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.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 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.
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...
It is pretty clear that this is all part of a systempunkt strategy by the Taliban. Destroy infrastructure and focus on choking help since NGOs refuse to take casualties. Then combine aid via charitable front with armed delivery groups, to be the only game in town. Leverage that for intelligence and jihadi recruiting.
Ultimately, this is where my previous discussions of the Cuban model come in, as a necessary model for addressing future conflicts. The required counter-strategy to the Taliban plan is a similar approach of unified armed aid, plus tightly coupled propaganda and intelligence efforts - the Cuban model in its full sense. Aid provided by armed groups that will take casualties, coupled with propaganda to stir up bitterness against the Taliban and al-Qaeda for ruining these peoples' lives, and cojoined with intelligence recruitment within durable family and clan networks that form the basis of these societies.
That outlines the beginning of the problem - and the opportunity.
The next stage of the problem, of course, is the local government. The only armed aid group in the area is Pakistan's military, which has corrupt ion issues and also has Islamist sympathizers within it. Some portion of any aid given can be expected to end up in Taliban hands, either directly, or as cash following black market sales.
There aren't many alternatives I can see. Foreign Special Forces groups are operating in Pakistan, but they're under constraints. That makes them a valuable piece that could direct foreign military aid delivery to the right village elders et. al., but only in a few places, and to a scale that almost certainly falls short of needs. It's still worth using them, judiciously, in this role. The question of how to work with Pakistan's own military and tribal lashkars in this effort, remains.
As for Pakistan's ISI, the only rational way to treat them is as the Taliban's patrons. Which means the intelligence recruitment will need to happen around them, and in spite of them.
That means another facet of Special Ops work, as well as CIA personnel planted and operating as aid workers. Which aid agencies don't like. But if you're not prepared to take casualties in a war zone, there isn't really a defensible argument for keeping out people who will do so.
Actually, given the stakes at hand in Pakistan, the aid agencies' concerns are basically irrelevant no matter what their position is on casualties. The number of dead aid workers that constitute a reasonable trade for a much lower chance of the Taliban and al-Qaeda getting nukes is a very large number.
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 Cracked.com'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...."
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.
"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...."
Cracked.com, 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...
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:
"That is how I can describe the most people who came out to attend the demonstration today [June 20]. After the fierce speech [by Ayatollah Khamenei] at the Friday prayers, we knew that today we would be treated differently. We felt so vulnerable, more than ever, but at the same time were aware of our power, which, no matter how influential it is collectively, would have done little to protect us today.
We could only take our bones and flesh to the streets and expose them to batons and bullets. Two different feelings fight inside you without mixing with one another. To live or to just be alive, that's the question."
Emphasis mine. For that is the question. For all of us. All the time. Events in Iran have made it clearer that this is the question, and raised its existential priority for people. That will have long term consequences.
In the short term, however, it looks like the regime has likely won. No thanks to America, whose craven leadership, despite recent staged press conference shows to deflect deserved criticism, has consistently been lukewarm in its support for the protests. And consistently behind other western countries, including France. Not to mention the Congress and Senate, who eventually forced the President's hand. Thank you, Sen. McCain. Among others.
That kind of diplomatic voting "present" hasn't been an accident, or a slip - but a considered and consistent position. Joshua Murchavik, in "The Abandonment of Democracy:
"While it is hard to see any diplomatic benefit in soft-pedaling human rights in Burma and Sudan, neither has Obama anything to gain politically by easing up on regimes that are reviled by Americans from Left to Right. Even so ardent an admirer of the President as columnist E. J. Dionne, the first to discern an "Obama Doctrine" in foreign policy, confesses to "qualms" about "the relatively short shrift" this doctrine "has so far given to concerns over human rights and democracy."
Whether or not there is something as distinct and important as to warrant the label "doctrine," the consistency with which the new administration has left aside democracy and human rights suggests this is an approach the president has thought through...."
In its reluctance to criticize the Iranian regime, and eagerness to negotiate with it and lend it legitimacy even as the blood of protesters flows in Iran's streets, it has abandoned the very people America should be supporting on all levels. It has also abandoned Iran's various ethnicities, many of whom chafe under the heel of a mini empire - and, as Al Giordano points out, are even mobilizing in some cases (Kurds) against the regime. As Obama seeks to extend his hand to the mullahs, Eastern European history strongly suggests that he will strengthen them, and help to demoralize their opposition.
There will be a price to be paid for this approach and its failure, down the road. Possibly sooner than we like to think.
But then, that's the real theme, and eventual tagline, for Barrack Obama's entire presidency. And so, for America. As that bill comes due, on multiple levels, remember the words of an Iranian philosophy professor.
Does Gov. Sanford Suffer from Dissociative Fugue?...then at 2:36 pm:
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.
Well, Gov. Sanford Isn't Suffering from Dissociative FugueI don't think his career is going to be recovering from this level of ridicule any time soon.
He's suffering from something else entirely: Argentine Nookie Syndrome.
...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.
Some of the words below are, thus, not originally mine, but I borrow them because I agree with how they portray current events.
What we can see in Iran today are two simultaneous struggles, one from below (people with legitimate grievances against their government), and one up above (a power struggle between factions).
Although many had hoped that the post-electoral struggle in Iran would be a one act play, this one seems more likely to be headed into a saga that is four or five acts long. Like many previous social movements throughout history, this has turned from a hundred yard dash into a marathon.
Here's what I learned. To maximize EMP effect, the weapon has to explode at an altitude of over 19 miles - there's a dramatic increase in the amount of gamma converted to electricity at that height. The EMP effect is generally limited to the line-of-sight to the weapon, and does diminish somewhat as the weapon explodes at greater and greater heights - because more of the gamma radiation which is converted to electrical energy by the atmosphere is radiated upward.
The end result of my quick Excel calculations is the energy per square mile would vary between 0.03 joules/mile for a 10KT weapon detonated 15 miles up, with an effective radius of 350 miles and 17,800 joules/mile over an area with a radius of 1500 miles for a 1 megaton blast at 300 miles up.
Now this may sound like a lot, but recall that a lightning bolt has about 109 - 1010 joules.
And a Shahab-1 has a maximum height of about 55 miles.
Here's some math [formatting fixed by Joe]. There are three cases for calculating EMP; ground burst, mid-level air burst, and high-altitude burst.
High-altitude is defined as over 19 miles; there the effect is far greater (more of the gamma radiation from the weapon interacts with the atmosphere, creating a plasma, and thus the burst of electrical energy).
For a high-altitude burst, about 10-2 of the gamma radiation is transferred to EMP. For a mid-altitude burst, it's about 10-7. For a one-megaton weapon, the total energy output is about 4.2 × 1022 ergs. About 3 × 10-3 of that becomes gamma radiation, or 1.26 × 1020 ergs.
At low altitude, this yields about 1.26 × 1013 ergs, at high altitude, about 1.26 × 1018.
In joules, that's about 1.26 × 106 for low altitude, and 1.26 × 1011 for high. It's linear to weapon yield, so a 10 KT weapon would have 1.26 × 104 at low altitude and 1.26 × 109 at high.
But that area is dispersed over a wide area - the total energy matters, but the energy density matters as well (total energy matters more in effects on long conductors, like power lines).
Even at very high altitudes, the EMP effect is limited to the 'tangent radius' of the blast - the height at which it goes below the horizon. So at a 15-mile blast height, the radius looks like 350 miles. At 300 miles, it would be about 1500 miles.
So, as above the energy per square mile would vary between 0.03 joules/mile for a 10KT weapon at 15 miles, with an effective radius of 350 miles; and 17,800 joules/mile over an area with a radius of 1500 miles for a 1 megaton blast at 300 miles.
What's my point?
When Iran or whoever can develop weapons with yields in the megaton range, and the ability to deliver them to a height of 300 miles, we need to worry about EMP. Until then, I'd say we've got other problems.
Corrections and comments welcome...
YOU may have read over the weekend about how David Rohde's' (pictured), a New York Times reporter, recently escaped from seven months in captivity with the Taliban. But you probably don't remember reading about his initial kidnapping - because the Times, as well as other major outlets that got wind of the story, agreed to maintain a news blackout on the abduction, after numerous experts suggested that publicity would make Mr Rohde's' captors more likely to kill him. But Mark Danziger at Winds of Change is peeved, because he thinks journalists aren't nearly as circumspect when it's not one of their own at risk. He cites an anecdote about a panel on journalistic ethics and the military, at which Mike Wallace argued that a reporter accompanying guerillas who are about to ambush American troops should act as a neutral observer, rather than warning his countrymen. It's not clear whether Mr Rohde's' - or many journalists - would take the same view, but Mr Danziger believes that it is, at any rate, symptomatic of an institutional malady, wherein journalists falsely believe themselves to be "above the shared obligations of citizenship". This is, I think, a badly mistaken portrait on many levels.Well, the Wallace story is an important one, but it certainly wasn't remotely the only one I discussed. And if you take a moment to read what I actually wrote, the core points I made were in comparing the treatment of the Rhode kidnapping to other-non-journalistic ones (which were reported), as well as another journalistic one (which was not). I'd be happier with DA's response if he'd addressed that point - at all.
First, there is the premise that it is extraordinarily rare for journalists to "sit on" information because they believe that the value of disclosure is trumped by some even weightier social good. Yet it's not hard to think of examples. Most newsrooms, for instance, refrain from naming victims of sexual assault in print. Of course, what really has Mr Danziger's dander up is the putative lack of journalistic restraint when it comes to stories that may implicate national security - or, at least, stories the government asserts will do so. Yet here, too, there is serious reason for doubt. The Times held its story on the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretap program for over a year - and a year too long by my reckoning - apparently on the theory that it would not otherwise occur to terrorists that they might be targeted for surveillance.No, it's certainly not rare; but the fact that it's frequent doesn't make asking how suppression of stories comes about - how journalists choose which stories to suppress - uninteresting. The wiretap story was a judgment call, but I didn't mention it; what I mentioned (in passing) was the SWIFT program - a perfectly legal program, secret, and disclosed by the Times and other newspapers. But, again, that's a passing comment - my real point was the difference in (apparent) treatment of members of the tribe, as opposed to outsiders.
This is scarcely a new development. Historian Kathryn Olmstead's excellent book "Challenging the Secret Government" explodes the myth of an overzealous post-Watergate press corps so eager for a scoop that national-security concerns are given short shrift. On the contrary, she documents a widespread sense that the press had gone "too far", and finds abundant evidence of compliant editors enforcing omerta on stories that, in retrospect, appear to have threatened embarrassment rather than genuine security harms. The problem, of course, is that there's something of a sample bias here: When the press decides to run with a story over the objections of the security establishment, we hear about it. When they suppress a story, by definition, we do not hear about it - or at least, by the time we do hear about it, we don't hear much, because the news has gone stale. While one can debate the wisdom of disclosure in particular cases, it is very hard to argue that the NSA programme - which was almost certainly illegal - did not implicate a profound public interest in knowing what one's government is getting up to. The kidnapping of a journalist is also newsworthy, to be sure, but it seems quite clear that the public interest in that instance is not at all on the same order of magnitude. We do not need to invoke some special concern for the lives of fellow journalists to understand why the obligation to report might seem less compelling there. In other cases, to be sure, the Times has chosen to report on kidnappings - but it seems awfully hasty to assume that's a function of a double standard for reporters rather than other circumstantial features that led to a different assessment of the risks in the other cases.Oh, puh-leeze. I'll see his Olmstead (which was the kind of book that was shocked! to discover that journalists rolled over fortheir political patrons from time to time) and raise him Geoffrey Stone's 'Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime' - a much more historical and rich examination of government management of news media from a civil libertarians perspective. And note that he still hasn't touched the truly significant issue - which is the differential treatment of kidnapping victims depending on whether they are of a favored class or not.
But let's turn to the more general question of whether reporters are "above the shared obligations of citizenship". The first thing to note, in the case of the rather implausible thought-experiment of the reporter embedded with a guerilla group, is that Mr Danziger does not even appear to consider whether there might be some valid case for "neutrality" in such circumstances. He regards it as self-evidently contemptible. It may well be that a journalist in that position ought to consider the obligation to warn his countrymen more weighty, but it seems foolish not to at least acknowledge that a norm of neutrality, especially for a war correspondent, is not some kind of pointless moral blind spot. It is the precondition for journalists' being able to get access to hostile organisations. That ceases to be possible if they're simply part-time combatants without uniforms. For this hypothetical scenario to be remotely plausible, there needs to be a background presumption that journalists will not, in fact, behave in this way.I kind of feel like he's dodging any of the points I tried to make here, but let's play. The symposium I cited was in turn cited by James Fallows in "Why Americans Hate The Media" - a book well worth reading, by a thoughtful journalist who spent some time exploring the disconnect between American culture and our corporate media. The point of the story - as a reminder - wasn't the 'thought experiment,' but the reactions of the journalists and audience. By placing so much emphasis on the substance of the thought experiment, DA engages in some rhetorical sleight-of-hand (A cat in a box? How does the box work, exactly? Whose cat is it? Of course the box can't keep out the sound or movement of the cat - this is a silly experiment, Herr Schroedenger) and either completely missed the point or wants to avoid discussing it.
Of course, the "ambush" thought experiment is something of a red herring - situations like that just don't occur with any frequency. The real question lurking in the background - implicit in Mr Danziger's complaint that journalists imagine themselves to be "above the shared obligations of citizenship" - is whether journalists who expect the protection of the US military in the field hadn't better remember whose side they're supposed to be on and run their stories through the filter of what promotes American national interests. This betrays, I think, a rather shallow conception of what the "obligations of citizenship" entail.So we're still debating the kind of box the cat went into...but at least we're getting to some kind of a point. Well, backhanding the point - that the journalists in the field do damn well depend on the protection by (in this case - note that this doesn't just apply to 'America') their own troops may just owe some reciprocal obligation to those same troops.
At the risk of belabouring the obvious, there's an obvious objection - we might call it a Kantian objection - to a more nationally partisan press. Just as widespread promise-breaking would ultimately destroy the very institution of promising, a more "patriotic" press corps would soon lose the very credibility that makes it seem advantageous. In a conflict between Iran's state-controlled news outlets and reports leaking in from the international press, what reason does the average Iranian have to regard those foreign sources as anything more than the propaganda their leaders aver it to be? In part, perhaps, because they see that foreign news outlets reveal abuses by their own governments - even when, as in Abu Ghraib, the backlash from that reporting threatens to harm national interests.This is where my 'puh-leeze' above turns into 'give me a friggin' break.' This is a half-baked argument from authority that flatly misreads Kant as well as ignores the modern political philosophers - say, Arendt and my man Habermas. Let's take a moment; the root of Kant's liberalism is it's universality - the notion that we apply the same rules to all people, and in turn expect them to be applied to us (see "categorical imperative" in 'Metaphysics of Morals'). Now my critique of the journalists behavior wasn't just that they were 'unpatriotic' or 'unAmerican' - not in the least. It was - in the case of this specific post that - they weren't dealing from a universalist perspective, and that, as I put it in the post itself:
The other problem is, if anything, more serious. And it is the simple fact that we are increasingly living in a society that plays by Ottoman rules; meaning that what the rules are depend - of course - on who you are. That's not something we will survive for long, and simply put, it needs to be exposed and stamped out anywhere we see it.And yes, there is a conflict in roles that must be addressed, and - not that DA was likely to have read all the other posts I've done on the subject - I repeatedly acknowledge that it's a complex one, fraught with traps.
Am I agreeing, then, that journalists are "above the shared obligations of citizenship"? On the contrary: I am suggesting that sometimes the obligations of citizenship are not shared, but role specific. We assume, in most cases, that a good citizen is obligated to inform the authorities when he learns a friend or colleague has committed a serious crime. An attorney, by contrast, is often obligated not to share such information, at least when the criminal happens to be her client. This is not a case of a conflict between the norms binding on someone qua citizen or qua attorney. Rather, the special rules binding on attorneys are how they carry out their obligations as citizens, not because every defendant deserves to be acquitted, but because the right to representation by counsel is crucial to our legal system. Someone who argued that public defenders ought to remember whose side they're really on and throw guilty clients to the wolves would betray a stunningly shallow view of the public defender's role. Equally myopic is the insistence that a journalist observes the "obligations of citizenship" only by viewing the news through a nationalist lens.The reality is that there's a complicated balance between the need of journalists to look at society from the outside so as to be able to comment, and on the other to be able to participate through journalism in the creation of the communicative space that occupies the center of the polity.
"Patriotism is unwelcome in many quarters of the land today, and unknown in many others. There is virtually no thoughtful discussion of the subject, for the word has settled, in most people's minds, deep into a brackish pond of sentiment where thought cannot reach. Politicians and members of patriotic associations praise it, of course, but official and professional patriotism too often sounds like nationalism, patriotism's bloody brother. On the other hand, patriotism has a bad name among many thoughtful people, who see it as a horror at worst, a vestigial passion largely confined to the thoughtless at best: as enlightenment advances, patriotism recedes. The intellectuals are virtually required to repudiate it as a condition of class membership. The radical and dropout young loathe it. Most troublesome of all, for one who would make the argument I intend to make, is the face that both the groups that hate and those that glorify patriotism largely agree that it and nationalism are the same thing. I hope to show that they are different things--related, but separable. Opponents of patriotism might agree that if the two could be separated then patriotism would look fairly attractive. But the opinion is widespread, almost atmospheric, that the separation is impossible, that with the triumph of the nation-state nation. Nationalism has indelibly stained patriotism: the two are warp and woof. The argument against patriotism goes on to say that, psychologically considered, patriot and nationalist are the same: both are characterized by exaggerated love for one's own collectivity combined with more or less contempt and hostility toward outsiders. In addition, advanced political opinion holds that positive, new ideas and forces--e.g., internationalism, universalism; humanism, economic interdependence, socialist solidarity--are healthier bonds of unity, and more to be encouraged than the ties of patriotism. These are genuine objections, and they are held by many thoughtful people."But the kind of reflexive 'cosmopolitanism/good, patriotism/bad' position that DA takes is undermined by the fact that the communicative space which DA occupies is maintained in large part by the civic structure of the nation-state that DA wants so badly - and that many of the journalists want to badly - to transcend.
"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...."
...you 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.
Only a handful of Web sites and blogs--for more than half a year -- noted the incident, it remained out of mainstream news. It appears other news outlets that knew of the abduction adhered to the Times' request.That was in this case the right thing to do, the actors in the media felt. Strupp says:
Even when the Times won five Pulitzer Prizes in April, including one for international reporting in Pakistan and Afghanistan that essentially honored Rohde's among others, the paper had to bite its collective lip.
When E&P became aware of the kidnapping several months ago, Editor Greg Mitchell and I discussed the issue on several occasions, but declined to report. We talked to journalism ethicists and editors or reporters at other top outlets for guidance. When approached about the matter, several Times editors, including Executive Editor Bill Keller, were candid (off the record) about the situation, but with a request that we maintain a blackout.
As Keller said today on the Times' Web site, the paramount importance was for Rohde's' life and the belief among those aiding the paper, and his family, was that publicity could do more harm than good. "We decided to respect that advice, as we have in other kidnapping cases, and a number of other news organizations that learned of David's plight have done the same. We are enormously grateful for their support," he said in the story today.And Greg Mitchell adds, at Huffpo:
I wonder now if a great debate will break out over media ethics in not reporting a story involving one of their own when they so eagerly rush out piece about nearly everything else. I imagine some may claim that the blackout would not have held if a smaller paper, not the mighty New York Times, had been involved. Or is saving this life (actually two, there was a local reporter also snatched) self-evidently justification enough?The problem, of course, is that this was largely a matter of professional courtesy.
Fung, who was on her second stint reporting in Afghanistan, was kidnapped from a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul while there reporting for a story she was working on. She was taken to mountains west of the city and kept in a small cave for 28 days.Do a NY Times search for "kidnapped Afghanistan" and you'll find this January 2008 story about an American woman and her driver who'd just been kidnapped, this September 2008 story about an Afghan official who was kidnapped in Pakistan, a November 2008 story about a French aid worker who was kidnapped in Kabul.
News of her abduction was kept secret and the CBC and other media outlets did not make public the fact that she had been kidnapped. Upon her release, CBC publisher John Cruickshank said:"In the interest of Mellissa's safety and that of other working journalists in the region, on the advice of security experts, we made the decision to ask media colleagues not to publish news of her abduction. All of the efforts made by the security experts were focused on Mellissa's safe and timely release...We must put the safety of the victim ahead of our normal instinct for full transparency and disclosure."Some journalists, such as Michèle Ouimet, a columnist with Montreal's La Presse, questioned whether the Canadian media showed more solidarity toward Fung than it did for freelancer Amanda Lindhout, who was kidnapped in Somalia last summer. Ouimet wrote:"Journalists are the first to invoke the public's right to information, but they become awfully sensitive when it comes to one of their own."
Didn't Jennings have some higher duty, either patriotic or human, to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot? "No," Wallace said flatly and immediately. "You don't have a higher duty. No. No. You're a reporter!"A member of the US military responded:
A few minutes later Ogletree turned to George M. Connell, a Marine colonel in full uniform, jaw muscles flexing in anger, with stress on each word, Connell looked at the TV stars and said, "I feel utter . . . contempt. " Two days after this hypothetical episode, Connell Jennings or Wallace might be back with the American forces--and could be wounded by stray fire, as combat journalists often had been before. The instant that happened he said, they wouldn't be "just journalists" any more. Then they would drag them back, rather than leaving them to bleed to death on the battlefield. "We'll do it!" Connell said. "And that is what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get ... a couple of journalists." The last few words dripped with disgust.And I can imagine how, when Rohde's saw the uniforms of the US troops and knew that meant he was now safe, his heart must have lifted. And what's wrong with that, of course is that he wants - as the Col. Connell suggests - to be able to claim sanctuary from his countrymen. Now I don't know Rohde's work, and I'm not going to claim that he's remotely where Wallace claimed to be while sitting in the comfort of a videotaped seminar. But his institution is. And that's a problem to me. Because it was US soldiers who gave Rohde's sanctuary, not some mercenary force fighting in the name of the NY Times or international journalism.
HUNTINGTON BEACH - Colby Curtin, a 10-year-old with a rare form of cancer, was staying alive for one thing ... a 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.
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.
By June 9, Colby could no longer be transported to a theater and her family feared she would die without having seen the movie.From first contact to someone on a plane in less than 24 hours. Freaking amazing.
At that point, [family friend] Orum-Moore, who desperately wanted Colby to get her last wish, began to cold-call Pixar and Disney to see if someone could help.
Pixar has an automated telephone answering system, Orum-Moore said, and unless she had a name of a specific person she wanted to speak to, she could not get through. Orum-Moore guessed a name and the computer system transferred her to someone who could help, she said.
Pixar officials listened to Colby's story and agreed to send someone to Colby's house the next day with a DVD of "Up," Orum-Moore recalled.
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.
...Walpin, a Bush appointee, alleges he was axed for doing his job - in particular, probing a nonprofit run by a big Obama backer. The conspiracy-mongering has been in full swing, with Walpin even scoring an appearance with Glenn Beck. Senator Chuck Grassley and even Dem Claire McCaskill are turning their attention to the case.So Greg, it'd be useful for those of us who don't put little party flags on our cars (like Laker flags) if you'd do an explainer on why that firing was a scandal ,and complaining about this firing is a partisan hatchet job.
In an interview with our reporter, Amanda Erickson, Walpin turned up the heat in a way that's likely to earn plaudits on the right, demanding that Obama 'do the right thing' and admit he made a 'mistake.' He called for a hearing at which witnesses would 'testify under oath as to what's happening.' He said the matter should be left to the 'good judgment' of Congress.
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?
"Safeway's plan capitalizes on two key insights gained in 2005. The first is that 70% of all health-care costs are the direct result of behavior. The second insight, which is well understood by the providers of health care, is that 74% of all costs are confined to four chronic conditions (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity). Furthermore, 80% of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is preventable, 60% of cancers are preventable, and more than 90% of obesity is preventable.
...Our plan utilizes a provision in the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that permits employers to differentiate premiums based on behaviors. Currently we are focused on tobacco usage, healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Safeway's Healthy Measures program is completely voluntary and currently covers 74% of the insured nonunion work force. Employees are tested for the four measures cited above and receive premium discounts off a "base level" premium for each test they pass. Data is collected by outside parties and not shared with company management. If they pass all four tests, annual premiums are reduced $780 for individuals and $1,560 for families. Should they fail any or all tests, they can be tested again in 12 months. If they pass or have made appropriate progress on something like obesity, the company provides a refund equal to the premium differences established at the beginning of the plan year.
At Safeway, we are building a culture of health and fitness. The numbers speak for themselves. Our obesity and smoking rates are roughly 70% of the national average and our health-care costs for four years have been held constant. When surveyed, 78% of our employees rated our plan good, very good or excellent. In addition, 76% asked for more financial incentives to reward healthy behaviors. We have heard from dozens of employees who lost weight, lowered their blood-pressure and cholesterol levels, and are enjoying better health because of this program. Many discovered for the first time that they have high blood pressure, and others have been told by their doctor that they have added years to their life."
Like I said, ridiculously obvious. They're apparently in talks with the union to add similar provisions to their other contracts, and want the ability to offer larger rewards to employees who test well.
Something they're currently prohibited by law from doing. Which is just ridiculous.
Getting this stuff down is not easy, and I speak from personal experience. You'd never guess by looking at me, but my cholestrol levels are naturally quite high, despite a thin body type and a baseline diet that was already better than most. Thankfully, my carotid artery ultrasound was about perfect, one of the best my cardio-specializing doc has seen in a couple of years. That has bought us the time to do things without using statin drugs. Something I'd rather avoid, even though my genotype means they'll be more effective on me than on most people.
The last 3 months have involved more exercise, a lot of things I no longer eat, and a couple of non-medication dietary supplements like tasteless fish oil capsules (for Omega-3 etc.). Not there yet, but some of the reductions in a recent re-test (HDL IIIa/b, triglycerides) were pretty dramatic. The next 3 months are going to be about driving them further, into the "green" area if possible, without prescription drugs. Which may be possible. We'll see.
Is this fair? No. Life handed me a stacked deck, and it's one that could eventually kill me. If I worked at Safeway, it would increase my insurance costs.
It isn't about "fair." The deck you get is the deck you get. It's about health. It's about the rewards of living a better life. Which requires responsibility, cooperation, and effort. Less if you start with a good deck, more if you start with a bad one.
Personally, I'd like to be able to go back to eating those pizzas and bacon cheeseburgers now and then, and not care, knowing that I wasn't going to gain weight doing it. Which, admittedly, wasn't "fair" either - I was often reminded of that.
But the point is the goal, not the effort. Maintaining my health isn't anyone else's responsibility. It's mine.
Ultimately, whatever we do as a nation in this area has to be affordable (a metric that shrinks by the day, for all government programs, under current economic policies). But it also has to reward people for making good decisions - decisions that will improve both systemic costs, and their own lives. Research shows that the rewards approach is psychologically more effective, and it's more politically palatable too.
It ought to be front and center in the current health care debate.
[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...
WSJ.com 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.
As for Iran, the leadership's motives may be more mixed. U.S. foreign policy expert Flynt Leverett says Washington needs to do more to reassure Iran, because despite President Obama's calls for improved relations, Tehran believes the U.S. is still pursuing the policy track of former President Bush.Let's see what he has to say about Bush's policies:
"What I'm concerned about is that the promise of this early rhetoric will be undermined by this lack of new initiatives, and particularly if the administration continues to try and use its professed willingness to engage Iran, to muster more international support for intensified sanctions, I think that's going to undermine the credibility of any diplomatic initiative," he explained.
We got into this dilemma because we essentially don't have a strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue. By "we" I mean the United States and the Bush administration. The Bush administration has deliberately ruled out direct negotiations with Iran either over the nuclear issue or over the broad range of strategic issues that you would need to talk to Iran about if you were going to get a real diplomatic settlement on the nuclear issue.(He goes on in this interview to extol the apparently fraudulent Swiss Memo)
The administration has, literally for years, ruled out that kind of strategic dialogue with Iran. In the absence of that sort of approach, that sort of channel, the administration is left with two options, one of which is to try and get something done in the Security Council. It has been foreseeable literally for months, if not for longer, that Russia and China at a minimum were not going to be prepared to support serious multilateral sanctions or other serious multilateral punitive measures on Iran. This is not a surprise. As I said, it's been foreseeable literally for months, but the administration, without a strategy, is going down this feckless road anyway.
President Obama...should not be excused for [his] failure to learn the lessons of recent history in the Middle East - that the prospect of strategic cooperation with Israel is profoundly unpopular with Arab publics and that even moderate Arab regimes cannot sustain such cooperation. The notion of an Israeli-moderate Arab coalition united to contain Iran is not only delusional, it would leave the Palestinian and Syrian-Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved and prospects for their resolution in free fall. These tracks cannot be resolved without meaningful American interaction with Iran and its regional allies, Hamas and Hezbollah.So, basically, he's all about giving the Iranian regime whatever they want. OK, that's fine - but let's weigh that as we look at his somewhat sketchy claims about the election.
...What is hard about the Iran problem is not periodic inflammatory statements from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or episodes like Ms. Saberi's detention. What is really hard is that getting America's Iran policy "right" would require a president to take positions that some allies and domestic constituencies won't like.
To fix our Iran policy, the president would have to commit not to use force to change the borders or the form of government of the Islamic Republic. He would also have to accept that Iran will continue enriching uranium, and that the only realistic potential resolution to the nuclear issue would leave Iran in effect like Japan - a nation with an increasingly sophisticated nuclear fuel-cycle program that is carefully safeguarded to manage proliferation risks. Additionally, the president would have to accept that Iran's relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah will continue, and be willing to work with Tehran to integrate these groups into lasting settlements of the Middle East's core political conflicts.
It was not easy for President Richard Nixon to discard a quarter-century of failed policy toward the People's Republic of China and to reorient America's posture toward Beijing in ways that have served America's interests extremely well for more than 30 years. That took strategic vision, political ruthlessness and personal determination. We hope that President Obama - contrary to his record so far - will soon begin to demonstrate those same qualities in forging a new approach toward Iran.
But the one poll conducted before Friday's election by a Western organization that was transparent about its methodology - a telephone poll carried out by the Washington-based Terror-Free Tomorrow [A.L. - his employer ,which he doesn't mention] from May 11 to 20 - found Ahmadinejad running 20 points ahead of Mousavi. This poll was conducted before the televised debates in which, as noted above, Ahmadinejad was perceived to have done well while Mousavi did poorly.Then go read the ABC demolition:
An outfit called Terror Free Tomorrow claims in an op-ed in today's Washington Post that the contested Iranian elections likely were not fraudulent, since a pre-election poll it sponsored showed the declared winner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with a big lead.Then he claims that the result - 60+% for Ahmadinejad - is almost exactly what he got in the last election:
TFT's own data, though, tell a different story - as, oddly, did its own previous polling analysis.
The poll, done by telephone last month, found 34 percent support for Ahmadinejad vs. 14 percent for Mir Hossein Mousavi. The incumbent led by "a more than 2 to 1 margin - greater than his actual margin of apparent victory in Friday's election," today's op-ed says. "Our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran's provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead."
Strange, then, that TFT's analysis of these same data last month predicted a runoff.
They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad's 62.6 percent of the vote in this year's election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.Um, he got 61.69% of the vote in a two person runoff, after getting something like 20% of the vote in the preliminary, multiparty election - the one like this one.
Why did the DHS report come under such fire? It wasn't because far-right cranks are incapable of committing crimes. It's because the paper blew the threat of right-wing terror out of proportion, just as the Clinton administration did in the '90s; because it treated "extremism" itself as a potential threat, while offering a definition of extremist so broad it seemed it include anyone who opposed abortion or immigration or excessive federal power; and because it fretted about the danger of "the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities." (Note that neither the killing in Kansas last month nor the shooting in Washington yesterday was committed by an Iraq or Afghanistan vet.) The effect isn't to make right-wing terror attacks less likely. It's to make it easier to smear nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the right, just as the most substantial effect of a red scare was to make it easier to smear nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the left. The fact that communist spies really existed didn't justify Joseph McCarthy's antics, and the fact that armed extremists really exist doesn't justify the Department of Homeland Security's report.Let's start talking - all of us - about what it is that distinguishes someone who is vocally unhappy with fiscal policy direction from someone who walks into the Fed with a shotgun. When we get that sorted out, let's see how well that distinction applies across the political spectrum.
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.”
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.Holy Cow.
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.
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.
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.
As I told Ed (to no avail), I have blogged under a pseudonym largely for private and professional reasons. Professionally, I've heard that pre-tenure blogging (particularly on politics) can cause problems. And before that, I was a lawyer with real clients. I also believe that the classroom should be as nonpolitical as possible - and I don't want conservative students to feel uncomfortable before they take a single class based on my posts. So I don't tell them about this blog. Also, I write and research on telecom policy - and I consider blogging and academic research separate endeavors. This, frankly, is a hobby.He wrote under a pseudonym to shield himself from the consequences of his words. I think that's exactly backwards.
Privately, I don't write under my own name for family reasons. I'm from a conservative Southern family - and there are certain family members who I'd prefer not to know about this blog (thanks Ed). Also, I have family members who are well known in my home state who have had political jobs with Republicans, and I don't want my posts to jeopardize anything for them (thanks again).
I'm choosing not to identify myself ... right now ... for a variety of reasons. I'll start by standing on the time-honored tradition of anonymous pamphleteering, which I believe blogging fits neatly into. My significant other has a fairly political job (although she doesn't believe so). And finally, I'm trying to disassociate the value of what is set out here from any judgment you might make about me.I didn't believe it was as important to shield myself (and mine) from what I wrote as it was to have what I wrote stand on its own. I'm not insensitive - and I wasn't in 2002 - to the concern that what I wrote might have an impact on my living or on my life.
And yes - I criticized Whelan rather harshly. But that's what the blogosphere is about. Blogging is not for the thin-skinned. And you would think that someone who spends their days trying to destroy other people's reputations in dishonest and inflammatory ways wouldn't be so childish and thin-skinned.I'm sorry, but pitchers who throw at the head shouldn't be shocked when an occasional bat comes loose and soars out toward the mound. People who see the root of blogging as critcising people harshly and offending where they can do forfeit some of the claim to courtesy which is really what weak pseudonymity (it wouldn't be too hard to track down any of the pseudonymous political bloggers, really) is really all about.
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.
For example, there are pledge forms being passed around to lawmakers by a major labor union that might have attracted takers in budget battles past. The union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, wants the legislators to sign statements of support for up to $44 billion in new or higher taxes on the wealthy, oil companies, tobacco and other industries, products and people....so today, the labor-sponsored politicians are reading the - forgive me - tea leaves and pushing back.
But so far the drive hasn't produced a single signed form, even from the Democrats who normally march into California's budget fights in lock-step with organized labor.
"Many public employee unions, teacher unions [are] thinking that they were thrown under the bus in the last budget," said Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D- Montebello). "So now they're asking themselves: If these Democrats are not going to stand up for us, then what good is it to have them there?"When you hear 'reformers' explain that we need to abolish the supermajority for budget and tax approval, remember these words.
The union leaders say they are appalled that Democratic leaders are talking openly now about decimating government programs without first making a stand for bigger, broader tax hikes that could substantially offset budget cuts.
"Democrats came to Sacramento to help people," said Marty Hittleman, president of the California Federation of Teachers. "I know they did not go there to destroy government. For some reason, they are unwilling to stand up and say 'This is not what I was elected for.' "
But even some of the most liberal Democrats say some union leaders are ignoring the reality of an angry public, a sour economy and a state government approaching insolvency. Moreover, more taxes would require Republican support in the Legislature, and the minority party has made clear that there will be none.
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...
"As for me, I'm not shocked, I'm thrilled. This evil murderous bastard finally at last got what he deserved.
If that makes me an accomplice, as pro-abortionists are labeling anyone who protested against Tiller's medical murder practice, so be it."
I'm sorry, but that's either nuts, or it's treason. We'll start with nuts.
I would not side with the person who killed the slave owner, though I be a strong abolitionist.
The Long murder illustrates why not. In both cases, loyalty to the laws of the United States is cast aside to murder, on grounds of moral conviction, for conduct that is legal. Because those in question cannot win a democratic political argument. The same is true for Jack's thought-experiment.
Newsflash: There are a lot of people out there with ideas that fit these categories. They're not always going to pick the targets you approve of. Once you decide it's OK for group A to do it, anyone and everyone could be a target.
Which is one reason why the rule of law around murder is such a critical component of civilized life. Just as the potential and historic recurrence of its breakdown on these grounds is one of the underpinnings beneath the human right to bear arms.
Back to our Earth First! types for a minute, and animal rights activists who believe that animals and people are morally equivalent, with the same rights. Can they shoot people for torturing and killing thousands of animals in the name of science? If you believed in the Earth First! theology and were a staunch pro-lifer, then based on your premises, an abortionist and an experimental scientist who conducts lethal experiments on live animals wold be exactly the same moral thing. Exactly.
In a Imamist fatwa society of whatever flavour, you can go out and shoot people on those grounds. In a civilized society, you cannot. Marxism is fundamentally anti-civilization, of course. Always has been. Its 100-million skulls record within a similar justifying framework is just an expression of that fundamental nature. And that exact fundamental flaw.
In a civilized society, a slaveowner whose practice is still legal is allowed the same basic protections against murder as any other citizen.
Stealing his slaves and putting them on the Underground Railroad is another thing. If you believe they are humans, you cannot be stealing since that only applies to property, not sentient creatures with free will. You still expect to pay the price if caught, of course. And you're morally enjoined to either make sure that those you've freed choose to freely accept the risks under full disclosure, or ensure that you've placed them in a better position. Else you haven't done good, you've done them a direct and personal harm.
But murder is a whole different ball game.
The basic compact of citizenry in a free government ultimately rests on the principle that we will protect fellow citizens, within our agreed laws and fundamental liberties. If you repudiate that, there isn't anything left of free citizenship.
As an aside, the failure to openly grasp that fundamental truth pretty much underlays the liberal-left's position on any form of international or domestic security over the past 40 years.
A congruent lack of judgment lies behind To The Point commenter mwilhite - who stupidly asks, as he defends the Tiller murder:
"Which is more important, the rule of law or saving millions of innocent lives?"
Answer: In societies where it's OK to summarily kill people you disagree with, for doing things that are legal, the record shows a pretty hefty death toll anyway. Defend, then, the Rule of Law around murder, lest you simply move the death toll around.
Which brings us to the next part, treason.
In the subsequent comments, a few TTP members said outright that they were OK with moving the death toll around. That many murders (abortions), they said, justified murder in return.
Which is another way of saying that Muslim jihadists shooting American troops in America is conceptually fine, but they would personally take issue with the gunman's choice of targets. Of course, the fact that people do disagree is why the rule of law is part of free societies in the first place.
To be fair, however, there's actually a coherent moral position one can hold within that framework. TTP reader Kenny frames it nicely, and it's the right follow-up question:
"Would it have been alright to have shot Hitler in 1939 or 1940, and if not, why not? How about an even bigger mudrered, Stalin? Should someone have taken him out while he was in the midsts of murdering millions?"
The answer to both question is yes. In acts of justified armed insurrection against the government as a whole. Totalitarian governments are not legitimate, and armed insurrection against them is justified. This includes killing their leaders, and functionaries. Jack Wheeler spent a lot of time tramping around such insurrectionists all over the globe. He's the person who, more than anyone else, brought the reality of anti-communist liberation movements to the Reagan White House's attention.
In the words of a document many of us are familiar with, however, that's no longer a mere act of murder. To organize and engage in it, in order to change the politics of an established country that has effective control of its own territory, is far more akin to "levying war." Which is one of the US Constitution's definitions of treason.
So be it - insurrections are always treason. You either win and change the government by force of arms, in which case the charge becomes moot. You're now the government, and you were always loyal to yourselves. Or you lose. At which point, trial for treason is nothing less than one should expect.
Along the way, of course, lies civil war. At least once before in America, that meant many thousands of people dead.
In case you're wondering, Jack, later in his own article, extends his historical slavery analogy and wonders if the death toll of abortion could reach a level that could morally justify secession. It's a valid moral question to ask, and it shows that he, at least, understands at some level how high the stakes could go. Shades of Orson Scott Card's novel "Empire".
Fortunately, prominent pro-life groups have been quick and clear in their condemnation of the Tiller murder - a sharp contrast to the positions of Gulf-supported Islamic front groups like CAIR and the AMC on terrorism and terrorist acts.
A government that does not understand or respect that difference risks crossing some pretty important red lines of its own, and is likely to seriously radicalize far more of its opponents. Which is what I fully expect Obama to do: conduct a public witch-hunt without qualification or distinction. All supported by a media who aren't that interested in Islamic terrorism like the inconveniently paired Long shooting, since they'd rather focus on their enemies.
Having said that, those people who do espouse support of the Tiller murder, and especially any organizations that are supportive or equivocal, ought to expect a strong government reaction. Including monitoring and further investigations. The lack of these public square and investigative reactions with respect to organized supporters of terrorism like CAIR and the AMC, is part of the reason that Islamic terrorism is a larger problem than it should be.
I do not support that mistake, and I do not support repeating it elsewhere.
Levying war is a double-edged sword. If you're one of those people who believes that taking up arms is justified - perhaps by the scope of what you believe to be a genocide, because you haven't won the political argument yet in a free society - then so be it.
Just don't kid yourself about what you're doing, or what you've stepped into. On any level. And don't expect my support. On any level.
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...
David Brooks: Gail, I confess I do shy away from these issues, not because I don't have views but because I find the tenor of the debates so unpleasant. For example, I have the impression that we're in the middle of their weird battle of the murders. Liberal media outlets play up the murder of the abortion doctor by a pro-life extremist. Conservative outlets play up the murder of the Army recruiter by a Muslim extremist. Some people on both sides seem to feel that their view of the world has been affirmed by the atrocities of a certain set of extremists, and so seem to feel a sense of vindication from these crimes.Brooks - who speaks for the 'average American' in these circles, believes that they really don't think about these things...they just want to be nice to each other:
I think there is a consistency to how most Americans view these Big Three social issues. People are seeking the positions that will help them reserve the invisible bonds of community.Yeah, we're brainless cattle who decide important issues based on our connections to others...not.
Americans increasingly see gay relationships as just another part of the fabric of connections that make up their communities. As a result Americans are becoming more accepting of civil unions and gay marriage.
People also treasure the specific subcultures they inhabit. Guns are an essential part of life for people who live in rural communities. Well, it's not the guns per se. Rather the threat to limit gun ownership is seen as an assault by urban people on rural life and rural communities. That is the reason gun rights are defended so fiercely and why it is politically dangerous for anybody to challenge them.
Finally, on the subject of abortion, Americans are pulled by conflicting communitarian impulses. On the one hand, I think most people sense viscerally that somehow an abortion is a tear in the moral fabric - whether they are pro-life or pro-choice. On the other hand, they don't feel communities can be formed on the basis of compulsion and they are uncomfortable imposing such complex and uncomfortable moral decisions on one another. So they seek out some mushy middle ground, while oscillating, sometimes in a more "liberal" direction and sometimes in a more "conservative" one, as now.
Gay rights is just a matter of time. Look at the polls. Worrying about gay marriage, let alone gay civil unions or gay employment rights, is a middle-age issue. Young people just can't see the problem. At worst, gays are going to win this one just by waiting until the opposition dies off.Note that to her, there's no ... issue ... around gay rights. They simply 'are'. No one, or at least no one worth talking to, could possibly make any kind of substantive argument against gay rights worth considering.
Gun control currently feels like a lost cause. If a big Democratic majority doesn't have the will to stop an amendment to the credit card bill permitting people to carry concealed loaded weapons in national parks, I don't have much hope.The idea that there are people ... me, for example ... who might be able to make a moral and practical argument for why allowing concealed carry in national parks located where concealed carry is itself legal never occurs to her.
People also treasure the specific subcultures they inhabit. Guns are an essential part of life for people who live in rural communities. Well, it's not the guns per se. Rather the threat to limit gun ownership is seen as an assault by urban people on rural life and rural communities. That is the reason gun rights are defended so fiercely and why it is politically dangerous for anybody to challenge them.No, no, a thousand times no. I don't live in the country, my neighbors who shoot don't live in the country, we're not a part of some weird secret subculture that only allows membership to those with guns. That's patently absurd.
I'm not sure I'm expressing myself very clearly, but what I'm trying to say is that people seek to preserve the orderly bonds around them. Most people, even on these hot button issues, gravitate toward positions that seem to best preserve unspoken communal understandings. As a result, I don't expect sharp change on any of these subjects. There is a gradual acceptance of gay and lesbian rights, but I think progress will take longer than people anticipate. On gun control and abortion, I don't see much change of any sort.Yes, but each group wants the peace that comes from its values being uncontroversially widespread, and on these issues, we're not likely to get that for quite some time.
There are fewer and fewer culture warriors in America. Most people want order and peace.
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.
Rogers, a high school dropout who attributes his skateboarding skills to God, was eventually grabbed by police officers and brought down from his precarious perch.Some of us exist just to be a bad example to others, I'd guess...
"It obviously was not an everyday experience," the 24-year-old athlete said. "It was a very out-of-body experience. I've never had an experience like that."
Rogers pulled off his boxer shorts about 6:40 a.m. Monday and climbed onto the roof of the two-story house he shares with roommates on Havemeyer Lane and Goodman Avenue.
"It was obviously something I shouldn't have done," Rogers said as he rolled a marijuana joint in his bedroom. "It was just something that happened."