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  • Archive for February, 2011

    Wisconsin Assembly “Debate”

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 24th February 2011 (All posts by )

    The Wisconsin Assembly went into session around noon on Tuesday, and has been in “debate” since then on Assembly Bill 11, Governor Walker’s budget repair bill. Through Wiseye I have been listening to the proceedings in my office when I can during the day, and have watched and listened to quite a bit at night. I have learned a lot.

    What we have here is a massive stall tactic by the Assembly Democrats, who are hopelessly outnumbered 58-38. They have proposed well over one hundred amendments to AB11 (thus far), all of which have been tabled (or killed) by the Assembly Republicans. The “debate” over each amendment has been mostly the Democrats making fun of the Republicans, calling them Scott Walker’s errand boys, and the like. We hear many sad stories from constituents of the Democrats districts, and endless droning on each and every amendment. Of course they have picked up the new lefty meme du jour, talking out their ass about things they know nothing about, such as the Koch brothers and selling power plants.

    At the end of the testimony we have a vote on tabling the amendment. Each and every time, it ends up 58-38. 58-38. 58-38. The amendment is tabled. Over and over and over.

    On occasion the Republicans will fire back with a question or two and there is an actual “debate” over a factoid. But in large, the Democrats are just stalling.

    I assume this was the case when the Democrats had the majority, but really don’t know. I highly doubt that those sessions went this long.

    As of this morning there isn’t any news that the Assembly has passed anything and there is no coverage on Wiseye so everyone must have decided to take a nap.

    I think it was Bismarck who said (and I am paraphrasing) that nobody should see how two things are made – war and sausages. I think that legislation should be added to that list.

    UPDATE 6.13am – the Assembly is back in session.

    Posted in Political Philosophy, Politics | 11 Comments »

    Even if Gaddafi Holds On…

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Gaddafi is not going to give up without a fight. He is using African mercenaries and all of the military assets at his disposal (fighter jets, anti-aircraft guns, apparently naval vessels moored off Tripoli) along with his thuggish militias in order to hold on to Tripoli and parts of the West. The East has fallen to anti-Gaddafi protesters and to date he doesn’t seem to have made significant efforts to retake that portion of the country.

    The difficulty for Gaddafi is that even if he is able to hold on to some segment of the country around Tripoli, he is finished economically. Even the most die-hard sanctions buster won’t do business with him now that he has used these types of heavy weapons against unarmed demonstrators. The Western nations won’t help him; paradoxically because he is weak now they will wait out his downfall and do business with his successor (or many successors, if the nation splits up) rather than paying the immense public relations price of working with a dictator with so much blood on his hands.

    It is interesting that people assume that the borders are inviolate. As it has been noted many times the borders of Africa that the colonial nations agreed upon do not necessarily make sense; but for many reasons it hasn’t made sense to attempt to re-map them along different lines. The one recent exception is South Darfur and this could prove contagious.

    It is not out of the realm of possibility that Egypt would attempt to take dominion over the oil rich provinces of the Eastern half of the country. There are many affinities between tribes in adjacent areas along their border. This could be done under the guise of a humanitarian mission if Gaddafi attempts to re-take the East; the Egyptian army could intervene (and would swat away Gaddafi’s militias) and then de-facto control the East under the “boots on the ground” theory. While no one knows for certain it seems that there are > 500,000 Egyptians on the ground in Libya; I don’t know about ANY of these numbers because I have heard that many Africans from neighboring countries are also there but when you add up all of these non Libyan residents it seems like an impossibly large proportion of the population.

    Given that no one expected Libya to fall in the first place and that Libya seems to be a nation with little civil society and cooperation between regions it could just splinters into multiple, smaller states each tethered to their respective oil wealth. Ironically the disappearance of Gaddafi could re-invigorate the oil industry which had been crippled by sanctions until ENI (Italy oil major) came in and basically signed deals with him to bring more capacity on line.

    Posted in Middle East | 5 Comments »

    Assorted Links

    Posted by onparkstreet on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be making a trans-continental trip to India in March to speak at the India Today 2011 conclave in New Delhi, Palin aide Rebecca Mansour tweeted Wednesday.

    The Daily Caller

    I first saw the news of Sarah Palin planning to visit India “tweeted” at an Indian think tank website – the Takshashila Institution.

    AMERICA’S MACROSTRATEGIC environment is chockablock with assets unavailable to any other country. If nothing else, the United States has an often-overlooked and oft-neglected bulwark of allies: the Anglosphere. This is Washington’s inner circle of defense ties, and it finds no equivalent in its competitor nations’ strategic arsenals. The Anglosphere is perennially—and incorrectly—declared dead or in decline by the media and politicians. Nevertheless, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States remain extremely close in their military and intelligence relations and exchange vast volumes of sensitive information daily, as they have for decades. On terrorism, virtually anything and everything is shared. The National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters have been nearly inextricable since World War II. The same is largely true of the CIA and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. The various English-speaking nations, in practical terms, even assign individual parts of the world to each other, and each worries about the others’ security equities.

    Robert D. Kaplan, Stephen S. Kaplan – The National Interest (via CNAS)

    Posted in Anglosphere, India | 4 Comments »

    The GOP is prepping the battlefield badly II.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    It’s Easier to Blame Congress:

    Whereas the 1995 shutdowns involved presidential vetoes, a 2011 version could result from Congressional failure to send the president a continuing resolution in the first place. The blame will thus fall on Capitol Hill instead of the White House. True, Democrats control the Senate and would arguably share responsibility for a deadlock. But as was the case 16 years ago, a gifted communicator sits in the White House and sets the tone for his fellow Democrats. Together, they will point the finger at the G.O.P. If the Republicans are as splintered as they were in 1995, they will again lose the war of perceptions.

    RTWT.

    Part I here.

    Posted in Big Government, Obama, Politics, Taxes, USA | 6 Comments »

    Conflicts of Interest Inside of Government

    Posted by Shannon Love on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    You know, it amazes me that people never see conflicts of interest internal to government itself. The USDA guidelines are a prime example.

    Think about it. The guidelines purport to be an objective assessment of what food we should all buy and consume, but what is the USDA primary mandate? Oh, yeah, to advance the interests of agricultural producers in the US. It’s the Department of Agriculture, not the Department of People Who Eat.

    Like all “regulatory” agencies USDA has long ago succumbed to regulatory capture, and now exists largely as just a means for people who make their livings in agriculture to advance their economic interests using the power of the state. The USDA only has an institutional incentive to advance the welfare of food producers. The USDA has no institutional incentive to look out for the welfare of food consumers.

    By sheer coincidence, the USDA recommendations for the percentage of a particular type of food we should eat always seems to roughly parallel the relative economic size of the agricultural sector that produces that food. I wonder why?

    One of the biggest reforms we could make in government would be to legally separate promotional, regulatory and research powers.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Political Philosophy, Science | 5 Comments »

    A Clitoris-Free Zone

    Posted by Shannon Love on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Every once in a while you hit a phrase that condenses an issue with such precise concision that it sticks in your mind and keeps your attention like a glass shard in your eye.

    Here’s one such phrase.

    While the media are kvelling about “freedom” in Egypt (“protesters” having finally persuaded Mubarak it was high time to am-scray), it behooves us to take a deep breath and consider this: the Egyptians are not like us. The Egyptian concept of “freedom” is an Islamic–not a Western–one. They still hate Jews/Israelis like poison. And you’re talking about a country that is essentially a clitoris-free zone (9 out of 10 women in Egypt being the victims of Female Genital Mutilation).[emp added]

    It’s hard to read “clitoris-free zone” without wincing and you should be wincing when contemplating that particular barbaric practice.

    And he is correct that too many people forget that Egyptians do have a radically different culture and thus radically different political expectations than we do. A democracy they create will not make the same decisions that our democracy makes. For some reason, the people who scream the loudest about the virtues of multiculturalism seem the least able to grasp this idea.

    [hat tip path: Instapundit–>Althouse–>shoutingthomas–>scaramouchee]

    Posted in Advertising, Middle East | Comments Off on A Clitoris-Free Zone

    Top 10 Reasons Someone Votes Democrat

    Posted by Shannon Love on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Rather funny comment from this post:

    top ten reasons YOU voted Democrat
     
    10. I voted Democrat because I believe oil companies’ profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn’t.
    9. I voted Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.
    8. I voted Democrat because Freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.
    7. I voted Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves.
    6. I voted Democrat because I believe that people who can’t tell us if it will rain on Friday can tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don’t start driving a Prius.
    5. I voted Democrat because I’m not concerned about the slaughter of millions of babies through abortion so long as we keep all death row inmates alive.
    4. I voted Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits.
    3. I voted Democrat because I believe that business should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the democrats see fit.
    2. I voted Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.
    1. I voted Democrat because my head is so firmly planted up my a$ that it is unlikely that I’ll ever have another point of view.

    Posted in Humor, Leftism, Politics | 4 Comments »

    The GOP is prepping the battlefield badly.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid has yet to offer a plan and instead almost seems as though he’s hoping for a government shutdown to occur for political gain.

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

    Almost?

    The Obama-Reid game plan is to re-run 1995: shut down the government, blame the Republicans, have the MSM show pictures of weeping old ladies who are not getting their checks. Then undo the results of 2010. Then reelect Obama in 2012. Everything is proceeding according to schedule. Count on it.

    It ain’t no almost.

    Cantor should not be so polite.

    The public is not yet prepared for a government showdown. Most people do not know it is coming. The GOP is not warning the public, getting the word out, and assigning blame early.

    The GOP is prepping the battlefield badly.

    “It’s not 1995 anymore. Things are different now.”

    But are things different enough?

    I don’t like the way this is shaping up.

    Posted in Big Government, Politics, Taxes, USA | 12 Comments »

    World’s First 3-D Computer Animation

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Robert Ingebretson, a friend of mine from high school, posted this video of the world’s first 3-D computer animation.

    His father, the elder Robert Ingebretsen, was an important pioneer in the development of digital audio. Earlier he’d been a classmate of Pixar cofounder Ed Catmull at the University of Utah in the early 1970s. During that era, the U. was a hotbed of computer and digital graphic, audio, and video innovation. Its computer science department produced important pioneers in the field like Ingebretsen, Catmull, and Adobe founder John Warnock.

    Ingebretsen helped Catmull make this 3-D computer animation in 1972:

    The film fell into my hands because Ed and my dad were good friends and office mates at the University of Utah in the 1970s where they were both pursuing upper graduate degrees in computer science. My dad was focused on digital audio and Ed (of course) on computer graphics. Either because of their friendship or possibly because they were renting time on the same computer, my dad ended up being responsible for the 3D morphing titles at the beginning and end of the film (his credit is at 6:15). I guess that entitled him to a copy of the 8mm reel (it was rendered to actual film; this, of course, predated any kind of real time digital playback by many years).
     
    A couple of years ago, Ed was speaking at the University of Utah (giving, I believe, some version of this talk) and ran into my uncle. They talked about my dad and that resulted in Ed inviting a handful of us to take a tour of Pixar.
     
    A few months later we took a plane to SFO for the tour. I sort of expected to shake Ed’s hand and then take a tour with an intern. It wasn’t like that at all. Ed spent an hour with us. It was amazing and incredibly personal. He shared stories about the early days, gave advice about managing creativity, told stories about Steve Jobs, shared thoughts about the transition to Disney and even told stories about my dad.

    Catmull later worked for Star Wars director George Lucas’ special effects shop Industrial Light and Magic. While there Catmull was instrumental in making the first computer generated animation used in a motion picture. A few years later ILM’s computer graphics division, along with Catmull, was purchased by a washed up former Silicon Valley executive turned cult leader noted for his obsessive concern for typography.

    Posted in Film, Tech | 4 Comments »

    Michael Barone weighs on the Wisconsin showdown.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Follow the money, Washington reporters like to say. The money in this case comes from taxpayers, present and future, who are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.

    RTWT

    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Obama, Politics, Polls, USA | 2 Comments »

    Your Helpful Tip of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Never go to Costco hungry. But if you do, a Leatherman tool works really well for cutting up the roast chicken you start eating in the parking lot. And you will be extremely grateful for that roll of paper towels you find in the trunk of your car, trust me on this.

    BTW, this is why you always want to buy two chickens, to insure that at least one of them makes it home intact.

    Posted in Humor, Personal Narrative | 15 Comments »

    Goon Squad

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd February 2011 (All posts by )

    There have been numerous reports of thuggish behavior by teachers’ union supporters in Wisconsin and elsewhere. For example, here’s a Daily Caller story about a man–apparently a union operative or supporter–who attempted to disconnect the speaker system being used by the Tea Party group, and then shoved an individual who attempted to reconnect it. See also our political process has been stopped by a mob:

    On Thursday, legislators were advised to return to their offices and lock their doors. Mobs roamed the halls, banging on the glass of the doors, pounding on the walls. No one could move in the halls or enter or leave the building. The glass of the Supreme Court’s entrance was broken. Legislators were genuinely afraid. Our elected representatives were afraid. In our Capitol.

    A young female reporter trying to get into the Senate chamber struggled to get through the crowd. She arrived disheveled and upset because she had been roughed up as she tried to get through “Bitch-slapped” the mob told her. A senior senator was spat on. A senator and his female staffer struggled to get into the capitol. He was worried about his staffer because the crowd was grabbing at her and pushing her. University Police were two arms lengths away and did nothing. They, of course, are union.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Education, USA | 17 Comments »

    Saturday Night at the Protest, Part Two

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Here is my final installment of my Saturday Night at the Protest. Photos and video below if you are interested.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Photos, Political Philosophy, Politics, Video | 1 Comment »

    This is (apparently, so far) shaping up to be a political defeat for the unions, the Democrats, and Obama.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st February 2011 (All posts by )

    48% Back GOP Governor in Wisconsin Spat, 38% Side With Unions.

    So far, it looks that way.

    If these sorts of numbers hold up, the unions, the Democrats, and Mr. Obama will have managed to turn a local setback into a major defeat by accepting battle on a ground not of their own choosing.

    (I wanted poll numbers, and I went to Patrick Ruffini’s Twitter stream, knowing if there were any, he’d have them.)

    That poll is a national, not a Wisconsin poll.

    What are the Wisconsin-only numbers? Last week Walker was apparently behind.

    The question was:

    As you may know, Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a plan to limit the pay of government workers and teachers, increase their share of the cost of benefits, and strip some public-employ unions of much of their power. We’d like to know if APPROVE or DISAPPROVE of Gov. Walker’s plan.

    43% approved, 53% disapproved. But that was last week, the question is slanted, events have moved on and that is only one poll. (That same poll found that by 55/36 people wanted the Democrat senators to return to the capitol.)

    I don’t see any other Wisconsin-only polls. If anyone knows of one please put a link in the comments.

    It is too early to say how this will all play out.

    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Politics, Polls, USA | 12 Comments »

    March 10, 2011: Illinois Rally for Concealed Carry

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st February 2011 (All posts by )

    From the Illinois State Rifle Association:

    Last year the ISRA won McDonald v Chicago. This year, with your assistance, it will be concealed carry!
     
    We need your help, now more than ever. We need everyone concerned with firearm rights in Springfield on March 10th for our Gun Owners Lobby Day, (IGOLD)! Each year we have built on the success of previous’ years events and this year promises to be the biggest and best ever IGOLD. We are growing towards 10,000 people! Don’t sit home, we need you there!
     
    With the major wins of Heller v DC and McDonald V Chicago, added into the recent midterm elections, the political tide is changing, but as close as we are, we can’t get concealed carry legislation passed in Illinois without your help. We need you, your friends, your relatives, anyone that agrees with you that “It’s Time” for concealed carry in Illinois. In 48 states private citizens currently enjoy the ability to carry a defensive firearm outside their home. Wisconsin, where it is legal to openly carry firearms, has a new Governor and their legislature has made it clear that they will pass concealed carry this session. That will make 49 states where the concealed carry of firearms for personal defense is legal. “It’s Time” that Illinois ends its ban on the ability of its honest law abiding citizens to carry the same firearms. Criminals have had the advantage long enough as they have been carrying concealed in Illinois for ages! The law abiding should not be put at a deadly disadvantage because of convoluted political rhetoric.
     
    Join me in Springfield on March 10th. Once you get there, (buses are available from all corners of the state), we’ll show you the who, what and where you need to know to effectively lobby your own state representative and state senator!
     
    I’m looking forward to seeing you there and with all of your help, this will be the year that Illinois joins the rest of the country in celebrating the Second Amendment’s right to carry!
     
    Continue below this letter for important IGOLD information.
     
    Respectfully,
     
    Don Moran
    President
    Illinois State Rifle Association
    www.isra.org


    Read the whole thing
    for more information about this event.

    Posted in Announcements, RKBA | Comments Off on March 10, 2011: Illinois Rally for Concealed Carry

    Return of the Vanished Imam?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st February 2011 (All posts by )

    This is the second of two posts dealing with less widely-known figures in the Middle East who may yet have significant impact, at a time when most media focus is on nations and rulers rather than on religious figures who have been locked away in prison for years…

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    quomusa-al-sadr.jpg

    Fouad Ajami’s The Vanished Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon was among the first books I read about matters Islamic, and the close parallel between the vanishing of Musa al-Sadr and the vanishing — or, more properly speaking, Ghayba or occultation — of the Twelfth Imam or Mahdi struck me forcibly at the time.

    I don’t have my copy to hand, so I can’t tell how strongly Ajami himself made the comparison — but I was certainly not alone. Daniel Pipes, in his review of Ajami’s book writes:

    What made the Imam’s vanishing so significant is that it exactly fit the millennial expectations of Shiism, a faith premised on the disappearance of righteous leaders and their reappearance at the end of time.

    And now it may be — the report has yet to be confirmed — that Imam Musa is back among us.

    @rallaf is an Associate Fellow at London’s Chatham House.

    *

    The mind sees one thing, which reminds it of something else. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and it depends on the recognition of pattern, or you might say, parallelism.

    The return of Imam Musa would be significant not merely for his admirers, not only for what he might have to say or what role — now aged 82, after 30 years in prison — he might yet play, but also, I suspect, for the vivid premonition of the Mahdi his return might stir…

    Posted in Book Notes, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Religion | Comments Off on Return of the Vanished Imam?

    Will Dr Fadl retract his Retractions?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st February 2011 (All posts by )

    This is the first of two posts dealing with less widely-known figures in the Middle East who may yet have significant impact, at a time when most media focus is on nations and rulers rather than on religious figures who have been locked away in prison for years…

    [ cross-posted with a minor update from Zenpundit where it appeared a week ago ]

    *

    Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, popularly known as Dr Fadl, wrote two of the key works of jihadist ideology, The Essential Guide for Preparation and the thousand-page Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge, in the late 1980s — thereby providing his friend from student days, Ayman al-Zawahiri, with powerful scholarly backing for the doctrines of militant jihad and takfirism. Lawrence Wright refers to Fadl as an “Al-Qaeda mastermind” in a detailed 2008 New Yorker analysis.

    Dr Fadl was imprisoned without trial in the Yemen shortly after 9/11, but it was after he had been transferred to an Egyptian prison in 2004 that he wrote Rationalizing Jihad, the first volume of his “retractions” — a work so powerful in its attack on his own earlier jihadist doctrine that al-Zawahiri felt obliged to respond with a two-hundred page letter of rebuttal. A second volume from Dr. Fadl followed more recently.

    Here’s the point: as far as we (the “open source reading” public) know, Dr Fadl remains in Tora Istikbal prison in Egypt, and thus far it has been possible for Al-Qaida and others to argue that his “retractions” were the result of coercion.

    *

    In recent days, however, Egypt has been in considerable flux.

    There were reports before the fall of Mubarak of prisoners being liberated or escaping from prison — either as part of the revolution, or alternatively to supply Mubarak with groups of paid thugs who could attack the demonstrators. More recently, the freeing of political prisoners has been one of the demands the demonstrators have made of the military, and it is here that Robert Fisk’s report in The Independent today fits in:

    As for the freeing of political prisoners, the military has remained suspiciously silent. Is this because there are prisoners who know too much about the army’s involvement in the previous regime? Or because escaped and newly liberated prisoners are returning to Cairo and Alexandria from desert camps with terrible stories of torture and executions by – so they say – military personnel. An Egyptian army officer known to ‘The Independent’ insisted yesterday that the desert prisons were run by military intelligence units who worked for the interior ministry – not for the ministry of defence.

    *

    Every major act on the world stage has consequences that ripple out in unexpected directions.

    If Dr Fadl regains his liberty, the question arises whether he will claim his critiques of jihadist dictrine were obtained by force, and effectively retract his retractions – or whether he will stand by them, as I somehow expect he might — still declaring, this time as a free man, that “There is nothing that invokes the anger of God and His wrath like the unwarranted spilling of blood and wrecking of property,” and “There is nothing in the Sharia about killing Jews and the Nazarenes, referred to by some as the Crusaders. They are the neighbors of the Muslims … and being kind to one’s neighbors is a religious duty.”

    *

    I haven’t seen any discussion of this question in the western press, and it was only a tweeted nudge from Leah Farrall on January 31 that set me thinking about Dr Fadl, and the questions that his possible release from prison might raise.

    Is he free? Will he be freed? If he is, what will he say?

    Whichever tack he takes, his statements will have impact.

    And as Leah points out, there are parallels between Dr Fadl’s critique of al-Qaeda and that of Abu Walid al-Masri — which just gives me further reason to be interested in what we might hear next from either one.

    *

    UPDATE:

    On February 19th the researcher and author Evan Kohlmann @IntelTweet tweeted:

    Groups of hardline jihadists have reportedly escaped from at least three Egyptian prisons: Wadi al-Natrun, Al-Tura, and Wadi al-Hadid.

    As far as I know, Dr Fadl was in the "Scorpion" high security section of al-Tura / Tora.
    .
    I’ll update here or in a new post if I learn more.

    Posted in International Affairs, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Religion, Terrorism | Comments Off on Will Dr Fadl retract his Retractions?

    Gene Sharp

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st February 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit, with thanks to Lex for the nudge ]

    I was impressed by him in London in the early sixties.

    Okay, I was young and impressionable. But others have noticed him more recently, too: Hugo Chavez accused him of being a conspirator with the CIA, and the Iranians thought he, George Soros and John McCain were in cahoots.

    gene-sharp.jpg

    Gene Sharp has been in the news quite a bit recently [1, 2, 3, 4], because he pretty literally wrote the book on non-violent resistance.

    The young leaders of the Egyptian revolt that toppled Mubarak studied tactics with members of the Serbian Otpor youth resistance who topped Milosevic, Otpor studied tactics in the writings of Gene Sharp, specifically his 90-page pamphlet From Dictatorship to Democracy [download as .pdf]. Sharp wrote that handbook for use in Burma, where it was apparently translated at the request of Aung San Suu Kyi — who once cautioned her readers that that phrase they kept hearing wasn’t “jeans shirt”, it was “Gene Sharp”.

    And before that, he’d penned his masterful 900-page, three-volume work, The Politics of Nonviolent Action

    I told you he was impressive.

    Recommended reading:

    From Dictatorship to Democracy is now available in Amharic, Arabic, Azeri, Belarusian, Burmese, Chin (Burma), Jing-paw (Burma), Karen (Burma), Mon (Burma), Chinese (Simplified Mandarin), Chinese (Traditional Mandarin), English, Farsi, French, Indonesian, Khmer (Cambodia), Kyrgyz, Pashto, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Tibetan, Tigrigna, and Vietnamese.

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, International Affairs, Latin America, Middle East, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Political Philosophy, Society | 5 Comments »

    Saturday Night at the Protest, Part One

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 21st February 2011 (All posts by )

    Images and video of the protests here in Madison below the fold from Saturday night if you are interested.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Political Philosophy, Politics, Video | 6 Comments »

    Gaddafi Loses Benghazi; Expat Workers Attacked

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st February 2011 (All posts by )

    The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were mere warm-ups; the revolution in Libya definitely looks more like a civil war. The city of Benghazi has apparently fallen to the protesters – they raised the old tri-color flag prior to Gaddafi’s takeover (which is just a green flag, apparently the only flag in the world with no additional markings).

    I am not an expert on Libya by a long shot but apparently the tribes in the region near Benghazi have now said Gaddafi must go so it is unclear how the government could conceivably re-take the area short of a concentrated military campaign. The history of Libya under Gaddafi is littered with military adventures of this sort that turned out disastrously (see the Chad war) so it seems highly unlikely that this is in the cards.

    Little is verified but it appears that soldiers were executed for failing to shoot protesters and likely much more will come out now that the city has been taken over by the insurgents.

    In Tripoli there are major reports of heavy violence including the use of sniper units to kill protesters and thugs just driving around and shooting out of cars and running people over; also in calls sounds of rocket fire and heavy weapons.

    It is telling to me at least that the government is now saying that the West wants to “take over” Libya including the Turks and the Italians; I guess they played out the Zionist card.

    The other element is that apparently expat workers from South Korea, Bangladesh and Turkey were attacked by mobs. These workers were in Libya likely on construction projects in support of the oil industry. Like the BP spill, the major companies have likely under-estimated the chance of a major conflagration and the danger to their staff on the ground in being caught in the midst of a civil war.

    Finally, for humor there is an Al Jazeera editorial blaming the West for all of this “Has West Failed to See Inevitability of Freedom” which blames the US and the West for the fact that the Arab world is ruled by despots and dictators. I was waiting for the inevitable “spin” of how all the Arab world’s problems come from the West and not from within their own sphere of influence and I am sure that this is the first of many; actions on the ground are moving faster than their ability to spin stories.

    I also would like to see how these stories play out among the youth (over half the population is under 20) who have known nothing but oppression at the hands of their fellow Arabs and they know that the dictators that run the country and their families walk away with all the value from their oil and other resources. Colonialism is as distant to them as the US civil war is to us; generations away. And not only that, Colonialism and the West have always been the “whipping boy” for why repression is needed in the first place, so that argument is completely played out. But expect to see variants of this coming in the next days, months, and years. And for many Western journalists to write them, as well.

    Posted in Middle East | 2 Comments »

    Actions Have Consequences

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th February 2011 (All posts by )

    I have an acquaintance who I just had an email conversation with. This person works with some of the doctors who were handing out those fake sick excuses to teachers on the square yesterday. My friend considers it a violation of the hippocratic oath. This person is in a position of power and the doctors who are involved will find that their business will be declining in the near future. Bye bye patient referrals. Madison is a small town.

    In addition, my friend has some important business meetings on Tuesday. This person is furious that the meetings may have to be skipped. Single parent. No school. This is my friend’s week with the kid. My friend thinks all the teachers should be fired now.

    Anecdotal, but I am thinking stories like this are repeated thousands of times over.

    The unions, and teachers in particular, are not making any friends.

    UPDATE – 2-21-11 – Madison schools are closed again today, and it is NOT due to the weather. Rumor has it there may be school tomorrow.

    Posted in Political Philosophy, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Why this is life and death for the unions

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th February 2011 (All posts by )

    In reading about the Wisconsin stand-off, I ran across this thread at Newsbusters . The last comment is so important, it deserves a post, I think. I can’t verify this story but I have spent some time with union health plan administrators.

    Would someone please note that Unions make the great lion’s share of their $ from negotiating “benefits”, not salaries… or collection of dues.

    This is why the decoupling of the Salaries and Benefits is so important to Unions in Wisconsin. And why the Union’s have countered the way they have. They’ll give up Salary and Jobs for Teachers in a second, but they will fight to death for the Benefit negotiation position. In another life as an executive in CA, I used to do administration for two Teamster’s “Health and Welfare” benefit packages. Do your research, but you’ll find I’m correct about motivation of Unions. I also believe that the amount of money kept by Unions will be very interesting to both your viewers, and the tax payers of the US of A. The way it works is that the Unions negotiate with the “Employer” regarding how much money per member/per month they will need to support the benefit options required in Union contract. In the case of WI, they negotiate with each of the 77 counties. Then the Unions negotiate the terms of benefits with “providers”/Ins Co’s, etc. They make the lion’s share of their money off of what is called the “breakage” created by Employees choosing between plan options, and the administration of the programs.

    Let me explain with an example: A Union begins by negotiating with the Employer/State. They’ll claim their buying leverage will afford Employer significant savings. They’ll end up with a 3-tiered cost structure which allows the Union a profit even with the highest benefit option available as Union already has a very good idea about what Providers will be charging. But it gets even more lucrative for Unions at this point. Let’s say high-end Blue Cross PPO coverage costs $400 for the Family tier. What a Union will do is require $425 from Employer, plus a loaded in admin fee, as a charge for all Families in the employer group. So far, so fair? But, the Union will also offer a few other plans for Employees to choose from. The Union will also have developed relationships with a few cheaper HMO plans, and lesser PPO benefit structure plans that charge, as an example, $325 and $375, respectively.

    At an Open House, employees will choose what fits their needs and the Union is in line for the “breakage”. The left over breakage is then, to my experience, placed in a fund where only the Union has the checkbook. Cars, Vacations and Condo’s, oh my. The Union also makes a “commission” off of things like Pre Legal, Dental and Term Life. As another profit source, the Union also leans on the Administrator for favors I’d rather not list, but usually involving idiocy like buying thousands of dollars of “raffle tickets” and leasing cars for the Union’s Business Agents, not entirely above board. Of course, I am relating my experience, and what little I know of others who also did Union administration. I’d expect any simple research by an actual reporter would open up a Pandora’s box of Slush in the Badger State.

    Very revealing comment. This is why “benefits” is such a life and death issue for the unions.

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Leftism, Management, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Gaddafi the Innovator

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 20th February 2011 (All posts by )

    I generally do not link an old-school dictator like Gaddafi with innovation but here is one in my book from the Al Jazeera live blog:

    He also provides another account of security forces using high-caliber, possibly anti-aircraft guns against protesters.

    In other posts the doctors mentioned seeing bullets “as big as their fists” in the dead and wounded that they are treating.

    I am unaware of any other incidents in recent times when the army began directing high caliber high velocity weapons like this against (unarmed) protesters. I have seen water cannons, tear gas, and then escalating to small arms fire but using these sorts of weapons against civilians from your own nation is truly an innovation by Mr. Gaddafi.

    As a commenter noted on my last post Gaddafi is on the United Nations Human Rights Council as you can see here. I would be interested in how directing anti-aircraft weaponry against unarmed protesters plays in the UN – probably not a big deal there, I would imagine.

    Posted in Middle East | 8 Comments »

    Panappticon

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 20th February 2011 (All posts by )

    [ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    It’s riveting to follow the tweets on protests in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya or Iran on Mibazaar in real-time to be sure — but mash that capability up with the one Shloky found and Zen just mentioned with video

    quopanappticon.jpg

    As Zen says, I mean, “automatic face-recognition and social media aggregation raises serious concerns about the potential dangers of living under a panopticon state”.

    Two dots, two data-points, two apps connected.

    Posted in Advertising, Civil Society, Media, Middle East, Miscellaneous, Tech | 4 Comments »

    United Nations Silent On Gadaffi

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 20th February 2011 (All posts by )

    In the Al Jazeera live blog on Libya I looked at the comments and one of the commentors mentioned that we should bring in the UN to stop the carnage of Gadaffi using automatic weapons and rockets on his own people as well as employing out-of-country mercenaries to do his dirty work.

    So I went over to the UN web site for the middle east and I can see that they are up on the situation; what is on their “breaking news” section except headlines chiding Israel and talking about Gaza and Palestine, a situation that they have done nothing to solve over the last 60+ years.

    Why don’t they call out Gaddafi for his murderous activity? Where are the frenzied resolutions? Where is the outrage? Nowhere, I guess, since of course Gaddafi is one of the types of anti-Western media-friendly yet murderous and thug-like regimes that they adore.

    I guess all the resolutions and outrage only apply to Israel; they just sweep the dirty news about their favorites under the rug.

    Posted in Middle East | 5 Comments »