Monday, April 24, 2006

Governement Of Wishful Thinking

I am very depressing about the state of political affair in our country. Then I realize the true nature of the problem. Every Presidential candidate in the past thought of their contemporary administration as incompetent. They believed that the sad state of the government was precisely because of the administration was incompency, corrupted, and malicious. They believe that they can do better than their predessessor. So the challengers thought of grandios plans and then marketed them to the public, promise to perform miracle. The plans are beautiful and they are sincerely believe in the feasibility of their plan.
But then the challenger was elected and attempted to implement their plans - and they found out that they performed no better than their predessesor - sometime even worse. Things always seem to be harder in reality than in paper. The more spectacular the plans, the more spectacular they fail. Pretty soon the new administration was in the same problem the previous administration was in - the same incompency, the same corruption. And the more they tried to dig themselves out of the hole, the deeper they sank.
And the cycle repeated itself administration after administration.
Our government will not improve until the voters realize that the problems is not this President or that President, this administration or that administration. The problem is the structural limitation of government. All candidates started out well intented. But the micromanagement of the lives of hundred of millions of people is impossible, futile, and harmful. I believe that our government has reach it maximum limit of its efficiency and effectiveness. Despite all the current problems with corruption, mismanagement, and incompency, our government is still one of the most efficient and effective compare to many governments I have came across. To think that one can make it more efficient or effective is wishful thinking. If anything, one can only make it less effective and less efficient, which is essentially the story of the last five years, the story of the Bush adminstration.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

National Absurdity Day

Yesterday was the last day to file your tax, better known as "National Absurdity Day." I prepared my own tax return. Do not feel bad because you did not prepare your own tax but instead paid someone else to do it. Do not doubt your own intelligence. I was able to do so because I was a tax preparer many moons and sun cycles ago. I did it part time and it was a very profitable part time job. But I could not help to think that it was absurd that people had to pay me so that they can pay their own government. I guess that is why I stopped doing it.
Our tax system is so bizzare that the tax payers cannot report their income to the government - and on top of the already heavy tax burden, have to pay someone else to do so. My friends, you are not less intelligent because you could not fine your own tax. Many of my clients were successful doctors and brilliant engineers. The idiots are the people who wrote the tax code. To quote my drill sergeant in Basic Training, the Internal Revenue Code, "was written by four monkeys on a crack pipe."
First of all, it does not even conform to our own accounting standard, better know as the General Accepted Accounting Principle (GAAP). Many of the codes are contradictory to GAAP. Companies have to keep two set of books, one conforms to GAAP, the other conforms to the tax code. Secondly, it follows no set of principle - no overall concept. Everything within it is completely arbitrary. One must follows one cross-reference which leads to another cross-reference and then to another, and so on so forth like an infinite labyrinth of mind game. This is the tax code of the most advanced nation on earth.
The Code (according to our own government) has 16,845 pages. Other than being grammartically corrected - it makes little sense. Even tax preparers know only the most common parts of the codes. And some people, who call themselves "progressives," (what's a misnomer!) thinks that the flat tax idea is fringe crazy concept.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Wall Is Too Expensive

There is an argument that building a wall or fence along the US-Mexican border would be too costly. Let examine the cost. In fact, let look at the most extensive and extravagant barrier - the Israel security fence. Israel is building a security fence along the West Bank, a 540 miles long fence. According to Relief Web:
The wall, which is estimated to cost Israel $1.5 million U.S. per mile to construct... In some places the wall is a 25-foot-high concrete barrier and in other places a series of razor-wire fences with electronic sensors.
According to Wikipedia, the US-Mexican border is 2,067 miles. Multiply that by $1.5 million we arrive at $3,100,500,000. Our Federal Budget is $2.119 trillion. The Bridges To Nowhere alone costs us $453 million. According to Porkbusters there are $23,345,344,262 in porks identified in fiscal year 2006.
Decide for yourself if building the wall would be too expensive.

Carnival Of The Clueless No. 39

It is a day late but the "Carnival Of The Clueless" is up at Right Wing Nut House.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Liberty as Utility

John Stuart Mill is an important thinker of classical liberalism and libertarianism. His book “On Liberty” is important cannon on liberty. But Mill is known most for his contribution on utilitarianism. In a way, liberalism and utilitarianism is interrelated – one must think of liberty in the context of utility. To think outside of this context lead to convoluted reasoning that in the end detrimental to the cause of freedom.

Lysander Spooner is an early contributor to the libertarianism movement in the US. I found his essay 1875 “Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication Of Moral Liberty” most refreshing. His clarity of thought and power of reasoning can be seen in the following paragraph from the aforementioned essay (I also recommend readers to read the whole essay, it is excellent):
It will do for a pope or a king - who claims to have received direct authority from Heaven, to rule over his fellowmen - to claim the right, as the vice regent of God, to punish men for their vices; but it is a sheer and utter absurdity for any government, claiming to derive its power wholly from the grant of the governed, to claim any such power; because everybody knows that the governed never would grant it. For them to grant it would be an absurdity, because it would be granting away their own right to seek their own happiness; since to grant away their right to judge of what will be for their happiness, is to grant away all their right to pursue their own happiness.
Yet Lysander Spooner is also famous for his opposition to the US Civil War. What made the situation absurd is that Spooner was the strongest advocate of abolition – and abhorred slavery. Spooner wrote “The Unconstitutionality of Slavery” which is considered the best legal argument against slavery. Yet he could not bring himself to support a war that would end slavery and set million of people free. Due to the absolute argument against all form of coercion – to include coercion that end coercion.

Slavery is coercion, hence is wrong. But a war to end slavery is also coercion, hence is also wrong. This thinking creates a problem in practical policy. It is in fact absurd, leaving no solution to any problem concerning liberty. Short of convincing slave owners to voluntarily free their slaves, there is nothing one can do about slavery. In fact, the line of thinking would be an end to all liberty as we know it. Without enforcement to ensure that liberty is protected, liberty itself is an empty meaningless concept – discussed in philosophy class without ever realizing it.

The problem with Lysander Spooner is the same problem that faces the Libertarian Party. Their concept of liberty is missing the concept of utilitarianism. It leads to bizarre political position – such as opposition to all wars – even the one that result in the spread of individual liberty. This is why John Stuart Mill advocacy of utilitarianism should not be seen as a separate and distinct from his advocacy of liberty – but rather an integral part of liberty. Liberty should be real and tangible. Something a person can feel, taste, and enjoy in his personal life. Therefore, Liberty is best understood as “the maximum amount of Liberty for the maximum number of people.”

Thursday, March 30, 2006

"The Crucified" by Khalil Gibran

Today, and on this same day of each year, man is startled from his deep slumber and stands before the phantoms of the Ages, looking with tearful eyes toward Mount Calvary to witness Jesus the Nazarene nailed on the Cross. But when the day is over and eventide comes, he returns and kneels to pray before the idols erected upon every hilltop, every prairie, and every barter of wheat.
Today, the Christian souls ride on the wing of memories and fly to Jerusalem. There they will stand in throngs, beating upon their bosoms, and staring at him, crowned with a wreath of thorns, stretching his arms before heaven, and looking from behind the veil of Death into the depths of Life.
But when the curtain of night drops over the stage of the day and the brief drama is concluded, the Christians will go back in groups and lie down in the shadow of oblivion between quilts of ignorance and slothfulness.
On this one day of each year, the philosophers leave their dark caves, and the thinkers their cold cells, and the poets their imaginary arbors, and all stand reverently upon that silent mountain, listening to the voice of a young man saying of his killers, "Oh Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."
But as dark silence chokes the voices of the light, the philosophers and the thinkers and the poets return to their narrow crevices and shroud their souls with meaningless pages of parchment.
The women who busy themselves in the splendor of Life will bestir themselves today from their cushions to see the sorrowful woman standing before the Cross like a tender sapling before the raging tempest; and when they approach near to her, they will hear a deep moaning and a painful grief.
The young men and women who are racing with the torrent of modern civilization will halt today for a moment, and look backward to see the young Magdalene washing with her tears the blood stains from the feet of a Holy Man suspended between heaven and earth; and when their shallow eyes weary of the scene they will depart and soon laugh.
On this day of each year, Humanity wakes with the awakening of Spring, and stands crying below the suffering Nazarene; then she closes her eyes and surrenders herself to a deep slumber. But Spring will remain awake, smiling and progressing until merged into Summer, dressed in scented golden raiment. Humanity is a mourner who enjoys lamenting the memories and heroes of the Ages. If Humanity were possessed of understanding, there would be rejoicing over their glory. Humanity is like a child standing in glee by a wounded beast. Humanity laughs before the strengthening torrent which carries into oblivion the dry branches of the trees, and sweeps away with determination all things not fastened to strength.
Humanity looks upon Jesus the Nazarene as a poor-born who suffered misery and humiliation with all the weak. And he is pitied, for Humanity believes he was crucified painfully. And all that Humanity offers to him is crying and wailing and lamentation. For centuries Humanity has been worshiping weakness in the person of the Savior.
The Nazarene was not weak! He was strong and is strong! But people refuse to heed the true meaning of strength.
Jesus never lived a life of fear, nor did he die complaining. He lived as a leader; he was crucified as a crusader; he died with a strength that frightened his killers and tormentors.
Jesus was not a bird with broken wings. He was a raging tempest who broke all crooked wings. He feared not his persecutors nor his enemies. Free and brave and daring he was. He defied all despots and oppressors. He saw the contagious pustules and amputated them. He muted Evil and he crushed Falsehood and he choked Treachery.
Jesus came not from the heart of the circle of Light to destroy the homes and build upon their ruins the convents and monasteries. He did not persuade the strong man to become a monk or a priest, but he came to send forth upon this earth a new spirit, with power to crumble the foundation of any monarchy built upon human bones and skulls. He came to demolish the majestic palaces, constructed on the graves of the weak, and crush the idols, erected upon the bodies of the poor. Jesus was not sent here to teach the people to build magnificent churches and temples amidst the cold wretched huts and dismal hovels. He came to make the human heart a temple, and the soul an altar, and the mind a priest.
These were the missions of Jesus the Nazarene, and these are the teachings for which he was crucified. And if Humanity were wise, she would stand today and sing in strength the song of conquest and the hymn of triumph.
Oh, Crucified Jesus, who art looking sorrowfully from Mount Calvary at the sad procession of the Ages, and hearing the clamor of the dark nations, and understanding the dreams of Eternity: Thou art, on the Cross, more glorious and dignified than one thousand kings upon one thousand thrones in one thousand empires.
Thou art, in the agony of death, more powerful than one thousand generals in one thousand wars.With thy sorrows, thou art more joyous than Spring with its flowers.
With thy suffering, thou art more bravely silent than the crying of angels of heaven. Before thy lashers, thou art more resolute than the mountain of rock.
Thy wreath of thorns is more brilliant and sublime than the crown of Bahram. The nails piercing thy hands are more beautiful than the scepter of Jupiter.
The spatters of blood upon thy feet are more resplendent than the necklace of Ishtar.
Forgive the weak who lament thee today, for they do not know how to lament themselves.
Forgive them, for they do not know that thou hast conquered death with death, and bestowed life upon the dead.
Forgive them, for they do not know that thy strength still awaits them.
Forgive them, for they do not know that every day is thy day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Solution To Illegal Immigration Is Legal Immigration

First of all, there are no undocumented aliens. Undocumented aliens are Japanese (or any nationality) tourists who came to the US and lost their visa at Disney World. Let call them what it is - illegal aliens. And it is a travesty that they are illegal aliens and not legal aliens. The current issue we have concerning illegal immigrants did not not appear out of the blue. The massive numbers of illegal immigrants did not cross the border yesterday, they came in the period of many years. And like it or not, they came because there is a demand for unskill jobs due to our unprecedent economic growth.
But the demand for labor was predictable and should have been anticipated. Therefore the current problem is mainly the fault of Congress and the President - not only this one but previous ones as well - going back at least 10 years. They should have anticipated the labor demand in our economy and adjust their immigration policy accordingly. They should have granted more working visas or came up with a guest worker program that meet our labor need. That means we could have had the same number of immigrants - but legal instead of illegal. We could have picked and chose the best of them base on skill, language, and education - as well as the lack of criminal record. We could have had a much more diverse immigrant population - representing the world at large instead of one single ethnic group. We could have had an immigrant population who are waving the Old Glory instead of a foreign color.
I think the current problem is more complex than people realize and requires several approachs. Building a fence alone does not solve the labor need. Amnesty will not end the incoming flow of illegal immgrants. The problem requires a multi-prongs solution beginning with tightening control of the border. Let make illegal tresspassing into the US a felony with some prison times. Next we have to deal with the illegal immgrants that are here and it is a complex solution. Deporting all of them at once is not a feasible and practical solution. There are too many of them; and who would do the work if they are gone? People who favor deportation will change their mind quickly when there are no fruits in the supermarkets. The practical solution would be slowly deporting people at the sametime rapidly increase the number of authorized employment visa - equal to the rate of people we deport. Let also distribute those visas equally across the globe so that we can have a more diverse population and increase the chance of assimilation. We can also lowering the labor demand by implementing free trade policy. Many of the jobs that illegal immigrants are performing would disappear if we have a sensible trade policy. Let start with ending the agriculture subsidy. It is much better to import fruit from Mexico than importing illegal aliens.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Genocide Deniers

I found this interesting piece over Oliver Kamn. Oliver Kamn fisked Chomsky (and the Guardian) over his position in relation to the genocide in Bosnia. We all know about Chomsky infamous comment on the Cambodia Killing Field. Apparently he is taking a similar position with the genocide in Bosnia. And similar to the Killing Field comment, Chomsky said something outrageous and later denied ever saying it or claim that it was taken out of context. Noam Chomsky granted an interview to The Guardian last October and the interviewer supposedly asked some tought indirect questions about the masacre at Srebrenica.
Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?
A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough.
It is true that the above question- in exact wording- was never asked; and Chomsky never gave the answer - in exact wording. Therefore Chomsky is entitled to an apology and a correction from The Guardian on this specific fact. But Chomsky did indirectly support the position that Srebrenicia was not a masacre and there was no genocide in Bosnia. And as a public intellectual, he must be held responsible.
Oliver gave the evidence of Chomsky position in his piece and I strongly recommend readers to read the whole thing. It is long and laborious but worthy of your time. The summary of Oliver's article is that Chomsky by supporting Diana Johnstone's position is himself a genocide denier.
I will not address Chomsky sin which is merely an echo of Oliver Kamn's position. However I wish to address the original position of Dianna Johnstone which Chomsky supports. Dianna Johnston wrote "Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato, and Western Delusions" which basically denies that there was a genocidal campaign in the Former Yugoslavia and it is minor in comparision to crimes commited by the US internationally. Of course, wacko leftist accusing the US of war crimes is not noteworthy in itself so I will not address that particular argument.
But I have been to Bosnia and am intimately familiar with that civil war. And I think it is important to debunk the Johnstone argument - not for the sake of the US but for the sake of the victims of that genocide. Oliver Kamn did a nice job summarizing Johnstone's thesis and in this post I will refute her argument. I am doing it in the names of the murdered, the raped, and the survivors. Oliver Kamn:
To summarise, this is what Johnstone argues: that there is “a difficulty in knowing the truth about Srebrenica”. This is partly because “uncertainty has persisted concerning the actual number of people killed, the circumstances and motives involved and the political significance of the real or assumed killing that took place.” Johnstone urges, therefore, that “a number of factors should be taken into account”.
These are:

1. The safe areas (including Srebrenica) were not demilitarised, but “served as Muslim military bases … safe bases from which to attack the Serbs”, and UN-protected food shipments were “suspected - correctly” by the Serbs of acting as a front for the shipment of weapons. The UN announcement of the demilitarisation of Srebrenica was “deceptive”.
2. The Muslim forces in Srebrenica were led by one Naser Oric who “had carried out murderous raids against nearby Serb villages”. Oric’s Muslim fighters beheaded the bodies of Serbs, reminding Serbs of the Ottoman occupation.
3. The Bosnian Muslim government pulled Oric’s men out of the enclave “deliberately leaving the enclave undefended”. This alleged fact “has aroused strong suspicion of a calculated sacrifice”. In addition, a former member of the Bosnian parliament has “insisted that many more Srebrenicans had survived than were acknowledged”.
4. The US used the “inevitable failure” of the UN safe area concept as a way of getting NATO to supplant the United Nations. “The UNPROFOR mission was a planned failure … used to discredit the whole tradition of neutral diplomacy” and colluded in by “Washington’s choice as Secretary General, Kofi Annan…”
5. “The number of Muslims killed or missing after the fall of Srebrenica is uncertain and more effort has been made to inflate the figures than to identify and count the real victims”. The original 8,000 figure was made up of 3,000 reported detainees and 5,000 who fled, of whom, according to one newspaper report, 3-4,000 had now turned up. Six years later “ICTY forensic teams had exhumed 2,361 bodies in the region and identified fewer than 50 … some of the bodies were certainly of Serbs as well as of Muslims”. Johnstone concludes that there is “no clear way to account for the fate of all the Muslim men reported missing in Srebrenica”, not least because some of the prisoners “were released in exchanges” or “even dispersed abroad”.
6. “The original accusation against the Bosnian Serbs was politically motivated.” Johnstone writes that “The accusation of a ‘Srebrenica massacre’ [note, these are Johnstone’s quotation marks] was used by the Clinton administration” to distract attention from Croat activities in the Krajina region, and on to “Serb misdeeds”. A presentation by Madeleine Albright of satellite photographs showing possibly massacre burial sites “successfully diverted attention” at the UN from the Croatian offensive against the Serbs. The photos themselves are problematic because “If … the massacres took place on the scale alleged, why were no photos displayed showing the massacres?”

7. “Insofar as Muslims were actually executed [note the use of the quasi-judicial word ‘executed’ rather than ‘murdered’ or even ‘killed’ here] following the fall of Srebrenica, such crimes bear all the signs of spontaneous acts of revenge rather than a project of ‘genocide’”. This is the context in which Johnstone claims that the separation of men of military age from women and children makes one thing obvious, “one does not commit ‘genocide’ by sparing women and children”. Johnstone claims that the separation actually happened “partly because the Serbs could exchange” Serb and Muslim POWs and partly because the Serbs were looking for Oric’s notorious killers. The rapid fall of the enclave “presented the Serbs with an opportunity to exact revenge”. Furthermore “some observers” think that the whole thing “was a ‘trap’ for the Serbs who stupidly fell into it.” In fact “one man who wanted to keep Bosnian Serb forces away from Srebrenica was Slobodan Milosevic”. He may have anticipated that “the accusation of ‘genocide’ in Srebrenica was used to construct the presumption that Milosevic was plotting to commit genocide in Kosovo.”
On point one and two, it has some kernels of truth but much more factual errors. There are still Muslim (Bosniaks) fighters within Srebrenicia proper - to include Naser Oric and his men - but the number is insignificant because the bulk of Bosniak fighters were defending Sarajevo. Srebrenicia location is deep within Serb controlled territory. I includes a map to familiar readers with the locations in this article. The greenline is the current border that divide Bosnia into The Federation and Republika Sprska. It was also the front line around the time of the fall of Srebrenica. The red lines are the main roads.
By the time of the seige of Srebrenica, the combined Serbian Army (JNA) and the Bosnian Serbs (VRS) forces already took Zvonik, a Muslim majority town north of Srebrenica and emptied it of all Muslims. Many of the refugee fled to Srebrenica, increased it population by at least five times. The JNA-VRS forces pushed further south and completely surrounded Srebrenica. Srebrenica was completely isolated and if one looks at the map, it is very far from the front line to be a viable base for launching attacks against the Serbs. Supplying in the city is virtually impossible without going through Serbs controlled checkpoint. The only way to avoid the checkpoints was on foot through the mountain. Having been there, I can tell you that the mountain in Bosnia is tough terrain to tranverse - one has to be in very good shape and if one carry light load. Johnstone's idea that the city was a forward base is absurd.
There is no denial that Naser Oric is a war criminal. I have personally met Naser Oric when I was a peacekeeper in Bosnia (2000) and my impression of him was negative. He is a typical criminal scumbag that profit from war. He was a sleazy night club owner in Tuzla at the time. When he was indicted, we came close to capturing him but he managed to evade.
But I wonder what Johnstone point in mentioning Naser Oric. Naser Oric role in the Srebrenica event was a negative one but irrelevant to the later masacre. Naser and his men, during the seige, went outside the city to forage for food and supply. In the process, they indiscriminately killed Serbs who live in the outskirt of the city. Robbery was his main motive. And as the Serbs were closing in the city, Naser and his men left in helicopter. Is Johnstone implying that Naser action justify the masacre later on by Serbs? According Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who is no friend of Naser Oric, submitted a document to the UN that Naser Oric killed 371 Serbs during his raids (from 1993 - 1995). War crime no doubt; and he is being tried for it. But that fact bear no relevancy on the later masacre unless if Johnstone argue that it was spontaneous revenge - unqualified as premeditated and planned masacre.
Which she did in this article at the International Action Center (a far left center found by Ramsey Clark), which seems to be the summarized version of her book:
When the Bosnian Serb forces captured the town on July 11, 2005, civilians were clamoring to leave the enclave, understandably enough, since there was virtually no normal economic life there. Much has been made of the fact that Serb forces separated the population, providing buses for women, children and the infirm to take them to Tuzla, while detaining the men. In light of all that preceded, the reason for this separation is obvious: the Bosnian Serbs were looking for the perpetrators of raids on Serb villages, in order to take revenge.

However, only a relatively small number of Muslim men were detained at that point, and some of them are known to have survived and eventually been released in exchange for Serb prisoners. When the Serb forces entered the town from the south, thousands of Muslim soldiers, in disarray because of the absence of commanding officers, fled northwards, through wild wooded hills toward Tuzla. It is clear enough that they fled because they feared exactly what everyone aware of the situation dreaded: that Serb soldiers would take vengeance on the men they considered guilty of murdering Serb civilians and prisoners.
First of all, the revenge explanation does hold water. There was other masacres long before Srebrenica. There is a hotel in Zvornik that we nicknames "Airbone Hotel." When the Serbs took Zvornik, they took Muslims to a hotel on the Drina (the river that divides Bosnia and Serbia), killed them and threw their bodies into river - hence the nickname. There were so many bodies that the hydroelectric damn downstream was clogged. The refugees at Srebrenica include many survivors of Zvornik.
Johnstone assertion that Muslims men fled north toward Tuzla is absurd. It would normally took us most of the day to travel from Tuzla to Srebrenica in humvee using the main road. It would be almost impossible to travel from Srebrenica to Tuzla on foot while avoiding the main road. The numerous mountains in between make it physically impossible.
Johnstone had also never visited the mass grave in Bosnia. I went to many of them and they turned my stomach. So far more than 5,000 remains were recovered in and around Srebrenica and new ones are being found. It is a higher rate of recover than most masacres in the past suggesting the number maybe much higher than 8,000 originally estimated.
Throughout her book, Johnstone deliberately avoids mentioning the rapes that occured after the fall of Srebrenica. Beside seperating the men and young boy to be massacred, the Serbs raped many women and young girls as a form of intimidation.
Beside the factual errors on the Srebrenica Masacre, Johnstone has nothing to add to the topic other than crazy conspiracy theory. The fact that Croats and Bosniaks also commited war crimes is not disputed by anyone. It does not change the fact that the Serbs were the most prolific killers in the war because they were most well equiped. It further does not change that Srebrenica Masacre in 1995 was the worst masacre in Europe since World War Two. Dianna Johnstone book has less to do with Bosnia than with America. If the US did not intervened in that conflict, Johnstone would have no problem acknowleding the masacre. I am used to the nutty Leftist bashing the US. We can take the abuse. But it sadden me to see victims of genocide being denied of their stories in the process.

Manolo Is Not A Postmodernist

As a frequent visitor to Manolo's Shoe Blog, my instinct told me that Manolo is a not postmodernist. A man with such refined sense of style cannot possibly be a dreary postmodernist. Normblog profile of the great fashion guru confirms my belief.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That beauty is the subjective, artificial construct. Indeed, it is not. Beauty and the appreciation of beauty they are part of the very essence of the human soul, and are indeed eternal verities.
Manolo, he is super fantastic!