Montag, Februar 27, 2006

Economist Jokes...

Today's Handelsblatt had, for the first time in human memory, a couple of jokes about economists that I thought I'd share...

Five arguements for studying economics:

1) when you're unemployed, you know why

2) You can talk about money without actually having any

3) when you're out drinking, you can justify continuing to drink as long as possible in order to find out the marginal utility of the last drink

4) You earn your money telling other people why they don't have any

5) Economists are dangerous and deadly: you cannot observe their "hidden hand"

Not so bad.


An economist is someone who doesn't have an inkling of what he is talking about, yet manages to convince those listening to him that they are too dumb to understand him.

Economics is the most painful way of stating the obvious.

All models are wrong, but some are useful.

And as an aside: I've been on the other side of the table interviewing people for jobs, and you'd be really surprised what sort of people applying for jobs with "modelling experience".

If ANY of them had had even the tiniest qualification in econometrics, we'd have hired them in a moment. But their greatest qualities... sorry, won't go there.

And here is the link to the classic economist jokes page.

And here's another classic: How many economists does it take to change a light bulb? None: if it needed changing, the market would have done so.

Freitag, Februar 24, 2006

A Comic Farce

Well, the forecast round is over. Damn that was a lot of numbers.

I went over to MEMRI while compiling something in the background and found this. Apparently Tom & Jerry are Agents of International Zionism, having been invented by that nefarious Jew, Walt Disney.

Walt Disney was Jewish?

This is indicative of what we are dealing with in the Middle East, or at least Iran.

Here you've got an Iranian professor, a member of the film council of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, cultural advisor to the Iranian Education Ministry, Professor Hasan Bolkhari.

Who says that Tom and Jerry is designed to improve the image of Jews.

According to him, the Germans called the Jews "dirty mice". Tom's a mouse, so... I won't bore you with the rest: it is random noise at best.

No German uses the term "dirty mice" (dreckige Mäuse); they'd use the term "dreckige Ratten", or dirty rats. If anything, Germans use the word "Mäuse" to refer to money ("Hast Du die Mäuse", Do you have the cash?) or as a term of endearment ("Mäuschen", little mouse).

And these people are demanding to be respected?

Finding out that Disney had NOTHING to do Tom & Jerry, that Disney was a Congregationalist, and a rather devout one at that, and that indeed he became rather anti-semitic towards the end of his life (had to do with becoming ardently anti-communist), this all took me, what, 90 second or so? Googled on "walt disney religion" and on "tom & jerry copyright".

Having the internet means that when you're dealing with conspiracy freaks, it sort of is like shooting fish in a barrel. But this guy is a professor, a film professional, and fundamentally incompetent. Let me repeat: it took me no more than 90 seconds to find out that what he is saying is so bogus that it isn't even funny.

It's pathetic. Like I said: these people are demanding to be respected?

For what?

Oh, and I think Turner Entertainment now owns the rights to Tom & Jerry, although this isn't so clear. In any case, it's not Disney: Tom & Jerry were done by Hanna & Barbera for a while, but MGM started them up as theatrical cartoons. This site gives a link to a history of the cartoon, which is your basic slapstick. Barbera of Hanna & Barbera pretty much hated Disney: they drove a studio he was working for at the time basically out of business. Tom & Jerry received no less than 7 Academy Awards over 18 years during the Hanna & Barbera time period.

Oh, and yes, the first Tom & Jerry cartoon was made in 1939.  Before the Holocaust.

Short intermezzio...

Forecasting is almost done, but I thought I'd touch on two things.

First of all, the ports nonsense. This is an excellent example of sheer idiocy and ignorance of the press and of stupid politicians.

1) The ports are already run by foreigners: if this was a national security issue, then why hasn't it been adressed over, say, the last decade or so? I can give you the answer: because it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who handles the day-by-day: what matters for national security is, duh, security of the port. Which is done by the US government. End of story: there is no story here, merely yet another attempt to drum up a tempest in a teapot.

2) Thanks to these fools, including the press, we've come close to insulting the folks who want to do business with us. Not a good idea, and it certainly gives rise to the notion that there is some institutionalized racism in certain circles in the US - Hi, Hillary - against them thar Ay-rabs.  Idiots. Idiots. Idiots.

3) Varifranks has it right: this undermines US logistics efforts.

For those who have never been in the military and have a disdain for it, this is a simple truth: professional soldiers do not study tactics and strategy, they study logistics. The US has won its wars because it has mastered the science of logistics, and other nations lose wars because they disdain it (Hi, Germany, Italy and Japan).

Second, Samuel Brittan has a column in the FT today (unfortunately behind the $ barrier...) that makes me just want to scream havoc and start swinging the axe.

Basically, he argues that having little or no growth is just peachy-keen and dandy-do because GDP doesn't really measure anything and there might be people out there who are just thrilled with working (and earning) less so that they have more leisure time.

Take it to the logical end, Sam! Look at all those folks out there who have lots and lots of leisure time and don't worry about GDP at all: the unemployed.

Jeez. What Brittan tries but ultimately fails to argue is that GDP doesn't take into account quality of life.

Duh. If I had a cent for each time this old canard is drug up, I'd be able to buy myself lunch.

Of COURSE GDP doesn't measure quality of life: it's NOT supposed to do that at all. All that GDP measures is an economy's ability to add value over time to the economic process. GDP is nothing more than that: fundamental GDP growth rates are a function of two and only two things: productivity and depreciation on capital.


Adding value in the economic process is nothing more than a simple formula: you take goods and transform them into something else, using a combination of human and financial capital to do so. Human capital doesn't get used up, but increases over time (unless you're like some ex-colleagues of mine), while financial capital wants to be paid.

What Brittan appears to be arguing is that low rates of GDP growth are just fine as long as people make the choice to work less.

But that's not what's happening in the real world: European productivity growth is terrible, either way you measure it (per worker or per hour). There are exceptions, but generally speaking it's pretty abysmal.

And that is why European growth rates are low: they are not being as productive as workers elsewhere. It's an uncomfortable fact, but one that cannot be dismissed.

Brittan appears to be more than willing here to stick his head into the sand and ignore one of the key facts of modern day industrial capitalism: your competitors are getting better at making things. Either you adjust to that fact or you stick your head into the sand and talk about "leisure preferences" and how terrible GDP is because it doesn't take into account the feel-good factor.

Bullshit: GDP, as the value added in the economy, is basic to being able to measure how wealth, which is created in the economy, can be distributed. People can't make the decision to work less and have more leisure when the value added isn't there: this is symptomatic of ignoring the fundamental problem, which is fundamentally weak productivity.

And I don't have a solution (actually, I do, but that's another story entirely): but by choosing to ignore the problem, blaming it on externaltities, and hoping that weak growth rates is a function of people choosing to work less (because they have higher hourly productivity, meaning they can choose to work less and maintain their income, as opposed to working the same amount and earning more money), rather than indicative of much deeper, fundamental problems.

Sheesh. I wonder sometimes if historians will look back at our age and wonder how so many people could be so dumb. Sort of like a modern-day historian looking back at the actions that led up to WW2 and wondering how people could be so dumb and ignore the gathering storm.

Remember, history when it repeats isn't tragedy, it's farce.

Mittwoch, Februar 22, 2006

In media res...

Sorry, middle of a forecasting round. I do so wish that statistical offices world-wide would just plain get their sh*t together and learn, finally, that they really, really, really need to simply do a couple of quality control checks. This is causing me, right now, no end of aggravation: a number of data updates have been, bluntly, less than worthless. Hard to forecast when the data is bent. It's being addressed, but it shouldn't really be happening in the first place. And no, I am NOT going to name names and show the data: got to get a forecast out.

For everyone involved: statistical quality control is actually very, very simple.

You need to have two databases: the one you've just updated and the archive copy without the update. Let's call the update T and the archive base T1.

Do a standard deviation on the absolute value of the Y/Y percentage change of the updated time series and store it as SDT, the same with the archive and call it SDT1. Do NOT seasonally adjust.

And this is the key: if SDT1-SDT > 0,01*SDT, then you have a change in the database that needs to be reviewed. The value 0,01 is arbitrary, but it's a darn good starting point, empirically speaking. This can be fine-tuned if you find you have too many false positives, but it should capture virtually all true negatives. What it is saying is that any new data that causes more than a 1% change in the standard deviation of the absolute values of the year/year nonseasonally adjusted data is something that needs to be reviewed. This has been empirically tested by yours truly on more than 100,000 time series, mostly industrial statistics, which have a significant amount of white noise ( i.e. changes month-to-month that have no underlying trend), from more than 20 countries.

It works. We use it here where I work to check no fewer than 1,000,000 time series and it is, for our poor data people, a godsend, since our database processing tools run the checks automagically and then plot them on the screen for review: it gets everything. Did the statistical office revise data from 10 years ago? It catches it. Did they change the data for the last 3 months? It catches it. Did they change the base year and forget to tell us? It catches it. Did they punch in a rate of change instead of a level? It catches it. Did they punch in a 0 instead of the proper value? It catches it. Did they make a mistake? It catches it. It has given us a reputation with several data suppliers of being extraordinarily on the ball: their own quality control didn't catch the errors.

What you capture with this are two things: first of all, a data point that is so completely out of the ordinary that it is more likely to be an error than a real datum; second, revisions that the statistical offices usually neglect to mention, or more likely, have mentioned, but it was buried somewhere so abstruse as to qualify for a mention in Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy.

What you test for in the above is not merely how meaningful the new data point(s) are. but also of there is a significant change in the seasonal pattern. One data point does not a pattern make (except for Democrats clutching desperately at straws or German politicians trying to whitewash how badly they have mauled their economy), but you'd be surprised how often statistical offices make mistakes.

Unless, of course, you do industrial forecasting and see it every day. :-(

But that is why posting is otherwise parsimonious: but the forecast will be done shortly...

Freitag, Februar 17, 2006

How much corruption can the Third World afford?

We all know how the NGOs pull at our heartstrings with pictures of starving children and destitute families. It's part of their massive guilt trip marketing: give us money and we'll alleviate misery.

We also know how much NGOs consume of their financing in self-perpetuation and luxuries for those that run them.

Oh? We don't?

That's right, we really don't. NGOs are notorious about not disclosing their funding. We really don't know how much they are actually doing with the money and how much money goes to fund things that have nothing to do with what problems they claim to be addressing. There is, to put it mildly, a major accountability problem with NGOs.

But that's not really the major point I want to make here.

The good folks over at The Brussels Journal have an excellent post up about the corruption problem that the world is facing: foreign aid is fueling the already endemnic corruption in many parts of the Third World, and we're rapidly reaching the point where corruption is winning the upper hand.

In other words, we're reaching the point where helping is hurting, because the need becomes institutionalized and therefore will never be eliminated.

In other words, the inmates are now in charge of the asylum and have discovered that you can induce psychoses with the mood-altering drugs used to combat them in different doses.

That's right: what has happened here is that in the name of doing good, the doors have been opened for corruption beyonds the dreams of mere local government, beyond the dreams of perhaps anyone but the most rapacious of despots.

The writeoff of Third World debt really, really bad for at least three reasons.

1) It makes a mockery of the concept of sovereign debt. International lenders take a look at country risks and place an interest rate increase on countries that are poor candidates for being able to service or repay their debts. They don't stop lending to poor risks: they simply charge them more. They have to in order to protect their investments, anything else would be incredibly negligent financial management. By eliminating sovereign debt risk, you remove any and all incentives for Third World countries to improve their risk standing by doing sensible things like getting their government finances under control; having the kind of economic policies that reduce the need to devalue their currencies constantly (see Brazil and Argentina); improving efficiency within the local economy so as to gain higher levels of productivity and return on investment and last but not least, investing in a sensible manner to maximize the utility of that scarce resource called capital. By eliminating sovereign debt risks, you open the door to wasteful prestige investment projects that actually don't help anyone but the few actually invovled in the project.

2) You are rewarding, in a big, big, hugely big, way institutionalized corruption. One of the major problems facing the Third World is not that they are so heavily indebted, but rather that their rulers pissed all that money away on projects that have turned out to be completely useless. This has been to a significant degree the result of corruption, either that of the East/West (we'll give you money to buy a power plant, but you gotta buy it from one of our companies, who will be charging you significantly more than what you would have paid for it if it had been publicly tendered) or local (building a steel plant in the middle of nowhere in order to reward cronies and political supporters). Given that many Third World countries rely heavily on aid, aid is a permanent player in government finances (check government budgets in the Third World to see what I mean) and the opportunities for abuse are manifold and institutionalized.

3) It ruins the playing field. While I am highly critical of NGOs - I think that they may well be the major reason for failed states and the increasing irrelavance of international law, but that's another post entirely - their fundamental goal, of helping the needy and alleviating distress, is laudible. Once you start writing off debt without eliminating corruption, you are rewarding corruption and telling everyone involved that the important thing isn't helping people, it's making sure that you get your slice of the pie. That is what is happening right now: countries are being granted debt relief on the premise that they at least put up the appearance of elininating corruption, yet these countries are in such dire straits as the result of corruption that the aid keeps on flowing despite the corruption, and the debt relief is granted despite the corruption. What this means is that Third World despots can maximize their income by agreeing to fight corruption, increase the corruption and ensure that your economy is in such a shambles that you'll be able to nonetheless pull in the cash without actually having to do anything about it.

Bono had an interview in Der Spiegel a couple of weeks ago that in many ways is heart-rending: he knows the endemnic corruption, he knows that these governments know that they can skim and scam, and he doesn't have any answer except to hope that it will get better.

The real challenge in fighting corruption is that corruption is its own best friend.

I'd like to make a modest proposition: that the aid that the West pays right now is more than adequate to improve the infrastructure of the Third World, i.e. to provide clean water and adequate hygiene and health care, as well as to provide the means for individuals to escape crushing poverty via microfinancing.

Instead, western aid is increasing the problem, making things so much worse that the West is rapidly heading to the point where it will be condemned to finance corruption on a scale we have never contemplated in order to prevent mass starvation and crushing poverty.

We already have a situation where a mixture of corrupt government, corrupt NGOs and corrupt supranationals (UN, WHO, etc) extracts monies from the industrialized west as more or less a form of institutionalized extortion, doing only the minimum necessary to prevent mass death and the maximum possible to ensure that the situation doesn't change.

The answer to my question, then, is simple: the Third World cannot afford any corruption. Every penny that goes to Switzerland in private numbered bank accounts; every penny that goes to pay for high NGO salaries and luxuries; every penny that disappear along the way to cover "administrative costs", all end up doing just one thing: continuing the problem, not solving it.

Corruption isn't some sort of petty problem: corruption kills. Corruption, when it becomes endemnic, destroys societies and renders economies.

What is the saying? That if you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem?

It's going to get worse before it gets better. A lot worse.

We can only hope, like Bono, that it will get better.

Donnerstag, Februar 16, 2006

A further message to the clueless...

Well, how many messages are we supposed to get before we finally understand what is going on?

MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, is an excellent source of information. They simply document media articles in the Arab/Middle Eastern press, radio and TV.

This translation of an article is both chilling and illuminating.

Here's the key paragraph:

"The spiritual leaders of the ultra-conservatives [in Iran] have accepted the use of nuclear weapons as lawful in the eyes of the shari'a. Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of [Ayatollah] Mesbah Yazdi [who is Iranian President Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor], has spoken for the first time of using nuclear weapons as a counter-measure. He stated that 'in terms of the shari'a, it all depends on the goal.'

The key point here is that it all depends on the goal. While he speaks of counter-measures - but does not define them - this is the first justification of nuclear weapon usage by Iranian clergy: the chap in question is a disciple of the Ayatollah Zaydi, and we're not dealing with a loose cannon, here, but rather part of the conservative establishment.

Further, his words are NOT being commented upon by the mainstream religious leadership. This doesn't necessarily mean that they agree with him, but it is important: they have also NOT jumped up and down on him, as they would have if he dared to challenge the orthodoxy.

This means that they are seeking justification for using nuclear weapons in their religion.

Great. At what point do government wake up? At what point does preventing a war come before crass commercial interests (Germans need not answer, we know that answer already)?

We're sliding on a slippery slope and no one is even listening to the loons to see what they are planning.

And the difference is?

Great. I open up this morning's Financial Times.

This is the paper that refuses to print the cartoons from Denmark because it might offend muslim sensibilities.

So what do I see?

Front page, a full 1/3rd of the page above the gutter, best possible positioning: hey, everyone, new pictures from Abu Ghraib! Lookie lookie lookie!

Like this doesn't offend muslim sensibilties?

So, FT and all you other jive-ass reporters and editors: What's the difference?

All you do is add oil to the flames. You are complete and total idiots.

And you can't even get your stories straight.

What little respect I had for journalists was just pissed away.

So, what's the difference?

Of course, it's something the Americans did. It's been sliced and diced and dissected what went on there. But nooooooooo, let's not put Abu Ghraib behind us.

Let's tear off the scab and pour salt into the wound and call up all of our friends to come on over.

The journalistic excuse of not wanting to upset sensible muslims for not showing the cartoons has just been blown away.

Idiots is much too much a nice word for this.

Mittwoch, Februar 15, 2006

We're being played with...

So, let's correlate a couple of news items and make sense of them.

First of all, we've got European politicians already figuring out how much appeasement they think is necessary in order to get back on the good side of "Islam".

The Islamists involved are happy for the governments to take most of the blame. But not all of it: after all, they're muslims and therefore professional victims.

Second of all, they're doing this because of violently demonstrating muslims on the streets of key European countries.

Third of all, the Dutch police arrest at least two people who are apparently from Hamas who were instigating the riots.

Do you see a picture developing here? See the rough shape while the piece of photographic paper soaks in the developer? The contours of the picture are starting to show up...

When I was in Jordan in 1977, I learned one or two things that stuck with me. First of all, in terms of native intelligence there are smart people everywhere. There are also dumb people everywhere. But never, ever, assume that if you have an education that you're necessarily smarter than someone from the Third World: assume this and at some point sooner or later you will get you ass handed to you on a platter. Second, asymmetric information means that the average educated Jordanian will know vastly more about the US and the West than the average educated American or European will know about Jordan or whatever Third-World country we're talking about.

This is what we are facing here: the first concentrated attempt at intimidation using violence on the streets of Europe. The violence is not spontaneous, but rather carefully calculated and laid out.

The fact that we in the West really don't take politics seriously, dead serious as the Iranians and the Syrians do, is being used against us. We're being played with: the Iranians and the Syrians are playing with their new political tools.

These tools?

Unemployed muslim youths, manipulated and radicalized. Cannon fodder, ready to riot at the drop of a hat, coddled and the result of institutionalized belief in victimization, irresponsible, excitable, sexually frustrated. Street fightin' boys.

Craven western politicians whose unwillingness to fight the above on the streets of Amsterdam and elsewhere means, for the Iranians and the Syrians, that they are weak and easily dominated. More than willing to avoid conflict by appeasement and already halfway to dhimmitude.

The mere existence of western civilization: they don't need to wait for an excuse, the fundamental reason is always there.

The Iranians and Syrians behind the Danish brouhaha are clever people, dedicated and more than willing to spill blood on the streets of European towns. They are going to use western liberalism as a weapon against the West, the weapon that the West has given to them. They will be using tolerance as an excuse for intolerance; they will be using
demography as a weapon; they will play on their assumed role of permanent victim, complete with wailing women and hysterical elders, coupled with resolute, refined and slick spokesmen, playing good muslim/bad muslim games to keep the pot at the necessary simmer to take it to a boil whenever they want.

We're being played with. The Neo-Islamists - those abusing Islam for political purposes - are learning how to play their political game in western Europe. It's not our political game, as the street fighting days in Europe have become rare since Weimar and the assimilation of the '68 generation. But it is their game.

The question is how to play the game if we don't even know the rules (if there are any that we can understand in our western rationality).

We're being played with. And the appeasement will make things worse rather than better.

Donnerstag, Februar 09, 2006

In their own words...

As if this isn't clear already, let's clarify this some more.

The leaders of Iran have massive superiority complexes.

They are making decisions that are dangerous at the very least and could well lead to war, with all its untold misery and destruction. They are actively seeking to defeat the West, smirking and smiling as they do so, unaware of what great dangers they are on the verge of inflicting upon their own peoples, let alone foreigners. We've seen this behavior before, of strutting dictators, lording their "power" over others, only to go down in ignominous defeat, but at what costs, what costs.

What am I talking about?

This. (Hattip: Regime Change In Iran)

Let's take a more detailed look at what is said:

The statements of certain western officials show that contrary to their absurd claims, westerners are disqualified, and impetuous, lacking any cultural background.

But this is just the start, and is based on the following:

Human beings, apart from Muslims, are animals who roam the earth and engage in corruption.

Has the clue coin dropped yet?

Classic superiority complexes are based an massive feelings of inferiority. That sounds contrary, but that is the problem with those who have superiority complexes: they are based on a feeling of inferiority which is then compensated by proclamations of superiority.

But Merkel et al. are only partially correct in comparing the Iranian government to pre-war Germany. It's appropriate in the context of the use of anti-semitism as a reactionary tool, but what people are missing is that Iran is more comparable to pre-WW2 Japan and not Germany.

Why? Because pre-WW2 Japan was still filled with its mythology of bushido and the superior nature of Japanese society: the Japanese, after all, were descended from gods and their emperor was, literally, god-like. It took his speaking of the capitulation to bring home to the Japanese that they had lost the war. Even today the Japanese believe in the superiority of their production methods and societal constructs.

Their philosophy leading up to WW2 has some fascinating parallels to Islam today: hakko ichiu , or "all 8 corners of the world under 1 roof", i.e. under Japanese domination for their own good.

They also believed that the West, personified by the US, was a mongrel mix that could not respond with any sort of singular resolve. In other words, based on their superiority complex, their belief that Japan was unique and better, they discounted the ability of the US to counter them. They felt that the Japanese were truly superior and that the US was a massive contradtiction in terms, lacking any sort of clear purpose and resolve.

In other words, they misunderstood the US.  Misunderstanding your opponent in times of crisis is a clear way to have the crisis escalate out of control despite the best efforts to defuse the conflict. The US tried to put a brake on Japanese expansion in China by placing an embargo on oil and steel scrap, to be lifted when Japan withdrew from China.

Sound familiar? Economic sanctions?

Doesn't work worth a damn when you're dealing with people who have a massive superiorty complex: instead of dissuading them from war to peaceful resolution, instead you are goading them into, in their eyes, slapping you to knock some sense into you. How dare you try and change our divine nature!

Sound familiar?

These are not some wild-assed mullahs that are speaking here: these are the Iranians who run the country. These are the people that Iran sent to the West when they were young for technical training and who came back more radicalized than when they went there.

Who are demonizing the West.

Who are denying even the fundamental humanity of those who oppose them

Who hide their engagement and support of terrorism throughout the world, aimed not only at the West, but at any Muslim that dares to deny their authority.

It's time to take them seriously at their own words.

It's time to cease doing business with them. All business including oil. It's going to be expensive in terms of jobs lost and growth delayed, but is there really an alternative?

Is there?

Besides surrendering?

We've reached the point where there are three paths to follow: surrender and dhimmitude; war and conflagration, and "other".

But no one has any idea of what that other might be.

I'll reiterate what I've said here before: it only takes one side to make war. Slowly but surely the options, the alternative paths, are fading away. The Iranians don't want war: they want us to surrender. We don't want war, we want to keep the status quo.

These two positions are not compatible. It's not a matter of what we want: it's a matter of what the Iranian government is willing to do. They are seeking the conflagration, for their own religious reasons, not us. We can try and stop them now, before the conflagration begins.

But that's almost impossible when they have so fundamentally misunderstood the West.

To paraphrase: By their own words ye shall know them...

Can This Get Much More Absurd???

Those that have even a remote inkling of German politics have got to know that the new Chancellor, Ms. Merkel, is not really a very dynamic person. She's a tad reserved, certainly isn't one like Schroeder, the ex-chancellor, certainly enjoyed his evenings out with the boys. She's got a PhD in Physics, so she's got some academic background, and she appears to be what she is: someone competent who has decided to be a political figure. She fought here way through the party, was the protege of Kohl, who would affectionately refer to her as my "eastern gal" (I'm taking liberties with the translation) and who more or less cleared her path to run the conservative party here (which is in many ways left of the Democrats in the US, but that's another story entirely) and win elections.

Which she did nicely against some rather crude campaigning.

And she's done, so far, a decent job: her approval rating is around 80%, but that needs to be discounted because people are just so damn happy to have gotten rid of Schroeder.

Anyway, the picture I'm trying to paint of her is that of an astute professional politician. But that's all she is: no one expects the equivalent of the kneeing at the concentration camp in Poland ala Brandt, or the statesmanship of Schmidt, let alone the political savvy and manipulations of Kohl (who could be compared to Lyndon Baines Johnson in terms of his political savvy).

Get the idea? We're talking major middle-of-the-road policy, straight-and-narrow, no adventures, no risks type of major politician.


Remember when she criticized the Iranians, compared their president right now to Hitler in the 1930s? It's a legitimate beef, to say the least, and it's a fairly astute analysis. But she didn't call for him to dismembered by crazed Bavarians or wild-eyed Saxons.

Made no difference: one of the Iranian government spokesmen - I originally wrote spokesperson, but like a woman would have such a job in Iran??? - immediately said that women politicians should think before opening their mouths. Which, given the (official) Iranian attitude towards women, is about all you could expect to hear. Well, it's gone further now. This is only in German, as far as I know (can't be bothered to google on it right now), but this is the gist of it:

is in German, but this gives the gist of it as well.

The communications chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards compares her - Merkel - to Hitler. Not only that she is inexperienced and weak, but "she sees herself in childish dreams of being as powerful and great as Hitler, so that she as chancellor can rule the world."

The guy saying this is Commander Seyyed Massoud Jazayeri.

He goes on and says she's merely a lackey of the US and Israel. And she's got a zionist background, so what can you expect?

Hey Seyyed, here's a hint (like he's gonna listen): keep what you learned from your $4.99 correspondance course in psychology to yourself, you're only proving what people already think: that the people in charge in Iran are a bunch of loons.

But they're a bunch of loons that are really trying hard to get nuclear weapons.

It seems like it can't get much more absurd - what I am trying to say is that Merkel is really the last politician in Germany to harbor any sort of world domination fantasies - than it already is.

But I'm afraid that it is only going to get more absurd as time goes on and the irrationality of the Iranians becomes more and more apparent. I can only hope that it goes so far that even the left in Germany recognize that there is no point in trying to talk to people like this at all - my peacenik friends will, of course, disagree - and that there will come a time to act.

So unfortunately, yes, it can get much more absurd. It already is.

Dienstag, Februar 07, 2006

Ouch. Ouuuuuuuuch.

This has to go down in recent history as one of the better nastygrams. (Hat tip: One Hand Clapping)

Obama approached McCain with the goal of once again trying to reform campaign financing, a topic held relatively dear by McCain. Apparently Obama has had second thoughts...

Why is this worthy of a comment?

Because it shows just how deceitful even young Democrats are apparently becoming. Further, Senator Obama is an up-and-coming star of the party: young, successful, charismatic, black, populist.

Which apparently doesn't mean a hill of beans to the Democrats: he has obviously been caught in being deceitful. But this is a surprise to McCain?

At least McCain has the honesty to publish this out there for all to read: that it's a tad embarrassing for McCain to have been caught believing that Democrats are interested in the public interest.

And it's interesting to see how little the public interest is served by the Democrats.


We all know that Islam considers itself to be the Religion of Peace. Heck, if you could trademark that phrase, they'd have done it a long time ago.

But consider the fact that what they mean by peace is not that which we mean by peace, much like what the Soviets meant by peace was anything like what the West meant by peace.

I don't want to go all-out semantic, but Islam means submission: the world of Islam is the world of peace, while those not of Islam are, per definitio, not of peace.

Just like what the Soviets meant back when: mir doesn't mean peace, but rather subjugation.

Beware those who claim to be the peacemakers.

Trust those who own the Peacekeepers.

And yes, there are multiple meanings there: the MX missile was called the Peacekeeper, and in one of my favorite TV series, Farscape, the bad guys were called Peacekeepers. :-)

But seriously: what the Religion of Peace means when it speaks of peace is the peace of submission and as a necessary correlary subjugation, purportedly voluntary but disingeniously so.

The religion of "peace" doesn't want the peace that we know: it wants the West to submit. The cartoon conflict is just the tip of the iceberg: what the muslims are demanding is that we submit to them.

And not merely avoid insulting them. It's intended to be a slow and insidious process, starting with "acceptance" of differing cultures, followed by allowing forced marriages and accepting public slaughtering of sacrificial lambs, followed by allowing the alternative of religious schools to state schools, followed by one small step after another. It involves a slow self-censorship, where there is no public outcry about female circumcision and female slavery in Islam; where feminists do not care about their muslim sisters because it would offend sensibilities; where prosecutors don't even think of investigating corruption among the mullahs to avoid controversy; where the newspapers are afraid to print something that might offend; where governments close their eyes when Islamic countries acquire nuclear capabilities and ignore the warnings because it would create controversy and harm relations...

Yes, it's perhaps a matter of semantics when pointing out what the religion of "peace" means.

But it's better than submitting. If after the cartoon conflict that true nature of Islam as it exists today - a religion taken over by extremists, dedicated to despotic rule and fascistic control, currently completey incapable of reformation - isn't crystal clear and obvious, then...

...perhaps you've already started on the road to dhimmitude, of submission, of surrender.

Enjoy your slavery. It'll be at first a comfortable one, safe and without conflict: but that of your children will be terrible.

Sonntag, Februar 05, 2006

Growing a pair...

Well, it seems that a German politician of note has finally understood the threat. This politician has finally grown a pair.

Well, on consideration, perhaps she's grown a backbone instead.

While I don't necessarily see war as imminent, we are definitely in a pre-war situation that has all the potential of developing into a major conflict. It's not a conflict that Iran can actually win: for them, winning would be for the West to adopt dhimmitude as a way of life.

The question is whether it actually comes to military conflict. Let's play a review of the run-up to WW2: Germany occupies the Saar, Allies do not react. Germany pushes for the end to Czechoslovakia; the Allies, in order to avoid a war, appease the Germans (Munich). Germany then annexes Austria, who jumps at the chance to the eternal shame of the nation; since this was accompanied by a plebescite, it's "OK", even though Austria under the Treaty of Versailles was never to join up with Germany in a political or military union again.

So in the name of peace, in the name of avoiding the war necessary to ensure international treaties and to ensure that a violent ideology not grow stronger, those who wanted war were able to prepare in peace to commit violence never seen before.

This is the problem facing the West today: the appeasers are here today, exquisitely trained and educated, nuanced beyond anyone's wildest imaginations, appeasing an enemy that has no considerations for education and nuances, but is rather interested in expanding ignorance and enforcing behavior by threat of death. In other words, the appeasers, the intellegentsia of the West, in their nuanced understanding of history and the human psyche, fails to understand simple and thuggish behavior that seeks not to argue and convince, but rather demands blunt and blind obedience to a scripture that brooks no discussion, no differentiation and no criticism.

So we're in a pre-war phase. The question is when the West will realize this and start to react.

The next question is what can be done: the answers are getting more and more difficult as time goes on, because the options are shrinking as Iran moves closer and closer to getting at least a container bomb. I fear they are not that far away from this. For those who would point out that many analysts say that it will take many years before Iran is that far along, let us remember what these analysts are actually saying, which is that it will take that long for Iran to weaponize their bombs to the point that they will fit on their rockets. That's not the threat, nor is that the problem: the problem is that Iran doesn't need to weaponize in order to use their bombs: getting them to fit inside of a standard shipping container is enough to open the threat of covert delivery and detonation, which fits the Iranian modus operandi much better than waiting 10 years for them to weaponize. It's an illusion of the West that only nukes on missiles mean anything: what is important for Iran is the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon in order to destroy Israel if the West doesn't make Israel go away. That, at the end of the day, is what Iran wants, for Israel to simply "go away." That's what they've demanded, that the Europeans solve the problem that they've created (let's ignore the absurdity of this for the time being) and make Israel go away, to disappear from the maps.

What will the West then do when Iran tests a bomb in March of 2006? And then puts up an ultimatum demanding exactly this? That is the point where it's going to be very hard to not either kill large numbers of Iranians, either conventionally or with nuclear weapons. Would Israel, faced with a nuclear-armed Iran, with the potential of a second holocaust, really hesitate to do the regrettable, of ensuring that Iran never be able to make its threats come true?

We're not talking the oh-so-lovely theoretical world of the calculus of nuclear deterrence, but rather an existential question of survival. We've seen how Iran has clearly stated that Israel can be destroyed and any return attack would perhaps damage Islam, but never destroy it. Is Iran bluffing? Is Israel willing to commit mass death in order to prevent its own destruction?

Personally, I have no answers to the problems: all I see are options dwindling away. Just as before WW2, no one in the West wants the war. It's the other side that does. The tragedy is that by trying to avoid a war, actions by the West, persuading Islamists that they have nothing to fear, have brought us to the position where the options are dwindling. Dwindling options are never the way to avoid wars, but makes them more likely as polticians lose their ability to manage crises, especially when one side wants the conflict, is demanding the conflict, believes that the conflict is not only necessary but, like the Marxists of the SovUnion, absolutely necessary.

And yes, Germany has an especially critical role to play. The sins of the past - and they are many - can be in part be started to be redeemed when the Germans do the right thing: what they must do is to to be righteous among nations. This means nothing less than simply doing the right thing, regardless of what the costs might be: of saving lives where the astute thing to do would have been to let evil reign.

And here's a further link underscoring the seriousness of the situation: on the second page, de Borchgrave points out that we may well be facing someone with whom deterrence doesn't work.

Desperate for work, are they?

I continue to have a hard time understanding actors. (Hat tip: CounterTerrrorism)

These two have chosen to act in a blatantly anti-American film , acting as the bad guys. Both have played bad guys in a number of movies, but how desperate for work are these actors that they will act as the bad guys in a anti-US propaganda movie?

Time to boycott their films: Zane and Busey, if you were desperate for work when you took this job on, you should really be desperate for work when people realize what sort of aid and comfort you've given.

Not so much despicable as really, really, really stupid. Confirms what I've always thought about Hollywood actors: underscores the absurdity of the left who adores them when they go all political on you...