23 Jan 2003 chalst   » (Master)

raph, Zaitcev: I pretty much agree with what raph says, and I'm not a pacifist (I supported America's campaign in Afghanistan, despite some misgivings, see my diary from around then). I'm not even sure that I would be opposed to an American campaign against Iraq, since I think the potentially good consequences of removing Saddam Hussein from power might potentially outweigh the badness of what I believe are the Bush administration's reasons for wanting to remove him. Some considerations:
  1. I am strongly pro-Kurdish, a group that the USA effectively betrayed after the Gulf war. I think the probable reason why the elder Bush did not support the insurrection against Hussein then is because of a crucial ally's, the Turkish government's, implacable opposition to the idea of having a Kurdish nation on its southern border. Turkey's reasons for this are unacceptable, as is its treatment of its Kurdish minority, and the USA's behaviour was shameful. I think the Bush administration should be willing to openly criticise Turkey on this issue, even at the risk of losing Turkey's support in a military campaign against Iraq, not least for the reason that the northern Kurdish enclave would be an equally crucial ally of the US.
  2. North Korea is a bigger threat to the USA than Iraq. Iraq's threat lies in the threat it poses to its neighbours, not in any direct threat it poses to the USA or any of its NATO allies (whom the USA must support in the event they are attacked). Even Hussein would not be reckless enough to attack Turkey.
  3. It is true that Hussein might launch an attack against Israel. I do not know what the right strategy is for the USA to take, possibly declaring a temporary (eg. 12-month) NATO-like mutual defence treaty. I think a longer treaty would be unwise, given how reckless and irresponsible Ariel Sharon's government is.
  4. The need to collect more data on Hussein's weapons programme is an ideal opportunity for the USA to let Iraq become less of an urgent issue and tackle the really urgent issue of Noth Korea. It also would allow the USA to criticise Turkey, and repair diplomatic relations a little afterwards.
  5. Bush was foolish to include Iran in his Axis of Evil speech. Iran does not have a credible nuclear weapons programme, nor does it present a real threat to its neighbours. "Militant Islamist" is not the same as "supporter of terrorism". If Bush were to apologise for this, it is not impossible that Iran could become an ally in his campaign against Iraq.
  6. Hussein had nothing to do with the September 11th Al Qaeda attack. This should not need saying, but apparently 60% of Americans believe he did, according to a survey cited in Berlin's Tagesspiegel.

Postscript #1: The Bush tax cut

  • The Communitarian Network (comnet@gwu.edu) asked:
    The Wall Street Journal asks about the Bush Administration's new tax initiatives: "Is [Bush] too eager to cut taxes for the rich? Or are his critics so eager to soak the rich that they'd settle for a smaller economy with less for all?" (1/2/03). Elsewhere, the issue has been framed as a choice between growth and jobs and--class warfare. But one may argue that the most stimulative tax break is one that mainly benefits working class and middle class people--because these groups would spend most if not all of the money gained through a tax cut, while the rich would primarily increase their savings. What do you think?
  • William Niskanen's, chairman of CATO Insitute's, response:
    96% of income taxes are paid by the top half of the income distribution, and over a third are paid by the top 1% of the income distribution. The left has created somewhat of a Catch-22 in this country. The income tax structure is so progressive that only the rich pay any significant income taxes, and then the left opposes any income tax cuts because they benefit only the rich; taking their argument seriously would eliminate tax cuts as a potential policy instrument, even if they would significantly increase economic growth.
My reaction:
  1. Interesting claim by the CATO Institute. Is it true?
  2. I agree with Burkart Holzner's response "The ideologically slanted question posed by the Wall Street Journal is an assertion, not a question at all. It implies that the huge new tax cut is a necessity for economic growth. This is not the case..."
  3. Maybe the communitarian network is interesting for advogatans, be they conservative, republican, social democrat or other, and maybe COMNETians would find raph's work on formal trust metrics interesting?
Postscript #2:Certifications, Centres, and Policies
Here is a simple idea, that I think might do a lot to improve the advogato trust metric. First, three definitions:
  1. A certification is an assertion by an individual that a person, or an abstract entity, possesses a named property. This generalises the existing definition used on Advogato;
  2. A policy is a list of criteria that a set of certifications may or may not satisfy. A individual's certifications are said to be in conformance with a policy when these criteria are satisfied.
  3. A centre is an abstraction that consists of a list of trusted individuals, and a policy. Centres may be used to generate trust metrics, and a web of certifications may contain many centres. The name centre is drawn from some of Christopher Alexander's post-patterns writings.

Examples of centres: a centre to represent those unfairly excluded from the main advogato centre, for whatever reason.

Useful certifications:

  • person' certification's conform to policy P;
  • Account A1 on H1 and account A2 on H2 belong to the same person.
I talked about Advogato's experiment with formal trust-metrics with my wife a few days ago. She like the idea a lot, and mentioned an interesting idea of the evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar, who in his book "Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language" argues that the adaptive function of language is that it allows people to gossip, which gives us much better ways of knowing who in a large group is trustworthy or not; to sloganise: gossip makes large social groups possible.

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