In light of hypo's claim that 'it's all about the oil' in Iraq, let me offer a quote from Postel's book 'Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran' (the book Chris doesn't need to read).
The picture gets further complicated, and the Left gets further flummoxed, over the role of Empire in the Iranian context. The memory of the 1953 coup burns furiously in the minds of many Iranians to this day. Because anti-imperialism is our primary conceptual organizing principle, leftists are of course highly attuned to such sentiments. Particularly in this era of Empire fever and regime-change mania, we reflexively and viscerally oppose US interference in other countries - and understandably so. Anti-imperialist pronouncements coming out of Iran thus have a certain resonance for many leftists. The supreme cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has characterized the students as "American mercenaries." As the Middle East scholar Juan Cole points out, that kind of accusation "has resonance in a country where US conspiracies to change the government - like the 1953 CIA coup - have actually succeeded." (It should be recalled, however, that the Islamists deploy the 1953 coup in bad faith: not only did they oppose Iranian president Mohammad Mossadegh for his secularism and liberalism; they even had their own plans to take him out. And after taking power in 1979, they obliterated the Mossadeghi National Front Party. This little footnote has largely been forgotten but is hugely relevant to the present situation.)
The problem is that denunciations of US Empire in Iran today are the rhetorical dominion of the Right, not the Left. It is the reactionary clergy, not the students, who wield the idiom of anti-imperialism. Regime hard-liners "legitimate their suppression of the students," Brecher points out, "as necessary to guard against 'foreign forces"'; the mullahs denounced the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Shirin Ebadi as "the result of the cultural hegemony of western civilization," a tool "intended to serve the interests of colonialism and the decadent world." This kind of talk can run an interference pattern on the ideological compasses of many leftists.
In contrast, for students, feminists, human rights activists, and dissidents agitating for pluralism and democracy in Iran today, opposition to US imperialism is not the central issue. The student movement's principal demand, as Brecher notes, is "to eliminate the power of the self-perpetuating theocratic elite" over the Iranian state. A simple stance of "hands off Iran," end of discussion, is not what those struggling for change in Iran need from progressives around the world. Of course we should be steadfast in opposing any US military intervention in Iran - that's the easy part. But it's not the end of the discussion. Iran is, as the Iranian anthropologist Ziba Mir-Hossein puts it, "a state at war with itself." Progressives everywhere should take sides in that war and actively support the forces of democracy, feminism, pluralism, human rights, and freedom of expression.
It's not that the students and other reformers in Iran are pro-imperialist. Quite the contrary. Ebadi, for example, has made it perfectly clear that she opposes US military intervention, advocating instead a nonviolent, internal transformation of Iranian society. But US imperialism is simply not the central issue for them - and this, I think, is a stumbling block for many American leftists, because it is the central issue for us. We're better at making sense of situations in which the US Empire is the foe and building our solidarity with other people around that. That was the case in Guatemala - as it was in Indochina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and East Timor.
But that model simply doesn't apply to situations in which the struggles of oppressed groups are not aimed directly against American imperialism. And that's a serious blind spot. It creates myopia on the part of American leftists. Anti-imperialism can turn into a kind of tunnel vision, its own form of fundamentalism. Cases that fall outside its scheme simply get left out, and our solidarity with struggles around the world is determined by George Bush, rather than our principles.
AJ Strata has a very good post up on the issues I'm debating w/commenter Chris below.
What does this all mean? Well the American people are leading the surge away from the hyper-partisans and the muck-raking, purity wars. Not only were the parties raging against each other - they had turned on the moderate middle and attacked with visceral hate towards anyone who could ’sell out’ and reach compromise. And of course the support for both sides of the aisle tanked as each end of the spectrum tried to see who could denigrate the midstream voters the most.
He goes on:
It began with Joe Lieberman in CT when that state - very democrat - rejected the hyper-partisan Dem Ned Lamont for the moderate (e.g., "traitor") and independent Senator Lieberman. It continued on as George Allen and Rick Santorum and host of other strong conservatives were replaced by more moderate democrats who straddled the center line of politics. And it continues on today with McCain leading the GOP contest, causing all sorts of emotional breakdowns on the right, and Obama on the verge of ending the divisive and destructive (to the dems) Clinton era.
Interestingly, AJ's a conservative, but thinks the left (Obama) will do better in tacking to the middle. And I'll point out that he regrets it. He also nails the role of the blogs:
The blogosphere and AM talk radio brought together the large community of political junkies who are, by their nature, probably closer to hyper-partisans than average Americans. Talk Radio and political blogosphere sometimes forget they are not a majority but a micro-minority that was starting to gain the ear of America. My feeling is many Americans, who are not hyper-partisans, have started to turn away from these media because they are repulsed, embarrassed or simply tired of being insulted.
Here's where I get to drag out my favorite Schaar quote:
"Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960's. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow."
Read the whole thing, as they say.
TEOLAWKI - The End of Life as We Know It - continues to threaten.
First there was the supernova and galactic-attack scenarios.
Then the predicted return of the comet Genondahwayanung, which pretty much annihilated most life in North America when it came here the first time.
And now, yet another insult: The earth's atmosphere may detonate.
It seems that about 55 million years ago, there was a massive warming of the earth (incredibly, before human beings existed!) that caused mass extinctions. Known as the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM), the warming period lasted about 100,000 years and ushered in the rise of mammals, leading eventually to the evolution of human beings.Its cause? The release into the atmosphere of enormous amounts of methane.
A tremendous release of methane gas frozen beneath the sea floor heated the Earth by up to 13 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) 55 million years ago, a new NASA study confirms. NASA scientists used data from a computer simulation of the paleo-climate to better understand the role of methane in climate change. While most greenhouse gas studies focus on carbon dioxide, methane is 20 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere.Methane is solvent in ocean waters, but below 500 meters in depth the cold and pressure forces the methane to become trapped within ice crystals. Generally, this ice (which can actually be set alight if brought to the surface) is embedded on or under the sea floor.
[H]owever, that might not always have been the case. A period of global warming, called the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM), occurred around 55 million years ago and lasted about 100,000 years. Current theory has linked this to a vast release of frozen methane from beneath the sea floor, which led to the earth warming as a result of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.The hypothetical cause of the release was the tectonic shifts of the continents, especially of the Indian subcontinent smashing (geologically speaking) into Asia breaking up the sea floor for thousands of miles and releasing trapped methane into the atmosphere. But it gets worse! Some scientists say that with a properly large sea floor eruption, such as a massive earthquake, so much methane could be released into the air that the atmosphere itself could become literally a fuel-air explosive.
[T]here may be stagnant, oxygen-poor basins in the ocean where methane might accumulate. Even a small explosion could cause a catastrophe. Imagine what would happen if such an event occurred in the mid-Pacific. Tsunamis would be generated in continuous waves, striking Hawaii and the entire West Coast. Coastal areas would be flooded for miles inland. Methane/water clouds would auto-ignite and the massive fires could cause widespread destruction. Consequences could be global. Whatever humanity survives would be thrown into a Dark Age.Now, there's some atmospheric warming for ya!
In the comment thread below, commenter Chris & I play ping-pong with the question of whether my views hold any relevance to the Democratic Party. My initial response to him was:
Chris, I don't know that I feel so lonely - I've got a leading D candidate (Obama) who is at least philosophically in touch with my beliefs about the nature of domestic politics, and whose domestic policies I find largely appealing; I've got a leading R candidate (McCain) whose foreign policies are largely appealing to me and whose domestic policies don't make me sick. Compared to the Netroots crowd's wishes, I'd say US politics is orbiting pretty close to where I want it to be.
Now Ed Kilgore weighs in over at TNR (is Foer still the editor there or what?):
- His message was a remarkably faithful and wholesale adoption of the Crashing the Gates-style netroots analysis of the parties, of Washington, of the Clintonian Democratic tradition, and of galvanizing value of "fighting populist" rhetoric. It was crafted with the help of the maestro of this approach, Joe Trippi. Yet it did not rouse much in the way of support from its intended audiences. In the end, most of the Deanian excitement in the campaign flowed to Obama, who consistently deployed a rhetoric of post-partisanship that is anathema to the point of view advanced by Edwards, as Edwards himself suggested on many occasions. It's telling that Edwards lost his critical contest, Iowa, where he had every advantage at the beginning, after hoping for a low turnout dominated by older voters and previous caucus participants.
...as I was saying...
I forgot - Bush is speaking about two miles from my house today...I'll try and get pictures of Marine One when it goes overhead...
Eric Red has a post up on the Saddam admissions - the ones where he explained that he was 'bluffing' about WMD for regional reasons. In it, one of his commenters pokes at my suggestion that the bluff made Saddam culpable for the invasion.
Other folks, (Democracy Arsenal) also make the point that much of the sturm und drang that we are so geopolitically sensitive to is in fact inter-regional - i.e. the sabers being rattled are not necessarily aimed at us.
Eric follows up with a post suggesting prudence in our stance wrt Iran based on this.
My response in comments at Eric's site was:
Short version: by the time Saddam started complying the invasion had an institutional logic - we weren't going to invade in summer, fall or winter, nor leave 200K troops sitting in Kuwait for the summer. The meta problem is that 'seeming' to have a gun will readily get you shot. Having said that, I've called the invasion a 'strategic failure'; and believe it is, even in the face of the apparent tactical success flowing from the surge.
Let me try and unpack this a little and talk about three things: The rickety and unpredictable nature of large-scale human action; the humility planers and actors need to have in the face of that ricketyness; and the interaction between inter- and intra-regional issues - in a kind of homely metaphor.
First of all, let me reiterate a point I think I've made over and over again, but which I obviously haven't made well enough, about the nature of large-scale human action.
As someone who has on occasion led large groups of people - I mean like twenty or thirty people - I have profound respect for the limitations of organizational precision. What Clausewitz called 'friction' is apparent in all human affairs - none so much as war - and it is important in discussing any large-scale human activity - whether business, politics, bureaucracy, or warfare to keep in mind that the world looks a lot more like George McDonald Frasier than like Tom Clancy. In fact, I would strongly recommend the Flashman books, not just as a good set of reads, but as a good window into how I think real human affairs really transpire.
Boorish, selfish, limited people with incomplete information, bad communication, and half-blind views of the world - when they are sober - collide. They follow leaders who are noble and visionary primarily in retrospect.
It's interesting that I picked up two other relevant books while I was in France - 'The Black Swan' by Taleb which was my read on the flight out, and 'On The Psychology of Military Incompetence' by Dixon which I picked up used at Shakespeare & Co in Paris.
I'd strongly suggest reading both of these.
The reason is that actors on a large scale - at a national scale - have to take this slop into account. Which is why brinksmanship is so fraught with risk - and why I don't think it's a good idea when it comes to Iran.
Think of it as the "World War I" model; we've got these armies, and we'll posture with them, secure in the notion that we have absolute control. Except, of course, that we don't.
And when we're signaling 'threat' the problem is a fractal one; the risk and uncertainty applies at a small scale as surely as at a large one. I talked about it at length here:
...not to try and parse the blame for whatever faulty intelligence there may have been between Republicans and Democrats; I say it because reasonable, smart, well-informed people other than those in the Bush Administration believed that Saddam had WMD, and was willing to use them.
And so to look at the decision made to invade, we have to look not in the light of the perfect information of hindsight, but in the context of the imperfect information available - to the question of whether it was a toy gun or a real Desert Eagle.
There are absolutely legitimate questions to ask about the quality of our intelligence about Iraq - from before the first Gulf War until today. There are absolutely legitimate questions to ask about whether an invasion was the appropriate response to the risk of WMD.
But those aren't the questions we're asking.
And before we do, let's step further into the reality of the pre-invasion world, and move away from an Anthony Dwain Lee innocently holding a prop, standing at a party, and to Alan Newsome:
Alan Newsome never thought his BB gun would kill anyone. When he brandished it in the hallway of his Harlem apartment building, it was just something to help scare some cash out of a burger joint deliveryman. But the deliveryman turned out to be a cop, and when Newsome pulled the fake gun, the cop's partner shot the 17-year-old three times in the chest, killing him.
The threat posed by Newsome - brandishing a realistic looking pellet gun - was one that any reasonable person would have responded to with deadly force.
Saddam may have thought he had WMD because his staff lied to him. He may have thought he could use the empty threat to bluff.
But the fact of his behavior moves him from the Lee category to that of Newsome.
The risk one takes when you walk down the street brandishing a fake gun is that a very real policeman will come by and decide it's real - and you'll get shot.
Now it's critical that we understand the regional context of what actors in the Middle East are doing; and I'll suggest that we continue to do a crappy job of that. But it's something where the moral weight isn't all on one side.
This is something that progressives - because they tend to see the world through the prism of American power and imperium - tend to do; they tend to place all the moral weight on our side of the equation. This isn't some neocon fantasy - Danny Postel talks about it in 'Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran'.
Sorry, but that doesn't hold water. The leaders in the Middle East - Saddam, Ahmadinejad, and others - may have as their prime focus regional dominance (actually their prime focus is staying in power in their own fiefdoms), and I genuinely believe that the root of their anti-American babble is posturing to their local audience - but the problem they have is the same one - having whipped their armies into a rage - the institutional inertia becomes difficult to control.
And therein lies the rub. Because even if we accept the most benign interpretation - that the 'death to America' chants are bravado, posturing designed to keep a political leadership's grasp on power, the problem is that the movements they launch, incite, and support may not be any easier to control than the alliances and armies in Central Europe were in 1914.
So yes, institutional inertia on the part of American armies was a large part of why we went to war in 2003. But it wasn't the only part.
I've suggested that there were legitimate reasons to depose Saddam - both as a way of trying to change the behavior of the more intractable states, and as a way of liberating his own people.
Yes, sanctions were working - and ironically, I'll bet a lot that many of the people who wag fingers and tell us that sanctions were doing just fine are the same people who in 2001 accused sanctions of killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children and argued for lifting them (a fun research project, if anyone's got the time). And, without question, we can say that sanctions were collapsing.
Jeff Weintraub summed up the contradictions well back in 2002:
Thanks for sending me yet another petition opposing war in Iraq. As my last message should have made clear, I can't sign it in good conscience ... though I do agree very much with SOME of the points in the statement (and I disagree with others).
Some key points in the statement happen to be mutually contradictory. For example, one reason offered against war is that the sanctions imposed on Iraq are killing Iraqi children, and constitute a major human-rights violation. On the other hand, another point suggests that military action is unnecessary because "the policy of containment [is] working well." One characteristic passage reads:
"In briefings calculated to query the administration's persistent sabre rattling towards Iraq, unnamed officers told the Washington Post that the policy of containment was working well and that the alternative, a military assault, was too riddled with risk to be worth pursuing."
Perhaps, but this contradicts the previous point. Sanctions against Iraq are a crucial part of the "policy of containment." If the sanctions are criminal, then how can the policy be "working well"? And if the sanctions are removed, the "policy of containment" will collapse. You can't have it both ways.
No, you can't.
Experimenting with OpenID, using my Technorati Profile
Over at Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell has an interesting post up on partisanship in the blog world. He cites a study (behind a paywall) examining the linking behavior of blogs.
Eszter and her colleagues work from a sample of 40 well-known political blogs, and examine how these blogs did or didn't link to each other over three week-long periods. Like previous studies, they find that the majority of links are between blogs sharing the same ideological position. However, over the three weeks examined, only five of the conservative blogs never link to a liberal blog, and only three of the liberal blogs never link to a conservative one. In general, they find that there is evidence that blogs are somewhat insular (they are far more inclined to link to other blogs like them than to blogs with different ideological positions), but far from being insulated (there still is a fair amount of left-right conversation going on). In general they find "no support for the claim that IT will lead to increasingly fragmented discourse online."
More interesting still, Eszter and co. do some basic content analysis on the substance of links between left and right wing blogs.
I'm dying to read this study; go over and read the whole post at CT (and ignore the trollbait in the comments); we actually have some interesting empirical data to work with - let's explore where it takes us.
I've been noodling over a similar project for several months, based on Memeorandum.
Looking at the link clouds that develop around stories there, it appears superficially that left and right blogs don't link - at all - to the same stories. If true, that's depressing. One of these days I'll get the time to do some analysis and see if it's true or not - unless one of you readers beats me to it.
FALLUJAH – At the end of 2006 there were 3,000 Marines in Fallujah. Despite what you might expect during a surge of troops to Iraq, that number has been reduced by 90 percent. All Iraqi Army soldiers have likewise redeployed from the city. A skeleton crew of a mere 250 Marines is all that remains as the United States wraps up its final mission in what was once Iraq's most violent city.
“The Iraqi Police could almost take over now,” Second Lieutenant Gary Laughlin told me. “Most logistics problems are slowly being resolved. My platoon will probably be the last one out here in the Jolan neighborhood.”
“The Iraqi Police in Jolan are very good,” Second Lieutenant Mike Barefoot added. “Elsewhere in Fallujah they're not as far along yet. Theoretically we could leave the area now and they would be okay, except they would run out of money.”
There's more to the final mission than keeping the Iraqi Police solvent, however. The effort is focused on the Police Transition Teams. Their job is to train the Iraqi Police and bring them up to international standards so the locals can hold the city together after the last Americans leave.
A senior Marine officer whose name I didn't catch grilled some of his men during a talk in the Camp Fallujah chow hall after dinner.
“Do you trust the Iraqi Police?” he said to a Marine who works on one of the teams.
“No, sir,” the Marine said without hesitation. That was the only acceptable answer. This was a test, not an inquiry.
“Why not?” the officer said.
“Because they're not honest,” the Marine said.
“What do the Iraqi Police watch?” the officer said. “What are they looking at on a daily basis?”
“Us,” said several Marines in unison.
“They will emulate you, gents,” the officer said. “They. Will. Emulate you. Why? Because we came over here twice and kicked their ass."
The photo at the top of this article never fails to grab our readers' attention at Defense Industry Daily. As it should. Taken on the front lines in Iraq, it depicts a v-hulled Force Protection Cougar (MRAP Class II) vehicle, shortly after a deeply buried land mine believed to contain over 200 pounds of explosives blew up under the vehicle. That's a shocking big boom, and even MRAP vehicles do not guarantee protection against a blast that size. Indeed, US MRAP tests at Aberdeen Proving Ground are considered vicious because they use 30-50 pound charges - a test set that has failed at least 3 MRAP contenders. Amazingly, the Cougar in this picture did what it was designed to do, minimizing the impact of the blast by deflecting it to the smooth v-hull's sides, rather than catching the full impact on a Hummer's flat bottom and multiple "blast trap" niches. The engine was thrown over 100 feet from the vehicle - but the crew lived. The challenge then became removing the vehicle wreck, instead of finding enough crew remains to provide a burial.
This picture provides a certain level of perspective, as one contemplates the recent NY Times article "Hopes for Vehicle Questioned After Iraq Blast". While Australia's DoD has a standing "On the Record" section of the site that takes issue with media reports they believe to be misleading or flat out wrong, the US Department of Defense hasn't quite caught up yet. It did issue a direct response in this case, however, and the contents are interesting.
The NY Times public editor responds to the criticism of the 'Killer Vets' series:
The Times was pointing out terrible examples of something the military itself acknowledges: large numbers of veterans are returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with psychological problems. And, as the initial article said, a Pentagon task force found last year that the military mental health system was poorly prepared to deal with this wave of distress.
The Times was immediately accused - in The New York Post and the conservative blogosphere, and by hundreds of messages to the public editor - of portraying all veterans as unstable killers. It did not.
But, the first article used colorfully inflated language - "trail of death" - for a trend it could not reliably quantify, despite an attempt at statistical analysis using squishy numbers. The article did not make clear what its focus was. Was it about killer vets, or about human tragedies involving a system that sometimes fails to spot and treat troubled souls returning from combat?
Finally, while many of the 121 cases found by The Times appeared clearly linked to wartime stresses, others seemed questionable.
There's some discussion of how the process may have failed...
Purdy urged me not to get lost in the numbers as I looked at the first two articles. I agree with that, but I believe The Times tangled itself in numbers right at the start. Bill Keller, the executive editor, said the newsroom’s computer-assisted reporting unit normally screens articles with statistical analyses. Some of the problems might have been avoided if someone in the unit had read the first article before it was published. But Terry Schwadron, the editor who oversees the unit, which created a database for the 121 cases, said that did not happen. "I read the story in the paper, and I shared some concerns" with Purdy, he said.
And, finally, we understand why the reporters care so much about the story:
Purdy defended the series. "It is an intimate exploration of a devastating cost of the war that merits national attention and focus but has not received it," he said, because "it is playing out in one community at a time ... with no comprehensive attention from the military."
Keller agreed. "I believe this series is an important public service that explores in riveting detail the emotional stresses war places on this important community and the problems the military faces in coping with those stresses," he said.
Sitting in an East Coast hotel watching TV (I actually may have to get TV at home for this election...) I'm thinking a bit about the election (note: I haven't given up on my point that long-war hawks may want to consider voting Democratic - I'll go back to this soon).
And I wanted to highlight the point Jonathan Chait made in the LA Times today - 'Is the right right on the Clintons?'. As I note in the title, politics ain't beanbag, and to me the fact that the Clintons can play as rough as anyone isn't - necessarily - a bad thing. I don't know about you, but I don't want a shrinking violet as President.
But - I'm more concerned about our toxic domestic politics, and I need to see some kind of uplifting vision balancing the ruthlessness. And I'm watching Hillary talk, and what I don't see - is enough vision to counter the sharp elbows.
Oh my God - CN just cut away from Hillary's speech...I wonder what that means? Interesting inside baseball...they didn't cut away from Obama's... I guess he is the media's darling.
But you know what - I was kind of done with her generic stump speech anyway. Maybe they are just good at judging audience reaction.
So here's the problem. I want to support a Democrat, if I possibly can. But you know, I don't think I can support Hillary. Now she may be able to leverage the racial divide in the vote in South Carolina (Obama didn't break 35% of the white vote - again) into white backlash against Obama, as some commentators have suggested.
But I really, truly wonder if she can win the general election. This isn't a new question. She's hated, and you have to wonder why it is that she is so polarizing. Well, the gracelessness of the speech I just watched - where she had a chance to say more than a passing congratulation to Obama - is a good start. People in the public eye, at some point reveal their real character. We're seeing Hillary's.
So I wonder if she can win the race, and to be honest - I now wonder if she should.
How in the world are the Democrats in this situation today? How is it not going to be a coronation for the Democratic candidate?
Interesting...for me, I'm waiting to see where my opinions will lead me in the general - if Obama's weak (sadly very weak) national security policies will tip me to the GOP, or if my belief in the long-term benefit of giving the Democrats ownership of the problem outweighs those concerns. See K-Lo at the Corner for a counter.
This is going to trigger some interesting discussion. And very timely, considering the '935 lies' campaign.
Saddam Hussein initially didn't think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.
For me, this remains one of the logical answers as to why Saddam didn't come clean on his programs, and why Bush would have risked the obvious problems resulting from lying about the intelligence.
I've talked in the past about this:
...and some more, but those will do as starters.
For such an organized state, East Germany fell apart in a decidedly messy way. When the country's eastern bloc neighbors opened their borders in the summer of 1989, tens of thousands of East Germans fled to the West through Hungary and Czechoslovakia. By autumn, protests and riots had spread throughout East Germany, with the participants demanding an end to restrictions on travel and speech. In the first week of October, thousands of demonstrators in Dresden turned violent, throwing rocks at police, who broke up the crowd with dogs, truncheons, and water cannons. The government described the thousand people they arrested as "hooligans" to state-controlled media. But on October 9, the situation escalated. In Leipzig that night, 70,000 people marched peacefully around the city's ring road — which goes right past the Stasi office. Agents asked for permission from Berlin to break up the demonstration, but this was just a few months after the Chinese government had brutally shut down pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, to international condemnation. The East German government didn't want a similar bloodbath, so the Stasi did nothing. A week later, 120,000 people marched; a week after that, the number was 300,000 — in a city with a population of only 530,000.Interesting connection of events.
Crossposted at Sense of Events.
With 74.7% of the total vote counted (107,906 of 144,362), a total of 922 votes were changed (.85%). With 75.9% of Hillary's vote recounted (45,912 of 60,503), a total of 305 votes changed for a net change of +25 votes. With 73.0% of Obama's vote recounted (36,566 of 50,081), a total of 152 votes changed for a net change of +10 votes.
At this point, I don't see a way - absent massive swings in very few districts - for this to change the result, and what isn't apparent is the widespread shallow difference that would be suggested by the 'Diebold Effect' we talked about in the polls.
My email bulletin from Brad yesterday was headlined:
Yes, one precinct in Nashua (Row 80) did show a 7.4% swing for Hillary. But like the NY Times, outside the context of all the numbers, the number is meaningless.Note that in one district in Manchester, there was a 10% increase in votes for Hillary (row 64) - matched by a 10% increase for Obama. At this point, it's an academically interesting project to analyze the errors and look at the outlier districts. But we're talking about 130 votes out of 144,000.
That won't stop the hysterics from claiming that the election was illegitimate or stolen. But it does explain why I was angry enough to use invective, and why I remain angry at people who devalue the hard work to do to secure elections.
I'll do a longer post on why calm certainty matters soon.
Note: If someone has time to cross-reference the precincts in the spreadsheet with this list of precincts that used Diebold machines, it'd be fun...
Update: Added link to SoS results...
Update 2: After running through the two counties above, Kucinich has pulled the plug and isn't going to fund any more counting. If more data is posted, I'll add it to the table.
Power Line reports that the Fayetteville Observer, a small newspaper in Fayetteville, NC (where Biggest Guy will be in a month) put a stake into the heart of the one meaningful claim that the NYT could make in it's article on killer veterans.
That claim was that the rate of murders, manslaughter, and other fatal bad behavior by soldiers and vets had increased 89% since the start of the war.
The newspaper did some actual journalism, digging through local records - a violation of the Times' journalistic practices, I know - and came to this conclusion:
Data: Combat hasn't caused murder spike
Combat stress has not created a spike in murders by soldiers in the Fayetteville area, according to a search of records by The Fayetteville Observer.
Tracking killings reported in the newspaper before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks showed that more soldiers were accused of murder in the six years before the attacks than in the six years since.
Twelve Fort Bragg soldiers have been accused of killing 13 people in the six-plus years since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Observer records. In the six years before the terrorist attacks, 16 Fort Bragg soldiers were accused of killing 18 people.
Those numbers came from a search of the Observer’s archives and may not be conclusive. Law enforcement agencies do not track killings by whether the accused was a soldier. The Observer examined its own records after a New York Times story published Jan. 13 indicated that homicides involving active-duty service members and new veterans rose 89 percent during the past six years.
Phil Carter's supposition, that the article is based on Lexus/Nexus/Google research looks much more likely based on this. I may reach out to the paper in Columbia and ask if they'd consider doing the same thing.
Many in Egypt today are talking about two features that have come to dominate the country’s social landscape. The first is that manifestations of piety have become far more widespread in recent times than they were a century ago. The second is that there is a noticeable upsurge in behavioural aberrations at the societal level, where tension, violence, aggression and lack of civility in dealings between members of society have become the norm. While neither of these observations can be denied, there is an obvious contradiction between them. If the religiosity that has come to permeate society’s cultural climate and the manifestations of piety displayed by its members have not prevented the decline in moral standards, civility and social ethics, this can only mean that piety, or, more accurately, the understanding of piety that has come to prevail, does not serve the interests of society. This is by no means to deny that there are among those who subscribe to this understanding of piety admirable examples of moral rectitude. But I am talking here of a general phenomenon, not individual cases.
I believe we can only resolve the contradiction if we admit that what has come to be called piety is in fact not piety at all. This is the unshakeable conviction I have reached following an in-depth study of the phenomenon. We are swamped by such ostentatious displays of piety as women wrapped in what has come to be called “Islamic” dress and men sporting beards, wearing white – as opposed to gold – wedding bands and bearing marks on their foreheads attesting to the hours they spent prostrating themselves on prayer rugs. Not to mention how the senses are constantly assailed – in writing, from the pulpit and through the audio-visual media – by voices urging the faithful to observe the ritualistic aspects of religion. If some are entitled to consider that this constitutes piety then, by the same token, others, including the writer of these lines, are entitled to assert that rites and rituals have absolutely nothing to do with real piety.
To be pious is to have a strong moral code, to be helpful to others, and to display such noble character traits as altruism, tolerance and a strong work ethic. As to the manifestations of piety we have mentioned, they are due to a combination of political, economic, social, educational, cultural and psychological factors that can be easily identified. According to the Positivist school of philosophy founded by Auguste Comte, no one can claim that greater religiosity will set things right, because practical experience proves that excessive religiosity could further promote the decline in general standards of behaviour and the violence and anger in dealings among people.
The ubiquitous religiosity we are witnessing today in the form of a rigid adherence to the ritualistic aspects of religious observance stems from a variety of sources: More than half a century of no political participation or fictitious political participation is one. More than half a century of economic decline and the erosion of the middle class is another. Then there is the complete divorce between the Egyptian educational system and what is happening in the rest of the world, its isolation from modern systems of education and its reflection of all our cultural defects such as the growing tendency towards insularity and bigotry and the lack of critical thinking. The succession of oligarchies that have governed our political and social life for over half a century is also a source of the excessive religiosity to which society has succumbed. Added to all of the above is the deteriorating quality and standard of the religious establishment, which has been infected by ideas blowing from the East. Then there is the absence from the scene of anything other than religion that can nurture a sense of belonging among Egypt’s youth. Immersing themselves in the rituals of religious observance has become a psychological refuge for those who find nothing else to which they can anchor themselves in a time of uncertainty [hope, a class, an ambition, a party, a better reality or a specific cultural model.]
Every person on the face of the earth [with the exception of a small minority whose only allegiance is to their own ideas, principles and value systems] needs to feel he or she “belongs” to something or other. In advanced societies whose members enjoy a high standard of living, people’s sense of belonging can take a variety of forms. There are those whose allegiance is to their own personal successes, others to a political party, to a certain social class with its own culture and value system or to a specific ideological or cultural movement. Through this feeling of belonging, a person achieves the satisfaction and fulfillment necessary for the well-being of every human being. This can help explain the sense of belonging Egyptians felt for the national movement led by Saad Zaghloul some ninety years ago as well as why most of the Egyptian people identified so closely with the Nasserite project a few decades later. In both cases, there was a “front” that succeeded in gaining the allegiance of broad segments of society, irrespective of how successful either was in making good on its promises or living up to its slogans. With the disappearance of these fronts, which attracted the interest, energies, loyalty and allegiance of most members of society, the field was left wide open for a different kind of allegiance to take hold, one that is more appealing, comfortable and, because given to generalities and lack of precision, suitable for men and women of an average cultural formation. Where allegiance to Marxism, for example, requires an above-average degree of awareness, culture and intelligence, this does not apply when it comes to joining the front of religious slogans. I believe that religious slogans – which are in fact purely political, not religious at all – owe their appeal to the regression and erosion of the roles played by other fronts which were highly effective at earlier stages of our modern history over the last two centuries.
It should also be pointed out that ritualistic piety [as endorsed in the writings of men like ibn-Taymiyah and ibn-Qaiym Al-Juzeya and in the applications of Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab and the experiences inspired by his school] works on the outer, not the inner, person. It is like a particularly strict traffic system that lays down rigorous rules determining what people can and cannot do. It is a school of thinking that may be suitable for primitive communities with a limited store of education, culture and knowledge but not for contemporary, advanced and civilized societies. Communities governed by this strict code could appear to be disciplined on the outside but are riddled with defects and shortcomings. It treats people like circus animals trained with whips to follow the routine laid down for them. But piety in the sense it is understood in Sufism, Christianity and Buddhism works on the inner person and seeks to have what is good in human nature triumph over its aggressive and base aspects.
It is no coincidence that Islamic societies governed by the strictest religious rules, that is, rules designed to maintain an outer semblance of piety, are the most dissolute, the ones most obsessed with sex, women and all forms of sensual indulgence. The attempt to control these aberrations on the “outside” without trying to deal with the “inside” creates a kind of dichotomy, a pathological split between what is said in public and what is done in private that is perhaps without parallel in the world.
If you watched the football playoffs yesterday, you almost certainly saw this ad:
Gerard Van Der Leun observes:
You might recall that San Francisco refused to cooperate in the making of this film: Marines Denied Permission To Film Commercial 11/29/07.Which led a commenter to remark, "San Francisco: the Few, the Proud, the Morons."
Film Commission Executive Director Stefanie Coyote would only allow the Marine's production crew to film on California Street if there were no Marines in the picture. They wound up filming the empty street and will have to superimpose the Marines later.
Cross-posted at Sense of Events.
Update: It seems that the report about the SF film commission are rebutted by the president of the film company contracted by the Marines to shoot the ad. Details below the fold:
According to a PDF of a letter, on letterhead, forwarded to me by reader Rolan Crighton, the report above is untrue. The letter, written by Donald Block, founder and president of Tight Films, which was contracted to shoot the USMC's ad, states that the SF film commission denied permission to shoot on Sept. 11, a weekday, but approved the same shoot for Sunday the 9th. However, the USMC's Silent Drill Team, featured in the ad, was not available for filming on the 9th. Block's letter also says that his request would have shut down 17 blocks of California St, starting at 5 a.m. and "going all day." Block concludes, "I think the film commission did everything they could to accommodate us and get us the shots that we wanted." He also states in the letter that a SFPD officer and a Tight Films employee both misrepresented the facts in their public pronouncements.And yet . . . Note that the report cited in the post, above, is from the SF ABC affiliate. It quotes the SFPD officer, Capt. Greg Corrales, as saying that Stephanie Coyote arbitrarily said no to the Marines' request. Capt. Corrales "Corrales commands the police traffic bureau that works with crews shooting commercials, TV shows and movies in the city."
We [meaning the ABC affiliate] asked Stefanie Coyote why they're not allowing the Marines to shoot on California Street. She wouldn't answer our questions.It's worth noting some things:
At today's Film Commission meeting, she said she wouldn't let the Marines film because of rush hour.
"Traffic control was the issue," explained Stefanie Coyote.
However, the Marines would have just shut down one lane of California Street for a few minutes at a time, and Captain Corrales points out the Film Commission often approves shoots for rush hour."If they want to get the job done, they find a way to get it done," said Captain Corrales.
One, this is not a manufactured controversy. A major news operation broke it and tried to get Ms. Coyote's side, but she refused, at least at first.
Two, Capt. Corrales is a USMC veteran whose son is now serving his third tour in Iraq. Did that lead him to leap to some conclusions that weren't really justified? Perhaps, maybe even probably. But we can't know. As a senior police officer of the city, specifically the unit that deals with filming in the city, we have to agree that his is professionally is a position to evaluate what traffic implications the day's shooting would have on traffic flow.
Three, Donald Block has a vested interest in keeping his company on friendly terms with the SF film commission. Did that influence his protestations in his letter? It's just as likely as the degree that Capt. Corrales might have been influenced by his and his son's USMC service.
My take is that no one is presenting the "god's eye" version of the events. However, I believe Donald Block's version of events is true in the important partculars.
Thanks to Roland for his legwork on this matter. One of the strengths of the blogosphere is its ability to fact check writers, and it was well done in this case. Had I time, I'd also contact Capt. Corrales. But I don't, so I won't, and there the matter shall rest. BTW, I tried to upload the PDF file itself, but Windoze Vista simply will not allow the browser to open the window necessary to do so, no matter how I try to do it.
Update 2: Then again, Capt. Corrales' assessment is buttressed by this.
Bob Owens, the blogger who keeps acting like a reporter (ought to) has been chasing Beauchamp documents through FOIA. (Note: the TNR crew, with lawyers and editors and everything, apparently thought this would be ... who knows).
He'll be streaming the documents up all day. Go check them out and give him a big atta-boy.
Foer, not so much.
I worry sometimes that MLK Day will become a generic holiday, like "President's Day" and we'll forget what it is we're supposed to be honoring today.
Last year, I reposted his 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail', and since bytes are cheap, I'll gladly do it again.
I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face Jeering, and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer.
They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My fleets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he k alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
We are blessed to live in one of the least racist countries in the world; and yet we have a sad road behind us and a long road ahead of us to make race truly irrelevant. Actually, that's wrong. The goal isn't necessarily to make race irrelevant, but to make racial contempt irrelevant, and to make sure that race is no obstacle to full participation in civic and economic life.
And today is a good day to contemplate that, and to also contemplate the role one human being - as flawed as any one of us - played in changing the world.
It's been interesting to be at Ft. Benning for the last few days. Biggest Guy had two ceremonies - the 'Turning Blue' ceremony pictured below, and a final graduation at which he and his peers (all except six young men who failed post-Christmas drug tests and were shown the door) were officially accepted as infantry soldiers.
The cultural gap between our family home and his new home are wide - not just everyone in the movie theater standing for the national anthem played before the feature, but the fact that everyone obeys - seriously - the speed limits, the clerk at the videogame store who wouldn't let Littlest Guy buy World of Warcraft without my OK, and that the level of courtesy and helpfulness from everyone from the checkout clerk at the PX/mall to the guard who noticed our expired vehicle pass and sent us back for a new one puts my courteous, helpful suburb of Los Angeles to shame.
I worry more than a little about the military being far too isolated from not only mainstream America, but from the cultural and political elites that run it. The feeling of being in a cocoon on base - in almost every way - got my attention in a not-good way.
But in a Blue America where veterans are objects of fear or pity, I guess it makes sense.
I had fantasies that the New York Times series that I dinged last week would be better than the lead article suggested. The second article is out, and it looks like it won't be.
The article is a human-interest story about a badly damaged veteran, his crime, and the consequences of his crime.
I'll stand on my original comment:
"Because it's not part of the narrative of how our soldiers are either depraved or damaged."
It's funny; I passed up all the Army swag at the PX as kind of tacky - you know, the bumper stickers and license plate frames that seem so cheesy.
After reading the article, I went and ordered one - "I [heart] my soldier". Once we mount it, I can't wait for the reactions our hybrid gets when we valet park it in West Los Angeles.
This just came from Biggest Guy's relatives in France: documentary footage of his grandfather flying a bombing mission as a member of the Free French air force in WWII (he's the guy in the goofy helmet).
In light of the contremps between Obama and Hillary last week, I thought I'd unearth an old Armed Liberal post:
One of my best friends spent years as a community organizer for parks in New York City. She is a fountain of funny stories and 'on-the-ground' political wisdom, and one of her truisms is: dog doo ends all meetings.
That is to say, much like Godwin's Law, as soon as dog waste is brought up, the meeting is effectively over. The room divides, the tempers get hot, and constructive discussion flies out the window.
I'll suggest a corollary of this, which is: race ends all Democratic politics.
In the discussion of the 'Veterans Day' post below, the thread immediate turned into a race politics thread - who were the racists, and what political power did they have in which party. And constructive discussion sort of petered out.
Now, race is a real issue in American life today.
Yesterday, I had dinner with a friend. I was dropping off a character reference letter for him to give to the sentencing judge next week. He got talked into something stupid, got set up, and got arrested. Another casualty of the drug wars (to his credit, he blames no one but himself - one reason he's the kind of guy I'd write judge letters for). There's a chance - a narrow chance - that he will just get probation, which means he'll get to keep the job he's had for twelve years.
We were talking about it and he said something that rang my bells pretty hard.
"Now," he said quietly, "when I get pulled over and they ask me if I'm on probation, I'll have to say 'yes'." I looked at him.
"Damn," I said, "they never ask me that" - and then the unspoken acknowledgment. He's black, I'm not.
Now I've ridden along with cops a fair amount (I also have good cop friends). Without going into a lot of detail about my friend, there are things that would make me look at him twice (things I learned to look for from cops, and which I saw and remarked on when he and I first met - part of how we became friends).
But his matter of fact comment is no less heartbreaking to me because I know that if I was a cop, I'd be asking him the same question. And there, in a nutshell, is the American Tragedy of race.
But - it isn't the only problem or the only tragedy we face. And the fact that it stops us in our tracks - that it stopped Janice Hahn - that it stops discussion - is a bigger problem. I won't pretend to lecture anyone on this subject tonight.
But the lecture's coming.
As irritated as I was at Brad Friedman for coming out of the gate with what I saw as a conclusion unsupported by specific evidence, I fully share his discomfort with the current technology and processes used in voting in New Hampshire.
Now, the first rigorous study I've seen of the voter data has come out - and it supports him. Chris Chatham at 'Developing Intelligence' writes:
To my complete (and continuing) amazement, the "diebold effect" on Hillary's votes remains after controlling for any and all of those demographic variables, with a p-value of <.001: that is, there are less than 1:1000 odds for this difference occurring through chance alone, and that's after adjusting for variability in Hillary's votes due to education, income, total population, and population density.
Go read the whole thing.
Kucinich is paying for a recount (the questionable machines were optical scanners, not DVR touchscreens - in which case no recount would be possible). If there were material discrepancies, the 'Vince Foster was murdered' crowd are going to have a field day, and the Democratic nominating process will be more fun than the first episode of the Sopranos.
According to the Pentagon's press ops people, accessed via the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, approximately 1.6 million individual troops have served in Afghanistan and Iraq since the beginning of the war in late 01/early 02.
They don't have readily available separation of those who have actually been in combat roles and those who haven't.
I'll call this the 'golden' number at this point.
That makes the rate of homicide (given the NYT 121 number) 7.6/100,000.
See AMac's analysis in the comments here for a good framework to put on this.
TEOLAWKI - The End of Life as We Know It - threatens again.
Folks, the news from outer space just keeps getting worse and worse.
First, the supernova and galactic-attack scenarios.
Then the predicted return of the comet Genondahwayanung, which pretty much annihilated most life in North America when it came here the first time.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2008) — A giant cloud of hydrogen gas is speeding toward a collision with our Milky Way Galaxy, and when it hits -- in less than 40 million years -- it may set off a spectacular burst of stellar fireworks.Fireworks? Fireworks? Good heavens, man, it's TEOLAWKI!
Time is running out. Don't go see "The Bucket List," make your own bucket list!"The leading edge of this cloud is already interacting with gas from our Galaxy," said Felix J. Lockman, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).
Hat tip: American Digest, whose post leads with this priceless nugget: "Our premise made stupid: Study Shows over 68% of Science Stories Have Scientific Errors but.... but "over 42% of the stories were completely accurate."
"On a clear night last spring in Afghanistan's eastern mountains, a U.S. infantry platoon went looking for an al-Qaida operative named Habib Jan, and they found him. Outside an abandoned village clinging to a rocky hillside, the platoon was ambushed in a rain of deadly rifle and machine gun fire. Twenty-seven Americans and five Afghan Army fighters together fought 90 or 100 of Habib Jan's Islamist extremists.
For 17 hours, the American platoon was pinned down. Bullets snapped and hissed as the enemy slowly closed in. Ammunition ran low. Water ran out. Sniper rounds plucked at the soldiers' helmets and sleeves and drilled through boots as they shifted and returned fire. Night stretched into day and on into night again and the fighting intensified."
Great story from the Baltimore Sun regarding an intense firefight in Afghanistan. Which they got despite the Army, not because of it. It's a pretty heroic tale, as 3 Silver Stars for the action would tend to indicate, and a tactical success. But the Army won't release the information, citing Pentagon rules that are later proved not to exist... whereupon the Army does not change its position. The troops involved think this is b.s. Decorated Vietnam combat vet and historian Doug Sterner puts it succinctly:
"The military's always complaining about how nobody writes about their heroes. Well, how the hell are you supposed to write about heroes if the Defense Department doesn't give up the information?"
A team of scientists say that a large comet exploded over eastern Canada almost 13,000 years ago, causing mass, near-instant extinctions of 35 genera of animals and killing 70 percent of human beings in North America, thus snuffing out the Pleistocene Clovis cultures practically overnight.
Evidence unearthed at more than two dozen sites across North America suggests that an extraterrestrial object exploded in Earth's atmosphere above Canada about 12,900 years ago, just as the climate was warming at the end of the last ice age. The explosion sparked immense wildfires, devastated North America's ecosystems and prehistoric cultures, and triggered a millennium-long cold spell, scientists say. ... Heat from the event would have set off wildfires across the continent, the scientists suggest. The heat and shock from the explosion probably broke up portions of the ice sheet smothering eastern Canada at the time, they add. The flood of fresh water into the North Atlantic that resulted would have interrupted ocean currents that bring warmth to the region, and thick clouds of smoke and soot in the air would have intensified cooling across the Northern Hemisphere.It's been recognized for a long time that at this time the glaciers were in retreat, but that this warming period was followed by a 1,000-year-long mini-ice age, referred to as the Younger Dryas. New Scientist reports
But by 12,900 years ago, the ice had retreated sufficiently from the northern Atlantic coast to let meltwater rush suddenly eastward. As an estimated 9500 cubic kilometres of fresh water poured into the Atlantic, it switched off the ocean's salinity-driven "conveyor belt" current, shutting down the Gulf Stream that carries heat from the tropics to eastern North America. It was this that triggered the Younger Dryas cooling, say many palaeoclimate experts. However, some of the comet proponents now propose a different trigger for the cold spell. The massive airbursts over Canada could have destabilised the continental ice sheet, opening new drainage channels to the east. Additionally, dust and debris from the explosions may have darkened the ice, absorbing solar heat and accelerating melting.But the worst consequence of the cataclysm was the mass extinctions of the late Pleistocene that have heretofore been attributed to overhunting by the Clovis peoples of the continent. The extinctions were additionally blamed on the Younger Dryas. The new impact theory, though, says that the comet's multiple explosions (caused by its breakup in the high atmosphere) themselves caused the extinctions: "at least 35 genera of the continent's mammals went extinct – including mammoths, mastodons, camels, ground sloths and horses." That's 35 whole genera, not just species, that died out. Just at the time of the extinction the researchers found a significant band of soot in sediments from widely-separated sites.
[T]eam members say this suggests the cometary explosions ignited wildfires that swept across much of southern North America, wiping out large populations of animals. "I don't want to sound catastrophic here," he says, "but this is wild stuff. There is significant evidence of massive biomass burning."That is, the genera that perished were burned alive. Based on this and other archaeological evidence, researchers say that 70 percent of the human beings in North America were killed as well. The Clovis cultures disappeared. But did the stories of the remnant remaining survive to this day? Perhaps:
The Ojibwa of the upper Great Lakes region had a story about Genondahwayanung, which meant "Long Tailed Heavenly Climbing Star." During the 1980s, Thor Conway visited the Ojibwa and talked to Fred Pine, an Ojibwa shaman. Pine's story about the creation notes that Genondahwayanung was a star with a long, wide tail which would return and destroy the world someday. He said, "It came down here once, thousands of years ago. Just like a sun. It had radiation and burning heat in its tail." The comet was said to have scorched the earth so that nothing was left, except the native Americans, who were warned ahead of time by Chimanitou, a Holy Spirit, and had gone to a bog and rolled themselves up in the mud to protect themselves from the heat. Pine continued, "It was just so hot that everything, even the stones, were cooked. The giant animals were killed off. You can find their bones today in the earth. It is said that the comet came down and spread his tail for miles and miles." Thereafter, all comet and meteors were treated as serious omens which required the interpretation of the Ojibwa shamans. There are other stories of a great fire coming from the sky and destroying everything except for certain native American tribes. In some cases the tribes claimed they were warned, while others claimed they just ran for the nearest bodies of water.The Indian legends are congruent with the comet theory, especially in the suddenness of the destruction.
Today, the NY Times has the first part of a special series - War Torn:Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles. It appears that the troops are coming home and becoming murderers.
Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: "Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife." Pierre, S.D.: "Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress." Colorado Springs: "Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring."
Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.
The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment - along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems - appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
And we're presented with a litany of tragedy.
But as usual, I keep asking the simple question - well, what does it mean? How do these 121 murderers compare with the base rate of murderers in the population?
And the answer appears to be damn well.
The only reference I could find for the number of troops who have served in combat areas was at GlobalSecurity.com, citing a Salon article:
Three and a half years have passed since U.S. bombs started falling in Afghanistan, and ever since then, the U.S. military has been engaged in combat overseas. What most Americans are probably unaware of, however, is just how many American soldiers have been deployed. Well over 1 million U.S. troops have fought in the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Pentagon data released to Salon. As of Jan. 31, 2005, the exact figure was 1,048,884, approximately one-third the number of troops ever stationed in or around Vietnam during 15 years of that conflict.
From the October 1, 2001 start of the Afghanistan war, that's about 26,000 troops/month. To date (Jan 2008) that would give about 1.99 million.
That means that the NY Times 121 murders represent about a 7.08/100,000 rate.
Now the numbers on deployed troops are probably high - fewer troops from 2001 - 2003; I'd love a better number if someone has it.
But for initial purposes, let's call the rate 10/100,000, about 40% higher than the calculated one.
Now, how does that compare with the population as a whole?
Turning to the DoJ statistics, we see that the US offender rate for homicide in the 18 - 24 yo range is 26.5/100,000.For 25 - 34, it's 13.5/100,000.
See the problem?
Damn, is it that hard for reporters and their editors to provide a little bit of context so we can make sense of the anecdotes? It's not in Part 1 of the article. And I'll bet it won't be in the future articles, either.
Because it's not part of the narrative of how our soldiers are either depraved or damaged.
The NY Times Public Editor can be reached at email@example.com.
He's riding a 900cc Suzuki...and needs a helmet!
See the CNN slideshow here.
Two things I tagged because they amused me...
Now this is a predictable development as Ben Nelson is the king of bipartisanship, voting with Republicans more than any other Democrat: Nebraska U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson plans to make an announcement on Saturday morning that his spokesman said has national implications.Again, the national implications for me are not positive for Obama, they are negative. I am glad that Ben Nelson is a Democrat and coming from Nebraska, I doubt we could get someone better, but Nelson's views are NOT what I want for the Democratic Party. It wil be interesting to see how Nelson explains his support for Obama. I imagine the reachout unity schtick will be the explanation.
The post was written, of course, by 'Big Tent Democrat'...
And over at War and Piece:
CounterSpy: Philip Agee dies in Cuba: ... Agee's actions in the 1970s inspired a law criminalizing the exposure of covert U.S. operatives.
But in 2003, he drew a distinction between what he did and the exposure of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent critic of President Bush's Iraq policy.
''This is entirely different than what I was doing in the 1970s,'' Agee said. ''This is purely dirty politics in my opinion.''
Agee said that in his case, he disclosed the identities of his former CIA colleagues to ''weaken the instrument for carrying out the policy of supporting military dictatorships'' in Greece, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
Those regimes ''were supported by the CIA and the human cost was immense: torture, executions, death squads,'' he said. ...
More here.Update: A British journalist colleague who covered some of the uglier episodes of Latin American modern history, writes, citing Agee on himself: "'Why did I denounce the CIA? Because I met and fell in love with a woman who believed Che Guevara was the most wonderful man in the world.' He leaves it to us to make the obvious deduction -- that he tried to imitate him to win her over. It all goes to prove that the Human Factor trumphs all in spying as Graham Greene so brilliantly detailed in his book of the same name. ..."
...that's just perfect...
I'm having intermittent timeout issues with Winds. Before I ask the crack technical team (hi, Ev!) to take time and look - is anyone else having problems like this?
Happy birthday to Ann Althouse!!
When I was shuttling to New York, we had a few entertaining dinners; she's smart, unique and funny. Another good person I've met through blogging...
Capt. Allison "Angel of Death" Black. Maj. Melissa "SHOCK" May. Not to mention STAC, Schwing, CUDA, Lex, G-spot, Fifi, Hak, Torch, Snake, Shaq, Blaze, Tuzzi, and many others. If it flies, they fly it. Stealth fighters, F-16s, bombers, special forces gunships, you name it. Gannett's Air Force Times has a few stories for you. (Hat Tip: Spoook86)
Master Sgt. Kimberly Sulipeck, with 450 hours on AC-130H gunships in Afghanistan, nails it:
"If you’re new to the system, you prove yourself whether you’re male or female... You do your job, do it right, and that’s the way it goes."
Or, there's the motto of the CFPA itself:
"We are a small group, but the point of the CFPA is not to set ourselves apart. We are, first and foremost, Fighter Pilots. That's our priority."
Yup. I don't see women in navy shipboard service as a good idea for number of reasons. On the other hand, I watch the combat line blurring in the Army without much worry. But I'm positively enthusiastic about the idea of women in the Air Force. It's an excellent place on many levels, including physiology that can be an advantage. And every day, women in America fly combat missions that prove the soundness of the concept
Uh, remember when I talked about thinking before writing. Turns out that this applies beyond the Internet.
If the New Republic story "Angry White Man" is true, Ron Paul's campaign will face a very different reception henceforth. Would be nice if they'd apply the same effort to Democrats, but hey, this is the media and you can read the Pew surveys as well as I can.
This will get media play, and the interesting thing I'll be watching will be how his supporters react. Some of the arguments he makes, and which TNR quotes, are defensible. A focus on the rights of the AIDS-infected, without consideration for the rights of those they could infect sans disclosure, killed quite a few people. Other arguments are less defensible, and the overall tone is definitely something to give one pause. Along with the question of why the continuation of that conspiracist tone and outlook has found such a receptive social and media audience these days. Now that the story is out, and the topic is on the table, the question of what happens next gets even more interesting... and, in some ways, more revealing.
Stephen Green writes a "what were they thinking" post about Huckabee's lead in a caucus (note: not primary) in Iowa. He might have pondered his own concept before penning it, because it makes a smart guy look like an insulated, naive, poorly brought up snob. One of the comments is from someone in Iowa, who - rightly - invites him to go f--k himself.
There's going to be a lot of ink spilled about Huckabee, some of it vitriolic, because hey, this is politics and he threw his hat into the ring. So be it. But there's a reason folks are attracted to candidates, and except for some cases of folks who are clearly way over the line (David Duke, Al Sharpton), it usually worthwhile to think first about the real reasons people support the folks they do. Might even learn something in the process. Or, if you'd rather, turn your guns on the candidate himself and let fly, if you have a case. But that sure isn't what he did.
Stephen is too smart to be pulling stupid human tricks like this. Dude, this is the internet. What you wrote going to be public for a very long time. And I guarantee you, the day will come - and perhaps already has - when you look at that and are not proud.
Sensei Scott "Dilbert" Adams has a theory that everyone is stupid at least some of the time. It's true. And it's forgivable, as long as folks don't abuse the privilege. Do better next time, my friend.
Update: Brad called, and disagrees with the points I'm trying to make, and was deeply unhappy both at the way I characterized him and at the fact that I hadn't made an effort to contact him before slamming him publicly as I did. He's wrong, I think, on the substance, and absolutely right on the style. The tone of this post is far more hostile than it should have been, and while I am 'torqued' at the way he's dealing with the issue, and disagree with him pretty substantially, I want to apologize both for not letting him know I thought he was wrong and for the tone I take below. My bad, and I thought I'd learned that lesson. Maybe this time.
I actually have met and personally like Brad of BradBlog; while I might have been on the voting machine issue early, he was tireless in raising awareness on the issue and deserves tons of credit for that.
Now I kind of think he deserves a boot to the head (from the Frantics sketch, folks, calm down). He's gone off the deep end, suggesting that the difference between polls and results in NH was the result of a Diebold conspiracy. No, really.
I'm not sure why Obama would have conceded so soon, given the virtually inexplicable turn of events in New Hampshire tonight.
What's going on here? Before proceeding, I recommend you read the third section of the post I just ran an hour or so ago, concerning the way the ballots are counted in New Hampshire, largely on Diebold optical-scan voting systems, wholly controlled and programmed by a very very bad company named LHS Associates.
And, to boot, one of the principals in LHS may have dealt drugs back in 1990 - 18 years ago.
Now I have no idea if LHS is a good company or a bad one (some of the things Brad points out are certainly bad, and the Diebold machines themselves aren't good news). But it gets my back up a bit when liberals - who ought to believe in rehabilitation - suddenly drag out irrelevant 20-year old history and wave it as a bloody shirt to make an argument.
There's a better quick test, which is to look at the paper counts vs. electronic (about 25% of NH was on paper) and see if the results differed wildly. Commenter NB over at Pollster.com did just that:
Regarding the fraud hypothesis:
On BradBlog, they link to this page -- http://ronrox.com/paulstats.php?party=DEMOCRATS -- which has the vote totals by township, along with the voting method (electronic or paper).
One basic question is whether paper-voting towns produced different results from electronic-voting towns. Of course, town size correlates strongly both with voting method and the Clinton/Obama ratio. So I took the numbers above and did basic matching using the only data I had, total votes, which I presumed correlated with town size, and thus (hopefully) with other important demographic characteristics. That is, I took the 91 towns that voted electronically and matched each one (using matchit in R) with a similarly sized paper-voting town, and then compared the vote percentages for Clinton and Obama in those two populations. The results?
................Cl .... Ed .. Ob
Ie, the two voting types seem to have produced nearly identical results. Of course, more demographic data to match on would be nice, but I think this puts a big burden of proof on the doubters.
Posted by: NB | January 9, 2008 10:58 PM
I've gotta call bullshit on this one, and suggest that hysteria like this distracts from and devalues the real problems with voting security as badly as Tawana Brawley and Crystal Magnum distracted from and devalued the real problems of violence against women.
I've been watching the upcoming election with some amusement - I wish I could muster enthusiasm instead - and thinking about how to decide who I'm likely to support.
On a range of domestic issues, I ought to be clearly an Obama supporter; but issues are one thing and competence, experience, and judgment another. And, as ought to be clear to most of the folks who read me with any interest at all, I've been willing to put my domestic agenda on hold while we deal with the problem of a hostile movement within a newly powerful Islamic world.
So I sat down and tried to map out the conditions for making a decision based on that one issue. And I came to an interesting hypothesis that I'd like to try out on the hawkish readers here.
It just may be the case that hawkish folks like me would see our policies better off - far better off - with a Democratic president in 2009.
OK, go pop a few blood pressure pills and come back so I can explain why.
It starts with my belief that we're in for a long war. Like the Cold War, I'm hopeful that it will be resolved with few people dying in combat. Very hopeful...
...and like the Cold War, I believe that our opponent both needs to expand for internal reasons, and will ultimately collapse - absent being nuked into oblivion for doing something foolishly violent - for internal reasons. The issue is hanging on long enough for that to happen.
Today, that's not going to happen; it's not going to happen because in our toxic political environment, the war has become a Republican war. The Democrats - for domestic political reasons as much as for ideological ones, I believe - see the very real (and typical) fatigue with the war as well as the litany of problems that any war brings with it as a club they can use to beat the Republicans with, and they fully intend to keep using it. The unintended consequence of that division is that the very real enemies we have, both the core of the violent Islamist movement, and more important the larger body of those who are sympathetic or blackmailed into supporting them, see that division and are confident that they are backing the stronger horse.
The recent moves by the Gulf Council to patch things up with Iran are, in this model, largely a product of the bet by the Gulf states that US domestic policy will preclude any aggressive effort to check Iranian power, and that the Iranians see an uncertain US leadership as unable to press them without reckless escalation on their part.
So first, and foremost, we need to be clear that in this contest we are united as we are not today. How best to do that? I'll get back to that.
There's another reason that goes with this.
If you're a hawk, ask yourself - what if we're wrong?
There's a problem in interpersonal violence that I think scales well to interstate violence; you usually don't know for sure in the real world when you're in a fight until it's too late. And in making the decision to fight in most circumstances, the risk you take is that you start a fight when there wouldn't have been one if you'd acted otherwise.
A long time ago, I talked about 'threat assessment':
The best class I have ever seen (although I did not take it) in dealing with this issue is the IMPACT/Model Mugging series. They teach their students to actively interact with potential threats, which allows you to make the determination of risk at a range you select. When I walk up, the IMPACT student is taught to say "Excuse me, but you're coming too close to me," and then escalate from there depending on the response. If this were directed at me (affable, but sometimes irritable), I'd back up, and probably shake my head at the oversensitivity and lack of trust in the modern world. The Bad Guy won't, and that difference in behavior lets you know what you are dealing with.
My role model Clint Smith puts it pretty well: "You better learn to communicate real well, because when you're out there on the street, you'll have to talk to a lot more people than you'll have to shoot, or at least that's the way I think it's supposed to work."
I've consistently said that we aren't - yet - in a real war with the nations of the Middle East, and that it would be a profound error to act as if we were. In response to a post here on why we needed to immediately act against Iran, I responded:
Why are we talking in the face of a ticking bomb?
Well, because to quote someone smarter than me, "Diplomacy is the art of saying 'nice doggie' while reaching for a stick."
While we're doing that, a few things may happen. The dog may stop growling. We may get a stick.
Or we may get bitten.
I don't want to get bitten by a dog. But my willingness to risk a dog bite goes up when I'm carrying a gun.
Because I can say with a lot of confidence that the dog will only get one bite.
I'll add to that some history, from Michael Oren's 'Power, Faith and Fantasy,' which suggests that we've had intermittent, low-level conflict with the nations of the Middle East as long as we've been around. Clearly it's a different game today, with higher risks and more connections for both sides. But a level of discomfort and conflict isn't new. And if it isn't new, maybe it's something that we live with, within boundaries - just as we lived with the depredations of the Soviet and Chinese states during the 50's and 60's.
So in the face of those who say that Rudy G is in "his prime terrorist-killing years" or that John McCain may be a little old but will still kick some ass, I'd ask this:
First, wouldn't it be good to have the whole country - or at least much of both parties - lined up on one side when it comes to this conflict? And second, isn't it reasonable to try to see if we're really at war or if - note that this isn't a position I believe in, but it's one I can see believing in - we're at risk of causing one?
Obama's article in Foreign Affairs was, to me, a mess. His faith in negotiation and persuasion is touching, but in my experience negotiation where one side doesn't see any downside to no negotiated outcome is typically not successful; and the histories of wars past are full of those who - whether negotiating with the Barbary Pirates, the Ottoman Empire, the Nazis, or the Soviets - felt that as long as negotiations were ongoing, regardless of what was happening outside, things were going well. But I believe that even Obama loves this country and is certainly smart enough to change his stance if facts prove him wrong. I cite Obama here not because I've decided to support him - I haven't - but because it'll be him or Hillary for the D's, and he is certainly more dovish than she is.
So let's take a moment and discuss whether - in the context of a generational conflict - we'd be better off strategically if the Democrats won next year.
I want to write about Andrew Olmsted, but nothing intelligent or useful comes out that hasn't been said better by others. He was a part of the larger community of Damn Good People I've met through blogging - people who I agree with, disagree with, have learned a ton from, and hope maybe to have shown a cheap trick or two. I value that community extraordinarily much, as did Andrew apparently.
I know I keep asking people to donate to things, but look at it this way - there are a lot of places where a hundred or two $15 checks could make a real difference. And if I can help steer some of those checks, and help some folks pay bills, maybe it's a part of what I can do as part of in 'making a tiny dent in history's Green Monster' as Andrew put it.
Andrew's family just suggested that if people want to do something in his memory, they might donate to the children of Capt. Thomas Casey, who was killed coming to Andrew's aid.
I just sent $50 to
Capt. Thomas Casey Children’s Fund
P.O. Box 1306
Chester, CA 96020
and I'll match the next $200 that Winds readers send. Put your commitment in the comments below.
Regular blogging will resume later today.
“I am a ring on your finger.” — Al Qaeda in Iraq member Abu Anas to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi
Since Abu Musab Al Zarqawi formed the Al Qaeda in Iraq franchise, the terrorist group that destroyed the World Trade Center has fought American soldiers and what they call the near enemy, fellow Muslims, instead of civilians in the homeland of the far enemy, the United States. This may be good for Americans, but it has been a catastrophe for Iraqis – especially in Baghdad, Ramadi, and Fallujah.
I had lunch with several Iraqi Police officers and spoke to them afterward about this searing conflict that raged for years in their city and that only quieted down a few months ago. Trauma and war are still fresh, enough so that they don't want me to publish their names or their pictures. Nor do they want me to identify their police station. So I’ll just say they work somewhere in the vicinity of Fallujah. And I’ll call them Omar, Mohammed, Ahmed, and Mahmoud – generic Arabic names which are pseudonyms.
“What did you think of the Americans a few years ago when they first got here?” I said.
“The United States made a big mistake when they invaded Iraq,” Omar said. “They destroyed the Iraqi Army. They destroyed the whole army when they invaded. They lost their right hand against the insurgents. They lost a good partner that could have really helped in the future. In the beginning if they had just kept the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police, somebody would have been backing them.”
“Do you think invading Iraq was the right decision, or was it a mistake?” I said.
“It was a surprise invasion for both the Americans and the Iraqis,” he said. “They had no ability to analyze the actions they were taking. Neither the Iraqis nor the Americans could understand what was going on. All the casualties during the invasion were Americans and Iraqis. None were the third party. We were both losers. If we had just started with political methods to accomplish the mission, it would have been far better than the military action. As a result, the Iraqi people and the American people were losers.”
Rich "Goose" Gossage was the only candidate inducted into Cooperstown this year by the writers. He got 466 votes, over 85%. You need 75% to qualify for the Baseball Hall of Fame. If there was a Hall of Fame for mustaches, Goose would have been inducted long ago. I'm glad for him, because he has waited for a long time, but my personal feeling is that he's kind of on the bubble in terms of players who should be admitted.
Boston's Jim Rice fell 16 votes short this year at 392, 72.6%. Next year will be his last shot. Which is fine - to me, Rice is the poster boy for an All-Star player, a wonderful player, who is not a Hall of Fame player. If you're a Boston fan, chill out and wait 6-7 years for the grand party that will be Curt Schilling's well-deserved induction.
Mark McGwire got exactly the same number of votes he got in 2007 - 128. Which is unusual, usually it goes up. Looks like the steroids issue is really biting. It's quite possible that he will never make it in... Sosa is an almost certain "no" now, and even Bonds is in question. 5 years ago, could you have imagined that?
The only guy I'd vote for who did not make the Hall in 2008 is Lee Smith. I'd think about Bert Blyleven, and Tommy John too.
Eta Carinae is drawing closer to its ultimate explosive demise. When Eta Carinae explodes, it will be a spectacular fireworks display seen from Earth, perhaps rivaling the moon in brilliance.And it gets worse.
An explosive star within our galaxy is showing signs of an impending eruption, at least in a cosmic time frame, and has for quite some time. From 1838 to 1858, the star called Eta Carinae brightened to rival the light of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and then faded to a dim star. Since 1940 it has been brightening again, and scientists think Eta Carinae will detonate in 10,000 to 20,000 years.
A jet of highly charged radiation from a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy is blasting another galaxy nearby -- an act of galactic violence that astronomers said yesterday they have never seen before.Gerard Van Der Leun, whence the first link, declares,
First the global freezing, then the ozone hole, then the alar scare, then the warming, then the comet strike and now, now this, the FINAL INSULT! I tell you if this keeps up, sooner or later every single person alive on the Earth today is going to be dead.Bummer.
I wrote last Friday (Can we cash-starve the oil tyrannies? Probably not) about whether the United States could starve Saudi-funded terrorism by eliminating the petrodollars the Saudis earn from selling us 1.53 million barrels of oil per day. At $90 per barrel, they earn approximately $137 million every day from American buyers.
We would either have to find another source for that much oil or find ways to reduce our demand equivalently. In fact, both are possible but neither would matter. The Saudis are in the catbird seat since worldwide demand for oil is rising more than fast enough for them to sell all the oil they can pump.
Even so, Saudi petrodollars are source of a great deal of the world's misery, including dollars backchanneled by Saudi princes to al Qaeda or its Islamist allies. Even though the Saudis could replace the American export market fairly easily, we should still reduce our dependence on oil as much as possible. Oil is the most important strategic substance in the world today. As demand rises, it will become more so.
So this post will address whether we can reduce our need for oil enough to substantially decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
We import 63 percent of the oil we use. That percentage has risen for many years. When I first started studying this topic, we were importing just more than half. By the end of this year, I am sure the percentage will higher than 63.
Gasoline drives America's oil imports
Year to year, 45-47 percent of the petroleum refined in America is made into gasoline. (The Energy Information Administration has a table of Refinery Yields for the past six years.) More gasoline is produced than any other petroleum product. Second is held by distillate fuel oil, (home heating oils, diesels and bunker oils) that account for 27 percent, a record high conversion that will likely fall since demand for heating oils is actually down.
A barrel of oil has 42 gallons. Presently, the national average of gasoline produced by American refineries from that barrel is 19.3 or so. Some refineries produce less, some more than the average. How much gasoline (or any other refined product) is produced from a standard 42-gallon barrel of oil is mostly a function of refinery design, but not exclusively. Refineries could be designed or converted to produce less gas, but that means they will have to produce that much more of other petroleum products - 42 gallons of raw oil in means about 39.5 gallons of refined product out. (Some raw oil is consumed during refining; that loss is characterized as processing loss, and amounts to a few percentage points).
That means that the less gasoline that is produced per barrel, the more of something else would have to be produced. But there is not now a correspondingly-higher demand for other refined products.
We could, of course, maintain distillates production at present levels while refining less gasoline simply by refining less oil. Hopefully, that would mean importing less oil. At present rate of refining, we need to refine 16.2 million barrels per day (mbpd) to produce the 4,379,000 barrels of distillates used daily. Since we refine just under 21 mbpd now, once we reduce gasoline demand by 2.3 mbpd then oil use will drop by 4.6 mbpd, but will then stabilize to maintain production of distillates. If gasoline demand falls by more than 2.3 mbpd, then more gasoline will be produced than is demanded, and the price of gas will fall, perhaps a great deal.
This is static analysis, of course, while markets and production are dynamic. We could meet the distillates demand with much less raw oil by converting refineries to produce more distillates and less gasoline. If demand for gasoline falls that's what will finally happen. But some gasoline will always be produced from refining raw oil. That is good because to reduce greatly our need of gasoline will require us to continue using gasoline.
Post-hybrids are essential to energy security
Gasoline-only-powered vehicles will not disappear from American roads for a long time, probably a few decades, so we will need to produce gasoline for that period. But we also need to improve existing technologies to greater efficiencies to increase by an order of magnitude the distance one gallon of gasoline now takes a car.On Dec. 30, former CIA Director James Woolsey plugged (heh!) rechargeable electric cars.
[L]ast month General Motors joined Toyota and perhaps other auto makers in a race to produce plug-in hybrid vehicles, hugely reducing the demand for oil. ...Okay, I'm down with 500 miles per gallon. That's super cool. Mr. Woolsey based his estimates on adoption of lithium-ion batteries, which is what GM announced it would work with. But three weeks ago, Toshiba announced the Super Charge ion Battery (SCiB):
... dozens of vehicle prototypes are now demonstrating that these “plug-in hybrids” can more than double hybrids’ overall (gasoline) mileage. With a plug-in, charging your car overnight from an ordinary 110-volt socket in your garage lets you drive 20 miles or more on the electricity stored in the topped-up battery before the car lapses into its normal hybrid mode. If you forget to charge or exceed 20 miles, no problem, you then just have a regular hybrid with the insurance of liquid fuel in the tank. And during those 20 all-electric miles you will be driving at a cost of between a penny and three cents a mile instead of the current 10-cent-a-mile cost of gasoline.[…]A 50 mpg hybrid, once it becomes a plug-in, will likely get solidly over 100 mpg of gasoline (call it “mpgg”); if it is also a flexible fuel vehicle using 85% ethanol, E-85, its mpgg rises to around 500.
According to Toshiba, the SCiB is a safe, fast-charging battery that can repeat the charge-discharge cycle 5,000 times while retaining its effectiveness. This gives the battery a lifespan of about 10 years, even if it’s used every day. In addition, safety features allow the battery to recharge with a 50 amp current, meaning it can recharge more quickly than a standard battery, reaching 90% of its total charge in as little as five minutes. Toshiba has tested the battery in extreme temperatures, as well, and it has maintained its ability to discharge at temperatures reaching -30 degrees Celsius (about -22 degrees Fahrenheit). ... ... Toshiba says it plans to continue to develop a high-performance SCiB to serve electric-only cars.There are a lot of questions yet to be answered about this battery, but early returns look promising. It may mean that a plug-in, gas-electric car could achieve electric-only ranges far beyond the 20 miles Mr. Woolsey envisions using li-io batteries. But a plug-in car still uses electricity that must be generated somehow. So, would widespread adoption of plug-in electric cars merely shift oil usage from under the hood to inside a plant? Well, it might, but probably not much.
Presently, oil-fueled electricity generation accounts for a mere two percent of electricity. Coal accounts for 50 percent, hydropower and natural gas, 10 percent each. The rest comes from nuclear, biomass, solar, etc.
Converting America's autos to plug-in, gas-electric drives would require a substantial increase in electricity generation. To wean ourselves off foreign-oil reliance will mean that we will have to use our native resources to produce that electricity.
That could mean a lot more domestic oil production, which we could do if we wanted. But the political fight would be huge. Otherwise, we'd already be pumping from ANWR. So the choices come down to coal or nuclear. Suitable hydropower sites are pretty much all in use now, and the other technologies now in use will for a variety of reasons (including environmental restrictions) never amount to much more than they are now. Adding oil-fired electrical generation will probably make sense in some places, too.
Adopting massive use of ethanol fuels, such as E85, to achieve Mr. Woolsey's 500 mpgg necessitates abandoning maize-based ethanol production. The agri-lobby will fight that tooth and nail, but both economy and morality demand it. Presently, E85 used in flexfuel autos gives up only 70 percent of the energy by volume that pure-gas vehicles enjoy. That means that it takes (on average) 1.4 gallons of E85 to drive the same distance as achieved by one gallon of gas. However, engines designed to run exclusively on E85 fuel (rather than both gasoline and E85) show greater efficiencies than flexfuel engines.
Presently we are using about 9.4 millions barrels of gasoline per day. Not all of it is used in cars. Lawn mowers and other gas-powered equipment account for a significant amount. I haven't been able to discover those quantities, but let me say 7 percent. That means that we'd have a base requirement of 660,000 barrels (rounded) of gas per day for non-auto uses. At present refinery rates, that amount requires 1.4 million barrels of oil to produce.
If E85 efficiencies are not improved, the remaining 8.7 million barrels of gasoline used today would be replaced by 12.2 million barrels of E85 (8.7 times 1.4 replacement rate). Fifteen percent of that is gasoline, so that means we'd still have to produce 1.8 million barrels of gas to make E85. Total gasoline requirement: 666K plus 1.8M barrels of gasoline per day, or 2.5 mbpd (all figures rounded to one decimal). That will require 5.4 mbpd of oil at current refinery yields.
Suppose refineries were converted to invert their present refinery yields of gasoline and distillates. Then half our present rate of oil consumption, 10 mbpd rather than 20-plus, would yield 4.6 mbpd of distillates, not much more than present demand, leaving enough "float" to power some new oil-fired electrical plants. It would also produce 2.7 mbpd of gasoline. So using half our present level of oil has the potential to meet all our present gasoline needs. We'd still need to import 2.4 mbpd, but that could be exported by Canada if it only slightly ramped up production from its 2.2 mbpd presently exported to America.
None of this will happen quickly. The challenges of engineering and finance remain immense. So are the political challenges, since enormous swaths of the American economy and most every member of Congress are heavily invested in the status quo. For that matter, most of the US State Dept. will fight it, being heavily invested in Arabist world views.
Nonetheless, my recommendations:
What about hydrogen?
The hydrogen-powered vehicle is highly unlikely for economic and engineering reasons. Almost all the hydrogen produced is made by steam reforming, a very expensive process that pulls hydrogen from natural gas. Hydrogen is a fuel, not an energy source, and an expensive fuel to boot. See Gasoline, hybrids and hydrogen.But that does not mean that hydrogen is DOA for vehicle-power enhancement. Consider this development in Israel:
Update: Speaking of non-gasoline fuels, Popular Mechanics reports that diesel auto engines are making a comeback, with excellent acceleration and low emissions. In fact, "According to the EPA, if 33 percent of U.S. drivers switched to diesel vehicles, the country would reduce its oil consumption by about 1.5 million barrels a day." That would take care of the Saudi equivalent right there. So what about a diesel-electric plugin car?
Don't think we'd ever get a 33 percent market penetration for diesel? In Europe, diesel autos are half those on the road. In fact, demand for diesel is so high there that they sell excess, refined gasoline to the United States. It's about 1,5 million gallons (not barrels) per day, IIRC. That's about 35,000 barrels per day, out of the 9.4 million bpd we actually use.
The Bush Administration has begun to shift some new focus to Afghanistan for fear that it has lost some of its focus there in the last year. If the Bush administration has indeed lost focus there, then it must be true most of the rest of us have as well. Since 2003 Iraq has consumed us and Afghanistan become an oft referred to “forgotten war”. So with a positive turnaround in Iraq, current events in Pakistan such as they are and the start of a new year it behooves us to look back at Afghanistan and think about what lies ahead there.There's a lot more.
"To be challenged in such a manner is an irresistible red flag to men like this, and certainly no less of one because the challenger was a rude, loud, irreverent braggart who had never been victorious in actual air-to-air combat. And yet that forty dollars went uncollected, uncollected for many years against scores of the best fighter pilots in the world.
That is more than luck. That is more than skill. That is more than tactics. That level of supremacy is the result of the ability to see things in an entirely new way. It is the difference between escaping from a maze you are embedded in, versus finding the way out from one that you look down upon from above.
Having your ass handed to you in such a spectacular and repeated fashion causes some men to curse and mutter about ‘one trick ponies’ and so on. But for others, for those who are more invested in victory than in ego, it reveals a level of skill that instantly removes all swagger and competition and puts one in the place of a willing supplicant, eager for knowledge."
Here at Winds of Change.NET, we've talked about a fighter pilot named Col. John Boyd - always with immense respect. Many of you will look at that name and think "Who?"
OK, think Sir Basil Liddell Hart. Too obscure? Then try these names on for size as compatriots: Karl von Clausewitz. Sun Tzu. Do we have your attention yet?
I don't think that it's stretching Boyd's importance, or his contribution, very much to place him in that company. Indeed, I predict that in a couple hundred years, when people look back on the 20th century and think of the theory of warfare and armed conflict, they won't think of Mikhail Tukachevsky, or his student Guederian. Or even Sir Basil. Instead, they'll mention an American Colonel who was, for a very long time, a prophet without honor in his own country.
Which may lead you to ask the question: "how come I haven't heard of this guy?" Rather than explaining all the reasons, I'd rather take a more productive tack - and direct you to an immensely readable, riveting, but brief explanation of who Boyd was, what he discovered, and why it matters more than ever today...
Enter Bill Whittle. Bill really knows his airplanes - and I say this as someone who has spent a lot of time in that field for many years. He also knows the back-stories: the stories behind a number of things you see in the skies today, and a few you don't. I guess being the grandson of this guy will give you a few tendencies in that direction. Finally, Bill has a gift for describing a situation's human drama, in addition to its importance in the realm of ideas.
All gifts have their moments. This may have been Bill's.
His article about John Boyd's journey from years of uncollected steak-dinner bets, to one of strategy's great leading lights, is one of his best pieces - and is probably the best popular explanation of Col. John Boyd that I've seen to this point. Anywhere.
"Part 1: Pope John and the Supersonic Monastery" is absolutely worth your read if you're interested in understanding warfare, or strategy more generally.
"Part 2: The Big Picture" connects Boyd's ideas to present events - while discussing the ability to reach beyond the Perfect Swordsman, and The Perfect Sword, to something on the next level: Swordlessness. Part 2 is a very interesting bookend to Noah Shachtman's recent WIRED article "How Technology Almost Lost the War...", which was the first thing I'd seen in a while that really began to capture what's going on at the front, and what guys like Andrew were/are a part of.
Joe Katzman: All soldiers have a Last Post. Fittingly, Maj. Andrew Olmsted's will endure beyond the trumpet's fading notes. He was a member of the Winds team, the Winds family, best known for his Iraq Report briefings. He also blogged for his local Rocky Mountain News, and at other sites including Obsidian Wings. Some day, he says, his own site with this entry may come down. We've offered to host it on our server to avert that possibility; but regardless of what happens with that, so long as Winds of Change.NET endures, his words will endure here. As will his memory.
I am terribly sorry my friend and colleague Andrew Olmsted is dead. I am very grateful that he lived, and that others like him live still.
"I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here."
- G'Kar, Babylon 5
"Only the dead have seen the end of war."
This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G'Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It's not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn't hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn't bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don't know. I hope so. It's frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won't get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.
"When some people die, it's time to be sad. But when other people die, like really evil people, or the Irish, it's time to celebrate."
- Jimmy Bender, "Greg the Bunny"
"And maybe now it's your turn
To die kicking some ass."
- Freedom Isn't Free, Team America
What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed in my life. So if you're up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw 'Freedom Isn't Free' from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can't laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.
"Our thoughts form the universe. They always matter."
- Citizen G'Kar, Babylon 5
Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them. While the blogosphere has its share of partisans, there are some awfully smart people making excellent arguments out there as well, and I know I have learned quite a bit since I began blogging. I flatter myself I may have made a good argument or two as well; if I didn't, please don't tell me. It has been a great five-plus years. I got to meet a lot of people who are way smarter than me, including such luminaries as Virginia Postrel and her husband Stephen (speaking strictly from a 'improving the species' perspective, it's tragic those two don't have kids, because they're both scary smart.), the estimable hilzoy and Sebastian of Obsidian Wings, Jeff Goldstein and Stephen Green, the men who consistently frustrated me with their mix of wit and wisdom I could never match, and I've no doubt left out a number of people to whom I apologize. Bottom line: if I got the chance to meet you through blogging, I enjoyed it. I'm only sorry I couldn't meet more of you. In particular I'd like to thank Jim Henley, who while we've never met has been a true comrade, whose words have taught me and whose support has been of great personal value to me. I would very much have enjoyed meeting Jim.
Blogging put me in touch with an inordinate number of smart people, an exhilarating if humbling experience. When I was young, I was smart, but the older I got, the more I realized just how dumb I was in comparison to truly smart people. But, to my credit, I think, I was at least smart enough to pay attention to the people with real brains and even occasionally learn something from them. It has been joy and a pleasure having the opportunity to do this.
"It's not fair."
"No. It's not. Death never is."
- Captain John Sheridan and Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5
"They didn't even dig him a decent grave."
"Well, it's not how you're buried. It's how you're remembered."
- Cimarron and Wil Andersen, The Cowboys
I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED. But if there is an afterlife, I'm telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It'll be our little secret, ok?
I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.
On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.
"What an idiot! What a loser!"
- Chaz Reingold, Wedding Crashers
"Oh and I don't want to die for you, but if dying's asked of me;
I'll bear that cross with honor, 'cause freedom don't come free."
- American Soldier, Toby Keith
Those who know me through my writings on the Internet over the past five-plus years probably have wondered at times about my chosen profession. While I am not a Libertarian, I certainly hold strongly individualistic beliefs. Yet I have spent my life in a profession that is not generally known for rugged individualism. Worse, I volunteered to return to active duty knowing that the choice would almost certainly lead me to Iraq. The simple explanation might be that I was simply stupid, and certainly I make no bones about having done some dumb things in my life, but I don't think this can be chalked up to stupidity. Maybe I was inconsistent in my beliefs; there are few people who adhere religiously to the doctrines of their chosen philosophy, whatever that may be. But I don't think that was the case in this instance either.
As passionate as I am about personal freedom, I don't buy the claims of anarchists that humanity would be just fine without any government at all. There are too many people in the world who believe that they know best how people should live their lives, and many of them are more than willing to use force to impose those beliefs on others. A world without government simply wouldn't last very long; as soon as it was established, strongmen would immediately spring up to establish their fiefdoms. So there is a need for government to protect the people's rights. And one of the fundamental tools to do that is an army that can prevent outside agencies from imposing their rules on a society. A lot of people will protest that argument by noting that the people we are fighting in Iraq are unlikely to threaten the rights of the average American. That's certainly true; while our enemies would certainly like to wreak great levels of havoc on our society, the fact is they're not likely to succeed. But that doesn't mean there isn't still a need for an army (setting aside debates regarding whether ours is the right size at the moment). Americans are fortunate that we don't have to worry too much about people coming to try and overthrow us, but part of the reason we don't have to worry about that is because we have an army that is stopping anyone who would try.
Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) As a soldier, I have a duty to obey the orders of the President of the United States as long as they are Constitutional. I can no more opt out of missions I disagree with than I can ignore laws I think are improper. I do not consider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you'll pardon the pun) live with that.
"It's all so brief, isn't it? A typical human lifespan is almost a hundred years. But it's barely a second compared to what's out there. It wouldn't be so bad if life didn't take so long to figure out. Seems you just start to get it right, and then...it's over."
- Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5
I wish I could say I'd at least started to get it right. Although, in my defense, I think I batted a solid .250 or so. Not a superstar, but at least able to play in the big leagues. I'm afraid I can't really offer any deep secrets or wisdom. I lived my life better than some, worse than others, and I like to think that the world was a little better off for my having been here. Not very much, but then, few of us are destined to make more than a tiny dent in history's Green Monster. I would be lying if I didn't admit I would have liked to have done more, but it's a bit too late for that now, eh? The bottom line, for me, is that I think I can look back at my life and at least see a few areas where I may have made a tiny difference, and massive ego aside, that's probably not too bad.
"The flame also reminds us that life is precious. As each flame is unique; when it goes out, it's gone forever. There will never be another quite like it."
- Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5
I write this in part, admittedly, because I would like to think that there's at least a little something out there to remember me by. Granted, this site will eventually vanish, being ephemeral in a very real sense of the word, but at least for a time it can serve as a tiny record of my contributions to the world. But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?
But for those who knew me and feel this pain, I think it's a good thing to realize that this pain has been felt by thousands and thousands (probably millions, actually) of other people all over the world. That is part of the cost of war, any war, no matter how justified. If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. Because it is pretty clear that the average American would not have supported the Iraq War had they known the costs going in. I am far too cynical to believe that any future debate over war will be any less vitriolic or emotional, but perhaps a few more people will realize just what those costs can be the next time.
This may be a contradiction of my above call to keep politics out of my death, but I hope not. Sometimes going to war is the right idea. I think we've drawn that line too far in the direction of war rather than peace, but I'm a soldier and I know that sometimes you have to fight if you're to hold onto what you hold dear. But in making that decision, I believe we understate the costs of war; when we make the decision to fight, we make the decision to kill, and that means lives and families destroyed. Mine now falls into that category; the next time the question of war or peace comes up, if you knew me at least you can understand a bit more just what it is you're deciding to do, and whether or not those costs are worth it.
"This is true love. You think this happens every day?"
- Westley, The Princess Bride
"Good night, my love, the brightest star in my sky."
- John Sheridan, Babylon 5
This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive. She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again...I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she's better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it. It seems that is not an option. I cannot imagine anything more painful than that, and if there is an afterlife, this is a pain I'll bear forever.
I wasn't the greatest husband. I could have done so much more, a realization that, as it so often does, comes too late to matter. But I cherished every day I was married to Amanda. When everything else in my life seemed dark, she was always there to light the darkness. It is difficult to imagine my life being worth living without her having been in it. I hope and pray that she goes on without me and enjoys her life as much as she deserves. I can think of no one more deserving of happiness than her.
"I will see you again, in the place where no shadows fall."
- Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5
I don't know if there is an afterlife; I tend to doubt it, to be perfectly honest. But if there is any way possible, Amanda, then I will live up to Delenn's words, somehow, some way. I love you.
The questions are these:
Can we stop or at least enormously reduce the amount of oil we import from countries that are unfriendly or even hostile to the United States?
And if we can, will it matter much to their funding of terrorism?
The short answers: yes to the first question, no to the second.
About three-quarters of the world’s proven oil reserves are in the hands of adherents to an ideology best described as Islamofascism. We are and our allies are, as a result, transferring enormous wealth in the form payments for imported petroleum to people who are trying to kill us.America imports 63 percent of its oil. Canada accounts for 18 percent of total imports, meeting 10.5 percent of US demand. Nineteen percent of all the oil we use import from the Persian Gulf. Since we import 13,173,000 barrels per day, that means we import 2,503,000 (rounded) bpd from the PG. (The API summary is here.) We would not wish to cease imports from every PG nation - we should buy from Iraq as much as we can, for example. Saudi Arabia provides 7.4 percent of total domestic requirements. (Venezuela, no friend of ours, provides 6.5 percent.) We buy no oil from Iran. Other PG nations individually provide so little of our oil that they are collectively clumped as "other" in the API's country breakdown.
Not least, our putative friend, the “moderate” regime of Saudi Arabia is using such funds to promote a pincer movement against the West, involving Wahhabi recruitment and indoctrination via Saudi-funded mosques, madrassas, political influence operations, prison and military chaplain programs and campus organizations on the one hand and Muslim Brotherhood fronts on the other. As Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey told Congress in July 2005, “Wealthy Saudi financiers and charities have funded terrorist organizations and causes that support terrorism and the ideology that fuels the terrorists' agenda. Even today, we believe that Saudi donors may still be a significant source of terrorist financing, including for the insurgency in Iraq.”Our enabling of such behavior is the height of folly, an irresponsible and certainly unsustainable practice from a national security perspective.
So, for the security issue that Gaffney explained, there are two questions:
1. Can we either replace Saudi oil - 1,531,000 barrels per day - with another source, or can we implement efficiencies here that would reduce domestic requirements by at least that much?
2. As far as the Saudi's funding of terrorism goes, will it matter to their revenues if we do?
From the security perspective, only reasonably near-term solutions will matter. We could drill in ANWR and replace Saudi oil altogether for the next 30 years - once we started large-scale pumping and refining. But politically, that's a dead issue, as is, for that matter, opening any other domestic oil fields.
Therefore, we're only going to stop buying Saudi oil because of gained efficiencies, not increasing domestic production. (We have been trying to increase non-PG imports for at least 30 years, so substituting other imported oil for Saudi oil is not realistically on the horizon.)
I think we can reduce, perhaps eliminate, our need for 1.5M bpd with improved efficiencies in motor-vehicle propulsion. But before I blog about that, let's take a look at whether buying zero Saudi oil will matter to their funding of terrorism.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, Saudi Arabia can produce 12.1 M bpd and is producing 10.7M bpd. The country uses 2.1M bpd and therefore exports 8.7M bpd.
At $90 per barrel, the Saudis make $783,000,000 per day in export revenues. If we stopped buying their oil, they'd make $648,000,000, a 17.6 percent reduction. But it's still a heckuva lot of money. I'm not sure that such a reduction would crimp the resources of the Saudi princes who backchannel money to Islamist causes and groups. Nor would it necessarily reduce the Saudi government's funding of Wahhabist madrassas and the like in the West or elsewhere.
Such a revenue reduction assumes, of course, that the Saudis couldn't find other buyers. Reducing our demand will take time, during which demand will increase in other parts of the world, mainly China and India and southwest Pacific countries, whose rising demand is already pushing oil prices up anyway.
Since worldwide oil demand is expected to rise 60 percent by 2020, the Saudis will have no difficulty selling as much oil as they can pump. So the idea that we can shut down their funding of Islamist groups or causes by eliminating our need for their oil just doesn't hold up.
At least, that's the way I see it.
Coming - can we gain enough energy efficiency to eliminate our need for Saudi oil? I think so. Update: it's here.
Cross-posted at Sense of Events.
During the holiday season, Armed Liberal wrote "Offline For A Bit, And Thinking About This Place" about the tone of the blog, and how the place was moving away from what he wanted to see. I assume he has been thinking about what to do, as he said he would, during his time in France. Perhaps it will give him ideas. Perhaps it will give him a perspective on veritable elite rudeness, and he'll chill about it all. But I paid close attention to the fact that he does consider this a serious issue - one that affects his interest level.
Along those lines, a recent thread reminded me of this bit in the Winds' comments policy, which has been in place for a long time:
"Rule #4: Our authors work hard to produce worthwhile, interesting stuff. The best way to respect that is to engage their material. They (and we) tend to be unhappy when people "hijack" the comments section to post unrelated material, especially material that is likely to take over that comments section. If a post [JK: meaning comment] isn't on topic and doesn't contribute anything worthwhile, I'll consider removing it. We still give pretty broad latitude re: relevance, and we'll usually try to steer things back on track with a simple request - but I must admit, I'm getting a bit faster on the draw with this than I used to be."
That's the key. Or, to put it in blunter form, the interests of our contributors trump the interests of anyone who cares to use our comments section. The contributors are the folks that make this online destination go, and if push comes to shove, their happiness takes priority over those with a lesser stake. That's the lesson of Communitree.
I do work to apply "related" in a broad sense, as noted in our comments policy post, but it isn't anything goes here. The fact that someone walks in off the street and helps himself to your fridge contents trumps the fact that they may be polite about it or "reasonable" - the action itself is wrong. Hijacking a post thread falls into that category, and celebrim is right at that point: get thine own blog, and then you can set the topics for discussion and reasonably insist that people respond to you. That would be right, and polite, of them.
If there's something folks really want to say here, that has no topical relevance to a post, we've published enough Guest Blogs, including those from folks we disagree with, and our email addresses are listed.
I'm still thinking about the particular thread in question, how the comments fit or don't, and next steps. But basic respect for the time of the folks who contribute, expressed as positive or negative engagement with the subjects of their posts, is something I do plan to be more insistent about in the coming year. And I thought a heads-up about that is the sort of thing that's only fair to all concerned.
Big Four's leaders "divinely ordained," says Israeli PMIsraeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on factors working in Israel's favor on the world scene:
Indeed, said the prime minister, there was currently an almost divinely ordained constellation of key personalities on the international stage favorably disposed to Israel, creating comfortable conditions for negotiations that might never be replicated.Olmert was also indirectly quoted in the JPost's article that "Israel needs to internalize that even its supportive friends on the international stage conceive of the country's future on the basis of the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem divided."
"It's a coincidence that is almost 'the hand of God,'" Olmert said, "that Bush is president of the United States, that Nicolas Sarkozy is the president of France, that Angela Merkel is the chancellor of Germany, that Gordon Brown is the prime minister of England and that the special envoy to the Middle East is Tony Blair."
The imperative, he said, was to make every effort for progress while this array of supportive characters remained in place."What possible combination," he asked, "could be more comfortable for the State of Israel?"
I think this is an accurate statement of international expectation, although opinion inside Israel is far from united on this point. There is a significant percentage of Israeli Jews who are wedded to the idea that the Jewish state must necessarily include all of historic Jerusalem. Thus, when then-PM Ehud Barak offered in 2000 to hand over three of Jerusalem's four historic quarters to the Palestinian Authority, there was a strong, adverse reaction domestically. Yasser Arafat refused, so the offer died.
Above, the Wailing Wall, part of the Western Wall of the ancient Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photos by the author.
A view of the old city from near the valley of Gehenna, south of the city.
The four historic quarters of the old city are the Jewish quarter (obviously never offered to the PA), the Christian quarter, the Armenian quarter and the Muslim quarter. These generally, but not completely, are contained inside the walls of the old city, but the wall's track has been moved over the last two millennia.
Modern Jerusalem is much larger than the old city. Surrounding the old city are many boroughs, each with its own religious and ethnic flavor. The American colony is north of the old city, the German colony is southwest. There are, of course, many Jewish boroughs and to the east are the Muslim ones.
Remains of another section of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount; the large stones were thrown down there by Roman legions in 70 b.c.e. when they crushed a Jewish rebellion against Rome.
The original UN plan that created the state of Israel in 1948 also called for the creation of a new Arab nation along with it, and for Jerusalem to be an international city under no single country's sovereignty. The Arab countries of the day entirely rejected the whole proposal, attacking the nascent country of Israel immediately. Several hundred thousand (perhaps 700K) Arabs living inside newborn Israel vacated the new country. Some left on their own. Most were told to leave for their own safety by the Arab countries, who promised that after Israel was crushed they could return. And many were forcibly expelled by the Israelis, mainly from areas of critical terrain or lines of communication inside the country. They and their descendants, the Palestinians, now live inside the Gaza strip along the Mediterranean Sea and the West Bank, so called relative to its position to the Jordan River.
The Muslim Dome of the Rock, atop the ancient Temple Mount of the Jews, looking from the east. Beyond are Jewish and Christian sections. The official PA position is that the Jewish temples never existed atop the Mount, but were far away - Yasser Arafat even once claimed the last Jewish Temple had been built in Yemen!
The leaders of Israel, America, Europe, the Arab countries and the Palestinian people have all agreed for many years that the Palestinians should have their own state. Alas, that is where agreement ends. Israel and the West envision a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel, whose character as a Jewish state would remain unchanged. The Palestinian people and their leaders insist that they already have a country, robbed from them by the UN in 1948 and now illegally and unacceptably occupied by the Jews. They do not accept statehood alongside Israel. The map to the right was produced by the Palestinian Authority only last month and broadcast on Palestinian television (see here). It is nothing new. That all of Israel properly belongs to the Palestinians and not at all to the Jews has been staple teaching since, well, 1948. Maps used in Palestinian grade-school geography classes show the same thing.
Nonetheless, PM Olmert is optimistic that both the Israelis and the Pallys will accept the two-state solution.
He said he was convinced, too, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "has made the choice in his heart" between clinging to the "myth of the 'right of return'" and the opportunity to establish a Palestinian state where all Palestinians, refugees included, would live. "My impression is that he wants peace with Israel, and accepts Israel as Israel defines itself," Olmert said. "If you ask him to say that he sees Israel as a Jewish state, he will not say that. But if you ask me whether in his soul he accepts Israel, as Israel defines itself, I think he does. That is not insignificant. It is perhaps not enough, but it is not insignificant."The main question is, though, not what Abbas believes in his heart, but what is is able to bring about. Let us stipulate for the sake of argument that Abbas has completely embraced the two-state solution and has abandoned the notion that the Palestinians will ever reoccupy Israel. The problem is that there is no real reason to believe he can make it stick among the Pallys or even the rest of the PA government. Besides, Gaza is ruled by Hamas, which emphasizes its goal of Israel's destruction and which came to open combat against Abbas' PA forces last year over who would control Gaza.
It is no doubt part of a prime minister's job description to be optimistic, but the optimism PM Olmert expresses seems an overreach. Israel is fortunate to have the main Western countries in its corner, but the obstacles remaining are so severe that the status quo is highly unlikely to change for a long, long time, except, sadly, for the worse.
Back in May 2007, Paul Kengor reminded us all of a landmark TV debate:
"On May 15, 1967, there was a fascinating debate between California’s new Republican governor, Ronald Reagan, and New York’s new Democratic senator, Robert F. Kennedy. The subject: the Vietnam War... billed by CBS as a "Town Meeting of the World." [and including participating students from various countries] ...The debate was watched by a huge audience: 15 million Americans. There was total agreement, including among media sources who revered Bobby Kennedy, from the San Francisco Chronicle to Newsweek, that Reagan overwhelmingly won the debate...."
Which even a casual reading of the dry transcript, without any of Reagan's other personal skills factored in, will confirm. Then, too, there's Kennedy's orders to his aides not to put him on stage with Reagan again, after asking them "Who the f--- got me into this?" In an unrehearsed free for all, Ronald Reagan demonstrated model command of both debating skills and factual points while thinking on his feet - far more so than Bobby Kennedy, another intelligent man I happen to respect.
This shouldn't surprise you. Back in March 2007, Tom Evans explained...
"War, children, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away" – The Rolling Stones, from “Gimme Shelter”
FALLUJAH — A sign on the door leading out of India Company’s Combat Operations Center says “Have a Plan to Kill Everyone You Meet.” For a fraction of second I thought it might be some kind of joke. But I was with the Marine Corps in Fallujah, and it wasn’t a joke.
I asked Captain Stewart Glenn if he could explain and perhaps elaborate a bit on what, exactly, that sign is about. “It’s pretty straightforward,” he said rather bluntly. “It means exactly what it says.”
Welcome to counterinsurgency.
A sign outside Lieutenant Nathan Bibler’s Joint Security Station in the slums of Fallujah makes the point a little more clearly, and delicately. “Look at everyone as though they are trying to kill you, but you cannot treat them that way.”
“The threat's always there,” Sergeant Chuck Balley told me as he looked blankly at nothing in particular. “Everybody is sketchy.”
Maybe they are. But very few people in Fallujah try to kill Americans – or other Iraqis – anymore. It has been months since a single Marine in Fallujah has been even wounded, let alone killed. But at least a handful of disorganized insurgents still lurk in the city. Once a week or so somebody takes a shot at the Americans.
Here's a fine effort by Xerox, with some assistance from the Boys and Girls Clubs, print shops and other corporations. Let's Say Thanks:
"The mission of Let's Say Thanks is to provide a way for individuals across the country to recognize U.S. troops stationed overseas. By submitting a message through this site you have the opportunity to send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women.
The postcards, depicting patriotic scenes and hometown images, were selected from a pool of entries from children across the country.
All you have to do is click on your favorite design and either select the message that best expresses your sentiment or draft a personal note. The postcards are then printed on the Xerox iGen3® Digital Production Press and mailed in care packages by military support organization Give2TheTroops®."
Hat tip to Judith Weiss for bringing it to my attention.