A TheStreet.com article that would make worthwhile reading for many a corporate executive, complete with examples.
Short version? Take first-person ownership, be timely, make concrete amends. Seems simple - so why is it so difficult?
"In the late 1970s, the state of California enacted tougher energy-efficiency policies," Obama said, noting that the state and its residents use less energy today per capita than the national average. "Think about that," he said, "California producing jobs, their economy keeping pace with the rest of the country and yet they've been able to maintain their energy usage in a much lower level than the rest of the country."
Sounds like that idiot Kevin Drum. Now, the national average is also pushed up by more poor people in southern states getting things like air conditioning, and other salutary developments. But it would appear that isn't how California did it...
"Obama might want to rethink his choice of a model state because it is easy to understand how California has curbed its energy use. Between 2000 and 2007, before the current recession, the state shed nearly 21 percent of its manufacturing jobs, driving down its industrial electrical consumption by 21 percent. California's industrial users pay electric rates twice as high as their Midwestern counterparts - which helps explain why so much heavy industry has fled the state. In addition to alienating its industry, California has also curbed energy use through exorbitant residential electric rates (50 percent higher than the national average) and massive net out-migration. Between 2005 and 2007, 2.14 million Californians moved to other states, while only 1.44 million people from elsewhere moved to the Golden State, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Don't be surprised when the 2010 Census finds even more people leaving to escape California's 11.5 percent unemployment. And, as jobs and residents fled California, its tax revenues have declined, while its politicians went on a spending binge, creating a severe budget crisis."
I should add that from January 2001 to June 2009, California lost 425,800 private sector jobs, while adding 163,700 government jobs, Oh, wait. That is the Obama economic model...
The guy's a Berkeley humanities (now there's an oxymoron for you) professor, but he does bring up an interesting parallel:
"This spring in El Paso, after a talk I gave on the Indian raids and the U.S.-Mexican War, a man in the back row raised his hand. "Do you see any similarities between the borderland violence you've just described for the 1830s and 1840s and the current drug war?" The energy in the room changed immediately.
More than any other American city, El Paso has borne witness to the tragedy of Mexico's raging drug war...."
He has his own thoughts, and they're not as barking mad as you'd expect. But I suspect the wars also has lessons to teach that he hasn't considered.
There's no such thing as a President who's an idiot 100% of the time. I'm certainly not a fan of the O, but there are a couple of things he's done that strike me as good ideas, long overdue. More focus on Community Colleges, for instance. Hiring people with a Behavioural Economics background into government is another good move, guaranteeing that he'll manage to do at least 1 non-stupid thing in the economic realm during his term. I don't have high hopes for reaching 2, but back to behavioural economics...
"Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes, And How to Correct Them" is a very accessible and entertaining read in that area, and I recommend it. There's also a cool application out there that leverages my "American Economy In One" note the other day about $57.4 billion in savings in 2007, vs. $92.3 billion on legalized gambling.
"Why not combine them?" asked finance professor Peter Tufano of Harvard Business School...
That way, you'd take advantage of people's gullibility in overestimating the odds of very unlikely events, in order to ensure they're sucked into something financially beneficial. There's already competition on that front, after all, it's not sound, and it's not going away. Why not turn the trap to something better?
Hence "Save to Win," launched for members of 8 credit unions in Michigan. As the Wall St. Journal reports:
"...it is a cross between a certificate of deposit and a raffle ticket. Members who put $25 or more into a Save to Win one-year CD are entered into a monthly "savings raffle" for prizes up to $400, plus one annual drawing for a $100,000 jackpot. Only Michigan residents are eligible to participate. This unusual CD is federally guaranteed by the National Credit Union Administration and pays between 1% and 1.5% annual interest, a bit lower than conventional rates. In 25 weeks, the program has attracted about $3.1 million in new deposits, often from people who have never been able to set money aside."
Way clever, as you'll see from the example. Regulators need to work to enable copycats, in volume, and soon.
Rand Simberg offers an alternative vision for NASA in a New Atlantis piece: "A Space Program for the Rest of Us."
Meanwhile, researchers at York University in Toronto have come up with an alternative design for a "beanstalk" to space, and are busy patenting it in partnership with space firm Thoth Technology Inc. They also published a related paper about it in Acta Astronautica. From a York U. page:
"Constructed from Kevlar, the free-standing structure would use pneumatically-inflated sections pressurized with lightweight gas such as hydrogen or helium, to actively stabilize itself and allow for flexibility. A series of platforms or pods, supported by the elevator, would be used to launch payloads into Earth's orbit.... Stacks of pods containing control and stabilization machinery are embedded in its core structure, and then pulled out and extended vertically via a system of rollers. The structure's position would be maintained by an active control system that corrects its centre of gravity using methods such as pressure balancing and gyroscopic stabilization. The system would also counter the forces of nature...."
"Once you have a ship, it's a win-win situation."
"Hostages - especially Westerners - are our only assets, so we try our best to avoid killing them."
"A single mission with 12 armed men and boats costs a little over $30,000. But a successful investor has to dispatch at least three or four missions to get lucky once."And my favorite:
"The financiers are the most important since they organize and plan the big shot operations and are able to pay running cost[s]. Financiers always need to forge deals with traders, land cruiser owners, translators, business people to keep the supplies flowing during operations and manage the logistics. There is a long supply chain involved in every hijacking."...and as soon as we learn to automate and optimize it, we'll attain unheard-of efficiencies in pirate management!!
"Beyond that, in my case deploy a boat with six men to get close to the ship and leave another in reserve near the coast just in case we need backup. We use sophisticated equipment that allows us to spot our targets from a distance. We always have to be close to the main sea lane and keep in touch with each other using talkie phones."So the sea lanes off Somalia are about 4 - 6 degrees latitude from the coast - so figure they are 240 - 360 miles from shore.
New Zealand is zooming ahead with smart meters - but the implementation may not be very smart. Different utilities are paired with different vendors. The features and approach look set to ensure that improvements are more modest than they should be. And what is implemented will mostly benefit the utilities, rather than the homeowners being charged for them.
That experience may help to explain why California's PG&E thinks it's smarter to hold out for true open standards.
Thing is, both jurisdictions are still thinking from a utility perspective. But successful smart grids are going to require a lot of rewiring - in utility executives' heads. Utilities are not customer-oriented companies. But there's a good argument that smart grids are going to force them to have far more dealings with their customers. If they're not proactive, and careful about how they handle that, they're going to find that browned-off can be at least as dangerous as brownout.
In early 2006, shortly before the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, an Israeli intelligence officer predicted the future. “Missile war will replace terrorist war,” he told me when I spoke with him at the Ministry of Defense.
He was right. Just a few months later, Hizballah launched thousands of Katyusha rockets into Northern Israel and forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee south toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. South Lebanon was punished much more thoroughly than Northern Israel, but the Palestinians in Gaza nevertheless took Hizballah’s Baghdad Bob–style boasts of “divine victory” seriously. Hamas ramped up its own rocket war until fed-up Israelis gave Gaza the South Lebanon treatment this past December and January.
Hamas is a bit slower to learn than was Hizballah, but seven long months after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the rockets out of Gaza have finally stopped. Israelis will no longer put up with indiscriminate attacks on their houses and schools. Many Palestinians in Gaza have likewise had their fill of Hamas’s self-destructive campaign of “resistance.”
The New York Times reports that Hamas has decided to wage a “culture war” instead of a rocket war because, as one leader put it, “the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break.”
Movies, plays, art exhibitions, and poems are Hamas’s new weapons. Hamas supporters, though, aren’t the only Palestinians in Gaza using art as a weapon. Said al-Bettar skewers Hamas every night at Gaza City’s Shawa cultural center in his popular play The Women of Gaza and the Patience of Job. “We were the victims of a big lie,” he says about the doctrine of armed “resistance.”
The Israeli intelligence official I spoke to deserves some credit for predicting the replacement of terrorist war with missile war. Hamas and Islamic Jihad had already fired rockets at Israel, but they hadn’t fired many, and neither the recent Gaza war nor the Second Lebanon War had yet started.
Since then a pattern has emerged that should be obvious to anybody with eyes to see, whether they’re an intelligence official or not. After Israeli soldiers withdraw from occupied territory, Israeli civilians are shot at with rockets from inside that territory. Another pattern has just been made clear. After Israelis shoot back, the rockets stop flying.
It has been years since Hizballah has dared to fire rockets at Israel or start anything else on the border. Hamas no longer dares to fire rockets at Israel either.
"Successful revolutions have three phases. First, a strategically located single or limited segment of society begins vocally to express resentment, asserting itself in the streets of a major city, usually the capital. This segment is joined by other segments in the city and by segments elsewhere as the demonstration spreads to other cities and becomes more assertive, disruptive and potentially violent. As resistance to the regime spreads, the regime deploys its military and security forces. These forces, drawn from resisting social segments and isolated from the rest of society, turn on the regime, and stop following the regime's orders. This is what happened to the Shah of Iran in 1979; it is also what happened in Russia in 1917 or in Romania in 1989.
Revolutions fail when no one joins the initial segment, meaning the initial demonstrators are the ones who find themselves socially isolated. When the demonstrations do not spread to other cities, the demonstrations either peter out or the regime brings in the security and military forces - who remain loyal to the regime and frequently personally hostile to the demonstrators - and use force to suppress the rising to the extent necessary. This is what happened in Tiananmen Square in China...."
Friedman makes some good points, while others strike me as less well grounded. Read him and decide what you think.
Jim Welsh, of Welsh Money Management, had this priceless take-away line in his recent article, "The Truth Behind a "Recovery" in GDP:"
"According to Christianson Capital Advisors, Americans saved $57.4 billion in 2007, and spent $92.3 billion on legalized gambling."
The rest is also a very interesting read.
"Discrimination toward or against a person of a certain group is the treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit. Discrimination is always a behavior that promotes a certain group at the expense of another"
Getting an accurate reading of Iraqi public opinion is hard. It might be impossible. I've seen Iraqis cheer American soldiers, and I've seen some Iraqis hug American soldiers in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Baghdad. A few weeks ago, though, hundreds of thousands celebrated when Americans evacuated Iraqi cities as stipulated by the Status of Forces Agreement.
It's theoretically possible that what we've seen is not contradictory. Some Iraqis are pro-American. Others are not. Those who celebrated when Americans left may very well be, at least for the most part, different Iraqis than those I've seen who greeted Americans warmly.
Iraqi public opinion, though, is famously contradictory. And Iraqi public opinion as stated by Iraqis themselves is notoriously unreliable.
Most Iraqis, like most Arabs everywhere, are extremely polite and hospitable. It's a guidebook cliché, but it's a guidebook cliché for a reason. Their culture requires them to welcome foreigners, and they take that requirement seriously. Most will conceal any negative opinions they may have against a visitor personally or even the visitor's country - and this is true even for visitors from enemy countries. They don't mean to be deceptive. They're just being nice.
There's another problem with picking up the mood of the street - politics. For decades Iraqis have lived either in fear of the state or in fear of militias. They had to learn to keep their opinions to themselves if they wanted to live.
I don't think many Iraqis today are afraid of the state. But everybody was terrified of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian government. Speaking their minds could get them imprisoned or killed. It could get an entire family dragged off to prison, tortured, and painfully executed. Before the Baath Party regime was demolished, it was extremely difficult for journalists who showed up in Baghdad to read the mood of the street. Everybody appeared to be fanatical supporters of Saddam Hussein even though few Iraqis actually were.
That's not true anymore. But habits of mind go down hard. Concealing opinions from the authorities became a survival mechanism, whether the authorities were Saddam Hussein's mukhabarat, militiamen in the neighborhood, or American soldiers.
Before the Status of Forces agreement kicked in, I asked U.S. Army Colonel John Hort if and how he and his men took all this into account. Effective counter-insurgency isn't possible when counter-insurgents have no idea what the general population is thinking.
"How do you measure public opinion?" I said to him. "How do you know what people really think? We all know about this tendency in Iraq where people tell you what they think you want to hear - or what they want you to hear, which isn't necessarily the same thing. If you ask what Iraqis think of the American military while you're standing there with guns in your hands, they might say oh, we love you guys. Then someone from the Guardian newspaper comes along and asks what they think of the imperial occupation forces, and the same people might say we hate them. So what's their real opinion? Do you take this sort of thing into account? Do you have Iraqis feeling out the opinions of people for you?"
"We do," he said.
"And they report back to you?" I said.
"Right," he said. "We have the Iraqi Advisor Task Force. They aren't spies. That's illegal. But they're hired to measure atmospherics. They monitor the mosques. They hit the restaurants, places like that. And we get these reports almost every other day. Over time we've seen the atmospherics and compared them to what you were talking about, the guy on the street talking to the U.S. soldier. Do they match up? And if they don't match up, we have to figure out what we need to change about the way we're presenting ourselves."
Colonel Hort worked at Forward Operating Base (FOB) War Eagle, a medium-sized base in Northern Baghdad. After I left the FOB and moved to a small combat outpost deep in the city, I asked Sergeant Nick Franklin if he could help me arrange an interview with one of the Iraqis the Army trusts to provide real information. I was tired of trying to learn about Iraq through the lens of the United States military, and tired of asking Iraqis what they thought while they were in the presence of American soldiers.
What were Iraqis saying when Americans weren't in the room? That's what I wanted to know. Even if I had disembedded myself from the Army and wandered around Iraq by myself, I still wouldn't be able to figure that out because I'm an American, too.
"You're right," Sergeant Franklin said. "You practically have to beat a straight answer out of people. I'll take you to meet this guy Sayid who works for us and tells it just like it is."
Last week, the New York Times published an article about “signs of hope” in the West Bank (and in the city of Nablus in particular) that refreshingly breaks with the standard narrative of Palestinian desperation and misery. The Israeli military recently closed down its checkpoint into the city, along with other checkpoints elsewhere in the territories. The economy is growing instead of contracting. Downtown is full of shoppers. Islamist scolds have backed off. Police make sure passengers have fastened their seat belts.
It sounds like Nablus has more or less become a normal Middle East city.
Earlier this year in Jerusalem, Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh told me how much the West Bank surprises visitors now. “The other day,” he said, “someone came for the first time ever to this part of the world, and he called me and asked me to take him to Ramallah. So I drove him to downtown Ramallah, and we stopped there. The man was shocked. He said, ‘Where are the refugee camps? Where are the mud houses? Where’s the poverty?’ I said, ‘Why are you asking me these questions?’ He said, ‘I’m shocked. Look how nice it is.’ ”
I laughed out loud because I had a similar experience myself three years ago before the recent improvements. I didn’t expect to see “mud houses.” As far as I know, no one has ever reported the existence of “mud houses” in Ramallah. The usual Palestinian narrative, though, seems to encourage some people’s vivid imaginations.
But I was still startled by what Ramallah actually looked like. I expected to see, and to write about, squalid living conditions. I had already seen the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, and the awfulness of those places is hard to describe.
I figured Ramallah wouldn’t be that bad, but I didn’t expect it to look so much better than lots of cities, and not just refugee camps, that I’ve seen in the region.
It was in early 2006, shortly after Hamas won the election, when I took a taxi from the Qalandia checkpoint outside Jerusalem to Ramallah with a Palestinian man named Sufian. Here, in part, is what I wrote at the time:
I stepped out into a surprisingly pleasant urban environment.
“No offense, Sufian, but this city is a lot nicer than I expected,” I said.
“Ramallah is beautiful,” he said with pride.
I didn’t think it was beautiful, exactly, but it did not look even remotely like the Third World war zone it’s reputed to be. I noticed no visible poverty once we left the squalor around the checkpoint. I was, however, warned by Israelis that Ramallah and Bethlehem are much nicer than the rest of the West Bank and need to be judged accordingly.
[…]Ramallah is also in much better physical condition than the parts of Lebanon ruled by Hezbollah, even though Ramallah has experienced war a lot more recently. In fact, Ramallah is in better condition than any Shia region of Lebanon whether it’s ruled by Hezbollah or not. The only Sunni part of Lebanon that looks nicer than Ramallah is West Beirut.
Ramallah didn’t have the glitz of Beirut or the French-Arab Mediterranean charm of a city like Tunis. But it beat the pants off Cairo, one of the biggest tourist destinations in the whole Arab world. It looked a lot like Amman — an Arab city with a pretty good reputation. It was so much nicer than Baghdad, it’s pointless to even make the comparison.
File this one next to the earlier posts re: the "Medea Hypothesis," aka. "if the Earth really is a single organism, it's awfully mean." New Scientist's "Dawn of the animals: Solving Darwin's dilemma" discusses how life on earth as we understand it really got started by the mother of all mass extinctions:
"Put together, all the recent findings and ideas paint a picture of early evolution dramatically different from what we long imagined. The oceans did not suddenly become hospitable places for large animals 2.5 billion years ago when the atmosphere began to fill with oxygen, nor did animals suddenly appear during the early Cambrian. Instead, the first animals appeared much earlier but were limited to a thin layer of surface water in hostile oceans still dominated by bacteria. They were restricted in size by the lack of oxygen, starved of vital nutrients and regularly killed en masse by toxic upwellings.
Their deaths were not in vain, though. As their bodies sunk to the bottom of the toxic seas and were buried, carbon dioxide was sucked out of the atmosphere, triggering a series of deep ice ages [JK: so deep, some believe that even the oceans froze] that reset the chemistry of the oceans. The surviving animals seized the opportunity to wrest control of the oceans from the bacteria, producing clear waters rich in oxygen in which larger, more complex animals could evolve. Thus the stage was set for the Cambrian explosion."
We agreed that you will stop chanting. If we do not have the votes of the people behind us, we will have nothing. The guardian council, the expediency council, EVERYONE gets their legitimacy from the vote of the people.
Obama moral relativist begin making fascist argument for rationing health care which is what this has been about from the beginning - eliminating "costs" from the budget. For fascists, people are the budget.
I have been saying that the Democratic Party does not want to save lives with their hideous, expensive and bureaucratic plan to take over health care.From Steve Gilbert at Sweetness and Light:
The plan is to "save" money....
He is a sick, sick man. He puts money ahead of human life. He may be bio, but he has no ethics - or at least any that I would want to be associated with.
...it is worth going to the link and reading the full tract....and so on.
It is great nightmare fuel.
By the way, in case Mr. Singer's name doesn't strike a bell, he is that famed bioethicist who believes in sex with animals and abortion, euthanasia and infanticide for humans.
Maybe Mr. Obama will make him his Health Care Czar.
I fly Blackhawks for a living for the U.S. Army. Its a pretty sweet job, I admit, but not without its drawbacks including time in Iraq and Kuwait away from my family. My 1997 Toyota Camry with 126k miles is another unfortunate drawback. I'd sure love to leave next time knowing that my wife and our two kids are trouble-free and driving in luxury!Go gettum...
Max Blumenthal, son of former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, made quite a splash on the Internet recently when he posted a video portraying drunken Americans in Israel hurling racist epithets against President Barack Obama. One of his subjects even shouted “white power!” Blumenthal titled his video “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem,” as if inebriated ugly Americans abroad reflect in any way on the opinions of people who live in Jerusalem. You can’t watch the video because YouTube removed it due to a “terms of service violation.”
This time around, he features Israelis, not foreigners, who might even live in Tel Aviv. But just like in the first installment of his juvenile series, he goes out of his way to showcase Israelis with offensive opinions. While attending the White Night music festival, for instance, he managed to find two individuals who don’t like Iranians. “I hate them,” said one. “I hate them all,” said another. If he asked anyone else what they thought of Iranians, their response did not make the cut.
It might have been interesting if Blumenthal had aired the opinions of a large number Israelis about their feelings for Iranians when Israel and Iran are in a state of cold war — especially now that millions have risked beatings and worse while taking to the Iranian streets and screaming “death to the dictator.” (It would also be worthwhile for a reporter to canvass Iranian public opinion among those attending anti-regime rallies and ask what they think about the people of Israel.) The “Green Revolution” broke out in Iran after Blumenthal shot his footage. But he apparently doesn’t care whether he makes Israelis look like anti-Iranian bigots at a time when most of the world has just learned that Iranians detest the deranged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as much as everyone else.
After editing out or ignoring the opinions of thousands of reasonable Israelis at the White Night festival, he proceeded toward Tel Aviv University, where he edited out or ignored the opinions of reasonable people on campus.
“Do you think they [Israeli Arabs] are traitors?” he asked a student. “Yeah,” said the student. Another said he wants to see Israelis of Arab descent at the university deported to Gaza. “If you want to keep democracy,” said yet another, “you can’t let people protest against the country.” And so on.
There’s nothing wrong with quoting extremists. And there’s nothing wrong with focusing exclusively on extremists if they’re the subject. I’ve done it. Lots of journalists do it. Responsible journalists, though, make it clear to their audience that extremists are, well, extremists.
Here’s the problem with Blumenthal’s series: I’ve met exactly one person in Israel who talked like the people he featured in his videos. And I’ve been there twice when tempers were flaring, when Israel was under mortar, rocket, and missile attack. It’s certainly possible that I’ve met more than one person like Blumenthal’s crowd without knowing it. Perhaps a few of my interview subjects had the good sense to keep their bigoted thoughts to themselves. I don’t wander around Israel, or any other country, trying to bait people like Borat. In any case, since Blumenthal can’t be bothered to acknowledge that he went quote shopping, those of us familiar with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv ought to point out to everyone else that his videos don’t remotely represent average people who live there.
Author, historian, and Jerusalem resident Yaacov Lozowick didn’t take kindly to the first episode Blumenthal shot in his home town. “Say you’re interviewing the locals at Time Square about some matter,” he wrote, “so as to figure out what Americans think. Inevitably, you’ll come across a lot of tourists, it being Time Square, but what are the chances you’ll find not a single card-carrying American? And if that happens, and you then post your video to Youtube to castigate America, what does that tell us about you?”
Robert Spencer, founder and lead writer for Jihad Watch, has a bit of trouble telling the difference between friend and foe in Iraq and still thinks, despite everything, that the United States is losing the war.
Instead of referring to me by name, he sarcastically dismisses me as a “learned analyst,” as he does with President Barack Obama and his advisors, while scoffing at a long dispatch I published last week. “No insurgent or terrorist group can declare victory or claim Americans are evacuating Iraq’s cities because they were beaten,” I wrote. Spencer acknowledges that Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki isn’t the leader of an insurgent or terrorist group. But he maintains that my statement is “breathtaking in its disconnect from reality” because Maliki declared the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq’s cities “a great victory.”
We are not, and never have been, at war with Prime Minister Maliki. Everyone with even a pedestrian familiarity with events in Iraq during the last couple of years knows that American soldiers and Marines have fought alongside Maliki’s Iraqi soldiers and police against common enemies – Al Qaeda in Iraq and the various offshoots and branches of Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.
Not even in an alternate universe have Maliki’s men fought Americans and forced them to withdraw. They fought, bled, and died alongside Americans. The United States military recently withdrew from most of Iraq’s urban areas as stipulated by the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration, but they’re still training and working closely with Iraqi security forces.
Maliki’s “great victory” statement was an attempt to suck up to the anti-Americans in his electoral constituency who are unhappy with his close relationship with the United States. Iraq’s most sectarian Sunni Arabs regularly accuse Maliki of being an Iranian puppet prime minister when they aren’t contradicting themselves by joining radical Shias and saying he’s an American puppet prime minister. Maliki is closer to Iran than Americans and Iraq’s Sunnis would like, but he’s much closer to the United States where it counts most. He has never sent his men into battle against Americans. But he did order his soldiers into battle alongside Americans last year against Iranian-backed Shia militias in Sadr City and Basra. He also put the Sons of Iraq – whom he used to decry as an anti-Shia Sunni militia – on his government’s payroll.
I don’t know if throwing a rhetorical bone to Iraq’s most strident anti-Americans to shore up his nationalist bona fides is a good idea or if it isn’t. Either way, it’s not hard to see that’s what he’s doing. And it’s frankly ridiculous for Spencer to write as though I have no idea what’s going on in Iraq when he thinks a political speech for domestic consumption overrides the fact that for years Maliki has been at war not against us but with us against our mutual enemies.
Does Spencer believe that, all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, Maliki sympathizes with the terrorists and insurgents he recently crushed?
“In any case,” Spencer writes, “any ‘victory’ the Americans won in Iraq was sure to be undone as soon as the troops were gone, and we are already seeing that. Sunni will go after Shi’ite and vice versa, the Iranians will press forward to create a Shi’ite client state, the non-Muslims will be victimized more than ever…”
Iraq has made a fool of just about everyone, including me, who has claimed to know in advance what the future would look like. The entire Middle East makes fools of its prophets. Most of us who work there eventually learn this the hard way. Nobody can know what’s going to happen in Iraq now that the U.S. is pulling back.
Spencer’s view might by chance be correct. Around half the Iraqis and half the Americans I’ve spoken to in Iraq think the country is more likely than not to disintegrate. The other half don’t. And the optimists who live and work over there, just like the pessimists, know more about Iraq than Robert Spencer and I do combined.
TIME Magazine asks: "Can Community Colleges Save the U.S. Economy?"
The answer, of course, is no. But if you believe, as Peter Morici and others do, that the huge structural trade deficit in manufactured goods and other forms of real wealth is part of the problem, and that rising borrowing to paper over that imbalance has hit the wall... If you fundamentally buy that argument, then a rebalancing toward community colleges, and away from low real-value university B.A.s, is certainly part of the solution. Changing that balance would have the incidental effect of raising community college graduation rates, which currently lag behind universities. So, too, would real education reform that improved K-12 education's deficiencies across the board.
Obama does seem to get community colleges' importance, for whatever reason - and good on him for taking some positive steps. Time will tell if it generates meaningful action, however, in the face of likely opposition from key Obama constituencies.
One certainly wonders why the GOP hasn't grasped community colleges' useful importance yet and been banging on about it for years now. It's especially puzzling given the fact that forces for the current status quo include many of the party's enemies. I suspect some of the less useful Reagan era lenses need to fall from a few eyes in order for that to happen, and the realizations associated with it will be helpful in steering the party toward some genuinely productive new thinking.
Interesting piece in Der Spiegel, of all places. Interesting comment on both economics, and human nature, which can make even correct intelligence utterly useless absent any will to act. From "Global Banking Economist Warned of Coming Crisis"
"White, a Canadian, worked for various central banks for 39 years, most recently serving as chief economist for the central bank for all central bankers, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), headquartered in Basel, Switzerland.... Since the economy went up in flames, the wiry retiree has been jetting around the globe... someone, finally, is listening to him.... Greenspan, who was reverentially known as "The Maestro," was celebrated as the greatest central banker of all time -- until the US real estate bubble burst and the crash began. Before then, no one in the world of central banks would have dared to openly criticize Greenspan's successful policy of cheap money. No one except White, that is.
....The analysis department at the BIS has a collection of data from every bank around the globe, considered the most impressive in the world. It enabled the economists working in this nerve center of high finance to look on, practically in real time, as a poisonous concoction began to brew in the international financial system.
White and his team of experts observed the real estate bubble developing in the United States. They criticized the increasingly impenetrable securitization business, vehemently pointed out the perils of risky loans and provided evidence of the lack of credibility of the rating agencies. In their view, the reason for the lack of restraint in the financial markets was that there was simply too much cheap money available on the market.... In the restrained world of central bankers, it would have been difficult for White to express himself more clearly.... He, the chief economist at the central bank for central banks, predicted the disaster, and yet not even his own clientele was willing to believe him."
"I'm not sure Google's new Chrome OS announcement is that big a deal, or that the eventual product that gets released will actually have that much impact, but it's a useful milestone in marking Google's evolution towards becoming an older company with a distinctly different culture than they used to have....
Is Google evil? It doesn't matter. They've reached the point of corporate ambition and changing corporate culture that means they're going to be perceived as if they are. Whether they're able to truly internalize that lesson, accept it, and act accordingly will determine if they're able to extend their dominance in the years to come."
Worth pondering, as is his 2007 post about Google's difficulty with Theory of Mind. A fancy term for the kind of understanding which tells you that closing your eyes doesn't turn you invisible (except against the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, of course...).
Ten years have gone by since a modest but important moment in American environmental history: the dismantling of the 917-foot-wide Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River.
The Edwards Dam was the first privately owned hydroelectric dam torn down for environmental reasons (and against the owner's wishes) by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Bruce Babbitt, the interior secretary at the time, showed up at the demolition ceremony to promote what had become a personal crusade against obsolete dams. The publicity generated a national discussion about dams and the potential environmental benefits - to water quality and fish species - of removing them.
It certainly helped the Kennebec and its fish, and dams have been falling ever since. According to American Rivers, an advocacy group and a major player in the Edwards Dam campaign, about 430 outdated dams (some of them small hydropower dams like Edwards) have been removed with both public and private funding. In one case, the removal of a small, 50-foot dam on Oregon's Sandy River was paid for entirely by the electric utility that owned it in order to improve salmon runs.From the LA Times, July 6:
More lies ahead. Three dams that have severely damaged salmon runs in Washington State are scheduled to come down in 2011. A tentative agreement has been reached among farmers, native tribes and a power company to remove dams on California's Klamath River, the site of a huge fish kill several years ago attributed mainly to low water flows caused by dams.
Politicians and stakeholders have steadfastly resisted the painful solution of dam removal while hoping for a miracle. That hope turned out to be a one-way road on a dead-end street, and in many respects they're now blaming the court for their current predicament. With few exceptions, the region's politicians, past and current, have been challenging the recommendations of scientists (including dam removal and increasing the spills over the dams) for more than a decade. Former Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) famously vowed to chain himself to a dam rather than surrender, a prospect relished by many conservation groups.Now preserving fish populations is damn important (sorry) and a good thing to be sure. And I have no doubt that the Army Corps of Engineers never met a river it didn;t want to damn. But hydropower is 3.4% of national energy production (Excel), and 63% of our renewable energy production. I'd love to know what percent of the national hydropower budget we're talking about taking offline here...
Throughout this stalemate, fish counts have continued to fall, and the underlying science is clear: In river after river where dams have been removed, native fish populations have rebounded and thrived. As the government's former chief aquatic biologist, Don Chapman, concluded, dam removal is the most effective strategy for saving endangered native fish stocks from extinction.
This was the conclusion reached by the Idaho Statesman newspaper back in 1997 after it conducted a yearlong study of the Snake River dams. The paper reported that the economic benefits of a healthy fishery -- and the resultant tens of thousands of jobs -- would swamp the benefits of leaving the dams in place.
Dozens of reports by natural resources economists have agreed. Among other things, they describe the dams as economic sinkholes, which produce less than 3% of the region's power, do nothing for flood control, irrigate only a handful of big farms and subsidize transportation costs (at the expense of taxpayers and salmon) for wheat farmers in Idaho and eastern Washington.
In March 2008, DID's "Sharpen Yourself: LinkedIn & Social Networking Sites" discussed both the career benefits and the security risks associated with social networking sites. Sir John Sawers, the prospective head of Britain's MI6 intelligence agency is probably wishing he had read it. His wife recently leaked dangerously specific information about him on Facebook, and created a controversy about his fitness for the job. Sir John now faces a possible parliamentary probe.
Despite these setbacks, social networking is becoming a larger part of the military, and the industry. In July 2009, Lockheed Martin released its internal company social networking application's underlying code as open source software. Social networking efforts are being explicitly built into PR contracts, and it's becoming one of the information shifts that are changing the battlespace. The Pentagon recently launched an official blogging platform at DODLive.mil, and US Forces Afghanistan launched a social networking strategy that extends to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Followed by orders to bases to stop blocking key social networking sites.
These efforts can make a big contribution toward ensuring that the Pentagon is no longer, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates puts it, "being out-communicated by a guy in a cave." On the other hand, they are not risk-free.
Fun Stuff from the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, who did a bit of digging and found Paul Krugman's 2002 urgings to create a housing bubble.
Yeah, you read that right. Why anyone continues to take this guy seriously is beyond me.
On my last trip to Iraq, I asked a number of Americans and Iraqis what they think about the future in that country. Around half were optimistic and half were pessimistic. This is the third installment in a four-part series. Optimists were quoted at length in parts one
and two. I'm giving equal time here to the pessimists.
The United States has basically won the war in Iraq. No insurgent or terrorist group can declare victory or claim Americans are evacuating Iraq’s cities because they were beaten. America's most modest foreign policy objectives there have been largely secured. Saddam Hussein's toxic regime has been replaced with a more or less consensual government. I doubt very much that Iraq will seriously threaten the United States or its neighbors any time soon. It isn't likely to be ruled by terrorists as it probably would have been if the United States left between 2004 and 2007. It’s a relief. A few years ago, I was all but certain the U.S. would withdraw under fire and leave Iraq in the hands of militias. Even so, many have a hard time feeling optimistic about the future. Iraq remains, in some ways, a threat to itself.
The reduction in violence and the winding down of the conflict allowed me to see the country a little more clearly than I could when I first visited Baghdad. I’m sorry to report that the city is still as run-down and dysfunctional as it was when what passed for daily life was punctuated by gunfire and car bombs. Iraq is backward and messy not only by Western standards, but by Arabic standards.
“A lot of people want us to stay or they will leave,” U.S. Army Sergeant Nick Franklin told me. “They don't care where they go. They want to go to America, to Europe, or even to Jordan or some other Arab country. They don't care. They just want out.”
You might want out, too, if you lived there. Violence has been drastically reduced, but sectarian tension remains just as bad, if not worse, as it is in Lebanon – and the possibility of renewed civil strife hangs over Lebanon like the Sword of Damocles. Iraq is still violent compared with most countries, and the entire government and security forces are shot through with corruption. Electricity still doesn’t work half the time. Sewage still runs in the streets. Neighborhoods are still clotted with an appalling amount of garbage. Police officers steal from citizens and often beat suspects up not during but before interrogations.
I asked several American soldiers if it was safe enough for me to walk the streets on my own without armed protection. Few thought that would be wise.
A comparable failure of imagination besets present-day Washington. The Long War launched by George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11 has not gone well. Everyone understands that. Yet in the face of disappointment, what passes for advanced thinking recalls the Churchill who devised Gallipoli and godfathered the tank: In Washington and in the field, a preoccupation with tactics and operations have induced strategic blindness.
As President Obama shifts the main U.S. military effort from Iraq to Afghanistan, and as his commanders embrace counterinsurgency as the new American way of war, the big questions go not only unanswered but unasked. Does perpetuating the Long War make political or strategic sense? As we prepare to enter that war's ninth year, are there no alternatives?
Pragmatists shy away from first-order questions -- recall President George H. W. Bush's aversion to what he called "the vision thing." Obama is a pragmatist. Unlike his immediate predecessor, he inhabits a world where facts matter.
Yet pragmatism devoid of principle will perpetuate the strategic void that Obama inherited. The urgent need is for the administration to articulate a concrete set of organizing precepts -- not simply cliches -- to frame basic U.S. policy going forward.
What should those principles be?Boy, I disagree strongly with much of this. My disagreements are really focused on two areas of it -
First, the Long War may be long, but it should not get any bigger. The regime-change approach -- invade and occupy to transform -- hasn't worked; simply trying harder in some other venue (Somalia? Sudan?) won't produce different results. In short, no more Iraqs.
Second, forget the Bush Doctrine of preventive war: no more wars of choice; henceforth only wars of necessity. The United States will use force only as a last resort and even then only when genuinely vital interests are at stake.
Third, no more crusades unless the American people buy in; expecting a relative handful of soldiers to carry the load while the rest of the country binges on consumption is unconscionable. At a minimum, the generation that opts for war should pay for it through higher taxes rather than foisting a burden of debt onto their grandchildren.
Fourth, the key to keeping America safe is to defend it, not to project American muscle to obscure places around the world. It may or may not be true that a "mighty fortress is our God"; had the United States been a mighty fortress on 9/11, however, the 19 hijackers would have gotten nowhere.
Fifth, by all means let the United States promote the spread of freedom and democracy. Yet we're more likely to enjoy success by modeling freedom rather than trying to impose it. To provide a suitable model, we've considerable work to do here at home. Meanwhile, let's not deny others the prerogative of defining for themselves exactly what it means to be free.
...when I was pointed to Jim Henley's Grand Plan, I just lost the capacity for reasonable thought; it was so dumb, such a dorm-room, bong-hit driven idea of how the world ought to be that I almost left it alone. Then I got a link to it from a non-blog person, and realized that I had to Go Back In There and wrestle with it.And as a side note, my feelings about Bacevich's grand strategy aren't all that different. Look, let's go to one specific criticism of Henley:
Still true - what exactly has changed in the Palestinian culture to make them more willing to live alongside Israel since 1948? And - as a sidenote - I'll suggest that pure containment is Bacevich's preferred foreign policy; except that - based on his unwillingness to meddle in foreign affairs, it's containment that starts at the US border."A Grand Strategy for the Rest - The Unqualified Offerings Plan, not just for Iraq but for terrorism generally:OK, that makes sense. The problem of course is that - as in the oldest known form of drama, tragedy - the trouble we're paying for was borrowed generations ago. There's no 'ollie ollie oxen free'; no Original Position. So as a game-theory concept, it makes lots of sense. As a basis for real-world policy, it makes very little.
1) Stop borrowing trouble2) "Wait" for the people behind the trouble we've already borrowed to get old and tired or die off outright.Right. First Rawls, then Kuhn; a full plate of philosophy's Greatest Hits. Sadly, the dynamics are little more complex than that. Yes, the changes are large largely generational, but - a big but - the dynamics making the new generation take positions can't be reset to zero, there are consequences for disengagement, and so there's little but hope that would lead one to believe that - absent some positive act - the next generations will be happier to coexist than the last.
The first [problem with Henley's arguments] is, yes, they do - they do, because they are a part of an expansionist (as are all evangelical) religion that sees a unified worldwide church as is goal, and more important, because one of the strongest strains in that church was raised from stock created here in the West, and defines itself, not only internally through the Quran, but externally, against the West (see Qutb).and
The second problem is that even if we tried, we couldn't cut the ties that are at the boundaries between our cultures. Trade, migration, media...the big three drivers that force their culture into contact with ours - even without the mechanisms of imperialism (stipulating for the moment that imperialism is as powerful as he suggests) force us to deal with each other. Does he somehow think that the Playboy Channel and MTV will somehow stop being watched in Riyadh? And that this itself won't be a threat to the established order?
What [fresh] humiliations, exactly, did he have in mind? Because I think he's forgetting that OBL is talking about ancient colonial history, and battles in Andalusia and at the gates of Vienna. These folks have a much better sense of history than we do.and finally,
But the interests here are (a) inseparable - we can't economically (or culturally) 'disengage' from the Islamic world; and (b) central to our well-being - it's not only the oil and the economy, but the fact that while the Vietnamese Communist Party signed up for the internationalization of Communism, we didn't need to worry about them, it was the USSR and China carrying that ball; Hanoi was happy to just bring Saigon into the fold. It was a nationalist manifestation of an international movement. Islamism isn't nationalist. It hasn't, doesn't, and won't stop at national borders.There's a great paraphrase of the Three Laws of Thermodynamics that goes
You can't win. You can't break even. You've got to play.That's thermodynamic reality. Political reality in a wicked-problems world, like it or not, follows similar rules.
You don't know if you're winning or losing. You don't know when you're done. You have to play.I get the impulse to just close our collective eyes hold our breath and hope things will get better. In this country, we're about 500 years too late for that.
The Middle East is a hard place for idealists, especially for the Western liberal variety. My feelings of optimism for the region have been ground down over time like rocks under slow-moving glacial ice.
Last time I visited Israel, at the end of the Gaza war this past January, I met Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. He sounded no less despondent than the Israelis I spoke to. "Listen," he said. "We must stop dreaming about the New Middle East and coexistence and harmony and turning this area into Hong Kong and Singapore...I don't see a real peace emerging over here. We should stop talking about it."
That's what I hear from almost everyone I speak to over there now, whether they're Muslims, Christians, Jews, or whatever. Arabs, Israelis, Kurds - most seem to have a dim view of the future. Optimists, for the most part, parachute in for a brief time and leave. I hate it. It depresses me. But that's how it is.
Some writers and analysts are slightly less gloomy, and I frequently ask them to cheer me up and hope their relative optimism isn't fantasy. Jeffrey Goldberg's work at The Atlantic occasionally qualifies as less pessimistic than mine. His outstanding book Prisoners strikes just the right balance between world-weary pessimism and hope. He's an American Jew weaned on Socialist Zionism who became an idealistic Israeli as a young adult. He sought out friendships with individual Palestinians with whom he could forge his own separate peace, if for no other reason than to prove to himself that peace was possible. It was much harder than he expected. But he managed, with some difficultly, when he worked as an IDF prison guard at Ketziot during the first intifada to kindle a rocky but enduring friendship with his prisoner Rafiq Hijazi.
I spoke with him a few weeks ago in Washington D.C.
MJT: You don't seem particularly optimistic that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be resolved any time soon, but I notice from reading your work that you seem slightly less pessimistic than me.
MJT: My view is pretty bleak and yours is slightly less so. And I'm wondering if you can map a way out that's realistic.
The late Hyman Minsky was one economist who studied how debt overload leads to economic catastrophe, and offered a view that tied it to business cycles. The term "Minsky moment" refers to the tipping point in an economy, where its debt load becomes more than its cash flow can bear. We passed that some time ago, thanks to a sustained set of inflationary policies that begat 2 major bubbles (dot-com, housing/mortgage), and are about to lead to a 3rd (government debt, with accompanying hyper-stagflation).
It was interesting to hear Nassim "Black Swan" Taleb make the point on CNBC the other day that the key problem facing the USA is "de-leveraging," reducing debt. Have a look at the CNBC video - he even has an interesting suggestion for doing this.
Note that "debt" includes more than public debt. Private debt has also been running up at ruinous rates, for a long time. Morgan Housel, in "Why It Could Take Years to Recover," looks at the numbers. Household Debt to Disposable income averages were about 63.5% in 1974. The much-heralded recent jump in savings rates has pushed that figure from about 133% in Q1 2008, to about 128% in Q1 2009. To put that into better perspective:
" [worthwhile table with figures, etc.] The personal savings rate has shot up from slightly negative in 2005 to about 4% today.
But even a 4% savings rate equates to just $476 billion per year - a fraction of what we need to get household debt down to safer levels. If we took every penny we're saving today and put it toward paying off [household] debt, it would take more than six years to get household debt back to 100% of disposable income - about where it was in 2001."
And of course, there's no way every penny saved will go to reducing debt. Allowing negative compounding to continue.
"Why It Could Take Years to Recover" is a worthwhile article, just for its service of helping us contemplate the scale of the core problem. One we didn't get into overnight.
Unfortunately even current savings rates, welcome as they are, are a recipe for a very long period of pain. Until and unless this is fixed, no real increase in consumer demand is sustainable, and any "confidence measures" are more like "confidence games." Vid. the phenomenon of the Great Depression's 7 (!) "suckers' rallies".
Some of the core problem will be "solved" by pure defaulting, of course. Another Housel article, "Dangerously Delaying the Inevitable," offers Office of Thrift Supervision and the Comptroller of the Currency figures that say over 60% of mortgages adjusted with the help of the government's $75 billion assistance plan end up in default a year later. You can ignore the speculation as to why (look instead to this data set from the WSJ). Just note the figures.
Which tell us the mortgage crisis still has a few economic shocks left in it. Especially as unemployment continues to rise. Credit card debt is likely to be the next domino.
What's left, and there will be an awful lot of it, still has to be addressed.
Worse, as government debt increases, and money is printed at incredible rates (M3, the real US money supply, has more than doubled since Obama took office), it gets much harder to save. Taxes go up, and so do prices. Recognition of this risk is beginning to dawn on people. But recognition aloe is not enough.
The "good" news is that inflation eats away at the value of all US dollar denominated debt. That brings the totals down much faster than saving, and represents a simple transfer of wealth from previous lenders to previous borrowers. Naturally, this will give inflation important political constituencies who will support it and shill for it. Starting with the most highly leveraged individuals and companies. Who have, by definition, been the least responsible. As inflation picks up speed, it can even serve as an incentive for some to take on more debt.
What will that cost you? More than you think.
Inflation eats away at the real exchange value of nearly every single thing you own. It also leads to higher prices of tangible assets, which tend to maintain their real value and so go up in dollar value. Things like oil, for instance. Which then factors into the prices you pay for gasoline and food.
You won't see that rise in phony government statistics, by the way - neither gasoline nor food are counted as part of "core inflation," even on an annual basis. That minimizes the numbers the electorate hears, and also minimizes added payments on government programs that automatically adjust for inflation. It's a win-win for the federales. Though it does make it hard for people to understand why they feel like they're falling behind, despite rosy overall figures.
As the amounts of government debt and inflation rise together, which they are set to do, premiums also rise on government debt, since they must pay people more to make them buy an asset that's seen as riskier and riskier. Certainly, the massive amounts being issued are already beginning to give the market pause, and we're seeing the beginning of rising rates (even more true in California than nationally). At a federal level, that eventually ends up driving interest rates more generally, unless the government chooses courses of action that would likely lead to full hyper-inflation. The consequence is that any payments you have to make make get much, much higher, unless you're already locked into fixed, long-term arrangements.
Depending on how the government fiddles with notional weightings, that impact may or may not find its way into 'official' inflation statistics, either.
In real life, the net effects translate into the evaporation of big chunks of your life savings, while simultaneously making it much, much more difficult to save going forward. Result: a lower current standard of living, and a much lower future standard of living.
"When Money Dies" described extreme examples of these interlinked phenomena in 1920s Europe. Where, as one observer described it, "The conflicting objectives of avoiding unemployment and avoiding insolvency ceased at last to conflict when Germany had both...." But just 5 years of 10% inflation would effectively remove 38% of your dollar-denominated saved wealth. I watched my grandmother live through something like that. Many of you are about to see it happen to your parents. Or yourselves.
This may help you understand the recent media features that are beginning to discuss "the end of retirement." You'll see more of them.
Meanwhile, every sign and decision I see re: government action is set to either increase inflationary pressures, or strangle economic output. Or both (cap and trade).
We have not avoided the Great Depression 2.0. Near as I can tell, the icebergs are still on the horizon. And we're steering straight for them.
Introduction: War Without Exits
For the United States, the passing of the Cold War yielded neither a "peace dividend," nor anything remotely resembling peace.
John Arthur has been forced out as Los Angeles Times executive editor.
Editor Russ Stanton explained in a posting at the paper's Web site, "John and I did not agree on the need for the just-announced masthead changes, and we differ on the best approach to reaching our goals."
Sports editor Randy Harvey becomes associate editor, and obituaries editor Jon Thurber will become managing editor, print. [emphasis added]
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.- John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.
It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.
Overall, I don't get it. I lean toward Ed Morrissey's negative take. But if there's a political angle, it's one of those political gambles, and hey, that's like calling Hollywood movie ideas in advance. People say they know, and they can, but nobody really knows. So, who knows?
I will say this. The 2 most common analytical mistakes people make when thinking about the GOP are (1) thinking in terms of the last election; or (2) thinking in terms of the 1980s. Both are common inside the party - and neither is really relevant. This next Presidential election is going to be strongly driven by events, and by the America we'll be looking over the next 2-3 years. Which could well be a rather different, and less happy, place. One in which Reagan's solutions are only partly applicable.
I see few signs that the GOP is really coming to grips with this, but eventually it will. The party that begins to come together within the malestrom of upcoming events may not be like the party of today, in important ways. And it may not happen by 2012. If Palin accelerates or catalyzes that process somehow, it would be a huge contribution - whether or not she runs.
Time will tell.
The folks at Cracked.com have more hilarity for you... 5 corporate promotions that ended really, really badly. We're talking WKRP, "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!" badly...
"Russia's energy giant Gazprom has signed a $2.5bn (£1.53bn) deal with Nigeria's state operated NNPC, to invest in a new joint venture. The new firm, to be called Nigaz, is set to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations in Nigeria."Uh huh. "No, no, it's Frahnk-en-shteen..."
There are few places in the world Robert D. Kaplan has not visited and written about in his books and magazine articles. He travels to countries hardly anyone else even considers – to Turkmenistan, for instance, during the time of the lunatic "Turkmenbashi" who transformed his post-Soviet republic into the North Korea of Central Asia. He has an uncanny ability to see conflicts looming on the horizon well in advance and – reversing the standard relationship between journalists and officials – U.S. defense policy professionals often ask him for briefings about what he has seen.
His regular dispatches in the Atlantic ought to be required reading for anyone interested in foreign affairs, as should his numerous books.
I met him a few weeks ago in Washington D.C. while he was briefly in town after returning from a month-long trip to post-war Sri Lanka. We discussed Colombo’s brutal counterinsurgency campaign there against the Tamil Tigers, what China has been up to while no one was looking, Russia’s revived imperial project in its "near abroad," the geopolitcal ramifications of a more liberal Iran, Israel’s difficulty in fighting effective counterinsurgency warfare, and our new man-hunting General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan.
MJT: So you just got back from Sri Lanka. What did you see there? What did you learn?
Kaplan: The biggest takeaway fact about the Sri Lankan war that’s over now is that the Chinese won. And the Chinese won because over the last few years, because of the human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government, the U.S. and other Western countries have cut all military aid. We cut them off just as they were starting to win. The Chinese filled the gaps and kept them flush with weapons and, more importantly, with ammunition, with fire-fighting radar, all kinds of equipment. The assault rifles that Sri Lankan soldiers carry at road blocks throughout Colombo are T-56 Chinese knockoffs of AK-47s. They look like AK-47s, but they’re not.
What are the Chinese getting out of this? They’re building a deep water port and bunkering facility for their warships and merchant fleet in Hambantota, in southern Sri Lanka. And they’re doing all sorts of other building on the island.
Now, why did the Chinese want Sri Lanka? Because Sri Lanka is strategically located. The main sea lines of communication between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, and between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. It’s part of China’s plan to construct a string of pearls – ports that they don’t own, but which they can use for their warships all across the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka defeated, more or less completely, a 26 year-long insurgency. They killed the leader and the leader’s son. But there are no takeaway lessons for the West here. The Sri Lankan government did it by silencing the media, which meant capturing the most prominent media critic of the government and killing him painfully. And they made sure all the other journalists knew about it.
So, here's the thing about black holes. They tend to be either super-massive vortexes in the center of galaxies that are, as Carl would put it, millyuns or billyuns of times the mass of our Sunn - or a remnant stellar black hole of between 3-20 solar masses.
We think we know how the smaller ones form. Supergiant star goes up the periodic table, fusing heavier and heavier elements for fuel, until its temperature and hence its outward pressure drop below key gravitic thresholds. Result: implosion, accompanied by rebound and a cataclysmic supernova explosion that blows off most of its mass. If last-stage atomic forces can hold the tiny remnant up after everything is collapsed into neutrons or quark "degenerate matter," you get a neutron star/quark star, where one teaspoonful would weigh about as much as an earth mountain. If it's a more massive remnant, however, it will continue collapsing in size, without losing mass. What's left makes such a big dent (hole? hard to say) in space-time, that even light ends up circling the drain and unable to escape if it passes within the thing's "event horizon".
What we don't know, is how the super-massive black holes form. The most popular current theory is merger: black holes combined. OK. But if that's so, there should be more of a size continuum. We should see mid-size black holes that are larger than we could expect from a single star's collapse: somewhere between 100 and several thousand solar masses.
The first strongly-confirmed example may have come in 2004, when the Hubble Space Telescope found one at the center of the giant G1 globular cluster near Andromeda galaxy. These medium-size black holes have been theoretically linked to some of the massive x-ray bursts we pick up now and then, but they aren't the only thing that could cause them. That's why the recent HLX-1 discovery using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope may have just added a 2nd medium black hole to the catalog - and an important piece to the puzzle.
10 - Leon in The Professional (1994)
9 - Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie (1986)
8 - Tony Montana in Scarface (1983)
7 - The Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
6 - Bill in Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
5 - Goose in Top Gun (1986)
4 - Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977)
3 - Nick in The Deer Hunter (1978)
2 - William Wallace in Braveheart (1995)
1 - Apollo Creed in Rocky IV (1985)
So I'm glad that the NY Times and journalists could sit on an exciting story to help save one of their own. In the future, will they do this to save some random civilian, or some US soldier?NYT, today, July 2:
KABUL (AP) -- An American soldier, who disappeared after walking off his base in eastern Afghanistan with three Afghan counterparts, is believed captured, officials said Thursday.Now it's not clear that the military even asked the press for silence. But the contrast is worth noting, dontcha think?
Spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said the soldier disappeared Tuesday.
Grant Martin of the Kansas City Star sums up the situation in a quick paragraph:
"Just in case you've turned your TV News off because you were tired of MJ stories- Honduras' president supposedly wanted to change the Constitution and serve for more years than allowed, the Supreme Court and Congress ruled that as illegal, he tried to hold a referendum, the Army refused, he fired the Army chief, the Supreme Court told him to reinstate the chief, he refused and had some group raid the warehouse that stored the referendum ballots, and so the Supreme Court ordered the military to arrest him and send him packing."
Zelaya did more than have "some group" raid the warehouse. On June 26, he issued a decree ordering all government employees to take part in the referendum. Except the referendum can't change the constitution. Octavio Sanchez explains why this stripped him of his office:
"According to Article 239: "No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years."
The direct purpose of this provision, which has been in place for 27 years, is to prevent the kind of "creeping dictatorship" so familiar in Latin America, from the left and the right. Honduras' Supreme Court and the attorney general ordered Zelaya's arrest per that provision, and the Army carried out that function within Honduras' constitution. Who is currently serving as President? Roberto Micheletti, a member of Zelaya's own party, and head of Honduras' Congress. Who is constitutionally next in line after the President (stripped of office) and VP (resigned to run for President). That doesn't look anything like a coup to me. It looks like the rule of law.
Honduras has certainly had a long history of American intervention. Indeed, every single historical argument one could advance for a "soft approach" in Iran, applies here with more force. Coupled with the fact that this is a country following its constitution rather than a theocratic cadre brazenly stealing an election, it should be a no-brainer. But of course, Obama is uninterested in consistency - or perhaps he is.
In his role as an enabler to dictators and their allies, he's been absolutely consistent.
Quantum Physics offers some weird results, to say the least. Paul Quincey, a physicist at Britain's National Physical Laboratory, points out just how weird the concept of gravity is, when you think about it. And offers an explanation that offers a much clearer philosophical view of some key quantum physics results. From the Nov/Dec 2008 Skeptical Inquirer, "Quantum Weirdness: An Analogy from the Time of Newton"
"...the borderlands of scientific knowledge have always contained some ideas considered virtually supernatural at the time, and it is instructive to see with hindsight how such ideas are ultimately accepted or rejected by mainstream science. Second, there are illuminating parallels between gravity and quantum theory that may help us come to terms with the current philosophical difficulties surrounding quantum theory."
I like this quote best:
"The choice we are presented with is not between a conspiracy and a reality that falls apart when we try to come to grips with it - it is between a conspiracy and a reality that falls into place, bit by bit, just in time. The world may not be as real as we might like it to be, but it is as real as it needs to be."
Hat tip to Jack Wheeler for the pointer.
Every once in a while, a product lives up to its billing. As an example, the Smart Spin Storage system (vid. patent) for leftover containers and lids may be the best $20 I ever spent on kitchen related equipment. Haven't seen the quality issues some others have experienced (though I could wish for a more robust high-end version), and have used it every day for a couple years now.
As many of you might have guessed from a previous post, I'm on a liquid diet/ very soft foods diet at the moment. We knew in advance that soups and smoothies would be it for a bit, so we went to a local store (cheaper) and bought one of those small Magic Bullet mini-blender things. So far, it has been as advertised. Throw the fresh/frozen smoothie ingredients in mug, screw blade onto mug top, drop in and blend, rinse blade and set to dry, drink from same cup, put cup in dishwasher. Since the blade is always either fully enclosed or without power, it's inherently very safe, and the whole process is definitely a big improvement over cuisinart/blender alternatives.
Recently tried the thing with eggs, turkey, cheese, and salsa to make fully blended scrambled eggs. That worked really well, too: flavorful and fluffy. I could wish for the mugs to be microwaveable, like the bullet cups, so they could be used as is for drinking heated soups. And I can't speak to the thing's long-term durability. Overall, however, I've been pleasantly surprised with this one.