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March 2003 Archives

Le McDonald's!

[Mmmm! le Cheeseburger] I just had to take a picture of this bus shelter ad I saw in Nice. You have to imagine pronouncing it in a stereotypical French accent. :)

[French McDonald's Menu]

le Croque McDo! I don't think I need to say any more. :)

Quick links and then I'm off

Some quick pro-war links (Who am I and what have I done with the real Kenneth? :P), and then I'm off to France and Italy. I'll be doing lots of traveling for the next 6 weeks, so I'll be way behind on the news and will be blogging very erratically.

Chemical plant found. Big win for US diplomacy (oxymoron these days?) if this pans out. Update: It didn't pan out.

Human shield: "I was a naive fool."

The problem with absolute pacifism in a nutshell.

In bad news, we seem to be facing tougher resistance than expected. And of course all the previous arguments about the problems of the post-war still apply....

Oh wait, how about a link about protestors getting way out of hand. And another link about where I wouldn't mind free speech being stifled: Some protestors actually put up a sign saying, "We support our troops when they shoot their own officers." (I'm assuming you've heard about the US soldier who killed a fellow soldier and injured a dozen others.) Update: I originally linked to an image of said protest sign, but the image file was changed.

And on that note, I'm off to France! :)

And so it begins...

As the wise Kosh once said, "And so it begins..." [.wav]

It's nearly 4am UTC, March 20, and I'm trying to get some work done. Meanwhile, one of the most significant events in history is underway. I've gathered lots of links arguing about this stuff from one side or another, but I think now's the time for us all to just cross our fingers and hope for the best, eh?

To get your mind off of that a little, Al Gore is now on Apple's Board of Directors, making it an even more eclectic lot.

Best cricket report ever

Paul pointed me to this cricket play-by-play in the Guardian from a seemingly disgruntled Londoner. On the off chance that the article gets pulled, I've got a cached copy.

Streakers and terrorists

I've been reading Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem. Friedman is a columnist for the New York Times. He was stationed in Beirut and Jerusalem during the '80s. I got the book partly because I've found his columns to be a good balance between doves and hawks. He understand the complexity of the Middle East very well. Anyway, here's a passage from his book that I found particularly poignant:

[Mustafa] Barzani was once asked why the Kurdish national liberation movement, which he led, never got the world attention of some other national liberation movements, like the Palestinians. Barzani said it was simple: "Because we fought only on our own land and we killed only our own enemies."

Fact is, terrorism works.

I know this is a poor analogy, but it reminded me of baseball streakers. People sometimes amuse themselves by running across a baseball diamond, clothed or otherwise, during a game. The threat of prosecution doesn't faze them. You see, these folks mainly want to get on the evening news.

Normally, the news is only too happy to cover these stories, but I've heard that broadcasters (at the request of Major League Baseball) now have a policy of turning cameras away whenever that happens. By categorically denying them that attention, MLB has removed much of the incentive for such antics. (Sorry, but I don't have a reference.)

Terrorism is far more complicated, obviously, but to truly reduce terrorism, we'll also need to find ways of disrupting the incentives.

War crime politics

The International Criminal Court (ICC) just started up a few days ago. At the time of its creation, there was a lot of complaints about the US's refusal to participate. The US said that its soldiers and citizens could be subjected to politically motivated charges. The rest of the world complained about this being another example of US unilateralism, that the US felt that it was "above the law". The ICC would only be fairly applied to true war crimes.

Well, according to the Independent, British soldiers could face prosecution if they participate in an "illegal war". (American soldiers are immune because the US did not sign on to the ICC.) Despite my reservations about this war, and despite the obvious tragedy that the killing of civilian bystanders would be, I certainly don't think it will remotely compare to deliberate mass killings or genocides. This seems to me like a clearly political use of the ICC, which is exactly what the US was afraid of.

World's first cyborg brain

USC researchers are about to test a prosthetic hippocampus on a disembodied rat brain. Wow.

News site comparison

So I usually read The Washington Post and BBC News, and I pick up popular links among bloggers from DayPop and Blogdex.

Today, I wandered over to CNN. Their top story is "US tests massive bomb". This is their top story, mind you. The testing of this bomb is evidently more important than any other development in the Iraq crisis at this moment in time.

"Gee," I thought. "Who needs Fox News when you've got CNN?" I paused for a moment, and then I went over to the Fox News site. Their top story was actually more reasonable, but one of the other front page headlines was "Hussein Opens Training Camp for Homicide Bombers".

Homicide bombers. "Ah. Almost forgot," I thought. "That's what we need Fox News for."

Leak to Observer triggers arrest

Following the Observer article I mentioned about the NSA's bugging of Security Council members, British police have arrested an employee of the Government Communications Headquarters. Jesse asked in the comments of my other entry why we don't have a press that runs this stuff. Maybe part of the reaons is that we don't have the massive schism between the gov't and the intelligence community that exists in the UK today. The leak seems to have been from disgruntled intelligence employees...

The new color of money

CNN reports that on March 27, the Treasury Department will unveil a new $20 bill that has a "predominant but subtle" color in the background. A new color in our beloved greenbacks?! Say it ain't so!!!

Fast cars, fast money

A couple of fascinating articles for you today.

First, Which Price is Right? discusses pricing, a central part of the economy that people really don't understand that well. Back in my high school economics class, we talked about supply and demand curves meeting and setting a price, but I've always wondered how merchants actually know what price to set. The answer? They don't.

"How do companies set their prices?" asks Warnock. "Three ways. There's cost-plus. There's 'because my competitor did it.' And then there's what we call OTA pricing. Politely, that's 'out of the air.' Companies say, 'We price what the market will bear.' But they do nothing to measure what the market will bear."

The main exception have been airlines. Continental manages 7 million prices, updating them three times a day! The math and software for this sort of thing is only just beginning to spread to department stores.

Second, Social Science at 190 MPH talks about the competition/cooperation issues of NASCAR racing. NASCAR is "stock car racing", which means that cars are mostly like cars you can actually buy. That means they're not quite as aerodynamic as Formula One racers. Each car has two sources of drag: It has to push air aside in the front, and it gets sucked back by the vacuum created by eddies in the back. When two cars drive close to each other, they eliminate the sources of drag between them, and both cars drive faster.

This means that you go faster than individual cars if you cooperate with other cars to form "draft lines"... Yet, you have to defect at strategic moments in order to actually win the race.

"Bumping" is another complex social issue. It's not very nice to bump someone, and drivers keep track of how other drivers have treated them in the past, even when it means winning or losing the race.

Both of these articles go into some depth, so please go read them for yourself. Good stuff.

A self-created laugh

Sometimes when I'm alone, I enjoy making faces or playing with acting. A couple of nights ago, as I was walking home on a mostly empty street, I was trying out different expressions. Paranoia, smugness, etc. Then I tried pretending to have trouble holding back a laugh. You know, when you want to crack up, and you're trying your best to hold it back. I had no reason to crack up nor any reason not to let that show; it was just for fun.

Somehow.. I don't know if it was the tension in my face or the realization of how silly the exercise was.. my artificial held-back laugh slowed turned real, until I really did want to crack up... but of course I was still holding it back. Eventually, it broke through and I genuinely cracked up. It felt really good. :) Not only that, but I had managed to make myself laugh really hard out of thin air! I chose to view it as a sign of the joyous soul of the human spirit.... though some might just call me easily amused. :)

Bad NSA! Bad!

According to The Observer, we've been bugging UN Security Council members to find out their positions on Iraq. Here's the leaked email.

Update: A British intelligence worker has been arrested over this matter.

"Brawn over brain" seems to be the motto of our current admininstration.

Incidentally, I like how serious journalists use the term "arm-twisting" when talking about international politics. I can imagine it now:

- Say uncle! Who's your uncle? Who's your uncle?

- You, Sam! You're my uncle!

Beauty in the sky

I have some beautiful photographs for you today. First up is "Columbia Dawn", a photo taken (by A. Barrett at KSC) during a March 2002 launch. It shows a glowing Columbia disappearing into the clouds, practically redefining "evocative". Next is this photo of Columbia streaking across the California sky just minutes before the first signs of trouble.

And finally, here are some amazing photographs of snowflakes.

Psyops leaflets

Our friendly neighborhood military has a website up showcasing the leaflets we drop in Iraq. (Keep in mind that Arabic reads right to left, so even in the English versions, the panel order is right to left.)

Oh hey.. This is my 100th blog post! Party hats for everyone! Next up: "History of the klog: The First 100 Entries". (Just kidding! Just kidding!)

High-level defector said that Iraq disarmed after the Gulf War

General Hussein Kamel, one of Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law, defected in 1995. He's one of the most cited defectors in arguments for the war, since he revealed a lot of details about hidden weapons programs. However, it now turns out that he said that Iraq destroyed all their biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons after the Gulf War. He said that Iraq did this secretly to prevent inspectors from finding anything, but that they held on to designs and blueprints. UN Inspectors allegedly hushed this up.

Newsweek broke the story, and this FAIR article has more details, including a transcript of the debriefing.

Not everything Kamel has said has panned out, of course, but this is the first thing to make me think Iraq might really not have those weapons.

About March 2003

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in March 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2003 is the previous archive.

April 2003 is the next archive.

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