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.
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.
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.
The plan was to head back as I usually do Sunday at noon - but she was running a fever and was obviously sick and/or exhausted, so I made the (yes, overbearing; yes, control-freakish; yes overprotective) call that we'd stay the night and see how she felt this morning. I just wasn't comfy with her doing a hard, dangerous day's ride feeling as 'off' as she obviously did.
She slept all afternoon, I woke her to take her to dinner, then we got up this morning and had a very leisurely trip straight down the 101. Kind of a bummer, right?
Well, no. She slept all afternoon, then I took her out to a well-known place that turned out to be a seriously great restaurant - PassionFish - in Pacific Grove. Let's just say 'wow'. Absolutely someplace you ought to go if you're in the Monterey area.
Then today, among the several stops we made to relax was 'Chef Rick's' restaurant in Santa Maria, a not so well-known place.
It's kind of unprepossessing - sitting in a midmarket mall on the south edge of town. But damn - I said, damn - it was good. I'm glad it isn't close to home, because I'd want to eat there every day. Garlic soup I'd kill to get the recipe for, an oyster po' boy that Grace devoured, and shrimp, mushrooms, and angelhair pasta that was the furthest thing from the bland dish you so often get.
If you're ever in Central California - or even if you're kind of close to Central California (like, say, in Arizona) - you ought to go to this place.
So if she hadn't gotten a little sick, we would have had a great ride, been home a day earlier, but would have missed out on two great meals...a tradeoff that might be well worth making.
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.
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.
My support for Obama is still strongly there, if eroded (more by his issues with free speech and my disdain for many of his supporters than anything else). I'll do a post this week explaining why, and explaining why the audience of a hawkish blog like this ought to reconsider their kneejerk support for McCain.
But searching deep in my reactions to Obama's performance last night, I didn't remotely see anything in his performance that could make me - or anyone who's not already drunk his Kool-Aid - an enthusiast.
McCain's opportunity here was to knock Obama out of the game, to make him "um" and "uh" and show that his smooth, intelligent, oratory isn't matched by an ability to think in real time. Didn't happen. McCain also need to come across as more appealing - to be the warm, funny, self-depricating retired fighter jock that is the core of his attractive self. Instead we got the moralizing, self-righteous scold who is much less likely to connect with voters in a personal way.
I have other problems with this election right now; we're descending into a real 19th century kind of blind partisanship, and the odds that we'll be able to unite the country behind either candidate seem lower every day. Whoever wins, the partisans on the other side will be enraged and uncooperative - with the right blaming (justifiably, I think) the Obama-swooning press, and the left blaming vague Rovian conspiracies (a lawyer at dinner last night explained to me - in all seriousness - that Rove has 'anointed' Palin, and that the whole point of this election is to get her in position to take over from McCain next year. I'm afraid that I giggled a bit in response, but he liked sailing so we managed to have a civil conversation anyway).
We deserve better. To be honest, these two candidates are better men than they are showing us in this campaign. What's wrong with them, with us, with our politics?
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.
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.
And now I've "done that." So let's carry on.
#19 from Andrew J. Lazarus at 2:43 am on Sep 25, 2008
Here are some alternative suggestions for why the tide is running Obama's way, instead of naively suggesting it's the media.
Regulatory oversight of Wall Street seems to have been inadequate. To the extent this is regulatory incompetence, McCain's party is on the hook, and to the extent it is philosophical, up until last week McCain loved deregulation.
I'd be glad to have Sarah Palin as my next-door neighbor, but there are probably hundreds of readers of this site better prepared to step in as President of the United States. McCain's MO: bold, reckless, dangerous.
McCain has alienated the press, who once loved him, by ending his once-famous access and by keeping Palin hidden away from any sort of questioning. His plan, as it were, to compensate for the press's reaction to this is, guess what, to claim that it is the press that is unfair. (Palin to be questioned only by those suitably 'deferential'.)
McCain spent the first week of the bailout looking shocked, ill-informed (fundamentals are strong), self-contradictory, and confused, without any help from the press. He managed to lose George Will, who described him as a rookie playing a league too high while Obama looked collected and presidential.
Except insofar as he's the nominee, McCain isn't a key player in the bailout negotiations, which were going along just fine without him. But the polls were starting to go south, so it was time for another wild gamble. (You do know he likes cas1no gambling, right?) Since this one looks like a non-starter, I can't imagine what desperation move he has in mind for late October.
I am, by the way, having a hard time understanding why the Administration's $700B original bailout plan was not in some way socialistic. I guess the idea is that demanding an equity stake in the rescued businesses (Sweden did this, I read) is socialism, but just giving the money away for nothing is good old hard-edged capitalism. I'd have called it crony capitalism or even corporate fascism, but GK works from a different dictionary. Many of his posts seem to have suffered in translation from the Martian.
#21 from Grim at 2:58 am on Sep 25, 2008
To the extent this is regulatory incompetence, McCain's party is on the hook...
That seems to be the public perception, but it's an odd one. As Cassandra points out the Bush administration has "implored Congress to regulate GSE no fewer than 18 times during 2008 alone (that's roughly twice a month)."
Which party controls Congress?
Nevertheless, the public does seem to blame Bush. The buck, as they say, stops there -- right or wrong, it just does.
#23 from Andrew J. Lazarus at 3:22 am on Sep 25, 2008
Grim, I am not going to comment on the 18 reforms until I can look up what they were specifically; they may have been changes (i.e., not reforms) that would make the situation even worse. Certainly the bankruptcy 'reform' had a negative impact on the mortgage crisis; making BK more difficult increased the economic sense of walking away from a difficult mortgage.
I did, however, read far enough into your links to see that they assign mot of the blame for this mess on, variously, the GSEs and on such well-intentioned laws as the Community Reinvestment Act. This talking point has merit only for those who are looking for hacktackular anti-liberal talkingpoints, and those glibertarians for whom everything the government tries to do must have terrible consequences worse than any benefits.
The CRA is implicated in something less (perhaps much less) than a quarter of distressed mortgages. No one twisted the arms of banks to make bad loans under the CRA or elsewhere, and I don't see why if Fannie and Freddie were making loans that banks expected to be losers, they nevertheless felt obliged to copy them. (The CRA passed in the 1970s, so there's also a temporal problem in this analysis.) In the real world, the banks loved the fees from constant refinancing and loan origination with increasingly weird alternative mortgages (which, you will recall, Alan Greenspan, not a liberal, endorsed in his attempt to keep the consumer sector afloat in the wake of the 2001-2 retrenchment in manufacturing and the inability of the Feds to respond because of deficits caused by foolish tax cuts).
Even this, however, doesn't strike at the single most important cause, which is the creation of bizarre Structured Investment Vehicles whose purpose, to borrow the verb from a Kos blogger, was to transubstantiate subprime crap into AAA collateral. These confections, which are now totally illiquid and impossible to appraise, should have simply been outlawed. Their purpose was to hide risk and enable obscenely large deals based on excessive leverage. The managements who overleveraged with alphabet soup junk as collateral and the stockholders who enjoyed the party while it lasted well-deserve to be zeroed out, which is why I like the various equity recapitalization suggestions that are floating about. The fact the clowns at places like Investors Business Daily (a rival that finds the WSJ too fact-based) support the $700B golden shower is almost enough by itself to say it's a bad deal.
The economy almost always does better under Democratic presidents than Republicans. Perhaps Dems are interested in broad measures of prosperity while the GOP concentrates on increased income disparity.
#24 from Marcus Vitruvius at 3:27 am on Sep 25, 2008
Regulatory oversight of Wall Street seems to have been inadequate. To the extent this is regulatory incompetence, McCain's party is on the hook, and to the extent it is philosophical, up until last week McCain loved deregulation.
That this is the meme that will inevitably take hold galls me. The deregulation that everyone is blaming for this current round of woes is the Gramm-Leach-Bailey act, repealing the Glass-Steagall act in 1999. Yes, 1999. Which means Clinton signed it. Which doesn't really matter, because the passage margins were 90% in the Senate, and 83% in the House. Not just veto-proof, but bullet-proof. Let's remember that the reconciliation process that turned discrepant bills from either chamber into the unified bill that became law, gathered Democrat support by strenthening the CRA provisions, which effectively mandated lending practices for disadvantaged areas, i.e., "Forcing banks to lend to poor untrustworthy people," as Republicans would put it.
And let's remember that while Dodd was asking, this week, where McCain was for the last few years if this was so all-fired important, McCain was actually trying to get more regulation on top of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, specifically the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005. And the Bush administration tried to get regulatory authority in 2003, but that was derailed. Why? Never ask a politician to pass regulation that would slow down lending to disadvantaged neighborhoods-- even in theory, if not in practice-- and especially not while the subjects of that regulation are lobbying hard and spreading favors against it.
So this may have been a failure of regulation, yes. And it very well might be that the public decides to blame the Republicans for this one. But it was a goddam complicated failure of regulation, and both sides had their eager hands in this right up to the elbows, and damn few people saw it coming-- not like this. Serious, sober commentators on both sides admit that.
Just once-- just once in my life-- I'd like to see the eternal cycle of political grab-ass take a goddam day off.
#26 from Marcus Vitruvius at 3:40 am on Sep 25, 2008
That seems to be the public perception, but it's an odd one.
It's an understandable one. High finance is as good as witchcraft to most folks, and I'm not much better myself. (I know a few things, but I haven't studied it.) Regardless the actual facts, the average guy on the street knows ("knows") that Republicans are out for Big Business and High Finance through Deregulation, and that Democrats are out for the Little Guy through Backing Unions and Regulation.
It's a simplification to such a degree that it's practically a caricature, but simplifications still have an element of truth to them. Combine that with ignorance of the subject (and it's a damn complicated subject) and a generally short attention space (much less for failed regulatory attempts) and the reason for the public perception should be obvious.
Except this time, it happens to be false.
Or at the very least, not straightforward.
#27 from Grim at 3:42 am on Sep 25, 2008
I'm going to be a stand-up guy here, and admit that I don't understand the economic and finance issues well enough to debate them. I listen to Cassandra on the subject because I respect her judgment and education, and I know that this is an area in which she is well-versed.
I am, however, forced to bow to others in this area. As Scott Adams said in The Dilbert Principle, the world is becoming complex enough that we are all functionally morons in at least some areas; this is one of the ones where I am out of my depth. I understand how to take a third-world economy and start to make it functional for the people of a poorer nation, as that is something I've worked with professionally in Iraq and elsewhere: these are matters of agriculture and small businesses, which I understand fairly well. These complex financial instruments that dwell in the most advanced markets are a different matter, and one beyond my ken.
As to whether Cassandra or you are right on the merits here, then, I cannot say with any authority. I will say that I trust her to speak the truth as she sees it, after long association: and therefore I don't believe her to be 'hacktacular.' I'm quite sure she doesn't have a libertarian bone in her body. But I am willing to learn, and if you want to engage her on the subject, I suspect that both you and I would learn something from the exchange.
#28 from andrwedb at 3:43 am on Sep 25, 2008
Andrew L -
>No one twisted the arms of banks to make bad loans under the CRA or elsewhere,
Actually they did. A bank couldn't open a new branch without showing evidence of CRA compliance. It was a common tactic of Rev. Jackson to use this, for example.
I personally think there is more then enough blame to go around on both sides of the aisle on this stuff. The GSEs for example were throwing money (all entirely legal contributions or grants to NGOs) around at anyone with a pulse in DC, -- this isn't an R or D issue. Add ordinary greed by borrowers, lenders, and brokers and we get where we are today.
I understand this is serious stuff, but I do find it a bit galling to think of taxpayer bail-outs to firms that pay millions in bonuses however.
#29 from Andrew J. Lazarus at 3:51 am on Sep 25, 2008
Well, I'll agree that the Democrats get a share of the blame. I don't understand the purpose of quasi-private entities like Fannie Mae (or even the Postal Service) which Clinton-type New Democrats loved. What I don't see is why their bad practices should have dragged down every investment bank in the country—stupidity is a long-term competitive disadvantage. Your neighborhood bank that sells mortgages just in your town is probably quite healthy right now, and one point of the bailout has to be protecting its smarter management. And I'm not sure whether the completely private sector was jealous of Fannie's performance or the perceived opportunity for executive compensation.
As for visiting Cassandra, I'll have to check how much time I have. Running a worldwide Islamocommunist conspiracy worse than Goebbels is pretty time-consuming.
My favorite liberal economist blog is Brad DeLong. Disclaimer: we’re acquainted. He has a great post today on what he intended to say at a debate with a Republican economist, although one of the two conservatives refused to appear.
#30 from Grim at 4:02 am on Sep 25, 2008
Yes, I understand. My various conspiracies occupy a great deal of my time as well.
That said, it would be nice to see some of the better minds brought together on the subject. Since you know Brad DeLong, perhaps he might want to engage Cassandra (or someone else she might name; it's possible that she, likewise, has conspiracies on her hands that occupy her)? I am trying to learn more about the subject, as its importance has become clear, but it's hard to find a place where the different views are being hashed out coherently. Trusting people whose intelligence and reasonable thinking is well established is a good first step, but once they are identified, it would be helpful if they could be convinced to talk to each other.
#32 from Grim at 4:17 am on Sep 25, 2008
If I can expand on the point I was making in #30, consider this analysis which comes recommended by another blogger I respect on finance issues (Dad29). It's got some nasty partisan rhetoric, but so does Brad DeLong's blog (Nixon? LBJ?); but what I would like to do is get at the underlying issue, in order to understand it. This is how they describe it:Let's jump back 18 months. I spent several letters going over how subprime mortgages were sold and then securitized. Let's quickly review. Huge Investment Bank (HIB) would encourage mortgage banks all over the country to make home loans, often providing the capital, and then HIB would purchase these loans and package them into large securities called Residential Mortgage Backed Securities or RMBS. They would take loans from different mortgage banks and different regions. They generally grouped the loans together as to their initial quality as in prime mortgages, ALT-A and the now infamous subprime mortgages. They also grouped together second lien loans, which were the loans generally made to get 100% financing or cash-out financing as home owners borrowed against the equity in their homes.Now -- my question is, do we agree that this is the basic failure? Or was it the issue that Ben Stein pointed to?
Typically, a RMBS would be sliced into anywhere from 5 to 15 different pieces called tranches. They would go to the ratings agencies, who would give them a series of ratings on the various tranches, and who actually had a hand in saying what the size of each tranche could be. The top or senior level tranche had the rights to get paid back first in the event there was a problem with some of the underlying loans. That tranche was typically rated AAA. Then the next tranche would be rated AA and so on down to junk level. The lowest level was called the equity level, and this lowest level would take the first losses. For that risk, they also got any residual funds if everyone paid. The lower levels paid very high yields for the risk they took.
Then, since it was hard to sell some of the lower levels of these securities, HIB would take a lot of the lower level tranches and put them into another security called a Collateralized Debt Obligation or CDO. And yes, they sliced them up into tranches and went to the rating agencies and got them rated. The highest tranche was typically again AAA. Through the alchemy of finance, HIB took subprime mortgages and turned 96% (give or take a few points depending on the CDO) of them into AAA bonds. At the time, I compared it with taking nuclear waste and turning it into gold. Clever trick when you can do it, and everyone, from mortgage broker to investment bankers was paid handsomely to dance at the party.The crisis occurred (to greatly oversimplify) because the financial system allowed entities to place bets on whether or not those mortgages would ever be paid. You didn't have to own a mortgage to make the bets. These bets, called Credit Default Swaps, are complex. But in a nutshell, they allow someone to profit immensely - staggeringly - if large numbers of subprime mortgages are not paid off and go into default.Or is it a combination of the two? The CDS were bad thinking, proposition bets with money that didn't really exist; but also, the odds of the proposition bets were badly evaluated because the bets were converted from subprime to AAA bonds?
The profit can be wildly out of proportion to the real amount of defaults, because speculators can push down the price of instruments tied to the subprime mortgages far beyond what the real rates of loss have been. As I said, the profits here can be beyond imagining. (In fact, they can be so large that one might well wonder if the whole subprime fiasco was not set up just to allow speculators to profit wildly on its collapse...)
These Credit Default Swaps have been written (as insurance is written) as private contracts. There is nil government regulation of them. Who writes these policies? Banks. Investment banks. Insurance companies. They now owe the buyers of these Credit Default Swaps on junk mortgage debt trillions of dollars. It is this liability that is the bottomless pit of liability for the financial institutions of America.
Because these giant financial companies never dreamed that the subprime mortgage securities could fall as far as they did, they did not enter a potential liability for these CDS policies anywhere near their true liability - which again, is virtually bottomless. They do not have a countervailing asset to pay off the liability.
This is the kind of issue I'd like to have resolved with patient dialogue. I would, in fact, greatly appreciate some insight.
#33 from Marcus Vitruvius at 4:39 am on Sep 25, 2008
Your second case seems to be basically short-selling under another name.
Is that right?
#34 from Grim at 4:49 am on Sep 25, 2008
I think so, but again, I'm spinning up on all this. I am a gambler, so when I say "a proposition bet," I'm thinking of the term as it applies to table games at cas1nos. Frankly, this is starting to look like a situation where banks thought they were making proposition bets with good odds (AAA ratings!), but in fact were fooled by the tranches into betting on subprime mortgages without adequate security.
So the proposition is: "You won't get repaid." And the bet is, "If you don't get repaid, you pay me X; otherwise, I pay you Y." X>Y.
Now, you think you've got a AAA bond, so the odds of the proposition seem to favor you heavily. You take the bet.
In fact, you have a bet based on subprime mortgages, and the odds actually favor you losing the proposition. You end up losing a large sum of money -- not once, but on the vast majority (all?) of the 96% of subprime mortgages that got converted into AAA bonds.
Now, what I want to know is, have I understood the situation correctly? If I have, there are some pretty clear policy prescriptions; but if not, I want to know where I've gone wrong.
#35 from Andrew J. Lazarus at 4:58 am on Sep 25, 2008
There was a good explanation of this stuff in the WSJ several months ago, but the URL is on my office computer. I'll supply the link when I find it.
The situation is even a little kookier than Grim's source mentions in three respects.
First, the ratings agencies are not so neutral as they might seem. If they don't give a good rating, the banks may take their business elsewhere. So there was a lot of bargaining between the rating agencies and the banks on just how much crap to put in there. The idea that most of these instruments were high-risk didn't seem to penetrate. (My guess is that in evaluating risk, they underestimated badly the likelihood of mortgages going bad all over the country in the same time frame, as opposed to localized housing price deflation.) But the rating agencies aren't on the hook: their magic AAA, AAa, etc. are all a gimmick with other people's money.
Second, the instruments got even weirder than that story mentioned. For example, you could have a CDO-cubed, whose underlying securities were not mortgages that could be prices, more-or-less, but CDO-squares, which were tranches of agglomerated CDOs, etc. A new rule: any financial instrument that can be modeled with a Russian Doll is illegal.
Third: Leverage. This AAA crap counted as assets enabling the banks to lend out much more. (We've had fractional reserve banking for 160 years, more or less.) This means that banks had to call in their loans when their own assets went bad… but those loans were used to be other crap, now you see the liquidity crisis where everybody tries to unwind their assets at once.We should have another thread on this, I would guess. I'll try to keep further comments on the McCain gamble. Our presidential elections are not horseshoes, and it looks like McCain will try anything rather than lose quietly.
#36 from Grim at 5:03 am on Sep 25, 2008
All right. I can do that.
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.
That's more likely because of the logical perception that McCain's offer was a 'stunt'.
Practically, it was dumb because the place to work on the economy for both Obama and McCain is in the public eye, as a part of the campaign, not in the halls of the Senate where everything they do will inevitably be colored by association with their campaign.
It's been a bad week for McCain and Palin (to top it off, the Enquirer is doubling down on their charges of an affair), but it's not the final week and they can still get their feet under them. A strong performance at the debates - focusing closely on the economy - is a necessary first step.
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.
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.
We realize that we really don't need three home lines any more - in fact, we could probably just do with the home fax line. So I call to drop the least-used of the lines, my home office line, and discover that the FIOS account is linked to it. But they can't change the database and just relink the FIOS account to another line - they have to disconnect our FIOS - meaning no phone and no Internet - for potentially three days. I've escalated this, and been waiting for a call back for - almost three weeks now. I'll go chase them some more next week.
Now I use (and am addicted) to a smartphone - have had one since the old Kyocera/Palm bricks. I updated six months ago to a Palm 755p. Running the absolutely stock configuration, except for Chattermail (an email app I bought from the Palm site), my third handset has now failed on me. It's locked in perpetual reboot mode. I managed to get it to stop by doing a hard reset...the other ones displayed a variety of problems; random lockups, failure to hang up and end calls, etc.
So first of all, bad for Palm for putting the things out in the first place.
Today, I called Verizon, and asked for a different handset. After much calm discussion, they are willing to give me a Windows Palm handset if I'll re-up for two full years (extend my account by six months). I demurred; we're traveling to Monterey this weekend and I don't want to be switching phones over the weekend. Plus, to be blunt, I just don't want anything else by Palm.
So here's the debate - do I give up and join the Borg and get an iPhone, paying the $150 to drop my contract? I've been reluctant to - I like Verizon coverage, and I dislike Apple on a kind of visceral level...I've been waiting for the Android phones, and may switch to a Blackberry until next year when they are mature.
Whether I do it with Verizon remains to be seen.
But as an early Palm user and longtime Palm customer, I can say with some confidence that I've bought my last Palm device.
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.
The Skewz podcast interview is on their site here.
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...
The Palestinians' "Pallywood," and its relentless media fakery/intimidation combination, are one prominent example - but certainly not the only one.
That's beyond the scope of Cucolo's video, which takes more of a "lengthen your own line rather than cutting the other guy's" approach. That approach isn't wholly wrong, and success can't be had without it. Experience in war and in the related human field of politics, however, shows that it doesn't suffice by itself. "Leave no attack unanswered" is a bipartisan political maxim for a reason.
I can certainly understand why Cucolo would avoid that subject, and stick to the Army's human interest stories. After all, the flip side of disinformation issues ends up enmeshed in domestic politics, where some sub-factions happily and uncritically amplify enemy propaganda. The US Army doesn't want to enmesh itself in any aspect of that dynamic... but the political battles will and do include it.
The question is which political players/factions will step up to that in some kind of organized fashion, and when, and how.
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.
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.
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:
At first, I didn't recognize the place.
On Karada Mariam, a street that runs over the Tigris River toward the Green Zone, the Serwan and the Zamboor, two kebab places blown up by suicide bombers in 2006, were crammed with customers. Farther up the street was Pizza Napoli, the Italian place shut down in 2006; it, too, was open for business. And I'd forgotten altogether about Abu Nashwan's Wine Shop, boarded up when the black-suited militiamen of the Mahdi Army had threatened to kill its owners. There it was, flung open to the world.
Two years ago, when I last stayed in Baghdad, Karada Mariam was like the whole of the city: shuttered, shattered, broken and dead.
Abu Nawas Park - I didn't recognize that, either. By the time I had left the country in August 2006, the two-mile stretch of riverside park was a grim, spooky, deserted place, a symbol for the dying city that Baghdad had become.
These days, the same park is filled with people: families with children, women in jeans, women walking alone. Even the nighttime, when Iraqis used to cower inside their homes, no longer scares them. I can hear their laughter wafting from the park. At sundown the other day, I had to weave my way through perhaps 2,000 people. It was an astonishing, beautiful scene - impossible, incomprehensible, only months ago.
Go read the whole thing.
Now, it's been interesting following the path of the story - based on aerial imagery - that suggested that ethnic cleansing was what really drive down the violence in Iraq - before the Surge started.
It was for some reason a debatable point whether the sectarian cleansing of mixed neighborhoods contributed to the decline in violence. Reuters now confirms - and has visual evidence - to prove that the decline in violence in Iraq, specifically in Baghdad, was caused in no small measure by the massive sectarian cleansing that preceded the surge. The sectarian violence essentially cleansed neighborhoods of their minority populations, reducing opportunities for violence. Maggie Fox from Reuters explains: Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007, graphic evidence of ethnic cleansing that preceded a drop in violence, according to a report published on Friday. The images support the view of international refugee organizations and Iraq experts that a major population shift was a key factor in the decline in sectarian violence, particularly in the Iraqi capital, the epicenter of the bloodletting in which hundreds of thousands were killed..."By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left," geography professor John Agnew of the University of California Los Angeles, who led the study, said in a statement. "Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning," said Agnew, who studies ethnic conflict.
I haven't had time to read the whole study, but let me suggest two things to think about before I editorialize:
First, that it seems odd to me that the decline in attacks on Coalition troops - along with the intercommunal violence - would be somehow contingent on 'clearing' certain neighborhoods. And such a decline clearly took place in parallel; so unless the analysts want to propose that there were two completely unrelated sets of violent activity - one aimed at sectarian violence and one aimed at Coalition troops - it seems like there was an overall pattern of change which reduced both the sectarian and anti-Coalition violence over the course of the year.
Second, I'll freely acknowledge that population movement had some impact on the levels of violence. But it seems unlikely - given the level of violence - that simply moving from partially Sunni neighborhoods to consolidated Sunni neighborhoods would have had a lot of impact - it's not like the Sunni were chased out of Iraq.
A deeper pattern of social change has resulted in the Iraq described by Filkins in the Times today, and he talks about two indicators which he saw:
Everything here seems to be standing on its head. Propaganda posters, which used to celebrate the deaths of American soldiers, now call on Iraqis to turn over the triggermen of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the Mahdi Army. "THERE IS NOWHERE FOR YOU TO HIDE," a billboard warns in Arabic, displaying a set of peering, knowing eyes. I saw one such poster in Adamiyah, a Sunni neighborhood that two years ago was under the complete control of Al Qaeda. Sunni insurgents - guys who were willing to take on the Qaeda gunmen - are now on the American payroll, keeping the peace at ragtag little checkpoints for $300 a month.
In the crowd, I saw a face I recognized. It was Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security advisor. It had been a long time since I'd seen him. Mr. Rubaie is a warm, garrulous man, a neurologist who spent years in London before returning to Iraq. But he is also a Shiite, and a member of Iraq’s Shiite-led government, which, in 2005 and 2006, was accused of carrying out widespread atrocities against Iraq’s Sunnis. Anbar Province is almost entirely Sunni.
As Mr. Rubaie made his way through the crowd, I noticed he was holding hands with another Iraqi man, a traditional Arab gesture of friendship and trust. It was Brig. Gen. Murdi Moshhen al-Dulaimi, the Iraqi Army officer taking control of the province - a Sunni. The sun was blinding, but Mr. Rubaie was wearing sunglasses, and finally he spotted me.
"What on earth are you doing here?" he asked over the crowd.
I might have asked him the same thing.
Read the whole thing, as they say.
And then go back and read the mendacious post at Democracyarsenal, where they say:
So when John McCain declares "victory" in Iraq and states that the increase of just 30,000 troops was the fundamental reason for the decline in violence, he once again proves that he has no idea what he is talking about.
So who doesn't know what they are talking about in this case? My money is on Max Bergmann, who - like many of the antiwar analysts who are frustrated by the outcome that appears to be solidifying in Iraq - will stretch any idea possible to suggest that our actions had nothing to do with them.
And, more important, who would pull the plug on an emerging but fragile Iraq just as things are starting to heal.
Because that's the issue above all. If the Surge was ineffective, our presence is unsupportable, and we just need to get out. We need to stop supporting the Iraqi government, stop paying the Sunni insurgents, just stop! stop! stop! whatever we are doing. So that a political movement here in the US can feel vindicated.
No matter what hell may get unleashed on a newly hopeful Iraq.
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.
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.
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...
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.
Here's the abstract:
We present evidence that variations in political attitudes correlate with physiological traits. In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats.
As I understand it, they measured startle reactions and other physiological reactions to 'stressful imagery' (like images of injured people and threatening situations).
Rightwingers scare more easily than liberals, according to a new study.
Jeebus, they went to all that trouble when they just could have asked Karl Rove? The GOP has been using fearmongering - on terrorism, evil axises, taxes, guns, God, gays etc etc - as a vote-getting tactic for how long now?
I'll suggest an alternate interpretation and suggest that there may actually be something underneath this.
Col. Jeff Cooper - my first shooting instructor - is famous, for among other things, codifying a 'defensive state of mind' hierarchy which he expressed as follows (courtesy of John Schaefer):
White - Relaxed, unaware, and unprepared. If attacked in this state the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy and ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "Oh my God! This can't be happening to me."
Yellow - Relaxed alertness. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that "today could be the day I may have to defend myself." There is no specific threat but you are aware that the world is an unfriendly place and that you are prepared to do something if necessary. You use your eyes and ears, and your carriage says "I am alert." You don't have to be armed in this state but if you are armed you must be in yellow. When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "I thought this might happen some day." You can live in this state indefinitely.
Orange - Specific alert. Something not quite right has gotten your attention and you shift your primary focus to that thing. Something is "wrong" with a person or object. Something may happen. Your mindset is that "I may have to shoot that person." Your pistol is usually holstered in this state. You can maintain this state for several hours with ease, or a day or so with effort.
Red - Fight trigger. This is your mental trigger. "If that person does "x" I will shoot them." Your pistol may, but not necessarily, be in your hand.
In the shooting and defensive arts community, the class of people who don't react to threats have a name - victims.
But there's another interesting point here, and it goes to some of the underlying understandings of people who I tend to classify as liberal and conservative.
Liberals, like Dr. Pangloss, see the world as inherently benign and think that it is human agency that makes it otherwise. Conservatives, think that the world is inherently threatening, and see human action as the bulwark against the threats.
To a large extent, this summarizes modern liberal and conservative thinking - crime? "if we'd stop harassing those kids, they would stop being so violent." foreign policy? "if we don't act from a position of threatening strength, they will take advantage of us."
It's almost a restatement of the old problem of theodicy. Which in a way makes me less sanguine about bridging the gap. Religious wars are the hardest to prevent and the hardest to stop.
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".
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...
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.
...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.
Gosh, that's just too bad. But he's just getting started. He's obviously been reading the media about what depressed, enraged brutes our soldiers are.
It remains unthinkable for a politician (or public official of any sort) to say aloud that our troops sometimes commit atrocities, that they are not all worthy of support, that some of them - faced with a terrifying and ethically incoherent mission - are driven to savagery. This grim duty has been left to the soldiers themselves.
And he managed to blame them for war profiteering.
The problem with the knee-jerk militarism of the past several years is that it has led to an absence of financial and moral oversight that is fundamentally undemocratic. Our troops have become human shields for war criminals and profiteers.
Consider the $1.39 billion contract awarded in 2003 to a subsidiary of Halliburton. The reconstruction project was secretly bid - to one company. There was much tough talk in Congress about preventing such sweetheart deals. But five years later, the US government continues to pay vast sums of our money to firms with ties to the administration.
And he finishes up with a moral Klein bottle where he manages to invert the morality of his position without actually turning himself inside out...
Americans have often looked to heroic violence as a means of spiritual regeneration. Our most powerful national myth is the notion that anyone fighting on our behalf is a hero. I understand why friends and families of our soldiers feel this way. But for the rest of us, too often "supporting the troops" isn't about the troops at all. It's about the childish desire to feel morally exempt from the violence carried out in our names.
Let me retort.
By thanking the troops, the average citizen - like me - is actually reaching out and helping to carry the moral burden that soldiers must - of necessity - carry on our behalf. It is Mr. Almond whose position manages to position him neatly on the other side by throwing up his hands and claiming that his moral insight is obviously keen enough to ensure that he sees through the mythology.
Now I haven't read Mr. Almond's books, and I'm unlikely to. But I'll bet that he's no Jainist. He lives the luxury of a life in a society built on violence - violence that is a part of all of our histories. And he thinks he can scrub himself clean of that history with this kind of public declaration. I think it'll take more than that.
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.
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.
We've been living through a decades in which the old industrial economy layer in the US has been eroding while other layers - technology, services, financial services - did great. Now we're seeing two layers - two critical ones (the housing market and financial services) - get slammed.
And these are getting slammed because the markets are doing exactly what they are supposed to do - slam people who are massively greedy ("pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered") and who have been living and investing beyond their means.
And, I'll suggest we've been doing that - somewhat - since the Clinton boom. I think we had two bubbles that started about the same time in the late 1990's. One was the technology bubble, and one was the financial bubble that we're just now starting to see deflate.
The financial history of America, remember, is one that was built on bubbles. Read Charles Beard on the economic history around Independence and the financial bubbles and manipulation that surrounded the actual creation of the country. The railroads left European investors with rooms full of worthless paper - and America with a railroad system. Global Crossing and the other tech companies didn't just make Terry MacAuliffe rich; they left us with an infrastructure that's valuable today.
I'm asking myself what will be left behind by this bubble, and to be honest, I'm not sure.
I'll go read 'Black Swan' again.
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.
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.
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.
The Contenders: Plus, Minus, and Interesting
The truth is, the competitors are very well matched here. The USAF wasn't crazy to choose the Airbus plane.
Boeing is submitting the KC-767 Advanced Tanker. Its main advantages are smaller size that improves mpg fuel consumption and will be up to 24% more efficient for some missions, better top speed, a new refueling boom that has been tested with day and night in-flight refuelings, higher "made-in-USA" content (80% vs. 60%), and continuation of the 767 production line, which is otherwise scheduled to shut down. It also funnels the dollars to a predominantly American aerospace firm, which can then reinvest the profits to develop other aircraft and compete around the world.
After 2-year delays, Italy (4) and Japan (4) have finally begun receiving their KC-767 tankers, which indicates that the many of the kinks have been ironed out. Boeing's KC-767 AT won't be exactly the same aircraft, however. It builds on the same 767-200 model base, but substitutes the wings, floor, cargo door, and landing gear used in the longer-range 767-300F freighter; and the advanced cockpit and flaps from the 767-400ER extended range. These changes improve the plane, but they'll have to be flown, tested, and certified, and that always takes time and adds some risk.
Airbus' A300 MRTT/ KC-30 is submitted in conjunction with the American firm Northrop Grumman. It main advantages revolve around its larger size. For starters, that size accommodates more troops or cargo in addition to its standard fuel load. It can carry up to 226 passengers (vs. 190 KC-767/ 53 KC-135), or 108 medical litters (vs. 97 KC-767/ 18 KC-135), or up to 32 standard 463L cargo pallets (vs. 19 KC-767/ 6 KC-135), or some combination. It can also carry over 250,000 pounds of fuel, vs. around 200,000 for the KC-135/-767).
Extra cargo capacity is important to Air Mobility Command, which sees its transport fleet being stretched thin, and pays around $3 billion per year to charter similar civilian passenger/cargo transportation. The extra fuel is especially meaningful to the Pacific Air Force, which needs to make a lot of long-range flights over open ocean, and likes the Airbus KC-30's ability to offload a larger percentage of its fuel after flying 1,000 or 2,000 miles. The question is how much of this capacity most USAF missions will use. Will the extra capacity be wasted, and become dead weight? Or will it be fully used, providing more performance that lets the USAF accomplish the same missions with fewer aircraft, canceling or even reversing the KC-767's "miles per gallon" advantage?
In a related vein, Boeing claims that its strengthened floors allow the KC-767 AT to carry to a similar weight of cargo, even if the volume is smaller. Sometimes that would matter, by letting the KC-767 carry a wider range of cargo types than its competitor. The question, again, is how often this feature would help in practice, and how often it's just a wasted advantage that penalizes standard performance.
A330 MRTT variants have now been ordered by Australia (5), Britain (14), Saudi Arabia (3), and the United Arab Emirates (3). Australia's aircraft are nearing delivery, and the model offered to the USAF will be almost the same. That means faster delivery times, though other Airbus factories will need to take up the production slack until Airbus' new KC-30 and global A330F freighter production line in Mobile, Alabama is at full capacity. Airbus has already demonstrated that this faster delivery is real.
It has been a while since America saw a major new passenger aircraft production line, but Airbus needs to move some production to a "dollar zone." The US dollar's decline vs. the Euro costs Airbus $1 billion for every 10 cents it drops - since its global contracts are all in dollars, and most of its costs are in Euros. The initial KC-X competition win gave Airbus an excuse to do some of that without creating political problems in Europe. KC-X profits would also go a long way toward easing the cash crunch created by the A380 super-jumbo's slips, the unexpected need to invest billions in the A350XWB to remain competitive with the 777, and the need to defend its lucrative A320 family segment with a next-generation short-range jet design.
The Political Battle
Over $35 billion are at stake, and so are tens of thousands of jobs. Of course the political yammering has been deafening.
Had Boeing won the initial contract award, however, it would have gone away. EADS CEO, the guy in charge of Airbus, has publicly said that he was shocked when the USAF named their plane the winner. EADS has made some inroads with the US military with the recent $3+ billion UH-72 Lakota light helicopter contract, and wouldn't have jeopardized future gains with a pointed ad possibly counter-productive lobbying campaign from a European firm. They would have grumbled, Northrop Grumman would have grumbled, but Boeing would have been too strong to dislodge and no serious effort would have been made.
Instead, the A330/KC-30 won. Put aside the fact that the USAF broke its own competition rules to award that contract. Political truth: taking something away from anyone is always far, far more expensive than not giving it to them.
Now Alabama and surrounding states are fully mobilized, and will fight to the end for Airbus. So are Northrop Grumman, and all of the subcontractors across the country who depend on an Airbus win. So, too, are the Europeans in France, Spain, Germany, and Britain, who would pick up about 40% of the production work as well as many of the profit/investment benefits from an EADS Airbus win. That strength of purpose would have kept the KC-X/KC-45 contract in their hands, except for one big problem:
The US Government Accountability Office, an auditing arm of Congress that also handles contract protests, found in June 2008 that the USAF had not followed its own criteria when it made the award to Airbus and Northrop Grumman.
Forget the spin - I've read that GAO report in full. The breaches were major breaches, not mere technicalities. We can discuss whether the Air Force could correct the areas identified by the GAO, and still pick Airbus. Politically, however, it allowed Boeing to mobilize fully - and made the RFP's criteria a battleground that both contractors will now treat as the primary field of battle.
Boeing is fully mobilized now, too. Their internal hubris, and initial interpretations of the USAF's specifications, have been blown to smithereens by the loss. Seattle (strong Democrat), Chicago (ditto) and Kansas (split, leans Republican) are its centers of support, but they also have PW engines in CT (swing) and draw on suppliers across the country (mixed, Texas prominent). An RFP whose terms appear to give Airbus any edge will not be acceptable to those contingents, who will see it as the USAF trying to ram its previous decision down their throats. There have even been rumors from sources inside the company that Boeing was considering a 'no bid' response to the Pentagon's v2.0 RFP - an ultimate expression of non-confidence in the process that would have been politically devastating.
EADS has its primary base of support in Alabama (GOP), but also draws on Northrop Grumman's locations (mixed), Engine supplier GE (Ohio and Michigan) and suppliers across the country (mixed, West Virginia and California prominent). An RFP that appears to give Boeing plane any edge in the competition will not be acceptable to their contingent, who will see it as a transparent political attempt to take away what is rightfully theirs. Ditto any result that leaves Airbus without the KC-X contract. Even before the original KC-X RFP, EADS and Northrop Grumman were saying that they would not invest the $50 million or so required by a bid if they didn't believe that its terms gave them a reasonable chance of winning. We are now hearing very similar words from EADS, in the wake of the KC-X competition's cancellation.
In addition, EADS now has the European card to play. If a new competition ends up taking the win away from Airbus and giving it to Boeing, this contract is big enough to damage the USA's European alliances. It would also create an upsurge of anti-Americanism in Europe, giving the continent's press and some political parties a strong boost in its existing efforts to manufacture and tend anti-American hostility. Small beer, you say, except that the contract is big enough that it could lead to trade retaliation on a general level. It would absolutely lead to a strong push within Europe to design American manufacturers out of European defense equipment, while pushing their governments away from buying American weapons.
In the end, those European moves would cost American industry billions of dollars, on top of any political fallout. The biggest immediate defense loser would likely be Lockheed Martin, who leads the $300 billion, multi-national F-35 Joint Strike fighter program. Which may explain why Lockheed Martin's CEO made a speech a couple months ago warning about the dangers of unthinking protectionism in the defense industry.
So, What Next? My Prediction
The new administration will have to create a new KC-X RFP process, and devise an RFP, in an arena where every key requirement will be the subject of a political fight to the death. That is not conjecture, it is a certainty.
What this means is that even moving forward to get an RFP will require a lot of political capital, and making an award will require more. It also means that any award is likely to be held up in Congress, possibly for years, while the backlash plays itself out. The USAF's CSAR-X combat search and rescue helicopter RFP has been derailed in exactly this fashion - and Boeing was the winner in that case.
All of this will happen - unless the nature of the battleground is changed. Which is why I've been predicting a split-buy as the eventual outcome since March 2008. Even though the USAF is against the idea.
The USAF almost certainly has a point that buying 2 types of tankers to replace the KC-135s means 2 sets of spares for most things, 2 types of training, less flexibility in terms of deploying which unit where, etc. I accept all of that as true.
In a political fight, however, with committed contingents on each side, and a political process "customer" who can lose more from a stalemated process than from a sub-optimal choice, a brokered deal is the near-certain solution. Regardless of the issue at play.
A McCain administration won't have anything invested in a Boeing or an Airbus win, adding a 3rd factor that makes a brokered deal very likely. They're very likely to be working with a Democrat-controlled Congress, which will want to be seen as delivering something to Boeing. But they cannot create a deep rift within the GOP by being seen as betraying the Alabama contingent. Or the Kansas contingent, for that matter, which is in Boeing's court. McCain has shown that he'll do a deal in these situations - with him as President, a split buy is nearly 100% certain.
An Obama administration is more of a wild card. His tendencies in action have actually not been very cross-partisan - his actual approach on contentious issues is much more "winner take all", and he has shown a consistent record of doing questionable things in exchange for support (Ayers, Wright, KC-X talking points to date, earmark issue, et. al.). Boeing, headquartered in his native grounds of Chicago, offers him an opportunity to play a nativist card to shore up his credentials, and many Democrats would benefit from a "winner take all" KC-X award to Boeing. This would also hurt some Republicans, in a state he won't carry. On the flip side, it opens him to accusations of corruption - though he can depend on an incurious media to largely bury that. Recent speeches give strong hints that this is, in fact, his intended approach.
The inevitable European backlash can't be buried so easily, and it would stand as a direct repudiation of the fundamental principle of Obama's espoused foreign policy. The thing is, I don't personally believe that Obama actually gives a damn about foreign relations, except insofar as external events might create a domestic political opportunity for him. In that, he is largely a mirror of his party base. Biden, with long-standing Atlanticist ties, might act as a brake - if he has enough influence to do so.
This is not a promising combination of calculations. If enough Democrats are uneasy, and the European counterweight is strong enough, Obama, too, is likely to go for a brokered split-buy deal. But if the Democratic contingent in Congress and the Senate is large enough that a reversal to Boeing seems politically possible, I'd guess the odds of Obama attempting a full reversal to Boeing at somewhere around 70%. If that is tried and fails, of course, we definitely default to "split-buy."
Numbers in these situations are always inexact and have major margins for error, but they can give a decent sense of where the probabilities lie. If we look at that weighting implicit in the above discussions, then assume even odds in the Presidential election, the "split-buy" option has slightly better than 2/3 odds (100 McCain + 30 Obama + failure fallback, vs. 70 Obama).
How to Split?
If a split buy is likely, the question becomes how best to do so.
The most obvious approach is to use a multiple-award contract. This is a frequent Pentagon approach, in which a number of bidders get "contracts," but must then compete for specific delivery orders to accomplish specific tasks. Base & infrastructure contracts are often handled that way. Another multiple-award format, which is used for chartering civilian passenger/cargo planes, is to allocate each year's award among various bidders, with amounts depending on the scope and pricing of individual bids. Wider scope + better price = bigger award.
This would have a number of benefits. Most would be political, but it also removes the risk of picking Boeing and then having certification and testing take too long (Airbus just wins all delivery orders until Boeing is ready). If Airbus KC-30s are deployed to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and Boeing KC-767s to the Atlantic routes, it might even provide the most efficient aerial tanker solution for each region. Finally, a multiple-award format offers the ability to replace the existing aerial tanker fleet more quickly, by leveraging 2 production lines. That advantage could even become crucial to the USAF, if the KC-135 fleet starts encountering long-term aging issues that cannot be easily corrected.
A variation on that multiple-award approach would involve widening the KC-X bid to a "single winners, multiple platform" competition that explicitly looks for 2 different sizes and capabilities.
The USA's KC-10 (DC-10) fleet is 1980s vintage, which is better than the 1950s-1960s construction for the smaller KC-135s (707s), but isn't new either. If the KC-135 fleet is grounded due to mechanical/structural problems, in a manner similar to the recent 2-month long grounding of the USA's F-15A-D fighters, having more jumbo jets on hand might help the USAF stretch things further. Those aircraft could use their range and fuel capacity to fly "inefficient" mission routes that nonetheless get the job done.
An explicit "high-low" bid structure would almost certainly lead to Boeing bidding the KC-777 at the high end, and KC-767 at the low end. The 777 hasn't been converted into an aerial tanker yet, but neither have any of its potential competitors. That was Boeing's original inclination, and the base 787 isn't ready yet. Worse, the current strike will probably push the 787's delivery date out even further.
Airbus' would have more thinking to do. Its A330/KC-30 would be caught in the middle between the 767 and 777's capabilities, and its A350XWB isn't a real plane yet. Its 4-engine A340 could be used at the high end, but it's getting its butt kicked in the market by the 777, and would have almost no chance in an American tanker competition. The A380 super-jumbo could offer an interesting option given the USAF's abandonment of its plan to refurbish over 100 of its super-giant C-5A Galaxy transports, but it's about a year away from "full confidence" status. The most likely response would be an A330/ A340 bid.
If that's the KC-X2 competition, a split-buy becomes easier. Options would range from all Boeing KC-777/767 (similar to current tanker fleet capacity, slight expansion, political minefield); to KC-777 for the large aircraft buy and A330 as the smaller tanker (larger overall dimensions for the future tanker fleet, politics satisfied); to KC-767 as the low-end replacement in numbers (similar capacities), but a big prestige boost to Airbus by making its flagship A380F the USAF's future high-end refueling/cargo aircraft, complementing both KC-767s and C-17s (big capacity boost at high end, positions A380 as Air Force One replacement competitor).
That's an interesting range of outcomes. First, however, the USAF - and the US government - need to figure out what to do about the KC-X competition. For the Air Force's sake, they all need to choose wisely.
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 insidecatholic.com 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.
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.
"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.
It's especially notable that this trust deficit exists on both sides of the aisle in America. The most bitter opponents of military aid to Pakistan have been Democrats, who think it's risky and disconnected from the fight with that nation's al-Qaeda insurgency. For what it's worth, I agree. Obama has openly said that the USA should go after high-level al-Qaeda members in Pakistan. Whether he'll stick to that is another matter, but it's significant that he has said it. Meanwhile, that's exactly what the USA, Britain, et. al. are doing.
On the other side blogs like ours, and the anti-jihadi right, have been acerbic in pointing out Pakistan's multiple-personality "war on terror" for years now. Closer ties with India, at all levels, is also a growth meme on this side of the isle.
Bottom line: Pakistan has people in the American political system who see national interests at stake in that country's evolution. It has no real friends.
I've also said more than once that Pakistan's successful insurgency, which is now deeper and more violent than Iraq's, makes success in Afghanistan strategically impossible. The article seems to be part of a growing understanding to that effect, which is positive. Then, too, a country with a guerilla army controlling more than 1/3 of its territory, in collusion with its intelligence agency, with nuclear weapons at stake... it doesn't take a thriller writer to see what that means.
Whether under Musharraf, or under its current neo-feudal democratic governance, Pakistan remains a major, major global risk.
Despite a stupid title of "Playing with firepower," the rest of the Times article is worth reading, if only for the general background and initiatives at play. There is no question that Pakistan will become a major issue in the years ahead. Possibly even THE major issue, eclipsing Iran.
As an aside, I might add that a reporter with any experience - or one who could, say, read their own paper's archives from the period 2001-2002 - might have had cause to gravely question the account repeated so uncritically at the beginning of their article by the Times' Ms. Christina Lamb. But I've long since despaired of seeing even sports-reporter level competence in the press when it comes to defense and international relations.
If I want that, I pretty much have to read the blogs.
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).
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".
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...
On Sept 5/08, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iraq is seeking 36 "advanced model" F-16s, which probably means the standard F-16 C/D Block 50/52+ models requested or bought by recent customers like Chile, Greece, Morocco, Poland, Pakistan, Romania, Turkey et. al.
Those back-channel requests have yet to become a formal US DSCA request. Nevertheless, if recent F-16 sales are any guide then the likely cost of that order, plus the associated spares, weapons, et. al. required to give Iraq's air force a working fighter fleet once again, would be about $4-6 billion. Even a formal DSCA request would be just the beginning of the process, however; as DID's readers know from our coverage, actual signed contracts can take anywhere between 30 days and 4+ years after the official request. Fighter aircraft delivery times add another 1-3 years.
Even the eventual DSCA request will not come to pass without technology export approvals, however; clearance for various F-16 types, equipment, and weapons sold in conjunction with the aircraft will be an issue for discussion in the USA. Fortunately for Iraq, the F-16 is already flown by a number of countries in the region, including Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. These aircraft include a number of early F-16A/B models, plus a larger set of upgraded early models and F-16C/Ds. A request within those parameters should be uncontroversial, though requests for some air to ground weapons like GPS-guided JDAMs could become a separate issue.
Other F-16 variants exist in the region. Israel flies all F-16 models including its own F-16I, which modifies the F-16D block 52+ and adds a lot of Israeli electronics, equipment, and weapons. The UAE is a another exception, flying the world's most advanced F-16s: the Block 60 Desert Falcon with built-in infared surveillance and targeting, the AN/APG-80 AESA radar, and an engine upgrade, among other improvements. Iraq would not request F-16Is, however, and F-16 E/Fs are unlikely to receive approval at this stage in Iraq's evolution.
While events can always overtake even the best of plans, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently told reporters that he wants all American forces to be able to leave Iraq by 2011.
Iraq's request for F-16s certainly fits with that strategy. No country can remain sovereign if it cannot control its own air space, and having its own fighter aircraft available for missions would give Iraqis far more leeway to make independent decisions about the future direction, training, and use of their military.
Even if the US agrees to the sale as expected, however, that 2011 timetable would be a tall order. The USAF currently operates about 300 aircraft of all types in Iraq, supplemented by US Navy fighters and US Army transports and helicopters. That force will not be replaced by 36 F-16s - nor would such a force provide sovereignty insurance against Iraq's neighbors. Indeed, the need for US government sale approval, training, and logistics stand-up means that the new Iraqi Air Force is unlikely to have any operational F-16s before 2010-2011.
If Iraq wishes to go beyond air-air roles for its F-16s and perform close air support as well, its air force will find that this is a demanding task all its own, requiring practice and combined-arms training and equipment in order to be effective. The USAF has deliberately slowed Iraq's progress in this area for various operational and political reasons, and so there is no current base of expertise or equipment for the IqAF to build upon. If the IqAF wishes to be able to replicate the crucial role performed by American and British fighter jets in the Iraqi Army's March 2008 Battle for Basra, therefore, or to support Iraqi troops in the even of hostile incursions from its neighbors, it will need to allocate even more lead time before it can be effective.
In the end, all of the relevant decisions will be political, rather than military, choices. At present, the odds are that Iraq will fly F-16 C/D aircraft in the Block 25-50 range, beginning around 2010. Alongside a reduced but still present USAF, which will remain in Iraq beyond 2011.
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 armedliberal.windsofchange.net, joekatzman.windsofchange.net, metrico.windsofchange.net etc. - and each of them would feed www.windsofchange.net.
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.
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.
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:
It's water, of course. Get used to hearing that word a lot this century.
"The deforestation of China's north and northeast provinces has created a large, desert wasteland. Decades of timber exploitation, slash and burn farming techniques and population growth has resulted in desiccation or the elimination of water resources as plant life disappears, rainfall shrinks and lakes disappear. More than fifty percent of China's land is either arid or semi-arid, mostly the result of man-made activities."
I'm not sure I'd say "mostly"... but they have certainly been a big contributor. Industrialization exacerbates this problem, because it requires more water than farming.
If supplies are limited, and clean supplies are even more so, but an influx of migrants from the country to the cities is the biggest political risk factor for a socialist dictatorship... who gets priority? Right. And so the environment goes to hell, and people are beaten and tortured for complaining, until the problem is so bad that it gets in the way of other state goals. That has certainly been the usual pattern in Marxist economies. Eventually, it comes to a crunch, of course. Though tactics like food imports (which can be a less bulky way to import water) can and will be used along the way.
Before we feel too smug, it's worth noting that we aren't entirely blameless in these little dramas. Where does the appetite for Chinese furniture come from, that has driven deforestation in China and beyond? For industrialized goods?
Now, we could say that managing these things is China's problem, but there are a couple of issues with that.
One issue is that China will export these problems. Actively, vid. the bribes to Indonesian officials that doom a rainforest environment whose importance matches the Amazon's. Passively, via the "yellow dust" that chokes South Korea and Japan; some scientists believe it will eventually reach to Hawaii and the West Coast of the USA. So it becomes a problem for others.
Now add the fact that China is also right up top of the "world's most corrupt" list, and current trade relationships ensure that even a mythical Chinese government with good intentions will be powerless to do much about this sort of thing.
American influence can't solve every problem. It's not that powerful in a world of real constraints, and just because a problem exists does not necessarily mean that America is positioned by geography, resources, or human capability to solve it. Having said that, it is China's biggest trading partner. And if China begins importing food, North America is its most likely source.
As such, Neal Asbury suggests a free trade agreement with China - but one with environmental conditions and requirements, and external monitoring, in order to deal with the corruption issue:
"The answer must be enshrined in a comprehensive U.S.-China Free Trade Agreement. Trade with the United States must be conditioned on environmental protections that are strictly enforced and monitored by American scientists. Our most recent Free Trade Agreements negotiated with Colombia, Korea and Peru include strong language on the environment. We must go much further with China."
The trillion-dollar question is whether China would ever accept that sort of monitoring, even for the carrot of a Free Trade agreement with America. I tend to think not - and without that, any agreement with China isn't worth the paper they print it on. It's also worth noting that the US State Department and/or Commerce Department would be very quick to try and negotiate that verification away, unless faced by very strong pressure over that exact issue. It's part of their basic natures, and of course we can see the effects of their "deal for deal's sake" mentality in security-related situations as well.
Meanwhile, the Democrats would have to choose between the global environment/ carbon emissions and cries for protectionism from US workers. The GOP would also have some choices to make, though they'd be less acute because its Hamiltonian/realist wing would sell out the environmental angle in a heartbeat, in return for the lure (real or imagined) of a business deal. Meanwhile, other parts of the GOP coalition would see security risks, leading to a fracture in that party as well.
Those are very high hurdles to cross. If they can be crossed - which is not at all certain - Neal's suggestion would have strong merit, as the approach that would be most likely to make enough of a dent in these trade/environmental issues to matter.
I'm not holding my breath, personally. Not unless I find myself in China...
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?
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....Now that's a start. Let's explore it a bit.
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.
The place to start is the Haidt essay. He begins by noting the famous study that treats conservatism as a sort-of mental condition: "conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death."He then adds:
Diagnosis is a pleasure... But with pleasure comes seduction, and with righteous pleasure comes seduction wearing a halo. Our diagnosis explains away Republican successes while convincing us and our fellow liberals that we hold the moral high ground. Our diagnosis tells us that we have nothing to learn from other ideologies, and it blinds us to what I think is one of the main reasons that so many Americans voted Republican over the last 30 years: they honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats. To see what Democrats have been missing, it helps to take off the halo, step back for a moment, and think about what morality really is.I would go farther than that, and suggest that the model is self-evidently false. What percentage of entrepreneurs are conservatives in some sense of the word? What percentage of small business entrepreneurs -- that is, those who risk not just something, but everything? Voting habits indicate it's a clean majority -- yet these people are supposed to be 'especially fearful of uncertainty'? What percentage of military officers -- or soldiers of any rank in the the combat arms of the military -- are conservatives? Voting habits, again, indicate a strong majority: and these are the people supposedly afraid of death?
What has happened here is that the halo blinds from the beginning. It blinds people into accepting results plainly at variance with reality, because it answers their preconceptions. It also allows them to discard the fact that these economic questions do have a conservative answer: even Dr. Haidt's explanation, which I will praise on more important grounds in a moment, simply takes as read that conservatives who are poorer are voting moral rather than economic interests. In fact, they have a different concept of where their interests lie.
There is something deeply worthy in the Haidt piece -- what is far more important than the wrongness of the concept that conservatism is a mental state to be diagnosed, rather than a philosophy to be explored and considered. It lies here:
My first few weeks in Bhubaneswar were therefore filled with feelings of shock and confusion. I dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen. My hosts gave me a servant of my own and told me to stop thanking him when he served me. I watched people bathe in and cook with visibly polluted water that was held to be sacred. In short, I was immersed in a sex-segregated, hierarchically stratified, devoutly religious society, and I was committed to understanding it on its own terms, not on mine. It only took a few weeks for my shock to disappear, not because I was a natural anthropologist but because the normal human capacity for empathy kicked in. I liked these people who were hosting me, helping me, and teaching me. And once I liked them (remember that first principle of moral psychology) it was easy to take their perspective and to consider with an open mind the virtues they thought they were enacting."The normal human capacity for empathy" is just what we have so long been missing in this discussion. The implicit advocation that you should try to like the people you are observing, that it would open new avenues for understanding them, is long overdue. Dr. Haidt is to be praised for this insight, but also for being the kind of man who could have it.
Judith Warner has read his piece, and is trying to do what he advocates. She is not -- still not! -- able to understand these women. She is still afraid of them, and that fear of them comes through in her piece in many ways. From her recognition that her children's love for brie might mark her as an outsider here, to the sense that this is all an alien environment she cannot comprehend, it is clear she is afraid of these people, and of a joy she can neither name nor understand.
Yet she is trying to understand it. She is trying to make friends.
Both she and Dr. Haidt ultimately are far from understanding -- reading Dr. Haidt's clinical descriptions is enough to make a man chuckle. Yet I respect their kindness and their humane desire to understand, to have empathy, to like and befriend.
They will probably not quite grasp what I mean when I say that conseratives are not subjects-for-observation but neighbors; and that in choosing "Love thy Neighbor" as their method, they have found the right road. I expect Dr. Haidt will read that as my desire to enact my life in accord with a defined sacred order, to reduce uncertainty and bring meaning to my life.
That is not at all what I mean: what I mean is that, in this world, that is the road most likely to lead to genuine understanding between people. Like Chesterton, I learned that from the world, and then found it reflected in the books.
That, though, is a longer trail. For now, it's enough to take a moment to recognize a good thing, to welcome it and praise those who are trying to make it work.
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?
One of Bill Clinton's great features was that he combined great political skills and deep policy knowledge - he could both talk about the history of an issue and rally people to act on it at a higher level than most politicians. What he was deficient in, to some extent, was judgment.
Because what we want from our political leaders is a combination of things - the political skill to rally people to join them in solving a problem and to build the alliances needed to Get Things Done - that's the core job; the policy skill to understand the mechanics of issues and how best to exercise their political skills; and, finally, the judgment needed to decide on what policies to further and what politics to engage in.
I started to write about that, and about the legitimate concern that Palin may not be well-developed enough on the policy front to comfortably sit in the big chair in the Oval Office. I'll come back and write about that some more (along with all the other things in the queue).
But in surfing around this morning, I found the same Newsbusters post that Glen Wishard linked to in the comments below, and fell into my usual high dudgeon about crappy, stupidly biased media. The parts they cut out are in bold.
GIBSON: Let me ask you about some specific national security situations.
GIBSON: Let’s start, because we are near Russia, let’s start with Russia and Georgia.
The administration has said we've got to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?
PALIN: First off, we're going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain’s running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we have to keep…
GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.
PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there. I think it was unfortunate. That manifestation that we saw with that invasion of Georgia shows us some steps backwards that Russia has recently taken away from the race toward a more democratic nation with democratic ideals. That’s why we have to keep an eye on Russia.
And, Charlie, you're in Alaska. We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia. They are our next door neighbors.We need to have a good relationship with them. They're very, very important to us and they are our next door neighbor.
GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?
PALIN: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
GIBSON: What insight does that give you into what they're doing in Georgia?
PALIN: Well, I'm giving you that perspective of how small our world is and how important it is that we work with our allies to keep good relation with all of these countries, especially Russia. We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.
You know, it sure seems like the interview was edited to make Palin look far less thoughtful and knowledgeable than she really was.
I'm tossing an email over to ABC News, asking "what the hell?"
Charles Krauthammer composed the term 'The Bush Doctrine'. He's good friends with 'The Bush Doctrine'. And he says that:
Informed her? Rubbish.
The New York Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.
There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration -- and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today. It is utterly different.
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.
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.
That's in close concert with what I wrote below (probably why I think it's so smart):
He needs to stop with the public knifefighting. While I don't doubt that he's good in a room, the public collapse of his "hope" rhetoric onto his "lipstick" rhetoric is something he won't be able to survive.
Look. Startups are always valued on hope. Established companies are always valued on history. As soon as Barack acts like an established politician and talks like an established politician, he's going to get valued like an established politician, and he's not going to like that.
Ted goes on:
Obama should NOT attack. He shouldn't respond daily to every tit for tat. He should soar above the noise. He should create a manifesto of change and communicate it at every opportunity. He should belittle the conversation not the people talking. He should focus on what he means by his change and he should get himself repositioned as a national healer, as a centrist and as someone who can reach across the aisle and create a national mandate to make the country great again. He needs to be a man with a plan and not be seen as a man who is being handled by experts and a political party.
He should NOT be seen as bedfellows with the national media. It is truly stunning to me as an observer to watch how the Democrats have shot themselves in the foot since the European tour for Obama. I don't think the campaign has hit on its "Change: I am an outsider and not your normal politician" theme since that trip which made him look like he was already the President and was running for re-election. As he became the "incumbent" with the media, McCain became the outsider and the agent of change and our country wants change. McCain’s choice of Palin on the ticket was brilliant and the media thought it was dumb. The mainstream media is out of touch with America. It is mostly always wrong.
This turnaround in the polls is stunning. This election could become a case history in just bad positioning and marketing by a major political party.
Hard for me to say it any better...go read the whole thing.
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:
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...
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.
Now, I've never drunk a cup of coffee in - well, a long time. I'd sip them when I was younger and dating and dates would suggest that the only reason why I didn't like coffee was because I hadn't tasted theirs - which always seemed like an invitation to an early breakfast, if you know what I mean.
Coffee sucks. Fully. Mark Helprin got it right in his great book 'Memoirs From An Ant-Proof Case'.
But, strangely, Starbucks does not suck.
What, you might ask, does a non-coffee-drinker see in Starbucks? And I'll tell you. Go to the counter and order this: Nonfat cocoa, no vanilla, no whip. Just that: pure, hot, almost bitter chocolate. Damn, it's good. As far as I'm concerned the markets are investing hundreds of millions and people are drinking mediocre coffee just so I can get my hot chocolate.
And I see absolutely nothing wrong with that.
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.
"It’s more than an increased anxiety," said Doug Schoen, who worked as one of Bill Clinton’s lead pollsters during his 1996 reelection and has worked for both Democrats and independents in recent years. "It’s a palpable frustration. Deep-seated unease in the sense that the message has gotten away from them."
What's the problem?
Forgetting the lessons of 1992: One of the certainties of American politics is that it is hard for Democrats to win presidential elections without a deep connection to Main Street values and economics. That would seem doubly true for Obama, given the unstated but undeniable barrier his race presents in certain areas of the country. And few nominees have ever had such an inviting target as the economic record of the Bush administration ... from a ballooning federal budget deficit to higher unemployment rates to a mortgage crisis that could be the most menacing fiscal threat in decades.
Yet still, the Obama campaign seems to be struggling to find a consistent, cohesive economic message. One can understand why aides would not want to muddy his mantra of change and his image as a post-partisan, revolutionary figure. But blue-collar voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan likely won't vote for Obama because of some meta-narrative or a series of fabulous speeches.
"The [Obama] campaign is beginning to look like other campaigns," said a former top strategist for past Democratic presidential campaigns, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Obama is struggling with working-class whites just like John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis did, and Walter Mondale. He’s struggling with voters in the border-state South. And he’s struggling with an enormous wind at his back, a hatred for George Bush and a mainstream media that is little short of a chorus for his campaign."
Clinton, of course, was the only one of these Democrats to actually win the struggle. As he could tell Obama, voters want to know how their lives would be bettered by an Obama presidency in very specific terms. This connection (along with independent Ross Perot) is what powered his upset run against George H.W. Bush in 1992.
I'll follow up with a longer post tonight - I want to go back and poke the Netroots in the eye; their notion that there's a vast, untapped well of new voters who a leftwing insurgent candidacy could bring to the polls isn't working out so well, is it?
Obama needs to do three things right now:
He needs to clarify people's understanding of him. The reality is that he went to a radical black church; he can't wish those facts away. The reality is that he got his career started in association with a bunch of unrepentant former radicals; he can't give a speech and have those facts vanish. The reality is that he's a young man who has had less experience than we are used to in our Presidents; he can't make that go away either. And yes, the reality is that he's black and some people are going to be uncomfortable voting for him because of that. Can't make that vanish either.
But he can take those facts and use his vision and speaking ability to weave them into a picture of himself that people will understand and be comfortable with. He hasn't done it - he hasn't squared the circle of his beliefs and his history. I believe he can, and while it's late I don't believe it's too late.
He needs to let people know what's in it for them. He's got a lot of position papers out there, but he ought to get four or five lower and middle class families and bring them around the country with him and tell us, exactly, what his policies will mean for them. Make the white papers concrete.
And if he can't do that - can't draw the line from his policy papers into real changes in people's lives - he needs new policy papers.
He needs to stop with the public knifefighting. While I don't doubt that he's good in a room, the public collapse of his "hope" rhetoric onto his "lipstick" rhetoric is something he won't be able to survive.
Look. Startups are always valued on hope. Established companies are always valued on history. As soon as Barack acts like an established politician and talks like an established politician, he's going to get valued like an established politician, and he's not going to like that.
We're seeing him get tested, and we'll know in a month what he's really all about. I supported the candidate of hope and inclusiveness, and I believe lots of people like me want the same thing. If this becomes an election about toughness, well...
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.
I really have two issues with this; the first is that I've come to believe that freedom means the freedom for other people to do things you find wasteful, annoying, even somewhat disgusting. Yes, there are limits to freedom, and yes, the government has rights to some level of control. But this pushes a little past it and moves directly to the far horizon.
Otherwise it doesn't matter much. Yes, we'd be better off if driving was safer, and yes, speeding contributes to the risk of driving. But the steps we'd have to take to keep the risk of speeding vanishingly small would be so intrusive that we might as well live in England (about which more in a moment). But to be honest, if we banned call phones and additionally required intrusive vehicle inspections like the TUV in Germany (and had German driving license requirements), we'd probably have a bigger impact on road hazards.
There's a second issue as well. The playground equipment next to our house (we're across from a wonderful park) was recently 'upgraded', and the new stuff - well, it'd be hard for an infant to hurt themselves on it. And so my son doesn't use it - it's boring. And what I worry about isn't that he's more sedentary (he's taken to climbing the trees in the park, meaning that I keep mineral spirits and tweezers handy); it's that he's losing the opportunity to gain judgment.
We're raising a generation of people who have no clue about how to take care of themselves. They are the couch potatoes of Wall.E (annoying music) brought to flesh.
There's no way that's a good thing. And if it means that my odds of dying are somewhat higher when I'm headed out in my Civic Hybrid, so be it.
This kind of intrusiveness is coming to a kind of crescendo in the UK, where antiterrorist laws are being twisted so they can be used against ... wait for it ... people who throw away too much trash, or make noise and annoy their neighbors.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found that three quarters of local authorities have used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 over the past year.
The Act gives councils the right to place residents and businesses under surveillance, trace telephone and email accounts and even send staff on undercover missions.
Councils are using the Act to tackle dog fouling, the unauthorised sale of pizzas and the abuse of the blue badge scheme for disabled drivers.
Among 115 councils that responded to a Freedom of Information request, 89 admitted that they had instigated investigations under the Act. The 82 councils that provided figures said that they authorised or carried out a total of 867 RIPA investigations during the year to August
Of course, the agencies should be trusted with those powers...
Sir Jeremy Beecham, the acting chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said last night: "Councils are tuned into people's fears about the potential overzealous use of these crime- fighting powers. They know that they're only to be used to tackle residents' complaints about serious offences, like when benefit cheats are robbing hard-working taxpayers or fly-by-night traders are ripping off vulnerable pensioners."
He added: "Councils do not use these powers to mount fishing expeditions. First and foremost it is about protecting the public, not intruding on privacy. Crime-busting powers are targeted at suspected criminals and used only when absolutely necessary."
That kind of thinking, to me, is the all-too-logical extension of Dr. Sepkowitz's thinking.
I have two immediate responses...
What is it? 2009 Cadillac CTS-V
What's special about it?
What's special about it?! Well, how about 550 horsepower? That's pretty special, wouldn't you say?
For those of you who haven't been paying attention for the last 10 minutes or so to the horsepower war raging among carmakers, this 550 hp means the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V's supercharged 6.2-liter V8 makes 43 hp more than the 6.2-liter V8 of the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, 50 hp more than the 5.0-liter V10 of the BMW M5, 130 hp more than the 4.2-liter V8 of the Audi RS4 and a whopping 134 hp more than the 5.0-liter V8 of the Lexus IS-F.
And here's the other:
Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.
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...
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...
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.
“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.
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...
Another party I'm not invited to. And you aren't either: Vlogging fogey lashes out at ur-whippersnapper Ezra Klein, upon learning that Klein has created a private Townhouse-like email group where liberal bloggers and editors hash out issues before they let the public in on the discussion. ... P.S.: Yes, I have private email discussions too, and there are probably some advantages in having these talks in front of a group instead of one-on-one. (If, say, Sidney Blumenthal emails five leftish bloggers privately, all five might think they have an exclusive. If they compare notes, they won't.). But the innovative virtue of Web journalism, I've always thought, is that it makes the back and forth process of argument and investigation relatively transparent to everyone. If the Klein Klub succeeds, isn't there a threat that it will a) compromise independence, in part because participants will always worry if they are using something that should be kept private and will feel they owe the other members; b) will encourage groupthink, as everyone works out the tacit party line before presenting it to their sheeple-like readers; c) encourage propgandism (see (b)); and d) become the place where the real conversation happens, a conversation the non-elite public isn't privy to. ... P.P.S.: Who's in the Klein Klub? Have they published a list of names? The sheeple demand to know at least that! ... P.P.P.S.: Chait, I know you're in it. Who else? ...
Why, you may ask, am I upset that my ideological colleagues are so deeply in the tank? I talked about that a while ago as well...(back in 2005):
For much of my life as a teen and an adult, I've been involved in risky things.
I walked steel while my father built highrises; I've sailed offshore, climbed rock and mountains, raced cars and bicycles (the most dangerous!) and motorcycles. I like doing those things and the people who do those things, in no small part because they have very little bullshit in them.
If you lie to yourself about where you are and what you're doing while sailing a small boat from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you are in a world of trouble. If you lie to yourself while setting protection on a rock face a thousand feet above the ground, you're going to die.
I don't like a lot of what the Republican party has to offer; that's OK, I think we need a national dialog to make good policies. It takes two.
But given that, it may be puzzling to some (hey, JC, how' re you?) why it is that I bash the media for their blind partisanship toward establishment liberalism, instead of cheering them as an ally.
It's because I find myself in a risky place surrounded by people who have lost the ability to tell bullshit from reality. Our party is wounded, leaking ideologically and demographically, and we sit here drinking quack nostrums made from apricot pits and listening to fake spirit mediums tell us everything will be OK because our dead ancestors FDR, JFK, and LBJ are looking over us.
Nope, they are not. So if you want to help Obama win, stop the bullshit and start facing reality.
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...."
"....In Senatus, Obamacles laid beside the reflecting pool while a coterie of Media fed him grapes.
Again the Oracle appeared to him, this time in the form of a bowl of arugula; it said,"You have done well, hale Obamacles, but your torments are not yet complete. The toughest test of all awaits, and may the gods have mercy on your soul."
"Do your worst, arugula," he laughed, "for I am Obamacles,
Lord of Illinus, who single handedly conquered the LSATs
and disarmed the Chicagomon. What task would you possibly fear me with?""You are to led the Demos back to the White Temple, by vanquishing Hildusa."
At the sound of Hildusa's name even brave Obamacles was driven to piss his toga...."
"....All the torments suffered by Obamacles had steeled him for this final epic test.
The cliffs of Demos resounded with the approaching screeches of Hildusa
And her army of soul-eating Morpheons, spinning and faxing and conjuring position papers.
But Obamacles was unmoved, and with his right hand summoned
the Subterranean Creepos of the Nutroots to do his bidding,
Kos and Ariana and Demos Underground.
Hildusa was enraged for she thought them allies, and shot them the stink-eye.
"Destroy Obamacles!" she bellowed at her Eunuchs,
But they were retards and got busted for DUI on the chariot ride over.
Then Obamacles shot the arrow of Iowa across abyss of Dukakis,
striking Hildusa true in her cankles, no more to freeze men to stone,
And all of Demos roared approval."Citizens of Demos," screamed the hobbled gorgon, "fair Obamacles is not what he appears! Look, behind him! A phalanx of Chicagomon, the demons from the pits of Illinus!"
When the Demos people saw the Chicagomon they shrugged,
but Obamacles was taking no chances for the general battle;
He had no more further use for the Chicagomon and thus he summoned
Underbus, the destroyer of memes. One by one he disposed them,
The Jeremiad and Phlegeron and Ayres, all sacrificed to Underbus....
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.
Here's some basic data:
506 unique Obama bundlers
528 unique Kerry bundlers
1094 total bundlers
5.5% pct overlap/total
10.2% pct Kerry that overlaps
10.6% pct Obama that overlaps
725 unique McCain bundlers
432 unique Bush04 bundlers
125 overlaps (not 128 as Valdis found - don't know where his data came from)
1282 total bundlers
9.8% pct overlap/total
22.4% pct Bush04 that overlaps
14.7% pct McCain that overlaps
So roughly twice as many GOP bundlers overlapped from Bush04 to McCain. Draw your own conclusions - I'm not sure what I think of that, and whether it's useful information.
But I'll add to the dataset over the next week and we'll play with it some more.
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 Variety.com: 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.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."
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.
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.
Here's an oped in today's Times from Andy Stern, president of the SEIU:
Recent reports in The Times have raised serious questions about how money from a local chapter may have been misused. The stories accuse Tyrone Freeman, president of Local 6434, of steering payments and contracts to companies owned by his relatives and other financial improprieties.
The SEIU, deeply troubled by these allegations, immediately launched its own investigation, and, within two weeks, Freeman and his field director had gone on leave and the SEIU had taken over running the local union.
At the SEIU, we understand that reform, like charity, must begin at home.
Our unions represent some of the hardest-working men and women in America, workers who sweep floors and empty bedpans for a living wage. The first responsibility of every union official is to do what is right by those who pay dues out of their paychecks every week. When we fail in that obligation, our union loses its moral center and its soul.
Any misuse of member dues calls into question the hard work and reputations of thousands of honest and committed rank-and-file members, stewards, local union leaders and staff. What's more, it hands anti-worker corporations and reform opponents the ammunition they need to defeat workers trying to organize and win fair contracts.
I'm at the head of the line when it comes to kicking the Times for its failings, let me be similarly aggressive about cheering them for a success.
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.
After months of accusations of political bias and simmering animosity between MSNBC and its parent network NBC, the channel decided over the weekend that the NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host David Gregory would anchor news coverage of the coming debates and election night. Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews will remain as analysts during the coverage.
The change - which comes in the home stretch of the long election cycle - is a direct result of tensions associated with the channel’s perceived shift to the political left.
"The most disappointing shift is to see the partisan attitude move from prime time into what’s supposed to be straight news programming," said Davidson Goldin, formerly the editorial director of MSNBC and a co-founder of the reputation management firm DolceGoldin.
As Rasmussen notes, the media is getting hammered by the public because of the perception that they are in the tank politically.
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."
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.
Palin's speech to the GOP National Convention on Wednesday has set it up so that the Republicans are now on offense and Democrats are on defense. And we don't do well on defense.
Suddenly, Palin and John McCain are the mavericks and Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the status quo, in a year when you don't want to be seen as defending the status quo.
From taxes to oil drilling, Democrats are now going to have to start explaining their positions.
Whenever you start having to explain things, you're on defense.
I used to go watch him at the Alameda County Labor Council's BBQ, where he once finished his speech by exhorting the whole crowd to put their hands up in the air. Then he told them to reach down and take out their wallets. Then to told them to take the wallet from the person on the right, take out a bill, and pass it out to be collected.
I thought it was a brilliant piece of stagecraft. My GOP friends thought it perfectly summed up Democratic political philosophy.
BTW, in his column today, he slags my old town, Oakland:
By the way, there's a new dining tip for people going out in Oakland.
Be sure to order soup.
That way when the robbery starts, you can slip off your jewelry and drop it into soup so the robbers won't see it.
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'.
I downloaded data of the top bundlers of donations for the 2000 and 2004 Bush campaigns and the 2008 McCain campaign. What's the overlap of donors between the Bush and McCain campaigns? Will the same people influence both campaigns/administrations? Or will it be starkly different groups? Or something in between?
Below is a map of those who donated to BOTH Bush and McCain. The campaigns are shown as the two red nodes on the left of the map. The green links show donations coming into the McCain 2008 campaign. The blue lines show donations coming into the Bush campaigns of 2000 and 2004. The 128 bundlers, who have contributed to both McCain and Bush, are shown in the arc on the right.
A nice graphic follows, and then the conclusion:
Most of McCain's 534 large bundled donations [76%] came from donors who did not donate to either of the Bush campaigns. Yet, this kernel of 128 bundlers keeps consistency across all three Republican campaigns in the 21st century.
The Gang of 128 may not allow McCain to wander too far from the current philosophy and approach. If elected, McCain may be different than Bush, but he might not be that different.
Even smart people can be stupid sometimes, and even people who do social network data representation and analysis for a living can be misleading.
So, instead of showing the complete network of bundlers, and highlighting the overlap, Valdis shows only the overlaps - strengthening the conclusion that McCain's campaign is 'more of the same'.
Instead of looking at the amounts, and giving some idea of how much money the overlap represents - we get nothing.
And, finally, it would be useful to see how many of the bundlers were also bundling for the other side - as a not-insignificant number of them do.
I love this kind of data analysis, and get pissed off when it's been done badly. As in this case.
If I get some time this week, I'll play with this - in fact, let's make it a group project. Can some of you help out by downloading the bundler database from, say Public Citizen into a csv table and sending it my way?
I'd love to get data from this cycle and '04, for McCain, Bush, Obama, and Kerry...we can look at the overlaps and relative amounts. Any other analysis ideas?
"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."
Seriously - and I mean this seriously, as someone who wants Obama to win - how do we get him to drop Biden for Hillary?
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.
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...
The 2 Approaches
Ultimately, there are only 2 approaches when one is faced by a larger neighbor or Great Power at one's doorstep, with designs on one's territory or regime.
Option #1 is acquiescence to its policy demands. Libya is a good modern example of how that doesn't always come out badly. They came clean on a nuclear/biochemical WMD program that was further along than the CIA thought, dismantled it transparently, and openly addressed their previous involvement in terrorist acts. Response: growing integration into the international community, regime still in power - probably with a big infusion of new French military equipment pretty soon.
If the Great Power is inflexibly predatory, however, as China was with Tibet and Russia has been with Georgia, we come to option #2: making it too expensive for the Great Power or hostile neighbour to force the issue. In other words, deterrence.
Diplomacy is a viable tool in this regard. Mongolia, for instance, is fated to balance perilously between Russia and China. As the threat from one grows, its best hope is usually to tilt toward the other and hope to play them off. Robert Kaplan's excellent book Imperial Grunts has a whole chapter on American efforts in Mongolia. The USA acknowledges the reality that America can't save Mongolia if it comes to that. So they work to make the Mongolians more capable on their own, while improving ties with other nations via participation in UN peacekeeping missions et. al. That's certainly no guarantee, as Georgia demonstrates, but better something than nothing.
Note, however, that the tools for option 2 are weighed as (capability x likelihood of capability being used). Which is why Yushchenko's assessment is an absolute killer for the UN or OECD as a solution to any serious security issue. Likelihood of effective response approaches zero. Likelihood of their effectiveness for anything involving Russia? Zero. And any number times zero is... that's right, zero.
Might as well just admit this up front. Even as we admit that there are no guarantees in international relations.
Incidentally, that lack of guarantees is why "prevention" as a geopolitical doctrine is a simple impossibility. At some point, in some places, prevention will always fail or break down. What then?
This leads us to Max Boot's point re: defense expenditures. Singapore, which rightly distrusts its neighbours, spends about 5-6% of GDP on defense as a matter of policy, and uses a total mobilization concept as the core of its defense organization. So, too, do the Israelis. Switzerland spends less on defense these days, but keeps the total mobilization concept. Finland employed a similar model when it bloodied the Soviet Union so badly in the early days of World War 2 that the Russians decided to settle for a lot less (vid. the term "Finlandization"), declare victory, and leave.
There are, of course, no guarantees here. It takes only one to start a fight, and war is a chancy business. Conventional wars are won in part by smart planning, acquisition, and training, but they also frequently turn on chance and unforseen circumstances.
Those include personalities, which can vary in ruthlessness and determination. Joe Stalin takes a back seat to no-one in that area, but a million or so Russian casualties in Finland gave even Stalin pause. Not that he really cared about a million lives; he killed 20-30 times that many. But he did have all those other countries he had seized during the war. Finland could not be allowed to become a potential problem that would tie up so many Russian troops in perpetuity, and perhaps serve as an example to others. The Finns had raised the stakes high enough to give themselves more options.
On the flip side, Poland had tried the same thing, from a weaker position. Soviet treachery during the Warsaw Uprising, and massacres of Poles in the Katyn Forest, left the country with little will to resist, and no successes to hang on to. As a result, it was treated like the other East Bloc acquisitions. It would be almost 30 years before Lech Walesa's Solidarnosc organization and a Polish Pope could fan those flames again, under more fortunate external circumstances.
On the asymmetric side, guerilla insurgencies often fail, despite the romanticism and myth associated with them - unless strongly backed by a capable outside power. And even that offers no guarantees.
Despite the best co-belligerent efforts of Islamists and the Left on various fronts of the war, for instance, America is now close to victory in Iraq. In large part, this is thanks to its Islamist opponents' essential barbarism. It also stems from the American military's growing understanding that the real terrain it was fighting on was social networks in a pervasively armed society. America also won in the Philippines, the British won in Malaysia and Oman, et cetera. Despite American efforts, the Sandinistas weren't really losing their grip in Nicaragua until their backer the Soviet Union collapsed. Et cetera.
Russia's victory in Chechnya, in contrast, stemmed from a extremely brutal approach of scorched earth tactics and assassination squads. Russia has used these tactics before, during the Basmachi revolts in Central Asia in the 1920. They worked then, and the just worked again. In between, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles probably did more than anything else to derail a similar campaign that was succeeding in Afghanistan. As part of a more strictly internal campaign, Guatemala has won with the same kinds of tactics during the 1970s and 1980s. Nor are they alone in doing so successfully.
As I say, insurgencies can fail. Sometimes, they fail for internal reasons. Sometimes, the other side is simply ruthless and determined enough to crush them.
I keep hammering on this, because so few people understand it. There are no guarantees in the field of human conflict. Only a set of fuzzy "Schrodinger's percentages" that live within broad limits, and truly coalesce only when put to a test.
Defense and the Economy
Not that plans for guerilla warfare are useless. Pre-planning for a total mobilization concept can indeed raise the stakes. Max Boot's suggestion re: having lots of anti-tank rockets and portable anti-air missiles in Russia's neighbors would indeed increase the danger factor for Putin, by creating a pool of sophisticated weapons that could be taken and used in a crisis. Stocking them is also relatively cheap, so it's possible to increase a country's deterrent capability with a quick jump.
Boot is not wrong, therefore; but he isn't wholly right, either.
Shoulder-fired rockets and missiles are not sufficient on their own. For instance, Russian armies have always put a lot of emphasis on artillery, and it isn't the modern American approach of "GMLRS rocket fired from 50 miles away takes out an al-Qaeda safe house, while leaving its next-door neighbours standing." It's more like the rolling carpet/ corridor clearance approach used in Grozny, and by the Americans themselves during urban fighting in World War 2. Unlike Afghanistan, many of Russia's neighbours have terrain that's well suited to this approach.
Solutions to that kind of problem tend to involve alliances, necessarily backed by more conventional forms of local military power. Buying that backup requires money.
This was a problem for Finland in 1939, whose troops referred to their obsolete equipment as "Model Cajander" after the idiot Prime Mister who cut military funding in the 1930s. Fortunately, they could all ski cross-country, and had the option of sucking in their enemy and attacking during the winter snows. But their "Winter War" was a full conventional army battle with a lot of commando-style operations, not an insurgency.
Right now, Boot points out that Bulgaria is one of just 4 NATO states with GDP% defense expenditures over 2% (USA near 4%, Britain and France near 2.5%, Bulgaria just above 2%). Most of western Europe is near or below 1%, actually, while Eastern Europe is usually in the 1.5-2% region.
Clearly, that won't build a deterrent. Problem is, if you're Bulgaria, even 4% would be limited in terms of what it buys. Would it help? Yes. 10 years from now? Well, it depends. To create credible deterrents for the long term, these countries need money in their economies, as well as a higher budgetary priority for defense.
That's true now. It will become more true later.
The Future Threat
Russia under Putin is and will be a predator state. Period. The bad news is, its combination of resources and successful leverage in its own geographic back-yard means it's going to have lots more money to spend on weapons and other tools of predation.
The good news is that it has a whole arms industry to rebuild first, because it lost almost all of its engineers in the 1990s collapse. Once orders go away, people find new jobs, and you rarely get them back later. Especially since oil & gas are more attractive careers for Russian engineers these days. But Czar Putin I intends to rebuild that industry over the next decade, in a country where his intention is effectively law. He will do so, and the budgets to catalyze and take advantage of that rebuilding are beginning already.
For Eastern Europe, therefore, and for larger Central Asian neighbours like Kazakhstan, growing their economies must also be a long term priority, so that they'll still be able to keep pace a decade from now.
Personally, I thought that given their history with Russia, the Ukranians were crazy to give up the nuclear weapons on their territory after the USSR collapsed. That would have been the complete equalizer, right there. But they did it, and it's water under the bridge. Mr. Yushchenko will have to do this the hard way instead. If he can.
If I was the Ukraine, I'd definitely be looking at boosting the defense budget right now, especially around the anti-tank and anti-air missiles their Soviet legacy industries already make. I'd also diversify my foreign suppliers with a particular focus on finding some Turkish firms and partnerships to deal with, and make separate deals that would add modern diesel-electric submarines with ship-killing missiles as an asymmetric conventional threat.
Longer term, however, Ukraine's prosperity requires integration into Europe's industrial and agricultural markets. If you've ever seen pictures, you'll understand why the Ukraine has been Europe's bread basket for centuries - and also how hard Stalin must have worked to starve 6-7 million Ukranians, while the NY Times covered it up. That trade income will be needed to keep pace with a resource-rich Russia, and ensure Ukranian independence over the long haul.
So, yes, spend some more on defense, as Max Boot suggests, and make the case to your people as to why. After all, "Model Cajander" stuff won't cut it when push comes to shove, just as the UN and lies about a mythical "international community" will provide zero protection against Russia.
Even so, Viktor Yuschenko's most important initiative for the Ukraine may not be NATO membership (which looks very doubtful) - but EU membership. In his case, it's also (to quote James Carville) "the economy, stupid".
Which is why American policies that recognize this element via bilateral free trade agreements with countries like Poland, the Ukraine, et. al. are just as important as any military aid or equipment we may choose to send.
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.
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.
The informal prohibition, which had been occasionally threatened by political ads in recent years, was pronounced dead at approximately 7:40 CST, when a video aired before delegates at the Republican National Convention included slow-motion footage of a plane striking the World Trade Center, the towers' subsequent collapse, and smoke emerging from the Pentagon.
The September 11 precedent was one of the few surviving campaign-season taboos. It is survived by direct comparisons of one's opponents to Hitler.
Josh Marshall, 2004...
Now, I have a degree of ambivalence about this question of media coverage of the fallen soldiers coming back to Dover. For many opponents of the war there is an unmistakable interest in getting these photographs before the public in order to weaken support for the war. There's no getting around that. I don't mean to imply that most who want these pictures out believe that, or even that that's an illegitimate goal. And there's a long record of governments managing bad news during wartime to keep up civilian morale.
But one needn't oppose the war to find something morally unseemly about the strict enforcement of the regulations barring any images of the reality behind these numbers we keep hearing on TV. There is some problem of accountability here, of putting on airs of national sacrifice and not having the courage to risk the real thing, some dark echo of the Rumsfeldian penchant for 4th generation, high-tech warfare where data transfers and throw weights replace bodies at every level.
I've never understood how one thing could be OK and the other not...but maybe I'm dense that way.
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.
She's obviously smart, funny, and a damn good speaker (admit it - you all had glimpses of 'Fargo' there for a minute or two, didn't you?).
But she had a chance to both lock down the base and change the game and she didn't pick it up. How?
But appealing more specifically to the moderate/populist group who don't agree with her deeply conservative views. How?
Make the point about her beliefs, and ask the rest of us to join her in breaking the iron rice bowl that has made the government in Washington 'their government' and not 'our government'. She could have stood up for her conservativism and at the same time welcomed everyone who thinks that we need to move the dials in Washington. She could be a conservative reformer, not a reform-minded conservative.
There are groups out there that could be tapped like North Shore oil...they aren't all conservative, but they are all pretty disgusted. From what I see of her resume, she could have claimed them as her primary tribe. She didn't.
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...
If you can pull off a compelling comic like this, which explains your new product's key features and why they matter, you know you have a winner, and everyone groks why the goals matter as development proceeds. If your new product or iteration looks dumb or ineffectual in the comic, doesn't have a compelling rationale, and doesn't explain (as Google's does) how it leverages the company's existing strengths, it's probably time to back to the drawing board.
It would be a great test for any would-be product team to put themselves through. And besides, deep down inside, don't we all know that a comic is really the perfect briefing medium for executives?
UPDATE: lurker makes a good catch re: data rights in Chrome. Read the fine print, indeed.
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.
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.
McCain is what he has always been, and this time it was the making of him rather than the breaking of him. But politics is about many things, and one is clash. A truly gifted politician must also be able to define their party, and their opponents, and contrast the two effectively. It's hard to do without turning independents off, but the best can do this well.
Reagan was a master. So was FDR. Obama has a lot of ability in this era, and it's a real service to his party. McCain isn't very good at it. Really, the entire GOP has been badly lacking in this area for years. It has hurt them - and worse, I hadn't seen much talent on the horizon.
What Palin's speech at the convention just demonstrated is that she has this gift. Jack Wheeler called her personality "Fire and Nice" - "Sarah Barracuda" to her teammates on the basketball court for her killer instinct, and also Miss Congeniality when she won the local beauty contest. You just saw "fire and nice." In spades.
McCain's lack of this same "define the clash" gift makes it hard for him to really go after Obama. He hasn't been good at it, even though his opponent offers 9 ways to Sunday for interested parties. Palin, on the other hand, showed that she can definitely pin the tail on the donkey. Taking on the other party's Presidential candidate is going to be her job in this campaign, even as she appeals to demographics her party would like to strengthen. Her speech showed that. Biden is the same pattern, on both counts.
As a sidebar, anyone who doesn't think Palin's "small town gal" style can work these days... please call a Canadian named Jean Chretien, a.k.a. "the little guy from Shawinigan." If you're American, it would be polite to remember that former Prime Ministers have the title "The Right Honourable" placed before their names.
In this American election, the Presidential candidates seem to be fixed positions that stand for overarching concepts. The Veeps are the mobile element - the queen chess piece to the candidates' king. The other night, a queen piece was revealed, and showed that she had come to play.
I was confident that she would, though the magnitude of it surprised me a little. Which is why I said earlier that I was looking forward to the VP debates, rather than the Presidential tilts, in this election.
Now that Palin has showed us that she can do clash effectively, I'm even more interested.
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.
He called Palin "a poster child for the Evangelical Right," but said that "frankly most Alaskans don't even care" about that stuff, and at any rate, a McCain/Palin White House wouldn't deliver whatever it is the Religious Right wants. More excerpts from our conversation:
Q: So libertarian-minded people should be fine with that, right?
A: Let me tell you all the nice things about Sarah Palin: Sarah Palin has been a pretty freaking awesome governor. She came in saying that the entire system was corrupt, and that Republicans were evil, and she was going to just mix everything up and get us a gas pipeline and end of story. And she got to power, she was elected overwhelmingly by independents, beat Tony Knowles, who had been governor before.
The Republicans hate her. If you go and talk to the Alaska delegation here, they despise her.
A: Hate her. Oh my god! This whole thing about her retarded son really being her daughter's was started by Lyda Green, who is president of the senate, a Republican. [...]
She gave a two-finger salute to Conoco Phllips and Exxon Mobile, raised their taxes on their oil, put in place a transparent way to bid for the seed money and the licenses to finally, finally, put in a natural gas pipeline in Alaska. And it was won by a Canadian company. And she went to the mat and made it happen. She has been systematically pulling the drilling licenses of Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobile for areas that they haven't touched. I mean, they've been hoarding reserves, and she says, you know, use it or lose it, and she has been sending the attorney general time after time to revoke these things. It's absolutely fascinating.