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February 2007 Archives

February 28, 2007

If True, This Is Outrageous:

By Armed Liberal at 17:00

From Army Times, via Memeorandum:

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

"Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media," one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Army is showing itself to be colossally inept at managing it's public perception, but - simply put - to clamp down on what can only be considered an expose is wrong, counterproductive, bound to fail, and damaging to the well-being of the troops - whose conditions will be improved and chain of command held accountable when transparency is held as the highest value.

If this is a matter of ensuring that the chain of command isn't blindsided, it's worse. Because of the chain of command isn't directly aware of the conditions in the facilities they control or use, they should be retired. Immediately.


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  • tcg: Grumpy; what places like this need is more people like read more
  • Grumpy: To the writer of #4. You're a jackass! The only read more
  • hypocrisyrules: Shad, If you are equating me complaining about giving out read more
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February 27, 2007

An Intelligent Take on Anna Nicole Smith (!)

By Joe Katzman at 20:08

Amazing. I've actually found a literate, intelligent, substantive take on the Anna Nicole-Smith train wreck. Along the way, it even draws on first person experience to note that her life is not the anomaly many think - noting that very similar dramas are played out pretty regularly on "a Peg Bundy budget." Questions of free choice, social order, and philosophy then enter the picture, without making the resulting essay dull or predictable.

Pretty remarkable, given the material it had to work with. Mind you, if it can be done for Steven Segal's movie Under Siege (see: "No Ditz Left Behind"), it can be done for anybody.


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  • Dr BLT: As a singer/songwriter/psychologist, I see it this way: Hole in read more
  • David Blue: J Aguilar, I believe you. read more
  • J Aguilar: David Blue, believe me, it is very very difficult to read more

The Value Of Procrastination?

By Armed Liberal at 06:32

Kerry Dupont just pointed this Paul Graham essay out to me:

The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators. So could it be that procrastination isn't always bad?

Most people who write about procrastination write about how to cure it. But this is, strictly speaking, impossible. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing. No matter what you work on, you're not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well.

I feel so much better...but is she trying to tell me something?


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  • Mycroft: It may be symptom rather than cause involved here. People read more
  • Alberich: The German General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord famously said -- "I read more
  • Frieda: Ahhh! I needed to hear that and get validated...for years read more

Weekend in San Diego

By Armed Liberal at 06:28

So we spent the weekend in San Diego with a TG, Littlest Guy, a dear friend and her two sons, and Middle Guy and his girlfriend who joined us for dinner, along with Col. Foltyn (who I now owe even huger giri to...).

Saturday was small kid day at Legoland, which confirmed my "huh?" comment when I heard that someone was building an amusement park out of Legos...but the kids had a good time, and that meant the adults had a good time. Saturday night was dinner, at one of Foltyn's pilot hangouts.

Sunday, he gave us a tour of Miramar MCAS, and spent an hour showing three rapt ten year olds (and their equally rapt parents) the aircraft museum there, and then took us out to the flight line to watch the planes.

A World Airways MD-11 had just landed, and as we watched, a line of desert-camouflaged troops walked down the stairs onto the tarmac and briskly walked off the field to waiting buses.

We stayed a long time and watched almost all of them before the kids lost patience and started wondering why TG was teary eyed and we left.


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  • inkgrrl: Love Miramar, so glad you got to tour. Love the read more

Jesus' bones - HWGA

By Donald Sensing at 01:42

Ya'll 'scuse me while I snore though James Cameron's latest epic, ""The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which he claims will prove that Jesus of Nazareth - yes, that Jesus - was buried in a tomb in Jerusalem far from where church historians say he was, stayed there, and that a stone ossuary in the tomb, discovered in 1980, once held Jesus' bones. He also claims other ossuaries found in the tomb once held the bones of Mary, Jesus' mother, Mary Magdalene, assumed to be Jesus' wife, and Judah, son of Jesus.

Snooooooze.....

It's the latest crisis of the year for Christianity, right on time: not long before Easter.

HWGA - Here We Go Again. They've even dragged out John Dominic Crossan, ulta-left Bible scholar, a founder of the fiercely anti-Scripture Jesus Seminar. He's been claiming for many years that the foundational claim of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus, is hokum. He can be relied on by "documentarians" to reinforce anything they want to knock down the edifice.

Nuff of all that here - read the rest at DonaldSensing.com: "The Christian street won't stand for it! Oh, wait, uh, yes it will. . . ."


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  • mark: jesus rose form the dead all that was left was read more
  • Alex: Or this could have been the work of 'chief priests' read more
  • PD Shaw: Mark, it appears that names like Joseph, Jesus and Mary read more

February 26, 2007

"It Can't Happen Here"

By Joe Katzman at 21:39

Loren Thompson of The Lexington Institute:

"Back in the 1960s, before Britney and Ludicris were even born, Frank Zappa was the most outrageous act in popular music. Zappa delighted in lampooning the complacency of middle-class America, most memorably in his a capella song, "It Can't Happen Here." The message of the song was that the worst nightmares of white suburbia -- anarchy, drugs, interracial dating -- really could happen here. Like Sinclair Lewis' 1935 satirical novel of the same name, the song was a warning that no matter how safe we may think we are, we are not immune to the shocks befalling people in other places.

It seems this is a lesson that we are in constant danger of forgetting -- even though we all remember 9-11, and even though the war in Iraq provides unpleasant surprises for U.S. forces on a weekly basis. Only two months into the new year, Sunni insurgents have (1) used new tactics to down a quarter of all the helicopters lost to hostile fire since the occupation began [JK: ]see Bill Roggio's reporting from Iraq]; (2) stepped up employment of explosively-formed penetrators that can punch through most armor; and (3) started combining lethal gas [JK: chlorine gas a la WW1, and isn't that a war crime?] with high explosives in their suicide attacks. Each of these developments appears to have caught U.S. commanders and intelligence analysts off guard.

So of course the whole nation will be caught off guard when terrorists again mount an attack within U.S. borders. Even though logic and experience tell us such an attack is coming, emotionally we have been lulled by five years of peace on the home-front into believing it isn't really going to happen. That is why the Bush Administration sells its Iraq strategy on the implied guarantee that as long as we keep fighting there, we will be safe here. That is why critics in the Democratic Party feel free to attack the war effort as if there is no connection between what they say and whether terrorists are emboldened by the prospect of American retreat. Both parties, unconsciously, have fallen into the trap of believing that terrorism can be contained "over there"....


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  • alchemist: sorry, robert wright. read more
  • alchemist: You mean the ulta-right wing, super mormon who thinks we read more
  • Fletcher Christian: There needs to be a very clear message sent: A read more

On My Way to Iraq

By Michael Totten at 18:16

Sign%20Pointing%20Toward%20Baghad.jpg

I'll be spending some quality time in Iraq over the next two and a half months doing consulting work, journalism, and video -- first in the northern Kurdistan region and then in Baghdad and the heart of the Sunni Triangle.

My first job starts two weeks from now and will be another private consulting gig in Kurdistan with my business partner Patrick Lasswell. This will be my fourth trip to the region, which is becoming a regular beat for me now. I'm more comfortable there than I was when I first visited. The people, the terrain, the logistics, and the job are all familiar. The learning curve has flattened out, which means I can multitask now.

Last time I went there as a consultant I had no time for reporting or writing. This time I will because I know how to squeeze it in, even though my first obligation will be to my employers, not to my blog. I won't be able to write full time, but I will be able to give you something now and then.

This time I'm going to give you some video as well as writing and photographs. Stay tuned for taped interviews with Kurdish civilians and officials, and also some video postcards of what this place actually looks like. Kurdistan always shocks people when they see it for the first time. It doesn't look anything like the hellish images that come out of Baghdad.

read the rest and see the photos at michaeltotten.com


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February 23, 2007

Hurricanes come in cycles

By Donald Sensing at 18:59

A leading hurricane scientist disputes claims that global warming has made hurricanes worse.


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  • Jack: What we can say, based on historical ice core records, read more
  • J Aguilar: And much is being done, Seahorse_valley: investment in research on read more
  • Seahorse_Valley: Global climate is a dynamic equilibrium of such complexity as read more

D'Souza

By Armed Liberal at 01:51

You know I haven't talked about Dinesh D'Souza's idiotic book 'The Enemy At Home' because I assumed it was so transparently stupid that it would collapse of its own vacuity. His thesis (from the reviews - I don't have enough time to read all the good books out there, and I'm not burning an afternoon reading this one) is that the conflict between the nutball Islamists and the West is caused by Madonna. No, I'm serious - it's the claim he makes. From the introduction to his book, as posted on his website:

The left is responsible for 9/11 in the following ways. First, the cultural left has fostered a decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies, especially those in the Islamic world, that are being overwhelmed with this culture. In addition, the left is waging an aggressive global campaign to undermine the traditional patriarchal family and to promote secular values in non-Western cultures. This campaign has provoked a violent reaction from Muslims who believe that their most cherished beliefs and institutions are under assault. Further, the cultural left has routinely affirmed the most vicious prejudices about American foreign policy held by radical factions in the Muslim world, and then it has emboldened those factions to attack the United States with the firm conviction that "America deserves it" and that they can do so with relative impunity. Absent these conditions, Osama Bin Laden would never have contemplated the 9/11 attacks, nor would the United States today be the target of Islamic radicals throughout the world. Thus when leading figures on the left say, "We made them do this to us," in a sense they are correct. They are not correct that "America" is to blame. But their statement is true in that their actions and their America are responsible for fostering Islamic anti-Americanism in general and 9/11 in particular.

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  • california drug rehab: Andrew J. Lazarus, what is the connection between the Iraq read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: Jack, in Nov 2006 there were 185 attacks per day read more
  • lucklucky: So from where came "Western women are sluts"? Dinesh is read more

Internet Newbies!!

By Armed Liberal at 00:47

I manage to stay pretty far removed from celebrity culture - BTDT, raised in Beverly Hills.

But I do have Defamer in my RSS reader; it's the kind of ridiculous LA-centric stuff that I enjoy. And once in a while something there really tickles me.

In this case, two scathing emails by the Estevez (Sheen) brothers to a LA Times reporter are reproduced.

And my thought on reading them wasn't that they were self-absorbed, thin-skinned or ill-mannered (hint: they are).

They have aol.com email addresses. In 2007, who the heck has an aol email address as primary email? Am I just too much of a geek? Don't then know anyone who would invite them to gmail, or couldn't they even just use yahoo?

Sheesh.


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  • Armed Liberal: What, you think they're coming back? A.L. read more
  • Slickwillie: Isn't it kind of passe to criticize someone for having read more
  • Choco: I don't know anyone who would invite me (I mean, read more

February 22, 2007

It's A Conundrum Inside A Problem Inside A Puzzle

By Armed Liberal at 18:56

Marc Lynch (Abu Aardvark) has a post up that captures the nub of a problem I've been chewing on for a while. Note that I don't necessarily agree with Marc - but that it's a problem well worth thinking through.

In a nutshell, if we believe that freedom and some form of a democratic / representative government are the keys to dismantling the more violent and hard-to-live-alongside versions of Islamism - how do we deal with the problem that in free elections in much of the Muslim world today, the Islamists - the hard-to-live-alongside ones - would be likely to win?

And what do we do then? Lynch says:

This selective outrage, where Westerners care about one anti-Islamist blogger but can't be bothered about equally arbitrary and illiberal repression of hundreds of Islamists, only reinforces general skepticism that this isn't really about freedom, human rights, or democracy. It's just like the American focus on the release of jailed liberal politician Ayman Nour as a litmus test for the Egyptian regime (one which it continues to fail, by the way, without seeming to suffer the slightest penalty). I can not exaggerate how many times I hear from Arabs and Muslims that America's campaign against Hamas after it won fair elections and its blind eye to Mubarak's campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood proves once and for all the fundamental hypocrisy of its democracy talk. I am not criticizing anyone for rallying to Nabeel's or Nour's defense. They should. But they should also see this as part of a comprehensive regime crackdown on Egyptian political opposition, with the attack on the Muslim Brotherhood the leading edge of the regime's anti-democratic backlash. People who claim to care about Egyptian reform, democratization, and human rights should take a slightly wider view of the problem than the travails of one anti-Islamist blogger or one liberal politician.

I'll discuss this more when I get some time tonight...but the conundrum presented here is a serious one. If we believe we can avoid conflict by doing the right thing, and doing the right thing means handing power to people who are determined to have a conflict with us...there's a good chance we've got issues with the way we're formulating the problem.


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  • PD Shaw: The personal income of Iranians today is 2/3rds what is read more
  • Fred: You may be right alchemist. But it's hard to argue read more
  • alchemist: Fred, I would actually that your strategy is short term read more

Iranian Open Letter on Holocaust Denial Conference

By 'Molon Labe' at 15:47

h/t Norm Geras:

An open letter by a group of Iranian academics, writers, and artists regarding the Tehran Conference on Holocaust Denial

Over the past year or so a number of official and unofficial public statements have been made in Iran denying the genocide of Jews during the Second World War. The culmination of this trend was the widely publicized, so called "International Holocaust Conference", held in Tehran in December 2006. Given the serious moral and practical implications of this trend, we, a group of Iranian academics, intellectuals, writers and artists, find it imperative to take a public stance on this issue.
1- Today, several decades after the end of the Second World War, testimonies of the survivors and researches carried out by numerous historians have unequivocally confirmed the Jewish genocide during the World War. Besides the genocide of the Jewish people, historians have also spoken of the mass murders of the gypsies, the Slav people, potential and actual opponents of the Nazi regime, the disabled, prisoners of war, and even in the closing days of the war, the incapacitated German soldiers. These crimes were committed widely and in various ways, including through firing squads, starvation, long hours of forced labour in concentration camps, and massacres in the gas chambers of extermination camps. The extensive material evidence, the confessions made in the Nuremberg trials and other trials that took place after the war and the testimonies of the survivors establish the veracity of the accounts beyond any doubt. Moreover, the voluminous anti-Semitic and racist literature left from the Nazis shed light on the roots of this inhuman hysteria.

RTWT


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  • Mike: Would like to know where you found this letter and read more

Free Muslims Coalition summit

By 'Molon Labe' at 15:27
You might have received this, but if not, I'm passing it along as received:
The Free Muslims Coalition brings to your attention a Muslim reform summit that will be held in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 4-5. This summit is open to all people and we encourage you to attend the summit which will be covered by CNN's Glenn Beck show and other media personalities.

Muslim thinkers will be asking what went wrong? How did Middle Eastern cultures transform from the openness and intellectual ferment of the medieval period to the closed theocrat societies of today? Where are the secular voices of the Muslim world?

Now, bold critics of orthodoxy are calling for sweeping reforms from inside Muslim societies. With the intent of catalyzing a global movement for reason, humanist values, and freedom of conscience, delegates from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Bangladesh will assemble March 4-5 in St. Petersburg, Florida for an unprecedented Summit (see www.secularislam.org).

"This summit is proof positive that reform-minded Muslims are creating a movement. We no longer exist in isolation." Said author Irshad Manji.

The historic Summit, to be held at the Hilton St. Petersburg, will set in motion the generation of new practical strategies from the world's leading thinkers and activists. At issue will be secularist interpretations of Islam, the importance of expanding criticism, the state of freedom of expression in Muslim societies, and education.

"The Secular Islam Summit hopes to encourage a new global movement for reason, science, and secular values within Islamic societies," said Summit organizer Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, an Iranian-American activist.

To reserve, call Austin Dacey at (212) 265-2877, ext. 11; (917) 664-3855; or e-mail info@secularislam.org. For more information, visit our Web site at www.freemuslims.org

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  • ABC Communication & Advertising: nhap khau xe, nhap xe, xe cu nhap khau, oto read more
  • ABC Communication: thiet ke web, thiet ke logo, thiet ke brochure, thiet read more

February 21, 2007

Killer...Comedy

By Armed Liberal at 02:08

Because I'm despairing that this is turning into an all-war all-the-time blog, I thought I'd note that TG,some dear friends and I went to see ALL ABOUT WALKEN in Hollywood last night.

Eight impressionists, three of them women, did a variety of scenes all in full-Walken. And until you've seen Christopher Walken as a ninety-pound ingenue with a fright wig and a pitch-perfect menacing Queens accent ... well, you haven't seen much.

The opening number, a rousing rendition of "These Boots Are Made For..." kicked things off nicely, and yes, they dance. And rap. And shoot.

If you're in LA, see if you can make it by...they'll even give you a gold watch.


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February 20, 2007

Nostalgia For What, Exactly?

By Armed Liberal at 19:01

It's odd to see someone smart flatly misread something as badly as Paul Kennedy did in his oped in today's LATimes (h/t Kevin Drum who echoes and amplifies Kennedy's misreading).

Here's Kennedy:

IT WAS FUNNY, in a grim sort of way. Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates responded to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin's polemical attack on the United States by remembering the 50-year Cold War as a "less complex time" and saying he was "almost nostalgic" for its return.

Gates should know. He himself is the quintessential Cold Warrior, having served nearly 27 years in the Central Intelligence Agency (facing off against the likes of Putin, who was for 17 years an agent in the foreign intelligence branch of the Soviet KGB). So we should take him seriously when he suggests that the problems of 20 or 30 years ago were in some ways more manageable than our current global predicament.

Nor is he alone. There is a palpable sense of nostalgia these days for the familiar contours of that bygone conflict, which has been replaced by a much more murky, elusive and confusing age.

Palpable among whom, exactly? Certainly not Gates, who actually said this:

Speaking of issues going back many years, as an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time. Almost.

Many of you have backgrounds in diplomacy or politics. I have, like your second speaker yesterday, a starkly different background ... a career in the spy business. And, I guess, old spies have a habit of blunt speaking.

However, I have been to re-education camp, spending four and half years as a university president and dealing with faculty. And, as more than a few university presidents have learned in recent years, when it comes to faculty it is either "be nice" or "be gone."

The real world we inhabit is a different and a much more complex world than that of 20 or 30 years ago. We all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in partnership with other countries, including Russia.

For this reason, I have this week accepted the invitation of both President Putin and Minister of Defense Ivanov to visit Russia. One Cold War was quite enough.

[emphasis added]

So what the hell? The "One Cold War was quite enough" quote got wide play in the news at the time. Someone explain this to me? And as someone who reads a lot of foreign policy news and no little number of articles, who, exactly in the foreign policy commentariat is nostalgic for a cold war?


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  • Robohobo: Hmm - Seems some commentors here need to read Wretchards read more
  • Robert M: Robin If I haven't read or understood what Gates is read more
  • lucklucky: I am personaly think it is less worse that a read more

Power, Faith, and Fantasy -- An Interview with Michael Oren

By Michael Totten at 19:00

PORTLAND, OREGON -- Renowned American-Israeli historian and best-selling author Michael Oren is touring the United States promoting his new book Power, Faith, and Fantasy, a sweeping history of America's involvement in the Middle East from 1776 to the present. It's the first and only book on the subject ever written, and it's current inching toward the top of the New York Times best-seller list for non-fiction.

I first met Michael Oren under Katyusha rocket fire when he worked as a Spokesman for the IDF Northern Command in Israel during last summer's war against Hezbollah, and I met him again when he came to my home town of Portland, Oregon, last week on his book tour.

MJT: So tell us, Michael, why does America's involvement in the Middle East 200 years ago matter today? What does it have to do with September 11 and Iraq?

Oren: Well it matters, Michael, because many of the same issues that Americans are facing today in the Middle East were confronted by America's founding fathers -- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington. For example, they had to confront the issue of state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East. They had to face a threat to the United States, and decide whether to generate military power and then project that power thousands of miles from the United States. They had to decide whether to involve the United States in an open-ended and rather expensive bloody war in the Middle East. This was, of course, the Barbary War, America's first overseas military engagement and America's longest overseas military engagement. It lasted from 1783 to 1815. During the course of this engagement, as my book shows, the United States was confronting a jihadist state-sponsored terrorist network that was taking Americans hostage in the Middle East. It's very similar to what is going on today.

MJT: They were more than hostages, they were slaves, weren't they?

Oren: They were slaves. But beyond the military component -- the book is not a military history, it's also a diplomatic, cultural, artistic, and economic history -- I wanted to show Americans today that our experience in the Middle East has very deep roots. Overall it's a story of magnificent things that America did for the Middle East. It wasn't always about confrontation, it was also about schools and hospitals and building for development and artistic inspiration and cooperation.

Read the rest at Pajamas Media.


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  • Robohobo: Where's Davebo? He certainly needs to read this one. That read more
  • Armed Liberal: LOL, I missed meeting him by like 100 feet - read more

The Other Iraq

By Michael Totten at 03:36

If I could distill everything I heard, saw, and learned in the Kurdistan region of Iraq into a 12-minute video, it would look a lot like this. (Fourth video on the right.)

Click that link. Watch. This is marvelous work from 60 Minutes, some of the best mainstream media journalism I have seen out of the Middle East, the absolute antithesis of Diane Sawyer's useless interview with Syria's Bashar Assad last week.

I only caught one factual error. The Iraqi flag is not banned in Kurdistan. It still flies in the city of Suleimania, but it's the old version of the flag before Saddam Hussein wrote Allahu Akbar on it.

60 Minutes has done truly excellent work capturing the essence of this lovely place and these wonderful people and editing it all down into such a brief and comprehensive introduction.


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February 19, 2007

Iraq Report, 19 Feb/07

By Andrew Olmsted at 18:15

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.

TOP TOPICS

  • Multiple bombings in Iraq killed 15 and there are reports of U.S. troops engaging insurgents north of Baghdad, one day after three blasts in Baghdad killed 63 and undermined claims the surge was beginning to have some effects against the insurgency.

Other Topics Today Include: bombings in Kirkuk; Rice to Baghdad; false hope during sweep; Iraqi failing to spend reconstruction dollars; dollar demand up; Iraq: better than GM; Iraq approves 2007 budget; Bush says Iraqis meeting goals; Iraq thanks Jordan; Iraq starts anti-Aliso campaign; U.S. wasting billions in Iraq; U.S. to accept refugees; Hashim pleads innocent; Marine gets eight years.


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  • Jonathan: #4 Democracyrules, Dude your the James Joyce of Iran!!!! read more
  • DemocracyRules: [NM: All-caps rant elided] read more
  • PD Shaw: I thought this was an important story from yesterday: Iraq read more

Another Plame Post

By Armed Liberal at 05:24

This is maybe the fourth post I've done on the Plame thing. In the first I pointed out that being less than candid about something like this was stupid on the part of the White House.

In the second, I made basically the same point.


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  • avedis: hypocristrules seems to me to be the only one here read more
  • carsick: If clear knowledge of status and proof of intent are read more
  • sbw: Noise is no substitute for reason. And frequently it draws read more

February 17, 2007

Arguments And Assumptions

By Armed Liberal at 19:14

There's a technique of argumentation I call "burying the answer in the assumptions" where you frame a problem in such a way that the conclusions are forgone. I'm very careful of that style of discussion in my day job, because lots of it involves leading groups of people toward a consensus and I want to make sure it's a genuine one.

Kevin Drum has a post up on the delusions of the pro-war crowd, and I'll suggest that he's neatly buried the answer in his assumptions:


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  • Andrew J. Lazarus: SG, if Bush is so big on spreading democracy, why read more
  • SG: #48: Actually, I believe we've tried to steer Lebanon toward read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: SG, there were a lot of other countries in the read more

The Victory Caucus

By Armed Liberal at 16:08

NZ Bear - who was the catalyst for Porkbusters, and may have single-handedly triggered the 'no entitlements' revolution, is at it again. he's apparently started (I say apparently because I haven't talked to him in a while) "The Victory Caucus" which intends to focus the energy of people who - well, believe in winning the war as an option.

I'll make some time and talk to him about it, but will suggest that he's showing the power of doing stuff while many of us spend far too much time worrying about stuff. A lesson I need to think about for a bit, I think.


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  • Andrew J. Lazarus: The latest surge of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, like all read more
  • Molon Labe: You assume that the marine bombing was done by Hezbollah read more
  • handle: Kurds need patronage but they like the Russians a lot read more

Bush And Iran - Full House or Ace-High?

By Armed Liberal at 14:50

I want to raise a heretical notion: I actually think that Bush is playing a bad tactical hand well in Iran.

Look, there is no way in hell that he's going to undertake meaningful military action against the Iranians. A few shells may get lobbed at boats that approach the fleet too closely, and I have no doubt that our Special Ops community is doing whatever it is they do in situations where they don't get to "blow shit up and kill people." But the political cards within the US are dealt, and Bush's hand does not include an "Invade Iran" card.

That doesn't mean things aren't happening, or that we should be paying close attention. many sources have commented on the increasingly fragile grip on power of the populist nutjob Ahmadinejad. Having three carrier groups offshore has to be a source of internal pressure, as does unanimous UN resolutions cracking down on international finance, a declining oil sector, etc. etc.

From Global Voices, some Iranian opinions:


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  • SAO: I agree A.L., which is why I would totally be read more
  • Kirk Parker: it's time for some frank - and clear - thinking read more
  • Alex Forshaw: "tagryn" is dead-on in pointing out the double Zahedan bombing read more

February 16, 2007

"Consensus" and global warming

By Donald Sensing at 18:50

One of the claims continually put forth by the media about global warming is that there is a "scientific consensus" about it. So let's take a look at just what is a "scientific consensus" and how does the concept relate to the debates about climate change.

At the start we must distinguish between scientific fact and scientific consensus. A scientific fact was defined by geologist Stephen Jay Gould in a Time magazine interview (Aug. 15, 1999) as "a proposition affirmed to such a high degree that it would be perverse" not to assent to it. In this sense it is a fact, for example, that the noble elements are naturally inactive in combining with other elements. The process used to discover facts about the world must be describable by the investigator and repeatable by others using the same method of inquiry. At a very basic level, that is how science works. This process presupposes that nature works the same way now as it worked before and the same way that it will work later.

But a collection of facts do not comprise scientific knowledge any more than a pile of feathers makes a duck. Facts, though crucial, are intermediary. Facts must be interpreted. Scientists relate facts to formulate theory. The major usefulness of theories is to make predictions and inferences about nature, what it is and how it works and how it will work.

Ultimately, theories that interpret facts, and that can be used to predict accurately future events within the theoretical scope, come to form the basis of scientific consensus. Example: NASA doesn't re-investigate the nature of gravity every time it wants to send a rocket into space. There is a scientific consensus about gravity resting on the affirmations of gravitational theory to such a high degree that it is literally pointless to reopen investigations of gravity just to shoot another rocket. True, at the far reach of theoretical physics there is not a consensus about gravity's nature, but theoretical physicists do not launch rockets. Practical scientists and engineers do. And they are in consensus about gravity insofar as gravity affects their work.

What the media have generally failed to distinguish in their coverage of global warming issues is the difference between the consensus that the earth is warming overall, and the lack of consensus about the causes of the warming, especially the degree of warming attributable to human activities.


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  • Poptech: NO 'Consensus' on "Man-Made" Global Warming "Let's be clear: the read more
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  • SPQR: "...best predictions show they're far outweighed by the negatives." That's read more

February 15, 2007

My Examiner Column Is Up

By Armed Liberal at 14:58

My latest Examiner column is up...it opens:

I don't think I've ever wanted to be wrong about something as badly as I do about the Middle East.

Take a look and comment here.


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  • alchemist: Jim... is there ever a time when you're going to read more
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  • mark: Rob, Just to widen the context here: the whole point read more

February 14, 2007

The Most Disgusting Thing I've Seen On The Blogs This Week

By Armed Liberal at 06:26

...and that includes the delusional posts from Amanda Marcotte (hey, is she related to Deb Frisch?).

Uber-liberal lawyer-blogger Steve Smith has the temerity to post this disgusting mess on the Internet where children and the politically naive can be forced to sit through it. Wait till the next Moscone Schmidt Dinner (currently thinking end of March)...


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  • Mitch: Two words: David Hasselhoff You have been warned. read more

Haunting the Senate

By 'Callimachus' at 03:11

This is an abbreviated version of this, a relic from a time when some Senators took their jobs seriously in setting American policies in the world, including specific military policies, and not just launching balloons full of partisan hot air.

You can read it merely in terms of "there is no new thing under the sun," or you can think about it in practical terms (always demand a Declaration of War if you're going to go to war).

Or you can ponder the nature of opposition in legislature, and the ease with which even a moderately accomplished speaker such as Calhoun was judged to be was able to vigorously oppose the war and support the troops at the same time with perfectly patriotic rhetoric. It's a difficult trick, but it's not brain surgery. The ability to talk of liberty and freedom and virtue without rolling eyes and giggles and scare quotes certainly helps him, doesn't it?

But do read it:


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February 13, 2007

The Fiercest Liberal in Lebanon

By Michael Totten at 19:03

Walid%20Jumblatt%20Beirut%20House.jpg

BEIRUT -- I met the wizened Druze warlord and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt during Hezbollah's ongoing slow-motion putsch to topple Lebanon's government. No other high-profile "March 14" leader matches Jumblatt's fierce opposition to Syria's Assad regime, its Iranian patron, and its Hezbollah proxy militia. He spends most of his time in his castle at Mukhtara high above Beirut in the Chouf mountains, but he took time out between meeting members of the Socialist International at his house in the capital to meet me for coffee in his salon.

Jumblatt's history with the imperial Baath government is a long and twisting one. His father Kamal was assassinated by Syrian agents during the civil war in 1977. The details of the assassination are shrouded in mystery even today. In the most common version Baath-aligned terrorists in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party pulled the trigger. Another (unreliable) version of the story goes like this, as told to me by a young Druze friend while we stood on the murder site in the Chouf: Kamal Jumblatt was ambushed on the forested road by two Palestinian gunmen. The Palestinian hit men reported to Damascus after the deed was finished. Two Syrian exterminators then shot Assad's Palestinian agents and buried them in the desert. The two Syrian hit men were then murdered by yet two more Syrian hit men, all the better to cover the tracks of original and cover-up crimes.

I don't know what actually happened. Syria's decades--ong assassination and terrorist war in and against Lebanon has always been fought, serial killer style, from the shadows. Diabolical theories about the precise methods of Syrian terrorism serve Syrian interests just as much as the murders themselves serve Syrian interests.

Shortly after inheriting his father's leadership position, Walid Jumblatt was summoned to Damascus by its ruthless ruler Hafez Assad. When he meekly objected to what the Syrian regime expected of him, Assad smiled and lovingly said "You know, Walid, I look at you sitting there and you remind me exactly of your dear father."

A Lebanese friend drove me to his house and warned me that security would be tight at the gate. "The Syrians, Michael, if they catch him they will cut off his head."

Sure enough Jumblatt's security agents leapt from their plastic chairs and aggressively approached me at the entrance. They weren't hostile, as Hezbollah's security agents often are, but they moved fast as though they expected I might draw a weapon and open fire at any moment.

read the rest at michaeltotten.com


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February 12, 2007

Iraq Report, 12 Feb/07

By Andrew Olmsted at 14:43

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.

TOP TOPICS

  • The insurgency celebrated the first anniversary of the bombing of the Golden Dome in Samarra with two car bomb attacks that left at least 80 dead.

Other Topics Today Include: suicide bombing in Tikrit; Iranian diplomat kidnapped; VCSA says no changes to enemy tactics; new hospital approved; UN claims Iraq blocking Oil-for-Food; health minister detained; Carnival of the Liberated; U.S. accuses Iran; new trials for Marine and officer; rebuilding the Army's gear.


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One Thing I Like About Obama

By Armed Liberal at 02:49

...the man is just damn quick on his feet.

John Howard, the Australian PM, slammed Barak Obama by name in a speech on Australian TV.

"If I were running al-Qaida in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."

I'm really not very thrilled about foreign (ahem-Saudi) nations (like the Saudis) meddling too deeply in our internal politics. I thought Howard stepped cleanly over the line with that remark.

He could have said that he was deeply concerned that US political leadership continue in its role in opposing terror, or something of that ilk which would have made his point without choosing teams.

I stuck that into the 'to blog' queue (which is long, BTW) and then pulled it out when I read Obama's brilliant retort:

"I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1400, so if he is ... to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.

"Otherwise it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric."

Point to Sen. Obama, I'd have to say...now I have a longer post in the queue about him and the Democrats, and the struggle within my very soul over what to do in '08. But he gets props for that reply.


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  • David Blue: (laughing) I didn't realize that was the situation, but now read more
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  • David Blue: "US veteran joins chorus of outrage at Howard" John Murtha, read more

February 11, 2007

Robespierre And Ecstatic Communalism

By Armed Liberal at 23:42

Here's something that bugs me...

...about the current state of left intellectualism (not the Euston folks...). From the L.A. Times review (yes, not the book, and a cautionary note must be inserted) of Barbara Ehrenreich's new book "Dancing In The Streets"

...[her] rhetoric reaches a fever pitch in her description of France in 1790; she gets caught up in the public celebrations on the first anniversary of the revolution, and her unabashed intellectual enthusiasm electrifies these pages. "With the shared wine and food, the dancing that wound through whole cities and out into the fields, this has to have been one of the great moments, in all of human history, to have been alive."

Yup. 1790 in Paris. One of the great moments in human history to have been alive. See also 'Romanticism and Terrorism'...


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Arkin Steps Out Of The Closet

By Armed Liberal at 18:56

Deborah Howell, the Post ombudswoman, has a piece up on l'affaire Arkin.

It's a reasoned, establishment take on blogging, is appropriately critical of Arkin - even though she understates the loathsomeness of what he said - and includes one gem that needs to be held up and examined.

Arkin is unrepentant about two things: He works for The Post. Period. And he said he is "probably one of the best-known and respected anti-military military bloggers."

I hadn't seen that before, but it pretty accurately sums him up, doesn't it? So - two questions fall out from that exposition. How in the world can the LA Times or other news media justify calling him 'a military analyst' (as opposed to 'an anti-military analyst')? And what an interesting story he himself must be. Someone who has built a career and spent his life closely studying something he seems to hate so much. And what is it that he opposes? Note that his commitment isn't general - to the issues of appropriate or inappropriate French or Russian military policies or actions. It's not about demilitarizing the world. It's aimed squarely at diminishing the role and effectiveness of the U.S. military.


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Two Americas, Indeed

By Armed Liberal at 18:35

There are two charities that I typically support - the St.Joseph Center in Venice, CA, which does incredible work with low-income families and the homeless (for now, at least...), and the Long Beach Opera, where I serve on the board.

Each charity typically does an annual fundraiser and auctions off random items, and I typically buy random things depending on my enthusiasm, solvency, how closely TG is monitoring me, and how much free wine I've had to drink.

Two years ago, I bought a gift certificate at a men's store in West Hollywood (and yes, I deducted the cash value of the certificate from my donation when I took credit for it year-end). It was for $500, and I figured I could get a couple dress shirts and a tie, or a blazer, or something.

Yesterday, in an effort to broaden my clothing choices from black Gap polo shirts, Royal Robbins pants, and Vans - something TG and others have teased me for quite undeservedly - I went to the store.


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  • Grim: I'm with you. Though even in flyover country, if something read more
  • Paul Moore: $500! My entire wardrobe isn't worth that, including shoes. If read more
  • PD Shaw: I don't know, the last time someone told me about read more

Armedliberal.com Bites The Dust...

By Armed Liberal at 01:14

So the archives of my old Armed Liberal blog are apparently gone forever. I'd been hosting for free with a friend who neglected to mention that he was stopping payment and shutting the server down. Yes, he should have said something to me - but yes, I should have backed it up. We'll share the blame once I stop being so irritated.

I'll see what I can reconstruct from saved files now that I control the domain. If you participated in a comment threat there, my apologies - I owed you more care than that.


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  • Dusty: Thanks Shad, that listing was a big help. read more
  • James Joyner: "Which is wy I love blogspot. The fees are right. read more
  • M. Simon: Which is wy I love blogspot. The fees are right. read more

February 10, 2007

Crooks, Liars, and the Unfair

By Armed Liberal at 15:38

Nicole Belle, over at John Amato's Crooks and Liars has a brief look at l'affaire Arkin, and springboards from there to a look at Internet argumentation and to make a plea for civility.

Not on Arkin's part, mind you...ad hominem, slander, and dishonesty on his part are summed up as:


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February 9, 2007

Andy X

By Armed Liberal at 15:12

So commenter Andy X threatened to flatten Rev Sensing's nose. I gave him a shot at explaining, and he declined, so I went to ban his ip - which, it turns out, was also used by Andy L, Cheshire Cat, j vanderroy, J.G. Paul and Carol Rodriguez.

So either it's a dynamic IP, or he's got a lot of friends who comment from his computer. For now, I'm banning the IP. Joe and I will discuss and see what the best course of action may be.

Don't threaten people on the Winds premises. Period. Full stop. And never comment under a name not readily identifiable by casual readers as you.

Update: There are posts from Andy X on different IP's,so the charge of sock puppetry - although suggestive - can't be proved and should be dropped. it's worth noting, however that everyone posting from AndyX's IP- Andy, Andy L, Andy X, Carol Rodriguez, Cheshire Dog, Greengrass Liberal, j vanderroy , J.G. Paul , Murrow , Over and out , Palumbo , The Mountaintop , Walter's Ridge , Wizener - share a certain - point of view and tone.

It's not terribly relevant, because Andy's banned regardless for threatening to punch Rev. Sensing. Andy, I'll unban your IP (since others appear to use it), but will kill any further posts you put up.


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Shocked, Just Shocked To Discover...

By Armed Liberal at 05:48

So bored and slightly cranky, I surf around and go to Joe Gandleman's blog - 'The Moderate Voice.' Joe is a smart guy and a good writer, even if his definition of moderate is less iconoclastic than mine.

He's got a post up on the Edwards Bloghorrea thingie, which centers on the notion that bloggers will now be - heaven forfend - closely scrutinized if they are associated with major political campaigns. What next? Urine tests for Tour de France riders? I'm more than a bit baffled at his concern.


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February 8, 2007

Hank Johnson's Iraq Resolution

By Joe Katzman at 22:56

Rep. Hank Johnson's office [D-GA-not McKinney] called me to talk about an Iraq Resolution (non-binding) the freshman Congressman wants to introduce. They're getting a number of calls from people in the district who aren't happy with the current spectacle in Washington they see on TV, so they're trying to come forward with something more constructive than "we don't like this." That part, I applaud.

Of course, getting anything to the floor when you're a freshman congressman isn't easy. Barring outside pressure, this one won't see the light if day.

I'm reproducing the resolution below, along with a couple of comments and a link to Hank's blog. Which he's using well, speaking in the first person, saying what he thinks in the voice of a human being, and asking for comments and thoughts. Does the content match, and can it get Hank over the hump? You be the judge. Then, I'll tell you what I really think...


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  • Glen Wishard: Thorley, I was one of those who donated to Johnson, read more
  • Garrett: how about if we allow the military planners to set read more
  • PD Shaw: Thorley, you really think it would be no different than read more

Saudi "Terror Financing" Arrests: Some clues

By Terror Finance Blog at 22:34

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced on February 3, 2007 the arrest of 10 suspects "carrying out illegal activities including collecting donations illegally ... and sending them to suspected parties".

The announcement raises questions as to its real objective, as most of the suspects were know for years by the Saudi government as political dissidents. Some were previously detained.

Sulaiman Al Rushudi, a lawyer, was one of the cofounders of the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights (CDLR) in London in May 1993 closely linked to Osama Bin Laden. He was arrested in September 1994 along with several clerics and was detained for several years. Another CDLR founder, Saad Al-Faqih, has been listed as SDGT in 2004. Also arrested is Essam Al Basrawi, a lawyer who defended reformists during Saudi trials in 2004. Another suspect is a former cleric and attorney, Musa Al Qarni, who had publicly supported Jihad and was a personal friend of Osama Bin Laden during the Afghan war.

Were these arrests really related to "terrorism financing"? And if so, why did the Saudi government act only today when these individuals have been under surveillance for years?

By Jean-Charles Brisard of the Terror Finance Blog


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Almost Half Of IEDs In Iraq Defused By GIs

By Robin Burk at 19:00

From Aerospace Daily & Defense Report. (No link - sorry.)

U.S. troops are now finding and defusing nearly half of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq, and casualties from the devices are holding steady despite a sharp increase in the number being placed, according to the chief scientist for the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

The number of IEDs being found and cleared has gone up five- or six-fold since 2004, according to Col. Barry Shoop. The number of monthly IED incidents doubled over the course of 2006, but less than 10 percent are now causing casualties, he said. This is largely due to the effectiveness of jammers that prevent the signal that arms the device, as well as improved vehicle armor.

Nonetheless, IEDs remain the number one killer of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shoop likened the situation to the U-boat problem of World War II, for which there was no "silver bullet" solution, requiring instead a mix of offensive and defensive capabilities as well as science and technology work to counter the submarines.

Most IEDs in Iraq are made from unspent ammunition, of which the JIEDDO estimates there are 70 million tons still in the country. In Afghanistan the devices are mostly converted land mines. In other countries, IEDs are more likely made of homemade explosives, he said at the Precision Strike Association's Winter Roundtable in Arlington, Va., Feb. 1.

The most lethal type of IED is the Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP), which makes up only about 2 percent of the devices found but accounts for a very large percentage of the U.S. soldiers killed by IEDs, Shoop said.

EFPs are often built into replacement curb sections, or fake rocks. They are triggered by passive infrared devices and often armed by a call made to a cell phone. The blasts are set at specific angles to hit the weak points on Humvees and so-called "icon vehicles" such as Strykers and M113s, Shoop said.

To counter the devices, the JIEDDO has been investing in a wide variety of technologies, ranging from jammers to unmanned aerial vehicles to robots such as iRobot's PackBot. A version of PackBot dubbed "Fido" is capable of "sniffing" a potential IED for traces of explosive vapor.

Troops are receiving extensive IED training prior to deployment at the Joint IED Center of Excellence at Ft. Irwin, Calif. There they must train with low-power surrogate jammers, Shoop said, because if the full-power jammers being used overseas were activated domestically they would raise the ire of the Federal Communications Commission and FAA.

COL Shoop is an Academy (think: tenured, senior) Professor at West Point with a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford. He is the Director of Region 1 of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a member of the Board of Directors of both IEEE (the international society) and IEEE-USA. He was tapped temporarily to lead JIEDDO's research efforts.

Just one example of the ways in which the US Military Academy faculty are supporting the GWOT, over and above teaching cadets. Thought our readers might want to know these efforts are bearing fruit.


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Edwards Reacts

By Armed Liberal at 18:12

From the Edwards 08 website...

John Edwards:

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.

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  • Andrew J. Lazarus: Andy X, let's not omit that those 2006 Kos choices read more
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Paying Up...

By Armed Liberal at 06:41

Two years ago, Jonah Goldberg offered to bet Juan Cole $1,000 that the Iraqi and American people would - in two years' time - feel strongly that the war was worth it (and that there would be no civil war, and some other related points).

Now I'll yield to very few people in my low opinion of Professor Cole and his views.

But a bet's a bet. And Goldberg is now skirting dangerously close to the man-law violation of welching.

Here's my take. Jonah, write a check for $1K to Soldier's Angels. They can use it, and it will improve your karma. Cole may not have accepted the bet, but that doesn't mean you didn't make it.

And monkyboy, wherever you are - that goes for you, too. Pay up, dude. Your soul will be lighter for it.


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When The Personal Voice Gets A Little Too...Personal.

By Armed Liberal at 06:19

There's quite an uproar over the Edwards' campaign hiring bloggers from Pandagon and Shakespeare's Sister with the right blogs thumping their chests (and laughing) in outrage(and the outrage bleeding over to the MSM), and the left blogs circling the wagons and demanding that the Edwards campaign not abandon the netroots - or else..

Boy, there's a lot to unpack here. Let me take a shot.


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Dumb & Dumber: Toward a Truly Immoral War in Iraq

By Joe Katzman at 03:45

Donald Sensing covered this at the time at the end of "Killing is the Sine Qua Non of War." Over in Iraq, Bill Roggio was the first person the break the story about the likelihood of Iran's role in the kidnapping and murder of 5 American soldiers in Karbala Provincial center - a contention the Pentagon's report agrees with. Meanwhile, American helicopters are going down to SA-7 variants over Sunni areas - a missile manufactured under license by Iran, one not possessed by Saudi Arabia, and a weapon not previously used very much in the conflict. As all this happens, the people now running this war show us that stuck on stupid hardly begins to describe them...

"A plan by the Bush administration to release detailed and possibly damning specific evidence linking the Iranian government to efforts to destabilize Iraq have been put on hold, U.S. officials told FOX News.... the evidence would contain specifics including shipping documents, serial numbers, maps and other evidence which officials say would irrefutably link Iran to weapons shipments to Iraq.

Now, U.S. military officials say the decision to go public with the findings has been put on hold for several reasons, including concerns over the reaction from Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - as well as inevitable follow-up questions that would be raised over what the U.S. should do about it."

I see. The Iranians run weapons to the Sunnis and Shi'ites, send personnel in country, and make every effort to kill US soldiers. But American leadership wouldn't want to expose this because (A) the guy who keeps threatening to incinerate Israel and destroy America might react badly, and (B) people would ask us why we aren't doing anything about it, like f'rinstance why we've been releasing Iranians when we capture them in Iraq, so they can go kill more American soldiers. That might make us look bad, or force us to make hard decisions. Better to keep quiet.


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  • BruceR: A pedantic point: the SA-7 and its variants (ie, the read more
  • Ian Coull: Treefrog, You are probably right about 'total war' being a read more
  • Treefrog: But a state of war is supposed to engage and read more

February 7, 2007

On the Top Floor of Lebanon's Civil Society

By Michael Totten at 18:36

BEIRUT -- On March 14, 2005, Lebanon captivated the world when one-third of the country demonstrated in downtown Beirut and demanded free elections and the withdrawal of the occupying Syrian military dictatorship.

March%2014%202005%20Beirut.jpg

A nakedly imperialist Baath government was defeated by its foreign subjects, and it was defeated live on TV. Lebanon had pushed itself far out of the Middle East mainstream and liberated itself from what Ghassan Tueni calls "the great Arab prison." Later that year Ghassan would see his son Gebran, An Nahar newspaper editor and a member of Lebanon's parliament, murdered on a hillside road above the city by a Syrian car bomb. Beirut's spring was a short one, and may yet go the way of a similar uprising that exploded in Prague in the late 1960s before it was smashed under the treads of Soviet tanks.

The Assad regime in Damascus brooded over its loss of face, property, and cash flow in Lebanon, and responded with a vicious campaign of terrorism and murder in the streets of Beirut. The city started to look once more like its old frightening self when it epitomized urban disaster areas. Hezbollah's unilateral instigation of war with the Israelis and their ongoing now-violent push to topple the government make Lebanon look more like Iraq than it looks like Prague.

I've contributed to this image myself with my own writing and photographs, though I try not to do so. The unspoken media rule "if it bleeds, it leads" applies to blogs and independent journalists as much as it does to mainstream media reporters. Warmongers, terrorists, and jihadi fanatics are more interesting to read about than quiet shopkeepers who never hurt anyone and wished they lived in a normal country. I am well aware that my recent work portrays a skewed image of Lebanon, but it's hard to avoid in the media business.

So I met up with Eli Khoury, one of my old acquaintances from the Beirut Spring, who I met immediately after March 14 two years ago while the Syrians were still rulers of Lebanon. Eli was one of the elite of the movement back then. He still is today even while he and his kind get almost no press. They are, for the most part, staying home, hugging their flags, and waiting for the darkening Hezbollah storm to blow over or explode in conflagration.

read the rest at michaeltotten.com


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Afghan Reality

By Joe Katzman at 07:55

Bill Roggio nails the core reality of the Afghan front, as he discusses the failed British 'peace agreement' with the elders of Musa Qala, which has led to the town being overtaken by the Taliban. A local NATO offensive is imminent:

"As long at the Taliban and al-Qaeda maintain the sanctuaries in Quetta and the Northwest Frontier Province, the Afghan government and NATO forces will remain fighting a holding action. All of the offensive actions inside Afghanistan cannot destroy the massive Taliban infrastructure that has been built up over the past several years during the Pakistani government's neglect of this serious problem."

Roggio describes NATO ISAF's effort to keep up the pressure by going after the Taliban now, before the spring. In fairness, they are having some success. The USA is also involved, and their new winter clothing set is paying dividends. But Roggio's reality remains, NATO is several thousand troops short of the alliance's commitments in Afghanistan, and the latest reports say there is little likelihood that European countries will actually meet their declared obligations.

On a potentially brighter note. Roggio adds that Pakistan may be about to undertake operations in Waziristan again, following a string of suicide bombings in Pakistan. Their last operations led to the surrender of control over Waziristan and other western provinces, and the release of 2,500 al-Qaeda and Taliban cadre - more or less everyone they'd captured over the last 5 years. It also the suicide attacks, attempts on Musharraf's life, the murder of quite a few Shi'ites in all likelihood, and pretty much what you'd expect devotees of Deobandi Islam to do.

Perhaps this time, Pakistan will use regular soldiers instead of frontier irregulars. Perhaps this time, they won't lose 3,000 people trying. If they fail again, however, the USA is going to have to undertake a radical rethink of its Afghanistan strategy. In all likelihood, however, that won't happen until Afghanistan proves to be the graveyard of the NATO Alliance as well as the Soviet empire.

UPDATE: Wolf Pangloss has some near-term thoughts, all good. See again Roggio's depiction of the fundamental long-term reality.


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February 6, 2007

When Chickenhawks Attack

By 'Callimachus' at 23:27

Armed Liberal here has been all over William M. Arkin, who wrote That Column (which I also execrated, here) and who now has written That Response. I have a slightly different take on it.

Arkin got a lot of negative feedback. Some of it, predictably, was bilious and crude. The typical newspaper columnist response would be to pick out two or three of the crudest responses and hold them up as examples of everyone who disagrees with him and say, "See? See?"

Arkin, to his credit, goes to the edge of that precipice but doesn't jump. Oh, I am sure he was tempted: he goes so far as saying his strident critics "represent the worst of polarized and hate-filled America" and he talks about "the campaign to annihilate me." But he's a blogger first, not a journalist. So mostly he takes it.

What's amusing to me is to see an anti-war left-sider confront the chickenhawk meme, which apparently was dumped on him in industrial quantities. I've said all along that that beast, though now the left's pet, was going to bite more asses on the left than the right.


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Denazification of America

By 'Callimachus' at 23:20
In response to the recent George Soros quip and the debate over it (here) I went through the Wikipedia entry on Denazification in the American sector of Germany and simply changed the names and dates and a few other details to make it the future, not the past. So this is what these people approve of for America, eh?
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067 directed President John Edwards’ policy of deNeoconization.

The United States initially pursued deNeoconization in a committed though bureaucratic fashion. For this process five categories of responsibility for anyone over the age of 18 residing in the U.S. were identified: major offenders, offenders, lesser offenders, followers, and exonerated persons. Ultimately, the intention was the "re-education" of the American people.

In early 2009, 90,000 Neocons were being held in concentration camps, another 1,900,000 were forbidden to work as anything but manual labourers.

A report of the Institute on re-education of the Red States in June 2008 recommended: "Only an inflexible longterm occupation authority will be able to lead the Americans to a fundamental revision of their recent political philosophy." On 15 January 2009, however, a report of the Democratic National Committee (classified as restricted) stated: "The present procedure fails in practice to reach a substantial number of persons who supported or assisted the Neocons." On 1 April a special law therefore transferred the responsibility for the deNeoconization process to the White House chief of staff, who established 545 civilian courts to oversee 900,000 cases.

The deNeoconization was now supervised by special ministers like Dennis Kucinich in Ohio. By 2010, however, with the Islamist War now clearly in progress, American attentions were directed increasingly to the threat of jihad; the remaining cases were tried through summary proceedings that left insufficient time to thoroughly investigate the accused, so that many of the judgments of this period have questionable judicial value. For example, by 2012 members of the Republican Party like Rudy Giuliani could be declared formally deNeoconized in absentia by a government arbitration board and without any proof that this was true.

In December 2009 U.S. President John Edwards justified his refusal to alleviate the induced famine of the Midwestern population: “though all Red Staters might not be guilty for the war, it would be too difficult to try to single out for better treatment those who had nothing to do with the Neocon regime and its crimes.”

The Information Control Division of the White House had by July 2009 taken control of 37 newspapers, 6 radio stations, 314 theatres, 642 movies, 101 magazines, 237 book publishers, 7,384 book dealers and printers. It’s main mission was democratisation but part of the agenda was also the prohibition on any criticism of the White House.

In addition, on May 13, 2010 the White House council issued a directive for the confiscation on all media that could contribute to Neoconism or militarism. As a consequence a list was drawn up of over 30,000 book titles, ranging from school textbooks to poetry, which were now banned. All copies of books on the list were confiscated and destroyed, the possession of a book on the list was made a punishable offence.
[edited: Typo fixed]
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Coloring The Hat...

By Armed Liberal at 22:03

I'm taking a quick break from work to point you to William Arkin's latest. As a non-veteran, I've been closer to amusement than anger over his (predictable) slip of the mask. But the latest actually kind of pisses me off. Here's what he says:

The many e-mails I've gotten privately from people serving in the military are, not surprisingly, the most respectful and reflective. Some correspondents are downright indignant, some are sarcastic, and most are hurt by the "mercenary" epithet and my commentary. But they are philosophical about their service and where we are in the war and the country today.

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Taking The P**s...

By Armed Liberal at 15:37

Jeff Jarvis points to a Guardian column by Charlie Brooker about Macs and PC's. It's an age-old topic, and I'm agnostic about it, but the British are just freaking amazing at trash-talking - a skill that few Americans seem to really have down, in spite of the fact that many people try. Maybe P.J. O'Rourke?

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, "I hate Macs", and then I think, "Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?" Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.

Cue 10 years of nasal bleating from Mac-likers who profess to like Macs not because they are fashionable, but because "they are just better". Mac owners often sneer that kind of defence back at you when you mock their silly, posturing contraptions, because in doing so, you have inadvertently put your finger on the dark fear haunting their feeble, quivering soul - that in some sense, they are a superficial semi-person assembled from packaging; an infinitely sad, second-rate replicant who doesn't really know what they are doing here, but feels vaguely significant and creative each time they gaze at their sleek designer machine. And the more deftly constructed and wittily argued their defence, the more terrified and wounded they secretly are.

One can only aspire...


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The Moral Case for the Surge

By Donald Sensing at 14:50
My colleague, the Rev. John Krenson (RCC), writes that a [NM: Bare link, contra WoC policies: tsk-tsk; corrected] (link to donaldsensing post) positive moral case can be made for the surge and new strategic direction of US forces in Iraq. An excerpt:
This war was a just war in 2003 and still is in 2007. Being a tough war doesn't make it less just. Abandoning Iraq to assuage our emotions while leaving the Middle East to a blood bath and/or return to institutionalized terror would be a vicious and immoral thing to do. As Christians and in the tradition of Aquinas, and Calvin for that matter, we are just to wage this war and we are morally obligated to win. Fortitude and perseverance are the gifts that are needed today - the fortitude to win and the wisdom to recognize our moral obligation to persevere.
Food for thought!
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Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (1957-2007)

By Terror Finance Blog at 00:00

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama Bin Laden's brother in law and Al Qaeda financial facilitator, has been reportedly shot dead on January 31 in Madagascar.

The news comes only days after the Philippine press published on January 22 the last interview of Abu Sayyaf leader’s Khaddafy Janjalani, who was recently killed by the Philippine police and whose brother, the Abu Sayyaf's founder, was recruited by Khalifa according to the Philippine National Police.

In the interview Janjalani stated that "Jamal Khalifa was a philanthropist who helped Moro and other mujahideen in this world. Our friendship with them is dictated by necessity, convenience and the need to help one another. They needed at that time volunteers for Afghanistan, while we needed money to buy arms, ammunition and other necessities." He added that "we reciprocated their assistance by providing them volunteers." Janjalani reported that Khalifa and Ramzi Yousef, the first WTC bomber also involved in the 1994 Bojinka plot to hijack airplaines over the Pacific, provided Abu Sayyaf with $122,000. CNN reported two days before his killing that Khalifa had denied the charges.

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa served as a front for Osama Bin Laden in establishing numerous organizations, corporations and charitable institutions in the Philippines in the 90s. He hosted and provided funding to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 planner, and many other known terrorists through the IIRO office in the Philippines, designated by the US Treasury Department on August 8, 2006.

Mohammad Jamal Khalifa was indicted in Jordan for being involved in the bombing of a movie theatre. He was sentenced to death in absentia, on the basis of charges that he had conspired to commit terrorist acts as part of an organization established, among other things, "to fight Jews and Americans," according to court records. Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was deported to Jordan after his arrest in 1994 and retried there on terrorism charges. He was acquitted and returned to Saudi Arabia.

Although labelled a "senior Al Qaeda member" by the US Government, Khalifa was still freely running businesses in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

By JC Brisard of the Terror Finance Blog


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February 5, 2007

Mythbusting E85

By Donald Sensing at 22:29

Note: I invite reader comment for this post and welcome fact and arithmetic checking. Just please stay civil!

E85 is a motor-vehicle fuel consisting of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline by volume. Pure ethanol’s ambient-temperature properties require it to be combined with gasoline to useful as a consumer fuel. Fifteen percent gasoline is the most common mixture.

There are two major drawbacks to using E85. George Will explains one:

Ethanol produces just slightly more energy than it takes to manufacture it. But now that the government is rigging energy markets with mandates, tariffs and subsidies, ethanol production might consume half of next year's corn crop. The price of corn already has doubled in a year. Hence the tortilla turbulence south of the border. Forests will be felled (will fewer trees mean more global warming?) to clear land for growing corn, which requires fertilizer, the manufacture of which requires energy. Oh, my.

In fact, I read not long ago (sorry, no link) in another article that it takes about one gallon of diesel fuel to produce one gallon of ethanol. Diesel is used in ethanol production to clear fields, produce and apply fertilizer, harvest the crop and transport and store it. Because processing the corn into ethanol requires electricity, diesel or some form of fuel oil is likely used to produce the electricity, too, since hydropower is the corn states is pretty rare. Further, E85 can't be piped except for short distances, certainly not state to state.

[A]n ethanol-gasoline mixture can't be piped, because the two ingredients separate, which could cause the fuel to damage a car's engine. Ethanol has to be transported on the road, a much more costly endeavor than sending it through a pipe. ... "'Corn is in the center of the country and gasoline consumers are on the coasts,' he [Dr. Darren Hudson, a professor of agricultural economics at Mississippi State University] said. 'So transportation costs can be quite high -- roughly double the cost of shipping gasoline' or about $1.20 per gallon of ethanol."

Transporting E85 will require diesel fuel and lots of it. That aside, replacing 109 ounces of gasoline per gallon with ethanol results in less usable energy than 128 ounces of of plain gasoline.
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The new global-warming meme

By Donald Sensing at 22:24
Three days ago, I asked whether global warming was really worse than the alternative, global cooling.
I've always kind of suspected that underlying much of environmentalism is a desire for the impossible: stasis. For the earth will either get warmer or cooler, but it definitely won't stay the same. Even if everyone were to agree that the globe really is warming, can we please see some scientifically-sound documentation that it is worse than the alternative?
Comes now the estimable syndicated columnist, George Will, with a Newsweek piece, entitled, "Inconvenient Kyoto Truths," subtitled, "Was life better when a sheet of ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there?"
Are we sure the climate at this particular moment is exactly right, and that it must be preserved, no matter the cost?
It's a meme, folks! Get aboard! Now, to be fair, Will wrote his column before I posted by essay, given the lead times in the mainstream punditry industry. But, still, it's pretty good company, eh wot? (I mean that Will is keeping . . . .)
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The Beirut Branch of the Mossad

By Michael Totten at 18:54

BEIRUT -- Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization in the world after Al Qaeda. In 1983 a suicide-bomber drove a truck into a U.S. Marine barracks south of Beirut and killed 241 Americans with a single gigantic blast.

Beirutbarr.jpg

President Ronald Reagan then withdrew American forces from Lebanon which had been sent as a peacekeeping force during the civil war. The U.S. won't likely ever return. Hezbollah has calmed down, somewhat, and no longer poses a serious threat -- military, terrorist, or otherwise -- to the United States.

More Lebanese than you probably think want Americans to return, even so. Not the majority, to be sure, but a sizeable minority, perhaps no smaller than the those who wish to be ruled once more by the Syrians, or by the Iranians. You will meet these people if you go to Beirut, and you will meet lots of them.

One prominent Lebanese who wants to see the U.S. come back is Toni Nissi. He heads up the Lebanese Committee for UNSCR 1559, an NGO which advises and lobbies the Lebanese government and the international community for the disarmament of illegal militias in Lebanon as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. Hezbollah, of course, is at the top of that list.

Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has ramped up his criticism of Toni and his NGO lately by bullying journalists into putting him on a blacklist and by denouncing him on television as "the Beirut branch of the Mossad." Pay Nasrallah's slander no mind. He also, hysterically, says Lebanon's Sunni Prime Minister Fouad Seniora is a "Zionist hand" for slowly, with baby steps, moving toward Hezbollah's disarmament.

If there were an appetite in the United States for more military action in the Middle East, Iran and Syria would be far more likely candidates than little Lebanon. The worst of Lebanon's problems would largely disappear with the Syrian and Iranian regimes anyway if it comes down to that. An adventure in Lebanon would require effort more productively spent somewhere else.

Lebanon's pro-American interventionists are worth listening to, even so. They have their reasons for wanting the superpower back in. Seeking foreign patronage is an old habit in that country. Many say it's Lebanon curse, and they're probably right. Either way it is, for good or for ill, typically Lebanese. Every major religious group in Lebanon -- Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Shia Muslims -- are a minority. All have, or recently had, foreign sponsors. Those who don't play along suffer relative to the others.

I met Toni Nissi in his office in Beirut. No Israeli flag hung on the walls, nor did portraits of Ariel Sharon or even George W. Bush. My American colleague Noah Pollak from Azure magazine joined us.

read the rest at michaeltotten.com


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Iraq Report, 5 Feb/07

By Andrew Olmsted at 01:32

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.

TOP TOPICS

  • A car bomb killed 132 in Baghdad on Saturday, setting a new record for the largest loss of life since the war began. Described as being in a Shiite market, Mohammed at Iraq the Model says the market was in fact used by all Baghdadis. The Iraqi government has vowed to crack down on militants in response to the attack.
  • President Bush will ask for $245 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an additional $100 billion for the rest of fiscal 2007 and another $145 billion for fiscal 2008. The Bush administration is forecasting only $50 billion in war expenses for fiscal 2009.

Other Topics Today Include: Yon reports from the front; suicide bomber slips through; Roggio with the MiTTs; surge to start Monday(?); U.S. changes chopper tactics; Haifa Street completed in Basra; 4/2 Iraq Division celebrates new school with 2-7 Cav; Rafsanjani calls for religious support; Carnival of the Liberated; Iraqis flood Jordan; Lamani quits; Senate debates Iraq; Watada trial to begin.


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February 4, 2007

Web 2.0 In <5 Minutes

By Armed Liberal at 18:00

In my professional life, I'm getting more and more into explaining Web 2.0 to large companies, and trying to lead them toward embracing dialog with their employees and customers. That's not something I planned, it just happened as I started to push clients toward agility both internally and externally as a way of dealing with impending collapse of projects and programs.

It's challenging to explain, concisely, exactly what I'm talking about - which has pros and cons (as long as it's difficult, I guess I'll get more business...).

Here's someone who's done - I think - a really good job. From the blog 'Tony's Drivel on Computer Programming in Education' comes Michael Wesch's video on Web 2.0...


Check it out and comment.
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Roggio: Trainers & FOBbits

By Joe Katzman at 17:17

I've written about the mentality behind many of the Forward Operating Bases in Iraq before, and the poor prioritization that shortchanges the front lines in favour of REMFs. See "FOBbits and Failures in Iraq," and also "Not Enough" in Iraq: A Returning Vet Speaks". Now Bill Roggio is back in Iraq, and doing fine work as usual. He, too, addresses this issue - here's an excerpt from "Inside the MTTs in Anbar":

"One of the greatest complaints heard among the soldiers and Marines in the MTTs (in both Fallujah and Khalidiya, as well as the Police Transition Team in Fallujah) is the lack of support from the rear. While publicly their mission is considered the utmost priority, there is resentment that they are not receiving the resources needed from higher command.... This has created an "us against them" mentality between those outside the wire of the FOBs, and the "Fobbits," the soldiers and Marines living in the rear. This is understandable. Having spent time in both the FOBs and in forward positions, the disparities between the two are easily seen....

Two experiences stick out in my mind which highlight the disparity between the FOBs and the troops serving on the front lines. As I left Iraq in December of 2006, I transited through Taqqadum Air Base (or TQ). I watched engineers and civilians install the gargantuan 20-odd foot high Texas barriers around the transient tents at the LSA (Life Support Area - the airbase where those moving to & from TQ move through). TQ rarely gets mortared, and when it does, the mortar fire is inaccurate at best. When I returned just 3 weeks later, the 20 plus transient tents at the LSA were surrounded, and more barriers were being set up to surround additional tents. This was time, energy, equipment and materials that could be put to far better use supporting the troops outside the wire, where the danger is far greater by several degrees of magnitude...."

See also Roggio's relay of commentary in his article re: 'The PC War,' and 'Detainees and Cognitive Dissonance.'


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February 3, 2007

On An Even Lighter Note.

By Armed Liberal at 16:00

My neighbor and friend N. has a son, A., who is Littlest Guy's age. Both Littlest Guy and A. were asked to test for the "GATE" (Gifted And Talented Education) track - basically the 'honors' track. They test for this from third to fifth grade in our district, and both boys are in fifth grade.

N.'s dad and mom also live in the neighborhood (N. grew up down the street from where I live), and once a week they go out for a family meal.

He & I had coffee yesterday, and he told me what happened at this week's meal. Note: this will work much better if you read it out loud...

N. to A.: "Tell Grandpa your news."

A.: "I will have GATE testing next week."

Grandpa: "What!! What are you saying!!"

N.: "A's getting tested for GATE! Isn't that wonderful?"

Grandpa: "How can you say that! Are you crazy?"

N. (concerned): "Dad, it's a real honor, why are you upset?"

Grandpa: "They test for this in fifth grade, now? What are we coming to?"

N.: "Wait, dad, what in the world is the problem?"

Grandpa: "They are going to gay-test A.!!"

N.: "Yes, exactly! He will test for GATE."

Grandpa: "How can you accept that? Gay-testing a boy his age!"

N: "Yes, GATE testing."

Grandpa: "Oh, God what is the world coming to, gay-testing a boy like A."

N's wife, S.: "Grandpa, what do you think we're talking about?"

Grandpa: "Testing to see if A. is gay, of course! What an outrage! How can you sit still for this?"

N. covers his face, S. laughs...

Sometimes pronunciation is the key to successful communication...


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Pieter Kropotkin, Motorcycle Tifosi

By Armed Liberal at 07:09

On a lighter note, let me recommend the specialist blog 'Kropotkin Thinks' - no, it's not about anarchism, or anarcho-syndacalist communes, or the violence inherent in the system

It's one of the best sources of information on the upcoming MotoGP World Chapionship series out there. No, seriously.

Take this, for example:

Yamaha has announced that Valentino Rossi will be staying with them for the 2008 season as well as 2007. The contract was announced to put a premature end to speculation that Rossi could once again leave MotoGP to race four wheels, either in Formula 1, or, much more likely, in WRC Rallying.

~~~ UPDATED ~~~

Both Rossi and Lin Jarvis make explicit mention of "concentrating on racing" in the press release. This seems to me, and to most observers, to be an implicit admission that Rossi's flirt with Formula One last year was a contributory factor to the problems Yamaha suffered at the beginning of the season. After Rossi's appearance in the WRC Rally of New Zealand, speculation began once again that Rossi would leave MotoGP at the end of the year to go Rallying. This speculation has finally been put to rest.

Valentino Rossi being Valentino Rossi, that is, one of the biggest names in professional sports, speculation will, of course, continue. People as diverse as the head of Ferrari, the head of Formula One, and the head of WRC have all stated that Rossi would be more than welcome in their sport, in some cases even hinting that a deal was close to being made. Mostly, these statements have been made in the hope that some of Rossi's public charisma will rub off on their sports.

It is almost certain that Rossi will switch to WRC at the end of his MotoGP career. His annoucement that he will be entering the Rally Of Great Britain at the end of 2007, seems merely to confirm this move. Rallying is his second love, after motorcycle racing, and offers a viable new career path after he retires. But, fortunately for motorcycle racing fans, we still have at least two more years to enjoy his astonishing skills.


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Arkin's Role

By Armed Liberal at 01:58

I may be offbase in characterizing Arkin's relationship to the Post. Because I read the Post online, I ass-u-me that what's online is also what's in print.

Here's a comment from Arkin's post "The Arrogant and Intolerant Speak Out":

Seems that the WaPo ombudsman (Deborah Howell) was kind enough to respond to me today:

"Arkin is a columnist only for washingtonpost.com. He does not write for the newspaper. I am the ombudsman only for the newspaper. I suggest you write to jim.brady@wpni.com"

So...The paper disavows it's relationship with their own online edition and it's writers?

Posted by: LAH | February 1, 2007 04:58 PM

I'm not sure how this changes my reaction, or whether it does.


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February 2, 2007

Arkin For The Left

By Armed Liberal at 07:00

Just as an interesting note, I did one fast pass on Technorati (which sucks, BTW) looking for feedback from the leftish blogs for Mr. Arkin - BTW, he's done another non-apology, about which I'll try and comment tomorrow - and found only one, from a smallish blog called Dymaxion World:

It's funny that such a mild rebuke (to my ears) should be getting Arkin raked over the coals. It seems that some people are so in love with the rhetoric of war that it causes them to lose their senses, and make profoundly undemocratic -- anti-republican, if you will -- arguments. To say that we can't criticize a war because it would risk hurting the soldiers' feelings is insane. Soldiers serve the public. We owe much to them -- most importantly, not to waste their lives on shitty unwinnable wars -- but at the end of the day, we call the shots.

Why the politically inopportune silence? Well, there's a lot more to it than that...but I want to make a better argument, so it'll wait a bit.

I'll leave you with a final quote, from Charles Brown, a former anti-sanction protester:

To be perfectly frank, we were less concerned with the suffering of the Iraqi people than we were in maintaining our moral challenge to U.S. foreign policy. We did not agitate for an end to sanctions for purely humanitarian reasons; it was more important to us to maintain our moral challenge to "violent" U.S. foreign policy, regardless of what happened in Iraq. For example, had we been truly interested in alleviating the suffering in Iraq, we might have considered pushing for an expanded Oil-for-Food program. Nothing could have interested us less. Indeed, we even regarded the paltry amounts of aid that we did bring to Iraq as a logistical hassle. When it suited us, we portrayed ourselves as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization and at other times as a political group lobbying for a policy change. In our attempt to have it both ways, we failed in both of these missions.

The problem I have with much of the progressive antiwar left - the soil from which Mr. Arkin sprung - is that the fundamental challenge to them remains maintaining a 'moral challenge' via-a-vis the U.S. and the West. It's liberation theology, writ small.


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Running Interference

By 'Cicero' at 04:16
I live in Boston's backyard. I've been hearing the buzz and fuss about the 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force' guerrilla marketing campaign snafu:
The US city of Boston was snarled in traffic jams January 31st as police investigated hoax boaxes with flashing lights placed around bridges all over the city. Turner Broadcasting Systems had hired people to plant the strange devices around the city of Boston to market a television cartoon called "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" which has a movie coming out February 23rd. Road and rail traffic was disrupted by the Police as they investigated the hoax and removed the boxes within emergency protocols for bomb scares. Two men alleged to have placed the boxes have been charged, and Turner Broadcast Systems apologized. Boston's mayor will pursue compensation to the city for the cost of the scare.
The media circus seems to have oscillated around this event. Most people think Bostonians have overreacted. I agree.

If this were just the work of renegade guerilla artists, it would be one thing. But this isn't quite that.

Guerrilla tactics are flourishing in the hyper-networked age. We see the guerrilla meme changing the nature of war, marketing and advertising -- even childhood. We see it in art, as a form of expression.

The magnetic lighted boards planted in Boston by Berdovsky and Stevens were a kind of guerilla art that is ultimately funded by a large entertainment conglomerate -- Turner Broadcasting. It was apparently the brainchild of Interference Marketing, Inc., engaged by Turner to promote 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force.' In the end, it was all part of a promotion created to enrich a mega-corporation that is shrewd enough to hijack the emerging guerrilla cultural meme.

A friend of mine said that this is a pathology of the wartime mentality we have assumed over five years. Indeed, these are jittery times. In some ways, there's a similarity between this event and the overreaction to Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938. It was the eve of another war then. People had lost their sense of humor. Who can fault them, under the circumstances?

The two men arrested for planting the devices later gave a surreal press interview for television. They made a mockery of the situation, which on some level couldn't be denied as being ridiculous. I wanted to like them and appreciate their Dada moment.

But I didn't. What troubles me is that I can't determine if Berdovsky and Stevens are renegade Dadaist artists, brilliant marketing tacticians, hapless idiots or corporate stooges.

People wag their fingers at an overreactive, jittery populace as being the villain in this situation. But really, it's hard to tell who the villain is. People living in a paranoid age acting irrationally? The pathologies created by the war on terror? Artists? Marketing? Corporate media? The guerilla mentality?

The whole bloody circus?


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  • Robert M: The reaction was overkill. I suspect in Tokyo Shanghai Vegas read more
  • DRJ: Sorry, Paul. I see you were repeating Thorley Winston's question. read more
  • DRJ: Paul, I can't tell if your question is rhetorical but read more

"Wave of hatred" at all-time high

By Donald Sensing at 02:28
Anti-Judaism in Britain is at an all-time high:

A study published today shows the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents has almost tripled in 10 years, with more than half the attacks last year taking place in London.

The findings prompted the report's authors to warn of a "wave of hatred" against Jews.

The number of incidents increased to 594 last year, up by 31 per cent on the previous year.

Violent assaults soared to 112, up by more than a third on 2005. ...

• An Orthodox Jew punched in the face and almost pushed off a Tube platform by an Arab man who screamed: "Get back to Stamford Hill, I want to kill you all"

• A Jewish man walking to synagogue with his two young sons suffered a broken leg after being punched and kicked by a white man shouting "f***ing Jew"

• Seventy incidents of desecration and damage to synagogues, cemeteries, Jewish schools and private homes with attacks including swastikas daubed on walls

• Savage assault of a 12-year-old Jewish girl Jasmine Kranat, who was beaten unconscious on a north London bus by two teenage girls who asked her first if she was Jewish.

Here is the USA, the number of anti-Semitic incidents actually declined, though slightly, in 2006 from the year before. But 2004 saw the highest number of anti-Jewish incidents since 1994.


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  • EK: here in the Netherlands where the whole world once was read more
  • M. Simon: My mom and I were talking about this a while read more

February 1, 2007

Arkin Redux

By Armed Liberal at 23:39

Everyone gets to step in it once in a while. William Arkin did yesterday, and complicated things today by steeping in deeper. Is this a characteristic of journalists, or what?

I have one small thing to add to Joe's post below.

Vehement disagreement =! silencing.

Here's Arkin from today's post:

The Arrogant and Intolerant Speak Out

Well, one thing's abundantly clear about who will actually defend our rights to say what we believe: It isn't the hundreds who have written me saying they are soldiers or veterans or war supporters or real Americans -- who also advise me to move to another country, to get f@##d, or to die a painful, violent death.

The problem of course is that if you wade through the comments (and read the blog posts) the sentiments cited above are a fraction of the abuse heaped on Arkin's deserving pate. Most of the comments essentially call him an idiot.

As I commented on Mr. Arkin's blog post:

Mr. Arkin, you have every right to say what you believe, and with rare exceptions, I haven't seen anyone suggest that you don't.

You also have the right to have those who read your opinions and think they are arrogant, contemptuous, and foolish respond. And they are...

It's the height of self-delusion to suggest that public disagreement with you is the same as demanding that you're silenced. I think it's great to see you speak up, and great to see people respond. That's freedom.


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More Arkin: US Soldiers are the Enemy

By Joe Katzman at 19:04

The Washington Post's resident military "expert," William Arkin, has reaped a certain amount of attention for his recent comments in print. What Marc printed here in "William Arkin, anti-chickenhawk", however, is just a small slice of his soldier-hostile thinking. Some quotes from "The Troops Also Need to Support the American People":

"...the recent NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary - oops sorry, volunteer - force that thinks it is doing the dirty work."

Nice to finally get an admission of his opinion. By the way, you blithering windbag, the troops are American people, and the choice of whom to support is theirs. Then, of course, comes the topper, his hilariously-titled: "The Arrogant and Intolerant Speak Out" - later pulled off the blog's front page, but still available for now at this link:

"These men and women are not fighting for money with little regard for the nation. The situation might be much worse than that: Evidently, far too many in uniform believe that they are the one true nation. They hide behind the constitution and the flag and then spew an anti-Democrat, anti-liberal, anti-journalism, anti-dissent, and anti-citizen message that reflects a certain contempt for the American people."

Uh-huh. Those who believe the war is necessary but haven't served can have no legitimate opinions about the war, as the liberal-left is so quick to remind us. Should anyone heed this message and volunteer wear to the uniform, serve on the front lines, and believe the reality they see is poorly-depicted by a liberal-left media - or just disagree with the anti-war line - then they are "mercenaries" displaying "contempt for the American people" - and their opinions are illegitimate.

The answer is that our opponents' positions are not just wrong, but illegitimate. The questions will be changed without any regard for truth or consistency, in order to get that answer. While calling our opponents anti-dissent, in a nice Big Lie type twist. An opponent with this mentality is immune to civic debate or persuasion - and as I've described elsewhere, that has significant and often violent real-world consequences for any polis/civis in which this kind of warfare mentality becomes widespread.

There is not one shred of honesty in Mr. Arkin's writing, or in the Left's position. Not. One. Nor is there room for civic society. What there is, clearly displayed in abundance, is a totalitarian impulse that would rather silence opponents than debate them. Something the liberal-left have managed to impose on their madrassas in various universities via speech codes et. al., but not yet on society at large. In all this, they are at one with their frequent allies and co-belligerents the Islamists. Arkin again, in his now-pulled clarification "The Arrogant and Intolerant...":


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Do cry for Venezuela: the vulnerability of an easily amended Constitution

By neo at 05:40

Castro's not really dead, although most likely dying, despite his TV cameo appearance.

Chavez's star, however, is in the ascendance, and expanding fast. He's the new Castro, with a bigger field to play on than Castro ever had: Venezuela.

Chavez has set the stage by taking on greatly expanded powers to nationalize Venezuela's industries as part of his campaign to "maximize socialism" in Venezuela. He plans to use his newly acquired powers to nationalize and/or control telecommunications, electricity, the oil and gas industry, and:

....dictate unspecified measures to transform state institutions; reform banking, tax, insurance and financial regulations; decide on security and defense matters such as gun regulations and military organization; and "adapt" legislation to ensure "the equal distribution of wealth" as part of a new "social and economic model."

Okey dokey; that's democracy, I guess. After all, as his supporters say [italics mine], "Socialism is democracy," and, "We want to impose the dictatorship of a true democracy and 'power to the people'" (now, just where have we heard that last phrase before?)


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William Arkin, anti-chickenhawk

By Armed Liberal at 01:04

William Arkin makes the anti-chickenhawk argument, suggesting that troops unhappy with the antiwar political tone of the country...

...should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President's handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.

Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.

Over at Blackfive, Matt and Uncle Jimbo kind of have their way with Mr. Arkin, and I'll leave the response to them.

But I'll point out, first that Mr. Arkin isn't an opinion columnist at the Post - he's the domain expert for the military there.

And that he has quite an interesting history.


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  • ROWDYH: A Fisking of Arkin on the First Amendment: Here is read more
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