Three Years

We all know what happened three years ago. Let’s compare to another three-year period – that immediately following Pearl Harbor. In those three years what had happened?

  • We had achieved key victories (Normandy, Leyte Gulf) against two of the most powerful militaries of the time, putting both into retreat.
  • We had formed alliances even with some of our rivals (e.g. the Soviet Union) to fight the greater evil.
  • A culture of independent thought and action had been created in our military, allowing it to succeed and producing many future leaders (including one president).
  • Our intelligence community had shown great initiative in breaking codes, planting spies, and supporting resistance movements so that our military forces were well prepared.
  • The nation was united in its resolve.

What have we achieved this time?

  • We’ve become bogged down fighting two of the world’s weaklings (Afghanistan and Iraq) while the leaders of our enemies (e.g. Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri) remain at large, other members of the “axis of evil” (e.g. North Korea and Iran) remain utterly untouched and the threat in general remains at least as potent as ever.
  • We have alienated most of our allies; the leaders of our remaining allies have had their reputations and prospects at home tarnished by the association.
  • Relentless attacks against military leaders who dare to express their own opinions (from Abizaid to Zinni) have created a culture of subservience that undermines every military effort.
  • Our intelligence community has been almost entirely discredited by a series of scandals and errors, and is being picked apart by political vultures.
  • The nation is torn by discord.

Some record, huh? How many more years of such abject failure do people want to endure, before we decide that the powerful who preach about accountability for the powerless should be held accountable themselves?

Bush vs. Jesus

I know this is going to offend some people, but it’s just too accurate a portrayal of Bush’s hubris to pass up. Here’s a hypothetical campaign ad.

Useful Phrases

OK, I admit it, I’m mostly posting this just so the site doesn’t seem to be dead. In the course of perusing some of the gems over at The Daily WTF last night I invented two new phrases that I suspect might be useful for dropping into conversations down the road.

Estonian Notation
A close relative of Hungarian Notation (which I despise) but without the pretense of serving any purpose besides obfuscation. The sad thing here is that I actually spent ten minutes finding out what languages really are related to Hungarian.
Coastal Tajikistan
Look on a map. Timbuktu and Outer Mongolia are just so last century. Again, what’s sad is that I was going to use Uzbekistan until I realized they do have a coast (on the Aral Sea).

Bad Code

This is one of those rare times that I wish pMachine allowed me to put an entry in two categories, because this belongs both in “humor” and in one of the “tech_*” categories.

Via Ned Batchelder (who got it from someone else, yadda yadda) I found The Daily WTF, which posts snippets of really bad code for people to laugh at. The latest entry seems particularly bad as a way of converting a string representing bytes to a string representing kilobytes.

numSize = len(fa.size) - 3
strSize = left(fa.size, numSize) & "K"

The most incredible (and hilarious) part is how so many of the commenters completely missed what was really wrong with the code, such as not dealing with numbers less than 1000 properly or (even more mysteriously) using a bitwise AND instead of simple assignment. No, instead they focus entirely on the K=1000 vs. K=1024 aspect. Where’s that “eye roll” smiley when I need it? According to one of the other commenters at Ned’s, this is quite a pattern on the site.

I Didn’t Do It Alone

I don’t know how I had overlooked it before, but I Didn’t Do It Alone is a great paper by the folks at United for a Fair Economy exploding many of the myths we often here about where wealth comes from in the US. It includes quotes from notable socialist icons such as Warren Buffett

I personally think that society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I�ve earned. If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you�ll find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling 30 years later. I work in a market system that happens to reward what I do
very well � disproportionately well.

and Google co-founder Eric Schmidt.

Lots of people who are smart and work hard and play by the rules don�t have a fraction of what I have. I realize I don�t have my wealth because I�m so brilliant. Luck has a lot to do with it.

A recurring theme is the percentage of wealth that is created and/or sustained by social institutions – public infrastructure, educational support, protection of property rights (including intellectual property), increased liquidity resulting from trust in our financial institutions, etc. This last factor alone is repeatedly cited as accounting for 30% or more of the value of the public companies that underlie much individual wealth. And then of course there are the contributions of one’s colleagues. Even the greatest superstar CEO doesn’t really create all that wealth without many others’ help, from immediate staff to the lowliest line worker. It’s interesting how so many who talk about accountability attribute all of their successes to individual effort while attributing all of their failures to someone else (usually Big Bad Government). The truth is more nuanced. Both our successes and our failures result from a combination of individual and collective effort; our government and economic structures, including taxes, should reflect that.

Asymmetry

September 11, 2001. Major terrorist attack in the US. The official Russian response:

The United States today faced an unprecedented act of aggression on the part of international terrorism.

First of all, I express sincere and profound condolences to all the victims and the families of the dead.

The event that occurred in the US today goes beyond national borders. It is a brazen challenge to the whole humanity, at least to civilized humanity. And what happened today is added proof of the relevance of the Russian proposal to pool the efforts of the international community in the struggle against terrorism, that plague of the 21st century.

Russia knows at first hand what terrorism is. So, we understand as well as anyone the feelings of the American people. Addressing the people of the United States on behalf of Russia I would like to say that we are with you, we entirely and fully share and experience your pain. We support you.

September 1-3, 2004. Major terrorist attack in Russia. The official US response:

(this space intentionally left blank)

Southern Strategy

Over the last couple of days I’ve noticed something odd about radio coverage of the RNC Convention: everyone they interview has a southern accent. It was strange enough to hear delegates from Illinois and Michigan sounding like they were from Alabama, but this morning I heard one from Massachusetts. Massachusetts? That would be a state entirely north even of New York City, often noted for its own distinctive accents and antipathy toward anything southern, and yet they manage to scare up a convention delegate who sounds like she’s from Texas. What’s going on here?