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June 2009 Archives

June 30, 2009

Withdrawal Begins

By Armed Liberal at 13:37

I started blogging in the aftermath of 9/11 and leadup to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I viewed Iraq as a front in a much larger conflict, and today we pulled out troops back from cities in Iraq and left the defense of the Iraqi people to Iraqi forces.
U.S. combat troops, under agreement with the Iraqi government, abandoned the country's cities today amid public celebrations and private concerns over Iraq's future security.

The government declared today a national holiday and official cars were decorated with streamers and flowers. Revellers took to the streets to toot on trumpets and beat drums while martial music and history documentaries filled television screens. U.S. military officers visited Iraqi bases in several regions to wish their counterparts well.

"We are behind you," Col. Ryan Gonsalves, commander of U.S. troops near the northern city of Kirkuk, assured officers of the Iraqi 12th Army Division. A luncheon and dancing marked the occasion. "It's their day, their sovereignty," he said later in an interview.

In a televised ceremony in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki guaranteed the government could keep its citizens safe. "Those who think that Iraqis are not able to protect their country and that the withdrawal of foreign forces will create a security vacuum are making a big mistake." The country has been hit by a series of car and suicide bombs that killed about 250 people in the past two weeks.
I'm worried but hopeful; worried because the impetus for this was political - both in the US and Iraq - more than based on military conditions. I'm hopeful because conflicts end when the political becomes more important than the military.

The next few months will tell; going back will be harder, militarily and politically, than staying - which is why I worry. But you know, having made these decisions, now is the time to hope.

So that's what I'll be doing.

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  • mark buehner: "I'm worried but hopeful; worried because the impetus for this read more

The Peshawar Problem - and Opportunity?

By Joe Katzman at 04:46

Every once in a while, Foreign Policy magazine says something sensible.

"[Almost 3 million] internally displaced people (IDPs) fled on just a few hours notice -- before a military offensive meant to "flush out" the terrorists in the North-west Frontier Province's Malakand district.... [But the recent] attack on the Pearl Continental [hotel] forced international agencies to withdraw their international staff from Peshawar, disrupting assistance to the hundreds of thousands now living in government-run camps.

The IDP situation matters for more than its very real status as a humanitarian crisis. Between 80 and 90 percent of the IDPs are not in the camps; they are bunking with overstretched relatives and friends who receive no outside aid whatsoever. If the international community responds to their needs, these IDPs could present a potentially powerful constituency of civil opposition to extremism. They fled their homes because they reject the militants' worldview. If and when peace returns, they, as a resident living in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas told Crisis Group, will be the robust civil society that is so badly needed in the conflict zones."

I'm less blithe about the necessary connection between leaving and rejection of extremism. Many Arabs left the immediate conflict zone in 1948 per instructions, expecting to return over the Jews' dead bodies. The act of leaving, in and of itself, spoke to little more than a wish to be out of the line of fire. On the other hand...

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June 26, 2009

OK, I'm A Bad Blogger This Week

By Armed Liberal at 22:51

I've almost completely ignored the Troopathon. Timing was bad (we did a huge demo with four other organizations in from of state officials yesterday) but so what; timing is never good, and this week neither was I.

It's almost over, and I'm asking - begging - that you consider renting a movie tonight instead of seeing Transformers and buy a care package for the troops.

If you don't like the politics of the people organizing this, remember that they don't get the money or goods - the troops do. And if you can't get past that, please go sign up for Soldier's Angels. Through them, I send magazines, beef jerky, and M & M's to a soldier doing police training in Baghdad - it's almost free, gets rid of the old magazines I'd just recycle, and reminds him that at least one household Stateside remembers what he's doing and gives a damn.

Because really, what you're doing with your $30 is just that. Giving an American soldier half of hour of 'Recherche de Temps Perdu' reminders of what it smells and tastes like to be home, and reminding them that while they are sleeping under foreign stars, someone at home is proud of them, wishes them well, and - to be blunt - gives some small kind of a damn.

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By Joe Katzman at 17:27

Off for some painful minor surgery, which falls into the category of "things you know won't make you happy (but might later on, mayhap after you can, like, eat again)." At the other end of this particular scale, I offer's combination of links to real science and viciously acerbic wit.

Presenting, "5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't)". With the recurring sub-headings of "So, what the problem?" and "Wait, it gets worse..." An excerpt:

"Most of us get out of bed everyday purely because it edges us one step closer to some kind of financial future we want. If we won the lottery, most of us would show up to the office the next day wearing an ankle-length fur coat and enough bling to make Mr. T look Amish, and only stay just long enough to take a dump in our boss's inbox.

So What's the Problem?

Hey, remember when we said earlier that most people wouldn't do the body-switching thing for fear they'd wake up in Nigeria...."

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  • lewy14: Joe, hope your outcome is positive and your recovery a read more

Systemic Risk: Deriviatives and the Heart of the Matter

By Joe Katzman at 03:28

There aren't a lot of days you're going to hear me saying that people like Carl Levin [D-MI] and Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] are on the right track. But there's at least one issue where I have to give them props for trying, and actually think their proposals make more sense than the White House or, to date, the GOP. Newsweek's "The Insurgents" talks about work that Maria Cantwell [D-WA], Byron Dorgan [D-ND] et. al. are doing to deal with financial industry regulation. They're closer to the heart of the matter than blathering about nebulous concepts like "systemic risk"...

"Dorgan warned in 1999 that "massive taxpayer bailouts" would result from the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a move that allowed investment and commercial banks to merge. Both Dorgan and Cantwell are worried about loopholes that will permit firms to keep trillions of dollars of derivative trades in the shadows, escaping regulation. Levin, for his part, wants to rescind many of the Clinton-era laws that led to deregulation, including the 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which exempted credit default swaps from regulation. Unless giant financial firms like Citigroup and AIG are broken up, Sanders says, they'll have to be bailed out again someday."

And you know what? I think they're right. Actually, I support guys like Chris Whalen, whose prepared remarks to the Senate Banking Committee argued, convincingly, that Credit Default Swaps should simply be prohibited outright, as fraudulent. That their pricing is so inherently so non-transparent, and that they are inherently wealth-destroying by increasing the level of risk and loss in the system for the very thing they're supposed to insure against, that they should not exist.

They do exist, because in the short term, their opaqueness generates supra-normal profits for certain firms, even though they are likely to trigger those firms' implosion at a later date. But by then, the people currently in charge have probably made millions in bonuses, and don't suffer from the crash. Unlike the people who still work there. Or the larger economy.

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Robot Evolution Produces... Good and Evil?

By Joe Katzman at 00:48


I'm not certain whether to be oddly reassured by this, or highly alarmed.

"Dario Floreano and his team at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology built a swarm of mobile robots [with unprogrammed learning A.I.s], outfitted with light bulbs and photodetectors. These were set loose in a zone with illuminated "food" and "poison" zones which charged or depleted their batteries."

What followed was a set of standard 'genetic algorithm' type culls for most-fit results, as measured by scores, followed by redownload/ reproduction of the winners across the same robot set. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. What happened next has been seen in pure simulations like "Life," but with robots it's more explicit:

"Within fifty generations of this electronic evolution, co-operative societies of robots had formed - helping each other to find food and avoid poison. Even more amazing is the emergence of cheats and martyrs...."

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June 25, 2009

A Look at "Doomsday in 2012" Predictions

By Joe Katzman at 21:03, in "The 6 Best 2012 Apocalypse Theories"

"You may have noticed a recent trend of trying to fit every hackneyed doomsday prophecy into the same red-letter year of 2012. The theories are obtuse, their connections are flimsy and the perceived consequences are completely unsubstantiated.

Unsurprisingly, these prophecies are enormously popular."

Whereupon they proceed to explain, and deliver a major New Age ass-whuppin' to, each and every one of them. It's kind of like having a set of 6 hippies thrown into a Wrestlemania cage match.

Which, by the way, I'd pay good money to see...

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  • David Blue: No indeed. If that was the true explanation, why would read more
  • LTEC: "As for the winter solstice thing, that's just when the read more
  • Foobarista: I love it! I'm often having debates with co-workers who read more

Iran: Their Existential Challenges - And Ours

By Joe Katzman at 02:43

As things head for a lull - and possibly an outright defeat - in Iran, WSJ online has a good piece about a gentleman named Mohsen Kadivar:

"Mr. Kadivar's chief claim to fame rests on a three-part work of political philosophy titled "The Theories of the State in Shiite Jurisprudence." At heart, it is a devastating theological critique of the Ayatollah Khomeini's notion of "the rule of the jurist" (Velayat e Faqih), which serves as the rationale for the near-dictatorial powers enjoyed by the Supreme Leader."

That kind of argument on the regime's own terms is useful and valuable. Ultimately, the defeat of Khomeinism is going to require an ideological shattering, as well as a physical shattering. Religious critique from within is a vital part of that, though certainly not exclusive. The decision that ordinary Iranians have taken are also part of it - and on Jack Wheeler's site, he carries a piece by an Iranian philosophy professor in Tehran:

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  • Alchemist: Sorry, I was speaking of McCain there, wasn't quite clear read more
  • Alchemist: The same arguments were made about the Soviet Empire, alchemist. read more
  • bgates: I think it is a success for Obama, inasmuch as read more

June 24, 2009

We All Need Some Humor This Week

By Armed Liberal at 22:13

...and S.C. Governor Mark Sanford is providing it.

Here's Jeffrey Goldberg at 11:39 am Eastern:
Does Gov. Sanford Suffer from Dissociative Fugue?
Gov. Sanford's strange vanishing act -- he was thought to be hiking the Appalachian Trail alone, until he washed up in Argentina -- prompts me to wonder if he suffers from a condition known as dissociative fugue disorder.
...then at 2:36 pm:
Well, Gov. Sanford Isn't Suffering from Dissociative Fugue
He's suffering from something else entirely: Argentine Nookie Syndrome.
I don't think his career is going to be recovering from this level of ridicule any time soon.

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  • Joe Katzman: If it involves Argentina's elected leader, he's forgiven. read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: What, the New York Senate antics don't even get an read more

Some Good Thinking About Iran

By Armed Liberal at 18:48

A very good strategic analysis of what's in store in Iran, from Al Giordano.
...We agreed that our discussion would be off the record, so I'm not going to quote anybody by name. But what I can give you is my own roadmap or x-ray of what the situation in Iran is today, informed by this consultation with: 1. a prominent Iranian human rights defender, 2. an award-winning filmmaker who has spent months at a time on end reporting inside the regions of Iran, 3. a veteran strategist from the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa that successfully ended apartheid, 4. a Polish student of social movements, 5. a Mexican journalist and civil resistance trainer, and 6 and 7. two individuals much like me: authors with intensive experience and study of civil resistance movements and community organizing.

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  • Alchemist: It's worth considering that we don't know the actual size read more
  • Roland Nikles: According to this site there are 676,000 sworn law read more
  • Marc Danziger: Hmmm... 250,000 basiji and an overall population of 65 million. read more

My Reputation Is On Jeopardy

By Armed Liberal at 17:54

One of Middle Guy's friends sent me to a site that completely documents my public shaming on Jeopardy. You can go look at the questions and tell me how much smarter you actually are than I was...

"It's observed on March 7 in California, March 26 in Spain & April 22 in Nebraska" are words that are forever burned into my brain.

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  • mark buehner: Who are three people that have never been in my read more
  • J Aguilar: Oh come on! Columbus did not discover America on March read more

June 23, 2009

EMP? Don't Lose Any Sleep This Year

By Armed Liberal at 06:32

The subject of EMP is red-hot this week, as a new novel about America after electronics - 'One Second After.'

Again, I haven't read the book (yet -I will) and I'm no expert on the effects of nuclear weapons. But some amateur math confirms the gut impression that a small (10 - 20Kt) weapon isn't going to have a massive national impact.

I'm bringing forward a post I did back in 2006 below so you can check my math:

OK, I'm looking at the likely effects of EMP and doing the classic blogger thing of dipping into serious issues as a rank amateur. But I may be right, and if not, I'll trigger a darn interesting discussion.

TG works close to the Los Angeles Public Library, and we have a deal where I'll find a book I'm interested in, email her the catalog link, and she'll pick it up and bring it home for me. The Department of Homeland Security is doubtless interested in her borrowing habits...

Today, she brought home Glasstone & Dolan's "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons," Third Edition.

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  • mark buehner: Hemp can do anything, man. But the man doesn't want read more
  • J Aguilar: Harsher environment, I meant. Furthermore, high altitude EMP radiation is read more
  • J Aguilar: It took them only hours to identify bin Laden's involvement read more

A Response To 'Democracy in America' About Journalism And Patriotism

By Armed Liberal at 05:29

So my post on the NYTimes and their reporter David Rohde's' got picked up by Instapundit (thanks, Glenn!) and a few others. One of them was a new blogger to me at the Economist site - 'Democracy in America' (sigh. Am I going to have to cover the same ground I did with Yglesias and remind him we're a Republic and many of us are happy about that?)

He was unhappy with my post - rather lengthily so. His arguments are pretty straightforward and (as I commented in his remarks) a bit doctrinaire, and I'm afraid that he manages to miss my point and in doing so, he makes my point out to be far more doctrinaire than I meant it to be.

Now at the moment, I think Robert Fisk is doing brave and good reporting - which worries me because I've been so dismissive of him in the past, and I'm not sure which perception to distrust. So please don't call this a 'fisking'; it's simply easier for me structure my points by interpolating them into his.

So here goes...

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  • Glen Wishard: Schaar, who wrote what you cite was criticizing that position... read more
  • David Billington: In past wars, the United States government made it clear read more
  • Marc Danziger: Glenn - Schaar, who wrote what you cite was criticizing read more

June 22, 2009

The Medea Hypothesis, and Global Warming

By Joe Katzman at 02:45
Well, it's official, folks. Global warming will indeed cause life on Earth to end early, in a manner linked to CO2. Not great news if you believe in the strong Gaia hypotheses. There are a couple of earlier mass extinctions that are even less good news, and as for our future:
"The starting point is that the sun is getting hotter. It has increased in brightness by about 30 per cent over the past 4.5 billion years and will carry on doing so. As the sun continues to burn brighter it will cause global warming, which will translate into increased weathering of silicate rocks - the rate of weathering rises with temperature. This will remove CO2 ever faster from the atmosphere, aided and abetted by photosynthesis and plant roots. At first, this removal of CO2 will buffer the solar-induced temperature increase. But there will come a time - possibly as early as 500 million years from now - when there is not enough CO2 in the atmosphere to support photosynthesis. When that calamitous day arrives, a very pronounced end of the world as we know it will begin...."

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  • David Blue: Joke mode off for a moment, that's a good piece read more
  • Glen Wishard: ... possibly as early as 500 million years from now read more
  • Aog: In such a case, humanity won't last even another 100 read more

June 21, 2009

A Matter Of Professional Courtesy

By Marc Danziger at 03:36

A long time ago, I wrote about the conflict between citizenship and the modern self-conception of journalism. I was critical of journalists who felt that somehow they were above the shared obligations of citizenship, and that their obligation was only to, as Mike Wallace would put it, "...[whatever] story they were there to cover."

That issue is about to get an interesting wringing out, as it turns out that a courageous NY Times reporter was kidnapped at the Pakistan/Afghanistan border last fall, was held hostage by the Taliban, and recently - with amazing pluck and luck - escaped into the welcome arms of some nearby US soldiers.

Now that's a great story; not only an amazing drama in the kidnapping, and adventure in captivity, and now one with the happiest of endings.

But we weren't told it until the story was over. Joe Strupp in E & P, explains that all of the professional US media kept a lid on the story: didn't hear about it for the past seven months, in the Times or any other mainstream news outlet. That is because Times editors sought what amounted to a news blackout, citing Rohde's safety.

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  • AMac: A Taliban-affiliated group kidnaps a Westerner in Afghanistan (journalist or read more
  • Foobarista: The problem is too many journalists don't bother with "journaling". read more
  • JeanneB: Roland: A reporter is working on a story about people read more

June 20, 2009

Just Go Read Sullivan

By Armed Liberal at 18:05

I'm on the way to lunch with an Iranian friend and his wife, watching the news about what really looks like a massive, violent, nationwide clampdown in Iran.

But just go to this post at Andrew Sullivan's to keep up...

I'm working on a longer post, but I can say with some confidence that Iran will never be the same. The regime has split from the people, and I'm not sure how well that's going to work for them.

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  • Glen Wishard: Kudos to Andrew Sullivan for his righteous attitude on Iran. read more

This Isn't The Disney That I Knew

By Armed Liberal at 17:46

I have a lot of friends who worked for Disney over the last decade, didn't like it, and used ugly words like "Mauschwitz" and "Duckau" to describe it. Disney was one of the epitomes of a hardnosed corporate behemoth.

By my local paper is all over a story today that kind of breaks that perception - you may have seen it on Gizmodo:
HUNTINGTON BEACH - Colby Curtin, a 10-year-old with a rare form of cancer, was staying alive for one thing ... a movie.

From the minute Colby saw the previews to the Disney-Pixar movie Up, she was desperate to see it. Colby had been diagnosed with vascular cancer about three years ago, said her mother, Lisa Curtin, and at the beginning of this month it became apparent that she would die soon and was too ill to be moved to a theater to see the film.

After a family friend made frantic calls to Pixar to help grant Colby her dying wish, Pixar came to the rescue.

The company flew an employee with a DVD of Up, which is only in theaters, to the Curtins' Huntington Beach home on June 10 for a private viewing of the movie.
That doesn't sound like the Disney we knew - and maybe that's because it's really Pixar, which was bought by Disney and now runs the animation studio.

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  • Joe Katzman: Just as Apple v3.0, upon the return of Steve, was read more

June 19, 2009

So This Is Interesting...

By Armed Liberal at 22:27

Sorry - thought I'd posted this via Blackberry & it didn't work...

So one terrorism-related thing I worry about a bit is the old "nuke in the container loaded off the ship" gag. Especially since I work about 1 mile from a major container port.

Today, I'm a lot less worried about it...

The neck injury I have causes symptoms that are hard to distinguish from heart problems, so my doc decided a while ago that we'd just launch a pre-emptive set of tests, and makes me do a stress test every year or so.

This year, I got to do a 'nuclear stress test' in which they inject me with a radioactive isotope (technicium), and use the gamma rays to make really cool 3-D images of my heart.

So I can now attest that I do, in fact, have a heart. And that it works - it took just under 20 mins to get my heart rate up enough to finish the test.

But that's not what was interesting (except to me and Tenacious G and one or two others, I'd guess).

What was interesting that there was a big sign that said that if I was going to the airport or the port, I needed to get a letter from the clinic.

So we're scanning there well enough to catch someone mildly irradiated, like me. Nice. very nice.

I'm awaiting my new superpowers, and will report...

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  • Silverlake Bodhisattva: So, can G find you in a dark room now, read more
  • Roland Nikles: My skiboots set off the alarm at Aspen airport two read more
  • Foobarista: My worst-case scenario isn't a container boat, but a drug read more

Partisan Hackitude

By Armed Liberal at 03:15

I've said over and over that I mostly admire those whose convictions overrule their loyalties. Dan Froomkin, like him or not, was someone who took it to Obama with much the same vigor that he did Bush. Froomkin was just let go from the Post...

But this post isn't about Froomkin, who I kinda like. Instead here is Greg Sargent in March of 2007:
Will former U.S. Attorney and current Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani ever weigh in on Attorney Purge?

Update: Romney declining to comment on Attorney scandal.

Late update: And John Edwards becomes first Dem candidate to demand that Gonzales step down.

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  • Marc Danziger: No, I thought I'd posted from my Blackberry....and hadn't. My read more
  • Foobarista: Sorry to be OT, but why is the BMW parts read more
  • Alchemist: Ok, here's a better article here that accounts for both read more

June 18, 2009

Safeway CEO Describes Their Health Care Success

By Joe Katzman at 03:49

Interesting bit from Safeway's CEO. What he describes is ridiculously obvious, of course:

At Safeway we believe that well-designed health-care reform, utilizing market-based solutions, can ultimately reduce our nation's health-care bill by 40%. The key to achieving these savings is health-care plans that reward healthy behavior. As a self-insured employer, Safeway designed just such a plan in 2005 and has made continuous improvements each year. The results have been remarkable. During this four-year period, we have kept our per capita health-care costs flat (that includes both the employee and the employer portion), while most American companies' costs have increased 38% over the same four years.

How did they manage that?

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  • J Aguilar: The answer is indeed technology, at a level we probably read more
  • Demosophist: One thing to consider is that a large portion of read more
  • Alchemist: One thing to consider is that a large portion of read more

June 17, 2009

Great Iran Backgrounder

By Armed Liberal at 19:54

If you're curious about the dynamics and actors in the drama, go read this:
[TEHRAN BUREAU] The rigged presidential election in Iran - a coup d'etat, according to Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a spokesman for the main reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi and other analysts - has prompted protests both inside and outside Iran. There is, however, little understanding about the ideology and motivation behind the operation.
Along with Twitterfall (looking at #iranelections, #g88, #iran9), Tehran Bureau is a site that I've been reading compulsively for the last three days...

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  • Demosophist: Dead martyrs are less trouble than live rivals. This isn't read more
  • mark buehner: Mousavi is the key. I think they must be trying read more
  • chuck: I'm concerned that this is about to turn violent. It read more

Deployment Cycles, and The Warburton Imperative

By Joe Katzman at 19:41 has a piece from Max Boot about Afghan commander Gen. McChrystal's new rotation policy. In a part of the world that absolutely depends on personal relationships, the Vietnam approach of fighting for 1 year, 10 times, is not ideal.

Instead, a new Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell will create a corps of roughly 400 officers who will shuttle in and out of the country, work on those issues even while they are stateside, and spend years devoted to the area. Special Forces already have a 6-months in, 6 months out but keeping tabs, then back to the same area approach.

Boot recommends that staff soldiers, intelligence officers, and diplomats be allowed to volunteer for multiple-year postings in key areas, and cites the impressive 19th century example of Col. Sir Robert Warburton as evidence of how much it can change the situation on the ground. It strikes me as a very good idea.

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  • Jimmy: It is obviously the way to go. However, the US read more

Don't Forget There Are Still Troops Over There

By Armed Liberal at 06:01

I'm late to the party, but I agreed this weekend to help Move America Forward gather people to send boxes to the troops. We send boxes to a soldier we've connected with via Soldier's Angels (and btw, take a moment and help them get a new social media website by clicking on a contest link), but this is a chance to simply click a button, give a card, and let a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan get some stuff and be reminded that - even for a moment - you were thinking about him or her.

So click here and spend the price of a moderate dinner to send some useful swag to a serving soldier; take a moment and write a few words and let them know you're paying attention.

Because while all of us are worrying about the SP500, M1 and CDO - they are worrying about staying alive, defending innocents, and taking it to the bad guys.

I'm trying to gather other bloggers to help out and creating a team - "COINs" - to see how many packages we can send. Suggest it to other bloggers you know (they can just copy and paste the link at 'click here'), and pass the word - please.

Send at least one, and say a few words when you do.

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June 16, 2009

Maybe Matt Took Pottery At Harvard (Instead Of US History)

By Armed Liberal at 17:42

So Memorandum leads me to a post by my favorite whipping post, Matt Yglesias, in which matt is shocked - SHOCKED - to discover that a) Senators do not represent equal populations, and b) that the U.S. Senate presents a meaningful check to the U.S. President's power in setting domestic policy.

Now, while I'm always amused when he gets the vapors, I'm especially amused since I finished a history section with my 12 year old going over pretty much exactly this ground about 6 months ago. And he's at a free public middle school in an upper-middle class neighborhood, not an undergraduate at Harvard. James Joyner seems to have a similar reaction...

So if Matt would like to get some reading recommendations - like, say, Federalist #10 - I'd be happy to oblige. Or I could ask Littlest Guy to help him out...

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  • Roland Nikles: Marc and Andrew: The original 13 colonies were divided into read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: I spent some time with Google and Nikles is not read more
  • Marc Danziger: Roland, do you want to make a case for you read more

On A Lighter Note

By Armed Liberal at 06:20

MotoGP in Catalunya, Spain this weekend. The most exciting 90 seconds I've ever seen of the world's most exciting sport. (video at link)

And for fun, listen to the Italian narration:

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  • Roland Nikles: Wow! I can see the appeal. Thanks for sharing. Roland read more
  • Uncle Jimbo: Hey where is the croissant delivery box on these scooters? read more

Admissions In Interest - Flynt Leverett And Our Sorry-Ass Commentariat

By Armed Liberal at 04:58

There's an old legal term - "admissions against interest" which is something a witness reports that is 'an admission of the truth of a fact by any person, but especially by the parties to a lawsuit, when a statement obviously would do that person harm, be embarrassing, or be against his/her personal or business interests.' In other words, something that undermines you. One thing I look for in commentators is an occasional admission against interest; it tells me someone is honest, and gives their words more credibility.

So today, over on Politico, the New America Foundation's Flynt Leverett rehashes his Spiegel interview and flatly states "Ahmadinejad won. Get over it."

Now, personally, I know for a fact that I don't know enough about the Iranian elections to state any position with certitude. I do know a few things, though, and one of them is that the US commentariat's dance around this issue is only slightly less complex than the actual politics within Iran itself. Second-intention positions seem to be commonplace, and I'm spending way too much effort trying to read through the actual words and understand what the commentator is really doing.

In Leverett's case, I did a fast Google, and came up with a list of his articles, and read them.

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  • MarkEichenlaub: It would be nice to know what is really going read more
  • mark buehner: Exactly. I thought it was a pretty poorly thought out read more
  • Marc Danziger: Saw that, but it doesn't have a lot of data read more

June 15, 2009

The Whole World Is Watching

By Armed Liberal at 06:41

I've spent much of the weekend trying to subtly keep up with the news from Iran on my Blackberry (I made a family commitment to keep the laptop off - a matter of unfortunate timing on my part). Patterico has a good roundup of sources, but if you can't follow anything else, I'd go to Twitterfall and look at #iranelections. This is raw rumor right now, but the analysis can - and should - wait.

I firmly believe that the right thing for the US and Western governments to do is to make encouraging noises about the will of the people and do, exactly, nothing. Any action in these next weeks by us as a nation will have far more unintended consequences than we can imagine.

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  • David Blue: I support Ron Paul (link). read more
  • David Blue: I think Barack Obama's speech and his approach to this read more
  • Alchemist: I've been jumping around the internet, trying to read more read more

This Weekend

By Armed Liberal at 04:46
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  • Silverlake Bodhisattva: The leis seem to be in fashion at schools with read more
  • Marc Danziger: God knows...I certainly didn't ask. Marc read more
  • chuck: What's with the leis? read more

June 12, 2009

Graduation Day

By Armed Liberal at 16:05

I've written a lot about the adventures of Biggest Guy (about to get a heck of a lot more adventurous this summer, I'd say) and maybe not as much about my other sons. Middle Guy's real adventures start this weekend as he graduates with distinction from Thurgood Marshall College at the University of California at San Diego.

The economy seems to have dented his plans to go get an entry-level finance job in Hong Kong or Singapore (there don't appear to be any...) but I have a feeling that by Fall he'll be in a time zone far away starting his own very real adventures.

I want to take a second and publicly praise him for his hard work, smarts, and most of all for the empathy and heart that he displays every day. He's a helluva human being, and as my goal in life was always to raise better men than me, I can say with confidence that I'm 2/3 of the way there.

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Tech Issues

By Marc Danziger at 00:14

I just realized that commenting seems not to work...apologies, we'll look at it and get it fixed quickly.

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June 11, 2009

Another Mucker

By Armed Liberal at 19:59

So we've got another mucker, this one a right-wing nutjob with a long criminal history.

And as sure as the sun rises, we're seeing the political slinging and dodging begin. The lefties are wagging fingers and saying "see!! The DHS report you all slagged was soooo correct!" and the righties are bobbing weaving and covering up.

This is a boring and stupid game, and it has one point only - to delegitimize one's political opponents.

Look, if you can't tell the difference between Michelle Malkin and some unemployable whackjob who walked into the Fed with a shotgun, may I suggest that whatever you're using as a discriminator may need some serious work?

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  • Robert M: Nice job of holding it down Andrew. read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: Hey, Glen, when Rachel Maddow goes out there calling for read more
  • Glen Wishard: Ooooh, some nuts took the right-wing media seriously ... Be read more

June 10, 2009

No Divine Victory for Hezbollah

By Michael Totten at 22:36

Lebanese voters went to the polls on Sunday and gave Hezbollah an unexpected shellacking. The anti-Syrian “March 14” coalition led by Saad Hariri’s Future Movement won 71 seats in the parliament. The Hezbollah-led “March 8” bloc won 57. Hezbollah itself only has ten seats in Beirut out of 128.

Most observers and analysts were surprised by the March 14 victory, but I could never figure out where Hezbollah’s additional support was supposedly coming from. Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah strapped a suicide bomb vest around his own country when he picked a fight with Israel in 2006. Mounting an armed assault against the capital, as he did last May, was no way to win the hearts and minds of new voters. Until recently, I was certain Hezbollah and its allies had no chance of winning, but they grew so sure of their own propaganda that they managed to persuade even their enemies that they might come out on top. The March 14 side was rattled, and some of their analysts convinced even me that Hezbollah might pull it off. But Hezbollah lost, and Nasrallah conceded.

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad also lost big when his most powerful proxy in Lebanon was rejected by the majority. “So much for Bashar’s ‘imaginary majority,’” wrote Lebanese political analyst Tony Badran, “in spite of all his terrorism, bombing, murder, violence, intimidation, coup attempts and information warfare over the last four years.”

“Sanity prevailed,” an unnamed Obama Administration official said after the results were made official. Indeed, it did. The press may be getting slightly carried away with crediting President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech for the March 14 victory, but Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Beirut recently and said everything that needed to be said before voters went to the polls. Biden rightly warned the Lebanese that American aid to their government and military would be reevaluated if the Hezbollah-led coalition emerged victorious.

The president himself said the United States will “continue to support a sovereign and independent Lebanon, committed to peace, including the full implementation of all United Nations Security Council Resolutions.” Everyone in Lebanon knows exactly what this means. A “sovereign and independent” Lebanon cannot be a vassal of Syria and Iran. “Committed to peace” is a slap against Hezbollah’s interminable armed “resistance” against Israel. The relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions demand the disarmament of every militia in Lebanon – including Hezbollah and those in the Palestinian refugee camps.

Some leftists are kvetching about Obama’s explicitly anti-Hezbollah position. I was slightly worried myself about other potential aspects of the president’s Lebanon policy before it developed, but he deserves support here from conservatives as well as from Democrats who understand that the United States can’t support a terrorist army that says, “Death to America is a policy, a strategy, and a vision.”

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

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Wait - A Pro-Gun Rights Editorial In The LA Times??

By Armed Liberal at 18:58

I read this and almost choked on my Morning Thunder. Here are the closing grafs of an editorial in today's LA Times:
It's tempting for supporters of gun control -- including this page -- to hope that the high court will rule that the 2nd Amendment doesn't apply to the states. That would be a mistake and would give aid and comfort to conservative legal thinkers, among them Justice Clarence Thomas, who have questioned the incorporation doctrine.

We were disappointed last year when the Supreme Court ruled that the right to keep and bear arms was an individual right, giving short shrift to the first part of the amendment, which refers to "a well-regulated militia." But we also believe the court has been right to use the doctrine of incorporation to bind states to the most important protections of the Bill of Rights. If those vital provisions are to be incorporated in the 14th Amendment, so should the right to keep and bear arms.
Holy Cow.

I give them full credit here for intellectual honesty and consistency. One of my frustrations has been the willingness of organizations like the ACLU to pick-and-choose among the rights enumerated in the Constitution; it devalues the claims they make about the sanctity of certain rights that they are willing to pick and choose which rights should be sanctified.

Freedom doesn't mean much if it's only the freedom to do what each of us agrees with.

So attaperson, LA Times.

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  • The Sanity Inspector: One for the "Catch 'em being good" file. read more

Iran "Marriage Crisis"

By Joe Katzman at 17:11

Obamanomics "stimulus" has not been kind to Iran's Ahmedinejad:

"The President flooded the economy with capital through a loan scheme, cut interest rates 2% and embarked on huge state construction projects that drove up the price of building materials. Those changes prompted many investors to move out of the stock market and the banking system and into real estate, which was considered a safer bet. Apartment prices in the capital more than doubled between 2006 and 2008.... The real estate boom was a disaster for middle-income Iranians, particularly young men seeking marriage partners. And many of those who have married and moved in with in-laws are finding that inflation is eating away at their savings,"

Inflation is a consistent annual tax on your entire wealth, not just your income. As we're all about to find out. The chronically high unemployment rate doesn't help much, either, but at least the Iranians aren't working to ban oil exploration. Mind you, religious fanatics aren't an ideal choice to manage a modern oil industry, and that isn't helping the national income stream much. I guess President Holocaust must have missed the Koran's detailed sections on running a modern economy.

Iran has "elections" coming up, in which voters get to "choose" among the candidates approved by Iran's religious fanatics. The result may shuffle the deck chairs, but it's not going to change the people captaining the ship, or its course. And it's very unlikely to make a big difference to Iran's economy, which keeps many in its youth bulge unable to marry. What will make a difference? The next takeoff in oil prices, which will come.

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Taliban Antagonize Upper Dir Tribes - And This Time, There Are Consequences

By Joe Katzman at 16:40

The Associated Press reports that after a Taliban attack on a mosque (so what else is new?) left 33 worshippers dead and dozens more wounded during prayers, tribesmen of the Haya Gai area of Upper Dir district (Pakistan, near Swat province), decided they'd had it. Up to 1,600 tribesmen joined a lashkar (citizens' militia is the translation, but it's more like a Wild West posse on steroids). They promptly cleared 3 villages of Taliban, demolished the homes and "offices" of Taliban fighters, and were fighting in 2 more villages.

The mosque attack was the culmination of growing tensions with the locals, but the fact that the Pakistani Army is on the offensive next door in Swat also played a big role. Despite all the b.s. about those undefeatable Adghan/Pashtun tribesmen, al-
Qaeda and the Taliban have done a very fine job of exactly that in Pakistan. Village leaders and imams who quibble are killed, entire tracts of territory have been turned over to foreigners who run them as Emirs, and the youth are indoctrinated in hate and inducted into the Taliban's fighting forces. The net effect is the Taliban always have more soldiers than any given village or tribe, just enough local backing through native sympathizers to prevent a completely united front, and a deserved reputation for cruelty and brutality. Local tribal leaders weigh the odds, and the stakes, and the Taliban win.

The Boyd/Petraeus "swordlessness" approach may work here, but it requires a very strong and dependable outside military force on site, that can (a) Overmatch the Taliban's advantages in the short term; and (b) Be counted on to stay, in the local tribes' timeframe of "stay" which is a generation or more.

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June 9, 2009

Whelan Was Wrong To Apologize For Outing Publius

By Armed Liberal at 07:12

So I've been watching the dust clouds of the Halloween-style egg fight between Ed Whelan and Publius which culminated today in Whelan apologizing to Publius for outing him.

And I've been mulling this over more than a bit - particularly as a formerly pseudonymous blogger myself - and I think Whelan was mistaken in apologizing (at least to the extent he did). Here's what I read that made me decide this after some thinking.

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  • Glen Wishard: Sickles was wrong about Gettysburg, but he was right to read more
  • mark buehner: Common Sense was published anonymously. Ben Franklin wrote a clever read more
  • Alchemist: I wrote a very, very long post, but when I read more

June 8, 2009

Blue on Blue in Sacramento

By Armed Liberal at 06:21

Things are about to get very interesting in Sacramento, where the public employees unions are dropping the mask...
The relationship between Democratic leaders and some of their labor benefactors has turned particularly frosty: Many of the programs union members rely on for paychecks -- and the unions rely on for dues -- have been slated for deep cuts.

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  • Joe Katzman: Tim - When you're in Nevada, say hello to California's read more
  • Tim Oren: 'Solving' isn't all it's cracked up to be. I'm on read more
  • Marc Danziger: Marcus, given the current politics in the state, if we read more

Civilization, Citizenship, Insurrection, and Tiller/Long

By Joe Katzman at 05:46

Armed Liberal's "What Terrorism Looks Like Today," about the Tiller and Long murders, provides a useful takeoff point. It also feeds into a recent piece written by Dr. Jack Wheeler, of To The Point. In it, Jack starts with a good question:

"Someplace in the South there is a flamboyant slave owner who vehemently supports his right to own fellow human beings as his personal property and is infamous for treating them as sub-human. An abolitionist is so angry at this slaver's evil that he kills him, blows him away with a 12 gauge - both barrels.

Pro-slavers everywhere and dozens of newspapers in the South condemn the killing as a "vigilante outrage." Some even declare the murdered slaver as a "saint" who defended the freedom of "real people" to own things that aren't fully human.... The question to ask a pro-abortionist is: would you side with the pro-slavers or not?"

It's actually a fine question. On a structural level, the abortion and slavery debates are essentially identical. The same is true for some of the more militant animal rights positions re: animal experimentation, though that isn't a comparison conservatives are as comfortable with. The core of the debate goes to deeply-held conceptions about where human/sentient consideration should begin - and as "The Wedge and the Thoughtless" points out, these debates tap into peoples' considered and deep beliefs.

Jack Wheeler has earned my respect in other areas. The problem is that he goes from this starting point into terrain that, as far as I'm concerned is nucking futs...

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  • Joe Katzman: Andrew, it's more like the aspect of the Basque struggle read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: via Kevin Drum From Bob Enyart, spokesman for Colorado Right read more
  • Alchemist: Yes, very well written, I can't think of any situation read more

June 7, 2009

The 'Wedge' And The Thoughtless

By Armed Liberal at 18:25

I haven't read anything that just took the vacuity and indolence of the American chattering class, put it into words, and nailed it to the church door quite as well as this thumbsucking 'conversation' between Gail Collins and David Brooks in the New York Times.

Please, God. put them behind a paywall so I can ignore them, like the rest of America.

Here's the premise, an interesting one, actually: There are three 'wedge issues' in modern politics - values-driven issues that fracture interest-based coalitions, and are a large part of why blue-collar labor abandoned its political sponsors in the Democratic Party. They are:

Guns, Gays, and Abortion (add Affirmative Action to the list and you've pretty much got all the wedge issues covered).

Here are our two pocket intellectuals setting the stage:
Gail Collins: David, can we talk hot-button social issues for a second? I know this is not really an area where you fly the conservative colors, but you're the go-to guy on how America lives, and I'd like to hear your thoughts even if we can't work up a fight.

If you think of abortion, gay rights and gun control as the Big Three, it seems to me the nation is moving in very different directions...

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  • zanzibar: awesome and great informational; read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Alchemist: No problem. I was pretty sure what you meant, read more
  • Alchemist: Yeah, oops, not very clear. Yes, in the next 15 read more

June 5, 2009

D-Day, 65 Years later

By Armed Liberal at 18:11

When we were in France last winter, we went to Normandy (Calvados!).


On Omaha Beach, we saw this sculpture - "The Braves" by French sculptor Anilore Banon that was set up on Omaha Beach.

Braver men than me waded through that water 65 years ago.

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  • DaveK: Yes, Omaha Beach is a humbling place to visit. It read more
  • Marc Danziger: As I recall, they're about 20 - 25 feet tall read more
  • Silverlake Bodhisattva: Very intense, though it's tough to assess the scale from read more

June 4, 2009

Headline Of The Day: "Skateboarder 'sorry' for naked rooftop incident"

By Armed Liberal at 15:56

...or why I love living in Southern California:
Professional skateboarder Jereme Rogers said Wednesday he was sorry for disturbing his Redondo Beach neighbors this week when he "ate some `mushrooms' and bugged out," preaching naked on his rooftop.

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  • Joe Katzman: I'm with Mark. read more
  • mark buehner: Never apologize for something this hilarious. read more
  • Uncle Jimbo: Now there is a Christianist I can deal with. Cordially, read more

June 3, 2009

What Terrorism Looks Like Today

By Armed Liberal at 22:13

I've been watching the news this week with interest and not a little sadness, noting the events in Kansas and Arkansas.

I'll make a side comment on the difference in coverage between the Tiller and Long murders; one got screaming headlines, and one was buried deep in the news section. There's a piece to write about how the coverage is driven in part by how central the issues manifested by something are to the media class, and by how interesting the narrative is to them - and Christian militia murderers definitely makes that cut. neo-Islamists murdering soldiers - not so much.

But I'm bored of bashing the media, and they're dying anyway, so let's talk about more important things.

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  • Treefrog: Wikipedia has a rather informative, well sourced page (unusual for read more
  • David Blue: Alchemist, I'm the one who should say sorry if I read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: Mark B gives an example that appears to show the read more

June 2, 2009

Jimbo's Folly (or "Yo!! - Jimbo!")

By Armed Liberal at 18:27

OK. There are times as a man when you need to simply put your friends in their place - you know, when the thumbwrestling in the bar suddenly turns deadly serious or when the drinking contest suddenly turn mean and you have to guzzle one more bottle of Medoc.

And sometimes you need to simply fly by someone's house and drop the GBU-43/B.

So here we go.

Last week, I put up a post about my new bike, a Ducati 1100 Hypermotard.

Jimbo responded at Blackfive, where he foolishly views the Hypermotard as "...the delivery vehicle for the Croissant House."

Oh, really?

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  • Subsunk: LOL. Mark, did you happen to find a racer with read more
  • Marc Danziger: Oh, c'mon can't quit now! Marc read more
  • Uncle Jimbo: Ok I give and will leave you to your Ciao read more

June 1, 2009

Meet Maud Gonne

By Armed Liberal at 04:55

So for the last year, my 07 Triumph Tiger has been burning oil (there was a bad batch of early 07's). I finally got a great local dealer (SoCal Motorsports in Brea) to deal with Triumph on the issue, and last week they OK'ed an engine rebuild under waranty.

The bad news is that we do an annual riding trip to Porterville and the Sierra over Memorial Day, and it's all about people we enjoy and roads my wife and I very much look forward to riding.

The good news was that I had a bulletproof excuse to get a new bike...and I'd had my eye on a Ducati Hypermotard since they first hit the stores.

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  • Two very different bikes, but the very two that I read more
  • Uncle Jimbo: I sent Marc a private email that contains non-pc references read more
  • Marc Danziger: Blake - the other contender was a 690SuMo, but there read more
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