Monday, February 28, 2005

Film Forensics - Lion King

Lion King 1

State of Body - Father is dead, but child is still alive and kicking.

Detail of inspection - The kids put it on autorepeat for days at a time!

Comments - Child appeared dead, but had just gone away for a little hakuna matata.

Although I view this movie to be a typical Disney kids animated movie, and not really a "serious" movie, its sheer general popularity make it a movie that people house-sitting for you would want to watch it, if you only hadn't taken it in the car with you for the kids. Of course the completely unbelievable combination of a warthog and a meerkat, make for the humerous, relaxed interlude of "no worries" which the kids tend to gloss over as boring - in between the Violent plot to take over a throne, and the just as violent return of the rightful king to reclaim it and save the kingdom. Of course this wouldn't be a kids movie if the hero's father didn't have an agonising death sequence early on in the movie. Felicia (5) would certainly pick "the one where Mufasa dies" as her favourite of the three Lion King Movies. The obvious educational aspect would be of the circle of life, and that good leadership counts for a lot both in a family and for a country. I kind of think that the "good vs evil" is a bit over done in films, and I would have loved to see the hint of Scar having a good side to him. Not only does he disregard life in his plans for power. He extends to not having a single good intention shown in the whole movie. Even for the Hyena's. All in all, its got some nice violent bits for the kids, and some great comedy for the adults - therefore making it one of the only DVD's we have which visitors lust for. "Hakuna Matata" - "Its our Motto" - What's 'a motto - why nothing, what's 'a matto with you??

Ten things I've done that I don't think anyone reading this has

Yes, it's a Livejournal meme.

1. I've climbed down the outside of a hotel from the sixth storey(1)

2. Hit a legal winning tennis shot that went no more than 10 cm height from the ground and no more than 1 m travel after bouncing twice (2)

3. Eaten raw Warthog meat (3)

4. Brought into Australia a package for my father when I was seven and waved it around in the airport, not realising it was a marijuana blend (4)

5. Juggled two balls while playing the marseilleise on my trumpet (5)

6. Accidentally said something in French instead of Japanese (6)

7. Hypnotised my wife to take her shopping for a ring, ao that I could surprise her with it for Valentines day, but still know that it fit (7)

8. Write my diary entries on the web log, because that is where it is most safe from my better half's prying eyes (8)

9. Had four children, trying to get the right sex (gender) and succeeding in girl, boy, girl, boy sequence (9)

10. Graduated in University as an engineer but decided to work in my parents business instead (10)

(1) Yup, had to bring that one up again.

(2) This one is only possible when a ball lands on my side of the court but due to spin or wind goes back over the net - you are then allowed to lean your racket over the net as long as you don't hit the net. It helps if the umpire also knows the rules.

(3) I was about four years old, and hungry as usual - a nearby adult yelled out that it was raw. I thought that raw must have meant yummy and ate a few more mouthfuls before he managed to get the bone off me.

(4) Me and my brother (9 at the time) came to Australia unaccompanied from Italy. My father told me to bring his packet of snuff or whatever it was - so when we arrived I showed him that I remembered it.

(5)At a french/german camp. The idea was to perform something french, so I learned to play the french national anthem by ear.

(6) That's what happens with languages learnt later in life - I never confuse either with Italian or english!

(7) I can't prove that she's not just pretending not to remember, but I swear she has no idea how I managed to get a ring she liked in exactly the right size.

(8) There's no safe place at home or work, but she would never think to look on the internet :-)

(9) On a sad ironic note, the times when Kylie miscarried, the pregnancy wasn't planned.

(10) No real regrets there - I now refer to myself as a "clothing engineer", rather than "bosses son" or "manager" or whatever.

It's always good to hear from a friend, Andrew

Dr. Clam said:
How can we get Androoo to pay attention to your blog, do you think?

Well, apart from the fact that you somehow got his attention anyway, I guess since we think we know some of how he thinks we should put ourselves in his perspective, and he can say hmm. yes, that sounds like me or whatever.

Andrew would have said:

Well I'm not particularly interested in Israel/Palestine because I don't think that their conflict is going to affect me personally unless our country goes in and gets caught in the crossfire. That's why I was so angry that Australia went into Iraq (supporting America). We basically wouldn't have been affected negatively at all if we'd just said "Thanks, but no thanks, It's got nothing to do with us." Even protecting the Japanese engineers is hypocritical as they try to rebuild things we helped destroy. Your game theory model may or may not explain why the Arab-Israeli conflict persists, but it's not our responsibility to save them from each other's violent acts. By pursuing our view of moral righteousness onto them, we can only complicate the situation for them partly at our own expense.

Yes, and I have no problem with this, as this is about what I get from Kylie. But Kylie has no interest at all in game theory or politics. I know that there is a class of games called "diplomacy" games, but I haven't actually played one. I don't know if there is any where you can sabotage other people's diplomacy, or how that plays out.

On a different note, I am going to put ten things I've done... when I get time.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Happy Fun WorldTM?

Dr Clam said:
Not relevant to this post at all, of course, but isn't all the most recent news from Israel/Gaza, Syria/Lebanon, and Australia-Japan/Iraq just bluebird-on-my-shoulder top-of-the-morning excellent? Happy Fun WorldTM, here we come!

Well, yes, it is very exciting that Australia is going in just when Iraq needs some Country like ours with extremely good hearts and minds credentials. I also think that 450 of our soldiers is worth at least 1400 of the Dutch soldiers we are replacing - with the extra benefit of being a third of the possible targets.

I'm not sure what good things are happening in Syria/Lebanon except for the recent assassination meaning that the US will feel more empowered to snoop around and crack down on Syria's activities? I'll have to look at Syria more closely - it is a critical country in my Game theory model as the most likely spoiler entity of Israel-Palestine diplomacy. As far as Israel/Gaza is concerned, there are some positive signs, but as far as the overall issue all the current activites are "posturing" for possible advantage when there is a possibility of peace in a future with subdued spoiling entities. Of course I'm happy with Israel getting any advantage in that respect (eg. connecting settlements their side of the wall etc.) because they are inherently more capable of moral and magnanimous behaviour than either the neo-state of palestine or the neighbouring Arab influences.

As far as the overall Israeli-palestine model goes, the "spoilers" definitely want the Iraq conflict contained in Iraq, while Israel (and Palestine) would gain advantage if the conflict spread to Syria and/or Iran in a way which the US could control the money flow to terrorist organisations attacking Israel, as this would create the possibility of Abbas controlling *all* militant factions in Israel.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bathtub curve again

Back in one of my November posts I kept thinking about analogy of the bathtub curve when thinking about abortion. Just recently two more points I thought of came up. The first one is that in engineering the infant mortality part is the issue that is considered "quality control", and the way to resolve it is extensive testing to exclude any subquality items. It may be that abortion is going down the path of increasingly being used to screen out severe abnormal fetuses that would both have miserable lives and would be a financial burden for society. Secondly, I was looking for a financial connection with death probability that didn't mean I was looking at peoples life as a commodity that could be bought and sold. The one that I found was life insurance. The yearly premium is proportional to the death probability of the individual. Children have low premiums, smokers have higher premiums than older non-smokers. Suicide and homicide (by people taking out the insurance) is excluded, and people who choose to stand in the middle of Italian roads habitually would pay very high premiums if they can get life insurance at all. For older people it makes more sense to take out reverse life insurance (annuities) that insure against living too long for their savings to take care of. The implication is that it is too expensive to protect the lives of people at a "high" risk of dying.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Holiday Plans - Lindeman Island in September

How very exciting. Having been to the Club Med Lindeman Island for a long weekend several years ago, we've been dreaming of going back there with our kids because of the absolutely superb service, child care arrangements and trapeze, golf and tennis facilities. We finally decided that we have saved enough money and we can afford to go there for a week in the September school holidays. While we were down in Sydney, Kylie tentatively suggested for Andrew and Anna to join us as we knew they would love it too, and as the kids can be taken care of by the various kid's clubs, I would have plenty of time to play golf and perfect trapeze tricks with friends. Ideally, I would email Andrew and he would reply in due course - or he could just put a comment on my blog - whatever.

Australia - Nuclear energy's Saudi Arabia (Thanks Greenies!)

Greenies push Kyoto Protocol (all good), which encourages carbon trading (excellent result) which encourages cheap alternative non carbon power (Hydro & Nuclear). Since greenies are also particularly against dams in areas which are good for hydro (hmm, say Franklin etc.) this really encourages nuclear power. And which country has the highest proven reserves of Uranium in the whole world - YESSS... Australia is the winner!!! Yes I know there's this silly 1 km high tower going up somewhere with a huge greenhouse underneath, but that's just a show-pony electricity generator. Uranium is the new yellow gold of this world, and we've got it!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Volleyball vs Tennis


Having made the semi-finals in second place, we had two chances to make the final. Sandor sprained his ankle and couldn't make it to the semi's so we had to play with only three players against four. We tried valiantly, but both teams we played were expert at finding the gaps and placing shots into them. Nonetheless, I was very happy with our attacking play, and quite a few spikes and blocks of mine satisfyingly hit the dirt for winners.


I can't believe how long it's been since I've picked up a tennis racket. In late primary/early high school I was training every day, and for years after I played fixtures on saturdays. I don't really have a lot to show for it, except for a competitive streak in life's sports. I really only remember fondly a few moments. One where my opponent was at the net, had me sprawling off to the right of the court which I could only manage to hit straight back at him. Seeing my predicament, he casually dibbled a drop shot and turned away from the play seeing I had no chance to retrieve it. I didn't feel like giving up so I went for a sprint complete with life-endangering dive and managed to spoon it back over the net. Hearing me crash to the ground he turned his head around again, not realising that the ball was just going past where his racket should have been in a nice slow arc. He just had his mouth wide open and said "#$%* Italian Stallion". I lost the game, but inside I was a winner. As in volleyball, I don't take pleasure in winning so much as having a memorable save or otherwise incredible shot.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Australia's most useful export - Jobs (No, really!)

Dr. Clam said...

I say you should put your money where your principles are and move your business offshore- export those jobs to somewhere where they will make the difference between life and death!
Where your mother was born is still too chaotic, but I think where my mother was born is pretty reasonable since the end of the Maoist insurgency and the cholera epidemic...

You are absolutely right on both counts, except you bring up some ironies. Firstly, we don't actually have the money to move offshore in the way that I would like to. Another irony is that it is actually a "desirable" effect of the policy to export jobs, and our local competitors are making a difference in Indonesia and Fiji that we aren't. Yet another irony is that we have moved up the value chain so much that we need highly skilled sewers and contractors that can give us very fast turnaround and predictable quality even on unfamiliar garments. It would make more sense for us to import skilled workers from neighbouring (poorer) countries, as we would like them close to keep track of batch by batch production. Import tarriffs and immigration legislation are combining to distort the economy of this industry in a way which puts our destiny largely in the hands of external forces - much as the palestinians :). For instance it is not the issue of cost which makes "outworkers" desirable, but the overall flexibility (two ways at that) which it entails. The reason unions have railed against their use is because they can't really benefit from, or usually join, a union.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


satans of ethical correctness are pursuing a strategy which will have the undesired side effect of pushing manufacturing offshore, where there are real *possibilities* of "sweat" shops. I put "sweat" in inverted commas because all the loosely identified people whom this site calls "outworkers" are all working at home in airconditioned comfort (all the ones in Townsville, that is), arguably making more money. What is worst of all is that the Uniting Church is supporting this website. I am just glad that I no longer go to a Uniting Church!

Commentators who dispute the concept that the majority of outworkers are exploited
For example, some have criticised the findings of recent reports which conclude that the majority of outworkers are exploited.

Most recently, a report by the Work Reform Unit of the Institute of Public Affairs('the IPA Report') in October 2001 has questioned many of the findings of recent reports that the majority of outworkers are exploited. Their findings contradict those published elsewhere.

Vanthida Lao, spokesperson for the IPA in regard to this report, states that the failure to draw a distinction between legal and illegal operations has the effect of overemphasising the extent of the exploitation of outworkers and at the same time fails to recognise that there are many legitimate outworking businesses which offer good remuneration:

Two dollars per hour, $14 per day, seven days a week. That's the lot of hapless homeworkers, according to the unions. Don't fall for it. It's not accurate and their campaign is threatening thousands of well-paying jobs as well as the fabric of many migrant communities - including mine, the Cambodian community.

If there is exploitation or illegal activity, then that should be addressed. But it's wrong, indeed insulting, to claim that all outworkers are exploited, hapless or criminals.

My mother put my brothers, sisters and me through private schools and universities and helped buy our home by earning a good income from being an outworker. I know many families in my community who did the same thing.

She goes on to say that:

In September, I undertook, in conjunction with the Institute of Public Affairs, the first serious study into homeworkers' remunerations. We only studied people who operated legally. We did so for a number of reasons. First, most people in the industry operate legally. That is, they pay tax and only receive welfare assistance for which they qualify. Second, people who operate illegally are not going to tell me or anyone else the truth about income.

She further questions the methodology behind the recent report produced by Cregan in that it "...failed to distinguish between legal and illegal workers, bringing into question the accuracy and representativeness of the responses."

In comparison, she states that her investigation "...did not rely on memory and hearsay. We went straight to the business records showing the payments made to 58 outworkers over a three-month period covering more than 5000 hours, 13 different types of operations and 12,000 garments."

She concludes that the findings contradicted those of other reports:

What we found was a great deal of diversity, but not exploitation. The payment per garment ranged from $2.80 to $12, and the average hourly remuneration ranged from $9 to $21.80. The average remuneration per outworker surveyed was $14.41 per hour. In comparison, the award wage for level-two clothing workers is about $13.50 per hour.

The bottom line is that outworkers we surveyed made a good wage, comparable to what they would make under an award in a factory. Moreover, outworkers had a pleasanter work environment and more control over it.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Why each of the 3 entities only mentions 2

On top of demonstrating why the addition of a 3rd spoiling entity explains the behaviour through negotiations, I also have to demonstrate that it was the optimal strategy for all three not to reveal the presence of a spoiling external factor.

Well - as far as Israel is concerned, the Ministry went into great detail showing the links Saddam Hussein had with palestinian terrorists, while at the time of negotiations acted as if Arafat could have complete control over his terrorists. This spin was for the dual purposes of trying to engineer a war between various palestinian factions, and for the blaming of Arafat for failure of peace talks. Arafat, from his part all along said that guarantees on behalf of the various palestinian terrorist organisations were unrealistic even if the palestinian people in general would benefit from the results of the possibility of those said guarantees. As far as the third parties themselves, the whole point of supporting terrorists, especially suicide ones was that with the destruction of evidence during the actual attack there would be no effective evidentiary trail leading back to the original sponsor at the time. This is to be able to keep spouting anti-Israel rhetoric without anybody being able to prove or even define their links with said terrorists.

What Israel & the PA should do

Another conclusion that I've come up with is the importance for all the "home grown" palestinian terrorist groups to be weaned off foreign donations. Can you imagine if some of our military units were taking donations from neighbouring outside countries citizens and/or governments? This is much harder than it looks. Replacement sources of funding may be from the PA itself, which is dirt poor and corrupt to boot, or countries with treaties in place.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Preliminary research insights

Dr. Clam said,

Not that I wish to pre-empt the findings of your modelling, of course, but are you expecting any practical recommendations to emerge beyond my optimistic "muddle along the way we are going"? :)

Well this is the starting theorem of my thesis, borrowed from one of those links of people who have gone down this path:

One of John Nash's simple but great insights into 'games with N players' is that any persistent situation you observe is an equilibrium.

Since simple two player modelling would show that it would have been clearly a good strategy for both sides to sign OSLO, obviously the external factors have to be considered.

Are both sides pursuing a sub-optimal strategy? Nash would say no, this has been going on for years, they must be pursuing optimal strategies given the game in front of them.

I would add that one of Israel's possible strategies is to put a wedge between "PA" and "external terrorist forces" with the view that they may start battle against one another. This would clearly be a big win for Israel and a big loss for the other two parties. Without "changing the rules" the "external terrorist forces" would have had no impediment to striking even if a signed deal such as Oslo had taken place. In such case PA would have the dismal choices of joining in (breaking signed promises), starting war against said external forces (big loss), or ignoring it losing both the moderates and hardliners in his own constituency (suicide). Clearly, Arafat foresaw this well in advance and had decided in advance to join in (with some extra time bought to better position his own terrorist forces)- hence the afformentioned correlated behaviour between the various palestinian groups.

Since I've simplified all external terrorist forces into one entity, it needs to be defined well. These forces are not the actual countries themselves, so even if countries seem to be warming to peace, their Israel rhetoric is the best proxy for how they will push their money handles to the terrorist organisations. While Jordan, Egypt, and the new Iraq are improvements in this regard, Syria/Lebanon & Iran will almost certainly be spoiling influences in this current road map proposal. I suggest my concluson will be that the USA must concentrate on putting the screws on these countries' links to palestinian terrorism in a much bigger way well before engaging in a new round of peace talks. I suggest that Syria may be the next target for the US military to intervene in anyway. Perhaps just putting the screws on Iran may be enough to deter their groups.

It is interesting to note how the persistent situation in Northern Ireland was influenced positively by 9/11. The IRA lost almost all its funding and support from USA citizens overnight. The general IRA sympathetic population there was also revulsed enough to stop being sympathetic to any home-grown terrorism. The attacks in Saudi Arabia also had the same effect of starving that source of support for terrorists.

1980 trivial memory

Back in the summer holidays of 1979-1980, I spent a lot of time at the traffic training centre here in Townsville (holiday activities for kids). One day I met a kid my age (9) that said that he was also from an Italian family. I asked him what his last name was and I heard (Ver - Sayce). I told him that it didn't sound like an Italian name and he told me that in Italian it was pronounced "Ver- sa - Chee", but he didn't know what it meant. Anyhow, when I got home, I asked my father whether "Ver- sa - Chee" meant anything in Italian. He laughed and told me it meant rude noises (True - the word versacci does mean "rude noises uttered orally"). In fact it was only when Gianni Versace the famous clothing label guy died did I realise that most people think the way Versace is pronounced in Italian is "Ver-sa-Chee". It actually should be pronounced closer to "Ver-sa-Chair". Only then did it click that this same person was the same one that eventually was a Groomsman at my wedding.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Nature of Spin

It is the very nature of spin to simplify a complex situation into one that is simple to understand and strikes a chord with the "common man". For example on import tariffs the simplified situation is that they reduce imports, improving the trade balance which is good for the country doing it - bad for the other exporting countries. The spin corollary is that tariffs reduce unemployment while only slightly increasing prices for consumers. When there is an article on tariffs, there is not much way to tell the spin from the truth in reporting. However, economists make models on how an act of putting up tariffs affects the various economies - check these models against reality past and present, and conclude that tariffs are in fact a lose-lose proposition. The country putting up the tariff loses (arguably the other exporting countries lose even worse, but it's often spread amongst many countries) in just about every country imaginable where it has happened.

In the middle east the spin exaggerates the "evils" of the US and Israel - and codifies them as satan worshippers (from the Arab side). The truth is obviously more complex, but leaders (or journalists) who try to tell the truth are unlikely to be listened to (democratic or not). In Israel the spin is aimed at "converting" moral westeners to their cause and they place great importance of demonstrating to civilised nations their morals are superior to those of the palestinians. They codify it as there being a single enemy and that they don't desire much other than legitimacy and peace. This spin also grossly simplifies the situation.

If you look at the spin on both sides of a tariff example, say in WTO negotiations, the negotiations are made on the premise that if you are giving up a tariff, that is a loss to you and a mercantalistic negotiation ensues (ie. you give up this tariff if I give up that etc.) Over and over I've seen economists exasperated at the lack of reality of these assertions. I'm saying that if you try to look at the spin of both sides at the same time, you are almost certainly making the same mistake of believing the spin over the reality, of which you have to go back to those models that work to see a semblance. Political experts will at least give a feel of the complexity without perhaps getting the model right. Experts can make analogies with similar situations - economics experts will tend to befuddle the general public because they just can't get their head around the more complex models.

I don't believe the three entity model I'm talking about is *that* complex that at least political experts and the general intellectual can understand it.

Now to construct MY model

The two entity model repetitive prisoner's dillemma has the major fault of not counting the third party terrorist organisations. Now since these are primarily funded by outside countries completely outside of the control of Israel and PA (because as you have said he who pays the piper calls the tune) they must be considered as a third entity with fairly different scoring alternatives. Where as the PA would have benefitted substantially from the Oslo accord(if it worked), the third party terrorist organisations would have lost influence, especially if they stopped attacking Israel. A win for these third party terrorist organisations is essentially the "destruction" or making illegitimate of Israel. I think this can be modelled in a three dimensional matrix, where the PA can choose to attack or negotiate, the third party terrorists can choose to attack or not to attack, Israel can choose whether to attack or negotiate. Note that even when the PA was heavily armed, it was (EXTREMELY) doubtful whether they would wage war against the third party terrorist organisations. If it came to a choice (at a police/soldier level) of shooting Israelis or shooting their "own" they would shoot the Israelis. I'm not just speculating about that - there was a couple of examples during the Oslo peace process of it. This three d game theory model effectively gives the third party terrorist organisations complete veto over any peace deal that involves them stopping their attacks. The reason that they would temporarily stop is to loosen some of the security measures and/or find new holes. If there is anyone in the University of New England interested in game theory, this is the one to research. While there are groups like Hizbullah (which is Iran-backed) that are backed by countries that haven't made deals with Israel, no deal that requires the PA to stop attacks are possible. Maybe if this model was played out, and compared to what has happened over the last few generations, it would fit perfectly, whereas the two entity model (or the three entity model with USA as the third party) fails to predict the non-signing of Oslo, for instance.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bollocks - Game theory rules

Dr Clam said:

I do not think it is worthwhile trying to model this situation with game theory. You would be much better off spending your time immersed in Israeli and Palestinian websites until you can view the situation simultaneously from both viewpoints...

The problem with Israeli & Palestinian websites is that they are ALL (I haven't found any exceptions yet) spin. When I was looking for sites mentioning SH support of palestinian terrorism, I found exactly what Dave mentioned - Israeli sites saying it was fact, arab sites implying it was pure speculation. The *only* impartial articles that I've ever read have been in the economist. The problem with viewpoints is exactly that they're viewpoints. The beauty of models is you can put in what is actually happening to find what game they're really playing. This will bring out better what tactics and strategies will work.

Game theory - Israel vs ???

I think I got a little bit away from a major point which until now I've been gradually getting clear in my head; the thing that gets me the most riled about Israel: The thing which I've put a lot of intellectual investment into - the thing I think has truth on its side and therefore I must endeavour to prove. Modelling the Israel-Palestine issue as game theory, at this stage Israel (and US + most casual observers) see the game being played this way: Israel is rewarding Palestine for "good" behaviour, punishing the bad behaviour in its process to improve the situation for the average Israeli. The one big assumption that everybody seems to be making is that it is a two player game - that blocking off borders, and assassination attempts are equivalently punishing the Palestinians for doing the wrong thing - the wrong thing being primarily terrorist strikes. Surely it makes a lot more sense to see it as a multi-player game, where some actions are rewarding terrorist groups while punishing the "Palestinian Authority" (what a misnomer that is!) and visa versa. This makes a BIG difference to what constitutes good policy in Israel (and in the near future Iraq as well!). Please tell me that you DON'T think there are only two sides to this "Game". Please tell me that you will help research this aspect and either contradict me with your well thought out logic, or tell me that I'm right and to write to the Prime minister of Israel!

Israel vs PA vs Hamas vs Hizbullah etc.

Peace and Game Theory is a link which states my case - however, a three or four player model should actually get somewhere! Another link to think!

This link however argues that it is a prisoner's dillemma type two player game run repeatedly which counters my argument about negotiating under fire.

I can't find what I want! Someone somewhere that has done the game theory predicated on even three players in Israel/Palestine/Terrorists. Do I have to do the Maths myself?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

New car with your car service at Kia

I brought our Kia Carnival in for a service on monday, casually went to pick it up at 5:00 pm as they told me it was ready. Then they casually said there was a problem - nothing major, they just had to Replace The Engine! Here's a new Kia you can borrow for the 6-7 weeks until it gets replaced... Strange..... The lend vehicle is new, automatic, keyless entry, 2 airbags. Can we keep it?

Iraq saves trade talks

I read an article on the Australian which stated that the US is going into too much debt due to the war in Iraq and so to save money they decided to reduce farm subsidies. However, don't get too excited, they only increased them to unfathomly high level so they would have something to offer in the defuncting Doha round of trade talks. Because they hardly even got started, they couldn't get any leverage by offering this, so to stop this complete immoral waste of money, they had to "waste" this reduction and get little political mileage from it. Hah. Hah. That'll teach you not to go around country building when there's worse ways to waste your money.
Well, maybe I should have qualified that "wrong!" with "I believe that is absolutely, completely" but to me it's a "proven" fact, I suppose. I would go so far to say that potential suicide bombers are a tradable commodity between Islamic terrorist groups (and even other unrelated groups), and because of the laws of supply and demand, "price" signals are even a relevant concept. Also Adam Smith's invisible hand will dictate that terrorist organisations are competing for the best. USA has worked hard in reducing the production and distribution - but demand is still strong (consumption is steady) and there is still a glut in the market from the Afghanistan/Iraq training camp days.
Anonymous said

I would argue that 9/11 was not terrorism, in the way that blowing up random Jews in a pizza parlour is terrorism. The targets were places directly involved in the machinations of the Great Satan, either military or financial.

Wrong, 9/11 was just as much terrorism as blowing up random jews. The targets were chosen to completely enrage, horrify, and terrorise USA into disproportionate or collective punishment thus further radicalising the terrorists' actual or potential supporters, who might otherwise be repulsed by the carnage that such extreme violence causes. This link has the complete article that argues logically and convincingly that Terrorists have embraced suicide attacks mainly for their advantages in this world, rather than their rewards in the next

like other forms of terrorism, suicide attacks are designed to impress the terrorist's own constituency, as well as to coerce their opponents—and “martyrs” have a particular propaganda value

By picking on democracies, the terrorists can be reasonably sure that their adversaries will stop short of “the Mongol method” (ie, wholesale slaughter of the population from which the bombers derive).

The terrorists can also look a few moves ahead and "misery all round" will work in favour of criminal groups like terrorists.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

So many terrorist organisations, so little known about them

I can't see anyone lifting the fog over the middle east without knowing how all the terrorist organisations operate and interact. Even though they are backed and financed by certain countries governments or organisations, they are free and private agents. They are the natural enemy of democracies, and the weapon of choice for failing islamic states (or meta-states). I see many people assuming that they target civilians because they want to kill everybody and they've got to start somewhere. Also, people assume that suicide terrorist groups are doing it for their "God", and that killing the enemy in any way is righteous - as their mantras suggest. However, this is what they want democracies to think. What they really try to do is to provoke a reaction - preferably a disproportionate one but they're happy with any that makes their enemy look bad, without completely destroying their organisation. So 9/11 wasn't about trying to destroy America, but to get a reaction that makes them look bad. Unfortunately, it has worked to some extent, with some european countries most notably concluding that the US is more a problem than terrorism. Also Israel has been made to look bad because more palestinians have died than Israelis, and palestinians have been thrown further into poverty due to the Un-integration of their economies with various barriers to trade in goods and labour. Basically the terrorists have got what they wanted, misery all round, and their targets unfairly shouldering the blame.

What can I therefore conclude for Iraq. As a democracy, it will be a natural target for terrorism even after US pullout. A democratic Iraq will be very likely to make peace with Israel as peace activism between neighbouring democracies tends to reinforce each other. Once Iraq is dealt with, Iran will be the most pressing foreign policy problem for the US.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Dave said:
"I've yet to see any evidence more compelling than "it sounds like it ought to be true" to support the assertion that Hussein/the B'athist were funding Palestinian suicide bombers"

Well there is this Iraqi support for and encouragement of Palestinian terrorism
It is from Israel's ministry - but there is reams of documentary evidence which nobody is really disputing there - unlike other assertions such as al-queda links, which seem to have been mainly done by a shake of a hand, wink or nudge leaving no documentary trail. This was clearly quite an "official" backing from the Baathists. There was also a feeling of mutual moral support between them.

If it is interesting to talk about what was that WMD stuff all about - This is my thesis for what it's worth. Saddam Hussein was trying to have it both ways - Having the US think he had WMD so that they would be deterred attacking, and not actually having them so that any war would be unjustified vis a vis the UN. The US countered by also trying to have it both ways - knowing full well that there was no WMD, because all their intelligence + inspections were indicating this; and using Iraq's attempts at trying to make the US think he did have some as evidence that he definitely did to get a semblance of "International" backing + to keep their soldiers vigilant. This is just normal war logic and involves a lot of mischief on both sides. If one considers getting UN approval in the same way as getting a judge's warrant in civil law, than this war amounts to vigilanteism. However, vigilanteism worked fine in the time of the wild west of the US - mainly because the elements of the judiciary weren't functioning efficiently enough. I and Dr. Clam would argue that reform of the UN is necessary before it can be said to be functioning well enough to have exclusive veto rights over "police" actions of this kind.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dave said:

From where I sit, I can't see how it will end up being anything but a miserable, bloody debacle that will spill over into other countries in the region. There may not be African/Eastern European-style genocide attempts, but I still wouldn't want to be an average everything Iraqi moderate hoping to mind their own business and be left alone for the next ten years.

You could have said the same thing about Afghanistan. I would expect that the overall situation in Iraq will be about the same. Neighbouring countries are deterred enough not to get any more involved than financing terrorist strikes of various descriptions that couldn't easily be traced back to those same countries. The terrorist strikes will be mainly to cause disruption and fear. The overall death rates on such a campaign are limited, and even in say Israel, deaths from car accidents are at the same degree of magnitude. It's not pleasant, but it's endurable (Israeli's aren't showing up as refugees in general). Neither the Kurds nor the Shiite's are calling for a breakup of the country. Unlike Dr. Clam I think the only acceptable result will be a "multicultural" Iraq with borders as they are. It doesn't seem the new Iraqi police/army is strong enough to contain the organised Sunni military remnant units yet, but it looks like the US army will stay until it is.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Dave said...
I've yet to see any evidence more compelling than "it sounds like it ought to be true" to support the assertion that Hussein/the B'athist were funding Palestinian suicide bombers. I'm not saying it's not true, but without something resembling independent verification, it really has the whiff of Pentagon exaggeration engineered to bluff up international support for its military escapades. If you know of any decent reporting on the subject, point it out and I'll take a look.

There was plenty of reporting about SH providing housing to families of suicide bombers in Israel etc. You must be thinking about the "less" believable claims regarding links with al-queda, which the Pentagon backed away from to some extent anyway. Now, to answer Dr.Clams claims at the same time - Its again patently obvious that any Islamic terrorist outfit worth their salt has been infiltrating Iraq over the last month to have a spectacular display in the lead up to the election. Every new democracy has to have a bit of fireworks, eg. East Timor, Afghanistan. That left the PLO in an enviable position of claiming that they had "convinced" their local outfits to secure a temporary calm which won them quite a few minor concessions (possibly undeservedly). These concessions will be used (by the terrorist outfits) over about a year of pretending to involve themselves in the peace process to research a variety of new "weak points" in Israel's "new" security infrastructure, set up a few dozen suicide wannabe's with their systems in place, then wait patiently for the slightest provocation to resume a "re-escalated" war sequence. Of course if the terrorists lose more of their training infrastructure (presumably headquartered in Syria presently), it may be a little less spectacular than at the peak of the suicide attacks last time. I have said before that sealing off "borders" to workers was a blunder, also delaying talks because of terrorist strikes is also a blunder. However, the assassination attempts seem to have had some success in deterral of the ones making decisions regarding attacks. Also, removal of some of the more rediculous Israeli settlement enclaves may be helpful. My suggestion is that there would be less evil to endure in the long run if they handled terrorism more closely to the way Australia did in regards to Bali etc. when the criminals are outside their borders, and more like Tim Mcveigh if it happens within the border. If the criminals can't be touched because they're outside the border, slowly build cases against them in readiness for them to make a mistake and can be convicted in the future (there's an example for that too - the Lybian agents re Lockerbie). Most importantly, never assume temporary peace is "winning". Temporary peace without any official status or deal is "Re-grouping". Surely Israeli voters would have learnt that by now.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Someone said:

What are you suggesting should actually be done now? I think the Oslo Take Two model you seem to be suggesting- land for peace without any real change in Palestinian political culture- belongs just as much to the realms of electoral fairyland as my "Walt Disney's Holy Kingdom" model. I suggest we call it the "Euro Disney" model.

An important lesson everyone should learn in life is that not all problems can be solved. Some problems must be endured. If a problem cannot be solved by this generation, it is the right and proper thing to quarantine it for future generations- with their higher IQs, better mobile coverage, and massive real-time socio-political simulatrons- to solve.

I wasn't suggesting that the Euro Disney model should be followed, I was saying that it was the path of least (political) resistance net of both sides, and that the fence and other Israeli initiatives seem to lend themselves to that model more closely than either a one state 60-40 solution, or a solution which neighbouring Arab countries take control (Tell me, why would they - they lose all the political leverage of the situation if they did). Also Israel still seems just as concerned with the control of the borders of gaza etc. with the neighbouring countries as with general infiltration from the disputed areas. In general, I agree that this problem will have to be endured, and the thought that incremental increases in security as Israel is trying will mean less attacks on Israels interests is also a concept from fairyland. The security initiatives will only change where and when the subsequent attacks happen, not the quantity of deaths. As I said in my reply to Dave, however, geopolitical forces will have an impact on the quantity there.
Dave said...
Yeah, but compared to the economic and political instability in the region that would be a result of a civil war, the impact on Palestinian stability of siphoning-off of extreme radicals to go and deal with the infidels in Iraq is likely to be minimal.

Besides, in situations like this it makes more sense to be pessimistic and wrong than optimistic and wrong.

It's not the pessimism I have a problem with here - I myself am arguing that there is little hope for resolving palestine short of a Tsunami. Nor do I have a problem with the left wing anti-Bush anti-Iraq sarcasm in small quantities - it's funny. There is a sense of glass-half-empty here that if there was left leaning governments that erred on the side of caution you would be having glass-half-full arguments with perhaps equally distressing situations in the middle east. The situation where Saddam Hussein and his militias were financing suicide bombings in Israel - as compared to a civil war in Iraq which will rely heavily itself on suicide bombings, financed and staffed by the remaining militia and criminal networks in Iraq is what should be considered here. No one's suggesting that the civil war will be of the type say in Yugoslavia where organised conventional military units were in play on all sides. Nor is the overall civilian situation anywhere near as disastrous as say Chechnya, which is likely to spread instability rather than contain it. Even a strife torn, only nominally democratic Iraq is better for Palestine than than the non-interventionist alternative in this case.