(I posted this to my Facebook account. I'm also posting it here for those who don't use FB. Please feel free to pass this around; just credit me, OK?)
I posted this yesterday. Please fee free to share it. Memphis needs to hear this:
To the people planning counter-protests against that KKK rally in Memphis this summer, a word of advice: don't. You are treating them as they want to be treated. They think theirs is a serious demonstration of the community's anger with the renaming of Memphis parks. Don't give the KKK the honor of treating them like worthy opponents. They aren't.
By holding a counter-protest, you are only feeding into their anger, creating a feedback cycle and ratcheting up the possibility for someone sparking violence. That's what the KKK wants that day. They can be counted on to take advantage of any opportunity they're given. Violence ensures they'll get media time, and the "rules of broadcast" ensure the media will have to give them time to express some part of their ideas. It will also inevitably portray the KKK and their oppoenents as equals in the debate. Don't give that victory to them. That's just what the KKK wants.
Don't fall for that. Treat them as they should be treated: as a sideshow. Call a party for that day, at their protest site or across the street. Let the people of Memphis come out and have a good time, with food and music. Hand out messages of love and tolerance; short embracing ones, not slogans nor screeds. Show the media that we can all, sometimes, get along, at least for a while and for a good reason. Let the KKK's anger be swamped by the merriness of Memphis showing who we are. That this city is better--has more to offer--than the KKK's hate and xenophobia.
At the same time, don't treat the KKK condescendingly. Don't give them a demeaning "pat on the head" or a sneer for a failed effort. Don't TELL them they're irrelevant, SHOW them. Don't give them an argument they can respond to. Give them a good time that demands they respond in kind. Remember, hate begets hate but genuine kindness in response to hate can only be responded to with more kindness.
Communities that have been afflicted with pernicious Westboro Baptist Church protests have had success with variants of this approach. I suspect the KKK is going to adopt the Westboro approach. Don't fall for it. Don't give them what they want.
I first heard about Chris Hardwick's Nerdist podcast from reading Wil Wheaton's blog. Wil and Chris are longtime friends and former roommates. I enjoy the Nerdist 'cast; it's funny, relevant to my interests, and teaches me new things.
Chris has been expanding Nerdist Industries with new podcasts, and one is by actor/musician/performer Riki Lindhome interviewing various comics and actors about the process of getting to where they are in their careers. She got around to talking with Chris about how he arrived where he is, and I found the podcast really spoke to me.
Chris had some very general experiences and aims in his life that echoed mine. I was so struck by his advice to people that I actually wrote down some of the salient points and put them up on the bulletin board next to my desk. Here they are:
1. Surfing the Web isn't "doing something".
2. Why am I not pursuing what I love as a career?
3. Figure out what you want then carve a path to that thing. If it changes, that's fine.
4. I'm going to do this and I'm not going to stop.
5. It is your presonality that you are selling, your opinion. Information is free and ubiquitous.
6. People form an opinion and that's it.
7. If you expect an audience, you have to deliver.
8. Your gut is smarter than your brain.
9. You've been upset. now DO soemthing constructive with it!
10. Hire/partner with people -- people who are good at what you are not.
11. Learn to rely on other people. Find someone who complements what you do.
Pretty good advice, yes? That's why I put it right where I can see it all the time. They aren't my New Year's resolutions, but they are some points to always keep in mind for me.
(This is just dashed off quickly, before I forget the train of thought. I welcome further thoughts that develop or refine the thesis.)
Some Americans complain that teachers are underpaid. The classic comparison is teachers and CEOs.
I think the reason they are "underpaid" is rooted in America's agricultural past, something we are still reaching back to as though it is a touchstone to the modern life we live today. I argue it's not. And by letting it go, we can find a different standard and therefore a different payscale for teachers.
There are a number of factors to consider. Number one is that education was always subservient to agriculture. Any time crops needed planting or harvesting, any time disaster struck, education was suspended until the "real" work was done. Education was always oriented toward agriculture. If you look at the famous "19th century exam" that floats around the internet, which purports to be a standard exam with standard questions any 16 year old should be able to answer, they all revolve around agricultural measures of weight and distance(hectares, pounds, etc) or involved transactions a farmer might be expected to make.
Which only makes sense. The vast majority of Americans would live and die on farms as farmers until early in the 20th century. America only had a handful of large cities and not many more large towns as well to handle the commerce of getting America's agricultural products to her markets, or the few international markets for goods like cotton, linen, wool, timber, etc. It wasn't until World War II that a majority of Americans lived off farms and instead serviced the factories that made post-war American an industrical giant.
Which shift is the core of my argument. In the days of farming, large families were necessary. Eight to twelve (or more) children were necessary. Firstly, because many children died young--in birth, in infancy, in childhood. Mostly through diseases, partly through accidents. Secondly, to handle the enormous workload of a farm. Not just the planting and harvesting, but the animal husbandry too. And the construction, then maintenance, of the buildings--the home and its additions, the barns, coops, fences, silos and racks, and more. And the unending workload of the household; the feeding, the canning and preserving and smoking, the animal preparation, the laundry, the dishwashing, the raising of the smaller children.
On this side of the Industrial Revolution and the women's rights movement, it's hard to picture the enormous amount of work a 19th century farm could be. And it was unending. In this environment, more children was better. In economic terms, the marginal costs of additional children was more than offset by the marginal utility of additional work hands.
Today, that's not at all the case. Passage through the Industrial Revolution into today's Computer/Information revolution has altered the equation, aided by suffrage, the women's rights movement and Civil Rights.
First and foremost, it no longer takes a small army of people to maintain a household. Two or three can do it; thanks to the women's movement, many women are trying it single-handed. With taxes for education, which is now mandatory through high school or age 16, children aren't net contributors to running the household. In fact, they are largely a net drain on household resources.
There's also the interesting phenomenon of Western liberal education and suffrage. As women have gained acceptance into the factories and offices of America, as they have gained an equal education to men, as their "place" in society is more and more the same as men, the size of families shrinks. This is true across Asia, Europe, North America, India, the Anglosphere; anywhere the Anglo-model of social organisation has taken hold. The size of the average family is shrinking. In many countries now, the birth rate is below the so-called "replacement rate" at which a society can be sustained. Russia, Japan, Italy and other counties are having children at a lower rate than people are dying. All these countries, and others, are shrinking in absolute terms.
(A brief digression to note something I won't dwell on: The dearth of births isn't a phenomenon entirely affecting the West, though. South America and Central American aren't seeing this trend to nearly the same degree. Spain and Portugal are seeing population crashes, but not the Hispanic-speaking nations of the Americas. This is also happening to some of the Moslem nations of the Asian Pacific. There is a theory that religion is a factor, which would also explain some demographic anomalies in the USA.)
With the move into an industrial society, our education model changed. Progressives who hoped to remake the moral nature of our country, and businessmen who were looking for a more efficient way of educating our youth, simulateously looked to Prussia as one answer. In the late 19th century and the early 20th, Prussia was industrialising at a furious pace. Their young workers came into the factories with wildly varying levels and breadth of education. The autocratic Prussians, with typical Germanic efficiency, standardised education across the nation so that everyone received the same education. It revulutionised Prussian factories.
American educators took note and tried to follow suit. But America was ill-suited to adopt the Prussian model. We were decentralised--education was the purview of Counties, thousands of them and mostly rural in the 19th century. And educators themselves were the product of hundreds of colleges, normal schools, state teachers colleges, churches and more. It ended up being the incomplete work of decades to standardise America's teachers.
And even though our schools are are nowadays built on the industrial model, the teachers themselves are still thought of in agricultural terms. The one-room classroom headed by a school-marm, who knows every child's name and his family's circumstances. That person hasn't existed except in isolated pockets of farm country in decades. We haven't found a new role-model for the teacher to match even the industrial/factory image, never mind the programmer/coder model of information-rich today.
We have fewer children today. They are investments of great value. Their intrinsic value is much higher than in years past. Each is "a precious individual pearl, unique". But our model of the teacher doesn't reflect that valuation, when it should.
And that is what will place the teacher of today in the position of most value--reframing the picture to include what we are as a society today and the new value of our fewer children.
Anyway, we are treating education (that is, the process of educating our young) as though our children are the products of an agricultural society--individually, not worth that much, in the aggregate worth quite a bit.
(This is an incomplete essay with only half-worked out ideas. I need to flesh out, work out, and connect a lot of these ideas.)
It's been around about three years since the end of "serious", regular blogging here. Time to get back on the horse.
This blog has also undergone a name change. No more "Half-Bakered". (Sorry, Jackson....) So, those of you still following at home, make the adjustment in your RSS.
I'm switching over to a name I almost went with way back in 2002 when I first set this dump up. I like the homey sound of "rumpus room" and the air of childlike experimentation it conveys. Of course, your's truly loves the science. "Mr Mike" was a self-selected nickname I've used since college somewhere, almost as long as "Mr Professor", which was a high school thing. Hmmmm.... "Mr Professor's Rumpus Room of Science"? Nah.... Just a bit too much there.
Anyway, encourage me to stick with this. It's been hesitant and half-hearted the past few months. I really need to kick this into gear again. Twitter just isnt't a good place for me, though it has its uses.
I'm also testing out a new Google/Gmail/Google+ user account: email@example.com. Only I can't get my Blogspot dashboard to see the Half-Bakered account and on the mrhollihan account, it doesn't even see that I'm linked to this blog. So frustrating. I wish I could just subsume the old Half-Bakered account into the new "mrhollihan" account, but Google ain't set up that way, for some reason. So I may have to run two simultaneous accounts and jump back and forth. Anyone have experience with that?
It should go without mentioning, but I will: please don't add "firstname.lastname@example.org" to your Google+ circles. Use "email@example.com" instead. That's going to be my main online identity shortly. No more Facebook and less posting to Twitter (mostly pointers to here, eventually, or Twitpic, where I'm also newly installed).
"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest [our nation] become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."
Nope, not some modern day Republican but Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero, writing in 55 BC. (Quote via Jerry Pournelle.)
I keep trying to tell folks that human nature doesn't change, just our surroundings. Core lessons, once learned, are eternal and always relevant. But no, even with all our technology to keep the lessons of the past alive, we still forget what we already know.
Years ago, I read a large part of Thucydides' (or Xenophon's?) history of the Grecian peninsula. It was full of wars, betrayals, sons turning on fathers, wives cheating on husbands, treachery, thievery, pride, ego, public scandal, you name it. It read just like Dallas or any modern soap opera, except the stories were thousands of years old and only described one very small part of a large world. I was struck that I could relate and understand it all so well.
In high school, I remember reading about Medieval and Rennaisance Europe, all the courtiers and schemers and social climbers and political maneuverers. Teachers tried to make it sound like it was all long ago, that modern-day Americans no longer behaved that way in our modern democratic republic. But you look at Washington, DC, today and you see that it is ever thus.
Nothing much changes because we keep turning away from what we know to be true, believing that this time we are different and things will be different.
We are lucky to be the direct inheritors of the wealth of observation and study and application that the Founding Fathers (and some Mothers, like Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison and Mercy Otis Warren) created and handed down. They were keen and discerning students of the past. And they too recognised their lessons would be lost in a couple of generations.
They understood that Democracy and Reason flowed against the natural human tide. That they were artificial and required vigilance and effort to keep.
Even with technologies that can preserve and spread that information far and wide as never before, that can enable self-study and education as never before, we still forget. Or, worse still, ignore and repudiate.
History shows us what will happen. We need only learn it and keep it fresh.
I think it was Lindsey who first pointed me to this song. Thanks!! Yeah, it's Euro-pop-metal and the band's costumes are uber-cheesy. But damn, does this song hit a major sweet spot for me. It's one of those rare songs I can set on endless repeat and let it roll on. And it's only a three minute song. Oh yeah, pure rock bliss.
The band won the 2006 Eurovision contest with this song and here's the video, in its full cheese glory:
It's the choruses that do me in. Those high, high harmonies ("Aaaah, aaaah, aaaah, aaah") just sail over the song. The guitar crunches nicely and it's a good solid riff; the synth sounding like shrill orchestral strings is a recurrent failing of Euro-metal (it's that high culture they all get steeped in) but I can live with it for this song.
Just the other day, I found what's apparently the official music video. You can't embed it, so here's the link. The whole "good girl going bad at terror high" schtick is silly, sure, but some of the edits (the cheerleaders screaming as the band hits those high harmonies) are inspired timing and the final "walking down the hallway" shot is, for me anyway, close to sublime. Some clever bits, like the way the cheerleaders' outfits change, too. And notice that the heroine is fully dressed in normal-ish clothes! It really is her face that sells everything and not American-style "sexi body" sluttiness. That's welcome.
Anyway, yeah, I'm lame. And I don't care, as long as I've got songs like this.
It's completely understandable that Republicans would want to expel Kent Williams after his stunt today in snatching the Speaker's chair for himself. The House, and Tennessee government, will be in chaos for months, just as we face the worst budget problem in a generation.
But it's a mistake to boot him. The first thing Democrats do is take him as one of their own, thereby giving themselves the de jure majority again! And don't think that Williams will be given any freedom as a Democrat. He will be Naifeh's bitch from then on. The supposed palaver about how Williams wants to appoint committee chairs based on merit and cooperation will not be Naifeh's.
Better to keep Williams in the party and make him, if he so chooses, depart on his own. Let his constituents in the 4th District see his actions for what they are.
What angry Republicans can do is this: Go to the dollar store, or a Fred's or Walgreen's, and buy a pack of those plastic coins kids use as play money or pirate's dubloons. Whenever you encounter Williams, just drop a few in front of him (on the ground or the table) and say, "Here are your thirty pieces of silver." Especially do it in front of Jimmy Naifeh!
Non-legislators can mail a few in an envelope to his House office with the same message. (See here for the address.) Let's see how long it takes before they begin piling up!
Everything I've heard so far has been that this move was a closely guarded secret kept by a literal few until Monday night and Tuesday during the session. Go to the Main Street Journal website to see a whole raft of stories on what happened. I don't think the Republicans can be too heavily faulted here for "letting" this happen. Their biggest mistake was under-estimating just what a conniving, scheming, vindictive thug of a man Jimmy Naifeh is.
It's times like this I almost wish I was a believing Christian just so that I could be assured Naifeh will roast in Hell for eternity.
Remember, the constitutional officers have yet to be appointed and now the Democrats likely control things unless a couple can be peeled away and the Republicans can stay strong. Not likely, given how the Democrats voted en bloc today. Say, someone should ask Senator Jim Kyle if he still believes constitutional candidates should still reveal their personal and campaign finances!
Also, redistricting is now in their hands. That means, at minimum, ten more years of a Democratically carved State district map. You think Naifeh was having fun today? Wait for redistricting....
INSTANT UPDATE: From a comment I spotted on the web:
In the November general elections, according to the Secretary of State's office, these were the voter breakdowns for all legislative candidates in the 99 districts for the House of Representatives:
What the Democrats did today was anti-democratic; just the worst, most naked kind of power grab I've seen in a while. Regardless of party, it's a slap in the face to Tennessee voters. They clearly didn't want Naifeh in charge any more.
In fact, TN Republicans won with the same kind of "mandate" that Obama has. Imagine if McCain had tried to steal that election somehow! Democrats would be wailing a different story for sure. But ... it's not their ox being gored today, so as you'll see if you tour lefty blogs, they're all happy little putschers tonight.
Say Uncle, who blogs from Knoxville mostly on 2nd Amendment issues and Tennessee sippin' whiskey, has a great post filled with plenty of sage advice for bloggers and public relations types. An excerpt:
First, automatically sign me up for your newsletter. That’s right. I love getting newsletters I never, ever signed up for. I love it like all other spam. And that’s exactly how I treat these. I label them as spam in gmail. Gmail remembers that and also uses that to classify your item as spam by other readers.
Send me your off-topic press release plugging a political candidate or political position. This is particularly effective when you can read my blog and tell pretty quickly that I find that particular candidate to be a shit head and that particular position to be retarded.
With legal trouble and the resulting expenses potentially just one mouse click away, individuals and business entities creating, sanctioning and/or hosting blogs should apply basic risk management to the posting of a blog. Following are a few questions that every blogger should ask of the content contained in their blog:
• Do readers consider the blog a credible source of information and depend on it for up-to-date information (a matter of opinion that can be judged based on analytics and comments)? • Is information in the blog accurate or is the blog rife with mistakes and misstatements? • Have facts been checked (as required by due diligence standards) or have they simply been accepted as heard or read elsewhere without further verification? • Have facts been attributed to the original sources? • Are information sources reliable? • Are rumors and gossip printed as fact? • Are opinions labeled as such? • Are comments in news and opinion pieces fair and based in fact or could they be considered malicious, libelous or defamatory? • Is the information original work or plagiarized from another person or entity? • Has permission been secured to include content or photos found online (leads to the possible charges of copyright infringement)? • Are paid advertisements clearly separate from news and editorial content? • Are procedures in place to allow quick response if someone demands correction, retraction or removal of information? • Is the source of the blog clearly decipherable or is it written anonymously (hiding behind anonymity brings the veracity and intent of the blog into question)?
Hulu is, for some reason probably having to do with its popularity, again streaming Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog for free, today only. Go here. Otherwise you have to pay for iTunes or wait for the DVD.
If you are a Joss Whedon fan, or like comic books, you need to see this. Highly recommended. My previous rave is here.
In your autobiography, you admit to using marijuana and cocaine in high school and college. Yet you largely support the federal drug war — a change from several years ago when you said you'd be open to decriminalizing marijuana. Would Barack Obama be where he is today if he had been arrested in college for using drugs? Doesn't the fact that you and our current president (who has all but admitted to prior drug use) have risen to such high stature suggest that the worst thing about illicit drugs is not the drugs themselves, but what the government will do to you if you're caught?
I hold no hope these questions, or their pale imitations, will ever be presented to Obama, especially in any debates. The networks have already been caught being used and abused by the Democrats with planted questions.
They are already sympathetic to Obama. Look at this report of his reception by a group of reporters. The Commercial Appeal'sWendi Thomas was there and this is what she had to say:
Yes, many of us are journalists who try to keep secret our political leanings. But many in the room were students. Or PR professionals. Or invited guests from Chicago with no ties to the media.
You’ll hear no scrutiny of how many white journalists applaud when McCain shows up (he was invited but did not attend UNITY). Still, the UNITY president, Karen Lincoln Michel, felt it necessary to deliver a warning.
“This is a live event on CNN,” Michel told the audience just before Obama took the stage, “The whole world is watching.”
Watching to see if we’d applaud, and if we did, if we’d do so too enthusiastically. As if our silence is proof of our professional pledge of objectivity and clapping means we’re Obamaniacs.
Thing is, I can be quiet on the outside and jumping for joy on the inside. Most black folk who work in corporate America have mastered what W.E.B. DuBois called “two-ness,” this deft dance between who we are and who white America wants us to be.
“I would ask that I am treated like other candidates in terms of expectations,” Obama said, and with that, summed up the trials and tribulations of many of us who labor to represent our communities accurately in predominately white newsrooms — even in predominately black cities.
So no, I didn’t clap. On the outside. I know how to be two in one, how to deal with the double-consciousness of which DuBois wrote.
But on the inside, I was beaming. And no number of lectures can dampen my pride, if only at the historic essence of the moment.
After all, donations that can be identified as coming from media workers favor Democrats 100 to 1!
So, no, I don't expect those folks to behave indifferently and even-handedly. How can they? And I don't expect those great questions -- and their counterparts for McCain -- to be asked. Ain't gonna happen.
By the way, read the comments in the BoingBoing post. It's amusing to no end to watch the lefties who make up a majority of BB's readership tie themselves up in knots over this. Great questions ... but, but, but....
INSTANT UPDATE: But wait! There's more.
Dana Milbank has a piece in yesterday's Washington Post where he expresses some of the peeve of the reporting classes that Obama isn't treating them with the proper intimacy:
Another reason for Obama's confidence -- the press -- is also an unfaithful partner. The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported yesterday that Obama dominated the news media's attention for a seventh straight week. But there are signs that the Obama campaign's arrogance has begun to anger reporters.
In the latest issue of the New Republic, Gabriel Sherman found reporters complaining that Obama's campaign was "acting like the Prom Queen" and being more secretive than Bush. The magazine quoted the New York Times' Adam Nagourney's reaction to the Obama campaign's memo attacking one of his stories: "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others." Then came Obama's overseas trip and the campaign's selection of which news organizations could come aboard. Among those excluded: the New Yorker magazine, which had just published a satirical cover about Obama that offended the campaign. ad_icon
Even Bush hasn't tried that. But then again, Obama has been outdoing the president in ruffles and flourishes lately. As Bush held quiet signing ceremonies in the White House yesterday morning, Obama was involved in a more visible display of executive authority a block away, when he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani at the Willard. A full block of F Street was shut down for the prime minister and the would-be president, and some 40 security and motorcade vehicles filled the street.
It's a cult of personality.
Don't take that article as a sign that the media will turn on Obama. All it takes are some small adjustments from the campaign and they'll swoon even more.
Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.
Along the way, he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president's. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities, which included a fundraiser at the Mayflower where donors paid $10,000 or more to have photos taken with him. His schedule for the day, announced Monday night, would have made Dick Cheney envious:
11:00 a.m.: En route TBA.
12:05 p.m.: En route TBA.
1:45 p.m.: En route TBA.
2:55 p.m.: En route TBA. ad_icon
5:20 p.m.: En route TBA.
The 5:20 TBA turned out to be his adoration session with lawmakers in the Cannon Caucus Room, where even committee chairmen arrived early, as if for the State of the Union. Capitol Police cleared the halls -- just as they do for the actual president. The Secret Service hustled him in through a side door -- just as they do for the actual president.
Milbank explains it all for you, if you read carefully. It's all about making Obama look presidential now so that he feels presidential to voters by Election Day. Never mind that he's not got the experience, track record, or rising level of accomplishments; he seems presidential on television. The media treat him as presidential and that will help sell him to American voters.
These two videos, a paired lecture to a Virginia law class, have been out there a while now, but there's a recent resurgence of interest in them that makes this a good time to post them here. The professor and the police officer offer compelling reasons why you should never talk to the police without first obtaining counsel, if you are the subject (or potenially will become the subject) of an investigation.
In the post's comments, there are the usual Internet dolts who take the advice literally -- that you should never, ever talk to the police, not even to report a crime or to provide a witness statement. Of course, they are dolts.
However, if you are involved, you should heed the videos' advice. Remember, the job of the cops is not to find and arrest the guilty. Their job is to identify likely candidates and close the case. From their point of view, it's the job of prosecutors to produce convictions. The police have a job to do, which they do day in and day out. It's work, often hard, dirty and demoralising, not a mission of sustaining constitutional principles.
And thanks to the Drug War, the deck is often stacked against you in very dangerous ways.
Maybe not. What if someone with you has crack in the bottom of their backpack, or a large bag of weed or you're with a musician who has her heroin Muse with her? If it's enough -- and how would you know? -- you cross into the land where you become an accomplice to a felony and will have your vehicle and laptop and all the cash on you seized. The presumption these days is that seizure can happen right fucking now and then you have to go through a long -- and usually unsuccessful -- process to get it back, even if you are innocent!
Cops have a motivation to seize, since they get to sell the seized items and keep that money. They have a motivation to close the case, since more cases are constantly piling up.
So, you see why getting a lawyer involved in your protection from the start is almost always a good idea.
The just-released RAND Research report on "How Terrorist Groups End" is getting a lot of play today for allegedly saying that the way to end Al Qaeda is to stop the War in Iraq. (PDF Download) But read the abstract again:
How do terrorist groups end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that terrorist groups rarely cease to exist as a result of winning or losing a military campaign. Rather, most groups end because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they join the political process. This suggests that the United States should pursue a counterterrorism strategy against al Qa'ida that emphasizes policing and intelligence gathering rather than a “war on terrorism” approach that relies heavily on military force.
And these paragraphs from the introduction to the report:
A recent RAND research effort sheds light on this issue by investigating how terrorist groups have ended in the past. By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory.
These findings suggest that the U.S. approach to countering al Qa'ida has focused far too much on the use of military force. Instead, policing and intelligence should be the backbone of U.S. efforts.
religiously motivated terrorist groups took longer to eliminate than other groups but rarely achieved their objectives; no religiously motivated group achieved victory during the period studied.
What does this mean for counterterrorism efforts against al Qa'ida? After September 11, 2001, U.S. strategy against al Qa'ida concentrated on the use of military force. Although the United States has employed nonmilitary instruments — cutting off terrorist financing or providing foreign assistance, for example — U.S. policymakers continue to refer to the strategy as a “war on terrorism.”
But military force has not undermined al Qa'ida. As of 2008, al Qa'ida has remained a strong and competent organization. Its goal is intact: to establish a pan-Islamic caliphate in the Middle East by uniting Muslims to fight infidels and overthrow West-friendly regimes. It continues to employ terrorism and has been involved in more terrorist attacks around the world in the years since September 11, 2001, than in prior years, though engaging in no successful attacks of a comparable magnitude to the attacks on New York and Washington.
Al Qa'ida's resilience should trigger a fundamental rethinking of U.S. strategy. Its goal of a pan-Islamic caliphate leaves little room for a negotiated political settlement with governments in the Middle East. A more effective U.S. approach would involve a two-front strategy:
* Make policing and intelligence the backbone of U.S. efforts. Al Qa'ida consists of a network of individuals who need to be tracked and arrested. This requires careful involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as their cooperation with foreign police and intelligence agencies.
Part of the problem here -- I've read the abstract and the summary but haven't completed the actual 253 page report yet -- is some seeming confusion within the report itself.
Most of the terrorist groups studied are nationally internal groups, ie. groups of terrorists defined within a nation. The IRA (get England out of Ireland) and the Salafists (get France out of Algeria) would be two examples. Al Qaeda is, by definition, trans-national and malleable to any number of local variations to their central theme of a pan-Islamic Caliphate. The report talks about national efforts, specifically mentioning the US and Britain among others, but since they aren't an international, unitary effort that cooperation isn't seen within the report's scope.
The other problem is the way the report seems to miss the obvious. Reread this section again:
This suggests that the United States should pursue a counterterrorism strategy against al Qa'ida that emphasizes policing and intelligence gathering....
Well, correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's exactly what we are doing inside the United States! The FBI, CIA, state and local authorities, the theater of the absurd that is airport security, and Homeland Security are doing that every day. FISA, wiretapping, surveillance, all the things the Left is in such arms about are part of the very strategy RAND espouses. Why don't the recognise that?
Now, in Iraq specifically? That's a different animal. Could we have gone to Saddam Hussein back before 2003 and said, "Hey, dude, we want you to find and arrest all those Al Qaeda n00bs. Cool?" Of course not. It's laughable to even think it.
What about Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? Tougher answers. Saudi Arabia is the source of much of the money and brain-power for Al Qaeda. But America, by dint of the Bush family relationship with the Saud family and our increased dependence on Saudi goodwill to keep the oil flowing, can't really do anything against Saudi Arabia nor do we have leverage to make them do anything.
The Saudis may have broken that by allowing the price of oil to rise to $140/barrel. It's angered enough Americans to begin to pay attention and ask questions. It's spurred demand for new, American-controlled sources of oil, meaning taking a hard, clear look at why we've increased our dependence on foreign oil since the gas crisis of the Seventies. People are wondering who created the situation we're in that seems seems tailor-made to have made things even worse. It's also pushed Americans to move to smaller, more gas-efficient vehicles; pushed manufacturers to produce those vehicles; and given alternatively-powered auto manufacturers a foot in the door to the American auto market. It's all been upside for the US and bad news for OPEC.
Back to the report. We invade Afghanistan and have broken Al Qaeda there. Problem now is that they simply retreated into "Waziristan," or Al Qaeda-controlled western Pakistan. Why haven't we just pushed into Pakistan, as Barack Obama has suggested? Because, unlike dictator-controlled Iraq and Al Qaeda's theocratic dictatorship in Afghanistan, Pakistan is a democratic, elected, republic; it has a nominally credible government. It's true that the government is thoroughly corrupted, and the military (which is also corrupted) seeks to install itself as the dictatorship with Al Qaeda's help and money in exchange for the Waziristani lands. It may be teetering on the edge of viability and stability, but it's hanging in there.
There is also the problem of India. If America decided to push ahead into Pakistan, without discussing it with India, we alienate a powerful and necessary and welcome ally. We can't negotiate with India on this because they don't want Pakistani and Al Qaeda terrorists fleeing into their country, using India as a proxy battlefield for their fight with the US or as an actual battlefield; nor do the Indians want to be drawn into a war with Pakistan. There are the nuclear weapons in the area to consider.
So, in working out the calculus on how to fight Al Qaeda, the Bush administration decided to attempt to bottle up Al Qaeda into Pakistan. Remove them from Afghanistan and then deny them their western escape route and back-up base in Iraq. Once in Pakistan, as they are now, with a secured Iraq and a cowed Iran, we can then begin to work on them there. We had the necessary preconditions in Iraq, thanks to Hussein's constant evasions and escapades with the UN and the IAEA. (Remember that years-long farce?)
Hussein was playing them for fools because they were willing to be played. Everyone made money and kept their jobs, the situation was ugly but stable, so it was all good. Until the US and the Bush administration decided to not dance any more and not accept the status quo. Was it for an ulterior motive? Sure; we wanted to invade as part of the plan against Al Qaeda, to force them to move east into Pakistan.
I was never a big supporter of this plan for the simple reason that President Bush pointed out himself: it was the work of nations and generations. It's a risky adventure to commit the world to that path. Look at what happened with the United Nations, after all. Once a way for the developed nations of Europe, North America and the Anglosphere to dominate and guide the rest of the world, under cover of "world peace," it is now a money hose from the rich to the greedy, a bulwark for petty despots and Communist regimes to hide behind, and finally a lost battalion for Eurocrats and socialist-utopian one-worlders.
In other words, the Global War on Terror was doomed to diversion and perversion, never mind the question that the RAND report asks. If everyone signed on. And of course that wasn't going to happen because President Bush had an army of people who would oppose anything he did simply because it was him asking it to be done.
Never mind that Democratic President Woodrow Wilson had done pretty much the same thing a century earlier. Wilsonian internationalism had a long vogue among Democrats, until they got serious about Civil Rights and "discovered" what a monstrous racist Wilson was. Then down the memory hole with him and his ideas! Around the same time (the late Seventies) the Democrats became a haven for American isolationists. Away with strong-on-American-defense Democrats like John Kennedy and Scoop Jackson. (I'm still not sure why or how that happened and welcome anyone who can explain it.)
I still respect those Congressional and leadership Democrats who opposed the war on principled argument, who questioned sending America into the path outlined above with reason. There are precious few of them, but some are out there. I respect folks like former Democrat Joe Lieberman (a Kenndy/Jackson-style holdover) who supported the war and withstood the abuse from fellow Democrats. I utterly despise those who voted "for" the war only to about-face afterwards to oppose it, and have since nickel and dimed the war effort itself, all in the name of craven office-keeping.
And so it was necessary to reconstitute Iraq into a sovereign, democratically ruled nation with its own trustworthy and effective police and intelligence agencies so it could do as the RAND report suggests: effectively fight Al Qaeda. And the evidence is very strong indeed that we're doing that right now. That's why we went there.
Like I said, I didn't really support this grand plan, for the reasons I just outlined. But I haven't been an anti-war critic either. Our nation was committed to a huge understaking and the time to stop it was in the offing; now that we are there in Iraq we have an obligation to our soldiers and to the Iraqis to complete the task. When we reach the planning point for the next stage, that's the time to re-examine things and maybe find a new direction. Until then, we fight the hardest and most uncompromising fight we can. And then we hand off the sovereignty of Iraq to the Iraqi and let them take up the duties of nationhood, and their role in the larger fight if they want one. Then we decide which way to go next.
It's a similar plan for nations like Iran and North Korea in the near future, too, possibly. That's what the Axis of Evil warning was all about -- setting up markers for the next fronts and warning Al Qaeda where not to go. When a new political generation comes along, without ties to Saudi Arabia like the Bushes', I believe we'll see action against them, too, and a new energy policy that is serious about American energy independence. We've needed that since the Seventies.
So, folks will focus on the part of the report that says, to them, "leave Iraq" while passing right over the part that shows we're doing precisely what the report argues we should be doing!
Predictable and a shame.
Now, a related observation. I'm very surprised that so many people seem to have forgotten America's recent war with Serbia, barely a decade ago. American troops are still there to this day! No exit strategy either, not from the Clinton and Bush administrations, and certainly not from the Clintons today.
So why wasn't Hillary Clinton ever asked about Serbia/Yugoslavia during the primary season? Why has everyone, Democrat and Republican, seemed to bury this one?
Even when the world's newest nation of Kosovo was recently created from Serbia, no one in the media that I saw even mentioned our continued presence and the anti-war goofballs didn't try to pin any of that on Hillary.
Sometimes, they don't even try. They just throw it right past you and dare you to call them on it. They know you're too busy to pay close attention and they hope their point will be made without your being aware of it.
This article from a recent Commercial Appeal is nothing more than a campaign donation to Steve Cohen:
All you insomniacs and public policy wonks can take heart. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., wrote to ask Comcast on Thursday to restore C-SPAN2 coverage of U.S. Senate debates and other programming when the Senate's not in session.
But the company has a better idea.
You can switch to its digital basic service and see it for the same price as the basic analog service from which C-SPAN2 was removed on May 22, said Sena Fitzmaurice, a government affairs spokesman for the company in Washington.
There might be a story in why Comcast (hack*spit*ptui*ptui) removed CSPAN2 from basic analog cable, or in what's the difference between "analog" and "digital" cable, but the hook is Steve Cohen.
I looked at the byline and sure enough -- Bart Sullivan! If that guy were any more biased for Democrats and against Republicans, he'd bleed blue. Sullivan's work since taking over the Washington "bureau" has been notable for its use to basically hammer Republicans.
Seriously, if I were Tinker I'd use this within the black community as proof of what many believe anyway, that Sullivan -- and through him, the CA -- is deeply in the pocket of Cohen.
Speaking of Comcast ... dear god but they suck. It's like Time-Warner level service taken down two notches. They've eliminated all the weather services. Channel 75 used to be nothing but current conditions and weather radar; and now News Channel 3 Anytime has removed their real-time weather info. They added a bunch of Arkansas stations to the basic service for some reason, but not West Tennessee ones. (Which is why CSPAN2 went away.) There are more "Signal Quality" warnings and drop-outs than every before. I thought you only got those with dish antennas and that was the selling point for cable television?
And there's my personal gripe: sound levels. Used to be that most channels were levelled off to roughly the same volume in the production studio before being sent to subscribers. That way you didn't get blasted by a different channel when you were switching around, say, very late at night.
Not any more. Not only is every channel at a different volume -- some very loud indeed -- but now whenever Comcast inserts one of their own ads within a channel, it's at a different volume as well -- sometimes very loud indeed.
It's annoying and amateurish.
JULY 30 UPDATE: Comcast's channel 20 (NC3A with real-time weather and radar) seems to have gone back to "normal" in the past day or so. So ... yay?