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February 2010 Archives

February 28, 2010

Strategic Communications: Fail

By Armed Liberal at 22:44

Today's Tripoli Post:


In case it's hard to read the text:
Photo: A US soldier with Delta Company 4th Brigade combat team, 2-508, 82nd parachute infantry Regiment, intimidating an Afghan Muslim praying in the Arghandab valley in Kandahar province, February 25, 2010.

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  • Armed Liberal: @Grim - well, that'd be one approach...but I'm guessing that read more
  • Grim: If you wanted one, you could adopt China's. They apply read more
  • Joe Katzman: Actually, I'm demonstrating why we don't (yet) WANT an effective read more

Rwanda And The ... French??

By Armed Liberal at 18:14

One argument that more interventionist people like me tend to hold dear is the idea that the political wreckage of the postcolonial world is so severe in some places - Rwanda is clearly one - that local institutions are incapable of restraining the worst behavior of their people, and so that more, not less intervention may be required to keep horrors at bay.

I'm not alone in thinking things like this - Sarah Powers, President Obama's adviser and the author of "A Problem From Hell" shares many of the same questions.

And today, I read something that took my thinking turned it upside down and shook it.

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  • J Aguilar: It was known as Operation Noirot (#2) Lee Smith can read more
  • Barry Meislin: Oh, moose droppings! Couldn't be the French. The land of read more
  • tagryn: I thought Lee Smith had the right of it in read more

February 27, 2010

Taking Back ... The Infantry Half-Kilometer

By Armed Liberal at 02:07

I've got two firearms-related posts that have languished in the queue, one a review of a firearms catalog DVD, and this one a commentary on a monograph from Major Thomas P. Ehrhart of the Command and General Staff College entitled 'Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer' (pdf) which is a very interesting document that casts new and interesting light on the near-eternal 5.56 caliber debate.

The abstract pretty much sums it up (dryly...):
Operations in Afghanistan frequently require United States ground forces to engage and destroy the enemy at ranges beyond 300 meters. These operations occur in rugged terrain and in situations where traditional supporting fires are limited due to range or risk of collateral damage. With these limitations, the infantry in Afghanistan require a precise, lethal fire capability that exists only in a properly trained and equipped infantryman. While the infantryman is ideally suited for combat in Afghanistan, his current weapons, doctrine, and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal fire capability to 500 meters and are therefore inappropriate.

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  • mark buehner: Sounds more like an ACW tactic. Assuming you can line read more
  • Jimmy: Hi Marc, Your son's squadmates can still shoot out to read more
  • Roger anderson: I had an M-14 E2 in Nam. I would read more

February 26, 2010

Denis Avey - The Man Who Snuck INTO Auschwitz

By Joe Katzman at 08:05

During World War 2, as a Jewish prisoner. If that doesn't win you the award for biggest balls in the world, it certainly gets you into the Top 10.

Hell of a story.

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Flight 447: New Meaning to the Term "Blue Screen of Death"?

By Joe Katzman at 02:20

There's been some speculation that some of Toyota's braking problems may stem from software interaction issues, and lack of mechanical backup. That's nothing, however, in comparison to what seems to have happened to Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330 bound from Rio to Paris. Der Spiegel has the report, in "The Last Four Minutes of Air France Flight 447":

"The sheer complexity of the Airbus' systems makes it difficult to control in critical phases of the flight.... Could it therefore be that the flight computer, which is hard to manage in emergencies, actually contributed to the loss of control by the Airbus pilots? Air-safety experts Hüttig and Arnoux are demanding an immediate investigation into how the Airbus system reacts to a failure of its airspeed sensors."

What is known, is that the pilots were trying to reboot the flight computer on the way down. Meanwhile, what's the recommended procedure?

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  • J Aguilar: I disagree. IMHO the distraction began soon after the plane read more
  • Joe Katzman: There was definitely an opportunity to avoid the problem via read more
  • Why Air France 447 did not? The article claims that read more

February 25, 2010

Dance with a Hole in Your Shoe

By Joe Katzman at 21:31

Just because I liked it. Chip Taylor is better known for composing the song "Wild Thing."

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February 24, 2010

The Path Not Taken: Will the Supreme Court Apply the 2nd Amendment to the States?

By Armed Liberal at 22:05

No, you're not mistakenly on Volokh - here's a thoughful legal analysis of upcoming 2nd Amendment litigation from commenter Roland Nikles:

In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) the Supreme Court struck down a Washington D.C. gun control ordinance and confirmed that the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants an individual right to bear arms. It's about more than well regulated militias. The question now is does the Second Amendment similarly restrict state and local government gun control statutes. The Supreme Court will hear oral argument on this question Tuesday, March 2, 2010, in McDonald v. Chicago.

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  • Demosophist: No, the intention of the Bill of Rights was to read more
  • PD Shaw: Which flies directly in the face of the entire explicitly read more
  • Joe Katzman: Second Tim's points. Thanks, Roland. read more

Education News

By Armed Liberal at 19:16

Years ago, at a lunch with Kevin Drum, I kind of outraged him by suggesting that we simply ought to close LAUSD down, fire everyone, clean and update the buildings, and start over.

Here's news from Rhode Island:
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. - The full force of organized labor showed up in Central Falls Tuesday, with several hundred union members rallying in support of the city's teachers and bringing plenty of harsh words for the education officials who were about to fire the entire teaching staff at Central Falls High School.

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  • 276119987: Wow,it's very nice ,and you have different views ,this picture read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Perry, As attractive as parent-driven review processes sound, I'm not read more
  • mark buehner: I have nothing to argue about with any of that. read more

Best News Of The Week

By Armed Liberal at 18:18

At a dinner over the weekend , a more-liberal friend asked what I thought we ought to do about climate.

I gave a short version of the 3% solution argument, and then added that we need to take a breath, step back, and redo the last decade of climate science in a calm, fact-based, transparent way so that we had - at minimum - a set of temperature data that we could all rely on as a baseline for modeling.

Well, this morning, guess what?
At a meeting Monday of 150 climate scientists, representatives of Britain's weather office proposed that the world's climatologists start all over again and produce a new trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and "rigorous" peer review.
...what a great idea!!

Here's the actual wording (pdf).

Faster, please.

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  • kparker: Definitely a great idea, except for the misuse of the read more

February 23, 2010

Where Tone Torpedoes Credibility

By Armed Liberal at 15:55

Memorandum leads me to a Newsweek review of a book that aims to challenge the credibility of climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg.

Now, I'm a big believer in challenging people's credibility - that's how we dig away to something approaching truth.

But Newsweek science editor Sharon Begley torpedoes her own credibility and undermines the credibility of the review in her lede:
In naming roustabout, lumberjack, ironworker, and dairy farmer America's "worst jobs," omitted one whose awfulness is counterbalanced only by its public-spiritedness: fact-checking Bjørn Lomborg.

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  • Jack Tanner: Which is also the point of most AGW apocalypse opponents. read more
  • Armed Liberal: Luka, you're 100% right, I'm misstated Lomborg's position. Actually, I read more
  • Glen Wishard: Notice that farther down in the article she says, "He read more

February 21, 2010

Terrorist v. Mucker ^2

By Armed Liberal at 20:47

Kevin Drum has jumped into the issue - on my side. Interesting comments, as well.

I'll suggest a further distinction. Terrorism has a political dimension which blind rage lacks, and calls for a different set of responses.

If you believe that we need the same responses to disgruntled, depressed computer jocks as we do to the Aryan Nation and Al Qaeda, then the distinction doesn't matter to you. At some level, this is an interesting parlor game - but until it can be tied to sensible policies, it is really just an argument over semantics.

It matters to me...

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  • mark buehner: I disagree. I don't think you ever catch many of read more
  • Alchemist: Yeah, this is just getting more and more common, and read more
  • mark buehner: A teacher jumped a school shooter in Colorado yesterday. Thank read more

Mucker v. Terrorist

By Armed Liberal at 02:59

...Jerry Bruckheimer is already making the movie, and if me anytime Jerry and I'll give you a plot.

So in the blogs and in the comments below, we're wrestling about what to call - and how to react to - the crazed guy who flew a private plane into the local IRS headquarters.

The usual suspects on left and right are trying desperately to tie him to the Tea Party movement or to socialism (based on one incoherent suicide note).

Juicebox Matt and Sully are patting everyone on the back, saying that it's clearly terrorism and the reaction to this incident is a model for how we should react to terrorist acts.

John Robb says this is a canary in a coal mine (and I worry that he's right).

Patterico and I disagree; he says it's clearly terrorism, I say no it's not. I'm left really, really uncomfortable that we're looking at this in the right way.

Here's a CNN interview with the filmmaker Pierre Rehov, who made the great documentary 'Suicide Killers'

You get a clear sense of the ideology that grows terrorists as a deliberate tool in its combat with the wider world.

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  • Marcus Vitruvius: As I said, organized crime gets dicey by this definition. read more
  • Demosophist: Paul Berman's thesis in Terror and Liberalism is that anomie read more
  • Armed Liberal: Marcus, I've gotta keep pushing back. Gangsters have as developed read more

February 19, 2010

Uber-Geek Gear Ads

By Joe Katzman at 21:30

I'm talking about ads for mass spectrometers, genetic sequencers, and other stuff that leaves your "4G smartphone hacked to run Linux" huddled in some corner, crying over its basic inadequacy.

My favorite might be the boy band takeoff, for its oh-so obvious send up.

I would never in a million years have guessed that these kinds of creative approaches existed in that sphere. I'll take that as a signal to stretch my imagination a bit in future.

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KC Fed's Hoenig Stands Tall

By Joe Katzman at 21:21

I hear what Marc is saying in "Led by the Stupid and Loathsome." I share some of that - some days I just despair, I really do. Then again, there are people out there standing tall. Celebrating those people is part of turning all this around.

In that vein, I give you Thomas M. Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Who has the guts to stand up and diss both the IMF, and America's "Speed 3" debt spectacular:

"When I was named president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in 1991, my 85-year old neighbor gave me a German 500,000 Mark note. He'd been in Germany during its hyperinflation and told me that in 1921, the note would have bought a house. In 1923, it wouldn't even buy a loaf of bread. He said, "I want you to have this note as a reminder. Your duty is to protect the value of the currency."

As you might guess, we're not making Mr. Hoenig's job any easier. But the fact that he said it, the way he said it, and his relentless emphasis on consequences, all deserve serious applause.

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By Armed Liberal at 04:00

Joseph Stack burned down his house and then flew his small plane into the local IRS office building, after having left a 'manifesto' which is really an incoherent cry of rage.

I'm hearing things from reliable sources that suggest that what we're seeing is more the fallout from the collapse of a life - a broken marriage, failed businesses - than a passionate blow by some antigovernment ideologue. I'd carefully watch the news tomorrow on this before taking a position...

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  • Marcus Vitruvius: A.L., I think there is room for reasonable people to read more
  • Armed Liberal: marcus, I'm just not across the line with you; I read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Predictably, a lot of the chattering noise is by people read more

February 18, 2010

Catch 22

By Armed Liberal at 21:12

Somehow I thought of this last night...
Milo carefully said nothing when Major ---- de Coverly stepped into the mess hall with his fierce and austere dignity the day he returned and found his way blocked by a wall of officers waiting in line to sign loyalty oaths. At the far end of the food counter, a group of men who had arrived earlier were pledging allegiance to the flag, with trays of food balanced in one hand, in order to be allowed to take seat sat the table. Already at the tables, a group that had arrived still earlier was singing "The Star Spangled Banner" in order that they might use the salt and pepper and ketchup there. The hubbub began to subside slowly as Major ---- de Coverly paused in the doorway with a frown of puzzled disapproval, as though viewing something bizarre. He started forward in a straight line, and the wall of officers before him parted like the Red Sea. Glancing neither left nor right, he strode indomitably up to the steam counter and, in a clear, full-bodied voice that was gruff with age and resonant with ancient eminence and authority, said:

"Gimme eat."

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  • Joe Katzman: Yeah, but there is such a thing as the "Spinal read more
  • I've sometimes wondered why Heller didn't write more about the read more
  • oldirishpig: "...if only it was somehow that simple." Actually, it quite read more

February 17, 2010

Walt > Woodshed

By Armed Liberal at 21:08

John Judis just shreds Stephen Walt's - endlessly repeated - claim that Israel was a key factor in the decision to invade Iraq.

I'll point out that in my reading of their book, their entire argument is as thinly reasoned (I can't say that they misrepresent sources as baldly because I haven't looked). It's all a part of the "just make s**t up" school of political argument that we're all suffering under these days.

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  • Alchemist: I remember reading somewhere (was it Hersh?) that Israel was read more
  • Glen Wishard: Here's an interesting blog by Eric Fingerhut - Who's really read more

February 16, 2010

Led By The Stupid And Loathsome

By Armed Liberal at 20:56

The last month or so hasn't been very good for me as a blogger...I feel like I've lost the will to write, and what has always been very easy for me (writing) suddenly became very hard.

I was mulling over why this weekend, deciding what to do, and kind of came to a conclusion about why, at least.

It's just massively depressing.

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  • jan: I thought that Alchemist (#17) had an astute point about read more
  • Clioman: It's a small thing, but if there's ONE thing that read more
  • Alchemist: Transparency of a dysfunctional mess surely is what makes us read more

February 11, 2010

Stimulus "Green Jobs Revolution" Is Happening: In China

By Joe Katzman at 00:41

Erm, remember the green power potion of the stimulus, which was supposed to generate all those new American jobs? Uh, maybe not...

"The Workshop was the first to report last October that more than 80 percent of the first $1 billion in grants to wind energy companies went to foreign firms. Since then, the administration has stopped making announcements of new grants to wind, solar and geothermal companies, but has handed out another $1 billion, bringing the total given out to $2.1 billion and the total that went to companies based overseas to more than 79 percent.... The same day the Workshop's first reported on this story a consortium of American and Chinese companies announced a deal to build a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas, using imported Chinese turbines. Company officials said they planned to collect $450 million in stimulus grants for the project. The deal would create dozens of jobs in the U.S. and thousands in China."

Even Chuck Schumer [D-NY] is annoyed. Repeat after me, kiddies:

"I pledge allegiance to America's debt, and to the Chinese government that lends us money. And to the interest we will pay, compoundable, with higher taxes, fewer services, and lower pay, until the day we die."

Aren't you glad it was all worth it, though? Yeah, me too.

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  • Greg F: Here is a chart of petroleum liquids used in electricity read more
  • Tim Oren: Keen on alternatives? Knock yourselves out. Best case they won't read more
  • mark buehner: "we haven't yet figured out how to deal with the read more

February 10, 2010

What Israel Can Teach Airport Security

By Joe Katzman at 01:34

The lameness of airport security in the USA - or security theater, as it should be called - is difficult to properly express. It will end when people consistently demand better - and not one second of useless inconvenience before.

Before I forget, and for future reference, here's a fine post about the contrasting way the Israelis do it. With far less inconvenience, and a better security record.

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  • Andrew J. Lazarus: My recollection is that 25 minutes to the lounge is read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: My recollection is that 25 minutes to the lounge is read more
  • Joe Katzman: Phil, Depends how tired people get of being inconvenienced for read more

February 9, 2010

Strategy On A Budget - Guest Post

By Armed Liberal at 16:17

Guest post by Mark Buehner, in response to my "Can't Quit" post. An invitation to Coldtype for a guest post is still open.

"He who seeks to be strong everywhere will be strong nowhere." - Military truism

By Mark Buehner

The budget of the United States is on a collision course with its mounting debt. Entitlement and interest payments are set to overwhelm the budget, and no sector of government spending will be exempt from radical re-examination. The sooner we make difficult choices, the more thoughtful we can be, and the better result we can expect.

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  • Grim: We certainly have the ability to wage war that way, read more
  • Armed Liberal: This has been a fascinating exchange. The one place I'll read more
  • mark buehner: And to square the circle- if you design your defense read more

BAE Settles Bribery Charges with UK, USA

By Joe Katzman at 01:37

The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has spent the last 6 years chasing BAE systems over allegations that bribes were paid to secure foreign deals in a number of countries. Bribes are the least of the allegations involved in some international defense deals, and contract wins without inducements would be far more surprising in countries like Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, and South Africa. Nevertheless, the UK does have laws to prevent British firms from paying them, and the US Department of Justice chose to pursue the matter as well.

BAE Systems has settled with both governments, pleading guilty to technical violations but not criminal offenses, and paying about $400 million to the US DoJ, and GBP 30 million in the UK. I have the full history and details over at DID.

It will be interesting to see how future Saudi arms deals get done, given that bribes are a requirement.

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  • Joe Katzman: I'm not so sure about the British, Grim, but characterizing read more
  • Tim Oren: I wonder what is the correlation between countries where military read more
  • Grim: Hm. "We would never pay bribes, which is illegal. This read more

Bottlenose Dolphins Invent "Ring Feeding"

By Joe Katzman at 01:29

Very smart approach. Swim in shallow flats where fast-moving fish live. Begin by circling around them, beating your flukes into the seabed to raise sand clouds. When the circle closes, the fish try to jump out. And hey! Those tricks from Sea World have a real world counterpart after all.

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  • Joe Katzman: I can't point to the exact research, but I believe read more
  • Grim: "...some dolphin must have invented it..." That's a fair point. read more
  • Joe Katzman: I didn't say it was necessarily new, though humans hadn't read more

Enough of the "Birther" Crap, Already

By Joe Katzman at 00:02

I've written before that I'm pretty tired of this, and less than amused by the few who keep trying to keep the "Is President Obama Really a US Citizen" meme alive. Over at Breitbart's "Big Journalism", Kurt Schlichter has also had it, and gives the whole thing both barrels.

"Birthers" are very much a fringe thing, but there are times when fringe things are dishonest about something serious enough that they deserve to be targeted in the public arena. And the responsibility for doing so should fall, as it does here, to their allies/ co-belligerents on the political spectrum. Responsibility is something that has taken a huge holiday in modern culture, on way too many levels. Politics is no exception, for reasons of technology and policy. Centralized party systems have become weak in America, and we can talk sometime about whether that has really been a good thing. But no matter the reasons, the result is a shift to generalized responsibility within political movements to balance accountability with coalition building.

That's why I'm cautiously pleased to see conservative spokespeople who continue to take on this particular issue, and hope the more general lesson spreads. The years ahead may well be filled with very angry politics, across the spectrum. Political centers of gravity that take more responsibility are something we're going to need, as a nation, in order to pull through.

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  • Joe Katzman: No, Andrew, I did not. Glad to hear it. read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Andrew, That's not surprising. Sad, but not surprising. Of the read more
  • Andrew J. Lazarus: The vast majority of comments at that link are pro-Birther. read more

February 8, 2010


By Armed Liberal at 21:56

I had very little good to say about Rep. John Murtha while he was alive; he died yesterday, and I want to take a moment and remember that he was a person who deserves a bow of the head; he served his country and his district as well as he could.

We're all in this together - all citizens of the same country - and no matter how much we oppose each other politically, it's important to remember that.

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  • Joe Katzman: I do agree with the last sentence, but have a read more


By Armed Liberal at 21:07

We went car-buying on Friday.

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  • Armed Liberal: I've got to dig the book out, but I think read more
  • Tim Oren: Agreed with Joe, for much the same reasons. A good read more
  • Joe Katzman: I think it still makes sense, and will make more read more

You Keep Using Those Words...

By Armed Liberal at 16:19

...but I do not think they means what you think they mean...

So the blogs were all a-twitter over the Gallup Poll last week that showed that 53% of Democrats/leaners have a positive view of socialism (I was going to do this post Friday but was busy buying a car...).

But you know, when you look at the poll, what it shows (I think) is just an American public that's somewhat confused about labels...and actually a liberal American public that's a bit more confused about what it believes.

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  • mark buehner: Maybe now Conservatives will stop slurring liberals as having a read more
  • Demosophist: Americans are notoriously confused about political labels, especially terms like read more
  • Foobarista: When "progressives" imagine socialism, they picture Sweden. When "the right" read more

IPCC Loses Confidence of India, Who Forms Own Climate Change Body

By Joe Katzman at 02:05

Well, this was interesting. Just a couple weeks ago, another IPCC scandal revealed that Himalayan glaciers wouldn't be melting away by 2035, as claimed. More like, uh, 2305. Maybe. The whole controversy, and process by which this grossly unsubstantiated claim became very financially beneficial to the people making it, was aptly described as "nice work if you can invent it." So, why was the material in the IPCC report? Well, this pretty much sums up the IPCC as politics, not science:

"In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report's chapter on Asia, said: 'It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.'It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.' "

Just let that statement sink in for a bit.

Now, the real expert whose contrary (and correct) glacier work IPCC chair R.K. Pachauri blackballed as "voodoo"science wants an apology. And the Indian government has decided that science is too important to be left to the IPCC. Environment minister Mr Jairam Ramesh, who notes that while some glaciers are shrinking, others are advancing, had an announcement:

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  • Glen Wishard: India's exodus from the IPCC is a huge blow to read more
  • Jeff Medcalf: When I was talking with my kids about the IPCC read more

Google and Your Privacy: The Larger Issues

By Joe Katzman at 00:29

Prof. Sam Liles of Purdue focuses on cyber-security and low intensity conflict. Which makes his take on the recent China hacks, and the larger implications of what Google is creating, timely.

In a riff on Google's "Don't be Evil" motto, he titles it "Evil Google: What you don't know just might hurt you." Very thought provoking, even if you know a fair bit about this stuff already.

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February 3, 2010

42.7 Percent Of Statistics Are Made Up On The Spot

By Armed Liberal at 03:17

Check the update at the bottom...

Kos released his poll of Republican attitudes (he's doing the polling to support his contention that Republicans = Taliban) and shockingly, the results make them look like - Taliban.

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  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, #10, I realized a few hours after I posted, read more
  • Armed Liberal: Not really, bgates; there's a nucleus on both ends of read more
  • bgates: What meaning does "socialist" have when it is used to read more

February 2, 2010

Doing It Wrong

By Armed Liberal at 01:05

Look, even without the threat of four-wall counseling by Jimbo, I have massive respect for the folks in Special Forces. Read about what they do, go through, how hard they work - it's all amazing.

...and then, sometimes there's stuff like this.

Apparently CBS did a 1-hour special on an ODA in Afghanistan, reported by a comely young blonde Brit named Lara Logan.

I just watched it, and winced both at the reporting - the amazing shallowness - and at the behavior of the team as reported.

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  • Uncle Jimbo: I am not really all that interested in watching the read more
  • Armed Liberal: Joe, na-uh. Two ricochets off a dirt road that hit read more
  • Joe Katzman: I didn't see a problem with the conduct of the read more

February 1, 2010

What To Do When "You Can't Quit."

By Armed Liberal at 02:15

An interesting discussion on Afghanistan, insurgency and "what now" has been breaking out lately.

Note that here, again, the semipro commentariat are doing Obama's work for him as they collectively try and come up with a strategic framework for the related series of conflicts we seem to be caught up in.

I'll refer you to three pieces, and focus my own commentary on one of them, the triggering post by Zenpundit (Mark Safranski): 'The Post-COIN Era is Here.' In addition, you should read Thomas PM Barnett's response, as well as T Greer's supportive post.
So, COIN still reigns supreme, albeit with trimmed sails?


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  • Armed Liberal: mark - no didn't ... can you resend it?? read more
  • mark buehner: Hey A.L., let me know if you didn't get the read more
  • Tim Oren: There's an new article regarding the 'tribal approach that's well read more
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