Monday, March 20, 2006

Are Harvard and Stanford as bad as Yale?

I've read a few news stories and blog posts about Yale's welcome of the former Taliban spokesman (the context definitely does NOT suggest the word "spokesperson"), Rahmatullah Hashemi, as a student. The common theme of the (few) responses from both students and the administration is moral relativism. As Penraker points out, the Yale community is more than ready to be morally intolerant of various domestic figures and positions, but where a foreigner is concerned, perish the thought.

I was a Stanford undergrad and went to Harvard Law School. (I don't usually admit the latter straight out -- for some reason I usually adopt the customary circumlocution that I went to law school "back East" -- but my point precludes adhering to that silliness here.) I wonder whether either Stanford or Harvard has a less appalling political/moral environment than that to which Yale has descended.

Fed up with yet another aspect of Islam

OK, this is f---ing ridiculous. Afghanistan, post-"liberation", is getting ready to try and quite possibly execute someone for the capital crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. What kind of religion depends on death threats to keep its adherents? What the hell is this kind of judicial set-up doing in a country with any connection to the modern world? Where are the protests from "moderate" Muslim leaders worldwide? (Maybe I just haven't heard about them yet. Any bets?) And are we, the U.S., going to apply any diplomatic muscle to get this guy sprung?

robberies and filibusters

I've noticed that in many robberies of banks, stores, etc., there's no weapon displayed -- and the news reports don't indicate that any was even mentioned. It appears to be common these days to hand someone a note saying "This is a robbery", and immediately get cash handed over. I understand that the rob-ees don't want to ask "Well, are you armed?" and get a fatal, nonverbal reply. I believe that most employers tell their employees to be very cooperative with robbers to reduce the chance of violence. Reasonable as those attitudes may be, they still feel somehow odd to me. I'm reminded of filibusters. Back when, a filibuster was work. You had to actually stand up and pontificate for hours on end. Now, a senator essentially hands the Senate a note saying "This is a filibuster", and the Senate rolls over and gives up the intended legislation. In both circumstances, neither the victim's powers of resistance nor the determination of the perpetrator are tested. Am I being an old crank to sense a whiff of decadence?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Any good enough translation software yet?

I haven't kept up on translation software -- but if there are any programs that're more than halfway decent, for translating Arabic to English (or to any other widely read language), let's give 'em a crack at the newly available trove of Saddam documents! (They are in Arabic, aren't they?)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Guantanamo and marijuana policy

I wish I could believe that anytime soon, the U.S. government would acknowledge that a number of the prisoners at Guantanamo don't need to be held, and release them. I strongly suspect that is so -- not necessarily of a majority of those held, but of some not-trivial percentage. However, any such acknowledgement would be an implicit admission of having overreacted, cast too wide a net, skipped a crucial weeding-out step (to mix my agricultural metaphors). Admitting that a government policy was a goof doesn't come naturally to governments. Continuing a misguided and counterproductive policy to avoid such an admission comes far more easily. Hence we still have not only a drug war, but an active war against possession, growth and sale of marijuana. When the DEA admits that marijuana should be taxed and sold in liquor stores and served in tea shops, I'll hope for a thorough and accurate review of detentions at Guantanamo.