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September 2008 Archives

September 30, 2008

Rosh Ha'Shanah 5769: Who Shall Live - and Who Shall Die

By Joe Katzman at 16:26

The Jewish New Year is not like the secular New Year, though it does share one element. It's about examining the life lived over the past year, individually and in community. Here's one translation of a prayer called the U'Netanah Tokef, attributed to a Jewish martyr Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, recited in the synagogue just before his death, after his hands and feet had been cut off for refusing to convert to Christianity. Part of it has been translated as follows:

"All mankind will pass before You like members of the flock. Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living; and You shall apportion the fixed needs of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict.

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquillity and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.

But REPENTANCE, PRAYER and CHARITY avert the severe decree!"

This is not a comfortable prayer. Quite a few people have hated it, actually, including more than one rabbi. Jewish TV Network offers a video (click on the Torah scroll) from "Torah Slam 2008" in Los Angeles, where a very talented cross-denominational group of rabbis discuss/ explain/ struggle with/ curse at this prayer, its translations (plural), and its meaning. The video is alternately funny, deep, moving, and angry; always impassioned, and ultimately very enlightening. No matter what religion you are.

Shana Tovah.

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  • David Blue: OK, I kept trying, and woo hoo! it's loading. ... read more
  • Joe Katzman: Weird, it plays for me. Wish there was a transcript, read more
  • David Blue: I keep getting "not available". Nevertheless, it was wrong to read more

Tell Me Why This Is Wrong

By Grim at 05:46

So, doubtless you have all seen this video. It's ten minutes long, and provides a straight-line explanation for the current financial crisis.

We have had a good discussion on the matter below. Since this video is taking off and has gotten a lot of attention, though, I'd like to hear some focused criticism on its claims. Where is it wrong? How is it right?

I'll start: this is plainly a partisan video, that intends to cast blame on one side where there is blame to go around. That isn't helpful when Speaker Pelosi does it, and it isn't helpful here. In terms of understanding the crisis, though -- as opposed to laying blame for it -- where is it right, and where is it wrong?

UPDATE: Per the comments, YouTube has pulled the video. It can now be viewed here.

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  • douglas: Dave, "I'm glad you moved off of the position that read more
  • AMac: Davebo, When you've gotten mortgages, did the lender require the read more
  • Davebo: Sub Primes are just the tip of the iceberg. The read more

Road Food

By Armed Liberal at 05:19

So spent the weekend being a Good Corporate Spouse ™ in Monterey where we go for TG's big conference every other year.

She doesn't usually ride, and so when we leave Sunday, she usually drives down with a Trustee, and I get to spend the afternoon swooping over the great curvy roads (Carmel Valley, Highway 25, Jolon, Peachtree Valley, etc. etc.) between Monterey and home. This year she managed to wangle it so she rode, too, and we had a great trip up, leaving Thursday evening and arriving at the Treebones Resort in Gorda, at the south end of Big Sur, then leaving there early in the morning and arriving midmorning in Monterey so she could conference and I could do a little work sitting in the hotel patio.

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  • Brian H: Speaking of great, swooping rides, here's a posting you might read more

September 29, 2008

The War Won't End in Afghanistan

By Michael Totten at 22:55

Senator Barack Obama said something at the presidential debate last week that almost perfectly encapsulates the difference between his foreign policy and his opponent’s: “Secretary of Defense Robert Gates himself acknowledges the war on terrorism started in Afghanistan and it needs to end there.” I don’t know if Obama paraphrased Gates correctly, but if so, they’re both wrong.

If Afghanistan were miraculously transformed into the Switzerland of Central Asia, every last one of the Middle East’s rogues gallery of terrorist groups would still exist. The ideology that spawned them would endure. Their grievances, such as they are, would not be salved. The political culture that produced them, and continues to produce more just like them, would hardly be scathed. Al Qaedism is the most radical wing of an extreme movement which was born in the Middle East and exists now in many parts of the world. Afghanistan is not the root or the source.

Naturally the war against them began in Afghanistan. Plans for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were hatched in Afghanistan. But the temporary location of the plotters of that strike means little in the wide view of a long struggle. Osama bin Laden and his leadership just as easily could have planned the attacks from Saudi Arabia before they were exiled, or from their refuge in Sudan in the mid 1990s. Theoretically they could have even planned the attacks from an off-the-radar “safe house” in a place like France or even Nebraska had they managed to sneak themselves in. The physical location of the planning headquarters wasn’t irrelevant, but in the long run the ideology that motivates them is what must be defeated. Perhaps the point would be more obvious if the attacks were in fact planned in a place like France instead of a failed state like Afghanistan.

Hardly anyone wants to think about the monumental size of this task or how long it will take. The illusion that the United States just needs to win in Afghanistan and everything will be fine is comforting, to be sure, but it is an illusion. Winning the war in Iraq won’t be enough either, nor will permanently preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. The war may end somewhere with American troops on the ground, or, like the Cold War, it might not. No one can possibly foresee what event will actually put a stop to this war in the end. It is distant and unknowable. The world will change before we can even imagine what the final chapter might look like.

Most of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis. All were Arabs. None hailed from Afghanistan. This is not coincidental. Al Qaeda’s politics are a product of the Arab world, specifically of the radical and totalitarian Wahhabi sect of Islam founded in the 18th Century in Saudi Arabia by the fanatical Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. He thought the medieval interpretations of Islam even on the backward Arabian peninsula were too liberal and lenient. His most extreme followers cannot even peacefully coexist with mainstream Sunni Muslims, let alone Shia Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, secularists, feminists, gays, or anyone else. Their global jihad is a war against the entire human race in all its diversity and plurality.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine.

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  • ChickensComeHome: #14 from narciso: "Sorry, Chicken," That's OK, I have no read more
  • TOC: #16 from Celebrim at 11:06 pm on Sep 30, 2008 read more
  • Celebrim: "My point was that I am not so cavalier about read more

September 27, 2008

The Debate

By Armed Liberal at 17:26

So I watched most of the debate at the hotel bar - with about 100 other people (it was a full house and I was sitting on the floor with a few dozen others).

Overall, meh. My comment to TG was that neither of the candidates melted into green goo on camera, meaning that each of them managed not to screw up badly enough to cost them the election.

And I realized that that's kind of a metaphor for how this election is running - each candidate desperate not to screw the pooch, playing defensively and probing for weaknesses rather than making full-throated claims about what they are, believe in, and where they want to take the country. That's massively depressing to me, because it seems like we've lost what each of them brought to the table that made them good candidates in the first place.

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  • Robert M: One thing that is wrong with our politics is that read more
  • Anachronym: The second quote there was in the context of comparison read more
  • Mark Poling: "If nobody threatens you, but you imagine that they're capable read more

September 26, 2008

Thunderbirds are GO! ...For Sure...

By Armed Liberal at 22:52

So I'm at the Hyatt in Monterey being a supportive corporate spouse and working on the wi-fi out on the patio.

I'm on the patio because the USAF Thunderbirds (warning: heavy FLASH site) are in town for an airshow and are doing flybys onto Monterey Airport which is just up the road, and I'm getting an impromptu airshow as the planes circle 200 feet over my head individually and in small groups.

I didn't bring a camera, but trust me - it's ridiculously cool.

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  • Eric Wilner: I was there... my camera was there... alas, the Thunderbirds read more
  • Eric Wilner: I plan on being there Sunday. I haven't attended an read more

September 25, 2008

Understanding the Finance Crisis

By Grim at 05:04

The purpose of this post is to debate and try to understand exactly how our financial systems failed. This post is the right place for clean debate on the systems: how they were supposed to work, how they really did work, and what to do about it.

In the extended entry, I'll repost a series of comments from an earlier post -- we went a bit off-topic -- and we can run with it from there.

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  • Xpressions: It doesn't matter what McCain would or wouldn't have said read more
  • Robert M: I know ther is more than enough blame to go read more
  • TOC: #110 from ricg at 4:42 pm on Sep 30, 2008 read more

Sorry, This Was Just Dumb

By Armed Liberal at 00:44

McCain's public suggestion that the campaigns 'stand down' and work on the economy was politically dumb and also practically dumb.

Politically, if he'd been serious, as opposed to grandstanding, he'd have worked out the details privately with the Obama campaign, and they would have announced it jointly. I'm guessing they would have turned him down; the tide is running Obama's way (in no small part because the media is deeply, passionately, embarrassingly in the tank for him - see Jeff G's great post on this at Protein Wisdom - and I need to do a post on the likely [bad] consequences of this) and he should press on and try and make McCain's campaign crumble right now.

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  • toc: Well, After today's vote, McCain's lose/lose gambit has come to read more
  • Morgan: Just in case anyone was still clinging to the notion read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: Looks like the score on Rick Davis is Mainstream Media read more

September 24, 2008

The Scorching of Georgia

By Michael Totten at 10:31


The events described in this article took place in late August, 2008.

Last month Russia invaded, occupied, and de-facto annexed portions of Georgia. During that time it was difficult, if not impossible, for reporters to see for themselves what was actually happening. I wanted to see for myself what Russia had wrought, but everything behind the front lines was closed.

The breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were off-limits to anyone without a Russian visa. It takes months to acquire a Russian visa, so traveling to those areas was out of the question.

I tried to get into the occupied city of Gori with Caucasus expert and author Thomas Goltz, but even that city was closed to us though it is inside Georgia proper and beyond Russia's acquired new territories. Occasionally Russian soldiers would let journalists pass, but Thomas and I weren't among the lucky few.

So I went to Borjomi, an area that by all accounts was bombed by Russian jets, but was never occupied or controlled by its ground troops. Borjomi is a tourist town next to the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park – the first of its kind in the Caucasus region – and Russian jets had reportedly dropped bombs in the forests and set the region on fire.

Read the rest at

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September 23, 2008

Have I Mentioned How Little I Love Verizon These Days? And Don't Even Get Me Started On Palm...

By Armed Liberal at 23:02

So we're a mega-Verizon customer, with three home phone lines, FIOS, three cell phones and a cell modem in my laptop. Our monthly bill is - well, it's large - and has been for some time.

Here's what this month has brought us.

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  • Fred: Interesting that the iPhone and Apple are being called the read more
  • TOC: #36 from Mark Buehner at 8:13 pm on Sep 24, read more
  • Larry Ice: Marc, Regarding Verizon and Palm issues. BTDT. I've always preferred read more

We Get Stuff (1)

By Armed Liberal at 19:37

One of them is requests to link to worthy projects; one is a charity that aids malnourished kids around the world - the International Medical Corps.

Chosen out of 1,190 projects, "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children" is now eligible to receive up to $1.5 million in funding. The project with the most votes receives $1.5 million, 2nd receives $500,000, 3rd $300,000, and 4th and 5th $100,000. The funding - made possible by your votes - would bring a vital lifeline to hungry and malnourished children around the world.

[If you have an AmEx card,] All you have to do is click here to vote for them, and email five or ten friends and ask them to do the same.

Take a minute, do some good.

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  • Chessia: Thank you so much Marc! With your help and that read more
  • PD Shaw: I'm probably being churlish with comment #4. It sounds like read more
  • PD Shaw: American Express is currently running an ad making fun of read more

Skewz Interview

By Armed Liberal at 02:11

The Skewz podcast interview is on their site here.

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US Army Maj. Gen. Cucolo Discusses Information Warfare

By Joe Katzman at 01:54

US Army Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo discusses information warfare [Quicktime video]. Among the points made:

"Just my opinion, but I would say the enemy understands the importance of communicating to audiences better than we do."

He gets a number of things right. He's reasonably good at explaining some basics to an American audience, and takes the viewer on an interesting historical trip from WW2 through Korea (he's critical of the Army's stance), Vietnam (ditto), et. al. He also offers very solid advice and examples to those who are serving, using compelling human interest stories to make his points. The nature of such a diverse population ensures that a range of views will be expressed when that advice is taken - but at least it will be a view informed by personal experience and understanding.

Cucolo is betting that the overall human interest benefits, introduction of informed opinion, and connections to the American public will outweigh any negative blowback or diverging views. He's almost certainly right. We'll see if the US Army can listen to that advice, and how well they take it.

There's a flip side to Cucolo's subject, which is countering enemy disinformation campaigns...

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Defense Department Inspector General on Iraqi Cell Phones

By Grim at 00:31

A friend of mine sent me this link to the DOD IG report on corruption in Iraqi Cell Phone contracts. I was vaguely intrigued, since one of the big early success stories in Iraq has been the flowering of the cellular phone industry (as well as the satellite television industry, and a few others). I had an IRAQNA phone myself while I was over there. Crystal clear reception to the USA; kind of horrid reception if you're calling a buddy a few blocks away.

So I know it's big money, and it's not shocking to hear there is some corruption. I was rather surprised by the tagline:

This 146 page US Defense Inspector General's report, written at the For Official Use Only level, pertains to a fraud investigation centering on Iraqi-British billionare Nadhmi Auchi, who is connected to Presidential Candidate Barak Obama via former Obama fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

Well, yes, he is: Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club did a good part of the work on that. I hadn't realized, however, that Auchi was so important to Saddam's weapon smuggling program as well.

It's a long report, but you may wish to read it for yourself in spite of that.

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  • Barricade: A good account of the mobile phone drama can be read more
  • metrico: And Sudnick? He is resident of the US and was read more
  • Grim: Auchi is not in the United States, and is not read more

September 22, 2008

The Progressive Noise Machine

By Armed Liberal at 17:05

It's funny, but for all the talk about the 'Right Wing Noise machine' on the 'net, the reality is that the left has far out organized and outplayed the right in the political uses of new media.

Much of that is genuine, a slice of it is deranged, and now we have some evidence that at least a little bit is Astroturf.

Over at the Jawa Report, Rusty Shackleford backtraced an anti-McCain Youtube video and - I think pretty conclusively - linked it to Obama's campaign. I'd love to see the left doing this kind of research as well - I think these kind of actions are questionably illegal and certainly undermine the authenticity of the dialog on the blogs. I'm amused but not surprised that no left-wing blogs are showing up on the Memeorandum cloud around this post.

In 2004, I wrote about the increasing and hidden 'professionalization' of the left-wing blogs, and how for a few hundred grand a year folks like Media Matters managed to have a meaningful impact on our political dialog.

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  • ThomasJackson: Hmmm, believeing the ends justifes the means doesn't mean you're read more
  • Paul Brinkley: My inner Nazi says you're wrong, TOC. It also said read more
  • TOC: I thought anyone that disagrees with someone is a Nazi. read more

September 21, 2008

Lights In The Sky And Facts On The Ground In Iraq

By Armed Liberal at 19:56

So I've been following the "the Surge was a fraud" lines of argument on sites like Democracyarsenal, and meaning to reply when I got a moment when this NY Times article popped up on Memeorandum: "Back in Iraq, Jarred by the Calm". Amusingly, so far this morning, the only sites to have linked to it are warblogs - Hot Air, Neptunus Lex, The Astute Bloggers. In a world where I had more time, I'd do some digging into the insularity of the blogs right now, as left and right blogs increasingly ignore stories that don't support their narrative.

Here's the lede from the NY Times article:

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  • Mark Buehner: Funny that they admittedly rushed this publication to influence the read more
  • Kevin Donoghue: Did they ever give anyone else their data? Yes. This read more
  • Nortius Maximus: The JHB report published in the Lancet was politically inconvenient--therefore read more

The Mickey Mouse Fatwa

By Joe Katzman at 19:11

AP actually has a decent article about the Saudi cleric Sheik Mohammed Munajjid, who recently explained why Mickey Mouse should be killed.

Funny and sad all at the same time - I mean, for the love of Allah, why couldn't he have picked Barney?

Meanwhile, the same article covers the criticism that Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan, chief of the Saudi Supreme Judiciary Council, has taken for suggesting that the owners of satellite TV stations that show "immoral" content could legitimately be killed for it. Iraqi Sunni cleric Sheik Hazim Awad had a very sane response, I thought.

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  • JewsFatwaKillAllGentiles: Talmud Sofrim 15:10 R. Shimon ben Yochai taught: Kill [even] read more
  • Grim: Alternatively, you could seek religious instruction later in life, having read more
  • Joe Katzman: Almost certainly quite small, because the role of judge has read more

NozzleRage's Amusing Political Commercials

By Joe Katzman at 18:28

Turns out that a couple of the finest political ads in this election aren't attached to a candidate. Visit NozzleRage to see 'em.

The bad news is, they're attached to the whole ethanol mistake/scam, which ends up using more energy to produce than it delivers. That works well for the agribusinesses getting government subsidies - but not so well for the public.

On the other hand, these are worthy examples of a political ad that successfully conveys both a point of view, and a complex policy wonk issue's call to action. And they're kind of entertaining.

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  • Joe Katzman: Perilously close, but a bipartisan stock of campaign ads is read more
  • Nortius Maximus: Dan, your post is perilously close to drive-by territory. Lack read more
  • Dan Kauffman: For the Political Junky Who Has Everything Campaign Commercials going read more

September 20, 2008

More Movies - Tuesday Night

By Armed Liberal at 18:04

There's a new documentary on voting integrity - 'Uncounted' - that will be showing Tuesday here in Los Angeles.

It's showing at the Fairfax theater at 7:30pm, and if you say "No Diebold" (a sentiment left and right should both share) at the box office, you'll get a discount.

I'm going to see if I can take LG and go see it...

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  • TG: Hi Blake! AL and I will need to get it read more
  • Blake Sobiloff: Too bad it's not showing up here, but it seems read more

...We Call Them Victims.

By Armed Liberal at 15:31

So there's been a bit of hoo-hah over a new study that has been reported as "conservatives are cowards". First of all, if anyone has access to the AAAS website, I'd love a copy of the full paper. As it is, I'm going off of the abstract and some of the news articles about it.

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  • Brian H: I think the conclusion to the article is reversed in read more
  • Nortius Maximus: Alchemist: Note also that the "lack of malleability" mentioned in read more
  • alchemist: Finally getting home from a long weekend... heard this story read more

One, Two, Three

By Armed Liberal at 14:59

So, flew back from Chicago in time for Pizza and Movie Night, which has been a household tradition since Biggest Guy was watching kiddie films a long time ago.

Last night, TG and LG were - suspicious - to say the least at my latest Netflix film, Billy Wilder's brilliant comedy "One, Two, Three".

By the time the film was over, LG decided we needed to own it.

It's a hysterical period comedy set in West Berlin just before the border was closed. If you haven't seen it, you'll never think of Pepsi (or Jimmy Cagney) in the same way again. Watch it tonight...

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  • The Unbeliever: Good to see other people know about this excellent movie. read more
  • Glen Wishard: At the end of the film, Cagney uses a Coke read more
  • Andy R: "One, Two, Three" is a brilliant film, and Cagney is read more

September 19, 2008

Al Qaeda's Defeat in Iraq

By Michael Totten at 23:46

Senator Barack Obama’s answer to Katie Couric’s question a few days ago about why he thinks there have been no terrorist attacks on American soil since September 11, 2001, was bizarre.

“Well,” he said, “I think that the initial invasion into Afghanistan disrupted al Qaeda. And that was the right thing to do. I mean, we had to knock out those safe havens. And that, I think, weakened them. We did some work in strengthening our homeland security apparatus here. Obviously, the average person knows that when they go to the airport, because they are goin’ through taking off their shoes … all that. The problem is when we got distracted by Iraq. We gave al Qaeda time to reconstitute itself.” [Emphasis added.]

Jennifer Rubin correctly noted that Couric asked Obama why the U.S. has not been attacked, but let’s leave that aside. The notion that “we gave Al Qaeda time to reconstitute itself” is breathtakingly ahistorical.

The U.S. and NATO have never let up in Afghanistan. At no time were American resources redeployed from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Obama could, perhaps, argue that fewer resources were available for the fight in Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq. That would be true. But that’s also true of Al Qaeda’s resources. They also deployed manpower and material to Iraq that otherwise could have been sent to Afghanistan.

The Al Qaeda leadership emphatically has not agreed with Obama that Iraq is a distraction. It has been their main event for years.

“The most important and serious issue today for the whole world,” Osama bin Laden said on December 28, 2004, “is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation. It is raging in the land of the two rivers. The world’s millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate.”

It’s only natural that an Arab-led and a mostly Arab-staffed terrorist group like Al Qaeda would be more concerned with a strategically critical country in the heart of the Arab Middle East than with a primitive non-Arab backwater in Central Asia.

Bin Laden’s lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri explicitly spelled out Al Qaeda’s strategy in Iraq on July 9, 2005. “The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq,” he said. “The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate—over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq.”

The war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq can plausibly be described as a distraction from the war against Al Qaeda. But the war against Al Qaeda in Iraq cannot possibly be accurately described as a distraction from the war against Al Qaeda.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine.

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  • Mark Buehner: "We'll never know how much capturing or killing Osama would read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: We'll never know how much capturing or killing Osama would read more
  • Mark Buehner: Christ, i meant Osama. Apologies all around, that was purely read more

Ah, It's Fall

By Armed Liberal at 03:36

...and it's time for the "college fiction teacher explains why he's sorry for the troops" oped. This one is in the Boston Globe.

My first impulse is to say, "I'm sorry to hear that." Because I am. I'm sorry to know that the person I'm talking to might someday be maimed or killed on the job, or might someday kill someone else. Or refuel a plane that drops bombs on buildings.

I can't see how anyone who calls himself or herself Christian - or human, for that matter - wouldn't be sorry.

The fact that we have an army, that we need an army, is inherently tragic. It's an admission that our species is still ruled by fear and aggression.

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  • alchemist: These kids of debates make it less and less fun read more
  • Nortius Maximus: I think that to whatever extent the US during and read more
  • GK: "Iraq under the Clinton administration which directly contributed to the read more

Dissent on the future of Euro Social Democracy, American Conservatism

By Joe Katzman at 01:19

The Decent Left magazine Dissent has a pair of features in this issue. Robert Taylor asks "Does European Social Democracy have a Future?"

Based on demographics alone, the answer is clearly "no" within 30 years or less. In the near term, however, the answer is yes, despite or possibly because of the rising neo-fascist hard left. Taylor doesn't have a full answer to his question - at this point, nobody does. Nonetheless, his explanation of the key stress points is valuable, and so are the pointers to new thinking from people like Dutch Labour Party leader Wouter Bos. Given that soft socialism's failures have led to fascism in Europe before, that kind of adaptation and thinking is a service to all.

On the other side of the spectrum, Kevin Mattson asks "Has Conservatism Cracked Up?" Here, Dissent suffers from the lack of an inside perspective, but American conservatives are indeed going through a self-definition and reflection process. Sarah Palin's nomination has paused it - but not stopped it. Note that Europe's conservatives (including Britain's) have a very different identity, and would represent a separate subject.

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  • J Aguilar: I like that Moses' analogy. Democracy in Continental Europe exists read more
  • TOC: Much of the attitudes we now see in Europe were read more
  • J Aguilar: he he, a "fragmentation" of the Left's voters. IMHO Mr. read more

Fast Economy Comments

By Armed Liberal at 00:37

OK a few sketchy comments on the economy.

First, I think it's a mistake to think that we live in "an economy"; we live in a collection if economies, which intersect more and less strongly at different connection points. The economy I live in has very little to do with the economy of an immigrant worker who lives in Lima, Ohio and works in a building services company, nor with the economy of a hedge fund manager who lives in Greenwich. The economy is one of 'layers' that coexist geographically but really have more to do with a larger, global network of peers - mine in Bangalore or London or Boston.

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  • GK: "In case anyone would like to check GK's conclusions, here read more
  • Beard: In case anyone would like to check GK's conclusions, here read more
  • GK: "Al Gore is doing the opposite - promoting political division, read more

The Economics of Airport Reading

By Armed Liberal at 00:03

OK, something trivial and yet close to my heart.

I walked out of the airport bookstore with a copy of the Economist (still a damn good magazine), and didn't buy the $30 - 550 page history book. Then I thought it through and realized that I'd done the wrong thing. The magazine lasted about 20 minutes, and the book probably would have lasted 5 - 10 hours. So the $7 copy of the magazine is far more expensive than the $30 (plus tax) book.

On the other hand, I'd have to lug the damn thing around.

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  • Mark Buehner: If you don't pop for the tome the terrorists win. read more
  • Armed Liberal: I'm gonna tell TG that you recommended that... A.L. read more
  • R Gould-Saltman: Yeah, cheap-skate that I am, I noticed the same issues read more

September 18, 2008


By Armed Liberal at 23:53

This was emailed to me -

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army says a Special Forces trainee found dead this summer during a land navigation exercise in North Carolina was bitten by a poisonous water moccasin, also known as a cottonmouth.

The military said Wednesday the autopsy of 20-year-old Pfc. Norman M. Murburg of Dade City, Fla., ruled out heat or dehydration as a cause of death. Murburg was bitten multiple times while training at the Hoffman training area, near Fort Bragg's Camp Mackall.

Well, it's good to have resolution; it was a Giant Meteor Impact - my phrase for an unavoidable event. The only protection is to be someplace else when one of those strikes.

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  • wheels: When I was in high school near San Antonio, cottonmouths read more
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  • BD: Wow, that's terrible. I'm sorry to hear about Biggest Guy's read more

The USA's $35B KC-X Aerial Tanker Program: What Now?

By Joe Katzman at 03:44
KC-X contenders
(click to view full)

On Sept 10/08, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pulled the plug on the US Air Force's #1 priority: 179 new aerial refueling tankers to replace a KC-135 (Boeing 707 derivative) fleet whose newest models were built in 1965. Every global operation carried out by the USAF depends on these aircraft: long-range transport, long fighter patrols over Afghanistan and Iraq for quick close air support, deployments to foreign bases, long range air strikes, etc. If anything happened that forced the grounding of that fleet - and aircraft that old can develop unexpected mechanical or structural flaws - the USA's fleet of 50+ KC-10s (DC-10 derivative) would be overwhelmed in short order. US global air power would be cut back drastically.

The operational stakes can easily be forgotten given the political controversies, which have been fueled by a USAF that did not follow its own competition guidelines, and by all-out lobbying from Boeing and EADS Airbus/Northrop Grumman. It has also been an issue in the Presidential election. Obama and his team have criticized McCain for launching investigations that put several people in jail on corruption charges, due to activities which were connected to Boeing's original lease-to-buy KC-767 offer. Sen. McCain had been vocal in criticizing Boeing's post-9/11 offer as profiteering, even before the investigations found corruption; I felt the same way.

With jobs at stake, it's a political issue again. But Boeing's HQ these days is near Chicago, and I guess "change you can believe in" sometimes refers to large bags of the metallic variety.

Regardless, SecDef Gates' decision means that the new administration, whomever it is, is going to have to start this competition over from scratch. The political battle - for this will be a political decision from start to finish - will be fought in the USA, with around 30,000 jobs around the country hanging on each choice. The decision's impacts will also stretch beyond US shores, however, creating the possibility of significant foreign policy complications.

This post will explain the key plusses and minus of each plane, the political landscape in the US, the potential foreign policy impacts... and what I think the eventual outcome will be.

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  • Barney: Probably the biggest obstacle to acquiring good military hardware in read more
  • Joe Katzman: Larry - costs for each round of bidding on KC-X read more
  • Larry J: At this point, Boeing is furthering a process that's been read more

Reconciliation Under Fire: An Evangelical-Catholic Story

By Joe Katzman at 02:19

With all of the expected bile et. al. inherent in a national election campaign, I thought this was a fine story:

"When Sen. John McCain accepted the minister's public endorsement in late February, Donohue asked McCain to reject it, as he had been aware of what he considered anti-Catholicism in Hagee's writing for several years. The McCain campaign's response did not satisfy Donohue. For seven straight days, Donohue issued press releases pressuring the McCain campaign to renounce Hagee. The story was picked up by the national media. By the time McCain made a statement rejecting Hagee's anti-Catholicism, John Hagee's reputation was in tatters.

In the middle of the controversy, I received a call from Ralph Reed, who was growing concerned about the impact of Donohue's charges against his friend Hagee. "John Hagee is a good man," he told me. "I want you to talk to John and then talk to Bill." As I remember that initial phone call, I am struck by Reed's ability to imagine the possibility of reconciliation between the two men. When I agreed to make the call, I didn't think there was any chance for a truce -- there was just too much heat."

It made for an interesting juxtaposition with a second story, which discussed the required divide between theology and politics. That article includes some timely thoughts from Cardinal Ratzinger/ Pope Benedict, and also quotes the Catholic Monsignor Gilbey:

"We are not led to undo the work of creation or to rectify the Fall. The duty of the Christian is not to leave the world a better place. His duty is to leave this world a better man."

The Jewish approach differs somewhat, but the position explained in the article is more nuanced than this quote, and understanding those nuances is valuable to anyone grappling with these issues.

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  • Joe Katzman: Nort nails it. read more
  • Nortius Maximus: Let me speak bluntly regarding recent participant threadbans. I might read more
  • PD Shaw: Joe almost certainly wrote this post for nearly the exact read more

September 17, 2008

AlwaysOn Going Green Conference 2008

By Joe Katzman at 19:22

I've been remiss in not posting this. AlwaysOn is running a conference for green technologies, and the sessions are available in real time online in audio, video, and presentations.

As I write this, I'm listening to a panel regarding smart (electrical) grids, which have a large role to play in any future energy policy.

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  • J Aguilar: Hmmm It is far more complex. It is evident that read more
  • TOC: The can be really smart. Smarter even than we can read more
  • J Aguilar: They'd have to be really smart! read more

Pakistan: Allied Tensions

By Joe Katzman at 04:22

Well, well, I just can't possibly imagine why anyone might feel this way:

"In July all that changed. Pakistan’s new democratically elected government made its first visit to Washington. Instead of the congratulations and aid packages they expected, ministers received what they described as a “grilling” and left reeling at “the trust deficit” between Pakistan and its most significant financial backer.

Bush confronted Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, with evidence of involvement by its military intelligence (ISI) in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

“They were very hot on the ISI,” said Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister. “Very hot. When we asked them for more information, Bush laughed and said, ‘When we share information with your guys, the bad guys always run away.’"

Nice to see that understanding does come, eventually. They ought to be hot on the ISI, too, which remains a bastion of al-Qaeda support.

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  • Mark Buehner: No GK, i just prefer an intense study of military read more
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  • Mark Buehner: GK, you are talking nonsense. I'm not going to convince read more

September 16, 2008

The Nub Of The Problem

By Armed Liberal at 16:48

Rasmussen's email this morning links out to this...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters say John McCain is prepared right now to be president, and 50% say the same thing about Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden. Forty-four percent (44%) say the man at the top of Biden's ticket, Barack Obama, is ready, but 45% say he isn't.

Just 26% say McCain is not ready, and 34% feel that way about Biden, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
Over half of voters (52%) say McCain’s running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, is not prepared to be president, but 33% disagree (crosstabs available for Premium Members).

Among voters not affiliated with either major political party, 71% say McCain is prepared for the Presidency while just 35% say the same about Obama.

While hammering McCain for being a politician and Palin for being unprepared make good copy and excite the base (including the base working in big media companies) it doesn't reassure the typical voter that Obama is ready for the Big Comfy Chair.

Obama needs to get back on message and talk about why people should vote for him, not why they shouldn't vote for his opponent. If he doesn't so that, he'll both risk losing and in losing widen the political divisions that may lead to a Cold Civil War (a post I'm working on in my spare time).

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  • SG: #45 I posted a link to the same story in read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: Chuck Hagel's staff (who were in the room at the read more
  • SG: Robert M: Certainly the details of a TABOR-type constitutional amendment read more

OK, Things Are Too Damn Serious Around Here.

By Armed Liberal at 02:55

Go watch this video and cheer up.

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  • J Aguilar: "Guarda!! Guardaaaaa!!!" ho ho ho ho ho "Sei tu mato" read more
  • lucklucky: "totally unknown F-1 driver" He is a former F1 driver. read more
  • Armed Liberal: An Italian-speaking friend translated her comments: "how is this track?" read more

Stupid Campaign Tricks: Obama's "McCain Email" Ad

By Joe Katzman at 02:44

It appears that the Obama campaign just released an attack ad that goes after John McCain for not being able to use email. The thing is, (a) McCain was an early Senate adopter of email, as a Google search can confirm via past media reports; but (b) His wife often has to type for him, because the lasting effects of tortures he received in North Vietnam's Hanoi Hilton have made it very difficult to impossible for him to tie his shoes, comb his hair, throw a ball.. or use a keyboard. Also easily available via past media reports. See Ed Morrissey for more.

As a low, stupid, counterproductive political trick, this one deserves a medal. What makes it even stupider is that aside from the ethical vacuum and research incompetence on display, there's a recent precedent that would have cautioned anyone with half a brain.

Up in Canada, Jean Chretien of the Liberal Party was Prime Minister from 1993-2004. If you've ever seen a picture, it looks like the guy is always speaking out the side of his mouth. That's because he is - a birth defect left him without hearing in one ear, and the effect on his face comes from Bell's Palsy. In 1993, the Conservative Party ran an attack ad that made fun of his mannerisms of speech and enunciation as undignified. Of course, it blew up on its creators like a bomb - and was especially damaging among swing voters, who drew the conclusion that someone was completely unready for prime time, and it wasn't "le petit gars from Shawinigan".

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  • SG: Amir Taheri is doubling down on his Obama/Iraq story. I read more
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  • Mark Buehner: "The top people are mostly mainstream journalists." Oh, well in read more

F-16s to Iraq? An Analysis

By Joe Katzman at 01:40
F-16s, Iraq
USAF F-16s, Iraq
(click to view full)

Iraq's military has made significant strides in recent months, and the country is beginning to order more advanced military equipment to match. A slew of recent requests would spend over $10 billion to buy advanced armored vehicles, strengthen its national military supply chain, build new bases and infrastructure for its army, and even buy advanced scout helicopters.

That last purchase was significant, because an Air Force that had once been one of the strongest in the region is currently reduced to few dozen planes and helicopters, with no front-line fighters or attack helicopters. The ARH order would give Iraq's military its first real aerial combat power, though they will be employed in the internal anti-terrorist battle rather than acting to secure Iraq's sovereignty against neighboring countries.

Establishing that kind of external security requires the ability to control the air over one's own country, which is why the USAF has always planned to remain in Iraq for a number of years as a guarantor. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that Iraq is pushing to begin flying its own fighters within the next couple of years - and is looking to buy American F-16s, rather than the Soviet and French fighters that made up Saddam's air force...

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  • Nortius Maximus: Joe, your #2 is particularly noteworthy in context with concerns read more
  • Joe Katzman: As it is, the F-16s will serve 3 main functions read more
  • Joe Katzman: Nort pretty much nails it. I'll add that the USAF's read more

Wish List

By Armed Liberal at 01:03

Sorry to have been so uninvolved in the conversation - been working on a server upgrade (we also host Patterico, his traffic has gotten kinda big, and our configuration wasn't working out), and thinking about revisions to Winds to present to Joe (who still, after all, owns the joint). I'm thinking of upgrading to MT 4.2, which - among other thinly-tested features, offers the ability to have multiple authors with their own blogs, and then a common presentation of the latest posts from all of them.

Users can create (or, ultimately, import from Facebook or other sites) a profile, and see in one place all the comments or blog posts they have made.

The idea might be that there would be an,, etc. - and each of them would feed

It implies a few things - that we come up with some definition of what the site is 'about' and some core topics we want to encourage people to participate in.

So - let's trigger a bit of a discussion in comments - does this sound like an interesting upgrade, and what features would you like to see on the site? Let's hold off on the topics discussion for a little bit.

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  • PD Shaw: I get 404s after A.L. makes a new entry. For read more
  • Nortius Maximus: #9 MV: You're getting 404s? Have you mentioned this to read more
  • Mark Buehner: I like the idea. read more

September 15, 2008

Blowback in Russia

By Michael Totten at 23:11

Russia has a problem. Moscow’s recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia a few weeks ago has already encouraged some of its own disgruntled minorities to push harder for independence from the Russian Federation. Russia’s semi-autonomous republics of Ingushetia and Tatarstan have both ratcheted up their demands to secede.

Radical Islamists in Ingushetia, just across the Caucasus mountains from Georgia, have waged a low-level insurgency against the Russian government for some time now, though it has yet to reach the level of violent anti-Russian ferocity waged earlier by their cousins in neighboring Chechnya. A new group calling itself the People’s Parliament of Ingushetia has just surfaced after Russia’s adventure in Georgia with the stated aim of secession. More moderate opposition leaders also recently joined the cause of the radicals. Rebellious Ingush are not only emboldened by Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, they’re enraged by the assassination a few weeks ago of prominent anti-Kremlin journalist Magomed Yebloyev.

Meanwhile, the All-Tatar Civic Center in Tatarstan, an umbrella organization of various nationalist groups, announced that they likewise want out. They also cite the Abkhazia and South Ossetia precedents. “Russia has lost the moral right not to recognize us,” said Rashit Akhmetov, editor of the Zvezda Povolzhya newspaper in Tatarstan’s capital.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine.

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  • Mark Buehner: For what its worth, Georgia has produced some intercepted phone read more
  • David Billington: It is true that, with a population forty percent ethnic read more
  • Jeff Medcalf: Were I the President, I'd be seriously considering establishing a read more

China's Environmental Meltdown - And Our Response

By Joe Katzman at 02:07

Of all the constraints facing China, environmental constraints to growth may end up looming even larger than the absence of rule of law. But that may be cold comfort, given the damage being done. Neal Asbury in "China's Environmental Meltdown: On it's Way to America" [sic, subscription only]:

"Recently I stood on the 23rd floor of a downtown Seoul office building. In the middle of the day I could barely see the silhouettes of buildings nearby. The sun was blotted from the sky. The people outside scurried about with white masks covering their faces as if attacked by biological weapons. A thick grimy dust coated everything. No matter how hard and often you scrub you can never make it go away."

Remember Cicero's picture from China in "Wish You Happy"? This phenomenon is called "Yellow Dust" - and it comes from China. On average, the Chinese are bringing 1 coal-fired power plant on line per week, each with a 75 year lifespan, generally using 1950s technology rather than anything like new clean coal tech, and often burning high-sulfur coal. Neal adds that China's emissions rise over the next 10 years will surpass by 5x the decreases that the Kyoto Protocol seeks from the rest of industrialized world (and will not get). Nor is that all:

"Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra are undoubtedly one of the most important habitats of wildlife in the world. There is believed to be thousands of plant and animal species still undiscovered. It is unthinkable but many of these species will become extinct before we ever knew they existed. Since the mid 90's when China's economy kicked into high-gear, nearly five million acres per year of Indonesian tropical rainforests have been destroyed for their timber. This is an area about half the size of the Netherlands..."

And of course, massive fires are now an annual feature there, sending smoke clouds over Indonesia's neighbours. Neal suggests a remedy - though that remedy will not alleviate China's biggest environmental issue, which is neither of these things:

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  • TOC: #11 from Robert M at 4:58 am on Sep 16, read more
  • Robert M: TOC Political embarassment is something the leadership in China is read more
  • TOC: #8 from Jeff Medcalf at 7:33 pm on Sep 15, read more

Could the GOP Learn From George Lakoff, Too?

By Joe Katzman at 01:16

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece about George Lakoff, a left-wing linguist whose ideas about political messaging and have recently become influential (and a bit controversial) within the Democratic Party. "Who Framed George Lakoff" is an interesting article. Lakoff's ideas about the formation and glaciation of cognitive frames strike me as being worth further examination; contrary to his belief, the GOP have become weak in this area and must renew their understanding if they wish to communicate their beliefs successfully.

This is not say that Lakoff is without flaws. From my limited reading of the article, I might suggest that no linguistic tricks can wipe out the political problem of personal experience, which always interposes itself between political messengers and their targets - and may undo messaging. I'd also suggest that for a guy deep inside the left-lib camp, he seems to display a pretty stunning blindness re: how its cognitive framing transmission belts work. But perhaps his books remedy these defects... it's been a long time since I felt prepared to trust the press as the sole source of an opinion on anybody.

Any thoughts re: Lakoff? Any reader reviews on these?

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  • Nortius Maximus: Lakoff's Women, Fire and Dangerous Things had more than one read more
  • Nortius Maximus: A sentence with which you are displeased with? :) read more
  • virgil xenophon: I, am, however, only a "fairly" good student of grammar. read more

September 14, 2008

Cowboys and Liberals

By Grim at 03:04

Judith Warner is a bestselling author and a blogger at the NYT who produces (I have learned today) a blog called "Domestic Disturbances." Her writing was panned by Prof. Kenneth Anderson, who called it condescending. I have only read the one piece of it she wrote, so I won't say he's wrong as a general thing: but I thought this was a piece that showed a great deal of the right spirit. Let me explain.

She writes about attending a McCain-Palin rally in Virginia. She confesses that she intended to go as a joke, and to mock the attendees -- but she ends up being taken by the kindness of the strangers, their hopes for Gov. Palin, and the evident joy of their lives. It scares the hell out of her.

No, it wasn’t funny, my morning with the hockey and the soccer moms, the homeschooling moms and the book club moms, the joyful moms who brought their children to see history in the making and spun them on the lawn, dancing, when music played. It was sobering. It was serious. It was an education....

For those of us who can’t tap into those yearnings, it seems the Palin faithful are blind – to the contradictions between her stated positions and the truth of the policies she espouses, to the contradictions between her ideology and their interests. But Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of moral psychology at the University of Virginia, argues in an essay this month, “What Makes People Vote Republican?”, that it’s liberals, in fact, who are dangerously blind.

Haidt has conducted research in which liberals and conservatives were asked to project themselves into the minds of their opponents and answer questions about their moral reasoning. Conservatives, he said, prove quite adept at thinking like liberals, but liberals are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view.
Now that's a start. Let's explore it a bit.
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  • douglas: Yes, well stated, Grim. But I think it covers the read more
  • Grim: Hm, that may be a good point. The fear, then, read more
  • douglas: "The place to start is the Haidt essay. He begins read more

September 13, 2008

Palin vs. The Editor's Bay

By Armed Liberal at 17:14

So, as things tend to do, I sat down to make notes for a post, did a little surfing, and found that matters are more complex than I'd started out believing.

I started to write about the problem posed by an outsider - like Sarah Palin - who has political skills but much less policy knowledge. How do we know when too little policy knowledge is a problem? What's the boundary, in other words, or is she Jesse Ventura?

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  • Andrew J. Lazarus: Sorry, forgot to link. (I don't care what platform you read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: First Dude Todd Palin says what we already knew, but read more
  • Grim: #111: McCain's speech at the convention said more about character read more

I Need To Stop reading About Sarah Palin For A Bit

By Armed Liberal at 05:31

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  • TOC: #35 from Nortius Maximus at 2:51 am on Sep 15, read more
  • Nortius Maximus: TOC: The answer to your #34 "especially" part is that read more
  • TOC: Noortius, Especially the Svengali point. read more

Iraq Update

By Grim at 03:44

Based on a number of interviews with military officers in Iraq, I have compiled a strategic update on the situation post-Surge. You can read the summary, the whole analysis, or the transcripts of the interviews if you prefer to make up your own mind.

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Here's The Smartest Thing I've Read Today

By Armed Liberal at 01:57

...and it was linked by Sully, of all people! He had a moment of there hope? Go over to Ted's Place, and read this.

I believe if the Presidential election were held today that the Republican ticket would win. THAT is stunning. How could that be you ask? How could the Democratic ticket have snatched defeat from the jaws of apparent victory?

I think the Democrats have done very poor marketing and positioning of late of their ticket. They had better change before it is too late if they want to win. Think of this take as purely an exercise in marketing not as my personal political agenda as I do not have one here.

The media and the Democratic marketing machine have positioned Obama as the "establishment"; as the clear winner; and as a "media darling." The Democratic Convention - I believe - backfired as it was more a coronation than a political rally and convention. Obama is coming off as a defender of the Presidential position and McCain as the attacker and agent of change. Wow. Think of that dipsy-doodle move? I believe America embraces underdogs and outsiders. Overreacting to Obama’s lack of experience and trying to make him the "new establishment" was a bad move. Consumers sniff out inauthenticity a mile away. They liked and respected the old Obama. They don't recognize the new and improved Obama and he is being packaged as just another politician. The angrier he gets, the worse he does in the polls. Obama should use niceness as his competitive weapon.

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  • Armed Liberal: Shirley, when you quote things like campaign memos here it's read more
  • Mark Buehner: Thanks for bringing us back to the important issues Shirley. read more
  • shirley kaczmarski: I am sick to death of a campaign that has read more

September 12, 2008

The Bush Doctrine on Winds

By Joe Katzman at 21:46

I'm given to understand that this is something of a current issue, so I thought I'd remind readers of Winds' key coverage. It's definitely a multi-faceted doctrine, as just about all geopolitical doctrines are at that level. These posts cover its various aspects and - dare we say - nuances:

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  • Robert M: This is BS. Bush Doctrine has a strategic meme. Like read more
  • Vista: You should have sent this to Sarah Palin last week. read more
  • ricg: Most of the criticism I've heard is that she would read more

Canada's Frigate Upgrade Program

By Joe Katzman at 18:34
Windsor and Montreal
HMCS Montreal & sub:
HMCS Windsor
(click to view full)

Launched between 1988-1995, and commissioned between 1992-1996, Canada's 12 City Class (now Halifax Class) frigates currently form the high end of its naval capabilities. The Canadian Navy has declined drastically from its post-WWII status as the world's 4th largest navy, and the Halifax Class itself is finding that its open-ocean design is not suited to cope with modern littoral threats and improving anti-ship missiles. Replacement vessels are still many years away, which means that the 4,750t frigates will need to be modernized within the limits of their design if they are to remain effective.

Canada's government has decided to fund that modernization, much as Australia and New Zealand are modernizing the Halifax Class' ANZAC Frigate contemporaries. Refits are scheduled to begin with HMCS Halifax in 2010, and that ship is scheduled to re-enter service about 18 months later in 2012. By 2017, all 12 frigates are scheduled to be upgraded as part of a C$ 3.1 billion (about $2.9 billion) program.

This DID article explains the scope of the upgrades, notes the current systems, and covers the contracts and developments involved...

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  • virgil xenophon: Canada no longer has a Navy, it has a Coast read more

Obama, Kaus, Starbucks

By Armed Liberal at 05:02

So fellow turncoat Democrat (hey, we just don't believe in deceptive memes, bubba) Kaus points me to author Ron Rosenbaum's piece over at Pajamas, where he actually gives some damn good advice to Obama (not as good as mine, I'll argue). But then Rosenbaum goes on to slag Starbucks in the post just below.

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  • raven: Learned to love hot sweet coffee working in a structural read more
  • Robert M: PJ's just proved what I always though that nobody got read more
  • narciso: He's the number one Senate recipient of Country Wide's largesse, read more

September 11, 2008


By Armed Liberal at 23:59


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  • atheist: GK in #8 "Both these occupations were strategic blunders which read more
  • GK: "Both these occupations were strategic blunders which have been extremely read more
  • atheist: Islamic supremacists belatedly realized how counterproductive 9/11 itself turned out read more

I Told You So

By Armed Liberal at 18:50

Here's Politico today:

Polls showing John McCain tied or even ahead of Barack Obama are stirring angst and second-guessing among some of the Democratic Party’s most experienced operatives, who worry that Obama squandered opportunities over the summer and may still be underestimating his challenges this fall.

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  • Jeff Medcalf: G_T, I did give one example already, where you implied read more
  • molon labe: I'd be amused, if I weren't appalled, at the ignorance read more
  • Mark Buehner: Um, i made an argument. I posted actual transcripts as read more

Governors and Guv'nors

By Armed Liberal at 06:18

An oped by Dr. Kent Sepkowitz in the - I'm shocked - NYT:

SPEEDING is the cause of 30 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States — about 13,000 people a year. By comparison, alcohol is blamed 39 percent of the time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But unlike drinking, which requires the police, breathalyzers and coercion to improve drivers’ behavior, there’s a simple way to prevent speeding: quit building cars that can exceed the speed limit.

Most cars can travel over 100 miles an hour - an illegal speed in every state. Our continued, deliberate production of potentially law-breaking devices has no real precedent. We regulate all sorts of items to decrease danger to the public, from baby cribs to bicycle helmets. Yet we continue to produce fast cars despite the lives lost, the tens of billions spent treating accident victims, and a good deal of gasoline wasted. (Speeding, after all, substantially reduces fuel efficiency due to the sheering force of wind.)

Gosh, there's so much to deal with here.

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  • R Gould-Saltman: The owner's manual on my 2002 Passat advises against operating read more
  • Armed Liberal: I actually commented on the horsepower race back in '06... read more
  • Paul Milenkovic: I agree governers are too intrusive. I drove a governed read more

Bundler Party

By Armed Liberal at 04:12

So I took a few more minutes, and discovered that there are 3 - yes 3 - bundlers who have in 2004 or 2008 donated to either Kerry/Obama AND Bush/McCain.

Here's the hall of fame:

August Busch III, Anheuser-Busch (Kerry/Bush, McCain)
John Connors, Microsoft (Bush/Obama)
Kenneth C. Griffin, Citadel Investment Group (McCain/Obama)

There were two others, but while the names matched, the states and employers did not - so I didn't credit them.

So out of a total of 2373 bundlers who contributed to Bush or Kerry in 04 or Obama or McCain in 08, 3 of them crossed party lines. I'd have expected more...

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The US Army's Modernization Strategy, 2008

By Joe Katzman at 02:51

(click to read)

It's a daunting task. Faced with a high operational tempo over the past 7 years, the US Army is trying to expand its size, fix or replace all the equipment it has worn out, recapitalize or modernize the 1980s-era equipment that still makes up the mainstay of its force, adapt to new doctrines like counterinsurgency, and leave itself ready to fight a peer power if future scenarios demand it. The range of equipment operated by the US Army matches that of some entire militaries, and includes ships, aircraft and UAVs, anti-air defenses including ballistic and cruise missile defense, electronic warfare, plus communications, vehicles, and infantry.

If the Army's task is daunting, so is the observer's task of making sense of it all, and of placing ongoing contracts and programs in context. "Army Modernization Strategy 2008" is a valuable reference guide that explains concepts and programs for casual observers, and even provides useful timelines, while providing material that will improve even an experts' base of knowledge. See also Appendix A, which provides more in-depth information concerning active programs of record and their current status.

While the work is valuable, it is not perfect. In many ways, it is more a procurement guide than a strategy. Here are 4 elements of procurement strategy readers may wish to consider as they read the report...

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  • Jeff: Joe, thanks for posting this. I'm still reading it. I'll read more

September 10, 2008

All Talking!

By Armed Liberal at 19:05

Skewz has a podcast of their chat with me up on their homepage. I won't be able to listen till I get some time later in the day or tonight; feel free to listen and let me know what a dork I am in the comments.

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From Baku to Russian-Occupied Georgia

By Michael Totten at 09:27


“Russia can have at its borders only enemies or vassals.” – George F. Kennan, United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union

“You must draw a white-hot iron over this Georgian land!…You will have to break the wings of this Georgia! Let the blood of the petit bourgeois flow until they give up all their resistance! Impale them! Tear them apart!” – Vladimir Lenin

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, looks as though it might never have been a part of the Soviet Union. It is perhaps the least communist-looking capital in the nine post-communist countries I’ve visited.

So much oil money has been pumped into the city that its revival and transformation is nearly complete. The countryside, though, is much rougher and poorer, and my trip across that landscape to Georgia from Baku felt in many ways like a trip backward in time, as if a year were being subtracted from the date for each of the 18 hours I sat on the train. By the time I reached the outskirts of Gori in central Georgia and ran into Russian soldiers carrying Soviet era equipment and marked with the Soviet Union's insignia, the trip back in time to the days of the empire felt all but complete.

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Sarah Palin's Lies

By Armed Liberal at 05:50

It's amazing to watch how phrases - like that - suddenly flash up on Memeorandum and my RSS reader, in an almost-balletic display of coordinated rhetoric.

It pisses me off, because it's a transparent substitute for real thought and criticism, and turns the people who should be talking about the campaign - folks like Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall and Ezra Klein - into copyboys for the political talking point of the day.

It's almost like they coordinated what they were doing...

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Satire Done Right: Iowahawk's Voyagaes of Obamacles

By Joe Katzman at 00:54

If you're going to do political satire, be it left or right, it's worth taking a lesson from Iowahawk. Gotta admit, I'm a sucker for that semi classical format as he recounts the voyages of Obamacles, featuring the emperor Chimpos II, and the rest of our cast-away crew:

"Speak to me, O Muse, of this resourceful man
who strides so boldly upon the golden shrine at Invescos,
Between Ionic plywood columns, to the kleig light altar.
Fair Obamacles, favored of the gods, ascends to Olympus
Amidst lusty tributes and the strumming lyres of Media;
Their mounted skyboxes echo with the singing of his name
While Olbermos and Mattheus in their greasy togas wrassle
For first honor of basking in their hero's reflected glory.
Who is this man, so bronzed in countenance,
So skilled of TelePrompter, clean and articulate
whose ears like a stately urn's protrude?
So now, daughter of Zeus, tell us his story.
And just the Cliff Notes if you don't mind,
We don't have all day...."

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By Armed Liberal at 00:54

OK, when I looked at Valdis Krebs post on the overlap between bundlers, I felt that he hadn't done a very good job on the numbers. I still feel that way, and spent some time at breakfast today downloading bundler data from the Public Citizen website, and doing some fast analysis on it (honestly, I spent more time converting the HTML to csv). Here is the Excel spreadsheet, so you can play with the data yourself.

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  • Mark Poling: Both ratios are much smaller than I would have expected. read more
  • MikeDC: Here's the simple way to look at it. If you read more

September 8, 2008

Because If You Read This Site, You Probably Don't Read Defamer

By Armed Liberal at 23:56

From Nick Denton's LA gossip blog, Defamer:

Uh-oh. Barbra Streisand—referred to among the elite Democratic core as the Black Buttah Widow for the way her endorsements mean the certain kiss of death—will perform at an Obama fundraiser at the ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on September 16. This is a room that holds only 700 people, so attendees will be expected to pony up for the privilege. From

Obama will start the evening with a 5 p.m. dinner event for about 250 people at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, the historic estate once owned by the legendary Doheny family. Tickets for the event are $28,500.

Later, he will attend a reception at the Beverly Wilshire, followed by Streisand's special performance. Tickets for the event are $2,500 per person.

Co-hosts for event include the DreamWorks team of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, as well as political consultant Andy Spahn. It's also being organized with Obama's Southern California finance team.

Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen, too? Why don't they just wheel out a coffin that says "OBAMA 08" and drive a symbolic last nail into it with one of Sarah Palin's spare seal clubs? And speaking of the VP candidate, Streisand has weighed in on her website with an essay on the Brooke Hogan-radar-evader, entitled, "McCain Doesn't Get It: Women are not that stupid." It's a lot more enjoyable a read if you set it to the tune of "The Way We Were."

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  • PD Shaw: Gossip? Spielberg's been working on a Lincoln movie based upon read more
  • Armed Liberal: GK< no Defamer is a pretty funny gossip blog on read more

21st Century Unions Can Still Have 19th Century Problems

By Armed Liberal at 17:21

Here in Los Angeles, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) has been going through some challenges, as the LA Times did what it sometimes does well, and launched an investigation into self-dealing and - in a word, corruption - among the local leadership.

The national union responded by placing the locals in trusteeship, and retaining former California AG John Van de Kamp (disclaimer: a friend of my wife's) in charge of an investigation.

Good for the Times and good for SEIU.

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  • Ursus Maritimus: "Without a level of AI support we don't posses yet read more
  • Gbear711: "The national union responded by placing the locals in trusteeship". read more
  • Treefrog: Brian, you mistake my point. I don't believe command systems read more

The Media Folds A Hand

By Armed Liberal at 04:20

From the NY Times:

MSNBC tried a bold experiment this year by putting two politically incendiary hosts, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, in the anchor chair to lead the cable news channel’s coverage of the election.

That experiment appears to be over.

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  • Lexington Green: "...the perception ..." The REALITY. Other than that, right on. read more
  • Robert M: The Republicans come out of their four year convention the read more
  • Alchemist: Mark: you're behind the times. Obama was on O'Reilly last read more

Afghan PRT Shows How It's Done

By Joe Katzman at 02:39

A while back, "Fort Apache, Afghanistan" discussed the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, who combine civic projects and aid with military force projection. Cuba was way ahead of everyone with this idea, and it's an important one. Many NGOs will not operate in dangerous situations, or will choose to buy their security via collaboration with evil, or will be governed by political or financial rather than humanitarian goals.

In an era of failed states, that level of reliability won't cut it. NGOs can still play useful roles, but there must be a military option ready to go. PRTs have made solid strides since 2002, and have now become an alliance-wide concept, with other countries like Germany, Spain, Canada, Austraia, et. al. leading PRTs in key areas. It's also a cross-service effort, as this article shows:

"After two Air Force medical professionals spent some time on the ground in Southeastern Afghanistan, they came to a conclusion -- providing clinical medical care for locals was just a band-aid solution for three major issues plaguing the country. So they made the decision to take a step back and think outside of the box for solutions.... The two were determined to find sustainable, cost efficient ways locals could combat the three largest medical killers in the country diarrhea, malnutrition and childbirth complications."

They've managed to make a long-term difference in all 3 areas.

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  • virgil xenophon: The sort of progress/good deeds that so rarely is/are ever read more

September 7, 2008

Willie Brown on Palin

By Armed Liberal at 19:21

Willie Brown is probably the smartest politician I've ever personally met. I'd pay good money to see him and Karl Rove sit down and chew the fat on the mechanics of politics - there's an Internet TV show idea for someone for free - and today, in the SF Chronicle, he's got his take on Sarah Palin.

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  • virgil xenophon: Of course there is always Jesse "Big Daddy" Unruh. I read more
  • virgil xenophon: Yes, I read the original article too, and totally agree read more

Nice Picture, Bad Analysis

By Armed Liberal at 16:21

In my work life, I follow a lot of blogs about social media; one of them is 'The Network Thinker' (in my Bloglines feeds to the right over in the blogroll).

There was a post there today by blog author Valdis Krebs on 'bundlers'.

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  • Armed Liberal: Credibility > sinking... A.L. read more
  • Valdis: You are good at namecalling... first stupid, now defensive. The read more

Fnding Strength in Adversity: Ken Walters

By Joe Katzman at 01:45

Nortius Maximus sends this tip in:

"A former engineer who was disabled and living on benefits has turned his life around - after a stroke rewired his brain and turned him into an artist....

'I hated it in school. I was never really the arty type, more hands on. But I have to say wherever this new found love for art has come from it's certainly changed my life forever. Although I didn't realise it at the time, having a stroke was the biggest blessing in disguise I ever could have wished for."

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September 6, 2008


By Armed Liberal at 22:17

So, increasingly deranged (see here and then her) Sully and many of the Netroots crowd are bitterly clinging to the "when will McCain drop Palin" tagline.

Seriously - and I mean this seriously, as someone who wants Obama to win - how do we get him to drop Biden for Hillary?

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  • The Unbeliever: A.L.: The number one reason for the boom was probably read more
  • Mark Buehner: Andrew, in a slightly wider canvass, does it bother you read more
  • Mark Buehner: "These EITC recipients most certainly do pay income tax. They read more

September 5, 2008

Russia's Kosovo Precedent

By Michael Totten at 23:16

Russia’s Vladimir Putin darkly hinted that his country would invade and dismember Georgia months before last month’s war in the South Caucasus region began. “We have Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Pridnestrovie [Transnistria],” he said back in February this year after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, “and they say Kosovo is a special case?” Putin has a point, but only a very small one. The overwhelming majority of Kosovars want nothing more to do with Serbia just as the majorities in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia want to secede. But there the similarities end.

Kosovo is a viable nation state of more than two million people, greater in size than its neighbors Montenegro and Macedonia which also broke free of Yugoslavia recently. (Montenegro’s secession from the Yugoslavian rump state of Serbia-Montenegro in 2006 somehow didn’t produce any hand-wringing about a “Montenegro precedent” in Russia or anywhere else.)

South Ossetia, meanwhile, has a population of around 60,000 people, the size of a small American suburb. Abkhazia’s population is less than 200,000, around the size of a large American suburb. These are not viable nation states.

Nevertheless, last week Russia recognized them as independent. Unlike Kosovo – which is formally recognized by 46 counties, including all of the G7 – no country in the world other than Russia recognizes the “independence” of Abkhazia or South Ossetia. That’s partly because what really just happened is de facto Russian annexation. Before the invasion and dismemberment of Georgia, Russia made the majority in South Ossetia and Abkhazia citizens of Russia and gave passports to anybody who asked. I just returned from a trip to Georgia, and the Russian military wouldn’t let me enter South Ossetia or even the central Georgian city of Gori because I did not have a Russian visa.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine.

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  • metrico: What's the population of Andorra? Lichtenstein? Brunei? Dominica? I frankly read more

Georgia and the Former Soviet Union: Impacts & Options

By Joe Katzman at 05:20

Ukranian President Victor Yushchenko discusses recent events in Georgia, in "Georgia and The Stakes For Ukraine." Note especially this quote:

"The tragic events in Georgia also exposed the lack of effective preventive mechanisms by the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international organizations."

They're only exposed if anyone was stupid enough to believe in them in the first place, against all available evidence. See also Poland's foreign minister, Radek Sikorski:

"Parchments and treaties are all very well, but we have a history in Poland of fighting alone and being left to our own devices by our allies."

Russia's actions have even prompted renewed debate in Sweden and Finland about joining NATO. Speaking of Finland, Max Boot makes a very different point. Eastern Europe, including the Ukraine, has the means to defend itself...

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  • Kierkegaard: Most Westerners suffer from several delusions about the Ukraine. Let read more
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  • davod: As stated above, the biggest problem in the Ukraine is read more

I'd Rather Fight...

By Armed Liberal at 04:06

Commenter metrico suggests that I'm setting up for a public switch from Obama to McCain in the hopes of an Instalanche (dude, I'm not nearly that cheap...). I kind of liked my reply, so thought I'd promote it:

hey, metrico - bite me. That's all the answer your insult deserves.

It's kinda funny - I get about a dozen emails a week from R's who push me to come over to their side - they make arguments, suggestions, and at worst gently mock me. I get about as many from the D side - who want me to get the hell out of their party and make that desire really really clear.

I'm kind of reminded of the line from 'High Fidelity':

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know it was classified information. I mean, I know we don't have any customers, but I thought that was a bad thing, not like, a business strategy."
I always thought the goal was to grow the party and win elections by big margins, not purify it in the cleansing fire of our righteousness.

Obviously, metrico, we ought to belong to different parties. I suggest you leave.


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Things You Can See And Things You Can't

By Armed Liberal at 03:42

Josh Marshall, approvingly quoting the Boston Globe:

One of the most enduring taboos in American politics, the airing of graphic images from the September 11 attacks in a partisan context, died today. It was nearly seven years old.

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  • Shad: Might have happened, links welcomed. Did happen, link. read more

Palin's Mistake

By Armed Liberal at 03:06

Just rewatched Palin's speech from last night, and yes, it was a great speech. But you know, it could have been a Great Speech - one that didn't just change the game in terms of the election this year (which I think she has done) but to really have changed the dynamic of politics in this cycle.

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September 4, 2008

Product Development & Marketing: Google Chrome

By Joe Katzman at 19:33

Google is producing its own browser, called "Chrome." It's a fully open source project, and the way it's designed makes it more than a browser. For all intents and purposes, it's a computer operating system.

The thing is, there are already big, established browsers. Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Firefox, which I use, has become a significant (20-33%) competitor. There's Apple's Safari, which works on both MacOS X and Windows. Not to mention Opera et. al. How do you communicate Chrome's value, against that kind of lineup?

With a comic. A rather brilliant comic that takes very technical concepts and features, and makes them easy to understand, even if you have very little technical literacy. Without compromising the comic's interest to very technical software developers.

That's hard, and pulling it off is a great example of marketing. I'd add it's also hard to beat as part of a product development process...

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  • Checkers Board: Absolutely rocks in every way. Google has once again proven read more
  • Nortius Maximus: Google recently published this on the EULA kerfuffle... Update to read more
  • TOC: When I look at Chrome, I see the continuation of read more

I've Gotta Go With Althouse On This

By Armed Liberal at 17:35

If there's one thing that will decisively push me away from voting for Obama (even after Palin's great speech last night about which more later), it's the thought that Obama and Biden have their sights set on criminal prosecutions of Bush Administration figures. Althouse blogged it today, and I'd tagged it this morning. Here's the Guardian:

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden said earlier this week that he and running mate Barack Obama could pursue criminal charges against the Bush administration if they are elected in November.

Biden's comments, first reported by ABC news, attracted little notice on a day dominated by the drama surrounding his Republican counterpart, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

But his statements represent the Democrats' strongest vow so far this year to investigate alleged misdeeds committed during the Bush years.

That's absolutely banana republic territory. Play to the Kossaks if you will, but I'll be walking out the door right behind Ann.

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  • Armed Liberal: Vista - not worrying about that just yet... A.L. read more
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Palin's Acceptance Speech

By Joe Katzman at 17:09

As I said in an earlier post:

"The best candidate for the job really was a woman. Deal with it."

I trust y'all have a better grasp of what I was talking about now. If not, head over to the Huffington Post, of all places, and watch the video.

It's an interesting election. Obama finds it hard to attack McCain ad make it stick, because it comes off kind of like those little Yorkie dogs chewing on someone's ankle. So he sticks to generalities or attacks George Bush, and picks Biden for VP, who does have what it takes to take on the GOP Presidential candidate. In a very real way, that's Biden's primary role in 2008, rather than Obama's.

Then we have the GOP.

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September 3, 2008

Matt Welch on Sarah Palin

By Armed Liberal at 03:23

Over at Reason Magazine...

I ran into anti-Real ID activist Bill Scannell, "the man who helped kill CAPPS II," and asked him what intelligence he can give us about Sarah Palin, governor of the state he's lived in for the past several years. Scannell is a Democrat, a long-time acquaintance of mine, and as such should be taken with a few grains of salt.

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