Thursday, July 31, 2008

Remain Calm: Secretly Funneling Ideas to RAND

For the last five years at the top of my blog, it has said "The problem of terrorism is a problem of/for law enforcement."

Finally catching up, RAND has published a report on How Terrorist Groups End.
Al Qaida has been involved in more terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, than it was during its prior history and the group's attacks since then have spanned an increasingly broader range of targets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according to researchers.

In looking at how other terrorist groups have ended, the RAND study found that most terrorist groups end either because they join the political process, or because local police and intelligence efforts arrest or kill key members. Police and intelligence agencies, rather than the military, should be the tip of the spear against al Qaida in most of the world, and the United States should abandon the use of the phrase "war on terrorism," researchers concluded.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Drugs and Guns

I wrote this comment as part of a thread over at Registan, liked it, so wrote it over here.  I had originally planned to write something completely different, that Christianity, with its belief in angels, a man-god, and eternal life and damnation, wasn't so advanced that Tom Friedman should be crowing

There is an important relationship that emerges in all contraband markets. Once one steps over the line, the cost of expanding one's inventory with additional types of contraband, legally speaking, is low.  It will be prison in either case.

It's not a coincidence that one group, call them mafia, often controls drugs, gambling, guns and prostitution in a particular area. Certain aspects of the contraband industry, once learned, are useful in the trade in any of its particulars. Examples include learning how to launder money, secure contraband storage, and learning what public officials are corrupt.

Therefore, legalization of heroin eradicates a community of criminals who might consider dealing in weapons, removes some profit from those who already deal in both, and reduces, by millions, the number of people who deal/traffic with these criminals, and who, therefore, might tend to by sympathetic with their interests (i.e. few of America's heroin users consider Afghani eradication efforts, but I'm sure some have, and can't think it is all for the best).

If one adds the fact that most criminal enterprises require firearms purchases, I don't believe it is excessive to say there exists a great deal of corporate "synergy" between the drug and arms trades.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

As They Stand Up, We'll Stand Down

Remember that mantra of Bush's?  I'm sure, if you watched the television news, you heard them repeat it, too.  It was, like so many other Bush predictions about Iraq, not what happened.

Do Iraqi troops count?  I know I am supposed to say "Don't Forget Poland," which means Polish troops count, but do Iraqi?  Well, if their standing up lets us stand down then, I guess, they must.  Maybe not 1-to-1, but maybe 100 to 1?  Iraq has added over 400,000 Soldiers, National Guard and Police, but America still has about as many troops as the day we entered Baghdad.  It also makes the October, 2006 call by McCain for 20,000 troops look even more silly.

If we count Iraqi Troops, McCain's proposal amounts to less than one half of one percent of the combined troop totals when he made the proposal, in late October, 2006.  By the way, in the graphs below all the lines are, when pixel length choices are being made, changed in favor of John McCain.
My wishful thinking

The Presidential race started warming up in the spring of 2007 in New Hampshire.  Back then Mark Warner, billionaire former Governor of Virginia, impressed me, I thought he could win the whole thing.  I hope the recent talks with Gov. Kaine of Virginia, Warner's successor, are really secret talks to get Mark Warner on the ticket.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Language And Conflict: Two Great Links

Thanks to Stephen Pampinella for bringing these two links to my attention.  Both deal with the problems of translation in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively.
  1. 8 Minute Video called "Lost in Translation" from the Guardian
  2. Parting e-mail from soldier in Iraq, focusses on interpreters
The Analogy that Couldn't Be Made!

Andorra = the Pushtun

It's a fact that Andorra exists at all, exists in the mountains between Spain and France, because it was able to play off its religious rulers, Spain, from its temporal ones, France.  The Pushtun, also have to learn to balance their religious leaders from Pakistan and their nationalist supporters, from Afghanistan.

Yes, I'm being completely serious, as I always am, about everything, all the time.  Not.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Apologies

For the sake of being polite, for politique, I have been holding my tongue.  There are fuckwits, fucktards, nimrods, nitwits, miscreants, malcontents and sociopaths, and in the interest of being polite, I have been censoring myself, I have been keeping my take on the truth from you, dear readers, all in the interest of some pipe dream of being welcomed into high society, the vague notions I have of what they might really appreciate, and the rules under which they operate.

I have been shameless, from now on, I'll try to be more accurate in calling these blights on the world's bum by their proper names. 

I love you all.
Intelligently Designed Dinosaurs

Intelligent Design "theorists" are not disagreeing that evolution happened, that people are descended from apes (why don't we call it ascent, anyway?), or that dinosaurs existed.

If we find a watch in a field, we recognize it as something out of place, something that didn't just emerge, something designed.  The beauty and wonder of Earth clearly shows the hand of a creator, or designer (I can tell already it isn't Karl Lagerfeld or Marc Jacobs).

After all, who but an incredibly powerful person would create a planet, wait over 4 billion years to watch some dinosaurs appear, then kill them all after 165 million years of it?  It is clearly the design. 

No!  Don't you even start to think that the creator is childish, gets bored, and changes the Earth every once in a while out of pique or spite.  After all, this creator didn't get bored with single-celled life for over a billion years, and we are more interesting than that!  At least, you are.

If the designer also controls human will, other beauties and wonderments of its creation include the Killing Fields (of Cambodia, not Hollywood), the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, not to mention the definitely designed portions of existence: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Black Plague. 

The world is a marvel, and could not happen by accident. 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Laughable Theory of Mine (UPDATE 1)

Added final paragraph on recent George Will article

My theory about language and conflict sorta wraps up lots of different parts about world history.  This theory I don't believe, although I can see how it might be true.  The argument is that civilization, or society, is only possible with alcohol.  I will just lay out some facts.

  • The earliest recorded brewing of beer is about 6000 years ago, about the same time as the earliest known human civilization.
  • The Russians outlawed alcohol in 1914, three years later the Tsars were overthrown
  • Gorbachev tried limiting alcohol from 1985-87, the program ended, soon after so did the Soviet Union
  • The Great Depression in the United States occurred during Prohibition
It makes a little sense.  I'm guessing that we'd all want to sleep in communal spaces if we liked each other more, but we need to get together for civilization.  Somehow, alcohol makes that possible.  It probably does so in many ways.  One tiny way is the way it changes a person's breath.  If everyone is drinking beer, they will all have the same smelling breath.

It turns out that, two weeks before I wrote this, George Will wrote an article about beer and civilization.  He emphasizes the water aspect (alcohol kills germs, therefore is safer to drink than water) which I neglected to even mention.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Understanding Impeachment

Impeachment is a political trial.  No one needs be impeached for violation of a law or statute on the books.  No one needs to be impeached while they are in office.  I think it is unwise for Dennis Kucinich to push, further, with impeachment proceedings, simply because we already know the effort will fail.  I believe Cheney and Bush should be impeached, and I thought so since the very start of the Iraq War.  But I don't get a vote in impeachment proceedings.  Counting the votes shows that Kucinich will lose. 
Tax Policy

Obama is suggesting he'll raise capital gains tax rates, perhaps up to 20%, on people earning more than 250,000.  Why stop there?

Why should we tax perspiration more than speculation?  Is there a shortage of investment funds in America, and too much work being done?  Do we need to favor the investor class, over the working class?

The truth is people wealthy enough to make a living in investments have always been a potent force, striving for the best deals, and generally appearing the best dressed and most refined of all petitioners.  The following is from Gouverneur Morris, the person who actually wrote the Constitution ("the finish given to the style and arrangement of the Constitution fairly belongs to the pen of Mr. Morris." --James Madison) and so, whose understanding one must divine if one wants to closely parse its particular turns of phrase.  He said this during the 2nd Constitutional convention, as he described his desire to reserve the Senate for the rich people, and have the House of Representatives watch over them like hawks.  Remember, the Convention then chose him to actually write the Constitution!
[The rich] will have the same effect here as elsewhere if we do not by such a Gov't keep them within their proper sphere. We should remember that the people never act from reason alone. The rich will take advantage of their passions and make these the instruments for oppressing them. The Result of the Contest will be a violent aristocracy, or a more violent despotism. The schemes of the Rich will be favored by the extent of the Country. The people in such distant parts can not communicate & act in concert. They will be the dupes of those who have more Knowledge & intercourse. The only security agst. encroachments will be a select & sagacious body of men, instituted to watch agst. them on all sides.
Admittedly, the people, with the internet, can more easily act in concert now, but, then again, so can the rich.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

McCain is Our Ekthpert On Foreign Policy (UPDATE 1)

UPDATE 1: Contradiction section added as next to last paragraph

Let's start with Keith Olberman, who has a lot more power than anyone else I'll mention.

Media Matters also has a post on Couric editing McCain's answer.

I found it via the Carpetbagger report, who provides some good links to more material on McCain's remarks and also, in another post, he links to Anonymous Liberal making the profound point that if we redefine surge, Obama was for it.

In case it wasn't already crystal clear that McCain was baldly and badly covering his misstatements at King's supermarket, let's show how he clearly contradicted himself.  Here he says the "surge" included the Anbar Awakening: "First of all, a surge is really a counterinsurgency strategy, and it's made up of a number of components, and this counterinsurgency was initiated, to some degree, by Colonel McFarlane, in anbar province, relatively on his own."  McCain says the surge included the Anbar Awakening.  Yet in the CBS interview the day before he was saying the Anbar Awakening succeeded because of the surge, thus clearly making them two separate things:
Couric: Senator Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias and says there might have been increased security even without the surge.
What's your respone to that?

I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Col. McFarlane was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that Sheikh and others and it began the Anbar Awakening.
The Sunni Awakening succeeded because of the surge, and the Sunni Awakening was part of the surge.

P.S. I grew up going to a King's supermarket, and liked it!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

American Media Has Internalized Lie About Surge (UPDATE 3)

UPDATE 1: Rewrote first paragraph, added facts about when McCain made his proposal
UPDATE 2: New Combined Chart!
UPDATE 3: Updated Anbar Awakening timeline

Back in October, 2006, John McCain called for increasing the number of troops in Iraq by 20,000.  At that time U.S. troop levels in Iraq were about 144,000, while the maximum had been, a year earlier, 160,000.  The narrative being pushed by the media is as follows: John McCain was wise for supporting the surge, the surge has succeeded, and Obama, who said it wouldn't work, is just plain wrong.

The following chart shows total troop strength, as reported by the Iraq Index of the Brookings Institution (as of July 17th, 2008).  Nothing can change the unalterable fact that there was no increase in troops.  The chart shows that the peak of troops occurred in late 2005.  Why do my numbers jibe so badly with what you think you know about reality?  I'm including British, Australian, and other national troops for this one(Don't Forget Poland!) but the next graph shows basically the same thing only including U.S. troops.  More below the graph!

But, even if we take out the non-U.S. troops from the equation, it is clear that the "surge" only brought maximum troop levels only a tiny fraction above their previous highs in late 2005.  John McCain's proposal was just 2.5% percent more than the previous U.S. troop maximum! More below the graph!

Since only a Big Brother, John McCain and Joe Scarborough can easily declare 2 + 2 = 5, or could possibly argue that the decrease in overall troop levels created the increase in security we have seen, let's briefly examine what did change.  The following factors are in chronological order.
  • We are now paying off the Sunni tribes who were trying to kill us a year ago, the so-called "Sunni Awakening" began around August, 2006
  • General Casey, the previous top military commander in Iraq, was little more than a mouthpiece of the Bush administration.  On February 10th, 2007 General Petraeus replaced him.  Please recall that none of America's military professionals have the decade+ of war experience of, say, an Iraqi General (eight years Iran, one year Kuwait).
  • Moqtada al-Sadr declared a ceasefire on August 29th, 2007
I put those facts in the chart below, which otherwise, like all the data in this post, comes from Brooking's Iraq Index.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Illogical Michael Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States

I noticed some distinct logical bullshitting by Michael Mukasey during the the press conference currently going on.

He said he wanted legislation to "reaffirm" a principle, a principle that is "not in doubt," and which was already enacted into legislation after 9/11.  How could anyone on Earth buy this?  How could any member of a press corps with a decent sense of integrity not point out how ludicrous this sounds?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ack, I'm Experiencing Kidney Failure!

No, I am not experiencing kidney failure, and I never have, nor have I felt the failure of any of my other internal organs.  I hope, and expect (one case notwithstanding), neither have you.  I also know there aren't many nerves in the organs, so even if an organ did fail, one wouldn't feel it, but only the secondary effects of not having a functional portion of one's system for living.

I only mention this to remind people that what the Bush administration did, in their famous torture memo, was say that it is only torture if "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." 

How many American torturers had experienced organ failure, and so could at least relate to their instructions at some level?  I assume none had experience "death," so it useless to guide them to avoid the feeling of "even death."
McCain, Churchill and Appeasement

From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry on appeasement.
Churchill's record as an uncomplicated anti-appeaser cannot go unchallenged. His contemporary criticism of totalitarian regimes other than Hitler's Germany was at best muted, and it was not until May 1938 [Josh: after the Nazi occupation of Austria] that he began consistently to withhold his support from the National Government's conduct of foreign policy in the division lobbies of the House of Commons. Even then, Churchill seems to have been convinced by the Sudeten German leader, Henlein, in the spring of 1938, that a satisfactory settlement could be reached if Britain managed to persuade the Czech government to make concessions to the German minority.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Republicans (especially Bush) Should Be Forced to Eat Crow

Is the energy situation a mess right now?  You bet your sweet *ss it is.  In 2005 Bush pushed an Energy Bill down the throats of the American public, about half of all Democrats in Congress signed on.  How has it changed the situation?

For starters, numerous Republican economists, like Alan Greenspan, and a number of former members of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, recommended a gas tax years ago. 

The energy companies can respond to supply and demand, but the consumer is not very flexible.  Economists would say oil is "demand inelastic," since, for example, a commuter can't simply decide not to drive to work anymore as gas prices rise.  They might buy a more fuel efficient car, next time they buy one, but that'd be a few years off.

Public Citizen, Ralph Nader's group, provides this analysis of huge corporate giveaways to oil and gas companies provided by Bush administration Energy Bill.  In most every specific instance, the Bush and Cheney Energy Bill made America more dependent on foreign oil
  • Section 1329: Allows “geological and geophysical” costs associated with oil exploration to be written off faster than present law, costing taxpayers over $1.266 billion from 2007-2015.
  • Section 1323: Allows owners of oil refineries to expense 50% of the costs of equipment used to increase the refinery’s capacity by at least 5%, costing taxpayers $842 million from 2006-11
  • Sections 1325-6: This tax break allows natural gas companies to save $1.035 billion by depreciating their property at a much faster rate.
  • Section 342: Allows oil companies drilling on public land to pay taxpayers in oil rather than in cash.
  • Sections 344-345: Waives royalty payments for drilling for some natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Section 346: Waives royalty payments for drilling in offshore Alaska.
  • Sections 353-4: Waives royalty payments for gas hydrate extraction on the Outer Continental Shelf and public land in Alaska.
  • Section 383: The royalty-in-kind provisions in this section allow corporations drilling for oil on public land to forgo paying cash royalties to taxpayers.
  • Title IX, Subtitle J: This section would provide $1.5 billion in direct payments to oil and natural gas corporations to drill in deepwater wells.
  • Section 322: Exempts from the Safe Drinking Water Act a coalbed methane drilling technique called "hydraulic fracturing," a potential polluter of underground drinking water.
  • Section 323: Provides an exemption for oil and gas companies from the Federal Water Pollution Control Act for their construction activities surrounding oil and gas drilling.
  • Section 311: The section severely limits the ability of local communities and states to have adequate say over the siting of controversial Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facilities.
  • Section 357: Authorizes a survey, paid for by the Federal Government, of the oil and natural gas available underwater off the coasts of states.
  • Section 390: Increases the ability to exclude a broad range of oil and gas exploration and drilling activities from public involvement and impact analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • Section 381: Limits the ability of states to protect their coastlines from oil and gas exploration by limiting their appeals process under the Coastal Zone Management Act.
  • Section 369: Mandates that the federal government make available oil shale and tar sands extraction on federal land for oil companies.

Is there going to be one reporter on Earth with the boldness required to ask the Bush administration about this?  I doubt it.

A little more review.  Johnathon Rauch seems prescient now for having called for an increase in the gas tax in 2003.  President Bush greatly dissembled in describing the Energy Bill in his press release.  And John McCain has a zero percent voting record on questions of energy and the environment, according to the League of Conservation Voters.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Who is the smartest/wisest person in the English speaking world?

  1. You can't say me, and if it occurred to you, please rephrase the question by ending it "in the English speaking world, other than me?"
  2. For me, and so for the sake of this question, smarts are the ability to consider complicated topics, like cutting edge astrophyics, while wisdom is the judgment that precludes a smart person from studying something irrelevant to human society at large, for example, cutting edge astrophysics.
  3. I bear no ill will towards anyone outside the English speaking world (or astrophysicists), it is simply that, even if I had their e-mail address, it couldn't be much of a conversation.
Oh, those rascally Muslims

I'm listening to Andrew Boston at the Hudson Institute (right wing think tank) talk about his book "The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism."
The problems listed, including the worse:
  • Non-muslims (not just Jews) subject an extra tax
  • Non-muslims not allowed to build big houses, or have fine wines
  • Jews constantly insulted in the Koran
  • Jewish holy days, such as the Sabbath, totally disregarded by Muslim rulers
  • Jews judged by Sharia law
  • Some Muslims have incited violence against Jews
  • Some riots have occurred, and thousands of Jews have been killed

Now, of course, Mohammed vs the Jews isn't an equal contest to Jews vs. Mohammed.  After all, Muslims simply didn't exist during the publication of the canonical Jewish texts: the Tanakh, the Talmud, Mishnah and Midrash. Mohammed never advocated killing Jews, but he wasn't kind to them.  What did the Jews say about their own enemies, their contemporaries?

Numbers 21:34-35 thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.

Numbers 25:5-13 An Israeli comes home with a non-Israeli wife. Phinehas kills them both. God rewards Phinehas with an everlasting priesthood.

Numbers 31Moses' army defeats the Midianites. They kill all the adult males, but take the women and children captive. When Moses learns that they left some live, he angrily says: "Have you saved all the women alive? Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

So, enslaving all the virgins, killing anyone who marries outside of the clan, and. sometimes, killing everyone down to the last little child, are the practices of the Jews.

I suppose the special tax really does make Islam the world's worst religion.

In the defense of the Hudson Institute, their Director of the Center of Islam, Hillel Fradkin, does a decent job of giving Boston's unhinged monologue a bit of context.

I am particularly offended at the Fox News shills who say they don't like Obama, and want to vote for McCain.

One of these groups are the ignorant hucksters calling themselves Native Americans Against Obama.

They have a short video, which is linked in this piece of filth of a post, I respond:
The video is about S1779, a bill for Native American education funding and other purposes, and S1859, an agriculture bill, S2363 a Veteran's Affairs Bill, and a few other bills. Apparently, someone is upset that Obama doesn't make all the votes.


Who missed the most votes? JOHN McCAIN, BY FAR! And his primary campaign ended MONTHS BEFORE that of Obama.

On individual votes:

The first mentioned is S1779. This has never been before the U.S. Senate. It did appear before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. They approved it, but I don't have a vote breakdown. ONLY DEMOCRATS sponsored this bill. McCain is on the Indian Affairs committee, Obama is not, but, like I said, I can't find a record of the vote on reporting the bill.



The official record.

And you want to support McCain? Someone will have to explain to me how McCain voting AGAINST SOMETHING YOU WANT is better than Obama not voting at all on a bill which passed easily.

In fact, bills which pass easily are the ones that can be missed.

I can't help but be insulting now, since I take politics very seriously (former Marine, campaign volunteer, worked for the Dept of Vet's Affairs, and stuff). One of a few things has happened here. Either you are a bad researcher, or you are intentionally deceiving people.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Exclusionary Rule

The exclusionary rule says that if the cops violate the U.S. Constitution to get evidence, that evidence is excluded from the trial.

Personally, I've never quite thought that was the best way to handle the situation.  In my mind, the issue isn't that the accused is innocent, the problem is that the cop is guilty.

Let's look at a person who has taken someone else's things.  They are, without a doubt, a thief, correct?  Any time, every single time, that a cop takes evidence from your house or person without a warrant, they are thieves, and should be charged as such.  I imagine that this means dismissal from their job.  I understand that sometimes cops will face such a fate in order to catch a particularly heinous criminal.

The clearance rate (solve-rate) for murders in the United States is about 63%.  Lots of murderers get away with it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Give Enron Another Chance

Phil Gramm, although his role in the future McCain campaign might be reduced, has a wife who sat on the Board of Enron, and Ken Lay was Gramm's campaign co-chair.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Language And Conflict: The Candidate Obama

Media Matters quotes has this Congressional Quarterly transcript about Obama and bilingualism (includes link to video of speech).
We live in a global economy. And, you know, I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, "We need to have English- only." They want to pass a law, "We want English-only."

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.
Based on my thinking so far, there are three general, practical programs suggested by my theory of language and conflict: language borders should be a first consideration in future conflict resolution, the encouragement of bilingualism, and the translation of great works.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Beating A Drum

The reason why the economy is so good right now (Friday saw the third biggest bank failure in U.S. history, and the Fed allowing Fannie and Freddie to go to the discount window to save them) is because of Bush's tax cuts.

Remember, in 2001, 2002 and 2003 the Republicans passed three tax cuts, which are all good for the economy. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Language and Conflict In the Courts: Jury Duty

I got my form to show up for jury duty today, included is a seven question qualification quiz.  The fourth question is "Can you understand and communicate in the English language?"

It doesn't matter whether both the plaintiff and defendant speak only Spanish, all the jury must speak English.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

PUMA Leader is a Fraud

Darragh Murphy started the PUMA PAC to rally Clinton supporters to vote for McCain.  The link shows she has made one political donation, $500 to John McCain in 2000. 

She appeared on Fox News, which will run with this story until election day, in part to list her complaints for Barack Obama.  She says "he is ill prepared to go against the Republicans in November."

He is ill prepared to go against the Republicans, so she is going to support a Republican?  Darragh Murphy is definitely stupid, ignorant, duped or evil.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

McCain, Most Anti-Social Republican in Congress

I have a great deal of respect for the Professors who put together VoteView.  They say that over 90% of votes in Congress are one-dimensional, either more government or less.  Race, they say, was a strong second dimension in the 1950s through 1980, but no longer is.  Their current second issue is called "Social/Lifestyle Issues".  According to the graph below, linked to at their page discussing the rankings of Obama, McCain and Clinton, McCain is the most conservative of any Democrat or Republican on social and lifestyle issues.  "S" refers to Southern Democrats.

Modern International Relations Theory

I'm 50 pages into Alexander Wendt's classic of IR theory, "Social Theory of International Politics," and am quite pleased with the ideas it has produced in me.  Wendt has been called the third most influential theorist in International Relations, and the foremost American in the field.  He, like Waltz before him, is wrong, and the reasons are clear.

Wendt, like others, chooses to classify systems of IR on whether they are materialist or idealist (Neorealism and World Systems Theory (I'll add Marx) vs Neoliberalism and his theory (social constructivism) (and I'll add Hegel)) and whether they are holist or individualist.  All theories which can be so pigeonholed are false.

The ideas (idealism) one can have are constrained by the physical reality (materialism), just as those ideas (the steam engine) will change the physical reality, and thus change the constraints.

Individuals might be said to grow up in a system (holism) which influences their development, just as individuals can change the system (Bush and bin-Laden) and thus lead to future individuals growing up in a different system.

Both dichotomies are, I posit, actually feedback loops.  The OODA loop is a great example, developed during the Vietnam War by an Air Force pilot to describe decision making in flight.  The reality (or system) is first Observed, then the actor (individual) Orients themselves within the system, a Decision (individual) is made, and then an Action is taken.  The action, of course, or rather the result of the action, is dependent on the whole system, given the example of an aerial dogfight, what the other pilot does.

Orientation might need some further explanation.  Given that I live on Earth, in country America, I might choose to read Drudge or the Huffington Post.  This orientation will determine, in part, what I learn, and therefore, what decisions I might make.
News from Iraq: Fantasy and Power

Nuri al-Maliki said he had crushed terrorism in his country, so we know the guy is crazy or a liar.

The Times Online UK (but not the U.S. press) is saying he is "demanding" a timetable for American withdrawal.  Bully for him!  I wrote years ago that the way for America to get out of Iraq is to have the Iraqis ask us to get out. 

Al-Maliki also put the kibosh on the awful Status of Forces Agreement that the Bush administration/Pentagon/Defense Contractors are trying to pressure Iraq to sign.  This is rushed because soon Bush will (too ceremoniously) be out of power.  The main purpose of this contract would be to insure an additional half TRILLION (guess) or so of (mostly) U.S. funds go for military projects.  Don't you want your stuff funded?  Of course you do.  So does the teeny-weeny poor military-industrial complex, sniff.  When Nuri al-Maliki says No to America, it makes him look Iraqi, it makes him look strong.

Of course, this is the same guy who thinks he has crushed terrorism in his country.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Helping to Understand the Indian Embassy Attack

The Afghan monarchy would foment Pushtun nationalism on the Pakistani side of the border, to show its power to Pakistan. 

Encouraging Islamism (by 1994, the Taleban) in Afghani Pushtun areas was Pakistan's response.

Pakistan's main rival, since British India was divided on religious lines into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India, has always been India.

The Taleban, in addition to wanting to run Afghanistan as an Islamic Pushun state, have always been overly friendly with Pakistan, which is why Pakistan is being accused and Pakistan is denying anything to do with the attack.

Obama said nothing useful, and, in fact, sounded somewhat ignorant.  I'll still vote for him over John McCain (2008 version) every day of the week.

By the way, I feel like reminding people that America created the sectarian divisions in Iraq by handing out power along sectarian lines in the first place.  If we are going to hand out eight cabinet posts, three to reds, three to greens, and two to blues, then it makes no sense, whether you are red, green or blue, to form a mixed coalition.  You wouldn't be liable to get any seat at all, even if your white (or black) coalition worked.  Since this was the practice at the very moment when Iraqi political parties began to form, they would, inevitably, form along red, green and blue lines.  The division in Iraqi politics before Saddam was the Nationalists/Ba'athist/Pan-Arabists, the Islamists, and the Marxists. 
Three Cheers for the Death of Jesse Helms (R-NC)

I didn't say it before. 

Some people say we shouldn't speak dead of puerile, fascistic, evil men like Jesse Helms.  I disagree.  What I don't think people should do is come up with new allegations against him.  I shouldn't say, now, that he sacrificed infants on an altar to hate, if that allegation were new, simply because he is in no position to defend himself by, for example, saying it was all for the greater good. 
Why You Shouldn't Quit Anything Cold Turkey

Anything addictive, that is. 

Things we know.  We know quitting some things is healthy.  We know that your last impression of something has a stronger impact on how you feel about it than the rest of your impressions. 

One can imagine desire, or addiction, as a process with a balloon.  The balloon inflates at a certain pace, a pace based on how strong the desire returns.  Unfulfilled, a balloon will slowly shrivel.

The reason you don't want to quit cold turkey is you don't want a large shrivelled balloon, you want a small one.

Slowly, and programmatically, scaling back your intake of the addictive substance, reduces the size the balloon will get.  You will also create more negative impressions of the "last" (or most recent) variety, as one would constantly being extending the time between fixes.

A possible plus is one can find that usage at the newer, lower levels reduces the health risk, and, in all likelihood, any other associated risks.

Given the example of cigarettes, one can easily imagine a stopwatch which provides cues to when a quitting/scaling-back smoker can have their next cigarrette.  The stopwatch-computer could be "trained" to learn the smoker's habits over a month (the user will get used to hitting a button each time a cigarrette is smoked in this period), and also show "time since last cigarrette."

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Hostage Ingrid Betancourt

One sample headline "Daring sting freed Colombian jungle hostages."  The Colombian military says they dressed up like FARC and asked for the prisoners, to transfer them to a different site.  Pretty smart.  And they have video to prove it.  This version of the press conference showing the Colombian hostage release is from Al-Jazeera, and includes English voiceovers.  Video of the operation itself begins around 3:12.  Their hands are bound because the real FARC in the area thinks it is prisoner transfer.
John McCain Lies About War and American History

C-SPAN is re-airing the 1987 debate on the War Powers Act resolution, as it related to the hostilities in the Persian Gulf with Iran.  This was part of the Iran-Iraq Tanker War, the minelaying of which was also threatening Kuwaiti tankers.  America put the Kuwaiti tankers under the U.S. flag.  An Iranian missile reportedly hit a U.S. Naval vessel, and that reprisal, along with a later reprisals, involved destroying and capturing Iran's tiny naval vessels and attacking their oil platforms, also used by the Iranian military.  Later a U.S. Naval vessel shot down an Iranian passenger plane.

First, let me give credit where it is due.  Senators Dale Bumpers (D-AR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Lowell Weicker (R-CT) and even Dan Quayle (R-IN) were, to my ears, reasonable, even if I didn't agree with their positions.  Especially good was Senator Weicker, and, impassioned, was Senator Bumpers.

This must first be contrasted with Senator John Warner (R-VA) (still serving) who appeared as nothing so much as a tool of the Armed Forces, and/or President Reagan.  An abyssmal performance (especially in his colloquy with Senator Weicker).  Also see his repeated use of the phrase "byzantine paths" to describe a straight forward piece of legislation.

Another awful performance was put in by Senator Robert Dole (R-KS), then Minority Leader.  He was foisting off his responsibilities on people outside Congress, and was saying that the Constitution doesn't address terrorism.  It does, in fact, quite clearly, when it gives Congress the power "to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas."  The Iranian laying of mines in the Persian Gulf could easily be seen as a felony of the high seas, and therefore Congress alone had the power to punish the Iranians, not President Reagan.  By the way, this clause should be updated to include the skies, something the Founders had not thought about.

But the worst, the abyssmal bottom, was Senator John McCain.  This ignorant fathead actually had the gall to misuse the debates on the Constitution.  It wasn't his only idiotic, small-minded, war-hungry and fraudulent debating tactic, but it is the only one I'll address for now.  Let us consider what the Arizona Senator said.

Senator McCain said that, during the debates of the Constitution in Philadelphia, the text was changed to say that Congress could now only declare war, and not make war, as the original draft said.  This is, in fact, the case.  He then cites Samuel Johnson's dictionary, which he deceptively says was in wide use (less than 6,000 copies existed before 1784, and we can easily imagine that most of those were sold in England), to say that since Congress no longer has the power to make war, they were in no position to have a say in whether or not Reagan would have a free hand in the Persian Gulf. 

What do the records of those debates actually say? There are two main sources, Farrand's Record and Madison's Notes.  Farrand's is quite quiet for August 17th, 1787, just listing the motions and their votes.  Madison's Notes on the debate to give Congress power to make or declare war follows:
"To make war"

Mr. PINKNEY opposed the vesting this power in the Legislature. Its proceedings were too slow. It wd. meet but once a year. The Hs. of Reps. would be too numerous for such deliberations. The Senate would be the best depositary, being more acquainted with foreign affairs, and most capable of proper resolutions. If the States are equally represented in Senate, so as to give no advantage to large States, the power will notwithstanding be safe, as the small have their all at stake in such cases as well as the large States. It would be singular for one authority to make war, and another peace.

Mr. BUTLER. The objections agst. the Legislature lie in great degree agst. the Senate. He was for vesting the power in the President, who will have all the requisite qualities, and will not make war but when the Nation will support it. Mr. MADISON and Mr. GERRY moved to insert "declare," striking out "make" war; leaving to the Executive the power to repel sudden attacks.
I hope it is now clear that McCain was pushing war and was patently, and without question, misstating the record of the debates on the Constitution in order to push more war and power for the President. 

As many of McCain's Republican Senator colleagues have said, it would be more than a little dangerous to elect John McCain.
PBS: Eyes Roll

In plugging a new TV show, involving someone travelling through Buddhist Tibet to wind up (somehow) doing a ten question interview with the Dalai Lama, the PBS announcer describes the interview as "rare."

Perhaps the Dalai Lama is a bit selective in his interviewer choices, but to call him a media whore really wouldn't be stretching the case. 

Today the Bush Index of Pollkatz shows Bush is up to 27%!  This is up from late June's low of 26.8%.  Only 73% more to go for my hero!
MSNBC: Nostradamus LIVE!

This morning a story on this most sucky, nasty broadcasting corporation is "McCain's Relaunch: Will it Work?"  Well, the only thing a campaign to do to "work" is to result in McCain winning the election.  Luckily for MSNBC, they had professional prognosticators and other psychics on as guests.  You want to know who will win Election 2008?  You should have been watching 2008.

Why don't the other stations have psychics to tell us if McCain will win?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Iran Focus

Thanks to Laura Rozen at War and Piece, I find a discussion of an deal offered to Iran concerning the nuclear issue.  The EU, the five members of the Security Council and Germany are behind it.  The full text of the offer to Iran is available online.

One part jumped out at me, something I don't see why the Iranians would accept: "Provision of legally binding nuclear fuel supply guarantees."  Legally binding by whom?  Legally enforced by whom?  Wouldn't it be more rational for a state like Iran, constantly under verbal assault from America, to rely on themselves as much as possible?  Doesn't it provide some additional basis for national pride to be self-sufficient?  Not to mention the benefit they would get by getting to do advanced science and engineering themselves?

Obama and Abortion: My Candidate! (UPDATE 1)

UPDATE: Added Relevant Bible Passage at end

I think there are two big problems with Roe. 1) The trimester system is abitrary.  To me there are two times with a gray area in the middle, and those are before and after it can live independently of mom, and, 2) the "health" exception is worded in such a way as to be overly broad.  Is it possible to think that giving birth doesn't impact a woman's health? 

Obama wants mental consequences of abortion to be removed from the health exception.  I'm not saying that's how I'd have gone about it, but it does sound like it is moving towards the right goal.  I honestly don't know where to draw the line for health, but I'd hope it would be something that would limit late-term abortions on health grounds to something which might have lasting and predictable repercussions.  For example, three months hospital recuperation is pretty darn serious, but a rich woman could handle it pretty well (no fear of bills, later insurance premiums, or that a job loss would shatter future economic advantage).

Of course, maybe we should just let this all be decided by the Bible.  Exodus 21:15 says "Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death."  Now, we all know that every baby kicks its mother...  By the way, Jesus specifically points to a neighboring passage (Exodus 21:17 Whoever curses/dishonors/reviles his father or his mother shall be put to death) in Matthew 15:4, apparently supporting its usage.  Hey, if Jesus is God, why would Jesus ever say, like he does in Matthew 15:4, that "God said..."?
Watch America's Craven Press Crops in Action

I was alerted to this story by Missing Links, a blog by a ?Canadian? who translates Arabic language news.

If you read the American press corps, you might have learned that three members of the provincial council, all Sadrists, have been arrested.  No charges have been specified in any of the reporting.  This is from the L.A. Times, by Staff Writers:
Elsewhere, U.S. and Iraqi forces Wednesday arrested three members of the Maysan provincial council and 18 of the provincial Gov. Adil Maliki's guards as part of a campaign to restore government control in the provincial capital, Amarah, about 190 miles southeast of Baghdad, police said. The arrests were made at the governor's house.
Actually, very few of the thousands of U.S. outlets are carrying this story at all (I see a total of four, including the Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, and McClatchy).

If you read, for example, Agence France Presse, you will learn one of the people arrested was the Governor.

And that story, from the LA Times?  It wasn't the story, just something buried in a larger piece about how well Iraqi-U.S. security arrangements are coming along.

For completeness, all versions are nearly identical. McClatchy does add a warrant has been issued for the Governor, but not that he was arrested. The Miami Herald's reporting was the most craven. ALL FOUR BURIED IT IN THE SAME STORY ABOUT HOW GOOD IRAQI-U.S. SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS ARE.
Elsewhere, U.S. and Iraqi forces in Maysan province arrested three members of the provincial council and 18 guards of the governor as part of the campaign to restore government control in the provincial capital, Amara, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, police said.
What is Patriotism?

Patriotism means ignoring that the earliest Americans engaged in a massive genocide to "clear the land" of the Natives before settling in.  I will grant that quickly the Natives fought back, and a long history of fighting back quickly became a justification, to the newspaper reading public, ignorant of the longer history and of the broken treaties.

That said, it is hard for me to get my head around the idea of giving back the land, even as I hypocritically support removing the white farmers from Zimbabwe.  One difference I quickly have latched onto is that Zimbabwe has only been independent since 1980, so the white farmers with more than half of all the best land personally profited (in almost all cases, even if only as children) from the racist arrangement.

Pride is a sin. Americans, followed by Venezuelans, are the peoples with the most sinful pride in their countries.

That said, I believe in Home Rule for Earth.  We should welcome the ideas of the extra-terrestrials, and take advantage of their experiences, but be wary of even volunteers who wish to take a more engaged role, not to mention paying them for the privilege. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Afghanistan Needs a Surge

Minutes ago, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said that (paraphrasing) "Afghanistan is an economy of forces operation, which means, by definition, that we need more troops."  The "enemy" in Afghanistan (i.e. most everyone who was born and lives there) has been gaining ground over the last year or three.  If we were advancing for years we'd say we were winning.  This summer, Afghanistan will become America's second longest war, surpassing the American War of Independence.

Major Religions Lead to Eternal Life: Guaranteed

By joining any major religion (at least one million members) you are guaranteed at least to be a statistic in future times concerning religious believer percentages of today.

Of course, being an atheist guarantees the same level of recognition in the future.

The Bible, as described this morning by a somewhat rambling C-SPAN caller: The Bible, a Basic Book before Leaving Earth.  Someone should write a new one, updated, and without anything which can't be corroborated.  I'm willing to help with the editing.
Zimbabwe Addenda: Kenya and internal Languages

Anglophone Kenya has a stake in the outcome in Zimbabwe.  Like America in 2000, we will never know who won in Kenya's 2007 election.  The US and EU quickly moved in and started pushing the Kenyans around, insisting on some sort of compromise (just like America welcomed international calls for a Bush-Gore unity government in 2000, and would welcome such calls again).  What they did was create the post of Prime Minister, and gave it to the person who appeared to have been cheated.  A U.S. Republican Party backed group, the IRI, was one voice that used exit polls to denounce the original election.  Kenya, by the way, has three of Africa's four major language groups, and the voting division was along linguistic regional lines.

Kenya's agreement, in part foisted on them from the outside, becomes an especially bitter pill if Zimbabwe suffers no such meddling (would you sit idly by if foreigners encouraged us to change our Constitution because of a close, allegedly fraud-ridden election?).

Enough of Kenya, what about Zimbabwe's internal language situation.

The majority group in Zimbabwe is, like the Shia in Iraq, about 60-65% of the total population.  Unlike Iraq, however, the smaller groups are much smaller: one at 10%, three around 5%, another four around 3%.  The Shona people have run Zimbabwe from the beginning.  Zimbabwe became independent only in 1980, the white government having become independent from the British during the days when Britain was spinning off her colonial empire.  Quite soon after independence, there was violence between the Shona and the second largest group, the Ndebele speakers. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Coverage of Zimbabwe is Really Starting to Tick Me Off

Today C-SPAN's Washington Journal hosted Patrick Merloe and the topic was Zimbabwe.  Merloe brought up the fact that 80 people against Mugabe have been killed this year.  Why, that's about the same number as Colombia killed a couple years ago, and with them America asks for a free trade agreement!  The election was a sham.  Why, everyone in America would have supported the EU, Russia and China deciding the 2000 election was a sham, and putting sanctions on us, right, Americans?  Mugabe is a dictator.  America is friends with loads of dictators, officially helping to increase the military power of some of them.  People in Zimbabwe are starving to death.  Have I seen _one_ television news story about people starving to death in Ethiopia?  There it is getting nearly as bad as the early 1980s.  How about video coverage of any of the numerous food riots happening around the globe this year?& nbsp; Of course not.

Whatever the reason, the American press corps has decided to try to use its power to push Yet Another small country around.  Maybe we should put sanctions on China, because they don't even have elections.  Or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Language and Conflict in the News: Zimbabwe (UPDATE 1)

Update: Added final paragraph on possible motives

Robert Mugabe is a dictator, but it is only the Anglophone world that cares.  The current anti-Mugabe campaign is centered in London, with support from many Commonwealth countries (roughly over fifty former British colonies, and therefore Anglophone) and America.  Zimbabwe used to be a member of the Commonwealth but pulled out after the last round of criticism.

Hard to prove, sitting here, that official interest in this case is from Anglophone governments, I'll try.

This article from Bloombberg some country's official reactions to Zimbabwe's election. The UK, US, Canada and Kenya (former British colony) are the only sources of criticism.  South Africa (Anglophone) and Djibouti(Francphone) are voices supporting the status quo (minus all the criticism).  By the way, Gordon Brown looks like a fool in the article, saying African countries are no longer willing to support Mugabe (where are South Africa and Djibouti?).

This article is about Chinese opposition to U.S. proposals for sanctions, and also mentions Russia is against sanctions.

Although the G8 has issued statement calling Zimbabwean elections a sham, it includes Russia, whom we have already seen do not support doing anything about it.

What do you know about the MDC, anyway, other than that they want to protect English landowners?  Could this be part of the reason the UK has been so unwavering in their opposition to Mugabe over the last few years?  Do you think the Tsvangirai doesn't have his own militias, and his own propensity to resolve things via violence?