Saturday, May 11, 2002
""What these agencies knew — or should have known — is that by doing this, and with a history of deaths in the desert, these people would cross in these dangerous areas," said A. James Clark, one of the two Yuma lawyers filing the claim. "It would have cost the government nothing to put water stations in, as it had done in other locations.""
"[O]ver the years, I have come to believe that the UN is actually a beautiful thing. I’m serious. Oh, some people hate it, find it an anachronism, but I find it a pure and lovely example of an oft-discredited ideal.
I should mention I’m talking about the building. Which is why I believe it should be emptied of its liars and parasites and converted into condos."
"I’d respect the UN more if the British delegate had risen from his chair, marched over, slapped Elfaith [the Sudanese delegate] on the cheek with a white glove and said “my seconds will call on you, sir. Good day.”"
Obviously, the first quote instantiates a from of humour that is all too easy in the Blog world - praise X and then oppose that with some micking critique.. But it's still funny, and I wish I lived in a city where I got Lileks' columns.!
Wednesday, May 08, 2002
The intended message is presumably about perceptions: what the West sees as defeat comes across differently in the Middle East, or some such. However, there's definitely a hint of the other interpretation. about this cartoon from the 4th of May.
"At the end of World War II, the Germans claimed they had not known what crimes their government was committing. The Allies, however, refused to accept this as an excuse. Fines were levied on Germany which are still being paid today. If Germans’ excuses of ignorance of crimes which took place over some 10 years were unacceptable, why should we accept the Americans’ excuses for crimes that have been committed against us for the past 50 years?"
The important point about the post-war settlement was that fines WEREN'T levied on Germany. Huge flows of money went to Germany (and the rest of Europe) for rebuilding. Marshall Aid doesn't get name-checked by politicians talking development who want to fine the Third World. World War One was the one with the fines for Germany, and they didn't work out that well.
Recent "fines", only beginning many years after the event, have been compensation for direct harm inflicted by the German state on individuals (with a "class action" twist). There might be a case against the Israelis on similar grounds (opinion withheld), but the US here has no major blame to accept for direct action. Indeed, in a sense it's like the US in the early years of WWII - it didn't intervene but could have done.
Addendum - That wasn't the point of the argument, of course. The point was that the US people should take the right side themselves (and have a duty to educate themselves until they "think right") (or else? There's an element of threat to the column to my ears).
However, the obvious rejoiner is that the Arab states should be held responsible for starting multiple wars of aggression against Israel, and fined appropriately. Further, they have a duty to educate themselves not to repeat the blood libel (in the very publication this column appears in). Further, everyone has a duty not to massacre innocent civilians in snooker halls, etc, and to at least make a bit of an effort to reduce civilian casualties in actual military actions.
Somehow, I don't think the author of the piece would be too keen on "turnabout's fair play". Yet the US has scarely been responsible for the various "crimes" alleged to have been committed over the last 50 years (at least, not in the Palestine related crimes implied as the topic here). They've not let Israel be destroyed, and they've helped prevent that, but it's not been their troops in Gaza. Actually, I'm revising my comparison. Relative to WWII, the USA is Switzerland. Sure, there may be a tiny bit of blame running free, but it's not really their problem.
"I would like to ask a question to those who read this article: Has there been any kind of deal between the US government and the Zionist lobby in the Enron case? Why was the vice president kept away at the beginning of the war on Afghanistan? Why did the vice president disappear from the limelight, citing security reasons? Was it because of a deal between the US government and the Zionists including the Israeli lobby to whom the vice president was sympathetic?
One may ask why I link the silence of the US lawmaking body and judiciary to Zionist influence.
My answers are:
1) Enron’s bankruptcy is the largest in US history and is the biggest loss for the federal government in terms of revenues.
2) The Zionist lobby has showed its influence by supporting some candidates and defeating other candidates or officeholders through financing and other pressure tools.
3) Because of Zionist influence on the media in general and on the US media in particular, the media did not highlight the Enron case.
4) The Democratic Party did not make Enron a big issue, apparently because it was influenced by the Zionist lobby.
5) The US president intervened personally to suppress European interference with Sharon’s massacre of Palestinians.
This means the Zionist lobby has strong influence on American decision-makers. US lawmakers (Congressmen) and the American executive (presidents) are rarely elected without the support of the Zionist lobby. In the light of this, I can see only the Israeli lobby’s hand in suppressing the Enron case.
Let us now examine the present Israeli massacres in Palestine, which are without equal since World War II****. The US president tells us that he can understand what the Israelis are doing. Why did he ignore the views of his European allies and take it as a personal issue? Can anybody believe that this is the thinking of a person ruling the world’s most powerful country — unless he was pushed by some force? Will the truth of Israel’s massacres lead to the downfall of the presidency and the Zionists playing the Enron card? How can we compare Irangate, which almost toppled the government of Reagan, with the Enron bankruptcy, which was the largest in US history.
The million-dollar question is: Did the Zionists do a deal of Enron for Sharon?"
Analysis of logical form.
1) X happened
2) Y is the case
3) I say that because of Y, X has been suppressed.
4) A special case of 3
Now, you'll notice that a) the argument depends totally on assertion in 3 of what it's trying to prove ("Zionist" intervention in Enron) and b) it doesn't actually link 5 in at all within the argument. Admittedly, the original didn't number the points, but the case rests entirely on the claim that the "Zionists" had a hand in Enron. Without that, where's the argument?
**** Rwanda, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya, Rwanda, Kurdistan, Rwanda, lots of other places, Rwanda.
The argument? Their economy needs knowledge transfer from franchises and multinationals to do much of anything, and if you drive the investors away then the (ridiculously oil-rich) country will stagnate. Since in the past, they've stagnated without being open to the rest of the world, that kinda fits.
A possibility, of course, it that it's aimed at subliminally promoting the EU in Britain by replacing the TV test card. Compare and contrast:
There are several problem with this, which I'll briefly sketch -
1) If everyone acknowledge's that it's Arafat's fault, why not imprison or kill him? As a blogger points out, the Israelis are likely to blame Arafat's release for the latest suicide bombing, the first in a month and just days after his release. If Arafat is a prime mover behind terrorism, rather than just winking at it, why not remove him?
2) If he's a prime mover behind terrorism, why does that give us any reason to think that he'd be able to carry "the movement" with him? He may be able to stop the al-Aqsu Martyrs' Brigade, but why would he have any influence over Hamas or Islamic Jihad?
3) How does this address the claims that "humanitarian" donations to the Palestinian Authority have been used, directly or indirectly, to fund terrorism? Surely this is an argument for cutting the PA off from any external funding (or, at least, any from the West)? If you know someone's a terrorist, then why give them money when you know your cash has been used to fund terrorism in the past? And without money from outside, and without the Israelis prepared to let Palestinians work within Israel in the future, how can a Palestinian Authority find the funds to stop jay-walking, let alone terrorism?
4) Surely this would indicate that Arafat's been negotiating in bad faith all along - if he was in control of the terrorists, but a) claimed not to be, b) claimed to be able to stem their attacks and c) didn't reduce the volume of attacks, then isn't that a prima facie argument not to trust him now?
5) If, apart from the lies about not having control over them, Arafat was genuinely trying to stop terrorism before, then isn't that evidence that he a) was active in instigating terrorism but b) couldn't stop it and therefore c) is irrelevant to any attempts to stop attacks on Israel.
Whichever way you slice it, it seems to me that you have to have some faith in Arafat to buy into this, faith that doesn't fit with an examination of what's happening. Sure, this shows he potentially could do something but a) not that he necessarily could and b) not that he would. Plus, it shows that he's defintely in cahoots with the terrorists, so there was little reason to think that Fatah would act effectively against them.
This may make the case Wright wants to. Or, it might be a good reason to get rid of the guy once and for all. If he's been running the suicide attacks on Israel, or turning a truely blind eye, how much worse could his replacement be?
Tuesday, May 07, 2002
After all, as I type google is "Searching 2,073,418,204 web pages". And there are quite a few sites not archived by google. So that's a pretty solid performance - in the top 0.2% of the web.
The methodology's a bit suspect though. People visiting my site have apparently been to sites I've never heard of, and I allegedly have 6,441 links pointing in but I suspect that's horrendous lies.
In addition, my rugby site is at Traffic Rank: 283,412. Which, whilst shockingly good, is a lie. I can't remember it's hits, but it's total visits are less than I've had in a day on here before (once), and about a week's worth for this site. So there's something badly wrong.
The explanation's given away in the learn more section.
"How is traffic rank calculated?
The overall rank is based on three months of historical traffic data and is a combined measure of "reach" and "pageviews." Reach is determined by counting the number of Alexa Toolbar users who visit a site on any given day. Pageviews is the total number of URL requests for a site by Alexa users. However, multiple requests on the same day by the same user for the same URL are counted as a single pageview.
Some Important Disclaimers
The traffic data is based on the set of Alexa users, which may not be a representative sample of the global Internet population. Known biases include (but are likely not limited to) the following:
Our users are disproportionately likely to visit alexa.com and archive.org, and traffic to these sites is substantially overcounted.
The Alexa Toolbar works only with the Internet Explorer browser. Sites frequented mainly by users of other browsers will be undercounted. For example, the AOL/Netscape browser is not supported, which means that Alexa collects little data from AOL users, and our traffic to aol.com is likely lower than it would be for a more representative sample.
The Alexa Toolbar works only on Windows operating systems. Traffic to sites which are disproportionately visited by users of other operating systems will be undercounted.
The rate of adoption of Alexa software in different parts of the world may vary widely due to advertising locality, language, and other geographic and cultural factors. For example, Korean sites are prominent among our top-ranked sites, but it is unknown to what extent this reflects high rates of general Internet usage in Korea.
In some cases traffic data may also be adversely affected by our "site" definitions. With tens of millions of hosts on the Internet, our automated procedures for determining which hosts are serving the "same" content may be incorrect and/or out-of-date. Similarly, the determinations of domains and home pages may not always be accurate. "
So, in essence, someone who uses the Alexia toolbar visits my rugby site a lot (or occassionally), but not my other site. I've no idea who that might be, since few people visit it at all (relatively speaking), but that's what's going on.
Kurt Angle You Suck T-shirt
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And good luck to England's lineswomen - one's reffed me a couple of times, has been pretty solid throughout, and will hopefully have a cracking time over in Barcelona. Wish I had the time to go out there and watch, and I hope Rugby Special will have some coverage.
[yes, this is a partial plug for my rugby site. My posting there has been infrequent of late, as I've had little access to live games and a low spirit about England's Six Nations. However, there will be more posting for the European Cup final, the relegation issue, the Tri Nations, etc. So drop by occassionally]
Steven Den Beste does know a great deal about business and finance. A lack of knowledge isn't what sets me off on "responses" to his posts. I'd say they're more of an excuse to talk about, oh, let's say first year audits.
Steven wonders whether Andersen had a reputation for being a "light touch", the guys to go to if you wanted to slide something past the auditors for a few years. I have no knowledge of any such reputation for any firm, though I know that in the UK they had one of the better claims records among the Big Five/Six.
He was prompted by the speed with which KPMG detected something that Andersen had missed in prior years. There's a pretty simple explanation of how that happens, and it relates to the difference between first year and continuing audits.
During the first year of an audit, there are a lot of things that you have to do that in later years aren't an issue. In later years, for example, you can rely on the opening balances in the accounts, because you've already audited those. You know what the fixed really were at 01/01/12, for example, so you just need to check they're still there, not what they cost.
But the big difference is that after you're confident about one year's P&L figures, you have to do far less testing in subsequent years. Year one, you have to test a sample of sales to invoice (say). But sales can be 10 or 20 times the year-end debtors, depending on the credit terms (and similarly with purchases etc). So you have sample sizes 10 to 20 times larger. That's a lot of testing to do on a big company, and I'm not sure whether there's any way round it on Walmart etc. It's a lot of testing to do on a small company, and can become a real pain - I'd hate to have to do it for something major.
In subsequent years, you then develop an expectation of what the P&L figures will be, define how much variation you'll accept, and see whether it fits, seeking out a bit more assurance from other forms of testing. For the balance sheet, you stick to doing things by agreeing to independent documentation for everything (though possibly on smaller sample sizes as you now feel confident in the controls the company is operating).
Things are more complex than I've just sketched, but it does tend to boil down to this: first year audit and all balance sheet testing is by testing to independent records, second year P&L work is by analytical review of the numbers. There are other safeguards in place, but basically you have to form an expectation that's sensible, and see whether the company's results fit that.
The allegedly distorted sales figures involved look to have stayed pretty stable over four quarters when the rest of the market had big problems. One possibility is that any manipulation was to keep to boom-market expectations of sales. If each period was compared to the one before, with no other input of information, then it would fit with the expectations and not be tested further, whilst KPMG would pick it up as soon as they did tests of details as the invoices wouldn't exist.
That's not a very plausible scenario, as when there's a lot of market pressure then the risks companies trying to overstate earnings etc get drummed into most of the time. In that situation, your expectation would be of declining sales in line with the market (say). I can't think up other ways this might have happened, as there's not much information about what the misstatements were. But that's how things work, and why changes of auditors can turn things up.
Does this mean that every audit should be conducted like a first year audit? Three main obstacles exist. Firstly analytical review is one of the best ways to detect certain sorts of fraud and error - you'd be less likely to detect them by tracing to supporting documents if these were good fakes or some other sorts of problems had arisen.
Secondly, the level of testing involved takes rather longer, and the filing deadlines for listed clients could make this a problem if every firm had to have so much more testing. Short-term, I've no idea whether there would be the capacity in the industry to do the work required.
Thirdly, "first year" audits every year would be much more expensive, and companies would have to pay correspondingly. That would be up to shareholders (in theory they could direct that a firm work in that fashion through the engagement letter, but the fee would be higher), but I doubt they'd like it. Companies buy a certain level of assurance for their shareholders. Extra assurance would cost ever increasing amounts as the level of testing increased.
[Not the official position of anyone, including me]
Monday, May 06, 2002
"Involvement of Arafat and the PA" - 10 documents listing their involvement directly and indirectly in financing terrorism
"Captured documents: Arafat's compound" - incitement of Israeli Arabs to join the intifada
"Captured documents: Jenin" - co-operation between the PA and Hamas in Jenin
"Arafat's secret documents" - a listing of attacks by organisations linked to Fatah, organisation charts, etc
"Captured documents: Bethlehem" - more evidence of co-operation between Hamas and the PA
"Captured documents: al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade" - appeals for funds for suicide bombers (unless the "Brigade" do anything worthwhile).
* if you were the Palestinian Authority, would you plant some false documents amongst the real ones, in order to hopefully be able to discredit them later? Watch out for selective disproofs in the days to come.
That suggests either a) an international "dignitary" has been wasting their time or b) something more sinister may have been going on. Obvious "axis of evil" thoughts spring to mind, though any attempts at a "Muslim bomb" (e.g.) seem to fall on three points: a) NK doesn't have the bomb (we all assume), b) OPEC isn't exclusively "Arab", and c) even if it was, there's no reason to think that there's enough political unity for them to attempt something like that in unison.
Still, it's something without an obvious explanation, and that worries me: usually North Korea and OPEC are both pretty transparent. Sure, what they do may not make that much sense, but its clear that it proceeds from their view of their interests. This may mean nothing, or...
"Gift to Kim Jong Il from OPEC fund general director
Pyongyang, May 4 (KCNA) -- Leader Kim Jong Il received a gift from the general director of the organization of petroleum exporting countries fund on a visit to the DPRK. General director Y. Seyyid Abdulai handed it to Jo Chang Dok, vice-premier of the cabinet.
OPEC fund general director feted
Pyongyang, May 4 (KCNA) -- The government of the DPRK hosted a reception for general director Y. Seyyid Abdulai of the organization of petroleum exporting countries fund and his party on a visit to the DPRK at the Mansudae Assembly Hall on Friday evening. Present there were Jo Chang Dok, vice-premier of the DPRK cabinet, vice-minister of foreign affairs Kung Sok Ung, vice-minister of agriculture Kang Kyong Uk, vice-minister of finance Jang Song Il, officials concerned, deputy representative of the un development programme in the DPRK and diplomatic envoys of Indonesia and Nigeria.
Speeches were made at the reception. "
The Committee consists of all 15 members of the Security Council. The Chairman and Vice-Chairmen of the Committee were elected by members of the Council following the adoption of resolution 1373 (2001). (See document S/2001/935)
His Excellency Sir Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso (Colombia)
Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul (Mauritius)
Ambassador Sergey Lavrov (Russian Federation)
Other Members of the Committee
Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, France, Guinea, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Singapore, Syrian Arab Republic, United States
Experts currently appointed to advise the Committee:
Mr. Jeremy Wainwright (Australia)
Dr. Walter Gehr (Austria)
Mr. M.R. Sivaraman (India)
Ms. Heidi Broekhuis (the Netherlands)
Is there really any point to this?
"There seems to be something in the Canadian psyche that is totally indifferent to the pain and suffering of animals. Perhaps too much of the Descartian theory and "man's dominion over the animals" is instilled in our youth....The seal hunt makes no money, save for the creative accounting of the federal government. Allowing it to continue is indicative of public apathy and a sickness deep in our souls."
This is, of course ("of course"?), a misrepresentation of the Cartesian position. There's a case to be made that some of his followers really were of the opinion that it didn't matter whether you nailed dogs to the wall (etc), though I'm unsure whether there's any evidence that actually happened.
However, the Cartesian position is, arguably (Baker and Morris, Descartes Doubt, 1997) far more nuanced that that. In essence, there's a case that it rested rather heavily upon the intellectual preconceptions of its time, and that without attention to the underpinnings of his argument it is not possible to give his arguments a fair hearing.
The relevant back-ground is the Aristotelian notion of multiple types of "soul". The three kinds were the "vegetative", "animal" and "rational" souls. The vegetative soul is necessary for life, the animal soul is visible in the capabilities and potentialities of animals (duh) and the rational soul, well, that's where we come in.
How these notions fit into Descartes position is a complex issue. But there's a strong case that Descartes did not see animals as incapable of pain (or other sensations): he "merely" held that there was something qualitatively different between their experiences and ours, because we had a rational soul.
One simple interpretation, and the best I'm willing to reconstruct now, is that whilst a "rational soul" is necessary for "consciousness of" pains etc (and hence a prerequisite for being a thinking thing, etc), it is not at all necessary for a creature to be "conscious" (aware of the external world etc.
So don't pin your seal-clubbing ways on early-modern Frenchmen - they've got enough to worry about at the moment...
If there's anything less likely to promote racial harmony on continental Europe at the moment than the murder of one of the slightly less extreme far right figures, I don't know what it is. Fortuna had, by some accounts, a decent chance of some power in Holland in the near future. I doubt the consequences of this are going to be pretty - I hope that no innocents get hurt, but I doubt that will be the case.
Sunday, May 05, 2002
""There were some unexpected guests in the Randwick dressing-rooms at Woollahra Oval after the Eastern Suburbs match last Saturday - five birds of the feathered variety were flying around near the ceiling. Near the end of the game, Randwick's Arthur Little was assisted into the dressing-rooms suffering from concussion.
As he was sprawled on the treatment table, the team doctor, after reviving him, asked Little: "What can you see?" A dazed Little replied: "I can only see these birds ... I must be going mad." At the after-match function, Randwick's chief kahuna, Jeff Sayle, thanked Easts for allowing them "to bring some birds back into the dressing-room to celebrate the win ... but this is ridiculous"."