when I was 18, I had a number of friends that were at least partially open about their homosexuality. I didn’t frequent the gay scene but I was aware of it, and had been to gay bars and parties attended mostly by homosexuals. I thought myself quite enlightened, urbane, and sophisticated about my gay friends, and certainly would never be so provincial as to judge their behavior in terms of morality or even common sense.

(From the mid-1970’s through the late 1980’s, a significant percentage of my friends were gay. In 1990 my wife and I moved from the Ghent section of Norfolk, VA, to Anaheim Hills in Orange County, CA. We did not plan to withdraw from our gay friends. We simply moved to a neighborhood and life-style that just didn’t tend to include open homosexuals so I mostly lost touch with the community.)

What I witnessed, beginning in the mid-1970’s, was an increasing openness in the gay community, and an increasing general acceptance (or at least decrease in open censure) of that community. This increasing acceptance was undeniably accompanied by, simply put, increased promiscuity among gay men.

So AIDS, a disease that is very difficult to spread through casual contact, but easily spread by, well, sodomy, enters the society at exactly the same time that sodomy – and promiscuous sodomy at that - goes from being completely socially unacceptable, to being acceptable, and finally, to being vigorously and publicly defended, and, I would argue, even somewhat glorified.

The perfect storm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I read Beowulf recently. I bought a used copy at my local (U.S.) library's used-book room. I'm at the office now so I don't recall the publisher or even the translator's name but I'm pretty sure the translation was done in the early twentieth century. I haven't really read anything about Beowulf, other than it is the oldest known epic written in a vernacular (as in, it isn't written in Latin) European language.

I thought I would put down a few comments before I go and find out what the various experts have to say about the poem. I read the poem over a week ago so these are not initial impressions, but rather impressions that remain after reading a book casually and then thinking about it a short time later.

1. It's interesting what the author is ignorant about, and what he seems to know things about. Or maybe I should say, it's interesting what the author would expect his audience to know and what he does not expect them to know.

A. For instance, Beowulf goes more than once into the water to fight monsters, and at one point swims a great distance because no ship is available. He does this in full armor, and sometimes holding a sword, and sometimes actually killing sea monsters with the sword while swimming. No mention is made of having to hold his breath, even when he fights those monsters underwater. I infer from this the author (and/or intended audience) are quite unfamiliar with swimming. I understand Beowulf is a essentially a superhero but that isn't my point. His great strength is acknowledged to require at least some explanation: he is said to be stronger than thirty men. The very fact that a description (strong as thirty men) of the ability is presented indicates the author knows the audience will want to know exactly how strong this fellow is. The lack of concern about even mentioning how well he can hold his breath, or any special power he might have to allow him to stay underwater, leads me to think the epic is written to people that don't know anything about being in the water.

B. Conversely, in his fateful battle with the dragon, Beowulf's sword deflects off a bone when he strikes the dragon. This is a detail that wouldn't even occur to most audiences today - we don't fight with swords so how would we know that sometimes the blade glances off bone and doesn't go in where you want it to? But the audience of the time would certainly immediately "get it". It would be (and still, come to think of it, is) a realistic touch.

2. The character Wiglaf is introduced at the end of the story and comes from nowhere to become a very important character. Is this simply because Beowulf in his twilight years simply could not be capable of killing the dragon by himself. Sword fighting is a young man's business. I don't know anything about the conventions of 12th (or 8th, or 5th, depending on who you ask) century epic literature but is this character in the story because the audience simply would not be able to suspend disbelief enough to accept a 70-something swordsman single-handedly killing a dragon? I don't know.

There is more that occurs to me but does anybody have any thoughts on these, or any other aspects of Beowulf?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Idiot Ronin

This Op-Ed by Nobel winner Doris Lessing (hat tip:Instapundit) reminds me of thoughts I've had for years about the connection between the visceral anti-Americanism of the modern "intellectual" left, and the humiliation and fall of Soviet Communism in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

"Useful Idiot" - There is a phrase that was common during the Cold War: "useful idiot". Though the origin is debated, the phrase was commonly used as a label for leftist liberals in the West during the Cold War. These liberals seemed willing to excuse anything Communists did, however horrific, and to jump at any and every opportunity to point out, exaggerate, and even invent out of whole cloth accusations about the supposed shortcomings of Western societies and governments. The "idiocy" being referred to was based on the fact these people were perhaps unknowingly helping a vicious enemy attack their own society.

"Ronin" - "The Forty-Seven Ronin" is a Japanese story about 47 samurai whose lord was murdered by a rival. The 47 had been unable to protect him and they felt great shame. For a year after the murder they pretended to scatter, some seeming to become criminals, others mercenaries (ronin), others drunks and vagabonds. Then one night they mustered secretly at the castle of the murderer of their liege lord and attacked. They overpowered the castle guard and slew the man that had murdered their master. They then all committed seppuku (ritual suicide).

When I think of some of the modern Western critics of the current war I can't help but think some of the useful idiots of the Cold War must have just been biding their time, like the 47 ronin, while waiting for a chance to attack America. America is, after all, the power most directly responsible for the death of the idiots' late master, the Soviet Union. Yesterday's "useful idiots" have become today's "idiot ronin".

I kind of like the label. I wonder how I can get it to catch on?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Back from vacation

Got back into Hyderabad last night. It was after 3 AM before I got through Immigration and Customs. I'll have to write about that experience sometime. Changed the picture above. I don't like the new one at all but since I don't like the way the old one was working either I think I'm just going to leave it until I decide what to do.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I haven't linked to Ann Coulter yet?

Hard to believe.

Her weekly is out, comparing the records of Gonzales, Ashcroft, and Reno.

And then there was the bomb they found yesterday near my office...

A colleague just told me a bomb was discovered yesterday in a drainage ditch a couple hundred yards from my office building in the Ameerpet district of Hyderabad. I don't know how I was unaware of it.

One of the rumors making the rounds is that Hyderabad is being attacked because so many American companies do business here. Not that a local fast-food joint, and a park where families take their kids on a Saturday night, are likely to be target-rich environments for gringo infidel business executives. Bombers like to kill lots of people with their bombs; the rest is just rationalization.

According the that particular rumor, the "High-Tech City" area (where my apartment is located, naturally) is considered a high-risk target. Swell.

Flying home tonight

I'm flying back to Pennsylvania tonight at 3:00 AM and can't wait. Hyderabad to Amsterdam, and Amsterdam to Newark. Two weeks vacation and then a couple days in company HQ near Philadelphia, and off to meet the new boss in Dallas before coming back to India. KLM is a good airline. Having only flown domestic for so many years I wasn't used to the relative luxury, even in economy class, of flying KLM. Good food; free beer and cognac.

My friend Bernie will pick me up in Newark for the drive back to Coopersburg and if nothing goes wrong I'll have dinner with my wife tomorrow night, overlooking my swimming pool.

On the other hand I was supposed to fly back last night but the flight was cancelled. The airline never informed me and I only found out because I called the company travel department the day before to confirm everything was set.

Whatever happened to the ozone layer?

Did we fix that? I haven't heard anything about it for years. Anybody ever go back and figure out if we really knew what we were talking about when people were all upset about how aerosol cans would screw up the atmosphere?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Police Ammo - Headline vs. Actual Story

The headline in the Washington Post:

Police Feel Wartime Pinch on Ammo

The first paragraph:

"The U.S. military's soaring demand for small-arms ammunition, fueled by two wars abroad, has left domestic police agencies less able to quickly replenish their supplies, leading some to conserve rounds by cutting back on weapons training, police officials said."

Reading this you could be forgiven for thinking that U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan is leaving America's local police departments short of ammo. But if you read to the second page of the on-line article, you get to ...

...the actual story:

"What we're seeing is orders for law enforcement ammunition that have increased 40 percent in just the last year(.)"

Jeesh. So there is no decrease in supply of police ammo due to the military. Rather there is an increase in police demand, due to their understandable wish to be better prepared for shootouts. A 40% increase in demand, according to this article. Is there, like, anything some media outlets won't blame on Bush, the war in Iraq, or "global warming"?

Monday, August 27, 2007

From the Guardian, naturally:

"We've failed Rhys but we've also failed his killer."

Wherein a Ms. Madeleine Bunting excuses the actions of a stone killer. She speculates perhaps he was forced to view the prosperity of others around him, those who built something of their lives instead of following his own chosen growth path of hanging out with violent, drug-dealing criminals. This view of others' prosperity, according to Ms. Bunting, may have driven him mad. Apparently she suspects he's as left-wing as she is. The prosperity of others always drives commies to fits, so why not vicious young urban punks as well? Likely they're not Conservatives or Republicans.

She also reminds us not to blame the poor parents of the murderer. Fair enough, though exactly what leftist nutball focus group came up with the term "privatization of crime" is beyond me. I admit that just because some people ignore thousands of years of wisdom, to say nothing of common sense, and decide to have children out-of-wedlock, it's not necessarily their fault that their feral spawn find it impossible to control their rage when their eyes light upon the material wealth that is so often the reward of their neighbors' self-control.

Failed the murderer? The way we failed the murderer - if at all - is to allow him to believe, and act upon the belief, that no matter what he does there will always be the Ms. Buntings of the world to plead his vile case for him.

I am more interested in not failing the next young eleven-year-old potential murder victim. I'm afraid the best way to attempt that is to provide a rope and a gallows for the young outlaw that committed this particular deed. And it wouldn't hurt society much for us to spend some time ridiculing the clueless Ms. Bunting about her criminal-enabling advocacy.

Hyderabad Bombing - Emails you never want to have to send...

I just sent out the email below (edited to remove company identification) to our company offices worldwide:

"You’ve all no doubt heard about the terrorist bombing attack in Hyderabad on Saturday night. So far it looks like our employees and their families were not directly affected but tragically this sort of information can be subject to change as we hear from more people. We appreciate the emails and calls we’ve already received from colleagues and friends around the world and hope you continue to join us in offering our thoughts and prayers to the families of the slain victims and to the injured and their families.

"The situation in Hyderabad, while calm, is in flux and some political leaders are today calling for commercial organizations to close and city services to be shut down. As a result of this – most of our Hyderabad employees depend upon public transportation – the office is likely closing shop early today. We regret any inconvenience but trust you will understand.

"If there are any emergencies, and if you cannot reach your research managers on their mobile numbers, please feel free to contact me on my mobile.

"Again, we thank you all for your expressions of concern, and we expect to be fully back on-line on Tuesday, 28 August."

I really hate terrorists.

Ken Burns does WWII

A shallow wit (shwit?) named Heather Havrilsky (she can't take the Poles seriously because they like Ronald Reagan for helping free their country from communist oppression) reviews Ken Burns' new series “The War”.

I thank her for her work:

"The series sounds much worth watching. And Ms. Havrilesky is quite witty in a thoughtless, Euro-elite sort of way. Such fashionable shallowness should take her far in modern media."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"(G)ang culture ... orchestrated by corrupt private security firms(.)"

The more you read about crime and guns in Britain the more you have to ask yourself how willfully blind a society can make itself.

1. Guns are outlawed so common citizens become defenseless.
2. Criminals grow bolder, more violent, and more numerous.
3. Private "security " firms move in to "protect" the defenseless citizens from the criminals.
4. The security firms and the criminals - surprise! - are sometimes in business together but there is nothing the citizens can do.

Haven't these people ever watched 'The Sopranos'?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Abandon Iraq and see a Vietnam horror show

William Shawcross talks sense in the TimesOnline.

Bomb Blast in Hyderabad

An explosion occurred in Hyderabad a couple hours ago. It appears to have happened in the spectator stands in a park at the end of a laser light show that happens at sundown. I found out about it while drinking overpriced beer at a "five-star" hotel, the Novotel, in Hi-Tech City, in the northwestern suburbs of the town.

In the stands. At a laser light show. Where people take their kids on a Saturday night. I've heard everything from 3 dead to 50 dead.

I don't know what to say. Other than the world needs more gallows, and less of a willingness to listen to people that send their "messages" written in the blood of innocent people.

Terror Watch List may actually be working.

And, no, of course that wasn't the headline in the Washington Post.

Terror Suspect List Yields Few Arrests

There, doesn't the world look more normal now?

Ellen Nakashima writes:

"The government's terrorist screening database flagged Americans and foreigners as suspected terrorists almost 20,000 times last year. But only a small fraction of those questioned were arrested or denied entry into the United States, raising concerns among critics about privacy and the list's effectiveness."

According to Ms. Nakashima "(s)lightly more than half of the 20,000 encounters last year were logged by Customs and Border Protection officers, who turned back or handed over to authorities 550 people, most of them foreigners(.)"

So if "slightly over half" is about 10,000 hits, the Customs and Borders guys arrested or refused entry to about 5% of the people they "encountered" from the list. We don't know what percentage of those 10 thousand people were American citizens or legal residents. For citizens and residents, you have to let them into the country, and you can't arrest them without a warrant. Also, it seems obvious to me that we want a "watch" list to be made up of suspicious people, not simply people for whom there is a warrant out.

While the article repeats "terrorist" over and over, once you get to the eleventh paragraph you find that included in the list are violent gang members from the FBI's files. Again, if these gang members are Americans, you can't arrest them - or turn them away - simply because you know they are violent gang members. But you may want to note their comings and goings.

The article goes on to quote some ACLU guy (you saw that coming) that complained about too many "false positives." But we don't have enough data from the article to know how many of the hits were "false". For instance, if I had a number of associates that were known to be tied to terrorism or gang activity, I'll bet I would find myself on the list even if I myself am not a terrorist or criminal. My relationship with bad guys might be enough of a reason to watch me during these interesting times.

A list like this is tricky business and those of us concerned about liberty have to keep the government honest over its use, but from the information I get out of this article, I don't see any reason to panic. In fact the numbers sound reasonable to me so far.

Terror law puts Britons at risk of surveillance by US agents

Apparently certain British and other Europeans are upset that:

1. It is not against American law for American intelligence agencies to spy on foreigners without EU consent, and ...

2. American immigration authorities won't let Europeans into America unless we get to know who they are.

Do these people have any concept of national sovereignty? Have they deluded themselves that since they gave up much of their national sovereignty to the EU, some idiotic alchemy caused the same to happen to the United States?

Yep, outlaw guns and crime still goes up...

Michaal Moynihan at Reason Online Blog points out the iron rule of gun banning still works the same way as always. It's one of the (many) issues over which certain segments of the Western political spectrum are immune to evidence, or even common sense.

He links to Joyce Lee Malcolm's excellent 2002 article about the effects of the British gun ban on British violent crime. The noise by short-sighted gun-banners is so loud that normal people should be required to read it twice a year just to remind ourselves of how life actually works.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rep. Baird's recent hawkish turn

Democratic Congressman Brian Baird, in an OpEd in the Seattle Times calls for giving American troops more time in Iraq.

I think the Congressman, who apparently opposed the original invasion and has been a vocal opponent, is spot-on in his reasoning about why we should continue to fight this war the way we are now fighting it. It is a good feeling to have somebody that opposes your view decide, after personal investigation, that your view is the correct one after all. It's such a good feeling that long-time supporters of the Iraq invasion might refrain from criticizing some of what the Congressman says while he is agreeing with our current position. That would be a mistake. He is right about what he is right about: we must stay in Iraq for the time being. He is however decidedly wrong, I believe, in some of his other comments and those demand some response:

"We dismantled the civil government, police, armed forces and the nation's infrastructure."

Bullshit. We certainly blew up some of the infrastructure. We pay guys to do that sort of thing in a war, and they do it pretty good. I think we also did disband much if not all of the Iraqi army. The officer corps were all Saddam supporters and right after the invasion he was still at large, you may recall. But I do not believe we wholesale dismantled the civil government and police. Those guys just stopped coming in to work and we couldn't get them to show back up.

We closed critical industries and businesses, putting as many as a half million people, including those who best knew how to run the infrastructure and factories, out of work and filled with resentment."

What is he talking about here? What critical industries did we "close"?

"We left arms caches unguarded and the borders open to infiltration."

The arms caches were, uh, hidden on purpose before we got there. And there were so many of them it was simply not possible to guard all the ones we actually found. Nor was it possible to seal the entire border. Ask our Secretary of Homeland Security, or for that matter anyone that lives in El Paso.

"We allowed schools, hospitals and public buildings to be looted..."

Allowed? We were supposed to, what, machine gun the looters? Use deadly force on civilians that were tearing up symbols of an oppressive and evil-acting government we had so much trouble with that we actually made war against it ourselves?

"...and created conditions that fanned sectarian conflicts."

You know, I can never keep this one straight. One week I hear we shouldn't have gone into Iraq because we "created conditions that fanned sectarian conflicts" and the next week I hear we shouldn't have gone in because of the ancient and implacable sectarian enmity that has always existed there and that we can't do anything about. We didn't "create" Sunnis and Shia. We didn't "create" al-Qa'ada. Or Iran. Or Syria. Or, for that matter, ancient Arab tribal and clan culture. Give me a frick'n break with this "created" crappola. The place was a cesspool when we went in. We knew we were going to be working in doodoo, and that it would smell bad and it would make us sick. That happens when you have to go into a cesspool

Anyway, I'm glad the congressman realizes we need to stay longer but he shouldn't get a free pass if he is re-writing recent history.

Thucydides, Archidamus, and al-Qa’da

My newest post at the Cafe Third Edition quoting those dead white males again:

“In practice we always base our preparations against an enemy on the assumption that his plans are good; indeed, it is right to rest our hopes not on a belief in his blunders, but on the soundness of our provisions.”

Iraqi Stability - National Intelligence Estimate

Courtesy of the Washington Post, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

Bottom lines:

1. If we stop military operations against al-Qa'ida in Iraq right now, that would be bad.

2. Iran is supporting attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

3. The Maliki government is still not governing all that great.

No kidding.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Exaggerating the "rift"?

The headline reads "US general blames Britain for Basra crisis" in this article in the UK's Telegraph.

This is at least the third Telegraph article in a few days highlighting a supposed increase in U.S. criticism of Britian's plans to pull troops out of Iraq. I'm not sure I see what the excitement's all about.

Let's assume:

1. The U.S. doesn't want Britain to leave Iraq.
2. It is the case that withdrawal of major power forces (that's pretty much the U.S. with Britain as an honorary member) will lead to increased violence.
3. Insurgent forces absolutely will increase their attacks as the great powers leave so they can later claim they "drove" them out.

4. Let's also assume that when you have a headline like the one above, you will put the most inflamitory quote possible into the article.

What U.S. Army General Jack Keane said was:

"I think what has happened is that they [the insurgents] know British numbers are going down and see the character of operations is changing,"


"They sense it and have got the momentum going. That's what's happening. There is a power play but they know no one is going to interfere with them."

That doesn't seem like "blame" to me. That seems like a reasonable explanation of what we think the enemy is doing. Maybe he isn't so much blaming Britain as he is highlighting the obvious in hopes the British will be forced to publicly accept the reality that if they pull out their troops right now, Basra will become even more screwed up.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Michael Chertoff's Misplaced Balls

In today's Washington Post, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff gets himself quoted talking some smack:

"I recognize we have a situation where we allowed circumstances to develop over 30 years -- frankly with the complicity of the American people, who have been complacent," Chertoff said. Now, he said, "we have to do something about it."

Complicity of the American people my big, hairy, BEE-hind. Who does he think all those people were that he was accusing of xenophobia for the last few years while we were screaming at him to build a damn border fence?

"We can't defeat terrorism without unity"

Con Coughlin comments in the Telegraph on the recent criticism being leveled at U.K. forces in Basra by American officers (which I read about) and other American officials (which is news to me).

Sounds like there is cause for criticism, at least at high levels. I don't think anyone is faulting British squaddies or junior officers.

But his title makes a pretty good point.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can you spot what's missing in this story of fighting in Lebanon?

Yahoo! News reports on the Lebanese military's bombing of a Palestinian "refugee" camp being held by some Islamists. It mentions that two Lebanese soldiers have been killed during the battle in the last two days. Also, if you read a ways down in the article you finally get to this:

"In the three months of fighting more than 200 people have been killed, including, with the latest two deaths, 138 soldiers. It is not known how many Islamists have died."

Do you notice, there is no mention of "innocent civilians" or even simply "civilians"? No, just people. Oh, and the article makes a point of stating the Lebanese government position that there are only "wives and children of the Islamists remaining -- a total of about 100 who the army says are being used as "human shields"".

Imagine what this article would look like if it were American or Israeli forces cleaning out some Islamist rat-hole with 100 women and children inside.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Anglophile that I am, here is something I hate to see:

This report in the Telegraph about the British military pullout from Basra is sad in so many ways.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Something else to blame Hollywood for...

"Hollywood blamed for scientific ignorance"

From EE Times of Europe. Well, if kids can start to think of women as bitches and ho's because of Hollywood, is it that much of a stretch to imagine they might think you actually can drive a tracker-trailor up a collapsing piece of freeway, and then jump onto a hovering fighter plane?

Or, can Vin Diesel really drive that way?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Risk and the Elephant

Today's Economic Times (of India) carries an article by Sanjeev Sharma entitled 'Global capital market aversion may slow down India growth story':

“In the event of a sharp risk aversion in the global financial markets and a global hard landing, India’s growth cycle is far more vulnerable than the rest of Asia(.)”

The Wikipedia entry for Risk Management includes the following explanation:

Intangible risk management identifies a new type of risk - a risk that has a 100% probability of occurring but is ignored by the organization due to a lack of identification ability. For example, when deficient knowledge is applied to a situation, a knowledge risk materialises (sic). Relationship risk appears when ineffective collaboration occurs. Process-engagement risk may be an issue when ineffective operational procedures are applied. These risks directly reduce the productivity of knowledge workers, decrease cost effectiveness, profitability, service, quality, reputation, brand value, and earnings quality. Intangible risk management allows risk management to create immediate value from the identification and reduction of risks that reduce productivity.” (emphasis added)

Following up on my post below from 15 August (lead paint in Chinese-manufactured toys) it seems very clear to me all the above risks are quite high in Hyderabad in the BPO industry (Business Process Outsourcing – that is, laying off your helpdesk and accounts payable departments in the U.S. and hiring people in India to do the work). Costs are rapidly rising for BPO work here as well, which is already cutting into the profit to be gained by sending work over.

If there were major scandals, or several reports of ineffective and/or low-quality work coming out of off-shored India knowledge businesses, there could be a severe impact on the economy here in Hyderabad.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

From Kashmir to Baghdad

The Washington Post carries a report today about the increasing use of "house" bombs by the bad guys in Iraq.

I celebrated the Fourth of July at the Marriott Hotel in Secunderabad. Budweiser, cheeseburgers, potato salad and baked beans. One of the guests was my friend Subir, a Sikh. Those are the guys with the turbans. He said he had just gotten a call from his sister, an Indian Army officer stationed in Kashmir. It seems while her husband, also an officer, was talking to her on his cell phone a little earlier, the patrol he was commanding ran into and engaged some Muslim insurgents that had snuck over the line from the Pakistani side.

Can you picture what that conversation was like?
“Hey baby, something just came up. I gotta go to work now. I’ll call you back.”

We were sitting around later drinking our Bud when Subir’s cell phone beeped. He looked at the text, smiled, and read aloud:

“Three down: two Afghanis and one local. All my men okay.”

Sikhs are bad-to-the-bone. I high-fived him and told him I was happy the good guys won, his brother-in-law was okay, and that his brother-in-law's men were all safe. Over the course of the next couple days I got some details of the battle. The Indians ultimately cornered three insurgents in a house in a village. His brother-in-law personally killed two of the bad guys, one with rifle-fire and the second with a grenade thrown (not tossed) through a window at some distance. The brother-in-law was apparently a pretty good cricket player when he wasn’t keeping the world safe from jihadis.

What brings this back around to the Post story is what the Indian army did afterwards. They just left the dead bad guys laying in the house until the next day. They kept the house covered but did not enter. The next morning still without entering the building they brought heavy equipment and knocked the house down with the corpses still in it. Then they went through the rubble to find out what they could find out. You lose some information that way maybe but the Indian Army in Kashmir long since learned not to enter houses with jihadis inside (dead or alive) because the houses are so likely to be booby-trapped.

The Army just pays to have the house rebuilt when they’re done. Maybe we’ll be doing that soon in Iraq.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

First the Tiger, then the Elephant?

According to the this article in the Washington Post all is not well in off-shored manufacturing:

Mattel Recalls More Chinese-Made Toys
Lead-Based Paint, Design Flaws Prompt Second Action in Two Weeks

From what I’ve seen in Hyderabad, this could well be where India is headed. India doesn’t do as much manufacturing as China (other than, I think, textile products) and is more a services provider (if you consider what you get from a Bangalore “Help” Desk to be a service).

But I’ll bet there are similar issues of graft, corruption, and (shall we say?) quality of work, that could come back to bite the American companies that have sent your credit card, bank account, and cell-phone information to their Indian operations.

Moral Agency

According to Wikipedia

“Moral agency is a person's capacity for making moral judgments and taking actions that comport with morality.”

This seems straightforward. An adult is usually considered a moral agent. You as an adult are responsible for what you decide to do. If you rob a liquor store, or rush into a burning house to save a baby, or cruise the internet during office hours when you’re supposed to be working, you are responsible for your actions. You decided to do it. You did it.

A moral agent is responsible for his or her reactions to things. For instance, if your boss fails to promote you and you therefore decide to shoot him, you cannot claim that you are not responsible for the shooting. You can’t say: “Hey, he failed to promote me. I was only reacting to his action. You have to blame my late boss for this!” The concept of moral agency demands that no matter what the other guy does, you are responsible for what you yourself do.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Great Moments in Globalization and Cultural Diversity

Over lunch in Hyderabad, India, with one of the people on my team, he tells me one of the senior Indian managers in our company asked him how it was to work for me. My guy told the senior manager that I was "simple and straight". In context "simple" was not a bad thing; he was saying he could trust me.

So the senior Indian manager says: "Gore kaibhi sidhae sadha. Nahi rahathe."

Rough translation: "Whites are never straight and simple. Never like that."

Don't you just love global cultural diversity?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Iranians Attacked the U.S. Army in Iraq?

If this outrageous report is true, the U.S. damned well better quit screwing around and attack Iran. Like, I mean, seriously attack Iran. I am sick of this stuff. If Iran is perpetrating outright acts of war against the United States (as opposed to underhanded acts of war through pet terror groups) it is time to light some stuff up. We are sending men and women to fight and die.

We have a duty to destroy any military force that threatens them.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Traffic Markers In Hyderabad

The first time I saw Hyderabad traffic in action I figured the lane markers must just be advisory. The second time I realized they are purely ornamental.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Six Days?

Maybe I should forget about blogging if I can't put up more than one post in 6 days.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Verbal Traffic Shot of the Day:

Two people on a camel in a residential neighborhood in Hyderabad; one of them talking on a cell phone.


First post in the new blog - the one I have to start because those Google jerk-offs won't tell me why my password doesn't work in the old Two Masters blog.