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March 2008 Archives

March 31, 2008

Al-Sadr and Maliki (and Al-Sistani)

By Armed Liberal at 14:21

To expand on the post on Basra, below, go read this Abu Muquama post on Cordesman's NYT column on the fighting.

Cordesman goes on to write, of the fighting in Basra, that...
There are good reasons for the central government to reassert control of Basra. It is not peaceful. It is the key to Iraq’s oil exports. Gang rule is no substitute for legitimate government. But given the timing and tactics, it is far from clear that this offensive is meant to serve the nation’s interest as opposed to those of the Islamic Supreme Council and Dawa.
A few thoughts: One, the fighting in Basra and Baghdad is, on one level, about asserting the control of the central government. That is a good thing. But two, on another level, the fighting that took place last week was about ISCI trying to set the stage for this fall's provincial elections. It wasn't about the central government versus local authorities at all -- it was about cold-blooded intra-Shia politics.

Note that AM thinks we backed the wrong dog in the fight:

Do we have a dog in such a fight? Alas, we do. That dog's name is ISCI. As the same friend mentioned above has noted, historians studying Iraq decades from now will wonder why the United States allied itself with the Iran-backed ISCI instead of the popularly-supported Sadr movement. (Hint to those historians: it's because they dress well and speak English. This is what happens when you send smart but young Republican loyalists -- who only speak English -- to help run the CPA in Baghdad.) Once again, we have backed the loser...

Might I suggest that our deference to Al-Sistani might have had more to do with it? While their relationship is a complex one (see this interesting article suggesting they are more closely aligned than not), it's certainly the case that they were significant rivals in the formative period of 04 and early 05.


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  • ARCA: Oh man. I think David_Blue was on to something with: read more
  • Glen Wishard: Dave Price on Sadr's Triumphant Surrender. He asks if the read more
  • Joe Katzman: "... phrased at "criminals", not the Mahdi Army." In practice, read more
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March 30, 2008

I Don't Think Winning Sides In Battle Make Many Offers

By Armed Liberal at 17:03

MSNBC:

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr offered Sunday to pull his fighters off the streets of Basra and other cities if the government halts raids against his followers and releases prisoners held without charge.

The offer was contained in a nine-point statement issued by his headquarters in Najaf.

This in spite of the press reports (on the admittedly confusing situation) that suggest that the 'Mahdi Army holds firm as Iraqi PM risks all in battle of Basra'.

The other side is always implacable, plucky, and standing firm - our side is always risking all, or otherwise at hazard. The reality is that both sides are hurting, and the question is who can sustain hurting longer.


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  • Armed Liberal: dsquared - does it change your views at all that read more
  • Steve: bq Have agreed to release prisoners not charged with crimes. read more
  • Nortius Maximus: And yes, some of them are probably Sadr-ist moles. What read more

March 29, 2008

Hollywood Goes To War (Again)

By Armed Liberal at 22:59

Posted without comment from Nikki Finke):

I'm told #7 Stop-Loss opened to only $1.6 million Friday from just 1,291 plays and should eke out $4+M. Although the drama from MTV Films was the best-reviewed movie opening this weekend, Paramount wasn't expecting much because no Iraq war-themed movie has yet to perform at the box office. "It's not looking good," a studio source told me before the weekend. "No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It's a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that's unresolved yet. It's a shame because it's a good movie that's just ahead of its time."

OK, I lied, I'm going to comment - from Box Office Mojo, opening US weekends:

Lions for Lambs $6,702,434 (2,215 theaters, $3,025 average)

In The Valley of Elah $1,512,310 (wide, 762 theaters, $1,984 average)

Redacted $25,628 (15 theaters, $1,708 average)

Grace is Gone $13,880 (4 theaters, $3,470 average)

Rendition $4,060,012 (2,250 theaters, $1,804 average)

So obviously no one wants to see movies on the War on Terror.

Well, maybe not:

The Kingdom $17,135,055 (2,793 theaters, $6,135 average)

Maybe, just maybe, the audiences don't see 'addressing the conflict in a realistic way' the same way that the studios do. Maybe, just maybe, we don't have to be the bad guys. Just a thought.


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  • David_Blue: It's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), or read more
  • alchemist: Oh my god Jim, did you actually watch "Rise of read more
  • Jim Rockford: The problem with Hollywood is the classic Agency problem. The read more

Beer Alert: Hops Shortage

By Joe Katzman at 20:56

So, let me get this straight? Not only do ethanol subsidies support products that requires more energy (mostly hydrocarbons) to produce than they generate, and drive up the price of food in the USA and abroad... they're also contributing to shortages of hops for beer.

Just when you thought government couldn't get much stupider, they find a way to surprise you.


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  • jun: I would say many commodities are "peaking" a la "peak read more
  • Joe Katzman: Thanks, Bart. Should have known you'd have a worthy take read more
  • Nortius Maximus: Bart, thanks for the piece of history. As we say read more

Mahdi Army "Fighting for its life"...

By Armed Liberal at 02:41

...in Basra. Is that a bad thing?

From The Guardian:

A senior commander in the Mahdi army said today the militia was fighting a battle for survival in Basra against a rival Shia faction seeking to obliterate it ahead of September elections.

Fighting broke out in Basra on Tuesday when Iraqi government forces launched an offensive against Shia militia in the city. Overnight, US jets carried out air strikes in support of Iraqi forces in at least two locations.

Shiek Ali al-Sauidi, a prominent member of the Moqtada al-Sadr-led movement in Basra, said his men were being targeted not by the Iraqi government but by government militias loyal to the rival Supreme Islamic Council faction.

"They are a executing a very well drawn plan. They are trying to exterminate the Sadrists and cut and isolate the movement before the September local elections," he said in a telephone interview with the Guardian.

What do you think?


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  • Fletcher Christian: #14 and #15: I would amplify what has been said. read more
  • TOC: #14 from Cabalamat at 8:58 pm on Mar 29, read more
  • Cabalamat: I think that who runs Basra is not worth the read more

March 28, 2008

South Park: All Episodes, Online

By Joe Katzman at 03:33

The creators of hit comedy show South Park have made every episode available online - for free, with ad support, as a joint venture with Comedy Central. These episodes were already wildly popular online as shared clips; all this does it ensure that the creators pick up revenue from the naturally viral nature of their show. That's is how we managed to show Marc "Armed Liberal" Danziger the immortal episode featuring the Hippiedigger for Thanksgiving, after all.

I certainly give thanks for South Park's brilliant social satire. Along the way, they've made it impossible for me to watch The Omen movies without laughing, and even changed my political views on at least one issue. As a fan of the movie Heavy Metal, I'd also be totally remiss if I didn't recommend yesterday's parody/homage to you.

South Park Digital Studios features all episodes and archives, including 3,000 embeddable video clips, and games. Due to continuing contractual obligations, however, all new episodes will be available online for 7 days after they premiere on Comedy Central. Then they disappear for 3 weeks or so, before returning permanently to the site 30 days after they air.

Come on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine....


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  • Nicholas: This is apparently not yet available in Australia. When I read more
  • jun: Original Star Trek and other CBS classics are online also read more
  • Joe Katzman: Gotta say, it did my heart good to see Kenny read more

March 27, 2008

If Network Solutions Won't Help Host This...

By Armed Liberal at 22:31

I'll help point people to the Live Leak version of Fitna:



I'm working and so haven't watched yet, and so can't comment approvingly or disapprovingly. More commentary to follow.

JK: LiveLeak pulled the movie, citing safety risks:

"Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers. This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realised LiveLeak.com is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one.... We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high."

Fitna can also be found here - and here.


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  • Glen Wishard: I'm interested to hear Andrew's interpretation of Deuteronomy 25:19. Especially read more
  • David_Blue: #48 from Andrew J. Lazarus: "Is anyone making a movie read more
  • Nortius Maximus: #48: Re: Deut 25:19... Wait. What? I can never remember read more

Hard to Find: The Case on John Glasgow

By Joe Katzman at 18:35

We say the world is a big place, but how many of us really understand that concept? The strange disappearance of John Glasgow, CFO for one of Arkansas' largest corporations, underscores it.

It's definitely a very odd case for a number of reasons, but the central theme is that the indicators you'd expect to find are all missing. The difficulty in even getting many leads, despite all the resources invested, was a surprise to me. Check it out.


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  • Joe Katzman: Yeah, that one has been set aside for DID's April read more
  • hypocrisyrules: Weird. The world is a strange place though. Usually 22 read more

Religious Education in the Balance

By Tarek Heggy at 15:11

According to some statistics, fully one quarter of those enrolled in the educational system in Egypt today are studying in religious educational establishments [schools, academies, and colleges run by Al-Azhar]. Other statistics reduce the number to one fifth, while a recent survey places it at no more than one sixth. Even if we assume that the lowest estimate of one sixth, that is, slightly over 16%, is the correct one, this means that more than three million students receive their education from start to finish in religious establishments. And the number would rise to four or five million if we accept the other statistics.

What is certain is that we are facing an educational phenomenon that is bound to have far-reaching social, political and economic ramifications and hence needs to be closely examined and analyzed.


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  • David Billington: [Please review the help text above the comment text input read more
  • C. M.: Celebrim - I think that Mr. Heggy's audience - Americans read more
  • celebrim: Mr. Heggy: Since the majority of your audience is American, read more

...And I Felt All Special For A Moment

By Armed Liberal at 05:52

...from MyDD:

We're gonna be working over the coming month to instituting some measures to make it more difficult to have an account here at MyDD. I'm sure there's many places on the web where people that having nothing better to do than attack other users will be welcome, but not here.

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  • Glen Wishard: Interesting that Jerome Armstrong is not jumping on the Obama-or-Blood read more
  • Nortius Maximus: So, seriously: back some time ago you were musing over read more
  • Nortius Maximus: That's... that's Beautiful, man! Group hug! GROUP HUG, ALL YOU read more

March 26, 2008

Freedom Fighter Called “Terrorist” by INS

By Michael Totten at 19:11

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine


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  • Treefrog: But that scarcely matters to my original point, which is read more
  • Nortius Maximus: Andrew J. Lazarus: "[N]o small amount"? I'd say rather that read more
  • Tim Oren: Perhaps there needs to be a corollary to Godwin's Law: read more

March 25, 2008

Life Imitates Caddyshack

By Joe Katzman at 06:18

Reuters:

"A war on gophers waged by two Canadian men went awry this weekend when a device used to blast the rodents in their holes sparked a massive grass fire in a rural area near Calgary, Alberta, causing more than C$200,000 ($197,000) in damages...."


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  • Nortius Maximus: For the record, we recently crossed the 100k comments mark read more
  • Joe Katzman: MT 3.3 has its drawbacks - especially what it has read more
  • Armed Liberal: I've actually noodled on a switch to Drupal to allow read more

March 24, 2008

The Liberation of Karmah, Part I

By Michael Totten at 09:42

Girl%20Waving%20Hands%20Karmah.jpg

KARMAH, IRAQ – Just beyond the outskirts of Fallujah lies the terror-wracked city of Karmah. While you may not have heard of this small city of 35,000 people, American soldiers and Marines who served in Anbar Province know it as a terrifying place of oppression, death, and destruction. “It was much worse than Fallujah” said more than a dozen Marines who were themselves based in Fallujah.

“Karmah was so important to the insurgency because we've got Baghdad right there,” Lieutenant Andrew Macak told me. “This is part of the periphery of Baghdad. At the same time, it is part of the periphery of Fallujah.”

Lieutenant Macak is not a veteran of Karmah, but Sergeant Jason Howell is. He was deployed in the city from March through October in 2006. “People weren't out in the streets,” he said. “They were very reserved. They were afraid to talk to us. They had the feeling that, especially in the smaller towns, they were constantly being watched. They were in real jeopardy if they interacted with coalition forces and, especially, the Iraqi Police.”

Lieutenant Macak arrived in Karmah in the middle of July 2007 when the city was still a war zone. “It was moving in the right direction, but it was still active,” he said. “2/5 [Second Battalion, Fifth Regiment], who we relieved, was part of the surge effort. Karmah was still a very dangerous place. The lollipop over here was a big deal.”

“You mean the traffic circle?” I said. The Marines refer to a large traffic circle down the street from the police station at the entrance to the market as the “lollipop.”

“Yeah,” he said. “It was basically IED Alley. The whole road out here in front of the station was just covered in IEDs. No one even went down the roads leading to the north of here. It was an insurgent stronghold. Before 2/5 came in there weren't many patrols. They didn't do a whole lot. The Iraqi Police didn't have any confidence. Their numbers weren't big and there wasn't a whole lot of organization. 2/5 came in and started patrolling, started doing what Marines do. They identified local leaders and started engaging them. Sheikh Mishan came back at about the same time from Syria.”

Sheikh Mishan Abbas, like many other sheikhs in Anbar Province, fled to Syria shortly after the U.S. invaded.

Read the rest at MichaelTotten.com


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  • Ian Coull: FYI the link to 'read the rest' comes up "forbidden"? read more

Easter Reading

By Armed Liberal at 01:52

By random chance, on Friday I picked up a used copy of Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" at the awesome renaissance Bookshop at the Milwaukee Airport.

I was led there by Susan Nieman's "Evil in Modern Thought," about which I may try and write later. That was a challenging book...

And either I'm much smarter now and so more aware of the deep subtleties in books like this, or a whole lot dumber than I was in college when they were easy to read.


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  • Paul Moore: I studied Hume's "Dialogues" in a philosophy course in the read more

March 23, 2008

Social Entrepreneurs - A New Face For Liberalism?

By Armed Liberal at 17:26

I'd tagged this article and want to just toss it up while I work on a longer piece on the points it makes.

David Brooks at the NYT, writing 'Thoroughly Modern Do-Gooders':

Earlier generations of benefactors thought that social service should be like sainthood or socialism. But this one thinks it should be like venture capital.

These thoroughly modern do-gooders dress like venture capitalists. They talk like them. They even think like them. That means that aside from the occasional passion for heirloom vegetables, they are not particularly crunchy. They don't wear ponytails, tattoos or Birkenstocks. They don't devote any energy to countercultural personal style, unless you consider excessive niceness a subversive fashion statement.

Next to them, Barack Obama looks like Abbie Hoffman.

It also means that they are not that interested in working for big, sluggish bureaucracies. They are not hostile to the alphabet-soup agencies that grew out of the New Deal and the Great Society; they just aren't inspired by them.


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  • Jim: OMG - this sounds like me! I didn't know there read more
  • Ian Coull: Foobarista #21 The media, as for-profit institutions, will cover whatever read more
  • Foobarista: The problem with "blame the people" arguments is that there's read more

Cod Down, Tuna to Go?

By Joe Katzman at 00:18

If you're a Canadian, the utter demise of the Atlantic Cod fishery within the last decade stands out as an exemplary case of politically-driven mismanagement to buy votes, and government-driven economic failure. The warnings were abundant, consistent, and ignored. Now a species that was once present in numbers so vast as to defy description is now rare, and shows few signs of any sort of comeback. To put some quickie numbers beside that, the cod fishery was worth $1.4 billion in 1968 when it was already past its heyday. It was worth just $10 million in 2004.

Scientists are beginning to sound the same warnings about Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna, which are valued for their sushi-grade meat.


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  • FranciscoT: We all know that we need to take care of read more
  • Ian Coull: It amuses me when people dismiss 'environmental' concerns as read more
  • andrewdb: I sat nest to a Federal Mariner on a plane read more

March 22, 2008

p0wned! ...or not...

By Armed Liberal at 22:15

Commenters Metrico, Davebo and Dreuk challenge me on my support for Obama in the comment thread below.

I'll make a comment and then a suggestion.

I'd like Obama to win; I'm anxious about his foreign policy, but not as anxious as I am about McCain's because I'm confident that it won't survive contact with reality (I said so here) - and Powers was probably fired as much for saying that was true as she was for calling Hillary a monster. I'm working on a post on McCain's, and hope to get it out next week, work permitting.


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  • Nortius Maximus: Yeah, I think we're closing this thread, My patience is read more
  • The Unbeliever: And now I'll play the bad guy and challenge a read more
  • lurker: chris, You come here to get A.L. to shut up read more

Paging Norman Spinrad...

By Armed Liberal at 16:20

In 1975, he wrote a story (not really science fiction) called "Sierra Maestra" which takes place about now in a penthouse apartment above a riot-torn Manhattan. In that apartment, a progressive radical clique plots to take over America; they do it by having spent the last twenty-five years working their way to positions of incredible prominence - running General Motors, richest financier in the country, Senator, Governor. Their entire lives to that point had been dissembling so that they could attain the positions they wanted to have on this day and move to make change.

I get a creepy reminder of that story when I read things like this about Obama:


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  • Molon Labe: Think of it as a contract position for a senior read more
  • Robert M: [Posted in wrong thread. Elided. --NM] read more
  • Glen Wishard: I am reminded that those attracted to the 'right' side read more

A short Jerusalem photo tour

By Donald Sensing at 15:45

I've posted a small series of photos on my own blog that I took in Jerusalem last October. The first photo, below, is of the Gethsemane Church on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. The church's proper name is the Church of All Nations and was built from 1919-1924. It was to Gethsemane that Jesus and his disciples, except Judas, came after the Last Supper. It was here that Judas brought the Temple police to arrest Jesus.

Read the rest at Sense of Events.


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Pelosi should have stayed in Washington

By Nitin Pai at 06:20

The useless (to the Tibetans) charade of visiting the Dalai Lama

"If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out about Chinese repression in China and Tibet" Nancy Pelosi said, "we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world".

She may not be exaggerating. But the issue is not about the freedom-loving people of the world, who are already speaking up against Chinese repression in Tibet.


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  • The Unbeliever: Reminds me of one of my favorite bits from Mark read more
  • Dennis: As she is (A) very very Liberial Dem. What she read more

March 21, 2008

Trapped in Milwaukee

By Armed Liberal at 22:50

Snowed in. Of course Jimbo and Blackfive are down where there is sun...

...who's around for a round of drunks and food tomorrow around lunchtime?


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  • thepoetryman: ...who's around for a round of drunks and food tomorrow read more

Always Think Forfeiture

By Armed Liberal at 21:57

The ATF had a 2007 solicitation for bids to deliver 2,000 Leatherman tools.

Engraved with the following:

ATF-Asset Forfeiture AND "always think forfeiture"

...are you outraged yet?

I wonder how Donald Scott's family feels about that?

I think asset forfeiture is reprehensible, and when it funds law enforcement corrupting. I think it should be banned outright; I can understand it being used very narrowly in the case of convicted criminals - but very narrowly. And when a law enforcement agency sends little promotional items to the troops reminding them that it's really about marque and reprisal - will, I'm deeply disgusted.

I debated posting the contract officers information here, and encouraging everyone to let him know what you think of this "opportunity", but I think instead you ought to send a message to your Congressmember. You can find them at Congress.org; you can find your local officials by entering your zip in the box at the upper left, and then create your own message about this.


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  • alchemist: I'm not sure I really understand. Why would they order read more
  • T. J. Madison: Rule of Law is a fraud designed to fool the read more
  • raven: Some Famous Dead White Guy once said words to the read more

Execution day

By Donald Sensing at 21:11

At right, "The Three Crosses," by Rembrandt

Sometime on the Friday after Passover, almost 2,000 years ago, Roman soldiers, acting on orders of Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, took Jesus of Nazareth to a low hill outside Jerusalem and crucified him to death. As crucifixion deaths went, Jesus' death came pretty quickly, within a few hours. It was not unusual for victims to linger on the cross for days.

There were two criminals also crucified alongside Jesus. Because it was Passover week, emotions ran high among the Jews who had made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the holy observances. There were many thousands of pilgrims there, some historians say more than 100,000. At sunset on Fridays the Jewish Sabbath began then as now, and even hardened Roman soldiers were uneasy about the execution of these men continuing when the Sabbath began during this particular week. So they decided to break the victims' legs in order to make quick their suffocation to death. Crucifixion is, after all, a form of hanging, killing by suffocation. With their legs broken, the victims could not push up to take a breath and so would die a quick, though brutal death ("excruciating" derives from the same root as "crucifixion," and it is no accidental relationship).

But when they came to Jesus to break his legs, they discovered he had already died. Another soldier, probably more experienced and thus leaving nothing to chance, took his long spear and plunged it into Jesus' side, almost certainly penetrating his heart, since that would have been the whole point of spearing him to begin with.

Before sundown, the Romans permitted some of Jesus' friends to retrieve his body and entomb it.

Read the rest at Sense of Events.


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It's about attitude, not race

By Guest Author at 18:09

by Bart Hall

One of the funniest things in the world, according to the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, "is to see the expression on the faces of so-called African-Americans when they finally figure out that we consider them to be White."

Mr. Orombi and I have been friends for nearly a decade, at one point bouncing across bad gravel roads here in rural Kansas (in our white 1984 Toyota) so he could see American bison. He felt totally at home. He called me an "African with white skin."

The dirty secret of American racial politics is that Commonwealth blacks, and most of them really are BLACK, intensely dislike African-Americans. It was the same in Canada for all the years I lived there. It doesn't matter if it's Grace, the Trinidadian nurse; John, my Igbo (Nigerian) classmate in geology; "Auntie" the Jamaican coffee grower; or Henry, the Ugandan Archbishop.


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  • Andrew J. Lazarus: Judging from the terminology and the spelling, Ian, your experience read more
  • Ian Coull: Andrew #81 I am not sure what your experience with read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: the damage done to a once respectable culture by just read more

My Intellectual Betters...

By Armed Liberal at 16:17

...amaze me with their Wiley Coyote Super-Genius brainpower yet again.

Over at the serious academic Thom Brooks 'Brooks Blog', we get this gem: "Is promising tax cuts tantamount to bribery?," which explains:

. . . and so we learn that the Tories are not promising tax cuts before the next election. (Details here.) This tendency of politicians to even discuss tax cuts as a major election issue has always troubled me. Now I think I know a bit more why.

It is wrong for politicians to bribe the electorate. They cannot pay for our votes. Of course, the expenditure of large sums of cash on advertisement, etc. can have positive effects in general (although not always). But spending money on tv ads in no way is like bribery.

When politicians promise tax cuts, they are promising the electorate that if they vote for the politician, then they can expect extra money in their pocket. We might call this indirect bribery. Direct bribery is when politicians pay you directly from their coffers for your vote. This is illegal in an obvious sense. Indirect bribery is different. Rather than pay voters from the party's accounts, the party pays back voters from the treasury.

Promises to, say raise teachers' salaries, on the other hand...he's OK with that:

There is at least one major qualification in all of this. Of course, the public has a right to know how politicians and parties might spend public money if elected.

This is, of course, beyond ridiculous. Politicians make promises of benefits all the time; they discuss zoning plans which may increase or decrease the value of my home; they discuss tax policy that may leave more money in my pocket, or advantage or disadvantage my industry.

Sheesh.


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  • bgates: You know, I've run into people who really think that read more
  • Treefrog: Gotta love the implied belief that government is entitled to read more

It's B**ls**t Day At Josh Marshall's

By Armed Liberal at 03:43

I'm generally pretty admiring of Josh Marshall; he's an unabashed partisan but usually one with a fair respect for facts and sense.

Today, not so much.

First, he gets spun by Juan Cole's mistranslation of the Iranian threat to Israel. Here's Marshall citing Cole:

According to Farsi-speaking commentators including Juan Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, Ahmadinejad's exact quote was, "The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Cole has written that Ahmadinejad was not calling for the "Nazi-style extermination of a people," but was expressing the wish that the Israeli government would disappear just as the shah of Iran's regime had collapsed in 1979.

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  • The Unbeliever: Obviously the robots are partisan political hacks, probably plants from read more
  • bgates: This is the same response I got when someone on read more
  • Donald Sensing: Later in the same "robot" article, the scientists cited says read more

This Is Bad...

By Armed Liberal at 00:51

...if you're a Democrat like me.

Neither Michigan nor Florida look they will do a revote, meaning we'll have a stupendous floor fight about seating the rump-delagates elected in the non-primaries that were held too-early in the primary season.

Now I just don't see how this is going to do anything except give the GOP a significant leg up in those states. The ads just write themselves.

I continue to be astounded at the ability of the Democrats to pull defeat from what should have been the slam-dunk electoral victory of the new millenium. Does anyone there have two clues to rub together?


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March 20, 2008

The Israel of the Balkans

By Michael Totten at 19:12

“All we want is to reduce the Albanian population to a manageable level.” – Zoran Andjelkovic, former Serbian governor of Kosovo

Genocide is the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” – United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

The State of Israel is divided on the Kosovo question: should the world’s newest country be recognized? Some, like former Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, worry that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia might encourage Palestinians to make the same move. The small Balkan state, however, may have more in common with Israel than with the West Bank and Gaza.

Israelis, as Amir Mizroch notes in the Jerusalem Post, have excellent relations with the Kosovars. “Israel has an interest in helping to establish a moderate, secular Muslim state friendly to Jerusalem and Washington in the heart of southeast Europe,” he writes. Indeed, Kosovo is neither an enemy state nor a jihad state. Its brand of Islam is heavily Sufi, which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Wahhabism and Salafism that inspire Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Kosovo doesn’t belong to the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas axis. On the contrary, Kosovo has thrown in its lot with the West, and especially with the United States. Serbia’s breakaway province is perhaps the most pro-American country in all of Europe. Bill Clinton is lionized there as a liberator – a main boulevard through the capital Prishtina is named after him – just as George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush are hailed as saviors in Iraqi Kurdistan. It should be no surprise then that Mizroch quotes an Israeli official who says Israel most likely will recognize Kosovo if its “influential friends” in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and France, decide to do so.

Concern that Kosovo’s independence might trigger a similar declaration from the West Bank to Spain’s Basque country to Chechnya and beyond is understandable but perhaps overwrought. Bosnia declared independence without unleashing a domino effect beyond Yugoslavia. So did Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Montenegro declared independence from Serbia less than two years ago. It’s doubtful the Palestinians even noticed. Hardly anyone else did. In any case, it had no effect on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The irrelevance of Kosovo to the Arab-Israeli conflict is underscored by the fact that not a single Arab country has recognized Kosovo. The only Muslim countries which so far have bothered are Turkey, Malaysia, Senegal, Albania, and Afghanistan. The governments of all these countries are, to one extent or another, either moderate, in the pro-Western camp, or both. All aside from Albania have sizeable ethnic minorities of their own. Turkey especially frets about its own separatists – the Kurds in the east – but still went ahead and recognized Kosovo almost instantly.

Many in Kosovo are well aware that they have more in common with Israel than with the West Bank and Gaza. “Kosovars used to identify with the Palestinians because we Albanians are Muslims and Christians and we saw Serbia and Israel both as usurpers of land,” a prominent Kosovar recently told journalist Stephen Schwartz. “Then we looked at a map and woke up. Israelis have a population of six million, their backs to the sea, and 300 million Arab enemies. Albanians have a total population of eight million, our backs to the sea, and 200 million Slav enemies. So why should we identify with the Arabs?”

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine


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OOTS: Monty Python's Polearm Shop

By Joe Katzman at 18:14

Came across this while searching for something totally unrelated. It helps to have seen "Cheese Shop" in Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Call it a dedication to this guy, sent out via a "global library by 2005" in tribute to this guy.


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Rev. Wright and Mahmud Abbas

By Donald Sensing at 16:41
What do the inflammatory comments by the recently-retired preacher of Barack Obama's Chicago church have to do with peace - or its lack - in Israel and Palestine? My blogging colleague, Rabbi Daniel Jackson of Israel, offers some insights.
Why is this so germane for Israelis? Because similar statements are made in this part of the world daily, such comments made by political figures and religious leaders are taken seriously. Those who hear them are inspired by them and then use these words to justify violence and murder. While it might be no big deal in the States to Damn the government, it is a big deal else where. ... Israelis have seen this silent affirmation of racist and divisive culture grow in recent years in very interesting and peculiar ways—their Foreign Minister forced to use the side servant entrance to the Annapolis conference. Secretary of State Rice used her personal narrative of growing up Black in the Old South to identify with the plight of Palestinians forced to stop at check points. No mention was made that the check points were instituted to prevent the very acts southern racists carried out against Black religious establishments, not unlike the homicides and murder perpetrated against Israeli parochial schools or religious ceremonies.
There's a lot more.
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March 19, 2008

What Iraqis Want You to Hear

By Michael Totten at 19:56

Two days ago ABC News released a new poll of Iraqi public opinion, and John Burns at the New York Times made a very perceptive observation that should be taken into account when looking it over.

Opinion polls, including those commissioned by the American command, have long suggested that a majority of Iraqis would like American troops withdrawn, but another lesson to be drawn from Saddam Hussein’s years is that any attempt to measure opinion in Iraq is fatally skewed by intimidation. More often than not, people tell pollsters and reporters what they think is safe, not necessarily what they believe. My own experience, invariably, was that Iraqis I met who felt secure enough to speak with candor had an overwhelming desire to see American troops remain long enough to restore stability.

This feels right to me, not only thanks to my experience in Iraq, but also in places like totalitarian Libya where no one dared criticize the regime in public, and where everyone I spoke to did so in private where they were safe. Saddam Hussein commanded a murder and intimidation regime in Iraq, and today’s insurgents wage a murder and intimidation campaign in the streets. In Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraqi civilians were murdered just for waving hello to Americans, and for accepting bags of rice as charity. Fear should not be ignored when gauging Iraqi public opinion, and that includes fear of American guns as well as fear of insurgents.

I’ve been to Iraq five times, and never once have I heard an Iraqi say anything hostile about Americans. Partly this is because I don’t spend time in insurgent circles. How could I? The Iraqis I’ve met don’t represent the full spectrum. Middle Easterners are also famous for their politeness and, unlike some people from other parts of the world, they will not get in your face if they don’t like where you come from. (Al Qaeda members are an obvious and extreme exception, but they’re hated everywhere in Iraq and are violently atypical.)

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine


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Obama's Great Speech

By Armed Liberal at 06:25

First of all, to paraphrase Nixon, "this was a great speech". I don't quite know if forensics students will be repeating it in a decade, but the guy is an amazing orator.

Two things struck me negatively about the content of the speech.


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Voting Machine Fraud in Kentucky

By Armed Liberal at 00:53

Social engineering, not hacking. Here's the news:

'06 election officer pleads guilty to voter fraud conspiracy

LONDON, Ky. (AP) -- An eastern Kentucky man who was an election officer has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit voter fraud during primary elections two years ago.

Acting U.S. Attorney James Zerhusen's office says 36-year-old Charles Newton Weaver of Manchester admitted agreeing to change votes of voters who were unfamiliar with new electronic voting machines. The prosecutor's office says Weaver led voters to believe their vote was cast by pressing one button, although a second button was required to cast the vote.

Zerhusen's office says Weaver changed votes after voters left the machines during the 2006 primary elections for county officials in Clay County.

The secretary of state's office said after the 2006 primary that some voters reported that they didn't know how to properly cast their ballots and that they were misled by poll workers.

For more information, check out the Kentucky SoS site.


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March 18, 2008

Avoid SEARS Products

By Joe Katzman at 06:11

SEARS guarantees aren't worth the paper they're printed on, and they don't stand behind their products. Kenmore PowerMiser 8 water heater is broken. We call SEARS. They inform us that all of their technicians are off for the holidays (odd, haven't noticed one at my workplace), and the earliest they might consider scheduling service is over a week away.

You know, if you sell high-cost, critical items like home heating systems, refrigerators, et. al., "we're taking the week off" isn't a remotely acceptable answer. Giving the call center a script that says "I apologize" doesn't make this better, as the people who really need to apologize are the incompetent managers who thought this was a good plan. (The people they need to apologize to are, in order, their customers, and their shareholders.)

SEARS just lost a fridge sale, and I'd advise all concerned to buy other brands elsewhere.


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March 17, 2008

LAPD SWAT And Affirmative Action - A Woman Officer's View

By Armed Liberal at 22:56

This was sent by an anonymous friend in response to an LA Times editorial on SWAT and affirmative action:

I am a police supervisor in Southern California. I have been in law enforcement for over twenty five years. I am female.

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times Opinion section, Robert C. J. Parry, exposes the results of a board of inquiry commissioned by Chief of Police Bill Bratton to look into the only hostage death in LAPD SWAT's 35 year history.

"When Pena retreated to his office, four SWAT officers crossed the alley in a matter of seconds, entered the building, took fire through the walls -- fire that struck one officer -- and entered Pena's office. There, they exchanged more shots with the gunman, who was standing behind a desk with Suzie. In the chaos, both Jose and Suzie Pena were killed.

It is important, in the aftermath of this kind of tragedy to review the actions of the involved officers for ways to improve tactics, etc and try to prevent a recurrence and that was the chief's stated goal in this inquiry. Unfortunately, that is not what he told his team.

"In November 2005, he (Chief Bratton) privately addressed the board about his goals for their inquiry. The final report quotes him: "I'm looking to create change within SWAT. The qualifications to get in are stringent. But are they too stringent? There are no women and few African Americans.... Are there artificial barriers for getting into SWAT that the 'good old boys' network has maintained?"

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Um, not...

By Armed Liberal at 04:03

At the airport, watching Rick Sanchez on CNN as he pounds home the issue that the Pentagon report on Saddam and terrorism 'puts to rest the original justification for the war'.

Um, not quite:

This ought to be big news. Throughout the early and mid-1990s, Saddam Hussein actively supported an influential terrorist group headed by the man who is now al Qaeda's second-in-command, according to an exhaustive study issued last week by the Pentagon. "Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives." According to the Pentagon study, Egyptian Islamic Jihad was one of many jihadist groups that Iraq's former dictator funded, trained, equipped, and armed.

I can imagine that there are political rationales for not taking this falsehood on. But this does show the basically supine posiiton the Bush adminsitation has been taking.


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Obama and Wright

By Armed Liberal at 03:46

Well, this has been kinda depressing.

I'm on record as supporting Obama, and continue to support him. But his viability as a candidate is about to hit major midair turbulence, and the question now is how he'll be able to fly the giant cumbersome machine of his campaign through it.

Look, part of my view of Obama is that he's a post '68-er; he grew up on the other side of the shockwave that split American politics, and as a consequence there's a chance that he can find new frameworks to understand issues and create policies that aren't entirely driven by the relatively stupid positions taken by my cohort back when we were smoking a lot of pot and working out our anger issues with out parents.

His appeal thus is in part post-racial; he's someone who isn't neatly pigeonholed as a 'black man' or a 'Harvard man' or anything else. As someone who sees himself as a 'mutt', and thus as 'a Californian', I like that a lot.


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March 16, 2008

Playing Winter Soldier

By Armed Liberal at 16:26

The "Winter Soldier II" conference is on, and I'll have a lot more to say about it later today. For now, let me suggest that you read two things:

Wintersoldiers.com - 'Busted by the Historians,' an account of how the original Vietnam-era 'Winter Soldiers' claims were pretty thoroughly eviscerated. Which makes one wonder why, exactly, IAVA chose to wave that flag.

Democracy Project - 'Washington Post Duped Instead of D.U.P.E.S.'

I'm certainly not shocked that IAVA is raising the stakes on the war at a time when it might et them political leverage; Move America Forward is doing the same thing. I am more than a little shocked that they would hitch themselves to as discredited an example as the John Kerry/Winter Soldier drama. And I'm deeply shocked that the Washington Post is doing such a piss-poor job of covering it.

More later.


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March 15, 2008

Simile Of The Day

By Armed Liberal at 23:30

"...spinning like Iranian centrifuges...", from Charles at LGF


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  • Greg: It has nothing to do with the nukes only with read more
  • mary: It was a good simile, kind of Dennis Miller-esque Listen, read more

I Totally Forget To Mention...

By Armed Liberal at 17:28

That Long Beach Opera is doing another performance this weekend - you can still go tonight at 8pm or tomorrow at 4 and see film star Michael York make everyone in the theater cry with his impassioned recital of Tennyson's Enoch Arden (accompanied on piano by Lisa Sylvester playing Strauss), and then make everyone in the audience laugh uncontrollably (yas, I remember my post from yesterday) playing in a multmedia piece with shadow puppets, a short film starring a Superman doll (and Robin!), real puppets, a small orchestra (with a blogger!) and amazing dancers from the Rogue Artist Ensemble. York even blows up and pops paper bags - that's not something you'll see a major star do every day!

Seriously, it's an amazing performance. LBO (disclosure: I'm on the board) fully did it again. If you're looking for something to do this weekend and you want to be moved, see something you've never seen before ... and get to shake a movie star's hand (I kept seeing him as the Gascon d'Artagnan in Richard Lester's great Musketeers movies).

Go buy tickets and have a great time.


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March 14, 2008

A Musical Rant

By Armed Liberal at 07:23

Four years ago today, TG and I were married in the garden at Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

Tonight, we had a marvelous dinner, and then went to the hall for a LA Philharmonic concert (we go about once a month).

It was a great concert; Rachmaninoff and Shostakovitch (his "Leningrad" concerto) immaculately and passionately performed. (Interesting thought about Shostakovitch and morally bent people doing great work - think Heidegger. And Rachmaninoff died about five blocks from where I grew up.)

But I want to take a moment while TG cleans up to rant. About the audience.


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Gov. Jindal's Louisiana Sea Change

By Joe Katzman at 02:39

Good news story now. From, of all places, the New York Times (Feb 28/08). About a Republican governor, in Louisiana, who is actually creating major change there:

"Six weeks into the term of Gov. Bobby Jindal, an extensive package of ethics bills was approved here this week, signaling a shift in the political culture of a state proud of its brazen style. Mr. Jindal, the earnest son of Indian immigrants, quickly declared open season on the cozy fusion of interests and social habits that have prevailed among lobbyists, state legislators and state agencies here for decades. Mostly, he got what he wanted.

....Grudgingly, pushed by public opinion and business pressure, it went along. When the legislative session ended Tuesday, lawmakers had passed bills aimed at making their finances less opaque, barring their lucrative contracts with the state - some have been known to do good business with them - and cutting down on perks like free tickets to sporting events. The bills, which advocates say will put Louisiana in the top tier of states with tough ethics rules, now await Mr. Jindal’s signature, which should come early next week.

....The volume of grumbling suggested real change was afoot."


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Canada's Baseball Team Makes the Olympics

By Joe Katzman at 01:40

With big comeback wins. Including handing Taiwan its only loss. Qualifiers from this round, in alphabetical order: Canada. South Korea. Taiwan.

Won't that be interesting at Beijing 2008?


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Timewaster of the Day

By Armed Liberal at 00:42

h/t Middle Guy...

LOLPresident


scary_hillary.jpg


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March 13, 2008

Ferarro's Frustration

By Joe Katzman at 07:15

Former VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro resigned after making this comment about Obama:

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Talkleft has more, and I'd recommend a read of the comments section too - it's at least as informative as the article, just in a different way. My take?


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We're Jamming

By Joe Katzman at 07:14

Go, cellphone elf!


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Manny Being... ????

By Joe Katzman at 06:56

Who is this guy, and what has he done with Manny Ramirez?

Whatever it is, it happened just before the end of season last year. Suddenly, Red Sox uber-slugger Ramirez became this semi-philosophical, non-reclusive, personal guy with observations that were interesting. His team-mates have all said - for attribution, and for many years - that Manny was from another planet. Whatever the reporters were asking about today, the response became just go with it, man, it's only "Manny Being Manny." A lot of folks on the outside looked askance at him, even as he put up huge numbers.

That turned around, and it wasn't a change in his production that did it. It's kind if fun to see, even if he does play for one of the 2 Evil Empires of the East. Bit of a head-scratcher, though. There's a really, really interesting case study somewhere in there, from a PR/ celebrity point of view.


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Why Is This Not Shocking?

By Armed Liberal at 01:23

A letter published by the NY Times:

Re "To Revive Hunting, States Turn to the Classroom" (front page, March 8):

Shame on West Virginia if it approves a bill that allows hunting education classes in public schools to become law.

We should not use public schools to try to reverse the inexorable decline in the "sport" of hunting.

The killing and maiming of animals for sport is a cruel and violent activity that is the antithesis of what schools should be teaching. Furthermore, in the context of a dramatic increase in school violence in recent years, to teach hunting is ludicrous.

We should be teaching our children how to be better citizens of the community, and that certainly does not include taking up arms against other living beings.

Brad Goldberg
President, Animal Welfare Advocacy
Mamaroneck, N.Y., March 8, 2008

It would be great if, say on their website, they published all the letters they received on the article. Maybe they could even have - comments - on their articles. Meanwhile, we get predictable cant.

Maybe someone can send him a copy of Dirty Hands.


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March 12, 2008

Public Diplomacy: "A Dumb Guy's Question"

By Armed Liberal at 23:52

There's been a whole and interesting discussion on public diplomacy going on at the "smaht kid" blogs, Abu Aardvark, Mountain Runner, et al.

Note that I think that public diplomacy - meaning stepping up and engaging in the war of ideas and the stories and images that express those ideas - is one of the Bush Administration's greatest failings (and I'm no johnny-come-lately to that bandwagon. Here's what I wrote in March, 2003:

But Bush has failed to sell this war in three arenas.

He has failed to sell it (as well as it should have been) to the U.S. people. The reality of 9/11 has sold this war, and our atavistic desire for revenge is the engine that drives the support that Bush actually has.

He has failed to sell it diplomatically. Not that he could have ever gotten the support of France or Germany; as noted above, even with an AmEx receipt for the 9/11 plane tickets signed by Saddam himself, France would find a reason to defer this war. But he should never have let them get the moral high ground, which they have somehow managed to claim.

He has failed to sell it to our enemies, who do not believe today that we are serious about achieving our stated goals. This is, to me the most serious one, because the perception that we are not deadly serious is a perception that we are weak; and we will have to fight harder, not because we are too strong, but because we will be perceived as too weak.


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John Hawkins: Top 10 Reasons Bloggers Don't Succeed

By Joe Katzman at 07:32

If you're a new blogger, this is well worth reading.


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Iowahawk on "Dirty Tricks" Campaigns

By Joe Katzman at 07:24

Iowahawk offers wry commentary on the political system, and some advice for candidates:

"So remember: the next time you learn that your opponent's staff is spreading stories about your candidate's involvement with a satanic LSD murder cult, take a deep breath, count to ten, and let it go. Sure, you could probably respond by distributing the well-documented evidence of your opponent's long history of serial necrophilia. Sure, it might temporarily feel good, and maybe it might swing a few million votes. But you have to ask yourself: to what end? Is some cushy 6-figure job in the next presidential administration -- with a probable $5 million-per-year K Street lobbying career waiting on the back end -- really worth losing your dignity and self respect over? Trust me, when your candidate's campaign is finally destroyed by some unanswered charges, and you're back waiting tables and filling out grad school applications, you'll at least have the deep personal satisfaction of knowing that you took the high road -- even when the game was on the line, even when the other team was playing dirty, and even when a well-timed "March surprise" would have easily made all the difference."


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Best Spitzer Take To Date...

By Armed Liberal at 00:18
At a hastily scheduled morning press conference at the headquarters of New York's exclusive Emperors Club prostitution ring, high priced call girl "Kristen" announced that she would temporarily step aside in the wake of charges that she had engaged in sex with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

"I made a serious mistake and betrayed the trust of my co-workers, my many clients, and my pimps," she said in a quiet voice cracking with emotion. "I will be taking a leave of absence to earn their forgiveness, and redeem myself in the eyes of the entire expensive whore community."

The embattled prostitute did not mention Spitzer by name, and stopped short of offering an official resignation. But longtime sex industry insiders say that it will be difficult for Kristen to return to her post in light of mounting federal wiretap evidence that she had sexually serviced the Governor on at least two occasions.

It's Iowahawk, so you know he's just getting rolling.

National-level politicians can be seen as many negative things - except ridiculous. That's why Spitzer is toast.

I think it was Warren Beatty who said that he had the choice of bedding lots of women or going into politics...more politicians need to keep that in mind.


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March 11, 2008

Gov. Spitzer Makes me Miss TV...

By Joe Katzman at 20:16

Because then I could see the upcoming Saturday Night Live skit.

"Good afternoon. Over the past nine years, eight years as attorney general and one as governor, I’ve tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all."

- "Which I did. Where else could a girl like Honey have the opportunity to make $5,000 per night? Charity starts at home, you know. Hoooo boy, does she ever! I mean, that trick with my garden hose.... uh, where was I?"

Blowing something bigger than you are may be very lucrative under the right circumstances, but it's damn shame when it happens in politics. Spitzer sometimes went overboard, but he has been uniquely willing to take on some of Wall Street's more egregious practices. That makes a ton of enemies, of course - enemies who don't and won't play fair, and will pounce if you give them an opening. Or, and he should have been thinking of this, work to set one up if you let them (as a reader pointed out, the blackmail possibilities alone should have stopped him).

The whole affair may be survivable for Gov. Spitzer, and when you think about it, it probably ought to be. Whether a guy hangs out with prostitutes, or gets oral sex from interns, really isn't relevant to very much in the larger political scheme of things. Better them than the nation, and all that. But that isn't where the betting odds are right now. And I'd still like to see that SNL skit.

UPDATE: I don't take what I said above back, but I've changed my mind re: Spitzer. He should go, and here's why.


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March 10, 2008

Comments Policy

By Armed Liberal at 19:31

Just as a note - since I did a lot of comment cleanup this morning - if your comment has a commercial url in it (i.e. if the url you give as a part of your identity is a commercial site, not a blog or news site), we automatically consider the comment spam. If there is a commercial url in the body of the content, we'll decide on a case-by-case basis (are you a long-time commenter, what is the context of the url, etc.).

So if you're looking to raise the organic SEO rankings of your business site, please don't try to do it by posting comments here. It just makes for more tidying up that we have to do.


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  • NotFrabjousAtAll: I'm unaware of any extension. Here's one thread pertinent to read more
  • Frabjous: Why did AL extend the ban on Alan in the read more
  • Ian Coull: Kudos to all who toil to keep the discussion above read more

In the Villages of Al Anbar

By Michael Totten at 10:23

Farris%20Iraq%20Google%20Earth.jpg

ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ – The Iraqi town of Al Farris looks like a model Soviet city up close and a rounded square from the sky. Saddam Hussein built it to house workers in the now-defunct weapons factory to the east, and they live in neighborhoods called City 1, City 2, City 3, City 4, and City 5. “Socialist living at its finest,” Sergeant Edward Guerrero said as we rolled through the gates in a Humvee. The place made me think of Libya, where I have been, and North Korea, where I have not.

Al Farris was part of Saddam’s attempt to launch Iraq into the sci-fi future before he ruined his country with four wars, two genocides, and an international sanctions regime. It was a failure. Like all utopian cities, Al Farris is dreary. Every apartment building is nearly identical. There are few stores, restaurants, or other businesses at street level. There certainly is no traditional Arabic souk. If it weren’t for the vaguely Arabesque windows, little would distinguish it from any other drab worker’s paradise.

“It’s like a gulag city,” one Military Police officer said. The grace note, if I could call it that, is the encircling coil or razor wire at the city limits which keeps insurgents from coming in and blowing up buildings and people. Billowing plastic bags have been snagged along the length of the wire.

Sergeant Guerrero had a private meeting scheduled with the local Iraqi Police chief, so I climbed a ladder to the roof where I could get a better view.

An Iraqi Police officer pointed out an American military outpost on top of the water tower. His job entailed sitting in silence in a rooftop bunker with a machine gun in case the station is attacked. I assumed the Americans on the water tower overwatched the city with sniper rifles. I didn't ask, but if they are it would not be a secret.

Read the rest at MichaelTotten.com


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Benazir Bhutto's Book: Reconciliation Reviewed

By Joe Katzman at 08:35

Ali "Drizzt" Eteraz review Benazir Bhutto's new book "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West." It's a worthwhile review, and as you'd expect he makes a number of good points. The core of her argument is definitely addressed to a Western audience, and remains the contention that democracy remains the best hope for progress within the Islamic world.

Mr. Eteraz is canny enough to note some of the flaws in her argument, too - such as her family's own complicity in the Islamization of Pakistan. He also criticizes Ms. Bhutto on the grounds that she "spends too much time trying to mollify those who conceive of Muslims as nihilist monsters... Muslims, like all believers, live a pick-and-choose-life and it’s pretty apparent that today most Muslims want to buy cars, raise families and hold jobs."

There, I think, he's on weaker ground. Yes, religious people pick and choose. Yes, a lot of people want a good material life. No, that doesn't remove the historic or current problems in Islam. It's more than than just some texts recommending violence, it's a long, consistent, and very blood-soaked history derived from those texts, which includes the prime role in the global slave trade (a stain that is still ingoing in Sudan et. al.). The role of jihad in Islam is not so easily dismissed, and it may be that Ms. Bhutto was wiser than Mr. Eteraz in deciding to face, rather than dismiss, a question that is growing rather than fading in the minds of her potential audience.

In the end, the Islamic world, too, will have to face, own, and reconsider their own history - as other religions have done, and continue to do.


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  • Dr Colonel K Prabhakar Rao ( Retired): [NM: Long cross post with bare URLs. Deleted out of read more
  • mark: lurker, neither one of us think of a concept like read more
  • lurker: mark, It actually not my concept. You can google up read more

North Carolina

By Armed Liberal at 05:40

Just on my way back from North Carolina, where TG & I got to spend the weekend with Biggest Guy.

He's loving training & feeling ready for selection...so I'm crossing fingers and toes that he's as ready as he feels. He tells me that one of his mates apparently reads this blog - which is a damn funny case of 'small world'. But boy, as much as I appreciate the audience, if I was there I've gotta say that I'd be spending my time running instead!


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  • Mike: Shhh - don't say "middle aged" out loud. It depresses read more

Report from the Primaries: Texas

By Joe Katzman at 00:02

Abhi from the Desi team blog Sepia Mutiny finds himself in the middle of the primaries, and reports on the experience. The conclusions would cover a lot of political events, but do seem especially relevant lately:

"It’s been a long 48 hours for me here in the heart of Texas. Monday night I went to check out Barack Obama for myself at one of his stops in Houston. The crowd was about six thousand or so strong and was composed mostly of people of color (probably an 85-15 split) including quite a few South Asian Americans. I’d never been to a political rally and figured this would be my chance to witness one first hand. I would have loved to have gone to a Clinton rally as well but my schedule (and hers) didn’t permit it. My observations from the rally were many, but here are a few:" [read 'em]


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  • Joe Katzman: A month is a long time in politics. There are read more
  • Jim Rockford: By all accounts Obama is the "Black Candidate" ... SNL read more

March 9, 2008

Magpul's "Holy @#%$!" Device

By Joe Katzman at 19:53

Nice flashlight... until you press the button. Take a look at the video and you'll see what I mean.

Practicality could be the subject of interesting arguments, but damn...


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  • Roberts: #9, Nort, exactly. read more
  • jebbbz: The concept is not new but the execution seems to read more
  • David_Blue: #10 from Armed Liberal: "And what - exactly - is read more

March 8, 2008

Wherein I Agree With Glenn Greenwald AND John McCain - And Yet My Head Does Not Explode

By Armed Liberal at 22:00

I'm hanging in the lobby of our hotel in Fayetteville with Biggest Guy, we're both surfing the web and he brings up the video of McCain and the NYT reporter Elisabeth Bumiller. We watched it and I asked him what he thought - he enjoyed it, and thought it made McCain look good. Shockingly, I kind of agreed. I've mentioned the incident where Giscard d'Estaing blew off a reporter who asked him about his illegitimate daughter - at the time, I was focused on politicians erecting a wall around their private lives. Looking at the McCain video, I realize that a big part of it was a politician stepping out of the role of sniffing the rear of the press to try and ensure a good relationship and, hopefully, good coverage.


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  • Ian Coull: I used to wring my hands a lot wondering whether read more
  • PD Shaw: What's worse, becoming visibly agitated at the press, or walking read more
  • Armed Liberal: alan - actually, I'll disagree. One of the things I've read more

Hillary Isn't the Monster

By Michael Totten at 18:47

I was at first relieved to learn that Senator Barack Obama had chosen Samantha Power as a foreign policy advisor. Her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide is hardly wishy-washy or leftist, and I concur with Max Boot that it could have been written by a neoconservative. It had been years, though, since I had paid her any attention. Until, that is, Noah Pollak forced me to take a fresh look. Much of what she has written and said since her book’s publication has been troubling, and she turned out to be the most controversial of Obama’s advisors. Yesterday she resigned after calling Senator Hillary Clinton a “monster” in an interview with a Scottish newspaper. I suspect an additional (though unstated) reason may have been the unwanted storm of controversy surrounding her, a storm that has had the Obama campaign on the defensive for some time now.

To her credit, Power disavowed her most controversial idea–that American troops be sent to Israel and the Palestinian territories–but troubling questions remain. If she thinks Clinton is a monster, what does she think about the dictators of Syria and Iran? She doesn’t approve of them. That’s obvious. But neither she nor Obama has ever been so “undiplomatic” as to suggest that they’re monsters.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine


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  • Glen Wishard: Well, there are monsters and there are monsters. For example, read more
  • Joe Katzman: toc, Totten is right. There is no American politician that read more
  • Armed Liberal: Jim, seriously. I share many of your concerns (although at read more

March 7, 2008

It's A Tough Week To Be A Democrat

By Armed Liberal at 19:34

So Samantha Power didn't exactly set me on fire, and this week she managed to show some foot-in-mouth disease and cost herself her role in the campaign, and her colleague Susan Rice explained that neither Obama nor Hillary are ready for the 3am call. Sheesh.


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  • Jim Rockford: Hillary is not going to win the Hezbollah wing of read more
  • Angellight: It is too bad that Sen. Clinton did not have read more
  • Jim Rockford: AL you must have missed Barack Hussein Obama's latest speech read more

The Self-Fulfilling Recession

By Armed Liberal at 19:24

Over at LA Biz Observed, Mark Lacter makes a point I've wondered about as well.

Never in my memory has the question of whether we're entering a recession gotten so much attention, both in the press and on Wall Street. At this point the conventional wisdom is that a recession has either arrived or is about to. Certainly, there's plenty of evidence pointing in that direction - tomorrow's employment report is expected to be dismal - and yet Business Week's Chris Farrell suggests that the half-filled glass crowd is getting shunted aside.

Then again, the natural cycles clear the brush for the 'creative destruction' I believe in so much. So maybe talking ourselves into an overdue recession isn't such a bad thing...


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  • Tim Oren: Fletcher: The markets would probably close down for a couple read more
  • Fletcher Christian: Tim, you are sortof right - but the 9/11 could read more
  • Tim Oren: I'm with Al up there, having lived through the same read more

Props (Jets, actually...)

By Armed Liberal at 18:57

...to Continental Airlines. I'm in Milwaukee (don't ask, yes it's cold) headed to North Carolina to see Biggest Guy. A storm is hitting my connection point in Cleveland, and there was no way I'd make my connection. The very nice rep just voluntarily reticketed me on a Midwest nonstop.

If I'm going to feel free to bitch about bad service, I've always felt that the price is the willingness to compliment people who give good service. Today I'm happy to pay it.


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  • Orion: Boy did WE have different experiences. I had two gate read more

Sitting At The Airport Watching CNN...

By Armed Liberal at 18:48

...and noting that Citi's CEO is defending his pay package - and being amazed that when times are trying and it's necessary to reward him (and the others of his class) for navigating the treacherous shoals; and when times are good, I guess it's important to reward them disproportionately because the company is so successful.

So paid well when the company does badly and paid well when the company does well. Somehow I think Joseph Schumpeter is grinning somewhere in heaven.

I guess I should have stayed in Corporate America...who says America isn't a socialist country?


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  • TK: Paid well when doing badly....paid well when doing well...I don't read more
  • Avatar: One points out that you'd expect that kind of distribution. read more
  • Treefrog: Fortune ran an interesting article (or was it Forbes...? looked read more

Hezbollah's Media Relations

By Michael Totten at 01:20

Michael Young has a terrific article in Reason magazine about the collateral damage (as he put it) in think tanks, academia, and the media after the assassination of Hezbollah Commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. He zeroes in on leftist icons Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein for their full-throated support for the Syrian- and Iranian-backed terrorist militia. (Be sure to watch Finkelstein’s performance on Lebanon’s Future TV here, and note how exasperated his interviewer Najat Sharafeddine is with his views.) The absurd alliance of violent Islamists and leftists has been covered elsewhere at length. At least Finkelstein and Chomsky are honest with their audience about what they believe and where they’re coming from.

Young also points out what may be a more serious problem, one much harder for most observers to see. Certain things are expected of those who want to maintain access to groups like Hezbollah. As Young points out,

Hezbollah is adept at turning contacts with the party into valuable favors … Writers and scholars, particularly Westerners, who lay claim to Hezbollah sources, are regarded as special for penetrating so closed a society. That’s why their writing is often edited with minimal rigor. Hezbollah always denied everything that was said about Mughniyeh, and few authors (or editors) showed the curiosity to push further than that. The mere fact of getting such a denial was considered an achievement in itself, a sign of rare access, and no one was about to jeopardize that access by calling Hezbollah liars.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.


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  • Demosophist: Again, I think this is evidence that Islamic Fascism and read more
  • Fletcher Christian: It is not going to be all that long, methinks, read more
  • Nortius Maximus: We appreciate your interest in the blog here, and your read more

March 6, 2008

Um...

By Armed Liberal at 03:51

Dear Atlantic Magazine:

Please cancel my subscription.

My son - serving in the US Army - is not a part of a group that needs to justify that "most of them are not sociopaths".

Marc Danziger


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  • metrico: Nice try, mark, but you'll get no answer from this read more
  • mark: I agree that he got to be meta --though he read more
  • Armed Liberal: No, mark, he's being completely meta; he's attacking the structure read more

Suicidal Lemming Watch

By Armed Liberal at 03:05

Check this out.

When the Netroots says "we're all about Democratic victory" please keep this in mind...


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  • mark: Achillea, To be fair, that 69% represents exactly 190 votes read more
  • Tim: statistically you cannot use internet polls because the internet use read more
  • Achillea: Isn't that the same thing that some Republicans are saying, read more

March 5, 2008

Should Hillary Be Ahead?

By Demosophist at 20:19

I'm sure that if Obama maintains his "pledged" delegate lead into the convention the argument his supporters will make is that the role of the super-delegates must be to ratify the decision of "the people." It is already being suggested that “party leadership,” including super-delegates, may need to step in to keep the party from self-inflicted injury. But what this perspective omits is that the reason Obama is still ahead in the committed delegate count even after losses in Ohio and Texas is largely a function of the Democrats' misguided adoption of the principle of proportional representation in their nomination system.

Just for the sake of argument, if we, instead, looked at only those states that award their delegates on the basis of a popular vote primary (ignoring caucus states for the moment) and employ a winner-take-all rule, such as the number of electoral college delegates that represent those states in a general election, Clinton has won over three times as many electors as Obama! This is the case even though Obama actually has more votes. (It’s not clear whether he’d maintain that aggregate vote lead if caucuses were transformed into popular vote primaries, however.) By my count, and excluding MI and FL, that's 71 electors for Obama and 224 for Clinton!1


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  • mark: A.L., Let's leave what "many of the current antiwar folks read more
  • Armed Liberal: hmmm...OK, now we also have a collapsing sanctions regime on read more
  • mark: A.L., Well, like Demosophist, I'm no good at predicting the read more

March 4, 2008

A Quick Word re: NAFTA

By Joe Katzman at 03:49

Senator McCain's recent kind words re: Canada in Afghanistan, which he used as an argument for not messing with NAFTA, have drawn a lot of attention north of the border. But the reasons why go a lot deeper than McCain himself, or Afghanistan itself, or even NAFTA itself, which was controversial in Canada.

Recently, Obama has begin to attract scrutiny for his promises to "renegotiate" NAFTA. That plays well with a certain segment in America, but it plays very poorly in Canada, even among people who didn't and don't like NAFTA. Frankly, even Canadians who supported the deal are annoyed at the consistent difficulty we've been having in getting the USA to keep its damn word re: the deal's terms. The whole "softwood lumber" dispute (which increased your home prices in America) was a prominent example, but not the only one. Now, we have some guy running for President, promising to bully the other signatories into changing the deal so it's less favourable to them.

Of course, he could simply be lying through his teeth. There are reports to that effect. But the impression of a bullying America that doesn't give a damn about its friends and won't keep its word, even with its #1 oil supplier, historic ally, and top trading partner, doesn't strike me as a great message to send the rest of the world if you're looking for friends. It will certainly play very poorly in Canada.

Need one add the monumental stupidity of promising to, in effect, first cripple the Mexican economy, and then throw open the border? Maybe someone in the press can find time to ask Mr. Obama about that...


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  • Amber: I think NAFTA should be ended or shelved as some read more
  • Glen Wishard: Obama is going to sit down with Castro and talk read more
  • SG: To address the free trade issue: I'm of a mixed read more

SNL Shines Again: Obama-Clinton Debate

By Joe Katzman at 03:20

This was funny [incl. video] - but my lord, this was even funnier. Right up there with some of the great Saturday Night Live skits from the old days... and though Obama is a secondary target, and Clinton a (very) tertiary target, the hardest bladed jab isn't aimed at Clinton, or Obama - it's the American media's "unsafe at any speed" product.

The time away has obviously been good for the writers. As a general rule: if you, as a candidate are in a parody this good, and are a target in any way, you'd better have been onstage yourself (note to McCain campaign: book stage time now, for after the convention). Otherwise, you've got trouble - and this one is going very viral on the net. Just spoke to a friend in Vermont, f'rinstance, who has been getting automated phone calls for the primary on the 4th - he says Obama's make him laugh now, because the opening recording's tone et. al. reminds him of the SNL skits.

The satire has also struck home with some in the media, as Jennifer Rubin reports. Will it make a real difference? We'll see. Meanwhile, Matthew Sheffield has some very worthwhile points to ponder for conservatives re: SNL and 'the new politics.'

Refresh my memory, folks: has SNL ever materially changed a US Presidential contest? Thanks to YouTube, the blogsphere et. al. as a new secondary distribution channel, we may be on our way to a first. Even if we're not, there are growing signs that the reflexive media scrutiny blogs have made their bones on may be starting to go mainstream. If so, it can only be good news for the country.


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  • Hee Hee: "Lack of insight trumps lack of introspection any day." This read more
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March 3, 2008

Michael Totten: The Moderate Muslim Supermajority

By Joe Katzman at 00:02

Michael didn't cross-post this one here, but it's worth your attention:

"My Contentions colleague Abe Greenwald takes a gloomy view of a new Gallup survey that shows 93 percent of the world’s Muslims are moderates. “We need to find out from one billion rational human beings why they largely refuse to stand up for humanity and dignity instead of cowering in the face of fascist thugs,” he wrote.

First of all, I’d like to agree with Abe’s point that even this sunny survey suggests we still have a serious problem. If seven percent of the world’s Muslims are radical, we’re talking about 91 million people. That’s 65 times the population of Gaza, and three and a half times the size of Iraq. One Gaza is headache enough, and it only took 19 individuals to destroy the World Trade Center, punch a hole in the Pentagon, and kill 3,000 people.

Some of the 93 percent supermajority support militia parties such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the West Bank’s Fatah. So while they may be religious moderates, they certainly aren’t politically moderate.

I’m less inclined than Abe to give the remaining Muslims - aside from secular terror-supporters - too hard a time. I work in the Middle East, and I used to live there. I meet moderate Muslims every day who detest al Qaeda and their non-violent Wahhabi counterparts. I know they’re the overwhelming majority, and a significant number are hardly inert in the face of fascists." [read the rest....]


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March 1, 2008

A different slant on the Prince Harry affair

By Bayou Renaissance Man at 17:00

Blogger The Remittance Man has an interesting take on Prince Harry's service in Afghanistan:

... all credit to the lad. He’s apparently been doing a bit of FACing for the Gurkhas; calling down seven shades of aerial destruction upon Terry Taliban’s bonce. But this does raise a couple of important issues as yet unaddressed by the Grown Ups:

Firstly: Does being blown to smithereens by bombs dropped on the say so of a Prince of the Blood give a recently slotted warrior of God any extra bennies? Does he get to push to the front of the queue outside the celestial bordello his priests say awaits him? Do more than the standard 72 heavenly hookers wait to serve his every need? Perhaps someone with a better understanding of the finer points of Muslim theology can enlighten us.

The second and perhaps the more important one is this: Will the various coalition squadrons* that have delivered deadly ordinance at HRH’s request be eligible for a Royal Warrant? Will they be allowed to carry the appropriate device on their tail fins? How does “4077th, Tactical Fragging, Nuking and Napalming Wing (By Royal Appointment)” sound?

:-)

Peter


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Peak Oil & Energy Policy: Rep. Rocoe Bartlett Briefing

By Joe Katzman at 03:32

There aren't that many scientists in Congress. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD-6] is one. I know him best as the senior Republican in the House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces (read: Navy and Marines) subcommittee. One of the other areas he's focused on, however, is energy policy.

Rep. Bartlett has argued for the "Peak Oil" theory for some time now. Boiled down to its barest essentials, that theory states that global production is at or approaching a peak, from which it will likely drop, while the same is not happening to demand. Naturally, there are lots of arguments about this, back and forth. It's a very consequential argument in terms of energy policy, and is bleeding into defense policy as well.

If this topic interests you at all, I'd recommend watching Rep. Bartlett's Deb 28/08 Peak Oil speech in Congress, complete with charts and other presentation material. The delivery isn't flashy - he'll never run for President. The content is very worthwhile, however, as he makes a case any intelligent viewer can understand, with full reference to alternative predictions, tar sands and oil shales, alternative energy options, and multiple studies that include the US Army Engineering Corps, the Congressional GAO, oil firms, financial institutions, et. al. Whether you agree or disagree in the end, you'll have heard a very strong presentation of the Peak Oil argument.

Speech page, incl: Video & audio | Transcript [PDF] | Full-size slides [PDF].


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