Belmont Club

Notes from all around

  • Gunfire exchanged on Georgia-South Ossetia border‏ — “The reported shootings occurred before talks with international monitors Thursday on efforts to diffuse tensions in the region following last year’s war between Georgia and Russia, which backs South Ossetia.”
  • Ray guns: not science fiction any more — First comes the crackle, then the pop. “The technology … uses an ultra-short pulse laser to create an ionized channel through the air; down this channel, you can then send bursts of energy. It’ll conduct electricity. And it can also act as a waveguide for an intense pulse of microwaves. These could be used to destroy the fuze of a roadside bomb, fry the electronics of a missile, or burn out the ignition on any unshielded vehicle.”
  • “Spengler” outs himself. The masked man of the Asia Times tells the world who he is. You would never have guessed what he was. It’s further proof of the power of the Internet to push writers and ideas to the front where they would never have prospered otherwise.

  • Presidential Poison? — The WSJ writes in an editorial: “Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.” My guess is that the potential prosecutions will go beyond any question of morality go straight to the roots of politics. The first rule of tribes is that you can’t let another tribe raid your camp with impunity or you might as well disband. Dashiell Hammett, who was as left wing as they came, understood how the logic of groups trumped reason and even passion. “When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it When one of your organization gets killed it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it. It’s bad all around – bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere.” Whatever the merits of the case, Obama is setting up a zero sum game, and in those structures, when you’re not winning, you’re losing. Bipartisanship is a Pareto optimum and maybe that has already lost the zero sum contest with absolute partisanship.