The Vasco da Gama Project

RE: Oil,” by Mark Krikorian, The Corner,, 10 February 2005.

I imagine this is a good frame. No theory on it — this will be my last post for the night. It fits both into a debate on The Corner over oil and my own thoughts.

John, while I generally share your sentiments on Iraq, I’m afraid Ramesh is right that even if we don’t use a drop of oil, it matters a lot to us if Europe and Japan (and China) do. But this is something that can’t simply be left to the market to solve — the solution (making oil economically irrelevant) needs to be accelerated by the government, through much higher gas taxes (preferably offset by eliminating other taxes), nuclear plants powering electric cars, and a Manhattan Project level of commitment to alternative fuel research. This may sound like populist hooey, but we’re going to harness fusion power before we’re going to be able to bring democracy to the Middle East. And there’s an obvious name for this effort: The Vasco da Gama Project, after the explorer who rounded the Cape of Good Hope, finding an alternate route to the Orient and rending the Middle East economically irrelevant for centuries.

Terrible Secondary Schools

Is French Preschool Right for America? Goldwater Report Raises Questions about Government Plans for Preschool,” The Arizona Conservative,, 10 February 2005 (from Free Republic).

Since 1965, enrollment of four-year-olds in early education programs has increased from 16 to 66 percent, but test scores are virtually unchanged. However, U.S. students routinely outperform their international peers in the early years, indicating that American students are well served by a flexible approach to early education where parents choose the setting, including home care that is best for their children. While U.S. children are “A” students in fourth grade, they regress to “D” students by 12th grade.

“The good news is America’s early education system is among the best in the world,” Olsen said. “The bad news is the secondary system is among the worst. There are solutions, but trading sippy cups for school desks is not one of them.”

We have a highly choice-oriented early learning system. Preschool is voluntary and provided by many individuals and groups. Choosing kindergarten, or at least the year to start kindergarten, is a highly personal decision. Result? We have briliant little scholars.

We have a highly choice-oriented tertiary learning system. Colleges and universities are completely voluntary. Options range from diploma mills to community colleges to tech-ag schools to liberal arts institutions to research universities. Result? We have the best scholars in the world.

Everything in between is a socialisitic monstrosity. Result? Perhaps the worst secondary school system in the developed world.

Shrinking Russia, Growing Europe

Tilting Westward,” The Economist,, 27 January 2005.

EU plans special envoy to help end Moldova strife,” by Sebastian Alison, Reuters,, 8 February 2005.

Moldova Ends Iraq Mission,” Baku Today,, 10 February 2005.

Putin’s incompetence sends another piece of the old Empire hurtling towards Brussels

When Victor Yushchenko won the Ukrainian presidency, many Russians declared that Russia had “lost” Ukraine thanks to western meddling. Yet in Moldova, Russia is proving quite capable of losing an ally without western help. Four years ago, Moldova’s Communist Party won election by promising pro-Russian policies, including eventual union with Russia and Belarus. Now they are chasing re-election in March by promising pro-western policies, including integration with the European Union. They changed course because even they could not stomach Russia’s strategy of keeping Moldova divided and weak.


If there was any hope for pro-Russia factions before the governments about-face, Romanian-Ukrainian joint action would torpedo it

A better and more open government in Moldova will deserve a lot more international help, starting with the neighbours. Romania is already offering diplomatic support. Ukraine could offer vital practical help. Transdniestria’s smugglers and arms salesmen—the backbone of the economy, along with a big Ukrainian-owned steelworks—trade through Ukraine, especially via Odessa. The Ukrainian government could cripple Transdniestria by policing the common border tightly. But that would upset Ukrainians.

The now anti-Russian Communist Party decides on an election stunt: withdrawing all twelve soldiers from Iraq.

A group of 12 Moldovan minesweepers returned from Iraq Thursday, ending a six-month deployment in the US-led coalition forces, defense officials said here.

Moldova is in full swing of an election campaign ahead of parliamentary polls early next month and therefore the question of sending more troops to Iraq cannot be raised at the present time, the ministry said.

Europe worries about another “Kaliningrad,” named after the Russian Baltic State spiraling into misery. Kaliningrad is surrounded by the EU already, and talk of geographical determinism certainly doesn’t hurt Europe’s case.


If Moldova is to achieve deep and irreversible change, however, the EU must offer it a clear path towards eventual membership. It has done this for the Balkan countries, which are no more European and no less troubled than Moldova. Its reluctance to talk of membership for Ukraine looks short-sighted: when Ukraine joins the queue, geography will dictate giving a place to Moldova too. The sooner the process is started, the less the danger of either country wobbling off-course.

This assumes that the Transdniestrian problem will, in effect, solve itself, as the future benefits of EU integration outweigh those of separatism. But Russia will be a big obstacle. At worst, it might even step up its military presence in Transdniestria, to make a second Kaliningrad: a Russian fortress in south-east Europe. The best counter-strategy would be to confront the Russians openly over what they are protecting in Transdniestria: a big, ugly smuggling racket, with a piece of land attached. Even Russia may not want to spend too much political capital in such a cause.

To head it off, the EU prepares for peaceful annexation

The European Union plans to appoint a special envoy to Moldova to help end a frozen conflict in the breakaway Dnestr region as EU interest in the tiny ex-Soviet state picks up, diplomats said on Tuesday.

The move signals Brussels’ desire to bring about an end to the disputed Russian military presence in Europe’s poorest country before Moldova’s neighbour Romania joins the EU in 2007.

“There is no doubt that there is an increase in interest and attention in Moldova,” Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, told Reuters. “The role of the European Union can only be useful.”

More and better connectivity with Brussels than Moscow. The EU is useful as a force for Russian dissolution.

Saint Paul on Barnett

The Weak and the Strong,” by Saint Paul, Letter to the Romans,, circa Anno Domini L.

Describing the works of The Apostle as part of the epistleosphere may be a stretch, but surmising his probable views on The Pentagon’s New Map is not.

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ ”So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Paul was concerned about rule sets, not rules. He was concerned about direction, not speed. He worked for a future worth creating.

Throughout his writings, Paul stressed that rules were important but not important in themselves. He saw no cosmic importance in the drinking of wine or eating of meat or day of worship. However, these cosmically irrelevant rules have the most effect on indivduals. Whether or not to eat a McRib or to rest Sunday morning are the dillemas that make up the day. Paul saw through the situation. What is celestially important are not distinct rules but the sort of actions an individual’s internalized rule set produces. In the same way, it does not matter whether or not invested banks generate “interest” or “dividends” (Islamic banking). What matter are the actions enabled by the socialized rules. If the actions are peaceful and build connectivity, they are good. Else they impede peace and joy.

Paul had to recognize a danger caused by overly strict rules. Condemnation among Christians concerned Paul, because it was self destructive. Still, Paul’s criticisms of Judaizers is very muted. Paul splits people into the “strong” and the “weak.” Barnett prefers the “fast” and the “slow.” But it’s the same grouping. What matters is not strength or speed but direction.

Paul new what sort of future he wanted to create. Paul Who Was Saul wanted a righteous world that one would want to be in. He wanted a world of peace free from revolt and tyranny and terrorism that one would be safe in. He wanted a world of joy one would be happy to be in. None of these conditions are met by the Gap. More than ever in history, all of them are met by the Functioning Core.

Today in the Gap, when there are horrible democides we debate: “how much is a genocide is it, really?” While in the Core, we are justifiably sad when some people are to anxious of nothing to work.

Every person is part of Christ’s body. That person is better and more tenderly cared for in the Core than in the Gap.

Peace Destroyed the Party

Dem blues: Can the Democrats find the lyrics to regain the White House?,’ by Roger Simon, U.S. News & World Report,, 14 February 2005.

Bill Daley, whose father was mayor during the “police riot,” shares his thoughts on the troubles with the Party of Jackson

Bill Daley points out that Democrats have to get over certain hurdles that Republicans do not. “Sure, September 11 made it very hard to win this time,” Daley says. “But Vietnam totally moved Democrats to a party that conveyed weakness, and we are still living with that. Since Vietnam, since the ’60s, since Woodstock and all that, Democrats have had to convince people we are pro-American and pro-military and have values. The Democrats have an obligation to prove it, but it is a given for Republicans, even though they may have fewer values than Democrats.”

Dean may be cementing the Democrats’ Torification, but it is not a new process. It began in the 1960s, and President Bush is just the latest Republican to benefit from it.

This is not good for America. We need two strong parties. Not one strong party and one weak party.

Lakota After 4GW

In Ms Mankiller’s Footsteps,” The Economist,, 27 January 2005.

My home state was ethnically cleansed twice. First, working as native allies of the United States Department of the Army, Sioux tribes swept in from the south-east. Dislocating the Ojibwe, Mandan, and all other Indian nations in the region they killed everyone could find. Literally. There is a monument in South Dakota to an Ojibwe was run down by Sioux warriors. They physically ran him to his death on horseback.

Later, after Sioux Falls, Medary, and Bon Homme were founded, the white settlers felt the blowback. Medary and Bon Homme would never be resurrected, while Sioux Falls would be refounded around an army fort.

The Sioux Wars lasted generations, and peace was earned in stages. The Great Sioux Nation was internally split, and the split is most rememberd on how they pronounced the word “friend.” Most said “dakota” or “nakota,” while a minority prounced it “lakota.”

The Army followed the same paths as the Sioux did nearly a century before. They first encountered Dakota tribes who had settled in the rich farmland of modern Minnesota and Nebraska. A agrarian economy is a peace-loving one. Both sides had economic interests in a civil settlement, and after not-insignificant fighting this was achieved. Dakota received reservations in Minnesota and Nebraska where they farmed and the tribes generally ran their own schools. Despite the cultural shocks, these Dakota generally have the same or higher standard of living than their white neighbors.

The remaining Dakota tribes, and most Nakota people, were not farmers. Eastern Dakota Territory had much poor soil than Minnesota and Nebraska, and the D/Nakota tribesfamilies lived a hunter-gatherer existence. It was D/Nakota Warriors who massacred the judge and his family whose monument I passed every day going to work, and the D/Nakota successfully threw Bon Homme and Medary to the ashheap of history.

Intensive Army operations removed the D/Nakota threat. While reservations were generally on poor or bizarrely sized land, farming was possible. Today these Dakota are noted for their beadwork, and D/Nakota are generally integrated into the surrounding society.

The Lakota fought bitterly, and they lost bitterly. Like all 4GW forces they fought “unfairly.” More than any enemy in history, the U.S. destroyed their capacity to make war. Or make business. Or make anything. The Lakota had a warrior culture was which annihilated. Nightmarish schools destroyed the Lakota language and emasculated lakota youth. An education centered on war was replaced on one focused on student rape. A violent patriarchal society was humiliatingly replaced with a suppine matriarchal one. “Hell land” reservations was unable to support cattle or crops. The government subsidized tribes just enough so that every Lakota male had enough cash to buy liquor. The Lakota are not “recovering” from the war or the peace. They are suffering the consequences of a fourth generation war gone horribly awry.

In that context…

The Sioux Indians are famous for their warrior chieftains, such as Sitting Bull. Hence the significance of the recent inauguration of the first woman ever to head the Oglala Sioux. In December, Cecilia Fire Thunder, a 58-year-old former welfare recipient, lobbyist and community organiser, took office on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. She was chosen over Russell Means, a famous figure in the national Indian movement.

In a ceremony filled with tradition, from ritual dancing to speeches in the Lakota language, Ms Fire Thunder was installed as chairwoman (sadly, her official title) of a 46,000-member tribe based on one of America’s largest reservations. “The spirits of my ancestors made a decision for me to run,” she says. “I asked for their guidance and their permission, and I was chosen by the people.”

The American Indian College Fund says two-thirds of students at tribal colleges nationwide are female. At Oglala Lakota College, on the Pine Ridge reservation, the figure tops 70%. There, the average student is a 30-year-old woman with two or three children. Tom Short Bull, the president of the Oglala Lakota, laments the shortage of male students, though he wonders “even if we did train them for a position, what jobs would they go into?”

Indeed, Ms Fire Thunder has a challenge on her hands. The jobless rate at Pine Ridge is 85%. Alcoholism and domestic abuse are common. Most of the money coming into the tribe is from federal grants of one sort or another. Ms Fire Thunder, who sees herself as a chief executive—albeit with spiritual guidance from the elders—is busy trimming budgets and asking for PowerPoint presentations from every department.

The article generally conflates the terrible problems suffered by the Lakota with the everyday problems most tribes experience. The article’s real lesson is unstated: a 4GW war permanently by an industrialized society against a violent opponent if the society is prepared to permanently destroy the enemy’s culture. Whether this is advisable, or moral, is a story for another time.

Update: I was wrong to characterize any part of the Indian Wars as a fourth-generation war. It was a Pre-Modern War.

Free Egyptian Media

48% of households in Cairo use the Internet and 46% have Satellite TV,” MENAFN Press, 26 January 2005 (from Collounsbury).

More fallout from my Free Arab Media article — Collounsbury linked to a “Arab Advisors Group report showing great news in Egypt

48% of households in Cairo use the Internet and 46% have Satellite TV

The Arab Advisors Group conducted a major comprehensive survey of the media and telecom usage habits of the population of Greater Cairo between November 2004 and Jan 2005. On the TV front, despite the relatively wide adoption of Sat TV, terrestrial TV is still alive and kicking with a full 91% of households in Cairo tuning in to Egypt’s terrestrial TV channels. Of the Sat TV viewers, 68.3% tune in to news channels. Al Jazeera news channels is the most widely watched (88.4% of households with Sat TV watched it), followed by Al Arabiya (35.1%), Nile News (8.9%), CNN (6.6%), Al Hurra (4.6%), Al Ekhbaryia (3.9%), BBC (3.1%), ANN, Euronews and Manar (each with 0.4%). The survey also probed the channels the households watched in the categories of: Music Channels, Entertainment Channels, Sport Channels and Religion Channels. On the GSM front, the survey revealed that some 71% of households in Cairo have a GSM line.

The “Cairo Households Media Survey 2005” reveals that 46% of Cairo households have a Sat TV dish, and a full 91% still also watch terrestrial TV broadcasting. TV viewing peak time is 9 PM – mid night, with close to 80% of households watching TV during this time.

This is eye-opening. Almost half of Cairo residents are hooked into the outside world. While satellite TV shows unfortunate state interference with Al Jazeera, Al Hurrah, and the BBC in the top 10 (though Collounsbury bete noire Al Hurra is more popular than the BBC). More happily, even more Cairoans (Cairis?) have internet access. The Economist reported that Egypt is one of three Arab states with no internet controls, the others being Iraq and Libya. This means that nearly half of citizens of the greatest city in a great Arab state have free worldwide information.

Western blogs are becoming increasingly influential. Hopefully, Egyptian blogs will be one day too.

Let’s keep the ball rolling. Don’t let up pressure on Arab states to liberalize and don’t let up pressure on the state behemoths — the BBC or al Jazeera.

Don’t Forget Poland

Bush to ask congress for $100m for Poland,” China View,, 10 February 2005.

Morocco, Poland to strengthen economic relations,” Arab News,, 10 February 2005.

As we build on our Polish alliance

US President George W. Bush says he would ask Congress for 100 million US dollars to help modernize armed forces in Poland, a staunch ally in the war in Iraq.

During an Oval Office meeting with visiting Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Bush said on Wednesday that he was confident that Congress would approve the money.

The military aid is fifty percent more than the United States gave Poland last year.

The money will be part of the war funding request the White House is expected to submit to Congress next week.

Poland cements connectivity in the expeditionary theater of the Global War on Terrorism

Polish businessmen convened, in Cassablanca Wednesday, with members of the Casablanca Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services to discuss means to reinforce bilateral trade cooperation.

This meeting offered the opportunity to Moroccan businessmen to inform their Polish peers on various Moroccan economy aspects, and to discuss, with them, bilateral cooperation possibilities.

In this regard, the Moroccan officials highlighted the importance that Morocco accords to relations with Poland, and, recalling the FTAs that Morocco concluded with the US, Turkey and some Arab states. They also said the kingdom has the potentials to become an important platform for Polish investors.

These meetings fall within the framework of a four-day visit to Morocco of a Polish delegation of MPs and businessmen, led by the Speaker of the Polish Senate, Longin Pastusiak.

Given EU-wide trade restrictions, I do not know exactly what bilateral deals Morocco and Poland and strike. But whatever it is, moves for competitive liberalization and increased ties are great news. We will win the GWOT as trade and freedom snowball for global liberty. A global herd, running downhill, will crush disconnectedness.

Disgust /n/ Intense Dislike

Sister Hillary,” by “Lexington,” The Economist,, 27 January 2005.

The Party of Carter, America’s first evangelical President, is rediscovering religion

George Bush is not the only American politician with a penchant for “God-drenched” rhetoric (to borrow a phrase from Peggy Noonan, chief speechwriter for Ronald Reagan). Last week the lioness of liberalism herself, Hillary Clinton, engaged in a bit of God-drenching of her own at a fundraiser organised by the Reverend Eugene Rivers, a leading campaigner against teenage violence. She lavished praise on faith-based organisations, repeatedly invoked God’s name and declared “I’ve always been a praying person.”

Mrs Clinton’s speech was part of a growing debate on the left about how to close the God gap. Democrats want to change the focus of religious debate from abortion and gay marriage to, say, war and poverty. Jim Wallis, who has the rare distinction of being both an evangelical preacher and a Kerry voter, points out that the Bible has 3,000 references to alleviating poverty.

Democrats are also talking about softening their image on divisive cultural issues, particularly abortion. Howard Dean urged his party to embrace pro-life Democrats. Tim Ryan, a Democratic congressman from Ohio, pointed out that his party has paid a heavy price in the heartland for its inflexibly liberal position on partial-birth abortion and parental notification. And the hyperactive Hillary told a throng of pro-choice activists not only that abortion represents “a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women” but also that “religious and moral values” are the primary reason why teenage girls abstain from early sexual activity.

Lexington proceeds to describe Democratic hopes of a religious left movement, until savaging the thought

All this sounds plausible until you take a look at today’s religious left. To begin with, it is split by race. The black churches (such as the one that Mr Rivers runs) are vigorous enough, but their impact is necessarily limited. The white churches include all the mainstream denominations, but they suffer from what might be called a European problem: they are haemorrhaging members and are run by an unrepresentative elite that is far to the left of the people in the pews.

Far-Left Christians are threatening to take the Democratic Party further into the wilderness

The Democrats are also deeply divided about what winning the religious vote means. Does it mean moving to the left? Many religious Democrats claim Jesus was a socialist pacifist. Or to the right? Some New Democrats want to recapture “conservatives of the heart”. Or staying where they are, but sugaring their policies with a few spoonfuls of Christianity?

All that in the context of fundementalists disgusting secular Leftist Democrats

The biggest problem for the Democrats is that many of their hard-core supporters would rather lose another election than court the religious vote. Mr Wallis worries about Democrats being depicted as secular fundamentalists, but that is not far off the truth. The number of people who deny any religious identification has doubled from 14.3m in 1990 to 29.4m in 2001—and many of them will do anything to stop the Democrats from drenching themselves with God. No pro-lifer has been allowed near a Democratic podium for years. Will People for the American Way allow the Democrats to let religion flourish in the public square? Will feminists allow them to compromise on abortion? Will the Hollywood crowd allow them to crack down on obscenity? Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio, two academics, point out that in 1996 and 2000 one in three white Democratic voters “intensely disliked” Christian fundamentalists.

Too bad. We need two good parties. Not a responsible party and a kamikaze party.

Cobuyitaphobia Forewarned

Will the HP-Compaq deal be another failed merger?,” The Business Times,,4567,144896,00.html, 11 February 2005.

Yesterday I noted HP’s dismissal of Carly Fiorina as an example of cobuyitaphobia triumphant. Obviously, I’m not the only one.

Six days after Hewlett-Packard (HP) chief executive Carly Fiorina announced her plan to buy Compaq Computer Corp for US$25 billion in stock, her nemesis, Michael Dell, called the deal ‘compelling’.

Mr Dell, founder and chairman of computer maker Dell Inc, wasn’t lauding the move. To the contrary, he said he was eager to grab customers as Ms Fiorina and Compaq CEO Michael Capellas sorted out which products and brands to cut.

‘Mergers of this size are very hard to do,’ Mr Dell said at a conference in San Francisco that September. ‘The opportunity it presents to us given the elimination of brands and the confusion – that’s pretty compelling.

Mike Dell cited previous cases where cobuyitaphobia would have been wise.

Remember when AT&T swallowed the venerable National Cash Register Corp in a US$7.4 billion hostile takeover in 1991? Or Compaq’s US$9.6 billion acquisition of the Digital Equipment Corp in 1998? Or how about America Online’s US$4 billion acquisition of the Netscape Communications Corp in 1998? All duds.

More than half of mergers and acquisitions in all industries fail to live up to expectations, but when it comes to big mergers in the technology industry, it seems the success rate is worse.

‘There have been very few mergers that have succeeded in maturing technology sectors,’ said Pip Coburn, technology strategist for UBS Warburg. ‘Large companies have very established cultures and merging them in a fast-moving business like information technology is very hard.’

I had a friend whose family depended on NCR for a job. Mergers can cause real harm and corporate incompetents like Fiorina benefit.

The problem facing big technology deals like HP and Compaq is that they often combine two struggling businesses rather than thriving ones, said Ms Palepu. ‘Putting two businesses that aren’t doing well together doesn’t help in any industry unless there are economies of scale to produce savings.’ In the case of HP and Compaq, the savings would have had to be huge to help it beat Dell Computer in the fiercely competitive personal computer market. ‘Getting as big as Dell doesn’t help if you aren’t as good as Dell, ‘ she said.

The same situation befell one of the original technology deals, when Sperry and Burroughs merged into Unisys in 1986, in an attempt to make two larger also-rans in the mainframe computer business into a credible alternative to IBM. The stock rose initially but lost as much as 94 per cent of its value at one point.