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Monthly Archives: May 2010

One Track Mind

May 21st, 2010 - 9:39 pm

Have you ever wanted to upgrade the tracks on that Sherman tank you have sitting in the garage? Are you tired of simply clanking around town with it? Want to take it out on the highway and tootle down a European road at 40 mph? If so then this site sells custom rubber tracks that will let you get the most out of your M4. Want proof? Go to the “read more”.



May 21st, 2010 - 5:44 am

Noah Schactman at Wired argues that the real national security choices that Barack Obama has made over his tenure have been largely misunderstood.  They are not between competing models of security but are driven by something else. To make his point, Schactman cites a Reuters article quoting counterterrorism officials as saying that the executive order to close Guantanamo Bay has made it necessary to drone-kill more militants because “there’s nowhere to put them.”

Killing wanted militants is simply “easier” than capturing them, said an official, who like most interviewed for this story support the stepped-up program and asked not to be identified. Another official added: “It is increasingly the preferred option.” …

By some accounts, the growing reliance on drone strikes is partly a result of the Obama administration’s bid to repair the damage to America’s image abroad in the wake of Bush-era allegations of torture and secret detentions. …

Some current and former counterterrorism officials say an unintended consequence of these decisions may be that capturing wanted militants has become a less viable option. As one official said: “There is nowhere to put them.”

But by relying on offstage attacks to keep his humanitarian image squeaky-clean, President Obama has embarked on a scale of attacks that raise risks in themselves. Schachtman writes: “the real swap here isn’t secret jails for drone attacks. It’s counterterrorism for undeclared war.”  What kind of trade in risks is this, why would anyone do it?


I Feel Like I Owe It To Someone

May 20th, 2010 - 3:33 pm

The Everybody Draw Mohammed Facebook site would never have existed without the Danish cartoon incident. Illustrators in a relatively unknown newspaper drew 12 illustrations of Mohammed, none of which would have been considered offensive by the average European reader. It was certainly nothing like Piss Christ, which won an award sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, depicting “a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine”. Nor were they like Chris Ofili’s No Woman No Cry, in which the British artist, who has patrons like Charles Saatchi, depicted “a black African Mary surrounded by images from blaxploitation movies and close-ups of female genitalia cut from pornographic magazines, and elephant dung”


Flower in a Crannied Wall

May 20th, 2010 - 5:16 am

Even familiar objects present so much information it is hard to understand them completely. Alfred Lord Tennyson famously observed that we could not fully know even a “flower in a crannied wall” in its “all in all” any more than we could comprehend the totality of the universe. This overload is exploited by steganography, an art in which a message is deliberately mixed with many other messages; where one pattern is engulfed in a a number of larger patterns. Messages concealed in this way are hard to detect. The give-away is often the vague sense that something is not quite right about it.

So when George Will says there is something inexplicably entertaining in current American politics he is making the wordsmith’s equivalent of the steganalytical observation that something about today is fishy and maybe we had better search it through for a payload. Something is going on inside the funniness, and it would be nice to know what it is.


The Nationale

May 19th, 2010 - 9:54 am

A specter is haunting Washington’s incumbents, not Arlen Specter — the specter of defeat. All the Powers of Old Washington have entered into a holly alliance to exorcise this specter. Beltway and MSM, Harvard and Yale, the New York Times and the network news. Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as NASCAR loving, gun-toting or Bible-clinging by its opponents in power?


Deep Kim Chee

May 19th, 2010 - 8:56 am

A number of second tier news sources have been filling out the story that a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean frigate on March 26 this year. They portray the sinking as an overt act of aggression towards the South. The Korea Times says a “joint investigation team has reportedly found screw pieces of torpedo … the manufacturers of the screw are shortlisted to two countries Russia and China”. Bernama datelined Seoul says “foreign experts and investigators concluded … the suspected weapon appears to be a heavy acoustic homing torpedo.”

Jolly Green Badge of Courage

May 17th, 2010 - 5:13 am

News that 14 members of the U.S. Army’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade received the German Gold Cross Medal threw a spotlight on coalition operations in Afghanistan.  The German term for the award granted is the Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Gold, which a Bundeswehr site describes as [machine translation by Google]  as “distinguished by a red outline of the cross  … which will be awarded for faithful performance of duty and extraordinary performance … or ‘risking life and limb’ (gold-colored version).”


Means and Ends

May 16th, 2010 - 6:36 am

The proposition was simple: was living a righteous life the smart thing to do, or was it as some believed an act of defiance?  The problem tormented Albert Camus, who declared “I do not believe in God and I am not an atheist”. His character Tarrou in the Plague is similarly trapped between two worlds. He aspires to be a “saint without God”. William Deresiewicz’s lecture to the West Point cadets on the subject of leadership explores the same interstice, but on a more practical level. To be a leader, Deresiewicz suggests, you must first learn to be alone. To Deresiewicz, much of what passed for leadership training consisted of teaching people to be “world class hoop jumpers.”


The Ten Ships

May 14th, 2010 - 4:20 am

One of the reasons the Navy opposed a Southwest Pacific campaign during the Pacific War was the shrewd appreciation that once bureaucracy started on a task it would grow with it like a cancer whatever its original purpose. Admiral King wasn’t against an action in the Solomons. He was just afraid that it would take on a life of its own. The passage of time has not changed this this tendency. The campaign in Afghanistan began in 2002 with a specific purpose. But by the time Barack Obama was running for President its chief attraction was the fact that it was an alternative to the campaign in Iraq. A 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal covering his speech before the VWF captured his thinking: Afghanistan was a “war of necessity”, unlike Iraq, which was a “war of choice”. Of all the “false choices” the President was fond of rhetorically raising, this was perhaps the falsest choice of all. By asserting that Afghanistan, not oil or the Middle East or radical Islam was the center of gravity of the enemy, President Obama completely misframed the strategic choices.


Academic Freedom

May 12th, 2010 - 9:10 pm

The battle to give parents educational choice not only affects the fate of individuals and families but ultimately a nation’s .  The choice between dependency and freedom was described in previous post, the Little Red Schoolhouse. You can approach it as a dry, public policy issue. But there’s also the human dimension as these video clips show.

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