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  • Archive for June, 2008

    The Kinks: Waterloo Sunset and Village Green Preservation Society (1972)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th June 2008 (All posts by )

    An amazing live performance of two brilliant, wistful songs. Ray Davies has the greatest romantic heart in the history of rock music. The horns on Village Green Preservation Society are a nice touch.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Music | Comments Off

    Rape is Rape, But Some People Have a Problem With The Concept

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 30th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Long time readers know that I run a charity self defense course for violent crime survivors. I’ve been doing it for so long that word of mouth brings me more work than I can handle.

    But it wasn’t always like that. When I was just starting out, decades ago, I would visit encounter groups and seminars to pass out some business cards and let people look me over so they wouldn’t be so self conscious if they dialed my number. Some of these seminars were more crowded than others.

    The first seminar I ever attended for male rape victims was at one of the local hotels here in Columbus, Ohio. I was shocked to see how many people were there! It was standing room only, with men leaning against the walls and sitting in the aisles between rows of folding chairs.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement | 26 Comments »

    The MSM Misses the Bout: Part I

    Posted by John Jay on 28th June 2008 (All posts by )

    As an amateur historian, I am given to musing about the flow and processing of information. People make mental models of the past, but those models are usually highly skewed. As both Napoleon and George Orwell are alleged to have observed, it is the winners who write history. Beyond that, most historians rely primarily on written sources, which further skews our perspective to the prejudices of a given time’s literati, as well as limiting our perspective by that self-same “intelligentsia’s” intellectual shortcomings. The uptake curve of any new trend is difficult to perceive at its inception. Important events often show up as important only well after the fact. Of all the news stories of today, how many human beings can predict what story will actually shape the world of 50 years from now? Even experts fail at this. And often, the true import of events is obscured until the generation who experienced those events has passed away, along with their distorted perceptions.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Crime and Punishment, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Russia, Terrorism, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    The MSM Misses the Bout: Part II

    Posted by John Jay on 28th June 2008 (All posts by )

    If “fourth generation warfare” is, as I suspect it is, the leading edge of one of the greatest historical trends of our generation, then the mechanisms of that trend should be the subject of serious academic and journalistic study. The trend may be part of a larger trend that encompasses the gradual weakening of the modern state’s attempt to monopolize violence that was heralded by the Treaty of Westphalia and celebrated by Max Weber.

    As I mentioned in Part I, small scale conflict is largely a police action if one or both combatants are restricted to small arms. Sophisticated weapons, especially anti-aircraft systems, are crucial for fourth generation actors to rise beyond the street gang level when operating against states that have not yet collapsed internally. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Crime and Punishment, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Russia, Terrorism, War and Peace | Comments Off

    The MSM Misses the Bout: Part III

    Posted by John Jay on 28th June 2008 (All posts by )

    The press coverage on the arrest of Viktor Bout has been sporadic. It is a sad commentary on the MSM that one of the best reports I’ve been able to find is from Mother Jones. Given Bout’s importance, a fourth estate that is actually fulfilling its part of the social contract should be blasting the story of Bout’s arrest from every headline.

    Reading through this mound of background material for these posts, I still have some very nagging questions that cry out for some decent investigative reporting, the most prominent of which are:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Crime and Punishment, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Russia, Terrorism, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    The Age of Unreliability – And the Alternatives of the Elite

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 28th June 2008 (All posts by )

    CAPACITY AND RELIABILITY – THE AIRLINES

    One of the oldest lines goes something like “predictions are often wrong, especially if they are about the future”. I thought about this line recently when I had an American Airlines flight from Washington DC to Chicago on a Sunday afternoon. We had just arrived at the airport when the gate agent just said that there was bad weather at O’Hare and they canceled all flights into Chicago.

    In a past life as a consultant I flew literally hundreds of times and I know a bit about airports and airlines. In past eras, the airline would have continually postponed the flight, helped you with alternatives, and bravely kept chugging along, trying to get you to your destination. Nowadays, with current fuel prices and most airlines on the brink of bankruptcy, the equation has changed; the airline that you select is basically on price or your Frequent Flyer mile affiliation, and the airlines are returning the favor – they are cutting flights, packing flights full to the brim, and basically stripping all the excess capacity out of the system.

    The more subtle outcome of this is that airlines have become a significantly less reliable way of getting you from place A to place B. Cruises are now telling passengers that they ought to arrive the day before the cruise; it is too risky to fly out the morning of your cruise because so many flights are delayed that you might miss your departure. When I go on vacations, I often leave a day in front and a day in back just for these sorts of situations; a significant percentage of my recent trips were like the one to Washington DC when an extra day (or 8+ hours late at arrival) was inadvertently tacked on to my return.

    The airline is basically substituting my personal time (which has a cost, especially if it is a day of work lost or vacation day) and my stress level (it is stressful not knowing whether you are going to get home that day to meet commitments or arrive at the start of your trip) for their financial survival. Flying on a plane nowadays is significantly more of a crap-shoot in terms of reliability and cancellation than it was in the past, and just try to fly stand-by if your flight is canceled when all of the subsequent fights are packed to the gills – that is even more stressful.

    The parallels between airlines and electric power are actually very great, although this seems odd at first. For many years the airlines were focused on reliability and services beyond just the lowest price; they didn’t fill every flight to the absolute brim and they had spare planes available in case of weather emergencies or mechanical issues. This extra level of investment helped service in many subtle ways, but cost money – money tied up in airplanes that weren’t flying, ground crew to help with your experience, and in space in their schedule to re-jigger flights if needed.

    Airlines and power have another subtle similarity – they are both services dependent upon time. The price of power famously varies depending on the time of day and weather conditions; this is due to the fact that you don’t want power “as a service” when it is best for the power company, you want it when it is best for YOU. If it is a hot day, you want air conditioning at noon. If you are running a company, you want power while the machines are running. The airlines aren’t just offering to fly me from A to B at a price; they are also balancing my time into the equation. If I have a funeral to attend, I want reliability, not price. If I have to make a critical overseas connection, I need to be in the right airport at the right time. While the airlines are competing on price, they are dropping so much capacity from the system (spare machines, spare people, room in schedule) that they are trading off between the two in a way that is significant and growing.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, International Affairs | 18 Comments »

    DPRK Online

    Posted by Smitten Eagle on 28th June 2008 (All posts by )

    You saw it first here. The Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, the Stalinist and terrorist government which controls the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, is online. There are other web sites maintained by the DPRK here and here. (Note: I have checked the sites for viruses. The sites appear to be clean.)

    As can be expected, the web sites are as cryptic as the North Korean government itself. They are half propaganda, denouncing the “imperialist Yankees,” and half groveling attempts at separating businessmen from their capital.

    There are photo galleries of the various business and tourist trips sponsored by the Korean Friendship Association, the organization that has cognizance of the website.

    There is a tourism section on the website too. The tourist trips to North Korea, “have become popular amongst our KFA members as well as other people, who are welcome to join, to experience North Korea outside the tourist trail and have interaction with North Korean citizens first hand.”

    (I didn’t know there was a tourist trail north of the DMZ. Will wonders never cease?!)

    Crossposted at Smitten Eagle.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, International Affairs, Korea, Politics | 2 Comments »

    NFL Economic Bizarro World

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Carl and I have pounded practically everyone we know with the total economic sense shown by Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland Athletics mapped out in the outstanding book Moneyball. If you haven’t read it, you should. The book is a very easy read and quite entertaining even if you are not into baseball. Perfect summer reading.

    I don’t want to ruin any of the book for those planning on reading it, but past this point will reveal a few spoilers to help me make a larger point.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Economics & Finance, Sports | 3 Comments »

    FEAR NO CRAB

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th June 2008 (All posts by )

    land crab

    Join Chicagoboyz in pursuit of dangerous game (intellectual and otherwise).

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 5 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th June 2008 (All posts by )

    [T]he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

    Justice Scalia, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL. v. HELLER

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Liberties, Law, RKBA, USA | 24 Comments »

    America’s Alliance with Taiwan

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th June 2008 (All posts by )

    In the recent article of “Strategy and Tactics”, an excellent magazine that I highly recommend, they discussed the threat from China with a sobering assessment of the potential outcome of a war between the USA and China over Taiwan. China’s military is becoming more and more effective each year as the country gets richer, and China’s technical capabilities are increasing by the day (think of how much of your electronics are “Made in China”). As I read through the article I thought of all the casualties our carrier and air forces would suffer while repelling a Chinese attack across the Straits of Formosa, the open ocean separating Taiwan from the mainland, even in the “best case” scenario.

    At the end of the article I had what was, for me, kind of a heretical thought:

    “Why are we even in this alliance with Taiwan, anyways, and is it worth a war against China?”

    In the past Taiwan has been seen, rightly so, as a bulwark against Communist expansion. In the years following WW2, when the Communists took power in China (in the late 1940’s), the USA was looking for dedicated friends in the region, not only for Allied troops but for bases that could be used to counter the Communist threat (both Russia and China).

    Over the years, however, the situation has changed. China has gone from being a nearly-insane, Mao led “cultural revolution” type of society to one that is fiercely free-market based and where most forms of expression, with the exception of political discourse, is not too severely repressed.

    Hong Kong was integrated into the fold, and while human rights haven’t increased in that country, they haven’t noticeably decreased, either. Certainly the hand off went pretty smoothly, much better than the doomsayers (such as myself) would have predicted.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, International Affairs, Military Affairs | 39 Comments »

    Quotes of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 25th June 2008 (All posts by )

    America must get to work producing more energy. The Republican program for solving economic problems is based on growth and productivity.
     
    Large amounts of oil and natural gas lay beneath our land and off our shores, untouched, because the present administration seems to believe the American people would rather see more regulation, more taxes and more controls than more energy.
     
    Coal offers great potential. So does nuclear energy produced under rigorous safety standards. It could supply electricity for thousands of industries and millions of jobs and homes. It must not be thwarted by a tiny minority opposed to economic growth which often finds friendly ears in regulatory agencies for its obstructionist campaigns.
     
    Make no mistake. We will not permit the safety of our people or our environment heritage to be jeopardized, but we are going to reaffirm that the economic prosperity of our people is a fundamental part of our environment.

    Ronald Reagan, via Larry Kudlow. I miss Reagan. How come no one talks like this? How the Hell hard is it?

    And I have to ask lawmakers in Washington, DC, who have prohibited this drilling in ANWR if they’re doing all they can to secure the United States. When you consider, too, the geology that we’re talking about here, and the physical space that’s even needed to drill now, about a 2,000 acre plot, because of directional drilling and new technology, allowing such a small footprint to even be placed upon the tundra up north, it’s about 2,000 acres, which is smaller than the size of LAX and other big-city airports, that we would need to drill, and allow these resources to finally be tapped and to flow into hungry markets, and make us more secure. I think it’s so short-sighted.

    Sarah Palin, quoted here.

    I like Palin. I hope we see her as McCain’s VP. We need something to arrest the downward trend, though I really see no way McCain can win. But Palin for VP would help, and would position the GOP to have a conservative woman run in 2112. That might be enough to drive BHO out after one term.

    UPDATE: Instapundit links to a Gallup poll supposedly showing McCain and Obama tied at 45%. But Intrade shows them 31 points apart. Hmmm, indeed. Which is more reliable, a crowd of people with money on the table, or a bunch of people answering a pollster’s questions?

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Politics, Quotations, USA | 8 Comments »

    Engineers and Military Programs – Second Update

    Posted by David Foster on 25th June 2008 (All posts by )

    NYT reports that many recently-graduated engineers (also programmers and mathematicians) are choosing to work for strictly-commercial firms rather than in the defense sector. Reasons given include:

    1)Better pay in the commercial sector

    2)A feeling that military projects take so long that anyone working on them is unlikely to keep up with current technology

    3)A related perception that military projects are more bureaucratic than strictly-commercial work

    4)Many more job options available for engineers than there were 10 or 20 years ago, including consulting and finance

    5)Over half the engineering doctoral candidates at American universities are from abroad and hence ineligible for top security clearances

    6)Trendiness…employers like Google have more cachet than those like Northrop Grumman

    The article cites several big military programs that have had serious problems, attributable at least in part to poor engineering management. On the other hand, management problems in large government military and civilian programs are not new, and there are plenty of horror stories in the strictly-commercial world, too.

    But if talented engineers are indeed avoiding defense work, it could lead to some serious problems down the road. I’d love to hear some discussion on this, particularly from those who work or have worked on defense projects, whether on the government side or the industry side.

    UPDATE: There’s also a post on this at Neptunus Lex…promises to be an interesting discussion since it’s a blog frequented by many military and aviation people.

    UPDATE 2: Thanks for all the comments so far. A couple more points I’d like to add:

    1)Choosing careers & employers based on current trendiness is not always a smart strategy. In 1999, chemical & petroleum engineering weren’t at all trendy; the only forms of technology getting any media play were those which were directly computer-related. But now, chemical & petroleum talent is in short supply, with salaries to match.

    In his book on the development of the 747, Joe Sutter remarks that, in his early days at Boeing (late 1940s) everyone wanted to work on jets. He was assigned to a prop-airliner development team (the Stratocruiser) and got a lot more early responsibility than he likely would have on one of the sexier projects. Similarly, when the development of the 747 was first mooted, the trendy thing was the supersonic transport. Had Sutter insisted on working in trendy areas, and been able to dragoon his management into going along with him, he would likely have never become the engineering manager for a large and successful airliner project.

    2)Bill Swanson, CEO of Raytheon, tells the following story from a time he visited Nellis Air Force Base:

    “I introduced myself to a pilot, and he looked me in the eye and said, “If it wasn’t for what you all do, I wouldn’t be here today.” A missile had been launched at his F-15, but we make a decoy, which he deployed. The decoy didn’t come home — but he did, to his family. I use that feeling to remind everyone that people’s lives depend on the reliability of our products.”

    There are at least some people who get more satisfaction out of the kind of thing than out of helping to create a recognizable consumer product such as the iPod.

    Also, for an interesting example of a failed software project, see my post on the FAA’s Advanced Automation System. This effort has been called, surely with some hyperbole, “the greatest debacle in the history of organized work.”

    Posted in Military Affairs, Tech | 44 Comments »

    Not Getting It… On Expropriation

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd June 2008 (All posts by )

    In my life one lesson I learned is that there are three kinds of people:

    1) those you trust

    2) those you don’t trust

    3) and those you can trust to f*ck you over

    The WSJ, which is generally a fine publication, often is tripped up by the fact that their journalists are often myopic and even when they get the story right, they often miss the overall context. From the June 6 issue, here are two articles back to back, both good articles, but quite ironically placed.

    The lower article is titled “Kremlin Seeks TNK-BP Detente”. British Petroleum (BP) is part of “a 50-50 venture with a group of Russian billionaires that is Russia’s No. 3 oil producer.” Per the article:

    “People close to BP charge the Russians with trying to take effective control over the venture through pressure tactics, possibly ahead of a sale to a state-controlled company such as OAO Gazprom.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Media, Russia | 11 Comments »

    Obama Seal 2.0

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 23rd June 2008 (All posts by )

    And I'm against it

    Posted in Humor, Politics | 3 Comments »

    Mushroom of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd June 2008 (All posts by )

    mushroom

    (Click the image to display a larger version in a new window.)

    Posted in Photos | 9 Comments »

    Quote of the Day, a/k/a Interesting Times

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd June 2008 (All posts by )

    Muslim leaders are well-advised to remain on good terms with Benedict XVI. Worse things await them. There are 100 million new Chinese Christians, and some of them speak of marching to Jerusalem – from the East. A website entitled Back to Jerusalem proclaims, “From the Great Wall of China through Central Asia along the silk roads, the Chinese house churches are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all the way back to Jerusalem.”

    Spengler, The Pope, the President and Politics of Faith. As always with Spengler: RTWT.

    Interesting if true. Spengler’s link to “Back to Jerusalem” does not work. Does anyone know about it?

    UPDATE: Thanks to Eric Anondson for the correct link to the Back to Jerusalem site.

    Posted in China, Quotations | 10 Comments »

    Protesting Solar – UPDATED

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd June 2008 (All posts by )

    …also wind and geothermal energy.

    Well, to be precise, it’s not so much the generation of these energy types that is being protested…just the construction of the transmission lines required to get the electricity to the point where it is needed.

    Southwestern desert areas are a logical place to put solar power plants, and large-scale solar developments–as well as wind and geothermal–are planned for an area about 150 miles from San Diego. The local utility, San Diego Gas & Electric, wants to build a transmission line (the “Sunrise Powerlink”) to connect these power sources with the city. The project is encountering fierce opposition, because the lines would go through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, known for wildflowers, cacti, and spectacular mountain views.

    I haven’t been to this state park, and it may well be an area of unique and surpassing beauty. Maybe there is a better approach to satisfying San Diego’s energy needs.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Politics, Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

    LTC Nagl on War in the 21st Century

    Posted by Zenpundit on 21st June 2008 (All posts by )

    LTC. John Nagl had an article, not yet available online, in the prestigious RUSI journal where he used his review of The Echo of Battle: The Army’s Way of War by Brian McAllister Linn to drive home a geopolitical and grand strategic reality that I offer here with my subsequent comments( major hat tip to Lexington Green for the PDF):

    In the twenty-first century, wars are not won when the enemy army is defeated on the battlefield; in fact, there may not be a uniformed enemy to fight at all. Instead, a war is only won when the conditions that spawned armed conflict have been changed.

    Fielding first rate conventional militaries of local or regional “reach” are inordinately expensive propositions and only the United States maintains one with global power projection capabilities and a logistical tail that can fight wars that are both far away and of long duration. Economics, nuclear weapons, asymmetrical disparities in conventional firepower, globalization and the revolution in information technology that permits open-source warfare have incentivized warfare on the cheap and stealthy at the expense of classic state on state warfare. The predictions of Martin van Creveld in The Transformation of War are coming to pass – war has ratcheted downward from armies to networks and blurs into crime and tribalism. In this scenario, kinetics can no longer be neatly divorced from politics – or economics, sociology, history and culture. “Legitimacy”, stemming from getting actions on the mental and moral levels of war right, matter tremendously.

    ‘Decisive results’ in the twenty-first century will come not when we wipe a piece of land clean of enemy forces, but when we protect its people and allow them to control their territory in a manner consistent with the norms of the civilised world.

    This is “Shrinking the Gap” to use Thomas P.M. Barnett’s phrase. The remediation of failing and failed states not to “utopia” but basic functionality that permits a responsible exercise of sovereignty and positive connectivity with the rest of the world.

    Thus victory in Iraq and Afghanistan will come when those nations enjoy governments that meet the basic needs and garner the support of all of their peoples.

    Taken literally, Nagl errs here with two polyglot regions, especially Afghanistan where the popular expectation of a “good” central government is one that eschews excessive meddling while providing – or rather presiding over – social stability and peace. Taken more broadly to mean a gruff acceptance by the people of the legitimacy of their state so they do not take up arms ( or put them down), then nagl is on target. Realism about our own interests vs. global needs and our own finite resources requires a ” good enough” standard be in place.

    Winning the Global War on Terror is an even more challenging task; victory in the Long War requires the strengthening of literally dozens of governments afflicted by insurgents who are radicalised by hatred and inspired by fear.

    We might want to consider prophylactic efforts to strengthen weak states prior to a major crisis arising – more bang for our buck – and this should be a major task of AFRICOM. Strengthen the Botswanas, Malis and Zambias before wading hip-deep into the Congo.

    The soldiers who will win these wars require an ability not just to dominate land operations, but to change entire societies – and not all of those soldiers will wear uniforms, or work for the Department of Army. The most important warriors of the current century may fight for the US Information Agency rather than the Department of Defense

    Nagl has internalized an important point. The “jointness” forced upon the U.S. military by the Goldwater-Nichols Act in the late 1980’s and 1990’s needs to be broadened, first into true “interagency operational jointness” of American assets then into a full-fledged “System Administration” umbrella that can integrate IGO’s, NGO’s, and the private sector along with military-governmental entities to maximize impact.

    Like SecDef Robert Gates, LTC. Nagl “gets it” and we can hope now that he has joined the ranks of policy wonks that an administration job is in his future.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    Baby C’mon

    Posted by Lexington Green on 20th June 2008 (All posts by )

    As long-time readers know, I live for girl-rock. My greatest rave has been Lisa Marr, who has been far too quiet lately, with The Muffs, featuring the glorious Kim Shattuck, a close second. And we must not forget Angela from the unjustly obscure Cutters (check out “Postcards”). Nor can we overlook Kitty from the Kowalskis (check “Kiss me One More Time”).

    I recently gave a listen to Visqueen. I suppose I ignored them because when they opened for The Muffs in Chicago, a show I missed because of work, grrrr, my wife didn’t like them. She was standing there with our friend, a living encyclopedia and oracle of Rock, who said to her, disdainfully, “you don’t get it do you? They’re channeling Heart”. Good insight, but a Heart in a world where punk rock already happened. Go to the Visqueen MySpace page, and listen to “Ward”, which is a great song.

    Rachel, the singer, has a key strength for any girl singer. She knows how to sing the word “baby”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Music | 2 Comments »

    Booze and Chickens

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Many people call my town of Madison, Wisconsin “67 square miles surrounded by reality”.  Honestly, if you can handle certain things it is a nice place to live.  One of the things you will need to be able to handle is the super liberal culture that you will be immersed in once here.  I have a lot of fun with it.  I moved here from Rockford, Illinois 15 years ago and to this day am amazed at what goes on.  The two cities are separated by only 70 miles, but are worlds apart.

    The Madison City Council is famous for wasting time on declarations that have no effect other than making a statement.  They have had votes on impeaching presidents, taking stands on foreign conflicts, and many other things that will drive most normal people insane.  All of the hand wringing and time wasting costs MONEY – and, in the end, it is my tax money that they are wasting.  It is enough to drive one crazy unless you get used to it.  Remember, the city council is made up of mostly Democrats and “Progressives”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 11 Comments »

    Thomas PM Barnett, Rule-Sets, and Democratic Sovereignty

    Posted by Smitten Eagle on 19th June 2008 (All posts by )

    In a recent post on the Thomas PM Barnett Weblog, Tom laments the Irish people voting against the Lisbon Treaty:

    It is weird how the EU can let one country decide to run a plebiscite and then kill a treaty.  Better is majority like we did with the Constitution.

    (I might add that the Constitution wasn’t adopted by the United States by way of a majority; it required consensus of all thirteen states under the Articles of Confederation.  Tom is correct, however, in that Treaty ratification today requires the consent of the Senate, which is not unanimity.  But I digress…)

    Tom’s view seems to fall in line with his views on forms of governance around the world:  In the first of his books he discusses the concept of the Rule Set:

    A collection of rules (both formal and informal) that delineates how some activity normally unfolds.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Europe, Politics | 12 Comments »

    The Networked Jihad: Parasitic on Developed World Technology, Information, Ideas

    Posted by Lexington Green on 18th June 2008 (All posts by )

    I recently posted about Jihadi theorist and practitioner Abu Musab al-Suri, in response to a recent review essay about a biography of al-Suri.

    Zenpundit opined that al-Suri appears to be the Islamic terrorist movement’s “John Arquilla, William Lind and Louis Beam rolled into one”, and that “he probably would have made a fine blogger had he not also been – well – a sociopathic nihilist.” Agreed, though I would expressly add “homicidal, sociopathic nihilist”.

    Several facts stood out about as-Suri. One was that his politico-military thought is not so much Islamic, and certainly not traditionalist, as a mélange of Islamic themes mixed with other revolutionary and radical thinking originating in the West. Also, he encouraged a massively decentralized Jihad, cell-based, self-starting, networked but not hierarchical, with al Qaeda as a source of inspiration and doctrine but not command and control. Only such a hyper-dispersed effort could wage a bottom-up struggle against the USA and its allies, which enjoy so many advantages in terms of surveillance and destructive power.

    With this on the mind, I was therefore struck by the following passage from a review-essay which discusses Olivier Roy’s Globalized Islam: The Search for the New Ummah (which I have not read):

    Islamic militancy has become infused with Third World theories, Marxism, fascism, and nationalism. It cannot escape the whirlwind of ideas that has drifted over the decades into the Middle East. All militant websites seemed to urge for a peripheral jihad in the frontiers (Chechnya, the Philippines island of Mindanao, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kashmir) and for an imaginary ummah (Islamic society) in which they hold dominion under the guise of piety. He points out that many of these websites originate not from the periphery but from Europe, Malaysia and even North America areas in which there is access to technology. This is a key observation: for the Islamic militants, a cell requires access to free societies and western technologies to propagate and acquire tools for their rejectionist movements.

    The Jihad cannot be based in the lands of the existing Ummah. If it is limited to the technical means, and even the intellectual means, available there, it is doomed. First, it would be trapped in a backwater, waging a struggle against the ruthless police states of the “Near Enemy”, where it has already repeatedly suffered defeat. Second, without the network-enabling technology which is densely available in the developed world, as well as useful non-Islamic-derived ideas, an effective strategy such as the one al-Suri was seeking cannot be developed and executed.

    The developed countries can only be effectively attacked to the extent their enemies are permitted a lodgment within their own borders.

    Sending Western troops to fight Jihadis in Waziristan may or may not make the USA and its Allies more secure. But rooting out the Jihadis in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Munich is essential.

    UPDATE: My copy of Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri just arrived. Flipping through it, I must say it looks very good. Perhaps, once I’m done with it, yet a third post will be in order.

    Posted in Book Notes, International Affairs, Islam, Law Enforcement, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism | 7 Comments »

    Why do They All Hope He is Lying?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 18th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Zenpundit has discussed the boring and mainstream makeup of Obama’s newly announced National Security Working Group. Zen links to Matthew Yglesias, whose commenters are not entirely happy with the low quotient of “change” this group represents. But they hope he is just pointing to these people to get elected, and then the real Barack the “change guy” will come to the fore.

    It is weird how so many who claim to like Obama hope he is lying. Three examples come to mind immediately:

    1. People who like free trade hope he was lying to the voters of Ohio about tearing up NAFTA. He can’t really have meant that.

    2. People who like the idea of bipartisanship ignore the fact that he is the most partisan Senator in the whole chamber.

    3. People who want to believe he will be an incarnation of Leftist hopes and dreams will try to believe that this list of stodgy foreign policy advisers is a subterfuge.

    Usually you hope someone you want to vote for is telling the truth. You hope that he will carry through consistently with his track record, and that he will do what he says he will do.

    Why is Obama different?

    My speculation: Because Obama’s vacuous campaign of “change” is meant to create a blank whiteboard that everyone can project their fantasy scenarios onto. It is a brilliant marketing gimmick. Every time that Obama seems to suggest an actual direction, it jars with the fantasy, and causes cognitive dissonance and irritation, and a pronouncement that the REAL Obama is the one in my head, not the one who intermittently articulates the ghostly outline of a coherent policy position.

    Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 42 Comments »

    Water Today, Electricity Tomorrow

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 18th June 2008 (All posts by )

    WATER DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES

    A recent Wall Street Journal article was titled “Calls Rise for Public Control of Water Supply”. This article described how the small town of Felton, CA cheered as their local water district (a municipal utility)

    “Officially wrested control of the town’s water from a unit of American Water Works Co. Residents of Felton… had been unhappy ever since the company bought their water system from another corporation in 2002 and proposed a 74% rate increase.

    The city threatened and cajoled American Water Works to sell them the local water utility, as described below:

    “One common tactic that communities are using in this water fight is eminent domain, the power that cities and other local agencies have to seize a corporate water system in the public’s interest. Earlier this year, the cities of Fort Wayne, IN and Cave Creek, AZ condemned all or parts of water systems owned by private companies.”

    WHY WATER COMPANIES ARE VULNERABLE

    Water companies are vulnerable for a number of reasons. First of all, their assets are “in the ground” and plainly available for takeover. Water systems are also relatively simple to run, and the existing work force can just become city or local employees.

    Water systems also require money for expansion and maintenance. The only way in which this money can be raised is through the local community’s water bills, so these costs are passed along right away to the community, and can result in a rapid rise for local citizens.

    Water also appears to be a necessity. Some utilities are viewed as luxury items (i.e. cellular phones, internet service) but everyone “needs” water. This is a simplistic view, of course, because very little water is used for drinking when compared to the water used for washing, flushing toilets, and irrigation. However, there is generally a strong bias against the privatization of water utilities, whether rational or not, and this is supported by the fact that the vast majority of US citizens get their water from a locally owned utility and not a private company.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation | 7 Comments »