Voters strongly oppose five special election measures being sold as a budget-reform elixir for California's burgeoning $40 billion deficit.
But voters in a new Field Poll overwhelmingly support a measure to bar legislators and state officers from getting a pay raise when there is a budget deficit.
And with heightened surliness, they're telling Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature that they're fed up with more government spending and higher taxes.
Forget Arlen Specter. The most important political message of this season is going to come out of California in three weeks....which could be true. Or not.
But it's worse than that. The measure would actually deepen California's budget woes. It would require that money be stashed away in a rainy-day fund even though the state is already pulling in less money each year than it spends. That's a little like telling a family facing foreclosure that they're not putting enough money away in their 401(k) account. Even in tough budget years, it would force additional cuts of more than $1 billion -- an amount equal to about one-third of the University of California system's budget.Phil is unhappy that a minority of legislators can keep the state unions from just driving up to the state treasury...
Proposition 1A would squeeze spending on crucial investments in colleges and healthcare, and it would prevent the state from restoring needed programs as the economy rebounds. It also would lock confusing, complicated, autopilot budget language into the state Constitution -- making it harder, not easier, to adopt common-sense budgets. With complex formulas and linear regression models cemented into law, the already daunting task of budgeting would be that much harder.
Perhaps the greatest damage of Proposition 1A is that, by once again making a false promise to the people of California, it further erodes the trust necessary to achieve the two real changes needed to solve California's budget woes: replacing the requirement that budgets be passed by a two-thirds majority with a simple majority vote to end the tyranny of an extreme, ideological minority, and actually adopting a balanced budget that meets California's 21st century needs.
For more than 40 years, a 25% tariff has kept out foreign-built pickup trucks even as a studied loophole was created in fuel-economy regulations to let the Big Three develop a lucrative, protected niche in the "passenger truck" business.And that point - that the issue isn't too much regulation or too little regulation, but regulation that is captured by and for the regulated - is something we ought to be damn thoughtful about as we contemplate an immense expansion of regulatory authority in this country.
This became the long-running unwritten deal. This was Washington's real auto policy.
For three decades, the Big Three were able to survive precisely because they skimped on quality and features in the money-losing sedans they were required under Congress's fuel economy rules to build in high-cost UAW factories. In return, Washington compensated them with the hothouse, politically protected opportunity to profit from pickups and SUVs.
Pale Fire is a Jack-in-the-box, a Faberge gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem, an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game, a do-it-yourself novel. It consists of a 999-line poem of four cantos in heroic couplets together with an editor's preface, notes, index, and proof-corrections. When the separate parts are assembled, according to the manufacturer's directions, and fitted together with the help of clues and cross-references, which must be hunted down as in a paper-chase, a novel on several levels is revealed, and these "levels" are not the customary "levels of meaning" of modernist criticism but planes in a fictive space, rather like those houses of memory in medieval mnemonic science, where words, facts, and numbers were stored till wanted in various rooms and attics, or like the Houses of astrology into which the heavens are divided....read the whole thing, and then go buy the book.
The biggest loser at the United Nations Durban Review Conference on “racism” this week in Geneva was the United Nations itself. The United States unfairly got a lot of bad press and bad marks for walking out of the first UN “World Conference Against Racism” in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, even though that conference was little more than an anti-Semitic and anti-American hate festival. The media did a much better job this time around, though, as did the genuine anti-racist activists who showed up to protest. Those vilified by “Durban I” turned out to be the heroes of “Durban II.”
Most of the press coverage this week was appropriately critical. And few have done as outstanding a job covering the affair as Zvika Krieger in the New Republic. Every one of his dispatches from Geneva deserves a wide audience.
First he reminds us just how viciously bigoted the 2001 Durban conference was. “Jewish activists were harassed, abused, physically intimidated, taunted, and followed throughout the week,” he wrote. “Anyone who tried to object to the Israel hate-fest was booed off the stage with shouts of ‘Jew, Jew, Jew.’ The conference hall was overflowing with copies of ‘The Protocols of The Elders of Zion’ and pamphlets featuring pictures of Jews with long hooked noses and evil smiles, their serpent fangs soaked in blood and their military uniforms decorated with swastikas.”
Those singled out for the two-minute hate were vastly outnumbered by the hysterical bigots who set the tone in South Africa. This time, though, in Geneva, the bullies were on the defensive. “Unlike the scenes at Durban I,” he reported, “of Jewish students being swallowed by hordes of Israel haters, outnumbered 50-to-1, here in Geneva, I’ve witnessed dozens of debates between handfuls of pro-Israel activists evenly matched with their foes.”
Americans weren’t happy about the anti-American obscenities at “Durban I,” but at least “American” isn’t a race. Jews had even more reasons to be appalled at what happened. When the organizers of an “anti-racist” conference spend most of their energy denouncing and menacing Jews and Israelis, something has gone terribly wrong. Anti-Durban activists had years to prepare for this week’s sequel in Geneva, though, and it showed.
“It is hard to exaggerate how palpable the Jewish presence is here,” Krieger wrote. “The Jewish community of Geneva staged a massive Holocaust memorial (featuring Elie Wiesel) last night on the steps of the UN headquarters right outside the conference, and Jewish groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center are organizing panels on anti-Semitism inside the conference building under auspices of the UN. Roaming the halls of the UN building, I’ve heard way more Hebrew than Arabic. When the Jewish community’s security force prevented the Jewish students from leaving the ‘Jewish Welcome Center’ because of a minor pro-Palestinian rally outside, the students balked at the ridiculousness of any security threat against them here — a stark contrast to the physical violence encountered by Jewish students in 2001.”
The first Durban conference was an anti-Semitic zoo. Take a look at the photo of a poster, reading that it would have been a “good thing” if Adolf Hitler had won World War II because there would be “no Israel.” Switzerland may be geopolitically neutral in many ways, but Geneva was in no mood this week to tolerate that kind of garbage at a conference it hosted. Krieger says a zero-tolerance policy against anti-Semitic propaganda appeared to be in place, and the small number of anti-Semitic demonstrators he did see were kicked out by security guards."
Marc wrote in the other day in "Presidential Decisionmaking and Error" that someone he trusted gave him information about the Somali hostage resolution, and that the information did not make Obama look good. Wonder if it was anything like this?
"Having spoken to some SEAL pals here in Virginia Beach yesterday and asking why this thing dragged out for 4 days, I got the following:
1. BHO wouldn't authorize the DEVGRU/NSWC SEAL teams to the scene for 36 hours going against OSC (on scene commander) recommendation.
2. Once they arrived, BHO imposed restrictions on their ROE that they couldn't do anything unless the hostage's life was in "imminent" danger
3. The first time the hostage jumped, the SEALS had the raggies all sighted in, but could not fire due to ROE restriction
4. When the navy RIB came under fire as it approached with supplies, no fire was returned due to ROE restrictions. As the raggies were shooting at the RIB, they were exposed and the SEALS had them all dialed in.
5. BHO specifically denied two rescue plans developed by the Bainbridge CPN and SEAL teams
6. Bainbridge CPN and SEAL team CDR finally decide they have the OpArea and OSC authority to solely determine risk to hostage. 4 hours later, 3 dead raggies
7. BHO immediately claims credit for his "daring and decisive" behaviour. As usual with him, it's BS."
That's rumor, but it definitely sounds like our boy... and it matches with the New York Times report:
"The Defense Department twice sought Mr. Obama's permission to use force to rescue Captain Phillips, most recently on Friday night, senior defense officials said. On Saturday morning, the president agreed, they said, if it appeared that the captain's life was in imminent danger."
Which prompted me to ask "Why twice? And why the condition?"
Which, it seems, were very reasonable questions. Marc, is that what you heard?
The ongoing failure of Pakistan's government continues to gather steam, and al-Qaeda continues to advance. TIME Magazine:
"The move by Taliban-backed militants into the Buner district of northwestern Pakistan, closer than ever to Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, have prompted concerns both within the country and abroad that the nuclear-armed nation of 165 million is on the verge of inexorable collapse. On Wednesday a local Taliban militia crossed from the Swat Valley - where a February cease-fire allowed the implementation of strict Islamic, or Shari'a, law - into the neighboring Buner district, which is just a few hours drive from Islamabad (65 miles, separated by a mountain range, as the crow flies)....
Meanwhile courts throughout the Malakand division, of which Swat and Buner are a part, have closed in deference to the new agreement calling for the implementation Shari'a, law. "If the Taliban continue to move at this pace they will soon be knocking at the doors of Islamabad," Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of one of the country's Islamic political parties, warned in Parliament Wednesday. Rehman said the Margalla Hills, a small mountain range north of the capital that separates it from Buner, appears to be "the only hurdle in their march toward the federal capital," The only solution, he said, was for the entire nation to accept Shari'a law in order to deprive the Taliban of their principal cause."
Nicole Ferand of the American Center for Security Policy offers a dissection of the recent Fujimori "trial," which appears to be the pursuit of civil war by other means:
"Last week, on April 7th 2009, former Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimori, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for "ordering two (2) massacres" that left twenty five (25) people dead during his time in office from 1990 until 2000.  None of the trial's eighty (80) witnesses could implicate Fujimori of ordering any killings, kidnappings or disappearances. This was in spite of being constantly intimidated and pressured to do so by the prosecutors and even the judges, who offered to lessen their time in jail if they accused the former leader. These individuals simply could not; one after the other, even the star witnesses of the prosecution, the members of 'Grupo Colina'  who allegedly carried out the 'murders,' emphatically denied that Fujimori ordered them to carry out these actions; in fact they declared they never even met him. According to a recent opinion poll, two thirds of the population says that Fujimori was found guilty without any poof or evidence and local opinion leaders, experts and lawyers agree.
According to most legal experts, Fujimori was convicted even before he set foot in the courtroom..."
The likely outcome is that it will turn the upcoming election into a referendum on Fujimori. That may not lead to the political outcome that the judges are rooting for. It's a good example of where full politicization of the judiciary leads, at least in the initial stages.
It won't stop there, however. Ultimately, if the judiciary is used to enact a form of civil war by other means, the political consequence is that the civil war soon comes back to them; indeed, they become both targets in any shooting war, and an incitement to continuing shooting civil wars once they start. Once compromise and settlement are seen as just a tactical phase on the way to judicial with-hunts, any negotiated settlement short of one side's surrender becomes impermanent - and hence impossible. The longer-term fallout here will be worth watching.
...Ammo makers, too, know with fair certainty how much they're going to sell to the wholesalers during that period, and sign contracts for the purchase of sufficient components to produce those products. They don't typically keep large stores of components on hand, as standing inventory is expensive, so components are delivered on a "just in time" basis.Read the whole thing, as they say...his final paragraph is worth noting as well:
The suppliers of those components do the same thing with raw materials; again, ammunition is a stable business, which allows them to forecast with pretty good accuracy the stuff they need to make the components they sell. This pattern repeats itself on up the chain, all the way to the people who mine the stuff necessary to make a single cartridge.
Along comes a huge, sudden spike in demand. Retailers all over the country are suddenly swamped with ammunition purchases, and quickly call their suppliers to get more. The first few calls are rewarded with replacement stock, but soon the wholesaler's shelves are bare too - their entire year allotment of ammunition is gone in just a few days.
The supply chain is simply empty, all the way up to the people who mine the raw materials. It's going to take time to replace all the links in that chain, and it's not because of the war in Iraq/Afghanistan, The Joos, FEMA, the CIA, a secret agreement to implement gun control through ammo availability, or any other silly theory you may have heard. This is a textbook example of what happens when an inelastic supply chain, composed with scarce "just in time" inventories, meets insatiable demand. It's not sexy or intriguing, but that's the way it is.Or if two of the big container ports were closed for two months...
You know what's scarier? Your food comes to you the same way. Imagine what would happen if...
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a blistering tirade against Israel on Monday at the supposedly “anti-racist” Durban II conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and dozens of national delegates from Europe walked out in disgust. The sheer number of people who refused to sit there and listen to him must be seen to be believed. His bad reception didn’t end there. Hundreds of protesters followed him as he delivered a press conference and shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as they held up signs reminding all who could see them that Iran funds Hamas and Hezbollah.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Ahmadinejad’s remarks were appalling. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a man hardly known as a defender of Israel, said “I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite.” Delegates from the Czech Republic didn’t only storm out. They refused to come back and listen to any other tyrant who came to Europe to lecture his betters.
Everyone who walked out on camera was right to do so. Most, if not all, were from Europe. It’s strange, then, that a European country is hosting this hate-fest in the first place. They had no reason to expect anything different. This second “Durban” conference held in Geneva is just a rerun of the first one held in Durban, South Africa, which also was little more than a bigoted group-scream against Israel and the United States. It was obvious years ago when the conference was planned what would be on the agenda. A representative from Libya, one of the most brutally oppressive countries on earth, was chairman of the preparatory committee. Its vice chairman included representatives from Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia. None of these countries can teach Western democracies about racism or human rights. The Obama administration was right to boycott this fiasco before it even began.
Surely European countries that sent delegates knew well in advance what they were getting themselves into. Perhaps they even planned to walk out in advance. Even so, allowing a belligerent bigot to deliver a speech at an anti-racist conference is offensive to decent human beings everywhere. Among other things, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust even happened – a crime in Germany. Would Europe send delegates to an “anti-racism” conference if the head of the Aryan Nations was giving a speech? And what if Slobodan Milosevic was still alive and ruler of Serbia? Would they agree to show up and listen to even the first two minutes of what he’d have to say?
I suspect most of you have seen this already. If not, do yourselves a favor. Visit this YouTube page, and watch an unemployed, 47 year old spinster walk on a Britain's equivalent of American Idol... and just blow the effing house down.
Thanks to the Internet, this was the viral equivalent of a tsunami. Follow-on TV appearances have been frequent, she may be about to record a duet with her singing idol Elaine Page (who was impressed), and it seems like she won't have to be looking for a job any time, well, ever again. The only shame in all of this is that she's been singing in her village, recording local charity albums (listen to "Cry Me A River" from 1998), rather than being on stage in London's East End for the last 20 or more years. Where she belongs. The good news is, some of the people in her village think that what you just saw on "Britain's Got Talent" wasn't even her best singing. Um, wow.
It's a great story. I love the fact that she sang a stage tune to do it. And I love it that someone with that level of talent was able to walk on, demonstrate it, and let that trump everything else. She didn't win a sympathy vote. She's just that good, and she'll rise as high as her talent lets her. To me, that's what it's all about.
Incidentally, 2007's winner was a guy named Paul Potts, now a multi-millionaire who's touring the world. He was a 41-year old mobile phone salesman, who remembers being beaten up at school every day until he was 18. That was excellent training for his subsequent dissertation on the problem of evil and suffering in a God-created world - and for his life's ambition, which was to become an opera singer....
Listen to his walk-on audition, for an extra treat. My wife, who is an opera fan with a pretty good ear, was very impressed. You will be, too.
Opera. He went out and sang "Nessun Dorma" - and won an "American Idol" equivalent. I love it. He went on to perform before the Queen, of course:
"Well, what did you expect from opera... a happy ending?!?"
Sometimes, even operas have a happy ending. May the best contestant win.
There's no dispute that thousands of handguns, military style rifles and other firearms are purchased in the U.S. and end up in the hands of Mexican criminals each year. It's relatively easy to buy such guns legally in Texas and other border states and to smuggle them across.Then, on my Blackberry, I read this in the LA Times opinion section:
But is it true as President Obama said, that "More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States?" No, it's not.
Imagine, for a moment, that a drug war in the United States had claimed 10,000 American lives in a little more than two years, and that about 90% of the 16,000 military-style assault weapons captured from traffickers here were traced to gun dealers in Mexico. What would the reaction of the U.S. government be? And how would we respond if the president of Mexico, having campaigned on a platform to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, acknowledged that it would be too politically difficult to take on the gun enthusiasts?
On his recently concluded first visit to Mexico as president, a week after telling Europeans that his country had been at times arrogant, President Barack Obama blamed his own country for providing 90% of Mexico's recovered crime guns.Now on one hand, none of the many layers of editors managing LA Times quality knows how to use Google. On the other, someone at the LA Times does, but doesn't read their own editorial pages.
According to a report by the independent FactCheck.org this afternoon, that's incorrect. By a, uh, long shot.
The president's assertion, also cited by Mexican President Felipe Calderon during their joint news conference in Mexico City, and the reported inaccuracy seems likely to fuel the eternal American gun-control debate, especially as it relates to the U.S. role in Mexico's deadly drug world.
From the Globe and Mail. Res ipsa loquitur:
"Police say a Toronto man is facing charges of illegally trying to export nuclear technology following a joint Canada-U.S. investigation. In a release, the RCMP allege the man tried to procure and export pressure transducers, which are used in the production of enriched uranium. The transducers have a legitimate commercial use, say the RCMP, but can also be used for military purposes. Police allege the man took steps to conceal the identification of the transducers so he could export them without export permits.
Mahmoud Yadegari is in custody awaiting a bail hearing on charges under the Customs Act and Export Import Permits Act, and police say further charges may follow. The charges follow an investigation by the RCMP, customs agents, The Dept. of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security."
With debt in the USA quickly headed for unsustainable levels, the signs I'm seeing point to Carter-era stagflation as our next economic stop. Now throw in this Bloomberg report:
"After already more than doubling its balance sheet to $2.1 trillion [from about $800 billion], the Fed has pledged to buy $1.25 trillion of mortgage-debt and $300 billion of Treasuries, and finance a $1 trillion consumer-loan program."
This is another bubble in the making, folks - a federal debt and obligations bubble. It was been building for some time thanks to off-balance sheet obligations, and some are now coming home to roost. Even as other items are being piled on. The rocket-powered boosts that bubble has received lately, ups the risk that significant creditors are going to start balking in various ways. The "global reserve currency" rumblings from China are tremor #1.
Ultimately, the choices start to line up between "impose punishing long-term obligations to pay and service this debt," or "inflate it away, and make everyone's dollars worth less." Including yours, of course. Now and Futures has a bunch of useful overall charts that illustrate our slightly bumpy but fairly certain path toward significant inflation. Along with a cogent argument that the rejiggered post-Boskin report CPI index significantly undercounts inflation over the past few years, in terms of most peoples' day-to-day experience and expenses.
How far can this go? My confidence in the sooper-geniuses who brought us to this point, and are now being depended on to get us out, is not wildly high. The good news is that systems tend to have some level of self-regulation, even if it isn't that obvious. But an online historical study has shaken some of my confidence in a couple of key assumptions. It's worth reading...
If you want to peek into the abyss of hyperinflation, there are certainly South American examples like Argentina and Brazil. But the definitive economic cases are European - Germany, Austria, and Hungary during the 1920s, when people took wheelbarrows of bank notes to buy a loaf of bread. Staring down the daily devolutions in those examples is instructive.
"When Money Dies: The Nightmare of the Weimar Collapse" is now available online, for free, which a lot less than Amazon will charge. It's an interesting book, for a lot of reasons.
Instead of dry economics, it offers snapshots of daily life as inflation destroys peoples' savings, and then their daily lives, and finally their livelihood. The accounts include significant excerpts from British Foreign Office records and reports, with a few appearances by Ernest Hemmingway (who wrote for the Toronto Daily Star!).
If nothing else, reading it will help make some of the events in the 1930s make a lot more sense. Madness, it was - but not madness without antecedent.
The other thing that makes it interesting is the very quality that makes it so thriller-like. Every time you think it can't get worse, every time you think that the effects should finally be obvious, the widely-respected "smart people" in charge plunge in deeper, and make things worse. All without serious examination by mainstream opinion, no matter how low things go. After a while, it's like a firestorm, unstoppable by any internal force, and spent only when it runs out of fuel (i.e. willing and coerced creditors). As the book's final pages note:
"Much as it may have been recognised that stability would have to be arranged some day, and that the greater the delay the harder it would be, there never seemed to be a good time to invite trouble of that order.... The conflicting objectives of avoiding unemployment and avoiding insolvency ceased at last to conflict when Germany had both.... The take-off point in the inflationary progress, after which the advent of hyperinflation was but a matter of time, the point indeed when it became self-generating and politically irreducible except for short periods.... lay on the falling curve of political possibility, with which was closely linked the degree of political power and courage that the government, sorely pressed as it was, was able to muster.
What really broke Germany was the constant taking of the soft political option in respect of money. The take-off point therefore was not a financial but a moral one; and the political excuse was despicable, for no imaginable political circumstances could have been more unsuited to the imposition of a new financial order than those pertaining in November 1923, when inflation was no longer an option. The Rentenmark was itself hardly more than an expedient then, and could scarcely have been introduced successfully had not the mark lost its entire meaning. Stability came only when the abyss had been plumbed, when the credible mark could fall no more, when everything that four years of financial cowardice, wrong-headedness and mismanagement had been fashioned to avoid had in fact taken place, when the inconceivable had ineluct-ably arrived."
Weimar Germany is the most extreme example. Understand that I'm not saying we're headed for hyperinflation (though I am willing to predict 15%+ interest rates by the end of Obama's first term), or that Weimar's fate shall be ours. History depends on a lot of specifics, and does not repeat itself. But it does rhyme some, and so watching how things devolved in Germany et. al., and the effects on daily life, are instructive. Instructive in America, and also instructive in Europe as their demographic bubble and debt bubble become mutually reinforcing over the next 2 decades.
Some of my take-aways:
None of these bullet points can convey the impact of reading the actual story, and watching it unfold on page after page. Read it yourself, and decide what you take away...
So over a hundred thousand protesters turned out, many more spectators and passersby learned that there is a resistance movement, few provocateurs were spotted, and a good time was had by most.
Historically, the Tea Party movement is a misnomer. The 1773 Boston Tea Party was an act of civil insurrection, of violence against property following the then British Empire's attempt to force the colonists to drink imported and taxed tea. Yesterday, there was no violence and no insurrection, instead a civilized protest, the fevered imaginings of the left notwithstanding.
The other element missing, however, gives a clue as to where to go next. The original Tea Party followed a widespread colonial boycott of taxed tea, and resistance to other coercive acts imposed by a distant and unrepresentative Parliament. Since the revenue of the royally chartered East India Company was on the line, these were actions that had more impact in London than street protests.
Boycott is the logical next step for today's Tea Partiers. While bureaucrats and elite of both parties do the "na-na-na-we-can't-hear-you" routine, something that takes money out of their pockets, or from companies that have become codependent on an overweening government, isn't going to be missed. If half the population are sufficiently fed up with nannyism, income redistribution, and financial fecklessness to change their buying habits, it will rock their world. The citizenry, at least for now, controls most discretionary funds in the economy, and should act accordingly.
The nice things about boycotts is that they can be much more discriminating than the blunt instrument of voting every two years, and they impose little if any costs on the protester. A free market provides plenty of alternatives, or if not, keeping the money in pocket is seldom harmful. Unlike 'Going John Galt', a producer's strike that may be impractical to those raising a family or with other cash needs, a boycott is a consumer's strike, available to everyone making purchases.
Who to boycott? That's a matter for public debate and individual decision. Here's my list of targets, starting now:
The Main Stream Media. While many of them are already on the way down, they are still doing plenty of damage. Their activity yesterday ranged from a smear from the LA Times, to open mockery by CNN. They ignore the actions of nearly 200,000 Tax Day protesters, while featuring the antics of mere dozens of 'antiwar' activists. History is already doing these guys in, but we can help. Drop subscriptions, cancel paid video channels, and move advertising to media that aren't shilling for big government.
Government Motors. Since when should we be buying products that we were forced to subsidize through our taxes? Since when should the government be bailing out failing companies when there are plentiful alternatives? We all know why it's happening, and it deserves rebuke. General Motors and Chrysler don't deserve your business. They deserve to go bankrupt and be restructured under law, not by Obama. Time to tell them they can't simultaneous steal your money and posture as 'All American'. You can buy plenty of vehicles made by American workers in American factories, they just have nameplates like Honda, Toyota, and Nissan. And Ford deserves a fair chance at your business, for having the gumption to turn down the Federal bailout and control.
TARP Banks and Insurers. It should be obvious by now that the TARP program is as much an instrument of government coercion as it is of financial rescue. While the Fed originally claimed they wanted a lot of banks in the program to avoid an attached stigma, the open government interference (both executive and legislative) and the spectacle of the government refusing the return of TARP funds gives away the game. TARP bank aren't run for the benefit of their depositors and shareholders - they are run for the political benefit of the government. The Treasury regularly issues a list of banks having taken TARP funds. If you find your bank on the TARP list, move your money and your business. The Bailout Sleuth blog maintains a list of banks that have turned down or returned TARP money. And with the TARP program being extended to insurers, you'll soon find out which of them no longer deserve your confidence. Though it seems that some of the insurers realize that TARP is now the mark of Cain.
Pork and 'stimulus' looters. Not all companies are equal. Some actually compete in a free market. Some pay off the political class and collect the spoils. Many try to do both. It's time to force them to choose a side: freedom or statism. Figuring out who's taking the government cheese may take a bit of work. Fortunately, porkulus projects are going to be specially labelled. Find out who's working on them, and you've got a starter list of your local looters. Spread it around, and take your business elsewhere. Since the government is paying off the unions by forcing high wages on these projects, by choosing other vendors you will likely get a better deal and not have to compete with politically favored projects to get your work done.
I can't claim any of this is original. In fact I suspect there's a lot of this going on without public discussion. But the corporations are noticing: Last night I saw a Farmer's Insurance ad pointedly observing that they haven't dabbled in derivatives and junk bonds, and don't need a bailout.
What we need is a little of what the left has called "consciousness raising". Those sick of government overreach of all kinds have economic power, particularly in the current situation. It's time to use it, and talk about it openly.
I read Fiasco by Thomas Ricks because an American Marine officer in Fallujah told me to. “Especially make sure you read the chapter called How to Create an Insurgency,” he said. “Ricks gets it exactly right in that chapter. But you can’t quote me by name saying that because it’s another way of saying the insurgency is Paul Bremer’s fault. And Bremer outranks me.”
Fiasco is a devastating critique of the botched war in Iraq before General David Petraeus took over command. It isn't what I'd call a fun read, but I don't think you can fully appreciate what Petraeus accomplished without studying in depth the mess he inherited.
I met Thomas Ricks last week at a basement bar in Oregon near Powell's Books while he toured the country promoting his new book about the surge, The Gamble. I drank a glass of red wine, a locally-made Pinot Noir. He drank a pitcher of root beer.
MJT: Tell us about your new book
Ricks: It’s about the Iraq war from 2006 to 2008. It’s very different from Fiasco. Fiasco was an indictment. It was an angry book. The Gamble is a narrative. It was a much more enjoyable book to write. It’s an account of the war being turned over to the dissidents. [U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan] Crocker reveals in the book that he was opposed to the original invasion of Iraq. [General David] Petraeus took command just after finishing his counterinsurgency manual, which was a scathing critique of the conduct of the occupation. There was entirely new attitude among Americans, a new humility. A willingness to listen. I saw this reflected in the people they brought in to advise them. Emma Sky, a tiny little British woman who’s an expert on the Middle East and an anti-American anti-military pacifist. She became [General Ray] Odierno’s political advisor. Petraeus once said to Odierno, “she’s not your political advisor, she’s your insurgent.”
Sadi Othman, who was Petraeus’s advisor to the Iraqi government. He’s a Palestinian-American, born in Brazil, raised in Jordan, six foot seven, the first man to ever dunk a basketball in Jordanian university competition. He was raised and educated by Mennonites and pacifists.
This was a very different group of people with a very different attitude. My thought was that, essentially, the transition to Obama began in Iraq two years before it began here. Because in January they basically said, “okay, if you guys are so smart, you do it.” And they turned the war over to the internal critics of the war.
I've been thinking about 'Liberalism' (as opposed to Lockean 'liberalism') for a while - after all, I need to justify the title of this blog. I am trying to unify the examples of what mostly goes for Liberalism in this day and age, which I'm calling 'SkyBox Liberalism' ' which is v. different from what I'm promoting.
While the theory percolates, let me explain by example.
In the late 1970's, I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. It was good for me, got me almost exactly the job I wanted when I got out, and convinced me that none of my sons will go to mega-public universities as underclassmen.
While I was there, there was a small controversy that I followed. It involved the effort of the student government to evict from the student union one tenant, and to replace it with another. This is to me, the perfect example of SkyBoxing, and I hope that telling the story will help define what I mean.
In the 60's in Berkeley, there was a movement to create a series of co-ops that would allow student-radicals to both generate jobs outside the hated-but-paying-their-rent capitalist system, and provide a living example that (for all I know) Trotskyite anarcho-syndicalism could triumph in the Belly of the Beast.
Most of these communal businesses failed mercifully quickly, as far as I know (this is all ancient history to me, so if I'm getting part of it wrong, drop a note). By the time I got there, there were two survivors - Leopold's Records ('Boycott Tower Records, keep Berkeley Free') and the Missing Link bicycle shop.
Leopold's was off-campus somewhere near Telegraph, but the bicycle store was a part of the mini-shopping area that was in the ASUC building.
The student government decided that they were going to evict it to make room for a small-electronics (Walkmen, stereo, calculators, etc.) annex to the Student Store. Why??
The small-electronics store could pay as much as $50,000 more in rent every year.
Now this is an appropriately cold-hearted landlord kind of decision to make. But the people making the decision weren't sweater wearing conservative Young Republicans, driven by their vision of the purity of the market.
They were a bunch of New Left, ethnic-identity, progressive communitarian kind of kids.
Why did they want to make this decision? Because it would mean $50K a year more for their organizing budgets; $50K more in pork they could carve up in the hopes of building their perfect communitarian future.
Now I don't know about you, but I have a hard time imagining anything more keyed to a progressive communitarian future than a cooperatively owned bicycle store. I mean, how much better does it get? Nonprofit. Cooperatively employee owned. Bicycles, for chrissakes. If you really wanted to educate people in alternatives to the 'mass consumerist repressive capitalist paradigm' (I think I got the buzzwords right), wouldn't that be a good way to do it?
But reality couldn't stand a chance against the cold need for this elected group to make sure that they and their friends were rewarded.
See it's not about what you really believe in, in the SkyBox world - it's about making sure you and your friends can be very comfortable while you think and write and feel very very seriously about it.
I'm not touting bicycles or co-ops right now (although there are things to say for both); it's the fact that one group put their beliefs into practice in the world, while another made it a point to live comfortably while thinking really hard about making the world a better place.
One of those is a Liberal ' the other is doing something else, but is definitely doing it from a SkyBox.
Poland is withdrawing its troops from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the U.S. is pressuring other European contributors to the mission to send additional soldiers to Afghanistan, and Israeli defense officials are worried the multinational force north of the border might collapse entirely. Israelis, however, aren’t the ones who should worry. South Lebanon’s Christians stand to lose the most if that happens.
“If UNIFIL leaves, we’re going with them,” a young Lebanese man told me in the village of Rmeich in February this year. “Everyone is frightened about what might happen.” Rmeich is a Maronite Christian enclave near the Israeli border. Along with the adjacent Maronite village of Ein Ebel, it is surrounded by Shia cities, towns, and villages where support for Hezbollah runs deep. “There are many Hezbollah people near here,” the man continued. “They wear civilian clothes. They used to come into our town with guns and harass us before the [July 2006] war, but not anymore thanks to UNIFIL.”
UNFIL was created in 1978 to help the Lebanese government restore its sovereignty over the area after it was taken over by Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization and used as a base for guerrilla and terrorist attacks against Israel. The force was bolstered by thousands of mostly European soldiers after the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 and given a similar mandate. Hezbollah controlled the border area after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the “security belt” in South Lebanon in 2000. War was all but inevitable under those circumstances. So in addition to bringing the Lebanese Army and government back to the border where they might prevent another war outbreak, UNIFIL was supposed to prevent Hezbollah from replenishing its partially depleted stock of rockets and missiles through smuggling roads over the land border with Syria. In this, UNIFIL failed. Almost all analysts say Hezbollah has a larger arsenal now than it did before the 2006 war even started.
UNIFIL gets little credit for helping South Lebanon’s Christians, and that’s too bad. But the force gets far more credit than it deserves for keeping Hezbollah in check. UNIFIL’s presence is something of a problem because it appears the “international community” is doing something constructive to prevent the next war when it actually isn’t. Neither are the Israel Defense Forces, the Lebanese Army, or anyone else.
Some Lebanese officers are still loyal to Damascus. They were never purged from the armed forces after occupying Syrian soldiers and intelligence agents were forced to withdraw in the wake of the massive demonstration in downtown Beirut on March 14, 2005. “Sometimes we see things we don’t understand,” another resident of Rmeich told me recently. “Huge covered-up trucks get through the army checkpoints, and they’re not even stopped. When I go through in my open car, I have to pull over.”
The operation to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips involved dozens of Navy SEALs, who parachuted from an aircraft into the scene near dark Saturday, landing in the ocean. The SEALs were part of a group of Special Operations forces involved in the effort, according to military officials.
The SEALs set up operations on the USS Bainbridge, which had been communicating with the four pirates via radio and had used smaller boats to make deliveries of food and water to their lifeboat.
"If IT can't complete projects on time, within budget, and with all deliverables intact, don't run around talking about how IT can help the business reach its goals. If you can't keep the servers and networks up with reasonable levels of performance or solve the problems average end-users have without undue delay, then "strategic alignment" doesn't matter enough to warrant an investment of your time and attention..."
Read the article. Do you agree?
Three pirates were said to have been killed in the operation to free Captain Richard Phillips, who had been held in a lifeboat for several days.You know a decision like this went all the way to the top, and to their credit, Obama's White House was willing to make the call. And - to the immense credit of the operators who carried the mission out - they were successful.
Capt Phillips is said to be unhurt and on the USS Bainbridge, a warship sent to track the pirates holding him.
He was taken hostage after pirates briefly hijacked his ship, the Maersk Alabama on Wednesday.
On Friday he failed in an attempt to swim free.
An unnamed US official told the Associated Press that Capt Phillips was freed in what appeared to be a swift firefight.
As some of you may have heard, AT&T had its fiber optic cable around San Jose cut in several places, resulting in disrupted service to several counties that included cell phones and 911. Police and firefighters called up extra manpower and significantly increased street patrols, to improve the odds that if someone was in trouble, help would be nearby.
"The first four fiber-optic cables were cut shortly before 1:30 a.m. in an underground vault along Monterey Highway north of Blossom Hill Road in south San Jose, police Sgt. Ronnie Lopez said. The cables belong to AT&T, and most of the service disruption came from this attack.
Four more underground cables, at least two of which belong to AT&T, were cut about two hours later at two locations near each other along Old County Road near Bing Street in San Carlos, authorities said. Two additional lines were sliced on Hayes Avenue in south San Jose.
In each case, the vandals had to pry up heavy manhole covers with a special tool, climb down a shaft and chop through heavy cables. Britton said the four cables cut in San Jose were about the width of a silver dollar and were encased in tough plastic sheath. One cable contained 360 fibers, and the other three had 48 fibers each.
At least 500 total fiber-optic strands were sliced, and each had to be painstakingly spliced back together, requiring hours of work."
Interesting times. Sure looks like an inside job. but the biggest thing that went through my mind is the amount of disruption, over several counties, caused by one cut line. Aside from terrorists (or it that "man-caused disasters" in liberalspeak?), I've heard that this place is known to have the occasional earthquake.
Is that kind of infrastructure concentration really a good idea? Sure doesn't look like it.
Right wing bloggers at the top of the food chain don't have to worry about this dynamic, because they're well compensated through a variety of means -- and also conspicuously silent on the subject. It's the toadies on the bottom who churn right wing propaganda for free who are whining, and they clearly don't understand the financial structure that both traditional media outlets and liberal blogs are operating within.Hmmm, let's go to the record:
It's staggering just how ignorant right wing bloggers are about how the business of media works, or business in general. Which wouldn't be so ironic if they didn't run around thumping their chests about the virtues of "free markets" and capitalism all the time. They only understand it through their own lens of blasting propaganda, and in characteristic wingnut fashion, are shrieking j'accuse! most loudly about the things they themselves are guilty of....plays the authority card...
As someone who actually has a business degree and has made a career of running media businesses, I wrote this in a comment over at Talk Left:...and then jumps right into the stupid with both feet:
The reason the New York Times is around to do "earned" media is because they make revenues off of "paid" media. Everyone understands that, it's just how business works in a capitalist system. And if you look at an advertising campaign for Toyota or Dove or Marlboro, they devote an increasing percentage of each campaign to online advertising. So it's not like we're asking anyone to participate in a system that has no benefit to them as advertisers.Look, I don't have a lot of time to spend writing a basic handbook on journalistic ethics, but let me briefly offer up as an example the Los Angeles Times scandal which cost a publisher his job (here's the Wikipedia summary):
The problem is that groups who send us their press releases expecting "earned media" just as they do the New York Times get the same "earned media" from us that they do from the New York Times. The difference is that they aren't factoring us into their "paid" media budgets, and like the New York Times, without that, we don't have a sustainable business model to keep offering "earned" media. As groups increasingly depend upon us as the only news outlets covering their issues (which we do without consideration as to whether they advertise with us or not), participating in a sustainable structure is something they need to be thinking about.
The credibility of the Times suffered greatly when it was revealed in 1999 that a revenue-sharing arrangement was in place between the Times and Staples Center in the preparation of a 168-page magazine about the opening of the sports arena. The magazine's editors and writers were not informed of the agreement, which breached the "Chinese wall" that traditionally has separated advertising from journalistic functions at American newspapers. Publisher Mark Willes also had not prevented advertisers from pressuring reporters in other sections of the newspaper to write stories favorable to their point of view.I can't find Otis Chandler's great letter blasting the Times management online, but here's the nut graf:
His successors, he said, had been "unbelievably stupid" and caused "the most serious single threat to the future" of the paper his family had bought in 1882.See, Jane it's like this. Readers are smart enough to know when the media they read is whoring for its advertisers; Newspapers firewall publishing and advertising from editorial for just that reason.
The underlying problem is that increasingly we live in a 'post-Christian' society, where Judeo-Christian faith and values have less and less influence. Among other things, Judaism and Christianity taught that murder was wrong and that included murder motivated by anger, hatred and revenge. Both religions also taught that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and to forgive others.
For many citizens, what has replaced Judeo-Christian faith and values is the secular value system that is reflected in films, rap/music lyrics, and videogames and on TV and now the Internet, where the taking of human life for just about any reason is commonplace and is often portrayed in an appealing manner and in realistic detail. Murder motivated by hatred and revenge is also justified.Too damn much. I'd say in 1927, America was a firmly 'Christian' country, and not in the throes of the sexual revolution (although there were flappers and cocaine...). In Bath, Michigan, Andrew Kehoe killed 45 with a series of bombs set in a school. Hmmm...
This secular value system is also reflected in the 'sexual revolution,' which is the driving force behind the push for 'gay marriage;' and the Iowa Supreme Court decision is another indication that despite all the damage this revolution has caused to children, adults, family life and society (think abortion, divorce, pornography, rape, sexual abuse of children, sexually transmitted diseases, trafficking in women and children, unwed teen mothers and more), it continues to advance relentlessly.
It most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement! [...Throatclearling lie, as set out in his next sentance - A.L.] It is my intention to point out that the success of the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality; and it is the decline of morality (and the faith that so often under girds it) that is the underlying cause of our modern day epidemic of mass murders.
This secular value system is also reflected in the 'sexual revolution,' which is the driving force behind the push for 'gay marriage'then
It most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement!then
It is my intention to point out that the success of the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality; and it is the decline of morality (and the faith that so often under girds it) that is the underlying cause of our modern day epidemic of mass murders.
There's a big problem right now with the traditional liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues because they don't want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know...the money is gone. It's already happened. Because that's the way Rahm plays.Jane Hamsher, April 8, 2009 3:56pm, quoted in The Plum Line
Just in case you were worried, that's not a problem for us.
"They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it's not a two way street," Jane Hamsher, the founder of FiredogLake, said in an interview. "They won't do anything in return. They're not advertising with us. They're not offering fellowships. They're not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful."...so when she says "...that's not a problem for us" what, exactly did she mean?
Hamsher singled out Americans United for Change, which raises and spends big money on TV ad campaigns driving Obama's agenda, as well as the constellation of groups associated with it, and the American Association of Retired Persons, also a big TV advertiser.
Americans United for Change, the big liberal group that came under fire from liberal bloggers in our story today for not advertising on the blogs, is now saying they will make the blogs part of their ad strategy. The group sends over a statement:I've talked in the past about the rise of professional bloggers, which I see as a good thing. Not such a good thing, to me, are bought-and-paid-for bloggers who - having taken the King's shilling - may suddenly become reluctant to say much about his tax policies...We fully appreciate the important contributions of the progressive blogosphere and have plans to include blog ads in the near future as we continue to expand our media efforts. We are currently examining our online strategy and how we can more effectively communicate our message through online channels. Blog ads will most definitely be a part of that strategy.
One year ago, Moqtada al Sadr’s radical Mahdi Army militia strongholds in Basra and Sadr City were two of the biggest threats remaining to the Iraqi republic. Al Qaeda in Iraq had been reduced to a remnant, but the country still was a violent mirror of Lebanon. Hezbollah threatens the Lebanese capital and can start unilateral wars on a whim, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had to ask himself if that was the kind of country he hoped to be left with as Americans talked of a combat force draw down. Lebanon has neither a capable national army nor tens of thousands of foreign troops on her soil as backup. The Iraqis did, though. Their army, with help from the American military, was ordered into the southern city of Basra to purge the streets of the Shia militiamen. After nail-biting fits and starts, the Iraqis prevailed. Then they stormed Sadr City and took back the last bastion of resistance in the capital.
I visited Sadr City on my recent trip to Iraq, and I expected to be horrified when I got there. It was safer than it had been, of course, but it was still known as the great slum of Baghdad – like Hezbollah’s dahiyeh south of Beirut, only bigger and meaner. Almost as many people live in Sadr City as in all of Lebanon. Much of Iraq looks like a slum as it is, so an actual slum in Iraq must look like…what?
Most Iraqi cities look more or less like every other Iraqi city, but there are exceptions. The worst I had seen so far was Kirkuk in the north.
Nowhere I'd seen in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, or anywhere else was as run-down or gruesome as Kirkuk. Yet I had never heard Kirkuk described as the worst place in Iraq. The vast slum of Baghdad must be even worse. I was sure of it. Going to Sadr City seemed slightly crazy.
“Adhamiyah and Sadr City are the most important sectors in all of Iraq,” Major Mike Humphreys said to me at Forward Operating Base (FOB) War Eagle in Northern Baghdad. It was the first stop for embedded reporters on their way to Sadr City with the American military. “Sadr City is, of course, the most volatile place in the country, and it's named after Moqtada al Sadr's father. It was the big question about the future of Iraq.”
That, of course, was why I wished to see it. If Sadr City was okay, the rest of Iraq might be okay. But if Sadr City was still like a vast Hezbollah dahiyeh in Baghdad, it could easily bring down the rest of the country.
Alan Cooper was once known as the father of Visual Basic. In recent years, he has become better known for his work on designing software that works. "The Inmates are Running the Asylum" remains one of the best books I know on the subject.
During the Agile 2008 conference, InfoQ took the time to interview Alan, who came to the conference with a tag reading "Student." What had he seen? What had he learned? How did the concepts behind the spreading wave of agile software development fit with his work on interaction design?
What followed was one of the most thoughtful expositions I've heard regarding modern software development, with some great lines and deep connections drawn. If you're involved in software development on any level - and especially if it's on a managerial level, this is a must-see interview.
Some of the better takeways:
"Kurt Vonnegut says 'always accept strange travel invitations. they're like dance lessons from G-d' "
"While extreme programing is agile, agile programming is not necessarily extreme programming."
"The core motivation of all knowledge workers is to do good work, ok?.... [agile is] not about productivity. I think productivity is a byproduct, but if you set that up as your goal, you'll fail."
"It's attempt to reconstitute the motivations... what lie behind the open source movement in a captive commercial, purposeful marketplace. And the thing about open source is, it is self directed. It is self motivated. And in order to be self motivated, you can't have roosters coming around, squawking and giving you tangential instructions."
"I think a lot of the inmates do kind of understand... that the inmates are running the asylum is that it's not a... not a palace coup, but a royal abdication. And that the inmates, the programmers, the technical people, are in fact running the asylum because no-one else is running it. There's this idea left over, y'know, from industrial management... it's created this huge vacuum. And, management is horribly hobbled by their industrial age beliefs. And, what that's done is, that's kept them out of the vacuum. That's the root of the abdication."
"The toxic memes of software construction have become the toxic memes of business."
"And this is where the brilliance starts to come through.... programmers, who are the experts, they are the smartest people in the room regardless of which room you walk in, ok? And what they did, I love this about programmers, is they said 'I don't know. In fact, I'm unclear about anything I'm doing here... except that what I I know is that the way I've been doing things doesn't work. It doesn't make me happy, it doesn't make the business happy, and it doesn't make the customers happy. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna question everything.... and this is one of the reasons why I know they're serious, deadly serious. Is because one of the core tenets of extreme and agile programming is pair programing. Which says, I mean, if there's one atomic element of programming, it's code. And what they did is they opened the beating heart of programing to inspection by others. Ok? This is a reflection of the sincerity, the honesty, the profound depth of their questioning.... And then they began to open up the idea of "how long is it gonna take us to do this?" How do we know what this is?" Wonderful, fundamental questions that have been, um, never truly asked and answered in the world of software. Mostly because software has its roots in academia, rather than... industry or commerce...."
"[The right practices...] They're the ones that work for you. But not the ones that make you feel good. But the ones that allow you to create a success by external standards, and by internal standards.... At its core, it's, it's introspection... to increase the proportion of 'rightness' in what you do in the future."
"Where interaction designers come in, one of the places they come in, is they bring the same level of reflectivity to the business problem."
"Software is not an industrial product. In an industrial product, design is done, and, then a thing is manufactured. And lots of people labour executing the design.... in the world of software, design permeates construction, ok? However, there are very different flavours of design in the world of software...."
"And one of the great weaknesses in the process is that there's nobody figuring what the problem is, and what the solution is.... It is considered normal in the software business.... Building a solution to the wrong problem is considered normal, and we'll go from there.... And, that's just crazy. That's the bong water talking. That's not the way it should be!"
"But user interface design is not what makes your product a success or a failure, ok? It's really that deep and profound understanding of the problem, and understanding of the solution... who are the users, what are they trying to accomplish, what motivates them? Not what tasks are they performing, but what's are they really trying - their end state? What does success look like. The same way that agile programmers want to know what done looks like? Interaction designers want to know what success looks like. And those two work together to create a successful product. And that's the missing piece."
"...the economics of software are qualitatively different from the economics of industry.... In software, there are no ongoing costs, there's no manufacturing costs, there's no materials costs. And, so, driving costs down just reduces the desirability of the product. Instead... not waste money, not throw money at the problem, but cost reduction is... an ineffective tool.... Your #1 goal is to say "what do we have to do to elevate the quality, the desirability, of the end product?" And when you worry about costs, you hurt that. And... one of the great things that I see in agile is an understanding that says "Hey, Mr. Businessman, stop worrying about the costs and start worrying about the quality. And what I'm saying is "thankyou thankyou thankyou, don't let that out of your sight...."
"I would say some enormous percentage like, say, 99.9% of the software in the world, sucks really badly. I would not say that 99.9% of the programmers in the world suck. I just think that 99.9% of the programmers in the world are in an untenable hostile environment.... that is not conducive to create good software, and is not conducive to create good design.... So, there needs to be an organizational change for agile to thrive, and there needs to be organizational change for interaction design to thrive."
"The one thing about programmers, is, they've been pigs from day one [vid. "in your breakfast, the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed"]. And they will always be pigs. And, Interaction designers, the good ones... also want to be pigs. The organizational structure forces them to be chickens. Ok? And this is the thing that I see that's happening in agile that's so intriguing to me is that it's creating this opening, y'know, in the pig barn. Saying "Come on in. Do you dare?" And what I'm saying is, this is going to be an epiphany moment for each individual Interaction Designer out there...."
You cling so tightly to your purity, my lad! How terrified you are of sullying your hands. Well, go ahead then, stay pure! What good will it do, and why even bother coming here among us? Purity is a concept of fakirs and friars. But you, the intellectuals, the bourgeois anarchists, you invoke purity as your rationalization for doing nothing. Do nothing, don't move, wrap your arms tight around your body, put on your gloves. As for myself, my hands are dirty. I have plunged my arms up to the elbows in excrement and blood. And what else should one do? Do you suppose that it is possible to govern innocently?If you believe in a social morality (as I do), then as an American, I carry a share of the tragedies of the last months - a larger share because I own guns and support the freedom to do so; so do Kos, Willis, and Niewert. They just refuse to admit it.
On April 6/09, US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates did something unusual: he convened a press conference to announce key budget recommendations in advance. That's a substantial departure from normal procedure, in which the Office of the President's submitted budget is the first official public notification of key funding decisions. Gates' departure was done with full official approval, however, as the Pentagon and White House begin their efforts to convince Congress.
That's likely to be a difficult task. Congress (the US House of Representatives and Senate) has full budgetary authority within the American system, subject only to the threat of Presidential veto. In the past, this has kept a number of programs alive despite the Pentagon's best efforts to kill them. Sometimes, that stubbornness has improved America's defense posture (i.e. more C-17s). Sometimes, it has done the opposite (i.e. V-22 Osprey). For good or ill, that process has now begun. Again.
Gates' announcement, made in the presence of Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, USMC, aims to make significant changes to America's defense programs. Several would be ended or terminated. Others would be stretched out over a longer period. Still others will gain resources.
My Defense Industry Daily article provides the roundup, with links to related articles that offer in-depth program background...
The New York Times' International Herald Tribune:
"As the U.S. military prepares to withdraw from Iraqi cities, Iraqi and American security officials say jihadi and Baathist militants are rejoining the fight in areas that are largely quiet now, regrouping as a smaller but still lethal insurgency."
My take? Duuuuh. The real question isn't whether al-Qaeda tries to return, with help from Syria and Iran. The real question is whether Iraq's improving military can crush them when they do.
That question depends entirely on how savvy Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki proves to be.
He has taken an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach to the Sunni "Sons of Iraq" movement, moves that have provoked armed clashes. In the absence of a terrorist problem, and of strengthened political and economic bridges between Iraq's Sunni and Shi'ite communities, this is the height of stupidity.
The reason The Surge worked is that large segments of the Sunni community, especially the sheikhs who have been a politically critical group for oh, only about 1,000 years or so, came on board. When they did, counterinsurgency got its 2 holy grails: local boots on the ground, and excellent local intelligence.
If Iraq's leadership is competent, they'll be able to keep those advantages. Why? Because they won't get ahead of themselves, and they'll make keeping those advantages their top priorities. If they do, Michael Totten is right. Iraq will have a simmering problem for some time, but it will be a tremendously unhealthy place to be an al-Qaeda supporter.
If the government plays their cards stupidly, on the other hand, they're in big trouble. Without local intelligence and boots on the ground, even the US military faced a very long slog. Iraq's military would simply fail. But those are the very things that an overly heavy-handed approach by Maliki in Sunni areas will remove from the table. And Iraq's Sunni communities have external sources of support they can turn to.
One of those sources is Saudi Arabia, which is currently engaged in a mideast-wide proxy fight with Iran. The other is Iran, who harbors a number of senior al-Qaeda figures, and knows that a revival of Iraq's Sunni terrorists will force Iraq's Shi'ites to depend on Iran for "protection." If Iran wishes to neutralize Grand Ayatollah Sistani's Shi'ite Najaf school, which poses a serious theological challenge to their state, they must create that situation among Iraq's Shi'ites. The long and short of it is that Sunni communities will not lack for weapons, should they decide to fight.
What happened in Iraq is a tremendous success, by any measure. It bought time, and time has brought great progress on a number of fronts. Including the political front.
What Maliki needs to understand, however, is that the Iraq it created isn't like the Iraq he grew up in - and that's so in ways that go deeper than Saddam's blessed absence. The new Iraq is really a federation, not a strong central state. Even as it grows its capabilities, the central government will need to tread lightly, and be very respectful of the locals.
Maximum firmness, in an honor/shame society, needs to be reserved for one's own. What the Sons of Iraq did to al-Qaeda, and what a Shi'ite-led government did to Moqtada al-Sadr, is intolerable if the targets are other communities. When the same people in the sons did to Shi'ites what they did to al-Qaeda, the Shi'ite moves to vengeance in restoration of honor nearly triggered a full civil war. That stopped only when the Sunnis dealt with their own, settling their own account of honor so that Shi'ites no longer felt that they needed to take matters into their own hands. By the same token, if Maliki ever tried a "Charge of the Knights" Basra-style campaign into Kirkuk, the Kurds would hand Maliki's severed head over to his appropriate next of kin.
Those Kurdish and Sunni locals are armed. After what they've lived through, they're unlikely to fear the state. But they most definitely have the capability to make the state fear them. Or even to rip that state apart, as the demands of an honor/shame society plunge the country into civil war.
If Iraq's elected leadership chooses that path, there is nothing that the USA, or any other country, can do to stop them. All we could ever do is buy them time, and help repair some part of the damage done by years of Baathist rule.
The rest is up to them. As it was always going to be, in the end.
The only recommendation I have an issue with is this one:
"49) There are at least six key areas of your life: health, career, romantic, social, money, and religion. If you neglect any one of those areas, it will harm you in the other areas and keep you from being as happy as you can be otherwise."
That's true. Here's what's also true. If any 4 of these are going really well, you're a smashing success - and 3/6 is a decent life. Don't let the TV fool you. Aim for the best, but recognize that trade-offs make anything above 4/6 a low-odds proposition - and if you want to beat those odds, you'll have to work extremely hard and pick up some good dice rolls along the way. Make your trade-offs wisely, therefore, and realize that the options close on you over time. That's why the smart tradeoffs will change, depending on what stage of your life you're at.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the context of all the multilateral activity that's been going on this week -- the G20, here at NATO -- and your evident enthusiasm for multilateral frameworks, to work through multilateral frameworks, could I ask you whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy? And if so, would you be able to elaborate on it?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.
And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.
Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.
And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.
To Pixelgate and Evariste, who recovered this site and my work site from whatever weird thing I did to them. Memo: backups aren't just for work. Given what I do for a living, I'm kinda embarassed.
"The only thing you really need," I tell these people, "is the talent of the room. Unless you have that, your other talents are worthless."Go read the whole thing, as they say...
Writing is something you do alone in a room. Copy that sentence and put it on your wall because there's no way to exaggerate or overemphasize this fact. It's the most important thing to remember if you want to be a writer. Writing is something you do alone in a room
Before any issues of style, content or form can be addressed, the fundamental questions are: How long can you stay in that room? How many hours a day? How do you behave in that room? How often can you go back to it? How much fear (and, for that matter, how much elation) can you endure by yourself? How many years - how many years - can you remain alone in a room?
Kristine Kathryn Rusch taught me how to write when I was twenty years old and didn’t know anything. My Web site – my entire career – might not even exist if it were not for her. What she writes is completely different from what I write, but writing is writing. Genre differences don’t matter much in classrooms and workshops.
She is now publishing a book in installments on her Web site called The Freelancers’s Survival Guide. If you’re making a living as a freelancer – not necessarily as a freelance writer, but as a freelancer of any kind – I strongly suggest you bookmark her site and read it, especially now that the economy is circling the drain. She has been working and living (well) as a freelancer for more than 30 years, and she knows what she’s talking about. I learned almost two decades ago to take her seriously and do what she says. My life would be very different if I had not.
Since Ontario, Canada is one of the largest (if not the largest) car manufacturing regions in North America, it may interest readers to know that the government of Canada is also lukewarm on Chrysler and GM's restructuring plans.
I still contend that this is the kiss of death:
bq. "In the case of Chrysler, this will require coming to terms with Fiat on a workable alliance to take advantage of scale economies and a competitive product mix."
A few weeks ago Britain decided to unfreeze “diplomatic relations” with Hezbollah, and the nonsensical phrases “political wing” and “military wing” have been used to describe the Iranian-backed militia ever since. Britain now says it’s okay to meet with members of Hezbollah’s “political wing” while maintaining the blacklisting of its “military wing,” but these “wings” don’t exist in any meaningful sense. If Hezbollah were actually two distinct entities with separate policies it might make sense for British diplomats to do business with one and not the other, but that’s not how Hezbollah is structured. Of course Hezbollah’s fighters and members of parliament aren’t the same individuals, but Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah is the leader of the entire organization.
The Obama Administration knows better. One U.S. official wants Britain to explain “the difference between the political, social and military wings of Hezbollah because we don’t see the difference between the integrated leadership that they see.” “The US does not distinguish between military, cultural and political wings of Hezbollah,” another U.S. official said, “and our decision to avoid making such a distinction is premised on accurate available information indicating that all Hezbollah wings and branches share finances, personnel and unified leadership and they all support violence.”
Christopher Hitchens published a compelling piece in next month’s Vanity Fair wherein he compares and contrasts two rallies he attended in Beirut in February — one commemorating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, and the other commemorating the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniyeh last year in Damascus.
“Try picturing a Shiite-Muslim mega-church,” he wrote of the Hezbollah rally, “in a huge downtown tent, with separate entrances for men and women and separate seating (with the women all covered in black). A huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene, with the inscription 'Oh Zionists, if you want this type of war then so be it!' During the warm-up, an onstage Muslim Milli Vanilli orchestra and choir lip-synchs badly to a repetitive, robotic music video that shows lurid scenes of martyrdom and warfare. There is keening and wailing, while the aisles are patrolled by gray-uniformed male stewards and black-chador’d crones. Key words keep repeating themselves with thumping effect: shahid (martyr), jihad (holy war), yehud (Jew). In the special section for guests there sits a group of uniformed and be-medaled officials representing the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Was the Mugniyeh rally staged and attended by Hezbollah’s “political wing” or its “military wing?” It doesn’t make any difference. The question doesn’t even make sense because Hezbollah doesn’t have wings.
Matthew Levitt at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy points out the absurdity of this kind of hair-splitting. “The European Union,” he wrote, “has not yet designated any part of Hezbollah — military, political or otherwise — although it did label Imad Mughniyeh, the late Hezbollah chief of external operations, and several other Hezbollah members involved in specific acts of terrorism.”
The European Union thinks the “military wing” of Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist organization, even while declaring its deceased commander Imad Mugniyeh a terrorist. How can a terrorist commander’s lieutenants and other subordinates not themselves be terrorists?