Friday, November 28, 2008

Melbourne Shuffle: Pae and Sarah

Too hard, naturally.  Skip ahead to about 1:02, 2:19, and then again to 3:40.  Obviously you need to ignore the silly hat-spinning.  Like "riverdance," these people don't really know what to do with their hands.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Back The Attack (<-WWII era slogan) Georgian Admits Warmongeriness

     Georgian Official Says Georgia Started War.  He had been replaced as Ambassador to Moscow before these remarks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Me and the Government During the 110th, A Perspective

     I have contacted the government three times in the last two years, although just now I can't recall the precise order.  When it was announced the Bush administration would be seeking the death penalty for Gitmo prisoners, I called the Presidential Comment Line and told them the turning them into martyrs would be a bad idea.  Later, during hearings on FISA, I spoke to a staffer of Senator Feingold's in person.  I had printed out this for them, to help them understand what was going on.  And then, more recently, I contacted the State Department after Secretary Rice spoke in support of the former government of Mauritania.  The President was an Islamist who favored clerics who praise Osama bin-Laden.  That's the guy America, the UN, the African Union, and most other international bodies supported.  There had been a coup after he tried to fire the head of the Army, who led the coup and replaced him.  He is not an Islamist, but relatively secular.  The only people who supported him... the Arab Maghreb Union and the Arab League.  Arabs and Muslims support the guy against al-Qaeda, America supports him.  I tried to use the logic of my language and conflict theory to sway them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Power of Brevity

     Francis M. Cornford is impressing me more and more.  He writes, in Thucidydes Mythistoricus: "The unknown author of the tract On the Athenian Constitution tells us in a few pages more about the Athenian Demos than we shall find in the whole of Thucydides".  Here is a link to the two-three page On the Athenian Constitution.

     The right wing idiots were all over themselves pushing the idea that millions of Hillary voters would actually lift the lever for McCain.  Undoubtedly, some did.  Was there a "puma" effect?  Almost, yes, a little one, and it is visible here.  In Arkansas and Louisiana, alone of the 50 states, did a lower percentage of people vote for Obama than Kerry.  Arkansas is pretty natural.  Louisiana is close by?

By the way, Your Idiot Press Corps never made a big deal that the Republican party was fractured in three: the religious, the hawks, and the economic conservatives/libertarians.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Language And Conflict: New Categorization of Problem Types

     Noam Chomsky, to try to point out the error of my ways, pointed to the 1994 Rwandan genocide as an example of a deadly conflict within one language community.  Of course I'd known about this event, and consider it only one among many major events in the last couple decades, but more recent e-mail conversations about Rwanda with Chomsky have led me to an insight I hadn't previously had.

     Some of the problems, and certainly the class Chomsky was thinking about, concern when groups speaking different languages share one country, or government, and fight over power, land or access to resources.  I like to point to the examples of Switzerland and India as possible ways to handle this.

     A different set of problems emerge when you take one (large-enough) language community and divide it up with internationally recognized (sacrosanct) lines.  Examples include, but are not limited to
  • Kinyarwanda-Rundi, although small, the part in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been particularly influential.  I made that graphic specifically to show Chomsky what I was talking about, and it was key to helping me get to the understanding I am trying to relay in this post.
  • The Taleban, or, more exactly, the Pashtana tribesmen of the Hindu Kush and Koh-e-Sulaiman mountains (Pashtan is singular, Pashtun is the Indian corruption of the word).
  • The Sudan (Deby, President of Chad, comes from a tribe which is half in Sudanese Darfur.
  • The Kurds
  • The Somalis (still without a government, 17 years running).
  • Even Ossetia. Divided between Russia and Chechnya
Again, as if you needed any reminding, all of these borders were drawn up by Europeans, who, generally speaking, organized things for their own interests (if you look at the Pashtana map, it looks as if "divide and rule" was their interest).

     Somali, Rwandan, Kurdish, Pashtana and Zaghawa speakers have all, definitely hosted rebel groups on one side of the border to attack and destabilize the government on the other.  In fact, all of them are doing it today.

     Peace out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


     Does anyone know any better writing on the internet than this Japan's Other Emperor?  It's alien, historical, sad and true.  Can I spoil it for you? 
[Godaigo's heir] Hiromichi himself apparently remained grateful to the Allies even after the SCAP [Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Powers] brushoff. But generally, populist sentiments about the Occupation ran hot and cold. Hot when GHQ's [GHQ is another way to refer to SCAP] fiery New Deal lawyers promised them "a hand in the future" and lasting reforms; cold when SCAP went into business with the old guard. After Mao took over China and Korea heated up, SCAP was taken over by CIA types who didn't like people in movement period. They hurt the unions while boosting the war industries and the gangsters. They turned heavy-duty war criminals loose with big money in their pockets to help SCAP maintain "social harmony." "A-Class" [Japan classified its war criminals, A-class were the worst] rogues such as Kishi, Kodama and Sasagawa profited immensely by reviving the mobs and rescuing the "patriotic" societies. Kishi made prime minister; Kodama became one of Japan's three most powerful men; and Sasagawa Ryoichi, self-proclaimed "world's richest fascist," was several times seen jogging around Africa with Jimmy Carter and the Gandhi Peace Prize in his pocket. Older activists especially have a hard time feeling too pro-American about those days.
Susan Rice

     Her name is popping up in relation, perhaps, to the post of the National Security Advisor under the Obama administration.  I've read her name twice in the last month in relation to Africa.  Is she any good?  Not at all.  Admittedly, in the first event I will relate, she was doing Bill Clinton's bidding.

     Twice in the last decade Kagame (Tutsi) of Rwanda and Museveni of Uganda have invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo because, principally, both Mobutu Sese Seko and then the Rwanda/Ugandan installed Joseph Kabila both "allowed" rebel Hutus, including 1994 genocidaires, to launch attacks into Rwanda.  Rwanda and Uganda couldn't keep their act together, and one faction of anti-Kabila rebels became known as the RCD (you can call them "the Rally"). The Rally has few of their own aims (although, sure, they'd like to take over the Congo), they are a proxy military outfit of the Rwandans.  When Susan Rice was Asst. Sec't of State for African Affairs, she met with the RCD leaders in Kigale, capital of Rwanda.  This is about as big as endorsement of violent, raping, thuggish, thieving, mineral-smuggling rebels (who, admittedly, might also have some legitimate grievances) that can be imagined by one author.

     Later, under her own power, in December, 2001, Susan Rice declared that Osama bin-Laden had been arming and training the Somalia warlords (Gen. Farah Aideed, among others) who attacked and killed some U.S. troops in 1993.  Is there any solid reason, post-9/11, to bring up the eight year old attack and blame al-Qaeda for it?  No public U.S. or U.N. personnel in Somalia at the time ever noted any links to terrorists.  The Somalis themselves deny it completely.  There was a lot of (relatively misplaced) focus on Somalia at the time, and Susan Rice appears to be like on of those bloodthirsty Bushies when she (baselessly? entirely baselessly? seems like it) brands a whole country "terrorist." 

     The book I was reading today, which reminded me of this incident, noted that Somalia is actually a pretty bad "safe haven" for terrorists.
  1. There is no one to protect them from kidnappers, either.
  2. There are no available western targets anywhere nearby (not one embassy, even).
  3. They are foreigners, where there are almost no foreigners, and so would stick out badly.
No, if you are a terrorist, you want a big, multi-ethnic metropolis where you can blend in.  You want an easily corruptible government that will overlook small, non-lethal parts of your operation (as long as none of the locals get hurt, and I make a buck, whats to stop me, says the cop, taking the bribe).  Near perfect anarchy, however, is useless.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is There A More Useful Idiot ...

     ... than Thomas Friedman?  It is hard for me to imagine a more malignant influence in the field of the printed word.
Themed Post 2: On Categorization of Languages

     The point is that mutual intelligibility is equality, but that there is also a "linguistic distance" between languages, which might be measured by the time it would take an average person speaking the first language to learn the second. All sufficiently alien languages, I would say, are equally distant. The distance between French and Italian, on the other hand, is relatively small. It might be possibly to plot these distances.  It might be possible, given that linguists tend to come up with terms for features in a language like verb-subject-object order, that language distance roughly corresponds to the number of language feature differences.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can I Make This My Themesong?

The way Hoagie Carmichael's voice works, so that there are no clear breaks between when he is singing and not, amazes me.  Lauren Bacall is 19 in this clip.
Saying Farewell: Remembering the Bush Administration

     This, a link I (re?) found via the Daily Howler who linked to Media Matters who liked to other Media Matters stories, is Ron Suskind's Without A Doubt.  I read, soon after it was published, Suskind's book about/with former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, The Price of Loyalty.  The money quotes from the very long article follow:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." [emphasis mine]
The word "reality" comes from the word "royalty." 
Malek approached him [Rubenstein, on the board of the Carlyle Group] described that time to a convention of pension managers in Los Angeles last year, recalling that and said: "There is a guy who would like to be on the board. He's kind of down on his luck a bit. Needs a job. . . . Needs some board positions." Though Rubenstein didn't think George W. Bush, then in his mid-40's, "added much value," he put him on the Caterair board. "Came to all the meetings," Rubenstein told the conventioneers. "Told a lot of jokes. Not that many clean ones. And after a while I kind of said to him, after about three years: 'You know, I'm not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should do something else. Because I don't think you're adding that much value to the board. You don't know that much about the company.' He said: 'Well, I think I'm getting out of this business anyway. And I don't really like it that much. So I'm probably going to resign from the board.' And I said thanks. Didn't think I'd ever see him again." [emphasis mine]
We all wish Rubinstein had been right.
And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. "You think he's an idiot, don't you?" I said, no, I didn't. "No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!" In this instance, the final "you," of course, meant the entire reality-based community. [emphasis mine]
This is the Republican Party that elects actors, and hopefully the Party that will nominate Sarah Palin in 2012, to bear the biggest loss since Dukakis.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Strategy Required in Afghanistan

     If part of the strategy involves some people acting as bullet sponges, we need a new strategy.
This is all true.

     This is, as best as I can recollect, a transcript of a conversation I had earlier this evening.

     While eating, I heard people talk about terrorism. It turns out they were talking about the NYC real estate market, one of them, rationally, calling terrorism an "X factor."
Well, it turns out the Taleban problem is co-extensive* with the Pushtun** tribesmen. And as stupid and primitive as it is, these people have a code.
First, it's hospitality.  If you <indicating to the guy talking about terrorism> were to show up on their door, they'd have to take you in.
... at least for three days.  Second, is vengeance.  Every time we blow up one of these wedding parties, they are duty bound to seek vengeance.  Third, I forget third.  Oh yeah, third is taunting.  You have to taunt whoever hasn't killed the person they were supposed to seek vengeance on.  And fourth is forgiveness.  If you show up at their house with a goat
<more laughter>
Yeah, a goat, they pretty much have to forgive you.
So, I figure, 25 million goats and the problem is solved.  It might be a little embarassing to have to pay to apologize for things, and there would undoubtedly be a few holdouts... but basically PROBLEM SOLVED!
*) Not sure I used that word, but I got to the point none-the-less.
**) Turns out Pathan is an Indian corruption of the word Pakhtan or Pashtun, both of which are in the singular.  Pashtana or Pakhtani is the nice way to refer to these folks.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Themed Article 3: Custom and Tradition

     Primitive superstition and worship.  Forgive the terms from a past era, but visiting a shrine and tying a piece of rock in a loop of cloth and hanging it around your neck to fight an illness is not strictly religion, since it delves into the land of medicine, and isn't strictly medicine, since a spirit powers the rock.

     How do these things spread?  Surely by word of mouth.  You wouldn't just believe something like this unless you heard it from someone you trusted, or you were desperate.

     Who do we trust?  In another time, if we lived in a large clan, some of use might be brave and take the word of the itinerant story-teller, but family, proximity (for repetition), and familiarity (700 repetitions, ad-people say, to make it stick in your brain forever) suggests more people would get more knowledge from village wise-folk.  People have a tendency to be able to recognize smarts, given enough time, and surviving a long time in such a time suggests intelligence.

     So you're a village elder, and have some clan-cred, and a distant cousin (aren't they all?) comes calling. 

     He's deathly sick.

     You've noticed its been getting worse (you are perceptive, remember?)

     Some people wouldn't want to admit they don't know how to help.
Some people wouldn't want to tell them that it looks just like that thing that killed Fred and his brother, and would he kindly move away quickly.
Some people wouldn't want to tell them that there was no hope.

     Someone smart (that's you) might say something smart, like:
Go now (emphasize now!) to the place, the special place (if they say they ask which one, tell them they know the one!) and grab a piece of it and carry it with you for magic.
Who knows?  When you die, people might carry away pieces of your gravesite.

     (Note, I haven't put the first two "themed" articles up yet. The "theme" is that they were all drafted in the same setting, at the end of a day of study.
Political Acumen

     As political sophistication increases, so do the number of people and amount of territory that can be justly administered.

     Why shouldn't rulers of "failed states" not be supported in efforts to carve up their state, or the reverse?
Ack! Many Times!

     I read this a long time ago and misread it.  Not sure how it happened, but I remember reading that FDR was the most liberal, not the most conservative, of all Democratic Party candidates since his day.  In at least a dozen places I'd said that FDR and Reagan were both the most extreme candidates, and therefore, even if you believed Obama was an ultra-liberal, maybe that wasn't so bad.  Reagan was the most conservative President since FDR.  Obama's short record in the U.S. Senate puts him to the right of FDR.  Still, there is a very large gap between FDR and Eisenhower.  There has not been a centrist U.S. President since (at the very least) FDR.

     I apologize! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama Meets Unconditionally With Warmonger

     I found the title for this post somewhere else.
On Keynesianism: The Ship Of State

On a stately cruise across the ocean \
our great Ship of State sail with Two Captains.
One looks on high and Always Steers Starboard \
One a bit lower and always cries "Port!"

     Keynesianism says the government should be counter-cyclical.  When the the environment of the government (the economy) is contracting, government should expand. The Democrats always want the government to expand.  Keynesianism also says that when the economy expands, the government shouldn't.  The Republicans always fight to contract the government.

     There are no politicians who respect this divide.  If elected I will be both Democrat and Republican, depending on the times.
NewsBusters Bans Me

     They'd been threatening for a while. I think it was a combination of things. Quoting scripture to them probably irked them to no end. I think some of the people believed I was lying about being a Marine. I know I pissed off one of the authors who had the gall to deny that Republican lawyers tried to block military ballots in Florida in 2000. Because I am banned, I'll never get to school the 'tard.

     NewsBusters is run by some hard-core partisan Republicans, but the reasons to focus on them are serious.  One) They are listed in! This website breaks news? I never saw it. Total media criticism (some little of which is actually fair).  Two) They only have a reasonable number of commenters.  You can interact, in real time (if you are kinda fast), and people might be rude (they were vile, folks, you must have a very, thick skin) but at least there are some people who try to rebut you (and generally fail).

     Oh well, Newsbusters, I was a criminal to the Democratic Party to feed you any good tidbits.  I tried to temper your Reagan worship by pointing out he funded Pol Pot.  I tried to temper your horrid grasp of the facts.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Balinese Gamelan

     Did I post this stuff before? I am unusually intrigued by the Balinese Gamelan.
African Guerillas: Raging Against the Machine

     That is the title of the book I was trying to read yesterday.  It presumed I knew a lot more about all the wars and secessions in Africa since 1970 than I did, but I still dug it.  Editors Morten Bøås and Kevin C. Dunn put together some good stuff. For those who don't know, you can get most european characters by looking at a chart of "html entities"

     The most fun part was at the beginning, when they are dissing the people who call African wars "resource" wars.  I had always found this term problematic, but they say (and, to a degree, show) that the claim is absurd and is usually made by people who want to portray the rebels as bandits/theives, so that no quarter need be given.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

?Wild? Guess?

     Byrd is stepping down from the most powerful committee in the Senate.  Byrd, a Klansman decades ago, and publicly apologetic for it, is voluntarily giving up power?

     I am reminded of Trent Lott losing his leadership post, for praising Strom Thurmond's 1948 Dixiecrat (segregationist) campaign for President.

     Name someone who voluntarily gave up the #1 spot.  Maybe this had something to do with Obama's victory?

     Eli at Lefti alerts me to this article from the NY Times, which finally addresses the Georgian aggression in South Ossetia by our dear ally, Saakashvili. Obama, McCain, and the entire U.S. press corps ate up Saakashitti's repeated claims that big bear Russia was bearing down on poor, defenseless, Georgia. I blogged a ton about it at the time.  My conclusion seems a bit optimistic.
Laurent Nkunda

     Do I like this guy? I like his style...
Laurent Nkunda, from DW-World Laurent Nkunda, leader of the rebels inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo, allied with the Tutsis in Rwanda (Rwanda, BRAVE ALLY IN THE COALITION OF THE WILLING!) and seen here wearing what appear to be U.S. military camouflage.

     In case you don't recall. The first Congo war put Laurent Kabila in power, and he was sponsored by, among others, the Tutsi government of Rwanda which was mad at Mobutu because he led Hutu rebels operate from eastern Congo (the Kivu region). When Kabila got in power, however, he didn't put a stop to it, either, so the Rwandans, among others, started the Second Congo War. Kabila died, his son was put in the Presidency, but that didn't change anything. That war only officially ended in 2003, but the fighting continues, and has been the most deadly war since WWII.

     The American international war reporters have shown virtually no interest in it. Few christians or arabs or muslims are involved, plus, the main mineral there is in your cellphone. It does American reporters no good to tell you the truth. There is no money in it. Does anyone want to let me run a newspaper's international reporting?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Juan Williams: None Dare Call Him Republican Stooge

     Today he was on the O'Really? show saying John McCain III should have been running ads about Reverend Wright for months.  My opinion on this matter is recorded.  I think most public officials visit the Church of the Invisible Sky Fairy in order to fit in, not because they believe all that jazz.  I know they don't believe all that jazz.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


     I made this map of the 2004 New Hampshire.  You won't see a better political map of New Hampshire.  Note how you can read all the town names.  Note the subtle use of the entire color gradient.
NH House 2004
Game "Theory" and Development Aid

     Our policy maybe should _not_ be to help where things are worst.  This gives a certain incentive to just throw up your hands and wait for the cavalry. 

     Now, I just said may main metric was "body count." so I'd be a hypocrite, and certainly mean, to say that "oh, you folks are hopeless and dying, no help for you!"  But certainly we give aid to countries without bodies piling up.

     Oh, for development aid, I might never forget Beatrice Lorge Rogers' Intra-Household Resource Allocation.  It's a very other-centric way to look at why sometimes development aid is a massive fail.

     And, for some other reason, I can't forget a story I read in the London Economist a decade ago about Mozambique.  Mozambique had made some major progress.  They were building infrastructure.  They weren't, to the best of my knowledge, doing it with forced peasant labor.  Then disaster struck.  The weather.  Major storms.  Washed away some roads.  They effectively slipped back to where they were before their efforts.

     So, where should development aid go?  I say it should go to countries which are making the right effort and either having some success, or failing only because of forces beyond their control.  It's more like helping someone trying to get over a wall than anything.  In these cases, recall, there are some people already in the industry or sector we are trying to support, people who have achieved some sort of success.  If the people aren't prepared for the development aid, the effort is much more likely to fail.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Snorting Coke Off A Hooker's Tit at the Cockfight

     Libertarians want all the "victimless" crimes to be legal.  The London Economist (boo! the war in Iraq! boo London Economist) has an official policy of LED, Legalization, Education, Discouragement, and they run favorable stories about how Amsterdam deals with the issue.

     I think that drugs that kill brain cells in order to work (e.g. Cocaine, Inhalants) aren't the same as other types of drugs.

     Regardless, there are some massive, decades-long conflicts funded by drugs in the Andes and Hindu Kush.  Having the U.S. enforce its morality abroad kills foreigners dead.  So, I am quite pleased to read that Evo Morales of Bolivia is booting the DEA.  In a different version of the story, it is noted that "The DEA has not been officially notified of any suspension or expulsion, spokesman Garrison Courtney said Saturday."  What's he waiting for, a boot-print in his derriere?
The Timeless Wisdom of F. M. Cornford

     We aren't electing Barack Obama because he has any special insight into the mix of Islam, Oil-ogarchy and terrorism.  We aren't electing Barack Obama because he's just the kind of Keynesian the current insanity merits.

     In 1908 F. M. Cornford wrote Microcosmographia Academica: Being A Guide for the Young Academic Politician. By "Academic" he is, in fact, referring to the politics of Oxford University.  That is of no moment.  His truths are timeless, as is in evidence when he describes two of the five Parties.
A Conservative Liberal is a broad-minded man, who thinks that something ought to be done, only not anything that anyone now desires, but something which was not done in 1881-82.

A Liberal Conservative is a broad-minded man, who thinks that something ought to be done, only not anything that anyone now desires; and that most things which were done in 1881-82 ought to be undone.
We should have gotten over this racism thing decades ago.
Iraq Update

     U.S. Troop deaths tied with lowest, July 2003.  The lies thrown out by Bush and McCain concerning Iraq were so numerous, I can only bring up a few now. One huge campaign lie told by the Bush administration (back in 2004) was "that as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down."  Since Bush was sworn in again in January, 2005, the total number of Iraqis "standing up" has increased over 418,000 (125K to 542K).  At least 50,000 of these are now at Operational Readiness Assessment 1.  In January 2005 there were 150,000 U.S. Troops in Iraq, now there are 146,000. 

     The article also says that without an agreement BY DECEMBER, the U.S. has no legal role in Iraq.  If anyone knows what I can do to prevent an agreement from passing, please let me know.  The way out of Iraq has always been them asking us.

     Reagan, on 12/4/1992 said one report said there 160 border disputes in post-Soviet Russia. I should review them all.
Sarah Palin Cost McCain the Election (UPDATE1)

UPDATE 1: Added paragraph about McCain's motivations

     Not because she is retarded.  Not because she has the policy acumen of your average hockey mom, but because she has no experience.  The morning she was selected I knew it was all over for John Sidney McCain III.

     See, you can argue that the Biden selection was a semi-cynical ploy to beef up the Obama ticket's foreign policy credentials, but I don't see how it helps with the current economic situation.

     No, the Palin selection undermined the most effective argument the McCain campaign had.  This argument had been used by all the major McCain supporters.  Before that it had been used extensively by the campaign of Hilary Clinton.  It was an argument that made me worry.  It was an argument which I know was influencing some people who might not have wanted to vote for Obama for other reasons (racism, Hillary supporters).

     The Palin selection undermined the experience argument completely.

     So, we have three choices.  We can believe that McCain had no idea about what every Republican in America was saying about Obama and experience.  We can believe that this choice was forced on him by Ralph Reed, or the likes of him.  Or we can believe that John Sidney McCain the Third wanted the Democrats to win.  The most generous answer, of course, is the last.  And if it is true, we should thank John McCain. : And even if it isn't, we should thank him for a mostly decent fight.