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October 2006 Archives

October 31, 2006

I Should Be Working On A Serious Post...

By Armed Liberal at 18:37

On election tech and the California elections first, then Iraq second, then American Exceptionalism third.

But I can't resist posting this:


(picture from Superbike Planet)

Nicky Hayden, the 2006 World Champion of Motorcycling. For those of you who don't ride, you'll note three things - he's leaned over far enough that his knee is on the pavement, he's tucked completely in so that he doesn't slow the bike down at all. And he's going sideways - drifting the motorcycle out of the corner. Ride fast, take chances, win the championship.

Congratulations, Nicky!! And to "Doctor" Rossi who crashed out after a bad start and has conducted himself with as much sportsmanship and class as he shows skill on the bike. Next Year!!

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  • D: That looks just like me! Thats right! ME! So what read more
  • mary: If you're ever in WNY in warmer weather, drop me read more
  • jv148: He's ok, but he's no Ricky Carmichael. read more

Al Qaeda's war and US politics

By Donald Sensing at 16:43
My long-term readers may recall that I wrote a little over three years ago that al Qaeda does not have a strategic plan. Strategic goals, yes, an actual plan to get there, no. It was unintentionally proleptic ( I dare not say prophetic) of me to wrote so long before next month's election,

What we have seen so far is that bin Laden lashes out spasmodically at targets of opportunity. The United States has been the consistent target of the attacks (though not the only one, of course) but bin Laden’s "strategy" (it can hardly be dignified with the term) is based on a delusion that he has explained many times: when hurt, the United States always cuts and runs. In the Isma'il interview, bin Laden said,

We think that the United States is very much weaker than Russia. Based on the reports we received from our brothers who participated in jihad in Somalia, we learned that they saw the weakness, frailty, and cowardice of US troops. Only 80 US troops were killed. Nonetheless, they fled in the heart of darkness, frustrated, after they had caused great commotion about the new world order.

Bin Laden thought that terrorist violence by itself would cause America to continue to retreat, to withdraw from Saudi Arabi and the rest of the Persian Gulf countries, enabling the Muslim ummah to realize their long-suppressed dream of a true Islamic society (bin Laden having a delusion that ordinary Muslim men and women truly thirsted for a Talibanic society for their own countries). Hurt the Americans enough, he said - more than once, on the record, - and they will flee.

Al Qaeda's political objectives were, and remain, well defined: reestablish the Islamic caliphate of yore. Then extend the caliphate into the middle of Africa, South Asia and parts of Europe and Southeast Asia. After that - these are very long-rage objectives - extend the rule of Islam across the entire globe. It matters not at the moment whether these are realistic goals. Islamists think they are.

Today, for both Islamists and the US, Iraq is the main battlefield. Whomsever prevails there will gain the intiative for many years to come, perhaps so strongly that the other side will not be able to take it away.

There are two main al Qaeda objectives to its fighting in Iraq.

1. Prevent the establishment of a democratic government and society there.

2. Compel the United States to withdraw its forces, hence its influence, before a democratic government is soundly established.

Obviously, these are two closely-related objectives. What is the threat to Islamism by democracy? Yussuf al-Ayyeri, one of Osama bin Laden's closest associates since the early 1990s, was killed by Saudi security forces in Riyadh in 2003. He wrote a book published by al Qaeda entitled, The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad. In it Ayyeri wrote, "It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy." Islamic absolutism, Ayyeri wrote, cannot exist inside a society where the people think they can pass their own laws and makes their own rules.

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  • David Blue: #8 from Jim Rockford: "David I would submit there is read more
  • beowulf888: Well, Sensing leaves one little fact out his analysis. Yes, read more
  • David Blue: #8 from Jim Rockford: "David I would submit there is read more


By Grim at 02:33

In the comments to a recent post, Armed Liberal below cites an old piece of his on American exceptionalism, which this piece on "tribal patriotism."

The author of the second, Mr. Rob Lyman, begins:

"I'd like to make the case that this sensitivity to the murder of one's countrymen - I've been trying to think of a word, and all I can come up with is 'tribal patriotism' - isn't just acceptable, or desirable, but rather is morally mandatory."

There is a word for this, but we don't use it regularly -- it's archaic except in Old English and early Middle English. The word is frith*. It's interesting for two reasons:

1) It neatly captures the concept the fellow is looking for, and,

2) It is linguistically linked to several modern English words, including "friend," "free," and "freedom."

When the term was in common use, the idea was that free men remained free only as long as they remained friends -- devoted to each other's common defense. These frith bonds were what allowed the tribe to create a space out of the chaos of the world, in which they could establish the order they prefer.

That's a concept we could usefully recover.

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  • David Blue: Thanks Grim. That was a great link, and it helps read more
  • Grim: David, "Since you don't like the Wikipedia article, what would read more
  • Mike Daley: Think we need to delve futher into "republican history". Say, read more

October 30, 2006

Iraq Report, 30 Oct/06

By Andrew Olmsted at 04:27

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.


  • The Defense Department cannot account for over 14,000 weapons it gave to the Iraqi army and security forces, some four percent of the total weapons provided to Iraq. Many other weapons are in ill-repair due to a failure to issue spare parts and technical manuals and a shortage of trained armorers.

Other Topics Today Include: Iraqi security transfer may not make schedule; gunmen kill 17 Baghdad police; Ramadi turned over to Iraqis; thousands of Iraqis trying to flee to Europe; Syria-Iraq trade plan; Kurds go it alone on oil; $800 million reported stolen; Iraqi women take to the airwaves; Carnival of the Liberated; Democratic victory won't mean policy change; Hussein verdict draws near.

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  • David Blue: I think the most interesting story is "Delays put timetable read more

Some Things Speak For Themselves

By Armed Liberal at 00:19

...or, I couldn't say it any better. From Foxtrot:


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  • Jesurgislac: falls over laughing Thank you. read more
  • evariste: That's pretty hard to read, so here's a perma-link. read more
  • RiverCocytus: O foxtrot, muse of our sodden age. Good setup, good read more

October 29, 2006

How Can People Say The Left Doesn't Love America?

By Armed Liberal at 23:10
On one of my nonpolitical email lists, someone posted the following message:
If you really had to move away from the U.S. what country would afford you the most peace of mind/freedom from fascism? New Zealand?
Canada has just adopted the U.S. No Fly list and has gone conservative, governmentally that is

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  • Armed Liberal: Fred - I think you're close to right. Kerry's a read more
  • Fred: Andy L is right about Kerry's (lame) joke. It never read more
  • Glen Wishard: Ordinarily I would be willing to accept Andy L.'s explanation read more

October 28, 2006

In Their Own Words I

By 'Callimachus' at 04:49

Talking about "Islamic fundamentalism" is a dangerous business for one outside the religion. Many Islamic things that to us look alike on the surface (and have the same effect on our lives as non-Muslims) come from different sources.

Is Bin Laden a Wahhabist? How would you know whether he is or is not? Is he a disciple of Sayyid Qutb? Often they write alike. But that is not the same thing. Again, how would you know that?

Something that ought to have been obvious all along struck me while reading "Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview" by Sayyid Qutb.

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  • Andy Freeman: > Many Islamic things that to us look alike on read more
  • David Blue: #6 from laocoon: "It is kind of interesting that our read more
  • celebrim: "One wonders why their institutions appear able to consider and read more

In Their Own Words II

By 'Callimachus' at 04:47

I often urge people to read the writings of Bin Laden. In fact, I think it would be a valuable exercise to have the whole nation take a day off work and read what the man has said and written about us and what he plans to do to us and why.

But the next question is, where do I get them; and the answer to that is surprisingly difficult. There is one published collection in English that I am aware of, Messages to the World. It's a good collection, but it has problems.

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  • John Burgess: Pretty much the same view I had in my review read more
  • Victor: A good collection of Bin Laden speeches is located at read more
  • Nortius Maximus: I have read that In the Shade of the Qur'an read more

"Losing Is Not An Option"

By Armed Liberal at 02:34

Omar, at Iraq The Model, issues a cri de coeur to the west about the war.

We need the decision-makers to rise above the rhetoric of who's right and who's wrong and focus on protecting the world from falling prey to the vicious enemies of civilization.

He's right, of course. For too many of us the war is a tool to be wielded for political advantage - to frighten the electorate and shift votes right, or to decry and shift votes left.

The reality is that there is something real, and bad, over the horizon. We should neither deny its existence nor build it into something it is not.

And what I want from my leaders - and what Omar needs from them - is something other than fairy stories designed to frighten us or lull us to sleep.

I've met Omar, and shared meals with him. It's personal to me.

If we're not careful, it'll be personal for all of us soon.

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  • Beard: M. Simon [#54]: "The jihadis tell us that what they read more
  • Beard: C'mon, Blue [#52], you know perfectly well that you're not read more
  • M. Simon: The jihadis tell us that what they fear most is read more

October 27, 2006

Europe Dying? Maybe not.

By Armed Liberal at 18:20

The Examiner has an editorial up suggesting that Europe may be a lost cause, as the freedom-loving flee the EU bureaucracy and looming Islamization, leaving behind the basis for an Islamic Europe - Eurabia, as some have put it.

I'm not so sure.

I think Europe is headed for some dark days, but I think that we'll see a National Front/LePen politics emerge and that both the EUrocrats and Muslim population will get pushed back very hard by a far-right, nationalist politics.

That may not be as bad as Eurabia, from America's point of view. But it won't be good.

As a note about attitudes changing, note Thursday's comments by the French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy:
"I have significantly evolved on the matter of the separation fence" said Douste-Blazy on French Jewish television TFJ on Thursday. "Although the wall was a moral and ethical problem for me, when I realised terror attacks were reduced by 80 percent in the areas where the wall was erected, I understood I didn't have the right to think that way."
Concern about a "Paris Intifada" does evolve one's thinking, doesn't it?
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  • M. Simon: #23, I probably should have been clearer. Yes there are read more
  • J Aguilar: M. Simon (#20) I was referring the Spanish policy towards read more
  • David Blue: #19 from Amphipolis: "I think that there is going to read more

Blackfive's "Blogs of War" Review

By Armed Liberal at 16:48

Mine is up at the Examiner.

While it is an obvious thing to do to honor our dead soldiers, the joy of a book like this - and of the milblogs it gives a snapshot of - is to introduce you to very real words of our living ones. They are a very real manifestation of Whitman:

"I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear. "...

Fewer and fewer Americans know soldiers as the tradition of military service slips into history. Buy the book, meet some, and listen to them.

And when you buy the book, take a moment to send an email or letter to both the White House and the Secretary of Defense, asking why it is that midlevel Pentagon bureaucrats are choking off the ability of our troops to blog and of our bloggers (see this from Michael Yon) to cover the troops:
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Mr. Yon;

I do not recognize your website as a media organization that we will use as a source to credential journalists covering MNF-I operations.

LTC Barry Johnson
Director, CPIC

Somethings speak for themselves. The war doesn't, and we need the voices of Blackfive and his band of bloggers, and of Michael Yon, and of all the men and women serving to try and comprehend what's going on over there.
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  • Armed Liberal: Thanks! Thanks a lot, actually. A.L. read more
  • dadmanly: Marc, What a beautiful review. Thanks very much, this is read more

I Get Email...

By Armed Liberal at 15:47


"...this email might be a scam."

Ya think??

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  • Greg F: The hardest thing about answering those emails is coming up read more
  • Daniel Markham: So I push the "post" button, and my email pops read more
  • Daniel Markham: I've got Nigerian relatives all over the place, and they're read more

Bypassing the Media - Pentagon on the Offensive

By Robin Burk at 14:34

A major newspaper prints a story which DOD believes is factually incorrect in important ways. The newspaper not only refuses to issue a correction, it refuses to publish a letter to the editor or an op ed with DOD's position. It also refuses to publish a letter from 5 senior generals speaking in their capacities as citizens who are also military leaders.

This happens, with minor variations, again and again.

What to do? Bypass the dying print media and open a website that gives blow by blow accounts of the interaction and sets the record straight.

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  • JOHN RYAN: The weekly Standard recently had an article on how the read more
  • Robin Burk: I was able to get to the site with no read more
  • Robin Burk: The site is being accessed heavily, I suspect. Maybe also read more

The Wisdom of (Survivalist) Crowds

By Joe Katzman at 05:24

After writing "Apocalypse Everywhere" here at Winds, and reading Glenn Reynolds' "We're All Soldiers of Fortune Now" on the mainstream growth of citizen disaster preparation (like survivalist kits at Target and Costco), Chester has some thoughts on present trends and what's beneath:

"The Wisdom of Survivalist Crowds"

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  • Robert M: What you are seeing is not survialist response but a read more

Does The Internet Still Have a 'Next Big Thing' In It?

By Joe Katzman at 05:21

Patrick Cox thinks it does - and explains what he thinks it will be.

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  • jason rubenstein: Think of the MySpace effect when you think of the read more
  • john: I would disagree with Mr. Cox. VR and VW (Virtual read more

Mining For Facts

By Armed Liberal at 05:11
Mr. Byron Calame Public Editor
New York Times

Dear Mr. Calame:

Reading my Times RSS feed today, I noticed an editorial about mining: "Weakening the Fight for Mine Safety."

I read it with interest, and no small astonishment.

From reading the article, you'd assume that miners today faced conditions unprecedented in modern times, and that hazard and death were increasing rapidly under the Bush Administration.

I have many differences with the Administration - many of them detailed on my blog at - but here I'm just puzzled.

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  • SPQR: The NYT pulled this one out of the "anti-Bush" filler read more
  • Mark Buehner: These are the kind of viscious attacks on the NYT read more

October 26, 2006

Hugo Chavez' Diplomatic Offensives

By Joe Katzman at 20:37

Or should that be "offensive diplomatics"? It would appear that El Caudillo Idiotario Chavez is generating no small share of backlash in his own neighbourhood, and even becoming a political liability to the Left in Latin America.

"None of this diplomatic buffoonery makes Hugo Chavez less potentially destabilizing. Chavez is determined to use petrodollars to win friends and to use arms sales - and, potentially, military adventurism - to intimidate foes. The danger he poses ought not to be taken lightly. As things currently stand, however, it seems that Chavez's foes have a lot to be thankful for. If they could not have a friend in the president of Venezuela, they at least got the next best thing; a thoroughly ridiculous enemy."

Not to mention the personification of just about every tradition of Latin American socio-economic failure that we've seen over the last century or so. But that's another subject.

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Poster Girl

By Armed Liberal at 19:36

Blackfive links to a Youtube video of Australian singer Beccy Cole.

Play it.

All by herself, she's kind of the anti-Dixie Chick.

Watching that was kind of a break in writing about Iraq; the piece should be done tonight and is called "So - What Now, Hawks?" Standing up in support of the troops is a good thing, but it's not in and of itself, policy.

Not running from your positions and beliefs and continuing to own responsibility for them isn't policy either. But it's a test of how much these beliefs and positions matter to you.

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  • M. Simon: The fight in Italy in WW2 was badly handled politically read more
  • Davebo: The problem is, I can't find any evidence of Becky read more

Scalia on Judicial Activism/Independence

By Joe Katzman at 04:57

Supreme Court Justice Scalia, speaking before the National Italian American Foundation, made a couple of points that should be obvious to a 10 year old - which may explain why many law schools have a hard time. The first bit concerned judicial independence:

"You talk about independence as though it is unquestionably and unqualifiably a good thing. It may not be. It depends on what your courts are doing.... The more your courts become policymakers, the less sense it makes to have them entirely independent.... Take the abortion issue.

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  • PD Shaw: Shaw- Again you are arguing that the court will be read more
  • Rob Lyman: It's true that the lousy "privacy" jurisprudence goes back at read more
  • Mark Buehner: "The question is: is self medication a fundamental right?" I read more

October 25, 2006

A Window into Enron via SONAR Software

By Joe Katzman at 21:19

In October 2003 the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission placed 200,000 of Enron's internal emails from 1999-2002 into the public domain as part of its ongoing investigations. A new software company called Trampoline decided to use this archive as the testbed for its SONAR software, which plugs into the corporate network and connects to existing systems such as email servers, contact databases and document archives. SONAR then analyses information from these systems to build a map of social networks, information flows, expertise and individuals' interests throughout the enterprise.

They were fascinated by the results, and decided to just put the whole thing online for everyone to mine. Presenting: Enron Explorer, powered by SONAR.

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Is al Qaeda's smart move to stop fighting?

By Donald Sensing at 21:06

I caught part of the president's press conference this morning and a thought struck me when he renounced, again, the idea of setting a timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. It's an idea I've denounced myself: "Setting a timetable for withdrawal only notifies al Qaeda of the date of their triumph."

So I started wondering this morning why the terrorists in Iraq seem not to understand that time-mandated withdrawal from Iraq is practically central to opponents of President Bush specifically and the Republicans generally. And surely they have to realize that there is probably no one who would more like to start drawing down US forces from Iraq than President Bush himself, especially if he can make meanignful reductions before the two parties have their 2008 conventions.

So, imagining myself as an al Qaeda strategist, I would be asking the terrorist leadership why they are stepping up the violence now. Okay, dumb question: they want to influence the 2006 elections.

The Baathists and Sadrists can read the U.S. political calendar, and they'd like nothing better than to feed the perception that the violence is intractable. They want our election to be perceived as a referendum on Iraq that will speed the pace of American withdrawal.

So let us carry that intention a little farther. This month is already the worst month in Iraq in a year, regarding US casualties. Let us assume, for argument's sake, that voters next month decide a change in the Congress is necessary. We need not assume that the Democrats actually take control of either house, but that thay gain enough seats to put a real scare into the Republican members and the rest of their party.

If I were an al Qaeda strategist, that would be my cue to taper down my violent actions over the next three or four months and then, beginning in spring 2007, start to lay low. I'd fill time with political reorganization, training, equipping, recruiting and other reconstituting efforts. By the fall of 2007, the Busha administration will use the lowered level of terrorism as a signal that pacification is coming along well and gratefully start pulling down US forces. By the spring of 2008, US force levels in Iraq could well be down to 50,000 or even fewer.

Then I'd strike and strike hard.

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  • Robert M: AQ can not stop fighting because of the centrifugal forces read more
  • Your Moms: Whats up with the "tar baby" comment? That's a pretty read more
  • Your Moms: Whats up with the "tar baby" comment? That's a pretty read more

The Coming War(s) in Gaza

By Joe Katzman at 19:46

Bret Stephens analyzes the four-corner friction in Gaza (Hamas/Iran/Syria, Fatah, Egypt, Israel), that looks likely to herald a full scale clash before long. The only question is who will be participating.

I will note here that those who predicted the emergence of Gaza as a terrorist fortress following Israeli withdrawal have been proven correct. How the coming drama unfolds, and finishes, will determine whether the pullout turns out to be a wise strategy, or a costly mistake. Those looking for the best available summary of Israel's plan can find it here. At the same time, one is reminded that nothing ever goes 100% to plan when dealing with human beings.

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  • Joe Katzman: Barry's formulation of Palestinian/Islamic strategy & goals is correct. "The read more
  • Barry Meislin: "...will determine whether the pullout turns out to be a read more


By Chester at 18:05

[Greetings once again from Chester of The Adventures of Chester. If you like these posts here at Winds, please visit my blog and see if you find something you like there.]

The new NBC series Heroes is very entertaining. The premise is that a number of regular people all over the globe -- about 10 or so -- have discovered that they have incredible powers. These are the usual comic book-type of powers, but that doesn't make them uninteresting. Indestructible bodies, the ability to fly, painting the future, hearing others' thoughts, and bending time and space are among those skills. It's a great show and I recommend it.

The most interesting part is each character's reaction to the discovery of these skills. Some want to deny them, others immediately see themselves as freaks, several aren't sure just exactly what is happening, and one in particular knows that he is a superhero and must now save the world.

The sudden discovery of unknown power then becomes a moral question: how best to use it? For good or evil? And how to determine what is good and what is evil?

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  • freeasabird: Not reminding somebody unnecessarily about their faults does not mean read more
  • filbert: What General Lee would probably have said to the 9/11 read more
  • Chester: NahnCee, it's a very good point. Suffice it to say read more

October 24, 2006

Temetni tudunk - the Hungarian uprising of 1956

By Guest Author at 20:08

By Bart Hall, who has a very personal connection to these events. See also Winds of Change.NET's earlier articles from Hungarian Ambassador Simonyi about rock n' roll and the quest for freedom in Hungary during Soviet occupation & servitude. Joe also recommends George Gabori's memoir "When Evils Were Most Free" (or audio version) very highly.

Autumn in Hungary is often short and nearly always unpredictable. Sometime by late October or early November the weather turns foggy-damp and cold. It is a brooding, mournful season, and in historical terms has been profoundly and repeatedly tragic -- temetni tudunk [ TEH-metnee TWO-doonk ] loosely translates "we sure know how to bury people."

The failed Revolution of 1956 began fifty years ago today (October 23, 1956), and by the time it was crushed a few weeks later nearly 30,000 people, most of them civilians, had been added to the long burial lists of late autumn Hungarian heartbreak. Yet Oct. 23 has become a national holiday...

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  • Russ: My step-father somehow managed to make it off the square read more
  • Henry IX: I remember following the events of the Hungarian uprising in read more
  • lucklucky: wonderful! read more

Satire Site: The People's Cube

By Joe Katzman at 19:51

Nortius Maximus tips me off to this one - someone puts a lot of work in. Lots of good material there. I quite liked "The People's Newswire," with entries like:

  • Democrats upset with Kim Jong Il: "Couldn't he have waited with his nukes until after the elections?"
  • Star Trek ship fetches $576,000 at auction. Kim Jong Il: "OK, now how do you make the damn thing fly?"
  • Nigerian VP charged with fraud: should GOP leadership resign?
  • Nigerian emails seized, national pastime outlawed, The People's Cube forced to redeploy its penis enlargement facilities to neighboring Cameroon

To offer just one additional example let's look to The People's Dictionary:


(noun) A process whereby evil murderous thugs are turned into everyday heroes by an overzealous mainstream media. Hezbollize (verb) Assign great social importance to gangsters, treat them as celebrities (Hez-boll-ized, Hez-boll-iz-ing, Hez-boll-iz-es)
Example 1: "Cross burnings bring warmth and comfort to homes without central heating, as caring KKK activists distribute clean white clothing among impoverished kids."
Example 2: "Crips, Bloods, MS 13 organize daily after school programs, engage minority children in pharmacological economics and ballistics training."

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  • Daniel Markham: I laughed so hard I almost cried. This was a read more
  • Achillea: Another entry for the People's Glossary: affirmative action: (n) the read more
  • CPT Rainmaker: LMAO read more

The L.A. Times' "Mission Statement"

By Armed Liberal at 17:42

Amplifying the Examiner piece (...thanks for the link, Glenn!), I'll add some more comments on journalism as I dodge writing the hard post on Iraq that I really need to do this week.

The Los Angeles Times is going through some changes. I still haven't resubscribed - for now I enjoy the extra half hour I get in the mornings to talk to my wife and son. But I do read parts of it online, and I do have an abiding interest in seeing it become successful, because I have an abiding interest in seeing my city be more successful, and good media - blogs, newspapers, television and radio stations - are one of the keys to making it so.

In light of this, the Times is changing its look, it's editorial pages, and all kinds of other things. And they've published a manifesto of sorts. It's a "Mission Statement" for their editorial pages.

And, to be honest, it's a useless piece of fluff.

Let's go through some of it. the opening sentence is a good place to start:
The Los Angeles Times is a citizen of the city of Los Angeles, the state of California, the American nation and the world.
No, you're not. You keep using that word - citizenship - and I'm not sure you know what it means. You're a citizen of the United States, with a supreme obligation to the polity assembled around it; you're members of the Los Angeles and California communities, with obligations within those communities (and between them, and between them and the greater obligation to the national polity). You're a human being, which means you share some ethical and emotional obligations with all other human beings - but you certainly can't claim citizenship with them, because there is no worldwide polity for you both to be a citizen of.
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  • Armed Liberal: Henry - back when the Constitution was written, the state read more
  • Fletcher Christian: Henry IX: The person or committee of persons who actually read more
  • Henry IX: "Let's go through some of it. the opening sentence is read more

Talking About The Press In The Press

By Armed Liberal at 15:03

My latest Examiner piece - on the obligations of journalists as citizens - is up. The points won't be new to folks who've read about it here - but it will be interetsing to see what kind of reaction it gets on a wider stage.

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  • Mark Buehner: "They'll be doing stories all day about how I shouldn't read more
  • Rob Lyman: Cripes, the last thing I want is journalists with my read more
  • Dave Schuler: Marc, I have a problem with the last paragraph of read more

October 23, 2006

Can atheism be justified?

By Donald Sensing at 18:30
Dinesh D'Souza wites,
A group of leading atheists is puzzled by the continued existence and vitality of religion.
What an interesting thing for atheists to ponder. In the modern day one either has to accept some kind of deistic understanding of the origin of the universe or an evolutionary understanding that excludes any sort of deity from contributing to the origin of the universe and all contained therein. I am not saying that one must either be religious or non-religious, for the dichotomy is true even for adherents of non-deistic or nature religions. Either deity (or deities) had a hand in existence itself, or it/they did not.

So why would a deity-denying atheist be puzzled that religion is thriving? If evolution as they describe it is true, then religion is itself a product thereof. Not only that, but Judaism is an evolutionary product, so is Christianity, so is Islam, so is Buddhism, so is Shamanisn, so is ... well, you get the idea.

And so is the theory of evolution itself. And astrology. And tarot-card reading. And medical science. And faith healing. And everything else. So why do materialists single out religion as a particularly puzzling thing to exist? Why religion and not, say, athletics or stamp collecting or consumption of alcohol?

Read the rest at

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Special Report: Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan, 2005-2006

By Joe Katzman at 02:13
Afghanistan - ISAF Southern Zone
ISAF, S. Afghanistan
(click to view full: 700k)

In light of my recent "Afghanistan: Opium, War & Strategy" post, a follow-up that will provide a window into the dynamics of this kind of war. Australia's Department of Defence has a transcript up for this briefing:

"I appreciate your interest in the activities of our Special Forces Task Group in Afghanistan. As I promised you, today we will deliver you a full brief on the Special Operations' activities in Afghanistan over the last 12 months.... Ultimately it is the lives of the soldiers that is at stake here and this is why we have been very conservative in releasing details on the taskforce's activities. Nonetheless, Australians do have a right to know how our soldiers performed on this operation. I also have a great deal of empathy for the soldiers themselves who have been through an experience which in terms of prolonged battlefield stress and combat intensity is unlike any encountered since Vietnam in the 1970s....

Their story is an inspirational tale of courage, resilience and exceptional skill involving a determined and dangerous adversary in an environment that is both harsh and unforgiving. The Special Forces Task Group significantly undermined the insurgency capability of their enemy, thus making a notable contribution to the International Coalition fight against terrorism."

This anecdote was also interesting, and definitely has one of those "Japanese soldiers still on the South Pacific Island" feel to it. Maj-Gen Hindmarsh, on the remoteness of the Uruzgan Province area in which they operated:

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Iraq Report, 23 Oct/06

By Andrew Olmsted at 01:00

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.


  • The Bush administration is drafting a timetable that lists milestones for Iraq's government to carry out in order to withdraw U.S. troops from the country. The plan will be presented to Iraq's Prime Minister by the end of the year.
  • Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army seized control of the Iraqi city of Amarah on Friday, but the Iraqi Army retook the city under a truce brokered by an ally of al-Sadr.

Other Topics Today Include: U.S. deaths spike; violence against Palestinians continues; UNHRC says huge refugee problem; plan to refurbish Syria pipeline; plans for 10 new hospitals; train coordination; Vice President asks rebel groups to negotiate; reorganization of Iraqi National Police; Mecca document signed; hiding true casualties in Iraq (?); consensus on Kirkuk wanted; Carnival of the Liberated; Egypt welcomes Mecca agreement; White House rejects two Iraq options; Pope urges reduction in violence; Howard promises to stay in Iraq as long as necessary; Pentagon propaganda program deemed legal.

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October 22, 2006

Judges vs. Citizen Initiatives

By Joe Katzman at 00:24

Citizen initiatives are a major feature of the political landscape in California, whose voter guide with its summaries from "For" and "Against" campaigns is an excellent model worth emulating. John Fund, who does some of the best work out there on subjects like elections and their associated corruption/malfeasance, turns in this report:

"Direct democracy in the 24 states that allow it often makes government function when arrogant, self-absorbed legislatures are gridlocked. Voters in several states have imposed term limits and curbed bilingual education and racial quotas, hot-button issues legislators often shrink from tackling. Liberals have used initiatives to pass minimum-wage hikes and tobacco taxes that were often blocked by legislatures where powerful lobbyists hold sway..."

Fund reports that judges are using a number of pretexts to block these initiatives, some of which are patently and transparently ridiculous. It's hardly an unexpected result of the courts' increasing drift into a role as partisan members of the political class, but it's a bad one that deserves and needs reversal. The politicians also need to be watched, of course, since they're the most obviously apt to rig the system against citizen initiatives if left unsupervised. So, too, the NGOs and activists involved need to be held to proper standards of behaviour and transparency. Fund reports on a number of problems, and suggests a few important solutions.

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October 21, 2006

American Profiles

By Joe Katzman at 05:23

We don't get any major papers out where I live these days, but we do get a couple of community newspapers. There's an insert called "American Profile" that comes in one of them. I'm curious enough to look, and found the usual stuff: recipes, a bit of celebrity-related stuff, ads for Elvis Presley stamp collectors series and various other tchotchkes I wouldn't be caught dead with. Kind of tacky, overall. But I also find various profiles of those "extraordinary ordinary" people in every community, and that's why I always read it:

  • Wilma Melville, Ojali, CA. When she retired, she wanted to train a dog to do something worthwhile. She settled on disaster search-and-rescue training, and her dog Murphy was soon one of only 15 FEMA-certified dogs in the USA - something she only realized in the rubble of Oklahoma City. As a former teacher, she thought the training available was part of the problem... so she kicked in $44,000, started a foundation, improved the process, and is probably the most successful SAR dog trainer in America, with 31 canine teams trained. She's 72.
  • Lani Malmberg, 49, location depends. She left the family ranch and returned to school at age 33, earning degrees in environmental restoration, biology/botany, and eventually weed science at Colorado State University. In 1998, she launched her unique business, borrowing money against her pickup truck and her sons' college savings to buy her first 100 goats. Ewe4ic Ecological Services now rents them out to municipalities, landowners, et. al. who need completely chemical-free weed control and trimming, and has become quite successful.

Etc., Etc. They don't often receive the recognition they're due - but they do make a difference, and you probably have one near you.

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October 20, 2006

Paying women to have children

By Donald Sensing at 19:58

Through the efforts of journalists such as Mark Steyn and others, the peril of Europe's low birthrates is becoming better known. An industrialized society must average 2.1 births per woman simply to maintain a level population number. More than that, poplulation rises, less and it falls.

Most European nations have lower-than-stable birth rates, and many have rates so low that they have been termed a "death spiral," too low to recover without massive changes in social mores and economic-legal standards that seem most unlikely. The Stanford Review explains,

Not even one EU member state has a fertility rate that will replace the death rate... . In fact, eleven EU countries, including Germany, Austria, Hungary and Italy have a negative population growth rate. Instead of Europeans, the population is being replaced by Muslims, whose birth rates are much higher than those of Europeans. French cities such as Lyon and Marseilles have become mostly Muslim Arab cities. European identity is being usurped, and Europe is in a death spiral, demographically and culturally.

The International herald Tribune reported in September on "Empty playgrounds in an aging Italy."

GENOA There are hundreds of stores in the Fiumara Mall - Sephora, Elan, Lavazza Cafe. But in a nation long known for its hordes of children, there is not one toy store in the sprawling mix, and a shiny merry-go-round stands dormant.

"This is a place for old people," said Francesco Lotti, 24, strolling with his fiancee in Genoa's medieval old town. "Just look around. You don't see young people." Even for people their age, "there are not many places - no clubs, for example." Playgrounds? He looks quizzically at his fiancee. They can count them on a few fingers.

While all of Europe has suffered from declining birthrates, nowhere has the drop been as profound and prolonged as in this once gorgeous Mediterranean city, the capital of Italy's graying Liguria region. Genoa provides a vision of Europe's aging future, displaying the challenges that face a society with more old than young, and suggesting how hard it will be to reverse the downward population spiral.

Nowhere, though, is the issue more urgent than in Russia.
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Merkava Killers in Lebanon

By Situational Awareness at 16:06

I had occasion to visit Israel as a guest of its ministry of defense in April 2001, in the run up to the Paris Air Show that July. The idea was for a group of defense journalists to spend a week visiting all of the key high-tech companies responsible for Israel's weapons systems, IAI Elta, IAI Malat, IMI, Tadiran, Elisra, Elbit, Raphael, and others. We also got to visit a number of interesting military installations, the Arrow ABM site and the 200 Squadron UAV unit outside of Tel Aviv, and the F-15I base in the Negev.

Coming into the country through Ben Gurion was a grueling process, however, and by the time most of our group had been processed I was still an hour or so in arrears. The upshot of this was that my escort, an IDF official, drove me to my hotel himself. It turns out that he was an armor officer, and was very enthusiastic about the Merkava main battle tank. Knowing that I was an American, he took care to say nice things about the Abrams. But the Merkava, he assured me, was the best tank in the world. It was conceived, designed, and built from the treads up to meet the specific requirements of the IDF. It fights in the desert. It fights in the streets.

It is interesting to note that Israel buys nearly all of its "platforms" from the US, notably its aircraft and vehicles. This is because the large amounts of military aid the US provides must be spent of US-supplied weapons systems. Into these the Israelis typically integrate indigenous electronics and weapons systems of demonstrable high quality. Therefore it is significant that the only indigenously produced combat vehicle is the Merkava series of MBTs. Most anything other type of platform can be purchased from other suppliers (the subs come from Germany because the US doesn't make diesel electric attack boats) and customized with Israeli electronics. Even the ship hit by an C-802 missile in the recent war with Hezbollah was built by Northrop Grumman. But Israel considers its ability to produce MBTs to its own specifications to be a strategic necessity.

One of the most dangerous counters to the Merkava on the market today is the AT-14 Kornet anti-tank missile. Not only does the weapon have a tremendous two-stage warhead capable of penetrating the armor of the latest generation of MBTs, such as the Merkava and the Abrams, it employs a laser-beamrider guidance. The importance of the latter is that laser-warning receivers on tanks may not detect the laser energy of the missile system, because the beam is focused on a receiver on the tail assembly of the missile rather than the target. Think of a laser beamrider as receiving its guidance commands by laser rather than through a wire. Targeting information is collected by the launch crew by means of a passive electrooptical system and an auto tracker. A computer translates the tracking data into guidance commands sent automatically to the missile via the laser. This form of guidance is much more difficult for a laser-warning receiver to detect than laser-guided weapons whose seekers home on reflected laser energy from a spot held on the target. The only opportunity a tank crew has to receive warning of an impending launch of a laser-beamrider is when the missile crew briefly lases the tank for range, an activity that can be difficult for laser-warning receivers to detect.

Reports that laser-beamrider anti-tank missiles are turning up in southern Lebanon must be a source of intense concern to IDF officials. The weapons are apparently coming from Syria and Iran, who have purchased the systems in large numbers from an obliging Russia. It is likely that many of Israel's casualties and the unexpectedly large numbers of armored vehicles lost in operations against Hezbollah were due to the introduction of the Kornet. Certainly, the loss of Merkava tanks to Hezbollah militia must have come as a shock and a painful blow to the IDF, which has placed such faith in its homegrown MBT. I wonder how long it will be before Hamas also has access to such weapons?

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Commercial Whaling's Comeback

By Joe Katzman at 07:04

Iceland has just announced a decision to resume commercial whaling. The stated numbers are small, and constitute a deliberate warning shot across the bow of the International Whaling Commission.

The problem can be explained simply. Whaling countries were told the moratorium on commercial whaling was temporary, until an agreement on a sustainable, science-based catch limit could be worked out. Which would be possible for some species, given current whale populations. But agreement was impossible, and it really boils down to a shift of sentiment in many non-whaling countries that came to see whaling as barbaric murder. There are varied reasons for this, some serious and some less so, and in fact I'm pretty close to being in that camp myself. Hence, no agreement from the early 1990s onward. Thing is, the commercial whaling moratorium had a time limit/deadline, and it's coming due... hence Iceland, Japan, Norway et. al. simply announcing their catch limits.

Because the values involved are so radically different, there's no diplomatic solution to be had here. Either activists will successfully use coercion to shut the hunts down (via boycotts most likely, which work at full power when campaigning against economic activities), or the IWC's moratorium will break down very soon and countries will simply announce their catches, limited by the effectiveness of the activists' ongoing lobbying more than by anything the IWC does. Any agreements struck, or any IWC quota hurriedly arrived at, will be provisional only for both sides; without moral common ground or shared interests, conflict is the only option. Indeed, it was always the only option. All diplomacy and the moratorium did was "freeze" the conflict while both sides tried to improve their position for the next go-around. Likewise, any diplomacy conducted by either side now that the conflict is "unfreezing" is just a way of participating in that conflict on the way to eventual victory. Welcome to the human condition.

If you hadn't already guessed, I won't be supporting the whalers. The position I do support? Zero whaling - and activists and groups who share that belief should be honest enough to say so forthrightly.

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Pat Tillman: ESPN Reconstructs What Happened

By Joe Katzman at 06:16

ESPN has done exhaustive work looking into Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan, via an excellent article series that reconstructs what happened and offers perspectives from many of the people involved. While there are some aspects of the military culture that the reporter doesn't quite grasp (like: how big a punishment dismissal from the Rangers is, and why), overall it's a first-rate job. The article isn't afraid to ask hard questions, including whether or not Tillman realy deserved the Silver Star bestowed on him. Fortunately, Fish's and ESPN's agenda seems to be about telling the story from various viewpoints and getting it right. The people in this story are all recognizably human - the tellers of their own stories, not props in someone else's. Of course, they're a sports network not a 'news' outlet like the NY Times, so this shouldn't be wholly surprising. But it's still gratifying to see.

As most of you know, Tillman's family still have a number of questions connected with what happened...

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October 19, 2006

Honor/Shame, the Middle East and the American Left

By Donald Sensing at 19:26
The Gospel of Luke 14:1, 7-24:

14 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath ... . 7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

That last paragraph isn't the parable, by the way, which is found in vv. 16-24. Jesus's discourse on jockeying for position illuminates the kind of cultural values that Jesus grew up in 2,000 years ago, and which is still found across most of the Middle East today (and, in his renunciation of those values, helps explain why he made such powerful enemies). Cultures of honor and shame are literally foreign to Western minds. Matters of honor and shame have certainly been powerful in Western history, but such concerns have always been tempered and tamped by Jesus's teachings that "all who exalt themselves will be humbled." And the twentieth century's blood-drenched years did nothing to preserve the concept, either. Jonathan Rauch, writing in National Journal, explains,

Singularly, however, the West has backed away from honor. Under admonitions from Christianity to turn the other cheek and from the Enlightenment to favor reason over emotion, the West first channeled honor into the arcane rituals of chivalry, then folded it into a code of manly but magnanimous Victorian gentlemanliness -- and then, in the 20th century, drove it into disrepute. World War I and the Vietnam War were seen as needless butcheries brought on by archaic obsessions with national honor; feminism and the therapeutic culture taught that a higher manly strength acknowledges weakness.

He goes on to explain that in Arab culture, one's standing in the community is of paramount importance. What Easterners call "saving face" is a real force in the Middle East. Why else, Rauch asks, would Saddam lie about possessing WMDs, knowing that the lies could bring about his downfall and demise? "Saddam was more concerned about saving face -- preserving his reputation for being fierce and formidable -- than about his office or even his life. Indeed, he could not feel otherwise and still count himself a man."
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Go Read Phil Carter

By Armed Liberal at 17:23

Phil Carter has a piece up in Salon Slate about where we are in Iraq and what to do. Everyone ought to go read it. Period.

What? You're still here?

I'll try and comment when I get some time, but the short form comment is that he's absolutely right.

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Bloggers Blocked Venezuela's Arms Buy? Bull---t!

By Joe Katzman at 16:26
C-295 hits American chill
(click to view full)

So, there's a report going 'round that the efforts of a number of bloggers managed to block the sale of EADS-CASA's military transport aircraft to Venezuela. See this article, for instance.

I have only one problem with this report. It's B.S.

Back on Valentine's Day 2006, I wrote a Defense Industry Daily story about this sale, and called it "Love on the Rocks: CASA's $600M Venezuelan Plane Sale In Heavy Turbulence." That was updated in August with an addendum, when Venezuela decalred the deal nullified. I'd recommend that people with an interest in this issue from either the military side or the blog side read that, because it will clarify how these things really work. It will also, through no intention of its own, make the recent claims of "blogger power" look pretty stupid.

I have a lot of time for Venezuelans tired of Chavez's dictatorship and pained by his destruction of both its electoral system and rule of law. I'll also grant that the bloggers involved have probably done some positive good on the margins with their campaign, by creating additional political headaches for the EU's favorite defense manufacturer that remind it - again - of the limits it faces if it follows its socialist EU patrons too far. It may even reduce the odds of the EADS-CASA C-295M becoming the USA's next cargo plane, which would be good because it's the wrong choice (Alenia's C-27J "Baby Herc," which can carry tactical vehicles and even small helicopters, is the right one).

But poking at a dead dragon is not the same as slaying one, and confusing the two is not a credibility enhancer in serious circles.

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The Bogus "655,000 Dead" Study

By Joe Katzman at 12:02

It didn't take a genius to guess that something was fishy when a John Hopkins study (coincidentally released very conveniently near the election) trumpeted a figure for Iraqi dead that exceeds even far-left body counts for Iraq by a factor of about 5, and reliable estimates by a factor in the double-digits.

It may take a fairly smart person to explain exactly what was wrong with the study, however, and how it produced such laughable results. Fortunately Steven E. Moore, who has been doing survey work in Iraq for over 2 years, can. He steps up to the plate and deservedly destroys the study as a effort that would flunk a grad student. That it was a work of political agitprop rather than anything honest or serious was obvious from the get-go - but it's always good to understand the whys and hows of its shoddy dishonesty, because you'll see this again and again in future.

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Ali Eteraz of the Moriquendi

By Joe Katzman at 00:00

Ali Eteraz:

"More than any maulana, my morality is a by-product of a dark elf named Drizzt Do'Urden....."

If you get that reference, you really ought to read this (just ignore the comments section, which serves mostly as an advertisement for Drizzt's approach to trolls). If the above is gobbledygook to you, well, you still might learn a few things. Including a few that have applications rather beyond the issues of the day.

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October 18, 2006


By Armed Liberal at 22:16

I've had a correspondent or two pushing me to explain "what your problem?" with the modern Democratic party. Rather then write up something new, it occurred to me that a very old post of mine sums it up pretty perfectly:

From back in May, 2002:

I've been thinking about "Liberalism" (as opposed to Lockean "liberalism") for a while - after all, I need to justify the title of this blog. I am trying to unify the examples of what mostly goes for Liberalism in this day and age, which I'm calling "SkyBox Liberalism" - which is v. different from what I'm promoting.

While the theory percolates, let me explain by example.
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MT-Trackback: He's Dead, Jim

By Joe Katzman at 19:33

Some of you may have noticed that Winds went down entirely for about an hour yesterday. We made major modifications to our infrastructure recently, in order to run Winds on a series of base platforms that were more CPU-friendly (Ubuntu/LightTPD not Red Hat/Apache, no more Virtuozzo or CPx control panel, which forced a hosting switch from the excellent folks at ServInt to our new friends at Pixelgate). That worked, and performance improved significantly. But yesterday... over to Ev:

"They called back and let me know what happened. It was a trackback spam attack so large, it drove the load average on the server so high that they couldn't even log in themselves without forcibly rebooting the box first. The spam attack resumed while I was on the phone with him, so I've disabled trackback. It's simply untenable to keep on, when it can disable the machine so badly that not only can't I log in, they can't log in when they're physically in front of the server."

We've killed trackbacks now, and they'll stay dead. Movable Type's approach to dealing with trackback & comment spam is fundamentally non-scalable, which means it's fundamentally broken in an age of cheap CPUs and no consequences for spammers. Worse, their security flaws forced us to migrate to MT 3.3 (and the only CAPTCHA system that works with it, plus the unfixable author link limit annoyances, etc.) and made our lives here worse, not better. We're as frustrated as some of you are.

Which is why Winds of Change.NET will be moving to Wordpress once some test migrations of other blogs are finished and confirmed to be trouble-free. Wordpress is inherently more CPU-friendly (PHP not Perl), has a wider variety of features & plug-ins, and a community that is way, way ahead in anti-spam measures. I'm hoping this can happen by mid-to late November. It would be a fine birthday present for me, and a present for many of you, too.

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The Limits of Duty to Country

By Grim at 18:22
In the comments to a post inspired by Armed Liberal's defiance of stoning (as to which, by the way, at least one of the women mentioned has had a brief stay granted), commenter Sam asked to hear my thoughts on his argument about the rightful power of the state:
And: we've all submitted to a level of "ownership" by the state. This country does a better job of minimizing that than most, but society exists to restrict the freedom to do "bad" things in the hope that "good" freedoms will be expanded. When we disagree about what good and bad are is where we bump up against that ownership issue. We have to do as we're told or end up dead/imprisoned. That's ownership, isn't it?
Is it proper to think of Americans as "owned" by the state? Is that the right relationship, more broadly, for a person to have with the state?
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October 17, 2006

Coral Reef Bleaching Guide Released

By Joe Katzman at 17:36
(click to view full)

Coral reefs are spectacularly beautiful, critical ocean ecosystems that take thousands of years to fully form, and serve as an barometer of sorts. Think of them as the tropical rainforests of the oceans - incredibly lush, and important to many other chains and processes, but somewhat fragile. Their fate and productivity is also tied to mangrove swamps and similar habitats, which have suffered great damage of their own albeit for different reasons.

If you dive, as I do, you're familiar with the phenomenon of "coral bleaching," which looks pretty much what it sounds like. There are various reasons attributed, and warming waters may play a role, but cold will also d it and humans who do dumb things like dump massive amounts of semi-treated waste into the ocean near reefs, fish using cyanide to catch tropical fish for aquariums, et. al. are speeding things along (indeed, may be a far larger cause - see here and here).

The recent Asian tsunami may have wised up a bunch of folks about the importance of mangrove swamps et. al., but the reefs still need attention. Fortunately, healthy reefs can generate a lot of sustainable tourist revenue in addition to their more obvious economic benefits, so the priority dial for conserving them is set relatively high. To that end, strategies for conserving the world's coral reefs are included in a new guide released October 11 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the World Conservation Union. "A Reef Manager's Guide to Coral Bleaching" will give reef managers the latest scientific information on causes of coral bleaching, and new strategies for responding. The release can be found here (with links), and here's the full report in PDF format.

If you dive too, consider joining R.E.E.F. and turning in a list of fish found on your next dive - fun, and you'll be helping ocean science in a very concrete way.

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Charlotte Valdrighi Belton

By Armed Liberal at 16:10

Patrick Belton's mother has died. Patrick has posted a eulogy for her that has me headed to work thinking about mortality, parents, children, love, and what it is to have a son who loves you as much as Patrick obviously loved his mother..

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Watching The Races

By Armed Liberal at 05:23

So Michael Totten has posted something on the election, and while I'm not completely in agreement with him you ought to go check his post out. I'm a little more tied into the redistributionist, social justice stuff than he is, but I'm equally disgusted with the choices on the menu.

Let me explain.

I'm a huge fan of motorcycle road racing, and have done a bit myself. Right now, we're in the midst of what will be an epochal season in MotoGP, the premier class in the sport.

Valentino Rossi has been the dominant racer in the world for much of the last decade, in several classes from 125cc up to the modern 200+ hp, 100+ 200+ mph 990cc bikes. I've watched him race here in the states, and watched many of his races on video, and he's simply superhuman on a bike. I sat in a pub in Guildford and watched on TV as he took two seconds a lap out of the best racers in the world on a flooded track at Donington.

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October 16, 2006

Iraq to be partitioned?

By Donald Sensing at 15:55

A confederal, rather than federal, type of nation may be looming, as I predicted in early '03

CNews reports that the Iraqi parliament has passed legislation that would allow the country to be paritioned along sectarian lines in 18 months.

Evidence continued to mount in the 44th month of U.S. involvement that Iraqi centres of power - politicians and the government, the police and military - were unable or unwilling to rein in violence in parts of the country where Sunni and Shiite Muslim or Kurdish populations rub up against one another. ...

The Shiite Majority in parliament, over complaints of dirty tricks from rival Sunni and even some Shiite legislators, adopted a measure that would allow the effective partition of the country after an 18-month waiting period, something widely opposed in polls of Iraqis.

"The starting point is to recognize that Iraq is not going to be a democratic, unified country that serves as a model for the region. The violence and the Sunni-Shiite division have already ruled that out," Dennis Ross, a Mideast peace negotiator and policy maker for former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, wrote in an Op-ed column for the Washington Post on Sunday.

A partition would leave Iraq with a weak central government and largely independent states run by Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south and Sunnis in the centre and west, giving impetus for still more violence and still further population upheaval.

Iraqis so-called national unity government announced that next Saturday's much-anticipated national reconciliation conference was indefinitely postponed for unspecified "emergency reasons." ...

Ross said the best solution was, in fact, the formation of a federal state, with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds running areas where they are majorities. ...

Sunnis, a minority sect in Iraq that ran the country until the ouster of Saddam, are violently opposed, fearing it would leave them with no revenue from Iraq's oil riches. Natural resources are largely absent from their lands in central and western Iraq.

We can't say we were't warned.
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  • hypocrisyrules: Joe, I could spend an hour here debunking your latest. read more

The Fjordman Agenda: Rise of the Fjordmen?

By David Blue at 05:08

Acting smart by analysing a problem endlessly and calling attention to negatives and problems is easy but worthless; making clear recommendations for action is tough and exposes you to criticism, but it is indispensable.

If there is going to be a growing school of people who have accepted Islam as a dangerous enemy, which seems inevitable and/or a done deal, given Islam's continuing fearful and bloody influence on current events, then this school has to make positive suggestions. Assuming as some of us do that Islam is an enemy: what is to be done?

Diana West stepped up to the mark with her two posts on what the American President should say. (link) (link) (She wants a defensive struggle against sharia, not an active policy of democracy promotion.) Robert Spencer has made many sensible suggestions in various posts. At an infinitely humbler level I've started to lay out in scattered posts here the basics of an anti-Islamic policy based on the precedents of the British Empire and our new problems (mainly nuclear proliferation and demographics). Mark Steyn's position can be summed up simply: the problem is demographic, and the solution is to get rid of the welfare state.

And now I think Fjordman at Gates of Vienna has outdone everybody with a long, crystal-clear post full of recommendations, taking a European view and therefore taking immigration as a central issue. (link)

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  • matoko_ghul: here you go with the "less islam" argument again. i read more

Iraq Report, 16 Oct/06

By Andrew Olmsted at 01:00

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.


  • How bad is the violence in Iraq? According to a study in the British medical journal The Lancet, some 655,000 Iraqis have died [PDF] above what would have been expected had the invasion not occurred, a conclusion that has stirred a great deal of controversy.

Other Topics Today Include: Marines hand Fallujah to Iraqi forces; U.S. in Iraq through 2010; former Chicago resident faces prison; parliament regulates foreign investment; Kirkuk pipeline online again; reconciliation conference postponed; Islamic state in Iraq; 3,000 police fired; cleaning house at Interior ministry; Carnival of the Liberated; Kirkuk status decision looms; Iran-Iraq working group; Saudi king asks Shiites and Sunnis to work together; Kuwait gets reparations; U.S. policy change in Iraq?

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October 14, 2006

Speaking Of Nuclear Deterrence...

By Armed Liberal at 01:05

Here's a good NYT article suggesting that the Administration is looking at new deterrence models, and on the technical difficulties involved in doing so:

Security specialists said Mr. Bush's warning signaled a significant expansion of longstanding policies of deterrence, extending the threat of reprisals to the transfer of nuclear weapons or materials to another country or to terrorists.

That has long been a concern about the North Korean program, but the tools to prevent it are still limited.

Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, said in an interview on Thursday that "to be credible, declaratory policy must be backed up by effective capabilities."

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  • E. T.: Please note North Korea's interest in multilateral meetings again: read more
  • grackle: U.S. intelligence agencies believed it came from North Korea but read more
  • Daniel Markham: Here's another good article talking about the new nuclear deterrence read more

October 13, 2006

Oh My God!! Lieberman May Be Angry!! Who Could Have Guessed It?

By Armed Liberal at 23:50

Remember how I said Matt Stoller of MyDD was a fool?

Well today, Chris Bowers joins him as he looks at the mess MyDD helped make, and whines loudly about it.
Further, since current polling shows a senate with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, Joe Lieberman would also potentially have the ability to flip control of the Senate if he chooses to caucus with Republicans. Back in 2001, the Democratic caucus gladly gave seniority to Jim Jeffords when he left the Republican caucus in order to gain control of the chamber. That was the price to pay for control, and after six years in the minority, the Democratic caucus was more than happy to make that compromise. It isn't hard to imagine that if Republicans find themselves one seat in the minority after the elections next month that they will also gladly grant Lieberman seniority in order to retake control of the chamber.

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Tim Oren's Nuclear Strawman

By Armed Liberal at 01:17
In the comments to my 'Godfather' post below, Tim Oren made a really smart comment that elaborated on my idea and turned it into something vaguely practical:
May I suggest an alternative framing that may find some common ground? In the commentary here and on Joe's post there's at minimum a volks-wisdom that we can grudgingly trust some newer nuke powers to act responsibly - India, Israel, China (let's hope), but others we cannot: NK, Pakistan, Iran. Is question is how to convert that intuition into a framing that is understandable by all, not seen to be simply arbitrary, and is utterly convincing to transgressors in regards of their fate. It should also be able to survive the probably inevitable further proliferation of nuclear power reactors. In short, a de facto effective 'Nuclear Proliferation Treaty', with nasty, sharp, pointy teeth.

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October 12, 2006

Pillars of Government Week, III

By Grim at 15:43

Part III of Cassandra's series is here. The judiciary is an area of intense interest for her compared to the other branches, and it comes out in her writing today.

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Morning Coffee

By Armed Liberal at 14:56

Abu Aardvark (Marc Lynch) has launched a new Middle East group blog - Qahwa Sada (literally - "Coffee without sugar"). You'll recall that coffee and I don't get along all that well, but this looks interesting enough that I'll make an exception. It's in my feeds and has my attention. You ought to check it out as well.

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America, Loved and Hated

By Armed Liberal at 14:29
Had an IM with Biggest Guy, who's in Brazil for 6 months:
BiggestGuy: actually, i had an interesting conversation with the cable guy

Biggest Guy: tried to talk about he thinks other countries are better places to live than the us and whatnot

Biggest Guy: sly little smile on his face, 'im not trying to offend'

Biggest Guy: like i care

me: interesting...

Biggest Guy: and then i explained he would easily make 20 reas an hour in the us to do the work he does

Biggest Guy: he was much more thoughtful after that

And it made me think of a piece in Vanity Fair linked by democracyarsenal. It's about the growing crisis in Egypt as the state oppresses harder in response to it's citizens' discontent, and how America is seen through that prism.
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Between the Scylla of dictatorship and the Charybdis of anarchy: North Korea

By neo at 05:43

North Korea is a country formed by a war that never ended.

Pacifists are fond of saying that war never solves anything. I beg to differ--war, for example, solved the problem of Adolf Hitler and German expansionist aggressiveness, although at great cost.

But that war was fought to the bitter end, unlike many subsequent ones. Revulsion at war--which I share, by the way, although my critics won't credit that--has led to a series of unfinished, prematurely truncated wars. And like most unfinished business, there's a tendency for these conflicts to come back to bite us.

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October 11, 2006

Are political categories dissolving? Could they?

By Chester at 15:45

Last weekend Carolina FreedomNet took place in Greensboro, NC, and was sponsored by The John Locke Foundation. During one panel, two particular questions asked in rapid succession were especially intriguing.

The first was from the head of the Locke Foundation. "Why are there so many national politics blogs?" he wondered.

The second question, from another member of the audience, was, "why is there such a persistence of the left-right dichotomy in the blogosphere?

The tentative answers of the panel were understandable: bloggers in general prefer national politics because it provides a larger audience and the left-right dichotomy persists because media discourse, particularly the left-leaning tendencies of the mainstream press, reinforces it.

But perhaps there is more at work than the ideological influence of the press . . .

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Pillars of Government Week, II

By Grim at 14:46

Part two of Cassandra's series, treating the legislature, is here.

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Dispatches from Afghanistan: Armored vs. Blast Resistant

By Joe Katzman at 02:53
USMC RG-31, IEDed in Iraq
(click to view full)

Canadian military think tank CASR notes that:

"On 26 September 2006, a suicide bomber attacked a Canadian convoy 2km from Kandahar Airfield. The bomber detonated a explosives-laden minivan while trying to ram an RG-31 Nyala Armoured Patrol Vehicle. The result differed dramatically from earlier attacks on armoured [Mercedes] G-wagons. Instead of charred wreckage, the blast- resistant [BAE Systems OMC] Nyala limped home with little damage. Instead of wounded or dead, no-one was injured inside the APV."

See the full CP article describing this situation (only available here thanks to a technical glitch), and note the Canadian troops' contrasting lack of confidence in their up-armored Mercedes G-Wagens; DID has covered both this specific problem, and the larger global trend of which it's a part.

CASR's "Blast-Resistant Vehicles For Beginners" (also Part 2: Tracing the Origins | Part 3: Tweaking the APV) offers contrasting pictures from Afghanistan and explains the basics re: how to make vehicles mine-resistant... something that isn't the same as up-armoring them. In addition to V-hull designs like BAE OMC's RG-31 Nyala featured in this story, Force Protection's Cougar, ADI's Bushmaster, et. al., DID has also covered alternative/additional options like the KMW Dingo 2's composite blast pan, the Iveco Panther CLV's collapsible layered approach, et. al. It's a topic that looms large as the USA considers what will come next after contracts for its Hummers, FMTV medium trucks, and HEMTT heavy trucks end during the FY 2007-2008 time frame.

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McCain on North Korea - Good, But Not Enough

By Joe Katzman at 01:29

Sen. John McCain has a CQ Guest Blog about the recent North Korean nuke test. In "Why North Korea is the Wrong Focus," I warned about next steps that won't be enough to make a difference - and unfortunately, McCain's suggestions are a good example of that dynamic at work.

The simple truth is that China will not implement or carry out the sanctions he envisions, for the reasons I discussed, unless faced with a downside large enough to both cancel their expected gains from enabling North Korea, and offer the reality of a fear greater than their fear of a North Korean refugee tsunami. McCain offers nothing of the kind. On the plus side, his post accurately diagnoses the failures of the previous policy, and correctly calls where this is probably headed.

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October 10, 2006

On The Tragedy Of Opposing Islam

By David Blue at 23:56

This post was prompted by the thread of the post Who's Afraid of Islam? by Joe Katzman (link), AMac's request, (link), and a number of very good statements made lately by outstanding people who are Muslims, speaking more than five years after 11 September 2001, but still (or for the first time) speaking as isolated individuals, when history has moved on.

Now that Iran is embarked on what looks like a final drive to manufacture nuclear weapons and now that North Korea is nuclear armed and may put its products up for sale, some regrets are too late. I think time is running out, and we have to deal with the Islam we have already encountered, not with a post-reform Islam that we might imagine and would prefer to have encountered.

I will say what it is that I think we have encountered as it relates to us as a challenge and a threat (not in itself, as I have no claim to be an expert on the inner spirit of Islam), and some of what is to be done, in what spirit.

I think that considering the splendid personal character of many of the people who are on the opposite side in this fight, or who will wind up on the opposite side as events unfold, we ought to regard this as a bloody tragedy. And I think we have to accept that, and press on anyway. I think we should fight boldly, fiercely and proactively for certain key values such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech, to protect the lives and dignity of those who exercise those freedoms, especially against Islam, and intentionally to diminish Islam, which threatens them. I do not think that we can get out of this fight or prevail otherwise.

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I Apologize In Advance For These

By Armed Liberal at 22:31

As someone who appreciates a good title or headline, I'll offer you The Headlines of the Day:

Republicans Want to Turn Over a New Page

and the one that has my oldest sons seriously depressed:

Scarlett Johansson: 'Not Promiscuous'

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Airbus: Mayday for the European Way

By Joe Katzman at 21:32

Amidst all the other issue clutter these days, my perch at Defense Industry Daily has given me a window into a largely-ignored event: the slow-motion collapse of Airbus, that monument to Euro-socialism and pan-European flagship. It would be trite to say its key problem is that it's run by Europeans in the European vision, but this would also be more or less true.

See DID's coverage of BAE Systems' sale of its 20% stake in Airbus... even though the assessed valuation was less than half of what BAE expected. The Board's rationale for the sale is damning, and the 99+% shareholder approval that followed was worse. Meanwhile, EADS shares continue to spiral downward, and management & governance looks like a Keystone Cops episode. Giovanni de Briganti, of Defense Aerospace, has an excellent current overview that includes this excerpt:

"Politicians and trade unions of all stripes are calling for calm, deliberate resolution of employment and structural issues, even as analysts are cutting valuations, A380 buyers are demanding financial penalties for late delivery, and investors are selling off their EADS shares."

It gets worse.

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North Korea

By Armed Liberal at 17:42

As Joe mentioned, we were all having dinner when I got a call telling me that the Norks had set off a bomb.

I bumped an Examiner piece I'd done called "What's a Hawk To Do?" (which I'll extend and put up here soon), and did a quick piece on my response instead. It's up at the Examiner site right now, go check it out and let me know what you think here.

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Pillars of Government Week, Part I

By Grim at 13:58

Cassandra of Villanious Company has decided to take a whole week to respond to "Time for a Change." She wishes to explore some of the ideas in greater detail than a single post. This is surely a useful undertaking given the depth of problems discussed and the seriousness of the proposed remedies.

For those of you who may not know Cassandra, she is one of the most thoughtful and thorough bloggers working today. I was particularly honored that she felt the piece merited that sort of discussion at length.

Part I is here, and treats something I didn't examine in detail at all -- the question of the military's stability and force structure.

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The Nuclear Proliferation Nightmare -- A Retrospective

By Trent Telenko at 03:21

Now that the "Kim Regime" of North Korea has birthed the Nightmare of Rapid Nuclear Proliferation with it's Sunday nuclear test. I think a retrospective listing of "worst case posts" made here on Winds of Change on the subject of North Korean/Iranian nuclear proliferation is in order.

Starting with my 5-year anniversary September 11th prediction that North Korea was about to test a nuclear weapon:

by Trent Telenko at September 11, 2006 5:30 AM

This is my Sept. 11th prediction of the October 8th North Korean nuclear test. I make the points that
1) The Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs are not separate national programs, but are really a single, joint, international arms program;
2) That it can only be stopped via regime change in Iran,
3) That the logical assessment of the Libyan nuclear program meant If Libya could have nuclear weapons next year, Iran can have them now.
And finally,
4) That not stopping the Iranian nuclear program will lead to "A world of 20-30+ unstable nuclear-armed 3rd world tyrannies is less than a 15 years away, maybe as little as seven, if Iran succeeds in its goal of becoming a nuclear power."

by Trent Telenko at May 24, 2006 1:55 PM

Here I point out a report that Iran is getting Russian and Chinese missile warhead design help.

by Trent Telenko at April 10, 2006 4:10 AM

I make the case that the US Government has chosen to mirror image the Iranian nuclear program rather than truly assess where Iran’s policy objective will lead its nuclear weapons development program. And that the result is that Iran has several gun-type fission warheads for its Scud missiles that the American intelligence and national security establishments deny the existence of.


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Who's Afraid of Islam?

By Joe Katzman at 00:13

Tashbih Sayyed, the Editor in Chief of Pakistan Today and The Muslim World Today, writes:

"Should I as a Muslim be happy about the situation? After all, these apologies and advances made by radical Islam confirm that the Muslims are winning in their jihad against the "infidel" world. The Judeo-Christian World is on the defensive and has chosen to lay down its arms at the feet of the religious fascists instead of standing up for its ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom.

But I do not feel any happiness or see any victory in finding that the world fears the Muslims. IN FACT I AM SAD. I do not want to be feared. I want to be respected, accepted and loved. The very fact that the world is appearing to be afraid of Muslims concerns me a great deal. I am afraid that the Muslim extremism is pushing this world to a point from where its rescue will be almost impossible. I do not see anything good in the situation.

The fact that the world fears Muslims speaks volumes about the image of my co-religionists. The image is definitely not good. People do not fear GOOD. They fear EVIL. And Muslims have somehow have failed to convey to the world that they are good."

It's a worthy article - can Islamic societies be "stronger at home and respected abroad"? That's certainly an important question when a religion chooses to confront several companion civilizations in a warlike manner, all at the same time. But the question ultimately goes deeper.

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October 9, 2006

Why North Korea is the Wrong Focus

By Joe Katzman at 08:19

As fate would have it, I was sitting in a local Italian restaurant with Marc Armed "Liberal" Danziger when the call came in at around 8:30pm California time. Kim Jong-Il, the star of "Team America: World Police" and also incidentally the ruler of North Korea, had set off a nuke. Later research at home turns up the 4.2 quake near Chongjin, an area that doesn't have much of anything in the way of seismic activity history. That isn't a 100% lock as a nuke test... but I'd put it around 90%. Especially given that a Hiroshima size nuke in a chamber 100-150 ft. cubed would be expected to produce about this size quake.

So the day has likely come, as it inevitably had to. And with it comes the question: "Now what?"

And my first answer is: Forget North Korea. No proposal involving their government, from idiotic talk of sanctions (what, we're going to cut Kim out of the movie remake?) to even dumber and more craven responses around "rewards" (read: appeasement and a license to keep cheating) is worth even 10 seconds of your time. Search and boarding activities for ships from North Korea may be helpful, and preparations for that have been underway for a while, but ultimately this doesn't solve the problem and raises risks whenever used.

If you want to fix the problem, you have to see and understand the lever.

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US Troops Land in Indochina.

By Demosophist at 04:35

When I saw that intro trumpeted in the 1950s on our black and white Hoffman TV as a "special report" I knew, with the certainty of gravity, that the headline would somehow grab me up in the sweep of history. This happened some time before I reached puberty, and I can't recall the exact year, but I knew those events would profoundly affect my life. That's the way I now feel about The Recent N. Korea Nuke Test.

I sincerely hope I'm just a dumb ignorant human who can't see around corners, but my guts are giving me the same message now that they did then. This is ugly. We've passed a point of no return.

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BREAKING: North Korea Tests Nuke

By evariste at 04:21
North Korea Says Nuclear Test Successful
North Korea said Monday it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test. The country's official Korean Central News Agency said the test was performed and there was no radioactive leakage from the site.
S. Korea detects signs of N. Korea's nuke test
SEOUL, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea received intelligence on Monday that North Korea might have conducted a nuclear test, officials here said. "President Roh Moo-hyun called in an emergency meeting of related ministers on Monday to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Choo Kyu-ho said. "The meeting comes as there has been a grave change in the situation involving the North's nuclear activity."
He refused to go into further detail, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
The Bush administration sent a secret warning to the Koreans not to go ahead, or face unspecified consequences. We shall see if their dog's bite is toothless.

Omri: And The Wheels Come Off [1] [2] [3]

This nuclear test will provide much grist for the Democrats' partisan mill; they've already tried to pin the lack of progress in North Korea on the Bush Administration, contrasting it with the "progress" made under Clinton. It will be interesting for this Republican to watch the response from across the aisle. More than anything else, this test is an indicator of incredible weakness and increasing desperation, not strength. A cornered lunatic can certainly be dangerous, but was he any less dangerous when he was Albright's and Carter's darling? The knives come out in the open.

China Confidential points out that the entire Axis of Evil is escalating tensions globally in tandem. Syria's unimpressive leader has been talking about declaring war on Israel.

We are living in excruciatingly interesting times.

UPDATE: Seismographic data here. Note that the stations in China et. al. seem to show a smaller event right around the 0130 GMT reported by South Korea's government as the time of the test - and here's the specific 4.2 event near Chongjin - in an area with no historical seismic activity since 1990.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste says it was very likely a misfire. Another North Korean failure.

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Strike Two

By Demosophist at 00:37

It seems to me that the dire condition of the Republicans in congress is due, almost entirely, to their own neglect and incompetence. Their current electoral disadvantage is largely a matter of their inability to respond appropriately to the propagation of two caustic memes: 1. That the US is losing the War in Iraq and the larger War on Terror; and 2. That Mark Foley's pederasty somehow tars anyone other than himself. During today's Meet the Press Bob Woodward was treated to a profoundly sympathetic interview by Tim Russert. Not only did Russert loft a few soft pitches directly over the plate, but it was clear that Woodward had been briefed on what questions would be asked so that he'd be able to prepare responses, ready with documentation and cites (something missing from most of his book). But the primary fault of the interview was that Russert failed to challenge the basic assumption of the book, without which it reduces to total incoherence: that the US is losing. If that assumption is challenged the entire premise of State of Denial becomes evidence of a state of denial by Woodward and his supporters, about the actual condition of the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. It's also an indictment of the mainstream media's ability to make sense of facts... a flaw from which the conventional wisdom would not recover were it given reasonable credence. And by their self imposed incapacity to make a defense one could almost suspect Republicans of complicity in their own demise...

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  • JOHN RYAN: Things are not going well in either Iraq or in read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: For the first year of the war, no matter what read more
  • Mark Buehner: You know, this whole subject really makes me mad. The read more

Iraq Report, 9 Oct/06

By Andrew Olmsted at 00:07

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.


  • A U.S. raid in Diwaniya killed some 30 insurgents and netted a 'high-value target.' The identity of the target has not yet been revealed.

Other Topics Today Include: troop losses soar; Iraqi Air Force steps up; AQI leader not captured/killed; Palestinians threatened; Iraqi brigade relieved; oil to Jordan; education problems grow; securities law completed; now oil refinery opens; militias and politics separating; Carnival of the Liberated; Baker says options available in Iraq; Rice visits Iraq; victory party funds available.

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October 6, 2006

Page Prank? (Updated)

By Demosophist at 11:40

That sound you hear is the unmistakable hiss of a huge media bubble deflating. I can see Ann Coulter smirking, even as I type this...

Update: Ace of Spades has a lot more about who knew what, when. There's also this link, from the comment section of the above post, to a cached forum discussion among a number of congressional pages, including Jordan Edmund, about the possibility of publishing a Washingtonienne-type tell all book about page life on capitol hill.

Update 2: CNN broke the allegation about a page prank last night, and it was my impression that Edmund's lawyer equivocated quite a bit about whether or not it was a prank. I also heard him saying that there was a lot about the incident that was like a practical joke, which is about the opposite of what both Drudge and Michelle have him saying. I may have misheard him on the "practical joke" content, but even assuming that, his comments certainly didn't seem an unequivocal denial of the "prank" story. Therefore I still tend to think it's true. The denial attributed to him by Drudge and Malkin might be a lawyerly way of deflecting inquiry by referencing the consequences of the prank as "not a joke" rather than the original intent. He didn't speak to original intent at all.

Anyone have a clip of the interview?

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  • PD Shaw: going after 15- and 16-year-old pages I've been gone a read more
  • Robin Roberts: From Ted Kennedy to Jerry Studds, Democrats simply have no read more
  • Shad: I continue to agree with you that serious charges have read more

"Not Enough" in Iraq: A Returning Vet Speaks

By Joe Katzman at 03:23

First Lt. Hegseth served as an infantry platoon leader and civil-military operations officer in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, mostly in and around Samarra in the Sunni Triangle:

"I volunteered to serve in Iraq because I believe in our mission there. I share the president's conviction about the Iraq war--we can and must win, for the Iraqi people, for the future of our country and for peace-loving people everywhere. But I'm frustrated. America is fighting with a hand tied behind its back.... After witnessing two national elections during three months in Baghdad, my Army unit moved north to Samarra, where we spent eight months sowing the seeds of progress. While we had success in uprooting the insurgency and building the local government, it wasn't enough. We had just enough troops to control Samarra and secure ourselves, but not enough to bring lasting stability or security. "Not enough" became the story of my year in Iraq."

Worth reading in full, as it documents a story of achievement alongside inadequate resources and the very FOBbit mentality I've excoriated before.

UPDATE: Lots more commentary over at Instapundit from Iraqis, Americans, et. al., along with some good arguments.

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  • Mark Buehner: "8:59 a.m. April 16, 2006 RAMADI, Iraq ? U.S. officials read more
  • monkyboy: Has Bush allowed the Iraqis to have municipal and provincial read more
  • David Blue: #20 from davod: "The Brits took a hands off approach read more

War on Islamofascism, 2006: Nigeria, Somalia, & the African Front

By Joe Katzman at 01:08

With American politics at the height of its silly season and much attention being rightfully devoted to Iran, developments on other fronts tend to receive less attention. That's natural but unfortunate, because al-Qaeda is definitely paying attention to Africa, and developments in places like Somalia and Nigeria could become rather consequential in the coming years. Also paying attention? The US military, which may be about to set up an African Command that's distinct from CENTCOM. The anti-black genocides by Sudan's Arabs are well known - here's a few other snapshots from the front:

  • W. Thomas Smith Jr. has "Global danger from the Dark Continent," an interview with Africa expert Dr. J. Peter Pham. See esp. Pham's comments on why Africa is promising to al-Qaeda, and the future of piracy (which is already a growing problem). Question for readers: if "nation building" is not a viable future strategy, what exactly are our options in Africa?
  • J. Peter Pham also writes: "Nigeria at the Crossroads." al-Qaeda has designated Nigeria as one of its "6 most qualified" targets. Meanwhile, despite more than $300 billion in overall oil revenues over the past quarter-century, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has collapsed by more than 75% over the same period. Last fall, I heard Christopher Hitchens also designate Nigeria as a key country to watch. Here's why, and some of what's going on.
  • An African Taliban. Covers developments in Somalia, where a very Taliban-like situation is emerging.

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  • David Blue: Thanks for the link, Gundek. "Operation Enduring Freedom ? Trans read more
  • Gundek: Take a look. OEF T/S read more
  • Joe Katzman: Monkboy, sorry about those flashbacks. But y'know, they DID warn read more

October 5, 2006

Time for a Change

By Grim at 18:01

Chester recently discussed apocalpytic feelings. Some of you suggested they are prominent because our models are breaking. That is a point on which I agree: our models and institutions are both breaking.

I argue at length here what I think are some of the key flaws, and how they may be repaired.

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  • Chis Tomi: Online Store with Romanian Media Products: Music, Movies, Books and read more
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'I Learned to Handle Myself'

By 'Callimachus' at 01:48

Part 2 of 3 of a series written by my friend Kat, who was a contractor's employee in Iraq for almost two years: "You'll Never Know What We Did" | " I Learned to Handle Myself..." | "I Wasn't Chasing Blood"

She refutes the media's excuse for not covering the Iraq reconstruction. The introduction to the series is here. The series hinges on an interview with Dexter Filkins of the "New York Times" in which he says the media can't cover the reconstruction work ongoing around the country because doing so would be too dangerous to the media.

Her post about that drew a faintly hostile comment from "Bob," insinuating she was just pushing "a larger GOP talking point," implying her work in Iraq was less dangerous than that of a New York Times journalist, and challenging her to prove her right to criticize the media.

This is her response. Part one is here.

[by Kat]

You're apparently upset that I come down hard on Dexter and the NYT. That's understandable, but stay with me a little here.

I didn't have lots of guards. I had Iraqi nationals working for me who had to worry about being shot. I had to help them figure out safe lies, figure out safe ways to go home. I had to teach the girls working for me how to do their jobs because they'd never had a really good job before. I also had to try to protect and watch out for them. Girls working for us sometimes also needed support with lies about their jobs, travel information, and occasionally security for travel.

The lying extended to producing false job-related paperwork for their cars and to carry on their persons. From three different offices we "sold" orders for detergents, orders for cell phone batteries, and sandals, and produced an array of paperwork to support those claims.

And that's not about me taking care of myself, Bob. That's about my people, my employees, who half the time couldn't get their jobs done unless I was there to help them.

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  • Kat: For Chew. It's late here in Bangkok and it's been read more
  • chew2: It is clearly dangerous for any western reporter to travel read more
  • Roger: Just a comment about "Bobs" comments. According to a report read more

October 4, 2006

Apocalypse Everywhere

By Chester at 21:07

[Greetings, Winds readers. This is Chester from The Adventures of Chester. Here's a new post, humbly submitted for your reading and commenting pleasure.]

Kurt Andersen recently discussed the draw of apocalyptic ideas in a piece in New York Magazine entitled, Why Everyone Has Apocalypse Fever:
Millions of people - Christian millenarians, jihadists, psychedelicized Burning Men - are straight-out wishful about The End. Of course, we have the loons with us always; their sulfurous scent if not the scale of the present fanaticism is familiar from the last third of the last century - the Weathermen and Jim Jones and the Branch Davidians. But there seem to be more of them now by orders of magnitude (60-odd million "Left Behind" novels have been sold), and they're out of the closet, networked, reaffirming their fantasies, proselytizing. Some thousands of Muslims are working seriously to provoke the blessed Armageddon. And the Christian Rapturists' support of a militant Israel isn't driven mainly by principled devotion to an outpost of Western democracy but by their fervent wish to see crazy biblical fantasies realized ASAP - that is, the persecution of the Jews by the Antichrist and the Battle of Armageddon.

When apocalypse preoccupations leach into less-fantastical thought and conversation, it becomes still more disconcerting. Even among people sincerely fearful of climate change or a nuclearized Iran enacting a "second Holocaust" by attacking Israel, one sometimes detects a frisson of smug or hysterical pleasure.

As in the excited anticipatory chatter about Iran’s putative plans to fire a nuke on the 22nd of last month - in order to provoke apocalypse and pave the way for the return of the Shiite messiah, a miracle in which President Ahmadinejad apparently believes. Princeton’s Bernard Lewis, at 90 still the preeminent historian of Islam, published a piece in The Wall Street Journal to spread this false alarm.
Andersen hypothesizes that while there have always been apocalypse-obsessed groups, the reason they seem to have sprung so vividly into the public consciousness is due to a collision of demography and culture:
I don't think our mood is only a consequence of 9/11 (and the grim Middle East), or climate-change science, or Christians' displaced fear of science and social change. It's also a function of the baby-boomers' becoming elderly. For half a century, they have dominated the culture, and now, as they enter the glide path to death, I think their generational solipsism unconsciously extrapolates approaching personal doom: When I go, everything goes with me, my end will be the end. It's the pre-apocalyptic converse of the postapocalyptic weariness of the hero in The Road: "Some part of him always wished it to be over."
Andersen is a bit too tough on Christians for my taste, but his article is still pretty interesting and should be read in its entirety.

Nevertheless, let me offer a different explanation for these various competitive apocalypses:

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  • Fred: Bart Hall (#31) is the only one of you equipped read more
  • Augustine Aquinas: I would say that the elites are not necessarily subscribers read more
  • P. Ami: I'm out of the loop as regards End of Days. read more

Do Something

By Armed Liberal at 19:58

Ali Eteraz is on a tear again...this time he's writing to ask people to take action to save seven women sentanced to be stoned to death for adultery in Iran.

He's got facts, impassioned argument, and useful links. Go over, take a look, and do something.

'Stand Against Women Stoned to Death You Apathetic Monsters'

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  • lunacy: Ali. I wrote a letter to Busharaff. And I'll write read more
  • monkyboy: That's a tough question, Halcyon. I'm still nominally a Republican, read more
  • Halcyon: Ah, well, that explains a bit. What do you consider read more

In Forests of the Heart

By Demosophist at 18:53

VDH doesn't think very much of Woodward's latest. I don't recall exactly how many times Woodward insisted, in his interviews on FOX, that his facts were totally accurate and his analysis "tight", but the reality is that he can't verify more than half of what he says, let alone how he interprets it. Of the more controversial evidence, he probably can't verify more than 10%. If someone suggested that he were 90% false, Woodward would be correct in observing that such an the assertion can't be proved, but that's chiefly because the fellow who invented Gotcha Journalism, hasn't provided enough information to allow an objective observer to put his sources to test.

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  • David Blue: #2 from ww-hq: "From what I have heard about the read more
  • ww-hq: From what I have heard about the book, the larger read more
  • FormerDem: On Woodward's lack of credibility, Michael Ledeen wrote, persuasively: "There read more

Forward Into Print

By Armed Liberal at 18:26

Adam Bellow has been telling me for a year that he wants to bring back pamphleteering - not just the style of it, which has pretty well extended itself into blogging ("Blogging as modern-day pamphleteering" being a pretty well-accepted trope), but in the fact of it - little paper booklets you can buy in odd places like coffee shops, train stations, news racks. Booklets about serious things, because he believes as I do that the average American can take attention away from Survivor and Paris Hilton's coochie to read, think, and talk about things that matter if they are presented in an accessible way.

Well damn if he hasn't actually pulled it off.

He's publishing a 3-part series by Michael Totten on Hiz'bollah. And it will be the first, I hope, of a long series of works he will put out under his own imprimatur: The New Pamphleteer. Their website is at, check it out. I just bought the first set, and suggest that you take a look and consider doing it as well.

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  • davod: This needs to be taken further. I would suggest that read more
  • M. Simon: A.L. Thanks for the heads up. I have sent in read more
  • Rulen: I bought a set and look forward to using them read more

The Human Condition Is A Comic One

By Armed Liberal at 06:46

I think a lot about the contingency of history, about the essentially random events that wind up turning our lives one way or another.

My strongest reaction to the news of "The Foley Scandal" was a kind of amusement that the course of future events might wind up depending on one self-righteous pervert's lack of sexual self-control. I mean think about it - while I don't think these elections will irreversably impact the intermediate future we all face, they'll be important - and the results may well turn on some dumbass Congressman's inability to keep it zipped when teenage boys are around. How can you say that the human condition isn't a comedy?

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  • AMac: Thanks, PD Shaw. It seems modest enough to want to read more
  • PD Shaw: The consensus amongst the radio and news organizations in Shimkus' read more

The Monty Python Rule

By Tim Oren at 01:00

(Posted at the suggestion of Armed Liberal)

Q: Shut your festering gob, you tit! Your type really makes me puke, you vacuous, coffee-nosed, maloderous, pervert!!!
M: Look, I CAME HERE FOR AN ARGUMENT, I'm not going to just stand...!!
Q: OH, oh I'm sorry, but this is abuse.

M: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.

/(short pause)//

A: No it isn't.

For those who don't recognize the source, here is the Python's argument sketch.

This door (WoC) is labelled 'Argument' in the spirit of #2 above. Those who enter only to receive or dish out abuse and contradiction may find themselves unwelcome. There are many other doors on the Web where you can find what you seek.

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  • J Aguilar: Just a five minute argument? Or a full two hour read more
  • Daniel Markham: "No it isnt!" Yes it is! read more

October 3, 2006

Will Tom Be Remembered After Mark?

By Demosophist at 19:45

I haven't posted about Mark Foley because there's just too much I don't know. I noticed that none of my co-bloggers on Winds of Change have posted about it either, so far. My friend, Pat Conlon on Born Again Redneck, who is a homosexual conservative Republican, makes a case that this isn't an issue about pedophilia, as has been characterized, but about homosexuality. That makes sense, but it's only one of a number of things about which I'm uncertain. Here are a few others:

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  • Patrick Joubert Conlon: PD, that was a delightful typo and you are so read more
  • PD Shaw: Ummmm, psychedelically should have been psychiatrically. Bad spell-check. Bad. read more
  • PD Shaw: pedophilia is defined by psychiatry, not by law. Well, psychedelically, read more

Phone Call

By Armed Liberal at 04:07

He asks: "So can she call you, then?"

And you reply - because you're polite - "Sure, go ahead and give her my number," because you don't really think she'll call. And what would you say to the mother of the man who died riding the motorcycle that crossed the centerline and caused the head-on collision that almost killed one of your good friends?

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  • Fletcher Christian: Maybe he wasn't a bad person, but he was an read more
  • NukemHill: You are a mensch, AL. Good on you. Fletcher, you read more
  • Mark Poling: In my late teens and early twenties I had a read more

October 2, 2006

The Horns Of A Dilemma

By Armed Liberal at 16:44

Leftist Muslim blogger Ali Eteraz has been beating the drum about the Pakistani divorce reform proposal, and feeling kind of lonely in doing so.

Today, he uses this history to talk about the interaction between domestic reformers with the Muslim world and Western progressives.
This might be part of the reason that so many Muslim 'reformers' like Irshad Manji, Hrsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, end up becoming a "chamcha" (joke for insiders) to the neo-imperial right. They become unhappy with the progressives for seeming so "distant" from activism and so flock to those who seem "all up in the bizness" (even if its the worst way to do bizness). It's a sort of Reformist Dilemma I discussed earlier.

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  • monkyboy: Why not take the word of the pros, A.L.? Here's read more
  • Armed Liberal: monkeyboy, let's have some fun. Write up 500 - 800 read more
  • Mark Buehner: AL, I understand the logistics involved, im working with his read more


By 'Cicero' at 16:30

I love forests. New England, my new home, has no end of them. This time of year the trees are beginning to quake with fall color. Red and yellow branches are beginning to lash out of the green canopies that shroud this land. Soon the leaves will briefly dominate the hills in a quiet fire, then fall to the ground like ash, waiting for the embrace of snow.

My wife and I just completed a westward journey across the state of Massachusetts. We wound up in the small town of Stockbridge, near the New York border along the road to Albany. Stockbridge, Massachusetts is considered to be an American icon. It was dubbed as such by another American icon, Norman Rockwell, who painted American icons during America's most iconographic era. He spent many years in Stockbridge. The people and settings there were the subjects of many of his canvases that celebrated the American spirit.

We visited his museum. Every single painting on its walls were the originals of reproductions I'd seen hundreds of times. One painting that had been etched in my mind, long before seeing the original, was his depiction of a snowy Main Street in Stockbridge at Christmastime.

We walked around Stockbridge and took in Mr. Rockwell's view of America. There remain the small stores and quaint colonial houses from his Christmas painting. We stood across the street from them to find the viewpoint he occupied to create his famous masterpiece. Just behind us on that corner was St. Paul's Episcopal Church. I guess it's still a church -- I don't know -- the steeple is crowned with a copper chicken, not a cross. Perhaps the congregation dwindled down too far for the building to remain a church. I couldn't bring myself to ask how the chicken made its way up there. I'm sure it found its way to the top of the pecking order well after Mr. Rockwell's time.

- - -

As Autumn breaks, the chill of winter has begun to descend from the north. With the frost I have found myself contemplating a long, cold winter.

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  • celebrim: "You seem to be arguing that because our country has read more
  • Beard: PD Shaw [21,22,24]: I'll bet that's the first time you've read more
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Iraq Report, 02 October/06

By Andrew Olmsted at 15:32

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.


  • The Iraqi government claims it is close to capturing the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayuub al-Masri. The official, however, followed up his claim with the traditional caveat, God willing, meaning the threat may be more of a hope than a promise.

Other Topics Today Include: leading terrorist killed; rough Thursday in Baghdad; AQI leader calls on Iraqis to strike U.S.; Cyprus cancels Iraq debts; oil infrastructure problems costing billions; U.S. way behind on reconstruction; al-Sadr losing control; 7,000 security forces fired; waiting to crack down on militias; Sunni leaders pledge to fight insurgency; Carnival of the Liberated; Saudi Arabia plans Iraq fence; Congress bans permanent bases in Iraq; new NIE commissioned; new Woodward book roils Washington.

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  • David Blue: US far behind in Iraq rebuild From correspondents in Washington read more
  • Davebo: As he says, we've worn out our welcome. It's a read more
  • monkyboy: I'm baffled by the low level of financial support provided read more

Technorati = Useless?

By Armed Liberal at 14:12

Has anyone else noticed that the newest version of Technorati is basically useless? Does anyone at Technorati pay attention or care?

Go over and click on a search for

Look at the results - most of them are either a) posts within WoC itself (from the 'read more' links); or b) blogrolls of sites that have update recently that contain WoC.

I went and looked for Smythe's World as a control...same thing.

Look, it would be ridiculously easy to eliminate results from within sites (or at minimum from 'read more and other set links) and equally easy to eliminate results from blogrolls. If they can't figure out how to do it, they can buy a day of my time and a plane ticket and I'll go show them.

Or I could get off my butt and build a better one...

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  • Darwin: What I find particularly useless about Technorati is the amount read more
  • Wendy: What a relief. I thought it was only me ... read more
  • Donald Sensing: Correct! My Technorati page says that I last updated my read more
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