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February 18, 2010

Asymmetrical Temper Tantrums

Posted by tunesmith at 01:19 PM

The latest example of asymmetrical temper tantrum is today's pilot who flew into an IRS building in Texas.

I've been thinking about threats to national security, and who and what can be a threat. Obviously, other nations can be a threat, and some organizations like Al Queda can be, too. But when talking about the individual, the measure of how much of a threat an individual can be comes down to one question: What is the maximum amount of damage one person can do?

The key ingredient is leverage. How much leverage can one person have, when they are thinking and acting on their own? One route a person can take is by making themselves a sleeper agent of sorts, by spending years living an outward life that enables them to burrow into some sort of organization where they could have a lot of leverage. Like a government, or a nuclear power plant. But the other type of person is the normal citizen that just freaks out from time to time.

Over the years, does it get more extreme? It seems that someone flying a plane into a building is a post-9/11 occurrence, but I can't help but think that's just a belief borne of 9/11 trauma. This had to have happened before 9/11. But I also can't help but think that each time something like this happens, the pandora's box opens further.

So far it seems to be a matter of a disturbed individual taking a gun to the workplace or to school. In this case, flying a plane into an office building. But it seems possible for a normal citizen to create more leverage and cause even more damage. I have a resistance to even thinking/imagining what kinds of things are possible, and maybe that resistance in all of us is what keeps them from happening. But it does seem the resistance (in society, not in myself) towards imagining these things does go down over time, doesn't it?

At any rate, the question is what defense do we have against asymmetry? Asymmetrical attackers aren't rational actors in the way most nation states are, so you can't exactly use diplomacy, or appeal to their self-interest. In general, the best defense against asymmetrical attacks appears to be decentralized sources of power, whether that means power grids, the financial system, or government.

October 18, 2006

Death Perspective

Posted by tunesmith at 04:31 PM

I don't know how accurate the Lancet study is supposed to be, but I came across this comparison which really struck me:

  • U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865. Population 31.4M, 622,000 dead.
  • Iraq, 2003-? Population 26.8M, through 2006 655,000 dead.
June 16, 2006

Dealing With The Left

Posted by tunesmith at 05:28 PM

Strong words from Eleanor Clift:

There will be an antiwar candidate in ’08, probably Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold, and he’ll get a lot of support and cause real problems for the front runner, whoever it is. Feingold won’t be put on the ticket, but he could well throw the election to the Republicans if the Democrats don’t figure out how to deal with the antiwar sentiment in the party.

There's a solution to this Rove trap: run to the right in rhetoric, and to the left in ideas. It's not a mixed message:

The Bush administration is only half-heartedly interventionist. We can run to the right by calling them cowards, demanding a more interventionist approach in most foreign affairs. The Bush administration causes problems, does nothing while the problem gets worse, and then hides behind bombs.

And that's how this it would actually be moving to the left in content (or, moving south on this graph) - focusing in diplomacy over war. That part of the idea should be de-emphasized when running against the right, and only emphasized during races like the Democratic primary.

(For shorter names for each of the quadrants, I would select: Paleocons, Neocons, Pacifists, and Diplomats.)

There is a caution here for Democrats: the incompetence of the Iraq war is leading to an ignorant truce between the Pacifists and the Diplomats within the party: they can agree on the messed up results of the war, even if they don't have to discuss whether they agree on the philosophy. This fault line can easily be exposed, and that's part of what Rove is doing...

February 21, 2006

Cheney's Power

Posted by tunesmith at 05:02 PM

In a newsweek article mostly about the recent shooting, this odd element was shoehorned into the last quarter of the article:

Others close to Cheney had suggested that he was profoundly affected by 9/11. It is hard for anyone who was not in Cheney's shoes that day, and in the weeks and months that followed, to appreciate the stress and uncertainty of that time. Around 9:35 on the morning of 9/11, Cheney was lifted off his feet by the Secret Service and hustled into the White House bunker. Cheney testified to the 9/11 Commission that he spoke with President Bush before giving an order to shoot down a hijacked civilian airliner that appeared headed toward Washington. (The plane was United Flight 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field after a brave revolt by the passengers.) But a source close to the commission, who declined to be identified revealing sensitive information, says that none of the staffers who worked on this aspect of the investigation believed Cheney's version of events.

A draft of the report conveyed their skepticism. But when top White House officials, including chief of staff Andy Card and the then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, reviewed the draft, they became extremely agitated. After a prolonged battle, the report was toned down. The factual narrative, closely read, offers no evidence that Cheney sought initial authorization from the president. The point is not a small one. Legally, Cheney was required to get permission from his commander in chief, who was traveling (but reachable) at the time. If the public ever found out that Cheney gave the order on his own, it would have strongly fed the view that he was the real power behind the throne.

That struck me as odd... yes, the content, but also the placement.

October 25, 2005

Niger: The Case For War

Posted by tunesmith at 01:12 PM

Josh is usually fairly opaque, but to spell out his recent entry:

  1. The Niger Documents showed up in Italy
  2. Italy knew they were fraudulent/forged.
  3. Italy attempted to contact the United States to tell them they were fake.
  4. Italy succeeded in having a meeting with Hadley in early September, 2002, and told him they were fake
  5. The White House (including Hadley) argues with the CIA about the validity of the Niger Documents in mid-September
  6. The White House includes the Niger allegations in Bush's SOTU speech in early October

That's it. The government knew they were fake, and decided to lie about them anyway, in the State Of The Union. Willfully lying to the nation to build the case for war.

July 07, 2005

London, and Two DLC's

Posted by tunesmith at 07:39 PM

It's hard to be DLC. There are two of them, just as there are two ways to approach being a centrist.

DLC #1: Expose false choices. Negotiate: find win-win solutions. Seek to separate your own side from old behaviors that don't serve your side's underlying principles. Offer original solutions.

DLC #2: Compromise, split the difference, and in moments of seemingly mutual need, express solidarity with your opponent even if they don't express solidarity with you. Capitulate, in the guise of offering original solution.

Ed Kilgore seems to normally have his head on his shoulders, but responses like his response to today's London bombing shows me that when it comes right down to it, he caves and enters the #2 camp. Is he weak?

In the wake of the horrific attacks on London today, there's little doubt a dangerous and predictable idea is kicking around the world, mostly unspoken: Britain was targeted for these attacks strictly because of its involvement in Iraq.  The corollary, of course, is that countries that don't want to be next in line for attacks--say, the rest of Europe--can make themselves safe by distancing themselves from Anglo-American policy in Iraq and elsewhere.

One of the most fascinating parts of Ed's post - and I see this a lot among the writings of so-called "centrists" - are the subjects he dances around and doesn't address directly. It's part of why it's their fault that so many progressives supposedly "misunderstand" their writings. For instance:

  1. What exactly does Ed mean by "standing together" against terrorism?
  2. What differences of opinion are allowable in Ed's world?
  3. At what point does a "difference of opinion" mean you are no longer "standing together" against terrorism?
  4. What part of George Galloway's statement crossed the line from "difference of opinion" to "not standing together against terrorism"?
  5. How exactly is it that Galloway's belief that US and British foreign policy increased the danger of terrorism is not "standing together against terrorism"? I can see the "not standing together" part, but it seems his point is that he is standing apart because he views US and British foreign policy as further enabling terrorism.
  6. What exactly is it about unity of ideology that is so important in opposing Al Qaida?

It's like he comes right up to the brink of saying something, so he can claim credit for the provocative nature, while hiding behind ambiguity if anyone takes him to task too much.

I don't feel much support for Galloway, because given everything I hear about him, it sounds as though while he may have been right on Iraq, he's still pretty crazy about everything else. But it's one thing to oppose Galloway's history. It's quite another to oppose an (ambiguously offered) idea of distancing oneself from US foreign policy simply because Al Qaida seemingly wants that too.

The same idea presents itself here:

Aside from the remarkable fact that "Gorgeous George" didn't have the decency to express solidarity with his own countrymen and wait a week or two to blame the attacks on Blair while counseling surrender to the aims of the terrorists[...] (emphasis mine)

And there it is, the caving. Expressing solidarity with Bush's bullying.

As I said in the comments over there, when I see thinking like that, it makes me think of a twist on an old phrase:

Would you jump off a cliff just because your enemy told you not to?

So Al Qaida wants Britain to withdraw from Iraq, or wants the United States to dismantle military bases from Saudi Arabia, or whatever. Big deal. Somehow that means that by definition, we can't even consider whether we would have our own reasons for doing so? It's more bully logic, the kind that makes one extremely susceptible to manipulation and reverse psychology. (Which, I'd argue, we've fallen victim to over and over again, thanks to Bush's stupid-minded foreign policy.)

I find myself wondering whether Ed believes that in response to the London bombings, we should just magically start seeing more value in Bush's Iraq foreign policy. As if the armor is now thicker, as if less U.S. soldiers have died, as if less terrorists have been created.

He of course didn't say as much; he crafted his statement with too much ambiguity. As it is, the comments over there are littered with defenders saying, "No, Ed didn't say that, what he really meant was..." A common technique from the DLC #2's.

June 30, 2005

Kos and Recruiting

Posted by tunesmith at 09:32 PM

I guess I can retract my earlier optimism about the cessation of the calls for politicians to make their kids die in Iraq. That kind of rhetoric gets us nowhere.

June 29, 2005


Posted by tunesmith at 09:30 PM

I've unfortunately been called away to attend a memorial service, so that is why I haven't weighed in on a variety of matters that are of interest to this site. The ultra-short versions are: I'm snickering that there were no retirements for the Supreme Court. I think the Kelo decision is fascinating, and *correct* from the liberal point of view - however, the very premise of eminent domain laws are a different matter entirely, and I haven't really developed my opinion on whether they are a net good or a net evil.

I'm disappointed by the Grokster opinion, I think. I come to that as someone who is heavily involved in both worlds of creative content production (music), and of techo-libertarianism. I think the decision is a good attempt at defining a balance point, so I found the decision competent. But I do think the big content corporations need more of a smackdown than they got. Now we'll just see more bullying from the content corporations in attempts to control or legislate exactly how technological companies market their tools - they'll be just as extreme and dishonest on that tack as they were with deliberately misinterpreting the other content copyright laws.

I would have liked to see some more finesse to the Miller/Cooper decision. There's some valid first amendment worrying now. I think there could have been a better way to underscore first amendment protections, while still forcing Miller or Cooper to speak. The first amendment protections are supposed to help protect against retribution, not to make it easier to participate in retribution.

Finally, I briefly was tempted to support the efforts to pass the bills that ask for a troop withdrawal by a particular date. Now I think it's a bad idea. It really would give too much power to the people that want to undermine whatever positive objectives we might still be able to achieve. But, I do think that we need a more clearly communicated roadmap, where the benchmarks and milestones are perhaps not tied to calendar dates, but known to all and laid out in a clear step-by-step manner. This would be the withdrawal plan. Some of the dependencies are obvious (having Sunni representation completed in the interim government), and some are less obvious (like finding other more reasonable ways to have a working police force - on that, I say bring in the U.N. for real, and give up the spoils that the United States are claiming).

Some interesting battles coming up. Social Security will start happening again, and there are some murmurs of "tax reform" that could really catch Democrats flat-footed. I think that's a case where the Democrats really SHOULD have a plan to present, unlike Social Security. Democrats could create a revenue-neutral plan that would help everyone, and pound it every chance they get in comparison to Bush's plan, and then the conversation would be about progressive versus flat/regressive. And progressive should win, if Democrats are able to claim enough credibility in other areas.

Finally, I'm completely gung-ho about Dean's Democracy Bonds. Brilliant.

June 22, 2005

Honesty About Iraq

Posted by tunesmith at 04:48 PM

The author of the satirical "send your son to Iraq" letter has a new posting today that is wonderful:

We need to be honest here: Iraq is not worth one more dead American.

People on the right and left want some deus ex machina to save Iraq, but we have., collectively, come to a simple conclusion:

Iraq is not worth dying for. Not for the warmongers on the right or the liberal hawks on the left.


What I want people to do is be honest.

If you will not serve in Iraq, and no one you know will serve, stop expecting someone else to do what you will not.

Therefore, it is time to stop calling for more troops, or the US to make Iraq safe. We cannot do this and even Americans are refusing to join the fight. It is time to look at your actions and realize, that despite your ideals, you oppose continuing this war. In practical terms, you have decided that this war is not worth your life or anyone you know. And million of Americans have joined you in this decision.

So, with this fact evident, it is time to call for US troops to withdraw from Iraq. Not save it, not add more boots on the ground. You have already voted by your actions. It is time that you match it with your words.

This is an honest argument, and it is much harder to oppose than the "send your kids" argument, because everyone knows the "send your kids" argument is bullshit. No one is ever going to say, "Gosh, I see your point. Billy? I'm signing you up for Iraq."

So well done to Steve Gilliard - and kos, who suprises me by declaring that the debate is over - for bringing honesty back into their side of the debate.

I say, don't enlist and don't continue for as long as we have this stupid Iraq policy. But I also think that a pull-out could be disastrous as well. I read this diary over at dkos today, about the opinions of historian, middle east expert, and progressive blogger Juan Cole, and found it very convincing.

I have been unable to convince many of my readers of what I know.  A US withdrawal could well throw Iraq into civil war.  Civil war in Iraq would bring in the Iranians, the Saudis and the Turks.  The success of petroleum pipeline sabotage and refinery sabotage in Iraq will suggest it as a tactic to the guerrillas fighting in this Fourth Gulf War.

If Saudi and Iranian petroleum production is sabotaged, gas in this country will go to $20 a gallon and the US will be plunged into the Second Great Depression. The unemployment rate will skyrocket to some 25%.  Not only will you and I likely end up unemployed, but the global South will be de-industrialized. Countries making progress like India and Pakistan will be thrown back 30 years.

Cole believes this is solvable by involving UN troops with troops from the "global South", which I believe means south-of-Europe countries - rewarding them with Iraqi contracts. It's compelling. Go read.

So yes - as long as we aren't solving any problems, we might as well pull out. But there might still be ways to solve the problem. I hope that the Democratic and progressive mindset will continue to evolve to embrace some of these possible solutions.

June 21, 2005

When Democrats Turn

Posted by tunesmith at 02:16 PM

A couple of more bits of evidence of Democrats getting extreme enough to bear a convincing resemblance to extreme Republicans...

I silenced a voice of hate is a dkos diary about a guy who was getting anonymous hateful right-wing evangelist comments on his weblog. The guy was clearly a dick, saying stuff like "I wish you had been aborted" and saying we should kill muslim leaders and convert their followers to Christianity. He also had his own blog, which he wrote to anonymously.

Said diarist researched the guy's weblog, put some miscellaneous facts together, and figured out his real identity. He then contacted him and, depending on how you read it, either made the blogger aware that it was possible to find out his real identity and tell his employers, or, threatened to do exactly that. The blogger was a teacher of seventh graders in a private Christian school.

In the diary, several people defended outing this guy on various grounds, from protecting the children to just the fact that he was a right wing freak. I wrote that it was really creepy that progressives would defend such an act, and got quite a bit of opposition in return.

I'm usually pretty darn good at using my own words, but here's a case where Atrios says it better:

Anonymity allows people the freedom to speak without fear of reprisals in other elements of your life. On the internet, where every little comment can potentially hang around forever, it allows people to communicate views without worrying about what current/future employers or customers may think of them. People do get fired/not hired for this kind of stuff. Without anonymity many people would not be able to talk politics on the internets. It allows people to separate their personal political/religious/whatever views from their personal/professional lives otherwise. It's truly a gift.


Anonymity can be abused if it's being used as a cover for illegal activities or actionable speech (libel). In both cases anonymity provides little cover - one subpoena to your ISP or web hosting company and it's all over. Anonymity could also be abused by posing as an "outsider" of some sort when you're actually an insider, or if you use it to mask some sort of hidden personal agenda or financial interest. To the extent that anonymity prevents knowing if those apply it can be criticized.

People divide their lives all of the time. Sally the business owner can to some degree separate herself from Sally the parent and Sally the activist. The ability to keep aspects separate is generally respected by people who are not assholes. On the internet, anonymity, while not strictly necessary, is close to being required to maintain that in the age of Google (not all people feel the need). Non-internet personal activities can be separated from your professional life simply by not socializing with colleagues. But, internet activities are always google-able.

This was in reference to a certain journalist who threatened to out the true identity of a certain progressive blogger(SKB), in practically the same way that the dkos diarist did: by simply alluding to the possibility that he could... if he wanted to. As far as I'm concerned, that's a threat. Dishonest people would say, "No, that's not a threat! He's just saying he could! Nothing more!" Which completely lies about the desired impact of saying the words.

What was SKB's crime? Hosting a weblog that had comments that insulted the journalist. What was the conservative freak's crime? Insulting the diarist on his weblog with various bits of right-wing hate. There was also the thing about him teaching children, but that's a bit of hindsight logic, since the discussion of that requires the outing first. Even so, there's no evidence to suggest he was using such viewpoints inappropriately in the classroom. (And the people that justify themselves saying, "But you just know he is!" are part of the problem.)

Regardless, when it comes down to simple speculative value judgments, it's irrelevant. The value judgments are the privilege of those judging the content. Anonymity exists to protect people against that very treatment. Like Atrios says, there are certain exceptions to anonymity, but this guy's weblog comments didn't meet those standards.

It's unethical to agree with Atrios while also agreeing with trying to ruin this guy's career.

By the way, the journalist who threatened to expose SKB's identity (leading SKB to out himself) apologized, spurred no doubt by a very large outcry among progressives.

Second case:

In An opportunity for Assrocket to shine, kos trumpets another blogger's satirical letter noting that a certain conservative warblogger's son has just turned eighteen, and that the blogger should encourage his son to become a Marine rifleman in the Al Anbar province, the "cutting edge" of freedom.

I'm feeling really disgusted with the state of discourse these days. That's just low. You leave your blogger enemies' children out of it. Said 18-year-old isn't a public figure like Mary Cheney.

Right now I appear to be the only person making that point over there. It's pretty disgusting.

Besides, I do not believe in the current foreign policy over in Iraq. I don't want anyone to enlist to fight on the front lines in Iraq, because I don't want anyone to die unnecessarily. And excuse me for being ethical, but that includes conservatives and the sons of conservatives. I understand it's just a rhetorical trick, but that doesn't mean it's honest.

June 20, 2005

GoDaddy and Gitmo

Posted by tunesmith at 01:00 PM

Well, this is just great.

Currently, if you go to the home page of (the most popular domain name registrar, that also holds some of my domain names), you'll see a bit of text up at the top of the page that says,

Close Gitmo? No way!! Think our interrogation methods are tough? Prisoners in the Middle East talk quick. Here's why.

It links to this entry on the weblog of GoDaddy's founder, Bob Parsons. The entry starts with "May we never forget the day." It continues with an salacious discussion of torture techniques, and ends with him promising to post a video of the 9/11 jumpers leaping to their deaths if he gets enough requests.

This sucks. I actually tried to make excuses for Bob Parsons at first - he's a military vet with libertarian tendencies and he's got a lot of viewpoints that I don't share, but he seemed to be thoughtful in his own way, at first. This is just ridiculous, though.

Using 9/11 as justification for Gitmo is cowardly. Cowardly. Here's why. Using even the slightest bit of reason, it's easy to see that there are all sorts of ways to better protect the USA without engaging in the kind of abuses we see at Gitmo. Those people who refuse to see that are deliberately closing their minds, and it's because they are scared to see the alternatives. They hide behind bluster and false machismo. It's corrupt, base, and all too easy to dehumanize someone, turn them into an insect, and make them defecate on themselves. It's harder to act with the principles that hold ourselves to a higher standard than our enemies and set an example to the rest of the world. It's possible to hold ourselves to principled standards and also do what needs to be done, and those who refuse to consider that are selling their souls to take the easy way out. That's cowardice. Cross that with an appreciation of torture porn and snuff films, and you've got a true degenerate.

People are talking about this on Daily Kos, metafilter, and soon, I imagine, slashdot. I'm looking around for a new consensus choice of registrars myself. It'd be great to find one with progressive sensibilities, but I'd settle for one that respects consumer and privacy rights, and doesn't feature unconscionable political views on the front page of their corporate website.

Update: Son of a gun! Parsons retracts:

Since this blog article was posted I have been accused repeatedly of supporting the use of torture to get information from prisoners. This is simply not true. I do not, under any circumstance, support the use of torture. I do not consider the use of interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation or the playing of rap music to be torture. That said, I now believe that even these mild methods are not necessary.

I have heard from a number of individuals who claimed to be professional interrogators. These readers have pointed out that the use of annoying or unpleasent techniques during interrogation simply do not work very well. After looking at the references they provided, and giving the matter some thought, I tend to agree and think that the there's a good argument for changing the way in which prisoners at Gitmo are interrogated. Thus things like sleep deprivation, playing loud rap music and other techniques that involve making the detainee physically uncomfortable would be completely done away with and replaced with psychological techniques that are more humane and as such yield better results. I have since modified the article that was originally posted here to reflect what I just learned.

Now, the thing about him not supporting torture is bullshit, given that his original entry said things like, "Key prisoners at Gitmo still have not talked -- because our interrogation methods are so weak." But still, we have a backdown. Awesome.

June 12, 2005

Axelrod II

Posted by tunesmith at 10:57 PM

This is the second time I've seen "Democratic Strategist" David Axelrod have a bonehead quote attributed to him. Regarding the Downing Street Memo and the lack of play it's received in the media:

Party strategist David Axelrod explained the Democratic wariness: "We already fought that battle [over Bush's veracity] and we lost. He got elected again. So even though the memo is important, there's a sense that people don't want to revisit the lead-up to war. Although I'm not sure I agree with that, when you look at the number of Americans dead today."

Hey dumbass - the reason that people don't want to revisit the issue is that there aren't enough Democratic leaders treating it with the importance that would convince people that it's worth revisiting the issue. You're part of the problem.

March 28, 2005

Foreign Policy Of The Phallus

Posted by tunesmith at 02:23 AM

I don't often link to Atrios, but he has a doozy:

I don't actually disagree with the general proposition that the Democrats need a bit of piss and vinegar in their foreign policy, but they have to figure out where to aim that piss. Peter Beinart and Joe Biden and the rest of the gang didn't aim their piss, they let George Bush grab their dicks and point them towards Baghdad. And, now, two years later, they want to lecture the rest of us on how to be perceived as "strong."

The way to be perceived as strong isn't to let George W. Bush tell you where to point your dick.

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