Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Humanitarian Intervention

A Libertarian friend of mine has on more than one occasion defended to me the belief that there is nothing wrong, and indeed something very right, about the United States using force in a foreign land to liberate oppressed peoples. For this reason he defended the Iraq war, regardless of the reasons it was actually fought, because it had the consequence of liberating the people of Iraq. I vehemently disagreed with him, yet somehow was unable to come up with convincing arguments why.

Tonight I watched parts 1 and 2 of the West Wing episode “Inauguration,” in which the President is faced with just such a choice: to send troops into an African nation (I don’t remember the name, but it was meant to be Rwanda) to stop the genocide of one group of people against another. And I believe I have my answer.

Nevermind that we almost never have a real grasp of the nuances of the particular situation, and therefore have every likelihood of making things worse in the region rather than better. Nevermind that no one ever thanks us for helping; that we make no friends by intervening in other people’s business. No, the real reasons to keep our dick in our pants are twofold. First, not only do we not make friends through foreign intervention, we are almost certain to make enemies. For when we intervene for one group of people, we are intervening against another. If we don’t mind having a National Security State; if we don’t mind living in constant fear of attacks from random people who hate us with blinding passion, then this is not a problem. But the larger reason is simply that “liberty,” “tyranny,” “oppression,” and “liberation” can be rather slippery words, especially when other people, with their own agendas, are using them about you. What I mean is that “liberating the oppressed” and “helping the helpless” really have no limit. How “oppressed” do you have to be to rate military intervention by the U.S.? It seems an easy call when there are millions dying, but what about when there are only thousands? Hundreds? Perhaps there is no mass murder, but people are being pulled out of their homes and tortured. What then? What if a people simply lack the right to protest government policy? Is that a legitimate criterion for invasion? The point is that this path can easily lead to world hegemony, with the U.S. (or the U.N.) dictating to all nations exactly how they will treat their citizens. Is this the world we want to live in? If we think people hate us now, wait until we have intervened in half of the regions on Earth.

No, the answer is not intervention. It’s liberty. One of the stories told in the West Wing episode I mentioned was that mothers were stationing themselves in front of attacking tanks in an effort to preserve their people. What if those mothers had tanks themselves? The answer to oppression and genocide is not invasion; it is not intervention. It is simply allowing people to defend themselves, and any individuals who wish (as happened in the Spanish Civil War) to assist in that defense. It is impossible to commit genocide against a well-armed people. Instead of sending them troops, sell them guns! If a people is so oppressed that even this is impossible, then allow American citizens to arm themselves and help out on their own. But the notion of selling oppressed peoples weapons goes against our grain. Why? Is it because we don’t like guns? No, we don’t mind at all if we have them. No, this bothers us for a darker reason: We prefer to do the job for them instead of selling them weapons to do it for themselves because we want to retain control. We want to be in charge. Providing weapons to a people gives them power, and we don’t want that. In fact, we in America would be quite happy if we were the only nation on Earth to possess weapons of any kind. That’s why we prefer intervention to assistance.

No, the only sensible answer is the same most sensible answer to almost any political problem: More freedom. Not enforced freedom, not freedom at the point of a gun, but the freedom for people, individually, to do as they think right.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005


(updated below)

So Apple has decided to ditch IBM and ally with Intel PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png. What's the world coming to? Has Hell frozen over PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png? It's going to be a tough transition PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png, regardless.

I'm not sure I have any new wisdom to add to what is said at the pages linked above, except to make a few minor points. (A lot of this is laid out very nicely in an (as usual) excellent Ars Technica article PastedGraphic1-2005-06-8-05-09.png. Takeaway quote: “It's yet another little thing that Macs used to do, if not always better, then at least differently than Windows PCs. Macs are now slightly less special.”)

  • Forget running OS X on Non-Apple PCs. It's just not going to happen, folks. At least not in a sanctioned way. Despite what some people have said in the past, Apple is not an OS developer that happens to sell computers. Apple's bottom line is and always has been mostly CPU sales.
  • The idea of being able to run Windows natively on a Mac is a neat idea, but ultimately mostly useless. Presuming the technical difficulties (motherboard differences, hard drive format, etc.) are overcome, all you've gained is a little cash and a little desk space (and, admittedly, a prettier office) over just buying a PC. And you lose the advantage of being able to use both at once.
  • What excites me more is the prospect of a really good Windows emulator on my Mac. Since no processor emulation is necessary, Windows apps should positively hum, making buying a separate PC pretty much unnecessary, even, hopefully, for games. And if you just have to have the latest and greatest game and it won't run fast enough under emulation, well, that's when you fall back on the dual boot model mentioned above. This might just work out really nicely. Especially for PowerBooks. Imagine being able to haul around one machine and run any program, play any game…this might be fun.
  • Neat as all this is, this is still not the CHRP PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png platform we were promised ’lo these many years ago. As I recall, CHRP was supposed to allow the running of multiple OS's simultaneously. But perhaps I'm misremembering. I do recall having great hopes for the CHRP platform, and am still sorry it died. Consistency has not exactly been Apple's strong suit. I could probably write a whole website devoted to promising technologies Apple has abandoned (oh, OpenDoc, I miss you so!).
  • I do have a couple of fears, however. As well as the Mac has been doing lately, I worry that Apple has been slowly watering down the distinctiveness of the Mac platform. For years now, Apple has been doing little things here and there to make the Mac more PC-like. You can trace it as far back as Apple changing floppy drive vendors so that the drive no longer sucked your disk out of your hand when you inserted it. OS X has several PC-like features in the interface, not least the requirement that all filenames have a damned TLE PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png on the end. And now Macs will actually have Intel Movie-5%252528dragged%252529-2005-06-8-05-09.png Inside Movie-5%252528dragged%252529-2005-06-8-05-09.png. At what point will consumers decide that it's not worth paying a couple of hundred extra for a PC with a prettier case? It's been really nice (especially since the G5 was released) gloating to all my PC friends about how much faster, particularly megahertz for megahertz, Macs are than PCs. I don't like having my gloating turned back on me. Could this trend lead to the homogenization—nay, the commoditization—of the PC industry? The prospect doesn't frighten me as much as it once did. Admittedly almost entirely thanks to Apple, Microsoft seems to have released its first decent GUI OS ever—Windows XP Pro. I've used it (though not extensively), and it's not half bad. Not good enough, no, but it seems consumers are finally starting to demand something resembling elegance in their mainstream OS's. Add that to the downright cool-looking boxes companies like Alienware PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png are putting out, and though I would still be crushed if Apple vanished or sold out, I would no longer see it as the end of the (computing) world.
  • My biggest fear, though, was summed up by phjones on MacFixIt [dead links]:
"Whilst I think Steve Jobs and the Apple crew would only act in the best interests of Mac users, I still have a knot in the pit of my stomach. From my point of view, the big question is whether Macintel machines will be able to run Windows at full speed. If they do, it's the beginning of the end for MacOS. At the moment, software producers have an incentive to produce MacOS-compatible software because it gives them access to a market that would be otherwise unavailable - admittedly some companies feel the market is too small but that's their decision. If Macintel machines are capable of running Windows, there will be absolutely no incentive for new companies to produce MacOS versions of their software: ‘Those Macies can just fire up Windows if they need to use our software. Ha ha ha (evil laugh).’ Inevitably, less new software will be written for MacOS and existing software will slowly drift away.

I hope this doesn't happen."

        So do I.

  • Lastly—there's something that has been bugging me for years. When the PowerPC processor first came out, basically the entire computer industry was saying that CISC PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png technology was dead. Intel was going to be able to crank out maybe a generation or two more by cramming circuits a little tighter and running a little hotter, but eventually was going to be forced to switch to RISC like the PowerPC or die. This apparently didn't happen. Does anyone know what actually did happen? Let us know.

Update: June 17, 2013

Updated or added few links, in particular changed the Ars Technica link back from archive.org to live—apparently they had taken it down, but have now put it back up. Sadly, they have removed the accompanying discussion forum PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png (that was still up after the original article was first taken down); there was a lot of good stuff on there, and archive.org only has the first page. Also: Ausmac PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png is dead? ☹

I have somewhat more to say on some of the issues raised in this post in Leopard=Windows? In particular, my understanding of Economics has matured.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Blogging again!

Woo hoo! I'm posting again!

It's been quite a while since I've put anything up on this blog, and now three in one night! I'm not sure I can contain myself. First my PowerBook died ☹ then I was swamped with other things, and then minor technical issues (combined with more lack of time) conspired to ensure that Genius/Idiot was dormant. I know there are at least a few people eager to read the bits of wisdom I have collected, so I will try harder in the future to keep to something resembling my once-a-night schedule. Hm. I wonder if I can somehow set up a delayed-posting system to post while I'm away at summer camp, etc. Has anyone heard of such a thing?

Well, it's my bedtime now. Later.


I find it interesting that no one has commented on the title of this blog. I haven’t quite figured out what it means myself; it just feels right.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

1/27/05 Letter to Nightlife

The following letter was published in the January 27, 2005 edition of the Carbondale Nightlife 1__%252524%252521%252540%252521__PastedGraphic14-2005-02-1-22-06.png.

        Communism has gone—not quite a distant memory, but even now there are high school graduates and college students who have no clear memory of the time when the Earth lived under the constant threat of global thermonuclear war.
        Communism is finished—oh, it still lives on in places like China and Korea, but China is opening up to free markets more and more each year, and North Korea is starving.
        The Soviet Union is history—and yet we are less free than we were 15 years ago.
        The Cold War is over—but Americans are being held in military brig indefinitely without trial.
        Twenty years ago a push of a button could have started a nuclear war that would have destroyed our civilization—but today, you cannot check out a library book without fear that the FBI won’t secretly demand your library records.
        Today our biggest threat is terrorists who might blow up a building or two—whereas twenty years ago we faced a nation with the will and firepower to raze our entire country to the ground. And yet now we have “airport security” and “no-fly” lists; now we have warrantless searches and secret courts; now we have “Total Information Awareness” and mass arrest and deportation of foreigners.

        The Cold War was won. Democracy and capitalism were definitively shown to be superior to absolutism and communism. Victory over the Soviets was supposed to bring us a new era of peace, prosperity and freedom. So why do I miss the “good old days” when I could fly in an airplane without being treated like a criminal? Because of a few barbarians with boxcutters?
        If, as our President says, the terrorists attacked us because they “hate freedom,” then they are winning. Let me say that again: The terrorists are winning. Not through any military superiority, but by our own hands, through the actions we have allowed our government to take to make us more “secure.” We are less free today than we were on September 10, 2001. To the extent that that is true, to that exact degree, we are losing this war, and will continue to lose it.

        Right now, at this very moment, there is an American citizen sitting in prison who has been there for more than two years. He has not been brought to trial. He has not been given access to counsel. He has not even been formally charged with any crime.
Think about this for a moment. Forget about airport security checks, no-fly lists, TIA, TIPS, PATRIOT Acts and all the rest, and consider the fact that an American citizen is being imprisoned indefinitely without trial on the sole basis of the signature of the President. The right of habeas corpus—to have the charges against you read in open court, in order to protect against false or malicious imprisonment—is one of the oldest and most sacred of our rights. It is the only individual right written into the original, unamended Constitution. And our President has wiped it away with the stroke of a pen.
        What does this mean? It means that any President, now or in the future, can declare any American an enemy combatant and have that person locked up indefinitely without any jury having to hear that person’s case. Yes, this means you. And you. And you. And me. There is no legal barrier any longer to the President doing this whenever he chooses. Except, of course, that useless, unenforced, old-fashioned document called the Constitution of the United States. But that document doesn’t seem to have much effect nowadays.
This sort of power is completely inappropriate to the President of a free, democratic Republic. It is far more appropriate to a dictator.
        Does that frighten you? Do you fear the consequences of calling our President a dictator in public? Your very fear is a measure of how far we have fallen in this supposedly free country. This is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. If we don’t become brave—and soon—we will not remain free for much longer.

Jim Syler
Vice President
Students for a Libertarian Society

Friday, January 28, 2005

Me? Blogging?

(updated below)

Well, damn, I’ve finally done it. I’ve entered the blogging world.

I didn’t think I would, really. I mean, I had nothing especially against it; I had read several blogs and found them interesting. I just considered it kind of faddish and silly, for the most part; people making a big deal about bringing even more garbage to the ’net.

And then I found MacJournal PastedGraphic3-2005-01-28-01-10.png.

I had been looking for a good journaling program for the Mac for years, and never found one that I felt suited my needs. I’d even tried MacJournal a couple of versions back and, while good, it didn’t quite catch my imagination. This time, though, when I looked at it, it seemed to have the features I needed. I think it was the flexibility of nested journals that finally sold me.

What got me excited about this program was the prospect of typing up all my old journal entries. I have plenty of half-full journals laying around, filled with everything from useless whining (’though it’s good to look back at how you’ve felt sometimes) to some quite interesting (to me) philosophical dissertations and thoughts I didn’t want to lose. But they weren’t doing anybody, including me, any good sitting around gathering dust. Entered into a program, titled, indexed and searchable, I could finally make use of all those old thoughts and ideas. And then I noticed that MacJournal also supported auto-posting of journal entries to a blog.

And that was ruin.

You see, the main reason I had never really been interested in blogging was that I just didn’t think I had anything to say. I didn’t want the pressure of coming up with something pithy and important every day or so, and I refused to spew unmitigated stupid blather. (Occasional stupid blather, like this post, is okay) But my journals? Being able to post my journals where the world could see them, possibly learn from them, appreciate them, give interesting, constructive feedback on them, but more likely respond with rousing choruses of “you suck”?

That I couldn’t resist.

So I spent damn near all day fidgeting and fooling around with various blogging software and websites, and ended up with a ridiculous combination of programs, sites, hosts and computers to make this thing work. Those that know me will laugh when they hear the concatenation every post goes through.

Here it is:
  1. First, I type up the entry in MacJournal on my PowerBook PastedGraphic14-2005-01-28-01-10.png.
  2. Next, I click the button that sends the post to one of my subordinate (category) blogs on Blogger.com 1__%252524%252521%252540%252521__PastedGraphic14-2005-01-28-01-10.png.
  3. Then, Blogger logs into the iMac in the other room (yes, back in the same house the post originated from) and posts it to my iDisk (yes, this was the only way to do that PastedGraphic14-2005-01-28-01-10.png).
  4. This uploads the post to Apple’s PastedGraphic14-2005-01-28-01-10.png servers, where it is hosted on the appropriate category page for nice people like you to look at it.
  5. At the same time, Blogger emails me a copy of the post I just sent to the category blog.
  6. An email client that I have open for this express purpose (my usual client can’t handle the task) auto-emails the post back to Blogger.com.
  7. Blogger repeats the process above, logging into my iMac and posting to my iDisk, except this time to my main blog page, so the post will not only show up in its category, but also on the main page PastedGraphic3-2005-01-28-01-10.png.
So let’s be clear here: I send my post across the country so it can be sent back to my house to be sent back out to another part of the country, simultaneously sent back to my house by another route then back out across the country, to get sent back to my house again, and again sent to the other part of the country, to be downloaded and read by people who are probably across town.

Wild, huh? But it works. Oh, I know I could get around all of this, and get more functionality besides, by using a dedicated client like Blogwave Studio PastedGraphic14-2005-01-28-01-10.png, but then I’d have to copy and paste each entry manually. This way, all I do is click a button, and computers do the rest of the work. Just like I like it.

Maybe I’ll get fed up with doing it this way sometime; I really am missing out on a lot of cool features...but I’m just getting started. We’ll see.

Well, it’s 2:00 in the morning; I should probably wrap this up. A few parting notes:

  • I’ve set this blog up in categories. The main page will always show the latest posts, regardless of which category they’re from (kind of like memepool PastedGraphic3-2005-01-28-01-10.png, but not remotely as cool).
  • The categories are listed in the Links section of each page. Tacky, but it will do for now.
  • Because of the rigamarole each post has to go through, some of the text on the main page may not look quite as nice as it does in the same post on the category page. Live with it.
  • Also, comments are disabled on the main page. To comment, you have to click on the category link at the bottom of each main-page post. If anyone has ideas on how to make this fact more clear, please let me know.
  • This one’s important, so listen up: I don’t necessarily intend to post every day. If you want to be notified when I do post, click on the nice little Monitor Changes button near the top of the page. Give it a try if you’re interested in my (possibly insane) ramblings. Note that for now at least, that little button will only track the main page; there’s not much point in tracking the category pages unless that one category’s all you’re interested in. Every new post will appear on the main page at http://blog.syleria.net.
  • I’ll try to restrict my posts to about one a day, but I may get carried away and do several journal entries at once.
  • Leave comments! Please! Just so I know somebody’s reading this!
For those not so technically inclined (read: non-nerds): What is a blog? Blog is short for Weblog. Web log-->weblog-->’blog-->blog. Check out the Wikipedia article if you want to know (lots and lots) more.

Well, I guess that’s all for tonight. Toodles!

Update: June 17, 2013

Historical Note
I’ve updated several of the links above that had broken, particularly to the main page of this blog. At the time this post was written it was hosted at http://homepage.mac.com/calion/blog/ on my .Mac iDisk, with four (and later five) subsidiary “category” blogs.