Sunday, January 30, 2005

No Wonder They Say 'Fisked'

"What a bloody charade." I'd never read anything of his, but it showed up on Google News tonight and it's beyond belief, at least for my uninitiated eyes. Robert Fisk brings us another treasure I guess.

I'll leave it to others to be thorough, but just a few gems that popped out at me if you haven't seen it:

1. 'Many Iraqis do not know the names of the candidates, let alone their policies.'
Wow, what a powerful indictment of representative government. Watch out! He's a genius! This story hit the Internet about the same time voter turnout hit 70% and climbing. I don't know when the last time we hit that in America, and I can only imagine the percentage of people who don't know the name, much less the policies of our sitting President. Contrary to international opinion, we're doing just fine that way, but thanks Robbie. I'll trust under-informed voters over a dictator most days. I guess we'll agree to disagree.

2. 'The majority Shi'as, oppressed under Hussein, are expected to take a majority in the polling at the expense of the formerly dominant Sunnis.'
Actually that'd be what happens in a pure democracy, but fortunately Iraqis have a constitution. That's why there are constitutions in the first place. Obviously the majority is expected to take the majority in polling, but that's not at the expense of anyone necessarily. Where does this guy live?

3. '
The reality is that much of Iraq has become a free-fire zone (for reference, see under "Vietnam")'
Reality is the last thing Robert Fisk is qualified to report on. This is simply not the case. He might as well be claiming dragons are flying over the southern marshes. I can't prove that they're not, but the claim is in no way related to "reality" or any word root or derivation thereof.

4. '
And then the manipulation will begin and the claims of fraud and the admissions that the elections might be "flawed" in some areas.'
Again, welcome to Elections 101. People don't like losing elections (for reference, see under "America"). It doesn't make the system anything close to a "charade", it makes it very normal. So the Sunnis don't want to take part as much as the rest of the country. Big deal. They will.

So when Mr. Fisk gets all this completely wrong, does he ever go back and say "Oops"? No, of course not. Like anyone else who sits and whines and does nothing, he looks forward and sees doom, he looks backward and calls out mistakes of others, and his column necessarily retains no memory whatsoever of his numberless errors.

What a bloody moron.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Why They Love the GPL

Slashdot is obviously hugely popular as a site, but as a community it's just completely weak. Heavily anti-bush, heavily jobs-protectionist, this "News for Nerds" is about as rearward looking as a community could get. I don't know why I keep looking, maybe it's in hope that people in technology will start being a little more self-reliant, but my mistake:

There are a lot of good reasons to like the GPL: the GNU Public License. For one thing, it's a David and Goliath kind of thing. It's the little guy standing up to the corporate behemoths that run rough-shod over our daily lives by virtue of their influence, legal and otherwise, on government. For another, it's virtuous.

I've got nothing against open source software in general. I'm also not completely overwhelmed by it. But the attitude presented above is pretty sad. "Corporate behemoths running rough-shod over our daily lives"? Who? What corporation has any control over how I run my life? And "Virtuous"? It's not wrong, but virtuous?

In the vast majority of cases, people work in open source for personal gain or for personal satisfaction. The whole idea that all these people are just so selfless is completely deluded. Note how many open source luminaries leverage their experience into good jobs. They're smart, not heroes, any more than an intern in an office building is.

Also, without the corporate behemoths running (roughshod or otherwise) open source people would have nothing to do. What would they copy if there weren't UNIX, or Office, or Explorer, or Photoshop, etc? Obviously there are interesting new things, but the big things I am exposed to (Linux, Open Office, Firefox, GIMP, etc.) are attempts to replicate functionality brought to life or brought to popularity by evil behemoths like Bell Labs, Microsoft and Adobe.

An interesting thing happened with Firefox, I should add, in that the open source copy (in my opinion) overtook the corporate Explorer. Ever since Microsoft was nearly shut down for using the money they spent on Explorer development to their competitive advantage (the horror!), the advances stalled. Yes, finally, after all these years, open source brought us something better than Explorer 4 era browsing.

I do wonder what we lost, what we might have today, had Microsoft been allowed to have an incentive to continue improving Explorer. I also wonder where we'd be without these evil corporate behemoths, where open source (David) would be without them (Goliath). I can guess, but I'd rather not imagine it. I doubt the open source hero worshippers at Slashdot would agree, though.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Why Iraq is Like Vietnam

It's a common meme, you've seen the stickers, the t-shirts, the comics, and so on. "Is it Vietnam Yet?" There has been an effort to paint our efforts in Iraq as being an irreedemable mess, that we need to unilaterally pull out to minimize the problems we've caused.

Obviously, I don't think that's the case at all. I'll be happy when history proves our actions right. I think that for the first time, our foreign policy is going after the real roots of a problem, instead of pacifying outwardly-friendly dictators in the interests of regional stability.

So why is Iraq like Vietnam? Because the left are exactly as wrong today as they were on Vietnam. The hundreds of thousands of murdered South Vietnamese we left to their fates can attest to that. The constant drumbeat from the left caused us to lose our nerve, to not finish what we needed to. Regardless of how we got in, it was the wrong way to get out. The same would have happened in Iraq if we didn't have people in office with the spine to see this through. We saw a small taste of it after the first Gulf War, but somehow it couldn't happen this time?

The nice thing about being a naysayer is that you don't care if it works out OK. You could've protested WWII, demonstrated at the Capitol when we were obviously losing at the Battle of the Bulge, demanded someone take responsibility, and on and on. But at the end, when people that actually do what they say they'll do finish what they're doing, you can just go home and wait for the next reason to complain. I've never seen someone who says, "this won't work, it's destined for failure" have to answer for being wrong about it. One reason is that successful people don't care about inconsequential naysayers and just move on. But success doesn't always come instantly, so these people get a long time to spout their useless drivel.

Unfortunately, the media in general tends to lap it all up. The time to do something about the war is before it occurs, or at an election. We just had one, and they lost. But the insane rhetoric of our left is truly unpatriotic and damaging. They love to say dissent it patriotic, but it's the complete opposite during a war. It weakens our negotiating positions and reputations in the world, it demoralizes our troops, it demoralizes our country. And were they successful, and if it ended like Vietnam, they would never be called to account for the damage they did. Just as John Kerry was never hammered for contributing to the deaths of so many thousands of South Vietnamese.

Hopefully we've learned our lessons from Vietnam, and we can ignore the naysayers until we succeed and they disappear again.