Distant View of America's Fall
Friday, February 21, 2003

Two more thoughts about that Holocaust movie. First, while it is true that most of the German people in the 1930s would have been horrified by and strongly opposed to the crimes that their nation would ultimately commit, it is also true that many of them voted for the Nazis, for whatever reason. The elections that brought Hitler to power were basically fair and honest, and the government of Germany at the time was the most democratic and "safe" design that the allies could come up with. That was supposed to have been a lesson of what we now not amusingly call WW I. At that the time it was regarded as the ultimate war to end all wars.

Second, it is also true that there were many prominent Nazis who were extreme racists and who truly and passionately hated the Jews. There were people who regarded the Jews as subhuman monsters and who wanted to kill all of them. Many of them rose to prominent positions of power under the Nazis, even though most Germans would have dismissed them as a lunatic fringe. This very much reminds me of many of the current GOP supporters, even including some of Dubya's judicial nominees. Rush Limbaugh seems to attract many of the worst of them. Heck, he panders to them. I recently came across what was supposed to be one of their writings that explained why Amerika should attack and destroy the rest of the world. The vivid description was of their miserable and impoverished descendants peering fearfully out of their caves, in terror of the return of the 'Mercans. It would be nicer to believe it was written as some kind of reverse propaganda, but I just don't think so. I think that the author was quite sincere and the author is just a wannabe war criminal. However, the sad thing about war criminals is that the "best case" is that they are punished for their deeds, but in EVERY such case many innocent people have already suffered horribly from the war crimes.

Dubya's utter lack of moral clarity has so mucked up the situation that it now appears the least evil course of action is to leave Saddam alone. If that isn't a screw up, I can't imagine what would qualify. The Great Ductator, my eye. 

Saturday, February 15, 2003

So much for comedy... A friend wanted to see the movie "The Pianist" yesterday. Not funny at all, but many aspects reminded me of things which are happening in America right now. Or should that be Amerika? Yes, there are lots of differences, too, but history never repeats itself exactly. I'm quite certain that if you asked the German people of the '30s, at the time period that seems to correspond to where America is today, they certainly wouldn't have foreseen that they were headed to the outcome the movie shows... Even the Nazis themselves couldn't have seen where it was all heading.

This morning I came across a rather good explanation of how computerized voting can be used for fraud and to violate the electoral process. Most of the evidence was rather circumstantial, unfortunately, but the fundamental problem is that the power exists, and any power that exists tends to be used--and abused. There is NO good reason not to create a paper trail of the election process. There is NO good reason to eliminate independent information about how the voters actually voted. But there is a very clear and very BAD reason to do so, if the goal is to control the elections and ignore the voters' will. 

Friday, February 14, 2003

Still in the humor column. Now it's the Great Ductator. I think that would be a really fitting nickname for Dubya as a capsule description of his reign of error. Dubya's homeland security boys told people to get some duct tape and plastic and tape up a room so it will be sealed against a terrorist attack. If it wasn't so utterly stupid it would be really laughable. However, considering the way Dubya is running the country into the ground, I just hope someone will be around to laugh at it. 

Saturday, February 08, 2003

In the humor column, we find that in Powell's recent UN presentation, he fondly praised a "recent" British government report on the threats from Iraq. Turned out that much of that report was blatantly plagiarized, and many years old, to boot. Can't see how this helps Powell's international credibility, but just shows again how strongly the Bushies believe what they want to believe.

Recently read a summary of an interesting criticism of the Total Information Awareness program. I think it was by someone at the University of Texas, but Dubya never did like the school that much. How dare they reject his law school application just because he was a dumb booby? Anyway, obvious enough that I can very easily reconstruct it from memory, so scarcely merits a detailed citation, though I'd have been glad to provide it.

He compared the terrorist detection problem to the medical diagnosis problem for rare diseases, and made the VERY generous assumption that TIA could somehow become 99.9% accurate in the diagnosis of "terrorist". He also made a rather optimistic assumption about the number of possible terrorists to be found, and showed that because of the false positive errors, you'd still wind up with 1,000 innocent people for each terrorist identified. In numeric terms, he estimated 250,000 false accusations. That's simply because there are LOTS of innocent people and relatively very few terrorists, so even a highly accurate test will fail in this way. The summary skipped over the next part, but filling in by guessing, I think he actually projected that the effect of those false accusations would be to create many new terrorists. That's because of the nature of this "disease" and because the diagnosis is not an statistically independent event here. We're already assuming that the system works well, so that means that those 250,000 candidates did share many characteristics with the actual terrorists. The false accusations are at a minimum going to result in investigations, and here is where the independence is violated. Being investigated as a possible terrorist when you actually are similar to a terrorist is quite likely to be the triggering event to push the candidate over the line. In too many cases they're going to find out that someone has been asking questions about them, or maybe in extreme cases they'll get fired or otherwise punished because of the suspicion itself. Since the system has presumably correctly identified them by their similarities, any perturbation is liable to shove them over the line. And heaven forbid that the actual terrorists should somehow get a copy of the list. Talk about your "golden" recruiting hot list! 

Friday, February 07, 2003

Recently read something (on the Web) about the draft legislation referred to as Patriot II. This is obviously just a case of Dubya and Ashcroft (and their friends) being prepared. They really want this kind of evil legislation, and they know that these bills would not pass if there was careful scrutiny and thoughtful consideration of them. Therefore they want to have the legislation ready and waiting for any opportunity which will exempt it from such scrutiny and consideration.

The Bushies see national disasters as opportunities to advance their own political agendas with reduced interference.

When 9/11 happened, they were actually caught kind of off guard. While it remains obvious (in spite of their suppressing the investigation of 9/11) that they knew something VERY bad was coming, they did not know just how bad it would be. When it happened, they rushed a lot of VERY questionable legislation through the Congress, but it was kind of half-baked stuff. Yes, they had been quite seriously mulling some of this evil stuff over, but the drafts had been going nowhere and fast. Even a few of their Republican congressmen were insufficiently reliable to ram this stuff through--until 9/11 happened, when they suddenly found they had carte blanche. Lots of the legislation had no legitimate relationship to national security, but they were quite happy to tie it to the big, strong coat tails of "anti-terrorism" and drag it along for the ride.

Now they are getting some really draconian stuff all written up and waiting, and if the opportunity presents itself, they'll be READY to capitalize on it. Not very funny, but I'm reminded of Bullwinkle Moose saying "This time for sure" about pulling the rabbit out of the hat. Usually he pulled out some sort of monster, and this new Patriot II will be pretty monstrous, but sometimes he pulled out Rocky, and that makes me think of each of us, John Q. Public, dangling helplessly in the government's newly iron-clad fist.

"Next time for sure!"

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Heard a little bit about the evidence Dubya sent to the UN. What I heard was apparently supposed to be presenting it in a favorable light, but it didn't sound very convincing. Telephone intercepts? Could be badly translated or faked. The faking is especially likely if they actually came from Iraq. That would mean they were done by Saddam's internal enemies, who also stand to gain if they can get Dubya to do their dirty work. A Kurdish link to Al Qaeda? What's that got to do with Saddam? The Kurds hate Saddam about as much as Bin Ladin does. There's only one real point, and they aren't saying anything about the oil. I guess the real analysis is that the Iraqis have no right of anything which could be interpreted as self-defense, since that might interfere with controlling the black gold... 

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

A couple more tidbits about the shuttle, mostly from reading two different Japanese newspapers yesterday evening. One was the bit about what happened to the authors of a safety report that was submitted last year. There were nine engineers who concluded that the shuttles were getting kind of risky and that there should be some strengthening of the safety procedures. For their diligent efforts five of them were forced to leave NASA, and apparently one of the others quit in anger. It actually sounded like Dubya has been pushing NASA for the kind of "result-oriented" thinking that Reagan favored--which also resulted in a destroyed space shuttle. There was also some stuff about Dubya's proposals for the NASA budget. Kind of confusing, which rings the warning bells, but if I managed to figure it out, it actually said that though NASA's total budget was supposed to increase even before the disaster, the actuality was that the space shuttle program was actually losing money. Of course that's not a direct thing, since it's really the number of missions that controls the costs there. However, more important was the fact that half of NASA's budget is now controlled by the Pentagon, so it's only natural that NASA should get a little more money as a part of the general military buildup.

There is already some talk about scuttling the manned space program. So maybe that will be Dubya's actual legacy? [Well, that and national bankruptcy.] Even though I'm a big supporter of sending men into space, it's kind of hard to defend their performance on this particular mission. The whole point is that men are supposed to be more flexible and intuitive and capable of dealing with unforeseen problems. However, in this case the men acted like good little robots as they perfectly obeyed the orders leading to their doom. In the movie version, the captain would have decided the safety of his crew came first and insisted on crawling out there to examine the damage. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Forgot to note the difference between real life and the movies. In the movies, they would have discovered the damage in time and the heroes would have survived one way or another. In real life, some committee of engineers said it seemed safe enough, and all of the astronauts were blasted to smithereens. Assuming this latest disaster was due to the tile damage on takeoff, and if the damage had been assessed properly, there were lots of options that at least would have saved their lives. They probably couldn't have launched another space shuttle, but the Russians were about to launch something, and that probably could have been diverted as a rescue mission. Alternately, they say they could have actually crabbed the shuttle in a way that would have reduced the heat stress on the damaged tiles, and that might have been enough to make a safe landing. Maybe in the future they won't launch until a second shuttle is ready on the pad?

Kind of awesomely disgusting development, but I already saw some newsgroup posts trying to blame President Clinton for this disaster. According to these loonies, the REAL cause was the NASA budget cuts that Clinton forced down the throats of the GOP-controlled Congress. Makes you wonder when Dubya will actually be responsible for something? I guess as soon as there is some good news, except that evidently won't be until after Dubya is out of the White House. Talk about a colossal run of bad luck! Anyway, my take on it is that Dubya has supposedly been in charge for over two years now, and he's had plenty of time to get around to fixing any problems Clinton might have left behind. Or maybe they think Clinton was such a Superman that he could do 100 years of damage in 8 years in spite of having that Republican Congressional albatross around his neck. Nothing like a little witch hunt to keep everyone distracted, right? Remember how Dubya campaigned on "personal responsibility" and "honor and integrity". That's a laugh and a half. 

Monday, February 03, 2003

Well, my original intention was to write a fair bit about a Saturday meeting with a bunch of medical technicians I ran into on the train. They were from various countries around the world, in Tokyo for a conference. The point was the humiliation I feel due to Dubya being the most visible American these days. We're not all pompous moronic hypocrites. However, that little item got pretty well eclipsed by...

Another space shuttle was destroyed with the loss of all aboard. Kind of frightening that I recently read a bunch of posts predicting that something terrible was about to happen--because Dubya was slumping in the polls again. I really don't know what to make of it. If this is God's will, one has to wonder. Or maybe Dubya really has made a deal with the devil. Killing a bunch of fine people seems more like Satan's style. Anyway, the whole thing is obviously nothing to get thrilled about. I suppose one aspect of living in Japan is that I didn't even find out about it for a couple of days. I think if people were talking about it on the trains and in the restaurants I would have heard something, but I completely missed it. This morning I noticed a reference on the Web, and so I surfed over to a newspaper site and found out some of the sordid details. 

Basically focused on what Dubya Bush is doing to the nation of my birth...

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