Least constructive attempt at historical revisionism award, 2010

Some jackasses wanted to seek a pardon for Billy the Kid: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40861736/ns/us_news/
I’m not sure what the point is of clearing the names of the clearly guilty.
If people are looking for someone to posthumously pardon in New Mexico then surely there must be some wrongly convicted black or Apache or something a little more compelling.
The thing that really ices it is that the guy killed two more people when escaping from jail, so whatever deal he may or may not have made earlier to avoid prosecution is moot.
As for the claim that he was only pushing back against various criminal elements, well he had a trial where if self defence was a defence he had the opportunity to raise it and evidently wasn’t believed.
It is also a case where while some commutation of a sentence may well be appropriate it is hard to see a pardon ever appropriate, except in a situation where evidence is produced of a wrongful conviction.

Blog is going to WordPress

For some reason Myspace is going to force all users to take their blogs over to WordPress.   This is irritating.   I don’t know whether my blog posts will survive properly with the switch or not.
Apparently Myspace is failing while Facebook is thriving, which is too bad.  Probably a big issue is spam control.   There were too many ladies of the night trolling and making unsolicited “friend” requests clogging the system.
I know of a financial site that used to be good where people would trade investing advice that got overwhelmed by shills pimping penny stock scams.
Something needs to be done about that kind of thing, any site can be ruined that way.
I once started setting up a Facebook account but stopped when a required field was a phone number for “verification”.  Spammers have phones too, and can get new numbers cheap if they want, so I don’t see that as really helping security.  I do see it as likely winding up on a telemarketer’s list as it is gratuitous information that they don’t need and as holes occasionally get discovered that allow unauthorized persons access to personal details of Facebook users.

For once a real issue raised with Christine O’Donnell

It’s interesting that there is a criminal probe going on into whether Christine O’Donnell used campaign contributions to support herself, essentially making campaigning her job.  Detractors note that she has no apparent independent source of funds and some disgruntled former employees have ratted her out.
If she has committed an offence it is in a way more shocking that it is an offence than that she did it.
Think about the implications- anybody that is going to make a serious run for any office is going to have to take at least 6 months to take a run at it where they have no other job.  Politics has been taken over by millionaires and billionaires and a big part of that is that nobody else can really afford to run for office, not just because they can’t spend a hundred million dollars of their own money to run, but also because most people can’t take six months away from a job and likely have nothing to go back to if unsuccessful.
So I see the real scandal here is that the government has de facto outlawed anybody that isn’t a millionaire from running for office.
It would probably help the system work if some middle class and even lower class people got into office.
When self made billionaires run for office, I think that is generally good and would like to see more of it- you can’t become a self made billionaire without skills.
Millionaires and old money people are a lot more iffy.    Becoming highly successful in a narrow niche requires one good idea, rudimentary skills and some luck.
People born to wealth are more often than not probably going to be the worst choices both in government and in business.  If everything is handed to them and they get spoon-fed right through their Harvard degree, then get some fast-track position in a company, the first time that they ever have to exercise independent judgment there may be a great deal at stake.  There may also be a lack of appropriate risk aversion due to a charmed life.  There may be an unwillingness to compromise because of a sense of entitlement and because it had never been necessary.   In politics such a person will be making decisions about a real world outside their protective bubble that they’ve never lived in.
The three Kennedy brothers are an exception to that of course, and I suspect being Catholic has something to do with that.  Real world snares and temptations are a more practical in orientation but if you see the world as being filled with snares and temptations from the outset then real world problems are probably less of an intellectual leap.
People that have had more experience in the real world would probably be an asset in congress.   Not that Christine O’Donnell has a whole lot of that, or even any good ideas, but the obstacle for her is an obstacle for many.
We also need incentives for people that are not ideologues to run for office.   A single minded person like O’Donnell may run despite the economic downside because that is the kind of thing that she wants to do.
On the other hand the exact kind of person that you would want running for office is going to be thinking about how they will pay their bills and provide for their families.
Having a political system that self-selects for irresponsible people to run for office and for responsible people to stay away is stupidity.
I would go further that simply allowing bills to be paid out of contributions- if there is money left at the end then it should be available after the campaign to support defeated candidates,and to continue to support elected ones until their first government cheque.
There will be a balance here so that people won’t become millionaires by running for office and losing.  I’d think something like, the greater of 100 grand and the gross income of the candidate for the two previous years, but not more than  $500,000, and indexed for inflation.   The idea is that if the person has had the guts to run for office and tried to make their country better they should not be financially crippled for doing so and providing for them for a couple of years after gives a reasonable time to find appropriate employment.
So if O’Donnell is guilty of the offence of being a non-millionaire running for public office, I hope that she gets the statutory minimum.  I despise her because she is venomous and a cretin, not because she’s poor.    Using an election law loophole designed to keep the poor and middle classes from office to get at her is an elitist cheap shot.   In some ways I’d like to see a constitutional challenge, but the problem with that is that although it would be clearly unconstitutional to explicitly prohibit the poor from running for public office, the courts won’t do anything that amounts to writing their own legislation about what is fair.
If anybody else would like to see a simple potato farmer on the ways and means committee raising hell with common sense, this is a good time to speak up.
One remedy to the problem of personal finances when running for office is for there to be separate donations to support the candidate personally.  That presumably would be privately arranged.
I don’t like this second solution because it is likely to be off record, likely to involve quid pro quo, and lead to conflicts of interest.   If done by the political parties it leads to candidates being under the thumb of the establishment.  People that want to be game changers won’t get backing.
Much better to have such donations automatically counted towards campaign contributions and protect the candidate’s independence and integrity.  The contributors have already voluntarily voted with their dollars without requiring the candidate to be beholden to or to change anything and that is much better.
Ask an honest man or woman that is a teacher, or has a modest law practice, or a farmer, or a factory worker what it would take to make running for office an acceptable financial risk and that is what we need to do.

Don’t ask don’t tell vs. way too much information

It is difficult to see how one’s preferences would be likely to come up in an ordinary casual conversation.
Lots of ordinary heterosexual references would be thought inappropriate for the workplace.  In some ways the debate is a lot of nothing because you can often figure out what people are.  Take private Manning of the Wikileaks scandal, I doubt if anybody in his company thought that he was straight.
Hopefully this “don’t ask don’t tell” repeal will be confined to the narrow issue of soldiers not being dismissed if their preferences come out in some discreet incidental manner.  In most cases that will only confirm what people had probably figured out anyways.
One thing that it isn’t likely going to change is attitudes within the military and there isn’t any way to legislate individual approval for homosexuality.
Military people are people who chose a profession where they would kill people.   Sensitivity training on that issue isn’t realistic.
On the other hand if you are wounded in the field probably the last thing on your mind is whether your medic is gay.
Realistically this is going to affect a few dozen people that have been dismissed frivolously and not change much else.
It has a higher chance to backfire for the gay community than anybody else.  The actual benefits are not that significant, it is more of a symbolic victory.  On the other hand if gays in the military start aggressively making an issue of it, and it becomes a distraction and a fiasco, it may backfire on gay rights issues of greater importance.
In theory, troops deployed in the field aren’t supposed to be having sex anyways regardless of orientation.   So there isn’t a reason to get all vocal about it.  Sure it’s a private matter.    So don’t go all David Arquette on us because regardless of your orientation a lot of people don’t want to know the details.   Also they have to remember that you can’t really ask to be treated the same and asked to be given special treatment at the same time.
It’s hard to see the fervour on either side as the change doesn’t change that much of anything.

Wikileaks now being used in support of historical revisionism

There has been another round of nonsense arising from Wikileaks with the Vatican accused of backing out of some holocaust memorial institution.
Some people think that the Vatican should have done more to condemn Hitler and the Holocaust while the Holocaust was in full swing.
The likely effect of such an action would have been for the Vatican to be looted and the Catholic church left in the same shambles as the Jewish population.   Do people forget that Hitler was opposed to Christianity?
The only reason why the Vatican wasn’t pillaged and the occupants shot was that it was in Italy and Mussolini had signed a certain treaty, the Lateran Treaty, which formally incorporated the Vatican  as a state on conditions that included official Vatican neutrality on controversies.   Mussolini was a bit sharper than Hitler and probably saw this as a win-win solution where the Vatican would be reluctant to do anything that undermined the whole basis for the Vatican as a sovereign state and he probably saw little upside to antagonizing the church unless absolutely necessary.
The Vatican prior to the Lateran Treaty in 1929 had lost all temporal power in 1870 when invaded by the Italian army.   The pope of that time had picked the wrong horse so to speak with Napolean III and the result of meddling in temporal matters was that the church lost what temporal power it had for a period of 59 years.
There was ample precedent for the Vatican being overrun with no backlash from the Italian people and the situation that the Vatican was in during the 1940’s should be seen as precarious.
While Mussolini was not interested in a conflict with the church per se, he didn’t have an issue with jews either, but that didn’t prevent him from issuing a Manifesto of Race to please the germans in 1938.   Mussolini apparently found the Manifesto distasteful but did it anyways.  Pope Pius did protest that law to Mussolini.
Mussolini played whatever angle was expedient at the time.  When angling for Catholic support he was a protector of the faith, when angling for Muslim support he was the defender of Islam.    He just said or did whatever was expedient at the time and it is unlikely that he would have protected the church if it had caused serious problems and agitated against Germany.
In the war, cities were being bombed aggressively.  Even after the surrounding area was liberated the Vatican was a potential target.  Catholic priests in occupied territories were lesser targets but in disfavor with the Nazis and an aggressive Vatican stance would probably have resulted in numerous devout Catholics and priests being sent to the death camps.
The whole business has some analogy to the old fable of the mice that get together and decide that somebody needs to put a bell on the local cat, with general approval until an old mouse asks the critical question, who is to bell the cat.   It’s all nice and well to say that somebody else should or should have belled the cat when it’s not your neck on the line.
How about this for a better focus:
Anti-semitism and nazi sympathizers were a major problem in the west and especially English speaking countries and jewish refugees were frequently turned away by people that had nothing to lose by acting decently.
There is an irony in historical revisionism and demonization of another culture by some of those who seek to preserve an accurate depiction of the holocaust.
There is also an issue of perpetuating conflicts by attributing blame to the living for the actions of their ancestors.   Every person is the descendant of the victors in multiple genocides.   Going on about what one person’s dead ancestors did to another’s dead ancestors is of limited utility.   Education to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past is good, propaganda to incite ill-will over mistakes of the past makes it more likely that the mistakes of the past will recur.
Punishing the living for the sins of the dead is not constructive, and how are we to punish the dead? Dig them up and pillary their bones?
The vindictive edge needs to be taken out of such controversies.  Take for instance the perpetual conflict over Armenians wanting Turkey to be condemned for a 90 year old genocide.  Well,  not long before that North American natives were still being genocided in the US and Canada.   Not long before that surely somebody was genociding somebody else.  Christians genocided Muslims during the crusades.   History is nasty.  Decency is in its’ infancy.
If the Vatican has assessed that the purpose of a certain holocaust memorial group is to condemn the Vatican for not putting up more of a fight during World War II, I am less than amazed that the Vatican declined to participate further.    The manner in which the matter has been leaked however adds to the propaganda mill against the Vatican.
The whole historical context is missing and in that manner leaks can spread more confusion than truth.   It is dangerous to spread the idea that circulating memos written from only one viewpoint does anything more to disseminate truth than an anti-Catholic or anti-semitic blog that is written from one viewpoint.
Even now, the Vatican is not treated as a fully independent state in its’ own right.   Italy has seized certain monies from the Vatican, probably in violation of the Lateran Treaty, and probably in retribution for certain church statements against Mussolini’s successor, Mr. Berlusconi.   The power of the Vatican can be overstated.

Wikileaks can lead to distortion rather than truth- Lockerbie

A problem with publishing diplomatic cables is that they have slant rather than being a truth revealed.
Take the current nonsense about the Lockerbie bomber release for instance: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40760074/ns/us_news-security.   Four US senators are citing the leaked information as proving that there were concessions made in the “war on terror” for economic reasons.
I’m sure that was part of the motivation but the released material makes it look like the whole story.
The alleged Lockerbie bomber was also seeking to have his case reopened at the time.    It turns out that the key piece of evidence linking him to the crime was fabricated.    Many of the families of the victims don’t believe he did it.   The larger scandal is that a man who may have been innocent got railroaded so that somebody could look tough in the war on terror.
Although Libya may have used economic coersion to pressure to get the man back, do we forget that the western world used economic coersion to get him from Libya in the first place?
The Libyans probably turned him over believing that in a fair trial an acquittal was inevitable.
The Libyans were likely outraged that instead there was a show trial fitting for a banana republic.   Note that such acts are not a good way to show to developing states that our ways are superior.
Was the guy guilty?  Who knows.  He would be more likely than all the travelers that were going on holidays to have been involved, but that is an awfully thin premise to convict a man on in a democracy.  For a man of his seniority to be directly involved would be very unusual.
He’s described as “unrepentant”.  Well, if he didn’t do it, it isn’t that surprising that he’s unrepentant.
What I would have liked to see leaked was who was involved in and directing the railroading, now that is something that deserves to see the light of day.
People are more likely to believe that an official’s publicly disclosed thoughts are to be propaganda and his privately held thoughts are more likely to be truth.  One risk of releasing material in the manner that Wikileaks has is that it can be highly effective propaganda.
Lost in the whole mess is that the bomber’s health condition allowed an expedient excuse to release him without a court ever making the highly embarassing finding that there had been a wrongful conviction.   Some of the motivations were no doubt mixed.
But who can really blame Libya for pressuring Britain when it was revealed that the conviction, which had shamed on only the accused but Libya as well, was based on a fabrication?   Libya was condemned for that for years, and forced to pay enormous restitution, and the whole thing was a fraud.
I am disappointed to note that the four senators exploiting the myth that there was any evidence of Libya’s involvement are apparently all Democrats.   If they are versed in the area they either know or ought to know that their position is purely propaganda.   I hope that in their next elections they are replaced either at the primary level or failing that the election, with somebody more responsible.

Posturing vs. tactics and strategy in Assange case

The whole bail appeal thing is getting tedious.  It creates an atmosphere of overkill and adds to Assange’s PR campaign.
The whole concept of withholding bail from a person prior to their being charged with an offence, so that the person may be questioned, is odd.   It is a breach of habeas corpus and I can’t say that I’m clear on why bail would have been previously denied.  If they want him, they should charge him and get on with it.
Really, the dumbest thing that Assange could do in the present circumstances would be to run.  He would burn his supportive sureties and would be acting guilty.  I doubt if he would do it, but if he did breach bail it would damage his credibility.   His whole campaign so far is that he has nothing to answer to, everybody knows where he is, etc.   If he runs he’ll still be a counterculture hero but he’ll be tarnished in the mainstream.
Juries put a lot of weight on people running, probably too much weight.
The posturing arm waving types want to keep him in jail as I guess some impassioned expression of outrage.   From a more logical point of view, his enemies should be hoping that he gets bail so that he can do something stupid and hang himself.   If he runs, he hurts himself.
There are other ways to burn him too.   I’m surprised that he hasn’t been targeted with releases of information that the public would be likely to find more reprehensible.   Then he can effectively hang himself without anybody to blame but himself.  You just need to find an area where he would find disclosure irresistable and the public would find it odious.  He has shown a poor exercise of discretion and that may be used.  A good way to fix him is the right kind of fresh leak.
Of course information that is already out there might be usable.  However if confidential informants have been disappeared it may be very difficult to prove their fate.
Some of the people that had been closest to him think that he’s an out of control megalomaniac and split off, and that ought to tell us something.