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April 2007 Archives

April 30, 2007

The View from the North

By Michael Totten at 19:10

My colleague Patrick Lasswell and I interviewed on camera Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga Colonel Salahdin Ahmad Ameen in his office in Suleimaniya, Kurdistan, Northern Iraq.

Colonel Salahdin spoke to us about his experience as an anti-Baathist guerilla fighter during Saddam Hussein's genocidal Anfal Campaign -- when 200,000 people were killed and more than 5,000 villages were destroyed. In one fight he recounts for us, 300 Peshmerga beat an entire Iraqi brigade of slave soldiers in battle and suffered only one casualty.

He also told us about the notorious Abu Ghraib prison -- where he was beaten and tortured by the agents of Saddam's regime -- about the Peshmerga's doctrine of human rights during war time, Henry Kissinger's betrayal in 1974, why the Kurds have not yet declared independence from Baghdad, and what may happen if the United States withdraws its armed forces from his country.

click here to watch the video

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  • Brian H: Hm. I'd love to see a meeting between him and read more

Walking away from a very good deal

By Nitin Pai at 09:00

The Acorn has been a supporter of the India-US nuclear deal as concluded between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush in March 2006. It has argued that for India, the benefits of the deal are worth making some difficult concessions---separating civilian nuclear facilities from military ones, and accepting constraints on the amount of fissile material India needs to produce nuclear weapons. The agreement allows India to retain a dynamic credible nuclear deterrent---although the contours of the deterrence need to change---while ending its costly isolation from the international nuclear power industry. The deal, moreover, is also part of a strategic transformation of relations with the United States mandated by convergence of interests in the geopolitics of the twenty-first century.

The Hyde Act, passed by the US Congress last year, introduced a qualitative change in the letter and spirit of the agreement that negotiators worked so hard to achieve. It has raised several contentious issues, but the most significant one involves linking America's keeping its end of the deal (to supply nuclear technology and fuel for India's civilian nuclear power industry) to India's non-testing of nuclear weapons.

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  • hss: If purpose of india-US deal is to have a 'balance' read more
  • Nitin: Andy, What lesson do you think Iran and North Korea read more
  • Jim Rockford: Andy -- NPT is as dead as the dodo. Pakistan read more

Moran on Iraq

By Armed Liberal at 04:59

A lot is being made of Rick Moran's excellent series of posts on Iraq over at Right Wing Nuthouse.

Sample reaction, from Newshogger:

The big news over on the rightwing blogs today is Rick Moran, of Right Wing Nut House, recanting his support for Bush's occupation of Iraq. Rick blames the incompetence of Bush's policy and its execution saying that waning US support for that incompetence "will ultimately doom our efforts to take any military success achieved via the surge and turn it into progress on the political front." Perhaps with another dozen or so Fiedmans, Rick says, Bush's failings could be turned into success, but those Friedmans will not now be allowed by the American people.

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  • Robert M: AL You are right, the country can not maintain the read more
  • Mark Buehner: Bottom line- our foriegn policy cant be treated like an read more
  • Mark Buehner: "We live in a democracy. There was an election read more

People You Should Know: Stanford et. al.

By Joe Katzman at 03:45

Well, someone has to tell the stories....

"It was supposed to be a routine security patrol in Mosul, Iraq, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, 2005. Army Pfc. Stephen Sanford and his fellow soldiers of the Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, planned to arrest suspected insurgents, take them back to the detention center and "relax, stretch out a bit." Instead, squad members would find themselves in an intense firefight.

"There was just this massive explosion," Sanford said. "You could see flashes and automatic weapons fire. It was sensory overload. It was incredibly loud. You could smell the gunpowder and the blood and the dust and dirt. My weapon started getting warm because I was firing so much. I mean, I still didn’t know what was going on." Meanwhile, nine members of a lead team that had gone inside a home ahead of Sanford were pinned down by enemy fire and trapped inside the kitchen. Sanford’s team evacuated the first unit, but the last soldier out of the house had been shot and lay helpless on the exposed street.

“I tried to stop his bleeding,” Sanford said. “I didn’t notice at the time I had run into a perfect line of sight for one of their snipers, and I was taking hits, and there were rounds bouncing off the pavement. I got hit, and I started bleeding out pretty bad.”

Nonetheless, Sanford continued trying to revive his fellow soldier, returned fire, shooting and killing an enemy, and continued CPR until he passed out from his own blood loss."

Just one story of several. Including... yep, someone shot in the butt-tocks.

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  • Al Sparks: When the Stryker Brigade returned to Fairbanks (Ft Wainwright) they read more

More Cognitive Dissonance at MyDD

By Armed Liberal at 02:32

Chris Bowers - June 2006:

Stop thinking that the best way for progressive activists to help the progressive movement is for those activists to live in poverty. You can't do your best work when you struggle to pay your bills. When it comes to blogging, you can't do your best work on a dial-up modem in a studio apartment, a ten-year-old computer chair and a five-year-old cell phone. If you want to keep the best and most effective progressive activists in the field of activism rather than the private sector, don't tell them they need to live like monks.

Chris Bowers - April 2007:

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  • Armed Liberal: jpe - um, no - I don't agree. Bower's point read more
  • jpe: And how does it contain the basis for a political read more
  • jpe: So, I'm right. I'm used to that, boys. I'd appreciate read more

April 28, 2007

Carter Sells His Soul

By Armed Liberal at 03:29

Alan Dershowitz on Jimmy Carter and the appropriate response to Mearsheimer and Walt.

I have met cigarette lobbyists, who are supported by the cigarette industry, and who have come to believe honestly that cigarettes are merely a safe form of adult recreation, that cigarettes are not addicting and that the cigarette industry is really trying to persuade children not to smoke. These people are fooling themselves (or fooling us into believing that they are fooling themselves) just as Jimmy Carter is fooling himself (or persuading us to believe that he is fooling himself).


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  • avedis: "Can you make up your mind whether Bush is working read more
  • Molon Labe: "bite" read more
  • Molon Labe: That said, it is not Carter's wimpiness but his insufferable read more

Life Lessons from the Snowboard Slopes

By Joe Katzman at 02:59

Ray Pope:

"Up to that point, the day had been very successful. In fact, after carving down a couple of runs on my snowboard, my oldest son made it a point to send an approving nod my way. Don’t envision a "tight dude stickin' turns, huckin' jumps and stylin' huge air," because that wouldn’t be me, but I don’t biff (crash) too often, either. So what went wrong? Since taking up snowboarding, I’ve been forced to take a fresh look at a few of life’s little lessons..."

Life lessons #1 - #3 follow.

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  • Ray: I'm the author of the linked linked article. I'll check read more
  • bloggerdad: Hello. I have problem with enter to this site via read more
  • J Aguilar: It takes faith to change direction or a cliff at read more

April 27, 2007

Virginia Tech and Doctrine, Again

By Armed Liberal at 16:26

An updated version of my earlier piece on Virginia Tech and doctrine is up on the Examiner website.

Comment away.

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  • David Blue: Re: #78 from Achillea: We are on the same page read more
  • Chew2: David Blue @70, 72et seq. Maybe I was right after read more
  • Achillea: This stuff is worth talking about because it's hard if read more

April 26, 2007

Pentacles In Military Cemeteries, and Pagan Incentives

By David Blue at 05:54

George W. Bush is prejudiced against Wicca, and this has had a bad policy implication for some of America's war dead. It meant they could not be buried in military cemeteries with the symbol of their Wiccan faith, the pentacle. The problem did not begin with George W. Bush, as this is a nine years old dispute, but his influence has been all to the bad. That is not a pleasant story for those of us who admire George W. Bush personally, but the facts support it.

This long struggle for religious fairness for those who have died defending America has now reached a satisfactory end, mostly because George W. Bush shot his mouth off too much, and consequently it was better for the US Department of Veterans Affairs to settle, with a non-disclosure agreement, than to defend a weak case in court.

I can't compete with Jason Pitzl-Waters' brilliant, link-rich posts at The Wild Hunt Blog (link) to back all this up, so I'm simply going to point to them:
Bush Administration Approves Pentacle (link)
Dare We Call It Conspiracy? (link)
More Veteran Pentacle Fallout (link)

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  • David Blue: Re: #89 from Fletcher Christian... If only William Jefferson Clinton read more
  • Fletcher Christian: Isn't this all a lot simpler than some people are read more
  • David Blue: Re #87 from Jeff Medcalf: Fair enough. And I beat read more

In Praise of Senator Biden: Survivable Rides for the Troops

By Joe Katzman at 03:16
(click to view full)

Senator Biden [D-DE] took some deserved heat the other day for saying something really stupid, not exactly an uncommon occurrence for a politician. What is uncommon is an effort by a politician that actually makes a difference on the ground, and fulfills a moral calling. Which Senator Biden has also done recently... and so I'd like to cover that road less traveled, instead.

What he has done is going to save a number of lives, on the front lines, in both of CENTCOM's theaters of war. It's late, the reasons why it's late have shocked me, and this isn't where I expected help to come from. The bottom line remains, however: at long last, a festering issue is being addressed - and Sen. Biden deserves genuine, sincere credit and appreciation for helping to make this so.

Defense Industry Daily has been covering the issues with Hummers for years, noting the platform's inadequacy for its role in a theater where IED land mines are threat #1, and covering the global availability and procurement of better alternatives. (Hey, if you call them IEDs, people might think they're new - and not criticize you for lack of preparedness or wartime response against a staple of war for the last 600 years.) In March 2006 my frustration meter overloaded, and I stepped out of my understated DID editor role over here with a detailed "let me tell you what I really think, and why" piece called "Hummer Deathtraps Suck."

I assumed that the professionals in the US military were covering this issue in briefings and committee hearings, and that Senators, Congressman, et. al. were being told of the Humvee's basic flaws and the availability of alternatives by returning troops, or by their military-specialist staff aides after attending yet another local funeral.

Assume. Ass-u-me. Yeah, I know....

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  • Rob: The up-armour issue is a great searchlight to look in read more
  • David Blue: Ditto. :) read more
  • Beard: David Blue, Guess so. On to the next. Best wishes read more

April 25, 2007

Meet the Iraqi Police in Kirkuk

By Michael Totten at 11:26


This is the second in a two part article. Read Part One, Where Kurdistan Meets the Red Zone, here.

KIRKUK, IRAQ -- Kirkuk, like Baghdad, is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Car bombs, suicide attacks, shootings, and massacres erupt somewhere in the city every day. It is ethnically divided between Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmens, and is a lightning rod for foreign powers (namely Turkey at this time) that interfere in the city's politics in the hopes of staving off an ethnic unraveling of their own.

The city's terrorists are mostly Baathists, not Islamists, and their racist ideology casts Kurds and Turkmens as enemies. They're boxed in on all sides, though, and have a hard time operating outside their own neighborhoods. In their impotent rage they murder fellow Arabs by the dozens and hundreds. They have, in effect, strapped suicide belts around their entire community while the Kurds and Turkmens shudder and fight to keep the Baath in its box.

Kurdish and Turkmen neighborhoods are safer than the Arab quarter, but the city is out of control. Car bombs can and do explode anywhere at any time.

I spent the day with Peshmerga General "Mam" (Uncle) Rostam and Kirkuk's Chief of Police Major Sherzad at a house Mam Rostam uses a base in an old Arab neighborhood that now belongs to the Kurds. Just after lunch Major Sherzad’s walkie-talkie began urgently squawking.

"There has been a shooting," he said. "Two men on a motorcycle rode down the street and fired a gun at people walking on the sidewalk. One of the men was apprehended. They are bringing him here."

For some reason I assumed when the chief said "here" he meant the police station. He did not. He meant Mam Rostam's.

"They will be here in two minutes," the chief said.

"Here?" I said. "They're bringing him here? To the house?"

"They will bring him here before taking him down to the station," he said. "I'll interrogate him here. I'm not going to feel good until I slap him."

An Iraqi Police truck pulled up in front of the house and slammed on the brakes.

"Here he is," the chief said.

I grabbed my video camera, flipped the switch to on, and ran out the door.

read the rest and watch the video at

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April 24, 2007

Slanting the news

By Donald Sensing at 21:00

By now you may have heard broadcast reports of the Southlake, Texas, fourth-grader who took a hand grenade to school. The school was evacuated and authorities determined the grenade was a dummy, though its safety pin (and I asssume arming handle) was attached. No word I can find on whether the grenade was a gag like this or a military training grenade. The latter do appear real as they are intended to simulate the heft and size of the real thing. Here is a photo I took a few moments ago of my own, personal training grenade that I now use as a paperweight:


Note the blue color, the military color code for a training or inert round of ammunition. Some of you will also note that this is by no means a modern grenade, the fragmentation variety of which looks like this, the M67.

But I digress.

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  • Issa: IT sickens me....what are we going to do? read more
  • Issa: Its culture...and we do the same thing every day, just read more
  • Glen Wishard: avedis - Actually, there is no moral. This has been read more

COIN and Emergent Networks

By Armed Liberal at 16:38

Go over to Blackfive and check out Grim's post on 'The Gravity Well' it's great stuff ... and dammit, Grim!! This blog is for serious theoretical COIN stuff. Blackfive is for hoo-ah-ing and talking about whiskey and manly things. Get that straight, will you?

Seriously, a post I wish I'd written and that you should definitely read. That right there's the path to victory, folks...

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  • Grim: I think I've expressed my thoughts on Sherman once before read more
  • alchemist: The problem comes in the lack of "state-sponsored agencies". Japan read more
  • Jim Rockford: Grim -- A 20 million man military IMHO guarantees political read more

Barak Obama's Foreign Policy Speech

By Armed Liberal at 16:21

Obama gave his 'Big Foreign Policy' speech yesterday, and a transcript is up on his website.

Rhetorically, it's a good speech. I agree with a lot of what he says, and love his reclamation of the American role:

I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so.

He says other things that ought to resonate with the readers here - he wants a bigger, more lethal military, and he expressly reserves the right to act unilaterally if he believes the justification is there.

The elephant in the room remains his - I believe - fundamental misreading of the roots of the challenge we will face in the next decade.

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  • Armed Liberal: tcg wrote "Anyone who confuses the war in Iraq with read more
  • David Blue: #36 from SAO: "I'll say it again: the problem is read more
  • David Blue: #37 from Catsy: "Islam may call the whole world to read more

Jon Evans on Building Iraq's Internet

By 'AMac' at 14:31

Winds has featured many first-person accounts of post-invasion Iraq. While anecdotal, the picture they paint are useful in appreciating conditions on the ground. Besides Michael Totten's dispatches, Callimachus has presented "Kat's" two part account of operations at a Baghdad-based Western firm working on reconstruction projects. We've recommended this 2/06 IEEE Spectrum article on the Iraqi electrical grid.

Adventure writer Jon Evans has posted Blood, Bullets, Bombs, and Bandwidth on his website. Best I can tell, this is an expanded and updated account that he originally wrote for Wired. The linked version seems to date from mid-2005.

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  • chew2: AMac, Regarding Iranian evildoing. "I think Iranian elements are facilitating read more
  • AMac: Thanks chew2. As you no doubt recognize, we each made read more
  • chew2: Amac, Re: the Steyrs. The Daily Mail article is unsourced. read more

Welcome to the United States of America...

By Joe Katzman at 03:00

"Welcome to the United States of America. This is to notify you that your application for permanent residence has been approved. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to permanent residence status in the United States...."

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  • Jonathan: Congratulations and thanks for joining us. read more
  • Les Brady: I told Jan if you'd just gone and asked for read more
  • Hale Adams: Welcome aboard, Joe. (Not terribly original, but what the hey....) read more

April 23, 2007

OK, Here's The Second-Dumbest Thing I've Read This Week.

By Armed Liberal at 21:13

The French elections just pushed forward a center-left (by French standards) and right (by French standards) candidates to the final elections.

Heather Hulbert, writing at says:

And the far-right Jean-Marie le Pen falls to 10%, far below the second-place showing that so embarrassed France last time. So much for the SPECTER OF ANTI-IMMIGRANT SENTIMENT LEADING TO RIGHT-WING TAKEOVER.

Um, Heather - do you know was racaille means? Or the implication of nettoyer la cité au Kärcher??

Sarko is popular in no small part because he's mainstreamed Le Pen's positions, and wrapped them in a palatable personal history.

Hulbert's source - a immigrant to France - even makes this point, but somehow it got missed:

Maybe the biggest story is the (relative - sadly not total) collapse of the Front National, which slid back down to 11.1%, about what it used to score in parliamentary elections in the 1980s and early 90s. Probably partly a reflection of the tendency to flee the fringes, but also maybe due to Nicolas Sarkozy taking over much of the security and immigration discourse of the party and making it his own.

When people ask me why I don't have more respect for my betters - for the people who make their livings as policy analysts in areas where I'm a rank amateur - it's because I keep reading nonsense like this.

I'm not afraid of an Islamic takeover of Europe. I'm much more afraid of a resurgence of European racism and violent nationalism. they're much much better at that than we are. And I'm even more afraid of our clueless foreign policy apparachniks and their patent inability to see or think clearly.

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  • Jeff Younger: Last year, I responded to one of Ms. Hurlbert's posts. read more
  • J Aguilar: IMHO Sarkozy is the best that has appeared in France read more
  • Dusty: I've never heard of Hulbert and don't know her credentials read more

That's No Goat, That's My Wife!

By Joe Katzman at 20:52

I'm starting to use social networking software as a fun way to connect with a bunch of folks I used to know. My school friend Marcella is a leftist, but she has always adhered to that persuasion's intelligence & reason wing rather than its ignorance wing, and I've always had a lot of respect for her. Damned if she doesn't find some pretty funny stuff, too:

"A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife", after he was caught having sex with the animal. The goat's owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders.

They ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to Mr Alifi.

"We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together," Mr Alifi said."

And we wish him a life of nuptial bliss with the best piece of tail he's ever had. A pity they don't live in America, though, thus depriving us of future stories covering the new celebrities, their alimony battles, the Hollywood parties... and finally, of course, the dueling claims on their kid after Mr. Tombe is head-butted to death by a one of his wife's jealous suitors, and Mrs. Tombe chokes on a tin can in a motel room.

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Are we becoming a more violent society?

By Donald Sensing at 20:14
Armed Liberal wrote earlier today on the VT murders, linking to a table of homicide rate from 1960-2004. Though not about gun control A.L."s post made me recall an online op-ed by Rita Etter in yesterday's Tennessean entitled, "Americans had more guns in past eras without mayhem." She makes this observation:

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, millions of Americans owned guns. And in 1933, the murder rate was around 9 people per 100,000. But why no mass murder like today?

It struck me a counter-intuitive that the murder rate 70-plus years ago was 9 per 100,000. After all, everyone knows we have become a more violent nation over the last several decades. So I looked it up. And found Rita understated the rate. The homicide rate in 1933 was 9.7 per 100K, which is "around 10," not nine.
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  • avedis: Simply comparing these rates across time means nothing. This is read more
  • Buckskin: Its just that today's Lame Stream Media makes any local read more
  • Dusty: It's tough to argue with her question as an independent read more

Someone Give Me Newt's Address, And I'll Send Him A Copy of 'Devil In A White City'

By Armed Liberal at 05:05

Look, Newt's position on the cause of this tragedy is just silly (skip ahead to 3:38). The rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in the US was 5.1/100,000 in 1960 (surely the idyll of the Country Club Republican). In 2004 it was 5.5. We're hardly Sodom, Newt.

I'm someone who thinks there are interesting intersections between anomic young men and modern philosophical thought that may lower the barriers to bad behavior, and provide a kind of ideological armature for the nihilistic acts of rage they choose to commit. But to blame the kind of acts the VT murders represent on any philosophical position - be it postmodernism, liberalism, or Rotary membership - is just stupid and foolish and skirts being disgusting. The killer was an insane young man who could and should have been identified and helped (or at least stopped) long before last week, and no philosophy, political position, or educational fad made him crazy and evil.

We have had evil people who have done horrible things since there have been people. Newt's a Christian, he ought to get that.

('The Devil In A White City' is the violence-porn bestseller about a charming mass murderer active in Chicago during the World Fair of 1893. I'd also suggest 'Everything Bad Is Good For You' as a followup.)

(h/t The Moderate Voice)

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  • chew2: Mark, I find crime stats and studies linked to the read more
  • Mark Buehner: Below i've linked to a justice department report on crime read more
  • Mark Buehner: "The CCW issue is distinct from whether decreasing gun ownership read more

April 21, 2007

Beastie Blogging

By Grim at 15:18

Mr. Blue requested some puppy pictures. This young lady's name is Onyx:


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  • Davebo: Cute Lab. And well behaved?? Having raised 7 labs over read more
  • the friendly grizzly: Gads how I wish I could have a dog or read more
  • Robohobo: Thanks for the pictures. I am still mourning the recent read more

What To Name The Tiger?

By Armed Liberal at 00:08

So it's been over a year since I've bought a motorcycle. And I'm not using the KTM fully by riding offroad. And I really like Triumphs, and Triumph has come out with the new Tiger 1050.

I'm hoping mine will be here in a week.

Scorched Yellow with ABS, it'll look pretty much like this:


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  • Armed Liberal: My favorite two Lucas jokes: If Lucas made guns, wars read more
  • M. Simon: #16, 17, Yep. If Lucas made light bulbs they would read more
  • Armed Liberal: OK, the bike will be here this week. TG hates read more

April 20, 2007

Reuters: Horses may be drugged for Stones gig

By Joe Katzman at 23:16

That ought to make it unanimous.... Thanks to my friend Marcella for the tip.

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  • Armed Liberal: Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar. As a kid, read more
  • Robohobo: Having worked a less than savory track many, many years read more
  • avedis: "avedis - I didn't know that!! My dad was a read more

The answer to gun crime is state violence

By Donald Sensing at 22:59
Mr. Howard Meek has an op-ed in Apr. 18's Tennessean entitled, "As a society, we must find a way to stop violence at the end of a gun barrel." It seems that Mr. Meek, a long-time published correspondent at the paper, thinks that the answer to gun crimes is more violence and extra-judicial shootings:

What about a mandatory death sentence for anyone commiting a crime with a gun? Bet that would slow it down. And let police shoot anyone who disobeys one of their orders — not to kill but at least to stop their disobedience. Overreaction? Yes, but necessary because of the society we have become.

So the answer to gun violence is state violence! Of course, not every gun crime results in a shooting, much less a death; guns are used to threaten as well as injure a criminal's victim. But Mr. Meek wants every gun crime to result in a death! And anyone who disobeys a cop may be shot - although not to kill, you understand - whether that person is violent or not, armed or not. At first I thought that Meek was merely being hyperbolic, but in context I don't think so. He seems serious. See for yourself.
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  • Kirk Parker: Seymour Paine, Your closing sentence is far more true than read more
  • Seymour Paine: The obvious answer to gun violence is to confiscate all read more
  • Fletcher Christian: Mark #11: One thing is for sure; if you hang read more

OMG! I Get To Catch Eugene Volokh Out On A Citation!!

By Armed Liberal at 21:06

Law Prof. Eugene Volokh engages a friend:

I was corresponding with a friend of mine -- a very smart fellow, and a lawyer and a journalist -- about concealed carry for university professors. He disagreed with my view, and as best I can tell in general was skeptical about laws allowing concealed carry in public. His argument, though, struck me as particularly noteworthy, especially since I've heard it in gun control debates before:
Forgive me, but I'm old-fashioned. I like the idea of the state having a monopoly on the use of force.
I want to claim that this echo of Weber (who said "Today ... we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory") is utterly inapt in gun control debates, at least such debates in a Western country.

Volokh proceeds to make a strong set of arguments as to why individuals should be allowed to use force even in light of the Weberian claim, and you ought to go read them.

But all he needed to do was to quote Weber accurately.

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  • Armed Liberal: Dusty, I think Weber's point actually goes more to what read more
  • Dusty: Your elaboration of Weber is quite helpful in putting Weber's read more
  • Grim: Re: distinctions w/out differences: The law is full of distinctions read more

A Failure of Doctrine, Not of People

By Armed Liberal at 19:34

I've said frequently that 9/11 was not a failure of our security systems, or of the passengers and crew who were hijacked, but rather was a failure of doctrine. "Doctrine" is defined as "code of beliefs, or "a body of teachings" or "instructions", taught principles or positions". On 9/10/01 we had a standard doctrine about response to aircraft hijackings which included directives to the passengers and crew to be compliant, not confront the hijackers, minimize exposure to violence, and get the plane onto the ground where negotiations or intervention by highly-trained persons would resolve the issue.

Similarly, the Columbine murders did not represent a failure by local law-enforcement to act; it was a failure of the doctrine they had been trained to act within. because most hostage situations within buildings are resolved with minimal force and patience, the doctrine was to cordon, wait, and talk.

Both doctrines have changed. I do not believe that any passenger airplane will be hijacked again anytime soon except by multiple hijackers with guns - and possibly not even then. Police departments have now trained their officers to "go to the active shooter" and aggressively move to attack - as it appears the police did in responding to the VPI shooter.

Similarly, the discussions around the responses of the students in the comments to the post below seem to imply that those of us who are suggesting that the students could have done other things which may have changed the outcome are, in essence, blaming the victims. No, we're not. We're blaming the doctrine the victims were trained to operate under, and arguing that we - all of us - should rethink it and start implementing other ones, just as airline passengers and police officers have.

This doctrine isn't only applicable to the thankfully rare cases where a deranged person walks into a school or office and starts shooting. It is applicable to all the not-so-little crises we are liable to face.

As commenters have noted this isn't the time to dig deeply into this, both out of respect for the dead and their survivors and because we don't yet know enough unambiguous fact to make conclusive judgments. I'll come back to this issue soon, obviously, but don't think that today is the time.

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  • David Blue: Here is the piece by Dr. Helen I had in read more
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More on arming the militia

By Donald Sensing at 19:19

A couple of days ago I wondered whether the Second Amendment's imprecise connection between the right to keep and bear arms and the existence of a militia might have been enough to have prevented Cho Seung-hui from buying his two pistols, had it been legal for only U.S. citizens to buy guns.

It would depend, of course, on whether non-citizens are considered part of the militia if such a ban could pass Constitutional muster. Well, Randy Barnett to the rescue:
Section 311 of US Code Title 10, entitled, "Militia: composition and classes" in its entirety (with emphases added) defines the militia as follows:

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are —

(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
Seems that only US citizens are properly considered members of the militia, at least by federal standards. This whole train of thought began in response to Eugene Volokh's earlier question on what might have prevented, rather than merely prohibited, Cho from carrying out the attack. That makes this something of a thought experiment rather than an attempt to arrive at actual policy. After all, one of the persistent arguments firearms-rights advocates advance is the necessity for people to have effective means of self defense. Permanent-resident aliens would seem to have this requirement as much as you or me, yes?

But anyway, weigh in in the comments on this question: Should non-citizens of the United States, legally living (as opposed to visiting) this country, be allowed to purchase firearms?

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Imitate Liviu Librescu

By David Blue at 05:32

That the state of our preparation for totally unexpected and extremely violent events may be the same as that of many on the victims at Virginia Tech is not creditable or blameworthy. It's just a fact of our situation.

The practical implication of the state of our preparation, whatever it is, is that we have a default response to a crisis.

The point of thinking about doctrine and preparation is never to assign blame. There is and was nothing blameworthy about this. The point is to do better than our default response.

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April 19, 2007

Where Kurdistan Meets the Red Zone

By Michael Totten at 16:38


"If Turkey allows itself to interfere in the matter of Kirkuk, we will do the same…in Turkey." -- Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani.

KIRKUK, IRAQ -- Just south of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq's northernmost provinces lies the violence-stricken city of Kirkuk, the bleeding edge of Iraq's "greater" Kurdistan, and the upper-most limit of the asymmetric battleground known as the Red Zone. Kirkuk is claimed and counterclaimed by Iraq's warring factions and is a lightning rod for foreign powers -- namely Turkey --- that fear a violent ethnic unraveling of their own that could be triggered by any change in Kirkuk's convulsive status quo.

I spent a day there with Member of Parliament and Peshmerga General "Mam" Rostam, Kirkuk's Chief of Police Major Sherzad, my colleague Patrick Lasswell, and our driver Hamid Shkak. You could stay a month in Kirkuk hunkered down in a compound or a house and not see or hear signs of war. But violence erupts somewhere in Kirkuk several times every day. If you go there with a Kurdish army general, as we did, and spend your day with the city's chief of police, as we also did, you will see violence or at least the aftermath of some violence. This isn't a maybe. So I brought my video camera as well as my Nikon along.

From the safety of the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya -- where the war is already over -- Kirkuk looks like the mouth of Hell. It's outside the safe fortress of the Kurdistan mountains and down in the hot and violent plains. The city doesn’t look much better up close, and you can feel the tension rise with the temperature in the car on the way down there.

Patrick and I woke Mam ("Uncle") Rostam first thing in the morning at his house in Suleimaniya. He told us we could follow him to Kirkuk, where he works every day, so we hired a world class driver to do the job.

Hamid Shkak spent years driving foreigners around war zones in south and central Iraq. He has more experience than anyone I know steering clear of IEDs, barreling through ambush sites at 120 miles an hour, and veering around spontaneously exploding firefights. He was perfect for the job, and we had little choice but to trust him and Mam Rostam with our lives.

read the rest at

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On Rehearsal

By Armed Liberal at 16:02
MENTAL REHEARSAL: "Mental rehearsal can be a valuable tool in preparing you for a life threatening encounter. Mental rehearsal has been around and practiced since the early 1940’s, however, studies linked to mental process and physical skills can be traced back to 1892." (Duran & Nasci, 2000, p. 29).
Mental rehearsal is the process of mentally visualizing and rehearsing how something should be done prior to actually doing it. What this rehearsal does for the body is it connects thought processes with physical activity. Most of us are equipped with the physical tools, (ex. defensive tactics, shooting skills, etc) to get the job done but, if we cannot connect them to a mental rehearsal under stress, a life and death decision process may occur to slow, with hesitancy and with errors. The concept of mental rehearsal is to experience the situation before it actually occurs. By creating "real life" scenarios to different situations, you can walk yourself through the decision making process. The scenario can be played over and over adding or changing the situation causing changes in decision making processes. Mental rehearsal should be done with things you’ve never encountered or thought of before. Scenarios should incorporate situations that cannot be included in training sessions due to safety issues or practicality. Make the scenarios as true to life as possible!

Probably the most important issue in mental rehearsal is to "always visualize yourself winning or never being killed." Part of this rehearsal is training yourself to never give up even in the event you do get shot, stabbed or hurt. By anticipating stressful situations you can prepare for them.

- Survival Stress in Law Enforcement (pdf), Steve Drzewiecki

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On Fighting Back

By Armed Liberal at 06:54

It's been interesting to watch the members of the commentariat play their designated roles in the aftermath of Virginia Tech. I wish they wouldn't just yet. We don't know enough, and anyone who has genuine feelings about it is still too raw to think clearly much less talk intelligently.

But the news cycle demands its sacrifices, and our good sense is probably the first one.

I don't typically read Michelle Malkin - I pretty much know what she will say on an issue, and while I respect her intelligence and ferocity, she skates a little close to Ann Coulter sometimes. So I caught this via a post on Outside The Beltway.

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No Problem? Shell's Patent Application for Oil Shale Extraction

By Joe Katzman at 06:28

Alfred Donovan, a patent lawyer whose blog covers Royal Dutch Shell, takes a look at the largest patent filing in history. Shell thinks they have a sound method for getting top quality oil out of oil shale rock, which would remain profitable as long as oil stayed above $30/barrel. If it works, it would also be better for the environment than conventional drilling [JK: maybe, maybe not].

If they're right, the US would add a truly vast amount of oil to its reserves. Indeed, the USA accounts for 62% of the world oil shale resources, and USA, Russia and Brazil together account for 86% in terms of shale oil content. Other countries with significant oil shale include, in order, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Morocco, Italy, Jordan and Canada (we're focused on the tar sands, so haven't fully explored), among others. Then there's Israel.

Donovan is something of a gadfly re: Shell, and has been embroiled in a number of activist run-ins with them (gotta say, registering and then winning the rights to gets him some points with me). He thinks Shell's technique will work, and notes that Shell has been granted rights to a small patch of shale field in Colorado to make an experimental run with its new method: The Mahogany Research Project.

I certainly hope this one works out for Shell. If not, however, they aren't the only ones putting research dollars into economical processes.

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It's Back!!

By Armed Liberal at 06:05

Thnaks to evariste, is back online.

It's funny how much that means to me.

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No Astronauts: All Aboard the Orbital Express!

By Joe Katzman at 05:32
Is that a battery,
or are you just
happy to see me?
(click to view full)

Defense Industry Daily usually confines our coverage to procurements, but we also cover militarily significant field tests. A DARPA program called Orbital Express, which just achieved the first ever servicing of a satellite by another satellite in space, certainly qualifies (video link at DID). There are more tests to come, and their success will be watched closely in many quarters.

The Orbital Express advanced technology demonstration couples a prototype servicing satellite (ASTRO) and a surrogate next generation serviceable satellite (NextSat). Together, they are meant to test robotic, autonomous, on-orbit refueling and reconfiguration of satellites. If that were possible, it would mean faster, less risky missions to maintain and extend the lives of America's critical military satellite fleet - and the technology would have more than a few civilian/NASA uses, as well.

Read the rest on Defense Industry Daily...

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Youth, Interrupted

By 'Cicero' at 05:15

Somewhere I was listening to an interview with a witness of the Kent State massacre in 1970. The horror of the campus killings 37 years ago were compared to events at Virginia Tech.

Hearing about Kent State reminded me how that massacre helped to forge a generation. So too will Virginia Tech, though quite differently.

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No-Hitter: All Aboard the Buehrle Express

By Joe Katzman at 05:10

Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle didn't have such a great season last year, and recently told Sports Illustrated that he was searching to regain his confidence. After a game in which the only runner allowed was Sammy Sosa... who was then promptly picked off first base... I'd say "Mission Accomplished."

Buehrle's no-hitter ends the longest period without one in major league history.

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April 18, 2007

Ace Blogger: 38 Pitches

By Joe Katzman at 19:41

If you're a baseball fan who would be interested in a blog by an all-star, major-league pitcher who blogs about every game he starts, and talks about pitch selection and what he was thinking at various key points during the game... then you need to start reading Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling's "38 Pitches." Schilling also answers questions from fans on a regular basis; intelligent questions get an intelligent response, and hostile questions get intelligent sarcasm. The blog is maintained by the same creative and technical staff involved in his videogame company 38 Studios, who is also involved with R.A. "Drizzt" Salvatore and Todd "Spawn" McFarlane.

Sports reporters, as a group, are head and shoulders above, say, defense and global politics reporters in terms of their level of subject matter expertise and understanding. Even so, Schilling's blog offers a level of insight into the game you don't currently get from the sports pages.

Smart reporters would take notice, and start changing the questions they ask athletes to evoke more than Carman's immortal 37 sports answers. Instead, you might guess that Schilling's efforts are being greeted by something less than enthusiasm in the mainstream media world. You'd be right. Schilling's post dissecting his 8 shutout innings against the LA Angels has this comment attached:

"I saw Charles Pierce’s scribblings in the Globe today. I find it amusing that the alleged champions of free speech in the print media are so indignant about your qualifications to communicate directly with public vs. allowing them to present Curt Schilling in the light that they feel is best. I guess that free speech and expertise on baseball, gaming and politics can only come from journalism graduates who who were trained extensively on the biases of their college professors."


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"Sensible" gun laws

By Donald Sensing at 14:59

As many others have noted in the media and the blogosphere, the killings at Va. tech have reignited advocates on all sides of the gun-control issue. Once again, a term being bandied about is "the need for sensible gun laws."

Of course, it all depends what "sensible" means, and that connotation will vary widely from one side to the other.

Eugene Volokh asks a sensible question, though:
A New York Times editorial about the Virginia Tech mass murder states, "What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss." My question, now that we have a little more information about the criminal (though I stress far from complete information): What stronger controls over weapons would likely have stopped him from committing the murders, or even led him to kill fewer people? Note that I'm not asking what controls would have prohibited him from doing something. Murder law, and for that matter the gun control law that banned firearms from campus, already prohibited him from committing mass murder. That didn't seem to help. I'm curious what "stronger controls" would likely have stopped a would-be mass murderer from killing, or at least killing as many.
That's an excellent question, and the comments at the post are, uh, entertaining when they are not very informative.

Yesterday, one of the radio airwaves commentati said that no law could have prevented Cho from committing the murders. Cho bought his two pistols legally. But, I thought while listening, Cho was not a US citizen. Under Virginia law, a permanent-resident alien, which was Cho's status, may buy firearms just as a citizen may. The gun dealers were properly licensed and regulated.

Might Cho have been stopped if it was illegal for non-citizens to buy guns? Would he have had the connections to buy pistols on the black market? No way to know, of course, and the idea of patchworking gun laws based on this incident strikes me a futile gesturing, anyway. Lord knows US citizens kill each other with guns quite enough.

There's another problem with the idea, too. Foreign nationals are held t enjoy the same Constitutional protections as citizens when under US jurisdiction. No one is going to argue that a foreign tourist visiting Miami for two weeks should be allowed to buy a gun, but obviously permanent-resident aliens are a different category.

So back to Eugene's question: what laws could have actually prevented Cho from rampaging? I can't think of one. Can you?

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A University Police Officer Talks About Virgina Tech - 1) What To Tell Your Kids

By Armed Liberal at 08:39

This morning, I talked to Littlest Guy (my 10 year old) about the shootings at Virginia Tech. He'd seen the paper, and knew the basic facts.

I explained first that while it got a lot of attention, it wasn't something I worried about a lot, and that he was more at risk from bees than he is from mad killers like this. I told him that nonetheless it was a good idea for him to imagine what he'd do if something like this happened, so that he could know that he isn't ever helpless.

Later, I talked to a friend who is a University police officer about it, and got this response (the author is a law enforcement officer at a major urban university who will have more to say about the response at VPI tomorrow):

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One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

By Armed Liberal at 08:21
- MyDD - - Kos - - Gallup Apr 13-15 -


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Virginia Tech: The Heroism that Was... And Wasn't

By Joe Katzman at 03:40

The Wall St. Journal's OpinionJournal noted an act worth commemorating, as reported by the Jerusalem Post:

"Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter when the [murderer] attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, "but all the students lived--because of him," Virginia Tech student Asael Arad--also an Israeli--told Army Radio.

Several of Librescu's other students sent e-mails to his wife, Marlena, telling of how he had blocked the gunman's way and saved their lives, said Librescu's son, Joe.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

Librescu was a Holocaust survivor who escaped communist Romania for Israel in 1978 and moved to Virginia in 1986. By coincidence, he was murdered on Holocaust Remembrance Day."

In the Jewish community, the response to hearing of a loved one's death is "may his memory be a blessing." Prof. Librescu's clearly is, demonstrating what real martryrdom is about - dying not to kill others, but to save them.

On the other hand, OpinionJournal also noted very clearly what had not happened at Virginia Tech... but had happened at Virginia's Appalachian School of Law in January 2002:

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April 17, 2007

And the CYA-ing begins

By Donald Sensing at 15:07

Another news conference recently concluded at Virginia Tech. I didn't catch all of it, but I did see the part where a speaker (didn't get his name) said firmly that the response to the shootings and the decisions made by the university administration and police were correct and proper based on the information they had at the time.

This might be true. But it's way too soon to know that. In only 24 hours there's no way to review dispassionately the record of events, discussions and decisions. And it offends the objective mind that the same people who made the decisions have now definitively pronounced that their decisions are beyond criticism. An independent board of inquiry is more than justified here.

From the beginning, the public utterances of university President Charles Steger's and Police Chief Wendell Flinchum have been sorry spectacles. They have distanced themselves from the events, describing the day as if it had little to do with them personally. It's one thing to demonstrate command of facts, but they have displayed all the personal connection with the mass murders as if describing a close loss of a football game. Certainly, I have seen no evidence that they have even done much soul searching about their decisions and response plans. Frankly, ISTM that they hardly even care much.

I know that sounds harsh, even cruel. I cannot believe that yesterday's horrors have affected them any way but deeply. I would even guess they cried in their beds last night. But their public appearances and utterances seem to have been coordinated with a staff attorney first, whose advice must have been: "Say nothing to indicate that you personally or the university bear any responsibility for this tragedy. Speak in the third person. Make sure you say repeatedly that everything you did was correct and proper."

But hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits are sure to follow, anyway. Already, parents are calling for Steger and Finchum to get the boot. Myself, I hope they will have the decency to resign as a matter of principle. No matter how much legal and emotional distance the two men try to put between the killings and themselves, the deeds happened on their watch.

Everyone is, of course, talking about "healing" at the university. The departure of Steger and Finchum would be a big part of it.

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April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

By Armed Liberal at 19:43

My oldest son goes to college at the University of Virginia (Glenn appears to have misread this, my apologies for using the abbreviation earlier), and so I've gotten a slug of phone calls from colleagues and friends who knew he was in Virginia telling me about the mass murder at Virginia Tech today.

This isn't the time for dispassionate - or even passionate - policy discussion, although that will surely follow.

It's time to think about the other parents - parents like me - whose daughters and sons go to school at VPI (instead of UVA where my son goes) and are waiting for news or are getting the worst news imaginable.

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VA Tech Tragedy

By Demosophist at 17:57

I left Virginia about a year ago, so I haven't kept up to date about regulations governing concealed carry on university campuses, but as I recall the administration at VA Tech had advanced a university rule preventing concealed carry on campus, for permit holders. Although someone carrying on campus would not be violating any state firearm laws my understanding is that they could be prosecuted for "trespass" and could be fired or expelled from the school. The upshot of all this is that concealed carry on campus is suppressed, if not eliminated.

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VictoryPAC update

By Armed Liberal at 14:27

Here's this week's video. Please share it with some friends once you've watched it:

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Iraq: WWNMD?

By Guest Author at 04:32

JK: I thought this was an interesting concept idea, so here it is. It's a paraphrase/ takeoff on "On How to Treat the Populace of Valdichiana After Their Rebellion" by Niccolo Machiavelli (1503) based on the version translated by Peter Constantine in The Essential Writings of Machiavelli (The Modern Library, 2007).

Appearing before the Congress, Gen. David Patraeus spoke of what should be done with the territories and cities of Iraq. These are the words he used, and the decision that the Congress reached, more or less verbatim, as the resurrected ancient Roman historian Livy reports them....

On How to Treat the Populace of Iraq After Their Insurgency
Niccolo Machiavelli - paraphrased by Wayne Lusvardi, Pasadena, CA

"Congressmen! What needed to be done in Iraq with armies and wars has, by grace of god and the skill of our soldiers, been done. Slaughtered are the enemy armies of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Republican Guard in Iraq. All the land and cities of Iraq, and the city of Baghdad in the land of the Fertile Crescent, either were conquered or surrendered, and are now in your power. As they keep insurging and putting America in peril, we must consult about how to secure ourselves, either by cruelty or by generously forgiving them. God has granted you the ability to deliberate whether Iraq is to be maintained, and how to make it secure for us indefinitely. So consider whether you want to punish harshly those who have given themselves to you and want to ruin Iraq and Afghanistan entirely, turning into a desert a country that has often supplied you with Muhajadeen anti-Soviet resistance fighters in dangerous times; or whether you intend to follow the example of our forefathers in ancient Rome. This would give you the glorious opportunity of expanding American democracy.

All I have to say to you is this: The most enduring power is the state which has loyal subjects who love their Congressmen. But what must be deliberated swiftly, as you have many people hovering between hope and fear. You must free these peoples from their uncertainty and anticipate their every action, either with punishment or reward. My task was to ensure that this decision would be yours, and my task has been done. It is now for you to decide what is for the benefit of our republic.

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Canada Defies Military CW, Reaches for Tanks

By Joe Katzman at 03:47
Leo C2s, Afghanistan
(click to view full)

Even since Gen. Shinseki began pushing wheeled armored vehicles in the 1990s, the USA has shifted away from tracked carriers - and a number of European countries are moving toward all-wheeled forces. Canada was on that road, too - but it would seem that they are taking some of the lessons re-learned during Operation Medusa in Afghanistan to heart. Canada's DND:

"The heavily protected direct fire capability of a main battle tank is an invaluable tool in the arsenal of any military. The intensity of recent conflicts in Central Asia and the Middle East has shown western militaries that tanks provide protection that cannot be matched by more lightly armoured wheeled vehicles.... [Canada's existing Leopard C2/1A5] tanks have also provided the Canadian Forces (CF) with the capability to travel to locations that would otherwise be inaccessible to wheeled light armoured vehicles, including Taliban defensive positions."

In October 2003, Canada was set to buy the Styker/LAV-III 105mm Mobile Gun system to replace its Leopard C2 tanks. In the end, however, the lessons of war have taken Canada down a very different path - one that now has them renewing the very tank fleet they were once intent on scrapping, and backing away from the wheeled vehicles that were once the cornerstone of the Canadian Army transformation plan.

And so it goes... Read the rest at Defense Industry Daily.

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April 15, 2007

CQ on Blog Talk Radio, and the Separation Between Work and Rant

By Joe Katzman at 21:37

Ed Captain's Quarters" Morrissey is moving out of his call center, and on to a new job at "Blog Talk Radio." Two big congrats, Ed! One for the new job, and one for this...

"Even my current bosses -- two of the most reasonable and ethical men with whom I have worked -- told me that I could hardly pass up this chance.

Why not name the company [I work for]? I have always wanted to keep a bright line between my politics and their operations. Customers might have issues working with someone who strongly advocates any kind of political point of view, and I don't want them to suffer for my passion. Also, I had tried to steer clear of any political discussion at work, and discouraged any conversation about my blog or radio work. The most gratifying moments of my final weeks have been when two co-workers asked me, after the announcement of my departure for political commentary, which party I supported and whether I was a conservative or a liberal. It meant that I had succeeded in that separation."

The above is the mark of a professional, who understands how to conduct himself at work, and why. Bravo.

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Researching the Johns Hopkins 'Center for Talented Youth'

By Armed Liberal at 00:51

Littlest Guy (finishing 5th grade) just took their test and did very well. We're debating putting him into one of the summer or distance learning programs, and I'd love to find someone who's had a child go through one (or a child who went through one themselves) who'd be willing to comment on it.

Leave a comment or drop a me a note.

And no, he doesn't look like the milkman.

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April 14, 2007

Honesty In Media Matters - Doesn't It??

By Armed Liberal at 19:25
Media Matters has a post up today explaining that
Internet gossip Matt Drudge has claimed that Media Matters for America is a "Soros operation."

In fact, Media Matters has never received funding from progressive philanthropist George Soros.

Looking at the non-authoritative but informative Sourcewatch entry on Media Matters we get:
Funded with "more than $2 million in donations from wealthy liberals." "Among Mr. Brock's donors is Leo Hindery, Jr., the former cable magnate; Susie Tompkins Buell, who is co-founder of the fashion company Esprit and is close to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and Ms. Buell's husband Mark; and James C. Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist whose appointment as ambassador to Luxembourg was delayed for a year and a half in the late 1990's by conservative lawmakers protesting what they called his promotion of a 'gay lifestyle.' [5]

Media Matters for America is funded in part by the Democracy Alliance.

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April 13, 2007

Have I Complimented Steve Smith Lately?

By Armed Liberal at 02:44

Steve renamed his blog Smythe's World 'The Concerned Troll' - and given the amusing nature of that would-be dismissal by the netroots tools, it's a great blog title. I wish I'd thought of it...

But Steve's not only clever, he's moral.

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April 12, 2007

Truth, Speach, Philosophy, Duke

By Armed Liberal at 15:13

An old post from back in 2002 which seems highly appropriate in light of yesterday's Duke acquittals, and this post at Maggie's Farm:

The War on Bad Philosophy continues.

I'm still working today, so I can't give this the depth it deserves, but I want to point folks to an article on Free Speech and Postmodernism, by Stephen Hicks, a Randian liberal arts professor, and commentary on the article by Arthur Silber on his blog Voice of Reason. (link originally via Instapundit)

First, I'm not a big fan of Rand and Randians. As a group, they tend to exhibit the confusion between logic and reason that many bright teenagers display (I should know, I've got two...). But while there is a framework in both articles I'd take some exception to (and will when I get a moment), there are a couple of 18kt gems worth pulling out and handing around. From Hicks:
What we have then are two positions about the nature of speech. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.

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(Thirty) Two Short Articles About Iran

By Armed Liberal at 06:44

(Sorry, I just love the Glenn Gould movie)

So I broke down and subscribed to Foreign Affairs. I want to learn what the smart folks (like Dan Drezner, who has an article in the Marc/April issue) are thinking and writing about. I acknowledge my lack of expert knowledge and think it'd be good to hear what expert have to say.

So this month, along with Drezner's article, there's a lead article by Ray Takeyh on Iran, in which he argues strongly for detente. He argues, in fact, for the inevitability of detente, because of the strength of Iran.

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Ain't Misperceiving?

By Armed Liberal at 05:29

My dad was a very good gambler. The best bets he made were ones where the suckers other bettors saw the odds differently than they were really.

I've argued for a long time that the progressive netroots weighs more in the consciousness of the political class than it does in political reality. I was meaning to do a post on the Political Arithmetik post showing netroots-fave Edwards 4th and stalled when Jeff Jarvis did a much better post for me.

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April 11, 2007

Muslims' Need for Modern Men of Religion

By Tarek Heggy at 09:41

After reading my critiques of the educational and intellectual backgrounds of Muslim men of religion, one of my readers asked me about whom I see worthy of being religious scholars. In my response to the reader's inquiry, I told her that I have tackled this issue in many of my books. However, I will be pleased to give a brief statement about my perspective regarding this point.

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Two Historic Choices.

By Tarek Heggy at 09:41

On September 1, 1939, the Second World War broke out. It was a conflict that can be described as the greatest in the history of humanity. The war erupted between two sides. At one side the Axis powers, which included Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Dictatorial Japan. Those three countries did not believe in democracy as it was defined by Western countries such as Britain, France, the Scandinavian countries and the U.S.A. On the other side of the war there were the Allied powers. It can be said that the Allied group was categorically inharmonious. In addition to democratic countries, according to the Western definition, such as the U.S. and Britain, it also included the Soviet Union which was a dictatorial regime in the fullest sense of the word. The Soviet government described itself as a dictatorial, proletarian regime. The Second World War ended with the destruction of the triangle of the Axis camp, Italy, Germany and finally Japan, which surrendered when two atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

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On Religious Parties.

By Tarek Heggy at 09:41

There is more than one logical and sound reason that would encourage the Egyptian nation to hope that the long-awaited constitutional amendments will successfully prohibit the establishment of political parties based solely on religious platforms.

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April 10, 2007

Armed Liberal, Class Warrior?

By Armed Liberal at 13:52

My Examiner column is up - "Why liberalism matters in an age of excess"

...our new Gilded Age risks both ruining the republic, as those forced out of the game withdraw their political and social allegiance ... and ruining our economy as those who are winning the game focus on capturing value rather than creating it.

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April 9, 2007

Blog Conduct

By Armed Liberal at 06:21

Tim O"Reilly has a post up on building more civility into blogging.

His suggestions are:

1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.

2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.

3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.

4. Ignore the trolls.

5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.

6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.

7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

As someone who supports having a civil blog, I ought to be 100% in support. But I'm not quite...#1 I do support, but possibly not the others. Which is somewhat self-contradictory, I know.


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April 8, 2007

I'm Looking Forward To Reading This...

By Armed Liberal at 22:23

Ali Allawi's book 'The Occupation of Iraq'.

In a rueful reflection on what might have been, an Iraqi government insider details in 500 pages the U.S. occupation's "shocking" mismanagement of his country - a performance so bad, he writes, that by 2007 Iraqis had "turned their backs on their would-be liberators."

"The corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt state of the new order," Ali A. Allawi concludes in "The Occupation of Iraq," newly published by Yale University Press.

I've got a high tolerance for incompetence and mismanagement - since much of human history seems to be based on it - and so I don't throw my hands up in despair when people talk about how incompetent the occupation has been.

But if we're going to get better at it, we'd better list and learn from our mistakes.

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Does Dinesh D'Souza Have A Sock Puppet? Or Just A Soulmate?

By Armed Liberal at 02:18

Who is Kathleen Parker, and what century is she living in?

A column in the Washington Post:

On any given day, one isn't likely to find common cause with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's a dangerous, lying, Holocaust- denying, Jew-hating cutthroat thug -- not to put too fine a point on it.

But he was dead-on when he wondered why a once-great power such as Britain sends mothers of toddlers to fight its battles.

Why, because toddlers don't have fathers?

She dismissed the effectiveness of women in combat:

Women may be able to push buttons as well as men can, but the door-to-door combat in Fallujah proved the irrelevance of that argument. Meanwhile, no one can look at photos of the 15 British marines and sailors and argue convincingly that the British navy is stronger for the presence of Acting Leading Seaman Faye Turney -- no matter how lovely and brave she may be.

She must have missed Sgt. Leah Ann Hester's story.

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Read This...

By Armed Liberal at 02:02

Mark Bowden has a brilliant article up in the Atlantic on interrogation in Iraq, and its role in finding Zarqawi.

"We both know what I want," Doc said. "You have information you could trade. It is your only source of leverage right now. You don't want to go to Abu Ghraib, and I can help you, but you have to give me something in trade. A guy as smart as you - you are the type of Sunni we can use to shape the future of Iraq." If Abu Haydr would betray his organization, Doc implied, the Americans would make him a very big man indeed.

There was no sign that the detainee knew he was being played. He nodded sagely. This was the kind of moment gators live for. Interrogation, at its most artful, is a contest of wits. The gator has the upper hand, of course. In a situation like the one at Balad, the Task Force had tremendous leverage over any detainee, including his reasonable fear of beating, torture, lengthy imprisonment, or death. While gators at that point were not permitted even to threaten such things, the powerless are slow to surrender suspicion. Still, a prisoner generally has compelling reasons to resist. He might be deeply committed to his cause, or fear the consequences of cooperation, if word of it were to reach his violent comrades.

Stuff like this is why it's worth it to subscribe to the Atlantic.

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April 5, 2007

An Army, Not a Militia

By Michael Totten at 15:14


SULEIMANIYA, IRAQ -- Iraq is a country with three armies and I'm-not-sure-how-many militias and death squads. The Iraqi Army is nominally the national army, but it's still being trained, supplied, and augmented by the coalition forces, which is to say the Americans. It's also not allowed to operate in the north. The third army is the Kurdish Peshmerga, the liberators and protectors of the only part of Iraq -- the three northern governates -- that may be salvaged from insurgency, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and war. Do not confuse the Peshmerga with the ragtag ethnic and sectarian militias running rampant in Iraq's center and south. The Kurdish armed forces are a real professional army and are recognized as such in Iraq's constitution and by the so-called central government in Baghdad.

My colleague Patrick Lasswell and I spent a couple of days with officers and soldiers at the Ministry of Peshmerga in the northern city of Suleimaniya. I knew already that the Kurds bristled at charges that their Peshmerga was yet another of Iraq's many militias, and I have to agree now that I've seen and interviewed them myself.

Colonel Mudhafer Hasan Rauf arranged our visit and hosted us in his office. He was, I believe, the only officer we met who did not wear a uniform.

The fact that the Peshmerga can dress nicely and have formal offices where journalists can meet them does not in and of itself make them an army and not a militia. Hezbollah has offices south of Beirut where journalists can go -- if, unlike me, they haven't been threatened and blacklisted. Unlike Hezbollah, though, the Peshmerga take their orders from the locally elected and centrally sanctioned civilian authorities.

"The word Peshmerga is a holy word among Kurds," Colonel Mudhafer said. "It means those who face death. We are the outcome of the oppression and torture of the central government in the past. Peshmergas value their lives less than the liberation of their people. We are not a militia as some people in Iraq say. We are not a militia at all. The political leadership gives us orders, and we are an organized army."

It may appear odd to Western readers that I refer to Colonel Mudhafer by his rank and first name, rather than by his rank and last name. This, though, is how the Kurds refer to themselves and to others. I am never Mr. Totten. Here I am always Mr. Michael. Jalal Talabani, Iraq's Kurdish president, is never called Mr. Talabani or President Talabani. They call him Mam (which is a term of affection like "uncle") Jalal. Uncle Jalal. The informality in this part of the world, even in the offices of the elite and in the military, is refreshing and agreeable to someone like me from the Pacific Northwest in United States were formality never really took hold.

The Kurdish armed forces don't take their orders from civilian officials in Baghdad. They are treated by the central government as something like a regional or "national" guard. Only the civilian officials in the Kurdish northern governates are allowed to give them their orders, which makes official Iraqi Kurdistan's status as de-facto independent or, if you prefer, a state within a state.

read the rest at

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Clausewitz in Wonderland

By Joe Katzman at 03:33

Tony Corn, in Policy Review, September 2006:

"In Iraq as in Afghanistan, real professionals have learned the hard way that - to put it in a nutshell - the injunction "Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself" matters more than the bookish "Know Thy Clausewitz" taught in war colleges. Know thy enemy: At the tactical and operational levels at least, it is anthropology, not Clausewitzology, that will shed light on the grammar and logic of tribal warfare and provide the conceptual weapons necessary to return fire. Know thyself: It is only through anthropological "distanciation" that the U.S. military (and its various "tribes": Army, Navy, etc.) will become aware of its own cultural quirks - including a monomaniacal obsession with Clausewitz - and adapt its military culture to the new enemy.1

The first major flaw of U.S. military culture is of course "technologism" - this uniquely American contribution to the phenomenon known to anthropologists as "animism." Infatuation with technology has led in the recent past to rhetorical self-intoxication about Network-Centric Warfare and the concomitant neglect of Culture-Centric Warfare. The second structural flaw is a Huntingtonian doctrine of civil-military relations ideally suited for the Cold War but which, given its outdated conception of "professionalism," has outlived its usefulness and is today a major impediment to the necessary constant dialogue between the military and civilians.2

Last but not least, the third major flaw is "strategism." At its "best," strategism is synonymous with "strategy for strategy's sake," i.e., a self-referential discourse more interested in theory-building (or is it hair-splitting?) than policy-making. Strategism would be innocuous enough were it not for the fact that, in the media and academia, "realism" today is fast becoming synonymous with "absence of memory, will, and imagination": in that context, the self-referentiality of the strategic discourse does not exactly improve the quality of the public debate."

He has some good points, and is spot-on re: flaws #1 & 2. It's a wide ranging essay that goes far beyond Clausewitz as Corn asks, again and again, what Karl #2 has to contribute to key questions surrounding the war. Here's the link again. Sub-headers include:

-- Clausewitz in Londonistan
-- Clausewitz in America: Prussian fantasies, French realities?
-- The Revolution in Guerrilla Affairs
-- "Virtual States" and "Nonlinear Wars"
-- "Deep Coalitions" and "Soft Balancing": The Shiite crescent and the SCO
-- The "Permanent Campaign" and the "Long War"
-- "Lawfare": Clausewitz or Carl Schmitt?
-- Soldier, Statesman, Scholar: The lost battles of Clausewitz
-- Beyond Clausewitz and 4GW

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April 4, 2007

Victory PAC is $100 away...

By Armed Liberal at 23:55

...from $13,000 in pledges. Not as good as I'd hoped, not as bad as I feared.

If someone would go over and pledge $100, we'd be over $13,000.

Just click here...

I'll do a link roundup tonight when I'm done with work.

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Kook of the Month: Rosie O'Donnell

By Joe Katzman at 08:26

...Who is happy to hold forth on her TV show that 9/11 was a government plot, which she denies advocating but which remains as the only conclusion left. I'd make it "dishonest kook of the month," but really, once you're ceritifiable your honesty becomes pretty irrelevant anyway. I offer you Rosie, straight from the horse's ass:

"I do believe that it's the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel. I do believe that it defies physics that World Trade Center tower 7 - building 7, which collapsed in on itself - it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved. World Trade Center 7. World Trade [Center] 1 and 2 got hit by planes - 7, miraculously, the first time in history, steel was melted by fire. It is physically impossible....To say that we don't know that it imploded, that it was an implosion and a demolition, is beyond ignorant. Look at the films, get a physics expert here [on the show] from Yale, from Harvard, pick the school - [the collapse] defies reason." (Watch the clip here)

Popular Mechanics reminds her that they've done this already, and the result was a thorough book debunking this kind of idiocy. Along the way, they point out the canyonesque depth of ignorance and stupidity in the above statements. But liberals are smart - just ask them!

For extra fun, read the comments with the various leftist kooks in it. This reply to it all makes my top 3.

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VictoryPAC - or LetUsWin - on the Air

By Armed Liberal at 06:59

So I did my first-ever live radio interview today in support of VictoryPAC, with a conservative talk radio host named Vicki McKenna on the air in Madison. She commented that as a conservative in Madison she understood what it was like to be a liberal hawk - somewhat isolated. I disagreed, and pointed her at the Euston Manifesto and worked in Norm Geras.

Apparently I didn't suck, because I'm invited back to her Friday morning show in Milwaukee, on WISN.

If it's going to be streamed, I'll let everyone know.

VictoryPAC is over $12,000, by the way...I'm chasing new videos tonight.

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Drops of Freedom

By Joe Katzman at 04:57

Last night was Passover's Second Seder, which concludes:

"Ended is the Passover Seder, according to custom, statute and law. As we were worthy to celebrate it this year, so may we perform it in future years. Oh pure one in heaven above, restore the congregation of Israel in your love. Speedily lead your people to Zion in joy. Next year in Jerusalem!"

Cairo columnist Tarek Heggy has been a frequent contributor here at Winds of Change.NET. In the wake of his 2004 Passover greetings, we had an interesting email exchange around the story of Passover, the role of the Egyptians, and one specific part of the Passover Seder: the spilling of 10 drops of wine, as the plagues visited upon the Egyptians are recited.

Why do we do that? The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if perhaps the standard explanations were missing something - something that goes right to the heart of this holiday of freedom.

Continue reading "Drops of Freedom"...

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April 3, 2007

Lenovo #3 - Lenovo Comes Through

By Armed Liberal at 05:51

They shipped my computer 3/31. It'll be here tomorrow.

Pretty darn good, once they got engaged.

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April 2, 2007

The speech Bush should give

By Murdoc at 17:20

If Murdoc had his way, once the emergency spending bill was sent on to the White House, President Bush would give a speech explaining why he was going to veto it. And it would go something like this:

My fellow Americans,

I hope you won't mind if I ask for a few minutes of your evening to discuss with you a matter of national importance.

Earlier this week, the emergency spending bill was sent up from Congress for my approval. After carefully reviewing the bill, discussing it with senior military and administration leaders, and exploring alternatives, I am officially announcing that I will veto this bill tomorrow morning.

Now, I have only vetoed a single bill that has made it to my desk since I took office in 2001. And I don't veto this one lightly. Congressional Representatives and Senators are elected to their offices by the people of the United States, and the people of the United States are the ones who ultimately run the American government.

But this bill, originally written to fund the efforts of our military overseas and at home in the War on Terror, includes a requirement for a deadline to withdraw American forces from Iraq. And that requirement is simply unacceptable.

Read the rest at Murdoc Online >>>

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War for Profit

By Grim at 03:02

And why that is a sign of hope.

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