Quick Takes

I’ve been busy recently and haven’t had the time to blog much.

So, I thought I’d just enter a quick post with my thoughts on some recent events. These probably won’t be very surprising.

Google and China: I don’t see that Google deserves most of the criticism it has received for its google.cn site. Yes, it’s somewhat restricted, but it isn’t a tool of repression and people in China are better off with it than without it. Google seems to have carefully considered the ethics of the project and made a defensible decision that they should go ahead and pursue it.

Cartoons of Mohammad: Absolutely ridiculous reaction by rioting Muslims. They shouldn’t expect others to conform to their rules, and they can’t prevent others thinking badly about Islam by reacting like a bunch of idiots. I’m sure that many have been manipulated by those seeking to exploit this incident, but they shouldn’t be so easy to manipulate.

Cheney Hunting Accident: I’m baffled why this was such a hot story. It’s obviously unfortunate for those involved, but I don’t think it tells us anything interesting about Cheney. Certainly nothing bad.

David Irving Conviction: Idiotic. Yes, he’s a jerk and he made horribly wrong historical claims. But, open societies must tolerate the peaceful expression of unpopular opinions. His conviction belies the claims that the muslims who urged censorship of the Danish cartoons didn’t understand the nature of european freedom of expression. They did understand it: Some “offensive” opinions are punished, and some aren’t.

One For The Thumb

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers for winning their fifth Super Bowl.

It was a pretty good game.

There were some close calls, but I think most of the major ones were ruled correctly. Neither side played their best games, but I think the better team won.

I did think it was classy of the Seattle players that I saw interviewed to aviod the bait offered up to place the blame for their losses on the officials. They agreed that they made mistakes, and that the Steelers made more big plays and fewer mistakes, and deserved to win today.

The Hamas Victory

I haven’t commented on the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections because I wasn’t sure how to interpret it.

Was it a vote for more extreme terrorism, or a vote against known corruption?

Will Hamas use its new power to expand its attacks on Israel, or will political and economic realities force it to moderate its positions, recognize Israel, and discourage terrorist acts?

What does this mean for the prospects of democratic reforms elsewhere in the Middle East?

Fortunately, we can read Natan Sharansky’s opinions. He understands these issues better than most.

Some key excerpts:

No, the real difference for the Palestinians was that a Fatah-run Palestinian Authority was rightly seen as a corrupt and feckless organization that had done and would continue to do nothing to improve Palestinian lives, whereas Hamas was untainted by corruption and appreciated for providing real social services.

With the vote being a choice between corrupt terrorists dedicated only to themselves and honest terrorists who are also dedicated to others, is it any surprise that Hamas won by a landslide?

The world must base their support for this new regime on two ironclad conditions. First, Hamas must explicitly abandon the goal of destroying Israel and renounce terrorism. Second, it must dedicate itself toward building a free society for the Palestinians.

State of the Union

I thought the President’s speech was pretty good. But, maybe that’s because I set my expectations so low.

I liked much of what he had to say (e.g. the war, Hamas, tax cuts, open markets, new supreme court justices, cutting failing programs and earmarks).

He did propose some new, stupid, spending programs (e.g. more government research on energy and battery technology, more school teachers, AIDS treatment), but they seemed more modest than the outrageous programs of past years.

I was disappointed by the foolish call for bans on research and trade related to human cloning, and embryos.

I guess Bush made it clear that he’s steadfast about the war, recognizes that he now has less political capital to promote ambitious new programs, and still pays lip-service to the concerns of the religious right.

So, all in all, there was some good and some bad.

But, it could have been a lot worse.