ben hammersley asks given the US?s unique role on the international stage, is it morally right for its election to be decided, or even participated in, only by its own citizens? a while back joi ito wondered about this too, and a long thread of comments followed. with all due respect to the rest of the world, i hope non-americans never get the right to vote in america. if you don't like the influence america has on your country, i would encourage you to vote for representatives in your own country who won't accept that influence, use your voice and money to influence american public opinion, and do whatever else you want to push your political agenda. but i draw the line at voting. i realize these arguments don't need to be made, as there is no chance of this happening, but i make them here anyway.

there's no clear distinction between the framers of domestic and foreign policy in american government, so if non-americans were allowed to vote in american elections, they would be effectively deciding domestic policy for americans. our government system already does a poor enough job of representing us without this influence. this would also set a terrible precedent. i could easily cite influence on my own life as an american from numerous other countries, so following the logic of international voting, i should have a right to vote in these elections. but what happens with a country that doesn't have elections, or one that claims to be democratic, but in practice is not? should i allow them to vote in my country even though i don't have the same right in their own?

representative government needs to be getting narrower, not broader, to improve effectiveness. it's bad enough that i'm choosing government officials who are controlling events in california or alaska (or worse yet, iraq). i prefer the federal government stay out of state affairs as much as possible precisely because i don't want to be responsible for what happens in california or alaska - i don't live there to experience the full effects of my voting. allowing non-americans to vote in american elections would be far worse, as non-americans could easily vote for people who would bring disaster to america and have no idea they were doing so. at least when americans vote for people who bring disaster to america, we have to live with that disaster. this connection between the rights and responsibilities of voting would be lost if non-americans were allowed to vote in american elections. any improvements in policy wouldn't make up for that loss.


irridentism is n : the doctrine that irredenta [regions that are related ethnically or historically to one country but are controlled politically by another] should be controlled by the country to which they are ethnically or historically related (from a few examples should make it clear that irridentism is the primary cause of war. people will continue to describe other causes of war, but wars having nothing to do with irridentism are so rare that these other reasons are relatively unimportant.

i'll start with the exception that's currently foremost in my mind: america's most recent war against iraq. this had nothing to do with irridentism. america didn't attack iraq because of any ethnic or historical ties to the nation. the reasons given by the american government are various and changing, but the reason for the american people, who are ultimately responsible for the wars our government wages, was clearly revenge (or "justice", if you prefer). 70% of americans believed iraq's leader was responsible for the 9/11 attacks on america.

which brings us to 9/11. it was not exactly a war, but it had basically the same effect, and was caused by irridentism. there are certainly other causes, but i don't think the attacks would have happened if there wasn't a belief among the members of al qaeda that america had too much control over saudi arabia - a land full of ethnic and historic ties to al qaeda. if you doubt this, read osama bin laden's own reasoning for his actions.

now on to the seemingly endless conflict between israel and palestine. the position of both sides in this case is irridentism, and this is precisely why this conflict has continued for so long with so little movement toward peace. both sides have ethnic and historic ties to the same land, and both believe they are the rightful authority over that land.

the list of irridentism-caused conflicts is long: ireland, china/taiwan, china/tibet, north korea/south korea, serbia, india/pakistan, russia/chechnya, and so on. so if i'm right when that stopping irridentism would stop most wars, stopping irridentism is an incredibly important goal. so how do we do it?

this part i'm not so clear on, but it occurs to me that irredenta may not be considered in need of saving through war if it was clear that the people had the means to choose their own government. that is to say that democracy may be the best cure for irridentism. you could argue that israel is a democracy and this hasn't helped much in that case, but i'd respond that israel is not a democracy for the non-israeli people living in the disputed territories, who don't have the right to vote to give these territories to palestine. i think this right, whether or not it was exercised, would do much to end palestinian irridentism. in the same way saudi arabian democracy would do much to end al qaeda's irridentism, tibetan democracy would have weakened china's irridentism, and so on. democracy isn't a perfect antidote for irridentism and the wars it causes, but it's a good start.


this (christmas) morning, i read this BBC article summary:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed to the secular world to overcome its mistrust of religion.

and i thought to myself, "if the archbishop is really interested in overcoming mistrust of religion, he should call on the religious to stop doing things that generate that mistrust." then i read the rest of the article:

Dr Williams said part of the reason lay in the misuse of faith for oppression and violence, as an alibi for atrocity.

The Archbishop called on Christians to show their faith was "on the side of humanity".


The Archbishop said religious faith had too often become the "language of the powerful".

i'm happy to see someone of authority within the church publicly recognizing these problems, when a question like "is god a white racist?" is not clearly answered by the church.


just stumbled across this and found it amusing:

The judge said the evidence showed that Shizawa was mentally "off."

Shizawa's lawyer, Simon Robert Hiller, said his client was a law-abiding citizen.

"He was in love," he said.


a few days ago i unsubscribed myself from yet another conservative weblog. in principle, i believe it's possible for someone with a liberal bias such as myself to have a reasonable discussion with someone with a conservative bias. but in practice, i've found it difficult to find someone with a conservative bias who doesn't equate my liberal bias with terrorism. of course, the same problem exists with overtly liberal weblogs, which too often equate conservatism with fascism.

maybe this makes sense outside of america, but here i just don't get it. whether you are a liberal or conservative american, roughly half of the country is in the opposing camp. i don't understand what sort of views would support the painting of half of all americans as evil. maybe it makes those who agree with the writer feel better about themselves, but isn't it more important to be changing the minds of those who don't agree with the writer? isn't it a safe assumption that the american government will continue to (albeit poorly) represent both liberal and conservative americans, and will thus be required to find some middle ground? is there no longer a middle ground in american politics?

as someone with an admittedly liberal bias, i'd like to offer an example to conservatives of how to change my mind on an issue. doc searls quotes a passage from Iraq: Setbacks, Advances, Prospects (PDF), by Adeed Dawisha:

It is undeniable that insecurity and at times chaos have reigned for a dismayingly long time in some parts of Iraq, particularly in sections of Baghdad (whose sprawling environs contain around a fifth of Iraq's total population of about 25 million people) and in the "Sunni" zone. This area, which is often called the "Sunni triangle," is actually more of a quadrilateral whose corners rest on Baghdad in the south, Saddam's home city of Tikrit in the north, Ramadi in the west, and Baquba in the east. The Arabic-speaking, Sunni Muslim tribes who predominate in this area received ample largess and many privileges from Saddam, and in turn staffed much of his secret-police and military apparatus. It is in this area that the vast majority of U.S. casualties have occurred. Saddam loyalists, who stand to lose the most from the demise of his regime, have perpetrated almost-daily attacks on U.S. convoys and personnel in this zone. Well-equipped and seemingly generously financed by Saddamist remnants who raided Iraq's treasury before fleeing Baghdad, these guerrillas have been waging a low-intensity war that U.S. commanders have been hard-pressed to contain, let alone eliminate.

this passage tells me things i didn't know, and it gives me cause to reconsider some of my beliefs about the situation in iraq. it doesn't turn me into a conservative, but if such a conversion is possible (i've never met a "former liberal" nor a "former conservative"), this is a good place to start it. calling me a terrorist is a bad place to start. i've changed my mind on too many issues too many times to believe i'm currently right about everything i believe, and this is why i seek out people with differing opinions to challenge my own. do you know of any overtly conservative weblogs that don't equate liberals with terrorists? if so, please share, because i haven't had much luck so far in my search.


daniel berlinger had the same reaction i did to joel spolsky's latest article, "biculturalism". joel says:

Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers.

to which daniel responds: while there certainly are two lines of thought, there are those of us who prize both. joel's example of command line unix programs is really an explanation of where "unix culture" was five or ten years ago. but modern unix systems wrap command line programs in more user-friendly interfaces in recognition of these values of "windows culture". and the next generation of windows software aims to make windows applications and data more programmer-friendly, in recognition of these values of "unix culture".

so increasingly the unix and windows worlds are both recognizing the value of software being both user-friendly and programmer-friendly. making software programmer-friendly is largely an exercise of faith. one programmer puts a lot of time into creating programatic "hooks" in the hopes that other programmers will come along and make some use of those hooks. but that doesn't always happen. sometimes other programmers don't come along. but the unix faithful go on believing.

if unix is faith, windows is reason. if you want your software to be used by many, windows is your platform for better or worse. joel labels apple's user-friendly version of unix as "heretical", but is there such thing as a "heretical" way to do windows software? i say no, because the basic rationality of "how many users?" is the primary measure of value in the windows world. we unix geeks can say "microsoft is evil" all we want, but this doesn't change the fact that most people are using windows.

but as i pointed out before, the faith of "unix culture" and the reason of "windows culture" are increasingly mixing. about 700 years ago, a similar mixture of faith and reason in europe brought about much of what is now western civilization. and for all its faults, i'd say it was a pretty good product. we're not quite there yet in the software world, but i look forward to a day when we can stop talking about user-friendly or programmer-friendly software, and just talk about friendly software.


anyone lived in a pretty how town is a poem by e. e. cummings, sent to me by ann a while ago. i set it to music, and now you can listen to it.


the color of money lets you see how much americans in different areas have historically given to either of the two major parties. i learned that peoria, illinois - where i grew up - is much more republican than bloomington, illinois - where i live now. (via doc searls)


i was just browsing different meetup topics and noticed that in the middle of more conventional religions in the "religion" category is a new one: "jeff bezos". for those who don't know, jeff bezos is the founder and CEO of and now apartently there is a religion dedicated to him. this wouldn't surprise me so much if there were also a "bill gates" or "steve jobs" listing in this category, but jeff bezos currently stands alone as the only technologist who has spawned a religion on meetup.


shelley powers has what i think is a wonderful suggestion for a new award:

To be honest, if the Wizbang awards person had taken the nominations, went out to Technorati and found the least linked of them and put them into the award lists, I would have promoted the hell out of it. I wouldn't have been on that list, but I still would have promoted the hell out of it.

as it is now, the wizbang awards only sends yet more links to the most linked weblogs, which isn't helpful for most writers or readers. most writers aren't on the list, and most readers are already aware of these weblogs because they're the ones everyone links to all the time.

what we need is awards for under-read weblogs. as a reader, i want to know what's good out there that i'm not already being pointed to by everyone i read. and as a writer, i'd like a few more readers. maybe i'll make these awards after i gain some financial stability.


ann writes:

I also despise the riaa's bully tactics, which I see as a last ditch attempt to maintain the recording industries oligopolistic pricing policies in the face of increased competition. I don't doubt that theatening to sue 12 year olds will decrease the amount of file sharing, but unless those 12 year olds have very generous allowances it's not going to increase record sales.

i'm no fan of the RIAA, but i've been wondering lately if these tactics aren't more calculated than i'd previously given them credit for. it's often pointed out that the RIAA has a long history of trying to outlaw technologies it ultimately profits from, as this discussion from summarizes:

The RIAA tried to outlaw dual casette decks. One of the any things they tried to outlaw, along with player pianos, wax cylinder recorders, record, radios, television and DAT.

i'm not sure how much of this is true (it doesn't make any sense to me that the RIAA would have any interest in television), but i trust enough of it is true that the general point is the same.

but certainly the RIAA is aware of this. so why are they making the same mistake again now? that question assumes it was a mistake before. maybe the RIAA's strategy assumes an eventual failure in their attempts to halt technological progress, but sees these attempts as buying time while they figure out how to profit from the new technology.

i once looked at these lawsuits and thought to myself "the RIAA can't possibly win the battle against file sharing", but now i think that's not the battle they're fighting. they're fighting the battle for maximum profit, and as services like itunes and buymusic start to replace services like napster and kazaa as the standard means of obtaining music, it increasingly appears the RIAA has already won this battle.


i have two comments on "is dean stoppable?", at salon: the first is that mario cuomo gave a quote that shows he has no regard for democracy when he said:

'Because [Dean] has people excited. Because he has money. Because he has a lock in the polls in New Hampshire. Because he has two big unions, he has the kids, the Internet loves him, because he came out early against the war.' That's all fine. But should he win?

i'm not sure what cuomo imagines would determine if someone should win, if not the kind of widespread support dean has, but i suspect it's the kind of top-down structure that has been failing the democratic party since bill clinton left office.

my second comment is what i suspect is the only winning strategy for a democrat running against dean: change your name to "anyone but bush". "anyone but bush" has more support than any current candidate. i hear more people say "i'll vote for anyone but bush" than "i'll vote for dean" or even "i'll vote for bush". even most of dean's supporters are really "anyone but bush" supporters. millions of americans support "anyone but bush". they've even set up a campaign website for "anyone but bush". they just need a candidate to take the name.


via metafilter, the japan SAQ (Seldom Asked Questions) contains some useful information. for example:

Q.?On the news why are the handcuffs fogged out when they show someone being arrested?

Q.? Why all the cherry trees and no cherries?

Q.? What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Q.? Why do Japanese people say that they have blue traffic lights when they are really green?

and many more questions that make japan sound about as interesting as it is.


i don't remember who first introduced me to the peanut butter and pickle sandwich, but it has recently come to my attention that not everyone is aware of this tasty treat. in fact - believe it or not - some even react with disgust when the combination of peanut butter and pickles is mentioned. but the nay-sayers say no nay after trying it. although i found no recipe on recipezaar, an otherwise wonderful recipe site, i did find one on that goes like this:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped pickle
1/4 cup hot water

Cream peanut butter and water together and add chopped pickle.

now i've never used 1/4 cup of hot water, so my recipe is even more ridiculously simple:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped pickle

Put on bread and enjoy.