February 10th, 2005


Hall of Expunged Records

I keep on thinking I've written about this, and perhaps I have, but I'munable to find the entries where I have, so please bear with me if Irepeat myself. I have always found it disappointing that some parts of theleft, often especially fellow communists, have a very one-sided viewpointof the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of course, to briefly digress, thebook I got in Amsterdam was aware and mournful of a general trend of wollythinking in some Communist circles, pointing out that how some people,unwilling to accept that Trotsky predicted the Soviet Union would eitherfail or be reformed by the end of World War II, and was wrong in that prediction,instead decided that the war had not ended when it did, but had just entered anew phase. This trend is, alas, not unique to Communists, but is still a shameto see. While I think that Zionism is a poor fit with Communism nowadays, I findit odd that Communists find the idea of Palestinian nationalism to be in linewith their position. The Shari'a (religious law) that is present in most Islamiccountries (Turkey and Saddam's Iraq being exceptions) is not at all compatiblewith Socialism -- Marx's ideas on religion and ways to run a country place hisideas very distant from religious rule. It is easy to forget, when advocatinga Palestinian POV, what kind of a state that would be. On my trip to Europe, inthe Anne Frank House, was a wonderful exhibit discussing freedom of expressionversus protection against discrimination. It involved a presentation of varioussituations where the two ideals conflict, and had all present in the room voteon which ideal was more important. The lights in the ceiling, red and blue,lit up with each button press, to illustrate where the consensus lay. It wasmade clear to me that the American way of looking at how these ideals interplayis just one perspective, one rather different from what might broadly be calledthe European perspective in some areas. It touched on a former politician inthe Netherlands, Pim Fortuyn in one of the cases presented.To summarize the wikipedia article, he was someone who would be difficult tocategorize in American left-right terms, or even the 4-poles system theLibertarians invented to handle their stand. His views on politics can broadlybe considered very liberal, but not at all multiculturalist, instead pushingliberal values as things to be preserved at the cost of tolerance and neutralitytowards conservative elements. He advocated changing immigration rules to barimmigrants, particularly Muslims, who would make the country less tolerant. Inan interview showed in the presentation, he indicated that the hard-won rightsof gays (he was openly gay) and similar groups must not be lost for the sake ofimmigrants. He was assasinated while running for office. In some ways, Fortuyn'sstand can be compared to that of Stanley Fish.This connects to Israel, and to me, in that as I've become more educated onthe specifics of modern Islam, I've slowly acquired a determination to goagainst advances of Shari'a or anything similar into western culture. This putsme at odds against the article in the picture above in the socialist newsletter.The headline reads, Islamophobia is Racism. I disagree -- while the tie ofShari'a and Islam is not watertight, it is fairly strong, and in any case, Islamrepresents a source of highly conservative values. Worrying about this, and thechanges they bring in government is not racism, although it might rightly becalled religious or political discrimination. One possible claim is thatCommunist systems, as well as europe in general, are opening the gateway to thedestruction of their liberal culture by allowing immigration. A fully open anddemocratic society must, by some reckonings, make that invitation -- todiscriminate and/or manage things of this nature is contrary to the ideals ofdemocracy and liberalism. Israel's situation is additionally complex becausethere is the idea of a favoured people who the nation is for, rather than afavoured set of ideals that are to be preserved. Fish and Fortuyn suggest thatthe notion of universal tolerance is broken, and contains within it a recipefor an end to liberalism.

All of this touches lightly on one possible view of some general perspectivesacross the divide between the traditional left and traditional right. One sidesees itself as the guardian/restorer of traditional values. It's end is topromote old, good culture, and to fight the other side's tug on society towardshedonism. Another side sees itself as the bringer of a new enlightenment,struggling to clear the barbarism of the past. Peacemakers like to pretendthere's a way to synthesize these perspectives into a new vision, acceptableto both. I think it's a pipe dream that hopes to confuse people intoagreement.


Polkas of Rome

I've recently been toying with the idea of applying for a job in the Qatar Campusof CMU. It might be an interesting life experience, to live in the middle eastfor awhile, especially without changing employers and keeping open the ease ofmoving back later. Still a toy idea.

I've also found that SUN's amd64 JVM is, unfortunately, not very good -- I havesome code that, on the same machine, bombs on the amd64 JVM but works fine onthe x86 JVM. Frustrating. Now, onto a grab bag of topics..

This looks like an interesting way to travel the world.I'm not sure how it compares to Hostels -- in both cases a high degree of trustis required, but a paranoid life sucks utterly.

Some reading on Wikipedia and controversy..

One dose of stupidityTwo doses of stupidityThree doses of stupidity

Ayn Rand didn't like Libertarians.

Saddam could have voted in Iraq's elections if he had been around.

Cat Stevens is to record a song to benefit the victims of the tsunami.He hasn't recorded anything since his conversion to Islam, but considers thisto be a cause worth getting involved in after all this time.

Some form of Solaris is to be released here.That'll be interesting -- the license isn't that great though.

Some people apparently keep their home directory in subversion.It's an interesting idea, with some appeal. I may do that someday..

The trials are going on for the abuse at Abu Gharib. Javal Davis has pleadguilty to some abuses, in aplea bargain that limits his sentence to 18 months. Some of the other abusershave also plead guilty, and achieved similarly light punishments. No surprisethere, unfortunately.

The Mac Mini looks very cool. It'sa very very small mac for not too much money. I wish I had one. I presentlyhave no working desktop at home, and this'd be a great replacement formy DVD player.

There's work on a new version of the GPL.This is being done by the FSF's new counsel, Eben Moglen

I like how we live in a country where we need to hear that, for now,attacking other countries is not on the agenda."I don't feel like attacking anyone today". Wonderful! Perhaps they're not inthe mood to do other atrocities either.

The NIH is implementing its earlier proposal to mandate open access toresearch done with its funding. Cool! Along with that comes some controversialrequirements that its employees not make money doing consulting or own stock insome companies that it deals with. Personally, I see this as a good thing,although Nicole sees things very differently.

The cloner of Dolly the sheep is to start cloning humans in the UK. Interesting.

That's all, for now.