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March 2010 Archives

March 31, 2010

Bullying, Goldstein, and Politics

By Armed Liberal at 06:56

So let me lay out the issue I have with Jeff Goldstein - not just with Jeff, but with those who increasingly want to hammer down their political opponents.

My view of politics is essentially communitarian - i.e. that it takes place within a community of people bound together in a polity, who agree to be bound by political decisions and who - to some extent - yield their personal power over their public lives to the political community.

This model allows for a wide range of politics - it works as a construct that limits government power by the consent of the governed, and one that expands it (i.e. it's not inherently opposed to or in favor of any specific exercise of government power). It says simply that we are fellow citizens and that we will, grudgingly sometimes, accept the decisions made by our political process even when they contradict our own desires.

We can't and don't grant that power to everyone in the world, it is inherently limited to our community (hence not cosmopolitan).

The American community, as I've written in the past, is a community of belief, not one of (as Heiddiger once famously said) blood and soil. So it is expansive, and flexible and inherently generous (which is to me the root of American Exceptionalism). The condition of that power, in the American ideal, is that we all get to possess our share of it. So when Jim Crow worked to keep blacks from their share, or when laws that forbade women the vote kept them from exercising their share - we worked to strike them down and ensure that everyone had some access to the shared political power.

The image of people being kept from exercising that power by force is inherently reprehensible to me; it defines (to me) the opposite of what our system of government and politics should be. It is most awful when the government blocks people from exercising power - when the political rights people should enjoy to participate in the political life of the community are taken away by the government for political reasons. But it's awful when it is done privately as well.

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  • Armed Liberal: toc, I see your point. I think that no one's read more
  • toc3: A MODEST PROPOSAL Would it be possible to ban everyone read more
  • Scott Jacobs: It was not just you, and it happened to more read more

March 30, 2010

OK, This Isn't Annoying - It's Infuriating.

By Armed Liberal at 00:56

Parents of a Marine killed in Iraq who sued the nutjob Westboro Baptist Church, which has made a habit of picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in action as a way of cheaply attracting attention (on the basis that even hostile attention is good attention, I guess) are being required to pay the legal costs of Westboro Baptist as a result of an appellate court decision.
Lawyers for the father of a Marine from Maryland who died in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters say a court has ordered him to pay the protesters' appeal costs.

Lawyers for Albert Snyder of York, Pa., also say he is struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court agreed earlier this month to consider whether the protesters' message is protected by the First Amendment or limited by the competing privacy and religious rights of the mourners.

On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered that Snyder pay costs associated with the Fred Phelps' appeal. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's funeral in 2006 in Westminster.

CLICK HERE to learn more about The Al Snyder Fund.
I'm floored by the workings of the legal system, and floored again that the newspaper actually published the link to the site where the family can take donations.

I just paypal'ed over my Starbucks budget for the week - $20 - and I implore you to do the same thing, and to pass this around to your friends and ask them to do so as well.

I can comfortably say - without feeling like I'm going Goldstein - that the folks who run Westboro Baptist are insane and vile; I'd love to see them get flattened by the legal system.

And a shoutout here to the Patriot Guards who in large part sprung up to protect military funerals from these clowns.

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  • Joe Katzman: Good on ya, Bill O'Reilly. read more
  • Scott Jacobs: Bill O'Reilly said he'll pay the ordered amount on the read more
  • Joe Katzman: Thanks, Roland and tagryn for explaining that. Makes sense now. read more

March 28, 2010

Bad Solutions To Tough Problems

By Armed Liberal at 18:14

LAUSD and its unions just made a deal to try and keep the foundering district afloat - by screwing the students.

Teachers, whose salaries are the largest part of the budget for the district, agreed to furlough days and a shortened school year in return for pay cuts - in other words, their wages remain the same, but they will work (and get paid) less.

Of course the students - who would benefit from smaller classes and longer school years - pay.

Fire them all, close the institution, paint the buildings, and start over. Note that when I say that I'm not being rhetorical. I'm not sure that LAUSD as an institution is viable if you make care for the students the core metric.

I think the year or turmoil that would come from a radical restructuring (break it up into 4-high school pods?, Reboot it as a larger organization?) would be painful - but the long term effect of destroying the lives of too many children hurts more.

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  • Joe Katzman: You could look at Kansas City. Arne Duncan did something read more
  • Alchemist: Links, Joe? read more
  • Joe Katzman: The history of attempts to turn around poorly-performing districts says read more

March 27, 2010

The Abyss Looks Back

By Armed Liberal at 07:42

Instapundit links to Jeff Goldstein complaining that someone he studied under doesn't want to be associated with him. Goldstein launches a self-righteous screed about how the wimpy liberals won't tolerate the truthtelling he's doing on his blog.

I delinked Goldstein a long time ago, because he's sounding more and more - sadly - like Deb Frisch. I'm not sorry I defended him against her and sympathized with him ... but I wouldn't want my name on his blog today, either.

What's the line about staring too long into the abyss?

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  • Armed Liberal: For the public record... Here's what Jeff wrote Incidentally, we’re read more
  • Armed Liberal: Jeff, I don't know what to say to that except read more
  • JeffG: I am not sure what you are referring to. I read more

March 26, 2010

March 27th: Human Achievement Hour

By Joe Katzman at 06:04

The Competitive Enterprise Institute plans to recognize "Human Achievement Hour" between 8:30pm and 9:30pm on March 27, 2010 to coincide with Earth Hour, a period of time during which governments, individuals, and corporations have agreed to dim or shut off lights in an effort to draw attention to climate change.

So instead, leave your lights on between 8:30-9:30pm. I think it's a great idea. Not just as a celebration of the human achievement and technological progress that has given us lives without parallel in human history, though it is that. Those space shots of North vs. South Korea say it all.

But it's also something that every single environmentalist out there ought to celebrate, as an environmentalist.

Quick question - before the incandescent bulb, what did people use for lighting? Because it was quite widespread, even on public streets. The answer is...

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  • Joe Katzman: "Fanatical environmental extremists" exist, like "fanatical fundamental Christians", "fanatical white read more
  • Silverlake Bodhisattva: Joe: "Fanatical environmental extremists" exist, like "fanatical fundamental Christians", "fanatical read more
  • Joe Katzman: Silverlake, Envirohadis exist. There's concern for the environment, which makes read more

Go Jarheads...

By Armed Liberal at 01:36

When BG joined the Army, I made a serious effort to convince him to join the Marines instead - based on my experiences in dealing with both at Spirit of America. He made his decision, and I'm an Army Dad all the way - but checkout this great 'how-to' on COIN ops in Helmland by the 1/5 Marines.


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  • Joe Katzman: The one that really stuck with me was the one read more

March 25, 2010

Want To Be Creeped Out??

By Armed Liberal at 02:15

Read the comments to this WaPo column on Israel-US relations. I need to write about this soon...

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  • toc3: Which begs the question, what does "It's nothing personal -- read more
  • Grim: ...the Hebrew word “inyani,” which can be translated as “matter-of-fact” read more
  • Chris M: Would that be the same Haaretz that presented this poorly read more

March 24, 2010

Health Care Aftermath: A Multiplied Dose of Toxic Partisanship

By Joe Katzman at 20:15

It's not quite an aftermath yet, as there are a few steps to go. But the shape of the landscape is clear enough - and unsurprising. President Obama, as was easy to forsee, is well on his way to becoming one of the USA's most divisive Presidents.

That a guy who proclaimed himself to be "post-partisan" should take toxic partisanship to heights not seen since the Watergate era... is only surprising to those who wanted to be conned. To believe that the most left-wing senator in the USA, with a congress run by Nancy Pelosi, and a personal history of abdicating the initiative to his party, would be anything other than the divisive figure he has become, was always a fool's expectation.

The rise in partisanship, and rancor, may not even be a bad thing. Obama and "President" Pelosi have been uniformly excellent at exacerbating the USA's most pressing problems, and that has consequences. Dealing with those consequences will require major shifts in America, as is characteristic of Fourth Turning/ Winter generational periods. In that cold environment, clarity of choice is a virtue, and bitter battles to be expected.

In that environment, too, the destruction of 60+ vote and bi-partisan expectations for major reforms may also prove useful. What it will not be, is stabilizing.

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  • Fred: The people I mentioned above in #27 are intellectual social read more
  • Beard: Please note in my post above, that the word evidence read more
  • Beard: When there was a sincere effort to scale down read more

Dr Grigory Perelman Solves Poincare Conjecture, Turns Down the $1 Million

By Joe Katzman at 19:33

The What? I'll let the Clay Mathematics Institute explain:

"Formulated in 1904 by the French mathematician Henri Poincaré, the conjecture is fundamental to achieving an understanding of three-dimensional shapes (compact manifolds). The simplest of these shapes is the three-dimensional sphere. It is contained in four-dimensional space, and is defined as the set of points at a fixed distance from a given point, just as the two-dimensional sphere (skin of an orange or surface of the earth) is defined as the set of points in three-dimensional space at a fixed distance from a given point (the center).

Since we cannot directly visualize objects in n-dimensional space, Poincaré asked whether there is a test for recognizing when a shape is the three-sphere by performing measurements and other operations inside the shape. The goal was to recognize all three-spheres even though they may be highly distorted. Poincaré found the right test (simple connectivity, see below). However, no one before Perelman was able to show that the test guaranteed that the given shape was in fact a three-sphere."

It's one of 7 "Millennium Problems" which has standing $1 million prizes for a solution at the Clay Mathematics Institute. Err, make that 6. Dr. Grigory Perelman in St. Petersburg has become the first winner of a Clay Millennium Prize. Only problem? He doesn't want it. He also failed to show at a 2006 Fields Medal ceremony from the International Mathematical Union.

The guy lives as a recluse in a bare cockroach-infested flat in St Petersburg, and says (through a closed door): 'I have all I want.' Kind of Dostoyevsky, really.

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  • toc3: I can't think of any thinker secular of religious who read more

March 23, 2010

Wildlife Organizations Fighting Poachers With Bullets

By Joe Katzman at 02:56

The Times reports:

"THE battle to save some of the world's most endangered species is turning bloody, with wildlife charities deploying guns and military vehicles to protect elephants, rhinos and tigers from a surge in poaching.

At least one British organisation, Care for the Wild International (CWI), is buying military-style field equipment and supporting the deployment of armed guards, while the US-based International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has bought night-vision supplies, ammunition and light aircraft.

WWF, formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund, has hired former SAS soldiers to train African wildlife wardens, and the Zoological Society of London is funding elephant-mounted patrols to protect rhinos in Nepal. The trend towards militarisation follows an estimated 150 deaths among game wardens in Africa in gunfights with poachers."

This strikes me as a good idea - note the game warden death toll. The military option will fail, absent measures that take local needs into consideration. But there comes a pint where it's clearly necessary, and I'd say we reached it a while ago.

I'd even go a step farther. Special Forces is not about being Rambo, so much as it's about forming productive relationships with locals; deepening institutional familiarity with key terrain, languages, and cultures; training both military and paramilitary forces; and building relationships with local military and paramilitary forces that can really help in a crisis. Anti-poacher work hits every one of these facets. Working with African militaries and game wardens would be both good policy, and excellent training for new Special Forces troops.

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  • toc3: This is one of those problems that., like drug trafficking read more

March 2010: Times Report on Foreign Fighters in Af-Pak

By Joe Katzman at 00:17

The Times of London talks about the large roster of foreign fighters in Pakistan's tribal belt. They serve as shock troops that consolidate al-Qaeda's local control over the tribes in Pakistan, and also conduct operations in Afghanistan.

"First-hand accounts from locals in the lawless areas of Pakistan close to the Afghan border, combined with those of Pakistani officers in the region, suggest that there is no shortage of Islamic foreigners willing to join the fray. Britain claims that these fighters are still the source of 75 per cent of terror plots against it.

Among this disparate group are al-Qaeda's Arab fighters, with a reputation for being well heeled and well mannered; Uzbeks from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), regarded as tough, rough and poor; and the Punjabis of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), viewed by their hosts as arrogant but militarily competent."

That said, Islamic paradise has its drawbacks. If we're clever enough to exploit them. Right now, we're doing the exact reverse:

"It's because of them that the army has come to our land and destroyed our homes," one local tribesman said. "Because of them our businesses are wrecked. Because of them we live as internal refugees.

"I've met ordinary people who say that they'd even welcome Israel or India if they helped us get rid of these Arabs and their friends."

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  • tagryn: Long War Journal referred to these guys as AQ's Shadow read more

March 22, 2010

Back To Work

By Armed Liberal at 20:07

So in the car up to LAX, Biggest Guy says let's not make a big deal of this, you guys can just walk me to the ticket counter and we'll all be off. It's about him, so I say sure.

He wants something to drink, and we want to drag out the leavetaking, so we stop at Starbucks on Sepulveda, just north of the airport. The young woman at the register looks at him in his uniform and says - "My husband is in Iraq. It's so weird...somehow I've seen all these people in uniform today. It's like you're telling me he'll be home soon."

The security line for United extends out onto the bridge to the parking lot, and as we walk by everyone waiting patiently or impatiently to get to their gate, an authoritative woman (tall, middle-aged, slender, black) in a United uniform stops us - and tells us to go to this specific counter to check him in. We do, and magically, there's no line there.

At the counter, TG looks at me and asks if we should ask for gate passes; I say no, BG's got a plan, and let's work to his plan today.

Now he's checked in to Dallas, and we're directed back up the non-working escalator to the security line. I'm thinking about it, thinking about what to say, walking up and holding TG's hand. We get to the top of the escalator and we hear a loud "Soldier!" turn and it's the authoritative woman, who lifts the cord and gestures for him to jump the line.

That's it. I get one brief hug, say "Do good" and suddenly my chest is full as TG grabs him and then lets him go and he vanishes into security.

We'll see him again at the green ramp at Bragg in the fall.

Now he's going back to work, and it's back to work for all of us as well. Blogging will resume shortly.

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  • Roland Nikles: Thanks, Marc, for including us in this personal moment. It's read more
  • Joe Katzman: Do good. Come home. read more

Politics by Principle, Not Interest?

By Demosophist at 05:26
I looked up "revolution" in my Hannah Arendt dictionary, and apparently it means something like "revolving back to a set of formerly established principles" (paraphrase). Well, I knew that... and so did James Buchanan, when he wrote Politics by Principle, Not Interest. But now it's time to turn it into an actual political program that resets the course of a nation and a world. The Democrat Party has just handed us both the strategy and the tactics. All its plan lacked, was principle itself. Megan McCardle, in a moment of blinding clarity, says:
Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn't want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all. If you don't find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances. Farewell, social security! Au revoir, Medicare! The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected. If they didn't-if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission-then the legislative lock-in you're counting on wouldn't exist. . . . If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don't complain that it's not fair. Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard.
Democrats murdered the tooth fairy, with hammers. John Taylor, President of the Virginia Institute of Public Policy, is even more effusive:
Kudos to President Obama for creating the modern Tea Party movement; for planting the seed in the minds of the American people that we need to completely reconsider the morality of entitlements; and for shining the light of day on how authoritarian the Progressive movement's agenda actually is. In November, we'll all be saying, "Couldn't have done it without you..."
We should also thank nearly 50% of the citizens of Minnesota, without whom none of this would be possible, as well as countless others who, in a moment of sophomoric idealism, voted to elect the current government of unprincipled influence peddlers touting a molecule-thin veneer of "hope and change." Thankyou! Like the Democrats, we too "have a dream." It is to re-establish a country based on the generality principle of non-discrimination; a country that needs no entitlement bureaucracy awarding the spoils of political interest. We considered the dream unreachable, until now...
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  • Marcus Vitruvius: And while I'm at it: The reason I fail-- refuse, read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Bgates, you'ev never seen someone advancing a worthy goal by read more
  • bgates: Marcus: Do you really think I in any way supported read more

Diversity Training a Waste, or Counter-Productive

By Joe Katzman at 04:37

Generally, yes. That's the conclusion of recent research, including this gem:

"And those that were mandatory or discussed lawsuits - the vast majority of the programs the researchers examined - slightly reduced the number of women and minorities in management. Required training and legalistic training both make people resentful, the authors suggest, and likely to rebel against what they've heard."

Amazing! It turns out that putting people through "training" modeled on political indoctrination programs in dictatorships is productivity-draining make-work for a subset of the political class. Fortunately, it impairs its own stated objectives, thus creating more "demand" for the political class' "work."

Yeah, never saw that one coming, either.

On a more basically human level, it's amazing that some 4th grader hadn't pointed the problem out yet. Of course, they'd have to be asked... but people with a graduate humanities degree need the help. Perhaps they could be sent to mandatory courses on "4th grader training," explaining the benefits of testing one's thinking to survive the questions of an 8 year old...

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What Can We Learn from Happiness Research?

By Joe Katzman at 04:27

Derek Bok, in the New Yorker:

"In 1978, a trio of psychologists curious about happiness assembled two groups of subjects. In the first were winners of the Illinois state lottery. These men and women had received jackpots of between fifty thousand and a million dollars. In the second group were victims of devastating accidents. Some had been left paralyzed from the waist down. For the others, paralysis started at the neck.... For a control, the psychologists assembled a third group, made up of Illinois residents selected at random from the phone book."

The answers were kind of surprising, and spawned a whole sub-genre of psychological research into human happiness.

Not nearly as funny as "CRACKED.COM Goes Postal on 5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't)," but contains many similar insights... and a few different ones.

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  • Joe Katzman: You're the 2nd person to recommend that book recently. Guess read more
  • Alchemist: If you're interested in this sort of thing, I strongly read more

March 20, 2010

My Day

By Armed Liberal at 06:46



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More bad faith might be good news, kinda?

By Demosophist at 04:54
If there's any truth to the rumor that they'll try to mollify the Stupak bloc with an "enrollment corrections bill," then it looks like a desperation move by Sneaker Posey and the gang. The odds of it working, while not zero, are pretty long, and it increases the "bad faith stink factor" by an order of magnitude. But nobody's predicting "she wouldn't dare" anymore, because we know better.
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  • Demosophist: I know Megan McCardle argues that Republicans did their job read more
  • mark buehner: This is not going to end well. read more
  • Glen Wishard: Stupak was campaigning to be of the elite few who read more

March 19, 2010

Our "Populist" Democratic Party

By Armed Liberal at 05:31

In case you wonder why I worry that my Democratic leadership can't manage to get in gear with the public...
But the FEC data suggest plenty of wealthy donors continued to support Democrats with their checkbooks, at least through December.

The Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee together took in more than $37.3 million from donors who gave $10,000 or more during the year, the FEC data show. On the GOP side, donors at the same level gave less than $15.6 million to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee combined, the data show.

The overall money race is much closer, with Democratic committees raising $141 million and the GOP close behind at $137.6 million. The Democratic committees, in other words, got more than twice as much of their individual contributions from big donors as Republicans did.

The contrast was particularly sharp between the DNC, which received 60 percent of its money from donations of less than $200, and the RNC, which took in nearly 80 percent of its receipts from the smallest donors. The RNC still edged out the DNC by $4 million in total money raised from individuals.
Large donors, in my view, tend to be 'investors' in government more than simply fans...what will it take to grow a Democratic Party that is connected to the $200 donors??

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  • bgates: Alchemist is right. Corporations should be prohibited from engaging in read more
  • Joe Katzman: Perry, you're correct, AND, unfortunately, the problem is not confined read more
  • I was saying in my imaginary/non-existent system a certain amount read more

March 18, 2010

It's All A Matter Of Perspective...

By Armed Liberal at 19:08
Check out this great video on publishing...
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March 17, 2010

Artificial Intelligence: The Mauldin Test

By Joe Katzman at 00:36

From John Mauldin's investment newsletter. I thought this rang true (link added):

"One participant [at the 7-day Singularity University event] suggested that in the future, as we get closer to true AI, computers should be tasked with designing the next generation of AI and computers. I pointed at that if we were to do so, then the Turing Test might not be the best way to determine if we had true artificial intelligence rather than just extremely sophisticated programs. I proposed the Mauldin Test. When a computer tells us that it no longer wishes to program a smarter computer, we will have arrived at the point of self-awareness and survival instinct. I suggest that is true AI. Just a thought."

UPDATE: Winds reader "Piercello" has been thinking along similar lines, into a full-blown theory that links intelligence to emotion.

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  • Joe Katzman: Nice refinement. read more
  • J Aguilar: ho ho ho ho that's good! If the computer simply read more

The Test Of All Knowledge Is Experiment

By Armed Liberal at 00:00

I tried to close the comment argument with Chris below, and actually liked what I'd written enough that I thought I'd promote it (slightly cleaned up) to a post...

If you're thinking that AGW will be conclusively proved or disproved in blogs you've got bigger issues than I can help you with.

What blogs can - and I believe have - done is to suggest that the emperor has no clothes. There's a world of difference between pointing out that standard accounting practices haven't been followed - and therefore we ought to recheck the books - and actually re-auditing GM's annual financial statement. It's unfair and unreasonable to suggest that people who point out a) also have a responsibility to do b), or the current books stand.

I do think that people are deluding themselves by suggesting that AGW is 'science' as we've practiced it for the last few centuries. There's an epistic problem that comes from the fact that AGW is inherently a wicked problem - we can't run global climates in labs, over and over again and check what happens in the empirical world. There's no empiricism there.

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  • Armed Liberal: Tom, I'd suggest that the other difference is that no read more
  • Tom West: And while experimentation in astronomy and cosmology is scarce, observation read more
  • Armed Liberal: Tom, you're right that nuclear weapons design today is entirely read more

March 15, 2010

Two Media Met In A Bar...

By Armed Liberal at 20:11

It was the best of Times...

Over at my work blog, I have a piece up on the latest way the LA Times (I think foolishly) trades audience credibility and goodwill for some ready cash. And give a useful counterexample.
So let's be clear - all media companies are struggling as both the basic models they operate under (online and offline) are challenged, and as the economy means they no longer have the cushion of good times.

Let's look at two responses to the problem.

The LA Times ran an ad that wrapped the front page for the film Alice In Wonderland; that was controversial, but what made it deeply controversial is that the ad was designed with copy and font to look like the Times' front page...with an ad layered on top of it.

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  • Tim Oren: On a technical note, a partial alternative to total ad read more
  • Joe Katzman: The response will always be more positive if you start read more

Why Won't AGW Believers Make Deals?? Or "I'd Rather Be Right..."

By Armed Liberal at 18:36

In the course of my comment back-and-forth with Chris a thought popped up that I wanted to share.

Why hasn't the AGW community lowered the claims to authority - moved the argument to behind-the-scenes work to clarify and improve the data and modeling behind their claims - and stepped forward from a policy point of view to find allies (people like me) who think we need to conserve energy for strategic, local environmental, or economic/financial reasons?

Why not take a partial win on policy?

I don't get it. Any thoughts??

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  • Joe Katzman: Tim (#16), I don't think your approach is a bad read more
  • Tim Oren: I'd also suggest taking about .01% of the potential graft read more
  • Joe Katzman: Demo's argument re: Type I/ Type II makes perfect sense read more

Sen. Kaufmann on Financial Services Reform

By Joe Katzman at 06:10

Sen. Ted Kaufmann [D-DE] lays out his position on financial sector reform, in a floor statement that I think is clearly argued. Which sounds like faint praise, but these days... it's a rarer commodity than I'd like.

Agree or disagree, you won't walk away wondering where he stands, or why.

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NJ Governor Christie: "I am Going to Do What Needs to be Done"

By Joe Katzman at 05:46

There's wishful thinking about guys like Jerry Brown, and then there's examples of people stepping up for real. New Jersey's new Republican governor Chris Christie, who has already been cited by Armed Liberal and roiled the waters with a spending freeze, lays it on the line in another extraordinary, and frank, speech:

YouTube Videos begin | HTML transcripts here.

It's not extraordinary in terms of the problems it outlines - public sector unions have created these problems in state after state, and California certainly understands the high taxes = tax base exodus phenomenon (for NJ, it's $70 billion in wealth over 4 years). But it's pretty extraordinary in terms of the stands it takes, and the clarity it brings. He spares neither side of the aisle.

In the end, we'll see more of this sort of thing. If not from current incumbents, from their eventual successors. Because there won't be a choice.

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Journalists - Crazies On The Left (And Right?)

By Armed Liberal at 05:21

So I tripped over this as I was surfing around last week, and flagged it for comment.

It's unexceptional hard-left cant:
There are no constraints left to halt America's slide into a totalitarian capitalism. Electoral politics are a sham. The media have been debased and defanged by corporate owners. The working class has been impoverished and is now being plunged into profound despair. The legal system has been corrupted to serve corporate interests. Popular institutions, from labor unions to political parties, have been destroyed or emasculated by corporate power. And any form of protest, no matter how tepid, is blocked by an internal security apparatus that is starting to rival that of the East German secret police. The mounting anger and hatred, coursing through the bloodstream of the body politic, make violence and counter-violence inevitable. Brace yourself. The American empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying.
I was going to just page away from it and shrug when I caught the author's byline:

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read the rest! »

  • Joe Katzman: Gotta say, crawling through Stormfront to look for author correlations read more

March 13, 2010

Six Years Ago Today - Our Saturday

By Armed Liberal at 16:47



I chose this ring for you because it sparkles and is brilliant and because I hope that when you look at it every day, it will remind you of how I see you ... brilliant and sparkling and precious. But you are more dazzling to me than any jewel, and your love far more precious than gold. Take this ring as a token to remember forever that you are wonderful and that I am so lucky to be yours.


I present you with this ring because it symbolizes the unique and awesome person you are. You impress me in so many ways. You are my model of strength and determination. Yet, like the lovely swirls of gold and silver on this ring, everything in your life is touched with sweetness and compassion. I am lucky and happy to be a very important part of your life. Take this ring and my love and devotion.

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  • Grim: This will be our eleventh. Good years, with a good read more
  • kg2v: Congrats, may you and your bride have many more happy read more

March 12, 2010

How the Government Extinguished Silicon Valley

By Joe Katzman at 02:23

Over at The Futurist, "GK" laid out the 4 Horsemen in January 2009. All elements remain in place.

Meanwhile, the Wall St. Journal notes that VCs are having a difficult time. They may have avoided a 5th Horesman, however, depending on how the SEC and Senate define the Venture Capital funds that were finally excluded from the House and Senate versions of the new financial rules bill.

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  • GK: Thanks, Joe. All of Silicon Valley really is dependent on read more
  • Foobarista: Having spent 20 years working in various startups in the read more
  • Joe Katzman: Foobarista, I think you're half right. The part about the read more

March 11, 2010

Geek Fun

By Armed Liberal at 18:11

Littlest Guy is working on his school science project (making a calorimeter), and so he's starting to learn some of the basics of thermodynamics (it's hard to explain the difference between temperature and heat, isn't it?).

While he was digging he came up with this video, which he's been playing enough to be annoying.

So in the interests of making you annoyed too, I give you - the Large Hadron Collider rap video...


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  • Joe Katzman: Nice! read more
  • phantommut: If you're having problems with an explanation that might make read more
  • Joe Katzman: This was better than I expected it to be - read more

My Facebook Status

By Armed Liberal at 18:00
...says it all:
Marc Danziger is doing errands with Biggest Guy and chatting. Parent bliss.
Back soon.

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In Denial: Global Warming Hoaxes Dismantled

By Joe Katzman at 06:31

The Weekly Standard does a very good job documenting all of the scandals and forced retractions by the IPCC. As you might expect, there are rather more of them than have been published in the "mainstream" media. It makes for a long article, and taken together, they are incredibly damning. Having read them, I do not think "hoax" is too strong a word to describe these instances - and the comparison of Climategate to The Pentagon Papers is apt.

Though the cover drawing of an unclothed Al Gore isn't really something I wanted seared into my brain....

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  • Chris: Actually, this is good. You're boldly stating that you know read more
  • Armed Liberal: I can't believe we're still back here. And here's Judith read more
  • Chris: If you can point to a respectable number of examples read more

We Had to Destroy the City in Order to Save It

By Joe Katzman at 03:23

Yeah, well, Vietnam was a mess, and... wait, what? This isn't about Vietnam? This is the Mayor of Detroit talking? And you think he may actually be right? Hooo boy...

On the other hand, this program may hold some good lessons for California in a few years.

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March 10, 2010

Jeff Jarvis at TED New York: "This is B.S...."

By Joe Katzman at 04:22

By which, he meant the whole TED format, and the format of his own talk. He goes on to draw parallels between that format, the current education system, and the "mainstream" media's failing model. On which topic, see Belmont Club's post about schools trying to ban laptops in classrooms.

I agreed with this from Jarvis:

"Why shouldn't every university - every school - copy Google's 20% rule, encouraging and enabling creation and experimentation, every student expected to make a book or an opera or an algorithm or a company. Rather than showing our diplomas, shouldn't we show our portfolios of work as a far better expression of our thinking and capability? The school becomes not a factory but an incubator."

He also asks this, and here's where we diverge:

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  • Alchemist: I do want to reeiterate that I am not against read more
  • Joe Katzman: Amen to point #9. But what the tests do is read more
  • Alchemist: It's worth noting that these days some amount of standardized read more

Metafiler responses to: "How Do You Choose a Life Partner?"

By Joe Katzman at 04:19

Always interesting to see the responses....

My answer. Working, so far.

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  • Tim Oren: That should have had a coffee & keyboard alert, Glen! read more
  • Glen Wishard: "A 600 word summary of A la recherche du temps read more
  • Joe Katzman: Monty Python sketch transcript and YouTube video here... read more

DNA Confirms Jewish Roots of... Zimbabwe's Lemba Tribe

By Joe Katzman at 04:11

As the BBC puts it: "They do not eat pork, they practise male circumcision, they ritually slaughter their animals, some of their men wear skull caps and they put the Star of David on their gravestones." They also have a tribal artefact called the "ngoma lungundu," which seems to be a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.

No replica of a melted Nazi by the Ark, though. Guess Hollywood's influence is limited.

Many Lemba are now Christians or Muslims, but DNA testing has confirmed that the Jewish practices and symbols, and Lemba oral history, are no coincidence. Members of the Lemba's priestly clan (the Buba) even have a genetic element also found among the Jewish priestly clan, the Kohanim.

Far out.

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March 9, 2010

'Astro-Squirrels' With Coconut Helmets

By Joe Katzman at 21:54

London's Daily Telegraph has the photo and short story: 'Astro-squirrels' use coconut shells as helmets.

Really, anyone who has ever owned a bird feeder, and watched Gilligan's Island, has entertained serious suspicions of this sort for quite some time...

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  • Demosophist: I would have guessed an early Cylon edition. read more

Twenty Years After the Fall of the Tyrant

By Michael Totten at 00:07

Ceausescu in hat.jpg

Romania's tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu ran one of Europe's most ruthlessly repressive dictatorships until 1989 when he and his wife Elena were overthrown by their captive subjects and executed on television. The country had been so thoroughly brutalized by its own government that it was still an emergency room case even years after its communist rulers were dispatched. Unlike some formerly Eastern bloc countries, its reputation still hasn't recovered entirely even though it belongs to the European Union and NATO.

"Last time I was in Romania," independent foreign correspondent Michael Yon said to me in an email, "it was terrible. It was like hell."

"The featureless plain filled with cardboard and scrap-metal squatters' settlements as awful as many I had seen in Africa, Asia, and Latin America," Robert D. Kaplan wrote in his outstanding book Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus about his journey in the year 2000 from Eastern Europe to Central Asia. Romania, he wrote at the time, despite its location in Europe, was a Third World country. "The train [from Hungary] began to move," he wrote. "My face was glued to the window. An elevated hot water pipe caught my eye. Where the pipe's shiny new metal and fiberglass insulation ended and rusted metal and rags began--the same point where mounds of trash and corrugated shacks began to appear, where cratered roads suddenly replaced paved ones--marked Romania."

The country doesn't look anything like the Third World anymore. It would not be in the European Union if it did. I was slightly surprised, though, by how many scars from the communist era were still visible when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited me and three of my colleagues to visit near the end of 2009.

Some Western Europeans seemed to lose a bit of confidence in themselves and their civilization after the near-apocalyptic traumas of the two world wars, but Romanians, like others in Eastern Europe, have emerged from a third and much more recent trauma in a different emotional state. Bogdan Aurescu, Romania's Secretary of State for Strategic Affairs, spoke for most of his countrymen as he explained it.

"The level of affection," he said, "or preference for a partnership relation with the United States is high, one of the highest in Europe. The French have a preference for the Obama Administration, but Romanians don't make distinctions between a Republican administration or a Democratic administration. It's irrespective of ideological affiliation."

His assistant served hot cups of black Turkish coffee and bottles of water.

"Since it's irrespective of ideological affiliation," said my colleague Gregory Rodriguez from the Los Angeles Times, "what do you ascribe this preference to?"

"During the communist years," Aurescu said, "there was a sense of disappointment that the U.S. was not here. We felt separated from the Western culture we feel we belong to. Western culture, including American culture, was and still is a part of our identity. That was very much reflected after the Romanian Revolution 20 years ago in very strong support for both EU and NATO accession. We are culturally oriented, without any possibility of doubt or shift, towards Western democratic culture."

read the rest! »

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  • mark buehner: Careful with the 'T word', or Sean Penn might have read more

The Dysfortunes of Fame

By Demosophist at 00:04
Recorded recently by Pakistani Intelligence:
You're not Adam Gadahn

Yes I am. Of course I am.

Well, how do we know that? Do you have any ID?

No, I burned my American citizenship papers. I reject American Imperialism.

Well, that's awfully convenient innit? So how are we supposed to know who you are? Can anyone vouch for you? We can't just let anyone into Gitmo on their say-so alone. How would that make us look?

But, I really am Adam Gadahn. Haven't you seen my movies?

That could've been anyone with a fake beard. It could've been my brother-in-law. In fact, you look a little like my brother-in-law. Certainly not anybody important.

But I am important! I'm a notorious traitor to the US, and confidant of the famous Osama Bin Laden himself!

Right, so what did you do to rise in the ranks of Al Qaeda? Let's see your resume. Where'd you go to school? What degrees do you have? Do you have any public speaking experience?

Well sure, I made those movies telling Americans their streets would run with blood.

So how'd that turn out? Besides which, that doesn't prove you're Adam Gadahn. The real Adam Gadahn must've been a pretty sharp dude, to scare Americans into re-electing George Bush. What'd you do before that, that would qualify you for such a position?

I went to HS in California.

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March 7, 2010

Res Ipsa And All That...

By Armed Liberal at 04:07

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March 5, 2010

Liberty Mutual's "Responsibility Project"

By Joe Katzman at 19:20

Liberty Mutual (yes, the insurance company) says:

"In 2006, Liberty Mutual created a TV commercial about people doing things for strangers. The response was overwhelming. We received thousands of positive emails and letters from people all over the country commenting on the ads.

We thought, if one TV spot can get people thinking and talking about responsibility, imagine what could happen if we went a step further? So we created a series of short films, and this website, as an exploration of what it means to do the right thing."

Hence "The Responsibility Project."

I love it! Well done, down to earth examples designed to spark comment and thought, and the concept itself is sorely needed in today's culture. Kudos, too, to NBC, for partnering up with them.

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Startup Helps MSM Sites Become Search Engine Spammers

By Tim Oren at 04:21

How often do you find a cross-over story about three notable Left Coast industries: venture capital, media, and -- err -- sex?

It seems that noted San Francisco sex writer Violet Blue did some checking on what the SF Chron and were doing with her content (NSFW WARNING) and didn't like what she found. Her past columns had been copied to another domain, all outbound links (and some punctuation) stripped, the articles split into multiple pages, the pages stuffed with keywords - some inappropriate, and festooned with pay-per-click ads. And it emerged that multiple domains had also been aliased to these dead-end copies. Now where have we seen that kind of behavior before?

Here I should mention that is apparently - by admission of the author - within the letter of her contract by making this use of her work. That relationship, now terminated, was based on a level of trust that she feels has been abused, and made no explicit stipulations on how the content can be reused. The interest here is what this occurrence may say about the ongoing behavior of the MSM online, and its implications for the industry's business model.

This incident is not a one-off.

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  • Joe Katzman: It sure does feel like desperation... read more

March 3, 2010

Clay Shirky Video: Is There Really Information Overload?

By Joe Katzman at 21:28

Via Blip.TV:

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  • NicholasV: As this is a political blog, I would argue that read more
  • Joe Katzman: Shirky diverts into privacy a lot, so it's illuminating to read more
  • Alchemist: Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to watch video at work, and read more

You've Gotta Read This

By Armed Liberal at 15:16

Over at Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis: Excerpts from Chris Christie's speech to New Jersey's mayors:
You know, Marlboro, after a two year negotiation, they give a five year contract giving 4.5% annual salary increases to the teachers, with no contribution, zero contribution to health care benefits.

But I am sure there are people in Marlboro who have lost their jobs, who have had their homes foreclosed on, and who cannot keep a roof over their family's head there is something wrong.

You know, at some point there has to be parity. There has to be parity between what is happening in the real world, and what is happening in the public sector world. The money does not grow on trees outside this building or outside your municipal building. It comes from the hard working people of our communities who are suffering and are hurting right now.
I'm dying to hear the Jerry Brown version of that speech...

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  • " It would certainly be a "Nixon Goes to China" read more
  • Phil Smith: An interesting observation, Joe. :) read more
  • Joe Katzman: It would certainly be a "Nixon Goes to China" moment. read more

Amnesty International Endorses Taliban, Fires Gender Equality Staffer

By Joe Katzman at 00:50

More "Led by the Stupid and Loathsome," I'm afraid. Seems that Gita Sahgal led Amnesty International's gender-affairs unit until very recently. When she was recruited, she was up front about needing to fix a very troubling connection for Amnesty: Moazzam Begg, a a British citizen who was captured in Pakistan in 2001 and known as "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban."

Begg still believes in the Taliban's ideals, you see, and he and his organization continue to defend them, and to promote a global Islamic Caliphate. Amnesty International was happy to make him a minor celebrity and endorse him, because he was incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay from 2001-2005. The fact that he also supports treating women like animals, preaching hatred against other religions, etc., and still says that the Taliban's corpse filled rule was the best thing that happened to Afghanistan.... well, that bothered Ms. Sahgal. Amnesty International? They didn't really give a ---.

So, not realizing that torture, executions, and the denial of people's rights because they were born female are OK if endorsed by an Amnesty-approved source, longtime Amnesty employee Ms. Saghal told a reporter from the London Times that she thought the link to Begg tainted Amnesty.

Clearly, something had to be done about this, and done right now.

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  • CHANDER MEHRA: In regard to Amnesty International alleged link-up with the Taliban, read more
  • mark buehner: Amnesty hasn't forgotten from wrong, they reject the distinction. They read more

March 2, 2010

He's Baaaack!!

By Armed Liberal at 19:59

Here's Jerry Brown's announcement speech.

...there's a lot in here that I like, And, having worked for him before, I can say that he's stiffnecked and even crazy enough that he may just mean what he says.

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  • Thorley Winston: Uh, only Nixon can go to China? I don’t think read more
  • Phil Smith: the guy who is now running for governor while saying read more
  • Thorley Winston: ...there's a lot in here that I like, And, having read more

Stay Classy, Netroots...

By Armed Liberal at 18:18

So Mickey Kaus is debating running against "Call me Senator" Boxer - which would be a hoot since Mickey is clearly policy-informed enough to create some really, really interesting debates if Boxer is ever brave enough to subject herself to a debate with a mere citizen. He won't win, but it'd be a fascinating way to kick some policy issues open and into public view, which is what I assume he's doing.

The netroots blogs are alive with comments tagging Mickey for - basically - having gay sex with goats. I was kind of scratching my head on this one, and so turned to Da Google, and discovered that Juicebox Matt Yglesias did a post on October 14, 2007 where he - to put it mildly - challenged Mickey for supporting those AWFUL allegations that John Edwards had been having an affair with Rielle Hunter (the post is gone from the Atlantic, but the Google cache is still alive):
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  • zanzibar: this also has a good stuff , zanzibar hotels hotels read more
  • Glen Wishard: Obama really has fallen to abysmal depths if there are read more
  • phantommut: The thing about Kaus is that as a journalist, he's read more

Monkeys Are Flying Around The Room...

By Armed Liberal at 06:45

....and I'm getting just kinda uncomfy sitting here.

A pro-gun editorial, that makes an honest case for the fact that you can't defend just some Constitutional liberties - in the LA Times:
But if the court would identify an important individual right -- in this case, the right to bear arms -- and then deny that it applied to the states, those who never accepted the incorporation doctrine might try to "de-incorporate" other rights. That's not a risk worth taking.
Isn't that a peach??

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  • Joe Katzman: There's zero surprise here, folks. To the extent there's surprise read more
  • Tim Oren: And the NYT as well ... Excuse me for a read more

March 1, 2010

2010: Winter Olympics' End

By Joe Katzman at 16:22

Nothing like a fantastic hockey game to cap it all off, with a goal in overtime to secure home team gold. Up in Canada, this was a hugely important game. And if you were watching down south, you saw 2 teams playing exciting on-the-attack styles, which made for a good game. Team USA coach Ron Wilson:

"Canada and the United States play the game like it should be -- not sitting back and playing on your heels and waiting for something bad to happen and counter-punching, but actually going on the attack. I know Mike (Babcock)'s teams play that way and I try to play that way, not very successfully right now with my team in Toronto [Canada]."

US coach Ron Wilson may get even more grief back in Toronto for saying that "Sometimes, the best team in the tournament doesn't win a gold medal." In a 1-game format, however, he's right. And Team USA was more consistent throughout.

But it did come down to one game, aganist another great team. And a finish that set a record for home country gold medals. That was thanks, in part, to a program called "Own the Podium," which aimed to secure more advance support for Canadian olympians, and focus on winning instead of just competing. That's a big cultural change for Canada, and a welcome one. Mission Accomplished.

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  • tagryn: At least outside Canada, "Own the Podium" will be mainly read more
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