A lot more along the same lines here.


June 27, 2008 Posted by | Religion | Leave a comment


Just played this blitzgame with black against ‘Chess_man’ on playchess (server elo: 2470):

17.f5?? Ne3+!


Fritz went from -0,3 to -20 in just one move, and white of course resigned. The position before the killer check:

June 24, 2008 Posted by | Chess | Leave a comment


Just some random questions I have been asking myself. If you think you know the answer to one or more of them, please leave a comment.

a) What would in your view happen if a nuclear weapon would explode in a major American city, ie. New York or Washington, within the next 25 years?
b) How likely do you find such an event?
c) Would the retaliation be nuclear?

I would really like to know the answer to that last question. I have absolutely no idea. Also,

d) how big a deterrent is the nuclear retaliation threat to potential (the non-suicide of them) terrorists?

a) Which places are more likely to become involved in nuclear warfare during this time period than the US?
Tyler Cowen thinks Japan is the most likely target, and that Pakistan is second. It’s very popular to focus on the Middle East these days when discussing foreign policy, but there are a lot of other ‘interesting areas’ to consider when it comes to this discussion. I agree with Tyler that Pakistan is a likely candidate, but I disagree with his views on North Korea. North Korea, or rather Kim Jong-il, would – at least within a reasonable time span – only contemplate using a ‘bomb’ defensively, in case of an invasion, and if he was to use one it wouldn’t matter one bit if it hit ‘his fellow Korean countrymen’ or not, in my opinion it would most likely hit Seoul, just like thousands of artillery shells would. The idea that this guy would even have second thoughts about killing people from SK seems ludicrous to me, he has no problem killing his own ‘true countrymen’ in droves. In short, there’s no way to ‘liberate’ NK without SK being bombed back into the stone age, both the Koreans and the American military advisers know this, and that’s one of the main reasons (there are others too, of course) why NK hasn’t yet and never will be ‘liberated’ by outside forces. The North Koreans are poor, but their military expenses are big enough for them to have a lot of shit pointing in a very ugly direction. Also, as long as China implicitly backs Kim Jong-il, nothing much will happen up there except people starving and getting killed and all that usual stuff. On the other hand, there is an important reservation to this analysis, the ‘within a reasonable timespan’ part. A nuclear NK might in the long run turn into a serious threat, Kim Jong-il is a power-crazed Stalinist dictator after all, so the most likely scenario is that SK will eventually get the bomb thus establishing a new status quo equilibrium of mutual deterrence.

Which other places might be of interest here? I’m thinking Moscow or another big Russian city, it’s certainly not impossible that the ‘situation’ in Chechnya will cause something really ugly to happen again. Also, it might be easier for terrorists to get their hands on nuclear material in Russia than it would be a lot of other places.

3. Which new countries will have obtained nuclear weapons in 20 years? Here is one relevant analysis, it is a transcript from a conference on proliferation. As mentioned above, SK seems like a likely candidate. Japan is having this discussion too. Also, not only because of NK but also in light of China’s recent and massive mobilization efforts, I would also not find it unlikely that Taiwan might choose to go nuclear. Moving west, Iran is almost a safe bet. Egypt and the Saudis would probably not like them to be all alone with those nice weapons, so they will surely go in the same direction. Probably Turkey too, but this depends a lot on how all that EU stuff develops. Going to the Americas, if Venezuela goes nuclear so will Brazil, and probably Argentina too. I don’t know how likely this is, but it certainly can’t be dismissed out of hand, it’s not a year since Chavez by a slim margin didn’t manage to establish himself as a lifetime dictator. He’ll try again, next time he might be succesful, and two of his best friends (Iran and NK) are both going nuclear.

There are 9 nuclear powers today. The number will only go up, not down. How do we deal with this, how do we slow down this development as much as possible? Is a slowdown even possible? Is it unconditionally preferable?

Ok, those are tough questions, too tough to demand an answer for. The following is tough too, but it’s probably somewhat easier.

Now, this particular foreign policy subject strikes me as inarguably one of the most important of all areas of foreign policy. Yet nobody talks about it. When discussing foreign policy, people in the West talk a lot about terrorism, they talk about islam, they talk about Iraq and Afghanistan, they talk about Venezuela, Darfur and Zimbabwe, they talk about all kinds of stuff. But they almost never talk about nuclear proliferation. Why is this?

The last point is not a question, just a remark. I’ve mentioned it before, I’ll probably mention in again, non-state proliferators are a big and often overlooked threat here that needs to be dealt with somehow. As the transcript linked to above concludes:

James Russell of the Naval Postgraduate School discussed potential non-state proliferators of nuclear weapons and emphasized that the list of potential adversaries is far greater than just al Qaeda. Other non-state actors seeking nuclear weapons include industrial entities and trading groups, quasi-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, warlords and militias, transnational criminal networks, and violent non-state actors motivated by anarchist, nationalist, secular left-wing, or religious causes. Globalization makes it more difficult for governments to track or the stop world flow of nuclear materials and information. Non-state actors play a critical role in the proliferation market by providing components and services generally prohibited by states. They also are flexible and adaptive and thwart attempts at regulation.

One important question Russell examined is if we are missing the ball by focusing on the Osama bin Laden-WMD connection? The millennial extremist waves seem to be on the decline. Religious nationalists are not really interested in weapons of mass destruction due to the difficulty of obtaining and using them, and in general they can get what they want using conventional weapons. By focusing on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the U.S. government may be missing other non-state actors that are just as dangerous.

The current thinking on proliferation to non-state actors is that it will be a direct transfer from states to non-state actors, either voluntarily or through unauthorized acquisition or theft from an existing site. Another possibility exists for indigenous production using dual-use components and either leaked or stolen materials. Proliferation in 2016 will be a buyers’ market for components, and non-state to non-state transfers will become more common. However, without a whole program nuclear weapons development components are useless.

The non-state proliferation problem is more significant than many people realize, and is about more than just violent non-state actors. The state-non-state divide is creating hybrid organizations that pose a more serious proliferation problem, especially on the supply side of the nuclear marketplace. The collapse of some states has turned them into criminal organizations, such as North Korea. The next problem that might emerge is non-state to non-state transfer of WMD materials, and it is not clear what can be done about it.

June 24, 2008 Posted by | nuclear proliferation, politics, Random stuff | 8 Comments

More II

A little more from the book:

Priests are […] responsible for the education of children and adolescents, in which quite as much stress is laid on moral as on academic training. They do their utmost to ensure that, while children are still at an impressionable age, they’re given the right ideas about things – the sort of ideas best calculated to preserve the structure of their society. If thoroughly absorbed in childhood, these ideas will persist throughout adult life, and so contribute greatly to the safety of the state, which is never seriously threatened except by moral defects arising from wrong ideas.

Male priests are allowed to marry – for there’s nothing to stop a woman from becoming a priest, although women aren’t often chosen for the job, and only elderly widows are eligible. As a matter of fact, clergymen’s wives form the cream of Utopian society, for no public figure is respected more than a priest. So much so that, even if a priest commits a crime, he’s not liable to prosecution. They just leave him to God and his own conscience, since, no matter what he has done, they don’t think it right for any human being to lay hands on a man who has been dedicated as a special offering to God. They find this rule quite easy to keep, because priests represent such a tiny minority, and because they’re so carefully chosen. After all, it’s not really very likely that a man who has come out top of a list of excelleent candidates, and who owes his appointment entirely to his moral character, should suddenly become vicious and corrupt.

I don’t even need to comment on this section, do I? It kinda speaks for itself.

June 23, 2008 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms, Religion | 2 Comments

More 1

Jeg er blevet færdig med Thomas More’s Utopia, som jeg har omtalt før.

Som en generel kommentar bør det bemærkes, at mens More bruger meget tid på at beskrive det ikke-eksisterende Utopia, dets institutioner, indbyggere, interne og eksterne forhold osv, ja så bruger han meget lidt tid på et filosofisk forsvar for den samfundsopbygning Utopia repræsenterer. Lidt kort fortalt, han bruger ikke meget tid på at legitimere det kollektivistiske system moralsk, han siger bare det virker. I dag ved vi kun alt for godt, at det ville det ikke gøre i virkeligheden, men at køre en komplet moderne public choice analyse og at udpege de mange områder hvor Loven Om Uforudsete Konsekvenser højst sandsynligt kunne vise at gøre sig gældende, henover et værk, der er omtrent 500 år gammelt, virker måske en smule overkill på mig. Jeg har stadig ikke rigtig besluttet mig for, hvor meget arbejde bogen er værd, men lige nu hælder jeg mest til de følgende dage at tage enkelte temaer ud, som fortjener en kommentar eller to med på vejen, og så ellers lade den overordnede analyse ligge.

Herunder lidt fra bogens sidste del, så læserne kan komme lidt nærmere, hvad der gjorde det utopiske samfund så utopisk. Lidt relevant baggrundsinformation, som Paul Turner valgte at inkludere i en note (s.132) om bogens forfatter, bør præsenteres inden vi starter: Although the worst charges of cruelty to heretics during his Chancellorship have not been substantiated, there seems to be no doubt that More sentenced some people to death (which meant burning alive) for heresy.

Ok, her er lidt fra bogen, fra siderne 100-101 (mine fremhævelser):

one of the most ancient principles of their constitution is that of religious toleration. This principle dates right back to the time of the Conquest. […] immediately after his victory he [Utopos, the founder of Utopia] made a law, by which everyone was free to practise what religion he liked, and to try and convert other people to his own faith, provided he did it quietly and politely, by rational argument [øhh…?]. But, if he failed to convince them, he was not allowed to make bitter attacks on other religions, nor to employ violence or personal abuse. The normal penalty for being too aggressive in religious controversy is either exile or slavery.


So he left the choice of creed an open question, to be decided by the individual according to his own ideas – except that he strictly and solemnly forbade his people to believe anything so incompatible with human dignity as the doctrine that the soul dies with the body, and the universe functions aimlessly, without any controlling providence. That’s why they feel so sure that there must be rewards and punishments after death. Anyone who thinks differently has, in their view, forfeited his right to be classed as a human being, by degrading his immortal soul the level of an animal’s body. Still less do they regard him as a Utopian citizen. […] nobody who subscribes to this doctrine is allowed to receive any public honour, hold any public appointment, or work in any public service. In fact such people are generally regarded as utterly contemptible.

They’re not punished in any way, though [sic! – læs ovenstående passage igen… og nedenstående…], for no one is held responsible for what he believes. Nor are they terrorized into concealing their views, because Utopians simply can’t stand hypocrisy […]. Admittedly, it’s illegal for any such person to argue in defence of his beliefs, but that’s only in public [aha. De er ikke tvunget til at skjule deres anskuelser, de må bare ikke sige dem højt offentligt. I see… Gad vide hvad More havde i tankerne som straf for at gøre det alligevel, taget i betragtning at i) disse folk rangerede på højde med dyr i utopianernes begrebsverden, og ii) More ikke selv lod til at have noget problem med at brænde den slags mennesker levende i den virkelige verden?]. In private discussions with priests or other serious-minded characters, he’s not merely allowed but positively encouraged to do so, for everyone’s convinced that this type of delusion will eventually yield to reason.

Regelmæssige læsere vil vide, hvor meget jeg kunne få ud af bare de to sider. Og det her er altså kun toppen af isbjerget, så nej, en komplet analyse lader sig simpelthen ikke gøre. Lyder ovenstående for øvrigt som et godt bud på det ideelle samfund? Og lyder det som en model, der er kompatibel med kommunisternes samfundsmodel?

Det sidste spørgsmål er interessant. For kommunisterne har i tidens løb brugt More til at legitimere og argumentere for deres egen sag, og har ikke haft svært ved at ‘overse’ nogle af de mere ubehagelige passager, som dem herover, eller skære dem væk og bevare resten. Den oprindelige totalitarisme var stammebaseret. Så kom religionen til, og muliggjorde den religiøst funderede totalitarisme. Så var der nationalisterne og lidt senere kommunisterne, der ikke rigtigt kunne bestemme sig for, om de også var nationalister, deres ‘fremskridt’ var at fjerne en gud og sætte en anden i hans sted. I dag slår de religiøse totalitære igen, væk med grænser og menneskeguder, ind med Ummah!

Hvis jeg havde levet i et tidligt stammesamfund var jeg nok blevet myrdet med en økse, eller måske skarntydesaft… Hvis More havde fået fat i mig i England for 500 år siden, ville jeg være blevet brændt levende. Hans Kongelige Højhed Kong Kristian d.V havde fået min tunge skåret af, og min hals skåret over bagefter. Under Lenin ville jeg være død i en arbejdslejr eller være blevet skudt. Islamisterne i dag lader til at have en forkærlighed for at skære halsen over på deres modstandere.

Både den populære reliøse totalitarisme og den mere moderne nanny-state totalitarisme er meget forskellig fra More’s udgave, eller Platons før ham. Men jeg kan ikke lade være med efter at have læst More at tænke:

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

De vil så meget godt. Hvorfor kan de ikke bare nøjes med at skrive om det?

June 22, 2008 Posted by | bøger, Religion | 3 Comments

Dagens citat

Hvo som laster Gud eller bespotter hans hellige navn, ord og sakramenter, af ham skal tungen af hans mund levende udskæres, dernæst hans hoved afhugges og tillige med tungen sættes på en stage.
Har nogen troldmand eller troldkvinde forbandet Gud og sin hellige dåb og kristendom og hengivet sig til Djævelen, den bør levende kastes på ilden og opbrændes.

Fra Danske Lov, 1683, citeret i Ole T. Krogsgaards kronik i dagens jp.

Update: Hvis nogen er interesseret, er hele loven tilgængelig her.

June 21, 2008 Posted by | citater | Leave a comment

Communism test

How much do you know about the atrocities that communist regimes have committed? Find out here.

My own score was 60% correct answers, but I could probably have done better if I had spent a little time preparing first. I’m pretty sure I own enough books on the subject to be able to answer almost all of the questions without google or wikipedia (not that I particularly trust the latter on these subjects, as I have mentioned before).

June 18, 2008 Posted by | communism | Leave a comment

A look back in time

I’m currently reading Thomas More‘s Utopia, translated by Paul Turner. I shall write more about it later. For now, a quote shall suffice:

According to their [the utopians’] historical records […] the original houses were merely small huts or cottages, built hurriedly with the first timber that came to hand. The walls were plastered with mud, the roofs ridged and thatched. But nowadays [that is, 1510-15 AD] every houses [the plural error here is from the original] is an imposing three-storey structure. The walls are faced with flint or some other hard stone, or else with bricks, and lined with roughcast. The sloping roofs have been raised to the horizontal, and covered with a special sort of concrete which costs next to nothing, but is better than lead for resisting bad weather conditions, and is also fireproof. They keep out draughts by glazing the windows – oh yes, they use a great deal of glass there – or sometimes by fitting screens of fine linen treated with clear oil or amber, which has the effect of making it more transparent and also more airtight.

In More’s version of the ideal society, people lived in (admittedly big) houses made out of stone and concrete. Not exactly something I would settle for, having been born a few centuries later. Well, how did most people in fact live back then? Don Boudreaux’s recent quote from William Manchester’s book A world lit only by fire gives us a clue:

Lying at the end of a narrow, muddy lane, his rambling edifice of thatch, wattles, mud, and dirty brown wood was almost obscured by a towering dung heap in what, without it, would have been the front yard. The building was large, for it was more than a dwelling. Beneath its sagging roof were a pigpen, a henhouse, cattle sheds, corncribs, straw and hay, and, last and least, the family’s apartment, actually a single room whose walls and timbers were coated with soot. According to Erasmus, who examined such huts, “almost all the floors are of clay and rushes from the marshes, so carelessly renewed that the foundation sometimes remains for twenty years, harboring, there below, spittle and vomit and wine of dogs and men, beer…remnants of fishes, and other filth unnameable. Hence, with the change of weather, a vapor exhales which in my judgment is far from wholesome.”

The centerpiece of the room was a gigantic bedstead, piled high with straw pallets, all seething with vermin. Everyone slept there, regardless of age or gender — grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and hens and pigs — and if a couple chose to enjoy intimacy, the others were aware of every movement. In summer they could even watch…..

If this familial situation seems primitive, it should be borne in mind that these were prosperous peasants. […]

We’ve come a long way in those 500 years.

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Books, History | Leave a comment

Quote of the day

We all sort of believe that we’d have been hiding Jews in our basement during the Holocaust. But of course we have never been afraid that our government would put us in a dungeon and rip our fingernails out while sending our families off to forced labor camps. Worse than that, most people probably didn’t even go along because they were afraid. They went along because everyone around them seemed to think it was all right.

Megan McArdle, here.

Robin Hanson has made the point that in order to come closer to the truth, you need to become less allied. The more I think about it, the more reasonable this advice sounds.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Quotes/aphorisms | Leave a comment

Free speech facts of the day

The following is an excerpt from the British Public Order Act of 1986 (link):

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
(2) An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove (a) that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or (b) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or (c) that his conduct was reasonable.

This law is pretty close to making it illegal to insult other people in public. Also, a defence against a totally unreasonable law is that your conduct was reasonable??? Doesn’t sound like much of a defence to me.

Pajamasmedia’s John Stephenson has more here, via Glenn Reynolds.

June 7, 2008 Posted by | freedom of speech | Leave a comment