Monday, July 31, 2006

How Many Birth Pangs in Qana, Lebanon

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke thus on Friday July 21, 2006, in her news conference:

But I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante. I think it would be a mistake.

What we're seeing here, in a sense, is the growing -- the birth pangs of a new Middle East.

In Qana, Lebanon, the birth pangs looked like this on April 18, 1996, and like this, this, this and this on July 29, 2006.

One Fiancial Times report
on the Qana massacre of July 29, 2006 goes as follows:
Yesterday's killings underscored what UN officials have been saying in recent days - that the conflict was claiming an unnaturally large numbers of child victims on the Lebanese side. Overall, up to 542 Lebanese have been killed during Israel's offensive, according to Lebanese officials, the vast majority of them civilians. On the Israeli side 51 people have been killed, the majority soldiers.
See Robert Fisk's article on the April 18, 1996 massacre.

See Robert Fisk's article on the current war.

See Robert Fisk's article on the July 29, 2006 mssacre.

See Alexandar Cockburn's July 31, 2006 article.

Here, is Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. puts it bluntly, as quoted by Financial Times:
When you sleep with a missiles, sometimes you don’t wake up in the morning.
Surely, the children of Qana were each hugging "missiles" to sleep.

If you live in the U.S. and want to know why all this seems strange and fresh to you, you might want to watch this Google video of a documentary--a documentary which you are highly unlikely to see on your local T.V.

New Cartoon by Bendib

Khalid Bendib, San Francisco based cartoonist, has a new cartoon critiquing the U.S. media's perspective on the Middle East.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Top of Tochal

Here's my photo at the top of Mount Tochal.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

U.S. Ranks 12th in Broadband Internet Access

DSL Broadband is growing in the U.S. but it still ranks 12th in the world, Reuters reports:

The United States is ranked 12th in the world for broadband subscribers behind countries including Iceland, South Korea and Japan, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's most recent rankings.

Tit-for-Tat, Bit Torrent and War Strategy

Game theory and strategic talk has always sounded like black humor to me. Here, I demonstrate this by example.

Tit-for-tat is reputed, in game-theoretic analysis, as an optimal strategy for repeated, zero-sum games. (See, for example, the analysis in Avinash Dixit's Thinking Strategically.)

There are many uses of tit-for-tat strategy.

For example, BitTorrent protocol uses a tit-for-tat strategy to create balanced up-loads and down-loads. Presumably, the P2P file sharing contains aspects similar to repeated, zero-sum games.

Tit-for-tat is also used by some of the authors and strategists of wars, which can also be considered as repeated, zero-sum games, with each day of the war, or each battle, representing one of the "games". (We see this in the war that has recently started and promises to continue.)

However, some strategists of war have replaced proper tit-for-tat with the concept of infinite escalation, or something akin to "TIT-for-tat," i.e. a vastly disproportinate response as a way to punish. (Here, I'm using capital letters to note the disproportionality of the "TIT" part to the "tat" part.)

However, not only is this strategy less optimal from the game-theoretic perspective and given infinitely-repeating zero-sum games, there is also a real-world catch to this more aggresive strategy that makes it less and less attractive as the games continue to repeat, i.e. as the war continues to go on.

For example, after a country's infrastructure has been destroyed there is not much else to do in terms of escalation other than massacring civilians. However, this is not a real strategy with a real pay-off. A TIT-for-tat (i.e. escalation) war strategist has already failed because he can rarely afford a long conflict. In fact, that is exactly the reason the escalation strategist chooses to escalate, hoping the other side to accept defeat as early as possible. In other words, the strategy itself speaks for its own weakness, i.e. its lack of tolerance for a long conflict.

Another problem with unmeasured escalation and "unproportional use of force" is that eventually the opponent may have the equipment to respond to the escalation, returning the game from TIT-for-tat to a more balanced TIT-for-TAT, which is another version of tit-for-tat.

Related links:

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Noting Less Real

When it comes to politics, Financial Times, a paper I subscribe to and have delivered to my home in San Jose, California, every day of the week except Sundays, has rarely published anything less real, less reasoned, less knowledgeable and more false than this little effort at thinking (a column?) by William Kristol, reputed to be an editor of The Weekly Standard.

Alas! More and more opinion pieces on "Middle East" have become like that but good rhetoric and rhythmic writing never made good reason. This one is a grand proof of it.

Every paragraph has good music but false starts and conclusions of reason. So, I do not know where to begin, and I simply stop here. Failure of logic knows best.

For an alternative perspective, rarely seen on Financial Times, you may turn to here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Red Card for Zinédine Zidane

Matt Foot of the Guardian writes about the red card Zinédine Zidane received in the final match of the 2006 World Cup between France and Italy.

Peter Berlin summarizes Zidane's account of the incident for the International Herald Tribune. He also delves into some of the political and socio-ethnic issues that the incident has, once again, revealed.

Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated gives another account.