Tuesday, October 19, 2004


LambdaMOO Down

Before the world of web browsers and instant messengers there were MOO's. A step above simple chat rooms and a step below the 'virtual worlds' of online gaming, MOO's were interactive chat where you maintain a permanent presence in the form of a character. They included not only chat but mailing lists, role playing games (if your old enough, think back to the days of Zork and the Scott Adams Adventures...pure text). Anyway LambdaMOO is the best and until about a week ago it was still around. It is the best because it is the most popular, online societies need population and with 100-200 people logged on at any given time LambdaMOO had it. Being a MOO, you don't access it by using a web browser directly. You use a program called telnet (you probably have it, just select 'run' and type in 'telnet'). Since the interface was pre-web, the medium was never invaded by the commercial spam that plagues Usenet and chat rooms. Word over on YibMOO is that Rog, Lambda's current caretaker, is having DSL trouble at his home and Lambda may be down until the end of the month. This is the longest I ever remember Lambda being down (and Boonton has graced its presence for over 10 years). Hopefully the society will remain undamaged by the outage but it is quite disturbing how difficult it is to get information. Sadly, no one has ever thought to maintain even a simple updated web page to let people know what's going on or who they can contact. If I get more information or you have some, please feel free to post it here in the comments. It will be a shame if the community drifts apart while we wait for the technical bugs to iron themselves out.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Volokh is guilty of over analyzing an analogy.

Here is the dictionary definition of an analogy:
a. Similarity in some respects between things that
are otherwise dissimilar.

b. A comparison based on such similarity.

Note part a, the things that are subject to an analogy are by definition dissimilar. In fact, the two things can be mostly dissimilar except in the few respects that are being compared. Kerry compares what life is like where organized crime is controlled to what life would be like if terrorism is controlled. In such a world terrorism exists but it is reduced to a "level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life".

Volokh wastes a great deal of space telling us how prostitution & gambling are different from terrorism. For example, those two tend to be victimless crimes or at least crimes where only willing volunteers are victims while I don't think 'victimless terrorism' is possible even in theory. That's nice. He might as well tell us that illegal gambling uses playing cards and dice but terrorism doesn't. Someone whose field is law should not be so bad with fundamental definitions.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


Flypaper against terrorists

Found this interesting comment on LambdaMOO:

FWIW, though, when Bush proposed a `flypaper' approach,
that the terrorists should go to Iraq and blow up stuff
there, was that also an unworthy goal? It feels very
much that you're taking Bush's positions and applying
them to Kerry despite that he didn't say so.

Speaking of flypaper, Thomas Friedman's column had an interesting observation:

Let's start with a simple observation: There have been some 125 suicide bomb attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq in the last 16 months, carried out most likely by Sunni Muslims. We need to think about this. There is some kind of suicide-supply chain working in the Muslim world and in Iraq that is able to draw recruits, connect them with bomb makers and deploy them tactically against U.S. and Iraqi targets on an almost daily basis. What is even more unnerving about these suicide bombers is that, unlike the Hamas crew in Israel, who produce videos of themselves, explain their rationale and say goodbye to families, virtually all the bombers in Iraq have blown themselves up without even telling us their names.

We don't really know how they are chosen, trained, indoctrinated, armed and launched. What we know is that the suicide bombers have killed and maimed hundreds of Iraqis, many of them waiting to join the police or army, and in doing so have done more to block U.S. efforts to reconstruct Iraq than any other factor. To put it bluntly: We are up against an enemy we do not know and cannot see - but who is undermining the whole U.S. mission. In fairness, this sort of network is very hard to crack, especially when it has the support of many Sunnis, but our ignorance about it is part of a broader lack of understanding of changes within Iraqi society.

There is an old argument against social engineering. Hayek pointed out the problem with 'planned economies'. A social institution like the market can be thought of as a giant computer that accepts the input of all its members and averages the information into a simple variable like price. A 'planned economy' is doomed to failure because no official, no matter how smart, can evaluate all the information necessary.... he couldn't even find all the relevant information! There's an older argument between classical liberals and conservatives. You cannot simply go around altering time tested institutions because you don't really know why they are there. You can't be sure of everything they are holding together so radical change is something to be feared.

Bush has embarked on a huge flip flop; nation building in a grand scale while running against tiny nation building projects Clinton undertook in Haiti, Serbia and tried in Somalia. The longer the US stays in Iraq with a weak hand the greater the chance that this thing is going to fall apart.

Or to keep the analogy simple, fly paper is great if you have a finite number of flies. If you have a pile of rotting food, though, the fly paper is just going to mask the real problem.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


More 'Incorrect' Statements by Cheney

Assorted Cheney lies:
1. "Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer.... The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."

National Prayer Breakfast on 2/1/01. Brad-de Long has the picture.

2. "We busted the A.Q. Khan network. This was a proliferator out of Pakistan that was selling secrets to places like North Korea and Libya."

A. Q. Khan is sitting in comfort, considered a national hero and a friend of the corrupt and brutal dictator of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf (you might remember Musharraf as one of the global leaders Bush could not name last time he ran for president). In fact, Musharaff officially pardoned Khan! Not only is Khan suffering not at all for endangering you, me, and the entire world, Musharraf has not allowed U.S. intelligence officials or U.N. weapons inspectors to interrogate him. Jonathan Alter

3. Kerry voted for tax increases 98 times

Cheney accused Kerry of voting for taxes 98 times. That's down from the 350 times wrongly claimed by Republicans, but it's still a stretch. Those 98 votes include times when Kerry voted for lower taxes -- but not as low as Republicans wanted. And times when many procedural votes were cast on a single tax increase or package. CNN

As usual any number that gets tossed around in a campaign such as 'Senator X voted for Bad Thing(tm) 91,999 times!' is almost always a distortion.

4. Kerry will increase taxes on the 900,000 small businesses who create 7 out of 10 new jobs.

On one occasion, Cheney said the Kerry-Edwards tax plan would raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses, and he said that was a bad idea because small businesses create 7 out of 10 jobs in America. But the two statements have nothing to do with each other. Those 900,000 small businesses—double the real number that would be affected, according to CNN—don't create 70 percent of the nation's jobs. Chris Suellentrop

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Did Cheney Lie about Zarqawi in Iraq?

I briefly remember some reports about a terrorist camp in Iraq. It turned out to be in the North were Saddam had no control. Brad De Long has picked up on what may be the first correction of the VP debate. Or as someone writes in the comments section:

The claim is (or was) that Zarqawi was briefly in Baghdad for medical treatment. The story was a leg amputation, but as noted, Zarqawi's amputated leg can't grow as fast as Cheney's nose.
Recently the CIA has concluded that there is no conclusive evidence that Zarqawi was ever in Baghdad (I mean until we invaded, he's probably been there since).

UPDATE: Here is the Reuters article on the CIA report that indicated there is no conclusive evidence that he had sanctuary in Iraq during Saddam's rule and if he did there is no evidence it was with Saddam's knowledge.


Cheney & Kerry Debates

We're about 3/4 of the way thru the the VP debate and I'm calling it a draw. Edwards did a good job of bringing up Bush flip-flop examples. Both did a good job of countering the other's attacks but in my opinion they both ended up looking like 'boring men in suits'. On top of the facts but neither exciting or notable.


The Draft & Casualities in Iraq

Cafe Hayek has a good piece on why US military deaths have declined so dramatically in the last 20 years versus just about every war that came before it. It comes down to capital versus labor. When capital is cheap it makes sense to throw lots of manpower at a problem. When labor is expensive it makes sense to try to substitute capital to save on labor. This is why, despite great advances in weapons since the end of WWII and Korea, the US lost so many troops in Vietnam. Labor was cheap because the draft threw thousands of young men at their disposal. Nowadays it costs a lot of money to get someone into the armed forces (even before 9/11). Recruiters have to spend thousands in signing bonuses, college tuition and so on. If a million dollar smart bomb can take down a target as well as 250 infantrymen then it makes all the sense in the world to spend the money on the bomb.

Democrats who advocate a return of the draft for social engineering reasons such as 'spreading the burden' of war to everyone's family should keep in mind that this will likely result in greater causalities as military planners find it cheaper to throw troops at the enemy rather than machines. While we are talking about this, look at Thomas Friedman's piece on Bush's fumbling in Iraq. The jist of it is that Rumsfeld botched the post war occupation was due to a desire to run the war with as few people as possible.

What happened? The Bush team got its doctrines mixed up: it applied the Powell Doctrine to the campaign against John Kerry - "overwhelming force" without mercy, based on a strategy of shock and awe at the Republican convention, followed by a propaganda blitz that got its message across in every possible way, including through distortion. If only the Bush team had gone after the remnants of Saddam's army in the Sunni Triangle with the brutal efficiency it has gone after Senator Kerry in the Iowa-Ohio-Michigan triangle. If only the Bush team had spoken to Iraqis and Arabs with as clear a message as it did to the Republican base. No, alas, while the Bush people applied the Powell Doctrine in the Midwest, they applied the Rumsfeld Doctrine in the Middle East. And the Rumsfeld Doctrine is: "Just enough troops to lose." Donald Rumsfeld tried to prove that a small, mobile army was all that was needed to topple Saddam, without realizing that such a limited force could never stabilize Iraq. He never thought it would have to. He thought his Iraqi pals would do it. He was wrong.

Monday, October 04, 2004


Will Undecided Voters Give Kerry the Election?

http://www.mysterypollster.com/main/2004/10/the_incumbent_r.html has an interesting theory regarding races with an incumbent. Basically undecided voters will break for the challenger about 80%+ of the time. This means that while Bush seems to have a slight edge at the moment he is really behind.

MysteryPollster has some good empirical examples of the 'undecided rule' on his blog. This also passes the common sense test. Why would someone be undecided in an election with an incumbent? Because they know what the incumbent is about and they want something better. That's an opportunity for a challenger and a bad thing for the incumbent.

Meanwhile, http://www.tradesports.com/ is still betting that Bush will still win. This will be an interesting test of the so-called 'prediction markets'. One aspect that I haven't seen explored yet is whether the political parties can game the 'prediction markets' for spin value. The stock market & other established financial markets require too much money to move anything but penny stocks for any serious period of time but how can we know the prediction markets won't be hit by manipulation?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?