At least there was no sniper fire!

Barack Obama is a typical politician, though he brings to mind nothing more than “Bush III” with his “Obamisms.”

The Obama Gaffe Machine – WSJ.com
Take the Auschwitz flub, where Mr. Obama erroneously claimed last weekend in New Mexico that his uncle helped liberate the Nazi concentration camp. Reporters noted Mr. Obama’s revised claim, that it was his great uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald. They largely downplayed the error. Yet in another, earlier gaffe back in 2002, Mr. Obama claimed his grandfather knew U.S. troops who liberated Auschwitz and Treblinka – even though only Russian troops entered those concentration camps.

That hardly disqualifies Mr. Obama from being president. But you can bet that if Hillary Clinton had done the same thing it would have been the focus of much more attention, especially after her Bosnia sniper-fire fib. That’s because gaffes are often blown up or downplayed based on whether or not they further a story line the media has attached to a politician.

When John McCain claimed, while on a trip to Iraq in March, that Sunni (as opposed to Shiite) militants in Iraq are being supported by Iran, coverage of the alleged blunder tracked Democratic attacks on his age and stamina. (In fact, Iran may well be supplying both Sunni and Shiite militants.) Dan Quayle, tagged with a reputation as a dumb blond male, never lived down his misspelling of “potatoe.”

Mr. Obama, a former editor of the Harvard Law Review, has largely been given a pass for his gaffes. Many are trivial, such as his suggestion this month that America has 57 states, and his bizarre statement in a Memorial Day speech in New Mexico that America’s “fallen heroes” were present and listening to him in the audience.

Some gaffes involve mangling his family history. Last year in Selma, Ala., for example, he said that his birth was inspired by events there which took place four years after he was born. While this gaffe can be chalked up to fatigue or cloudy memory, others are more substantive – such as his denial last April that it was his handwriting on a questionnaire in which, as a state senate candidate, he favored a ban on handguns. His campaign now contends that, even if it was his handwriting, this doesn’t prove he read the full questionnaire.

Mr. Obama told a Portland, Ore., crowd this month that Iran doesn’t “pose a serious threat to us,” saying that “tiny countries” with small defense budgets aren’t much to worry about. But Iran has almost one-fourth the population of the U.S. and is well on its way to developing nuclear weapons. The next day Mr. Obama had to reverse himself and declare he had “made it clear for years that the threat from Iran is grave.”

Last week in Orlando, Fla., he said he would meet with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez to discuss, among other issues, Chávez’s support of the Marxist FARC guerrillas in Colombia. The next day, in Miami, he insisted any country supporting the FARC should suffer “regional isolation.” Obama advisers were left explaining how this circle could be squared.

In a debate last July, Mr. Obama pledged to meet, without precondition, the leaders of Iran, North Korea, Syria and Cuba. He called President Bush’s refusal to meet with them “ridiculous” and a “disgrace.”

Heavily criticized, Mr. Obama dug in rather than backtrack. He’s claimed, in defense of his position, that John F. Kennedy’s 1961 summit with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna was a crucial meeting that led to the end of the Cold War.

Not quite. Kennedy himself admitted he was unprepared for Khrushchev’s bullying. “He beat the hell out of me,” Kennedy confided to advisers. The Soviet leader reported to his Politburo that the American president was weak. Two months later, the Berlin Wall was erected and stood for 28 years.

I make a fair bit of typos, and don’t always speak eloquently. It’s refreshing to think that if Obama does win, we won’t be in any danger of having a President any smarter or more careful than, say, this blogger.

If BHO as Bush III works out as well as GHWB as Bush II, an Obama administration would be great for the country.

China Requests Japanese Military Insistance: Backwardness on both sides nixes the deal

I was really excited when I read this on Coming Anarchy: the People’s Republic of China requested the Japanese Self-Defense Forces deliver aid to survivors of the Sichuan Earthquake. This would be the first military deployment by Japan in China since 1945:

ComingAnarchy.com » Blog Archive » I hope to see Japanese military planes over China
No, I am not some militarist condoning a preemptive attack on China. I am supporting China’s request for Japanese soldiers to deliver earthquake relief aid in Sichuan. The Japanese government is still deliberating as this would be the first deployment of Japanese military forces to the Chinese mainland since the second world war.

Jun Okumura thinks it is a nice idea, but worries about being taken in by a Chinese bully. Tobias Harris also supports the plan and points out how it perplexes both the political Right and Left in Japan. My favourite quote is from the Social Democratic Party of Japan who are against the plan claiming that “the JSDF are not a disaster relief organization (saigai kyuujo dantai).”

Unfortunately, elements in both sides would rather waste time than move forward. As noted in the CA article, some in Japan don’t want to JSDF deployed in that way. But what sounds a lot like concern over the same ultra-nationalist bloggers who threaten the safety of students in America led China to backtrack.

Too bad. I wonder how many kidneys / arms / legs / lives could have been saved if not for the dithering.

The one good thing out of this is that the second request for something is typically less shocking than the first.

I hope we don’t have to wait for another 70K dead to get there.

Will Barack Obama Condemn Race-Based Adoption Laws?

This is a great opportunity for a Sister Souljah moment, in which Barack Obama could make it clear that race-based preferences (under the euphemism of “recruitment”) have no place in our adoption laws.

De-emphasis on Race in Adoption Is Criticized – NYTimes.com

Of course, Obama won’t. The original “Sister Souljah” moment, after all, was done by Bill Clinton. And Obama is more liberal/leftist than the Clinton Machine.

And anyway, why would Obama criticize people he agrees with?

(Hat-tip to Half Sigma.)

Real and Fake Document Formats

OpenDocument is the OASIS and ISO approved international document standard. It is based on a zip file containing XML files, and so is remarkably easy to access. With the old, proprietary document standards, you were always worried that the company would change its way of creating files, giving you files that your programs could no longer open. Because OpenDocument’s standard is open and easy to implement (the zip file), that is no longer a problem.

Of course, the monopoly of a fixed and secret standard has helped Microsoft’s business a lot. So even though Microsoft Office supports old formats that others have almost figured out (doc, xcl, ppt, etc), as well as OpenDocument (albeit grudgingly, because of laws that some governments have), they have attempted to create their own incompatible version, OOXML.

OOXML is so hard to implement, even Microsoft doesn’t do it correctly!

While the full story insider deals and irregular processes is too long to go into here, Microsoft keeps meeting resistance in its attempt to create a second and incompatible uniform standard:

Slashdot | India Third to Appeal ISO’s OOXML Approval
“India is now the third country to appeal the ISO’s approval of OOXML, with their appeal arriving just before the deadline last night. According to PC World, this makes OOXML the first BRM process under ISO/JTC 1 to be appealed, which leaves us in uncharted territory. Although there was substantial confusion in the comments on yesterday’s story,

OpenDocument is currently supported by OpenOffice, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, KOffice, AbiWord, and many other office productivity applications. OOXML is supported by nobody, not even Microsoft.

The Genome Prepares to Cross Time

We’ve already brought back DNA from extinct species. Not we are recovering DNA from ancient human races:

Viking DNA Extracted From 1,000 Year Old Skeleton | Scientific Blogging
Analysis of DNA from the remains of ancient humans provides valuable insights into such important questions as the origin of genetic diseases, migration patterns of our forefathers and tribal and family patterns.

Unfortunately, severe problems connected with the retrieval and analysis of DNA from ancient organisms (like the scarcity of intact molecules) are further aggravated in the case of ancient humans. This is because of the great risk of contamination with abundant DNA from modern humans. Humans, then, are involved at all steps, from excavation to laboratory analyses. This means that many previous results have subsequently been disputed as attributed to the presence of contaminant DNA, and some researchers even claim that it is impossible to obtain reliable results with ancient human DNA.

Extremely cool. There’s no reason to be limited to the human biodiversity that currently exists on the planet. While evolution has doubtless optimized many modern humans for life in the modern world, there doubtless were good variants in the past that were lost either before they became valuable or because of genetic drift.