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April 2009 Archives

April 30, 2009

Quick Hit: Tea Parties and California Budgets

By Armed Liberal at 06:29

I'd been mulling the meaning and fallout from the tea parties and in a conversation with a friend, suggested that the fate of the Governator and Legislature-sponsored budget initiatives in California might be a litmus test.

If I were organizing the tea parties, I said, I'd be busting a** to defeat them, and force the issue of state budgetary incompetence.

Well, along comes a Field poll, which suggests that what I'd contemplated is really happening:
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.

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  • The Great Satan: Given how little has been spent in opposition to these read more
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Quick Hit: Cars

By Armed Liberal at 06:10

I think this Wall Street Journal editorial (shockingly!) understates the way that management captured the auto industry during the good times and milked it dry for its own benefit (the price of which was to allow the UAW unfettered access to the other teat). But it captures something about the collapse of both the auto and financial industries which we ought to take very seriously.
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.

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.
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.

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  • Foobarista: The problem is this is the inevitable result of the read more
  • mark buehner: "It turns out that the "Feds" and "guvment" you've been read more
  • Silverlake Bodhisattva: Sez Mark B., at #3: "Conservatives and libertarians, here is read more

April 29, 2009

Quick Hits

By Armed Liberal at 22:47

Life has been trying to wrestle with lately - I have a cool new gig which has me buried (good news: in these times, I have a cool gig), my family has each been at points where Attention Must Be Paid (good news: that is why you have a family - to pay attention to each other...), and so blogging has suffered pretty badly.

When I think about it, there's another reason though. I just have a worse and worse taste in my mental mouth as I think about the issues that are important to me.

I read the news and blogs every day and just feel dyspeptic. I'm honestly not sure why; what I read is (to my views) a healthy mixture of good and bad news. It's not like I see horror on every page (like some people I know).

For me, a part of it is the fact that I keep starting Really Long things and putting them aside because I don't have the time right now to do the topics justice.

So here's my plan; I'm going to start throwing out short bits on these interesting-to-me (and one hopes, to you), and when I can, come back and write something resembling a real argument.

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  • Russ: Please do keep these coming; I very much enjoy the read more
  • chuck: I find reading the news like watching a train heading read more

April 28, 2009

John Gideon, Voting Integrity Advocate: 1947 - 2009

By Armed Liberal at 15:22

One of the early sources I looked to as I started educating myself on issues around voting was www.votersunite.com; it was a site that provided a wealth of information that helped me form my opinion that our voting processes were deeply flawed.

One of the driving forces behind that site was John Gideon, who died yesterday of meningitis.

I did not always agree with Gideon; I continue to be agnostic about some issues that he was passionate about. But I agreed - and agree - more strongly than my words can show with his core view that we voters have let the mechanics of out voting process be taken over by politicians and corporate vendors, and that we need to take it back.

People like John - amateurs who transform their passion into expertise and action - are the reason we should remain optimistic about the state of our Republic.

He will be missed, and not only by those who loved and knew him, but by the rest of us to whom he was a mentor and an example. My condolences to his family and friends. I hope that as sad as they may be, their pride in his accomplishments and character sustains them.

Godspeed.

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April 27, 2009

LOLcat

By Armed Liberal at 04:15
funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Note that it takes about 200 votes to appear on the LOLcat home page...so click on the image and vote, please!!

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April 26, 2009

Caption Contest

By Armed Liberal at 06:57

This is Kit, our other, older, somewhat sullen cat in her new hiding place.

kitty_crossover.JPG
I see a LOLcats in her future...
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  • Phil Smith: WE CONTROL THE HORIZONTAL. WE CONTROL THE FURTICAL. read more
  • Tim Oren: or... RIAA kitteh iz in yur speakerz Chekin fur infrinjmint read more
  • Tim Oren: OCD kitteh findz dust in yr toonz read more

April 25, 2009

Pale Fire, As Seen In 1962

By Armed Liberal at 15:36
If forced to pick, I'd have to say that Vladimir Nabokov is my favorite writer; he's someone who rereading after rereading shows me something new and intricately beautiful.

One of my favorite novels of his is 'Pale Fire' - a tragic satire on art in the academy, on political power and loss, and on our ability to spin magic life out of words.

TNR just reposted Mary McCarthy's brilliant review from 1962 online (h/t Mickey Kaus)
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.
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April 24, 2009

The U.N.'s Epic Fail in Geneva

By Michael Totten at 17:07

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."

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.


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  • Joshua: The biggest loser at the United Nations Durban Review Conference read more
  • Glen Wishard: It was good to see the decent nations walk out read more

Obama and the SEALs in Somalia

By Joe Katzman at 05:02

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:


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  • DaveK: I don't know... I think there's a huge amount of read more
  • The Great Satan: I think the tipoff is "SEAL Teams" in relation to read more
  • lewy14: Well, Greyhawk says this: Finally - I think "Send this read more

Pakistan's Slow Motion Collapse: Toward Islamabad

By Joe Katzman at 04:46

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."


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  • Tim Oren: More scary stuff at the Long War Journal . That's read more

The Fujimori Show Trial

By Joe Katzman at 03:37

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. [1] 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' [2] 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.


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  • J Aguilar: Independent Justice is a British development, later extended to the read more
  • Robohobo: Ultimately, if the judiciary is used to enact a form read more

April 23, 2009

An Object Lesson In The Fragility Of The Modern Economy

By Armed Liberal at 06:11

I've started shooting a fair amount again this year (as karmic balance for my pro-Obama vote, I bought a Kimber 1911 and a Springfield M1A for Kwaanza, as well as a Kahr P9 for TG); and I'm recently stunned by the price of ammo (and shooting enough that it matters).

Bulk (200 - 1,000 rounds) .308 rifle ammunition is over $1.25/round for Federal Match and well over $0.50/round for bulk military surplus (about 2x what I'm used to paying). 45ACP is $0.50 in bulk (over 2x what I'm used to paying).

Now before you get concerned that by buying 500 - 1,000 rounds at a time I'm stocking up for the Zombie wars, note that a morning's serious practice with the handgun can use 200 rounds, and that a morning with the rifle is 50 rounds easily.

(And as a result of burning all this powder, my shooting is getting back to decent, except for my one bad pistol habit - lifting my head to see where the shot went, which pulls the rounds low.)

But I just was sent a great blog post on why ammo is so spendy and one that ought to get us all thinking about the modern economy.


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  • Demosophist: Hi Marc. I dropped by a gun shop for the read more
  • Joe Katzman: Very interesting and insightful comments, Treefrog & Foobarista, Loved this... read more
  • Joe: One thing that makes the ammo shortage, than say a read more

April 22, 2009

Ahmadinejad Stinks Up Geneva

By Michael Totten at 18:23

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?

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.


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  • Joe Katzman: But this is exactly what to expect from any "anti-racism" read more

How's That Solar System Working For You, Then??

By Armed Liberal at 00:47
April_Edison.JPG
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  • Foobarista: When I read the post title, I was wonder if read more
  • Marc Danziger: My bills were $140 - 160/mo; the credit balance you read more
  • Michael Totten: Can you tell us how much you're saving per month, read more

April 21, 2009

Harman: Why Now?

By Armed Liberal at 06:18

So the media are all abuzz over a conversation my Congresswoman, Jane Harman, had regarding AIPAC in 2006.

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  • phantommut: When is the strong horse the wrong horse? When the read more
  • Joe Katzman: None of these reports seem to address the key question, read more

Veterans

By Armed Liberal at 03:11
From Tom McMahon's cool blog '4-block world':

6a00d834515db069e20115702c1bbf970b-800wi.gif

(h/t American Digest)

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  • Alchemist: Look, I haven't written much because my view is more read more
  • Robohobo: I don't doubt in the least that there are homeland read more
  • bgates: Guess you'd better put me on that DHS list too read more

Skybox Buses

By Armed Liberal at 00:39
So I've been meaning to post about this for a while; it's a petty thing, but still something that goes to the heart of my irritation (and I think other people's) with the way government is run today.

Here's a blurry snapshot I took at LAX last night as we waited for the parking shuttle:

Flyaway.jpg

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  • Marc Danziger: Well, if the vehicles were solely used in California, the read more
  • Joe Katzman: Question: is there anything stopping L.A. from hiring a contractor read more
  • Foobarista: I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't run by one read more

April 20, 2009

Susan Boyle... and Paul Potts

By Joe Katzman at 00:09

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....


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  • Robohobo: Beard said: ...even if I am unremarkable in some ways, read more
  • juliet: How about them apples, real-life Goodwill Hunting(s) aka Matt Damons? read more
  • Beard: Another thing that I thought was inspiring about her triumph read more

April 19, 2009

Quality In Journalismismism...

By Armed Liberal at 04:33

This morning I read this article at Factcheck.org:
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.

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.
Then, on my Blackberry, I read this in the LA Times opinion section:
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?

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  • Davod: The Fact Check article is a shallow effort for an read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: It seems the Pulitzer Committee understands the problem. read more
  • phantommut: So, is Obama simply a pawn of the 90% purveyors read more

April 17, 2009

Canadian Nuke Tech Exporter Caught

By Joe Katzman at 18:26

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."


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  • mark buehner: Another christian boy gone wrong undoubtedly. Probably a vet, you read more

When Money Dies: Peeking Into an Inflationary Abyss

By Joe Katzman at 01:01

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...


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  • Jeff: I think we are going to see a collapse of read more
  • Umbriel: While the Chinese can't just dump all their dollars and read more
  • Gbear: Not to worry, Timmy over at Treasury has responded to read more

April 16, 2009

After The Tea Party: Boycott

By Tim Oren at 19:55

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.

Now what?

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.


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  • Alchemist: I just think that you'll never get enough people on read more
  • Joe Katzman: Glen writes: "An unseemly number of them spent the last read more
  • mark buehner: "Can you explain how we compare George Soros's propaganda expenditures read more

The Dissidents' War

By Michael Totten at 06:10

 

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.

Read the rest at MichaelTotten.com

 


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Tea Parties or Garden Parties?

By Armed Liberal at 05:05


So I was in the neighborhood, and stopped by during the runup to the South Bay Tea Party at Dockweiler Beach. I left about the time the speeches started, but wanted to get a checkup on the attitudes and temperatures of the crowds.

So, for starters, here are three pictures:

Dockweiler01.JPG


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April 15, 2009

Presidential Decisionmaking And Error

By Armed Liberal at 06:04

So in the post below, I expressed my unhappiness with people who - with no meaningful data - built a narrative critical of the White House. I claimed that they did so because they were more interested in selling a narrative than telling the truth.

I still believe that.

But...I've been contacted by someone who I reasonably believe has meaningful data, and who set out for me information that places the White House in a pretty bad position on this. I'll leave it to others who can disclose sources to make more of a public issue of this - but I know enough now to question my own assertions.

It's complicated, but I want to suggest that I was both right (that critics didn't have enough information to make the partisan claims they were making) and wrong (in saying that the White House had performed well).

Sigh. Reality is a cruel bitch sometimes.

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April 14, 2009

The UN's Disintegration in Lebanon

By Michael Totten at 17:07

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.”

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.


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What Obama Did Or Didn't Do

By Armed Liberal at 05:31

There's a wide variety of discussion on whether Obama did "good" in making the call that freed Capt. Phillips. There are two points I'd like to make in this...one is tactical, and one is political.

Tactically, there's a pretty clear explanation of why Obama didn't greenlight action until Saturday.

Because that's when the SEALS showed up.
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.

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April 13, 2009

Strategy and Competence for I.T. Managers

By Joe Katzman at 03:26

Bob Lewis has some advice for I.T. managers...

"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?


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April 12, 2009

Good For Obama, Good For The Navy...

By Armed Liberal at 19:14

From the Beeb:
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.

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.
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.

Good for everyone, and welcome home, Capt. Phillips.

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April 11, 2009

Introducing Gummitch

By Armed Liberal at 07:38

So we have been keeping the cat "Formerly Known As Basement Cat" in the upstairs - bedroom/bathroom/office - while keeping the "normal cat" - creatively named 'Kit' - downstairs. So we decided to introduce them tonight, by bringing Gummitch downstairs in a travel case. Then letting her out.

gummich_1.JPG

Kit ran away. They are not yet talking.

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Back(Haul) On Line: San Jose Sabotage

By Joe Katzman at 06:48

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 reward is now raised to $250,000 for information leading to the arrest of the perp - and it's 100% clear this was sabotage:


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April 10, 2009

Mo' Hamsher Fun

By Armed Liberal at 04:57
I neglected to cover one point when I was mocking Jane Hamsher below...she concludes her screed with:
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:

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More Hamsher Funnies

By Armed Liberal at 04:28

Jane "Money" Hamsher seems a little defensive...and continues to be really, really funny.

She opens by blasting her critics
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:
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If You're Not Offended, You're Not Paying Attention

By Armed Liberal at 04:03

Now the Christians are hanging mass murder on their spiritual opponents...here's Robert Peters, President, Morality in Media (his phone number is helpfully given: 212-870-3210)
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.

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April 9, 2009

OK, This Is Just Funny

By Armed Liberal at 06:40

Jane Hamsher, April 8, 2009 12:36pm (I assume est since she's from CT)
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.

Just in case you were worried, that's not a problem for us.
Jane Hamsher, April 8, 2009 3:56pm, quoted in The Plum Line
"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."

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.
...so when she says "...that's not a problem for us" what, exactly did she mean?


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In Which I Have The Temerity To Disagree With Taleb - More Than Once!!

By Armed Liberal at 04:19

Nicholas Taleb has a column up in the Financial Times - 'Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world'

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Agree.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Agree. No, make that AGREE.

3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus. Not so sure; people learn from their mistakes, and a "one strike and you're out" model seems like it would leave a lot of brand-new people driving the bus...

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April 8, 2009

Sadr City After the Fall

By Michael Totten at 08:45

 

Sadr City After the Fall.jpg

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.

Read the rest at MichaelTotten.com


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Alan Cooper on Agile Programing, Interaction Design, and the "Insurgency of Quality"

By Joe Katzman at 03:21

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:


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April 7, 2009

The Politics of Mass Murder

By Armed Liberal at 04:45

So, after I put up a quick post expressing my contempt for David Niewert's wave of the bloody shirt, I find that the usual cast of clowns from the left netroots - starting with "screw 'em" Kos himself are running with his claims and laying mass murder at the feet of their conservative opponents.

The quality of thinking is definitely juicebox, and the claims would be laughable if they were not so contemptible (note that fellow liberal Tommy Christopher sums up why) and if we did not have an endless new round of New York and Los Angeles Times editorials excoriating gun ownership to look forward to (it would be fun if once - just once - either of those papers' editorial staffs could point to a firearms restriction they opposed).

But in spite of the contemptible (I keep using that word for a reason...) political thinking of Kos, Willis, Niewert and the rest of the Juicebox thinkers, the reality is that events like this prompt me - as a gun owner and supporter of people's rights to own guns - to examine my own positions yet again.
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Gates' Proposed FY 2010 Pentagon Budget

By Joe Katzman at 03:14

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...


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Iraq: Return of al-Qaeda?

By Joe Katzman at 02:26

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.


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50 Things Every 18-Year Old Should Know

By Joe Katzman at 02:18

John Hawkins has the roundup.

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.


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April 5, 2009

Obama's European Trip

By Armed Liberal at 20:44

I'm still digesting the news reports; my first reaction is that it went about as well as could be realistically expected as far as engaging other countries is concerned - there wasn't any real possibility that he'd do better than he did. And I worry about people who think that our interests and the world's would be magically aligned because we suddenly say we'd like them to be. But he made some critical mistakes which are going to hurt him domestically.

Bowing to King Abdullah was stupid, and the damage to Obama as the video circulates remains to be seen. For the defenders who suggest that GWB holding his had as they walked was equally bad - no it wasn't. Peers in Arab societies may hold hands. Peers don't bow to each other.

I don't know who's handling Obama's protocol, but they need to be replaced, like today.

And I was - and still am, on consideration - a little fuddled by his over-nuanced take on American Exceptionalism. This is a profound issue for me, which I am going to spend some time worrying through.
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Muckers Again

By Armed Liberal at 19:48

I'm working on a post on the recent flood of mass shootings. My first thoughts as always are of the victims and their loved ones; I personally wish we would let the bodies cool before politicizing these tragedies.

David Niewert gets "pride" of place for tying the Pittsburgh ambush that killed three police officers to gun-rights advocates and those who oppose Obama; I guess we can tie the Oakland police murders to black nationalism and gangster rap with equal honesty (hint: both claims are deeply dishonest, misleading, and morally devalue the person who makes them).

Again, disgusting, dishonest claims - made to score political points in the most sensational ways possible.

To get a good sense of my response, check out all these posts, and specifically this one.
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April 3, 2009

Gratitude

By Armed Liberal at 22:41


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.


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Speaking Of Writing

By Marc Danziger at 22:36
Michael's post reminded me on one of the best things I've ever read about writing - Michael Ventura's great essay "The Talent of the Room"

"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."

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?
Go read the whole thing, as they say...

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A Freelancer's Survival Guide

By Michael Totten at 01:34

 

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.


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April 2, 2009

Sorry About That

By Marc Danziger at 13:49
Something broke in the MT instance and our style sheet keeps being damaged (we think). Smarter people than I are looking at it this morning...
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Canada Nixes GM, Chrysler Restructuring Plans

By Joe Katzman at 01:53

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."


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April 1, 2009

Hezbollah Doesn't Have Wings

By Michael Totten at 00:57

 

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?

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.


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